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.

Another One Slipped Through

I was at the grocery store the other day when I was surprised to be welcomed by a young man sitting by the door. He was a greeter for the store and was surprisingly young and attractive. He looked like he should have been working in a trendy shop at the mall instead of sitting in the corner of a grocery store surrounded by carts and holiday fliers.

But when he opened his mouth, it was clear that he was different. He talked to my son about his dragon toy and how much he liked the movie, “How to Train Your Dragon” and was clearly not just being kind to my young son. There was something less developed about him, less sophisticated than a man his age should have been.

Immediately I felt twinges of fear and sadness for him.

In a world that is always looking out for number one, people like this are often overlooked or ostracized.

Then I thought of how many kids I knew in my teen years that needed a buddy and some that desperately needed professional help. I thought of kids I spend time with every Sunday at church or have met at camps that are clearly struggling but don’t have the skills or support to deal with life and end up repelling the friends they need with their anger and brooding.

And now, I think of the Sandy Hook massacre. From Columbine to now, these tragedies have continued to crash upon us like a relentlessly whipping wave, each rushing wave pulling back only to gather more strength and more fury to sweep away more innocent lives.

Whatever you feel about gun control or mental illness, I think we can all agree that this world is hurting.

While I understand the need for creating laws and procedures to protect our citizens, no law no matter how complete or perfect will heal a hurting soul.

These horrific events should be a wakeup call to people everywhere, especially Christians. To not just surround and protect your own with love, but to be on the lookout for others that need help and encouragement.  As Christians, we must be a safety net for those teetering on the edge and the hand that swiftly grasps those about to fall into the cracks.

We need to tirelessly pursue others with the message of the love of Jesus and His saving grace. We must show that God desires wholeness – body, mind and soul.  And above all we must share our hope: we are not doomed to destruction and defeat because Jesus has conquered it all.

Let us be quick to respond to others with genuine friendship and pray for God to move our hearts with true compassion for those around us. Let our words be saturated in godly love and intention before it’s too late. Let’s not wait until the hurt is so deep that our words can’t be heard over wailing grief.

Strong Like Samson

Dinnertime at my house growing up was always the best time of day. Mom would make some sinfully delicious meal oozing comfort and butter, but my dad’s stories were always the showcase of the evening. I remember my dad telling my siblings and me stories about his childhood and somehow he could share the most disturbing incidents from his life with humor and without a trace of anger or resentment.

He told us about how he ran through his neighborhood as a little kid and tripped and fell on jagged shards of glass and slashed his soft belly. He had a smooth, raised scar like melted plastic right beside his navel to prove it. It was about six inches long and as wide as one inch at the thickest point. His parents were dirt poor and rather than take him to a clinic, they poured gasoline on the wound to cleanse it.

I remember hearing this as a child absolutely horrified that anyone would do such a thing. It was barbaric and nonsensical – didn’t everyone know you’re supposed to go to the doctor for things like that? Didn’t they know they were hurting him?

But my dad’s parents did all kinds of things with little regard for his life. With no thought to the kind of person they were developing. They beat him, they emotionally tormented him. Things like locking him up on Christmas day for some insignificant offense and turning a deaf ear to his screams to be let out, his desperate promises to be a good little boy and his day-long sobbing.

Yet somehow, my dad always had us laughing. His retelling of his life was animated and full of hilarious impersonations and audacious details, but his suffering was merely a footnote. The way he recounted these tales, you almost forgot that a tender young child was being broken as the story unfolded.

I understand that now that I’m older. I also realize more and more that my dad’s resilience was extraordinary. Many who survive a childhood as painful as my father’s end up drug addicts, victims of chronic depression or turn into abusers themselves. My father was nowhere near perfect, but you would have never guessed that he lived through so much hurt.

He was so strong, so confident despite all the things that threatened to finish him. He was born that way, just naturally solid, even before he knew Jesus. But rather than rely on the inherent strength that sustained him for so long, he readily gave that all up for the love, power and effectiveness that he gained through Jesus.

I struggle with that….a lot. I’ve never suffered quite like my dad, though I’ve had my share of ugliness and misery. But I don’t give up my power as easily as he did. Instead I find myself being a lot like Samson in the bible, living off of God-given strength, using it as I please and congratulating myself on my cleverness.

