Love

Sunshine

My dad started calling me Sunshine 2 weeks before he passed away. The first time, I thought I had just heard him wrong. The second time, I figured he was confused, maybe the stress of his illness and news that his days were short, had caused him to mistake Sunshine for Summer. But when I arrived and he called out on that 3rd early morning, “There is my Sunshine!” my heart melted because I could see in his eyes that my new name was intentional.  This intentionality allowed me to feel so loved that it changed our relationship.  I found it easy to be with him and care for his body when previously it would have scared me.  It made me strong and secure in who I was as his youngest and only adopted child.  It also gave me the peace to let him go as he finished his life here with us. 

Nicknames, whether they are good or bad, have such an impact on us, don’t they? They can humiliate or belittle us if used in hatred, or they can offer inclusion, affection, and confidence if they come from someone, like my dad, who loves us.  Nicknames have the power to permanently label us and sadly, we often find it easier to accept the labels that are harsh over the affectionate or true ones given to us. I often dismiss the truth and uphold the label-lies.

Friends, what if we silenced the voices of self-hatred in our own heads and listened only to the names Jesus has already given us? Beloved, Forgiven, and Daughter are true and life changing names that he is intentionally whispering in our ears and  writing on our hearts.  If every time I approached him I heard him greet me with his love-names for me, I would begin to live in them and the reality of them over my life would change me,  just as I began to do with my sweet nickname Sunshine.  Allowing these truth-names to replace lies will enable us to live with full hearts, more stable self-worth, and the confidence that comes from being more fully focused on the reality of who Jesus is and who he says we are. 

The too few weeks my dad called me Sunshine broke me in the best way. My heart became softer and I was able to experience deep joy in the midst of deep pain.  Easily setting myself aside, it was simple to be light to my dads darkness because of the new name and reality that he bestowed on me. Honestly,  I had no idea that these death weeks would cap off my disappointed relationship with my dad with this precious and longed-for daddy love that he openly gave me. 

Sisters, I know this is exactly what God wants for us too. He wants to fill our lives full with the truth of his great affection so that we can live in and live from his unending, unbending love for us.

Xoxo,

Summer

Love

Bookmarks and Closing Chapters

img_20160904_153609This week has been bookmarked by marriage celebrations.  Sunday started things off with my niece’s beautiful wedding and today it ends with my own 27th anniversary.  In between these two occasions, I have spent hours observing and quietly honoring the final few pages of my parents 45 year marriage. The timing of these has made it a bittersweet but thoughtful week.
[pullquote]Marriage starts out with a hopeful celebration,  continues with spouses working through cycles of stretching, brokenness, and rebuilding, and closes it’s final chapter, with a sweet whisper of gratitude.[/pullquote]

My niece’s marriage is beginning like my parent’s marriage most likely did, with two people believing that life would be better together and hoping that the joy they found in each other would last a lifetime.  They must have believed that their love would be enough to overcome step children, ex-wives, adopted children, a multitude of past hurts, and a sizable age difference.  Then as they moved through the ordinary years, I’m sure that they encountered, as my husband and I have, the marriage cycle of struggle, brokenness, and rebuilding–all  covered with grace, tears, laughter, hard work, and periods of deep connection and loneliness.  And now as they  finish this final chapter, their love for each other has again been adjusted as they sacrificially love each other with kindness and grace.  Marriage now for them is gentle and sweet and letting go of almost everything else, they find joy in smiles, kind words, touching each other, and their nightly devotions.

My parents have never sat down and shared with me the secret of a long marriage, but I’ve seen them live it.  My dad and mom have encountered good times and bad and through it all they have remained committed to each other because they remained committed to Jesus.  He is the sacred tie that binds them together.  Both of them love Jesus and because of that, they have learned to love each other well.   While I am heartbroken that my dad will not be with us much longer, I am forever grateful for the example of marriage that they placed before me.  Today as I celebrate my marriage, it only seems fitting to recommit myself to Jesus and my husband in their honor.

XOXO,

Summer