Two Things Daughters Need to Hear from their Fathers

father daughter final

A few weeks ago I was assigned to write a Father’s Day article about what daughters need to hear from their fathers as teens. Immediately I remembered this one time I did a Q&A session at a youth leaders’ conference. I and another preacher’s daughter answered a few questions about what it was like to grow up with a pastor as a father.

At the end of the session, the conference leader asked us what piece of advice we would give to fathers in the audience about daughters.

My fellow interviewee gave a very articulate, smart and somewhat long response. People applauded. It was a good answer. She talked about women being strong and independent and how beauty was often too central in our upbringings. I looked at her and nodded along. Then it was my turn.

I felt embarrassed. My answer was much shorter than hers. Less eloquent. It sounded superficial. But it was all I could think to say, so I said it: “Tell her you love her every day. Tell her she’s beautiful every day.”

If I were given the chance to answer this question today, I would say the exact same thing.

I believe when a dad tells his little girl she is beautiful before she is old enough to read magazines or understand dress sizes or compare her selfies on Instagram to others’, she learns to identify beauty as an intrinsic part of her soul, rather than a physical attribute she must strive to attain.

The concept of beauty in and of itself is not a bad thing; beauty is of God. It is the connotations we have put onto this word—looking a certain way, being a certain size, color, etc.—that make it seem like a negative thing.

If a father can tell his daughter daily from an early age that she is beautiful for no reason except that she simply exists, she is raised with a healthy idea of what beauty truly is and where her worth is actually found.

It is the same when she is told she is loved from day one, and every day after that. Somewhere in her subconscious she realizes that she isn’t doing anything to earn her dad’s love because he tells her, even on her worst days, that he loves her. “I must simply be worthy of love,” the little voice inside of her says.

My dad did this for me and my two sisters growing up and he does it still. He told us he loved us. He told us we were beautiful. In my teenage years, I rolled my eyes at these words of affirmation, but I’ve noticed that they have in many ways carried me into adulthood.

Even though during difficulties, setbacks and failures, I try to push this little voice of assurance away, I know it’s still there. And some days, it is the only thing that keeps me going.

What power the words of a father can have over his daughter.

It’s hard for me to hear stories that are not like mine. Stories that come from girls whose fathers didn’t think to say “I love you” and “You’re beautiful.” It’s such a simple thing. It’s such a crucial thing.

If we are sustained by the loving Word of God our Father, why would we not also assume that our children are sustained by the loving words of their earthly fathers?

Thank you to my dad and all the dads out there who are making the daily, conscious effort to speak truth over their girls.


You can read a better articulated and explained version of this post in an article I wrote for the June issue of Parenting Teens magazine:

Going Home and the Hills that Greet Me

A weekend spent in the city I grew up in is always a string of hours spent remembering the things I had forgotten about home. This time it was the weather so characteristic of a south Texas summer. The dry heat and triple digit temperatures were something I took for granted until recently. I say took for granted because blistering hot and desert dry summers are truly a unique gift, only realized once you move somewhere like Tennessee that seems to have endless rainy summer days and a humidity that actually makes my body swell when I leave the house. Suddenly the jeans that fit perfectly four seconds ago, are snug and my skin is sticky in a way that makes me avoid brushing shoulders with others.

Texas heat and sun framed my whirlwind of a weekend trip this time. Despite the lack of human activity outdoors, I wanted to spend as much time as possible dripping in the air that’s mere feel transported me to summers of childhood and adolescence.

With loyal and understanding family, I trekked to a trail typically buzzing with runners and cyclists and walkers. We were the only car parked at the trailhead, of course.

Yes, that is an eliptigo, in case you were wondering.

