For years, this has been the saddest day of the year for me. I now have several more days to compete with it. Sixteen years ago yesterday (Jan. 31) it was Superbowl Sunday, and my dad was kidnapped. He was not killed on this day, but it marks the anniversary of the day he was ripped from our lives.
I've never known how to honor Dad or what to do to commemorate the day. I usually end up going to some Superbowl party and feeling sad. Perhaps Ellie's death has taught me something. I don't know, but today I decided to look through letters that Dad sent me over the years as I was growing up. I spent a lot of time away from my parents in junior high and high school, as they were in the tribe and I was in the dorm. We kept in touch through letters. I thought I would share some excerpts of these letters with you...My freshman year of high school
I love you Sarah, how could any dad be happier with a daughter? I look forward so much to seeing you and Chad again. You've grown to be more important to me than ever. Maybe I'm just paying more attention during the last few years, I don't know, but I love you and couldn't be happier with you as my daughter. Keep your head up sweetie-pie. You're special, God has someone special marked out for you, so look forward to that.
I love you. Happy Valentines!DaddyMy sophomore year of high school
I miss you sweetie-pie. I just figured this will be our longest separation (not counting the Navy), almost 3 months. I've been praying for you every day. Don't get a big head or anything, but I couldn't be happier with you. You are all any father could want in a daughter, with frosting on top. I really love you Sarah, with all my heart. You make me proud to be your Dad. I know, that sounds like something most dads would say, but I mean it more than most dads. I love you.
See you before Thanksgiving if you don't get another letter in the mean time.
I'm glad you shared your feelings with us, that's much better than keeping them bottled up. I'm sure you know you can also share exactly how you feel with the Lord in our absence. You used to sing a song that contains the words "He knows how a young heart feels." In praying for you and Chad I have quoted that back to the Lord many times on your behalf when I didn't know exactly how to pray concerning some particular thing. God does know how you feel, and more importantly can act quickly to comfort your heart and change a situation. "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." I Peter 5:7. I don't want to be guilty of 'throwing a verse at' your concerns, but this really works. God is just waiting for us to recognize our inability to handle our own difficulties.
Recently in Boca de Cupe I found myself in a situation so frustrating I just wanted to jump in a canoe and leave, even if I had to paddle up river alone. Two families had marriage problems, there were nasty rumors to contend with, false teaching, people out of fellowship and not even wanting to walk with God, and church hardly meeting at all, with no sound teaching. I was sick at heart. But God reminded me that He is sovereign and has all power to solve every problem, the solutions are not up to me, only the 'walking'. Dario and I had prayed for wisdom even before we knew what we faced in Boca de Cupe, we had confidence God was "able to immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." So we continued on with peaceful hearts and saw God work out several problems and start the process in others. We left the next day praising Him.
Sarah, we love you and have confidence you are walking with God and will see Him triumph both in your heart and in this situation. God has taught us things through you and the grace He always seems to give you.
Well, time to go. I love you Sarah honey, and look forward to seeing you before Thanksgiving.
Bye for now.Daddy(After this letter, I sent one to Mom and Dad in which they gathered I was having a really tough time. Mom came out of the tribe to spend almost a week with me - it was a total surprise! Dad had carved a small heart out of wood and sent it with this letter.)
Hello sweetie. How are you doing? I can't come, but I'm sending my heart and your mother. Have a good time with her, maybe you guys can get something worked out or at least cry on each others shoulders. Anyway I felt it was important that your Mom come out to see you. There has probably been too many adjustments to make all at once... a new dorm, Chad not there, us longer than usual interior. We understand how difficult so many changes, all at one time, can be.
I love you Sarah, sorry things have been so hard lately, but we know "all things work together for good..." We just trust the Lord in them.
See you in November sweetheart.
Dear Sarah Sweetie,
Hello... how is everything? Well Nurse Nancy did it again, every one's 'earth mother' helped deliver more babies, two at once this time. She thinks someone wants to give us one; I think it's just talk, but it doesn't take much to get your mother's hopes up. She is going to start an orphanage in Pucuro yet.
We did pretty well on our language tests. Your mother is now into level three and I'm a high two. We can carve another notch into our tape recorder. Maybe we will both be mid-level three by the time we go on furlough.
We have BIG surprise for you when you come in so you can be curious about it until next Saturday. It's really BIG!
How is the food supply in Chame? Are you down to a diet of bee's knees and humidity yet? We are doing o.k. in here. The people say we can eat with them if we run out of groceries.
Well, we will see you in a week sweet-heart, can't hardly wait. (It's really BIG.)
