Every year I apologize for not sending cards. I want to be better at that, I do. I love receiving cards, even secretly look forward to them. So, why don’t I reciprocate? After deep pondering, this is my reason…
If I send you a card, I don’t want to just sign it or tag it with a chosen mantra for the season. I want to tell you what you mean to me. Remind you of the times your smile, generosity and free gifts of kindness have blessed me. I’m mushy that way. So, when I think about sitting down and letting each of you know my heart for you, I get overwhelmed. I know you would be more than happy to have a card with our best wishes and signature, but I don’t know how to keep it simple.
So, this is it, our card to you.
Whether you are a blog follower, life long friend or a blood relative, we care deeply and thank God for you daily. Our prayer for you is that you and yours will walk in all the goodness God has intended for you. That you will be blessed with the ability to look upward and march forward in hope, grace and gratitude. That you will know your worth in Christ and bask daily in His love. That the abundance of His love will continue to spill upon those in your circle. And, that you will know people like us, appreciate your unique God given qualities.
Their locker room prattle may not hold you spellbound, but it will not insult. Godly men. The ones that do the next right thing. Fathers, husbands, grampas, brothers, sons, grandsons, friends, even strangers. Powerful men who unknowingly serve as an antidote for a menagerie of hurts. Godly Men Rock
I love the men of my church. The church dudes. Through them I have witnessed healing, straight from God’s heart. Strong men who use their strengths for good. Heroes to those who witness their kindness, like… Godly Men Rock
The brow beaten widow, who lives with hurtful words. A lurking, haunting inheritance.
The invisible, fatherless son shadowed in a hoody, desperate for attention, acceptance…words imagined from a caring dad.
The guy, in the back pew, face cradled in palms who believes he’s less than. Godly Men Rock
The twenty-something beauty with a history of predator beaus.
The mother whose grown son, no longer calls.
The recovering alcoholic who’s burned all bridges leading anywhere else, but here.
And so on. People hurt by men from the past, present and the potential future. Godly Men Rock
Before I go on, here’s my disclaimer: Godly Men Rock
You might find a lone turkey in the woods, but the gang is hanging at the turkey farm. Likewise, it’s more likely to find a healthy flock of good men at church. Just saying. You’re welcome to put on your Elmer Fudd hat and hunt elsewhere. Also, I’m aware of men in churches who do more harm than good. Sadly, they have power as well. But they are not whom I choose to celebrate.
As I was saying… Godly Men Rock
Kind men… good men… hold mighty tools in their righteous hands. When they give time to a lonely child, speak softly to a down- trodden woman, or place a gentle arm around their wife’s shoulders. When they fix the widow’s fence, stand up for a bullied boy, or encourage the shy to shine. When they lift hands to praise and bend knees to pray. Even when they tell a goofy joke, laugh like goons, and repeat.
I’m watching. You’re watching. And if we’ve been hurt by past ill-examples of good character, we experience healing. I know I do. They’re not the men we avoid on the corner, or the internet, or the big mouths spouting demeaning tales. They are different, set apart, special. Not just on Sundays, but 24/7.
A few months back I wrote “The Ladies who Church,” determining, church is a verb. I realize now, men “church” as well. They are action figures with Bibles instead of capes. In closing I ask that you tell a good man in your circle how much you appreciate their character. These men deserve our praise.
