This past week has been filled with experiences that are all very simple, very small and very insignificant to anyone else. But to me, they’ve helped me find strength again to try harder at staying on the path I’m needed on at this point in my life. These experiences have helped me recognize answers to my prayers, and they’ve given me the motivation I need to serve the Lord as much as I can. That was something I’ve let slip in the past few weeks or so, and I’ve been struggling to get it back. But the people in my life – family, friends and missionaries – have reminded me of what my goals were coming off the mission six months ago and the excitement I felt having just served the Lord with everything I have for 18 months of my life.
When weeks like this past one happen, it makes it a lot easier to recognize the Spirit and to get even more excited about learning more about the Gospel and finding ways to share it with the people around you. So today at church, I learned a lot. And I found a few things I’m going to work on during the week so I can continue progressing every day. I could probably write a couple novels about those things today, however, in light of the holiday today here in the US, I wanted to focus on what has recently become one of my favorite things.
Growing up, I often felt like my family was different than a lot of my friend’s families at church, which it was in a way. But I’m not sure it ever really bothered me the way it might have bothered other people in a similar situation. See, my mom is the one who always brought us kids to church every week while my dad went to his own church. I knew all my friend’s dads but none of my friends knew my dad unless they came to my house in the evening when he’d returned from work during the week, which wasn’t especially often since that was family time. Sometimes I wished it were different. But as a kid, I never really thought much of it. Then, as I got older and started to think more of it and look back, I could only see how much of a blessing this came to be. Especially now.
Before my mission, I’d just barely started to see a side of my dad that I didn’t really know – a compassionate and caring side. This isn’t to say he’s never been that way, just that it’s never come easy for him (or any of us, for that matter) to show how much he really and truly cares for his family. I vaguely remember bits and pieces of memories from my childhood and teenage years when I saw him interacting with other kids (it’s easier to recognize when it’s outside of your own bubble) or at the dinner table he’d tell us stories of his childhood or ask us to guess what he saw on the way home from work. Whenever he came home from business or hunting trips, he always brought us treats and more stories that left us laughing until our sides hurt! I remember him bringing me to work a few times, shopping for Mom for Christmas or Mother’s Day, going on Daddy-Daughter dates. He even made a list of 10 reasons why he loves me and gave it to me when I was about 10 years old!
But I specifically remember two times, before my mission and after I’d gone to school, that he took time to make sure I knew how much he cared without really having to say it – once when I’d failed a test (my first failure ever) and he called to tell me some of his experiences in college and encourage me to keep going, and again when he had to tell me that Tyler had died and instead of focusing on his own pain, he made sure I would be okay. Those two experiences were what started to change me because they were two of the more extreme times of my life when I needed my dad the most.
Since serving a mission, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for my family, present and future. And since returning home, I’ve noticed more and more how amazing and wonderful my dad really is. I’m sorry it took me 21 years to really recognize it, but often you don’t see something like that and really appreciate it until you’re isolated from it for a while. In the past six months, I’ve come to see just how much my dad loves me and my family, but more importantly, I can see how much he loves the Lord and is doing everything he can to come closer to Christ every day. He puts so much effort into recognizing his faults and doing his best to become better. Conversations with him are always enlightening and uplifting for me. He makes decisions carefully with his family and the Lord in mind.
So even though my dad only comes to church with us for special occasions, and even though he doesn’t have the exact same beliefs as me, I wouldn’t ever wish he was any different. The more I see who my dad truly is, the more I love him and learn from him. The more I recognize his love for us and for the Lord, the more I want to marry someone just like him. For me, my dad has become one of the greatest examples I have in my life of who Jesus Christ would have us all become. My dad isn’t perfect yet, nor is anyone I know, but he is trying to make progress. His example is one I look up to every day of my life. And I wouldn’t change him for anything.