Today (July 28th) my youngest daughter, Haley, turns sixteen. I am so happy for her, but it does make me feel old.
Haley has always been the serious one, the only baby in the family who would look at the photographer trying to make her laugh and say with an expression, “Are you serious?” No joke, if you were to look back at all of our girls’ baby pictures, Haley is the only one who very rarely smiled. Thankfully, she got the smile to working.
But Haley is not longer a baby – she’s sixteen. That’s 16. That’s driver’s license age. That’s the same age as Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles (although I have no idea how old Molly was when it was filmed). Am I ready for my serious little baby girl to ride around with a 20-something in his daddy’s Rolls Royce?
Uhmm… No. I’m not.
The Birth Announcement
Do you want to know how I first heard about Haley? Sure you do, or you’d quit reading.
Sixteen years ago I was working in Hopkinsville, Kentucky at Fuqua-Hinton Funeral Home, while my wife and other two daughters were still in Chattanooga. My wife had been trying to find a way to tell me she was expecting, but could never track me down. Finally, I was stopped by an older, Lurch-like funeral home worker as I was coming out of my office.
“Anthony, I need to tell you something… You need to sit down.”
“What’s going on?” I asked with a little curiosity.
Looking down at me with little expression and with a matter-of-fact tone he said, “You’re wife called. She’s pregnant. You’re going to have a baby.”
Yeah, that’s how I found out.
In case you didn’t get it, Haley was born in Kentucky, so that makes her a Wildcat. Now, she is not a big Kentucky Wildcat fan, or anything, but the name fits, that’s for sure.
Haley is anything but placid. Haley is as matter-of-fact as the funeral home where I worked, always serious, even when she’s having fun. But Haley is no one to be trifled with; she’s a gun-loving, knife-wielding, fish-catching, John Deere-riding kind of girl with an a hankering for action.
Haley loves to dress up with an elegance that rivals Grace Kelly, but give her half-a-chance and she’ll get down and dirty picking weeds out of mulch and hauling rock with a wheelbarrow. As a matter of fact, she’s a little entrepreneur: she’s started her own little business called “Hard-Work’n Southern Girl.”
But if there is anything about Haley that makes me most proud is her boldness; Haley is fearless when it comes to approaching people. This trait can be especially useful when trying to sell a box full of my books to total strangers. Haley has no problem walking up to someone and offering them a flyer, asking them to buy a book, or walking up to a total stranger in need of help and offering hers.
When a storm comes through our community and blows down trees that block the road, Haley is the first to look for ways to help a neighbor…even when the neighbor looks a little scary and has a chainsaw (my wife took the picture – she stayed in the car while Haley got out and helped).
But it’s when she is bold about her faith in Jesus…when she walks up to a stranger and invites him to church… when she’s waiting in line somewhere and finds a reason to offer them one of my business cards and says, “You should come hear my dad preach”… when she wants to help out in the projects where the children of drug dealers need Bibles…
When she’s taken life’s tragedies and her own brokenness as an opportunity to make things right for others who’ve also been wounded and hurt…
When she reaches out to the unloved, the unlovely, the friendless, and the forgotten…because that’s what Jesus would do…
THAT is what makes me the proudest dad in the world.