First I apologize for stalling on the blog. I miss my readers. I hope you’ve missed the stories as well. When the end of our book waved encouragement, it was like sending a marble down the track, racing through the obstacles to the finish. Trust me, had I stopped to write a blog, it would have been a wordy resentment as to how I had to take time away from finishing the book. In the meantime, my dearest husband suggested (after much whining) that he write a blog for me. With that said: I introduce a very special guest blogger – husband, Sandy Palmer. Obviously, I did not choose the topic. How to Live with a Writer
As long as I can remember, I have loved reading. Still do, whether magazines, (read cover to cover), a daily newspaper, or at least one book. But writing? I suck at it! Any class I’ve taken involving writing, was painful, and book reports, unless given orally, received unremarkable grades. I’ve never been partial to one type of book; i.e. novel, sci-fi, thriller, mystery, etc. Likewise, I’ve never had a favorite author, at least not until twenty-five years ago, when I met Deb, my wife to be. She was finishing her college degree in Print Journalism. From the start, I enjoyed anything she wrote, as she had a way with words, capturing what was important, pertinent, what needed said. How to Live with a Writer
When we first met she was writing for the college newspaper; human interest feature articles. Post college, while working for a non-profit organization, she launched a newsletter, convincing the agency they needed a public relations officer. Soon after, we hung a shingle on our house, “Palmer Business Communications,” where she freelanced for other agencies, wrote a column for a local newspaper and cranked out resumes that pretty much guaranteed you an interview. After several years of writing for other people, she burned out, gave up the writing and spent the next twenty years in the antique business. How to Live with a Writer
Her passion for writing, starting when she was a little girl, didn’t go away, it just took a break. Like a serial killer, destined to strike again, Deb’s desire to write returned with a vengeance. Writing consumed much of her time. Not just the physical part of writing, but thinking about writing, planning about writing, editing writing, proof-reading writing, rewriting writing, publishing planning, marketing planning, and so forth and on and on. How to Live with a Writer
Did I mention that I am not a writer? From early on, I have been involved with Deb’s writing. Having done many things in my work career, I was useful in terminology and knowledge of skills needed, in numerous fields, when it came to resume’ writing. Once, shortly after she had quit smoking, and was dangerous to be around when she was stressed, I finished the last paragraph of a newspaper column, when my physical well-being was at stake. How to Live with a Writer
In the past several years, since Deb came back to her writing, she has written two books and maintains a blog. Both of the books are great, and I look forward to them being published. The first one, a collection of short stories, based on the beatitudes, is very entertaining, laced with much humor and a big yellow dog. By the time it was finished, Deb hated it, and it was put on the back burner. One of the stories has been published in a Christian Anthology, called, “The Birds of Passage.” The second book was recently finished in rough draft form, and Deb is again disliking it, saying that no one will want to read it. She’s nuts! Three chapters from this book have been posted on her blog, with rave reviews. I know that something big will come of Deb’s writing. How to Live with a Writer
Did I mention that I am not a writer? Deb thinks I am. I am not an editor. Deb thinks I am. I am not a proof reader. Deb thinks I am. I know that her writing is exceptional, and will be read and enjoyed by many. If she can be convinced of this,our lives will, possibly, become calm. I doubt it! On to the next writing project!!!! I am not a writer, but I will continue to be whatever Deb needs me to be, and mainly her #1 supporter.
If you, like me, live with a writer; my heartfelt condolences. I will offer some advice how to survive. Here are the 5 tips that I’ve learned the hard way. How to Live with a Writer
Tip One: Be Willing to Listen… NOW!
If said OCD writer approaches with a chapter, a paragraph, a sentence, a word or even an idea related to writing, respond as if they are holding a ticking bomb. Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING is more important. It doesn’t matter if you’ve drank three cups of coffee and are sprinting to the bathroom finish line…. Stop! Listen! Wet clothing can be changed; words may expire or combust.
Tip Two: No Faking
Let’s say the writer is reading a section to you that you really don’t understand, or even like.. Whatever you do, don’t plaster a grin on and say “I like it,” or it’s nice. I’ve come to believe writers have a special type of Extra Sensory Perception when it comes to this. Be sincere, but tread lightly. Honesty is your only way out, but stand back a ways.
Tip Three: React to the Writing…
I know this sounds silly, but it is for the best. Trust me. Practice your facial responses in the mirror. You will most likely need to times your normal reaction by three. If your normal response is “uh huh,” or “yeah, I like it,” times it by ten. Listen for humor and laugh as if you’re a drunk needing to be heard over the entire bar. Besides humor, expand your responses to cover content, story line, word choice, etc.
