Monday, February 9, 2009

"Will and Grace"-NOLA pt. 2

"Why are you going to New Orleans again?" someone asked me one night. I explained that I was going to see my dad...and planned to run the Mardi Gras Marathon. With my heart bitter towards the last reunion my dad and I had, I was concentrated on that run more than I was seeing him. For me to tell them, "to see my dad" was not the whole truth.

To take you back some, my dad and mom divorced when I was 3 years old. My mom remarried and so my dad. There was distance between my dad and I until I was 17 yrs. old when he came to my graduation. I longed to know my dad but he was distant and I didn't know how to get close. I didn't have a father figure in my life. My step-dad didn't know how to "love" someone.

We didn't stay in contact after I graduated and I began a life of my own. I married a wonderful man and had a wonderful child. It's a wonderful life...right?

Well, I was missing something. I was missing the love, approval, and soft voice of a father. An authority figure that speaks volumes in your life.

My husband asked me one day if I would be ready some time to see my dad. He suggested it would be good for me, him, and our daughter to see him. I was hesitant at first but we planned out a time to go to New Orleans and reconnect.

That visit was in July 2002. It wasn't a visit I expected I guess. With distance between us and not really knowing what to say with one another, we stayed more apart from each other than close. I had come to terms with we aren't meant to have a father/daughter relationship. I wrote him a letter explaining that we were better off "friends." He never responded.

In November 2002 I rededicated my life to Jesus Christ. I had become a Christian when I was 15 years old, but not having anyone to help me along my walk to grow and mature in my Christianity, I fell away. Being led back to Jesus was the best thing that has ever happened to me. It was that time that I began to realize, I was never alone. I had a father...a Heavenly Father. I began to be filled with His love and understanding that God never intended for me to be without my dad. He began to show me that my dad didn't know how to reconnect with me, he didn't know how to respond with that fatherly relationship, for he felt as if he had messed up and couldn't turn back.

I began going through a heart mending process. I first forgave myself for always thinking it was me and putting the blame on me for not having that relationship with my dad. I had no control over it. I then had to forgive him. It was a process and it took will. Everytime I would feel as if I had forgiven him, the enemy would throw in my face, "well, if he had stayed active in your life, you wouldn't have had to go through what you went through with your step dad in that household." It was hard to push those thoughts away, but I had to focus on forgiving my dad and building a bridge for him to cross to get to me.

When I say "bridge" I mean Jesus Christ. I cannot build a bridge from things in my heart, for my heart can be guarded. I have to build a bridge based on the words from Jesus. So, he began to show me how and I was able to forgive my dad.

So here it is 2009 and I was going to run this marathon...and see my dad. Should it not have been the other way around? I was challenged with that question, "Why are you going to New Orleans again?" I knew I had to rearrange my priorities.

I began to pray about this trip. What would my dad think of me now? How will Madelyn react to her "grandpa" that she has never met...or remembers meeting? I began to be at peace and knew it would be okay.

We got to grandma and grandpas house on Saturday. Lots of family members were there greeting us and welcoming us back. Treating us like family...and we are. I guess I never grew up in a tight knit environment that I didn't know how I was going to act. God reminded me that all the "love" that he placed inside of me when he made me, was solely for this purpose and it was okay to release it and I did. No walls, no guards, and no locks. I let go.

My dad, step mom, and siblings arrived. I hugged my dad right away. It was one of the tightest hugs I had recieved in a long time. It wasn't a hug I was used to getting. It was a hug that a father gives his child. A hug I have witnessed Jeremy giving Madelyn and not sure how Maddy was feeling at the time her daddy was giving it to her. I always wanted to know how a daughter feels when her daddy is "approving" of her, and I finally got it.

We sat on the porch talking about life, Hurricane Katrina, and forgiving one another. My dad began to tear up and saying he was sorry for things. I quickly reminded him that I was an adult too and I can reach out too. He still sat their feeling sorry. I finally said, "I am okay now. I have forgiven you and forgiven myself. Let's move on." I could tell he was battling within, but I reminded him again, "I am okay." He smiled and we continued to talk.

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. '

"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate..." Luke 15:20-24

This is a scripture that God revealed to me as I was seeking Him on how to approach the reunion with my dad. I felt as if I were to welcome my dad back. I felt like the father who hadn't seen his son because his son felt bad for all he'd done wrong.

Jesus welcomes us back no matter what wrong we have done. We have to learn to do the same to others. How cleansed do you feel when you know God has forgiven you for your faults? Should we not show the same heart to others...especially our family? Maybe the reason why I felt so "fatherly" to my dad was because it was God's heart. He is still my dads Heavenly Father and wants my dad to feel loved. So like Jesus tells us "you are forgiven," so I say that to my dad too. He doesn't have to explain anything to me.

