Monthly Archives: October 2015

A Father’s Heart – Part 4 of 4

shepherd-carrying-sheep1This is part four of a four part series.  If you need to catch up, read here.
I started reading the chapter with the Parable of the Lost Sheep. Yes, clearly this is why the Holy Spirit would lead me here. I’m literally looking for my lost sheep like a crazy person. I’m going to leave my house in the dark hours of the morning just to find my little sheep. I get it, Lord. I get it.

“Keep reading, Leah,” the Holy Spirit encouraged.

The next part of the chapter talks about the woman who loses a coin, a coin that was most likely a family heirloom and precious to her, and who turns her house upside down until she finds it and throws a party to celebrate. Yes, yes! This is clearly me: turning my house inside out to find my precious family heirloom, and boy was I going to throw a party when I brought home Baa Baa from Home Depot. I would return as the champion met with cheers from my family and the eternal love of my daughter.   I get it, Lord. I get it.

“Keep reading, Leah.”
And that’s when I came upon one of the most familiar stories in the Bible, the Parable of the Lost Son. I could almost hear my dad’s voice retelling the story, as it was one of his favorite passages. And that’s when the Holy Spirit graciously stopped me and did one of those classic moments where He shines a mirror onto the state of your heart, only the reflection comes back far different than you thought.

rembrant-prodigal-son-detailI haven’t been acting like the shepherd looking for the sheep.

I haven’t been acting like the woman looking for the coin.
I haven’t been acting like the Father looking for His Son.

I haven’t even been acting like the younger brother, pursuing his own desires at the sake of everyone else.

I was the older brother.

Crap.

You see, as I mentioned before, the previous weeks had been really hectic, draining, and altogether distracting. Nothing big and tragic but a lot of small to medium sized nuisances that had added up to a self-centered, “Why me?” mentality that left me comparing myself to others and feeling bitter towards what I had been given.

“Why does this person get to live by their family and I have to live far away from mine?”

“Why does that person get to live in a bigger house with a garage, heck, with a driveway, and I get a smaller home that floods?”

“Hey God, are you paying attention to all that we’re sacrificing here to obey and serve you? Do you see all this? Aren’t we great? Don’t I deserve more than this? DON’T I AT LEAST DESERVE TO FIND MY BLASTED SHEEP!?!”

Nice, Leah. Real nice. Heart of a champion right there. I was ashamed.

My Father’s correction was both gentle and kind.

“Leah, you’ve lost your mind these last five days looking for this little stuffed sheep. You’ve been irrational.   You can’t quit thinking about her day and night, unable to sleep until you find her. But when was the last time you lost sleep praying for one of my lost sheep? When was the last time you quit looking at the things you don’t have on your street and started looking at the people I have given to you there? Will you help me find My Baa Baa and bring her home?”

“I’m sorry, Father. I’m so, so sorry.”

The words were inadequate, but it was all I could say. My remorse was genuine, and I wanted to change. I thought of the legacy of my own father, and his relentless passion for the One. I so desired to carry on that legacy.

“This time, I really do get it, Father. I really do. Show me your Baa Baas. I want to join you in finding them and bringing them home.”

1bIt was almost 6:00 AM. Time for me to go to Home Depot. I excitedly walked up to the front desk and expectantly waited for Baa Baa to be given to me.

They didn’t have her. No one had turned her in.

There must be some mistake. She has to be here. She just has to. I frantically began to retrace my steps from days before, looking behind cash registers, corners of the bathroom, all the shopping carts . . . she just has to be here!

But she wasn’t. She wasn’t there that day. Or the next. Or the next. And I was so sad. I had resolved myself to the fact that Baa Baa was gone forever, yet I just couldn’t break that news to Claire. She still was praying for her every night, and every time I would think of Baa Baa, I tried to remind myself to pray for one of the neighbors and people God had placed in my life at that point.

It was a Saturday night that I found myself sitting with Brad at a table full of strangers at a wedding that he performed, legitimately sobbing into my gazpacho soup. Brad started talking about Baa Baa being gone and I just couldn’t help myself. My heart was broken about my little sheep. (Brad was once again mystified by the pregnancy hormones and why his quasi-rational wife was sobbing at a wedding reception about her daughter’s stuffed animal. He was very supportive though. Never belittled me or my wild hormones. What a guy.)