Tip Four: Repeat Yourself and Repeat Yourself
OCD writers are either hard of hearing or attention deficit when it comes to their work. Here is a typical conversation.
Me: That is really powerful. It’s great.
OCD Writer: You like it?
OCD Writer: Why do you like it?
Me: Because I think it is powerful?
And don’t be surprised or lose patience if later they ask:
Did you really like it?
Do you think anyone else will like it?
Tip Five: Take away the Club
OCD writers beat themselves up. If you don’t stop them, they often believe they cannot continue. Exchange the self-abating Billy club with the real source of power – God. When all else fails, I ask one question:
Have you asked God’s help?
With a divine light bulb above her head, she calms, thanking me for tipping her face toward heaven.
At times, my husband, Sandy, grows weary of my writing process. Wait on the Lord…but in the MeantimeWait on the Lord
ME: “I’m stuck. I don’t know where to go from here. It’s all gobbledygook!”
SANDY: “God always shows you. Don’t worry about it.”
ME: You won’t believe what God showed me. Remember that guy, the drunk? I had to pick his false teeth up off the sidewalk? It’s the perfect lead-in for where we need to go. Right? I’m so happy.” Wait on the Lord
SANDY: “Me too.”
SANDY: “What’s wrong? You look upset?” Wait on the Lord
ME: “I don’t know what to do. There’s nowhere to go from here. It’s all garbled.”
SANDY: God always gives you direction. It will be okay.”
He has a point (“sigh”). And, (long “sigh”), he’s right. Our book is built; word by word, paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter, page by page, one prayer at a time. I know that. Wait on the Lord
At 10,000 words, I start to pray for the ending to our story. The big finish. Where do you place a period in God’s story? After all, He’s still writing. My thoughts wander… What if I drop dead, mid-sentence, without ever finishing our story? Wait on the Lord
Trust. Wait on the Lord. Remember, if this book is meant to be, I won’t fall face-first onto the keyboard before it’s complete. Keep clicking away at the keys, trusting His signs and landmarks. Listen and follow God’s GPS signals. Wait for Him to whisper: “You have reached your destination.”
But then… Wait on the Lord
At 40,000 words, WORRY creeps back in alongside its buddy DOUBT. I feel like I’m writing with a big rubber plunger, attempting to unclog the words, retrieving merely a hairball destined for the trash. Striving reaps one reward; pressing me to my knees, head raised in fervent prayer. The result? Words gushing forth, and hubby dear echoing his beloved, “I told you so.” Wait on the Lord
Scrolling the pages, through 80,000 words, I’m grateful for each character, and hope for reaching the “THE END,” is flashing like a beacon from that clichéd tunnel. God has provided; the means; time, content, energy, patience, hope, drive, perseverance, wisdom. Yet the prayer, requesting a stop sign, remains unanswered. I feel the journey’s climax, but I’ve no clue of the destination.
I picture my petition in heaven’s inbox, buried under a mound of others, awaiting attention. Before long, I slip into that lonely seat behind the control panel. I’ll just get things rolling while I wait on God. Help out with the creative process. It seems the book needs a big finish to compete with other popular books. Like surviving a bloody shark attack! And we should save hordes of souls! Proof we deserve all He has done for us. Wait on the Lord
Oh, but wait…
This is non-fiction. And we, nor anyone, deserve the Sacrifice made for us. That’s the whole point of our story! We are the ordinary, the mundane everyday sinners, trudging through the ant farm tunnels. We are the least of the least. Yet He loves us, through it all.
Back to prayer.
“Lord please show me how best to bring glory to You.”
Meanwhile, back at the pages….
I often write in the car on my laptop while Sandy evaluates the driving skills of all within his range. Clicking away at the keys keeps me occupied and, therefore, both of us happy. On the way to the beach, for a two-day needed get-away, I finish the first draft of the second to the last chapter of our book. It leads the reader straight to the sweet spot begging satisfaction.
“Sandy, we’re at the end. I still don’t know how…”
“(Groan) Wait for it. He’ll give you the end. You know it.”
