The Eyes that Shaped Me

I think if we’re honest, we all have a bit of a voyeuristic streak inside us: that, oh-I-shouldn’t-be-doing-this rush of secretly peering into someone else’s life, seeing a text message we shouldn’t see, overhearing a private conversation. There’s a thrill that comes with unauthorized access into someone’s personal life.

I mean, just look at how the world has been enraptured by this exposé interview with Oprah and Megan Markle and Prince Harry? Or, why is the FreeBritney movement so fascinating? Why are pop stars like Demi Lovato and Justin Bieber releasing documentary series about their lives on YouTube? It’s because we all like to see behind the curtain.

Which is exactly what I’ve decided to do today.

Not because I think I’m like…the next Justin Bieber or something, or that my life is in any way, shape, or form worthy of some sort of tell all…but rather, the incredibly powerful lesson this letter gave me, when I ran across it today, that I hope will resonate with you in the same way it moved with me.

My dad stumbled across a letter that I had written to him nearly a decade ago, in 2012 when I was in the midst of my life altering Ulcerative Colitis flare…the one that left me on bedrest for 11 months. This was four years after those terrible years of anorexia, and I had written him a note for Christmas.

And he saved it, and found it just today, when he was packing up some final things, as they are moving later this week. And so he took a photo of it and sent it to me, having also been moved, coming across it this afternoon.

And I after reading it, I knew I wanted to share it with you.

And since it is tiny font on an iphone photo, I’ll transcribe it here:

There’s something that a daughter learns from her father, something that she doesn’t realize she’s learning, perhaps ever.

Things that shape them…either good or bad. Becuase honestly speaking, there are a lot of different types of dads out there. And the thing is…whether they realize it or not, dad’s are always teaching and communicating, even if they don’t realize it.

How they spend their time. How they speak to their mother. How they act when they are home. What their priorities are. What they say or don’t say to their children.

These things send a message. One that kids hear loud and clear, even though to them, it just looks like “life.”

Well dad, clearly, my life as of lately involves a lot of reflecting. And there’s one thing that I always am brought to my knees in gratitude and just, awe when I think about, and that’s you.

Everything about you can be summed up in your eyes. And this is regardless of whether you’re wearing your special eye potion. 😉

You have eyes unlike anyone I’ve ever encountered. And please hear me. I am not just saying this. This is not some cheesy cliche that I’m trying to cleverly craft into a cheeky Christmas card.


Your eyes are different. It’s how you look at people. It’s what you look for. It’s what you’re thinking about as you see people.

And I feel it when you look at me.

There is a tenderness that communicates how you see in me the good that I cannot see for myself. There is a strength that communicates how you believe in me, even if I don’t believe it myself. There is a focus that calls me to live up to my full, God-given potential, that you see in my soul. There is a gentleness that blankets me in such a rarely-experienced love, that I honestly believe is how we’ll feel when we’re standing in the presence of God, feeling His love.

There is never a judgement. Never a cold gaze.

Only love.

And I hope you know how much that has shaped me and everyone who comes in contact with you.

I know I’ve mentioned recently how you were “born to lead.” How you weren’t “just” some “business man.” But that you were (and are) a leader.

And I’ve been thinking about what it is that is your “it factor” and that’s it. It’s your eyes. Becuase it’s not just me who feels incredibly loved and appreciated and empowered and safe when encountering you and those big blue peepers. It’s everyone.

Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for teaching me about what it means to love. What it means to have respect for people. What it means to live a life of generosity and success. But mostly, what it means to reflect Jesus.

Because you do.

I love you so much, dad. Merry Christmas.
Love, Caralyn”

This past weekend, I was interviewed on the radio show, Catholic Kaleidoscope with my dear friend, Alyssa Bormes, and naturally, in retelling my story, I had to relive those dark, dark seasons of my anorexia where I just the epitome of destructive. Lying, manipulative, hurtful, and disrespectful doesn’t even begin to cut it.

