Happy Father’s Day!

My “question of the day” surrounding Father’s Day was “what is one of the best things your dad taught you?”  I was about to reply to my own thread when I realized my dad’s lessons deserved more than just a one word blip on Facebook.

First, meet my dad, a 6′ 2″ mass of muscle with a booming voice.  Growing up, my friends were typically immediately intimated by my dad… especially the boys.  But to me he was the world’s biggest softy.  My dad was more likely to use his 6′ 2″ arm span to wrap me up in a hug, his brawn to build me things like a lofted bed and a bunny hutch, and his booming voice most frequently took the form of a hysterically contagious laugh.

My favorite things about my dad are his smile wrinkles (I always say that having wrinkles like my dad’s is my goal), his crazy smile just before he bursts into laughter, his piercing blue eyes, and the things he’s taught me through his unconditional love for me and his own convictions and idiosyncrasies.  As for the things I’ve learned from my dad, those that stand out are patience, contentment, money management, the love of nature, “I love you,” humility, and committment.

To seek patience is one of the most important things in life but to seek patience in the face of parenting is, perhaps, the most crucial time to seek it.  My dad taught me patience simply because of his pace of life.  He’s always been tediously slow but this tendency, I think, is much more of a benefit to him than it is a hinderance.  He does things slowly but he does them right.  There is no rushing through something with him and, since it is in a rush that stress finds you, because of that he has managed to steer clear of that kind of stress.  He was the first to teach me that by giving yourself time on any given thing you free yourself from the burden of a deadline.

My dad’s gift of contentment coincides with his level of patience.  Often times the root of true patience is finding contentment where you are.  This can be as simple as accepting your fate to be late to work if you did not leave the house early enough rather than trying to make a race out of it and, in turn, endangering yourself and others while you make the attempt.  But it can be as complicated as not simply accepting your difficult season in life but making the best out of it.  I’ve always looked at my dad and seen someone who is not always looking to the next thing; instead, I see someone who is making his present the best he possibly can and letting the future take care of itself.  Contentment does not come naturally to me, but periodically I find myself refocusing on the present because I’ve been thinking about my dad or simply realize I’ve been fixing my eyes on the future.  Truth is, the future will come whether I am watching it or not – if I focus my attention ahead of me how am I supposed to see the blessings right in front of me?

I can’t remember how old I was or where we were or if it was a one time occurrence or if my dad’s money management quip was a frequent reminder… all I know is there was at least one time I heard my dad say, “Kaia, do you need that?”  I remember I was looking at some toy that I thought I really wanted and I had allowance money with me.  But I found myself asking my dad if I should buy it – I suppose I figured that if he thought I should buy it that I definitely should, but I think I already knew his answer and was actually seeking his opinion to get myself to put the toy down.  He said, “Kaia, do you need that?”  And I knew I didn’t need it so I put it back and didn’t think twice about that plastic piece of fun-making.  This simple phrase follows me into any and every store even today.  I believe that this is also one of the driving forces behind my creativity because instead of buying things as I think of them, I more often find myself answering “no” to that question and seeking to come up with a solution by either repurposing something I already have, making it myself, or by asking friends and family if they have what I am looking for and if they are looking to get rid of it.  If those things don’t provide me with the item in question and I do actually need it, only then can I bring myself to dish out the cash to buy it.

Ok, so a love for nature comes naturally to me but my dad equipped me with the skills to enjoy it to the full.  My dad taught me how to care for several kinds of animals, how to pitch a tent, when to go night crawler hunting, how to identify many breeds of birds, and all sorts of other random biological wonders.  My dad is a biology teacher and he is perhaps the only other person I know who loves God’s creation the way I do.  There is a wonder we can share whenever we get to spend time outside together.  Instead of hunting for the frog croaking or examining animal droppings all by myself, I find I have another curious partner in crime whenever my dad is around.  In those moments I am also struck by how curiously strange the pair of us are but I would be lying if I didn’t say I liked it.

