Friday Night at the reception for our daughter’s wedding, I had the opportunity to do something every father should have the privilege of experiencing. I got to stand at the front of a ballroom and tell the story of my child. As I scanned the audience it was like watching the movie of our lives. Every face held a happy memory. When I was done speaking, several folks encouraged me to write down what was just said. So here you go…
Before I start, I just want to say a personal THANK YOU to my sweet wife Staci, who has invested a tremendous amount of time, and energy, and emotion into making this a perfect evening for Brenna and Austin. Nicely done sweetheart!
With that, I can now officially say “welcome to the after party!”
I haven’t yet had the privilege of meeting each of you, but those of you who I know and who I have met so far have reconfirmed for me that God has indeed been good to Brenna and Austin. For all of their lives He has surrounded them with family, and friends, and mentors, and teachers who have helped to mold and shape them into the extraordinary couple they are today. Thank you for investing in their lives. And thank you for being here to share this evening with them!
I have something important I want to say about Austin. To get there though, I need to first paint you a picture of Brenna. It will take three quick stories. But before I start, Staci asked me to read this statement.
“The views and opinions expressed in this speech are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the entire wedding party. The author is getting along in years, some events and timelines may have become jumbled. Audience interested in exact historical accuracy should consult with the author’s wife. The author is also the daddy of his baby girl, most memories are colored by an understandable bias.”
Brenna has always been a very obedient and respectful child. She was that child… you know the cabinet in the kitchen with all the pots and pans. We told her “don’t get in that” and she was like “okay…”. We never had to put the child safety locks on anything. She was just that kind of a child. When she was little, still preschool age, she started using some phrase that wasn’t very becoming of a young lady. Staci and I were talking recently trying to remember what that phrase was – for the life of us we can’t remember. Whatever it was, we were trying to break her of the habit. So we had told her… “Brenna, the next time you say that, we are going to wash your mouth out with soap.” Sometime after that threat, we were busy getting dinner ready in the kitchen when we heard her use the phrase again. I looked at her and sort of sternly said. “Brenna Anne, what did we tell you about using that phrase”. She immediately ducked her little head and apologized… I was satisfied so we went back to fixing dinner. It wasn’t just a few moments later that I heard her in the hall bathroom gagging. We ran around the corner to find her standing there on her little stool holding a bar of soap and rubbing it on her tongue… I know… worst parent ‘ever’ award right here!
When she was in the later years of elementary school, around that time when boys are miraculously cured of their coodies, we sat Brenna down and sort of laid out some rules for dating. No boyfriends right now… No holding hands until middle school… No kissing until high school… True to her character, she accepted and respected what we had told her. You can imagine my surprise on that last day of 8th grade when I learned she had… had her first kiss. I said “Brenna, you know what we talked about. No kissing until high school” to which she answered… with a BIG smile on her face… “Daddy, middle school was over three hours ago, I am in high school!”… Note to self… must be more specific!
When it came time for her to go to college, we were quite pleased that she chose Texas A&M University. And not just because it’s the alma mater of her parents. Staci and I have worked with students in our church long enough to know that all too often, when high school kids head off to college, many of them leave their faith at home. Texas A&M is not only a very conservative university, it also has one of the largest on-campus Christian movements in the nation. So before Brenna left, we told her two things. First, surround yourself with Christian girl friends who will encourage you in your faith and who will keep you accountable in your walk with the Lord. The ladies in the wedding party standing behind me are who Brenna surrounded herself with. Several of them are from a club she joined called Aggie Sisters for Christ. All of them have encouraged her in her faith and kept her accountable.
“Girls, thank you for being her inner circle!”… She had done exactly what we asked her to.
The second thing we said was, “if you decide to date – when you decide to date, look for a guy whose heart is after the Lord, somebody who at least has the potential to someday lead his home spiritually.”
The summer before her Junior year – notice I didn’t say it was ‘after her Sophomore year’ because that had been over for at least three hours… not gonna make that mistake again… — anyway, before her Junior year, she decided to go with our church as a sponsor to children’s camp. Brenna is an elementary education major and I’m thinking… “elementary education major… week at children’s camp… seems like a good match.” When she came home, I asked how her week with the little kids was. She said “Oh daddy, it was great, I found a boyfriend!”… Now, I did remind her that she was a 20 year old woman and there were laws against her dating grade school kids. To which she said “Daddy, he’s not in grade school, he’s already a teenager!”… I’m thinking “Oh, gooooood…” Now this particular children’s camp is down in the general vicinity of College Station TX where Texas A&M is so I’m hoping maybe this ‘already a teenager’ is ‘already a teenager’ enough to be an underclassman at Texas A&M who just has a summer job at the camp. So, with my fingers crossed, I asked “What school does he go to?”… “The University of Texas!”… (for readers who don’t know, the University of Texas Longhorns are the oldest and deepest rival of the Texas A&M Aggies. Just listen to the Aggie War Hymn)
At that point I can’t contain myself any more. “What the…? I send you to Texas A&M University where there are 50,000 full grown men who are good Aggies and you come home with a teenage longhorn from a children’s camp?!?” She says “Daddy, you didn’t say anything about how old he had to be or what school he needed to come from…”
“… Daddy… what you said was… find a man after God’s own heart… A man who will lead me… and lead our home… and lead our children in pursuit of the Lord… You know me daddy, I did what you said… His name is Austin Pennington.”
Proverbs 23:24 says “The father of a godly child has cause for joy.” Amen to that!
“Brian and Jennifer (parents of the groom), thank you for raising your son to be a friend of God! Staci and I… with Austin, our hearts are full!”
“Austin, do you remember what we talked about the night you asked Staci and me for permission to marry Brenna? Well, it’s time dude. About an hour ago, you became the spiritual leader of a brand new household. I want you to choose this day whom you will serve!”
“Brenna, your momma and I pretty much said all the words we know to say to you last night. But if, by some miracle, you missed it, we want you to know that it continues to be the high privilege of our lives to be known as your parents. You have done well baby girl!”
“A man after God’s heart… A woman of grace… I want you to now go build a home centered on the Lord. Be a beacon to a world that desperately needs to see an example of a lifelong, God honoring marriage.”
With that, I’ll welcome you again and thank you for sharing this evening with Brenna and Austin. Let me pray for us and thank God for all He has done, then we can get on with enjoying the evening!