The Measure of a Good Father

When summer camps ended, hubby took a few days off to regroup and get things done at home, and we took the whole family down to the cities to visit Como Park.  They have a free zoo, live butterfly exhibit, and plant conservatory.

Como Park Collage

 

I took the driving shift going down, and I was pretty tired.  I found myself singing along with the radio to stay alert when the song, “Good, Good Father,” came on.  It’s familiar to me. We have sung it in church, and my own story makes it especially meaningful.

“You’re a good, good Father.  It’s who You are, It’s who You are.”

I have heard so many women talk about how they have a hard time relating to God as Father in any kind of positive light because their experience with their earthly father was so bad.  And yet, I ponder, what are we using as a measuring stick for determining what makes a good father or a bad one?

Abigail with butterfly

I was one of the lucky kids.  When all my class mates talked about their parents divorcing, I was one of the few whose parents stayed together.  Through thick and through thin, through disagreements and arguing behind closed doors.  Through depression and repentance.  When other marriages would have failed, their commitment to perseverance kept them together, and they still are (together).

Mother and baby giraffe

My dad was present.  If not emotionally, he was there physically, and he always provided well for us.  As a child, I felt safe when I was with him.

He took me for a motorcycle ride when I was 6 or 7.  Somewhere, mixed up in those memories, is a conversation where he told me how much he loved me.  He said that he would cut off his hand for me, if only . . .

It’s the “if only” that stuck with me–that little conditional add on that squeezed my heart.

He said it more than once over the years.  I don’t remember his exact words, but I remember the feeling I experienced when he said it.  I cringed at the thought of my dad suffering for me, and yet I felt doubt that I could ever meet his expectation.

If only _________. You fill in the blank.  If only I could be obedient enough.

Be good enough.

BE enough.

How does a child that age even translate that kind of doubt in their ability to be what someone else wants them to be?  In his words, his willingness to give for me depended upon me.

When I was 30 my parents became offended and my dad told me to have a “nice little life”.  It was the day after Valentines Day, and only one of 2 occasions I have ever seen my husband tear up over anything.

“Little”…this is what the value of my life, not meeting expectations, had been reduced to.

Ouch.

My kids were 5, 2, and almost 1.  The next 5 precious babies were born after this, and my parents have never met them.

I grew up with the head knowledge that God’s love is unconditional, but all my examples had been of conditions.  When things were going well, I subconsciously thought it was because I was doing “okay.”  I thought I must have been reading my bible enough, praying enough, being good enough. When things were not going well, I felt like it was because I was messing up.  I wondered what area of my life needed to improve.  “Not good enough” was the lying voice in my head.

I was abandoned, even though I was an adult, by people I was supposed to be able to trust most in this world.  I was wounded.  I was angry.  I had that plum sized lump of grief in my throat for so many years that I thought it would never go away.  They were really. rough. years.

Looking back I know God was ripping out the faulty foundation in my life.  That’s a big job.  It’s a lot easier to lay a right foundation to begin with because everything is built on that foundation.  Remove the foundation and the whole stinkin’ house comes down.  Yet, that’s not how God works.  Because God can do anything,  He held the house together, but while He was laying a new foundation He was also putting up new supports.  He has been teaching me to live, as Nancy Leigh De Moss puts it, with the roof off and the walls down. That is “open and humble before God (roof off) and open with other people (walls down)”.

He turned my gaze away from what other people thought of me and my desire to please others, and taught me instead to keep my gaze on Him.  What He thinks of me is really the only thing that matters.

God has had to help me redefine who He is and embrace who I am in Him…begin to align my version of truth with what God declares is truth.  When we do that, a really spectacular thing happens. You begin to live loved, valued, and accepted.

blue butterfly at Como

My life is hidden in Christ.  That is where my worth lies.

And where do we get that measuring stick that determines who is a “good father” and who is not?  God is the measuring stick.  He is the ultimate Good Father.  He never messes up, He is fully present, His provision is generous . . .

His love is exactly what you and I need.

God is the Perfect Father.

And while I listen to others say they can’t stand to think of God as Father because their own father broke their heart, I say it was because my father broke my heart that I understand how good my heavenly Father is.  If I had not been rejected, I would not be able to experience my Father God’s love in the same way I can today.

I used to read the verse where God says, “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you,” and think it was just saying the same thing two different ways; but these two things are very different.

People leave us.  They move away from us.  They die.  But that’s not necessarily rejection. They still call, write, etc.  God will never leave.  He will never move away from you or from me.  We may sin and choose to move away from Him, but He will never leave.

To be forsaken?  Well, that is something altogether different.  That is rejection.  That is “leave” on steroids.  No phone calls.  No letters.  No, “See you on the other side.”

Forsaking is renouncing.

Forsaking is rejecting.

Forsaking is abandoning.

Forsaking is turning your back on.

That is what happened to Christ our Lord when He laid down his life for us.  “By this, we know what love is.” (1 John 3:16)  He was forsaken in order to write us in on His inheritance as a Child of God.

When you’re a Child of God, he will never forsake you.

He will always, always, always be with you.

Always intercede for you.

Always sing over you.

Always provide for you.