IMG_7956At that very moment, my mom sent me a text. She came in from Pittsburgh to watch the kids during the wedding and the picture she sent me didn’t even need words. If you’ve ever wondered what pure love and joy looks like, here it is. My little girl, reunited with her sheep. (Baa Baa was hiding far behind the TV stand. I’m pretty sure Caleb threw her back there. Why? Who knows? I’m still working on forgiving him for that.)

I again started sobbing, this time tears of joy, into my veal, which I couldn’t eat (No one should have to eat veal while they’re pregnant. It’s just too sad picturing that little baby cow. The hormones have fully taken over now.).

bigstock-Happy-family-EditThere are just no words, Father, no words to express my joy and thanks. Your heart bleeds with an irrational, all-consuming love for the souls of Your children, and yet you still take the time to show your infinite, undeserving love for me in such a personal, simple, and beautiful way. Thank you.

I wanted to call my dad at that moment and jump around with irrational joy at my Luke 15 moment. I found my sheep, but more importantly, I found my Father’s heart. Both of theirs. It all comes back to the Father’s heart.

 

A Father’s Heart – Part 3 of 4

If you missed the first two parts of this blog series, you can catch up here.

IMG_5329I’ve talked about my family from time to time: my best friend and husband, Brad, my 6-year-old, Gabriella, my 4-year-old, Claire, my almost 3-year-old, Caleb, and one soon to arrive around Thanksgiving. To truly get the full picture of my family, however, it’s important that you meet my Grandsheep, Baa Baa.

I first met Baa Baa through my little sister, Samantha. Samantha loved collecting sheep as a child, and my parents bestowed the soft, cuddly, pristine white sheep to her sometime in middle school. While Samantha never “played” with her sheep at that age, it became a treasured knick knack, traveling with her all the way to her first apartment in Philadelphia when she moved here four years ago.

That is when the sheep unexpectedly was reborn.

1c79d6aaa17211e286b422000a9d0dd8_7I took the girls to visit Samantha one afternoon when Claire was about 11 months old. She toddled throughout the house, exploring everything she could touch until she came upon the sheep. When she didn’t let it go the rest of the visit, Samantha infamously told me, “Just let her take it home. I’ll get it from you later in the week when she forgets about it.”

She never forgot.

644e00cf8dd3ed5d0164d9ebdb4d0e48Rather, the sheep earned a name, Baa
Baa, and quickly became an intricate part of our family dynamic. Claire took Baa Baa
everywhere, and soon her soft, white wool was more worn, floppy, and gray. It became evident even at 18 months that one of Claire’s greatest gifts was nurturing, and Baa Baa was her little girl. As Margery Williams so beautifully captures in the Velveteen Rabbit, Baa Baa became real. Very real.

Claire would sob relentlessly if Baa Baa was being washed before bed, and the panicked exclamation, “Where’s Baa Baa?!?” became one of the most feared questions Brad or I could ask. Early on, I had searched Amazon, Ebay, and every inch of the Internet looking for a “back up Baa Baa,” but she was nowhere to be found. We had the only Baa Baa in the world, and she was irreplaceable. Strict guidelines were set up as to where she could be taken to take every effort to never lose her.

As Claire has matured, her love for Baa Baa has only grown. Baa Baa gets new outfits from Build A Bear. (They don’t really fit her, but it doesn’t matter.) She is the star of any pretend game she plays with her siblings. She is pushed in a stroller when we go on a walk, and I still watch Claire fall asleep by snuggling her close and rubbing her ear.

And Claire’s not the only one.  Most surprisingly, my love for the sheep has grown. This became abundantly evident to me earlier this summer during what I now refer to as, “The Great Baa Baa Incident.” (Cue foreboding music . . .)

Claire was headed to bed when she asked the dreaded question: “Mommy, where’s Baa Baa?” After a cursory look in the usual places, we could not find her and a back-up sheep was begrudgingly used. When she still didn’t show up the next day, a thorough cleaning of their room ensued. At the end of several hours, we had a pristine room, but still no Baa Baa. This continued through every room of the house over the next several days (Yes, it may or may not take me days to clean my house, and I use that word “clean” very loosely. Not my strongest gifting.).

