Let me tell you a story.  I showed up to dinner with my boyfriend (now husband, Adam), a rather obnoxious hickey slapped on my neck, it wasn’t as telling as people would think, it really wasn’t sexual at all.  Moving on, we got through the whole dinner without mention of you-know-what, until my sister-in-law piped up “So, Carlee, you want to tell us how you got that?” As she gestured to my neck nonchalantly.  I could feel the heat rising to my face, not from embarrassment but from frustration.  It was obvious what it was, and who I got it from, everyone had already noticed it, why did she have to point it out and make everything awkward!? What if they didn’t believe me when I told them it wasn’t sexual and we were just playing around? 

My Dad stood up and walked outside.  Adam visibly shrunk into the background, probably more embarrassed than I was. I looked my sister-in-law in the eyes and steadied my voice “It’s a hickey.  Adam gave it to me.  We were messing around.  Happy?” I was being cold, because I felt I needed to defend myself.  My brother could hardly keep from smirking.  My mom was averting her eyes obviously uncomfortable, I mean, who wouldn’t be in that situation? 

After everyone went home, I went back to my bedroom and started to move on from the night. Out of nowhere, my Dad called me out to the living room. I was terrified. I knew what was coming, or so I thought. To my surprise, he sat me down and said he was sorry.  “I shouldn’t have walked out of the room like that, I should have stayed. You are my daughter and I should have been there for you. I try to always be strong and honorable for you guys, and tonight I wasn’t, so I am sorry.” I’m pretty sure we both cried.  I told him I didn’t even think twice about him leaving the room, everyone was uncomfortable and things were bound to get awkward, so I didn’t blame him for not wanting to hear the story of how his baby girl got her first hickey.  I cried because in that moment, like many moments before, I saw my father as a man of God. A man who was strong enough to set aside his pride and ask for forgiveness, a man who vowed to protect and do better, and a man who let his love for his family prove to be his best trait. 

Later that same night, I got a call from Adam, saying the exact things my Dad had just told me. The two men in my life apologized for not standing up for me and being present. I didn’t blame either one of them and honestly didn’t think they needed to apologize for anything. But in that moment, in that phone call, when Adam was reiterating everything my dad had just said, with the same emotions and desire to be an honorable man in my life, I knew he was the one I needed to marry, because he was just like my Dad.  In strengths and in flaws. 

Another one of my favorite things about my Dad is that he has a saying “It’s just what we do”, he says it whenever his motives are questioned, whenever he helps a stranger, goes out of his way to thank a veteran, or gives without asking in return, he responds with “It’s just what we do.” Because to him, helping people, loving people, and being selfless is just part of his nature. It’s part of who he is. He shows God’s love by doing. 

My favorite book is Love Does by Bob Goff, probably because I see my dad in Bob’s words, and I see God through my dad’s love. Because my dad’s love DOES. It acts. It helps. It never asks for anything in return. It blesses everyone it comes in contact with. 

I didn’t ask my Dad if I could share this about him or our shared memories, because these memories are mine too, those embarrassing moments were mine also, so I feel I have some right to brag about him, in all his beauty and his flaws, because that’s what makes him invincible. 

He loves Jesus. He loves his family. He cares for strangers. He is the most selfless man I know. His heart blesses me. His example led me to the man I love and now call my husband. His patience inspires me. He is not controlled by or ashamed of his flaws, he grows from them and uses his experience to learn.

So, here’s to you Dad. For being an example, a guide, a friend, and a hero to me. I love you. 

-Love your baby girl, Carlee.

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