Love,Daddy(I flew in a week later for spring break. The big surprise was that Dad had knocked a hole in the wall of my bedroom, and built a BEAUTIFUL window seat. Mom made cushions for it and covered them with pink and white gingham, and made pink curtains for it. I loved it. I could sit there and read, or look out over the village at sunset. He was right - it was BIG.)My junior year in high school.(We were on furlough, so I spent most of this year with my parents. But in September, Mom and Dad were in Florida taking a computer course, while I was in California staying with friends and going to school.)
[Regarding the computer course] Every time I sit down in front of this thing I have an irresistible urge to fasten my seat belt, but I can't find one on the chair. We are having a great time and learning a lot in the process. These are such amazing machines and programs. They are to writing what "Space Mountain" at Disney is to walking. Simply thrilling!
I probably should be going...tired...tired...tired. We are spending about 12 hours a day at this, but it is exciting. I love you Sarah honey, sure do miss you. A good thought, it says in Hebrews that we have "confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus." Let's not forget that our access moment by moment is gained by the blood, not by us or our maturity in the Lord. Bye for now. Happy Birthday Sweetie-pie.
Love,DaddyMy senior year of high school.(I don't have too many letters from that time, but this ending to one makes me smile...)
I should go sweetie. I love you. If I tried to tell you how much you mean to me I would probably get the paper all wet. Suffice it to say you won, free and clear, a big part of my heart.
Love,DadI spent the next year living with my Grandma Lois in California. (I was dating someone - not John. Dad sent this letter to both of us.)
Dear Sarah and _______,
Hello, how are things these days? I have been thinking a lot about our conversation yesterday, Sarah, on the phone. That is why I decided to address this to both of you, because you are going through this together.
First of all, know that we are praying for you both every day and have been for over a year. You are on our hearts a lot, even in the day to day stuff that we do. We know something of how you feel. We haven't forgotten what it is like to meet someone who captures your attention and affection, to the extent that most everyone else fades into the background. Time apart, any time, seems too long; time together, not long enough. Yeah... we remember!
We also remember the frustration and pressure to sort out your feelings. Fearing to move too fast or too slowly in a growing relationship. "How does he (or she) feel? How do I feel, really? Am I liable to hurt them? Am I going to get hurt?" That seems to be all part of the normal process, which knowing doesn't make it any easier, but it does make us human.
You two have a huge advantage that we didn't have. You know and love the Lord. We were on our own for the most part, feeling our way through this delightful mine field. You have the Guide we didn't have. You have an opportunity to enjoy the best part of your relationship without bogging down in the mud of thinking with your feelings. Please, trust the Lord and walk with Him in this the way you do in other things.
It is too early to sort out your feelings. You have no commitment to each other, don't feel forced to make one. I just read in Mark, Peter's brave words about dying with Jesus rather than denying Him. In a matter of hours Peter was reduced to a mournful liar. He didn't know his own heart. But the Lord did, and He knows our hearts better than we do.
We, by nature, seem to run to two extremes. Either we refuse to commit ourselves to someone or something, or we are too hasty in making commitments that we can't live up to. Jesus said "count the cost." Sure He was talking about discipleship, but the principle applies to any kind of commitment. Of course we can also make a charade out of counting the cost by never reaching a decision.
So, we have to rely on the One who knows our hearts and the situation best, and His own plan for our lives. In the mean time you can relax, knowing that God in His own timing will reveal to your hearts what your true feelings are and where His is leading you. Go ahead, spend time together, a lot of time. Get to know each other, enjoy each others company as only two know and trust God with their lives can. Would to God that we had known what you know now when we were in your shoes. When I said mine field, I meant it. You can't possibly understand what it is like without the Lord during that same time in our lives.
One final parting shot. It is truly a rare thing to really love someone this early in the game. I read once that most often we are in love with love at this stage, or at best infatuated. I would have to agree with that. Love comes over a period of time as you go through the hard things and come out the other side intact. It comes as you learn to accept the uglier things about the other person without it effecting their value to you. It comes when you don't fear that one knowing what you think or how you feel, because they will still love you anyway. It comes when you notice those little things about the other one that they don't even notice themselves, but make you love them all the more for it. It is the result of time in a relationship. Being good friends as you are now is the best place to begin. Who knows, maybe you really are falling love.
Therefore, (your mother says I need a 'therefore') relax and love the time you are able to spend with each other now, that is the good part. Don't be afraid of hurting each other, or you won't truly get to know each other. Which isn't to say it's. o.k. to be careless with each others feelings either. The Lord will show you the balance. I think I will leave it there with the Lord.
So... on this day, I will remember my dad's legacy of wisdom, and love for God. I remember that he was reserved and incredibly creative. He had a dry (and in my eyes, hysterical) sense of humor. And I remember how very much he loved me. I will imagine him getting to meet my sweet Ellie. That thought brings me comfort, even as I cry.