Today I was gifted a round trip airline ticket to the She Speaks conference by one of the sweetest women that I know but can’t mention her name because she is too humble and blushes a lot. I pray that she knows how grateful I am and that I will do everything I can to make it worth her sacrifice. I have no idea how all these wonderful people found me worthy enough to sacrifice all that they have to send me to this conference. Many angels have been sent my way, I am forever thankful. God is good. People are still so very good, generous and kind. I am blessed. Thank you.
I really can’t focus on anything because I am super consumed with thoughts of this conference. I still can’t wrap my mind around the fact that someone believes in me enough to send me to it. It’s a blessing that my family would have never been able to do on our own. I hope I can make my angel proud of me. I appreciate all of the prayers and support. See you soon North Carolina!
“Wake up, get out of bed. Pull those covers across your head”
The sheets would come flying off of us as we yelled at him to stop.
My dad loved to irritate us and loudly waking us up in the morning was his favorite thing to do. It was most rewarding to him when we had friends spend the night and he got to mess with them too.
He would insist that we get up and eat breakfast. There was always a skillet of sausage and eggs ready to go by the time we shuffled our way in to the kitchen. Lots of orange juice, he loved orange juice.
Even though my friends didn’t want to wake up with the roosters and my dad, they thought he was so cool and would laugh at his morning song. They always thought it was cool that he would cook for us and want to hang out with us.
Not me, I was just mad.
I’m not a morning person, never have been never will be. That’s why I get up an hour before my family and have my cup of coffee. It’s for their own safety.
What I didn’t know back in those days was that my dad wasn’t getting up early, he had never gone to bed.
He was an addict.
He was addicted to ….well everything.
He wouldn’t just wake us up to eat sausage and eggs in the morning, he would wake us up in the middle of the night and drive us around in his stolen car for hours. He would wake us up in the middle of the night to sit in the kitchen and talk to him. He was high and needed someone to hang out with, that’s where we came in. He was addicted to drugs, money, cars, women and anything else the devil offered up on a silver platter. He lived in 100 different houses and several different cells.
I’ve spent most of my adult life being angry at him.
I’ve spent many months being bitter.
I’ve spent weeks crying in abandonment.
I’ve spent days pretending not to care.
I’ve spent hours wishing ill will on him.
It took me only one minute to forgive him.
About four months before he took his life I wrote him a two page email. I hadn’t spoken to him in 10 years. I let him know that I had forgiven him and I begged him to create a better relationship with my younger siblings than the one he had created with me. I begged him to do right by them. I begged him not to make my 12-year-old little sister search for the love and acceptance of a man the way that I had.
His exact response:
“Thanks for the letter and thanks for the forgiveness”
I’ve never heard from him again and never will.
I wish I could rewrite that email.
It might go a little more like this.
I’ll empty my bank account and hand it over to you if you come over and play with my kids just once.
I’ll search the streets, buy a bag of cocaine and give it to you if you sing that stupid morning song to them just once.
I’ll steal a car for you if you make a skillet of sausage and eggs for my girls to taste just once.
I’ll do anything dad if you would just give them one moment, one good memory, one kiss, let them run to you and wrap their arms around your neck just one time.
Just one little moment dad.
I truly, honestly forgive you. I forgive it all.
I get to make a choice, that’s the beauty of our lives. I get to make a choice how I tell my daughters about their grandpa. I get the choice how I tell my stories about him or what stories I don’t tell. I can choose to start growing that seed of what becomes bitterness and hate by planting in them stories to crush their hearts. I can make them hate him.
I get to make that choice.
I won’t hold on to the memories that make me sad.
I won’t hold on to the memories that bring up anger.
I won’t hold on to the memories that disgust me.
I’ll tell my little girls about the time there was a horse harnessed to a tree outside of our house on Christmas morning.
I’ll tell them how he would keep the car slowly rolling while we were trying to get in and laugh hysterically as we trotted next to the car.
I’ll tell them how he would hand us a $20 bill, let us go wild in the convenience store and tell us to keep the change.
I get a choice.
I can be happy or sad
I can forgive or carry a grudge.
I’m going to be happy. I’m going to forgive. I’m going to let go.
I’m going to wake my little girls up today by pulling the covers off of them and singing
“Wake up, get out of bed. Pull those covers across your head”.
You have a choice.
You can let it go or you can crush beneath it.
You can put it away or pass down.
You can forgive.
Merciful Father thank you for giving us a choice. We can follow your son or try to create our own way. I choose You. I choose to follow Jesus. When we get off track gently help us refocus on what truly matters. You did not design us to be angry, sad or weighed down and sometimes we need help remembering that. Help us to leave a legacy of love and forgiveness and to not pass down the trials. Be our guide, our light and our path. In Jesus name, amen.
