Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Truth About Fathers... Er, Something...

Two days after attending our new ward together for the first time, Jason and I were called in to meet with a member of the bishopric. Over the course of the next half hour, I was extended a calling to serve as the Beehive Advisor in our ward, Jason and I were asked to co-teach the Temple Preparation class, we were asked to "facilitate" the youth temple trips in our ward and - finally - we were asked so speak in church on Father's Day. Maybe it’s ironic that preparing for the talk was the one thing I've been feeling even remotely anxious about. Jason came up with the idea of inviting both our parents to be come and hear us speak (and that they came), which made the opportunity even more nerve-wracking, but also intensely personal and special to me. I decided to share the thoughts I prepared here, since many of you that know my parents might get at least a chuckle or two of your own:

I love my dad. I always have… although I know that like most children, I haven’t always been the best about showing it. But as I’ve been reflecting this last few weeks about our family and my dad, I’ve been able to remember experiences I’ve had with him and the little nuggets of truth I learned through watching him and spending time with him. While the words I’ve prepared are, in truth, primarily for him, I know that as you reflect on your own fathers, grandfathers, even your husbands or yourselves, that you’ll find or remember some of your own nuggets of truth…

  1. Girls Can Do – & Enjoy – Everything That Boys Can… My dad is the self-proclaimed president of the J.U.G. – Just Us Girls. As the father of three daughters and no sons, he often found himself out numbered and frequently determined that if you can’t beat them, join them. But he also took great pride in teaching us things most boys manage to teach themselves, probably much to Mom’s chagrin, who was trying to raise “ladies.” But as two of the three of us married into families of all boys, I can attest that this was probably wonderful foresight on Dad’s part. From sports to doing heavy yard work, we each learned that doing “boy things” really isn’t that bad.
  2. God Made This Beautiful World For Us to Enjoy… Dad *loves* being outside, whether we’re home or out exploring. Because of my Dad, I love to grow things, play with fire and sleep in tents (even in the backyard). I love watching for wildlife while I’m driving, playing in rain puddles after watching storms move though or just laying outside on the grass and absorbing all the wonderful things that God has blessed us with…
  3. Everything Can Be Interesting… It’s not an uncommon thing to have Dad come inside and say, “Come out here I want to show you something.” Sometimes it’s the grain of a tree trunk he just cut open or the way the cat is rolling around on the back porch. Dad loves to share newspaper clippings and short excerpts from Louis L'Amour novel he’s reading.
  4. Written Words Have Meaning, Sometimes Even More Meaning Than What Is Spoken… I love getting letters and notes from my dad. I will always remember getting mail from Dad at Scout Camp, talking about how he wished I could be there to tell him the name of all the stars he could see. It was always such a tender thing to me to know that I was on his mind wherever he was.
  5. You Learn More From People That Are Different From You… We have always been encouraged to try new things, to meet new people and to learn about those around us. I know that my passion for a large variety of ethnic food and music, as well as my habit of looking beyond the differences I see in others to find commonalities, I learned from him.
  6. The Kitchen Is Both a Playground and a Lab… Both of my sisters and I learned to cook from our Mom. But I would say we love to cook because of Dad. Through his example, we all learned to experiment, play with recipes and try new things, knowing that sometimes our concoctions turn out better than others, but always learning and preparing for next time.
  7. If You’re Passionate About Something, Share It… Dad is a carpenter by hobby, and if Dad’s working in the shop, he loves company… even if “company” is the cat. He loves to teach others skills he’s learned and loves it even more when that person uses those skills to build something for others.
  8. Helping Others Succeed Is More Important – & More Fun – Than Succeeding Yourself… Dad love to fish. He’s got the fishing vest, tackles boxes, hats with hooks in them… But it’s not uncommon for us to leave the lake we’re at with Dad’s trophy being along the lines of a crawdad that found the worm on the end his line that he left drifting two feet from shore while he went to help someone else or grab lunch from the car. I think on the specific “crawdad” trip I’m remembering, my sister walked away having caught at least half-a-dozen fish, and Dad was there to cheer her on for every one.
  9. Perspective Is Important… I will always remember the wise words my Dad said before my family drove off, having dropped me off at college my freshman year at BYU: “The most important thing I learned in college was how little I know.”
  10. Do What Is Right, Regardless of the Consequences or What Others Think, & Remember that Sometimes the Doing Right Thing Hurts… I don’t think anyone I’ve ever known exemplifies this better than my parents. They chose to do what they thought was best for their family, even if that meant personal sacrifices and growing apart from friends.
  11. There is Always a Right Tool For the Job… Again, with Dad’s shop. I remember any number of times, working on a household “fix-it” project and he disappear to look for the “right” tool. He’d come back a few minutes later with a tool that looked like it popped out of a Dr. Seuss book… but it did the job. I also learned through his example that sometimes we are that “right” tool or instrument that God uses to fix things for others. He has always been an amazing example of serving others.
  12. Everything Has a Name & a Home… Sometimes Dad would send *us* off in search of the “right” Dr. Seuss tool, which sometimes felt like our own personal crusade. But he always knew exactly where it lived, what it was called and exactly how it looked. In watching this pattern, I’ve learned that this is how our Heavenly Father is with us. He knows where we are, who we are, what we’re doing and how we feel, 100% of the time. If we’re asked to go in search of those that need us, He will always give us what we need to find them.
  13. Sometimes You Have to Do Stupid Things So You Can Live to Tell About Them Later… I know that we all do stupid things, I’ve done lots… so at least I hope I’m not the only one. But I’ve learned to not ever regret what I’ve done as long as I learned from the experience. Sometimes it’s something like hiking under an avalanche cave and sometimes it’s more serious, but I know I’ve been the “right” tool for helping another because of what I learned through something stupid that I’d done.
  14. Sometimes You Have to Roll Back to Go Forward… Dad taught me how to drive a stick shift in a 1973 Chevy pick-up. I learned the basics in our church parking lot, but then found myself driving home that night at a stop sign at the top of a hill. I knew there would be an anxious moment when I would roll backwards between when I took my foot off the brake and toggled the gas and clutch… and there was another car right behind me. Dad coached me through that night and no fenders were kissed, but even more than the immediate lesson I learned that night, I now understand that sometimes this happens even when we’re not driving. There have been times when I wanted to move forward in my life, but felt like I was rolling backwards instead. I know now that without those anxious moments of rolling backwards, I wouldn’t have managed to move forward to where I needed to be… and to where I am now.
  15. Importance of Forgiveness & Repentance… Dad and I are both stubborn, and there have been more than a few times when we’ve butted heads over the years. But the day I went through the temple to receive my endowment, he was there to hold my hand while an important prayer was said. It is also not insignificant to me that my dad was the first person I went to the first time I entered the Celestial Room. I have learned how important it is to forgive ourselves and others of things that would drive us apart, to repent in earnest and let things go. I know that when we do this, God takes care of the rest.
  16. People Can Change If They Want To… I am so grateful that we are not stuck in life, that we can continue to grow and progress. My dad has taught me that we are capable of becoming something we are not when really desire it for ourselves and others… and that love is one of the most powerful driving forces for that change.
  17. Be Prepared for Anything… Dad was Scout Master of our ward’s troop for over seven years while I was in middle school and high school, and if there is one thing that I learned through all of the experiences he had – and we had as a family – during those years, this was it. Be prepared. I know this applies to our physical circumstances most regularly, but for me I’ve found the applications more in my mental and spiritual preparedness. Sometimes we don’t know what’s around the next bend, but if we keep our minds and our hearts open to the possibilities, and are mentally and spiritually prepared for whatever comes, amazing blessings are in store for us.
  18. Not All Love Languages Are the Same… This is perhaps the one lesson I’ve learned in watching my Dad that has taken the longest, and I know I’m still learning this principle on many levels and in many relationships. My dad grew up in a family where love wasn’t exactly expressed in ways that would have been easily identified. They didn’t hug, they didn’t kiss, they didn’t say “I love you.” But Dad knew his parents loved him, and he learned to love the same way. I can’t remember ever hearing Dad grumble about getting up before the sun to commute into work on BART. Although he didn’t always like his commute or his job, work was essential; it work was how he provided for his family, and that was a huge way he showed how much he cared about us. I’ve come to understand a little more over the last few months as I’ve had to wake up much sooner than my body would like to go to work to help support my own new family, while Jason finishes school… and I know that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning, wanting to fill my responsibilities for my family (although I’m infinitely more grumbly about it than Dad ever was). Now, with my own husband, I am grateful that I recognize that not all love languages are the same… In fact, no two people on earth express and want love expressed the same way. Even God has different ways of expressing His love for us. While my sisters and I often wanted our Dad to hug us and tell us things would be okay if we fell off our bike, Dad would pick us up, sit us on the bike and tell us to keep riding… and we often just fell off again. I think that sometimes a loving Heavenly Father teaches us and loves us the same way… He picks us off, dusts us off and tells us to keep trying. Even though I am still learning all the different ways love is communicated between me and those I care so much for, I’m grateful to know there are differences so I can continually watch for the signs of love that surround me.
  19. Dads are Heroes, But They are Also a Human… Growing up, Dad was our hero. He could do things we only dreamed of doing… He ran faster than any of us. He could throw us in the air but always catch us. He would eat spiders when they scared us or catch them with his bare hands to throw them outside. He fought mice that got in our house, mean cats in the neighborhood that were bothering our own… in every definition of the word, he was the Man of our home. But I also know that my Dad and my hero is as human as the rest of us. He has things that scare him, things that make him hurt and things that make him cry. This is one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned through my Dad and it parallels a talk given last October in General Conference. Sister Elaine S. Dalton, who – quoting President David O. McKay – emphasized that “The most important thing a father can do for his [daughter] is to love [her] mother.” Because of his different love language, it hasn’t always been easy to see the love Dad has for Mom, but I know when I look at specific times in my life, that he cares for her deeply.

