Monday, February 28, 2011

Reaction of Habit

I received a few emails this weekend after my 5 minute: 5 years ago experiment on Friday. Three of them were almost identical… asking how I can keep believing so firmly after getting up only to get knocked back down again.

They weren't saying I shouldn't still believe, to clarify, they were just looking for a practical way to have that be their default reaction. And I'm here to say that it takes practice.

This comment by Jenn on that post summed it up well, I think:

the way i know that you believe what you believe deep down to your core is that this post is what came out when you only had 5 minutes to write about the topic at hand. i love that God has given this rock solid joy and perspective to you.

It is a belief down to my core. And trusting God with all my heart leaves no room to pretend His love isn't enough. But the only way I can have that reaction in every situation is by making it a habit. And making it a habit takes practice.

I don't want you to think that because I believe so strongly, life doesn't still hurt and keep hurting. It's just shy of eight months since Dad left us, and it still feels like someone is scraping out my soul with sandpaper. There is still a numbness and a grief that greets me every single morning when I open my eyes.

Believing doesn't spare us the grief. It doesn't spare me the pain of illness or the emotional exhaustion of surviving it every day. But survive it I do because I have practiced it.

I practice it by praying every day. I practice it in my pursuit of finding and choosing joy. I practice it in the morning when I wake to praise music to shift my focus, and I practice it in the evening when I read my bible.

I practice when I talk to people who are hurting and weep with them, and then reassure them of who our God is. I practice when I pray for peace and fortitude, and thank God for the people and blessings in my life. I practice when I thank Him for the good that comes from the difficult. I practice when I praise Him for simply being… because if He never does another thing for me in my life, I will already have been blessed beyond measure by His sacrifice on the cross.

I practice. I read. I pray. I don't have to try to find God in hard situations because I instead choose to acknowledge Him in all situations. I practice my reactions in the little things every day so that my reaction becomes habit when the big things hit.

Like all important things in life, my reaction that comes from habit only becomes a habit because I work at it.

Practice doesn't always make perfect. But it is an essential step in making life better. :)

Friday, February 25, 2011

5 minutes: 5 years ago

I'm trying an experiment today. I'm linking up to Lisa-Jo aka gypsy mama, who chooses a topic every Friday and writes for five minutes.

Only five minutes.

And the rule is that whatever she writes about in that five minutes is what she posts. No editing her thoughts. Today, her topic choice is "five years ago."

So I'm going to set the timer, write some thoughts, and then I'm going to stop.

And then I'm going to tell you who won the canvas. :)

Ready? Set. Go.


Five years ago I was 32 years old and life was getting harder, but I honestly had no idea how good I had it. I was in a lot of pain and able to get out less, but the fact is I was still able to get out. I had a rheumatologist that was still hopeful and I was still able to see friends as often as I liked.

I had already dated a guy I could have imagined forever with, and already realized there would never be a guy I'd spend forever with… because even if it never got any worse, no one was going to choose this life as their own.

That's what a serious illness does to a girl. It gradually makes her see very clearly what won't happen in her life while making what will happen very unclear.

{Which now makes me feel like I'm giving you my "limited visibility" post from two days ago all over again.} :)

Here's the deal: five years ago I had no idea that I would never walk outside my door again. I had no idea that pain could get this much higher. I had no idea what Cushing's was or that I'd EVER succumb to a walker named George. Heck, at that point I had no idea that I even needed an adjustable bed. And I never thought in a million years that I would be living any of it without my dad.

But you know what I do know now that I didn't know five years ago? I know that there is nothing in the world that I can't keep living through.


I have no idea what five years from now will look like. I could have all the people I love with me, or I could be without someone. It could look like today or it could look like today from a wheelchair or with an oxygen tank. I don't like to think it will look like that, but it could.

And if it does, I'll still be surviving it. Because nothing happens that God doesn't see first. And He loves me. And He won't ever leave me alone.

Listen to me when I say this: He won't leave you alone either. So no matter where you were five years ago or will be five years from now, you will be ok.

