Imperfect parents. We all have them. No one has parents who have gotten everything perfectly right. Why is it that we tend to fixate on the imperfections instead of choosing to be grateful for the abundance of things that they did get right? Perhaps the greatest place of influence in most of our lives belongs to the two people who invested their time and energy into raising us.
As I have pondered this, I realize that who I am today is a direct result of the character and influence of the two people in that picture – Dave and Judy Garrison, my parents. Their values, their traits, their quirks are all part of me. Some of the greatest gifts in my life are things that I learned from them. I’d love to take this opportunity to share a few of those things with you.
Oh, how I love this guy. I have been a daddy’s girl since I can remember. If I can be even a little bit like him, that makes my heart happy. He is courageous, kind, and quietly strong. Here are some of the lessons I have learned from my dad –
Be faithful to your family. I never doubted that my dad loves my sister and me. I never doubted that he loves my mom. He has been present, and he has been faithful to our family. When we were growing up, he worked hard, but he also made time for us. As I’ve gotten older and gained some life experience, I realize that this is a priceless gift that not everyone receives. I’m thankful for this example.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (Ephesians 5:25)
Trust God, and persevere. My dad has been through a lot. He came from a broken home, he was diagnosed with leukemia in his 40’s, he had a high-risk bone marrow transplant, he has ongoing issues with his lungs, he had open heart surgery two days in a row, and he struggles with neuropathy and spinal stenosis. I have never heard him use any of those things as an excuse to be bitter or angry. He perseveres and usually does so with a positive attitude. He trusts God to take care of him in a way that is inspirational to me.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3)
Be tactful and diplomatic. This is one of my dad’s trademarks. He is skilled at expressing his ideas in a way that is not confrontational or offensive. He listens, and he is reasonable. He is able to share his beliefs and opinions with others in a way that does not belittle them or put them off. He is a peacemaker.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18)
I often tell the young ladies in our church, “No one on this earth loves you as much as your mom loves you.” Think about that. It’s true. My mom and I haven’t always seen eye to eye, but I know in my heart that no one else in this world loves me the way she does. She is my biggest fan, and there isn’t anything she wouldn’t do for me. Here are some lessons I have learned from my mom –
Laughter is the best medicine. If you’ve ever met this precious lady, you’ve surely heard one of her jokes. I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t on the hunt for a new joke to tell. It’s her way of bringing joy to others. If you laugh at one of her jokes, you’re sure to hear another one. She loves to make people laugh. I can remember one time on a vacation, my sister made a joke about someone’s zipper being afraid of heights. My mom hadn’t heard that before, and she spent hours laughing. She laughed and laughed. In our family, we all give the customary groan when she’s about to launch into a new joke, but the truth is, she has taught us all something about the value of joy and laughter.
“A joyful heart is like good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)
It is better to give than to receive. My mom is a giver. If you have a need and she has a way to help meet that need, she certainly will. She gives sacrificially, and she gives without regret. Her life is marked by generosity.
“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive'”. (Acts 20:35)
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
Good leaders are good readers. Both my sister and I are avid readers, and we owe that to my mom. From my earliest memories, she read to us and instilled in us a love for reading. Having spent 18 years in the public school system, I have gained such an appreciation for that because I have seen the struggles in learning that come from an environment that lacks this emphasis. The latest NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) Reading scores indicate that only 35% of the nation’s 4th graders are able to read at a proficient level. It’s a frightening statistic. I’m grateful that I had a mom who taught me to love to read.
Individually, both my dad and my mom have influenced the person I am becoming. The impact they have made together also can’t be ignored. They are a team, and they have taught these lessons together –
Love God, and love others. My parents love God, and my parents love others. They taught us to love God’s Word, to love His church, and to be compassionate toward others. Yes, there are things we disagree about, but I know that their faith is genuine because of their actions. I’m thankful to have grown up with a strong foundation in the Word of God and with an understanding that true faith is accompanied by action.
“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:15-18)
Marriage is a lifetime commitment. My parents celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary last year. I’m so grateful for their commitment to each other. It hasn’t always been easy, but they have been there for each other through the good and bad. By God’s grace, they have kept their promises to Him and to each other.
“‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” (Mark 10:7-8)
There’s always room for one more. When we were growing up, this was my parents’ motto. They opened their home to many people who lived with us, and they invested in those people. They understand that what they have isn’t their own, and they have always been willing to share.
“‘Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.'” (Luke 6:38)
These are my parents. I’m so glad that God chose them for that task. I wish I could say that I have always honored them the way I should, but that wouldn’t be true. I also wish I could say that I’ve always been a pleasure to have as a daughter, but that wouldn’t be true either. What I can say is that I love them so much. I love them in spite of their imperfections, and I’m learning that they always did what they thought was best, even if they didn’t always get it right.
Mom and Dad, thank you for these lessons you’ve taught me. Thank you for loving me completely even when I wasn’t very lovable. Thank you for the sacrifices you made, for the time you invested, for the truths you’ve modeled. Thank you for loving God and loving others well. I am so honored to be your daughter.
Dear Father, thank You for my parents. Thank You that You chose them as part of Your perfect plan to be the ones to raise me. Forgive me for spending too much time pondering the things that I think they should have done differently and for not always choosing to see the things they did so well. Forgive me also for not always being the daughter that I should be. My heart is so thankful for these parents of mine who love You and who love others. May their influence in my life produce good fruit, and may I keep learning from their example. Amen.