A Dad’s persevering love

truth
Some of life’s most profound moments can happen in the most ordinary of moments. Like the time my entire life’s truth came undone in the kitchen last year.
I always believed I was unwanted.
A nuisance. The wrong gender, that my dad had wanted a boy and I was a disappointment.
Instead of the son I believed my dad longed for, he got a daughter as his only child. A fair skinned, freckled strawberry blonde daughter; he often shortened my name to Chris, only furthering this belief.
That afternoon at my kitchen table, decades of the wrong thinking came unraveled like a cozy sweater.
Warm and comfortable, but with one loose yarn, the entire thing came unraveled until I was free and understood the truth about myself.

I sat at an angle across from my dad as we sipped from our coffee. We were enjoying the slow-paced afternoon with coffee in my kitchen.

“Dad, do you remember that time that I was staying the weekend with you in Florida, when I was five or six years old, and we were both sick all weekend?”

Seemingly out of nowhere, as I stirred my coffee, a memory of this had flashed before me. “Yes, I remember that. I’m not sure if it was the flu, but you weren’t staying the weekend. It’s when you lived with me in Baton Rouge.”

I quickly shook that off, perturbed. “I never lived with you. I always lived with mom.” My parents divorced when I was very young, and I don’t have any memories of them together as a couple. My earliest memories are always with mom, and living with her.

Dad insisted. “Christi, you lived with me. You don’t remember?” Whatever, Dad. I wanted to know more about this sickly weekend and why we felt so bad. “What happened? Did we have food poisoning?” Dad persisted and asked again if I didn’t remember living with him, which I didn’t. I wish he’d stop saying that!

“Christi, I thought you knew. I thought you remembered. Or I would have told you and talked about it. I never brought it up because I didn’t want to bring up painful memories. I figured if you wanted to talk about it, you’d ask me.”

WHAT?! I sat there, stunned. “What?” I felt as if the world suddenly stopped spinning on its axis. Time had stopped for me. Again, I demanded, “What are you talking about?”

My dad, now over seventy years old, is gentle. He placed his hands on my knees and leaned in. “Christi,” He said my name, as if to stop the surreal experience that had my fragmented memories falling from the sky and bring me back to the present moment. “Christi, do you want me to tell you again what happened?”

 

He explained the early years of my life. My parents had separated when I was young as I’d remembered, but somehow I’d permanently altered other facts in my memory. I had, in fact, lived with my dad for some time.

He had custody of me and after a few years, before I was five, I moved back in with my mom and my new little sister.

I’d completely blocked this out of my memory.

I sobbed with relief as the truth washed over me. “You always wanted me.” He hugged me as I cried. We cried together as he patted my back, “Yes, you have always been my girl, I’ve always wanted you.”

“I never believed that. Now I know. You WANTED me. You FOUGHT for me. I MATTERED to you.” The tears were not from sadness, but more of a filling up that was happening in that very moment in my soul.

I pulled back and looked at my dad. “Do you realize that I’m forty-five years old, and my ENTIRE life I’ve believed the lie that you never wanted me? That you thought I was a nuisance and a mistake and you wished you’d never had me?”

We hugged and talked more. He assured me of the love that he’s always had for me, however imperfect. I felt as if I was walking on air for the next several weeks as I would sing-song to myself, “My daddy loves me. My daddy LOVES me!”

And for maybe the first time, I actually believed it.

 

As this reality has sunk in, the deeper reality of God’s love for me has permeated my soul and mind too. He is a Father, yet a perfect One. His love has persevered when I have believed Him to be mean. He has pursued me and fought for me. His love is costly.

Ordinary Miraculous Moments

No matter our relationship with our earthly dad, or lack of it, our Father God sees us, loves perfectly and powerfully. May we all let this truth sink in so we may live it out.

God is constantly at work in us

Jesus, marriage, Uncategorized

Today’s text from our friend Brian Haynes will speak for itself:

God moments happen all around us all of the time. I love that God is constantly at work in people, in marriages, and in churches. If you need hope for your life, your family, your marriage or your church, take 6 minutes to watch this short documentary. It is a God story.

My favorite Christmas season

Christmas, Jesus
our mantle

our mantle

So far, this has been my favorite Christmas season to date….the least stressful and most relaxed. I have been reflecting on that, and wondering, why?

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1. We don’t have a huge list of people to buy for. We have never practiced the Santa tradition in our family (gasp!) but since our kids are high school and college, we don’t feel the need to go nuts with presents. They’ll have some things to unwrap and hopefully a couple of surprises. One of our extended families (mine) played the draw-a-number-then-pick-a-present-or-steal game instead of the huge, expensive normal gift exchange this year, and it was fantastic. I highly recommend it!! Lots of fun and we all went home with something we liked but wouldn’t have bought for ourselves.

2. I’m not going crazy baking, cooking, or crafting. I love doing those things, but I’m just doing them throughout the year as I feel like it. No pressure to do anything added to our normal stuff this Christmas.

3. Minimal Christmas decorations. One partially decorated tree in the living room, a wreath on each window on the front of the house (which I think looks really cute and simple), some greenery with berries and stockings on the mantle. The end. Still looks a little festive, but nothing crazy around here.

4. No Christmas card with Christmas letter. Are you thinking, what a Scrooge? Well, at our house it’s kinda opposite….If you have all kinds of Christmas craziness going on, then you probably have one cranky mama on your hands. I’m a little cranky today, but not because I feel pulled in million different directions with Christmas craziness.

