How I Met My Father

Faith, Hope, Love

I was curious about my dad off and on most of my life. Whenever it was brought to my attention or occasionally, I guess, as a kid I just wondered. My mom spoke about him fondly but not so much favorably, which makes sense because they weren’t together by the time I was born. Through the years, in conversations about him, she was kind but honest with me. She wanted me to understand that it wasn’t an easy choice, but it was necessary.

I stopped asking her to find him after high school. I was hoping to invite him to my high school graduation. Surely, he’d want to be there, right? Let me back up and say this coincides with the timeframe in which my younger sister met her dad. I was envious of all the dad/daughter and other family things she could do. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy for her but I’m sure at the time I felt like it would be great to have my dad around. I wanted to put a face to a name, to find out who this person was. Did I look anything like him? Did I act like him? Did we have anything in common? What’s my other family like? But I think, maybe more importantly, I wondered how close he was to the imaginary dad in my head. My brain wanted to replace this “?” Dad Card. People were supposed to know their dads, right? All I knew about my dad was a name and his last known location.

When I was older and married with kids of my own, my mom and I talked about him. She found one of the last letters he wrote to her. He asked about me in the letter, so it confirmed that he was real and that at one point he cared how I was doing. It raised questions again about why he never tried to find me. After all, my family has been in the same house since before I was born. We live in rural Oklahoma where everyone knows everyone. But even if you happen to meet someone who doesn’t know everyone, they for sure know someone in our family. So, my guy, what gives?

I’m sure at the time I searched for him online, but I never reached out. It wasn’t until 2020 that I felt like God was leading me to find him. Again, the only thing I remembered that my mom told me was his first/last name, his nickname, and that he was from a small town in (I thought) Oklahoma. Oklahoma has no shortage of small towns, so I decided to ask my aunts what they remembered. It was so long ago that there wasn’t a lot they could offer except for one was able to remember the town in Texas (not Oklahoma) that he was from. From there I did exactly as you’d expect, I Googled him. I typed in First, Nickname, Last Name, and city. I got a lot of offers for paid reports but as I wasn’t trying to spend money, I had to get creative. I found what I thought was him with an address in a town close to the one I searched. It was almost Father’s Day, so I briefly thought about introducing myself via greeting card. “Hey Guy! Here’s what I know. If this is you, Happy Father’s Day! If not, Happy Father’s Day?…” Or something like that. I know that might sound crazy, hence the desire to find out once and for all, which familial side these ideas come from.

Anyway, after deciding against the greeting card route, I went to Facebook. I typed his first and last name and the city from the address I found online. And I found him. And my brother. I couldn’t believe it, but then again, I could. I sent a message to my dad first. Then I sent a message to my brother. I tried to be as diplomatic as possible because I wasn’t trying to blow up anybody’s spot. My intent was pure, but I didn’t know how well received this news would be over 40 years later. So, late June of 2020, I sent the messages. And I waited. I heard nothing back for weeks and then I guess I forgot about it. I wasn’t crushed or disappointed because I felt like I’d done my part. I reached out unsure of why I felt compelled to find him but sure I needed to do so. I knew it would be a long shot and I also knew I would be ok if he didn’t respond.

The week before Christmas, I got a message from my brother confirming everything. I spoke with him and “Pops” (my dad) on Christmas Eve 2020 for the first time. It wasn’t a super long conversation, but it was good. He confirmed things that my mom said and, without any prompting, explained to me why he hadn’t been around over the years. It was surreal but so real. We agreed to keep in touch and get together soon. I called him for his birthday just after the first of the year. He and/or my brother would call or text occasionally just to check in. We kept it pretty casual which was comfortable for me. But, with a lot of prompting from one of my aunts, I finally set a date to meet my dad and brother.

March 2021, I drove about 30 minutes to the little town where my dad and brother lived. I found out during our phone conversations leading up to the visit that they had lived in this general area for 40 years or so. So, most of my life, I’ve been within an hour of my dad and brother. And we never knew. Anyway, on the way there, I was trying to process a lot of feelings and thoughts. I wasn’t really nervous but I felt some type of way. Like I’m still making an effort to meet someone who left me and never came back. And even though I knew him not being there worked out for my good, it was still something to think about. As I was driving and thinking about all of this, a song started playing and grabbed my attention. It’s called “Sparrows” by Cory Asbury. There’s a part that goes, “A heart that’s planted in forgiveness doesn’t dwell in the past; So why should I be?” It was a beautiful moment when those words cut through the noise. I needed that reminder in that moment, that none of what was in the past mattered. I recognized that I was given an opportunity that many people never get and if I say that I live my life by first, love God and second, love people, then none of what happened in the past mattered. I’m definitely a different person, a different parent even, than I was, what seems like a hundred years ago, so I was certain that my dad was too.

