Yesterday was a special day – and not for the Labor Day holiday.  It marked the birthday of my daughter, Amanda – who turned 14 yrs old.

To those who do not know, Amanda is, in terms of society today, my step-daughter.  However I do not, and will not, use this term and hate the mention of it. Why?  Because on February 15, 1997 (My wedding day) and everyday since that day I have made a vow to raise Amanda as my own child and treat her as such because I firmly believe God placed her into my life as a blessing, just as he did with our two other children. 

I was first introduced to Amanda when she had just turned 3 yrs old and I started dating her mother – my wife, Cindy.   To some people they said it was an instant family – those words stung me!  Here’s a beautiful woman who I enjoyed and loved immensely and a beautiful little child who really didn’t need anyone else to love her.  She was surrounded with love from Cindy, her grandparents (Nanny and Papa), and the rest of the family.  So I wasn’t icing on the cake – but I am thankful that I have become a part of her life.

Going down the road the other night we were talking about the times the kids were born, as Amanda’s birthday approached.  I had an emptiness in my heart right then because I knew that I was not there when Amanda was born.  Several times over the years I have played the “What would’ve happened” game, trying to place myself at Amanda’s birth.  But now, after thinking about it, I am thankful for the way everything worked out.  God had a plan for our family and we followed it.  Amanda doesn’t look like me (thank the Lord – for her) but she is loved each and every day and is an important member of our family.

So, on her birthday, I thought I would share a few remembrances of Amanda these past 11 years – I know she will love me for sharing them.

Remembrances to my daughter

1.  Our wedding day – We had it planned to enchange vows with each other but to also have me make a vow to Amanda.  We even had a ring picked out.  Unfortunately, Amanda was sick and she was tired by the time the wedding rolled around.  Right before the exchange of vows she went and sat with her Papa. So, I had to walk down and knell next to her to repeat my vow – different, but it worked.  I still remember the vow and will continue to keep it until I die.

2.  The first time she said Daddy – Cindy and I did not push Amanda at all on this as we did not want to push her.  I remember a Sunday afternoon when, getting close to naptime, Amanda pushed Cindy away and wanted her daddy to play with her.  A little step – but an important one as well.  You don’t know how important words are until you anticipate hearing them from your children.

3.  Brayden’s birth – Cindy and I waited a little while so Amanda would be comfortable with the new changes.  In late 1997 Cindy became pregnant with Brayden.  We made up cute little gifts for the grandparents and included Amanda in the surprise.  All throughout the pregnancy we included Amanda in the process. We took her to the Big sister class – getting her ready for the day.  When Brayden was born Amanda was a happy sister – I still, to this day, have the photo of Amanda holding Brayden in the hospital.  Of course today they fight like cats and dogs but they still love each other (they just don’t like to show it)

4.  The day Amanda was saved – I remember it was a Wednesday afternoon and I was off so I picked Amanda up from Trinity Christian School.  I waited in the line of cars and normally Amanda would see me and let the teacher on duty know and line up to be picked up.  Something was different that day because Mrs. Carey (Carey Olson) walked Amanda to the van – different I thought.  Mrs. Carey told me something had happened that day and I anticipated bad news.  However, she shared that Amanda had asked questions that day about salvation and, after talking to Mrs. Carey, Amanda had prayed and invited Jesus into her life.  Man, what a feeling!  We even saw evidence of this in the next few days as Amanda shared her story with her cousin and she was saved.

5.  The day we shared the real news – It was a Sunday afternoon and Cindy and I had no intentions on sharing with Amanda the real news that I was not her biological father.  However, somehow in the conversation Amanda began asking questions and it came out.  We shared, through a lot of tears, the entire details and dealt with the aftermath.  In the conversation we talked about adoption and asked Amanda to make the decision.  To me, it made no difference as my relationship with her was not to her name, but to her as a person.  She did not want to go ahead and to this day and every day will remain with her name.  I would even advise her future husband to take her name (HAHA).

6.  Chandler – Cindy and I were surprised to find out she was pregnant in 2004 with another child.  We were worried as well because of the big difference in ages (Amanda was 10-11, Brayden 6-7) but we were surprised to see the joy in both of our children at the news. Amanda wanted a girl, Brayden a boy so we took both of them to the doctor to see the ultrasound (along with a few hundred other relatives it seemed).  Even with the news that it was ANOTHER boy Amanda helped Cindy and I with all of the details.  Since Chandler’s birth Amanda has done an awesome job of helping with Chandler (except the diaper changing) and we have been pleased!  Amanda has been an excellent help (except teaching Chandler to jump on the furniture).

7.  Marching Band – Amanda, since the early part of her 8th grade year, wanted to drop band.  Cindy told her not at all – I simply asked her to try marching 1 year and then we would see where to go next.  This past summer Amanda began band camp.  For 5-6 weeks straight she was at school 4-5 times a week, learning the drill.  She was even battling between a permanent and alternate position in the band.  She would come home and practice and practice.  She earned her permanent spot in the band line and is a self-proclaimed “Band Geek”.  Our family watched on August 17th as Amanda, for the first time, marched with the York band at halftime.  Amanda – I was so proud of you then because your sweat earned you that spot and you showed you belonged on that field.

8.  World Changers – Last, but not least, my move to Pine Grove came with one reward: seeing my two oldest kids going to missions and summer camp.  Cindy and Amanda participated in World Changers through the NAMB this past summer.  They, with a group from Pine Grove, drove to Norfolk, VA for this experience.  A lot of sweat and tears that week, and I had daddy duties with the boys as well, but this was a valuable lesson to Amanda.  This lesson is that we don’t have to always carry a bible to share the gospel – sometimes we can do it with a paint brush, hammer, saw, or other objects.  It’s the actions of the these teenagers who made a difference that week in the homes they were working.  I am thankful that Amanda got to go.

Amanda – There are many other remembrances that I could bring up.  The best ones are simply the day to day reminders that you are a special person.  Although we are different (you have hair – I do not) we still have many things in common and I cherish each day I have to spend with you.  It’s not fun imagining you leaving home in the next few years (although you are probably ready and packed) I hope you realize each crazy step your mother and I take are to strengthen you and your future.

Princess, on this day, realize that you have helped me to open a chapter in my life to new and exciting days.  I have enjoyed each day on the journey – and I continue to learn alot along the way.  There have been moments when I have failed miserably as a father but none of them can ever erase the lifelong joy I will feel watching you grow into a young lady.  I hope I have been a positive influence on your life and will continue to challenge you to be the best person you can be for God and for our family.

May we all take time to realize the importance of those family members around us who inspire us each and every day.  May we not treat our children as possessions, but as investments from a holy God with an intended purpose of pleasing him. 

Amanda – on this day and every day – I Love You! Daddy.