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12-year-old has a date — with Dad

On a recent Thursday night, Southern Africa Bible College hosted a fundraising dinner in Oklahoma City.
Three years ago, I was privileged to visit the preacher-training school in Benoni, South Africa, east of Johannesburg. So I was happy to attend the dinner close to home.
But I didn’t want to go alone, so I invited a date — a younger woman, actually.
Truth be told, I’m in love with this girl, and I don’t think Tamie, my devoted wife of 22 years, minds at all.
Nearly 13 years ago, God blessed our family with a precious baby girl. Kendall joined older brothers Brady and Keaton in our happy home, and our lives have never been the same. (Insert the joyful noise of children quarreling here.)
Before my daughter’s arrival, I always thought I didn’t understand women. Now, I realize my lack of understanding goes double for those complex creatures known as little girls.
Every bit as pretty as her mother, Kendall has known how to melt my heart from the day she was born.
Most of the time, all she has to do is smile and say “Daddy” in the sweetest voice you’ve ever heard.

As a preschooler, she’d see my face covered with shaving cream and pretend I was Santa Claus.
“Will you buy me a present?” she’d giggle and ask.
After staring into her bright blue eyes, I’d buy her anything — then and now.
As an infant, my bald-headed sweetheart wore colorful hair bows to church each Sunday, courtesy of her fashion-conscious mother. Now, she’s in seventh grade, and her hair runs down her back.
In many ways, Kendall reminds me of her mother. She’s outgoing and talkative. She’s artistic and loves to knit. She enjoys Chinese and Greek food (unlike her picky father). She fawns over small animals (“small” being a relative term given the size of the pot-bellied pet rabbit that shares her bedroom). She’s caring, sensitive and sassy.
On the other hand, Kendall somehow picked up her father’s competitiveness (be it volleyball or cards, she hates to lose) and occasional grumpiness, not to mention his love of Texas Rangers baseball, country music and wacky humor.
She’s at an age when tears seem to flow easily. Our minivan hit a pothole the other day, and the floodgates burst open.
“You don’t have to cry about every little thing,” her older brother Keaton complained.
“You don’t have to judge me all the time,” she replied.
In the front of the van, all I could do was smile and think of the Trace Adkins song where he sings: “You’re gonna miss this. You’re gonna want this back. You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast.”
Of course, Tamie and I have had one prayer for Kendall — that she would accept Jesus as her Savior and devote her life to serving him.
God answered our prayers a few weeks ago when Kendall asked to be baptized.
Her older brother Brady, a preaching ministry major at Oklahoma Christian University, immersed her for the forgiveness of sins on a Wednesday night.
Now, all three of our children have made that most important of decisions to follow Jesus.
“Our work is done,” I joked to Tamie.
She suggested that we might have a little parenting left to do.
As I shared in a recent column, Tamie deals with health issues that keep her from being as active as she’d like. When my wife didn’t feel like going to the Southern Africa Bible College event, she proposed Kendall as a stand-in.
Kendall hesitated only slightly before agreeing to join me. She looked beautiful in a new purple dress that her mom bought for her small-group chorus performance at Leadership Training for Christ.
“Is it going to be boring?” Kendall asked as we pulled out of the garage.
“Yes,” I replied.
She groaned but didn’t try to escape.
School director Fred Bergh, a former South Africa ambassador to the United Nations, spoke at the dinner, describing how he left a high-profile government position to focus on the Great Commission.
On the ride home, Kendall confided that she was a little disappointed when she realized Bergh worked with Nelson Mandela, not Howie Mandel.
I couldn’t help but laugh.
Did I mention that I love that girl?
Bobby Ross Jr. is Managing Editor of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].

Filed under: Inside Story

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