Celebrating Father’s Day With A Broken Heart

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This is the first Father’s Day without my beloved Dad.  He was the greatest man I’ve ever known and loved (other than my husband).  He was my protector, my hero, my confidante, my mentor, my rock.  He was a constant fixture in my life for over 50 years.  Being blessed with a great memory, I turned 55 a few months after he died at 90 years old, and I can remember back to when I was 4 or 5.  This means that I have 50 years of memories for which I am so thankful and blessed; but it makes it all that much harder to let him go because I did have him for so long.  From the time I was 17 and my only (and older) brother died at 24 years old, everyone’s mortality, including my own, has been hovering mere inches from my face for nearly four decades.  I have dreaded, for what seems like my whole life, losing my Dad…I knew it would come and I believed that I’d NEVER be READY…EVER.

As I sit here, writing this, my Amazon Music is on shuffle, and Sidewalk Prophets’ “This is not goodbye” just played, followed by Chris Tomlin’s “Good, Good Father”; clearly NOT by coincidence!

I never really believed in coincidence, but after turning my life over to God, I KNEW there was no such thing.  God has a plan for everyone.  Always.  I believe His plan for me was to turn to Jesus, ask for the forgiveness of my sins and for Him to be my Lord and Savior.  Once I did so, I became filled with the most incredible joy, love and peace that I have ever known.  No coincidence that He was preparing me for what was to come seven months later…my Dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis and subsequent passing nine days after that.  I was so thankful that I was with him while he transitioned…that I was with him when he took his last breath and left his physical body, no longer suffering or in pain.  I had prayed for this just a week earlier; falling to my knees and pleading with God to NOT let my Dad suffer and if that meant He had to take him the following week, to please do so…and He did. Answered prayer.

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So, as I sit in my Dad’s back yard this morning, on Father’s Day, wearing his robe, drinking from his “#1 Dad” coffee mug, there is a peace in the quiet stillness of this morning.  He may not be here with me physically, but he is here, in his glorious spirit form.  I can feel his love as though he has his loving arms wrapped around me.

Many years ago, he and I had a moment when I all-of-a-sudden became overcome with emotion, just thinking of the time when he would no longer be with me.  I was sitting on the ground with my back to him, cleaning the wheels of my car.  My shoulders were kind of shaking a little as I quietly snot-sobbed and he said, “Tess?”  I turned to look at him with tears streaming down my face, snots and all.  Without any words between us, his eyes filled up when he saw my face, and his bottom lip quivered ever-so-slightly, because this was the “connection” we had – emotionally, spiritually – and I squeaked out, “Just promise me that ‘when the time comes’, you’ll ALWAYS be with me.”  As tears spilled out of his eyes, and gently rolled down his always-cherry-colored cheeks, he whispered, “I promise”.  Never being one to break a promise – EVER – I know that he IS always with me.

I love and miss you more than I can say, Daddy, but I thank you for keeping your promise… Happy Father’s Day “upta” Heaven.

“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” – Psalm 34:18

“He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3

 

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

Whaddya mean “God placed it on your heart?”

IMG_0149Photo Cred:  Vancouver Church of Christ

The first time I heard someone say, “God placed it on my heart”, I thought, ‘what the heck does THAT mean?’  It came at a time when I had pulled out of serving in my church’s kids ministry as I had just suffered the loss of my beloved Dad and I knew that I wasn’t in a good “head-or-heart” space to love-on and pour into these kids.  I was met with understanding and compassion, even though I felt guilty for taking myself off of the rotating schedule.

I continued to be strong in my faith; never being angry with God for calling my Dad home, but still incredibly sad over my loss.  A few months passed, when the woman who oversees our kids ministry program reached out to me via Messenger to let me know that “God placed it on her heart” to ask me if, instead of returning to serve (if I wasn’t ready), would I consider writing a kids ministry newsletter.  As I read her message and before I could let it sink in, she immediately sent another message saying, “You don’t have to answer now…please just pray on it!”