But the thing I was reminded most about, was how my dad was my biggest champion of all: believing in me, encouraging me, having me see all the best doctors in town to heal this ulcerative colitis he thought was the culprit behind the weight loss. (Which is confusing, as this note was written during my SECOND ulcerative colitis flare…

My SECOND Ulcerative Colitis flare, on bedrest for 11 months

The FIRST ulcerative colitis flare happened five years prior, at the exact same time as when I developed anorexia in 2007. So they were happening simultaneously, and I had manipulated everyone into believing that the weight loss was because of the UC. Especially my dad. And he was going to the literal ends of the earth to try and help me get better. He had researched the best weight gaining drinks available, and they were only available in Scandinavia, and so he had them shipped in from overseas….and I was literally taking them, secretly dumping out the contents, and bringing back the empty bottles.

That man. That good, good man who I loved so much, I was blatantly lying to and deceiving.

With the terrible deception and rage and manipulation and just unconscionable treatment I showed him and my loved ones while I was in the throes of my anorexia, he had every right to write me off forever. Wash his hands of me. Carry a grudge. Expel me from his life for good.

But he didn’t.

Not only did he forgive me, but years later, looking back, we’ve realized that going through such a tumultuous trial like that, it actually made our love stronger, deeper, more steadfast, able to withstand anything.

And still, to this day, he is my biggest champion, supporter, encourager.

We endured a trial by fire, and came out stronger than ever before.

But I share this today to just encourage anyone who may need to hear it, that…relationships are never un-mendable. Yes, it takes humility, it takes honesty, it takes trust, it takes sacrifice and setting aside one’s pride. But at the end of the day, it’s worth it.

If there’s one thing that I thank God for every day it is the forgiveness of my loved ones, and for the second chance I have with every single one of them.

Those “eyes of love” my dad sees me with: how incredible that they have not changed or wavered, despite everything we’ve been through. And if that is the level and depth of forgiveness my earthly father is able to produce, I cannot even begin to fathom the degree to which our Heavenly Father loves and has mercy and forgiveness for us, too.

“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5


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94 responses to “The Eyes that Shaped Me”

  1. That was so beautiful – I am truly in tears! Thank you so much for sharing these kind and heartfelt words with the world, sometimes dads don’t realize how incredible they are.

    • Hi Sarah! Oh gosh thank you so much 🙂 I’m so glad it resonated with you like it did me!! I fully agree. Dads are awesome. Hugs and love xox

  2. Always had a skill for writing then. Such a powerful and moving letter to write to your dad. You are a great daughter. For me, the letter reflects that you have always been an amazing person. So happy that you have a platform to reveal that awesomeness.

    Usually read your posts after 246 comments, nice to catch one fresh off the press. 🙂

    • Aw, you’re kind to say that! thank you so much! And my goodness, I am humbled by your generous words. My dad is an easy man to love! 🙂 hehe hope you have a great night! Thank you again for stopping by! Hugs and love xox

  3. Great post. Thank you for sharing as some people do not see aspects of people and/or relationships; therefore, they are “taken for granted” or simply completely overlooked. It is good to stop and evaluate and even re-evaluate times, people, and even relationships in our lives. I feel that your sharing with help others find and expose the “specialness” of our family members, friends, or even acquaintances. We tend to hide or minimize when we should be celebrating our relationships; most towards our mentors and heroes. Fortunately, I am close to all of my children; however, my daughter and I also have an amazing relationship (only girl & oldest child of 5 children). Hugs and Love 🤗 & ❤️!

    • Thank you HJ!! You’re so right – I think often the people who we love most can often be the ones taken for granted. You’re right – gotta find and appreciate that specialness! so happy to hear that! yay! glad you stopped by! Hugs and love xox

  4. You’re making me cry, Caralyn! First, there’s the simple appreciation as a father of how meaningful a letter like that is. I always hope and pray that my girls feel something like this about me. I think they do, but not doing well enough has always been my fear.

    That’s because, as I think you know, I did not have a very close relationship with my dad. He had no clue how to be a father and fumbled it badly as long as he lived. In retrospect, I can only feel sorrow for him and what never was, but for many years I outright hated him.

    I envy people who have that with their parents. It’s been my motivation to give that to my girls as best I can.

    You are a great daughter!