A heart that’s planted in forgiveness doesn’t dwell in the past…

Sparrows by Cory Asbury

So, I played the song for the duration of the drive to let those words continue to wash over me. I pulled up to the house, got out, and hugged my dad for the first time ever. I went inside and honestly, y’all, it felt like family during the holidays. You haven’t seen these relatives in a little while so there’s the excitement of getting together and just enjoying the time. We clowned each other a lot and talked and laughed. They bought lunch and we ate as we played Uno, which by the way, Pops cheats (badly) at Uno and blames it on his age. He talked about my mom and reminisced about some of the times they spent together. Eventually, it was time for me to head back home. The visit, while only a few hours long, was good. We’ve since gotten together a few times and they’ve met Ariel and Nick and started building relationships with them. I would love for them to meet my other two children, and the rest of my family and friends. All in all, things seem to be moving in a positive direction.

Some people wondered why, after all this time, did I look for my dad. After all, I grew up in a very large, and very loving family. My grandma instilled the importance of family in all of us—”you don’t have to like them, but you have to love them,” kind of thing. Maybe this was part of the reason I wanted to find him because family is important. Maybe it was to get answers to burning questions. Maybe it was to see how I would feel. Only God knows exactly why I needed to reach out, I can only surmise. But I want to be clear about one thing, I didn’t feel like I needed to find him to fill some void. Meet my mom’s side of the family and you’ll know what I mean—love, on love, on love (if they like you😊). For real, they’re (we’re) hella crazy, but you’ll know what love is. Anyway, what happened though is that I realized by meeting Pops and my brother that I had an increased capacity to give and receive love. It didn’t make me feel that I was any more complete, I just had more love in my life. They’re hella crazy too, but there was so much love between them. Plus, now I have an image for the Dad card with a whole new brother added to the deck. B T Dubs, Pops is nothing like my imaginary dad, mostly because he’s real. I’m glad he and my big head, little brother are a part of my life. I mean, it dashes any illusions of an escape from crazy, but it promises an even more interesting future.

Pops and Me

So that’s the story of how I met my father…at least part of it.

Me and My Brother

Footprints

Faith, Hope

My grandma loved the Footprints poem. One year for Christmas, I gave her a pair of handmade (by me) ceramic footprints (in the dirt, in lieu of sand) attached to construction paper which contained the poem written for her in my semi-atrocious handwriting. It seemed like she got so many Footprints knick-knacks that year but mine was unforgettable. Not because it was great, mind you; it was truly a hot mess. I have great artistic vision yet very little artistic ability. But thankfully, my grandma was a woman full of grace and love and she acted like it was the best rendition she received that year. Oh, and, I think I was in high school at this time so it wasn’t even like I was a little kid who didn’t know it was terrible. But she loved it anyway. She was just that much of a saint.

I was thinking about that poem because this is one of those days I feel like I would look back on and question why Jesus left me to walk through this alone. If you’ve read the poem, you know the answer is that He’s carrying me but it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like I’m on my own this time. It feels like yet another unanswered prayer. And then there’s the sort of dread and anticipation of the answer to said prayer. What does, “working all things together for my good,” really mean? Our definitions of “good” feel vastly different some days. But I know my view is myopic where God’s is not. Still there are days like today…

The reality for me is that things are still working in my favor. Even through events that feel so daunting and overwhelming, there’s always been kindness extended, or ideas and options presented that give me hope and peace. These are things I’ve taken for granted in the past, things that as I stop to think, offer proof I’ve not been forsaken.

There’s a song (of course) by Casting Crowns called Just Be Held. I absolutely love the message in it though I wish I’d remembered it earlier when I was in my funk. The chorus kind of says it all.

So when you're on your knees and answers seem so far away
You're not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world's not falling apart, it's falling into place
I'm on the throne, stop holding on and just be held

These words give me hope, and on days like this, that’s exactly what I need.

Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.

Christopher Reeve

Mama Said

Faith, Hope, Love

Today is one of those days I feel like my Mama talked about. I wish it were like the song. Alas, it was one of those days she said to keep doing the right thing even if you think the wrong thing is happening to you. I wish it were one of the other life lessons she felt the need to impart, but no dice. It was one of those, Matthew 5:44, “…Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you…” type of days. Ok, so that’s a gross exaggeration of my days but it feels that way in the moment. Mama said there’ll be days like this.