That same evening, I was on my way to a ‘Staff Recharge’ at church (having no idea what it was all about as I was still a ‘newbie’).  As I was driving, I was reflecting on 2017 as it was getting ready to come to a close.  I was still struggling with the loss of my Dad, and my best friend of nearly 40 years had just lost her son.  I was ‘SO OVER’ 2017…I just wanted it to end!  All of a sudden, it was as though Jesus was riding shotgun in my truck and reached over and gave me a dope-slap.  Then I clearly heard His voice, “Terri, I know that you’ve suffered trials this year, but did you forget that you found me in 2017?  That I saved you?  That you and your best friend were baptized on the same day?”  And just a few short weeks later, my husband, for whom my church family and I had been praying on for eleven months to come to church, joined me for Christmas service and returned the next week and was saved before the end of 2017.   Whoops…my bad!

After the Staff Recharge event, the woman that I previously mentioned came up to me and asked if I had prayed on her request and she reiterated again, that ‘God had placed it on her heart’.  She was so excited about it, as she animatedly shared why she thought He placed it on her heart, saying I was ‘a gifted writer’, and she really believed that I was being ‘called’ to do this.

I placed my hands on her shoulders, and when she had paused, I told her, “I prayed on it” :::insert dramatic pause here::: and then I told her that He guided my steps to say ‘yes’, which I believe was His way of placing it on my heart!

Since that time, I’ve learned to “Be still, and know that He is God”, and before I knew what hit me, He was placing all sorts of things ‘on my heart’. “Pay for the person who’s behind you in the Dunkin’ Donuts’ drive-thru; Offer your time here, and there; Increase your giving at church for My Glory; Be kind and gracious to this particular person”, etc.

If you’ve been unsure if whether or not God has placed something on your heart, I’ll humbly simplify it… When you are unsure about making a decision…if it’s unclear if it will truly be for your good, the good of others, and for His Glory, turn-off all of the other noise and just ‘listen’.  When you do, your heart will grow tenfold (quite similarly to that of the Grinch’s!), and you’ll hear His soft voice guiding your steps, placing it on your heart, and it will be an unmistakably clear message!

 

Proverbs 3:13 – “Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.” (NLT)

 

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

N.B.  As I was getting ready to publish this, while listening to the Contemporary Christian music station, Chris Tomlin’s “Good, Good Father” began to play.  This song’s meaning is two-fold for me – “He” is such a good, good Father; and so was my beloved Dad.

 

 

 

 

Thankful Through The Storm

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Photo Cred:  ACT Emergency Services Agency

The ability to be “thankful” through and during a “storm” can sometimes seem distant, elusive, just out of reach.  When something tragic and sad has happened in your life, how can you possibly be thankful?  Drowning in your sorrow, feeling helpless or hopeless certainly doesn’t leave much room for thankfulness.

Or so I thought…

2017 has been a year of loss and heartache for me.  My beloved father passed away in August and my very best friend (of thirty-eight years) and sister-in-Christ lost her son unexpectedly last week.  Yes… it’s been a year of loss and sorrow.

For the last few weeks and months, I’ve been “wishing away” 2017, chalking it up to one of the “worst years of my life”.  Sadness had overtaken the joy and peace of my salvation and I felt as though my world was crumbling down around me and I with it.

I was driving to a church staff meeting last Wednesday night, having the feelings, yet again, of this terrible, tragic year and there I was, wishing it away again.  All of a sudden, it was as if Jesus was riding shotgun in my truck and he gently, but firmly, gave me a dope slap in the back of the head and then I heard, “Terri, I know that you have been through many trials and tribulations but did you forget that you found me and I saved you this year? That your best friend was also saved and that you were both baptized on the same day? I’ve been with you every step of the way… through it ALL.”  I’m not sure how often Jesus gives out “dope slaps” but this was well-received and I heard Him…loud and clear!

My faith and trust in God is what moves me forward, one step at a time, one day at a time and even one minute at a time, if warranted.

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Photo Cred:  Following My King-Blogger

My faith IS bigger than my fears, my pain, my sorrow.  I continue to keep my eyes on Him, leaning into Him and His Word and knowing that through Him, all things are possible.  Even being thankful through the storm.

With Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, the first without my father, I know that it will be emotional for me and my family.  As we gather around the table, the head of which being either empty or occupied by another family member, the tears will flow as the Thanksgiving dinner blessing is said.  Memories from all the holidays past will significantly impact the holidays of the present and future.  Living in and through this storm, I know that I do have so much to be thankful for, and I’ll pray for those who can’t find their thankfulness during their storms in the hope that they’ll see He is always with them and is always there to reach down and lift them up through their pain and sorrow, pulling them close to Him and giving them comfort and peace.

So let the storms come, let the rain fall hard on my heart because I know His love and light will shine through it all and He’ll help me rise above it.

“When storms are raging in your life, you must grab a hold of The Rock—that is Jesus. He is your refuge, your shelter, the only secure, safe place. He is the bright ray of sunshine in any storm that comes your way.” ~Cathy Irvin/CBN.com

Psalm 107:29 ~ “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.”

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

 

The Aftermath: Learning To Live Without Someone You Love

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As the days, weeks and now months have passed since my beloved father died, I’ve been struggling with how to live happily without him.  He was everything to me.  He was the beacon of light on a dark day.  He was the ray of sunshine that burst through the clouds when my mood was dismal.  He was my last phone call of the day.  I made sure that we always had that nightly opportunity to recap our respective day and to exchange, “I love you’s”.  It’s now been sixty-four days since I’ve spoken with or hugged him.  But who’s counting.  Oh, yeah… that’d be me… I’m counting.  Truth-to-tell, I have spoken to him every day since his passing, but naturally, it’s a one-sided conversation.  I miss his voice, but am blessed in having a couple of audio recordings of conversations we had earlier this year.  These weren’t recorded by chance… they were done purposefully, in preparation of when he would inevitably be gone from this world.  There are a few videos, too, but I’m not quite ready to listen to, or watch them, just yet.

This isn’t my first loss of a loved one and surely it won’t be my last.  I’ve been down this road countless times, beginning at age thirteen with the loss of my wonderful “Gramps”, followed by the loss of my brother four years later (and so on, and so forth), and I know I’ll travel it again.  It’s not a straight, bumpless path… it twists, turns and it’s filled with hills, both negligible and steep, with hidden, grass-covered divots, in which I’ll undoubtedly stumble.  I’ve encountered many hills and valleys throughout my life, as many people do, but my Dad was always there… either pushing me up, or pulling me up from those respective hills and valleys.

When he was diagnosed with cancer and subsequently died nine days later, the joy and peace of my salvation promptly made its way to the back burner where it simmered on low for many, many weeks, overshadowed by the enormous loss of him and my grief.

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Photo Cred:  The Gourmand Mom

I was not, and am not, “mad at God” for “taking my father”.  The week before he passed, I got down on my knees and prayed to God to “please not let him suffer” and I distinctly remember saying, “If that means you have to take him next week, Lord, please do.”  Prayers answered.

I clearly thought we had more time; perhaps several weeks or a couple of months, but I’ve come to the realization that if God had not called my Dad home when He did, my fear of him suffering would have become reality, and as much as I miss him, that would have been too much to bear.

In my mind’s eye, and in my heart, I can see that the back burner is empty now.  The flame is gone and instead, the front burner is fully lit on high and my joy and peace are slowly beginning to “bubble away”.  

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Photo Cred:  The Cook’s Info

I knew they would return and even though they might jump to the back burner occasionally, I’m confident in knowing that they will never be gone… they may just need to “simmer” once in a while when not at a full “rolling boil”, for those times when I simply need to acknowledge my loss, my sadness and cry, as I continue to live without someone I loved beyond measure.

Revelation 21:4:  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Matthew 5:4:  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

 

~Let Love Lead The Way~  TP

 

In Honor of My Father and All Navy Veterans…

dadnavyMy Beloved Father – Petty Officer 3rd Class / Machinist Mate – 70 Years ago

 

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The U.S.S. Wilkes-Barre
Photo Cred:  http://www.rtcol.com/~oakland/cruisers/indexcruisers.html

 

Happy 242nd Birthday to the Navy! 

The United States Navy observes its birthday every year on October 13th.  The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is currently the largest, most powerful navy in the world, with the highest combined battle fleet tonnage. The service has over 340,000 personnel on active duty and more than 71,000 in the Navy Reserve.

