The hardest post I may ever write...

"Rachel, remember, I am only human. I will make mistakes, but one thing you can always be sure of...whether near or far, in joy or pain, through victory or defeat, in happiness or heartache, I will ALWAYS love you, Love Dad"

(Double posting today, one because I feel the Lord so clearly telling me to write this, and two because if I don't publish it now I am not sure I will have the courage to any other time)

I have been waging war within myself about this post for several weeks now. Even as I sit here beginning to collect my thoughts I am unsure of what I am doing. Yet, this is a story that needs to be told. Not to make much of myself or my situation, but to do what I have said I am setting out to accomplish through this blog...encourage. Scripture says that we are to comfort others with the same comfort we have received by our Heavenly Father, so that is what this post is about. Comfort, vulnerability, encouragement, and Jesus. 

This is my story...

I grew up in a Christian home (how all good testimonies start right)...but really. We were so involved. My parents taught Sunday School, my dad was a deacon and sang on our church's praise team...our family was well known in our fairly large church. We were respected, looked up to, and admired. It was my mom and dad, me (the oldest) and my younger sister, Taylor, and my little brother, Reed. 

I lived a normal life, was a good kid, and stayed involved both at school and at church. I had a great relationship with both of my parents as well as my younger siblings. We were a very close family. 

I found out my dad had struggled with alcohol earlier in his life when I was about 13 or 14 maybe. I remember my mom and dad sitting me down and telling me about my dad's problem...but that was years before, and it was all under control while I appreciated them telling me, it wasn't really a big deal to me. The past is the past right? 

So fast forward several years. I was a junior in high school. Just 16 years old and loving everything about life. I had never had experienced any real heart ache in my life, other than maybe a break up, but nothing truly painful. That was all about to change. I can remember coming home from school one day with my sister and my mom was waiting for us in the living room. She looked so weird, and told us to sit down. I knew immediately something wasn't right, and thought I had done something wrong and panicked. 

My mom began to tell us my dad had confessed to her earlier that day, he had been having an affair with another woman for several years...I literally could not believe it. I remember just screaming in anger, and running up to my room and throwing a picture across the room and it family was put together, people wanted to be us...this couldn't be happening. 

But it was happening. That day was the beginning of my entire world as I knew it being turned upside down. My dad went to stay with some family friends so that we didn't have to see him, and we tried to keep living. My mom let us stay home from school for a few days, and it was all so terrible. I could not get my mind off of what was going on and I was consumed with anger towards my dad for his foolishness and mistakes. Every day it seemed as if my dad was telling my mom more of what had been going on (I was very concerned and sneaky so I read my parents emails back and forth without my mom knowing...she does know I did that now) Alcohol played a roll, it seemed that a struggle from the past had reared its head in my dad's life once more. 

Several days passed and my mom arranged for a time for my sister and I to see my dad and talk with him. We were both fighting her on it but ultimately she made us talk to him, something I will always be grateful to her for. I will never forget the look of complete brokenness on my dad's face as he walked into our living room that will forever be pressed into my memory. We talked for several hours and ultimately ended the conversation with me crying hard and telling him we would forgive him and love him still and work through all of this as a family. My sister and I hugged him and told him that we loved him, and he kissed us both on the cheek before he left. 

That was the last time I ever saw my dad. 

The next day after a hard conversation on the phone with my mom where my dad confessed to even more he had been doing behind her back, he went missing. I was the only child who knew this, my brother and sister had no idea. I went into complete panic mode. I slipped out of class every chance I could to call my dad and leave messages on his phone begging him to not do anything stupid...he never heard any of those messages.

The afternoon of September 11, 2007 I was pulled out of cheerleading practice with my sister and driven to a family friend's house with little explanation. We walked into the house and I instantly knew what happened. My mom was laying on the couch in my grandmother's lap, every minister from our church was in the room. My mom said this, "Girls, your dad couldn't handle all of this...he went to be with Jesus." After that all I remember is screams, and running outside to just be able to breath. My dad had taken his own life.

The journey that followed that day was one of the darkest I have ever experienced. It was the most real and deep pain I have ever felt. However, this story is not about what happened to me, it is about what the Lord did because of what happened to me. I have never felt the Father in the ways that I felt his presence the days following my dad's death. He met me where I was totally broken and showed himself to me as my true father. He helped us as a family to understand what it means to "make beauty from ashes" and to "make the rough places smooth" (Isaiah 61 and 42). He was the lifter of our heads, and the peace that passes all understanding. 

So why did I just let you in to my deepest pain? Because the Lord is good in those deep pits. I quote this verse often but it resonates so deeply with me because of the pain I have experienced...

"It is good that I was afflicted, that I may know your statues." Psalm 119:71

I never thought my life would include a tragedy like this, I never thought I would lose a parent at the age of 16 only 5 days before my 17th birthday, I never thought my dad would not see me walk down the aisle or get to meet my children one day...I never knew any of those things. But now...I know that pain is good. It brings about a type of growth that cannot be experienced without the suffering you endure through teaches us so much about the characteristics of our Heavenly Father that we often overlook. 

Pain makes us more like Jesus, so while it sounds crazy to say this, I praise the Father's Holy name for the pain he has had me walk through, because through pain comes growth. So please do not leave this post feeling sorry for me, or discouraged...but leave feeling confident in the character of our God. That he alone is faithful to take care of us and meet us in our darkest times. 

Despite my dad's sin, and mistakes, he was a great father. I have sweet memories with him, and always felt so loved by him. The quote from up above was the last paragraph of a hand written letter he had given me when he was rebuking me for some of my always brings me to tears when I read it. 

I pray that this encourages someone. I pray that it makes you think through your pain in light of it leading to growth. I pray it comforts you or allows you to comfort someone else. 

Thank you for reading and allowing me to share my story with you.