Daddy’s Hands

Holly Dunn released a song in 1985, named “Daddy’s Hands.” This was

her breakout song and touched many people with the words.

Personally, I can remember hearing this song at an early age. One instance was at my Uncle’s funeral. It described him well, and his family sobbed as those words were sung at that small baptist church in the country.

The chorus reads, “Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin’, Daddy’s hands were hard as steel when I done wrong, Daddy’s hands weren’t always gentle but I’ve come to understand, There was always love in Daddy’s hands.”

Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy……

I can’t count on my fingers and toes the number of times I get called Daddy each day. “Daddy, will you help me do this?” “Daddy, come here please.” “Daddy, will you go outside with me?” Hearing these simple words makes my heart smile.

Can you remember your child’s first words? I would venture to say that most of you would say that one of the first words they said was either, Momma or Daddy in some variation.

I can remember the first time I was called Dad, I was 29. I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to have kids. But the Lord had a plan. Then appeared a three foot tall, forty pound, four year old.

My wife and I started dating when Landon was four and soon after I can remember the first time he called me “Dad”. It was a simple statement. “Dad, can you help me?”

Wow! After all these years, someone called me Dad. But, wait this is a lot of responsibility. Is there an idiots guide to how to be a father? Sure I had nephews, but when things got awkward or if there was puke, poop or blood, I could always just take them home.

Of course Amanda threw me to the wolves to start with. In a local restaurant, “Will you take Landon to the bathroom?” Sure how hard could that be. Needless to say, in about fifteen minutes my phone was ringing from the mama bear to see if her cub was ok.

There are plenty of other stories like these where I learned just as much from Landon as he was learning from me. Like anything else in life, it takes practice to be good at something. There are days that are better than others, when I say that I mean there are days that I screw up less than others as a parent.

If you listen to Rick and Bubba, you know that Rick from the show had a two year old son who drowned. Rick spoke at the funeral and I came across a video from that day that really touched me. He talked about how things of the world don’t matter. The boy, Bronner, would get in trouble for playing in the office at their home. He would dump crayons in the floor of the office. When Rick went into the office after Bronner’s death, the crayons were there. Those crayons, along with spilled milk, or broken vases represent things of our life that truly don’t matter.

Sharing our faith with our children, so that they can accept that gift and share it with others is all that should truly matter. However, I too get caught up in the hustle and bustle and sometimes spend more time telling them what Nathan wants them to do, instead of what our Lord and savior expects of them.

Now, we have three children and one day diapers will not be on our list of things to buy at the grocery store, and the number of times I get called Dad or Daddy is multiplied times three. This is music to my ears. But, Landon was the first. I’m optimistic that long after I’m gone, he will explain to his kids the love in his daddy’s hands, but most importantly his Godly fathers love for them.

Second Chances

When you were a kid, do you remember making a mistake that you knew you surely would be punished for? When your parents found out, you begged them for a second chance. I can remember a time when I was upset at how things were going at home. I decided I would pack my things up and leave home. I got all my things walked to the neighbors house and set up camp. I set all my things up and had my space just like I wanted. I was free at last. Until the neighbors called my dad and told him that his five year old son had set up a spot right outside their shop with my things. I begged my daddy to give me a second chance before he gave me a spanking that I still remember.

I’m here today because of second chances, but more importantly that God has shown me his Grace(undeserved favor towards us)

I’ve been a Christian most of my life, I am 34 now and have been a Christian since I was 13. As a teenager, I went to church every day the doors were open. I went to youth camps, mission trips. I can remember on a mission trip in Knoxville, TN, leading 7 complete strangers to Christ, I shared the ABC’s, Admit, Believe, and Confess. But as I got older I didn’t always act like a Christian. Like some people, I strayed away from what I knew was right. I faced conviction and knew what I was doing wasn’t pleasing in the lord’s eyes.

One of those instances including a night of drinking and I can remember, me and a couple buddies thought it would be a good idea to get a little mud on the tires as Brad Paisley would say. Needless to say, i wasn’t in any shape to think rationally. I ended up losing control of the truck and running into an embankment. My buddies elbow was on the window seal of the truck and the impact caused the mirror to bust the glass in the door cutting his arm badly. By Gods Grace no one was hurt any worse and I walked away.

Another instance, I was traveling down a dirt road and through a blind curb I collided with a vehicle and my truck ended up on its side in a ditch. The other person had no injuries, my truck had a small dent and the lawn mower I was pulling had been flipped upside down. We turned it over added a little oil and it cranked right up. But by God’s Grace I walked away.