History:

On October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress authorized the first American naval force.  Thus began the long and prestigious heritage of the United States Navy. Between 1922 and 1972, the Navy’s birthday was celebrated on October 27th, the date of Theodore Roosevelt’s birth. Designated by the Navy League of the United States for Roosevelt’s foresight and vision in elevating the U.S. Navy into a premier force, the celebration of the Navy’s birthday has always been one of pride.  The change to October 13 was seen as a more relevant date in line with the first official action legislating a navy.  Since 1972, October 13 has been the officially recognized date of U.S. Navy’s birth.

A heartfelt “thank you” to all who have served, sacrificed their lives, and those that are currently serving.

 

~Let Love Lead the Way~ TP

 

 

I Miss You, Daddy

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My tears are flowing without control today.  Just when I think they’ve stopped, they come again.  They seem to have a life of their own, separate from me…from who I am.

It’s as though there’s a hole in the top of my head, and someone is pouring a bucket of water into it. The water’s only release is through my eyes and it’s gushing out.

I know that it won’t always be like this, but I also know that it’s going to take time for that hole to close up… for the water to stop cascading out of my eyes.

There’s also a hole in my heart. Bigger than I could have ever imagined, and yet, it keeps beating, allowing me to be thankful for another day.

I tell myself that I’ll be okay and eventually I will be.  I need to stop being so hard on myself; he’s only been gone for such a short time and yet, it feels like eternity.

The greatest thing about love is that it never dies.  It remains forever, throughout time and space.  When we lose someone we love so dearly, even though we can’t see them anymore, the connection of love is eternal.

I will always be so thankful for the man who taught me everything I needed to know about life and love.  Who assured me, as I sobbed at his bedside when he was dying, that “You don’t need to do that because you’re stronger than you think.”

I’ll never forget those loving words… that beautiful gift he gave me.  He was an amazing man and I will always, ALWAYS treasure my memories… my 50+ years of memories in which I knew every second of every day how much he loved me and what I meant to him, and what he meant to me.

This isn’t the end.  I know that when my heart stops beating and I take my last breath, he’ll be there, waiting for me with his arms spread wide open, and he’ll wrap them around me in a loving embrace.  He’ll be just as happy as I will in that moment and the love and light will shine so brightly.  Our souls will be together and finally…FINALLY…I know that my tears will stop flowing.

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~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

The Only Thing My Dad Didn’t Teach Me…

IMG_0098.PNGMy father was an amazing man…I realize that this statement is not unique in the least or even remotely exclusive to him.   I’m sure there are millions of people on this planet that would say the very same thing about their own fathers.  How truly blessed I was, along with anyone else who feels, or felt, the same way about their own father.

My Dad taught me the importance of being a good person and in being humble, generous, kind-hearted, loyal, hard-working, faithful, dependable and most importantly, loving…to ensure that those you love KNOW it… without question or doubt.  There was never an endless pursuit of “I love you’s” in my house when I was growing up…quite the contrary, and I brought that with me into my relationships.  Not just with my husband of 32+ years but with my children, my friends, their friends, my dogs, veterans and the elderly, just to name a few.  It’s in my DNA…from him.

My Dad taught me many things…how to be self-confident and outgoing…how to be comfortable in my own skin, even if I had to ‘fake it, to make it’, sometimes.  He taught me to be grateful and thankful and to never take anyone, or anything, for granted… especially a day on ‘this side of the grass’.

Yes…

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~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

The Greatest Man I’ve Ever Known and Loved

 

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With the passing of my beloved father eleven days ago, I’ve been going through his belongings and came across the following letter that I wrote for him at Christmas in 1999; nearly 20 years ago.

