God Gave Me Back My Daddy: A Story of Healing and Hope

Editor’s note: As Father’s Day approaches we share this story of restoration to offer hope. Jesus changes things, even when it seems impossible to the human mind.

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And I will restore or replace for you the years that the locust has eaten. Joel 2:25a 

In my childhood, all I remember about my Daddy is him leaving for work. He was a bread delivery man. He left between 3 and 4 a.m. and got home around 8 p.m. On his off day he worked in his Father’s produce company. On Sunday he usually got a call from someone to bring bread because they had run out. He worked very hard to provide for our family; I am so grateful for that. It taught me to work hard. But, I missed out on getting to know my Father.

Daddy was an athlete in high school, so I wanted to be an athlete to get his approval. I wasn’t athletic, at least not until high school. I started playing softball in the fifth grade, Daddy never saw me play until I was married and had my own children. We never got to share that experience.

Daddy wasn’t an affectionate person while I was growing up. He didn’t say “I love you,” even though he did. He didn’t hug us. I began, sometime in childhood to believe he didn’t love me. This thought grew and festered until it became an unshakable belief. I did not believe my Daddy loved me until one day in college.

My mother and father were separated at the time. We were having issues with our septic tank, it was leaking in the yard. I called Daddy and told him to come look at it. I remember being very angry at him, even though he had done nothing wrong. This anger sprang from a bitter root I had against him. I began telling him all he needed to do; my words were harsh and critical. I made it clear, I didn’t much like him! Then it happened, tears began to roll down his face. I was shocked. I had never seen him cry, ever! I really believed he wasn’t capable of showing emotion. Then he said something that forever changed our lives. “Angelia, I love you. I need you to love me.” He loved me!? Until that moment I could not believe that. God broke through my hard heart and softened it toward him. I knew things would never be the same.

img_7186Sometime later Daddy came back home for a while. I began nursing school. I was still learning to trust him, and was on very uncertain ground. Just before I graduated, one morning I was leaving for the hospital. Taped to the doorknob on the front door, was a note. It was from Daddy, it said, I am so proud of how hard you have worked in school. You set your mind on a goal, and you have accomplished it. This will bring success in your life. I love you, Daddy. I still have that little note, tucked away in a drawer in my jewelry box, it is a treasure to me!

Not long after, I married and moved away. Our relationship never had time to grow. I remember coming home to visit, as I would leave, Daddy would be standing at the top of the hill crying. I cried too, would I ever know him?

Then tragedy struck. Daddy had to have open heart surgery. After surgery, he suffered a stroke. He was weak on one side and could not talk; his short-term memory was gone. He and my mother had divorced by this time. He was alone. He had no one to care for him. He came to live with us. His speech began to come back, and he began to get better. But he was different. We spent every day together, we would take walks to build his strength, and we would talk and talk. At night, as I helped him get ready for bed, he would hug me, and say I love you. He would thank me for taking care of him. I would go to bed and tell my husband this is so strange, but so good! Our relationship began to bud and blossom. A few months later he went home.

Daddy had met a sweet lady, and one day I got a call from him saying, “Guess what I’m doing?” I had no idea.

“I’m singing in a choir!”

“What, you can sing?!”

They had joined a choir of senior citizens; he loved it. Then someone invited them to visit their church. They began attending, regularly, every time the doors opened. God began a work in him, something I had been praying for years. Occasionally he would mention to me he wasn’t sure of his salvation; when I questioned him, he would change the subject.

Five years ago tragedy struck again, his precious wife, Julia, died. The light of Daddy’s life was gone. He was lost, depressed and lonely. He was unable to care for himself at this time. He wanted to stay in his home, so we hired a nurse for a year. Then the money ran out. So I began going to his house to clean, fix his meds, and spend time with him. We began a routine of me coming and having dinner together. He has been hospitalized several times and God has protected him in miraculous ways. I began to really know my Daddy. He is funny, loves to tell jokes, (I’ve heard them all!) loves to talk, loves history, and his family. He has so many stories to tell about his family, and I love hearing them.

Two years ago, after mentioning again his doubts about his salvation, we sat down and went through the Bible. That night with angels circling around us, Daddy settled this once and for all! What a blessing to be there with him and share that moment. He has never mentioned it again.

We have come to a place of complete healing and restoration in our relationship. Through a series of events, ordained by God, I was given back my lost years with my father. Some might have seen this as an inconvenience, but I saw it as a divine appointment.

The Daddy I never knew, the Daddy I thought didn’t love me, loves me deeply.

Yes, God restored what the locust had eaten. He gave me a gift, wrapped in tragedy, to bring me something I could never have imagined. I don’t regret one single minute, and never will!

And I and my Daddy, will spend eternity in heaven!

