Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Father's Gift

Write about something that is unique to your story.  It could be a physical feature or a life experience.  You could write about something that happened when you were growing up that impacted your life forever.  You could write about your daily struggle to get your toddler to potty train and how you are at your wit’s end…or maybe that’s just me.  Also, don’t just re-work some post from the past.  Write a new one…if there’s any place to be vulnerable, it’s here.  We’d love to have you share your work on our Facebook page and don’t forget to link up with Write It Girl.

I sat at the kitchen table, my heart squeezed in anguish.  The truth was too horrible to comprehend, at least for me it was.  I knew I grew up in somewhat of a sheltered home.  Yes, it frustrated me.  For the most part it protected me.  Never in my 16 years, did I believe what I had just heard was possible.  My mind spun despite the happy chatter of my three sisters, all younger than I.  They had yet to see any ugliness in society.  We grew up on a small farm.  We did not have access to television.  Despite our pleading to have a tv like everyone we knew, my parents did not cave.  

"There is really nothing of value on television. It is a time waster and it is seductive in nature. Television teaches what need not to be taught." That was mom and dad's combined rejection. Mom concerned about how we spent our time, and dad concerned about what we might learn. "Read a book," they would tell us. And we did, all four of us devoured books that dad brought home from the library, faster than we could eat dinner. So truthfully, we had not been exposed to the ugliness of life that was possible. But this day? This day I learned something I could not wrap my mind around.

My best friend at the time, was not raised in a Christian home. In fact, I look back and now know it was in fact a dysfunctional, deviant home she survived. I had been there multiple times, but was never comfortable there. Ella smoked, which in my tender eyes was the HEIGHT of sinfulness. Through my influence, she had dropped that nasty habit despite the fact her parents, did not object. No, I was not comfortable because of the creepy, crawly sensation I got from the way her parents looked at me. They made alarms go off in my gut.   I would personally sooth creams over the welts across Ella's back, chest and arms.  I personally filled ice bags for her to hold over split lips and black eyes.  In hind sight, Ella was a friend, but she really was a ministry.

That morning I arrived at school and went to the locker room to dress for PE.  There I found Ella, curled in a ball and sobbing.  (I have always been a companion crier.)  As soon as I heard her cries, I began to cry with her.  I sought to find out what had put her in this state.  She brokenly told her story.  Each sentence was a hammer to my heart and soon my tears were just as real and hurt as hers.

Ella was pregnant.  Sixteen years of age and pregnant.  She claimed to have a boyfriend but no one had ever heard of him or actually seen him.  Probably the entire freshmen class believed he existed only in her mind.  There I sat on a cold, musty locker room floor, locked in an embrace with her.  The proof indisputable, there had been a man in her life.  Finally, I asked her the first question a teenager asks another teenager when this subject is spoken.

"What are you going to do?"  I had inquired.
"Get an abortion."  she flatly answered.
"Oh no, Ella!  Don't do that.  We saw those pictures in health class.  You KNOW what they do to the babies!"  I gasped out, as horrified as I ever got.  But I was about to hear something that horrified me even more.

"I have tooo."  She cried out in a long wail.  "I told mom this morning.  She said I have til Friday to get an abortion or she will put me out on the street!"  She continued to sob out, enunciating each point to me.  "I don't have a job, I don't have anywhere to go!  I don't have any family around that will take me in.  There is NO where for me to go.  I HAVE no real choice."

And there it was.  My first exposure to ugliness.  The notion of a parent turning a child out into the street was a reality I had never been exposed to.  I wanted to tell her my parents would take her in.  But I had heard from mom on many occasions, "That girl is a bad influence.  You need to choose better friends".  I was pretty certain that my home wasn't an option either.

So there I sat in the dining room, replaying that scene over and over.  The anguish was so thick in my throat that it choked me to swallow dinner.  Dad asked me, if I was okay and I nodded, hoping my long hair hid the tears that dripped off my face.

Dinner was over and we had cleaned off the table.  Dad still sat there, drinking his tea when he asked me to sit with him.  "Oh nuts" I thought to myself.  "I am in big trouble".

