"I found a lost treasure in the old tree!" he shouted. We all raced toward our brother, David, who was three years older than I. He waved a red flag in the hot sun and we gathered around him at the old oak, eating ripe purple plums we’d picked in our yard.
"Gotcha!" He was always so skilled. He’d played by the rules, though he was always wiser than the rest of us, it seemed. He’d outsmarted us again at our game of hide-and-seek.
That year was the summer of my fourth birthday. As the five of us headed toward the house, this time it was our father we were seeking. He ought to be home soon, right?
Mom came home after work, but on that day, Dad didn’t return. We were told he was looking for a job in New York City. So we ate unripe peaches off abundant trees in our California yard, and we waited for him. My sister taught me to pick the rose petals from stems, "He loves me...He loves me not,” sometimes even eating them, “Loves me...Loves me not."
We knew he loved Mom. But he didn’t return all that summer, and from the way Mom stood there so pensive on the phone, we weren’t truly certain how much he loved us.
When we attended his funeral not long after I turned nineteen, the five of us stood in a half moon, seeking answers for exactly who our father had been. Our father was a kind man, we all knew, so gentle in sprit, and very wise, having attended the University of Chicago on scholarship, then spending days working physics equations just for fun. And he was musical, so lofty—on summer nights he would lead us out to see the vast night sky of stars, where we ate crisp watermelon and learned all about the constellations.
When he wasn’t there, we spent our days and nights seeking him. We wrote my father letters. When the mundane had failed to interest him, we turned to the creative. “We have a big surprise for you… We painted the living room red…We found a lost treasure in the old tree!”
It took many years before we learned all about our father; we spent most of our childhoods and even our adult lives missing him. One day my brother, now himself a father of two and deacon at his church, spoke of our father in heaven. “Life with our great father in heaven isn’t the same. There is no game of hide-and-seek with Him. All we have to do is reveal ourselves to Him entirely, with humility, and He will fill our lives. In hearing our call,” David explained, “He surrounds us. He blesses our lives abundantly.”
The finest example of an earthly blessing in my life is Adam, my husband of ten years. As the father of our three lovely children, having grown richly in his faith, Adam has learned to transcend earthly trials and explain to our children the ways we will always be there for them. “Humanly speaking,” he begins as he teaches our daughter scripture in relation to life’s trials, “it is impossible. But with God, everything is possible.” (NLT; Matthew 19:26)
“With the power and strength of our father in heaven,” Adam explains, “it is possible to reveal ourselves to one another with truth and perseverance, even through life’s most difficult moments.” As husband and wife, we have learned to stand solidly as one, to nurture our children with precious gifts from our most heavenly father.
Sometimes on a quiet moment of a summer afternoon, I wander out to our flowery backyard and reflect on the blessings of our thriving family. I think back sometimes to my own father, find a rich purple plum from one of our many fruit trees, then recall happy childhood summer moments:
"I found a lost treasure in the old tree…" Only this time we play no childhood game of hide-and-seek. I know that this time when we seek, we shall always find. And I will always be found.
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