    • Aw, Jeff, thank you so much! yes! Oh gosh, I know that your girls feel the same about you!! Sometimes its hard to put that kind of love into words. Believe me I would know! i think i wrote 8 copies of this letter before i settled on one that ectually verbalized how i felt. And thank you for sharing that about your dad – like you said, being a dad is a tremendous responsibility too, and we’re all on a journey. But gosh, my heart breaks to hear that, Jeff. But isn’t that just a testimony to how the Father’s love is able to blanket us in His love? Jeff, you have been that and more to your girls. Gosh, I even feel how giant of a papa bear heart you have!! 🙂 Sending love and hugs to you and your girls! xoxo

      • Thank you for your kind, encouraging words! That’s a great thought – a testimony of how God’s love has worked in my life to be a better dad. All credit to Him!! Thank you again!!!

      • Yes absolutely. That’s God’s healing and sustaining love for us!!

    • Thank you so much Eric. Oh I know you will!! I appreciate you stopping by. Hugs and love xox

    • Oh gosh thank you J, what a kind thing to say! Appreciate you stopping by! Hugs and love xox

  5. Beautiful, Ms. Caralyn! I learn so much from your words about truth and virtue, that I cannot thank you enough. And I know your Daddy must love you so much, and be so grateful of your miraculous healing!

    Please keep shining your beautiful light.
    Thank you for the hope you share. Please stay blessed and healthy, dear lady. God bless!

    • thank you so much Susan! oh my gosh i am humbled by your generous words. yes – he has always been my biggest supporter, and for that i couldn’t be more grateful. So – he’s the same dad that took me to every buffet restaurant in town while I was just beginning my recovery and still had significant weight to gain, and the process of cooking and seeing/being in control of the ingredients that went into a dish, so he took me to these restaurants to help me fall in love with food again, and it really help. he has always been the best. i am so blessed. thanks again for your kindness. Hugs and love xox

  6. I had a daddy like this. Treasure every moment with him. Mine is in heaven now. Praise God you had such a good daddy. Hug him as often as you can. Love you as always, my truly beautiful friend. Hugs!XO😃❤

    • Hi Tonya, oh friend, I wish I was hugging you through the screen right now. I’m so sorry your father is no longer with us here on earth, but gosh – what a sweet sweet reunion that will be one day in Heaven 🙂 And I know he is watching over his precious daughter with a big smile. Taking your advice to heart, my sweet friend. Love you and sending you the biggest hug! xoxo

  7. Such a lovely post straight from your heart, you have shown so much of gratitude towards your father, truly he is a champion and you are his champion girl 👏. This post carries a strong message and is definitely a very inspiring and motivating one. Keep writing quality stuff 👍

    • Hi Maha! Oh gosh thank you so much for your kind words. Yes, my heart overflows with gratitude for him! Gosh, I’m humbled by your kindness, thank you. Hugs and love xox

  8. I needed to hear this today… of all days… today I needed it the most…

    I have so much guilt from all the lies I’ve told my family just to keep my addictions going…

    I will never forget the day I broke my mother’s heart… I don’t think anything I could ever say or do could ever repair it either… I was lying on my bedroom floor.. on an air mattress actually… and I was withdrawing so badly.. I was trying to quit fentanyl and heroin cold turkey, and I wasn’t expecting my mother to come by.. she got down on her hands and knees and wept… sobbing asking me over and over what she did wrong for me to end up like this… I kept telling her that this was me getting better… lol that I was clean for once .. that this was the dope leaving my body.. but it all just sunk in that day for her… she blames herself from that day on… we used to be close like you and your Dad… I need to get that back.. I need my mama… but I’m so scared that I broke her heart forever… but your story gave me hope .. a lot of hope … so Thankyou so much … I got so much from your words .. I read it 3 times… xo

    • Hi Molly, thank you so much for sharing your powerful story. Oh friend – what a thing to carry in your heart – a mother’s love is one of the strongest forces in the world. I fully believe with my whole heart that your relationship is absolutely mendable. You can get that closeness back, I fully believe that. Talk to her. Help her understand, and help her release the guilt that I’m sure she’s been carrying around, and help her rebuild that trust. No relationship is ever too far gone. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. It takes courage and humility. I will be praying so hard for your reconciliation. The thing about guilt is that it makes us draw into ourselves. I would just encourage her that she was not responsible for your choices. That freeing release will be such a healing thing for both of you. Sending so much love. You got this, girl. You’ve got this. Hugs and love xox

  9. My dear friend,

    The learning process in our life is endless. When we look at situations we can learn from them through digesting them, then we start to change our angle of view to see life with different eyes, with in fact a higher consciousness, a better understanding.