I don’t think Jesus minds that we’re celebrating Him this year with a little less excess and a little more joy. That equals a Merry Christmas around here.

christmas mantle

christmas mantle

Our simple but festive house

Our simple but festive house

Thanksgiving tradition

crafts, gratitude

Here’s one of our favorite family traditions for Thanksgiving:

Thanksgiving tablecloth!

We started this tradition over ten years ago. I think it originally came from a magazine. I purchased an off-white cheap tablecloth from Wal-Mart, some acrylic paints, and a leaf stamp.

Every year, whoever is at our house for Thanksgiving signs the tablecloth. We always put our name, the year, and something we’re thankful for. It’s so fun to look at who visited us in years past or what we wrote last year! Some of us write paragraphs, some only a word. For the younger ones, we ask them what they’re grateful for, then write for them until they’re old enough. It’s also sweet to see how our kids handwriting has changed through the years, along with their priorities.

Some write a little, some write a lot. We love to see both.

Honestly, the next two pictures are the cutest ever! You’ll see both of our kids quotes for different years, but close together.

Christian (who is now 20) at 11 years old says he’s thankful for his life and friends. When he was 8, he says “food”. I love it!

Danielle is now 14, but when she was 2, she says she’s thankful for God. At 3 years old, it was her brother. She was too young to write, so I did it for her.

Yes, there are a couple of grease stains here and there, because we actually serve food and eat on this tablecloth each year. Just use stain remover on the wicked stains and overall, it’ll be okay. Nobody cares about the stains, and I know that it’s clean.

Here’s how you can start your own tablecloth:

Mix brown, red, and orange paints on a paper plate and stamp the leaf in paint. Stamp on paper first to make sure you have the desired color combo and amount of paint you like. Then stamp on tablecloth in different directions. Have a couple of Sharpie markers available sometime before or after your meal and ask everyone to write something they are thankful for with their name and the year. Be sure to have some paper for underneath where they are writing so the permanent marker doesn’t transfer to your table!

Yes, I still try to initiate a verbal gratitude moment. I often ask everyone to state out loud something that they’re thankful for. It’s guaranteed eye-rolling, and everyone may or may not participate. But everyone likes the tablecloth.

Seven weeks of community

marriage, Uncategorized

Picture this: the seven loudest people that you know. Four adults, three kids, and a mild-mannered dog. For seven weeks, our good friends, a family of four, lived with us while they were in transition. Their current house sold, but the new house wasn’t available for seven weeks. I’m calling this time in our life: Seven weeks of community.

Besides the fact that all seven of us are extremely loud and talkative, you’ve got to know that we aren’t related to this family. We’ve only known each other for six years. They were some of the first people to be friendly with us when we first moved back to our hometown. We felt like fish out of water after we returned from a tough two years on the mission field in West Africa. We were blind-sighted by the fact that we had reverse culture shock. We joined a new church where we didn’t know tons of people, and felt as if we were starting over in a whole new chapter of life. I distinctly remember the first time I visited with this couple. I was at a roller skating church event for the kids, and I was alone while my 3rd grader went around in circles. I remember trying to strike up conversations with a couple of other moms: Failure! I’m sure I was socially awkward, but didn’t realize it. I just felt so lonely, then this couple struck up conversation with me. They looked so genuinely happy and friendly and I love that they threw me a life-preserver when I felt like I was drowning in social awkwardness.

Fast forward to present. Lots of sleepovers for our teenaged girls, dinners, karaoke, Superbowls, New Year’s Eves, and throw in a couple of crisis situations when they were there to help us with hard decisions. You get the idea.

This fall our son headed to a dorm apartment for college, and the next weekend our friends moved in. It just made sense. Otherwise we’d have two empty bedrooms upstairs, and that seems like such a waste when our friends are in home limbo for a while.

Think about the good, bad, and ugly in your home that occurs on a daily basis. Imagine that you had cameras posted, out of view, to observe your family’s activities for seven weeks. A little scary, huh? Although our friends got to witness a few of our less-than-stellar family moments, it was worth it! I learned so much by having them here.

First of all, I believe that we are made to live in close community with others. American culture does not value community, but fierce independence, even when it’s to our detriment. That’s why so many people asked them (privately, of course) and us: How’s it really going? Isn’t is stressful? Our answer was: It’s surprisingly wonderful! We knew it would work out okay, but it surpassed our expectations. We need to lean on other people, and to learn from them. Sometimes this can only happen in close community. That’s because otherwise, we can fake it. We can act as if we have it all together, then go home and fall apart. If you go home and you’ve got another family there, you have witnesses! It turns out that this was a beautiful thing.

The last couple months have been the worst for me health-wise. If I’m honest I also confess that emotionally it’s been pretty rough, too, because of my health problems. However, the past seven weeks have been some of the richest for me on many different levels: friendship-wise, spiritually I have been challenged and grown, and I’ve been forced to show my vulnerability and need for others. If they hadn’t been here to witness it, I would have put on my brave happy face to the world because I’d be too proud to tell anyone I have been suffering.

Another benefit was that we learned from them while seeing their family interact. It’s amazing what you can learn watching a married couple as they do life, and it helped me to see how they love on their kids and parent them. We certainly didn’t have a spiral notebook out and plan to be creepy watchers, but we gleaned so much during the ups and downs of daily life. It was good!

Maybe you won’t have another family live in close quarters with you for a month or two, but you can intentionally connect closely with a couple of families that you trust. Be real, and show where you are weak and struggling. Celebrate daily joys and victories together. You’ll all be better for it. Plus it’s REALLY fun!