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Running Up The Stairs

Family, House of HopeDeane Watters1 Comment

Written for and posted on the blog at  houseofhopecr.org 1/18/17 blog post-3

 

Over fifty years ago my dad died in a road construction accident. Somehow the pay loader he was driving swerved off the road and into the ditch. As it fell, the bucket swung and he died immediately.

I was 12 years old.

Thinking about him takes me back to one of my first memories. Three years old, I found myself awake in the middle of the night. Not in my own room, I wanted to leave. But after walking around and around the room, searching with my little arms outstretched, the door just couldn’t be found! So I cried out. Immediately the hallway light came on and as I hurried to the top of the stairs, I discovered my dad running up the stairs to rescue me from the darkness.

These many years later I wonder about that story and why it is lodged in my memory, perhaps in a hopeful place.

Listening to the life stories of many women I often find that a profuse number of dads have not understood their role in the lives of their daughters. They don’t know how fragile their little girls are, how much they desire attention and love that can only come from their fathers.  Inside the heart of all little girls is a place where only the love of a dad can settle.  This spot can either be filled with dad love or it can require a life time of trying to fill itself with the kind of love that only dad’s are designed to give. I’ve often said that I think little girls should come with a little tag tied to their big toe that says, “DAD, express your love for this little daughter of yours. What she thinks you think about her will affect her entire life. The kind of love is she needs is given by spending time with her, showing that she is smart, pretty and worthy of love. She needs you to love her mother, to be protective, safe and reliable. I think most of all she needs to know that you know her and you are proud of what you see.  This kind of knowing frees her to love herself. Confidence grows out of such awareness.”

I didn’t know my dad very well. I’m pretty sure he didn’t know much about me, my favorite color, my dreams, fears or my latest crush. My heart was unknown, un-pursued. As a result I think I lost sight of myself in those years.

Of course, as an adult, I can articulate and understand the reasons.

Thankfully I had another Father, God whose eyes never left me, came after me, loved me and healed my heart. He and I have spent a lifetime running up the stairs to find my lost little self and to say, “You’re going to be just fine. I’m here now. Father God and I will always be near. ”

But on a dark evening fifty-two years ago, my dad lost his chance to father well. He missed the opportunity to show me that I was worth rescuing, even if it was only from a darkened room upstairs in a rickety old farmhouse in northwest Iowa. I often wonder if that first memory of mine was real. Or was it only a dream embedded in the heart of a lost little girl who longed for a daddy to love her.

absence makes the heart grow fonder

FamilyDeane Watters3 Comments

First conversation: Future daughter: "I need to move to Omaha because I want to be near him while he's in grad school."

Dad: "But is it not true that absence makes the heart grow fonder?"

Future daughter: "Brian!"

 

Second conversation:

Daughter: "But we need to get married now because he'll be going to Spain for his spring semester and I don't want to be away from him all that time!"

Dad: "But have you not heard that absence makes the heart grow fonder?"

Daughter: "Dad!"

 

It is true that my husband has twice reminded his girls that a possible absence may make their fabulous relationships even better! This was not a popular idea for these young-and-in-love girls because they could not imagine that time away from their beloveds could do anything but bring pain and sadness.

But, from a very practical position, doesn't it just seem logical that if you love someone you will only increase the longing for each other by putting some space between the two of you for a short time? Might you imagine that in unavailability, time might reveal opportunities  for you to be your own person, an interval to have adventures that will enhance the relationship? Could it be possible that experiences apart from one another might improve the relationship by offering a new perspective?

Our girls only expressed frustration at such an old-fashioned suggestion.

This past month, their dear practical dad had the opportunity to try out his theory. After being invited to join his brother on a trip to Patagonia, a wilderness area in southern South America, he decided to accept.

On February 6th Brian boarded a United Airlines airplane and flew out of the Cedar Rapids airport. With stops in Chicago and Huston, he landed in Santiago, Chile at least eighteen hours later and met up with his brother. The next four days found them traveling by pick-up truck and ferry down the western coast of Chile. With hours of fishing, exploring, sitting in rafts and camping on sandy beaches, this turned into an adventure of a lifetime.

