09 Dec The Kind of Daddy I Want to Be

In all honesty, I often fall short as a parent.

As such, my role as “Daddy” to my precious children is simultaneously heart-filling and discouraging.  Thankfully, older, wiser men than I continue to “speak into my life” with love and truth.

Fellas like Dean Neal and Jon Ueland provide sage advice and encouragement here in Gig Harbor, but sometimes someone far away blesses me.   Such is the case with Paul De Pree.

Last week I interviewed his daughter, LCS music teacher Heather De Pree. As she shared memories of her folks—a successful chemist and an amazing stay-at-home mom—I found myself longing to be a better man.

Here are the words that impacted me:


Jon Johansen (JJ): Heather, how did you come to Christ?

Heather De Pree (HD): My sisters kept trying to lead me to Christ when I was three. I recall sitting on the bannister of our home in the countryside and [repeatedly] saying, “Sorry Lord… forgive me Lord,” in my Snow White voice.

At eight years of age I knew I needed Jesus. One day, as Mom and I sat on our cloth, beige loveseat—the one with the green, floral pillows—I asked her how to [invite] Jesus into my heart, and she told me. I still remember those moments.

JJ: How did that decision change you?

HD: I stopped lying about not brushing my teeth. As time went by, I noted my own shortcomings and became willing to ask for forgiveness.

I started to talk to God about issues and rely more on Him. I began to take a larger part in family devotions. My prayers became sincere because I was no longer just “praying to pray,” I was talking to my personal savior.

JJ: How did your mom and dad live out their faith?

HD: Mom worked hard to teach us children, and she also volunteered at our homeschool co-op. She used to read us the classics and sometimes she’d start to fall asleep while reading, so I’d get her a Diet Coke to help her stay awake.

She has always had a plaque on her kitchen counter that says, “My interruptions are my work” and she really lived that out. I never felt like I was an interruption.

Mom even put scriptures on construction paper, and added pictures to them.   She’d write the words in her nice, neat handwriting with a permanent marker. We’d flip through them, as though they were giant flashcards, until we memorized them.

[After I received Christ] the scriptures we memorized became promises… more personal to me… a comfort. I can still picture Mom’s handwriting on those pages.

As for Dad, each morning I’d catch sight of him when I walked down our stairs. There he was, just in from feeding our horses. His hands were SO cold and he’d put them on our cheeks or necks.

Dad always had his Bible out on the kitchen counter. He would not leave for work until he’d read God’s Word.

Though Dad has his PhD, he was never about the titles. And though he worked hard for his company, he always spent time with the family, every night, after reading his newspaper. [In addition]:

We all had our individual “barn talks” with Dad where we would go out and talk about whatever we wanted. We’d tack up and ride the horses. Afterwards, while we un-tacked and brushed them, conversations started to happen. We could chat with him about anything.

And every night he read aloud to us: Little House on the Prairie, The Lord of the Rings, [and many others].

JJ: Sounds like that old saying, “You can’t plan for quality time; magical moments happen in the midst of quantity time.”

HD: Yes, that’s exactly right.

JJ: They really supported you.

HD: They were always there at our sports events, music performances, plays, dance recitals, etc. It didn’t matter how small the event was… they even drove down six hours for my college recitals.

When Heather and I concluded the interview, my heart felt strangely encouraged—and I found myself better informed on how to be a stellar papa to my little ones.

As such, I recommitted to reading aloud to my brood more often, and felt blessedly challenged to stop seeing my children’s constant questions as interruptions.

Philippians 3:17 came to mind: “Join together in following my example…and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do (NIV).”

Perhaps you and I weren’t blessed to have folks as wonderful as Heather’s, but if we pursue Christ and family wholeheartedly, I believe that the Father will make us better and better moms and dads.

That’s my prayer…

For all of us.