A little over a year ago,Tandee genuinely whispered to God how she wanted to be a blessing to someone; anyone she said boldly. She further asked God to make her useable; she wanted to serve wherever needed, in whatever capacity God would allow. In her mind, she’d already imagined what being a blessing was going to look like.Tandee even went as far as setting aside a couple of dollars in advance so that she would be prepared when the call came and her giving wouldn’t require a huge sacrifice or inconvenience. Additionally, she readied herself mentally for all the ways in which she thought God would use her as a blessing. Satisfied she had all areas covered;Tandee sat back and waited to hear her assignment. Oh, but much to her chagrin, God had something totally different than the pretty picture she’d painted in her mind as she would soon learn.
One morning, several months later, after having gotten her son off to school with seconds to spare,Tandee relaxed at the kitchen table, sipping her second cup of coffee, while putting the finishing touches on a story she was writing for her blog, when she heard one word being softly whispered in her spirit. “Go”. Without hesitation she knew what go meant. She smiled; eager to be obedient; eager to follow as she’d proclaimed on many occasions how much she trusted God with her life; little did she know this would be her chance to prove it. With her new found excitement, Tandee reached for the phone wanting to share her good news with her best friend. However, before she could finish dialing the number; she heard where go – was and her excitement suddenly turned into anguish. There was no mistaking what she’d heard; it was loud and crystal clear. She immediately dropped the phone as her body went limp and her mouth fell open. Tandee’s heart sank and her knees buckled as the magnitude of what she’d been told settled in her brain.“The devil is a liar”, she screamed.
As she began to feel lightheaded,Tandee rushed over to the couch realizing she needed to be on or at least near something cushy to soften the blow if and when she fainted. She plopped down on the couch feeling her desire to please God quickly morph into agony. Clearly, God had made a mistake, she reasoned. Maybe her request had been inadvertently switched with someone else’s; I mean it could happen right? With all of the prayers and requests God receives on a second by second basis, who could keep them all straight; a mix-up was bound to occur. And if it never happened before,Tandee was convinced her request was the first. In desperation, she looked around the room; waiting, hoping and praying Ashton Kutcher would pop out of a closet; a window; anything, yelling she’d been Punk’d, as this had to be someone’s idea of a sick, cruel joke and unfortunately she wasn’t laughing; in fact she began to cry. She cried in disbelief; she couldn’t believe it, nor did she want to believe that such a forgiving God would send her back to such a dark place; a place in which she’d barely escaped with her life. She didn’t want to believe that such a loving God would send her back to a place which had been the cause of much of her hurt. She couldn’t believe that such a merciful God would send her back to a place where once again, she’d be mocked, reviled, insulted, attacked, demeaned, offended and though welcomed on the surface, unwelcome where it mattered most. And most of all, she couldn’t believe that a God of restoration would send her back to a place where her once held belief that absolutely nothing about her was good enough was birthed.
“Oh my God, this isn’t what I’d envisioned at all”, Tandee whispered in disbelief. She’d imagined blessing someone who looked the part; someone visibly broken and appropriately dressed in sorrow and need; not someone who by worldly standards had it all. She wanted someone who fit the description she’d drawn up in her mind and more importantly someone she liked; someone she deemed worthy according to her criteria. Not someone she’d spent most of her adult life trying to avoid like the plague. The mere thought of where she was being asked to go; without knowing how long or what she was being asked to do was beginning to make her physically sick to her stomach. The only thing she knew was; she was being asked to walk into the direct line of fire and as if it couldn’t get any worse; Tandee suddenly realized this was a journey she wouldn’t be taking alone. Her son; with whom she’d been entrusted to protect would have to take this journey alongside her; a realization that served as further confirmation that God had gotten this one all wrong.
Tandee agonized for weeks; she prayed; she cried; she questioned and then finally she remembered. She remembered her prayer to be a blessing; to be used in whatever capacity God saw fit and most of all she remembered her fervent asking of God to teach her how to trust him in totality. At that very moment, she knew learning to trust God with her life as she’d asked would take her far beyond anything comfortable or familiar and as much as she yearned for the end result she was terrified of the process she would have to endure to get there and quietly questioned, if it was worth it. She’d experienced the power of God enough to know; he could simply speak the word trust in her spirit and she would be forever changed; she would have trust oozing from every nook and cranny of her body without having to do anything. Why the process God,Tandee wondered as her assignment seemed to her a bit much and a whole lot unfair.
Over the course of several weeks,Tandee had packed their belongings and made all of the needed arrangements to go; knowing only the destination. She could see the excitement on her son’s face as they made the two hour drive to what would be their new home indefinitely.Tandee tried as best she could to hide the trepidation she felt; determined to make the best of the situation, not knowing what to expect. But no sooner than she and her son walked thru the door and her Dad opened his mouth, her notion of walking into a war zone was confirmed and she knew she was definitely in for one of the fiercest battles of her life and within an instant she began to question her decision.
In silence, with only her thoughts, she unpacked their belongings and put them neatly away; her feeble attempt to make their stay as pleasant and normal as possible; symbolic of the way she’d tucked her feelings away most of her life. She forced herself to focus on her son’s excitement and the fact that he was okay, instead of the aching in her heart. Tandee began to pray for God to give her courage, strength and most of all peace to endure to the end; regardless of the ending. What transpired over the next thirty days left her feeling like she’d been catapulted into the twilight zone; nothing at all made any logical sense. Every day was something different; a different complaint; a different critique; a slightly different – yet the same ole familiar, you aren’t good enough, she’d remembered as a child.
