The Best Father’s Day Gift – by Laura Urista

Father’s Day has always had special meaning for me. I was born on Father’s Day. At the time of my birth my dad had moved away from North Carolina to Ohio to start a new job. My mom had been advised by her doctor not to travel, so she and my four siblings remained in North Carolina, near most of my dad’s family.

The day I was born, Dad’s sister, Aunt Bea, called my dad to let him know he had a new baby girl. But I was born with low birth weight, jaundice, lung trouble and I needed blood transfusions. The doctor was afraid I wouldn’t make it.

That was the beginning of a special bond between me, my dad and our heavenly Father. Dad told me later that he had prayed so hard that day, and how much he wanted to see his new little girl. He dedicated my life to God if he would just let me live. Dad told me I was the best Father’s Day gift he ever received.

Growing up, all of us kids had nicknames, and my nickname was “Lollipop.” As a little girl I loved to hop in my dad’s lap and listen to his stories, or hear him sing. We didn’t have the proverbial “two nickels to rub together,” but our family was rich in love.

When I was about two years old, we moved to my mom’s hometown in North Dakota, near my Grandma Olga (Dee Dee). Grandma Dee Dee was a very sweet Christian lady.

In many ways, Grandma Dee Dee was my hero—someone who showed me what it means to show unconditional love. She displayed Jesus’ love in action, rather than preaching at me about a bunch of rules I wasn’t quite living up to.

Grandma Dee Dee loved to listen to religious radio programs back in the early 1960s, and she introduced my dad to a radio preacher that eventually changed all our lives. Because of Dad’s newfound religious beliefs, he decided we needed to move 1,000 miles away to a small town in Texas so that us kids could be enrolled in a private school founded by that radio preacher. Dad believed it was “God’s school.”

When Rules and Laws Overshadow Love

I always admired my dad for his zeal to do what he believed God wanted him to do. But sometimes it seemed to me that Dad cared about being right with God and keeping the letter of the law more than he cared about showing mercy and affection to our family – especially to us kids.

As a teenager, there were times when I thought my dad was unfair and out of touch. I knew he loved me, but somehow Dad became distant and stricter in my teen years. Instead calling me “Lollipop” it seemed I was more often “young lady.”

Now that I’ve raised teenagers of my own, I understand his intentions a little better, and I realize everyone has had similar experiences to a degree. But I distinctly remember one time when I had been away for three weeks at a summer camp in Minnesota. I was so excited to see my dad again. All I wanted to do was give him a big hug. But Dad only seemed to notice the pink nail polish I was wearing. “Take that off right away, young lady!”

Where was my hug? Where was my “Welcome home, Lollipop”? It seemed laws had rules had gotten in the way of our loving relationship.

After high school, I moved away from home to attend college. At the end of my junior year of college I married my husband, and two years later our son was born. A few years later our daughter was born. When you have kids of your own, you start to better appreciate the sacrifices your parents made for you. As our kids grew, I began to wish I had gotten to know my dad better. I wished I could get back to that special relationship of “Daddy” and “Lollipop.”  

Unfortunately, that was just about that time my dad began to exhibit the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. I felt so cheated. I was finally at a point in my life when I wanted to spend time with my dad and get to know him better. I actually wanted to hear all his stories again and I wanted him to tell my kids those same stories. But it was too late.

At first Dad was just confused, forgetting what he was talking about and even who he was talking to. I realized I’d never get a chance to have a real conversation with him again. The last time I saw my dad alive was in the summer of 1995. Our whole family got together for my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. By then Dad was in a wheelchair and barely able to utter even a few words. I remember watching him stare intently at the birds in the nursing home’s atrium and whistle old familiar tunes. But the dad I remembered and loved so much was basically already gone.

The Incredible Love of My Heavenly Father

Dad died three years later, in December 1998. When my dad passed away, I began seeking a deeper relationship with my heavenly Father. I realized that I knew a lot about God, a lot about facts of the Bible, but I didn’t know him as a real person. Like Jesus’ “Abba,” I wanted to know God as my loving Daddy.

Rules, regulations and rituals had gotten in the way of my relationship with my heavenly Father, as they had with my earthly Dad. In the last few years, I’ve been learning more about what Jesus “came to show us the Father” means. So many of us have been raised with the idea that God is like the bad cop and Jesus is the good cop.

But scripture actually shows us that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are One—one in nature, one in essence—and One in love! That is the singular nature of Elohim…the triune Lord: AGAPE – deep, profound love (see 1 John 4:7-8).

Our Heavenly Father is the same “Abba / Daddy” to whom Jesus prayed. He is kind, loving and merciful beyond anything our human hearts can fathom or measure. If we come to internalize how deeply we are loved by our heavenly Father, it will change the way we feel about ourselves and consequently how we feel about others and treat them.

It means the world to me that my “Daddy” considered me his best Father’s Day gift ever. And I know without a doubt, thanks to the immeasurable love of our heavenly Father, I will see my “Daddy” again one day. And when I see him, he’ll embrace me in a big hug and say, “Welcome home, Lollipop.”

Laura Urista is managing editor of Plain Truth and CWR magazine.

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