My dad possesses so many wonderful qualities, but one he's been gifted with in particular is wisdom. At every stage of my life, from a little girl to a teenager to an adult, he's provided a listening ear and sound, Godly advice for every dilemma that's come my way. He's talked me through college decisions, relationship issues, career ups and downs, and financial crises. He's always encouraged me to seek God's best, to never settle (especially when it came to men!), and to go after my dreams–even if that meant moving far away.

I've shared on the blog about my many fond memories growing up around the yellow table. Though my mom was the one who prepared the meals, I think it was dad who shaped my love of food. Dad was always the one who, on road trips would take us off the beaten path to try a barbecue place he had read about, or go to a bakery that served the best pies or croissants. He's obsessed with teas and collects them from around the world. When he goes to the store, he'll come back with a special salted Irish butter that he read about, or veer off to a bakery to get a fresh loaf of crusty bread.

But one memory, in particular, stands out. As an extremely non-athletic, book-obsessed 12 year old, I had no inclination to do any sort of sport. Dad thought, as I was entering seventh grade, that I should try out cross country. I was very skeptical about the idea, but he listed off all the benefits of running, which I believe included "better sleep, better concentration, increased health, etc." I decided to go out for the first day just to give it a try. On a hot afternoon in August, the coach asked us to run 6 laps (1.5 miles) around the track just to gauge everyone's skill level. I balked. I had never run even close to that amount in my entire life. Half of the colt-legged girls bolted off, running effortlessly around and around the track. I, along with a few other stragglers, jogged slowly around the track, breathing with difficulty. By lap two, I was walking. Every muscle in my body already hurt. I tried to alternate jogging with walking and I felt like a total failure. I was in tears by the end and vowed NEVER to go back.

Dad came to pick me up after practice and I slumped into the car, my red face streaked with tears and sweat. "How was it?" he asked, though I'm sure he could already tell by the look of me that it had not gone well. "Horrible," I said. "I'm not going back." Dad said, "OK, you don't have to go back, but why don't you give it a few days? Running is always the hardest the first day or two and then it just gets easier as you build endurance." I wasn't convinced. In his wisdom, he decided to add a little incentive, "Look, honey, give it a few more days and if you want to quit, fine. But, if you stick it out until the end of the season, I'll take you out to dinner anywhere you want to go."

Suddenly, the tables had turned. Dinner anywhere I wanted to go? This was music to a budding food-lover's ears. My mind raced with possibilities (Dalt's? Kobe Steakhouse? Amerigo's) and I agreed to go back the next day. And the next day. And suddenly, a week or two in, I was running six laps with no problem. And then I was suddenly racing in fields and on trails, and actually enjoying it! Every time I wanted to quit, I just kept thinking: Amerigo's. I had chosen this white table-clothed Italian restaurant–the pinnacle of elegance in my seventh-grade mind–as my prize, and already planned what I'd order: warm bread with olive oil, a green salad with creamy peppercorn dressing, and crispy chicken Parmesan over angel hair pasta with tomato basil sauce. And for dessert, I'd get the tiramisu, something that I'd never had but had always wanted to try.

Thanks to Dad, I stuck with the season, and I got that meal at Amerigo's. But it didn't stop there. Not only had he encouraged my love affair with food, but he had help birth a lifelong love of running. I ended up running cross country the next season, and track as well, and went on to run cross country all the way through high school. Since then I've run several half-marathons and still love running today.

I am so grateful to have a dad who's encouraged me to try new things–and to stick with them when they get hard, to love learning and reading, to seek and pursue God above all else, and to take time to enjoy the good things in life (i.e. pastries!). He's always made me feel special and loved, something I now realize that too few girls feel growing up. One of the best pieces of advice he's given, however, was to marry a man not only who loved me, but who got my "essence." Someone who really understood me and who wanted to see me flourish. That advice was certainly sound, and gave me the confidence to get out of several serious relationships that were not the right fit. And ultimately, I did find that man who really loves me and understands me and wants to see me flourish. Thanks, Dad, for encouraging me not to settle, and to wait for God's best–it certainly paid off!

Happy Father's Day! I love you!!