Trust that.

I do.


WHEW. My five minutes are up. I have no idea where that came from and had no idea where it was going… what a wild experiment.

Now, who wants to know who won the canvas??!?!?!?!?

The winner, according to is:

Jill Sires: I love you...I love this canvas...I love this verse...I love Etsy, so all around I adore this post! I will pray for Heather and Emily--and you, my beautiful friend, will always be in my prayers! :)

Congratulations! Send me an email at with your mailing address and I'll get it shipped out to you!

:: FYI ::
from what I can tell, the three canvases for sale at Heather's were already listed and already gone ... thanks to those who went and purchased! I promise I'll let you know as soon as I'm making them again. :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

YOU:create … week 26

It's a special YOU:create canvas day! And not only will there be a winner here, you all could help someone else win today, too…

One of my (in)courage sisters, Heather, is a fighter of a mom. She is surviving cancer herself and is doing everything she can for her daughter, Emma. Emma was born with mitochondrial disease, has gone through a heart transplant and eventually was diagnosed with Transplant Coronary Artery disease.

It's been a tough road. Emma is now 9, and due to seizures has lost her ability to effectively communicate. So we are helping Heather raise money to get Emma an iPad and the related software she needs in order to put words and images to what she so badly wants [and needs] to say.

Here's where we come in.


I made this canvas as a giveaway today, but I also made three more exactly like it that Heather is going to be selling on her Etsy page – starting tomorrow - to help raise funds. If you'd like one of these canvases, you can head over to her site on Friday and purchase one.

There are only three, so it's first come, first serve.


I have to be honest and say these canvases will probably be the last I do for awhile. It was much harder to stand and make them than I even thought it would be, and bending over my table has my spine screaming profanities at me that would scare your grandma. :)

I may be getting a taller table eventually, but until that happens it's just not smart [or kind] to my body to make them the way I have been. Those who have inquired about ordering canvases: this was my "test run" of sorts, so I won't be making them soon. I am keeping all the emails of canvas requests in a folder, however, so when/if I'm able to make more I will contact you as I'm able and see if you're still interested.

In the meantime, leave a comment below before midnight CST to try and win today's canvas. If you don't win it and want one [or three :)] you can head on over to Heather's Etsy site to buy one there tomorrow. I'll have pick a winner and announce it in tomorrow's post!

Good luck :)

:: Side note: if you'd like to read more about Emma and Heather, you can go to her blog. :)

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I can’t wait to see what you guys came up with this week! Just click below and follow the instructions to link to your project. When it asks you to choose the web or a file for your thumbnail, choose web. Then it will take you to a list of the images on the page you are linking to and you’ll be able to choose a photo to represent your project.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Limited Visibility

The haze covers everything. Thick mist drowns out the sight of the buildings opposite my windows and it's another morning of living in the clouds. Schools are running late because the low hanging fluff is freezing on the roads and the visibility makes it impossible to move forward safely.

My vision, my visibility, limits me the same way some days. I look around and see only everyday sameness. I move less and less, I can stop feeling connected but I can't stop the pain that rages without ceasing. I look at walls that cage me in and windows and doors that will never be moved. Never opened or escaped.

It would be a sad and lonely world if we only saw with a misty vision. If we gave into the haze that can creep over a soul because our human eyes choose to look no further. That limited visibility would make moving forward impossible. Just like the persistent fog out my window.

Instead I look within and without and around. Because true light is everywhere. How do I know?

Because God made the fog. He made possible these walls and windows. He breathed life into my lungs and formed me when I was little more than a thought. He made the rain and the clouds and the wind and the cold. He made the conditions that create a fog all around us.

But He also made the sun that stands above all else. The sun that never left even when conditions made it impossible to see. He, above all else, can take a state of fog – a misty vision – and make it work for good.

"All God makes is good. Can it be that, that which seems to oppose the will of God actually is used of Him to accomplish the will of God? That which seems evil only seems so because of perspective, the way the eyes see the shadows. Above the clouds, light never stops shining."     