Ever since I was little my dad has been adamant about saying “I love you.”  Before the time of love languages I knew this form of love expression didn’t impact me much.  My dad would say, “have I told you how much I love you lately?” I would reply, “Dad I know you love me.”  And then he would say something like, “well I’ll say it anyway, I love you.”  I knew my dad loved me because of the way he looked at me, how he attended every function I was a part of (which is a lot to keep up with when you’re daughter has to be involved in everything), how he would drop anything he was doing if he knew I wanted to hang out, how he would go for walks out in the rain with me… he simply oozed his love all over me.  That being said though, his intentionality about telling me on top of obviously showing me he loved me didn’t go unnoticed.  His telling me frequently at least taught me that not only to other people need to hear it but I actually do every now and then too.  Little did I know that his lesson would become one of the most important come time for me to get married because those three words are essential to ensuring my husband feels secure in my love.

My dad taught me how to drop my pride and admit when I am wrong.  I remember the biggest argument we ever had, I don’t remember what it was about but I do remember I was in high school.  In the middle of the argument my dad said he was going to walk away to cool down and I was furious to have our battle interrupted by good sense.  I stormed into my room, shut the door, and fumed silently.  Before long there was a light rap on my door and my dad asked if he could come in.  Before I could resume our war he simply apologized and asked for my forgiveness.  I was completely disarmed.  I will never forget that moment and the impact that act of humility had on us.  My dad won my wholehearted respect in that moment and there was a sudden unbreakable bond formed between us.  Humility is far from a natural thing for me.  Before I can ever ask for forgiveness or admit that I was wrong there is a battle that rages inside me so fierce I feel like my insides are working themselves into knots.  Even at 24-years-old I can only manage to begrudgingly spit the words out.  I feel like I’m literally pulling them out of my throat like I’m playing a tug of war game against the strongest of opponents.  I can only hope that with a lot more time and patience from people like my dad and husband that I can not only drop my pride quicker but that humility becomes easy.

The last lesson I share today is perhaps the most important.  Imagine a blonde-haired, athletic teenage girl involved in every area of extracurriculars and social click.  That girl was me.  I was also a girl who not only started something but finished it, until my senior year of high school.  I decided to play for the school soccer team instead of the school volleyball team.  I made varsity but never made it off the bench.  My coach was mostly mean-spirited towards me and all I really wanted was some ball time.  I remember going to my dad and asking if I could quit the team.  In this moment I felt just like I did when I asked my dad about buying that toy several years earlier, and like every other time I asked my dad a question I already knew the answer to.  My dad placed extremely high importance on commitment, but unlike his value of not spending frivolously it didn’t come with a phrase or adage.  In this conversation I remember sharing my concerns with him.  I described how nasty my coach was to me and how all I really wanted was ball time.  What I appreciate most about my dad is that every time I came to him with concerns, even if my concerns were leading me against values he was trying to teach me, he not only listened but he talked me through it.  There was never a “because I said so” or upper handed moment, my dad leveled with me.  I remember him telling me that he completely understood why I would want to throw in the towel and that he would understand if I chose to do so, but he challenged me to finish out my commitment to the soccer team by finishing the year with them.  He then encouraged me to make the best out of my circumstance and see if I couldn’t also play for the JV team and that, if I was condemned to the varsity bench, to serve my teammates and to to be their biggest cheerleader.  In the end, my soccer dreams came true because of my dad’s advice.  We made delicious lemonade out of the lemons I’d been handed.  The next game I played with the JV team.  I not only got field time with them but so much so that I only stepped off that field if I asked to grab a quick drink.  They loved me on JV and I was on fire!  After the JV game I jumped right over to the varsity game and for some reason Andy put me in.  Because of my confidence and warm muscles carrying over from the JV game I tore up that field and Andy even left me in for most of that game.  My dad was so proud of me and I remember running over for a big bear hug with him at the end of the varsity game.  In this moment I learned not only to stick to my commitments but that if the going got tough to do what I could to make the best of it.  In an age when premarital sex and divorce are more common than healthy marriages this lesson has given mine and Josh’s marriage the greatest gift.  My unbreakable value on commitment means I will never abandon him or let our love fall apart.

