I circled the block twice before spotting the small sign adjacent to the historic building that read, The Panhandle House, then circled once more to find a parking spot. I entered into a closet size lobby with music memorabilia and awards covering the walls. There was no one in sight and the rooms beyond seemed off limits. I took a seat on a low to the ground, worn-out love seat, more suited for one of the near-by college dorms, than a well-known place of business.

A few minutes later, a young man entered the room and asked, “Are you hear to see Marc?”

I replied, “Yes, I am.”

“He’s next door in the studio setting things up, I’ll walk you over.” I followed him, desperately needing to see a more credible place to leave such a treasure. On the way, I turned the two-inch micro-cassette over and over in the palm of my sweaty hand, such a priceless object, yet so small.

The actual recording studio was a very large empty room except for the massive soundboard and an enclosed glass recording room at one end. Large speakers covered the other three walls floor to ceiling. Marc introduced himself as he wheeled a tall stool towards me. “Would you like to sit?” He placed the stool in the center of the room, and I climbed up. He held out his hand and said, “OK, let’s see what we can do.”

Finding the courage to hear what was on that tape is one of the bravest things I have ever done. Releasing it to stranger ran a close second. He took the tape titled Dad’s prayer, walked over to his equipment, and began to adjust levers and dials while I waited with increasing anticipation.

My thoughts drifted back to a cool spring night seven years earlier, I had just drifted off to sleep when the phone rang. It was my little sister, Kerri, and I quickly realized something was terribly wrong. I sat up in bed to trying to force myself awake as I struggled to make out her words between wrenching sobs. “Dad was trying to get sober so he could make things right with you and Ron.” My mind raced and my heart crumbled as I realized what she was saying. My father’s life long struggle with alcoholism had come to a tragic, abrupt end that night. With the shock of the news and because my heart had a well-enforced barricade when it came to him, her words about his desire for reconciliation were simply a seed that started me on a slow, yet steady journey of looking for answers and healing.

Since my father’s death, my sisters and I continue to grow closer with each passing year. Last year I took a trip to Missouri for a visit. We spent hours looking at pictures, laughing and crying together. They have special memories and funny stories to share but my story is different. He left our home when my brother was seven and I was two, and we did not have the same experience. My sisters try their best to understand where he failed us, and more importantly, the hurt and confusion I experienced over the years as he walked in and out of my life. Although I had experienced a lot of healing and learned to forgive my father, I still felt the sting of his abandonment and rejection. I still believed he never really loved me the way he loved the four of them. But something was different this time as they offered reassuring words telling me how he carried a picture of me around, and how he always said he was so proud of me. I loosened the deadbolt on the door of my heart and peered out as Kerri reminded me what she said the night he passed away. “He was trying to get sober so he could make things right with you.” Rather than slam it shut this time, I gently closed the door and leaned against it, taking it in. Could it be true? The year before his death was the longest we ever went without speaking. My heart broke as I recalled the way our relationship seemed to fade those last few years.

Before I left that weekend, my sister, Erin, told me there was a tape of him praying some time before he died. Even though the quality was very poor, she had held onto it hoping to have it restored one day. I was curious to hear what was on it, or even just hear his voice, but when she played it, it was mostly static with intermittent glimpses of him speaking. I offered to take the tape back to Texas and see if I could find someone to work on it and she agreed. Now I found myself sitting alone in the center of that massive room. I felt like I was stranded on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean waiting for rescue. The eagerness to hear him speak clashed like violent waves against the potential of disappointment I would experience if he didn’t mention me. The conflict rendered me silent as I waited.

Marc fast-forwarded the tape for what seemed like ten minutes without finding material. He looked at me as if to ask, “Are you sure there’s anything on here?” I shrugged. He turned the tape over and repeated the process. The minutes crept by until finally we heard my father voiced buried in white noise. Marc moved through the recording rapidly at first making some initial adjustments and then settled on a phrase to begin more precise fine-tuning. He turned the volume up and my father’s voice swept over me like gentle, yet powerful waves. Through the static you could barely make out what he said, “I’m praying for restoration with my children; I realize how much damage I have done.” Marc continued to rewind and replay those two sentences, gradually increasing the clarity and volume with each adjustment. As my father’s words emerged from the static, my heart rose up with courage against the lies and doubt, fighting for the freedom to hear his prayer. In that moment, the heart of a father and his wounded daughter, reunited in the most unusual way.