It was noon and pushing 100 degrees. Any sane San Antonioan was inside protected by their air conditioning units. Not us, we were walking the dry trail, cut out by dry trees and dry grass every step of the dry way. And I did not feel tired, nor overheated, nor desperate to be back inside once I re-discovered the heat of that noon sun. No, the thing I felt most was comforted and comfortable. I began to remember things I had forgotten. Things that had happened in similar temperatures during Augusts from years ago:

-floating on tubes in the Guadalupe River, the water line so low in places we had to stand up and walk half the way, carrying our tubes over our heads and rocks cutting the bottoms of our feet

-self-inflicted sunburns, deep red due to my reluctance to get out of the water and reapply, and due to my Irish ancestry that blessed me with fair skin

-waking up early for the first day of volleyball two-a-days, preparing to be in pain for the next two weeks before school and season started

Visiting home in the summertime again after so many summers away, made my once normal, regular south Texas upbringing a well of memories in a place suddenly magical with its steam rising off the asphalt in the afternoon after a surprise rain attack that lasted approximately 14 minutes. Fourteen minutes of rain is a most welcome surprise for a city that sees it and feels its relief far too sporadically. My mom and a few others in the restaurant even applauded when it started.

Water and everything it is for us and does for us can only be truly appreciated in a city like San Antonio, in an area like south Texas. The hill country, we call it. Though the hills are low compared to many others and on them the grass is a light brown and the trees struggle, these hills are my favorite. That trail carved by the dryness might even be my favorite type of beauty, not for its aesthetic qualities but for the backdrop that it provided a childhood of more joy than is typical for many children, with its share of confusions and mess-ups and heartaches of course.

Growing up I would look at those hills from my rooftop on nights I was thrilled to be alone with time to think, on nights with friends when we “discovered” a new constellation and named our secret club after it, on another night when we spied on my sister and her boyfriend and I wandered for a long time what it be like to have one. And on a night when I finally did have one and we sat on the rooftop together and I somehow knew that would probably be the first and last time we did.

Those dry hills surviving the summer in such a triumphant way greeted me as I returned just a few days ago, as the old and mature adult that I am now. But those hills know, they know more than anyone or anything that I’m still Andrea, the 13-year-old spending too much time alone on the roof thinking about things she didn’t understand then and still, for the most part, doesn’t. And the real beauty in those hills is not a plethora cedars but their steadiness. That they don’t leave. And that they are always there when I come back.

Lessons for a 13-Year-Old

We are taught a lot of things at age 13 in churches and at our youth groups. I remember nights around the campfire at church camp that were profound and talked about Jesus in a way I hadn’t thought about him before. I remember hearing that who I was was in Christ and not in whether or not boys liked me or what I looked like. Those were the lessons I remember being driven home the most. Because, as I know now, a girl’s worth is one of the hardest fought battles in her lifetime. Our youth leaders knew this, so we talked about it lots.

This weekend I traveled to Seattle to watch my big sister speak at a conference called Revolve. It’s a speaking and concert tour for girls ages 13-18, 6th to 12th grade. I’ve gone to Revolve to see Jenna four of the five years she’s spoken on the tour. Each year, about ten minutes into her talk I always feel this strange mix of fandom-“wow, that girl is cool and knows what she’s talking about”-and proud sister-“wow, that’s my blood up there, speaking truth.” And each year I learn as much from her talk, and others’, as the teen girls who bought tickets to the event.

Anthem Lights at Revolve
Anthem Lights performing at Revolve

But this year I learned extra. It was like the words spilling over the edge of that stage in that auditorium were heavier and whacking me in this almost annoying way. Because I knew it wasn’t new. People had been reading those scriptures to me and over me for years but I was feeling them deeply again and for the first time.

It makes me wonder, what does it take? Seriously what? For these lessons to stick once and for all? And to be so sticky they can never be scraped off? How do I keep it on me? How do I make sure it stays on the girls in the youth group I volunteer with? I see it bouncing off of them all the time, as much I try to put it back on nice and neat.