    The Father in heaven loves His children without conditions, like the sun shines to everyone without asking what he or she has commited/done – it is a real love that shines from “above” from within. This love also emanates to His children and in this way mother and father reflect this love to their own children in grades and shades. Gratitude is a great virtue, as are forgiveness and forgetfulness. Both virtues are contained in love. Another virtue that shines through love is wisdom, the experience that blossoms within us, which life has given us through countless events.

    It is said that like recognizes like, which means that the one who loves and the one who is loved are in a state of oneness. As Jesus Christ also said, “I and my Father are one.” We can find this state in the small as well as in the big. So also in the family, if the love is sincere. True love is like a magnet; it does not let us go once we have been attracted to it.

    So I would like to congratulate you on this deep love between you and your father and mother – because they are the rock (a pole of safety, a harbor where the child can always retreat in the ups and downs of life) for you as their child.

    Let us pass on these qualities of love that it may bear fruit and blossom in the world.

    Loving greetings to you and your parents.
    From heart to heart and all love

    P.S. – I was not present in WordPress for a long time, because of an illness, which is now almost overcome.

    • Hi Didi, oh wow this is such a powerful response, thank you so much! And it’s so great to “see” you again! I was wondering! I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been battling an illness – I’ll be praying for you, and I’m happy to know it’s alomst overcome!! Praise God! You brought up so many beautiful and powerful points here. I love that – our parents really are a pole of safety and a safe harbor. i love that. hang in there friend! Rooting for you and keeping close in prayer! Hugs and love xox

  10. That was a beautiful letter to a quite obviously wonderful father. Thanks for sharing, it reminded me of my own father – sadly no longer with us.

    • Thank you so much Sheree! Oh yes – a wonderful father indeed. I’m sorry your father is no longer with us here on earth, but gosh, what a beautiful reunion that will be one day in Heaven! Hugs and love xox

  11. I love how he said ‘Trial by Fire’ 💙 Thank you for sharing this. It makes me think of my Dad, who is honestly the kindest man I know.

    • Hi Femii! Yes – me too – He is full of so much wisdom! Aw, I’m so glad you too can relate to having such a wonderful dad. they are certainly a blessing! Hugs and love xox

    • Hi Kenneth, thank you so much! yes! absolutely! i would be honored! Hugs and love xox

  12. This was lovely. My Dad who passed away last fall was much the same…so loving, forgiving, open, merciful. He had a peaceful calm presence and always made me feel so supported and loved. He was amazingly patient with difficult people and situations. Looking through his files, I see he kept all my letters…which were many!
    It’s important to share stories of good dads, and they don’t often get a good rap in the media.
    I’m glad you have his love and support!

    • Hi Anna! Thank you so much for sharing your heart. Oh gosh, I am so sorry for your loss, i wish i could be giving you a hug right now. He sounds like he was an incredible man and father. What beautiful words about him. What a beautiful reunion that will be one day in Heaven 🙂 thank you for stopping by. sending the biggest hugs xox

  13. There is nothing like a father’s love. It’s the truest reflection of THE Father’s love. My dad turns 84 today, and your post reminds me even more of how much he love means to me and how lucky I am to have hm. Thank you for sharing.

