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!

Oh, Mom…

There is a song I like to listen to. It is called “Love Remains.”

If you listen to country music, you know who Lady Antebellum is. And if you know the names of the members, you know that Hilary Scott released a worship album with her family, and it is composed of old and new hymns and worship songs. And, you guessed it, “Love Remains” is on this album.

It makes me think of my family, the love my parents show me every day. But it also makes me think of my mom. The song begins by talking about how we are all born, and our parents react to seeing us for the first time: “Momma smiles, and Daddy cries.” The song goes on and talks about how a boy will grow up and take a bride: “She stands faithful, by his side.”

When I think about my 23 years on this earth and the constant presence of my mom, I can say I saw her do primarily two things: She smiled (at us and because of us) and she stood faithful (by my dad’s side and by our side).

Over the last couple of months, I thought of my dad a lot. He has so many characteristics and traits (hard working, loyal, sacrificial, consistent, loving, respectable, etc.) and he works hard to make sure his children possess those traits as well. But my mom…I cannot begin to tell you how many of her traits are amazing and precious, and how I desire to have those same traits.

If I could use only one adjective to describe both of my parents, I would say this:

Dad is consistent, but Mom is steady.

I can honestly say that she has been a steady and faithful foundation my entire life. While Dad had to go make sacrifices and take care of the family outside of the home, Mom was with us, providing everything we needed. She is the picture of steady love.

At this point, I just want to write something personal to my mom so I am going to change up this post a little bit, but keep reading.

Mom, I am thankful for our relationship. I remember being a teenager, and if there was ever something bothering me it was rare that I talked to you about it. I was Dad’s girl no matter what. I remember you asked me about it one Sunday on our way home from church. I remember where we were on the freeway (driving under the Nuevo Rd. overpass). I remember what car we were in (the truck). I remember where we were going (Sam’s Club). I had a bad day at church, and I was beyond frustrated, and instead of talking to you about it I chose to sit in the passenger seat and cry. I stared straight ahead and refused to be talked to. You got frustrated because I think I told you I only wanted to talk to Dad about what was bothering me. You were quiet after that. It occurred to me that it did not make much sense that I was not taking advantage of your listening ears or your heart of love, and it hurt you every time I preferred Dad over you. Somewhere in my heart that day I made a commitment to start talking to you more. Our relationship grew from that point forward, and now I am just as close to you as I am to Dad.

And now that I live on my own, the lessons you poured into me have taken root in whole new ways. Dad worked tirelessly (and still works tirelessly) to teach me and Matthew and Chelsea how to work hard and respect people and earn respect in return and defend ourselves and fight for what is right and prioritize others over ourselves and how to make sacrifices and be smart and be wise. He always taught with the right amount of love and strength so we would get it. But your lessons were so soft and subtle that I did not really put much thought to them until recently.

You taught me how to use my time wisely. If there is something that needs to be done and you have a few minutes to do it, get it done. You always told me, “The things you love, you will make time for them.”

You taught me how to plan and how to be wise with the gifts I have been given. Whether that gift is financial stability or time spent with people, it takes a certain amount of organization and wisdom to use them.

You taught me how to be faithful. You have never let me question how much you love me and how deep your love for me runs. And even in those moments when I think I might have reached the bottom of the deep love you possess, you always assure me that there is more to be found.

You taught me how to be quiet and let things play out. I bet if anyone who does not know you could use one word to describe you, it would be “quiet.” You are quiet by choice. You choose the right moment to speak and the right moment to keep your words to yourself, and so much of that wisdom comes from how well you know me.

You taught me how to fight (in all aspects where a fight is needed or required). I still think of how hard you had to fight for me against insurance companies and doctor’s offices, and if you had not fought who knows what my life would have turned out to be.

You taught me how to love in small and detailed ways. Everything you have ever done for me, it has stemmed from the detailed love you show me. You know me well and you taught me to show that same love to others.

You taught me how to cling to the Lord every day of my life, and you taught me that He will communicate with me in a personal way, a way He does not use with anyone else. I am special to Him, and that will show in every part of my relationship with Him.

Most of all, you taught me how to put my characteristics into action. You taught me how to get to know myself, and surrender my gifts to God so He could use them the best way He sees fit.

Mom, the song “Love Remains” makes me think of our family. If there is anything more difficult than being a parent to a toddler, I would think it is being a parent to an adult child. But I think you and Dad have done a good job always showing us that love remains. So for that and so much more, thank you.