Africa (Pt. 1): Stepping Out

I paused for a moment at the lip of the plane door.

One last moment to feel safe and secure and clean.

One last moment in my comfort zone.

I sucked in a deep, hot breath of sticky air as an unfamiliar scent encircled my head and tickled my senses. It’s hard to find words to describe the smell of Africa–it is sweet and spicy, a sort of smokey scent with dull hints of pastureland that waft in and out with the wind. The scent is aged and natural and rich. It is relaxing, and ever-present–weaving it’s way through your clothes, your hair, your being. It has a way of welcoming you, and all the while reminding you that you are far from the land you know. It is sour and sharp, yet comforting. The hot breeze steals your worries and robs you of your distractions. I long for the scent of Africa.

The smell of Africa was a perfect stranger to me, and yet it was the first hand I held as I stepped off the plane into a world unfamiliar. I found, quickly, that the hospitality of the land was a beautiful precursor to the hospitality of the people. Warm, sharp, and different…yet inviting.

yDQSx0OoeKdaCUSdJ510whJpdZoiyw26j1xXPVW-aG0,T4NSmciW31iBwOgYzm0YOp3eekObIT_DdV-xVxolTQA

We wove our way through the Ettenbe Airport, the streets of Uganda, and the neighborhoods of Kampala. The night was deep and dark–darker than I was used to. It was impossible to survey the land as we bounced and jolted down rough streets, jerking our way through twists and turns of the city. I gazed out my window and watched shanty shops and roasting fires and busy people wiz by. The town was very much alive and milling, and I longed to interact. I longed to enter in to the lives and circumstances and thoughts of the people.  My nervousness faded as quickly as the moon in our rear view as we found our way to our first guest house and tucked in beneath mosquito nets and stirring fans. I dozed off into dreams of what our coming days had in store–thanking God for guiding my days and guiding my way to a continent I had always longed to know.

I carried much with me into Uganda–including many preconceived notions. I had a grand picture in my mind of exactly what Africa was–a picture painted by years of hearing and seeing and learning about Africa from afar. From the heart-wrenching sponsorship commercials on tv, to the stories of adoption, to the Americanized marketability of fundraising for countless initiatives. All of which had been laced with images of malnourished children, haggard women scooping drinking water out of muddy puddles, destitute conditions, and dry, lifeless land. Viewing a continent from halfway around the world through Americanized goggles and over-dramatized insight left me with, in my mind, a pretty clear image of what this place was struggling with. And it left me with a pretty bold assumption of what this place needed: Americans to sweep in and save Africa.

I entered in with this perspective. A perspective reinforced by our media, my imagination, and my westernized ego. Surely we were coming here to be a part of saving Africa. Surely we were going to be messengers of a grand call to action. Surely we were going to have all of the answers for all of this crisis. These poor, poor people. This poor, poor place. Surely we were wiser, stronger, more equipped. Surely Africa needed us.

Surely I was wrong.

The realizations of my ignorance hit me often, and hit me hard. I felt like an untrained, blindfolded boxer standing center ring, with an opponent circling me, popping me and jabbing me without mercy. Then again, there was no time or room for mercy. I had a wildly inaccurate perception of an unfamiliar land, and the continent only had three short weeks to shatter my perceptions and rebuild a reality. There was no time to waste–and I felt, often, like the land knew this. My perspective of Africa was rocked and robbed constantly throughout the trip. I was popped and punched with truth before I could even catch my breath from the jab of realization that had come before. The land swung, the people thumped, and the children tugged at my heartstrings and my insight into a very different Africa than I assumed I would find.

The sharpest and most stinging realization coming with the very first sunrise on the very first morning of our adventure…

(to be continued)

Advertisements

Fearless Failure

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.” –2 Timothy 1:7

What is your biggest fear?

Think about it…what scares you?

Are you scared of snakes? Spiders? Heights? Are you scared you won’t be able to provide for your family? Job instability? Financial insecurity? Are you scared of the bullies that degrade you? The men that hurt you? The tears you may cry? Are you scared of injury…what about death?

Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. Everyone is fearful of something. No matter if you are a 300 lb. lineman, a 3rd grade ballerina, a 57-year-old business man–or anyone in between–we all face fear. When I sit back and think about the things that have scared me over the years, I can’t help but notice a pattern. Whether directly or indirectly, all of my personal fears are linked to one topic: failure.I think the majority of our fears are rooted in the same thing–the fear of failure.  The fear that we will let down the people around us, the fear that the people around us will let us down, the fear that we will let down ourselves.  So many things are so very scary…

When I was very young, I was haunted by the fear that I would be kidnapped and hurt. Granted, I grew up in the early 90’s, an era when child abductions hit the media like a firestorm. To make matters worse, my parents went to church with John and Patsy Ramsey, the parents of JonBenet Ramsey. For those of you who don’t know, the JonBenet Ramsey murder was one of the most publicized unsolved murders of our time. JonBenet was 6 years old. I was 7 years old. When a 7 year-old hears things on the news and sees her parents so emotionally invested in the tragedy, it is hard to wrap your head around the complexity of the situation. So, my mind only went one place–I am next. The “bad guys” are coming for me. Almost nightly I would have nightmares that I would be taken and that nobody would help me or find me—that my parents would fail at protecting me.

Through my young schooling, I was fearful of getting bad grades.  I wanted to be the best that I could possibly be, and I wanted to make my parents as proud as possible.  I have always been a perfectionist, and I have always been competitive.  I was reared under a sister who was brilliant–literally, a borderline genius. (This is a girl who was kicked out of her second grade class for arguing with her teacher that negative numbers did, in fact, mathematically exist and that the teacher was incorrect in teaching the other students that 5 could not be subtracted from 3. Seriously? I was the kid that was kicked out of my second grade class for sniffing glue, getting dizzy, falling backwards out of my chair and hitting my head on the whiteboard. Haha. This is also the girl who would play “the classroom game”  with me when we were little and try desperately to teach me about exponents and exponential factors…I was 6. She couldn’t understand why all I wanted to do was dance to Spice Girls when there were derivatives to learn!) To say the least, we were very different, but growing amidst her brains and my competitive spirit, it fostered a desire in me to be better, to be smarter, to be the best. And, later in life, any time I failed and didn’t do as well as I know I could have on a school assignment—I failed myself. And, in my eyes, I failed my parents.

Fast-forward through a decade or so of fears and failures. To list all the times I’ve failed would take another decade, so I will simplify by saying that I’m a failure. Aren’t we all? And while my fears and failures molded and shaped me, the worst was yet to come. For the sake of saving time and space, I will not rewrite my testimony (you can read back in the “My Story” portion for details) but I will share with you my most epic fails.

In high school, I feared non-conformity. I feared a lack of control, and I feared judgement. I feared food. I fell into an eating disorder that crippled me, consumed me, defined me. In highschool, I failed myself.

In college, my father failed me. My hero, my best friend, my everything. He feared…he failed…and he fled. On January 3rd, he put a gun to his heart and pulled the trigger. In college, my father failed me.

That year, I feared the pain I felt. I tried everything I could to fill it. I drank, I partied, I lost myself. I feared the darkness and I feared the weakness. I failed to hold my own head high. That year, I failed my innocence.

Later on, I feared for my own life. I failed at driving. I wrapped my Jeep around a tree and feared I would never be saved. I choked on blood and hung broken and battered. On that drive, I failed myself.

Between those points and since that time, I’ve failed and failed and failed.

How do you recover from a life defined in failure? How do you emerge from a life constrained by fear?

We will FAIL constantly. Others will constantly fail us. We will fail others, and we will fail ourselves.  The people around us will fail, circumstances will fail, expectations will fail. You will fail at reaching goals, your friend will fail at supporting you when you need it most. Marriages will fail. Job opportunities will fall through and fail. The stock market will fail, the government will fail. Your boyfriend/girlfriend will fail to provide you with the love you need. You will fail at filling your emptiness with drugs and sex. You will fail tests, fail deadlines, fail budgets. We will slip, and we will fail.

BUT GOD NEVER FAILS.

In the days of my youth, God comforted my worries.  He worked through my parents and protected my heart. God Never Failed.

He calmed my worries over grades and school. He blessed me with the desire to persist and to learn. God Never Failed.

As I battled with bulimia, He clung tight to my body. He protected my health, and nourished my soul. God Never Failed.

As I stared at my daddy’s lifeless body, He wept alongside me and lifted me up. God Never Failed.

As I battled depression in a drunken stupor,  I gave pieces of myself away to boys. But God fought for my purity like a relentless warrior, and though I was battered and broken, He held my virginity with poise. God Never Failed.

As I hung upside down and choked on my blood, He appeared to my heart and found His way in. God Never Failed.

