Building The Perfect Dad

I haven’t blogged in a long time. There are a few reasons for that. Time is little and precious, as are my children, and I am often called upon to draw horses with my kids. Sometimes I’m too busy, and a lot of times I’m too tired.

But mostly I’ve been occupied with my latest project.

I’ve been writing a book about my dad. I’ve written about him many times on my blog and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. I tell my kids stories about him, I remind my little sisters of things he did with them because they were too little to remember him.

So one day, I decided that it wasn’t enough to just write about him occasionally or share a few stories about him with my kids. I want them to really know what he was like, to understand his humor and what made him tick. Even though he is not here in the flesh, I want them to see his face and hear his laugh as they read about the man that loved me so much.

I realize, though I only had him for sixteen years, I’ve been given a very precious gift. I had a dad worth telling about, that was faithful to my mother, hard-working and honest. I’ve never doubted his love and I knew he was always rooting for me. He thought so highly of me that I tried my best to exceed his expectations because I wanted to make him proud. He’s been gone more than half my life, but his influence still compels me to live intentionally.

I know not everyone is so lucky to have a dad they can be proud of. My own dad did not enjoy a happy childhood. My grandfather terrorized his family with beatings, squandered the little money they had on beer and women and crushed hope daily with his fists. My dad was raised in brokenness and didn’t know what a good father was until he learned about God’s unfailing love as an adult. He learned that what his dad sought to destroy, God our Father set out to redeem, take into his arms and make whole.

What I am increasingly aware of as I write my dad’s story is that his story can’t be told without being constantly reminded of God’s grace and love. That they are so inextricably intertwined that the first doesn’t make sense without the other. Grace is what holds it all together, makes sense of his darkest days and is the underpinning of his greatest moments.

Because my father chose to receive God’s forgiveness and love, he became the kind of dad he never had. He defied the odds and lived a life that showed me if a great man like my dad believed that God was faithful and worthy of our praise, then he must be.

My dad’s greatest legacy and the one thing I want my kids to know about him is that God can redeem anything and anyone, and nothing is beyond his power. Whether it’s building a father out of a broken man, or raising his son from the dead, nothing is too impossible for God’s grace and love.

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People are Mean

There was this kid at my high school that was rumored to be a circus performer. He was a year younger than me so I didn’t have classes with him or know him at all, let alone if that was true. Circus performer or not, he clearly loved to juggle and do other carnival-style feats and would practice his little stunts during breaks and lunch time.

I remember this one particular group of kids that would often ask him to do tricks in the middle of the jam-packed hallway between classes. They’d chant and clap and cheer until there was a ring of rubbernecks around him and he’d eagerly comply with their entertainment whims.

Unfortunately, they weren’t actually interested in his talents. They were just looking for someone to ridicule; just a bunch of heartless gawkers looking for a freak show, a dancing bear. There was a lot of muffled laughter and overenthusiastic applause to keep the show going. And it did. Because for a fleeting moment, that kid thought he was a star. It was like watching someone coerce their love-starved dog into doing silly tricks for a little appreciation and a pitiful treat. It was pathetic.

People are mean. Some people enjoy being mean the way some of us enjoy crumbling dirt in our hands and watching the grains sift through our fingers.

Middle school girls are especially mean. Gossip, insults, silent treatment, exclusion, out-and-out lies and bullying are what my daughter sees or is sometimes the victim of daily.

It’s really hard for me as a mom to not want to storm through her cafeteria and go all Jesus-and-the-money-changers on those kids and start flipping over tables and beating the bottoms of those sadistic kids with a big ol’ paddle. Instead, I’m doing my best to teach my daughter how to stick up for herself and others, to talk things out first and when that doesn’t work, tell the teachers about it. I am trying my darnedest to help her empathize with these bullies and remind her that when people are unhappy and unloved, they lash out.

Mostly, though, we talk about forgiveness. Because when the little tiffs blow over, when she moves on to high school or college – no matter where she goes – there will be more mean people and unfair treatment waiting for her.

I wish I could tell her it’s just the way kids are at her age. It would be nice if I could tell her that she won’t have to worry about getting hurt at church or other places that should be “safe”. I would love it if people simply grew out of their meanness.

But we all know it’s just not as simple as all that. Understanding and practicing forgiveness are the only ways to cope with this harsh reality.

