Dear Holly: Eating Culver’s Chocolate Frozen Custard for Breakfast, Thanks to Our Church…

2 years, 3 months.

Dear Holly,

As we exited through the front doors of our church this past Sunday morning around 9:20 AM, one of the executive pastors turned to our family with an unexpected solicitation: “Frozen custard! Right here! Chocolate for vanilla?”

There was no reason to even bother asking why our church was giving free Culver’s frozen custard to all the members and visitors of The Bridge. They are known for committing random acts of kindness; like during the first week of school recently, they gave literally every school teacher in surrounding cities a free cup of Starbucks.

Somewhat miraculously, Mommy and I were able to convince both you and your brother that it wouldn’t be a good idea to try and eat your ice cream during the 10 minute car drive back to the house.

But the moment we made it to the kitchen, the two of you set up shop. There wasn’t much conversation going on during your chocolaty breakfast. In fact, I don’t recall either of you saying one word.

Instead, it was simply a matter of how much chocolate ice cream you both could scarf down until the brain freezes started kicking in.

The answer? Not a whole lot, really.

You both made it about 5 spoons in when you realized that while it was indeed great stuff, it was probably a bit too much awesomeness so early in the morning; on a mainly empty stomach.

I noticed only as I was washing your face afterwards, that you had the perfect chocolate mustache!

It’s a rare thing to be able to start a Sunday morning off right, with Culver’s frozen custard. But thanks to our church, The Bridge in Spring Hill, Tennessee, everything lined up just right.

Now that I think of it, you and your brother are pretty lucky kids!

Love,

Daddy

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Dear Holly: You Wore a Poop Emoji Band-Aid On Your Forehead to Church, While Your Parents Never Questioned It

2 years, 3 months.

Dear Holly,

The funniest part of this story is that it wasn’t until Mommy was making dinner last Sunday evening, around 5:30, that I even bothered bringing it up:

“So Holly’s been wearing a poop emoji Band-Aid on her forehead since I woke up this morning. We went to church, and then went to the doughnut shop, and the rest of the afternoon has now passed. Up until this point we haven’t talked about it.”

Mommy’s answer was everything I knew it would be. It was the explanation I didn’t need, since I already knew the answer because I know you that well. It was the very reason I never mentioned it all day:

“Yeah, Holly saw that I bought new Band-Aids and she wanted one on her forehead- so I let her. It wasn’t worth the fight.”

Needless to say, you’re going through that “wears Band-Aids excessively and unnecessarily” stage.

Earlier last week, I came downstairs from vacuuming, and you had two on each arm and two on each leg. You looked up at me in an attempt to earn all my sympathy:

“Daddy, I got boo-boos!”

You were the equivalent of a cartoon kitten who went skateboarding for the first time.

To you right now, Band-Aids are a fashion accessory. But you are also able to understand that in order to somewhat justify wasting them, you have to write a loose narrative as to why you’ve earned the right to wear the Band-Aids.

But you know good and well I’ll immediately settle for, “Daddy, I got boo-boos!”

Like Mommy said, it’s just not worth the fight.

In your psychological and social development right now, this is important to you.

Not to mention, I can’t deny it’s giving me access to being able to take some pretty funny and eventually embarrassing pictures of you these days.

Love,

Daddy

This is 36: I’m No Longer in Denial that It’s Difficult (and Stressful!) for Our Family to Make It To Church on Time

Is there any such thing as a family who doesn’t struggle to arrive to church before the service actually begins? Perhaps equally challenging is to show up without being stressed out or upset with each other.

The pastor of The Bridge Church, Josh Howerton, brings this up frequently- how ironic it is that it’s normal to fight in the car all the way to church, then put instantly put on smiles once the car ride is over and you walk through the doors of the church.

Last Saturday night, I decided to attempt to prevent this problem. And it actually worked- as simple as my plan was. Here’s what I did…

First, I initiated the conversation with my wife, acknowledging that our family is habitually late for church, and it’s typically a stressful morning, and that I wanted to do my part to change that.