I sat as directed, and dad told me to look at him.  The sobs I had been choking back, came bursting forth like water over Niagara Falls.  I think I scared dad, because he swooped me into his arms.  Soothing my hair and murmuring to me that whatever was wrong I could tell him.

When I had gotten a grip on my emotions well enough to hiccup through an explanation,  "Ella is pregnant" I managed to speak.  "Her mother is FORCING her to choose between an abortion or living on the street."  The words caused my voice to crack and wobble.

I'm not sure what the expression on dad's face was...perhaps relief?  But as we sat down, he continued to hold his arm around me.  "I'm so sorry darlin' that you have to deal with that news.  I'm so sorry that Ella is pregnant and a very real part of me wants to pinch the nose off her mother's face.  But we have to be the support that she needs right now.  Can you be her friend, knowing this awful thing?" He asked me. I nodded, because that is not really what was in my heart.

Dad sensed the storm inside was deeper still, and asked me "Honey, is there more to this?  It is horrible what is happening to Ella, but you seem to be taking it very personally."

My insides were shaking as my words jumbled forth. "Daddy, how could her mother do this?  How could she turn her own daughter out of the home?  Daddy, if I came home and told you something like that, would you throw ME out?  If I wasn’t married and got pregnant, would you turn off your love just like that?"

My father hissed as he sucked in his breath.  He called out "I know you are eavesdropping in the hallway! You girls come in here."  My sisters crept into the room and gave me the 'hairy eyeball' as I knew they felt I had gotten everyone into deep mud with my questions.  Oh horrors, what if daddy wanted to have the "sex talk?"  My sisters sat down and he made eye contact with each of us in that dingy dining room.  He raised my chin to force me meet his gaze.  It was not anger I saw there.

And daddy said the most important words of my life.

In the low growly voice we had come to identify if dad was feeling emotional, he said to us.

"I was there when you were born.  I bandaged skinned knees.  I hugged away your nightmares.  I braided your hair.  I have prayed over your beds.  I am your father.  No one will ever love you like I do.  So hear this and hear it well...I have NOT raised you to this moment to turn my back on you because of a mistake.  I would not; I COULD not throw you out over a mistake.  That's all Ella did.  She made a mistake, it is a costly one be that, but it's just a mistake.  Now hear this as well...I WOULD be disappointed in you, very, VERY disappointed.  I know how you have been raised and what you have been taught. But if you make an error in judgment, be it drugs, drinking, boys or babies, your mom and I will stand at your side.  We will love you through it.  We will love you in spite of it.  My final word is THERE IS NOTHING you are capable of doing that is makes me incapable of loving you.  Absolutely nothing."

I chose that as a defining moment in my history.  Those words, "There is nothing you are capable of doing that makes me incapable of loving you" altered my life.  My daddy gave me the gift of unconditional love.  It was an experience that got me through my rough teen years.  It helped me choose a husband.  It helped my husband heal from his childhood and trust in my love.  I passed it on to my child and constantly assured him that I have a mother's love for him.

Eventually I would see this experience with new understanding. I would see so much more ugliness in the world and in my own life.  But I would come to accept that my Heavenly Father says the same words to me every time I fail.  Every time I let him down and every time I don't feel very lovable.  

My heavenly father stands there with his arms open and says to me,
"Tina, there is nothing you are capable of doing that makes me incapable of loving you."

 Love is patient,(E) love is kind. Love does not envy,(F) is not boastful, is not conceited,(G) 5 does not act improperly, is not selfish,(H) is not provoked,
(I) and does not keep a record of wrongs.
1 Corinthians 13: 4 & 5 NIV  


  1. You went and made me cry! I know it's not the point but do you know what happened to Ella and her baby? ... I suspect we are of a similar generation and have similar backgrounds. I have raised 3 children ... and embraced a 4th as my own. Of those 4 ... one no longer talks to us, one is struggling to overcome addiction and legal issues, one is a sweet single mom with 2 beautiful children, and the youngest is still in college but has a heart that lives on the mission field. I love all 4 of them unconditionally and nothing they can ever do will change that!

  2. This was beautiful! It makes me wish I could hug your father and tell him thank you.