The First Man I Ever Loved

It’s important to me in this fast-pace world we live in to slow down and share bits and pieces of my life in a time when sometimes we need a slow-down. Today I’d like to challenge you to think back on the first man you fell in love with. I think it’s important because that man has probably impacted you in ways that are forever giving, challenged you in ways that pushes you toward greatness and made decisions in his actions that you will never, ever forget because just maybe they have changed the course of your story in a beautiful way. As you may have already guessed, the first man I ever loved happens to be my dad.

I was given the honor of being a daughter of two amazing Christians who – unbeknownst to me – set the bar unreachably high where parenting is concerned. As a little girl, as early as five or six years old, I remember how it felt to be loved by my father. His love felt safe, gentle, warm, genuine, adventurous and simply incredible. When he talked, his voice captivated me as if I was listening to the most important man on earth. I had to hear every ounce of what he said because it was important. The tone my father spoke in was soothing like a warm blanket on a cold night. He would read to us stories, sometimes from truth like The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom and sometimes fiction like The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and Pauline Baynes. I looked forward to bedtime in a way because it meant that this caring man who loved me so much was about to spend time with me, look me in the eyes, ask questions about the stories he was reading and listen intently to my answers. I admired him as he read with such ease and elegance these 10 or 15 letter words as if they were conjunctions. He made the stories come alive so our imaginations would run wild.  I can still picture Corrie in her father’s watch shop or in the small room where the Jews were hiding. I remember the feelings of forgiveness and kindness that illuminated from each page. And I can picture Narnia as a land in my own imagination, separate from the movies.  I have my own idea of the queen and the fairytale creatures.  My dad’s voice did that. He lead us to places of deep thought, imagination and adventure with the inflections in his soothing voice, perfectly timed and even character-specific.

In fourth grade, my daddy dressed up in his Sunday best. He was so handsome and smelled wonderful. I aimed to please him with my beauty by getting dressed up as well. We met in the front of our one story home with cold air waiting for us outside. I remember walking out and looking up to meet his eyes because his blue, kind, almond shaped wonders always told a story. His eyes said he was pleased with me.  But not just with looks… he looked at me as though I was the most important thing on the planet to him, and then he said, “you look beautiful, Honey.” To hear those words every day from a man I look up to, it’s like hearing it for the first time no matter how old I get. “Beautiful.” I imagine God to look at us this way. When I pray and spend time with Him, it’s like He makes me feel like I’m his favorite no matter what I do or how many times we talk. God always makes me feel THAT special. After giving my daddy a big hug that night and taking in the smell of this man I love with my whole heart, he took me on a date to the Daddy Daughter Dance where he let me dance on his feet. It’s strange, the only thing I remember from that night are my dad’s eyes and smile in the way he looked at me, his feet during the slow dances, and doing “the twist” together.

If you could only speak to a handful of my daddy’s friends, I’m positive the common descriptive word you would hear is Wise. He’s literally the wise owl. I have gone to my dad for advice ever since I can remember because he speaks with the foundation of a golden heart, the elegance of a poet and the love of the Father above. He taught me to pray for those who hurt me. He encouraged me to try again when I failed. He led me to believe I could do anything my heart desired. He even cared enough to tell me when I was in the wrong so I could learn what’s right. Being a mom and having my heart broken many times at the site of seeing my children cry, I know it to be the hardest thing on the planet to teach your child to pray for someone who has done them wrong. “HOW DARE THEY?” is my initial thought. But then I hear my dad explaining what they must be going through to do such a thing.  “Hurt people hurt people.” and “What if you just show them love in return? What’s the worst that could happen?” and “How much do you think God loves them?” A man like that who refuses to stoop to a hurting individual’s level but chooses to push through the pain and see from Heaven’s perspective – that is a wise man. This is MY daddy.

One piece of wisdom he gave me that I refused to listen to was the silliest decision of my life.  Looking back now, I can only laugh. My husband and I were newly weds with an infant carseat swinging wildly in the isle at Best Buy with our new baby inside, suffering with Colic. We wanted to be able to successfully document Bailey’s life and ours as a family of 3 now. The choice was there in front of us, and my dad knew what we needed. “Oh, you’ve got to get a camera,” he said. “Hands down it’s what you need.” I was so ignorant yet decided I knew better. The choice was ours: Camera? or Video Camera? I admit it… I chose the video camera that TAKES pictures! (monkey hands covering eyes emoji). It was about a year later that I realized he was right, so I bought my first camera in 2010! He’s so stinking SMART! Dave Runyan, my dad, knew what I needed – as always. =) Of course, his background in photography – as modest as he is in talking about it – is spectacular! My dad shot weddings in the FILM days where it was unknown how they would turn out until the darkroom made its magic. He also is an incredible landscape professional and loves backpacking and hiking, taking jaw-dropping images of scenery through his lens.  It’s this man I speak of that is the first man I ever loved, and it’s he that is the reason I take photos today.  He is my inspiration, he is my aspiration, and he is my dad. I love you, Daddy!

~Hannah Charis

Photo of Me by David Howard Runyan

Some images from my dad’s adventures…