Thursday, June 5, 2014

From Orphaned to Adopted

I have no memories of my father. He passed away a few months shy of my 2nd birthday. I have pictures of him; pictures of a young man who died when he was 22.  Pictures that show him smiling at a baby girl and wrapping his arms around his young wife.  I have pictures of him holding up various fish, for he loved to fish.  He went fishing one fall day and didn’t come back.  He slipped and was knocked unconscious, and carried away by the river current.

I did not have a horrible childhood, but I grew up fast.  I was a child who knew about death from a young age. My mother’s first funeral was my father’s funeral, so she brought me to funerals; I’ve been to more funerals than weddings. The problem with excepting that everyone dies at a young age, is when you start to believe the effort of letting people in, for whatever time it lasts, hurts too much.

I was spoiled, cuddled, loved, played with, witnessed to, read to, carted to dance class, friends, family and sports.   I was taught worry was a sin, and to ‘let go and let God’.  I was taught that if I worked hard, helped others and believed, that God would never let me fall.  How could a child with a life so full, feel so empty?

We all have our struggles in adolescence. Mine struggle was family. My step-dad was verbally and mentally abusive to my mother and myself.  I call him my step-dad, but my mom never married him. I called him by his first name.  He was a long time-live in boyfriend of my mother from the time I was 5 to 19.   He is the father of my brother and sister, they are 7 and 14 years younger than me.  Thankfully, they don’t have the same memories, being much younger and his real kids. I lived in a house with two families. My mom and I or my mom and her family with him.

My mom is a strong woman, who always taught me to have faith, but didn’t bring me to church every Sunday.  I didn’t know all the Bible stories, or how the Bible flows around the church calendar.  I went to church a couple times a month, with what ever friend I stayed with that weekend.  My middle school and high school years were spent being in school activities, sports, work and at friends houses. It hurt too much to be ‘home’.

I had to grow up, starting from the time I was five and my step-dad told me the truth about Santa and taught me fear. I learned to try to be perfect, so he would have nothing to yell, lecture or punish  me for. I learned that I needed to stay above reproach and be the best or above average at everything. I had to dress and present myself a certain way, have good grades and handwriting. Everything I did was cheapened by something he said. My mom made fun of me for being ‘perfect’.  She couldn’t believe she’d raised such a snobby, prim person.

At some point, in middle school, I realized I had a Heavenly father. I found a passage in the Bible that spoke to me, and comforted me. “God is a father to the fatherless. He is a defender of the widows. God makes it known that he protects the weak and disenfranchised and that they have place in his kingdom.”
Psalm 68:5, NIV.   This verse let me know I was going to be okay. I already knew life wasn’t perfect, but I had a new daddy. It made me feel value and gave me confidence in some areas of life.

I became very busy my high school years.  I don’t think I went to church or read the Bible, more than a handful of times. I had friends, good grades, played sports, was in band, drum and bugle corps and worked.  I also had a baby girl my senior year of high school, with a boy who was not daddy material, and was not involved with her.  I did have a platonic best friend in high school who I eventually married.  He walked into the role of daddy in my daughter’s life.  Things were ok as far as young marriages go, but God was a spectator in our lives. We started to grow up, and apart and did not work to save our marriage. So, now my daughter was 5 and had two daddies that walked away, and a momma who hurt in her soul about letting a child born fatherless. 

I remarried when she was 7 and I was 25, I had two more kids by the time I was 28. I married a strong, hard working man who loves me and all of my children.  She cannot accept him as her dad, and it hurts him.  It hurts me, because I see a love offered to her that she turns her nose at.  She’s reliving the family life I did, but her step-dad provides for her and fights to make her a strong young woman. She fights him every step of the way, alienating, manipulating and dividing the family. 

I’ve been married 10 years and went back to church three years ago.  I never found much use for church. I knew people who were only Christian every Sunday, and that seemed messed up to me. But, I  knew my oldest has a spot in her heart she needs filled.  So, I dragged my kids to a few VBS (vacation Bible school) that summer, and found a church family.  It was my first church family.  I’ve never had that before.  I went for my kids, but stayed for myself.  I became involved in small groups, volunteering and children’s ministries. 

My oldest daughter is a natural servant, but doesn’t see God in anything for herself.  She believes he exists, but thinks herself unworthy or unloved. Like God is not for her, so if you’re reading this please pray for her. She does not connect with anyone at youth group, so has stopped going. She works by my side volunteering at church and in the community for its children. She loves babies and children.  But, she has not accepted her heavenly father.

As for my other two children, my son says some beautiful prayers that let me know he’s feels God into his life.  My youngest daughter is beautiful and loving. We sang Christmas carols to a group of elderly at a long term care facility last year, she holds the hands of elderly strangers like an angel and smiles and talks to them with such love…it brings tears to my eyes. 

My current small group study is “Limitless Life” by Derwin L Gray. (photo from this post is from a chapter in this study)

I study online through Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Studies. It has fueled this post as part of a blog hop.  When I sat down today, I didn’t know what I would write.  My first small group was almost two years ago and called “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman. I have been growing non-stop since then.  I want to follow Jesus, be a servant and show the world love that’s so beautiful it’s unstoppable. I am amazed, humbled and loved.  I am adopted, anew.  I’m still sad to have never had that father-daughter dance, but I except the brokenness of this world as a temporary situation, not my future.