His son held his hand into his teen years.

His eldest daughter still calls him Daddy, and she also calls him first with any big news.

His youngest daughters have had the benefit of a work-at-home Dad for awhile now. He is, as he was from the days they were born, part of everything they do. He washes their hair, he gives them medicine, he sings their songs.

I’m not sure he knows how much I love to watch him with his kids. When we were first married, it was both heartwarming and intimidating. As a young bride, a childless stepmom, I wondered, Does he love me that much? Can he love our children that much?

And with nary a missed beat, he not only answered those questions, but lifted the veil from my eyes so I could see what unnecessary questions they were. Because a blended family, at its heart, is a family. Our love does not fit into categories or require labels. There is no chronological prioritizing, no flags and claims, no “yours” and “mine.” We belong together, and we are together.

On his birthday, I can think of things to buy him. He needs a new suit or two. The bus needs a few parts (like I’d know what to get). We’ve been hoping for a night away together. I could make those things happen; that’s one of the things he says he loves about me. But nah. We are still in the midst of our waiting game, and tomorrow will be filled with projects, house showings, calls to storage facilities, praying, waiting.

It will also be filled with dinner at our favorite pizza place with all the kids, with chocolate chip cookies the little girls helped me bake, with a coconut cream pie I should be making right now, with talk of our favorite places – Disney and Branson and The Beach (because every day is filled with that). He will enjoy it and smile, we will try to steal away for awhile when the day is over, and we will keep waiting for the Big Thing we keep waiting for.

And hand in hand, we will know it is coming. We will recall that not so many years ago, we could have never seen ourselves where we are now. Yet here we are, as blessed and favored and covered by grace as two people could be.

I’d love to tell you more about my husband, the story of his birth and boyhood, the obstacles he overcame, the redemption story he sings about, the gifts he’s given me, the joy it is to watch him love his kids.

But today I will keep it simple. Happy Birthday to the best man I have ever known, strong, brave, loving, humble, honest, kind, and a little bit crazy. Thank you for sharing your life with me, thank you for taking care of us, and may our good Lord bless you richly, not because you deserve it (though I think you do), but just so your heart can overflow with how much He loves you, too!