Two years ago, I felt I was rolling backward a little when I found myself moving home after 10 years of being on my own and wasn’t really sure where the turns ahead would lead. But being prepared for anything, and knowing that God knew what I was going through and where I was, I trusted I was where He needed me to be. Not long after I moved home, Mom got really sick. Mom and Dad were on vacation together and so Mom was flown into a hospital in Seattle. The five days that followed were some of the most difficult I’ve ever faced, more difficult I think than almost any other personal trial I’ve been through… But they are also some of the most cherished I have. It is probably the one time in my life that I’ve seen all of my Dad for who he really is… I remember the fear in his voice at the thought of losing his wife. I remember the pain he felt being out there almost alone, but not wanting my sisters and I to come, protecting us from how bad things really got. I saw all of this clearly. But mostly what I remember is the love he showed her, not leaving her side unless it was absolutely necessary, until she started showing signs of recovery. The tender care he gave her as he provided home care for her over the several months that followed. Human as ever, but a hero in spite of it.

I am so grateful for this day we have to celebrate our fathers. I am so grateful for a Heavenly Father that sent me to the parents I needed most, that would help me become the woman I need to be. I am grateful for the temple that has provided my family the opportunity to be together through eternity. I am grateful for my parents who – in spite of their personal imperfections – have always loved their daughters perfectly.

Here's to all the wonderful father's out there - most particularly my own...

Happy Father's Day!!

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