Dear Dad…

When I was a little girl, I had a picture in my head of what my life would be like when I was older. In particular, I had a picture of what my car would look like: it would be small, purple, and have a “Daddy’s Girl” sticker on the back window.

Everything about my childhood screams “Daddy’s girl.” I spent about an hour yesterday looking through old family photos trying to find one that personified my relationship with my dad. I could not find just one; I found many. But they all had something in common: I was as close to my dad as I could get. Whether it was a picture of the entire family or just the two of us, I was never content to simply be near my dad. I needed to be as close as possible. So we have many pictures of me clinging to my dad’s hand or sitting on his shoulder or with my arms wrapped around his waist as I hid from the world around me. But as I went through all these photos, I started wondering why I always wanted to be as close as I could, and here’s my answer in the form of a letter to my dad.

Dear Dad,

I have been thinking all week about you. There are so many characteristics and traits you possess that I appreciate and admire and aspire to possess myself. But there is one thing that you have that I believe is unique: restraint.

Go with me for a second.

You have a very strong personality. No matter where you or what you are doing, you hold yourself in a way that says you are in charge. Some call it intimidation—I cannot even begin to tell you how many people have said to me that they do not understand how I talk so easily to you because you are so intimidating, they have even asked me if I am scared of you—but I call it respectable.

You practice restraint in so many areas of your life, and sometimes it feels like no other area requires as much restraint as your relationship with me.

Let me explain.

You are a strong personality. Normally people with strong personalities have the ability to make those around them feel as if they cannot be themselves, that they must do and say things that will please the strong personality they relate with. I do not believe this is always a bad thing, unless the strong personality realizes they have this capability and they begin to exploit it. That is besides the point, though. What I appreciate about you is you are a strong personality—as I have already pointed out quite a few times—yet you have never made anyone feel as if they need to change.

For me—your youngest and probably the most odd and free-spirited of your children—this restraint has been a gift. Early on you notice things about people, and I am positive that early on in my life you learned that I would need freedom to be myself. I would need smiles and laughter and almost a hands-off approach otherwise my aim would always be to please you. You did not want that for me, nor do you desire that for anyone you meet. Because you understand that at the end of the day, everyone has to lay down and be okay with who they are. No one has the ability to be okay with who they are when they are only focused on pleasing those around them.

Dad, you know I am a bit of a goofball. Very few things in this life make me laugh as much as annoying you. Remember last month when we took Mom to brunch for Mother’s Day, and while I was driving I was trying to hold your hand? It did not bother me that you did not want to hold my hand because I was having too much fun enjoying the moment! I have countless other memories like this one in my heart where I was free to be me even if it annoyed or bugged you. You knew and understood from the time I was a little girl that I needed you to let me find myself, and let me be the odd bird I have always been.

Dad, I know you probably will not want me to say this, but I am going to anyway: You are an example of Jesus to me.

What I mean by that is this:

One of my favorite qualities of the character of Jesus is His restraint. He was literally God in the bod, which means He had all of the immense power God has, yet He restrained Himself. When He was cleaning out the temple He could have done absolutely anything to teach everyone a lesson, but He restrained Himself, and today we all have a lesson we can learn about making His house a den of thieves.

God has fostered in you a massive amount of restraint, and with it has come confidence, strength, and high standards that you would like to see people live by yet a very low expectation of that desire becoming a reality. But that is the most effective way you love people. You give them the freedom to be themselves.

This is one reason why I always want(ed) to be close to you. Another reason is your protection.

When I was as close to you as possible I knew I would be safe from any harm. There was never a safer place in this world than your presence. And there still is not, really.

And one more reason: your humor. I get my silliness from your silliness, and my humor from your humor. There are very few places that exist in my life where my silliness comes out in full, but one of those few places is with you. No matter what I always know that even an hour spent with you is going to involve plenty of laughter.

Dad, I could spend hours talking about all of your extensive qualities and everything you have taught me, but I am choosing to simply tell you that I love you for everything you are and everything you have ever done for me. Thank you for giving me so many countless memories to love and cherish for the rest of my life. I hope I make you proud.

Now that I am 23 years old, I can tell you I do have a small car, but it is not purple nor does it have a “Daddy’s Girl” sticker on the back. But I can tell you this (warning, sappiness is ahead): “Daddy’s Girl” is and will always be written on my heart.

I love you, Dad!

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