On the last Sunday of April, my dad took my 5 year old niece on a date. Every year our local public school district puts on two dances for girls in grades kindergarten through fifth and a man in her life. Sometimes it is a dad or a grandpa or an uncle. Sometimes it is a friend of the family or a caring adult from church. The girls get dressed up and they spend a few hours one afternoon being treated like a “princess”. They dance. They paint fingernails. They make crafts. They eat.
They feel special. They feel important. They feel beautiful. They feel loved.
I love that the schools do this event. It isn’t the princess part of it. My niece is incredibly girly but I’m not and never was. So getting dressed up and being a princess isn’t what I find beautiful. What I find beautiful is that a moment is being created for a little girl and a special man in her life. For a few moments, phones or work or responsibilities are set aside and people are present with each other. And I imagine that many little girls in that big open room finally feel close to a daddy that otherwise seems distant.
My niece was so excited to go to this dance with her grandpa. She practiced her dancing and gave pointers to grandpa several days out about dancing the Harlem Shake and Gangham Style. She was excited about dressing up in her fancy dress from a cousin’s recent wedding where she was the flower girl. The day arrived and Grandpa put on his best suit and tie. Morgan was smiling ear to ear when she saw him. My dad reached out and put a beautiful wrist corsage on her little wrist and Morgan’s smile was brighter than the sun. She felt beloved.
We took lots of pictures and sent them on their way to their special day together. The women all wished we could go and watch but that isn’t the point. It was their moment. But a dear friend of mine snapped this picture of the two of them dancing and sent it to me. I love it for so many reasons. It gave us a glimpse into the dance and what they were experiencing.
But mostly I love it because of what I see happening between my dad and my niece.
As excited as my niece was about this special day, when they got there – along with several hundred other adults and little girls – she got overwhelmed. And nervous. And just a little scared. Those of us who know her well can see that on her face in this picture. She so wanted to dance but she lacked the courage to leap into the moment on her own.
What I also see in this picture is my loving, protective father holding onto her to assure her she is safe. He has her. And it is okay to dance. It is okay because they can dance together. After some time, she relaxed and she enjoyed the special afternoon with her papa.
I will forever adore this picture. This precious captured moment.
I will adore it because it captures the way my dad loves me, my sister, and now his granddaughter. He has always made us feel loved, special, safe, and supported. And he encourages us to dance. When we’ve been scared or overwhelmed or timid, he has held us and helped us to keep moving to the music of life. And when we couldn’t quite hear the song, he would hum it and move us to the beat until we could hear it again.
I’ve been so blessed with the man I have the honor of calling my dad. And I will forever be grateful that because of who my dad and my mom have chosen to be, the image of God as a Parent is the most endearing and comforting image I can imagine. I know many cannot say that but I’m very grateful that I can.
I will also forever adore this picture because I not only see my dad and my niece. I see my Abba and me.
This picture is a reflection of God and me that I’ve become more aware of in recent months as He has taught me about His extravagant love for me. He makes me feel loved, special, safe and supported. And God encourages me to dance. When I’m scared or overwhelmed or timid, He holds me tighter and helps me keep moving to the music. And when I can’t quite hear the song, God hums it to me and moves us to the beat until I can hear it again.
I listen to His heart, I watch His steps and I respond to His lead. I relax and I enjoy the special time with my Papa.
And we dance.