Friday, June 22, 2007

Gifts from Dad

On Sunday when I sat down to write a blogpost for Father's Day, I had a few nice words to say and a mix of pictures-old and new- of my kids with their dad. But as I started writing I realized I would either write at great length and risk scattering my thoughts all over, or I could break it down bit by bit, and that is what has transpired here all week long.
I have taken the opportunity to 'highlight' each one of our children in the spotlight with their dad, and today is no different, with the exception of the last two pictures.
Ava is our youngest daughter, and she has been more of a mama's girl in all of her 3 years of life...but she does have a soft spot for Chip, and it continues to grow and grow. I've watched it blossom in the last several months, and now she is one of the first to give him hugs and kisses as he comes and goes in our home. They have a special relationship, and one of my favorite things about it is how, even after 3 girls, there is still a newness or freshness about the way Chip interacts with Ava. I know it's true with all kids...but it's still fun to see it in real life.
I was thinking about how each child has the ability to almost 'glean' what they need/desire most from Chip. With Bella it is all the loving and hugging. With Brock it is affirmation and encouragement. With Wyndham it is optimism and support. With Ava it seems to be individual attention...and she is at her best with Chip when she gets that from him. =)
One of my favorite things about Chip and Ava was the nickname that came about from him for her. Daddy calls her 'Chi-chi'. It happened almost accidentally...he started telling her during times of hugs and kisses that she was so cute...that she was just a little 'chi-chi'. Only a few days of this took place before Bella called Ava, 'Chi-chi'. I asked why she was calling her chi-chi, and she said, "That's her name; Daddy calls her that". And ever since the name has stuck...Ava is often called "Chi-chi" around our house. Especially when she's being cute.
Those little things are what really hit me as I sat down to blog on Father's Day. Our dads have such 'power and influence' and the ability to make us feel loved and secure. They can lift us up and make us believe we can do the impossible. But they also have the ability to do the opposite. Just as all people in our lives can do...but at this point in my life- with small children growing up under my care- it is most often their dad and me that are shaping them and their beliefs about themselves. It's an awesome and overwhelming responsibility and can be scary if I think of how many times in one day it happens that I can either lift them up or tear them down. Or simply do neither and not care at all.
I know I am not exaggerating these 'powers', and have been encouraged- especially through Wyndham's doctors and therapists, that the way we parent and love and challenge and respond does have a lot to do with a child's growth and development. That is why I felt I had so much to say on this topic. I know how much I rely on Chip for his part in raising our kids, and I know they are counting on him and appreciate his efforts everyday. I love that he brings such different aspects to our relationship as a couple...and most of them compliment me or fill in the gaps where I fall short. And believe me, there are lots of 'gaps' in my abilities!
I have felt my heart ache for people I know who grew up without a dad in their life, or for people I know who weren't fortunate to have their individual needs met by a father figure. I understand that it leads to great trials and life-long hurts for some- simply because someone failed them along the way. It's not fair, and I realize I am so fortunate to have been surrounded by great men in my own dad, my husband, my brothers, and the men in my husband's family too. Not to mention all the amazing uncles and grandpa's and friends who are of upstanding character and have had wonderful relationships with me and my family. I am truly blessed in that regard.
It made me think of the gifts I have been given in life through the years. Not items and tangiable 'stuff', but gifts that have been given that can't be bought or sold. I have mentioned some that I think are so important in the lives of kids- especially from their dads; gifts such as time and attention. Gifts such as love and discipline. Gifts that kids don't always appreciate, but they can make all the difference in the world when it comes down to it.
My hubby would tell you that it's no surprise that I have the little note pictured above...he thinks I save everything. I do save a lot of stuff- especially written stuff- cards, journals, notes. But this one has a special place. I keep it tucked in a little drawer in my jewelry box. Set apart from the rest of my 'pack-rat' stash of papers and sentimental items.
It has no date on it- but I can tell you that I got it when I was in 10th or 11th grade. I've kept it for about 18 years or so. It's one of the few things {maybe the only thing...truthfully, I'd have to look through boxes of my stash to be certain =)} that I have that is hand-written by my dad. Not that my dad never writes anything. He does. He writes sermon notes and checks and other important things...but nothing that really comes across 'my desk' very often. This little note says, "Jody- Thanks for cleaning the house on Sat. Love Dad P.S. Thanks for being a great daughter."
I'm sure he has no recollection of even writing this little note, nor would he think I still have it tucked away as one of my prized 'treasures' in my jewelry box. I probably told him 'thanks for the note'...or hardly acknowledged that he'd given it to me at the time. I was sort of hard-hearted as a teen toward my parents...and it makes me both happy and sad as I think about it now. I am sorry that I had an attitude toward them and life in general. But I am thankful that my Dad (and Mom too) made efforts to 'keep me on the right track' and to encourage me even in small ways- such as this note.
And obviously, it DID mean a great deal to me and I appreciated their care and love and concern- even if I acted as though it didn't matter. At this point in time I can tell you that my relationship with my parents is one of the best 'gifts' I have in this world. I don't see them often enough, as they live in Minnesota and I am in Michigan...but the distance between us doesn't affect the love and care we share. I have called on my dad at all times of the day, and he is available to me every time I need him. I have needed advice and prayers or simply know that he will cry for me or laugh with me. {The same goes for my mom...I'm just pointing out my dad here.}
When I think of all the things I have needed or expected or simply been given from my dad, I realize the list is practically endless. I couldn't be more grateful to my dad- for his wisdom, his insights, his love and devotion to me and all his family through the years. It really is priceless.
And now I have the good fortune of seeing similar 'gifts' being poured out to my own kids from their dad. My heart wells up with thanks.
I know that there are people in this world who could be jealous of such relationships and gifts that I have in my life. And there is much truth to that- I have done nothing to deserve such the great men in my life. I understand this...and really want to make a special point of saying that I have hurt for some of you- to the point of praying for you and asking for grace and mercy in your heart- that you might be comforted and that the voids that exist in your hearts from broken relationships with dads/men in your life might be filled. By the only One I know who is perfect- the Heavenly Father who created us, knows us, loves us and desires to meet all of our needs. The greatest gift I have is the salvation I received as a result of Jesus dying on the cross- a perfect sacrifice- for my sins. In so doing, His death on the cross, and my belief that He died for my sins-has restored the relationship and secured my eternal place in Heaven- with God forever. This relationship and assurance of salvation is something that shapes me and defines me and feeds my soul more than anything else in this world ever would or could do for me.
It is this gift of salvation- and 'restoration' to God the Father- that is the only thing that can ever make any of us "whole". No matter how good or bad our relationships are with our earthly dads. These posts have reminded me, that I have gifts, that dads have unique abilities and qualities and opportunities and responsibilities. And I obviously think the world of Chip and my Dad when it comes to their roles in my life and to my loved ones. But it is the awesome, undeserving relationship and faith that I have in God, that makes all the difference in the world to me and how I live my life. My prayer is that you would seek this...or that it already means the world to you too. It is a gift like no other. Humbling, undeserving, yet indescribeable and FREE!