           ~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

I have time to ponder life every single day. And I wonder if I would really want different. Because my eyes, no matter how clear and focused on Christ, are cloudy compared to His. I can't see the beauty He creates beyond the clouds, within the clouds, around the clouds. I can't see how He takes something that looks dangerous and unnecessary and shines His light in and through to redeem it into beauty.

If I had the life I thought I wanted – the easier one without pain and with freedom – would my better view mean His was less? I think so. I think only God has the vision to see where true beauty lies. Because He has the vision above the fog. Above the clouds and the ice and the unsafe conditions.

He has the perspective. We have the life we are given by our circumstances. And if we trust Him, really trust Him, I believe He will always make sure there is beauty beyond our limited view of the mist. And I will always praise Him for that.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gitz Bits 2011: Week 7

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Monday, February 14, 2011


Happy Valentine's Day to me! My friend Jenny called and dropped Sonic out in my basket for a Valentine's Day treat. The girl knows my love language. And apparently I knew hers without realizing it, because some of the candy I gave her kids turned out to be the kind she loves.

Sure hope those Valentines made it all the way home…

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Go ahead. Try to resist the urge to wave back. I tried and failed, so I looked like a dork waving to kids that were on video and couldn't see me.

But they're so cute I couldn't help myself! My friend Deb's class sent me a DVD with video messages from each of the kids, telling me what they wished for me. I wished I could have reached in and hugged every single one of them as they told me they prayed I would feel better.

No way I could have felt more loved on Valentine's.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Because I write for (in)courage, I get credit every month to buy something in their Dayspring shop. A couple of months ago I fell in love with this canvas and have it sitting by my bedside.

It encourages me every day and challenges me every day. And I can assure you that one day soon, when my thoughts are all sorted out about it, there will be a post with this as its focus:

Become all that God intended you to be. Love Him. Love people. Love the life you've been given.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011


Ok, so I know this is an ugly picture of dirty snow and a messy patio. But to me it is GORGEOUS. Because the snow melted for a few days and that means Spring hasn't forgotten about us. Just the sight of my little flower garden made me a little bit happier. It didn't even matter that nothing is blooming because I know it WILL. Hope springs eternal. :)

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Friday, February 18, 2011


That's Susie. Skyping me from work while talking to her mom on the phone. She had just hung up with her son, checking to see how his day went at school – all while chatting with me in between. I think this is the epitome of what it's like to be a full-time working mom: MULTITASKING.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011


Candy came to visit on Saturday and Riley was more than just a little thrilled. Honestly, it took the longest it ever has to get him settled down enough for her to pet him. If he was a cartoon there would have been a pencil-drawn bomb going off inside his head.

After she left, he sat like this for a good 15 minutes, staring out the bedroom door waiting for her to come back. I think it's love.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011


So much for our melting snow. Through the night on Saturday into Sunday morning we had thunder and lightening and driving rains. Then we had sleet and finally the hail started pounding down so hard on the windows that Riley ducked under the covers for safety.

It seemed like all we were missing that day were the frogs and locusts. That's Iowa weather for you. :)

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Thanks for once again sharing my week with me! Click on the button below if you want to go to Jessica’s site and check out the other participants showing off their weekly photos as well:

Monday, February 21, 2011

Count to Ten

I'm not shy about sharing the areas in my life where I fall short. I'm good at some things, average at others.

And then there's math.

I don't have anything against numbers, personally, but they have always hated me. I have only cheated in one class in my entire life and it was Mr. Kolhaas' Trigonometry class. I'm not proud of it, but I am quite certain I could have studied my whole life and still not passed without the extra help. I felt a little less guilty about it since there was only one person in the whole class who actually understood it.

Which means, on multiple choice test days, Tom Becker would put his hand in the right hand corner of the desk for "a", left hand corner for "b", bottom right corner for "c" and so on. And it was understood that we would all get one or two wrong from time to time so it wasn't obvious. [Here's hoping they can't take away my diploma…]

In other words, the only year I had 4.0 for the semester was my senior year because I didn't have any required math left.