In prayerful memory, I took time recognizing His faithfulness thus far. Closing the lid on my laptop, I let go. I walked…snuggled… read…prayed… worshiped… listened. The book with no end took a seat in the back of the brain bus.
Wearing headlights atop our hooded sweatshirts, we took a late night walk on the beach, savoring the mist, the waves, and each other. Nearly 25 years ago, we strolled this same beach, as honeymooners.
To our right, we eye a seagull confidently holding its spot on the beach. Nodding agreement, we rush the bird, in honor of our deceased 110-pound lab, Gabe. His mantra? Never let a gull go unchased. Thoughts of Gabe, stir a nest of memories. In the midst of recollecting tears and guffaws, I realize we are performing the end of our book. God is showing me, providing a detailed script, a live scene, like I’m watching a play.
I wrote the end, in the form of an epilogue on the drive home, like a court reporter transcribing a trial. It’s the easiest writing session I’ve ever experienced. I won’t be a spoiler, telling more of the end. I will say, although the book ends on the beach, there are no sharks in our story. Even so, lives are saved and the Hero wins.
God was not late in giving his answer… he was perfect.
See below to read a sample chapter of our book in progress.
Looking back, I’m dumbfounded. How did I miss the seventy times seven flashing neon “good choice” doors? Choosing instead the door down the long hall with the sign reading: You Know Better. I’m grateful for all the times God waited patiently while I collected consequences from behind the “bad choice” doors. Those lessons, greatly improved my choosing skills.
Contrarily, what about the times when God bolts a door shut? No matter how hard you pull or twist the knob, it won’t open. It’s stuck, bound with spiritual duct tape. We have free will to do what we please, pound our head against the wall as often as we like. I’m talking about the times when HE intervened, protecting me from the scariest monster of all… self.Continue reading When God says “No!” Is It a Gift in Disguise?→
Recently, I watched the movie, Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco. Kelly holds a special place in my memory. Although too young in 1956 to see the live footage of the royal marriage to Prince Rainier, I do remember the replays, from our 21 inch, Magnavox black and white television console. For me, mom, and all America, it felt like a member of our family received a crown, giving us a shirt tail foot in the door, if we happen by the palace someday.
The movie didn’t live up to my black and white childhood memories of a handsome, fairy tale prince, driving his Rolls Royce up to St Nicholas Cathedral, to wed his bride. Or the vision of Grace Kelly in her flowing gown, made from 300 yards of lace and 150 yards of silk. Nevertheless, the story, confessing to be fiction based on true events, left me thinking.
Kelly spent years learning to be a princess. She practiced the royal walk, talk and demeanor. Eventually she mastered the expectation to “become” what royalty stands for. To “be” the Princess of Monaco, inside and out. She sacrificed her acting career, studied the French language, mannerisms and history.
She owned the tiara.
Watching her “become” royalty, my emotions stirred with possibility. Pausing the movie, I practiced the princess effortless glide to the kitchen, to make a cup of tea.
“Are you okay? What’s wrong?” my husband asked, walking impatiently behind me.
“I’m practicing walking like a princess… oh, never mind.”
Then, the thought occurred.
I am the daughter of the Most High King. Seriously, I really am the daughter of the King. It’s not a Christian Hallmark card saying we chant behind closed door prayer groups or churchy ice cream socials. I AM the daughter of the Most High King!
Whoa… hang on…
So are you.
We are royal children whose Father is all powerful, almighty, majestic, not just in essence, but in being.
What does that mean?
Shameful first thoughts of royalty reek of privilege and triviality. A palace, or maybe two, a throne, a gaggle of giggling maidens who think I’m cool, and cater to my needs… oh and maybe one of those glittering sticks, you know a wand. Or are those just for fairy godmothers and tooth fairies?