    • That is so true, Amy. The love of a father is so important, especially to daughters. Amen! And wow! that’s so great! Happy birthday to him! So glad that you too know the love of a wonderful father. we are blessed beyond measure. Thank you for stopping by! sending big big hugs xox

  14. That’s awesome, you’re a great daughter. The only notes I get from my kids are asking for money, LOL. J/K. Take care and I hope you had a great Easter my Christian friend. Your pagan friend Karac

    • Hi Karac, gosh thanks for saying that. haha well – that just goes to show: you’re they’re provider!! that’s awesome! they trust you and feel safe with their dad 🙂 Thank you – we did have a wonderful Easter weekend! Glad you stopped by! Hugs and love xox

  15. Beautiful letter from a daughter!! I carry in my wallet a print out of an email from my daughter on an occasion where she was impressed with some communication I had with one of her work colleagues. It was no big deal to me, but in her email she called me “My hero.” I will carry that in my wallet for the rest of my life, and have requested our estate executor that it be cremated with my remains after the scientists are done with my cadaver, unless she wants it.

    • Aw, thank you so much my friend! Awww, what a special thing to hear from your daughter. That is so sweet. It’s really the little things, right? It just goes to show how much communication is a powerful thing. And even little things can carry so much impact. That’s a good reminder to me to always speak from the heart 🙂 I’m so glad you have that beautiful keepsake to keep with you! 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  16. Beautifully written Caralyn. Such a strong relationship with your Dad, who never stopped supporting you through such a difficult time. He reminds me of my father

    • Thank you so much Derek! You’re so right – he is a great dad. I’m so glad you also know the love and care of a wonderful father. 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  17. What a happy picture of you and your family. Parents are supposed to show the love God wants them to model to their children so they can understand how He rejoices with us when we have happy experiences and mourns with us when we are sad. He is a 24/7 friend! Your parents have obviously modelled this very well.

  18. Ugh. This had me all sorts of emotional. Can I be mad at you and grateful for you at the same time? I miss my dad. I miss my dad for the very reasons you laid out in this post. I miss the way he looked at me and loved me without judgment or reservation. I miss the years I didn’t get to spend with him because I was too busy making a career for myself thousands of miles away. I wish I had come back home sooner – that we’d have had more time to just laugh and love and be together. But I treasure the time we did have and I feel his love every day…to this day. I am grateful for the light that was behind those loving eyes. You don’t know this but your posts always seem to be so well-timed. I was just thinking about writing a post with a letter to dad. Not one that I had written but one that I’d write him right now. Crazy. But I’ve learned to take these signs and act on them when possible. So…stay tuned. 😉 And, as you always do, hug your dad every day like it’s the last time because, while I have so many great memories, I sure do miss those hugs! I’m not crying…you’re crying!

  19. I think a lot of the current struggles we are dealing with in society have to do with the men in the world and their lack of placement. I believe, no matter the empowerment of women (which is great), we should never take the lead away from the man. They are created to be so much for a family. Everything, really. Very thankful for good dads. And always thankful for your perspective.

  20. Thank you so much for sharing this. Dad are incredible. I lost my dad almost 9 years ago, to read what you wrote made me wish he was still here. I miss him so much.

  21. Thanks for sharing. Words a Father of three daughters, always needs to be reminded of. Those eyes, as I am reminded, always need to be looking through the eyes of Jesus. He is our ultimate guide to see through the defects of people, just as he looked through ours. God Bless You.

    • thank youso much 🙂 you’re so right – seeing with the eyes of Jesus – that’s a great reminder for me today 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  22. As I go through all your comments I’m praying all is well with you and that our Lord’s Holy Spirit is guiding you on all you do. Continue winning those around you to Jesus.

  23. That was absolutely beautiful. As a dad myself, I have sometimes wondered how much I have gotten through to my children. Your letter suggests that maybe it’s more than I think.

    • Thank you so much JP – absolutely. Kids are always absorbing – things said, and unsaid, seen, and observed. I know they have learned wonderful things from you! 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  24. Caralyn, when you gave your witness that day at the 138 Women’s Conference and you spoke on the moment your Youth Director pointed out “What you are doing to your Father,” I knew it was in regards to your earthly father; but, in that moment I was filled with what your Heavenly Father must have felt too. I am so grateful for the courage you possess to share your witness with others on the healing which comes at the hands of Our Father – both earthly & heavenly. Hugs to you for reminding us once again through this beautifully written post! 😊

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