Happy Father’s Day
I saw a video the other day where an older man offered a younger dad some advice on parenting. He wished that he had known these things when he was younger. As I watched the video, tears stung my eyes. I realized that my own dad had done those exact things for me and I was now experiencing the exquisite joy of seeing my husband treat our daughter with that same nurturing spirit. To have a father who is present in your life and who loves you is a great gift. To have a father like mine who goes out of his way to teach you good things and fill your heart and mind with truth is an even greater blessing. I am also blessed to have my grandfather still with us. Quite the romantic, I have stacks of beautiful letters from him from over the years, and now am able to live near him and be a part of his daily life. My heart goes out to all who haven’t had the good experiences I’ve had. To all of you who long for a father to be present in your life, to tell you he is proud of you, to offer advice or words of encouragement, to fix your car or hang your pictures, I encourage you to seek out Daddy God, to ask Him to meet your needs, and wait and see how He provides. I know it won’t be the same as a father who can physically hug you and speak tangibly to you, but who loves us more than our Heavenly Father?
My dad and I have not always had the relationship we have today. He was a busy and important man, providing pastoral care to large congregations, many people pulling on him and needing his time and attention. I was often the child waiting, hungry, tired, and sad, but expected to behave well until Dad was done. But all the waiting I did was for good reason. My dad was so fun, creative, and exciting. He could turn an ordinary meal into the event of the week, pile up snow and tunnel through it so you could have your very own snow palace, and whip you around on sleds attached to a four-wheeled ATV until your fingers were so numb they might fall off from cold. But who cared if your fingers fell off? The ride was so fun, it was worth a few fingers…
When I think back on those early years, I remember softball games in the front yard, motorcycle rides, wrestling, kiss-factories, and all kinds of great fun when Dad was around. For my eleventh birthday, he took me and ten girls an hour away for a Carmen concert. We stopped at Pizza Hut and I thought I’d die of embarrassment as he made the paper place mats into airplanes and flew them around the restaurant, blew straw papers, and laughed loudly, but my friends were all so delighted and wished their dads were that fun that I soon got over it. As I’ve grown older, I’ve recognized in myself many of his characteristics and traits and my ability to understand those years of waiting has increased. It is a tremendous responsibility to be a shepherd to the people God has entrusted to a pastor, and it’s a wise person who takes it seriously and works to be sure the responsibility is handled well. As Dad has grown in experience, he’s learned to balance out the responsibilities of a family with those of a congregation.
When I was in high school, Dad began cultivating the leadership qualities he saw in me. He brought me cassette tapes on leadership, had me listen to them and talk about them with him. When I asked him why something wasn’t being done in our church, he told me it was because I hadn’t done it yet. Then I was given the task of getting it done. He saw my insecurities and encouraged me to stand up straight, put my shoulders back, and be proud of how tall I was. It was an honor to stand a head above most other people. I never quite felt that way, but I learned that other people felt that way and it eased the awkwardness.
Dad came to my choir concerts, invited me to sing solos in church, and cheered me on (loudly) in basketball. He told me I was beautiful, complimented me on new outfits, and made comments when I wore my hair the way he liked. He taught me that I was valuable, taking me out on “dates” to fancy restaurants so I could see how a man should treat me. Anything less was unacceptable. And because he was so complimentary and encouraging, I really listen when he suggests that an outfit isn’t the best look for me or that my attitude isn’t what it should be. He has built up enough collateral with me to have the freedom to speak gently and firmly when he notices something that could be improved upon.
Believe it or not, my dad is a poet, a lover of flowers, and a sensitive man who is deeply wounded by the injustices of life. He is also big and brawny, able to fix just about anything, happy on a motorcycle, extremely responsible with money and resources, and capable of taking on another who doesn’t approve of his ways. Practical, rough and tough farm-life shaped his early years, but education and experience have softened and changed him. He has become a servant to my mother through her cancer treatment, doing unspeakable things with care and gentleness. He stands tall as he leads his congregation, finding ways to encourage and support each one of the members of his church, operating with conviction and integrity. He is their biggest cheerleader as well as mine.
One of my greatest joys in life has been seeing my dad as a grandfather. He is the fun and energetic playmate of my niece and nephew.
He is the quietly patting cuddler to my tiny daughter. He has surrounded our family with love, never failing to tell us he loves us, he’s proud of us, and he prays for us. And although he was often busy when we were young, he was always THERE. He didn’t abandon us, didn’t leave us unprotected, and always provided. He provided for me until the day I got married, making sure I had a dependable and reliable vehicle, even when his own desires had to be put aside to help me. He walked me down the aisle on my wedding day, choked back tears as he put my hand in Rick’s, and danced in celebration with me at the reception. He has embraced my husband as his own son and is now encouraging him as well.
So happy Father’s Day, Dad. You are a man to be honored and thanked. I’m so proud to have you as my father and appreciate all the sacrifices you’ve made to be the husband and father you are. Thank you for showing me what it means to care for others, to minister for the Lord, and to lead effectively. Thank you for teaching me to pray for wisdom, to seek out a deep and personal relationship with Jesus, and to thank Him daily for all His blessings. Thank you for loving Mom, for staying true to her, and for being an example of faithfulness and discipline. Thank you for loving me, Rick, and our daughter. We love you so much.
And to my dear husband on your first Father’s Day… Thank you for being a kind, gentle, patient, and loving father to our precious daughter. Thank you for the nights you’ve taken care of her so I can sleep, even when you have many strenuous tasks to complete the next day. Thank you for allowing me to stay at home with her and take care of her myself. Thank you for telling her she’s beautiful before she’s even old enough to understand. Thank you for showing her that a man can be gentle, can adore her, and can give her the time she needs, yet be manly and strong. I love it that she falls asleep so easily with her head on your shoulder. I love seeing her light up when you come in the room. I appreciate all the sacrifices you’ve made so we can be comfortable, healthy, and at peace. I’m so blessed to be able to raise our daughter with you as my partner. You waited a long time for this day and you deserve it to be a happy day. Eliana and I love you so much.