Each time he replayed that small section of tape, I heard something new.

“I’m praying for restoration with my children.” I was on his mind.

“I’m praying for restoration with my children.” He did love me.

“I realize how much damage I have done.” He did care.

“I’m praying for restoration with my children; I realize how much damage I have done.” He did know he hurt me and it mattered to him. I mattered to him.

God knew I would need to hear that phrase over and over that way for the message to begin to sink in to my heart.
After working on that section for a few minutes, Marc said he felt like he could continue to improve the tape if I would be willing to leave it with him. I did. I paid him a pretty penny for a priceless gift and wept the entire forty-five minute drive home from Denton. What she said was true. He loved me. I guess you could call it a tragic love story between father and daughter. I‘ve come to realize that while I longed for him all those years, he was filled with guilt and regret, about leaving us and shame due to his struggle with alcoholism. Unfortunately, he allowed that to keep him from fully engaging in a relationship with me and we both missed out.

What a precious gift my father had left us, and there was possibly more to come. A few weeks later six CD’s came in the mail; one for me and one for each of my siblings. I decided to wait until I could be with my sisters before listening to the full recording. I returned to Missouri for July 4th weekend a few months later. One evening, my mom and my step mom, (I know, too cool, right?), my sisters and other family, gathered in Kerri’s living room to listen to the restored CD together. I lay on the floor with my head as close to the speaker as I could get it, listening to my father humble himself and pour out his heart to God asking him, “to restore him to the man he used to be.” Mine were not the only tears flowing as his healing words filled the room.

Since that day, I have often considered how many years I spent believing the lie that my father did not love me. He made plenty of mistakes that wounded my heart. He failed to nurture our relationship the way he should have, but now I know he loved me. Not knowing a father’s love has crippled me throughout my life in other relationships as I looked to fulfill the void he left. The abandonment and rejection I experienced caused me to struggle with feelings of unworthiness. It greatly impacted my identity and more importantly my ability to see God as a loving, attentive Father.

I believe God used this experience to reassure me of my dad’s love for me but also to open my eyes to His perfect love for me and His desire for me to be whole. I refuse to make the same mistake of listening to the lies that I’m not good enough, or that He doesn’t care about me. I won’t make the tragic mistake of spending the rest of my life feeling unloved, unwanted, and unworthy. The Father demonstrated His love for me through the sacrifice of Jesus, so that I could be in perfect union with Him. His extravagant love compels me to love Him, love myself, and love others well. It’s still a process and as I’m finding my way, I will continue to pray for myself, my daughters, and every fatherless daughter what Paul prayed for the church,

14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,[a] 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3: 14-19 New Kings James

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“Your dad was cooler than Elvis.” I listened with delight as my Aunt recalled memories of her older brother. “He wore the coolest clothes and slicked his hair back. I guess you would call him a greaser. Sometimes he would even let us pile in his car and take us to drag Main Street. “She said.

We laughed. Aunt Carol overheard the conversation and chimed in. “All my friends would flock to the house if they knew he was coming home just to be around him. He was so cool.”

‘Cooler than Elvis.’ I love that. The way they adored him parallels the way I adore my older brother so I totally get it. Recently this conversation came back to me as I thought about the relentless way I pursued my father over the years, even though it often brought pain and disappointment.

As a child, I was resilient. When I got to see my dad, I would dismiss the hurt and embrace him fully.  As an adult, I seemed to lose the ability to do that and the pain began to accumulate, yet I never gave up. They yearning was strong and for some reason I have felt flawed or weak for wanting more of my dad than he was willing or able to give. After listening to my sisters, aunts, and even my mother tell stories, I realize why I persisted. He was likable, funny, and charming. Everyone who knew him loved him. I love him deeply.

And sometimes love hurts.

Last summer while visiting my sisters in Missouri, my brother-in-law asked a question on the topic of loss and suffering, to which I responded using Job as an example. I tried to limit my response and not get to wordy and when I finished sharing, my sister Kerri, was looking at me funny. “Can you please just stay here?” she said. Brian had a big smile on his face as if he knew what she was thinking. “Can you just keep talking?” she added.  I hesitated, “what is it?” To my surprise, she began to tell me how much I reminded her of our dad.  She said I talked about the bible and gave advice just like he did and she just wanted me to keep talking. She said that of all his girls, I am the most like him even though he raised the four of them. I do recall fond memories of shared interest like music and nature.

