Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Father's Gift

I think the most surprising gift I got this year was the one I didn't anticipate from the person I didn't anticipate it from.

I am a father of daughters. I have attempted, in my broken and fairly unorganized way, to raise them in such a way that they learn to stretch their wings and explore, to believe in God and the plan He has for them through the talents they've been given, that they learn to feel confident in using their talents and trying new things, and that they learn that their talents and gifts are not only for themselves alone, but for the good of others as well. Through them and their talents, they express the love of God to a world desperately in need of it.

A tall order to be sure, and one which I'm never quite sure I'm fulfilling well. There are times I see hints of it, but a great deal of time as well where it feels as if one is tilting at windmills. Do such things really have impacts on their lives of our daughters?

Enter the Christmas present. Enter Buttercup.

I get to cheat in a way that you, gentle readers, do not: I get to see her daily posts on Facebook. I have watched over the last few years as she undertook a dream which she had put aside - to get a college degree in teaching - which has morphed into her life's calling helping autistic children.

And here's the cool part: she speaks constantly in her writing of her father.

He passed on in July 2010 and so has never (physically) seen all that Buttercup has done in this time. But that hardly means he is not present in her mind: nay, her writings and thoughts drip of him with so many entries; even this year at Christmas, she speaks with high praise of a gift she received, a quilt made of his shirts, a physical reminder of his presence.

I say that his influence continues because she says that his influence continues in her life to this day: in her gardening, in her service to others, in her faith. She keeps on her desk a wooden apple, a constant reminder of him.

And a great comfort it has been to me as I work through what so often seems to be the wreckage of my life, hoping in some way or shape to inculcate what I would wish that my children would know and internalize long after I'm gone, to see that in at least one case that I know of and can attest to, such a thing actually can happen: we can do what we hope to do.

And that hope, that example, is the greatest gift I received at the end of one long year and the beginning of the next: lessons can be learned and lives influenced (and others therefore changed) by the example and lessons of a father.


  1. I sit here bawling like a baby. Touched by your words and the kind tribute you have made to a man that you only know through my words and actions. He truly was a great man and my hero. His legacy was rooted in humbleness. Perhaps what I most admired about him was that he admitted when he was wrong, talked about his struggles, and lived to serve others. I find incredible, incredible value in things not of material value, but rather in actions. My Dad was a man of action...an amazing example of love and compassion. You, my precious friend, ooze God's tender grace in your own actions, your heart is sensitive to others, and you openly wrestle with life's struggles. Your humbleness is what your daughters see. Though they may not see your actions as something set apart from the world now or necessarily honorable, they will! You are their hero. You are the man that they will compare all other men to! (this is a good thing!!!)My friend, you are another great man who will leave behind a legacy in the actions of your daughters! I adore your precious heart! I feel beyond blessed by your words. Thank you! xoxxo

  2. You make an important point (as you always do). "..a man that you know only through my words and actions." In point of fact, that is all we ever know of anyone: their words and actions. If you truly consider it, a greatness of soul is perhaps indicated by the degree to which the farther away you are from a person, the fact that they remain known by their words and actions (the good ones, of course; there are infamous people known by their bad actions, but we're not talking about them).

    If you will, the ultimate example of this is Christ: He is known by His words (Scripture) and actions (crucifixion, resurrection, ascension), but in reality He continues to be visibly present in the actions of those who are His followers. By our words and actions inspired by Him (not the nasty ones inspired by us, of course), we make Him known. And thus your father - and all of us - become mirrors reflecting the Glory of God.

    And as always, thank you for your very kind words. You encourage me more than you can imagine.


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