For truth being what it is—singular, God-breathed and, well, true—it is incredible how resistant our spirits are towards it and how thirsty they are for it. I’m dying of thirst, but don’t give me water, but give me water, but don’t.

the girls backstage
Backstage with Jenna (middle back), my mom (arms around my waist) and little sister (front right) and some of the other speakers/friends on the tour–Christine Caine, Kari Jobe and Christa Black. OMG

I think confessing and recognizing our thirst is a continuous, conscious effort. I guess the 8th grader sitting behind me at Revolve is just as in need as I am. In fact, I feel needier now than I did at that age. Even though I feel like I should “get” it by now. But believing Christ and comprehending grace is not a one-time event on your knees; it’s a lifetime of “getting” it. If we got it all right now in one moment, we would probably swell up with too much knowledge of the beauty of truth—think blueberry girl from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, rolled away quickly to avoid explosion.

We just can’t handle it all at once. But we would die without it in small doses.

To Love Someone You’ve Never Met

My mom sent me a letter last week. A real letter. Stamp and all. But it wasn’t a letter she had written; it was a photocopied, hand-written letter from a woman I’ve never met. The letter was written to my dad and may be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read. So why do I care so much about a letter not orginally addressed to me? Because it talks about my Papa Jack.

I never got to meet Papa Jack. My dad’s dad died a couple of years before I was born. He died of Lou Gehrig’s disease–an incurable and difficult illness. I’ve often hated that my grandfather had to suffer something like that. I hated that my dad had to see the suffering, as well as my grandmother and other relatives. It must have felt impossible at times, and I hate that I wasn’t there to help.

But I don’t hear much about those few years Papa Jack was sick. Instead, I hear lots and lots about the type of man he was. He was funny, they say. And a charmer and so, so kind. I know it’s true because my dad is like that, too. Papa Jack was an oil rig mechanic in West Texas and built the house my dad grew up in. He was handy, poked fun at my grandmother Thelma and encouraged my dad’s love for writing, though it was so opposite his own passions. I know I would have loved him very much. I do love him very much. Though I’m not sure how, having never met him. And the letter I received made me love him even more.

It was written by a woman named Ginger and tells my dad of how she knew my grandfather. Ginger was just a little girl when her Sunday school teacher assigned the class to write an encouraging letter to someone elderly at their church. She chose to write a letter to Jack Lucado, who was bed-ridden by then. Ginger and her mom delivered the letter and a pie to my grandparents’ house, where they found my grandfather lying in a bed in the living room. Somehow, Ginger got a moment alone with Papa Jack and asked a question a child would not be nervous to ask: “Are you going to die?” By then it was clear, it was inevitable, and my grandfather responded, “Yes, I am going to die. When? I don’t know. But I will eventually.” 

In her letter, Ginger explains that she remembers being afraid of dying at that point in her life. Her cat had just died and she was wrestling with the thought of death, so impossible to grasp for someone her age. But when she asked Papa Jack if he was afraid to die, he said, “I am joyful that I am going away, because away is to heaven. I will be with my father there, and I am ready to see him eye to eye.” Ginger continues her letter saying, “Then my mother and yours returned. My mother proceeded to console them with a fake smile on her face. But I smiled a big, real smile at Jack and he did the same and winked at me.”

Ginger and her family are moving to Kenya this year to bring the gospel to a tribe that lives on the coast. It’s a dangerous place to venture, but, she writes, “for me, I am not afraid. Because the worst that could happen is getting to see my father eye to eye.”

To know my Papa Jack instilled such courage into people, even from his death bed, makes me so proud to be his granddaughter. And makes me yearn to have known him in this lifetime.

To love someone you’ve never met–that someone would have to be really special.

Why Do We Love Those Who Don’t Love Us Back?

And so begins my February series of tough LOVE questions. February–an appropriate month for love questions, don’t you think? This series was inspired by a friend and coworker who initially suggested I pose this question for the blog: “If your house was burning, and you could only save one family member, who would it be?” I responded with “That’s impossible to answer.” So we boiled down to the nature of the question and realized what she was really asking was why would I, without a moment’s pause, reach for the hand of a beloved to save them from a burning building when they repeatedly don’t reply to my text messages, never initiate hang-outs and consistently miss important events in my life?