That’s not what it means to be the child of the Most High King. Like Kelly, I must learn. But unlike the princess, I don’t have teachers, trainers and coaches committed to molding me into nobility. She studied. There were instruction books. Oh, wait… there is a book… the book… the Bible. A collection of 66 books, written by 40 authors. The word of God. His mandate of “how to.” Not how to earn the position, Jesus paid for and reserved it for us. I don’t know about you, (actually, I suspect I do), but I do know I do not “own” the daughter of The Most High Kingtitle.
What would that look like?
According to our King, royal children dispense love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV).
And, there’s nothing that would lead us to believe we are better than our brothers and sisters.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves. Philippians 2:3 (NIV).
Or less than…
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14 (NIV)
Do I act like the child of a king? I know sometimes I act like a spoiled child of an earthly king… stomping my foot when I don’t get my way. But do I act like the daughter of the Most High Kingof kings, Lord of lords?
Not so much… sometimes… not enough.
I know I am a muched loved child of God, His daughter, a princess. Yet, to “become” what the crown stands for, I must train and practice. Without much thought, I found three major areas of princesstude I’d like to improve upon. I choose to work on these because I love my Father and my royal siblings.
First – Royal children know who their Father is, resting in His name. It doesn’t get any better than knowing your Dad tops all, and then some. No more lashing out at self with insults disappointment, and unattainable agendas. My Father loves me, yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Second – My brothers and sisters are sons and daughters of the Most High King too. Even Sister So and So who looks down her nose and her Brother Knows It All. No more bad mouthing others for not living up to my expectations. Our Father loves them, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Third – Royalty serves outside of the palace. As a royal princess, I am a servant with a cause much bigger than my own yard. My siblings are my family, my heart. Together we can be about our Father’s work. No more going it alone. I need my family.
So Lord, my wondrous Father, whom I love. I pray that without the aid of an earthly crown and scepter, I can be a pleasing daughter, princess, child of The Most High King.
200 youth gathered from 15 northwest Vineyard churches
55 willing youth leaders
Bushels of prayer, stirred continuously
Pack youth in a 109 year old church located in the most feared section of Yakima
Sprinkle the leaders, evenly amongst the youth
Bake at 100 to 109 degrees, during a record breaking heat wave. Do NOT add air conditioning and use fans in moderation.
Hydrate with 170+ gallons of liquid – water, Gatorade, assorted sodas.
Simmer with constant prayer.
A recipe for a hot mess… right?
“Are you having fun?” I ask, a flushed faced Seattle youth, acclimated to dewy, mist inspired weather.
“Oh yes! It’s awesome!” they answer, racing off to join the others downstairs.
As it turns out, “awesome” is the agreed upon adjective for Anthem Northwest.
It wasn’t the food…
“It was nasty!”
Food received a unanimous thumbs down for content and quantity.
“Snacks saved lives!”
It surely was NOT the 5-star accommodations…
Third floor 8 x 10 rooms, sleeping bags and assorted bedding jigsawed across the floors, youth knitted together, a human Afghan, fans whirring, blowing hot air, swirling the scent of sweat and fruity hair gel products.
So, what then? What kept 200 sweltering teenagers content for three days and nights?
“God was in the house!”
Amazing how God’s presence can turn a potential whine-fest into a powerful encounter. As the heat collected in the stuffy rooms at night, the youth partied downstairs in the basement. Upon entering the dark room, lights flashing, guitars blaring, you see jumping bodies with arms waving… you might think you’ve found a mosh pit. But then, you see, you feel, you know…
Jesus is the life of this party!
“As far as the worship and time spent together, it was the most genuine conference yet.”
Two worship teams rocked, Holy Spirit style, morning and night. Morning worship, led by an impressive 14 year old, may have replaced the flashing lights and volume with an acoustic guitar and Djembe, but it was just as powerful.
“Worship was so loud, people from the neighborhood were texting asking what’s going on at the church.”
Keeping to the theme of the conference title – key speakers inspired the youth to know who God created and called them to be.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are! – 1 John 3:1
Free time, intimate gatherings and workshops followed up with one on one prayer and discussion, preparing many young hearts to receive healing from feelings of rejection, unworthiness, and hopelessness, wiping away the lies of the enemy, granting freedom to answer God’s call.
