Tag Archives: dad

Black Socks and Toilet Paper Rolls

For me, Valentine’s Day has always felt like that awkward holiday in which you aren’t sure you want to participate, let alone celebrate.  In high school, the day was surrounded by a weird duality of angst and anticipation…would that special someone step out and support the sophomore class to buy a specific colored chrysanthemum signifying merely friendship, or, maybe, even be bold to choose the one that signifies “I like you”?  Years later, even through college, February 14th seemed to be the one day of the year where, as a young woman, I straddled the fulcrum, one part of me teetering on emotions of immense disappointment while immensely hoping for the joy of feeling safe and secure in a current relationship.

No offense to my husband, but during our younger years, it took us awhile to get on the same page about this holiday…and maybe a few other things…like, actually dating.  Looking back, Valentine’s Day carries a lot of hurt about my expectations versus my reality.  And, because of those feelings, I believe it has changed how I see the holiday now.

My sensitive side is especially heightened this time of year.  I always have a conundrum about posting happy marriage pictures, as I have friends struggling with their relationships.  It’s like announcing your pregnancy when you know your dearest loved one deals with infertility.  I don’t want to toss my joy around inconsiderately when there is so much pain and hurt in the world.

But, bottom line, Valentine’s Day is about love.  It’s about those around you.  Your marital status doesn’t define your happiness.  You know what does?

Black socks and toilet paper rolls.

Huh?

My dad died of a brain tumor when I was twelve.  Certainly, I know how this impacted my world and even how this loss has carried into my adult life.   Looking back, it is apparent that the early years of our marriage were rooted in my fear of losing Brad.  He was late getting home? Certainly that meant he was dead in a ditch somewhere.  Forgot to call?  He was insensitive and uncaring of my insecurities.  For a young married couple, these little issues stretched deep and wide and probably permeated areas more than I care to remember.

Finally, one night after another round of tears and misunderstandings, Brad boldly shared, “I can never be everything to you.  I can’t fulfill all your needs and ease your fears.  I will fail every single time because I am not perfect.  You need to lean on God for filling those holes and healing those wounds.”

Life changing.

Our relationship improved, because my focus cleared.  Instead of looking at all the negative things I felt Brad was doing, I asked the Lord to change me, to fill me, to ease my fears of being left alone as a young mom.  I leaned in to Jesus, deepening my faith through His Word and prayer. My attitude became one filtered through the lens of gratefulness which changed my life and strengthened our marriage.

For my mom, it was black socks.  My dad, being a pastor, would often come home and change clothes, and leave his black socks on the floor beside their bed.  Years after his death, I remember my mom saying how, if life were different, she would not complain about picking up his black socks, but instead be grateful she had the chance to do it.

For me, it’s the toilet paper roll.  It’s a choice, each and every time I see it empty.  I can lament that Brad or my kids forgot to change it out.  I can wave it around in their faces, or pout at the injustice of always having the responsibility fall on me. Or, I can choose thankfulness that I can serve them in that way and be grateful each and every day that we can share life together, empty toilet paper rolls and all.

So, this year, whether you will be spending Valentine’s Day with a spouse, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, or will be passing the time alone, my encouragement for you is to not let your day be defined by your circumstances.  Let your heart be filled up by the living God, and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you can choose to love well the people around you, whoever they are.  With Him at the central core of who you are, you can wait on his timing, and revel in his love.  By no means is it easy, and, truthfully, it may still even be a bit lonely. But, when He fills you to your very soul and you lean in to Him, He can help you see the smallest glimmer of good in even the saddest of situations.  Trust in that promise today because He delivers.  I’m living proof.  Personally, I think that may be the best Valentine’s Day gift of all.

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
    and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.   Many are the afflictions of the
righteous but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:17-19

Be thankful for what you have, because each day is a precious gift when surrounded by those we love.  Don’t waste it. Single, married, divorced, widowed, young, old…choose gratitude, and choose Him first.

Challenging you to join me in changing the toilet paper roll  –

Blessed to be His,

Sarah

PS.  If you feel so inclined, would you leave me a note on my Facebook page or in the comments section on what your “toilet paper roll” commitment is?  What will you choose to be grateful about rather than see it as a chore? What is your labor of love and thankfulness for those around you?

I Will Follow

2012-07-03_06-51-01_376Easter has always been a time filled with memories for me.  My dad, who died of a brain tumor at the age of 37, passed away during Holy Week thirty-five years ago. IMG_8961 I was twelve at the time, and remember vividly how dad had hoped to celebrate Easter in heaven that year.  God granted him this desire and goodness knows, all heaven rejoiced as another believer was called home to the fold.  Every year in this season, I am drawn backward in time to his celebration of life, with strains of “Praise to the Lord the Almighty” playing through my head as I vividly see our family walking to the front of the church where the casket holding my dad’s body was waiting.  I see myself in my new Easter dress a whole day early, and I wish I could recollect who sewed it for me, because my mom had been busy making funeral plans.

Unable to stop myself, I go further back to 1976, sitting in my Shawn Cassidy postered room, as my mom and dad told me that dad had a brain tumor.

I remembered that I laughed.

I was all of nine and had no idea how to handle that kind of news.