Our Mama was an amazing person. She exemplified God’s love in such a tangible way. To know Mama was to love her and to hug her was to feel pure love. You can literally ask anyone who knew her and they’ll say the same (or I’ll fight them). Seriously, she was always so kind and frequently went out of her way to help people. She had a strong work ethic and it seemed like there was nothing she couldn’t do. She sewed, cooked, baked, worked, and played; she did it all!

She was also a beautiful person who welcomed all of our friends in as her children. She was Mama to anyone who needed one. I can’t fully express how truly good, loving, and kind she was. Of course, I like to think that my sister and I take after her in a lot of these respects. It’s what we saw growing up and I think we both strive to be the best mothers we can because of her. Every day of Mama’s life, she loved freely and selflessly.

“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.”

Maya Angelou

So knowing this about her, you would ask (and rightfully so), why would she have days like this? Why would anyone intentionally mistreat or hurt her, ever? I say intentionally to absolve my current self from my past self’s wrongdoings of Mama. On the real, it was mind-boggling some of the things that she went through. She endured thankless jobs and put up with a lot of BS to make sure that we were cared for as best she could. And she always tried to do the right thing—even on the tough days when she felt wronged or treated unfairly.

Mama and her girls

I remember when we were kids, she would come home exhausted from the day she had at work. We would be so excited to see her and would sometimes lie in wait by the door ready to pounce as soon as she came in. There were some days though, when she just needed 10 minutes to decompress from whatever nightmare of a day she had. Getting yelled at by customers and working hard to turn things around, or supporting coworkers through challenges. And she endured it all, for us.

As we aged and became closer, she shared more information about her days, and I finally understood her need for the 10 minutes. I also saw her response to feeling like she was being unfairly treated. She would smile (to their faces) and continue to do the absolute best that she could. If the situation didn’t improve, she would find another company and would start the cycle all over again.

Bringing it back around, today is one of those 10-minute days for me. Admittedly, it feels like so many other days over the past few months. I feel like I’m in a season of my life where I keep trying to do the right thing despite the “wrong” thing happening to me. For a while, I’ll be honest, I started doing the wrong thing in response to the wrong thing happening. There were days I was angry or frustrated and I responded in the same manner I was approached. I also started expecting the worst, so maybe it wasn’t always the “wrong” thing happening, but I didn’t know the difference. Or maybe, at the time, I didn’t care to know because I was so wrapped up in the victim mentality. While I know my behavior is expected, it potentially hurts others, it doesn’t make me happy, and it won’t make my days any better.

So, I’ll keep reflecting and self-correcting because I want to be like Mama when I grow up. But in the meantime, I guess there’ll be days like this, my mama said.

Symphony

Faith

We’re in Day 1 of the Dallas County COVID-19 shut down. There are a lot of people who are frightened, panicked even. Some of the grocery store aisles are bare. People are freaking out on social media. I get it. It’s scary when you don’t know what’s going on. It almost feels as if there’s some invisible force of some unknown origin secretly hunting you down. It’s killing people and they’ve given it a mysterious name, COVID-19. It’s like a new serial killer has been announced.

The main thing that I can remember about serial killer coverage in the news is the commonality of the victims. The focus on who the killer was targeting created a panic, and rightfully so, for some of the people who fit that description. They were a little more cautious in their day-to-day activities, even avoiding certain situations to minimize the risk of becoming a victim. This behavior continued until either enough time passed, more information was released, or the killer was caught. Either way, they finally felt safe again.

This killer, COVID-19, was originally thought to only be hunting the elderly and the sick. Then there were rumors floating around and information released indicating that even healthy people weren’t safe from this nefarious entity. There’s so much data coming at us from so many sources. To me, it feels like there’s still an imbalance between the amount of real data versus misinformation floating about. We’re all processing the information and responding in, presumably, the best way that we can.

Some people are going on as if it’s nothing more than the common cold and some people are scared shitless—which may not be a bad thing since there’s no toilet paper in the stores. Some people are buying up ALL the supplies, so their family is fine in the impending Great Depression Reboot. Some people don’t know how they’re going to survive right now, and others don’t know how they’re going to recover what they’re losing or have lost.

You may be thinking right now, “Symphony? What the hecky, Becky? This is the saddest symphony played by the word’s worst orchestra.” So, let me explain. There’s a song called, Symphony by Switch featuring Dillon Chase. As I was sorting through all the COVID-19 information that was coming at me and participating in my one millionth conversation about this pandemic, this song came to mind. It has offered me comfort through a lot of the craziness in my life this year but never seemed more apropos than during this time. I started singing the chorus on repeat.