I tell you all this to inspire your hearts! Life is hard. So hard. And we’re really bad at it. We are fallible humans and we mess up constantly. We fail and we fear. We fear and we fail. But as it says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus Christ DID IT! He came and He lived so perfectly. He never failed. And He never will fail. He died for you. He died so that you can ALWAYS be given new life! So that you can ALWAYS start fresh, clean the slate, and turn a new page.  As he hung on the cross, your fears and your failures were nailed to the cross alongside Him! When we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts, we accept a spirit of POWER and LOVE and SELF-DISCIPLINE! We welcome a spirit of forgiveness and grace and second chances!

We serve a God of second chances…we serve a God of LIFE! Alone, we are nothing. We are failures and we are bound by fear. But in CHRIST, we are infinitely strong! We are indestructible! We are SAVED!

What is there to fear?!

At the end of my days, I don’t want people to say that I lived a fearful, timid life. I want them to say that my spirit was POWERFUL in Christ, that I LOVED like Christ, and that I was SELF-DISCIPLINED through Christ.

How will you be remembered…?

“His Mosaic”

I fancy myself a mosaic,

a mosaic constructed by God.

Intricately made, passionately displayed,

beautifully humble, yet odd.

 

For I once was I clean sheet of glass,

free from blemish or flaw.

I was polished and buffed, fragile but tough,

pure and simple, yet raw.

 

What you must understand, is a clean pane of glass

reflects light with splendor and awe.

But it lacks dimension, lacks retention

and only shines on an area, small.

 

But God took notice of my flawless pane

and saw potential for greatness and use.

He knew it would sting, He knew I would scream,

but He knew I could withstand abuse.

 

So He sat down, alone, on His sturdy workbench

and slid my heart into a darkened sack.

Though it hurt Him to do, He knew what was True,

so He swung a hammer and felt me crack.

 

The first blow of the hammer, I lost control

and was broken by an evil disease.

It consumed my thoughts, consumed my body,

but His hand still held me with ease.

 

The next blow of the hammer, my father was gone

and the pain split through to my core.

My breaks turned to shatters, my heart was left tattered,

but He knew I could withstand more.

 

The final swing of the hammer and everything stopped,

I stared death in its formidable eyes.

My body was broken, the pain left a token,

but my spirit was ever alive.

 

The King then sat back, with the sack in His hand,

filled with my broken self.

He then gently restored me, gently He poured me

onto a magnificent, heavenly shelf.

 

With much care and patience, God pulled on His gloves

and began to sift through my remains.

He took His sweet time with a vision, divine,

and pulled pieces of virtue and pain.

 

One-by-one He gently placed the fractures He pulled

into an empty and pure frame.

While I struggled and grew, a battle ensued,

and He humbly took all the blame.

 

But He never stopped working, rebuilding my heart,

He toiled throughout many years.

He so often showed grace, loved me through my disgrace,

and in time, He banished my fears.

 

An artist of power and an artist of Truth,

He carefully re-sculpted my heart.

With much concentration and much designation,

the beauty shone through from the start.

 

When His work was complete, He welcomed me back

and led my soul to His humble workbench.

With the pride of a Father in love with His daughter,

He held tight to my hands as they clenched.

 

He pulled back the canvas that shielded His art

and revealed to me His masterpiece.

I was blinded by beauty, in awe of it truly,

and humbly, I fell to His feet.

 

You see His light that shined, through my restructured heart,

shone with glory and refracted abound.

It danced to the ceiling, sparkled with feeling,

and touched all that rested around.

 

Before my adversity, before all the trials,

I was a pane of unweathered glass.

His light could shine through me, but though there was beauty,

it had no opportunity to refract.

 

In breaking me down and building me up,

He had very clever intent.

For now when His light shone with delight,

it was scattered, refracted, and bent.

 

It could reach every corner and touch every heart

that came within its new bounds.

I could now shine His light, with power and might,

to all who yearned to be found.

 

I was humbled in thought that He cared for my heart

with such personal, attentive grace.

It was then that I learned, it was simply my turn,

and that others filled infinite space.

 

You see He works on us all, every single heart,

for we are all His children anew.

He loves us so deeply, and spends time with us neatly,

rebuilding even YOU.

 

I fancy our hearts as mosaics,

mosaics constructed by God.

Intricately made, passionately displayed

Beautifully humble, yet odd.

