July 2009 Column Winner

Standing Tall
Rusty Ferguson - Cleveland American,  July 2009

Twenty-five steps.

Ive been thinking a lot about those steps.

Arm-in-arm with my daughter, that’s how many times our feet will move forward Saturday evening as we stride from the back of the church sanctuary to the other end of the center aisle where Libby's Prince Charming will be waiting to take her hand from mine.

Im convinced it was a father of the bride who originally suggested the stroll down the aisle be at a leisurely pace in order to cling, for as long as possible, to his little girl.

Although it seems like a literal leap through time that brings me to this tuxedo moment of reality, as a family weve learned that there is no one giant step that gets the job done or takes us where we want to be, instead such goals are accomplished step by step.

Its a definite trip down Memory Lane that will bring those little steps racing from my mind to my heart as I begin that emotional expedition, hoping a smile keeps the tears at bay.

I envision a precious moment as we begin our journey down that aisle. Shell be dressed like a princess, and as I glance at that beauty beside me, Im certain her veiled updo will be hidden by memories of ringlets, pigtails and even moments of hilarity, recalling how she looked helplessly into the mirror, patiently teaching Dad the basics of braiding hair.

Maybe it will be memories of pacing the long hospital hallways with Deana as she grew frustrated at Libbys prolonged hesitation to enter this world. Or, how can a parent forget those middle of the night mis-steps that stubbed a toe while on the way to soothe a cry? Then theres that magical moment she pulled herself up to the coffee table, let go and took those first wobbly steps toward our open arms.

Perhaps, as she grips my arm, my firm belief that “the hardest step to take is often the one through the door” will be reinforced. At least thats how this dad felt when it came time to ascend those stairs at Westside School and offer a kiss goodbye.

She says shell be wearing white peep-toe shoes hidden beneath her fl owing gown, but as she glides next to me, Im likely to be thinking of the seasons of her life when she was taught to have “pretty feet” as she glistened in glitter and sequins at dance recitals, or told to move those feet with swift, strong kicks to maneuver that soccer ball to the net. Ill remember the matching sneakers all lined-up as she kept in rhythm with the cheer squad, or the yells of encouragement shared from the stands suggesting she get off the ground to rebound the ball or watching in amazement as she positioned herself just right to Fosbury Flop her body across the bar without dragging those feet!

She tells me shell be carrying a bouquet of roses and hydrangeas, but for a time, my mind may be tracking back to the spring day I convinced my toddler to “model” next to every blooming flower in the front yard, or the Christmas she eagerly held a puppy that sprang from his box, or the gentle and playful hands she compassionately uses to care for or teach a child. My thoughts may drift to the way she lifted her hand in excitement to wave her first set of car keys in the air, or the hands that carried boxes to her first college dorm. Will I recognize that hand with the diamond ring as the same one I placed in my own to cover her mouth and nose as I lowered her into baptismal waters? Its the same hand she used to teach herself to find notes on a guitar so she could lead out in praise and worship services; such sweet memories are sure to overflow.

Truthfully...maybe its that twenty-fifth step, that Ive thought most about...as all to soon, our wedding walk will be completed, and it will be time for me to step aside.

Like so many dads before me, Im in search of an answer... Where did the time go? How did 22 years pass as quickly as my 25-step bridal beat is sure to disappear?

A friend recently reminded me that while I should revel in all the “firsts” that my first-born provided, I should also anticipate all the firsts that are still to come.... steps yet to be taken.

So, Libby and Sol, the time is here for you to take your first steps as husband and wife. Wisdom from the book of Proverbs (16:9) reminds us that in our hearts we plan our lifes course, but it is the Lord who determines our steps. I pray youll always lean on one another for support as you put one foot in front of the other, daily seeking the Lords direction.

May your life together be even more bountiful in beautiful moments as those Ill be remembering.... step by step.