Filing Cabinet Finds: Part 1

In my garage stands a filing cabinet that has remained closed for over three years, but a few weeks ago on a sunny, Saturday afternoon, I opened the drawers, one at a time to inspect the contents– to sort the items to keep from those to recycle or donate.

Three years ago every item I shoved into this cabinet carried something sacred that would scream betrayal or spray guilt if I did not keep it. Yet, I’ve learned that when you allow yourself time to process, to heal, to seek God’s guidance and counsel, you discover that items in a filing cabinet won’t mend the shattered soul or honor his memory.

With a quick prayer for focus and rationale thought, I delved into the dusty cabinet drawers that now forever contain my Daddy’s scent and sense. From old work boots and t-shirts, birthday cards, Bible study notes, notebooks and folders and more, I exhumed all of it.

IMG_2574

IMG_2575

Consequently, this sunny Saturday afternoon project moved me a few rungs higher on the ladder of healing, and by God’s grace and perfect timing, I found treasures of wisdom and creativity from my Daddy.

 

Part 1 of the treasures and wisdom found in the cabinet consisted of a draft titled “Food for Thought” and a final copy without a title. My Daddy wrote this during his time in prison–a short but transformative period in his life when he earned his GED, learned hard lessons about family, friends, and foes and found Jesus Christ. The first draft of this piece read like a fill-in-the-blank and may have been an exercise he did in “class.” No matter how the sentences and phrases came to life on my Daddy’s notebook paper, the inspirational and chilling words remain filing cabinet items to keep.

IMG_2576

IMG_2577

by Gene Drennan circa 1978-1980

the most expensive indulgence:  hate

the greatest trouble maker:  one who takes too much

the cheapest, stupidest and easiest thing to do:  find fault

the greatest stumbling block:  egotism

the most ridiculous asset:  pride

the worst bankrupt:  the soul that has lost its enthusiasm

the cleverest man:  one who always does what he thinks is right

the most dangerous person:  liar

the most disagreeable person:  the complainer

the best teacher:  one who makes you want to learn

the meanest feeling of which any human being is capable:  feeling bad at another’s success

the greatest need:  Common Sense

the greatest puzzle:  Life

the greatest mystery:  Death

the greatest thought:  God

the greatest thing, bar none, in all the world:  Love

the greatest sin:  Fear

the biggest fool:  the boy who will not go to school

the most agreeable companion:  one who would not have you any different from what you are

the best town:  where you succeed

the greatest bore:  one who will not come to the point

a still greater bore:  one who keeps talking after he has made his point

the great deceiver:  one who deceives himself

the greatest invention of the devil:  war

the greatest secret of production:  saving waste

the best work:  what you like

the best play:  work

the greatest comfort:  the knowledge that you have done your work well

the greatest mistake:  giving up

 

 

 

How about we all take two knees tonight?

imageHow about the athletes and actors who earn millions each year switch experiences and pay checks with our veterans! I challenge these talented people to stop using their “stage” for politics.

I don’t care what you think of President Trump. I care that you are kind and that you use your platform for good. Taking a knee during the National Anthem to protest the President or giving a hate rant instead of an acceptance speech, does nothing to move us forward.

How about we all, including the President, take two knees before bed tonight and ask how we individually and collectively can be a light in this world.

A big special thank you to all military men and women for protecting and fighting for our country, for losing limbs for our freedoms, for battling hellish nightmares so we can sleep, and for dying so that we may continue to live. I apologize to all of you, past and present, who serve this great land, for the ignorance that has clouded your sacrifice.

May God bless all of you, and may all of us find our platforms to uplift and unite.

His Suicide. My Journey.

If you opened up my chest, I’m sure you would see cracks and scar tissue from my shattered heart, and if you could touch my soul, I am convinced you would experience the ache that still longs for his presence. However, if you could sit next to my faith, I believe you would experience the warm embrace of Light, healing, and growth.

You see, two years ago on the evening of May 24, 2014, my Daddy (I’m a southern girl) committed suicide. In fighting through my grief, I’ve come to know deep in my soul that the man who pulled the trigger and robbed his daughter of her Daddy–her best friend, her mentor–was not my Daddy.

That man was one who was alone in his once beautiful mind, a mind that had become a playground of torture and pain, both physical and emotional. That man was one who became lost in the rabbit hole of anger and sadness. That man was one he himself did not want to be but felt shackled to the exhaustion of being.

How did this man, my Daddy, become this other man? For you see, My Daddy was a man of God. He was honorable and disciplined and spent his life helping people. Even before he became a Christian in his mid-twenties, he helped people.

What I know is that my Daddy was broken as a child, but he did not let that stop him. I know that he became a man before experiencing the joy of being a child, but he kept living. I know that he spent time on the dark side until he found the Light.

Once infused with that Light, he walked the walk, and talked the talk. . . until his physical body started failing him. My Daddy was a carpenter and a gear-head and jack of all trades, and all of these things took a toll on his body, but it was his heart that stopped us in our tracks in 2008.

The doctors said he had a valve that needed repaired immediately, and so they did. Yet, his entire sternum fell apart, and they had to build him a titanium sternum. He would have to learn how to breathe differently and move differently, live differently.

