A Father’s Love

The story goes that my parents were in the process of deciding whether or not to have another child when God gave them me. My dad was a little reluctant to embrace the idea of a third child (before there actually was one) because he didn’t exactly love the idea of being such an old dad. (My dad retired when I was a senior in high school.)

Personally, I think it all turned out okay. I don’t think anyone in my family gets along better than I got along with my dad. It took me losing and missing my dad for me to realize that I was, and will probably always be, a daddy’s girl.

I had been 20 for almost two months when my dad passed away. I’ll be the first to admit that we didn’t have nearly as much time together as I feel we should’ve. There was no official lecture from the former alcoholic in him when I drank my first drop of alcohol at 21. I never got his opinion on who the cutest member of One Direction is when I first started listening to them. Many cheers filled the Ramsey Center when I walked across the stage at my college graduation, but his voice was not among them, proud and booming. He wasn’t there to celebrate with me when I got my first post-graduation job. He wasn’t awake and pacing the first time I came home from attending a concert by myself, and he wasn’t there to listen to the remarkable story I had to tell from it. He’s not here to bounce story ideas off of or to comfort me with one of his priceless, unparalleled talks when I’m down. He’s not here to laugh at my jokes or to watch action movies with or to talk about religion with. And he won’t be there if I ever get married or decide to move away. To this day, I wonder what my dad would think of me. When I make a big decision, I wish I could get his insight. Now I’ll never know his thoughts and opinions for sure, which may be what I hate the most about him being gone.

No, 20 years doesn’t seem like nearly enough. But it’s much longer than many people get with their dads. And those 20 years were high quality. I’d gladly take 20 years filled with love and happiness over, say, 40 years or more filled with abuse and resentment, which is what a lot of people are left with.

The Friday evening before my dad died, Derek and I sat with him in a waiting room before he was admitted to have some tests run. My dad knew he didn’t have much life left in him, and he told me, “Carrie, when you think of me, I hope you smile.”

And how could I not? When I think of my dad, so many beautiful memories come back to me. Helping him and Derek rake leaves as a kid and him watching us jump in the piles. Him fixing Derek and me chocolate milk. Him bouncing me on his knee. Him chasing me playfully through the house. Him teaching me how to play the version of Crazy Eights he learned out in California. The one time he took me to the poolroom. Talking to him about anything and everything over breakfast on Saturdays. Listening to him make up songs about silly little things and sing them around the house. Listening to him play the harmonica as he sat outside. Him coming outside to comfort me and apologize when I walked out after an argument (“Carrie, I can’t stand to hear you cry”). Listening to his stories. Him telling me about a dream he had in which I was a professor and a published author. A two-hour phone call discussing self-forgiveness and seeing God’s love in the tiniest things. His hugs. His laugh. How proud he was of me. How could I think of my dad, who he was and what he means to me, and not smile?

Our relationship was great, but we fought. I inherited my stubbornness and my temper from my dad, which would lead to disagreements and arguments. Even when we didn’t get along, even at our ugliest, we knew we still loved each other and would forgive each other.

My dad and I aren’t the best examples of the father and son in the tale of the Prodigal Son (If I’d asked my dad for my inheritance early, he would’ve laughed loudly in my face and made a joke about giving him the chance to spend it before I got it), but there are some similarities.

I can relate to the son who left (and the son who stayed, but that’s irrelevant here). There were times I thought I knew better than my parents or times I thought I’d be better off on my own, that I could handle it and on top of it all, that it’d be fun. I’ve also done some stupid things in my life, and I’ve had some low points.

While my dad would never give me as much room and ability to make bad decisions and squander his money as the rich man did his kid, he did share the rich man’s love for his kids. Watching and checking the time when waiting for them, and caring enough about them to let them learn things the hard way if no other way. And running to them with love and forgiveness when they finally come around.

That’s just like God. He gave us free will because He loves us, and He loves us still when we use it to make bad choices. Nothing can stop His love or His forgiveness. They never waiver or run out. In a world where so much changes, we can count on God’s heart for us to always stay and to always stay the same.

It really struck me on Sunday that the God who took my dad from me was the exact same God whose embrace brought me comfort through that experience. I could’ve felt mad or betrayed, but I felt loved instead. Because God loved me enough to do what was best for me (and my dad) knowing that it could push me away from Him instead of drawing me closer, and He decided my long-term well-being was worth the risk.

The God who proved His love for me by sending His son to die for me when I was most unworthy continues to prove that same strong love for me. And He does the same for you.

God’s love isn’t always obvious. Regardless, His love is always there. Always. And I dare you to look for it if it’s not evident. A deep love doesn’t always present itself in clear, plain ways. The harder you look for God’s love, the more you’ll see it. It’s like a rose, made in layers, its petals so abundant that they cover each other up. And the more you find God’s love, the more you see it, the farther in love you’ll fall with Him.

By Carrie Prevette

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Opportunity

There are many things I miss about college, and one of them is free pancakes at the Presbyterian Center.

