In honor of Father’s Day yesterday, I wrote a letter to my dad thanking him for the way that he shaped the woman that I am today. This is really personal and important to me, but I wanted to share it on my blog because I think that it is that important.
I haven’t written about it before, because it’s obviously pretty hard for me to talk about, but my dad has stage 4 (terminal) prostate cancer. He is doing pretty well right now, and although it’s not imminent, we live with the reality that this disease will take him from this life here on earth to be with our Heavenly Father sooner than we would have expected.
Fathers are obviously hugely important in the lives of their children. I believe that a Father’s love and care cannot be replaced by anything else in this world. As I have reflected on the influence that my own father has had on my life, I am always drawn back to these seven simple, yet complex, sayings. When I close my eyes, I can see and hear my dad saying these to me over and over during my growing up years.
So, I wanted to share those things, and tell my dad how important they were to me, and how much they, and he, mean to me, now that I am grown and have a family of my own.
This is the letter I wrote for my dad:
My Dad is one of those people that has lots of sayings that he is known for, at least within our family. There were lots of saying and phrases that he would repeat to us over and over when we were growing up. He would even make up acronyms for things that were a little too long to say on their own. Sometimes I didn’t even really understand what he meant, and definitely didn’t usually get the meaning behind the words, but now that I am older, those sayings are coming back to me and I understand the wisdom and life lessons that my father was trying to teach us and instill in us from a young age. And I am so grateful and thankful that I have a father that was wise enough and patient enough to keep at us about these things, even when it seemed like we just didn’t get it, because he knew how important they were. I get it now, Dad, about time right? Thank you!
Important Life Lessons I Learned from my Dad:
1. CMGMGC – Catching My Girls Making Good Choices.
My dad would say this to us when he saw us making a positive choice in life. He was trying to teach us that we all have choices that we make every single day and we can either make positive choices that are good for ourselves and others, or we can make negative choices that hurt ourselves and others. He wanted to reward and support the positive choices that we made independently, to help to teach us about making good choices. There is so much value in understanding that we have a say, that we can make choices, in life. Choices about how we act and react, choices about how we choose to live our lives. We are not just bystanders on this road of life, we are active participants and we need to learn to choose wisely. Thanks for teaching me the power and importance of choice, Dad!
2. Garbage in, Garbage Out
I would always roll my eyes at this one, especially during my teenage years. Dad would say that what we watched and listened to and even read, were putting messages into our minds and hearts about life. And if those messages were garbage – inappropriate movies or shows on TV, music that had underlying messages of sex and promiscuity, materialism and power, and books or stories of good and evil where we were rooting for the evil over the good, that those things would be what we reaped in our lives. I really did not agree with him for a long time. I thought that I was strong enough to stand against the messages that media was sending. Now that I have my own children, I think I’m finally beginning to understand what he meant. I want to shelter them from the life-stealing messages that our culture promotes. I want them to seek truth and beauty, love and grace, peace and justice – and those things don’t come naturally to our lives unless we are actively seeking them in our lives. This leads to the next one too…
3. There is truly nothing more important in our lives than our relationship with Jesus.
This one was not so much a saying, but the way that my dad lived, and still lives, his life. He modeled this for us through his actions, and you know the saying – actions speak louder than words, right? I remember going to Cedar Point on a youth group trip and my dad was a chaperone. He brought his Bible along to read while we waited in line for the roller coasters. I was mortified. But now I understand that to him, there was nothing more important than spending time in the Word of God and he was going to take every opportunity, every free minute to do what was most important to him. And so, this one is like the opposite of garbage in, garbage out – if something is truly important to you, it needs to be reflected in how you actually live your life. It’s not enough to say that you follow God, that you love Jesus, you need to act like it, and it needs to be reflected in the things you say, and do, and watch, and listen to, and read, day in and day out.
4. You have to mean not to.
This one I never understood when I was growing up. It just didn’t make any sense to me. He would say this when we did something that was probably an accident, but maybe also could have been prevented – we would say, “I didn’t mean to.” And he would reply, “You have to mean not to.” Ugh – it was always so frustrating to me – What? What does that mean? Now I realize that he was trying to teach us about being intentional, about thinking ahead about not being impulsive. Sometimes things happen in life that we don’t have control over, but other times things happen and we say, “Oh, I didn’t really mean for, or want that, to happen.” But then we are not taking responsibility for our lives and our choices. If you want to avoid something in life that you have control over – you have to mean not to. You have to purpose and be intentional about avoiding it, and not just sit back and be the victim of your circumstances. We all have the ability to be proactive – now I get it, finally!
5. You’re my favorite (insert age) year old in the whole world.
My dad would say this, actually he still says it, to each of my sisters, and of course, we were different ages, so that was his way of telling us how important we were to him, how much he loved us, without singling out one of as a “favorite” or making us feel like he loves one of us more than the others. As a girl, it’s important to know that you are special and loved, especially by your father. I hope that I am able to let my kids know and feel how special and loved they are. Really, it’s so important to let all the important people in your life know how much they mean to you.
6. Find something that you love to do, and do it with all your mind, heart and strength.
Again, not something that he said, but something that he modeled through his life. If anyone has met my dad, they know he is a little crazy. Crazy about speed skating, crazy about recumbent bikes. He LOVES skating and riding his bike. And when he realized how much he loved those things, he poured his life into them. He learned, and researched, and practiced, and practiced some more, and keeps doing the things he loves. He taught me to how good it is to find pleasure in something that you love and to put everything you can into it (without going overboard, or crazy, of course.) ☺
7. The most important things in life aren’t things at all.
When I was much younger, I had a little bit of a hard time understanding this one, but now it is the most important one to me. It took me a little while to really learn and understand it, but now it is as obvious and plain as day to me. The most important things in life are not things, but people. And I want to live my life in a way that reflects that this is true for me. People and relationship come before stuff, before any other things, always. Besides bikes and skates (see above), this is the way that my dad lives his life. Okay, just kidding about the bikes and skates. But really, those who know my dad, know how important people are to him. And he makes it a point to live like that, and I hope that I can follow in his footsteps that way.
All of these things my dad taught and instilled in me and my sister’s when we were growing up. We didn’t realize it at the time, but he was shaping the kind of women, the kind of people, that we would become. I really don’t know who I would be today if my dad had not begun teaching me these important life lessons at such a young age. And even though I would, often, roll my eyes at him, I now see how the things that he taught us, through sayings and acronyms and the way he lived his life, were so much more powerful and lasting than lecturing or yelling, or a “do as I say, not as I do” kind of teaching. And for that, I am, and will forever be, grateful. Thank you, Dad, for being my favorite Dad in the whole wide world. I LYMTSLI! ☺