Jiggy said...

Jody you have such a way about you! You are SO right about us influencing one way or the other. My dad passed away when I was three and my step father was a bad influence on me...thankfully God saw fit to bring me a husband who is such a good sometimes makes me ache with jealousy that he lives and breathes for them and how I missed that in my own life...but I tell him all the time how he says things or does things will effect the girls far into the future without even realizing it...such an awesome responsibilty we have been entrusted with!

Sarah (AKA monroegirl) said...

I love reading your blog!

Sonja said...

Jody, The note from your dad is so sweet, I looked at his picture over at SIS and he has such kind eyes. It is a blessing to have such love in life. Thanks for another great post.

eek said...

I love all the pictures of your husband and kids. You definitely have a beautiful family!

P.S. Thanks for the note and words of encouragement. One of these days I will be brave and post a layout. :)

Anonymous said...

You are so right. My dad was not a good influence when I was a child, and subsequently I picked a husband who had similar influence. I am about to be divorced and I hope I can let God guide me as I enter this next chapter in my life.

Karen in CA

Michelle said...

Jody this post of yours just makes me cry! It's so beautiful and just makes me realise I don't tell my Dad often enough how much I love and appreciate all he does for me. God knows where would I be without him. (I really miss him - we're living on 2 different continents!) Thank you for sharing and for putting in words so beautifully what a lot of us feel about our dads - things that we don't always put down on paper.

Have a great weekend!

Erin said...

Im just curious do your two youngest children understand they had a sister that passed away.