Every semester on the Sunday night before Exam Week, the Presby Center right by the WCU property line served all-you-can-eat pancakes and punch for free. The people were kind, and the building was filled with the happiness only pancakes can bring and the anxiousness that only comes with imminent exams. I went to the Pancake Dinner seven of my eight semesters there, and the last one was one of the most memorable.

I had been emotional for about two or three weeks when that Sunday came around. The week after it wasn’t just Finals Week, it was the final week. I was aware it would be my last Presby Pancake Dinner, as was my best friend Becca, whose brain has thought in terms of final events just like mine.

We were so excited and emotional that we arrived too early for pancakes.

Not wanting to go back to our dorms or just sit around for 15 minutes, we decided to take a nostalgic drive.

If you leave Western’s campus from the main entrance and go left, the road will eventually take you through winding curves and small towns and put you in South Carolina. The sun was going down, and I thought it would be nice to use its last rays for one last drive down that way. The we could turn around, come back, and cry in our pancakes together.

We drove down and turned around. On our way back, a loud noise similar to a flat tire happened on the passenger side of my car. I pulled over. Becca and I got out of the car. With the flashlight on Becca’s phone and the flashlight from my roadside safety kit, we investigated.

No flat tire. Not a single problem with any of the tires.

So we checked under the hood. There we found that the left edge of my steering belt had not only ripped right off, but had also wound itself around another part of the car. It became very clear very quickly that the situation could not be fixed without tools, which I did not possess. Becca called AAA for me while I called home to report the sad news.

If my mom or my brother had answered the phone, I would’ve been fine, but my sister answered the phone, and my heart sank.

I love my sister deeply. I really do. I’d take a speeding bullet in a vital organ for her without thinking twice about it. But if something bad happens, I’m not eager to tell her because she worries too much. I mean, too much. She stresses out about almost everything.

I hardly ever truly worry. I’ve developed the habit of rarely worrying about things I can’t control and hating myself on the occasions that I do. I plan out a course of action, maybe two, to what I can of the situation and leave the rest up to God.

My sister got worked up about my car and even accused me of not taking the situation seriously because I was choosing to be lighthearted about it all instead of freaking out. I told her the plan and that I would keep her and the rest of the family updated. Then I got the blanket from my roadside kit, covered up in it, and sat in the car with Becca, waiting and eating the chocolate chips she’d bought to put on her pancakes.

We thought we’d have to wait at least an hour (more like two) as the AAA man was coming from Asheville. Long before then, however, came a nice and capable guy named Derek (Same as my brother. Ironic, huh?) in a truck that had both a toolbox and a cute dog in it. He was kind enough to look at my car and fix it for me. He wouldn’t accept any monetary payment for the job he did. I was so overcome with gladness and gratitude that I asked him if I could give him a hug. He laughed and said yes, so I did. Then we said goodbye, and he left. Becca called to tell AAA that the visit wouldn’t be necessary while I reported home. Then we left to laugh at the situation over free, delicious pancakes.

(Just as I had never seen Derek before, I haven’t seen him since. If by yet another miracle you’re reading this, Derek, I’d like to thank you once more. Really, I’d like to hug you again from just recalling the story, but I’m afraid a simple written appreciation will have to suffice here. Thank you, thank you, thank you! You’re just lovely.)

We’re often presented with opportunities to exercise our faith, although they aren’t always so grand as your car breaking down right as night arrives and only six days before your trip home. Sometimes these opportunities are as small as believing that God will make your bad day better or that He’ll relieve the pain from your hangnail. On the other hand, sometimes they’re gigantic, like believing He’ll help you make rent and have a place to live or that He’ll make sure you don’t fall into your old, bad habits and way of life.

I’ve come to realize that bad things are going to happen to us. They just are. They’re going to happen regardless of whether or not we have faith. Then why shouldn’t we have faith? Aren’t the chances of us turning our awful circumstances and problems around significantly better with faith than they are without it? And really, what do we have to lose from just believing and being positive?

It would’ve been easy for me to put or pace around in circles about my car. I love my car. His name is Bartholomew, and we’ve been having adventures together for five years now. He was my ride to and from college, and he was for a few other kids who lived in the area as well. It would’ve been terribly easy to worry.

But as much love and faith as I have in Bartholomew, I have even more in God. I knew He wouldn’t leave me stranded on the side of the road. Whether it was with the help of a AAA employee, a kind soul like Derek, or God Himself guiding my own hands, I knew Bartholomew, Becca, and I would be out there before the night was over.

The other opportunity as seen in my story is the one to give out a little faith. I’m eternally grateful for Derek and what he did for me, and I’m sure many (if not most or all) of you have a similar feeling towards someone who has gotten you out of a jam before. And I’d just like to encourage you to be that for someone else. Maybe you’ll restore their faith in humanity. Maybe you’ll restore their faith in God. Either way, you’ll both be better off for it because God rewards those who demonstrate His love and grace. Even if it’s as small as buying someone’s lunch for them or giving them a ride somewhere. It could mean nothing to you, but it could mean everything to them.

Life is largely opportunities and consequences leading to other opportunities and consequences. What we choose to do with those opportunities will determine the path our lives take. Will you choose to condition yourself to automatically worry about something or to calmly hand it over to God? Will you choose to repeatedly restore people’s faith or will you become part of the problem because you’re not part of the solution? Never underestimate an opportunity and always make the most of one.