Because we love them. Even though they don’t show the signs of loving us back.

Family illustrates beautifully this inhuman ability we have to love siblings, children, and even parents who may never return the affection. Something within us persists. Pushes through the turned shoulders and blocked calls and can not–though we may try–stop loving. How would a non-Christian explain this strange strength that counters every fiber of our being? For the most common type of love is reciprocated, right?

Not always. Maybe you, like me, have loved someone you had no business loving at all. You tried to stop, but the love was inside of you and no action of your own would remove it. I remember confessing to my parents once that I was still in love with someone I knew for a fact did not love me back. My dad told me something I’ll never forget. Something that made me feel normal and that everything would be ok: “You can’t help who you love.” We don’t actually choose–what a load off.

So, I don’t believe we’re crazy for loving a rebellious older brother who’s never around, the dad that’s in and out of your life, or the boy that broke your heart. We can’t help who we love. God loves lots of people who don’t love Him back. When we do the same, we’re being a little like Him. We’re loving not based on condition but because the love is there, and we can’t get it out.

Scenes from Alaska

As my last series of posts has come to an end, I no longer have an excuse to drown myself in nostalgia as I write the occassional blog post. I do, however, still get to bombard you with pictures from one of my favorite activities in the world: Family Vacation.

So here’s to a wonderful week this past July spent aboard a large ship on the icy waters of the Pacific, along the breathtaking northwestern coast of our country (and a small bit of Canada).

The Alaskan cruise really outdid itself:

My mom and me thrilled to have completed our pilgrimage to mecca
My sister Jenna and my dad turning my way just long enough for a picture. We stared at the glacier you see in the background for hours that day.
Yep, glaciers really are that blue. If only I could remember the scientific reasoning explained to us by the park ranger that day I would enlighten all of you as to why...
Sitka, Alaska, the city that has so much more to offer than its claim to fame: where the movie The Proposal takes place. It's a truly charming city.
We're in the middle of the water, standing on a plane. I'm trying really hard to act "cool" in this picture but on the inside I was FREAKING OUT.
Surprisingly our favorite stop of the week: Victoria, Canada. It reminded me a little of Oxford. Ok, ok, it reminded me a lot of Oxford.

I have a new mission. Now that I’ve spent some time outside of the 50 States, I’d like to spend some time exploring inside the 50 States. Starting with Alaska sets a high bar, but I have faith in the good ole US of A. Now I just need a few more frequent flyer miles.

My Family’s Travel Quirks

Let’s pretend I posted a new blog this week by giving you the link to a guest blog I wrote.

My friend Ahsley is running a summer-themed guest-posting series on her fantastic blog, and here was my contribution. I hope to hear a few distant echos of “amen” after you read it. There’s something about traveling with a group of people you can be completely uninhibited with…

The Passenger Seat: A Father’s Day Post

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The above slideshow depicts various pictures from a recent trip my dad and younger sister, Sara, made to visit me (and James Taylor and Carole King) in Nashville. That week with my dad made me feel so adult: I chose the restaurants and activities, made reservations and suggested faster routes, I hosted for a few days and then dropped them off at the airport. But somehow despite the fact I’m 23 years old, have a job and an apartment, bills to pay, groceries to buy, a gym membership I try to make use of, whenever my dad comes to town, I am just his daughter again. This adult life I now lead relaxes. I stop worrying, hand the car keys over and while I may give directions, I ride in the passenger seat.

I take for granted this trust I have in my father. The comfort and safety he brings with a visit or even a phone call. I’m not sure about many things in my life right now–the twenty-somethings is a strange place to be–but how thankful I am to have a father who I never have to question will be a steady presence in my life.

In twenty years I may be in yet another state, settled into a career or a family, but when my dad comes to visit, I have no doubt I’ll hand him my car keys.