Some of my best memories as a young child were spent with the men in my life who loved and adored me.  This is a reflection I’d like to offer in memory of my father, my Papa, my husband, Pop, and to all the fathers and men who protect and love us as fathers do.  May you be blessed by Our Father today and forevermore. 

“Who are you?” he would ask, looking into my eyes and bouncing me on one knee.

“I’m Papa’s Sweet Patootie,” I’d say loudly with pride and giggle as he covered my face with kisses.  He was my dad’s father, the ‘good’ grandfather, the one whom I adored.

I was probably two, maybe three, when this picture was taken.  I was staying at Papa and Sweetgraw’s house and from what my mother recalls, he thought I was so cute with a Kool-Aid smile he couldn’t resist taking me to the nearby JCPenney to frame the moment professionally. It remained framed and on his dresser, even after his death.

(This picture is old and has something on it…It’s not a scar or scab but something on the print)

Looking at this picture I see a precious little girl that I want to pick up into my arms, squeeze tight, lavish her with love and never let her go.  The love I received is vivid in the picture. Over three decades later it can still influence me so much that, until I met Russ, my husband, when I wanted to recall a time that I felt safe, secure, and unconditionally loved, this picture is what came to mind.

Soon life happened and I didn’t want to receive the love, regardless of its nature.  I remember backing away from Papa, from my own father and any other man that wanted to show me true and pure love.  Because of one man’s behavior towards me, I couldn’t accept any behavior as good, let alone holy and pure, which changed the definition of the ultimate love – God’s love.  Instead of it filling me up and standing in the cracks where human love failed, I saw it as unattainable and not meant for me.

Papa never gave up on me.  Even though I began to turn away from his kisses and hugs, no longer wanting to sit on his lap or look him in the eye, he still called me his Sweet Patootie till the day he died when I was 14.  My dad never gave up on me either, and I know it was a struggle for him to not understand why all his girls would turn away from his honest, fatherly affections.  But he never gave up and though dejected many times by each one of us, he loved us with all that he had.

Eventually, I came to recognize who I am in God’s eyes.  I’m still this little girl with pigtails, chubby cheeks, and a Kool-Aid smile.  I’m His beloved.  His wonderful creation.  His Sweet Patootie.

Today God has lavished me with His love and instead of squirming and wiggling out of His grasp I am sitting on His knee, looking into His eyes, and proclaiming who I am in Him.  “I’m your beloved!” 

Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to be validated in the work I do through Decided Excellence Catholic Media.  Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to receive affirmation in ministry within Hopeful Hearts Ministry and to serve other women and men who long to love themselves as You love them.  Thank you, Lord, for hearing my prayers when I asked, “Lord, I’ve helped one, may I help another?  Show me where I need to be.”  You took hold of my hand, Lord, and framed the moment professionally showing me, “Look, my beloved, you don’t have to be dolled up and put together perfectly to be my delight.  I love you as you are.”

God loves us as we are, with messed up hair and Kool-Aid smiles.  What hurts have kept you away from His love?  Stop running.  Turn back to Him and hold onto His hand.