By Carrie Prevette

Like John

I would like to start this week’s blog by officially and wholeheartedly congratulating everyone who was baptized on Sunday. I’m so happy for you, and I’m excited to see what God’s got planned for each and every single one of you.

I was baptized when I was nine. It was in what I suppose you would call a creek. The water was cold, and I was nervous. I can still picture it well. The grass was turning green. The sun was out and warming the earth, breaking through the leaves and branches of the one tree on that side of the creek. There was a small gathering there to celebrate with those being dipped in the water, and a small group of singers stood in the shade of tree and sang before we started. It was very old-timey and very nice, reminiscent of the baptism scene in O Brother, Where Art Thou. (If I’m not mistaken, the picture that my dad kept of his soaked, post-ceremony family is still taped to his bedroom mirror.)

I was thrilled when Alan preached on John the Baptist on Sunday because John is one of my favorite people from the Bible. John was very minimalist. He didn’t have a lot because he didn’t need a lot. John was very natural, and by that, I mean that his food and clothes came from nature. (I imagine if John were alive today that he would be a tree hugger and a vegetarian and that he would wear shirts made from recycled materials and TOMS.) On top of all that, John exhibited many qualities that I greatly value. He was honest, self-aware, humble, and confident. And he must’ve been extremely in-tune with God because he immediately recognized Jesus as the Messiah when it took everyone else forever to figure it out.

That being said, John’s not in the Bible very much, probably due to his short lifespan. There are few passages that involve John, but I’ve somehow managed to find a favorite. It’s not when he leapt in his mother’s womb upon hearing Mary’s voice. It’s not when he baptizes Jesus or when he sends his disciples to Jesus for some affirmation. It’s when everyone’s trying to figure out just who John is.

John 1:19-27 (NLT) says, “This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, ‘Who are you?’  He came right out and said, ‘I am not the Messiah.’
‘Well then, who are you?’ they asked. ‘Are you Elijah?’
‘No,’ he replied.
‘Are you the Prophet we are expecting?’
‘No.’
‘Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?’
John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah:
‘I am a voice shouting in the wilderness,
“Clear the way for the LORD’s coming!”’
Then the Pharisees who had been sent asked him, ‘If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?’
John told them, ‘I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.’”

Here we truly see who John is. From the way he talks, we can tell a lot about John. He’s blunt, but not inconsiderate. He’s bold, but he knows his place. He’s entirely aware of his role and what Isaiah called him in the prophecy, and he’s not denying it or backing down from it. At the same time, he points them all to a man they don’t yet know who is much greater and much more important than he is. He openly and gladly speaks about it.

I love watching people talk about something or someone they love. They instantly become adorable. They smile and they get this particular twinkle in their eyes. Sometimes they talk faster, and sometimes they gesticulate more. Their energies change, and it becomes so clear that they’re happy. All they’re doing is talking, but they’re happy because they’re saying out loud stuff that they’ve thought repeatedly or kept to themselves.

Nowhere in the scripture does it say that this happened to John, but I believe it did a little. I believe his face lit up and his eyes sparkled for a moment. The corners of his mouth may even have turned upwards when he spoke. But I know John was happy to talk about Jesus because he spoke lovingly and highly of Jesus and spoke more when talking about Him.

I particularly enjoy what John says about him not being worthy to untie Jesus’s sandal. I find it beautiful. To tie (or untie) someone’s shoe (apart from a helpless child) seems so lowly. Feet in general seem lowly and kind of gross. It wouldn’t be difficult for dirt and grime to find their way onto a pair of sandals. I also imagine they would smell pretty bad. So by saying he isn’t worthy to untie the straps on Jesus’s smelly, dirty sandals, John is really lowering himself. A man so outrageous, powerful, and influential so far below this other, unknown man? That’s saying a lot.

But John was absolutely right. And the rest of us are just as worthy.

There’s a lot we can learn from John and a lot we can do to become more like him. John knowing his place and his role in the Kingdom of God is part of what makes him so fantastic, and it’s something that we can also achieve.

But that would’ve been easy for John, right? He had this huge, awesome calling: the forerunner for Christ. He knew he was going to make a difference in the world. And he was content with the lifestyle he had. That all sounds great.

What if we’re not called to do anything big or go anywhere exciting? What if what we feel called to do seems small, borderline meaningless?

Squash such thoughts right now. If you’re looking at things that way, you’re looking at them with human eyes, not godly eyes. There is no small job with God. They’re all equally important. And if you want a call to go do something grand, there’s a possibility you’re doing it for your glory and not God’s, so be careful.

I can’t tell you your role. I can tell you what I think you’d do well at, but that’s not necessarily the same thing. To figure it out, you’ll have to talk to God. Seek Him and listen to Him.

And I hope that whatever you do, you do with the confidence and passion John had. I hope that when someone mentions it, you heart swells with joy and the overflow appears as a light in your eyes and a smile on your face. I hope that whatever you do, you know it’s important, and that you’re making a difference in the world.

By Carrie Prevette

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