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What happened during those weeks is a story for another time... On March 3rd, Brian, once again, walked through the Cedar Rapids airport, this time - on his way home.

We are still working out all the details of his trip, but I think his little test (Does absence make the heart grow fonder?) proved to be true for us. Brian and I missed each other tremendously and found a renewed appreciation for each other's presence, hugs, warmth, companionship and voice while being apart for almost four weeks. Quietly affirming words were expressed that often get left unsaid.  With thirty-five years of knowing and loving each other, being apart for so long left us wishing the other was near.

I found that I need Brian's practical voice. After getting worked up about something, I find his point of view to be calm and steady. In contrast, I can get hyper-focused on details and need a way out. I have cold feet. He warms me up! I get weird when left alone. He helps me think more clearly. I get anxious about stuff, he helps me reason things out and calms me down. Standing next to Brian during worship on Sunday mornings assures me of our common faith and trust in God. I missed him being there!

I, on the other hand, offer Brian a reason to take a shower and to wash his clothes. I push him to rest and my calming voice offers clarity. My hugs boost and affirm him in ways that you just don't find in the dangerous wilderness with a group of five men. When everyone else was speaking Spanish my admiration and conversation would have encouraged him. After breakfast we weren't together to read our Bible and pray.

Yes, indeed. We have found that whoever first penned that great little phrase, certainly knew what he or she was writing. It happened in our hearts. We are very happy to be together again.

So, dear daughters, next time, you might want to stop and listen when your dad says something practical, although unpopular. He just might end up being right.

 

God, yoga pants, and dad

FaithDeane Watters2 Comments

What do yoga pants, God and our earthly dads have in common? Give up? Well, they were all part of our discussion in Sunday School class yesterday morning.

The topic was "obedience" in the context of chasing after the heart of God. What part does obedience play if we desire to know God and to follow him? Do we trust Him? When we think of God do we remember our relationship with our dad? How do we hear from God? What would he prefer: obedience to the rule or obedience with an ear tuned to his heart?

Sitting in front of me during our church service I saw Scott smile at and gently touch the shoulder of his son. Josh immediately moved closer and snuggled in right under his dad's outstretched arm which closed carefully around him. With such warmth and trust, I can imagine that if Scott would ask something of his son, Josh might be more willing to obey because he feels and trusts his dad's love.

Often people connect how they feel about their dad to how they feel about God. If dad was distant, God feels distant. If dad was angry, God feels angry. If dad was kind, God feels kind. Do you connect the two?

When I was in college I was a part of a group called Lutheran Youth Encounter, an evangelistic team approach to ministry. Every Monday night we gathered for Prayer and Praise. I don't remember much of what we did at those meetings so many years ago, but I do remember one evening very clearly. Our leader came in with a little paperback book called, The Jesus Person Pocket Promise Book. This was back in the seventies!! Young Christians were called Jesus People. :) He passed the book around the circle and asked each of us to open it and randomly place our finger on a verse. That would be God's promise for us that night.

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My finger landed on Promise number 718: When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will  take me up. Psalm 27:10.  The NLT says, Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close. That night at Waldorf College sitting there with a group of young people just starting our lives as a witness for Christ, I truly felt this was a word for me from God. My dad left us when I was young and then died when I was twelve. Just heading off to college, trying to figure out who I was, this was a significant piece of me that hurt greatly but I didn't quite know what to make of it.

This verse told me that my earthly dad was NOT my heavenly Father. His mistakes/sins were not my God's. God was able to be trusted, was worthy of respect and would never leave. Only He could be my perfect Father and because of that I wanted him even more.

It would be many years until I untangled the emotion surrounding my dad. But that one night I got a promise from God that he would hold me close. Later I found God's pledge to Joshua as he was about to take the Israelites into the promised land. "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." I took this as my very own comforting verse, enabling a strong faith even when feelings wavered.

When I think of Father God, I am reminded of what I saw when Josh snuggled next to his dad. Close to his heart I am cherished, loved, and known. This is the kind of Father I want to listen and respond to. It's in that kind of relationship that obedience even possible.