Faith, Parenting
Comments 8

Dance With Your Daughter {Living Like Lew}

My first swing around the room was my daddy’s strong arms.

He’d grip mine by the wrist and we spun circles. He’d fly me high and low in my orbit. He was my center, my sun, the force that spun me around and the force that kept me from flying out of control.

He gave me the thrill and he held me safe. My blonde hair blurred like a comet tail and laughter stuck in my throat. Both terrified and excited, my blue eyes mirrored his and for a spinning, suspended moment we were all there was, all that mattered.

My first swing was my daddy’s strong arms.

He would lean down and I’d climb onto his hand and grip his arm as if I were on a carousel horse. He’d swing me back and forth as he walked in his particular bouncing gait into the hardware store or the Piggly-Wiggly.

He was a man of God’s Word, a preacher, but there often wasn’t money enough from his salary to cover a family’s expenses. Trained as a carpenter, his muscled arms and hands proved capable to build and work and fix things to earn extra money. His hands were split and cracked, nails black-blue from stray hammer hits.

And I am one of many kids, so to have those busy, working daddy hands swinging me or patting my head, pitching a softball or untangling the fishing line was to be blessed with undivided, special attention.

My first swing around the dance floor on my wedding day was in my daddy’s arms. But it almost didn’t happen.

You see, he preached at a small church in California that was fundamental in theology and pretty old-school on just about every issue. I was the first of his kids to have a wedding reception with dinner and dancing. And although my parents jitterbugged in the kitchen, dancing “in public” became taboo back in the 1950’s when they were saved. Dancing might lead to all kinds of vices we were meant to avoid. We weren’t allowed to go to school dances or parties where there would be dancing. Somehow it came to represent something to them and it remained a legalistic tether.

I was deep into the throes of wedding planning when my Dad approached me: “I need to tell you, Alyssa, I don’t think I’ll take part in the Father and Daughter dance at your wedding.”

“What?” I cried.

“Well, there’s going to be a lot of folks from the church at this event and I don’t want to mislead them, give them the wrong idea.” He explained his position as if there were any logic to it.

I understood his concern, as much as a twenty-year-old planning her dream wedding could understand.

I flew up and swung around to face him.

Sharp indignation welled against my chest and I yelled, “Who has the right to take that away from us? Who on this planet would ever say it’s morally wrong or spiritually corrupt to dance with your own daughter on her wedding day?”

Angry. That’s what I was. I fumed. I spun. I left the house.

We had butted hard heads before. Somehow I had a will that matched his own and bared it on occasions that I felt particularly right. This was one of them. I refused to relent. It was senseless reasoning and he must change his mind, and I had said as much before I snatched my keys and slammed the door.

Afraid, too; I was afraid that he really wouldn’t dance with me. So often when we disagreed, we never came to common ground and I wondered if this situation would flounder unresolved–him undeterred from his conviction and I accepting something I believed unacceptable.

I was afraid on a deeper level because just that prior year he nearly died of a brain aneurism. Only days after my husband-to-be had asked permission to marry me, my dad felt like his brain was smashed with a swinging two-by-four. A week of days strung together before a doctor called for a spinal tap and found the first clue to his suffering. Assessments by committees of neurosurgeons followed rounds of tests and finally a decision was made to perform surgery. A pre-op, final angiogram just before the surgery revealed the aneurism was gone, completely.

Since then, I’d felt like my dad was living life on loan from God. I needed to dance with him on my wedding. He just didn’t comprehend how deeply I needed that.

I felt like I was forcing him to choose between his child and his church. What pastor’s kid hasn’t felt that? Ours is the story of untold sacrifice that so many ministry kids make: giving pieces of our parents to God on the alter of ministry. Would he really deny us the dance?

I stood firm in my position. “I am your daughter! You can choose me over their opinions!”

What I wanted to scream was “Forget them! How long must we be crushed under the weight of rules and legalism?”

Stalemated, we maneuvered with care around one another for a few days. The pendulum swing of emotions began drawing a smaller and smaller line.

And then one day, “Alyssa, I’d be honored to dance with you at your wedding. Nothing would delight me more.”

And it was music to this girl’s ears. And I hugged his neck and kissed his stubbly cheek and said, “Then my wedding day will be perfect.”

He chose me. And we danced. And he sang the words to the song I needed to hear,

You’re end of the rainbow, my pot of gold

You’re daddy’s little girl to have and to hold

A precious gem is what you are

You’re mommy’s bright and shining star.

You’re the Spirit of Christmas, my star on the tree

You’re the Easter Bunny to mommy and me

You’re sugar, you’re spice, you’re everything nice

And you’re Daddy’s little girl.

You’re the treasure I cherish, so sparkling and bright

You were touched by the holy and beautiful light.

Like the angels that sing, a heavenly thing

And you’re daddy’s little girl.

{The Mills Brothers}

And I let tears flow (an unusual thing for me) and stayed in his embrace a little too long and I danced for my sisters, my daughters not yet born and for every girl who desperately needs to hear those words sung into her soul.

You’re the treasure I cherish…

You were touched by holy and beautiful light…

You’re Daddy’s little girl.


Your Heavenly Father loves you and nothing would delight him more than swinging you around the dance floor of eternity.

He chooses you.



  1. I’m glad for you, that you got to dance with your father at your wedding. Mine died before I met my husband, but he swung me around the room as a little girl, and danced with me at other weddings, many times. 🙂

  2. Joy says

    Thank You Alyssa for sharing my heart too! He married Randy & I without the dance. But he married our daughter & danced with Lydia, what happy day!

  3. What an absolutely wonderful story. I can hear that music while he swings you around the dance floor, softly singing. Beautiful, Alyssa.

  4. That was amazing! God blessed you and your family in a wonderful way. And what a strong man your dad was to do the hard thing in light of the circumstances, how could he not listen to his little girl all grown up?

  5. The priority that many do not understand is that God is first, Family is next, and church with its rules is last. We must not confuse God and church members for they are not the same. I am so happy that your Dad chose to make you happy and was not distracted by the opinion of others.

  6. Alyssa,
    Priceless memories and photos of you and your dad…what a gift he gave you when he chose, correctly, you over a legalistic rule…hugs to you, my friend…feeling misty here 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s