Dear sweet girls,
A funny thing happened last week that ended in a not so funny way. I overreacted, I’m sure. I can be a little bit sensitive about these things. But I wanted to write my thoughts on this down, just in case. Just in case I wasn’t overreacting. Just in case you really need to hear this one day. I want it to be here waiting for you.
Here’s what happened: we were on our way home from church and the farmer’s market when we decided to make a quick stop at the library to pick up the books you’d put on hold. That’s always the most exciting part of your week, isn’t it?
This day was particularly special because the long-awaited new release from one of your favourite authors was finally ready for you. Before I’d even shut the door behind me, you, sweet oldest girl, were begging me to pass you the book. I don’t know why, but there was something in the desperate tone of your voice that made us want to have a little fun with you. I think maybe you’d been a little unkind to your sister(s) earlier that morning, and we wanted to test your patience a little.
“How much do you love this book?” we teased you lovingly.
“Sooooooo much! Now give it to me!”
Your tone was just a little too much… we couldn’t resist.
“Do you love it more than your family?”
Long pause… “Um. I guess not.”
Wow. You didn’t even try to pretend. Thanks, love.
Now we were really having a good time. We told you that you could have the book after you went around the car and named something you loved about each person in your family. And it couldn’t be something they do for you or a behaviour you appreciate. It had to be something about their character.
You did okay with your littlest siblings, but then you started to falter. You said you loved your sister because she does your chores for you and lends you things. You love your dad because he buys you things.
And here’s where the fun ended for me and I started to get a little sad.
Neither you or your sister were able (willing?) to list any reasons you loved your dad that didn’t have to do with him working hard to buy you things or provide for your material needs.
This is where I probably overreacted. I’m sure that if I’d given you more time, you could have thought of a few more ways that your dad shows how much he loves you. But I was too overcome with guilt. After all, am I not the one who constantly reminds you—whenever you complain about him coming home late from work—how hard he works to provide for us so that we can stay home and enjoy the lifestyle we have? Have I given you the wrong impression? Have I somehow, in my efforts to defend him, made his financial contribution out to be more important than it is? Have I misled you into thinking that taking care of your physical needs is the only way he demonstrates his love?
If I have, please forgive me. This is the farthest thing from the truth, as far as I see it. Although these things are important, they are nothing compared to everything else he does for you, and I don’t ever want to let you forget that. You are blessed beyond measure to have this man as your father, and I will make it my mission to ensure that you know that in your heart of hearts.
So, even though I listed these things for you that day in the car, I’m writing them down here as I know you will all need to hear it again. Please don’t ever forget that your father is a blessing, a gift from God. That is even the definition of his name.
Here are some of the ways your father loves you that are more important than earning money to buy you things…
1. He prays for you constantly
I know that in this season of life, you don’t get to spend as much time with your dad as you’d love to. He does work hard, and when he comes home, he works hard here too. I wish it was our reality that we could spend more time praying together as a family every day, but it’s just not always possible right now.
But do you know that your dad prays for you every single day? While you are sleeping, your father comes before the throne of Jesus and prays over your lives passionately. He prays about your souls, your futures, your spouses, your children. He petitions God on your behalf, knowing that this is the most important thing he can do for you as a father.
Some of our dearest friends, their own children now fully grown, once told us that if there was anything they would have changed about their parenting, it’s that they would have prayed for their children earlier and more often. Their advice was not lost on us, and you, my dears, will benefit from this lesson.
Your father’s prayers are a shield of protection over your lives, covering you in peace, truth, and love. If there is one gift you have a chance to ask your dad for, let it be his prayers. They are powerful and enduring.
2. He is interested in the things you love
For you girls, saying “I love you” is such an easy thing to do. In fact, one of you says it so much that “the world is full of her ‘I love yous,’ ” (your words, little one). But it’s not so easy for other people. Some people really struggle to say these three words, but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel it. For some people, it’s easier to show their love through actions.
My dad didn’t usually say “I love you,” very often, but I knew that he did because he seemed to care so much about the things that were important to me: the books I read, my favourite school subjects, the sports I played. His interest in these things made me feel like he was interested in me.
You are doubly blessed because your dad not only tells you how much he loves you, but he shows it too. He is so interested in your passions. He is deeply moved when he sees you perform on stages, or even in our living room. He loves to study drawing with you and get lost for hours together working on one sketch. He loves that you share his interest in movies and never hesitates to watch one of your favourites with you.
When you make crafts at Christmas, he sells them for you at his work. He teaches you how to do gymnastics safely and takes you to gyms so you can practice together.
When you wanted to learn a song on the piano when you were very little, he learned it first so he could teach it to you.
Maybe you’re so used to this kind of love because it’s all you’ve ever known, but I want you to know how special it is. You are blessed to have a father who cares so much about you and the things you love.
3. He is patient with you
I wish I could say that I am patient with you, but we both know that’s not very true. Patience is something I have to work on every day, it doesn’t come to me very naturally. I get frustrated when you don’t listen, when you move too slowly too often, and when you hate your math so much that you storm away from the table.
But your dad is overflowing with patience for you. Why do you think I always send you to him when you ask me for something? Who do you think I turn to when I don’t know how to handle a difficult situation with you? Your dad always seems to know what to say or do. He speaks to you gently and offers you another chance. He shows you again how something should be done. He understands your pain and your frustration and helps you through it. Sure, there are times when even he gets fed up, but you have to push him pretty hard before that happens.
He so adeptly models God’s patient and kind love for you.
4. He sows seeds of faith, wisdom, and wonder in you
Your dad’s greatest longing for his children is that you would be thirsty for the love of Jesus and that your faith would be yours, not just a reflection of his own. He wants you to be equipped to handle all of life’s challenges with grace, faith, and love. He is passionate about immersing you in God’s word and helping you understand how beautiful, true, and powerful it is.
He’s also passionate about ensuring that you are equipped to be a faithful steward of the resources God has given you. He wants to teach you to manage your talents, gifts, and finances responsibly so that you will have the freedom to say ‘yes’ to God and the different things that He might call you to.
He longs to see your minds constantly expanded, filled with wonder, fascination, and a love of learning. It fills him with joy to see how much you are learning, not just through your homeschooling efforts, but through everything you pursue.
5. He wants to truly know you and be known by you
I love seeing the joy your father takes in each of your unique personalities. He is mesmerized by the distinct characteristics that make each of you so special. This one’s fearlessness, that one’s thoughtful questions, the third’s sense of humour. He so appreciates getting to know who you are and nurturing those qualities that stand out in you.
At the same time, he wants to be known by you. He wants you to know about his beliefs, his passions, his history. He shares stories of his childhood in such a compelling way that you beg to hear them over again; they have become legends in your mind. He wants to be an integral part of your stories, the father who encouraged them, loved them, laughed with them, learned with them.
I pray that even as you grow older, you will realize what a blessing this is and clasp onto it tightly.
I’m sure that you will come to see all of these things for yourself. As you look back over your childhoods, I know you will be filled with gratitude for the gift that God has given you in your father. I know you will bear the fruit of the seeds that have been planted in you.
But for now, I’ll let you get back to that book you love so much.