This is a photograph of my father and his sister.
I love it.
There are few pictures in my possession of my Dad.
His life story was filled with pain and struggle.
I remember him telling me about being “on his own” at fourteen.
How he was working at a lumber camp in Southern Oregon.
Another story he once told me was his last day of school.
He was in the eighth grade and had come in and sat down.
The teacher called to him.
Then pointed out the shoes he had on.
“You can’t be in here with those.”
My father didn’t respond.
“Don’t come back wearing those.”
My father left.
I remember him looking at me very seriously and saying with sorrow,
“That was my last day of school. I didn’t have any other shoes.”
He went on to express his earnest desire for me and my sister to do our very best in school.
There are many other memories.
One of my favorite is my last year of college.
Right before Christmas my dad pulled me aside.
He explained that he really wanted to get me something nice for Christmas but didn’t know what I needed.
So, a little sheepishly he placed a hundred dollar bill in my hands and told me to spend it wisely.
He gave me an awkward hug and moved on to do chores.
I was stunned.
My dad was retired and Mom worked only part time, so she and Dad could work on the property.
The property, the house, everything at our place was in need and I knew the sacrifice.
It was perfect timing too.
I was in great need of a winter coat.
I wore that coat for three years and thanked God for it, my family’s sacrifice, and for Dad.
My own children have heard me speak of my father many times.
And the average person who listens to me talk of him probably won’t be able to understand.
The truth is hard.
My father was angry.
It was almost like a disease.
Very few things brought words of encouragement or support.
My teenage years are spattered with regret, for many a time did we scream at one another like people who have lost all sense of what is right and true.
My most embarrassing moment in life is the morning of my wedding.
I still have no idea what started our fight, but I’ve never forgotten what ended it.
My father’s cruel words of condemnation had sliced through every part of my heart.
I didn’t scream.
I just stood there cold and deadly serious. I calmly told him if he was going to act that way I didn’t want him to come to the wedding.
His face looked so hurt.
But the angry words were stopped.
Thankfully, he did come and seemed to enjoy it.
My relationship with my dad calmed down and began to improve as my months of marriage stretched into years.
The birth of our oldest made such an impact on him.
He loved her so deeply.
To watch the man who had caused so much hurt in my life be so gentle, caring, and tender to my daughter went a vast way to begin my healing.
My last memory of him is just after my second wedding anniversary.
Dad had placed our daughter in his little red wagon (he’d always wanted one as boy so one Christmas Mom had gotten him one) and spent a while pulling her up and down the driveway.
When he was too tired, he came inside to tell Mom and I that it was our turn to pull her.
Then Dad was killed suddenly in a random accident.
It took years of prayer and Bible reading for God to heal my heart completely.
But God has.
Which is why I can write and talk about him with openness and love.
I love my dad very much and I know he loved me.
He made mistakes.
He chose to be selfish and cruel many times.
But he also had accepted Christ and I remember his humble prayer of forgiveness, as well as his struggle with surrender.
I rest securely in Jesus’s forgiveness for both of us.
I know Jesus forgave him and I do too.
Dad died twenty years ago.
And it’s been an incredible journey.
As the Lord walked me through forgiveness and healing He showed me areas of truth and love.
Things I’d forgotten about or misunderstood at the time.
It’s placed my heart very happily in the truth.
My dad wasn’t perfect, nobody is.
But I know Jesus loves him.
And I do too.
I look forward to the day when we will meet together again in heaven and all the broken sin stains will be removed and it will be as it should have been.