I know that it will not bode well for me if I leave this pride unchecked. Samson reminds me of this.

One of the saddest verses in the bible comes from Samson’s story. He had long taken his strength for granted and began to believe it was all his. Then in his most foolish move, he allowed himself to be manipulated into sharing his most sacred secret and was shaved, betrayed and overpowered.  Samson, however, didn’t know this and woke up to attackers thinking he would shake free and come out strong as he always did.

Not so. The bible says in Judges 16:20, “But he did not know that the Lord had left him.”

What a tragedy. To be so deluded and calloused by your own power that you no longer seek or sense God’s presence.

How many times have I done something by my own might and just assumed God was going to come along and help me fulfill my agenda? How many times will I trade in his presence for my plans?

There is much to learn from Samson’s story. But what has sprung from the pages is that there is hope for even the most out of control pride, person and circumstances. God is not stumped by our recklessness.

Just as it started to look like Samson was useless and ruined, God used him in a final dramatic blow to the Philistines. Humbled and blind, Samson with one faith-filled heave pushed down the columns that supported the temple of a pagan god. Surrounded by drunken revelry, his last words were, “Let me die with the Philistines,” (Judges 16:30).

Like Samson, I have some pillars in my own life that need a good shove. I need my old self to die and those ugly qualities to be crushed along with it. I need to be humbled and blind to everything but God’s will and grace to let it all go.

I thank God that his mercy and goodness never run out. I thank God that I have my dad’s example and my Heavenly Father’s grace to help me turn my failings into a story where God’s life-giving joy is the highlight and my negativity is an afterthought.

Angie D 6/1/12 ©

The Problem With Perfect Children

Have you ever met parents that think everything their kids do is brilliant? That they are the most beautiful, most talented and most flawlessly created specimens of humankind?

I guess you could argue that all parents should feel that way – about their own kids. These aforementioned parents seem convinced that their feelings are in fact common knowledge and that everyone should agree.

Parents like this brag about their child’s prodigious potty training debut and carry on their wild applause of every plunk into the bucket junior makes forever after, even into adulthood.

While I think being proud and head-over-heels in love with your kids is wonderful, sometimes I think parents are blindly devoted and only believe in the superiority of their kids. But does it really do your kids any good to believe they are perfect and always the best?

Maybe my children just aren’t as well-behaved as some, but it doesn’t take very long before they do something to disrupt any fantasies of so-called “perfection”.

My preschool son is not very easy to be around sometimes. He is cautious and slow to make transitions so in many instances when there isn’t time for a warning or countdown to the next item on the agenda, he freaks out to varying degrees. Sometimes it’s just a few minutes of whining and other times it is a full-on meltdown with deep, hiccupping sobs. The escalation from mild disappointment to crumpling on the floor, crying and rolling around inconsolably happens in the blink of an eye. One moment I’m telling him that we won’t be buying corndogs when we go to the grocery store and the next moment I am practically talking him down from a ledge and reminding him that he has the rest of his life ahead of him with plenty of chances to eat corndogs.

Mostly he is sweet and thoughtful; he loves to sing, make up dances, races his cars and plastic horses. But when he is in a foul mood, it feels like I’m being punished.

Right now he’s thirty-eight pounds of fiery emotion and still manageable. But what the future holds, I have no idea. Will loving him be a difficult task?

I think of how even God deals with badly behaved children. Even when presented with the greatest gifts and most extravagant affection his children still act out and fight his love tooth and nail. All throughout the bible you’ll see that he never seems to mince words about their behavior or the consequences. Yet you’ll also see that he looks at his children’s imperfections full in the face and chooses to offer love, forgiveness and direction.

I don’t want to lie to my children and make them believe they are better than everyone else. I don’t want to inflate them with pride and make extending grace a chore. I want to follow God’s example and lovingly guide them through their weaknesses and use them as opportunities to foster empathy and patience within them. I’d rather let my children feel imperfect once in a while so that they look up to a gracious God for help than to set them atop a pedestal, only to look down.