I suck at it. Seriously. If someone asked a random question trying to calculate something, I didn't even try. They'd look at me like I was going to agree or disagree if their 15% off calculation for that sweater was correct, so I'd look them dead in the eye and say, "I don't know. I'm not trying to figure it out. It's the indulgence of being an adult. I don't have to try."

So, when the Shan Clan was here and Nie Nie was lamenting about all the math they were doing because she had to make up work from when she was sick, I totally felt her pain. And I told her how smart and good she is for working so hard, because if she doesn't she could end up like me.

Math illiterate.

One afternoon, when I was doing my once-a-day trek to the kitchen to fulfill my physical therapy requirement, Nie came over with a rosary and asked why I have them in little dishes all around the condo.


I explained that it is my favorite way to pray for people, and that I used to be able to sit in all of those chairs around my house so I kept rosaries nearby in case I wanted to use one.

She wanted to understand how it worked so I told her about the prayers and the beads and the repetition of 10 Hail Mary's followed by a Glory Be and an Our Father… that each was a decade and each decade was repeated five times.

She looked at me and said, "Aunt Sara! You Catholics must actually be really good at math with all of that counting!"

Her mother grabbed the sink in order to not fall on the hard kitchen linoleum.

I had to break the news to her that us Catholics are actually really bad at counting considering we need all those beads just to keep track of counting to ten.


And then her mother went the rest of the way to the floor. Math may be evil, but laughter sure is fun.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Stop. Collaborate and Listen.

I have no idea why thinking about writing this post suddenly brought Vanilla Ice's lyrics into my head. But since they're now stuck in mine I thought I would be kind enough to share and let them be stuck in your head, too.

You're welcome.

Sorry. Back to the reason I was writing in the first place. As I've been less and less able the past few years, I've discovered a little gem that has kept my mind busy and distracted when I've not been able to physically distract myself.


I remember going with Mom and Dad on car trips when I was the only kid left at home, and thinking they were nuts for checking cassette tapes of books out at the library.


And then I would totally get lost and absorbed in the stories right along with them, and the trips seemed to fly by. As an added bonus, no one got carsick trying to read in a moving vehicle.


Of course, no one in today's day and age remember what a cassette tape is, and cds are quickly going by the wayside with the dawn of ever-shrinking iPod Nanos that hold more songs than I could ever listen to in my lifetime.

But audio books? They're still amazing. I have received a few as gifts, and these past months when I have felt too tired to even think about holding a book, they have been an amazing distraction. To me, they are the quintessential movie of the mind.

TODAY, because my friend Matthew is amazing, you all get to try an audiobook for FREE. You will love it. There is something about hearing an author tell the story in their own words… with their pauses and inflections… that brings a whole new depth to the work. It becomes a … wait for it… COLLABORATION between you and the author.

[I can't believe I'm actually tying in that random title.]

So … STOP. COLLABORATE with the author. All you have to do is download it for free and LISTEN.

[forgive me. I just couldn't help myself. it won't happen again.]

Fill out this box and get your audiobook for free:

Oh, and word to your mother.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

YOU:create … week 25

Well, it looks like the One Word doodles were a hit … because I had a few requests to add some late submissions. :) I loved getting to doodle these, so I've added the following words to today's YOU:create download:


Here are a few examples:




You can download these additional words here: DOWNLOAD

Also, at some point the link for the words in the first post stopped working, so I re-uploaded the original words. If you had problems getting them, the new link to download the 62 words from a few weeks ago is here: ORIGINAL WORDS


I also had another idea that I'd like your feedback on. Last week I wrote about "Selah" and happened to remember that I had made a word doodle for it, so I used it to start the post.

