Life isn’t Fair, Broken Balloons, and a Good Father

“Life isn’t fair!” she sobbed from the backseat, holding her broken balloon. “I wanted to show my daddy!”

And in that moment my stifling hot minivan became a place of ministry to both of us.

We were sitting in the van following PWOC, a wonderful military related fellowship and bible study program.

They have fantastic childcare with bible lessons for our children. I’m not sure what part the balloons played in their lesson, but my sweet girl had been SO excited to show me her ‘hugantic’ balloon.

She blew it up all by herself and had the biggest balloon in her class!

What she couldn’t understand was how inflating her balloon to that size had weakened its structure. Sure enough, moments after getting seated, a tiny hole appeared and then another, and the balloon began to deflate before her eyes.

“Why did MY balloon break? The other kids’ balloons didn’t break!” She wailed.

In a way that only a young child’s heart can, it broke with disappointment. Tears poured down her cheeks and she shook with sobs. She held the tiny balloon corpse in her palm as if begging me to resuscitate it.

Despite being unable to perform balloon CPR, I had such compassion for her broken heart. I immediately remembered a post from Minivan Ministries about teaching our children to bring their needs to God in prayer.

So I told her to just start praying. Talk to God like He is right here with us. Tell Him how you feel and ask Him to help you. With her tiny little voice still breaking between shallow breaths and sobs, she prayed.

"Life isn't fair!" she sobbed from the backseat, holding her broken balloon. "I wanted to show my daddy!" And in that moment my minivan became a place of ministry to both of us.

“Dear God, I am really disappointed. I wanted to show my daddy my balloon and it broke. And it isn’t fair. Please help me get my feelings under control. I am so sad.”

A few moments later, “Mom, it didn’t work!” She said, still clearly upset.

Honey, you can’t pray like it’s magic. You have to let God work in your heart. Sometimes, he doesn’t change the situation, but changes us in it.

Prayer doesn't work like magic. Sometimes God doesn't change the situation, but changes us. Click To Tweet
“But life isn’t fair,” she said again.

and I said, “You’re right. It isn’t. And aren’t we so grateful for that?”


All the kids got balloons. Some kids had balloons that were perfectly inflated. A few balloons had already popped explosively. Some kids had sad, little, barely inflated balloons. One tiny girl adorably was still walking around sputtering with all her might into a stubbornly flat balloon. No two were the same.

And I immediately saw myself.

Life isn’t fair! Why don’t I have the perfect house, family, body, life?

We all get balloons, but they aren’t the same because we all make different choices and because God has different plans for each of us.

My imperfect body has taught me humility. I’ve learned find my comfort and identity in Christ alone. My imperfect house has reminded me that my eternal home is the one I need to focus on. My imperfect family has reminded me how much I have still to learn about grace and how to love.

I was reminded how wonderful it is that life isn’t fair.

How wonderful it is that life isn't fair, that God extends His grace and love when we don't deserve them. Click To Tweet

I began the drive home and explained,

Oh, my sweet love, we celebrate that life isn’t fair because Jesus paid our price. God’s grace and forgiveness are things we don’t deserve because of our sin, and yet He gives them freely because of His great love for us.

As we talked, I could hear the tone in her voice change. Her disappointment faded, and she realized that it wasn’t truly the end of the world.

But that wasn’t the end of the story either.

I texted my husband about how disappointed she had been about showing him her HUGE balloon. He was going to be home after she went to bed, and I wanted to share this bittersweet moment with him.

When he did get home, he barely said hello, rushing past me towards her room. A few minutes later, he came out smiling.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“I bought her a jumbo balloon. She just finished blowing it up.”

And it’s ORANGE! she shouted from her room. Orange is her favorite color.

What a good father!

Minutes before closing, after a very long day, he raced into our local store to buy her a balloon.

I cannot tell you how that moment ministered to my heart. I saw God working in her life, giving her back a moment she lost (and a new balloon), answering her minivan prayers through her dad.

Watching my husband love her like that was a gift from my Father for me because I pray over their sweet relationship.

If this is how a human father loves his children, how much more will He have good gifts for us! Click To Tweet

I also heard God reminding me if this is how a human father loves his children, how much more will He have good gifts for us.