Photo by Kael Bloom on Unsplash

” ‘Cause even in the madness
There is peace
Drowning out the voices all around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony”

Through all this COVID-19 chaos, what I find most fascinating is the sheer amount of love and support I’ve seen through some social channels. It is encouraging to see neighbors reach out to each other with an offer to help. I’ve seen teachers offer their services to parents who must work and need childcare or tutoring. My friend was telling me about a viral (no pun intended) video of neighbors singing to each other in Italy during the lockdown. I experienced firsthand the kindness of a stranger in the grocery store during this pandemic. There are individuals and groups all over the world praying for each other. It’s not every man for himself. It’s neighbor helping neighbor, friend helping friend, family helping family. It’s a beautiful symphony played by an orchestra comprised of people all over the world.

At such moments I don’t think about all the misery, but about the beauty that still remains.

Anne Frank

I don’t expect everyone to take comfort in these song lyrics in the same way I have. I understand that it requires a faith in a God that not everyone believes in. I also understand it will inevitably raise the question, “Why would your God allow this to happen?” And all of that’s ok. I have questions too. Not that one, but questions for sure. All I know for certain is that this song gives me hope and it may help someone else. And that person, may be able to help someone else. Pay it forward and all that jazz.

Regardless of beliefs, nationality, gender, race, or any other such unimportant classification, my hope is that the trend of unity and solidarity increases. Also, a little selfishly, I hope that people/establishments will maintain a “COVID-19” level of cleanliness and awareness all the time as this will help prevent the spread of many diseases targeting the same individuals. It just seems like it makes sense. *she steps down from her soapbox*

We’re all going through this so we might as well band together and play our part in this Symphony.

Surrender

Faith

On the way home tonight, Testify by Needtobreathe was playing. I hadn’t heard it in a while and I didn’t know it all that well but it’s got a catchy tune that’s literally music to my ears. I listened to it until I got home and then I stayed in my car in the parking lot singing along until it ended. I even sang the chorus almost the whole way up the two flights of stairs because I liked it that much.

"Give me your heart, give me your song
Sing it with all your might
Come to the fountain and
You can be satisfied
There is a peace, there is a love
You can get lost inside
Come to the fountain and
Let me hear you testify"

When I got into my apartment, I started playing it through a Bluetooth speaker so I could crank up the volume and really showcase my inner, super-mega rock star. What I began to realize over the course of the evening is that this song is written as a love letter from God to us. There are clear instructions on what to do. “Give me your heart, give me your song; sing it with all your might,” with an invitation to, “Come to the fountain,” to be satisfied. And if that wasn’t enough, He tells me that I can get “lost inside” peace and love. It’s not merely enough to experience peace or love but you can be lost in it. Honestly, I can’t think of anywhere better to be lost than in love.

This promise of peace, love, and satisfaction are things many of us long for; I can’t imagine I will ever have enough of any of those. I can’t ever see myself saying, “Nope, I’m good on peace and I’m completely satisfied with the amount of love in my life. No more for me, please.” It’s just not going to happen.

Shortly after I started my concert, I looked up the lyrics so my performance would be on point. I caught up to the part in the song that stopped me in my tracks. It goes a little something like this:

"Wave after wave
As deep calls to deep
Oh, I'll reveal my mystery
As soon as you start to let go"

I broke down because I knew that was a God moment. You see unless you were with me an hour earlier, you wouldn’t understand the significance of these words to me in this moment.

I was hanging out with one of my best friends. We were looking at her website as she was sharing information and updates about her nonprofit. I sat listening to her speak so passionately about this mission and how God is orchestrating everything. She was describing how words God gave her a couple of months ago, were brought to light as the true purpose of this organization. It was truly inspiring!

As we continued talking, I started thinking about how much my friend has changed. We’ve known each other for more than 25 years and it’s like I’m seeing a new side to her. It’s her total reliance on and appreciation for a God who is supplying her every need as he uses her to reach a group of people who are hurting. This picture of surrender was so beautiful! Not only did I long for it but I realized that’s what’s missing for me.

Of course, I believe in God and I go to church. The people that know me would say that I’m a good person and I’m nice most of the time. I am everything that I’m “supposed to be.” But the moment that I read those lyrics, it was like God was letting me know that while I am enough, I was not completely His. I needed to surrender.

"Into the wild
Canyons of youth
Oh, there's a world to fall into
Weightless we'll dance
Like kids on the moon
Oh, I will give myself to you
As soon as you start to let go"

Ok, God. I’m letting go.