Growing up, I had a dad who would come home after teaching & coaching really long days & light up the minute he walked in the door & saw me & my sister. He dedicated mornings to sitting with both of us to do our morning devotionals & closed every night with reading our favorite books to us while we fell asleep. He scheduled one on one dates once a week with each of us & I can remember spending time getting ready & picking out the perfect outfit to wear. Weekends were dedicated to beach days, camping, skiing or hiking.
My dad attempted to finish seminary during the summer months when I was about 3 years old. We lived in Houston at the time & he would spend the week days in Dallas, then come home every weekend to see us. One weekend, he walked in the door & I cried because I did not recognize him. He quit seminary immediately because his priority was his family.
He made it so clear that we were wanted. We were loved. And he always made us the most important thing in his world from the moment he woke up until we laid our heads on our pillows every night. He taught me that it was not about religion or going to church, but stressed the importance of always leaning on my relationship with my heavenly father. And that no matter where life took me, that would be my safe landing. He absolutely hung the moon, in my eyes.
When we moved back from Japan when I was 10 years old, our family completely fell apart. My dad tried his hardest to be the glue to hold it all together, but ultimately my mom chose to leave when I was 14 years old. Years later, I found out it was because my dad put his foot down and told her he would not move me yet again because I finally had been able to put roots down somewhere. So she left without him & took me with her.
Right when my mom & I were about to leave, I walked back into the house to get something I had forgotten & I saw my dad on his knees crying. It would be one of the few times I have ever seen him cry & it absolutely broke me. Once we were in California, my mom ended up beating the crap out of me, so my dad fought to have me sent back to him right before my freshman year of high school. He attended every drill team meeting, even though he was the only dad. He was determined to give me as much normalcy as he could & fought hard to protect my childhood.
But he was broken. And he completely emotionally shut off.
He met my now step mom & began spending weekends out of town with her. I was left to fend for myself & deal with all of the emotional baggage my family had poured onto me. We went on like this for the next several years, until they ultimately married & we moved.
We had an extremely strained relationship. My mom had come back in my life at that point so I distanced myself as he settled into life with his new family.
Until the day my mom died. I was standing in the middle of his kitchen, crying out for him to be there. I needed him. He looked at me, gave me an awkward side hug, then retreated to his room & we never discussed it.
That was the moment I knew I was completely alone. And I completely broke.
We went through over 10 years of fighting & not speaking. There was so much resentment & hurt on my part & guilt was eating away at him every time he looked at me. I could not understand why my dad was physically here, yet the dad I knew as a child was gone. I was so angry. He could barely have a conversation with me without it turning into a massive blow up.
I finally realized I was only hurting myself & I had to start to accept how things were, rather than hanging onto what was gone. I started therapy on my own at 27 years old & eventually my dad did join me for a few sessions a few years in.
What we learned through the process is that we were both carrying so much heart ache around that there was no other space for grace or love. So we both began the tough journey of healing ourselves.
I went through trauma therapy for all of it. I put in the hard work to heal. And so did my dad.
I finally was able to see the situation from my dad’s perspective & show compassion & grace for what he had endured. One of the hardest conversations I have ever had was the day I asked for forgiveness from him. I knew that for us to have an authentic, real relationship, my walls had to come down. My dad just looked at me & teared up.
That was the first step towards us writing a new story.
I am not sure why our story is a story of redemption when others are not. But I do stand here & ache for those who are still yearning for their story to be different.
The biggest lesson I have learned through all of this is that it truly does take both people willing to lay down their swords, surrender to God & allow Him to heal the hurts so that you are no longer carrying the baggage of the past into your space of attempted grace. We have learned so much throughout this process about ourselves & each other. And we truly have a relationship that is so much more beautiful than what it was when I was growing up. Because it’s real, it’s raw & it’s vulnerable. It’s no longer about what my dad is doing. It is about who he is & who he has chosen to be in my life.
So to the dad who has fought for me, spent so much time learning how to love me well, guided me, and most importantly always sacrificed & never left, no matter what I said or did….I am so thankful that God turned our story around & gave me the exact dad I need.
I know I am the woman I am today because of the countless hours of prayer you prayed over me. For my faith that you worked so hard to instill in me. And because you always stayed.
I admire you & look up to your strength & wisdom more than you will ever know. It takes a strong man to re-write stories. And I am so thankful for all of the hard work & investment you have poured into my life.
I love you.