Matthew 7:11 ESV / If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

And I’m so grateful that life isn’t fair.

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A Father’s Day note to my daughter’s dad

Father’s Day is always challenging. You hate being celebrated. The expectations for dads have never been higher, and you often feel like you’re not measuring up. You’re too hard on yourself.

So today, I want to tell you all the ways you are getting it right with our sweet little girl.

She was both the child you were most prepared for and least ready for.

You knew the ins and outs of babies, but you weren’t prepared for the intense little girlness of her, for the effortless way she would wrap you around her pinky and be so totally different from your boys, full of ribbons and bows and imagination and drama!

This Father’s Day, I want to say I see the good job you’re doing.

I love watching her with you, the way she races to your arms the second you pull in the driveway, the way everything is better because daddy is home.

I love hearing you call her baby.

I love watching your gentleness with her, the way you play dress up with her or let her style your hair. Watching you read to her makes my heart full. I love hearing the inside jokes you share only with her. She has softened you in beautiful ways.

Expectations for Dad have never been higher. Love him. Tell him what he's doing right. Click To Tweet
Keep being her dad.

Keep taking her fishing, teaching her to cast and reel and bait her own hooks. Keep taking her to fly kites and pick berries. Keep walking her through the woods, teaching her which plants are safe, which broken branches show deer signs. From you, she learns to honor nature and respect the animals we eat.

Teach her to love adventures and to forget about her hair. Let her get muddy on your watch.

Teach her to love adventures and forget about her hair. Let her get muddy on your watch. Click To Tweet

Keep wrestling and tickling. You’re teaching her so much more than to laugh. Your loving play is teaching her that good men can be trusted. You are teaching her to set boundaries with her body and to defend herself.

Do you remember how special it is to watch TV with your dad, just the two of you? She already so enjoys curling up next to you and watching hunting shows together. You’re building loving memories and creating exciting future plans in her imagination.

You celebrate Father's Day, but often feel like you're not measuring up as a dad. So, I want to tell you all the ways you're getting it right with our girl.

Keep flying her around the house as long as you can. You’ve taught her to feel safe in your strength. And our crazy, dreamer girl will always remember you made her first impossible dream come ‘true.’

You deserve a great Father’s Day!

Keep teaching her all the things you do. From you, she learns animals and biology better than any high school lab. She learns to try every new food at least once, even sushi or spicy octopus. 😜

She watches you decide to learn something and do it, going from novice to expert in front of her eyes.

From you, she learns that work is how we have our nice home and good food. She sees you work hard as a soldier and at home. She will learn to work hard and expect that from others.

Dad's teach daughters so much, including how to be loved. Keep loving her unconditionally! Click To Tweet

Keep loving her unconditionally. Someday, too soon, she will equate how you loved her with how a man should love her. Keep building a great foundation with whisker kisses on her cheeks and bear hugs.

She believes you are a superhero. She is right.

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Joy and Sorrow: the Bones of My Father’s Life

My father’s life and personality has been my strongest influence, for better and worse. As he grows older, there is joy and sorrow in every visit as I sit surrounded by the bones of my father’s life.

This week I’ve traveled across the nation to visit my father. He is in an assisted living facility now after battling with some memory loss issues for several years and having had a small stroke.

It is emotional for me to watch from afar while he deals with losing the pieces of himself.

I’ve been able to tell he is losing ground in this fight. He used to be a Christian counselor and write computer code, but now can’t often remember how to log onto Facebook or focus long enough to read one of his treasured books, even his Bibles lay untouched.

We’re keeping busy with visiting several times a day, but at night when it’s quiet, the emotions start to overwhelm me.

I’m surrounded by the bones of my father’s life and the ghosts of our family.

I'm surrounded by the bones of my father's life and the ghosts of our family past. Click To Tweet

Since his move is relatively recent, I’ve been staying in his now empty home. He left rushed away in an ambulance, so despite being cleaned and prepared for my arrival, it is a bit like visiting hastily evacuated ghost town, pieces of life lay scattered, left abandoned as if he will return any moment.

I found piles of old pictures from before I was born. One of my mother that was particularly beautiful, a college graduation photo, I believe.

My father's life and personality has been my strongest influence. I find joy and sorrow in every visit as I sit surrounded by the bones of my father's life.