Another night while riding four wheelers with one of my good friends, we encountered some trouble as he lost control of the four wheeler and it flipped. He went in the direction of the ditch to our right and I hit the road to our left. The four wheeler followed him and as I woke up I called his name. Nothing! I scrambled and found his body lifeless. I checked his pulse, called 911 and began CPR, the ambulance arrived after what seemed like an eternity. But nothing could be done for my friend. I had some minor injuries and was taken to the hospital, but by God’s Grace I walked away.

Often times we forget how many times we’ve failed our savior and he continues to give us second and third and fourth chances as long as you repent from your mistakes. But yet we hold others to so much of a higher standard.

My life changed dramatically for the worse at that point. With all these extra chances at life you would think I would’ve straightened my act up and given the lord all the praise for keeping me around. Instead, I turned even further away from God, deeply depressed I became an alcoholic(drank everyday). Turned from my family and friends. I had many failed relationships bc they weren’t based on his teachings.

God’s Grace prevailed once again.

My brother and several other coaches in our area had been asking and praying for years for me to attend a camp in the summer.i always came up with an excuse not to go. My wife and I had been attending church but still not living a life that would be pleasing to him. We talked it over and decided that we would go to the camp. The Lord spoke to us personally and as a couple. Things changed, there were men that were like me, that had some of the same struggles and I could relate to. God worked on my heart and changed my way of thinking, acting and my attitude towards life.

It’s not easy, I still fight battles everyday. The devil shows his face and tries to deter my thoughts, our marriage, my relationship with my kids, but I can be assured of one thing. God is always in my corner.

Romans 5:1-2 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

In verse 1, in my situation like some of you I was in a battle with God, and he won. Through Jesus Christ who died on the cross, he is our peace. Standing in grace means that:

– I don’t have to prove I am worthy of God’s love

– I am free from the “score sheet” – the account is settled in Jesus

– I spend more time praising God and less time hating myself

Intentional Walk

If you aren’t a baseball/softball fan, you may not be able to relate. Crazy things happen in sports and often times when a team tries to intentional walk a batter, things can get interesting.

Luckily enough, I have had the opportunity to roam the dugouts and coaches’ boxes in the area for twelve years as a high school softball coach. As you can imagine, in twelve years I have seen some rare things on the field.

Until this season, a pitcher was required to throw four pitches to a batter even if they intended on walking them on purpose. The Alabama High School Athletic Association and Major League Baseball both made a change to this rule as of late, the coach can simply call time and inform the umpire that they want to put the batter on first base without any pitches being thrown.

In five hundred or so games, players on our teams have been intentionally walked and our pitchers have been asked to intentionally walk other teams’ batters. Most of these instances have went rather uneventful, however there have been some compelling events that have taken place at crucial times, most of which went our way.

In the bottom of the seventh, our team was tied with another local team with runners on second and third. The coach called time and instructed the pitcher to intentionally walk the next batter in order to set up a force out at each base. During the conference, we instructed our kids to stay alert and keep getting their normal leads because you never know what might happen. On the first pitch, the pitcher threw the ball behind the batter and our runner raced to home plate with her coach right behind her. I think I almost beat her to the plate, but she scored the winning run.

In another instance similar to the previous, a team decided to intentionally walk a batter to load the bases in the seventh. The next batter proceeded to hit a GRAND SLAM. We won the game in the bottom of the inning.

It hasn’t always gone our way, in a state tournament game; I made the decision to pitch to a kid from the other team instead of intentionally walking her. She had already hit a double and home run prior to this at bat. On the second pitch of the at bat, she bombed another ball over the center field fence. We went on to lose that game.

Most things that happen throughout any sports season can be related to life. As a coach, I would never make a decision that would intentionally lose a game. In life we wouldn’t make a decision if we knew that the outcome would be detrimental to our health or well being.

Assuming we are in the right state of mind.

As with the choice of intentionally walking a batter, sometimes the coach makes the right decision and the team wins the game, we make the right decision in life and we have a prosperous financial gain. Often times the coach makes the wrong decision that may cost them the game, as in life those decisions often cost us friendships or allow us to lose out on an opportunity.

Learning from these experiences, making progress based on what you have learned and teaching other’s what you’ve learned can make a huge difference in how you approach making similar decisions down the road.

The Love of the Game

When those two big metal doors swing open, there is a pleasant aroma that escapes into the air that only a “has been” high school athlete would fully appreciate. It’s an acquired smell that you grow to love, because of the hours invested inside those walls.

But there isn’t just one smell, it’s a mixture of a few different things. That may be why some  people think the scent isn’t that appealing. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about the local high school gymnasium.