Always love you.

God is a Good Father.  He does not punish his children; He disciplines them, gently and lovingly, for their good.

He will never hurt your heart.  He is not harsh with his children.  He will heal your heart.

God will never try to control your actions.  Instead, He will transform your heart . . . your actions will automatically follow.  People will start to notice how much you resemble your good Father.

His love for you is not dependent upon your performance.  He never loves you more because of what you do right, and he will never love you less because of what you do wrong. His love for you is not based upon you at all.  His love for you is completely dependent upon who HE is.  It is UN-CONDITIONAL.  In Lysa TerKeurst’s words,

“His love isn’t based on you, it’s placed on you.”

He will not instill fear . . . He will cast out fear, and replace it with His peace.

He is enough.

He is everything, our “exceedingly great reward”.

He is a Good-Good-Father.

It’s who He is.  And I’m loved by Him.  That’s who I am.

Linda at Zoo

 

 

 

 

The Best Thing We Gained at the Fair

Have you ever noticed how kids have a very accurate internal clock, like, from the get go?

We took our oldest to the county fair when she was about three and the next summer, days before the fair was going to start, she started asking me about that place with lights and food and rides? We definitely went to the fair again that year,

and the next,

and every year.  🙂

Nowadays the fair falls the weekend after youth camps end so it’s easy for all of us to anticipate.  It’s a tradition.

When our oldest kids were little, and there were just a handful of them (instead of 2 hands-full) we would buy a sheet of tickets and let them ride a few kiddie rides.  As they got older, the more mature rides cost more.  With more children, one sheet didn’t provide enough tickets to go around.  We learned to be content walking through all the exhibits, petting the animals and having a treat.  My husband loves the malted milk shakes… it’s once a year. 😉

{Farm to Table Children’s Exhibit}

 

Fair 2017- 03

{Miss our goats this year!}

Fair 2017- 04

{Still wearing the camp swimming arm band… and look at that adorable face!}

This year, the big kids were hankering to do some rides and I promised them we’d save up for them to buy an arm band to do unlimited rides.  Tuesday of this week was that day.  However, rather than simply purchase the arm bands and send them off to get hot, dizzy and tired, we gave them the $20 we’d saved for each one of our flock.  We told them that they could pay for the arm bands themselves, or…  they could spend it (or save it) on whatever they pleased.

Somehow, with the $20 they gained in their hands, fair rides didn’t sound so appealing to them anymore. They suddenly appreciated the effort that it would take for them to earn that money back themselves.  Somebody mentioned having money for Christmas presents.

Fair 2017- 05

No one went on rides.  When dad bought his malt, they bought their own ice cream (while mom *cringe* said nothing about all the sugar) and they enjoyed eating them together.  Dad got to taste every flavor because dads are good at sweet talking a taste.

We took in the exhibits.  We petted the animals.  C2 won a frisbee from The Pulse Radio. We won a $10 gift card for Cub Foods.

Yes, we brought home a lot of extra stuff, but the best thing we gained was the reminder that God is a Good Father when we lost. a. child!

Yes! Standing in a crowd with other people, holding tickets as the union for the grocery stores had a big drawing, Ella had a winning #.  She claimed her prize.  The giveaway ended, and as we started to walk away from the booth, I did what I always do:  I counted heads.

“5, 6, 7…” someone was missing.  I have had kids coming and going from camp all summer.  Every week we’ve had a different number at home, so the counting thing has been a little strange.  This is the first week we’ve had all the kids home since the beginning of June.

I re-counted with names and I panicked.  C2 is 4, and I didn’t see his little buzzed head or tye dye shirt.  We had been standing there, all together, the whole time!  How did he slip away?  Where could he have gone?

It’s amazing the clarity with which one can remember the details of a beloved in a moment of bereavement.  His big, tender eyes, full of wide wonderment filled my mind as I hollered his name and scanned the crowd.

I prayed.

While hubby turned the whole crew around, I spoke with the man at the grocery booth, and he said someone had taken a child to the fair office –{he pointed}– >>> that way.

We found him with an older couple, sitting in front of the information booth, and quietly crying as hard as he could.  He was hugging 2 stuffed animals from someone’s game booth.  When he saw us he flung himself into Dad’s arms and held on for dear life, and I silently praised God for keeping him safe.  As we walked away, the older couple who had cared for him said to him,

“Now, remember, your parents will always come for you.”

It was all I could do to restrain myself from snatching him up.  I let my husband hold on to him, but my arms ached to hold him, and I know that is how God feels about every son and daughter who wanders away from the safety of His will.  I can picture Him at the ready, even watching us as we consider stepping away; how he wants to snatch us from danger, but allows us to choose our own footing.

He’s the Good Father.

You’re never really a lost child when you belong to the King.  You can be rebellious, and you can suffer the consequences, but your Father knows where you are.  He has his eye on you and He’s listening for your repentant cry.  When you’re ready to find your way home, He will always come for you.

Always.

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them gets lost, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountain and go in search of the one that is lost?  And if it turns out that he finds it, I assure you and most solemnly say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that did not get lost.  So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones be lost.” Matthew 18:12-14 (emphasis mine)

Always.