Another from when they first were married in which Dad was trying to steal a kiss and mom was playfully pushing him away, laughing.

I don’t remember those people. Carefree and in love, full of laughter. I look at the photo and wonder what they were thinking and feeling. Who were they before we came along?

My father's life and personality has been my strongest influence. I find joy and sorrow in every visit as I sit surrounded by the bones of my father's life.
Would I have been friends with this twenty something military couple? As an army wife myself, now, it’s interesting that my mom started her marriage that way, too.

I know these quiet moments of visiting this silent past are a whisper of my future. Someday soon, I’ll be helping put his life away as we say goodbye on this side of heaven.

Last night, I found piles of letters from him to us. I remembered some of them, but a few were never sent.

I hear his ache to have security in the salvation of his children, for us to know how deeply we were loved, and for us to understand who he was.

In one letter, he addressed a section to each of his daughters. My breath almost caught in my throat when I saw what he wrote. He wrote about my deep understanding of people and growing discernment in Christ, but wrote that I would have to learn, probably through failure and pain, servant leadership, rather than my forcefulness.

God’s been showing me the need to serve, lead by example of humility. And here in this letter, written decades ago, my father saw those same strengths and struggles that I’m finally bringing to God.

Even in this mixture of joy and grief, trying to celebrate the life he has left, while mourning the pieces he has lost, he is still so entwined into my relationship with God.

I don’t know how the rest of his days will play out, but it has been really good for my heart to be here. To see him happily adjusting to this new reality, he is the encourager of the residents, pulling them out of themselves, cajoling smiles, harassing the staff playfully.

I’m learning how to love and honor him as my father in ways that matter to who he is now, but my heart is haunted by the joy and sorrow of who we all used to be while yearning for God’s continued grace in this journey of my father’s life.

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Let Him be Her Dad

On this Father’s Day, I spent a lot of time thinking about dads, my dad, my step-father-in-law, my father-in-law and my daughter’s father. My husband spent much of our daughter’s first year in Iraq, from just days after we finalized her adoption until after she turned 15 months old.

I was her everything for that year. We had brief periods of visiting family, but very few and far between. It was the all mommy show all the time. It was hard in many ways, but it was also easy because I could do everything my way, which is the way I like it or I wouldn’t do it that way, obviously.

I didn’t have to be a wife. I just had to be the mommy.

Then he came home, a bit lost in this new little-girl-land after two boys. He almost didn’t know how to be with her, this tiny willful stranger. It was hard, his learning to fit in with us, us learning to let him back in. It is part of the returning from war people don’t really understand, the reintegrating after the reuniting.

I had to learn how to share her, how to share him, how to let him find his own way with her. Honoring my husband by letting him have his own relationship with our daughter. She already has a mom, let him be her dad. Heaven Not Harvard

We had to find our family normal again.

One of the lessons that I had to learn was to let him be her dad. He is going to do things I never would. He is going to tickle her until she screams and throw her too high in the air, and give her ice cream for dinner. He is going to discipline her when I just want to wipe her tears. He is going to kiss her cheeks until he leaves whisker burn because she loves his “grouchy whispers”, and someday, she is going to associate manhood with the way his cologne smells, like I do with my dad’s Old Spice.

He lets her style his hair with a penguin. He wears her jewelry and pretends he doesn’t see her when she hides under the covers on his side of the bed. They have daddy-daughter dates to fly kites. As much as I want to go with them, I know that is time for them. She held a kite soaring magically through the sky for the first time with him. He teaches her to take life less seriously, catch a bass, identify a bird as it flies overhead. Someday, he will probably teach her to hunt. He will be a window into a different world than mine.

My world is full of books and words, feelings and communicating, dancing and art, learning and education. It’s a good world, but it isn’t the only world. His world is full of animals, dirt, bugs, cooking, living outdoors, patriotism and honor.

And she needs them both, like she needs us both. And I need to love him and respect him and let him be her dad so that she can always look up to her first superhero.

I see God in her, in the lessons I’ve learned raising her, in the ways she fits with me so perfectly. As I see the stark differences between her father and I, I recognize how perfectly God planned her family so that she would have the best of us both. Now if I can just relax, close my eyes, and let him be her dad, frogs, mud, and all.