Happy Valentines Day friends!!
Thinking about Valentines Day, and subsequently love, brings to mind three very important people in my life whom I love and am loved by: my dad, my husband, and God -my Heavenly Father.
Tomorrow marks one year since my sweet dad went to be with Jesus. I’ve wanted to write about him for a while now, and actually I have been writing about him –just not in a blog. Many of the songs I’ve written in the past twelve months have either directly or indirectly been about my father….hopefully you’ll hear those in the near future (more about that in another blog…see what I did there… ;) ). I could write a whole series of novels about all God did and every specific, secret, whispered prayer He faithfully and lovingly answered in the months before He called my dad home, but for now I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. You know….blog style. :)
I’d been scared of when “the time” would come for my dad for a long while –anxious and fearful of not being able to control the circumstances around it. I’ve always leaned toward being a worrier (and maybe a teeeeensy bit of a control freak), and since we’d known about my dad’s illness for a few years, it had long been a fear in the back of my mind: what if I didn’t get to say goodbye? My Nana had passed away unexpectedly in the middle of the night when I was in college, and I was terrified of getting a similar phone call about my dad. Countless drives to work and showers and evening jogs were spent praying and sobbing and begging God that I would be able to be with my dad during his last few days on earth and get to really truly say goodbye. I knew God could say no, and have a good reason for doing that –even a loving reason. I knew I needed to brace myself for whatever came, and that I would choose to believe that God knows best and works everything together for good should He answer my prayer in a different way than I was asking Him to. Again and again, I’d muster up all the faith I had and tell God I would trust Him no matter what, but was still bringing my request before Him.
Spring of 2012 was blocked off for me to open up for my dear friends Casting Crowns on their “Come To The Well” tour, which ran from February right through May. The only two full weeks I had completely wide open were right before that tour started….which is when my mom called saying she had a feeling I should come home to Florida to see my dad. We’d had a few scares throughout the past several years, but somehow I knew this time…something in her voice was different. I was actually already in Florida for a few shows with Matt Maher, and the day after my mom called, my friend Diane was able to drive me straight from that last show to the hospital my dad was in. My husband and a few more family members came down within the next few days, and we were all in the room when the doctor gently told my dad he only had a few days left….that this was the end.
I’ve learned so many things from my dad. He taught me about financial responsibility while trusting God to faithfully provide. He taught me that milk chocolate chip cookies are way better than the semi-sweet kind. He showed me loyalty, forgiveness, and taught his five daughters to be brave and stand up for what we believed in. He was a master storyteller, and even at 78 he never forgot a name. My dad LOVED to sing and thanks to countless hours driving to and from church with him and his BFF’s the Gaithers, I learned to harmonize and the power of great lyrics. But the biggest thing my dad left me with is something we talked about during the last few days I spent with him before he went home. I asked him what he was thinking –looking back on 78 years lived on earth, knowing he was nearing the very end of his journey this side of heaven. Sitting on the edge of his hospital bed together, he said something I’ll never forget: “Well…everyone knows they’re dying, but nobody thinks they’re dying.” He went on to remind me of the importance of focusing on the day we’re living in –this day. Right here & now…the only day we’re guaranteed. Oh, we all think we have tomorrow. We make plans like we have it –and I’m not excluding myself here, believe me. I’m the Queen of GoogleCal. But no-one except God knows the specific number of days you or I have left on earth, and at the risk of sounding like a Hallmark card, every second is a precious, priceless gift that we are entrusted with. God promises that each new morning His mercies are new, and that His grace is sufficient for us…today. Time and time again He tells us not to worry about tomorrow, but to live courageously today, trusting Him with past, present and future. He's given us the moment we're living in to shine like a city on a hill (wherever we are, whatever circumstances may surround us), taking each opportunity He puts in front of us to show the eternal hope of Jesus to a hurting world that mistakenly believes this earthly life is all we can count on.
I am more grateful than I will ever be able to express that I was able to hug my dad and tell him I love him and am proud to be his daughter. I’m so thankful that my new husband (at the time we’d only been married for five months) got to reassure my dad he’d take care of his girls. The time we shared and the memories we made those two weeks are absolutely priceless gifts….God has been immeasurably kind to me, and I will never forget the awesome answer to prayer He didn’t have to give. In the end, my dad was thankful that his disease helped him “number his days” and appreciate every last moment. He kept his accounts short, reached out to loved ones near and far, and finished his days here peaceful and cherishing the gift of life he’d been given.
Wherever you are and whatever season you’re in, I hope my reminiscing and recounting God’s goodness brings you hope; reminds you that God does indeed answer prayer; and encourages you to reach out to those around you that you count dear. I’ll leave you with my favorite “Valentines” verse from Romans 5:8: “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” True, unwavering love. Happy, happy Valentines Day, friends.
Happy Valentines Day friends!!