Sweaty practice jerseys, socks that have been left in a locker for a few days, mixed with fresh varnish from the newly coated floors make for a heavenly scent.

Not many people agree, but from a sub-par athlete who played the game, not because he was going to the NBA, but because he enjoyed the game, this smell takes you back to years that former athletes would give their right pinky finger to revisit.

My oldest son is playing for a local recreational league team in the town that we live in. Their games are played at the high school gym. The same gym where many teams have played important games, thousands of practices, and uncountable lessons have been learned.

On this Saturday morning, Landon’s team is playing a team from another small local town. The excitement is in the air and you can see it on the children’s faces. The players have been practicing hard and they can’t wait to take what they’ve learned out on that court against someone besides their own team.

The game starts and it’s a slow go to start with. If you are looking for an offensive shoot out, then a 10u basketball game may not be your cup of tea. The score is irrelevant, but at halftime the teams were only separated by one basket.

As the second half started, there was more of the same, a lot of turnovers, some missed shots and very few points scored.

During the fourth quarter, the game remained close. The kids are pouring their hearts into the game in hopes of a victory. At this point every shot matters, every call from the referee matters, and you can tell that tension is starting to build. Coaches argue every call, parents are screaming from the stands and the kids play the game.

The game goes down to the last second. The home town team is down by one point. There has only been twenty nine points scored by both teams in almost four full quarters. So with only four seconds left in the game, the chance of our team winning doesn’t look too promising. The ball is inbounded, it’s passed and after what seemed like an eternity the ball is thrust towards the basket. As the shot is released, the final buzzer sounds.

One side of the gym erupts in celebration along with the coaches and players, as the other team settles for a good game and hope that they will win the next one. The kid who took the shot has tears running down his face as his team embraces him, but these are tears of joy. Because the shot rolled around the rim and fell through the net to propel the home team to the big victory.

Sometimes we forget that the game is supposed to be fun, we also forget the coaches aren’t getting paid, and finally that the referees are human. No college coaches are attending a rec. league game in South Alabama unless their kids are playing.

Those walls of that gym could tell you many stories of agonizing defeats and net cutting wins. But today kids enjoyed the game, no matter the result. They will remember the smells of that old gym, much like I do and it will take them back to the joys of just playing the game.

Kindness is Beautiful

Kindness is Beautiful

In other parts of the country, it may be unheard of to fill your stomach with anything of substance from a gas station. Sure there are chain restaurants in quite of few truck stops I’ve visited along the interstate, but in South Alabama some of the best eating is prepared in small kitchens inside of convenience stores.

There is a popular one in my home town. If you go there for lunch, you may have to wait in line for ten to fifteen minutes to get your food. It’s not because they are taking their time or the service is terrible. No, it’s because the line of people wanting a taste of that southern cooking winds out the side door.

There are dining tables spaced throughout the store, usually filled with hard working people trying to get a quick bite before returning to the grind.

The ladies that prepare the food and your plate are always friendly. They take care of you with healthy portions, a smile and a “Thank you Baby”, before you leave. The food is great, but the charm really sets this place over the top.

Today I entered the store, not for that great southern food, but for headache medicine.

As I entered the store, a young man at the cash register noticed the shirt and hat I was wearing and commented, “Roll Tide.” I quickly responded, “Roll Tide!” It resembled the ESPN commercial depicting people of Alabama showing their love for the Tide.

But there was something different about this guy. He truly enjoyed his job, or at least the conversation. As I approached the front counter with the ten pack of Advil that I could buy a hundred of at Wal mart for the same price, the young man commented “Man, I hope you feel better.” I was caught off guard by his kindness.

I made small talk, finished up my purchase and headed for the door.

As I reached for the door, the young man again gave some words of encouragement “I really do hope you start feeling better.”

Walking through the parking lot, I couldn’t help but to think of how many people had been in that store today and walked out with a different attitude on the day because of his positive words.

Often times we get wrapped up in our own little world and forget about shining our light for others to see. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind and you never know how a positive gesture may change someone’s day.

Thank you sir.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

A Trip Down Memory Lane

How many of you have ever been to Asbury, Alabama? It’s a don’t blink or you will miss it kind of place. Located in Western Coffee County, it’s a small community that in each direction there isn’t a grocery store for at least 15 miles. In fact, there aren’t any stores in Asbury, only a few local churches.

This is the kind of place that you don’t have good cell service if you get to the bottom of the hill and there may be trouble getting internet in certain areas.