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The Gift of Disappointment

“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:5

I sped into the gravel parking lot. Tires skidding on the grey rocks. Flinging the door open, I bounded out of my minivan. As I looked across the lot, I stopped. A dull ache began in my chest as my eyes landed on an obviously despondent man standing by his truck. This just-shy-of-six-foot, strapping, strong, handsome husband of mine stood with his head hanging, shaking in disbelief. As I got closer I glimpsed the tears dropping, as he looked up I saw the anguish and pain. He was broken. Crushed. Confused. Angry.

After many moments of holding each other. He finally found the words.

“Things didn’t go like I hoped. I thought this would be the answer. I don’t know what to do next.” Every word tinged with despair and discouragement. Disappointment pic

That day still twinges in my soul. But looking at a distance, I realize that moment, that agonizing, heart wrenching moment, marks a pivotal point in our marriage. It was our “miry pit.” The place where you’re sunk so deep in the dredges of disappointment your mind is clouded and you see no way out. You’re stuck. All your failures and shortcomings and foolish choices playing on repeat. And there’s no one who can hit the rewind button; no possibility of a do over. Stuck.

In the days and months and years after I stood in front of my anguished husband, I slowly began to realize the Lord was giving us a gift. The gift of stripping away everything we thought we knew. The gift of realizing our lack. The gift of desperation. He gave us the gift of disappointment. We certainly didn’t understand or appreciate the gift. In fact, we’re still trying to grasp what a precious gift we were given. It took us years to unpack all the lessons we’ve learned. And maybe, well, likely, we’ll be unpacking those lessons for a lifetime. But here are the most vital gifts we opened because of that awful, wonderful day.

sun-heart-autumn-leaf-39379Set Your Heart on Things Above. Disappointment is the result of unmet expectations. We set our hopes on things that are seen instead of things that are unseen. We crave and we desire and want. We are selfish, stubborn creatures. We think if things would just work out the way we think they should. We live in a world of our own making. Always looking to what we wish we had, what is just around the corner that will make us happy or fulfilled. For my husband, it was a failed business venture. His heart was set on what he thought would be the answer to his questions about provision and purpose. When that venture failed, those dreams were lost. His heart was crushed.

We put our hopes in the temporal stuff all the time. If I could just get this position or this degree or this house or this car, or if I could get the relationship I dreamed of, or even if I could just find deep friendships, or if my kids would just obey, then everything will be better. Then I will be happy and fulfilled.

But anytime, every time, we put our hope in anything but in the love of God in Christ, we will be disappointed. Even the best job comes with the tedious and mundane. Stuff breaks and wears. And anytime two sinners are in relationship, whether it’s husband and wife, mother and daughter, or close friendship, you’ve got a sure recipe for disappointment and discouragement. Jesus Christ is the only One whose love will NEVER disappoint you. His love brings truth and confrontation and conviction, so it might not look like the weak, fickle, emotion-focused love our culture has falsely fashioned. But His love is patient, not jealous, not rude, not selfish, not irritable, not resentful, rejoices with truth, bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. HIS LOVE NEVER FAILS. His love gave you the greatest gift of all. LIFE. Not the fragile, fallen life of this temporary place, but the forgiven, forever love of God in Christ. The love that came at the greatest cost.

people-2604165_1280.jpgSet Your Mind on Things Above. When my husband and I fell into that foreboding pit, the only thing we could do was look up. As our heads turned to the light, we saw one beautiful, nail scarred hand reaching down to us. Jesus was the only One who was strong enough to not only drag us out of our pit, but set our feet upon a rock and make our steps secure. (Psalm 40:2)

While Jesus snatched us out of the black hole of disappointment, we found marking our steps on that firm foundation required daily workouts. We realized our most vital weapon was the Word of God. So we’ve made sure, sometimes not so perfectly, that we daily dig deep in the truth. Filling up our pit with truth was the only way we could avoid falling into the dregs again. We learned, and are still learning, how to take every thought captive and bring it into obedience in Christ. From that truth we learned the secret to contentment was depending on Christ for everything. (Philippians 4: 12-13). We learned that admitting our weakness meant depending on Christ and His strength and power. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) We learned that hardships and trials are meant to grow us up in Christ so we lack nothing, and we can find joy in the struggle if we keep an eternal perspective. (James 1:2-4)

That powerful, painful moment in that gravel parking lot. That moment we were thrown into the pit of despair. That moment was truly one of the greatest gifts God has ever given us. The gift of disappointment transformed our relationship with Christ, which transformed our relationship with each other. It is transforming how we view the world (temporary and transient) and how we view God (eternal and essential). It is a discipline to turn our hearts and minds heavenward. But oh how beautiful, how magnificent is the love of God. A God who loves us enough to let us walk through earthly disappointment so we can rest in eternal hope.

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Unwrap your gift of disappointment.