Dad, you are one of the strongest, most loving people I know.  Thank you for taking painstaking care in loving and raising me.  I know I would not even be close to the person I am today if I didn’t have you!  Love you dad!

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Musings of a Musician’s Wife: Happy Father’s Day

Yesterday I wrote out the seeds my dad has planted in my life, recorded it in a video, and sent it to him as my far away Happy Father’s Day gift.  Love you Daddy!

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Daddy, you are a man of very loving words and little expectation.  I know you don’t expect much on holidays but I have never wanted to take that as an out for gift giving because you are so worthy of being showered with love.  You are also a man who places clear value of presence and loving words over any physical gift, however expensive.  So, on this Father’s Day I decided to give you the closest thing to presence I could think of being I cannot be there and a whole slew of loving words, yet none of this will ever compare to the 23 years of both of these you’ve given me.  Words can only go so far because I know that every time I get to talk about you I have so many good ones to share so I hope that my words now, most of which I blurt out whenever anyone will hear, reveal to you just how ridiculously fantastic I think you are.  And as a wonderer of God’s creation I want to share with you all the seeds you’ve sown in me as my daddy.

 

“I’m sorry.”  If you weren’t quick to apologize for your part in any of our arguments you were adamant about doing so when we both had time to cool down.  You showed me that the quickest fire tamer is those two simple words.  It is hard to maintain anger after a heartfelt apology escapes the lips of your current assailant.  So you not only showed me how to say I’m sorry but you gave that gift to me in our arguments and taught me to graciously accept an apology and to be quicker to admit where I was also wrong.

 

Patience and steadfastness.  These two go together with you because there is a steadfastness about your patience.  There has always been something about you that is like a Jesus’ fisherman’s boat facing the storms with undying certainty of safe passage.  I strive for that certainty as I walk through life.  And even though you are somewhat of a speed demon on the roadways at times that is not actually a hint of impatience.  You are patient in all times of waiting and have a contentedness about you that I hope to see grow in my life.  You truly emit a spirit of joy wherever you are, in whatever you are doing.

 

Gentleness.  I frequently found amusement in my friends when they came over because of the freakish look of fear that flickered in their eyes when they first saw you, especially with the boys.  You have this sort of intimidation about you that I only understood when I erred on the wrong side of the fence and made you unhappy.  But with my friends I always laughed at them because I knew that you were simply gooey and cuddly on the inside.  I can remember watching you help me nurse various wild animals back to health.  I remember the way you reach out to small children and handle them with such care.  I remember the way you patiently encourage my skittish dog to come near you for some loving.  I remember the way you would gather me up in your arms when I cried.  I remember how the words that most frequented your mouth were uplifting and most loving.

 

Love-giving words, nurturing, and affection.  Daddy, you are never short on words of affection for those you love.  You are especially intentional about frequently using the words “I love you.”  Whenever I get the chance to talk about you I talk about how I somehow never even needed to hear those words because I never doubted that you have loved me wholeheartedly every second of my life.  

 

Time and presence.  You have shown me that the two most valuable gifts are time and presence.  You showed me this by showing up at all of my games and extracurricular activities and not just putting in a few minutes of face time but arriving early and staying late and shouting words of encouragement from the sidelines the whole time.  Actually, yours was the only voice I heard as it boomed surely cutting through any other noisy barriers.  I remember one time when I forgot to tell you about a choir concert until an hour or two before it started.  You and mom both simply said “we will be there.”  I was adamant about it not being important and not to worry if you couldn’t make it since I spaced out telling you earlier but when I saw you smiling proudly in the crowd I remember feeling so warmed to the core and proud to be your daughter. I also remember the times we would go nightcrawler hunting, puddle jumping in the rain, fishing, or camping in the boundary waters.  You were always looking for the next opportunity to hang out with me in the ways I loved and I love all those unique memories we got to share because of it.

