I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll say it again. I am thankful for the blessing of being a dad.

 Over the course of the past three decades, just when I think I’ve experienced the best years parenting can offer, I find out how wrong I am, as my four children continue to bless and amaze me — straight into adulthood.

 Last weekend, I was lucky enough to be on Papa duty and found myself with my one-year-old grandson LJ (Lincoln’s) in my right arm and my almost one-year-old grandson Seth  (Libby’s) curled up in my left arm. Flashbacks began rewinding to decades ago when holding LJ’s and Seth’s twin uncles, Landon and Layne, in my arms at the same time was a regular part of my day as multi-tasking became an important part of our life. It was one of those “where has the time gone” moments that we have all experienced.

 I was feeling, unexpectedly, a bit emotional and nostalgic as we were preparing for Landon and Bethany’s big wedding day. So those many thoughts of him as a baby, child, teen and young adult just seemed to unwind in my brain’s reel of memories.  Landon was our third to get married, so you’d think I’d have this “father of...” role down pat. But, there was a strong tug at my heartstrings that would not leave me alone.

 Before leaving for Oklahoma City, Landon emailed a document he needed me to print and take with me. It was the program for the wedding that he had designed and it included a family crest that he had created (because that’s the kind of incredible thing Landon does) with meaningful explanations for each part of the crest. I had been searching for words of wisdom to share at the rehearsal dinner that evening, and quickly realized Landon had brought my search to an end. I would be using his own words. Yep,  those ol’ heartstrings walloped me again as I read each word with teary-eyed dad pride.

 Parts of the crest have a distinct meaning. There’s a cross which signifies the newlyweds and their future family are under the authority of Jesus. There’s a pineapple which means they are a family that offers hospitality and generosity. There’s a sword which means the two of them are committed to fighting for each other, forever. An olive branch symbolizes they are ambassadors of reconciliation, always striving for peace. The sun is a reminder of the new joys that come each day and the sunsets chased while living life well. Finally, the crest contains the self-explanatory monogram letters with Landon noting additional letters will be added to the crest as their family grows (future Papa time!).

 As I cleared my eyes, I gave myself a good talking to and smiles soon followed! Landon’s crest reminded me that not only had he found the girl of his dreams, but he grasps what it’s going to take for his marriage to be successful and for his family to be grounded. I was smiling with anticipation as we packed up to go watch a new chapter in our son’s life begin.

 Bethany made a beautiful bride, but knowing that she’s even lovelier within, made each moment all the more special. She’s witty and she’s genuine. She’s smart and she’s determined. She’s a perfect match for Landon, and we’re thankful.

 Those heartstring tugs did not disappear, I just accepted they were tangled up in the love this dad has for his children. Then it hit me, those heartstrings were tugging in order to stretch a bit, as now I have a new child to love. Welcome to the family, Bethany.

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