One of the most popular posts on this blog is 7 Things I Want My Sons To Know. Much of what I want them to learn I’ve learned from my own Dad, for which I’m incredibly thankful. He’s almost 80 now and I’m still learning from him.
Here are 7 things I’m very grateful he taught me:
1. Being willing to change.
Dad & I had a rough relationship for about the first 10 years. He was a Type A, hard-driving, military commander, and that’s how he parented. I was a sensitive, melancholy kind of kid. It was like oil and water.
But when I was about 10, Dad realized what was happening and why we weren’t connecting. Instead of continuing to try and force me to think like him, he started thinking like me. He adapted his style to fit my personality. I don’t know where our relationship would’ve ended up if he hadn’t been willing to change.
2. Teaching me that security is found in the will of God…and that usually means taking risks.
While our family was always well taken care of and we always had everything we needed, we knew that “comfort” and “security” were never what we were about. When Dad retired as a Lieutenant Commander after 20 years in the Navy, he could have gotten a very cushy, secure job somewhere, settled in and just taken it easy.
Not my Dad! He went back to Bible college. And then he moved us all to Tasmania, Australia, to plant a church.
Mom & Dad stayed there for 7 years after I left for college, came home for a few years and then – in their 60’s! – moved to South Africa to teach in a Bible college.
Dad always pursued what he thought was God’s will. If that meant risking “security”, being questioned (he was!) and expecting your family to uproot and go…well, then that’s what it meant.
3. Being strong enough to cry in front of me.
Dad is tough. Physically and emotionally, he’s tough. But he’s got a soft spot and he wasn’t afraid to show emotion. That gave me permission to not have to always hide my emotions.
Of course, I probably include this one as an excuse for me tearing up at my wedding as I was saying my vows. 😉
4. Loving God above all and Mom above my sister and I.
There is and has never been any doubt about where my Dad’s devotion lies. He loves God with all his heart and has lived his life in pursuit of that love. And he loves Mom with all of his heart, too, and has always made her the central focus.
My sister and I have never doubted Dad’s love, but we are well aware of our place in his life. And that’s a good thing.
5. Telling me that their house was no longer my house when I left home.
I was eager to get back to the USA after high school, so I left home at 17 (with Mom & Dad’s blessing) to go to college. When I left, Dad told me that I would always be welcome in their home, but that it was now time to forge my own way and create my own path. Their home was no longer my home.
For that I am forever grateful, because it pushed me into being self-reliant and learning to seek and create work as I pursued what I felt God had for me.
6. Modelling a life of learning.
I mentioned that Dad went back to Bible college after retiring from a 20 year Navy career. He earned a Bachelor’s degree, but then went on to also get a Master’s degree. And, to this day though nearing 80 years old, he reads voraciously and is always seeking to learn.
7. Expanding my world view.
Dad never let us live in a bubble. At home, we constantly had missionaries in and out of our house and my sister and I were expected to interact and learn from them. When we lived in Japan (while Dad flew back and forth from Vietnam) we explored the country and learned from the college students that Mom and Dad taught English to. In Australia we constantly took family trips to local sites to learn the culture, and had locals to our home.
I grew up understanding there were widely different cultures that had people who thought very differently than me. And that that was OK and even good. It created a curiosity and a desire to see and learn more. And that has led to my own travels to Russia, the Philippines, Israel and back to Australia. And it allowed me to believe that taking my family to South Africa (twice) was worth the risk – trips that forever have impacted my sons for the good.
I have an amazing Dad. There’s so much more I could list as lessons he’s
taught me. For these and all of those lessons I am forever grateful.