April 3, 2023

Happy 27th birthday to my future son-in-law, easy on the eyes with his Superman curl.

I know one thing for certain…it barely took a minute to realize Eli was THE guy for Grace. She’s had her fair share of suitors, but there was something very different and at the same time familiar about Eli.

He came over to our house to hang out for the first time on a snow day, and he and Grace baked cookies. He’s quick with conversation, and didn’t shy away from settling into our family. Between scoops of sugar and sticks of butter, he talked about his work history and the sports he played in high school. He’s a blue collar wrestler, footballer, and axe thrower grounded with small town values.

He’s definitely not a know-it-all or name-dropper. He’s much too humble for that. But guaranteed he’s got a story about a time when “me and a guy I went to high school with…” or “I used to work with a guy who…” and out spills a tale about this or that.

Never seen him in person without a beard. He has shown me an old photo of him from his pre-whiskers days, and Grace did a beard-free filter on Eli once. Both are unsettling and just wrong. I need Eli to stay full lumberjack for my own peace of mind. And in true lumberjack style, Eli once showed up at the house wearing a blue Buffalo plaid flannel. As happenstance would have it, Paul also had a blue Buffalo plaid shirt, and that’s how we knew Eli and Paul were meant for each other.

The first time he came over to meet us, we asked Eli about his family of origin and how many siblings he had. We thought those straight forward questions would have straight forward answers, but he “hmmm-ed” and “uhhh-ed” a bit more than expected. He comes from a family of full, half, step, and honorary siblings, and all of them are his brothers and sisters without distinction. It’s beautiful to hear him talk about how he feels about people related by blood, marriage, and serendipity. We’ve met some of his family, and I’m still not certain what the family connection is for each of them, and I’m certain it doesn’t matter. I’m excited to meet the rest of Eli’s in-laws and out-laws hopefully before the wedding.

Oh, did I mention there’s a wedding? I guess Eli’s momma and I get to go shopping for our own dresses at some point. Understanding Eli’s momma helps understand Eli. Andy is a straight shooter who tells it like it is. No apologies. No filter. She says what she means, and means what she says. She loves strong and true, and taught Eli what he can expect to get out of life when what you put in is hard work and perseverance. She runs her own tattoo shop, and Eli grew up watching Andy’s art come to life through ink and skin. He heard stories in that shop and learned what a strong woman is capable of doing.

And Grace is a strong woman. You’ve watched her and you know her story. She hasn’t had an easy go of life, sometimes by her own doing and sometimes by dark forces beyond what we can see. But she knows her strength and victories come from God, and she knows the love and support she has been afforded by all of you are an outpouring of God’s loving kindness toward His daughter. And she knows that Eli is in her life because of God’s love.

Now Eli is a father, and he’s wonderful at it. Grace tells the story that when she told Eli she was pregnant, his response was “HELL YEAH!” Just like many new fathers, he’s learning his role. It’s an honor to watch Eli grow into fatherhood as Harrison grows.

Eli has been different since the beginning. Grace knew it and I agreed with her. Just days after we met him, Grace and I were texting each other about him. I told Grace that Eli reminded me of her father. Knowing my snarky nature, Grace questioned what I meant by that. I told her “I don’t want to make assumptions about your future with him, but I knew your Dad was completely different than other guys when I met him. Dad just felt familiar to me and that didn’t make sense to me at the time because I hadn’t been around anyone like him. So he shouldn’t have been familiar. But he was. I realized he felt familiar because he was the longing of my heart, and I had found him.” Eli is the longing of Grace’s heart, and she has found him.

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