At this point I’m ready to send out an Amber Alert for Baa Baa. My heart would break each night as Claire would look at me with her big, brown, tear-filled eyes saying how much she missed Baa Baa. We prayed multiple times a day that we would find Baa Baa, and anyone that Claire met, whether or not she knew them, got to hear the story that Baa Baa was missing.

Overall, though, Claire actually was taking the loss surprisingly better than expected. I, however, increasingly became a basket case. Call it pregnancy hormones. Call it maternal love. Call it pure irrationality, but after several days of Baa Baa being missing, I found I was unable to talk about Baa Baa without becoming teared up. I’m pretty sure Brad was convinced that his pregnant wife had at last completely lost her mind. And I’ll be the first to admit that I had.

I couldn’t explain it, but finding Baa Baa became my life’s quest. She would be the last thing I thought about at night and the first thing I thought about in the morning. I dreamed of presenting Baa Baa to Claire when she got married, and carefully preserving her for my grandkids someday. I lamented the loss of our family heirloom and could not even begin to imagine where else to look. I desperately prayed for my Father to take care of this and find my sheep.

home-depotShortly after one of these desperate prayers, as I was falling asleep, I had a vivid memory of seeing Claire and Baa Baa in a shopping cart at Home Depot several days before. (I was distracted and Claire managed to bring her in a store.)  I was certain that Baa Baa was there.  Could I get to Home Depot that very second to get to her? Apparently Home Depot has this crazy idea that they should not be open at 11:30 PM, but they would reopen promptly at 6 AM, and I would be there waiting to get my lamb.

I kept waking up every hour or so, wondering if it was time to get her yet (I’ve admittedly lost my mind, remember?), until I couldn’t get back to sleep and I came downstairs at 2:30 AM to read and write.

I began by lamenting to God about some of my “mosquito bite moments” over the last several weeks (you can catch up here if you missed this explanation), which culminated with the loss of Baa Baa. As I was resting in the quiet, Luke 15 was impressed on my heart. I immediately recognized it as my dad’s favorite chapter in the Bible, and began to dig in, thinking of talking about this incident with my dad, as I desperately poured out prayers to my other Dad.

[More to come soon . . .}

A Father’s Heart – Part 2 of 4

If you missed the first part of this post, you can catch up here.  The Disney adventure continues . . .

696b54f6fdc31f788d1e6b55d192849d0976f235We continued on our Disney adventure for the next day and a half, when my sister-in-law, Betsy, suggested going back to Belle. This wasn’t part of the plan, but I went with it. The line was a long 50 minutes, a basic eternity for a crew of four and two-year olds, but it flew by for Gabby because Brad had a plan.

At the beginning of our wait, he asked, “Who wants to be the Beast?” And Gabby enthusiastically raised her hand. “I do! I do!” So Brad started to coach her.

“Ok, Baby. If you want to be the Beast, you have to be able to roar. Let me hear your best roar.”

“Ok,” she tentatively responded. “Roar.”

“Oh, no, Babe. That will never do. You have to really roar. Let me hear you roar!”

She smiled. “ROOOOOAAAR!”

He smiled back at her. “You’re getting better, but I think you can still do more. Let’s try it again. The lady inside is going to say, ‘Who wants to be the beast?’ and what are you going to say?”

“ROOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRR!” She said with an increasing amount of enthusiasm.

We literally spent the next forty-five minutes like this. Roar after roar, each one attempting to be louder and more ferocious than the last. You can only imagine how the people around us in line loved us. We were getting ready to go inside, and I was tugged by this need to protect my daughter’s little heart. What if she doesn’t get picked? They only pick older kids. She’s going to be heart-broken. I have to help her. I don’t want her to experience that kind of pain of a broken dream.

“Ok, Gabby,” I tried to gently console, “It’s going to be great if we get to be Beast, but if we don’t get picked to be Beast, we’re going to be okay with that, right? We’ll be happy with whatever we get and have fun either way, okay?”