 

Angie D 5/25/12 ©

Parades, Trains and F-Bombs

Thanksgiving weekend is one of my favorite times of year. Thursday is a mouth-watering marathon of roasted turkey, creamy mashed potatoes, buttery-smooth sweet potato pie and platter after steaming platter of decadent sides. Then early on Friday morning, after the turkey haze has faded and belt notches have been added, we head into downtown Seattle for the Christmas parade and holiday festivities.  

While others are braving the ruthless horde of Black Friday shoppers, my family shivers on the sidewalk watching marching bands, drill teams and other performers stomp down Fourth Street. What follows is a long holiday trek through the city with my grandmother, mother, sisters, brother-in-law, sister’s boyfriend, nieces, husband, children and a double stroller the size of a Cadillac. After a nerve-wracking day of restraining my wild son through fragile exhibits and trudging through the massive crowd, we are haggard and weary. The quiet train ride home is a long-awaited reprieve from the madness.

While on the light rail heading home from Seattle, we sat near a group of teenage girls whose every sentence was a cornucopia of expletives. Laughter and a frenzy of F-bombs sailed through the air like grenades and with each one that hit the air I winced and struggled to find a way to deal with them.

I was especially concerned about what my three-year-old son would pick up. He has already learned some bad words from similar situations and it has taken some concerted time and effort to work them out of his vocabulary. It made me very angry that I was going to have to deal with someone else’s poor choices influencing my kid again.

I seriously thought about confronting them. Normally I’m a “mama bear” and will take charge of situations that I feel like are hurting my children. But for some reason, it didn’t feel like that was what I was supposed to do this time. I felt like I was supposed to hold back this time and handle the situation differently

So I started talking to my son. I whispered funny things to him, asked him questions about our day, talked about his favorite things and just kept talking and talking and talking. It was tiring, especially after a long day in the city. But I kept going until they were gone, because I wanted my words to be what he heard and remembered.

By the time our ride was over, I had calmed down. What I realized is that those girls were probably just talking the only way they knew how. They probably weren’t even thinking about how offensive they were because they were having fun and other than the profanity, weren’t doing any harm. They probably didn’t know any better and most likely weren’t given examples of any better.

Those young ladies are not my enemy, and they’re not out to ruin my kids. While there is a time and a place to protect and stand up for what’s right, there’s never a time to condemn. If I had said something, it would have been from a place of judgment and anger.

I’m finding that with both of my kids, my influence has to be intentional and louder than the negative influences that surround them. Not every face off between good and evil calls for a fight; sometimes I need to flood my children’s environment with good things and drown out the bad. Not only for their sake, for the sake of those “causing” the problem, because who knows when the next time will be that they witness what God’s goodness and love look like. I’d rather turn up the volume on grace than shut down those that need it.

Angie Derrick 11/28/2011 ©

No Love Like His

In the account of Deborah in the book of Judges, there’s a brief mention of a worried mother. She waits by her window and wonders why her son hasn’t returned from battle. Her companions try to console her with reasons why he might be delayed. Perhaps he is dividing spoils, they suggest. Hopeful, the mother agrees with them and tells herself that he’s collecting rich garments to bring home, “highly embroidered garments for my neck” she says (book of Judges 5:30).

She didn’t dare believe that he was dead and would never come home.

This woman was the mother of Sisera, the ruthless general that terrorized Israel with iron chariots. This candid glimpse of Sisera’s mother intrigues me – I can’t think of many other times that the bible shares such a vulnerable moment of the enemy, let alone the mother of the enemy.  

Even bad guys have mothers that love them. I have often wondered what it must be like for the mother of a violent criminal to know that their child has committed heinous acts against others, but still see in their heart the small soft child that they once held. I can only imagine the stomach-churning horror that she must endure, wondering how and when her sweet baby became a monster……and why couldn’t she save him?

A mother’s love is a tenacious thing. Sisera’s mother hoped against hope; she didn’t entertain thoughts that her son might have gotten what he deserved, she longed for his safe return.

Her story reminds me a lot of the Prodigal Son. Only her story has no victory; Sisera didn’t come to his senses and he didn’t come home. Their story is the reality of the price of sin: death and separation. 

But the Prodigal had just enough time to enjoy a much different outcome. More persistent than any mother’s love, God the Father is love. He is defined by it, he is driven by it. His love outlasts even the worst rebellious streaks.