Designed by God, forgiveness is a strange and beautiful paradox. When we forgive, we are healed; when our hearts are doused in pain, forgiveness ignites compassion. It keeps our spirit soft and our hearts intact. It strengthens resolve to say “yes” whenever you can, help whenever you’re able, support, guide and encourage whenever its needed because you know how badly it hurts to be ignored, rejected and betrayed  – especially by those you thought were on your side.

I don’t want my little girl that used to burst onto playgrounds looking for friends with her pigtails flying and arms wide to become jaded and reticent because of the thoughtless behavior of others. I would do anything to spare my daughter from unkindness, but people will always fail, including me. And when they do I don’t want my daughter to lose faith in humanity, I want her to find strength in the God that restores her heart and renews her mind so that she remains confident in herself and tender towards others even when they’re mean.

Angie Derrick 10/25/2012 ©

Why Do Some Seasons Drag On?

Winter here in Washington has been disappointing; a gray slurry of soggy grass, deep puddles and overcast skies. Even the few days of fluffy white snow quickly hardened into dense layers of ice encasing every square inch of our landscape.

It has been bleak and tiring, even oppressive at times. The abysmal weather just drags on and on.

Tomorrow is the first day of spring but you’d never know it around here with the alternating bouts of frost, snow and rain throughout the last few weeks. While there have been sunny days here and there just long enough for our pale residents to kick off their rain boots, it doesn’t last long and a cold downpour always seems to ruin the weekend.

It feels sometimes like spring will never come and we will always be looking over our shoulder for signs of rain.

It reminds me so much of difficult times I’ve lived through. You let yourself hope and settle into “spring” and then the clouds come rolling in.

You feel like a fool for believing things were going to change. You promise yourself to never be so stupid again.

When you’re going through a difficult season, unpleasant surprises aren’t just annoying, they tax your sanity. You just want to breathe easy and settle into a life where everything is new and warm.

Before I met my husband, I was in a relationship that was riddled with ugly surprises. He betrayed me, but I forgave him and it seemed like he wanted to change. But then my blue skies would darken over and over again as he would often disappear, sometimes selling my things to fund his escapades, other times draining our account.

We were always broke. Everything I couldn’t pay for reminded me of every dollar he stuffed and every woman that lived off those dirty bills.

Having been betrayed so many times, I was weary and I was done. I just wanted a normal life where what I nurtured would grow.  I was done with always waiting for when my bright day would freeze over and life would become cold and slick.

I finally moved on and stop putting my hope in my efforts and God, but in just God.

It was very hard and sometimes I felt very small and alone. But I had a verse that I know God showed me to give me hope and I would read it over and over:

“For your Maker is your husband – the Lord Almighty is his name – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit – a wife who married young, only to be rejected….Though the mountains be shaken and the hills removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:4-6, 10)

Here was my story and God had already prepared for it, just as he did for Israel! He promised long before I was born that he would be my husband and redeemer and even though my world would break to pieces around me, his love would never fail and his promise of peace would never be taken away.

He has and continues to remain true to his word – his love hasn’t failed me and his peace is real.

My life didn’t heal overnight, just like spring doesn’t appear in an instant. There are stages – parts that must melt away, roots that need to strengthen, and even rain to wash away the old grit and nourish the new life that will eventually flourish in the new season.

Things can look hopeless, but I am certain of this: Spring always comes; it just feels like forever sometimes before it does. We just need to trust that while we’re waiting, God has something beautiful in store for our future.

 

Angie D 3/19/12 ©

The Best Kind of Wedding

One of the best parts of a wedding is the dressing up. For one day, you wear the dress of your dreams, the bridal party is outfitted and accessorized to compliment and enhance the bride’s appearance and no one is thinking about how she normally looks or how much is underneath the dress holding everything in place.

I remember my wedding day very well. It was surreal and beautiful, hectic and nerve-wracking. All together, the elements of the day were electrifying. There are very few moments in life that come close to the thrill of that day.

The best part of the day is the anticipation of a new start. My life wasn’t going to be my own anymore, but a shared endeavor, adventure and gift. My husband was taking me and everything that belonged to me, both good and bad. In front of everyone we knew he was going to promise to love me.