And I watched the childlike, innocent enthusiasm in her eyes transform into a look of confusion and hesitancy. Before she could answer, Brad stopped me, and simply said, “Hey, I’m trying to get her to be the Beast here. That’s what we’re going for. Let her be the Beast.”

guard_your_heart_2And like a bucket of ice water dumped on my weary soul, I realized he was right. We’ve spent the last fifty minutes dreaming a dream, preparing for a dream, and at the precipice of it, I’m trying to weigh it down with disillusionment, preparing for mediocrity before it even had a chance to fly.

In trying to protect her from heartbreak, I was prohibiting her from hope.

“Forget what I said, Gabby. You go in there and be the Beast.”

We walked in the room where they assign the roles. They started choosing each character until they came to the Beast, and sure enough, the Disney worker asks, “So who wants to be the Beast?” just like we practiced.

IMG_4470And sure enough, the beautiful messenger of Walt Disney chooses my little peanut four-year-old daughter to be the Beast. They placed the red cape on her and she turned around to look at me with a look of pride and joy on her face that I had never seen equaled.

We went into the room where they actually carry out the play, and I was a nervous wreck. It came time for her big moment where the narrator explains that the Beast let out a terrible roar, and I held my breath as I knew it was her cue.

And let me tell you, my girl NAILED it. It was the most ferocious roar that ever came out of a little thirty-five pound, four-year-old body. The whole place burst into delighted laughter because it was so unexpectedly perfect. But she wasn’t surprised. She was prepared. Her Daddy had prepared her for that moment, and she was living it out beautifully.

The story quickly continued as Belle, the real Belle, remember, gently took Gabby’s little hand and placed it on her shoulder, and they danced to “Beauty and the Beast,” just like in the movie.

Scan 2015-5-9 0002I looked at Gabby’s little face full of awe and wonder and there was one, little tear streaming down her face. She didn’t even know what it meant to cry tears of joy, but it was all her little body could handle in that moment.

This whole time, I’m sobbing, watching my little girl experience the greatest moment of her life. It was one of the most incredible moments I’ve ever had as a mom, and really as a person. Genuinely. I was overwhelmed with gratitude, with awe that God had just let this happen.

We got home that night. Everyone went to bed exhausted, but not me. I couldn’t sleep. No way. I was high on joy. I was buzzing with gratitude and I kept trying over and over to express my thanks to God for the big and small miracles that I saw that day. I just kept thinking of Gabby’s look on her face as she was dancing with Belle and the little, beautiful, innocent tear of joy in her eye.

My prayer was quickly interrupted, however, with the Holy Spirit. As I was trying to think of the best words to thank Him, I was quickened with the question,

“Leah, don’t you get it?”

I was taken aback. “Wait, what? Get it? Get what? Don’t I get what?”

“Leah,” the gentle reply came. You’re Gabby.

I gasped. I sunk down to the floor. “What???”

“Don’t you get it? You’re Gabby. That joy you experienced today watching your baby girl doesn’t even capture a hint of what I feel as your Father watching you dance with your dreams. I want you to dream again. I want you to hope again. I want you to dare to ask me for all those things, big and small, that you would depend on your Dad to do. I want to be your Father. You’ve never had to trust me to be your Father before because you had such a good one, but I’ve always been here. I always was your Father and I want to be your Father now. Let me coach you, prepare you, help you with those dreams, and watch how I can bring them to pass in a way that you cannot even begin to imagine.”

I had no words. No words. To see myself as Gabby, to be able to trust again, to dream again, to lean in for really the first time to God being my Father, and to imagine that God could possibly delight in me the way that I delighted in watching Gabby that day, well, that was too much for me to begin to comprehend. But at that moment, I wanted to make a choice.

father-daughterOkay. I choose you. I’m giving you my broken heart, my weariness, my despair, and all the other burdens that I’ve been carrying around these past nine months, and I choose you. I want You to be my Father, and I will choose to trust You now. I don’t exactly know how, and I’m so scared to do it, but I’m going to try.”

That was perhaps my first glimpse of my Father’s heart, seeing myself as His daughter, reaching out His hand to me, and taking the leap to grasp it with all the strength I had.