I pursued him because he was cool, funny and charming.

I pursued him because we were alike and shared many interest.

I pursued him because that’s what little girls do.

I was simply responding to a deep, God-given desire to know and be known by my father. All my life, I kept waiting for him to pursue me with the same level of tenacity, to want me the way I wanted him. I needed him to literally and figuratively draw me into his lap and tell me what I meant to him. I truly longed for that until the day he died. Maybe I still do.

In the movie ‘Hope floats.’ Bernice’s father returns to the small town she and her mother are living in to announce that he met a new woman and wants a divorce. When he tries to leave, Bernice insists that she is going with him. As he resists her effort to get in the car, he tells her, “Now Bernice you need your mother and she needs you right now.” Bernice adamantly responds, “No daddy, I need you!” And if you have seen the movie, you know the gut wrenching display of emotion that follows as he drives away.

In that moment, her deepest desire became her deepest source of pain.

“Desire is the source of most of our most noble aspirations and our deepest sorrows. Because of its vulnerable nature, desire begins to feel like our worst enemy.” –John Eldredge (The Journey of Desire)

If you have followed my blog, you know I am working my way through devotion by Beth Moore about the life and character of Jesus. Today’s devotion discusses the relationship between Jesus’ and Father God beautifully.  In Luke 2, Mary and Joseph are searching for Jesus’ and act surprised when they find him in the temple. He responds, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Beth writes, “The words “had to “come from the Greek word dei .  Likely, this word has never been used more literally. After all, the Father and the Son had the same nature. Christ was drawn to God, not as a devout believer, but as an overpowering magnet—as two pieces of the same whole.”

Although human love will never measure up to the perfect love between Father and Son illustrated here, God did intend for us to rely on the biblical model for family in our relationships and in the way we respond to one another.

In our weakness, we fall short.

My father fell drastically short of meeting my needs as many father’s do.  I loved him and that love was supposed to be consistently reciprocated and guarded.  It wasn’t.

The forgiveness process is a journey. As I offer my father more and more grace, my love for him only grows. Good memories continue to be set free as I release pain and anger. I am now able to enjoy him through pictures and stories like never before. (See attached picture of my dad greasing his hair back for a night of dancing. The cute girl reading the letter would be my mother- Circa 1967ish.) I love my dad and I choose to let him off the hook and look to my heavenly Father to meet my needs.  However, on the subject of desire, there is a need for further healing. Longing for my father extended into my adulthood as a general longing for love and acceptance.  In the words of U2, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

It takes courage to keep hope alive. It’s risky but Eldredge reminds us, “The greatest human tragedy is to give up the search…we simply must not, we cannot, abandon this desire.”

Without desire, life is meaningless. God is a God of hope and desire is a thing of beauty, a driving force towards love and sacrifice, and an essential part of our nature. I am asking my Father to restore my childlike heart to be fully alive and free to love without fear of abandonment or rejection. I believe He is.

I spent most of my life pursuing my dad. Unfortunately those efforts produced more harm than good. Because the need to be fathered is not limited to childhood, my desire for protection, affirmation, and guidance continued long after it was apparent he would not fulfill his role in my life. The more I attempted to fill the void, the more damage accrued. As I pursue healing and freedom from the aftermath, I am shifting my search to my heavenly Father and seeking to understand His heart towards me. I choose to open my heart to be fathered according to His perfect will. Without a role model, navigating the daddy-daughter thing can be quite challenging. But, the truth is, we do have a role model.

Jesus said, “He who has seen Me, has seen the Father.” John 14:9b

Jesus and God don’t have different personalities or dispositions. Whatever is true of one is true of the other. So on this new journey, I am looking to the character of Christ with a sense of excitement as I begin to see Father in a new light.

Humility-A lowly mind, gentleness, a deep sense of one’s littleness, humble opinion of one’s self

Humble-To become low, to sit in a low place, to bring down one’s pride

Is there any question that Jesus is humble? Could he have entered the scene with any more humility than He did? He could have come as an established king, trading His heavenly throne for an earthly one. He could have been born into a palace with all the comforts and pleasures riches could buy.