My Story (part 19)

“That their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself.”
Colossians 2:2

I likened my mind, at the time, to a large craft table with puzzle pieces scattered on top.  One piece being the concept of a fast. Another piece being His desire for me to be public with my journey. Another piece being His desire for more control. Another piece being my self-confidence. Another being my platform. Another, my vulnerability. And so on. It was a massive puzzle that would have been impossible for me to assemble on my own. It was a puzzle, when assembled completely, that showed a much bigger picture of all that was on my heart. A much bigger picture that was impossible to see by just studying one piece at a time.  A picture of His purpose.

As quickly as I had offered up myself to Him and accepted His calling, the puzzle pieces began sliding into place and assembling themselves.  It was surreal, feeling Him stringing together each piece–allowing me to see portions of His plan. The portions were beautiful.  They were intricate. Little by little, everything began to make so much sense.  I have never experienced anything of that magnitude before. I have never had God, so clearly, reveal to me His purpose.  I was overwhelmed by His fantastic mercy and grace. Though I knew He was just giving me the tiniest taste, I was savoring the flavor–in awe of His grandeur.

He made it very clear to me that, as I told you earlier, He wanted me to give Him the next level of control.  He desired a year-long intimacy fast, and He desired I make every single step of it very public.  He inspired me to name my mission, and inspired me to spread His word as quickly and as passionately as I could.  He purged me of my fear–every trace of hesitation, He eliminated.  He assured me that, if I came to Him in prayer before writing or speaking, it would be He who wrote and spoke through me.  He challenged me to be His vessel. Challenged me to be stronger than I had ever been before, and assured me He would bless me with that strength.  I could go on and on about all that He revealed to me for this year, but that would take countless more blog posts and pages.  The point of my ramblings is to express to you, first-hand, the unbelievable works that I have seen.  By putting aside my own feelings and opinions and, instead, allowing Him to drive my course, I was purged of my fear and apprehension. I was freed from the chains of my desires and rejuvenated in His purpose. It was spectacular!

Where that leaves us, now, at the end of this LONG story, is at the beginning of a new journey.  A journey that will undoubtedly be challenging. Exhausting. Emotional.  But a journey to draw nearer to our King. The bright side? You all won’t have to feel all of the struggles and challenges of the mission, you all will just get to see the beautiful results each day :). But in order to inspire you and teach you of His grace, I will gladly take on those burdens.  I can admit that I will not always have the right answers. I am young in my journey, just as you may be, and I am bound by human tendency as well. I will likely make mistakes and stumble through. However, I WILL achieve His calling and I will always, first and foremost, be pure in my intentions.  I will express nothing to you without first taking it to prayer, studying it passionately, and consulting the spiritual leaders in my life.  But I want to take this walk together, and I am so grateful you have followed up to this point. I hope you will check in throughout the year and maybe learn a thing or two along-side me.

Let’s be exceptional! Let’s be different. Different from everything this world tells us to be. Let’s not just be “cultural Christians”, let’s pursue Him. Pursue His word, pursue His truth, and pursue His kingdom! Let’s give Him control!

My Story (part 7)

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness…” 1 John 1:9

The next chapter of my testimony is undoubtedly the hardest and most painful to share.  For it’s easy to write about the trials and misguidance of another, but to make public my own personal sins–terrifying.  To open up about my darkest period, a period where I so boldly turned my back to our King, is not only humbling, but also embarrassing. However, the Lord ensures us that those who are faithful to Him and follow His plan for their lives will not be destroyed.  Isaiah 54:4 reminds us, “Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.  You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the sorrows…” So, with the Lord as my guide and my Redeemer, I have the courage to share with you the darkness that I’ve seen.

After my daddy’s death, I was overwhelmed by a numbness. A numbness so debilitating, so crippling, it made it hard to even think.  I began to foster feelings I had never truly known before. Feelings of passionate hatred. Feelings of resentment. Feelings of confusion, jealousy, pain.  Feelings of envy, impatience, obsession.  Feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, weakness. Feelings of fear, crippling fear, and selfishness. Feelings of abandonment–not only abandonment from my father, but abandonment from my God.