IMG_8963I have a mixture of garbled memories from the time of his illness…him choking on his food when I was home alone with him, the hospital bed moved into the piano room, mascara running down my Aunt Ruth’s face when dad would have such severe headaches that he couldn’t sit up…a small glimpse at some of the tough ones when you deal with cancer.  Cancer sucks the life right out of you and wreaks havoc on those near and dear.

But, thankfully, shining even more vividly are peaceful moments from the last days.  When a bible was placed in his hands, Dad, who had lost his sight because of the tumor, would “read” Scripture to us as eloquently as if truly seeing the words.  The power of God’s word, memorized, sprung forth and made an eternal impression on me.  I was able to see how biblical truth, stored and treasured in my dad’s heart, poured out to comfort and overflow into our lives.

When I discovered your words, I devoured them.
    They are my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
    O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies.  Jeremiah 15:16 (NLT)

Later, after weeks of being unable to talk due to the tumor progression, miraculously, Dad was able to speak the Lord’s Prayer with us during family devotion time.  Furthermore, he raised his hands and pronounced the blessing on his family:

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the
fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14 (NLT)

He died that night.  The knock on the door, the whispered “daddy’s gone”, the long look at the still body but absolutely certain you can still see his chest moving, the coroner arriving despite the late hour, burned into memory.

The funeral was held the day before Easter – but Sunday was coming.

I’d like to say that my faith had never wavered, that I had never gone astray.  I’d like to say that the impact my dad and mom had on my life was instilled so deep that I never once questioned the love of Christ.  Dad was death #2 in a list of six in seven years.  I was going to get awfully good at this grief thing…and I figured out auto-pilot pretty quickly.IMG_8041

But, thankfully, Sunday was coming.  In fact, Sunday came and stayed.  It was there day in and day out.  Sometimes I saw glimpses of it, sometimes I was overwhelmed by it.  I heard it in my Uncle Kenny singing “Jesus Loves Me” loud and strong at my six year old cousin Heidi’s funeral, just a month after my daddy died.  Years later, at Heidi’s brother Matt’s funeral, Uncle Kenny is behind me in the church, singing hymns with passion and conviction that can only come from a faith tested, but refined.

A few weeks ago, in Montana, we’re in church the Sunday morning before Steve’s memorial service, and I’m singing with the hope that can only come from a God who loves us. Overwhelmed, I stop.  Brad leans over and whispers, “You thinking of Uncle Kenny?”

Oh, to keep singing when the storm is rolling in.

Sundays are here to stay.  Because of this, we can sing with abandon, with hope, and with purpose.  Because the Sunday of all Sundays, where memories rest heavy, points us to the empty tomb and the cross.

As Brad shared with the AAI community at the Easter assembly just last week:

Because of Easter, the cross is transformed from an ugly symbol of
pain, suffering, 
and death into a
beautiful promise of victory, hope, and celebration.

We cling because we know where we place our trust.  We place our trust in the one who has risen from the dead, who has conquered sin and death, and who has left us with the Holy Spirit alive and in us until he comes again.

3-5 What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this
Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead,
we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for,
including a future in heaven—and the future starts now!
God is keeping careful watch over us and the future.
The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.

6-7 I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up
with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold
put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith
put through this suffering comes out proved genuine.
When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that
God will have on display as evidence of his victory.

8-9 You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him,
yet you trust him—with laughter and singing.
Because you kept on believing,you’ll get what you’re
looking forward to: total salvation. 1 Peter 1:3-9 (MSG)

This Easter, I know it to be true.  This past Sunday, as we sang “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Maher to close the service, I look over to my dear husband, who just weeks ago lost his brother, and his hand is outstretched in praise and adoration to the One who holds our future.

Once again, Easter is further etched in my mind as hope and joy despite circumstances.

Through the calm and through the storm, we know and trust the power of the empty grave. And, because of this power, we will continue to follow Him, obedient to His call, wherever it leads – all while singing like Uncle Kenny, because we know our future is safe and secure in the arms of Christ.

When the sea is calm and all is right
When I feel Your favor flood my life
Even in the good, I’ll follow You
Even in the good, I’ll follow You

When the boat is tossed upon the waves
When I wonder if You’ll keep me safe
Even in the storms, I’ll follow You
Even in the storms, I’ll follow You

I believe everything that You say You are
I believe that I have seen Your unchanging heart
In the good things and in the hardest part
I believe and I will follow You
I believe and I will follow You

When I see the wicked prospering
When I feel I have no voice to sing
Even in the want, I’ll follow You
Even in the want, I’ll follow You

When I find myself so far from home
And You lead me somewhere I don’t wanna go
Even in my death, I’ll follow You
Even in my death, I’ll follow You

When I come to end this race I’ve run
And I receive the prize that Christ has won
I will be with You in Paradise
I will be with You in Paradise

© 2013 Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing / HBC Worship Music / Jingram Music (ASCAP) / Sony/ATV Tree Publishing / Harvest Worship Songs / Ingram Designee (BMI) All rights on behalf of Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing, HBC Worship Music, Jingram Music, Sony/ATV Tree Publishing, Harvest Worship Songs and Ingram Designee administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC.

Blessed to be His and praying that you are as well,

Sarah