But instead, he came to a simple Galilean girl, was born in a manger, and lived among simple, lowly men and women. Throughout His life and ministry he exhibited humility and a servant’s heart. “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:8

I am convinced that pride is a primary destructive force in marriage and family breakdown, with consequences that are far-reaching, long-lasting, and difficult to overcome.

During a women’s retreat last weekend I took some time to think about pride and humility in my dad. Before long I found myself a heaping mess on the floor sucking up carpet fibers.

But this time the tears weren’t just for me.

“Unlock the door, I’m coming with you!” Our family had gathered in Oklahoma for my aunt’s funeral. In our family, funerals also serve as reunions. We were all gathered back at my Grandma’s house for lunch and someone sent him to the store for something we needed. We made small talk and listened to the radio on the way, enjoying each other’s company. It was at least ten years since he and I were completely alone, and I cherished every second.

As he pulled in to the parking lot and went to get out of the truck, I stopped him. “Can we talk?

I can still see him holding on to the steering wheel and offering me soft glances as I spoke. I’m sure he felt cornered; a little blind-sided even as I tried to fit thirty-three years of questions into a few stolen moments. “Dad, I just want to understand why…” I’m sure I threw out several disappointments and unmet expectations as he listened.

He turned to look at me without releasing his hold on the steering wheel. His eyes soft. His shoulders forward. That image burned in my mind with his response.

“I have felt so guilty all these years for leaving you, for all the ways I’ve hurt you. I guess I let that get in the way.”

Over the years, as I have reflected on the words he spoke that day, I have wondered why he let the guilt drive him a way instead of to me. It’s sad, tragic even, that we both missed out on a closer relationship when we clearly enjoyed each other so much and had so much in common. My father passed away just a few years later. I didn’t know it then, but that was the last time we were alone.

I know he felt guilty, but I wonder if guilt and pride aren’t close cousins. Was it pride that kept my father from humbling himself all those years and coming to me?

Pride was evident in his life in other ways, but no more than the average man. But eventually, mostly because of alcoholism, my father lost everything. For the last few w years of his life he lived in the basement of my sister’s house. He called it his dungeon.

Humble- To become low, to sit in a low place, to bring down one’s pride

The parallel between this definition and his reality is what had me face down in tears for my father at the retreat. I felt compassion for him in place of the anger and hurt that took up residence in my heart for so many years. His third marriage had failed. He sold his company. He lost his house, and I’m sure his identity as a man suffered. I don’t know if God worked the losses in his life to humble him, or if they were just unfortunate consequences of his addiction and his choices. What I do know, is that in the end, he was humbled.

Last spring, my sister Erin, gave me a tape of my father praying and asked me to have it restored. You could barely make out what he was saying and we all wanted to know. This summer, three of my sisters and other family gathered to listen to my father cry out to God and ask Him to restore his relationships with his children and make him the man He wanted him to be. I was deeply moved to hear that I was on his heart, but my sisters expressed sadness at what seemed to be such a low moment for him. I offered them another perspective. Regardless of what happened in his life, or how addiction affected the ones he loved, and even in his sin, what mattered most is that he humbled himself and cried out to God.

Humility-A lowly mind, gentleness, a deep sense of one’s littleness, a humble opinion of one’s self

To me, the only thing more beautiful than my dad realizing his absolute dependence on God and falling at His feet is the pure humility I see in my heavenly Father through the portrait of the life of Christ.

My dad found humility.

My Father is humility.

Read the rest of this entry »

Getting to know Father God through His chosen example, Jesus

Days 1-3

I guess the best place to start this journey is at the beginning.

Luke 1: 26-28 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

“The Lord is with you.”

Present

When Mary asked how this could be Gabriel responded, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the almighty will overshadow you.” 

“The Greek word for “come upon” is eperchomai, meaning “to…arrive, invade…resting upon and operating in a person.”  -Beth Moore

From that moment of conception, God chose to be present with mankind in a way he never had before.

Jesus was present on the earth in the belly of an innocent, young girl. When Jesus ascended into heaven and told the disciples the Holy Spirit would come, that meant we would continue to have His presence always. 

 I remind myself today that every character and truth about Jesus is also true of my Father God. They are One. I can, by faith say that My Father is present.

But my dad was absent

Very absent, willfully and painfully absent. I can’t recall one birthday or Christmas shared with him. The visitations I did have were so irregular and unpredictable, that I learned at a young age I could not rely on him to come through. Countless times I packed my bag and waited for him to arrive and countless times he failed to show up.