So I asked her specifically what time we all needed to be up in the morning, so that everyone would have ample time to get ready in time.

Then I set my own alarm to the new time, to ensure that I led my family in our slight routine change.

I have to admit, it was a peaceful morning. It was enjoyable, actually. We even got to church early enough for one of the church greeters to take our family’s picture; to make up for the fact we forgot to do an obligatory Easter picture of our family for Facebook the week before.

So apparently that’s what it takes. It requires specific planning. But it all begins with the parents recognizing that an easygoing, on-time car ride to church is not the default.

I feel I am no longer in the denial of believing my family is the exception to the rule when it comes to the cliché stressful car ride to church.

And because of that, I am proactive enough now to change that for my family.

Here’s to getting the family to church on time and without the stress… for the 2nd time in a row.

This is 36.

Dear Holly: Baby Dedication Day at Our Church at The Bridge in Spring Hill, Tennessee

6 months.

Dear Holly: Baby Dedication Day at Our Church at The Bridge in Spring Hill, Tennessee

Dear Holly,

This past weekend while Nonna and Papa were in town for Jack’s 6th Birthday, as well as Papa’s 60th birthday, it just happened to also be when our church had its Baby Dedication Day. It was a very special time for our family- and for you.

Mommy and I acknowledged in front of our church, The Bridge in Spring Hill, TN, and in front of God, that we will do our best to raise you in a home where you see the love of Christ and where you know the ways of the Lord.

Obviously, we are imperfect parents. We have our flaws. We will fail at times.

But we have a special eternal hope and joy in Jesus. You are undeniably being raised in a Christian household- and the ceremony of the Baby Dedication makes that publically official.

Even your middle name, Joy, is based on our Christian faith; choosing to find joy in life.

Dear Holly: Baby Dedication Day at Our Church at The Bridge in Spring Hill, Tennessee

Our faith is beyond going to a building once a week. Our faith is built on loving others as ourselves. How can we love God if we don’t love each other?

Mommy and I see you as a gift from the Lord. We are responsible to God for you.

Specifically, as your earthly father, I am well aware of the important role I play in being your spiritual leader.

Our church gave you a children’s Bible, as well as, a special letter to open on the day of your salvation.

http://bridgesh.com/

Just like I do with your brother’s children’s Bible that my Grandma gave me, I will be reading bedtime stories to you from this new children’s Bible. I am very proud to raise you in the Christian faith.

You are more than just a beautiful little girl. You are a soul to be nurtured.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Baby Dedication Day at Our Church at The Bridge in Spring Hill, Tennessee

@howertonjosh

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel (in the 2016 Lexus ES 300h)

5 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

Dear Jack,

Right before we crossed over from Mentone to Fort Payne, Alabama, I surprised you by parking the Lexus ES 300h at an old church that is built around a giant rock; which is named Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

It was built back in 1937, when Colonel Milford Howard constructed the chapel as a memorial to his wife. And equally interesting is the fact his ashes are inside the rock itself, as his sort of burial place.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

Another fascinating thing about “Howard’s Chapel” is that the doors are never locked. That means that travelling passersby from DeSoto State Park can visit it at their convenience. This fact is openly promoted on the sign.

A couple Christmases back, I took you there with Uncle Andrew and Papa. However, you told me you don’t remember that.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

So it was like a brand new experience for you this time. I believe I was about your age when I first became aware of this chapel.

It’s such a rare thing- to be able to walk inside an old church with a giant rock inside, which contains the builder’s ashes. Seriously, how many people can say they actually have been there and seen the inside?

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

I bet most people have never even heard of it, outside of my hometown. It’s just so tucked away.

You were obviously fascinated. I’m sure it seemed like a bizarre dream to you. But it was all real… I was there too with you.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

And to think, I just grew up a few miles from there.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Ghostbusters and The BFG (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

The next stop on our father and son trip: The Azalea Trail at DeSoto State Park. But first, on the way there, I decided it would be cool to show you that little brick house I grew up in… coming up next.

Love,

Daddy

P.S.

