It’s been awhile and a lot has happened since I’ve last posted! Ran half marathons up mountains, traveled back to Wisconsin to see one of my dearest friends marry her best friend, and began praying about attending a church. BUT instead of blogging about current life today, I wanted to honor my dad. He turns 59 tomorrow and for one of the first times in a long time I won’t be able to go home for his birthday weekend. So instead, I’m writing this post to my dad (Mom make sure he reads it :)).
Many people grow up with dads who were too busy to play or too busy to spend quality time with their kids, but my dad was and is not one of those. He may be a full-time teacher, head football coach (past), basketball coach(past), head soccer coach (current), baseball coach (past) and be the sports writer for the local paper, but he hardly ever missed out on anything and still doesn’t with my brother. When my sisters and I were little, he let us put barrettes in his hair and play “pretend” and he was good at it! He would go outside with us and play on the playground or play catch with a softball. When he would leave for work in the morning we always had the same ritual to say good-bye out the back door and then run up to the front door to watch him drive away and wave good-bye as he drove off in his little Ford Fiesta. I remember running into his arms when he would come home from football, basketball, or baseball practice to welcome him home and he never told me to leave him alone. My dad also was a man not to be messed with. He was gentle, but also knew how to discipline well. I remember after us girls would be “disciplined” by dad (it was often for me because I was a bossy and aggressive big sister), he would always come back into our rooms and remind us that we were to love our sisters and our parents because friends will come and go, but family will always be here. I also remember every year in grade school, dad would take a day off of school and us three girls (sometimes it was just Katie and me, depending on the age of Jessie) would skip school to go have a Daddy Date. We would go to Galena or other state parks to fish hatcheries or museums or Iowa City and just spend a day alone with dad. I felt so special and loved by him. There are so many other stories of dad, like how good of a story teller he is at a campfire (he forever made all three of his girls fearful of big black dogs), and how well he loves his wife, and how he wakes up every morning before 5 am to spend time with Jesus in prayer and reading the Bible. I could go on…
Not only was Dad present in my life, but he was invested. He coached us all in softball, basketball, and a little soccer. He was my softball coach till I was in eighth grade after I begged him to let me quit and he finally realized that I really couldn’t hit that stupid softball to save my life! He was not just my basketball coach, but he taught me how to play the game. He would take me to the gym to practice 3’s, my free throws, and my defense on a regular basis. He helped me get faster at the 400 meter dash and he encouraged me to be the best at anything I put my mind to. He never let me give up or get discouraged even when our varsity basketball team didn’t win a single game my freshman year, or the year we got hammered by Pella (which was about every year, but I remember one in particular). Not only was Dad my biggest fan (Mom was actually the queen of it) on the courts and in the field, but also in the classroom. He was always interested in school, well…partly because he knew everything I was doing since he was my teacher for two of those years in middle school and high school and worked in the same school! He believed in me and loved me through all of my ups and downs with friends, school, and sports.
Dad is also generous, kind, loving, and a joy to be around. You can always count on him telling a cheesy joke or sharing a funny story from the day. My dad has been involved in FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) for almost as long as I can remember. We have always had high school students over to our house for meals, games, and bible study. Mom would make the BEST brownies! I learned from my dad how to be generous to people and how to not judge a book by its cover. He has a real heart for the kids who just don’t always do the right thing and he is so gracious towards them…even when they TP our house! I remember a football season when I was probably a freshman in high school, maybe a sophomore. There was a kid on his team that had real potential, but he lived out in the country and the kid’s dad didn’t want to drive him to practice (or he had to work, something like that or the dad wanted him to focus on farming). So my dad, drove out to talk to the kid’s house to see if there was something that could be worked out. My dad knew that if this kid wasn’t involved in football, he would get into drinking and drugs because of the crowd he hung out with. Dad did not want to see that happen. Before dad drove out there, he asked me if it came to a point where the only reason this kid’s dad wouldn’t let him play was because of the driving, if I would be okay with giving him my car for the season. At first I was floored! “Heck no!” I thought, but then dad shared the full story with me and my heart softened. I ended up not needing to give my car away to him, but I learned a valuable lesson. Be generous to others, because we have been given so much. There are countless other times he helped people, that if I were to write them all down it would take a long time!
Most importantly though, my dad taught me what the love of the Father in Heaven looks like. One of my earliest memories in childhood, more like a thread of memories actually, is my bedtime with mom or/and dad. I remember nights sitting on my pink floral bed surrounded by my pink walls and pink carpet (my parents went all out for their first girl!) and all of my pretty dolls and teddy bears with my dad curled up next to me reading the Bible. We had a storybook Bible of some sorts that Dad and I would read every night as a kid. He would read to me and as I got older, I would read to him. He did that for all of us girls growing up in Cascade. Then after we were all read to and prayed over, he would stand in the hallway ironing pants for the next day and sing “Silent Night” to us to lull us to sleep if there were nights when we couldn’t sleep. That song always brings back that memory. One other very important memory that is forever etched in my brain was when I was around ages 4-7. Dad, you may not even remember saying this, but it changed how I viewed God forever. One night I had fallen asleep downstairs and dad was carrying me up to my bedroom. I must have whispered, “I love you Daddy” because you responded with ” I love you too Sar-Bear, so much, but I will never love you as much as God loves you.” As a little girl who sentence blew me away. How could God love me as much as my daddy? My daddy let me put barrettes in his hair for goodness sakes! That conversation stuck with me for years and I think that it fueled my desire to know God as my Father and His love for me. It was when I was 12 years old when I understood why dad said that God loves me more than he ever could. I knew Jesus growing up and I had put my faith in him as a child, but when I was 12 it was like the light bulbs went on in my heart and I fully understood the gift of salvation, the depth of my sin, and the sacrifice it took God to redeem me from the death of my sin.
My dad’s not perfect and we did butt heads quite a bit in high school (like the time I walked home in the middle of winter, right after an ice storm had hit, after basketball practice because I didn’t want a ride from him because he embarrassed me in front of my team mates by yelling at me…boy I’m stubborn and so are you!), but he and my mom both showed me that the best way to live life is for Jesus, with your family, and to make your life count for the kingdom.
On the day my dad walked me down the aisle, my heart was filled with joy to be walking towards my future, but I was also grieving the fact that I was leaving a season where my dad was the main man in my life. Our dance that evening was so special to me, as he told me stories of how we used to dance when I was little. I love my dad!
So, Dad, on your 59th birthday I want to wish you a HAPPY BIRTHDAY! You have made your life count on this earth through your family and through the people you meet every day in school and in Albia. I love you and am so thankful that God, in His grace, saved you in your 20’s so that He would use you to change my life and so many others. I love you!
ps-sorry for any grammatical errors Mr. Gravert