On Fatherhood: Jaydn’s First Words

I don’t know anything about Jaydn’s biological father. The only information we have about her first 5 months of life (aka pre-orphanage) involve her biological mom alone. I don’t know if her bio father was a presence or a stranger, and I don’t think Jaydn will ever remember either. That is just one of the mysteries we have to learn to live with the tension of when you adopt a child. There are just some questions that will never be answered.

But as Father’s Day approaches, my attention doesn’t turn in the direction of Jaydn’s biological father but to the Father to the Fatherless. He has been providing for her needs long before she could ever know she needed it. As far as she knew, there was no male role model in her life. No one was there to show her respect and authority in a loving manner. She didn’t have a male presence that represented honor and strength combined with tenderness and support. But, behind the scenes of her precious little life, God was grooming a man to fill that void in her future world. He knew that eventually she would need a hand to hold and a lap to crawl into that represented all God was to her. So for years, even before she was born, God began growing a love for Jaydn in the heart of a small-town Kentucky boy who would one day have the courage to get on a plane and change both of their lives forever.

The grimace on Jaydn’s face when we saw her for the first time was so harsh. Her eyes avoided contact while her hand reached out for a comforting touch. “Who are these Mzungus [white people] and why are they here to see me?” she must have thought. It was clear the idea of us being her parents was far from her comprehension or desire in that moment. As the day continued on, she would let us hold her but any facial expression other than that original of complete anger was not being shown to us. We shared a meal with the mamas and other children and talked for hours but then it was nap time. I use that term loosely b/c my version of nap time is much stricter than the orphanage’s version was. Basically, it was just time for the kids to stay in the building for a while. Something in Nathan “clicked” during that section of time, and he sought Jaydn out. He went into her room and to the side of her bed and started tickling her. After a few times, the sweetest sound I had ever heard came to kiss my ears… laughter.

Our daughter was laughing!!! Nathan, being the comedian that he is, made silly faces and played peek a boo and did everything he could to keep this once angry, eye-contact-avoiding little girl laughing! Soon the whole room was erupting in playful noises and chuckles-it was such a joyful scene to observe from the lens of my video camera. But, then…it happened. Nathan ducked out of the room and hid from Jaydn’s sight and she called out for him, “DADDY??!” The tears poured from my eyes as I witnessed my daughter identifying the man in front of her, making her laugh as the man who would provide for her, lead her, and comfort her in the days ahead. Nathan came around the corner, “Did you hear that!? She called me Daddy!!” I couldn’t speak I was in such awe of the moment. It was as if God’s strategic intersecting of her need for a Father and Nathan’s desire to represent the Gospel message to the world could finally be heard through those 5 little letters D-A-D-D-Y. My daughter’s first word was “daddy.” Nathan represented everything that term of endearment was meant to imply, and she knew it!

So, I don’t know anything about Jaydn’s biological father, but I know a lot about her heavenly one and even more about her earthly one in Nathan. God handpicked Nathan to be Jaydn’s daddy. I know that she couldn’t have had a better man appointed to teach her leadership through sacrifice and obedience through love. This Father’s Day, we celebrate the remarkable example God gives us of unconditional love as our own personal Abba and also Jaydn’s first year of knowing, through tangible experience, how loved she has always been by her Daddy’s. Happy Father’s Day!

________________________________________

Bethany Gaddis

I have been married going on 8 years to a worship pastor, a rock star, and the most involved and intentional dad I have ever seen! Together, we have the privilege of parenting three amazing children (Jaxon- 5 1/2, Jovie, 2 1/2, and Jaydn 2). Jaydn recently came to us through adoption from Uganda, Africa. We just moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, but I am a west-coast girl at heart. I enjoy photography, adventure recreation, and teaching high-school students about the most important decision they could ever make: to follow Jesus. I enjoy writing as a way to learn life lessons out loud because, most of the time, the right (wise) answers are in me somewhere; I just have to dig to find them. I am a firm believer that this life is not my own, so I try my best to respond to every opportunity that crosses my path to give of my life, my love, and my resources.

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