There were a couple of things that went on while I was there that the enemy tried to throw in my face about how my dad was. I had to throw in the enemys face that I was over it. You see, like I said early on in the blog, there needed to be a bridge built for me and my dad to cross. Well, when I talk about a bridge, it reminds me of the childrens story "The Three Billy Goats Gruff." We, of course, are the billy goats. The bridge is Jesus. We are trying to get to the other side. Well, under the bridge is a troll (the enemy). The troll tries to stop the goats from fully crossing the bridge to get to the other side where the green is, but the goats (with teamwork) succeed and beat the troll.

That is how we have to do things in this life. Teamwork. Otherwise, we will never see what is on the other side. There are many things over there; salvation, hope, and forgiveness.

My dad may have some growing to do, we all do.

My wonderful husband came up with the title of this blog, "Will and Grace." My dad's name is William and he taught me a lot about Grace. I couldn't have Grace for Will if Will and Grace weren't given to me.

So you see, you have to have "Will and Grace" and those aren't things you see on t.v. It is learned from a walk on a bridge.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

"Fleur de lis"- NOLA pt. 1

We have returned home from our awesome trip to New Orleans, LA. (NOLA) and I have to say that from this trip I have learned so much about myself, family, and most importantly God.

I was born in New Orleans, LA. on September 25th, 1979 at Lakeside Hospital. I was born Wendy Marie Makepeace.

We lived in New Orleans until I was 9 years old and moved on to Monroe, LA. (near Shreveport). The south has such a smell that is home to me. When I cross Texas on to Louisiana I just have to take a deep breath and know I am home. I love it here!

I moved to Oklahoma when I was 12 but always longed to go back home to Louisiana. I remember being in Louisiana and we had to have manners. We said "yes sir, no sir" to everything. If we didn't, you got reminded right there in front of the person. So after we moved to Oklahoma, I thought the polite thing to do was use my manners. I remember my first day in 6th grade, Mr. Matthews asked me if I was from Louisiana. I said, "yes sir" and everyone laughed and even whispered, "she said yes sir." That is when I knew things were different here.

I always had some what of an emptiness for where I called "home" and wondered if I would ever get that feeling. Years go by and you often forget where you are from. I was reminded constantly everytime I saw the "Fleur de lis." It is the symbol for the city of New Orleans or you may recognize it from the New Orleans Saints football team.

Anytime I have gone/go out and I see that symbol my heart longs to go back home. I am reminded that that is where I am from. People have asked me if I feel the "heaviness" over New Orleans, for its sin. Well, I didn't. Maybe it's because I didn't go expecting to feel it. I went expecting to feel God show me what it was that I have been longing for all this time.

While we were down there we saw cars with "Fleur de lis" all over them. I got filled with joy because it showed a city proud. There were "Fleur de lis" on business windows, billboard signs, and people wore them on their shirts. I told Jeremy I had to have something with a "Fleur de lis" to take home. I was so excited.

We stopped at a silver shop in the French Quarter downtown before we left to head home. I wanted a necklace with "Fleur de lis" on it. I found one! I was so excited to put it on and Jeremy was so happy to see me happy. I wore it proud.

On the way out of New Orleans to head home, I felt the Lord prompt me to look up "Fleur de lis" on my phone. I always associated with New Orleans but wasn't sure what the meaning of it was. As I searched on Wikipedia, I saw something that made my heart feel so loved.

"Fleur de lis" means "Lily Flower" in French. God had reminded me of my graduation at Purity with Purpose in November 2002.

I had announced my full name "Wendy Marie Grist" and what each meaning meant. When I was done I walked over to get prayer. Before it got started, one of the pastors had said, "Wendy when you walked on stage God told me the scripture Song of Songs 2:2 "Like a lily among thorns is my darling among maidens." He then said, "your middle name Marie means fragrance right? Well, I believe the lily symbolizes the "fragrance" that you are. God wanted me to tell you that scripture, you are like a lily among thorns." I immediately cried of course. I had never felt as if I was beautiful and for God to tell me that at that time was amazing.

Times following that prophesy, God showed me how He was showing me in the past that I was a lily among thorns. Someone had given me a scripture plaque with lilies on it, I carried lilies in my wedding, and there were lilies on a picture in all the doctors office I had been in. It was a sure sign to me that God was always with me...even from birth.

As I scrolled down more on Wikipedia, I saw it again, but this time the actual scripture was there; In the Middle Ages the symbols of lily and fleur-de-lis (lis is French for "lily") overlapped considerably in religious art. Michel Pastoureau, the historian, says that until about 1300 they were found in depictions of Jesus, but gradually they took on Marian symbolism and were associated with the Song of Solomon's "lily among thorns" (lilium inter spinas), understood as a reference to Mary.

I thanked God that He showed me that.

He thinks I am a "lily among thorns." I have a guarded, calloused, and selfish heart at times and he sees the growth in all of that. I am yet again in awe of His greatness.

I do not worship the "Fleur de lis" but it is a reminder to me of where I am from, what God has done, and how He is in everything.