Did this cause me to question if God was with me, if he would show up, if I could rely on Him?

I think so.

“If we were not deemed worthy of love as children, it is incredibly difficult to believe we are worth loving as adults.”-Captivating

Praise God He has done amazing things, very personal things, to show me He is with me. Out of His love and desire to undo this wrong thinking, He shows up. Over and over He makes His presence known. But, if I am honest, the blueprint of fatherhood my dad left was deeply entrenched and, regrettably, in my human weakness, it seems that sometimes I still need convincing. So today, I proverbially and literally pack my little green suitcase (as I write this, I am getting ready to leave for a women’s retreat) and I joyfully, expectantly wait for Him to reveal His presence to me today and every day.

I declare My Father is present.

 

“I really don’t think this is just an article.”

 My friend’s words caught me off guard. Almost a year before, God had given me a revelation on a subject that He and I talk about often, my father. On a cool spring day, I sat in the park and compiled my thoughts, scriptures and journal entries all surrounding this new perspective He had introduced to me. When I finished writing ‘the article’, I reflected on what I would do with it. I felt so strongly that this message was coming from the Lord and I didn’t want to keep it to myself. I wanted others to hear these healing words too.

 John 14:9b.”He, who has seen Me, has seen the Father.”

 Most of my life, my view of a father has not been a favorable one. Absent, unpredictable, selfish, unreliable, unfaithful, and more. For years this caused me to struggle to fully grasp the concept of God as a loving, faithful father. I drew conclusions based on my life experiences. In my head, I knew God was not like my father. I could even recite all the scriptures about God’s love and faithfulness and His promise to never leave me. But in my heart, my wounded heart, the same heart that yearned to feel special and loved, I was not grasping it.

 I personally know the impact of growing up without the consistent, guiding love of a father and unintentionally, I developed a limited view of God. In His loving father way, He wants me to know the truth. Whether our earthly father’s fulfill their role or not, we do have an example. We have someone to look at to see the character of God. Over and over I have heard people say they find it easier to relate to Jesus than to Father God because of the role their own dad played in their lives. Jesus Himself clarifies the error in this perspective in John 10:30 when he says, “I and my Father are one.” This is different from our sons and daughters being like us, yet having their own personalities. They are one. Remember Jesus said, ‘If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”

 I made the decision six months ago, after meeting with my friend, that I would wite a book. I have worked on the project off and on since then. Some weeks just off. I don’t think I realized at first how difficult it would be. But I said yes. Yes, I will share my story and what I have learned so far, realizing I am on a journey of discovery. This process seems to have several phases. Read, write, pray, cry, think, look at pictures, talk to family, take a break, repeat. And not necessarily in that order. This may take some time.

 Telling the stories and gathering facts seems to be the easier part. The hard part is realizing I’m just beginning to apply this revelation in my life. Yesterday, I found this wonderful book called, ‘Jesus, 90 Days with the One and Only’, by Beth Moore. My plan is to read through it and journal here on the blog what I learn about the character of Jesus. I pray these truths will soak in to the still wounded crevices of my heart, and that I will come to understand more and more that what is true about Jesus, is also true about Father God. The older I get, the more I realize that my need to be fathered was not limited to childhood. The role of a father is to provide for and protect his children, to teach and guide them, and to model a healthy love for God, self and others.. All of which, my dad failed to do. 

My prayer is that through this process I will grow closer to Him and that all the false projections and fears and every other hindrance to a healthy Father/daughter relationship will be addressed along the way. I pray that others will be encouraged by my journey as well.

 

 

Last November, life threw a major curve ball.  At the age of 40, I truly believed I had already experienced my share of trials and it could only get better.  Sudden changes in my seizure medication caused severe anxiety and peace of mind seemed out of reach. I wondered if I would ever regain my health and confidence again. Weak and weary I cried out to God, desperate for help.

2 Chronicles tells the story of King Jehoshaphat. After being warned by a prophet that a strong army was approaching, he quickly discovered a powerful secret weapon. Read the rest of this entry »

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV)

 

God has always used nature to speak to me. Whether it was through the majesty of a beautiful sunrise or the way a bird soars with grace over still calm waters. I am often moved by the beauty He gives us to enjoy and the way He speaks to us through His creation when we allow Him to. Read the rest of this entry »