Many youth enthusiastically named the outreaches as the most powerful part of the conference. The outreach (service) portion took place on the first day during the suns peak performance, beginning around noon. Three groups CHOSE to do yard work for local homes. Others visited a retirement center, interacting with residents, playing games and visiting.
“I visited with a German immigrant for an hour and a half and played piano… Moonlight Sonata reminded her of songs from her past.”
Still other groups pounded the sizzling pavement, picking up trash and seeking anyone in need of a kind word or prayer, trekking through sections of town best left uncharted. One group came upon a coffee shack, named Dream Girls Espresso. As they approached, open to serve in whatever way God led them, they noticed the pictures on the building were short a few articles of clothing.
Collectively, these groups picked up litter and prayed for individuals and businesses, leaving Yakima’s streets blessed and enlightened. Imagine yourself having a bad day, when one of these bright, holy spirit filled youths approaches, asking if there’s something they can do for you, or sharing a word from God, or blessing your business. What day wouldn’t be improved by that?
I’m convinced the success of this conference is a miracle. Picture any group of teens you know… now plop them into the setting described above, stifling hot, cramped quarters, small portions of teen dubbed “nasty” food and void of expected creature comforts like beds. Not a pretty picture?
Then why is it that these youth describe this experience with words like energetic, best ever, and awesome?
“It was great reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.”
“You know those old time tent revivals? It was like that… watching God at work.”
In conclusion, I admit astonishment. First, who does this?
Who says, “Hmmm, let’s host Anthem Northwest, here in Yakima. We’ve never done it before, but if God wants it, it’ll happen.”
Who does that?
Surely not a young couple with two pre-schoolers… currently very (extra very) pregnant
And if they wanted to host their first youth conference, wouldn’t they do a small test drive first, or at least choose the winter camp over Anthem, a conference reputed for huge turnouts?
Truth is, I’ve watched this couple pull off “dumb ideas” before. How? Simply because they’re not stupid, they’re God equipped, with a brilliant faith. Motives pure and sweet, wanting only to bless the Vineyard youth, they trusted God to take care of the impossible ever-mounting details, rolling up sleeves to do the tasks He put before them. They trusted there would be help… and there was. They trusted the youth would be safe… and they were. They knew God would show up… and He did.
What I want to take away from witnessing this experience is this:
When God is included on the invitation list, you can expect a miraculous party.
She flaunted perfection, from the house next door to mine, twirling polished pirouettes, a blonde ponytail floating in slow motion behind her. I tried to keep up, spinning and stumbling, bedecked with scabbed knobby knees, red hair doomed to frizz, by a Tony home permanent gone awry. Roberta spoke softly, poise oozing out her pores, a finishing school graduate. I reeked of awkward, spewed hillbilly slang like Warshington, gonna, and I-dunno, and I carried the mantra, “Debbie, settle down.”
Roberta’s father wore a suit and tie, called her princess, bored my family with tales of her delight fulness. My dad yelled, wore Big Mac striped overalls, told me to pipe down.
“No man is gonna marry a girl with big feet,” he’d say, pointing a greasy truck driver finger at my bare feet.
I coveted Roberta’s family, but I loved mine.
The McFarland’s were not without charm. Summers we’d put on neighborhood shows, an amazing feat, performed completely without the benefit of talent. No musicians, singers, dancers or actors, just raw desire to be the center of attention, and the guts to charge for it… a silver quarter per show.
Saturday’s we ’d canvas the block passing out hand written invitations, for Sunday afternoon’s back yard performance. A typical show, featured my lip sync to Ricky Nelson’s Traveling Man, sister Nancy’s loud version of Peter, Paul and Mary’s Kumbaya, accompanied by imaginary guitar strumming, and our star, little Danny, singing most all the words of Sukiyaki, a Japanese pop song from the 1960s. We served popcorn and lemonade for a nickel, and gave away taffy, because we didn’t like it very much.