I felt a hole so deep and so painful in my heart that it literally burned in my chest. I felt numb to any kindness or compassion shown to me, convinced that absolutely nobody knew what I was feeling. Convinced that nobody could relate to my situation or totally grasp how torn my world was. I was shattered. I could feel the tightening grip of Satan’s cold fingers and the sting of his hot breath down my spine. He was gaining power, gaining strength from my vulnerability. Sucking me of my innocence, my ambition, my light. Capitalizing on my weakness and catering to my darkest emotions. He was waiting to tempt. Waiting to win me over…

It’s hard to understand how someone so wrapped in love and surrounded by support could feel so unbelievably alone. I guess I knew how my father had felt. I valued myself, at the time, as a magnificent actress.  I was a modern-day Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hide.  In the public’s eye and to my family, I was so strong. A woman of character and a woman of grace.  A wonderful example of Christ’s mercy and love……Oh, the irony. Behind closed doors and in my spirit, I was dark. I was lost. I was self-absorbed in my own grief and selfish in my ways.  I was so desperate for that gaping hole in my heart to be filled, that I lost myself trying to find myself.

I was back at LSU and back in the bayou of temptation.  Though I was surrounded by magnificent support and love and friendship, I was only able to retain remnants of the strength they offered.  There was a part of my heart that wanted to receive that warmth, part of me that was still that innocent girl watching her proud daddy cheering in the stands. Part of me that yearned for that normalcy and purity.  But Satan capitalized on my depression. Satan was never far from me, constantly whispering to me that normalcy was an illusion. Convincing me that I would never be normal again, and reminding me that I was now in control–that I was capable of  finding my own happiness. Convincing me that the only way to fill that hole in my heart was to indulge in all that sin had to offer.

Afterall, Satan told me, I had tried to find Truth through Christ…and look where that had left me…

(to be continued)

My Story (part 6)

“But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who builds his house on sand…” Matthew 7: 26

There is much to be said about a humble, country boy that builds himself into a man of earthly prestige and success.  My mom once told me that sometimes, someone who comes from such humble beginnings carries their pride in their back pocket, along with their crisp $100 dollar bills. And while there is much to be respected and admired in men that have the strength to build their own empires, the foundations of their intentions must be pure. Never forgetting who they serve and what is required of them.  Much like the parable of the two builders in the Bible, it is necessary that we build our lives on the rock foundation, rather than the sand (but that is a whole other topic for another blog post for another day).

My dad was a very proud man…but pride is sometimes poisonous.  I don’t think that my father had the capacity to handle the fact that he had damaged the one thing he cherished above all else, his family. I don’t think he could face me and my sister with the truth, nor do I think he could face his own mother or his wife.  He was a scared boy trapped in the body of a powerful man…but looks can often be deceiving.

My dad had panicked. He had run. He had picked up in the middle of the day and made his way back towards his humble roots. Back towards his childhood home in Alabama.  He took every precaution to assure his success. He had come home to get his guns in the middle of the day, left the note and the message when nobody was around to stop him. He had turned off his phone and severed any chance of contact. Then he had driven. Driven away from his problems, driven away from his responsibilities.

I would like to think that something snapped in my dad’s mind. I would like to think that his actions were rash and that his decisions were spontaneous.  But the fact of the matter is that my dad spent a great deal of time thinking that day.  From the time he left his office at lunch to the time his suicide letter was received in the early morning hours, he had spent hours drowned in thought. Hours harboring an inner-war in his spirit. Hours hosting a battle of good and evil in his soul.  I won’t write much more about what I don’t know. It hurts too badly to allow my imagination to wander.  But I do know one thing–my dad was a beautiful man. A man paralyzed by fear and caught in the snares of Satan’s stronghold. A man that loved others far more than he was ever capable of loving himself. And that is what breaks my heart the most…

The police were only finally able to track him down because one call had been made from his cell phone in that time. One single call. A call to 911. You see, he had distanced himself. Far enough from his family, but close enough to his home. He had checked into a hotel room, neatly hung up his clothes, written on a small slip of paper what he wished to be done with his body, and called 911. (I can only assume he did this so that a maid would not walk in on the scene and be scarred by a pain she had no need to feel). My daddy then sat down on the hotel bed, put a gun to his chest, and gave up.

It was January 3, 2009 that my daddy put a gun to heart and pulled the trigger.

It was January 3, 2009 that I took back control.

It was January 3, 2009 that I began to run as far from Christ as I possibly could…

My Story (part 4)

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit…” Psalms 34:18

I returned home from work that evening around 6 o’clock and made my way inside, strolling past the vacant space my dad’s truck was usually parked. I remember finding it odd that he wasn’t home yet (considering the fact that, a family man through-and-through, he was never home later than 5:30), but I brushed off the concern and made my way up the porch steps.  When I walked inside, there was an energy and tension in the house that is still difficult to describe.  The air seemed tight and still.  Wrapped up in my own thoughts and fantasies, I proceeded along my way.

