Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Christmastime Ache

My Daddy and Me, Dec. 2000
I absolutely love Christmastime.  However, there is an ache in my heart every Christmas Eve.  Many years ago, my Daddy passed away on Christmas Eve.  To compact the hurt that comes with remembering his passing, my Daddy and I were not on good terms when he died.  Since Christmas is a time of hope, it is my goal to encourage and share hope with those who are hurting this time of year.  It is my heart's desire to challenge those who read this to two things: to forgive those who have hurt you, and to seek help for your hurts.

Growing up, my Daddy worked very hard.  He always had multiple jobs.  I remember that often times we would only see him a little during the week, and mostly on weekends.  Our family was good-sized.  There were my parents and four children.  My youngest brother was born prematurely and had some major medical issues at birth.  As he grew, more medical problems became apparent.  My parents spent a lot of time and money making sure their youngest child had the medical care he needed.  On top of that, my siblings and I were accident-prone and often had our own mishaps that landed us in the emergency room.  That on top of the cost of living was pretty costly.  Therefore, my Daddy worked a lot.

My Daddy knew no strangers.  Everywhere we went, my Daddy already knew people or he was talking to them like friends before we left.  He had a great sense of humor—he loved to make people laugh, and he was proud when my siblings or I would crack a joke.  He made people feel at ease around him.  He was comfortable around the wealthy and the poor.  He wanted every person to feel like they had a friend, even those who struggled to make friends.  I can remember several times we would go make visits to people—we would go to all kinds of houses and meet all kinds of people.  My Daddy would have us recite Scripture we had memorized, sing songs, and sometimes, play the piano.  We were his little performers, and I think that made him proud, too.

My Daddy was very talented.  He had an incredible voice.  He did not have specialty training or schooling to sing.  He was taught by him mother and trained with his brothers when he was growing up.  He could not read music, but he could hear a song, and instantly know the part he needed to sing, which was often tenor but sometimes baritone.  My Daddy introduced me to Rod Stewart on a Beta system he had.  I remember hearing that gravely voice and thinking there was no one else like Rod.  Daddy also loved southern rock.  He had a great record collection, and while most of it was gospel, there were some Three Dog Night and CCR in the mix.  More than any other music genre, my Daddy loved southern gospel.  He was a huge fan of the Gaithers and anyone who sang with them.  In my teen years, every Sunday afternoon after church, a Gaither Homecoming tape would go into the VCR.  My Daddy knew every song; he sang along.  Now, when these tapes were playing, we didn’t all pay attention to every singer and song, but we did have some family favorites.  We all enjoyed Mark Lowry.  But my favorites were the ladies and their BIG hair.  Vestell Goodman, Sue Dodd, and of course, Gloria, would hold my interest.  Every southern gospel group I have ever watched (and there have been hundreds) sing with expressions of such emotion and conviction.  My Daddy had that gift as well.  There were songs he sang that were some people’s favorites.  I remember he was often asked to sing “Beulah Land” at funerals.  Our pastor growing up loved to hear Daddy sing “Broken and Spilled Out”.  But, my favorite to hear him sing was “The Midnight Cry”.  When he would belt out those words, I would feel goosebumps all over and would radiate with pride that this was my Daddy.  He loved to sing about heaven, and I know people loved hearing him sing about it.

Some of my most wonderful memories of me and my Daddy were when we would sing.  Daddy would often be asked to sing at homecomings, festivals, and revivals.  When I reached middle school age, I started going with Daddy to some of the places he would sing that were a little further away than the norm.  I remember driving out to a church in Madison County that had one room, a buck stove for heat, windows and ceiling fans for cooling, no electricity (so they would have their events right after church), and no plumbing.  Oh, the glory of being 11 and learning firsthand what an outhouse is!  As my musical talent was developed—courtesy of piano lessons and chorus classes—Daddy would have me sing a song or two when we would travel.  I was always so worried that I would mess up.  I wanted to badly for my Daddy to be proud of me.  Looking back, I am certain he was; he just wasn’t much for verbalizing it.  However, his face would shine with pride when I finished a song without breaking my voice or crying.  As I got older, I became more confident, and I would get to sing a few more songs in the set.  Music was a great relational component between my Daddy and me…and, I think my siblings could say the same.

My Daddy was also a very skilled craftsman.  Again, with no formal training, my Daddy had taught himself to carve.  In our garage, he had a carving bench where he would often go to work on his creations.  He could take a piece of wood and transform it into something magical.  He loved to carve faces; and what I loved about that was no two carvings were the same.   He would spend hours carving, shaping, and smoothing out the wood until is came alive.  He would often have music playing while he worked, but typically, it was quiet in the garage and all that could be heard was the “scritch-scratch” as the metal tool worked against the wood.  Daddy kept some carvings around our house, but most of them he gave away.  Daddy loved to make people smile; and, if one of his carvings could bring a little happiness, than he was fulfilled. 

My Daddy was a wonderful man.  He was hardworking, hospitable, and extremely talented.  My Daddy was something else, something that we all are…he was fallen.  I fully and completely believe that my Daddy knew Jesus.  I know I can’t truly know the condition of his heart or what his relationship with the Lord was like, but I do have a great hope and solid peace that he loved Jesus and wanted to live for him. 

I tell you so much about my Daddy for you to get a glimpse of who he was in me eyes.  When I was married and left home, I began to learn that my Daddy was very hurt.  He had some struggles that had changed his heart and were weighing him down.  Because of those hurts, his behavior changed completely.  I did what I felt I was being called to do to protect my growing family from the hurt he was suffering from and the hurt he was causing because of his pain.  I blame the enemy for my Daddy's suffering.  I blame my pride for giving up on pursuing a better relationship with my Daddy.  I begged him to get help.  He wouldn't.  My family longed for him to go back to his "old self".  I don't the why or the plan, but God saw fit to take my Daddy from this world on Christmas Eve.

Again, my heart's desire is to challenge you to two things: forgive others who have hurt you, and get help for your hurts.  Forgiveness is freedom.  Even if the person doesn't ask for it or necessarily want it, you can still give it.  You can turn that person over to the Lord in prayer.  When you feel anger or bitterness toward that person rise up, stop and pray...pray for them, pray for yourself.  DO NOT LET ANGER BE LOUDER THAN LOVE!  If you are someone who is struggling with a hurt, habit, or hang-up (terms courtesy of Celebrate Recovery), I encourage you to get help!  Go to a counselor, a pastor, a trusted friend.  Do not take on the burdens of this world alone!  Do not think you are helpless or hopeless.  Giving in to the dark will change your life--you'll lose loved ones, relationships will disappear, the you that you were will go away.  God has a plan for your life.  He can take any situation and work it together for good!  I KNOW!!!  I have a list of sins and hurts I have committed.  And, I found freedom in unloading those on a safe person, in a safe place for the purpose of turning your life around.  If you need suggestions of how and where to get help, please let me know!  I will get you in touch with wonderful people who can walk with you!  Wherever you are in life, whatever struggle you are facing, what ever hurt you are processing, please remember that God loves you, He has a plan for you, and you are not alone!

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