|Ice-skating with Olivia in Michigan|
I love being a dad. There is a pleasure to it that’s hard to describe. I’ve been a father for 20 years and have been blessed, along with my wife, with a couple of great children. I’m truly thankful.
About a year ago, as my daughter Olivia was getting ready to begin her college career, she talked to me about her anxieties of perhaps not being able to find a suitable future husband. At the time I reassured her that she would have many opportunities to meet good prospects and date Christian guys and also that she shouldn’t worry about getting married at such a young age. I told her that even if she didn’t meet and fall in love with her future husband in college, that—Lord-willing—the right guy would come along soon enough. I assured her that God would provide when the timing was right.
Looking back now, the ironic thing is that I had already met her future fiancé and just hadn’t realized it. He (Dalen Ledingham) had actually been an upper-division student of mine at Freed-Hardeman in my “Family and Individual Counseling” class during the spring semester of 2017, right before Olivia graduated from high school. In fact, he had been one of my very best students and sat attentively on the front row.
To make matters even more interesting, during that same spring semester, his home congregation in Hoover, Alabama, (just outside Birmingham) namely Riverchase Church of Christ, had invited me to come there for a weekend in February to present a “Faith in the Family” conference. At the seminar, my wife and I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Dalen’s mother, Kim. I seriously doubt all of this was coincidental. God was providentially at work in all of our lives. Maybe He was putting everything in order for what was going to happen during the second week of Olivia’s freshman year when she was introduced to Dalen for the first time through mutual friends. He was beginning his senior year as a Social Work major. They seemed to click right away. It wasn’t long before they started dating exclusively, and shortly thereafter fell in love.
Very early on in their relationship, I asked Dalen to come outside my house to the back porch where I was barbecuing. I was very upfront with him about my high expectations on how he treated my daughter, protecting, nurturing and respecting her, as well as being a positive spiritual influence in her life. He was very receptive to what I had to say and assured me he would do his best to be the type of guy she deserved. He has definitely lived up to his promise!
Recently, as I was sitting on the front porch watching our puppies in the yard, Olivia and Dalen pulled into the driveway. I watched their relational chemistry as they got out of the car. They were smiling, laughing, and kidding around with each other. To see my daughter so comfortable and happy when she is around Dalen gives me a great sense of joy and satisfaction. Missy and I had prayed countless times from when Olivia was an infant until she entered college that she would someday meet a man who would love her unconditionally and help her on her spiritual journey to heaven. They are good for each other.
I don't really feel like I'm losing my little girl, but more that I'm gaining a wonderful son-in-law who comes from a godly Christian family. Olivia and Dalen will be getting married in three days' time on July 14th. They have asked me to officiate the ceremony, and I'm likely going to struggle to hold myself together. Though there is certainly the normal stress of making preparations for a wedding, we couldn't be more joyful and pleased with the upcoming union of our precious daughter to such an amazing guy.