Over the next few hours, my sister made her way in and out of my room.  She seemed disheveled and concerned, asking me over and over where dad was and if I had spoken to him.  I laughed off her worry and assured her he was fine, but her angst seemed to build as the minutes ticked by.  I tried calling him a number of times, but after 30 minutes of his phone going straight to voicemail, my anxiety began to rise as well. Just as I was going to make my way downstairs to talk to my mom, her very voice echoed up the steps. A voice shaken with fear, a voice that demanded attention, a voice unfamiliar.  She called us into the formal living room and we came down to find her feverishly pacing–each hastening step mirroring the hastening pace of my heart beat.

My mother’s face was as ghostly as an empty canvas.  Her cheeks were ruddy and hot, and her demeanor was so forcefully calmed that she took on the mannerisms of a marionette. I could see that she wanted to erupt, to cry out in fear, to panic and distress.  But being the woman of God and the woman of faith that she was, she remained as poised and steadfast as a she could, undoubtedly held together by Christ’s mercy alone. She proceeded to tell us of the events that had transpired in the days since New Years. She had unknowingly uncovered a secret–a lie. A lie so delicate, so intricate, so dangerous, that it had the power to destroy.  A lie so meticulously constructed through the corruption of Satan, himself, that it had overwhelmed my dad.

With no time to explain, she told us that she had been trying to call my dad all day. She took us back to her room and showed us a simple, handwritten note he had left by the phone. A note that simply read “I do love you.” and had his name signed beneath it. Mind racing, heart pounding, I found my body tensing and my nerves coiling tight. I couldn’t put the pieces together…I couldn’t wrap my head around the situation. There was so little detail, so little explanation. What was going on? Where was my dad? How were we going to get in touch with him? When was he coming home?…but there was no time to process these questions or find answers.

It was then that I noticed a blinking light on the voicemail machine by the phone and asked my mom who had called. Apprehensive and scared, she told my sister and me that she had found this voice message along with the note. She pressed the button and I immediately heard my daddy’s voice resonate through their room.  It was then that the reality and severity of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks–the instant I heard his voice.  You see, I knew it was my father speaking on the answering machine, but it was not my daddy’s voice.  It was hollow, broken, and empty.  It was a voice so desperate, so shattered, that it sounded like a stranger.  He sounded as though it was drawing every ounce of his energy and pride to muster a noise, draining his heart with each word.

He apologized on the message.  Said that he needed to drive around and clear his head.  Said that he needed to be alone for a while to figure things out. Said that he loved us and would always love us. Said that he would be home soon….Liar. His tone gave him away as soon as he said ‘home’.  I knew he was lying. I knew he was scared. I knew that we had to find him.

That was when true fear set in.  What was going on? What was this big secret? Where was my dad and how were we going to find him? What was the next clue? My mom, sister, and I sat up for hours trying to put the puzzle pieces together. Giving accounts of our day and the last time we had seen him or talked to him, calling friends and family, anyone who may know where he was, anyone who may be able to contact him.  With each lost lead, I could feel the stinging bite of Satan’s laughter. I could feel a hot tingle slide down my spine as we tried, in desperation, to put the pieces together. I could feel Satan feeding off of our fear.

When exhaustion set in, my sister and I laid down in my mom’s bed. I squeezed my daddy’s pillow tight and sucked in his aroma as deep as my lungs could muster. While my mom sat up in the kitchen making countless calls and desperately seeking help, my sister and I cried ourselves to sleep. Holding each other tight, we offered empty assurances to ease one another’s angst. Hoping that everything would just disappear. That my dad would come driving up and that all would be back to normal. Hoping that some resolve could come soon.

That was the first night that I couldn’t pray. I was too confused, too bewildered, too blindsided. I couldn’t muster the strength to reach out to a God that seemed nowhere near. And that hot tingle that had coiled around my spine only grew in intensity.

No more than a few hours into our shallow rest, my sister and I were awoken by a scream. I could hear my mom’s feet sprinting up the basement steps and a sheet of paper crackling in her hand. “Get in the car! Now! Get in the car!” I threw on my shoes and a jacket and fearfully ran to the hallway. My mom, grabbing boxes of papers, contact information, her purse and her shoes, pushed a crumpled sheet of paper into my hands and screamed for me to get in the car.

Ironing out the creases in the paper, I looked down and realized the sheet I was holding was a suicide letter she had found from my daddy…