I wanted to thank each of you for the sweet comments and messages that I received yesterday and today. I thought that over these few days I was going to be reminded of the sadness of my dads death but instead I was remind of the good in people. God remains good and faithful. He has made beauty out of ashes and for that I am forever grateful. My husband blessed me today with a new bible and wrote a beautiful message for me inside, my kids have reminded me of the innocence of faith and my friends have showered me with love and support. I’m not sure what I have done to deserve such an abundance of mercy and grace but I know that I am blessed. Thank you. God is so super cool.
“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold — though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:6 – 7
Today can make me bitter or today can make me better.
My dad committed suicide a year ago today. Maybe it was a year ago tomorrow or maybe the day after that. I will never know.
His death certificate reads “date found” instead of date deceased or date died, whatever they put on there. No one knows when he actually did it. It’s kind of haunting.
The last time anyone heard from him was on the 5th and that is also the day he shopped for his own noose at Home Depot. I know this because of the receipt that was in his pocket when he died.
They didn’t find him until the 7th and we were not told until the 8th.
It’s going to be a long few days for me.
Beauty From The Ashes
I’ve had some anxiety about this day arriving for the past few months. I have kept that to myself for the most part.
Then I started receiving notes from my friends, little reminders that they were praying for me and that they love me. Most of these notes were from friends that I have gained through W3 or friendships that have been renewed or strengthened through W3.
They started to do their work on me.
They started to change me.
Today, Tomorrow Or The Day After That
I’m not going to be sad today, tomorrow, or the day after that. I’m not going to repeat that eulogy in my head. I’m not going to picture my father on the floor of that bathroom. I’m not going to dwell on Home Depot, a bag of shirts, a death certificate, the phone call from my brother, a cross in the middle of nowhere or a single moment of my past with my dad.
I am going to give thanks for every blessing that God has poured out onto me over the past year.
Thank you God for W3 and letting me have words to put down. Thank you for giving this to me.
Thank you God for renewed friendships, new friendships and changed friendships.
Thank you God for the peace, grace and mercy you have given to me.
Thank you God for the crazy faith that you have filled me with and the fire you have ignited inside me.
Thank you God for giving me the ability to know and show true forgiveness.
Thank you God for the cross and what it means to me now.
Thank you God for letting my dad walk through your gates and to your feet.
Thank you God for any life that you have allowed me to touch through your W3 ministry.
Today is not the anniversary of my dads suicide, neither is tomorrow or the day after that.
Today is the anniversary of my renewed life and faith in Gods ultimate plan.
If he died a year ago today or tomorrow or the day after that, it doesn’t matter. He is in heaven and it doesn’t matter when he got there. It doesn’t matter what was in his pocket or where he went that day. It doesn’t matter what his death certificate says or where his ashes remain.
What matters is what comes after. It matters what I do with it today, tomorrow and the day after that.
Today can make me bitter or today can make me better.
Merciful Father thank you for the sacrifice of your son so that even someone like my dad can spend eternity in heaven praising your great name. Thank you for giving us enough grace that all we have to do to be able to enter your kingdom is to believe in your son Jesus Christ. Thank you for forgiving our sin no matter how big or small. Thank you for forgiving us and giving us the ability to forgive others. Thank you for writing my name in the palm of your hand right next to my dads name. In Jesus name, amen.
I pray that you are rested and renewed in your new home in heaven. You are forgiven here on earth just like you are forgiven there with our Savior. I hope that your home in heaven is the mansion that you always wanted and that the closets are filled with snake skin boots, Polo style short sleeved shirts, 1000 pairs of Levi jeans, a pair of bright white tennis shoes and a super comfortable bath robe. I pray that God has supplied you with a barber that knows how to cut your hair in a way that that says “business in the front, a party in the back”. I pray that all the TVs in your home play images of your kids and grandkids and that you finally have a chance to see who we have become. I pray that God gave you the voice of an angel and that when you sing His great name in praise, the beauty that comes out of your mouth surprises even you. Sing dad.
I love you.
Behind The Podium
Today I will speak to a room full of well off, generous people who have it in their hearts to give to an amazing place, Morgan’s Wonderland.
I am curious.
How did I get here?
I have always been outspoken, not always in a good way.
I tend to lead rather than follow and not always down the right path.
If everyone said right, then I went left
I did my best, for many years, to go against the grain.
I had labeled myself a victim for so many years. It always gave me an out.
Along Came An Angel
Then my Justin was born.