So, after a month-long stay in the hospital including a rebuild, many debridements and being dropped by the hospital staff, he returned home to heal, to his home that he built with his own hands–his home that God showed him in his dreams, his castle here on Earth until he received his mansion on streets of gold.

The problem with sending him home to heal was that those all-knowing doctors sent him home with a life-long sentence to prescription pain medication, medication that is a billion dollar industry, medication that provokes depression and requires no counseling–only “piss tests” and pill counting–medication that is so addictive that recently the government has been forced to acknowledge the devilish concoctions and publish a report that says such.

Bottom line: this “medication” is turning loved ones into souls boiling with emotions that have no escape. This “medication” is killing people every single day and leaving families and friends lost, confused, angry, and broken.

I wish I had realized how things were going to change. I wish I had been more aware early on. I wish I had injected myself more into Daddy’s recovery after surgery, but I was playing my role as daughter instead of being my Daddy’s advocate.

I wish. I wish. Wishes, though, don’t mean a thing unless you turn them into prayers. I was praying, but I didn’t even know what to pray. I just wanted God to make my Daddy better. I felt like Daddy was the modern-day Job from the Bible, and I didn’t understand why God was putting Daddy through all of this– and the “all of this” became so much more. It became a spiraling staircase to nowhere, until it became a bullet inside a gun, held by the man inside my Daddy’s body.

What I know now is what I’ve always known but never truly put into practice and given my all to. The truth is in each experience. Each experience has a purpose, a lesson. Since my Daddy’s suicide, I have walked through all of the emotions–anguish, guilt, anger, pity, longing, and on and on, and I still walk in many of those emotions today.

However, with those emotions, I choose to honor my Daddy and my God by being a better person, being a better witness, diving into the Word on a daily basis and praying with power and expectation for understanding and application. It has taken awhile to get my wits about me, and I can’t say that I can make any sense of suicide, but I can and I will make my Daddy’s life AND his suicide matter.

Even though I am not sure what this exactly looks like yet, I do know it means being still and listening, seeking direction, and taking action. With that said, I will not let my anguish and anger lead to apathy or destruction.

My Daddy taught me to think before speaking, to be humble, observant, and kind, and so I will honor him and the wisdom God gave him and the grace God gives me everyday to walk the path He’s made for me.

Furthermore, through my spiritual journey and growth, I am learning to replace the “question marks” and “exclamation points” of Daddy’s suicide, with a “period.” I am striving to find peace in the “period” because there truly are things in this world that will never make sense.

Once I can fully acknowledge and accept that all “why’s” don’t get answered and all “screams” don’t get acknowledged, it is then that I will be able to move forward with passion and purpose and press on to that high calling.

“Pressing on” sometimes happens in baby steps–especially when working through such grief, and last year on May 24, the first year without Daddy, my siblings and I buried his ashes on his land and planted a pine tree.

This year, I will add a bench next to the tree and the memorial stone my classmates gave me, and I will declare that I will be the difference God wants me to be in this world, and if that difference means taking on the vicious, destructive cycle of pain “management,” then bring it on!

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

White Spaces

Despite my Kentucky Baptist upbringing and my barefoot baptism in the muddy river that kisses the small country park in Cadiz, I joined a methodist church years ago because it was a church that my husband would attend. I thought it important that we church together, but years have past and our daughter is now 9, and we need more, more than the obese Methodist pastor who tells great stories on Sunday mornings but fails to follow through when a young impressionable girl proclaims Christ lives in her heart.

So, two weeks ago, Molly Jane had her friend Alyssa spend the night, and on Sunday morning, my husband went Methodist and we went rogue and attended Alyssa’s church,  a Mega church that could probably house 20,000. For this reason alone, my husband would not come with us. “It’s too big.” And that’s that.

After signing my MJ into the computer and walking her what seemed a quarter mile away to her Sunday class, I join Alyssa’s parents in the balcony and fall into the sweet music of the spirit that surrounds this stadium congregation.

After the singing, this new pastor from Texas walked out onto the stage in his jeans and sweater and began telling the story of Ester. Ester, I know the name, but in all my years of attending church, reading the Bible, and memorizing the key verses, I do not recall Ester and her story. As Pastor Jeff explained, though, it’s all about the white spaces and what we choose to do during this space. Will we fret, will we scream, will we sob, will we ignore, or will we trust and wait and make the best of the unknown?

It all just clicked while I sat in the balcony with my friend and her husband. I am in a white space and have been for quite some time. Perhaps this white space would have ended long ago, but my actions, my fighting the space, and screaming and crying on the inside while in this space has prolonged my visit.

How simple. The journey is about the white spaces. Don’t fight them. Embrace them. Curl up with them and listen and wait and learn and grow–all the while knowing that someone else is sharing your same space and choosing chaos or peace.

And the joy is believing that when the white space ends, the clarity begins, one way or another, whether you like it or not. It’s all about you, though, and if you are patient and grateful, you will see the clarity as an increment of your destiny, your path, your answers.

Be ready and accepting. The next white space, the next opportunity for pause and enlightenment, is happening right now.