If you’ve been around here any amount of time and/or know me in real life (hi, thanks for reading friends!), you know I lost my dad three+ years ago. I’ve written things about him a few times – Fathers Day for the Fatherless, How to Help Those Who Have Lost, etc. I loved and will always love my dad! With every passing year the grief wound heals a little, but I’ll never not miss him. The first year after he was gone, the monthly anniversary of his death felt like it was ripping the wound back open every single month. On the three month anniversary, one of my best friends encouraged me to make a list of reasons I was thankful for his life. I wrote about it in this post, and I will forever be thankful that I did! He was an amazing man who loved me and my brother FIERCELY and taught me so many things. Things weren’t always great, and I’ll talk about that in a minute because it’s part of my story and his and majorly brings glory to God, but first I want to talk about the great things!
He had the kindest heart of anyone I’ve ever known. He helped so many people get jobs and get back on their feet. He literally would have given someone the shirt off his back or boots off his feet if it would have helped them. For most of the years of my life, he provided a major sense of security for me. Even if he wasn’t physically there, I knew he was there. His work ethic was ridiculously committed. He always tried to pass that down to me and my brother. I don’t think I’ll ever be as hard-working and dedicated as he was! But I am a hard worker and dedicated, because he taught me that was important. I’m thankful for the things he taught me about money. I’m bad at money! He knew it. But he was so good at it and some things stuck with me. I still won’t apply for credit cards when people ask and my reason still is, “my dad would kill me.” And I’m constantly attempting to be a better saver and manager of money. He modeled forgiveness in a beautiful way. He was one of the most forgiving people I’ve ever met and gave so many chances, over and over and over again. He believed in me like no other! He would always ask me how my cookbook writing was going (he called this blog my cookbook). In his eyes, I was a famous cookbook writer. One day there will be a cookbook, or a book, and his belief in me will be one of the many reasons that happens!
And now, because I think the bad parts of our stories magnify the good, allow God’s glory to shine through, and tell miraculous stories of redemption that lead others to Him – I’m going to share the harder stuff. These are segments of MY story, my literal typed out story that I copied and pasted. For the moments that I get to share the story of what God’s done in my life (my testimony), these are parts of what I share. And duh, I’m a writer and a story-teller so of course I have a typed out version. I even have chapter titles. I’m cheesy like that. I’ve shared my full story several times and parts of my story many times with different groups of people. And though I’m not going to share it ALL here today, I’m not ashamed of it. I think the time will come that I’ll share it for the world to see, maybe even this year, but that time isn’t now. 🙂
From Chapter 1: Crazyland
I affectionately refer to my childhood, adolescence, and family life as Crazyland – characterized by chaos, dysfunction, and addiction. My dad was an alcoholic and a drug addict for all of my childhood and adolescent years. I won’t go into all the chaos I encountered, but I’ll give you a brief summary: parents usually high and/or drunk, constant fighting, life below poverty line, neglect, spent a lot of time scared, cried myself to sleep many nights, saw my dad point a gun at my mom the night he left for good when I was 11 (I knew even then that he wouldn’t shoot her and that he was being drunk and careless, but traumatic nonetheless), divorce, single mom, dad disappeared for a couple of years, more drugs, more neglect, another failed marriage, abuse, more damage, more fear, dad came back in the picture for occasional custody visits, more drugs, more fear, no peace or stability, EVER. Like I said, CRAZYLAND.
From Chapter Five: My Dad
On November 18th, 2012 my dad died. The same man from Crazyland previously mentioned, but a COMPLETELY different man than the aforementioned one. When I was in college my dad met Jesus. I had prayed for him since I was 13 and given up hope many times that Jesus could ever change him. But He did. The life change was undeniable by anyone who knew him. Our relationship was beyond restored. My dad became my rock and constant. He worked mill shut downs, so I wasn’t was able to spend all holidays with him. But, if he was close enough he’d always make a way for my brother and I to be with him. He loved me and took care of me. He answered my car questions and wanted to hear about my life. If I hadn’t called him, he called me every Sunday. He called me every birthday and holiday, even silly ones like St. Patrick’s Day, and wanted to be the first one (waking me up most times) to wish me a happy fill in the blank. He was from a different generation and place, dropped out of school in 9th grade and could barely read. Reading the bible was something he struggled with, but he learned to pray. He prayed for me and my brother everyday. He made us hold hands at dinner and prayed over the meal. He truly was a new man. Unfortunately, the decisions of his past had already started to ruin his body. He had Hepatitis C. Coupled with so many years of alcohol abuse, it lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.
My world was shattered. The one sense of family I had left was gone. November to the end of December that year was complete and utter painful misery. I tried to handle grief in my own strength and failed. In desperation, I gave in. I told Jesus I didn’t know what else to do but go to Him and that I didn’t really believe that even He could make it better. I told myself I’d spend time with Jesus every day for two weeks and see if it helped. A this point, I was willing to try anything to escape the collapsing pain I felt. I learned how to make my time with Jesus sacred and special for me and my temperaments and learning styles (I wrote about this once too). My entire life, spending time with Jesus was a struggle, an obligation I rarely had time for. But I gave him the most feeble attempt at an inch that I could, and he relentlessly pursued my back miles and miles. Spending time with Him became something I needed and wanted to do because He loved me and I loved Him, not an obligation. God also used my dad’s death to reconcile some other relationships in my family. I still miss my dad EVERY day and wish he was here, but I fully know God used his death and sickness to draw me back to Him.
From Chapter Six: Here and Now
I’m closer to God now than I’ve ever been. I have a need for Jesus every day. I had the need before, but I was never able to fully surrender. I thought I was strong enough to do life with my own strength and abilities. Jesus makes me loving, Jesus heals my heart, Jesus gives me hope. Any of my former faking it to appear to have it all together abilities were ripped away when my dad died and left me in a raw surrendered form that the Holy Spirit could actually change.
I’m thankful for every bit of the life I’ve lived – even the loss and hurt. I’m thankful for how it echoes God’s presence throughout. I’m thankful for who I am because of what I’ve been through. I’m also thankful that it doesn’t define me. I’m thankful for redemption and that God makes beautiful things out of brokenness. I’m thankful that God released me and healed me from living in the lies and shadows of my past. I’m thankful that he freed me from feeling like I have to hide behind the shame of baggage, the past, or sin. I’m thankful that vulnerability breeds vulnerability and that He allows the sharing of our stories to break down walls and transform lives.
My life verse used to be Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you,” because so much of my life was characterized by chaos and I needed God’s protection. Since my dad’s death my new verse is Romans 4:18, “In hope he believed against hope.” I still need God’s protection, but instead of waiting for the next chaotic thing, I choose to believe in “hope against hope” and His relentless redemption of our lives and stories.
I know these last three posts haven’t been as warm and fuzzy as posts about my imaginary TV friends, SBC, or my beautiful, hilarious, and wonderful friends (and are probably all collectively what held me up from finishing this project), but they all point to/end with the warmest and fuzziest thing of all – hope. The bad and sad are harder to talk about, but so necessary! The Gospel changes EVERYTHING! It heals hurt, it redeems the bad and sad, it changes lives. Let’s not be afraid to share the hard things so that God’s glory can shine through them!
This is part of my 31 People(s) I Love series. I’ll be writing about 31 people/peoples that I adore! Click here if you would like a list of all the posts in this series.