 

Work hard, and, more importantly, play hard.  You are one of the most devoted workers I know.  I honestly despised the times I was recruited to help with various yard chores but I think a little bit of that is good for every kid.  But you worked to keep a good, safe house and to provide for our family and you always did so with such joy.  I’ve always loved that you find joy in everything you do so even working becomes playing for you it seems like.  That being said though, you are the best example of being a child at heart because you truly live for the times you can do the next fun thing with your family whether it be tubing, iceskating, a trip to the cabin, building a fire for all of us to sit around, playing Star Fox on the Nintendo 64, or playing a rousing game of Uno.  I could always tell the favorite part of your day was coming home to the family you clearly cherished.  

 

All consuming joy.  I think my favorite attribute of you is your ear to ear smile that frequently accompanies your booming laugh.  I love being a part of your laughter.  There is something so contagious about the joy you carry with you, especially with one look at your sparkling eyes.

 

Emanating Jesus.  I remember the time you told me the story about a little girl who looked into your eyes and saw Jesus.  I whole-heartedly hope that I may have an experience like that some day and hope that if I get nothing else right, that I do this.  You are such a great example of a devoted disciple.

 

Commitment.  This is also one of the seeds that stands out to me.  You taught me how to commit my all to things.  I remember a few times I asked if I could quit a sport or some other activity.  Each of these times I actually new full well that you would advise me to stay with it through the season and was actually most interested in the reminder of why I should.  You always had a way of graciously telling me to stick with the commitments I made.  My marriage is very grateful, this girl will never be giving up on her vow.  I also love the way you are committed to attending church.  Even if the rest of us are too lazy to go you are inspiring in your devotion to make it every week.

 

Financial responsibility.  I remember when I was a kid at the store asking for some toy.  I was always going to pay with my allowance but I felt compelled to ask you any way.  I suppose even at a young age I knew my best decisions would be made if I sought your wisdom first.  Anyway, I would ask and all you would ever say is “Kaia, do you need that?”  That simple question was enough to usually have me put back the latest piece of plastic entertainment and if it wasn’t then we would know I really thought there was a good purpose for having it.  To this day, I think that question every time I’m about to buy anything.

 

Painful honesty.  Every time you find a cashier over paid you you are sure to return any extra.  Whenever you can you will place lost objects back in the hands of its owner.  And I don’t think you have ever lied to me.  Even when I asked you about the birds and the bees at age five you were prepared to honestly reveal the workings to me.  I remember only a sentence or two got out before I stopped you from telling me more.

 

Boy scout preparedness.  You are known for having anything and everything you could possibly need or want on hand at all times.  In your man purse you carry things like fingernail clippers, army knife, gum, and Advil, just to name a few.  I took this legacy on at an early age, especially on road trips. I would bring any and every toy or mode of entertainment I thought I might need on the journey.  Now, later in life, I’ve toned down what I take on trips and ask myself “Kaia, do you really need that?” in conjunction with my need for a sense of preparedness just to tone down on the baggage.  In business, this lesson you departed on me is a major reason I have been so successful and seen as professional right out of college.  

 

And finally, the art of list making.  May it be a gift or a curse but I have lists all over.  I love knowing that I will always have a comrade in you here because you were the one that showed me what a valuable way this was for me to effectively use my time and remember to do important things.

 

Dad, I love you like crazy and am so proud to have you as a dad.  You have taught me so much and made me feel truly loved and cherished.  You taught me to never be afraid to show my love for Christ, to be the unique nutty child I am, and to never hold back when it comes to loving others.