When I think on my childhood, for the most part, I can only think about how privileged I was.
I was the first child for my parents, so that made me feel pretty special.
I was the first grandchild for my mom's parents, so that made me feel pretty special.
I was the first girl grandchild for my dad's parents, so that made me feel pretty special.
I was the only child out of the three of us siblings who said "Dada" first, while my younger sister and brother started their speaking with "Mama." That made me feel pretty special.
Suffice it to say, I grew up never questioning whether or not anyone thought I was special, and that is vitally important when you're a child. I grew up surrounded by family and friends who I knew loved and cared about me. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I had a village. That made me feel pretty special.
My village stepped up HUGE for our family twenty years ago today, when my precious Daddy was taken from us in a pretty horrific car accident. I could go on and on about the immensely drastic ways that accident changed our lives for the worse, but there's no sense in that. There's no purpose.
You see, while there was earthly pain and grief that day and beyond, there was more importantly VICTORY. My Daddy was a believer, and I know exactly where he's been since the very second he departed this world. Jesus conquered death and allowed my Daddy to also conquer death! While some people would take the stance of being angry with God for taking him so early in his life, I simply cannot do that. I truly believe that God's perfect plan knew that were He to leave Daddy here, he would have lived the rest of his life less fully than he was able to live it before. For my dad, that would have been more than a difficult transition - it most likely would have been unacceptable. I praise God for sparing my dad that pain and suffering, and for sparing the rest of us the pain and suffering of having to watch him go through that!
Many other good things were able to come from the despair and darkness of that evening, but April 21st will always remain a bittersweet day to me because of my human nature. Simply put, I miss my dad. It's been twenty years since I last saw him. I was blessed to have him for 10 years, but I've lived twice that long without him now, and there have been plenty of milestones that I wish he could have experienced with me, with my wedding and the birth of my first child/his first grandchild at the top of the list. Again, I miss my dad.
Of course, it's more than okay to miss my Dad, but it is just as important to acknowledge that I have been so incredibly blessed throughout my missing him. While my earthly father has been gone, my Heavenly Father has wrapped His arms around me and provided everything I've ever needed. He took care of my family. He provided a strong village of people who were willing and happy to help us out whenever we needed them. He carried us through the hard times....every single time. How do I know this? Because we're all still here. He even brought my mom a new forever love. Praise Him!
And, the best part is that twenty years ago, He welcomed my Daddy into Heaven, where he has felt no more pain and no more suffering! That means that I will get to see him again, I just have to wait for awhile. I'm okay with that. In the meantime, I know he's still with me. I still talk with him in my prayers. I still see him in different ways - my baby boy has his ears, so that's a fun little gift that I get to experience every day, and I can't wait to tell him all about Papa Ray when he gets bigger!
So, my encouragement for anyone out there who has lost someone dear to them is this: Look up! Allow God to love you. Allow Him to bring you healing through His Word. Talk to Him, and listen to Him. Take your cares to Him, and He will give you rest. Then, rest in Him. Acknowledge the gifts He gives you and the people He brings into your life, and feel blessed. Let Him carry you from the valley you're in to the next mountain top in your life. And don't keep the stories of His goodness throughout your pain to yourself - give them away to others to give them hope! Trust Him to turn all things for your good! That's what I've been doing for twenty years, and He has yet to fail me. I know He never will.