Here’s the collection of stories from our father and son road trip…

Ghostbusters and the BFG

Nick A Jack Road

Cloudland Canyon State Park

Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel

Azalea Cascade Trail at DeSoto State Park

2016 Lexus ES 300h Father & Son Road Trip (Table of Contents)

Dear Jack: Our 1st Father and Son Road Trip- Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel (in the 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid)

Dear Jack: Our 1st Time to Church as a Family of 4

5 years, 6 months.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Time to Church as a Family of 4

Dear Jack,

This past Sunday our family amazingly made it to church…early! I truly didn’t expect us to get there at all- with it being this soon; after your sister being born a month ago.

As Mommy is currently on maternity leave, I think she was especially inspired to get out of the house for an exciting event other than buying groceries or buying new “baby stuff” for Holly.

So we talked about it, planned for it, and actually made it out of the house on Sunday morning about 30 minutes before the service began, even though we only live about 10 minutes from our church.

Fortunately, there is a giant atrium leading up to the sanctuary, where there are sofa chairs adjacent to several monitor screens streaming the service through the closed doors. Mommy and I camped out there with Holly, who conveniently was asleep the whole time.

While in your class, you made an edible “torch” out of a pretzel stick and a Fruit Roll-Up as the craft. After the service, when we came to pick you up and asked why which Bible story featured a torch, you suddenly became forgetful about what you had just learned minutes beforehand.

Dear Jack: Our 1st Time to Church as a Family of 4

Or maybe you were just distracted because you were able to get away with eating a torch made out of a Fruit Roll-Up wrapped around a pretzel stick.

After we got back to the house, you were singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” which I had never you sing before. Granted, you were substituting the word “world” for “Lego”, as you were building a “giant tank for the bad guys”.

Every night for bed time since then, you’ve requested I sing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” in addition to the other songs I always sing you: “Jesus Loves Me” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”

Even if you don’t know what the edible torch symbolizes, you definitely paid attention in class while they were teaching that song.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Our 1st Time to Church as a Family of 4

Dear Jack: Easter 2016 at The Shell House

5 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack: Easter 2016 at The Shell House

Dear Jack,

This makes our first Easter as a family where we didn’t travel to Nonna and Papa’s house in Alabama to celebrate. With Mommy being 8 months pregnant, she isn’t currently able to be in the car for that long of a trip.

Dear Jack: Easter 2016 at The Shell House

I never thought of it until this weekend, but this also made the first Easter for our family where I was responsible for hiding the eggs. So I obviously had fun hiding them in our backyard.

When you discovered your Easter basket, you immediately thanked and hugged Mommy and me.

I responded, “But what about the Easter Bunny?”

You instantly replied, “No, it was you and Mommy.”

I didn’t argue with you. Smart kid you are.

Mommy is such a good gift-giver. She found a very appropriate book for you: I’m a Big Brother.

Plus she got you another owl to match the one you got for Christmas. And she found some dinosaur eggs that dissolve in water and leave behind a dinosaur toy.

I know it sounds random, but she even got you a “bath bomb” for bath time. You love that kind of stuff these days!

Not to mention, there were one dollar bills in some of the eggs, plus a five dollar bill in the golden egg. So thanks to Grandma’s $2 bill she sent in the mail, you are now $14 richer.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HLIZ0AE/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?ie=UTF8&btkr=1

As far as candy, we did get you some of the traditional stuff, but you were just as excited about the Annie’s Homegrown snacks in your basket too.

http://www.annies.com/

Another first for this Easter, this made the first time, as a kid, you’ve ever gone to the main church service with us; at The Church at Station Hill. You love your Pre-K class that takes place while Mommy and I are in the main auditorium, but today, all the kids remained with their parents.

http://www.annies.com/

I’m pretty sure you thought it was neat. The story was fresh on your mind as I read the Easter story to you from your children’s Bible yesterday before your nap.

http://www.annies.com/

If nothing else, you got to work on an activity sheet where you had to help Mary through a maze to find the empty tomb of Jesus.

What a great Easter day for our family. And imagine, by next Easter, you’ll have a nearly one year-old baby sister!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Easter 2016 at The Shell House