Are there any of these words that you would like me to talk about? Is there a certain angle on any of the words that you want me to write on and discuss? You can go back to the One Little Word post to see all the words to choose from, as well as the words listed today. If you do want me to talk about any of them, just let me know in the comment section and I'll work my way down the list. :)

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I can’t wait to see what you guys came up with this week! Just click below and follow the instructions to link to your project. When it asks you to choose the web or a file for your thumbnail, choose web. Then it will take you to a list of the images on the page you are linking to and you’ll be able to choose a photo to represent your project.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Blog Peep Questions: Round 16

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Does it drive you crazy to be alone all the time?

Honestly, it is so much more complicated than yes or no. The truth is that I want to scream Yes and explain No all in the same breath. I'll tackle the yes part first.

Yes. Oh my goodness, yes, there are times it gets really old being alone. I'd say mornings are probably toughest for a number of reasons. One is that I never feel well in the morning – I always wake up in a lot of pain, oftentimes I don't breathe as well first thing in the morning and it's hard for me to get sitting up to take my meds and get my body moving. So I'm not starting off from a place of strength, and I look at the clock knowing I have a whole day ahead of me, alone, to get through.

I know, not the hop-up-happy answer for the way a person likes to start the day. But that's probably when I most take note of being alone… partially because I don't feel well and partially because there is the knowledge that I don't know what's coming, if I'll be able to get up or not, if I'll feel well or sick, if I'll be exhausted or have a little energy to do something. All I really do know is that I'll be doing it by myself.

So that's why mornings can seem a little lonely. That is, of course, until Riley notices my eyes are open. Then he flings himself across my chest because he's certain that I've been longing all night just for the privilege of scratching his chest for him.

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He's a little narcissistic. But I made him that way by entertaining his every whim, so I can't really complain. :)

But him noticing I'm awake and being so happy about it is what makes me smile every morning. He's my physical therapy as I start to move my arms and get my fingers working simply by petting him. He's pretty much my lifesaver.

Onto the no portion of this answer. The truth of the matter is, I am ok being alone most of the time simply because I know it has to be this way, and also because it gives me the freedom to do what I need when I need it. There is no one here to entertain or do things for or keep a schedule with. That means if I want to eat supper at ten o'clock at night because that's when I am less nauseous, that's ok. If I lose a whole day to coma sleep like Saturday, I'm not messing up anyone's plans. If I can't breathe well or am in a lot of pain or simply exhausted, I don't have to fake my way through it keeping someone company or making sure they don't worry.

I guess Riley gets his narcissism from me. :) But really, being this sick requires that kind of flexibility. I am in control of nothing, including the whims of my body, so I have to let it dictate what I do and when. I can't keep any real sort of schedule, which would be hard on other people. And that would make me feel incredibly guilty. More importantly, I could never live with someone because every germ they encounter out in the world, I would encounter when they came home. I have to be ok with being alone because it just simply wouldn't work.

I was the most social person you can imagine, so it was an adjustment for me, but it was a gradual process and I adapted as I went along. The sicker I am, the more I crave quiet. The more I crave simplicity and don't tolerate drama. Being tired a lot can sometimes make me melancholy, but it also makes me need the quiet and solitude.

So, yes. I get lonely every day. And no, it doesn't drive me crazy because it's what is absolutely necessary. And it all really depends on how you define being alone.

In the movie Harry Potter – Order of the Phoenix, there is a scene when Harry is feeling isolated and alone because of the lies being spread about him by followers of Voldemort [otherwise referred to as "You Know Who"]. His friend Luna says to him: "I suppose that's how he wants you to feel. If I were You Know Who, I'd want you to feel cut off from everyone else because if it's just you alone, you're not as much of a threat."

And that's what all of you do for me. You make sure it's never just me alone. You defy my circumstances for me. You show up here and comment and keep me company. You send me notes and pictures of the outside world, even when I don't have the energy to write you all back. You all make sure I'm not cut off from living, and I can't imagine how much more crazy being alone all the time would make me if I really was alone.