“Things remembered…

I could write an endless list of things that I have remembered over the last 30+ years. I’ve been blessed with a memory that can take me back to when I was not much more than a toddler.  It is with heartfelt joy and remembrance that I share these with you, Daddy…

  • A metal lunchbox with a note left on the kitchen table stating that it was “in the fridge”…
  • A Christmas tree that had to stand outside for a couple of days to “fall”, while I waited as patiently as I could until the day we could bring it in the house and decorate it, albeit, with “clumps of tinsel”…
  • Our first summer family vacation at Alton Bay, taken in the middle of “March”, or so it seemed, even though it was June.  The weather cold and rainy and an almost 5-year-old insisting that she had to go swimming.  The musty smell of the cabin, and Steve losing his fishing pole at the bottom of the lake and the man who was scuba diving found it and returned it to him…
  • Standing behind an overstuffed chair, combing your dark brown hair, but only for a few minutes, as a six year old can unselfishly commit to…
  • Hearing your footsteps on the back porch after you’d been working all day and seeing you come through the back door, pink-cheeked and smiling.  Happy to be home after a long day…
  • A trip to Mac’s Farm when I was eight years old; a wild ride from the lower pasture when the pony I was riding decided to hightail it back to the barn, and tossed me on my behind.  Big tears and scared out of my wits, I was adamant that I didn’t want to get back on.  A kind, but firm insistence on your part, you encouraged me to get back on that pony, lest I’d never ride again.  So I did…and later on (when I was fifteen), it cost you, big time, when you bought me my own horse on the day of your and Mom’s 23rd wedding anniversary!…
  • “Tess… could you come in here for a minute? “, and I walked into the living room, wearing my strapless mint green prom dress.  The Mills Brothers’ eight track tape paused on the stereo.  You hit the play button, took me in your arms, and we danced as they sang in perfect harmony, “Daddy’s Little Girl”.  I remember crying, and you were trying so hard not to, but you did anyway.  I thanked you by leaving make-up stains on the shoulder of your shirt…
  • Sitting in the back of the church as my soon-to-be-husband anxiously awaited my arrival down the not-so-long and narrow aisle.  Hearing the organist begin to play the “Bridal March”, and you taking my hand and me slipping my arm through yours as we walked down the aisle.  And when the minister asked, “who gives this woman…” hearing you and Mom answer, in slightly quavering voices, “we do”…
  • Finally beginning to comprehend what you and Mom went through when you lost Stephen, as you looked at your firstborn grandson, and knowing that our relationship would change somehow from that moment on because I was now a “parent”…
  • Watching  you with your youngest granddaughter, calling her “Papa’s little girl”, and being uncertain that she knew exactly what it meant and just how special it is to be your “little girl”.

Merry Christmas, Daddy.  I love you more than you’ll ever know.”

I knew the day would come when we’d have to say, “so long, for now”, but I also knew that I’d never be “ready”.  Some have said, “Well, he was ninety…he had a long life…he had a good life”; true, but that also means that I had him for a really long time, making it that much more difficult to let him go.  I am blessed…my family and his friends are blessed to have had him in our lives for as long as we did, no doubt, but as I sit here in his chair at his kitchen table, in the only childhood home I’ve ever known, the memories come flooding back, washing over me like a tidal wave.

The days, weeks, months and years to follow will bring tears of sorrow, smiles and laughter in remembering him for the nearly perfect husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend that he was.  I know I’m biased, but I’ve never known anyone who met him to think that he wasn’t the greatest guy…ever.

He was humble, thoughtful, kind, generous and most importantly, loving.  I never doubted for a millisecond how much he loved me, and I take great comfort in knowing that he was fully aware of how much I loved him and what he meant to me.

The night before he passed away, my sister and I were with him at home as he was transitioning.  Sometimes he was “here” with us, and sometimes he was “there”, smiling and waving to loved ones that were waiting for him.  During a quiet moment, as I was stroking his hair, I rested my face in the crook of my other arm and began to sob.  In a very lucid moment, he reached up and touched my arm and said, “You don’t need to do that…you’re much stronger than you think.”  A moment that carried me through the days following his passing…through his wake, the funeral procession to the church and all the way up through the very last line of his eulogy when I squeaked out, “Anchors aweigh, Daddy…rest in peace”.  He was a Navy Veteran and very proud of it.

I’ll never be able to thank him enough for the wonderful, blessed and loving life that he gave me (to all of his family).  No stone unturned…no regrets…no doubts.  Love was the greatest gift he ever gave me and it is eternal.

~Nehemiah 8:10 – “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

~1 Corinthians 13 – “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP