Thursday, February 13, 2014

To My Valentine

          Today is a very special day. As you all may know, it is Valentine’s Day. I happen to love Valentine’s Day… not because I like the cheesy gifts or receiving candy (although I do love candy) but because Valentine’s Day is the day I get to celebrate the man I love most in the world: my dad. You see, February 14 is my dad’s birthday. In my family, we always say all the hearts and festivities are for him. I always loved that his birthday was celebrated all over the world and decorations were everywhere! And instead of cake, my mom would always make a cherry pie with hearts cut out of the crust. This year, I am very far from home and I am not able to eat that pie with my dad in. And so I decided to write this blog post for him, so that everyone may know the best guy in the world, who has filled my life with so much love. 
          My dad has always been a very active father and deeply involved in my life. He has always been there for me: every band and choir concert, every tennis match. Even when he started a new job in Ohio my senior year of high school, he would make the hour and a half drive for all of my tennis matches. And in college, when I wasn’t involved with music or athletics, my dad made it a priority to come down to visit me in Virginia, just to spend time and know the place where I was living. Growing up, every summer my family would go on  vacation. I look back on these times with such fondness. One of my favorite times would be when my dad would make up stories around the campfire. I used to think they were the best and that my dad was brilliant for being to make them up on the spot. Looking back, I realize that they weren’t all that great, but to a little kid, I was introduced to magical worlds with lot of funny named characters. Even back then, my dad was my hero.
          As I have grown older, I have come to have so much respect with the ways I was brought up. I am a pastor’s daughter, but my parents have never pushed their faith on me. They have allowed me the space to question and grow. In recent times, I have talked a lot about my doubts with my dad. He doesn’t ever give me answers, but listens so intently and helps me ask the right questions. Even in times when we differ, he always listens and always loves. I know I can say anything to him because his love for me will never change. He always encourages and is quick to remind me of how proud he is of me. Even during school when I have pressured myself to be perfect, the pressure never came from my parents. They wanted me to succeed and do well, but were the first to tell me that getting straight A’s was not the most important thing in life. My mentor from college once told me that my dad is very wise man and she is right. My dad might not have all the answers, but he has so much love, grace, and experience that his advice is always extremely valuable.
          And day by day he continues to amaze me with his wisdom and ability to continue in hard times. In September, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. This was a really hard realization to deal with . But instead of getting really down, my dad preached this in his first sermon after coming back to work...

“The Parkinson’s diagnosis was not only a shock but a game changer. Our lives would never be the same. I wondered if my ministry was over. I never thought my 61st year of life would bring me a chronic illness for which there is no cure. I cried out to God and felt abandoned by God and sometimes it seemed like I was all alone. After much reflection and prayer, I began to see that Parkinson’s was not a death knell but an opportunity to look at my life in a new way and see clearly what is basic and important in life. …. [Like the Israelites in Jeremiah] we all have our exiles to live with. Things we can’t really change but must live with. Some exiles are bigger than others. But in any exile we have the choice. We have the choice to become bitter or better… Jeremiah challenges the Jews in captivity, and us, -- to embrace the place where we find ourselves, and find ways to be faithful in our living, so that others might inquire about our inspiration, our resolve, and our trust, and thereby be drawn into relationship with God.”
          Dad, you are my hero. I am amazed everyday by your incredible love and wisdom. I know sometimes you have self-doubt, but I have seen first-hand how you bless all those around you. You are truly an inspiration and I know God exists when I see your life. I love you so much and wish that I could be there celebrating with you. I wish you the best day and may the year ahead be filled with much love and happiness. And always remember that even though I am far, far away, I will always be your little girl. Happy Birthday and a very Happy Valentine's Day!

My dad and I in October when I flew to Europe.
My dad and I years ago. 

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