Not This Girl
When she was handed the diagnosis of Autism and Auditory Processing Disorder, I made it my number one goal to not let it make her a victim. It was not going to be her out.
Our family would not cave to it.
My little girl would put autism to shame and I would make sure of it.
Autism has tried many times over the years to bring us down and make us it’s victim.
Autism Is A Failure
While all the other kids made Build-A-Bears at Justin’s first time attending a school mates birthday party, she clung to me for dear life because of the hum of the machine that turned the stuffing.
I was pouring sweat and trying not to cry while the other moms and dads looked on with pity in their eyes. When I finally caved in and said we had to leave because I simply couldn’t take it anymore, Justin completely lost control of herself because she wanted the princess off the top of the the little girls birthday cake. As we were leaving the party, Justin crying and screaming and me sweating, crying and apologizing, the 5 year old birthday girl removed the princess off of the top of her cake and ran after us. She very sweetly handed it to Justin and said “she can have the princess if she wants it, it’s okay with me”. That only made me cry harder. It also put autism to shame. It made autism look stupid. It reminded autism that it didn’t have the compassion that a five year old has and it needed to leave my little girl alone that day.
Autism has brought the most amazing people into my life and given me opportunities that I never dreamed of.
Justin has one of the most amazing teachers. She loves on my little girl. She lets Justin hold her hand constantly. She is patient with Justin but doesn’t let Justin take advantage of her special need.
She has faith in my little girl. She believes in my little girl. She makes me know that everything is going to be just fine. She even laughs at the stupid jokes that I make when I’m nervous, maybe out of pity or maybe because I’m super funny, I’ll never know.
Another one of her teachers tells me everyday how much she loves my Justin and let’s me know how great she is doing in gym class. She offers to help with Justin outside of school, something that not too many people offer up. She sits patiently and colors with my little girl so that I can have a moment of adult time and listen to a speaker. She doesn’t bat an eye when we eat together and Justin acts a little odd, she actually acts like she enjoys it.
Run Autism Run
Justin won’t be autism’s victim and neither will my family.
Autism will crumble at the sight of my daughter. It will hide when it sees her coming.
It will fear the sound of my voice. I will send shivers down it’s spine with my mommy glare.
Autism doesn’t stand a chance against Justin. It’s not smart enough to bring her down. It can’t compete with her infectious giggle and her contagious smile.
Autism is simply too weak for my Justin.
If autism was smart, it would bow out gracefully now while it still had a shred of dignity left because there is no way that I will ever allow it to make Justin it’s victim. Never. Never. Never.
God Is Good And Generous
Today I get to go talk about Morgan’s Wonderland and what it means to families like mine, families with special needs children. I get to thank the people who donate and allow us to have a place where we can take our families and not worry about the stares, the questions, the physical and mental road blocks that we have to face.
At Morgan’s Wonderland it doesn’t matter if you wheel your child in, pull your child in a wagon or assist them with their walker. It doesn’t matter if you child is yelling “Australia” over and over at the top of their lungs or talking to themselves nonstop. It doesn’t matter if they are laying on the floor, the picnic bench or the slide. It doesn’t matter if they are wearing prosthetic legs, helmets or bright orange earphones.
When you go to Morgan’s everyone matters and everyone is normal. All the kids are just that, kids.The kids in the wheelchairs get to swing on the swings and the blind kids get to drive the train. They get to be kids and there is not a single person there that is going to ask you what’s wrong with your child. Everyone is too busy watching the smile on their children’s faces.
When I look at my little girl I know why God chose me.
He gave me Justin to remind me that everything he makes is perfect. He gave her to me to remind me that I have nothing to prove. He gave her to me to show me what true innocence looks like.
When I finally gave it all to Him and surrendered to His plan for my family is when He gave me the chance to stand in front of all the generous and loving people who open the hearts and support Morgan’s Wonderland and simply tell them thank you.
Gracious Father thank you for the blessings that you put in our lives and the lessons that come along with them. Humble us. Open our eyes to the beauty behind what we see as a flaw. We know that you make everything perfect in your eyes. Give us your eyes to see and your heart to love. Show us how to be your hands and feet and teach us how to spread your word. When you give us the chance to stand in front of a crowd, give us the courage to use it to glorify your name. In Jesus name, amen.
The first time that we took our family to Morgan’s we found ourselves apologizing for Justin’s fit while standing in line for the train. Someone had to actually put their hands on our shoulders, look us in the eyes and tell us “It’s okay, don’t worry, relax, we all understand”. We finally let out a deep breath and spent the rest of the day watching our little girls play with complete abandonment.