There have been people in my life I have been tempted to give up on. For whatever reason, they have rejected Jesus and it seems to be a permanent condition. But only God knows that precise moment in time when they will “come to their senses”.

Until that time, I’m going to be patient, pray and be ready to celebrate their return, because they might be the Prodigal that needs just a little more time to run home to their father.

Angie Derrick 11/3/2011 ©

His Love is Beautiful

Now that my daughter is back in school, my two-year-old son and I have had much more time together, and frankly, more peace. For seven hours a day, my son is free of his impish older sister and her irreverent love of pestering him and guffawing at his chimp-like expressions of frustration.

During this peaceful time we get to enjoy playing with dinosaurs, horses, blocks and reading stories, among other things. Caught up in the joy of reveling in his favorite activities, he has been very cuddly and sweet, telling me several times a day, “Mama so pretty!” while holding my face just millimeters from his own with his stubby dimpled hands, looking at me with the most sincere chocolaty brown eyes.

The pureness of his adoration is so overwhelming sometimes, as though my physical being is too small to contain so much feeling. It’s like being in love and you feel like your heart is literally aching from the emotion that swells and pushes inside. Like the groaning and creaking of a dam against rushing floodwaters, you’re ready to burst.

Sometimes I can’t believe how blessed I am to be so loved. It’s truly humbling to be given such a gift. I feel at once amazingly lucky and a little panicked wondering how many times I have taken it for granted.

It makes me think of the instances in the bible when people fainted or were struck with fear when they realized they saw the Lord. I used to think it was sheer terror, but I realize now that they weren’t all instances of raw fear. I think that the presence of such holiness, power and beauty made each human realize their imperfection and inability to return such a gift. They knew they didn’t deserve such an opportunity and felt both the sting and awe of it – Love Incarnate was in their presence, how do you reciprocate that?

You can’t.

God gives love and grace to us extravagantly knowing full well that we will never be able to earn the gift. He offers it to us with the desire that we will receive it and not try to deserve it, but enjoy it and allow it to transform our lives.

The tremendousness of feeling I have towards my children is nothing compared to what God feels about me. It’s so hard to grasp that, but I believe God allows us moments every once in a while like I have with my son to catch a tiny glimpse of how immense his love is.

My son has no concept of earning my love; he just responds to it and the time we spend together assures him that he is mine. God’s love for us is immeasurable but it is simple. The more time we spend in God’s presence and experience his love, the more we are softened and our sense of belonging to him feels more natural. His loveliness and grace makes us new and compels us to adore him as our father, crawl into his lap and hold his face and say, “You are beautiful”.

Angie 9/17/10 ©

Grace Envelopes Her

At church we have started a lengthy series on the subject of grace. Grace is an undeserved thing, a beautiful gift, the element that changes everything.

When my daughter was in preschool, there were some pretty life-changing events happening to us that had nothing to do with grace. It was an ugly time in fact and quite the opposite of grace – grace doesn’t betray, lie, abandon or steal.

When I think of grace, I suppose the “Christian” thing to say would be that I immediately think of Jesus and his tremendous sacrifice. But in reality, what comes to mind is the image of a dancer and a reverie of music and billowy silk trailing behind every delicate turn. The way ribbons of fabric reciprocate every move with devoted attention.

But I guess that is a picture of the byproduct of grace: the genuine experience of Beautiful Grace leaves you following after it wanting to respond with the same love and beauty.

Grace has me thinking of those many years ago. Around that time, when it seemed like life couldn’t get uglier or more painful, I had an inspiration, a poem came to me. I felt like it was God’s way of giving me peace in the situation and a reminder of just how breath-taking grace is. It was late at night and my beautiful little girl was sleeping near me and she became the picture of everything I needed to know at that time:

Grace envelopes her
like a cradle quietly swaying
rocking to the rhythm of my praying

Just as soft as the air that passes her lips
my prayers reach out like fingertips
to caress her skin and hold her securely
to guard her and keep her from this world so unruly

Grace is the cocoon that wraps her up tight
that keeps her sealed through the watches of the night
Grace is the light by which my Beautiful One sleeps
and the sweet lilting song that shapes her dreams

Angie 6/4/10 ©


  • 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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