Saturday, June 20, 2009

To My Father

In preparation for this piece, I sifted through old photos and cards that have been tucked away for years. Birthdays, Valentine’s and graduations were occasions made special not by lavish gifts, but by encouraging words. Thankfully I’ve been fortunate enough to experience the deep, compassionate love between a daughter and her father.

This stroll down memory lane brought me to a little, green Bible my dad gave me on January 28, 1989. His dedication read, “May your love in Christ always be in you through the good and the bad times—and all through your life.” As I pored over each word he had written, a sense of gratefulness came over me.

Like many daughters, I cherish my father. At various times he has been my hero, my mentor and my friend. He is my hero for the many times he picked me up spiritually and emotionally. His love for others and generosity have taught me to freely give. And His wisdom, creativity and love have challenged me to be all God created me to be.
This Father’s Day I thank God for the moments we’ve shared. Whether it was reading a book from the library, flying kites at the park, looking out from a stage to see him clapping, or walking me down the aisle—my dad was there for every memorable moment. The smile on his face said it all, but he would go the extra mile and tell me in his own words how proud he was of me.

Over time, the gifts and activities have changed a bit, though I do receive the occasional teddy bear. One thing, however, remains the same—my father’s love for me. When I was a little girl I had a head full of dreams, and my dad shared two words with me that changed me forever, never settle.

So, I set my eyes toward God’s best and never looked back. Dad helped me feel confident in who I was, and with his encouragement I’m now living my dreams. I’m not saying he is the only one who has loved and supported me because I’m blessed to have an entire family that stands with me, but his words are carved into my heart and help me look past where I am to where I will be.

I like to think God saw our claylike forms and used our fathers as tools to help build our character and shape our lives. My husband and I are blessed with fathers who are our biggest fans—pushing us to do better and cheering us on as we grow. They have inspired, empowered and cultivated us. So, to my dad, fathers-in-law and those who’ve influenced me—I say thank you.

Photo by Clem T. Webb 
Your Little Girl Forever and Always
Your gentle voice once soothed my tender cries.
Your strong embrace assured me I was safe.
My tiny feet once trudged about in your old shoes.
My curly tendrils danced as we spun round the room.

Your smiling face could melt away a thousand tears.
Your loving words motivated me to carry on.
My hidden courage seemed to surface with you near.
My hopes and dreams grew with your encouragement.

Your tearful eyes said it all when we met in the aisle.
Your words and wisdom prepared me for a new life.
My joyful heart remembered we weren’t really letting go.
My comfort came in knowing you were there—and always would be.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Little Seed that Could

“The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands.” (Deuteronomy 28:12, NIV)

In late February I purchased a clump of vine-ripened tomatoes from my local grocer. Since my husband was the only one eating them, one sat in the windowsill until his parent’s visit in early March. Not being a big fan of the mealy fruit (yes, tomato is a fruit/berry scientifically speaking), I was glad to have visitors who liked it with their salad.

I cut into it and was surprised to see that several of its seeds sprouted. Guess that’s what happens when you leave a tomato in the sunlight for more than a week. Maybe this will sound weird to some, but I was elated to see those seeds. Why? I was in the process of overcoming a ton of grief.

The previous four months of my life read like a tragic novel. Two of my husband’s grandparents passed away, both of my dogs died, I left a job to start a business and my dear grandmother was slowly slipping away due to Alzheimer’s. At the time, I was experiencing a season of endings, and there seemed to be no new beginnings in sight.

In my hands, I held seven tiny seeds of hope. I was determined to plant them despite early spring freezes and fully expected them to produce fruit. When I planted them, I prayed they would grow. Again, that may seem silly to some, but I needed something new and good to blossom in my life—even if it was a mere tomato.

Like so many other times, God was good and blessed me. I watched those seeds survive twenty-degree drops, freeze and hail. By the end of March, seven little sprouts broke through the soil. In mid April, I transferred the plants into individual pots, watching them grow inch-by-inch, and that brings me to June.

Over the weekend, I planted the adult plants in two large growing chambers, one inverted and the other an upright pot. All of the plants had flowers on them at the time of transfer, and today I saw my first, baby tomato hanging from the vine.

Why all this fuss about a typical garden plant? Well, it’s not about the tomato, though I’ve never grown them before. To me, it’s about the seed that I planted in faith—hoping for something, anything that would symbolize the start of something new and good.

They were a reminder that everything has a season, and that endings are followed by beginnings. Those seeds survived harsh weather conditions and persevered transitions. In the end, I realized I too would make it through the hardships and see God produce fruit in my life.

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-9, NIV)