I don't have many distinct memories of my preschool childhood; it's more a swirl of colors, smells and emotions.
But I do remember one trip my family took to Florida. I was probably four at the time, old enough to wear puffy water wings and a navy blue one-piece that always seemed to slide off one of my shoulders. The small, beachside motel where we stayed had a pool in the center, with a plastic, aquamarine slide on one end.
I remember splashing on the steps with my parents. But I was drawn to that slide. It was both intriguing and imposing. The older kids were whooping it up, slipping down the steep slope to the water below.
I thought I might give it a try. My Dad said he'd stand at the bottom of the slide and catch me. So I climbed the rickety ladder and launched myself into oblivion.
But instead of my Dad's strong arms, I hit the water and went under. He instantly scooped me up, of course, and I was none the worse for wear. He was trying to have fun with me and thought his joke might make me laugh. It didn't -- not at the time. All I knew was my Dad said he'd catch me and he didn't.
It would be a pitiful, poignant story except for this one thing -- that is the only time I can ever remember my Dad letting me down. It stands out for that reason.
My Dad has been a senior pastor since the day I was born -- literally. The church in Covington, Kentucky where I first learned about Jesus voted to call my Dad as senior pastor just hours after I was born. He was 26.
(My Mom wonders if the fact that he was a brand new father didn't balance his youth in the eyes of the 1,000-member congregation. The fact that he had the blessing of the former senior pastor, Warren Wiersbe, who had recently left to pastor the Moody Church in Chicago, probably didn't hurt either.)
Over the course of his career, if you can call decades of service to Christ a career, my Dad has shepherded many people. He's an amazing Bible teacher, a discerning administrator and a visionary leader. But above all, he loves God's people with all his heart.
These days, I live very close to the church my Dad pastored for two decades. I meet a lot of people who attended that church at one point or another. (We joke that roughly 80% of the Twin Cities fits that category.) And you know what's amazing? Every person who knew my Dad -- every single one -- speaks of his integrity, his humility, his grace and his compassion.
I think that's astounding.
It's not that my Dad is perfect -- he would be the first to abhor that thought -- but he is a living example of a man who seeks God with his whole heart. And if that makes him a great pastor, it makes him an excellent father.
I am so incredibly proud to be his daughter. To walk in his footsteps is a richness I can't really describe.
Next Sunday, my Dad is retiring -- at least from senior pastoring. He's ready to leave the day-to-day work of church leadership and transition to a new phase of ministry. He's excited and passionate about what God has next for him and my Mom.
I am too. But I'm also thankful he'll never retire from his most important calling -- that of being a dad. I'm glad I still get to enjoy his humor, his wisdom and his heart every time I choose to pick up the phone.
Happy Father's Day, Dad. I love you. Next year in Colorado, eh?