As usual, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t do or say anything right. Why couldn’t he see, she was different; she wasn’t the same person she was thirty years ago. The constant belittling and attacks on her character were beginning to wear her down and she was certain the cracks in her armor were beginning to show but she refused to quit. Everything from her hair to her clothes; to her parenting was attacked. What she cooked, the way she cooked, the way she measured and how many scoops she used to make coffee; nothing was off limits, yet she remained silent which only made things worse. And as if her silence screamed, is that all you got, take your best shot; it was a question her Dad seemed more than happy and willing to answer with more determination and his attacks became more frequent and more hurtful. One day, after Tandee had returned from the grocery store, her Dad became enraged because according to him she’d put way too much food in the refrigerator. He began questioning whether she and her son were taking showers every day; insinuating they were less than cleanly, while basing his unfounded accusations on his belief that God commands everyone to be clean and anything that isn’t clean is an abomination. To ensure God’s commandment was being kept, he checked the bathroom rug for moisture every time they came out of the bathroom. He had no clue that every single day without fail, Tandee waited with abated breath for him to leave for his daily doctor’s appointment so that she could step in the shower and allow the weight of the water to carry away every last one of her tears; how she’d spent her shower time praying for the sound of the water to drown out her sobs and wash away the pain; a pain she was hell bent on hiding, like she’d done in the past. Well hidden from everyone but God.
Tandee knew she was painfully nearing her breaking point, when she began to question whether God was hearing her prayers at all. There was no way; God would allow one of his children to go through what she was going through, she thought. Maybe she’d done something wrong and this was her punishment; maybe she didn’t know God at all as things seem to get progressively worse. In the middle of one of her Dad’s tirades about the fire being too low on the pot of hot dogs she was boiling, he overheard Tandee whisper Jesus, which resulted in him flying into a rage and screaming a barrage of obscenities at her in front of her son. Up to this point, all of his anger and hostility had only been witnessed and directed towards her but the look of terror and confusion on her son’s face was something new and something for which she was unprepared.
Holding back tears, Tandee tried to reassure her son that everything was okay even though she knew it wasn’t. All of the anger and hatred she’d neatly tucked away for years came flooding back; making its way to the surface with a force she could no longer ignore. The weight of everything she felt pushed her to her knees; where she found herself too ashamed to pray. The anger she suddenly felt toward God at having to honor someone who had given her absolutely nothing to honor; someone who’d never honored his responsibility as a father to any of his kids was more than she could take. She remembered all of the times he told her she wasn’t anything and would never have anything. All of the things she told herself she forgave; she suddenly remembered with a loathing she’d never felt before. She remembered telling him as a little girl that a family friend had touched her and him asking her what she had done to provoke the incident and further asking how she was dressed, as if any of that mattered. She remembered all of the horrible things he’d done and said to her; all the things she’d convinced herself she’d let go. She remembered why she hadn’t forgiven him and why she hated him with every fiber of her being. She didn’t want to forgive him; he didn’t deserve her forgiveness. Before Tandee could rise to her feet, she heard God softly whisper in her spirit, What about you? Do you deserve forgiveness? Do you deserve to be free? Honor me! Tandee began to cry uncontrollably as she asked God to forgive her and teach her how to forgive. It wasn’t until she began urgently praying for God to bless her dad that she knew it was time to forgive; it was time for her to live beyond the boundaries of past hurts.
The following day, it became even clearer to her why she was there. Her son came in from school and hugged her dad; his grandpa; excited to see him and share the events of his school day. She watched as her son’s excitement turned into confusion as her dad said in response to being hugged; you must not have any friends in school. Tandee heard something in his response that shifted her entire body and suddenly as if a veil had been lifted, she was able to see something she’d never seen before. Her willingness to try and forgive allowed her to see a broken man, who didn’t know what it truly felt like to be loved or give love in return; a man who was afraid and alone because he’d allowed his insecurities to push every one away. She saw a father who had to find fault with everyone; including all of his kids because the realization that none of his three kids really had a reason to like him or cared enough to initiate a relationship, was a far more painful burden for any man to bear. A man in so much pain; that the only way he could survive was to pilfer any semblance of joy or peace from anyone he’d come in contact with. A person who was completely unable to confront or accept responsibility for anything he’d ever done wrong.
For the first time in her life, Tandee felt empathy and compassion for him; although he’d never admit it, she wondered how miserable it had to be for him to have accumulated all of the wonderful things he’d acquired at the expense of his heart. She knew God had led her back to this place, where her hurt began, so forgiveness and healing for her could begin. Finally she understood and concluded in order to trust God in totality; she had to begin with trusting God with her pain; a pain she’d kept safely hidden and never shared with anyone else.Tandee understood that forgiveness of her dad didn’t count as betrayal of that precious little girl that still lived inside of her. It was okay, to let her go and entrust her to God. Tandee would honor her dad by first honoring God; no further questions asked. The following day, he demanded that she pack her belongings and leave. Deciding this was the best opportunity to get in one last dig; he screamed up the stairs as she packed that she had nowhere else to go and no one wanted her. As Tandee left, she smiled, hugged him and thanked him for allowing her to stay as long as he did. She walked out the door different than the way she’d walked in. She had endured and more importantly she’d trusted God and God had done exactly what he said he would do. In his word he promised, if she kept her mind on him, he would keep her in perfect peace. And just like that, what she’d been sent to get – she got and much more; her life forever changed by her visit to the valley. She was free…