But what you do have is plenty of good ol country folks as they say,” they are good people”. Mostly farm land and chicken houses are vested in the area which is within smelling distance of the chicken plant.

I spent most summers in this area with my grandparents.

My grandparents were those people, “the good ones.”

They farmed acres of land that my grandfather had purchased and built a house that still stands today. They went to a local church anytime the doors were open. My brother and I stayed with them briefly in the summer and many of you may understand, but have forgotten these times in our life. When life was much simpler.

We sat in the old wooden chairs at the breakfast table and waited for Granny to put those biscuits on the table. Those things were heaven on a plate. With a little butter and a little syrup, they would melt in your mouth. As we were waiting, PawPaw would talk about how we slept and the things we had to get done for the day. The television wasn’t on, it wouldn’t have mattered any way, there were only a few stations and they didn’t always come in clearly. It was according to which way the wind was blowing.

After breakfast, we went to the fields to harvest what had been planted for the season. I can remember thinking, playing with my cousins would have been a lot more fun than picking peas and butter beans. PawPaw was a simple farmer. There were no GPS tractors or fancy equipment most of the work was done by hand. You could tell this by his arthritis ridden hands that would barely make a fist.

When lunch came, we would eat a healthy dose of something that Granny had warmed up from the night before. The afternoon was filled with naps on the front porch or in the swing under the pecan tree in their front yard. It was much cooler outside, because there was no air conditioner on the inside. We might even walk to the service station about a quarter of a mile away and get a RC Cola and moonpie, while talking with some of the older gentlemen in the community that stayed there for hours each day.

Before long PawPaw would tell them, “we’d better get back to the house; Granny will have supper cooked directly.”

Talking about some good eating, supper would include some of those peas, cornbread and chicken fried in the cast iron skillet. I can still taste that chicken, but never been able to replicate it.

Before long it would be bed time and we would get beside the bed as a group and kneel for prayer. PawPaw would pray, and then Granny and finally all of us would take a turn.

You see things were a lot simpler back then. At the time, I wished there was more excitement. But now, I wish I could turn back the time to sleeping in that swing under that pecan tree in 1986.

A Penguin in South Alabama

A Penguin in South Alabama

Have you ever seen a penguin in The South. Yeah, it’s highly unlikely unless you find one of those fancy aquariums somewhere in the big city.

In Newton, Alabama, summers can reach over one hundred degrees and your weight can fluctuate five or six pounds according to how much you sweat. So, when I tell you that I have a pet penguin, I know it is hard for you to believe.

However, it is true.

This penguin lives in our house. He, I assume the penguin is a he, I never really paid attention in science class. I never gave him a name, but for the sake of the story we will call him Jake.

Jake likes to hang around the refrigerator, I’m pretty sure he is trying to stay as close to his normal habitat as possible. Although, as of now it’s twenty-eight degrees outside, he would probably be better off outside.

But Jake means too much to me to allow him to go outside. You see I am afraid that he may get away from me and I may never see him again. We’ve been through a lot together.

Jake has lived with me since I was a young adult. In perspective, Jake has survived thirteen plus years. During this time a lot has changed, five different houses, three vehicles, passing of other loved pets, heartbreak and finding true love. Then came kids of my own, and we all know how tough small children can be on pets.

You all probably have an image of a toddler pulling the tail of a cat or riding on the back of the family dog. So, you can imagine how hard it is to keep our children from injuring an animal that moves so slow.

I am not really sure of the life expectancy of penguins, should’ve paid more attention in science class. But who would’ve thought I would have one as a pet. But hopefully Jake will make it a few more years.

As you may have guessed, I don’t have a living pet penguin living in my house. Jake is a penguin that my nephew, Hunter, colored for me when he was less than five years old. He didn’t really stay between the lines and on the side of the picture it reads ” I love you Unkel Nate.”

Yes, I do know how to spell Uncle.

But those imperfections didn’t matter, because this picture touched my heart deep in a time when I needed something. At times in our lives, things get away from us. We make mistakes, hurt people, and push God away, even though he is the only way out of this downward spiral.

This picture provided me “Hope”, that no matter what mistakes I had made, a five year old boy loved me no matter what the world thought of my decisions. All he knew was that his Uncle loved him no matter what, because he let him sit in his lap and drive his Toyota pick up. His Uncle would also give him Mountain Dew and Bubble Tape and then hear it from his parents a few hours later.

So after all these years, the picture will remain on my refrigerator as a constant reminder that we are all loved. Someone always looks up to you, no matter your imperfections. God loves you as well, it doesn’t matter where you’ve been, it’s where you’re going.

Sincerely,

Unkel Nate