By midsummer our crowds always dwindled, leaving sticky face Johnny and his whining sister, Margaret, alone on the grandstand of grass. Unwillingly to fold up the makeshift floral sheet curtain, we spawned an idea for an act, no child of the 1960s could resist.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the dancing naked lady…”
Our risqué, bare bottomed star, a genuine United States Navy tattoo located on Dad’s forearm… and she could dance. Quarters jingled, filling the jar. We had it made. That is, until a power wielding censorship group of one, cancelled the dance, insisting Dad roll his sleeve back down. Mom never did have a sense for business.
One day, Roberta’s family packed their perfect possessions, and moved to a wonderland of princess worthy neighbors. Around this time, Dad’s toothless gums and the tattoo, turned from an attraction to an embarrassment. I grew to hate his stories, and loathe my one time heroine, the dancing naked lady. To my friends, NOT asking, he’d share the demise of his toothless grin.
“I left my teeth at a café’ on highway 99, stuck in a tuna sandwich.”
Thanks for sharing Dad.
Resentment seeded, bitterness took root. Like many families walking the tightrope between alcoholism and recreational use abuse… stuff happened… words carelessly tossed, lies slung, shame spilled, fists bristled.
When I looked at my dad, I saw nothing… except who he was not. The dad I loved for his loud voice, silly jokes and Popeye grin, disappeared. I forgot the man who provided for his family, fudged paperwork miles, enabling longer shifts. The good forgotten, leaving only the bad to define; a man who hurt the ones he loved with neglect and fists.
Over time, the naked lady tattoo shriveled and sagged. Her one time peppy, flirty dance, was at best, a sluggish, sway. Our relationship deteriorated, along with the tattoo. Bitter years of forgiveness proved too much to carry, spilling over, slopping onto my other relationships; husband, children, friends, co-workers, even strangers.
Alas, God moves ever forward, albeit seemingly behind the scenes, but oh so powerful! In His perfect timing, knowing the moment my heart reached ideal compliance, help came knocking in the form of a class called Surrendered Hearts. There I struggled, alongside three other women, clinging to ancient justifications for stacks of resentments. I listened… they listened… to tales of rage… to pent up screams. We cried.
For me, graduation meant forgiving my dad. I said the words, sincerely wanting to mean them. I forgive you Dad. I forgive what you did and what you did not. I mourned the dad I thought I wanted. I thanked Jesus for forgiving my judgments and bitter vows.
Shortly after the class completion, my mother died. That meant spending time with Dad. I wanted to be a good daughter, a comfort for my dad. My willingness to forgive, bought some patience, but not enough. Daily, I spent hours on the phone, listening to him complain. Nightly, I begged God to help me forgive him. Each day a clean slate, ending, soiled with new found rage for his latest rant attempting to justify wrongs done to my mom and siblings. If he’d just keep his mouth shut, maybe I could actually forgive him.
I don’t know how or when God removed the stain from my heart. I didn’t notice it getting lighter or less. One day, on the phone with him, I realized I cared. I felt love for the man he was, right then and there. The dad, the man with skin. While he talked on about what a good guy he was, God flipped the forgiveness switch in my heart. At least, that’s the best explanation I have.
More years passed, at least once a year he nearly died, springing back each time leaving the doctors shaking their heads in wonder. Driving his scooter, oxygen tank at his side, dad pressed on, losing the family home to gambling, nearly blowing his face off smoking Chesterfield’s while hooked to the oxygen tank, and getting slugged by a miscellaneous woman he somehow offended. Same old dad, but something was different.
That would be me.
Forgiveness benefited me. I was free to love and care for Dad, AS IS. Did I condone his actions? No. Did he sometimes make me crazy? You bet. But I loved… I love… I love my dad.
At some point, he quit justifying wrongs and attempted to right what he could. He died, with the faithful naked lady tattoo, loved. He left this world broken, forgiving and forgiven. He left, a dad, I’m proud to say is mine.
Coming in 2016 – In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God