His public declaration meant that he didn’t care that when I was born I was so ugly and hairy even my dad joked that the doctor thought I was a monkey and offered to cut off my tail. He didn’t care that I used to be a fat kid with big glasses and wore grunge-style clothes and no make up as a teenager. He even accepted that I had a daughter from a previous destructive relationship and would have many pieces to help me pick up even though the jagged shards might hurt him too. He was on board for the whole ride and loved me enough to continue with eyes wide open.

Jesus enters a relationship with us the same way. He sees everything that we are and promises to love us anyway. The bible talks about the Christian church being like a bride or a virgin. For some, the symbolism might seem creepy or meaningless, but think about it: to be a bride is to have a new beginning, in this case, to start life fresh with Jesus as our constant, faithful Lord and companion.

The hurting, broken, dysfunctional, ugly – this is who Jesus is looking for and making his promise to. That the God of creation who imagined the Heavens would liken me and such an odd collection of people to a bride is overwhelming. The bride is the centerpiece of the wedding, the object of everyone’s admiration and the groom’s treasure. All his waiting and searching for the perfect mate led him to her. Is this really how my God sees me, the gorgeous result of much seeking and endless preparation?

It is and He does. He covers our raggedy mess of sins, dresses us up in his love like a beautiful bride and reshapes us in the image of Christ.

Angie Derrick 11/5/11 ©

 

 

 

 

Who Can Stop a Trainwreck?

Have you ever wished that someone would stop you from doing something really stupid? I think that every time I look at any pictures of me from age two to twenty two.  

When I was a little kid, my mother let me dress myself and do my own hair. But instead of taking my fashion cues from Punky Brewster, I looked like I was hanging out with the Golden Girls. Apparently, my mother let me do my shopping at the lost and found of our local retirement center. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I was a hefty girl with a unibrow and big pink glasses that would make Sally Jesse Raphael jealous.

Being a portly child, my wardrobe included a lot of knit pants and t-shirts. But these soon became too bland for my artistic sensibilities, so in fourth grade I started to add some flair to them with my own hand-drawn puffy paint designs.

The pièce de résistance of my stretchy attire was from a collection I like to call my “Antarctic Period” featuring lumpy penguins with birthday hats and squiggles that were supposed to be confetti but looked more like Cheetos. I’m not sure what possessed me to fixate on penguins, but their melted smiles and lazy eyes seemed good to me so I wore my designs like I was working the catwalk.

As I got older my fashion sense didn’t improve much and neither did common sense. I got pregnant with my daughter when I was nineteen and spurred on by friends, relatives and my grandfatherly doctor, I was encouraged to eat whatever and whenever I pleased because I was “eating for two”. They insisted that whatever calories my youth couldn’t handle, nursing would fix, so I ate like there was no tomorrow. I ate California chicken burgers like they were the building blocks of my fetus’ nervous system and with every pound of nachos I stuffed into my face, I toasted her health.

Consequently, I was the size of a planet by the time I was nine months pregnant. And when it came to losing the “baby weight” (like any of it was the baby’s fault), youth was definitely not on my side and nursing did nothing but make me feel even more like a big cow.

There have been so many times in my life that I wished that someone would have knocked some sense into me; that they would have stopped me from humiliating myself and acting like a moron. But I don’t know for sure that my mom could have convinced me that penguins weren’t “in” or that anyone could have stopped me from eating like a lumberjack when I was pregnant. I don’t know if anyone could have talked me out of many stupid things I’ve done, even the things I knew violated my faith.

I think sometimes God lets us continue on our path of idiotic behavior so that when we finally hit bottom, the stark contrast between our stupidity and his wisdom and love is undeniable. The difference is so palpable that we appreciate God’s goodness in a deeper way. I also think he allows us to learn the hard way sometimes so that we have more compassion towards the lost and those that have turned away from God. When we are faced with our own wretchedness and have experienced God’s redeeming love, no one seems like a lost cause and you are compelled to share that hope.

Every time I write, I can’t help sharing how God has changed my life and blessed me even if it means exploiting my less brilliant moments. While I definitely don’t celebrate my bad decisions, and many still make me cringe, I share them anyway because I want others to know how good God is. No matter how shameful your background or how many stupid things you have done, there is nothing so terrible that God’s love can’t cover it or would make him embarrassed to call you his child.


  • I believe in Jesus, loving people, living fully and creating good things. Whether it's art, food or finding solutions, I am always in "creative mode". With this blog I hope to encourage and help others to live in whatever "mode" God has called them to.

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