But I'm not. I have you all to look forward to every day. Which means you all pretty much save my sanity. So you can mark one off in your win column just by being here and keeping me company. You do so much more than you think. :)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gitz Bits 2011: Week 6

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Monday, February 7, 2011


This is one of my absolute new favorite gadgets. [and y'all know how much I love gadgets!] I had gotten an Amazon gift card for Christmas and I used it for some practical things that make my life so much easier. Along with a couple of special pillows and bolsters to prop me up in bed, I got this great remote light switch.

I have lamps in my bedroom and in the hall that aren't always easy for me to reach the switches, so I plugged the cords into these special outlets and now I can turn them on and off by remote control.

It's like I'm living with the Jetsons :)

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Miss Nie Nie turned 11 on Tuesday, and we got to Skype just me and her. No moms or dads or little sisters waiting for their turn, just the two of us chatting until she had to go get ready for their night out.

I think it was more of a treat for me than her. I so love that kid.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Even when he's a total bed-head mess, he's is completely adorable. He's less adorable when he gets in the garbage and licks ketchup all over his face, or when he pees on my carpet and I'm trying to scrub it, but these cute picture moments make up for the times I want to strangle him. :)

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Thursday, February 10, 2011


I was looking out to see how much snow was melting in our 35 degree heat wave, when I noticed these tracks across the roof of the garage. I think they look too big to be a bird and, if so, I'm wondering at what point the animal stopped and jumped…

Maybe our crazy rabid raccoons have taken up extreme sports!

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Friday, February 11, 2011


This was an early Valentine drawing I got from my friend Heidi's son Ian. I thought it was cute, and then I read the note attached to it.

"This is me and Sara, and she lives in an igloo."

I didn't have a great feeling weekend, so I haven't had a chance to call Heidi yet, but I died laughing. Because either she told him that I keep my house so cold everyone comes wearing three layers, or that kid has some serious psychic abilities!

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Saturday, February 12, 2011


I literally lost the whole day on Saturday in what I call a coma-sleep. I call it that because I can't open my eyes or function, but my mind is totally aware of what's happening. I spend all those hours when my body is too exhausted to move, trying to make myself wake up.

It's so intensely frustrating.

But Riley didn't mind a bit. That lump is him, under all the covers and blankets, just snoozing away. It's definitely his favorite place to be. Maybe because he's so cold. :)

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Sunday, February 13, 2011


This is my pre-Valentine's Day attire. Mom brought me a cute sweat suit as a Valentine's gift when she came to visit last week. Nothing like a cute heart on your jacket to make you feel loved. :)

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Thanks for once again sharing my week with me! Click on the button below if you want to go to Jessica’s site and check out the other participants showing off their weekly photos as well:

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Valentine

I kept trying to think of a cute and funny post for Valentine's Day, but to be honest it's a bit sentimental for me this year. And it's not because I'm permanently single. I've never felt the "sting of rejection" by the holiday or by being single at all, really. There were years I had a boyfriend on the day and many years when I didn't.

It never mattered.

Because every year I got a call from Dad while he was in his truck or at the farm or just home for lunch to ask me if I'd be his valentine.

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It was never a bad day because I always had my first. My consistent love who never forgot to make sure I knew I was special.

And that's what I guess I really want to say today… that I was the luckiest little [and big] girl, because I had a love in my life. I had a dad who I always knew valued me. I had a man in my life who showed me what it meant to be loved and adored and cherished.

I never had to look for someone to complete me, because that man showed me I was complete in and of myself. He encouraged me, he believed in me, he prayed for me, he laughed with me and cried with me and showed me that I was worthy of being loved like that.

I got to be his baby doll and his Valentine for all those years.

For dads reading this, love your daughters. Shower them with hugs and kisses and "I believe in you" moments. It will be the greatest gift you can give them and a surefire way for them to grow up to be whole. They won't have to look for a false love to fill them up when they know what real love looks like.

A big part of why I am ok with how my life turned out is because he loved me in a way that showed me I was never alone. It was the best gift a Valentine could ask for.