One of the things that’s been most evident since my dad’s passing is the number of people who have told me that my dad also was a spiritual father to them. They, too, were grieving the loss of a man who personified the love of Christ to them, a love that many had never known. It’s my prayer that for each of you who were able to experience the love of my Dad, that you, too, can catch a glimpse of your Father’s heart, learning what it means to see yourself as Gabby, the gem of your Daddy’s eye.

A Father’s Heart – Part 1 of 4

news_1410165250Yesterday marked three years since the passing of my father from this world into the next. If you’re not familiar with the story, you can read up on it here. The last several weeks, especially, have held a lot of reflection on one of the greatest men I’ve ever known.

One of the things I’ve most appreciated about my dad was the way he modeled the love of my Heavenly Father. From my earliest memories, it’s impossible to think of my dad without thinking about his love for Jesus; subsequently, that love was evident in all that he did, especially when it came to being a parent. I never had trouble accepting God as my Heavenly Father namely because I wholeheartedly trusted and loved my Earthly Father.

In fact, this probably has been the area of my heart that has most dramatically changed over these past three years. Early on in the grieving process, I recognized that I had looked to God & depended on Him to play many roles in my life in various seasons.

He showed me He was my Best Friend in some lonely moments like starting a new school where I knew no one. He was my Protector when I was faced with some life-threatening situations. I looked to Him as my Husband during my single years.

But I never really had to depend on Him as my Father. I had the best Dad a girl could ever ask for, so while I could relate to God as a Father, I never really had to trust Him to be my Father.

And that’s maybe where the deepest pain of my heart originated with my dad’s accident and death. What kind of Father would let this happen to His kids? My dad would never want to put me in this kind of pain, so why would my Heavenly Father make such a different decision? And if He did, can He really be trusted?

As I look back on the last several years, I cannot say that God has magically answered all my questions with brilliant explanations that satisfy my heart. I can say, however, that I have started to learn what it means to look to God as my Father, and to trust Him in that role in my life. He has patiently and graciously been giving me glimpses of what it means to have a Father’s heart.

So, I share with you a 4-part reflection of some of my journey.

wpid-wp-1442352204341In August 2013, Brad and I planned on joining his family and taking a 2-day trip to Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

Some background . . . I am a self-proclaimed Disney Freak. It was a favorite family vacation growing up, so when it comes to the over-priced, fantastical, escapist vacation that Disney World provides, I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid. I’m all in. Don’t judge.

My dad, especially, had this knack of making extraordinary things happen when we were there. One time, he managed to schmooze different workers so that every day, we were given these super fast passes that let all seven of us get fast passes to any ride all day. We would look at him with these open-mouthed faces wondering how he managed to do this and he would just smile and say, “Favor!” And he was right. For whatever reason, Disney World made my family smile, and whenever we were there, God smiled on my family.

So, in many ways, taking my three young kids to Disney and watching them experience the magic was in many ways a dream come true. Yet at the same time, I anticipated a bittersweet walk through the park, remembering the joyful moments with my dad and recognizing the vacuum of his presence in any future memories.

DSC_6323I was determined to make this trip magical for my kids, however, and like a true Edwards Disney-ite, I had done my research and planned out our days to make our trip perfect. I was most intrigued by one of the newest experiences to the park, “Enchanted Tales With Belle,” my favorite princess and the favorite of my then four-year-old daughter, Gabby. Participants would get to reenact “Beauty and the Beast” and were assigned roles to play in the story. One child would be chosen to be the Beast, which meant that the child would actually get to meet Belle, the real Belle, and dance with her, just like they did in the movie.

As soon as I read I about this, I knew that this would literally be Gabby’s dream come true. We were getting ready to leave the next morning and I half-heartedly prayed, “God, let this be a special day for the kids. And if it’s possible, maybe, if You want to, well, let Gabby be the Beast. I know it’s probably not a big deal in the grand scheme of things in the universe, but I know it would make her happy. So, maybe You could make that happen?”

And honestly, my prayer wasn’t even that pretty. I was hurting. My trust was destroyed. With my dad gone, I wasn’t sure to whom I should turn for all those magical favors that he always seemed to get at Disney.

IMG_4341We started off our adventure with Belle. The Disney worker picked some ten-year-old girl to be Beast, and Gabby, Claire, and my nieces all got to be some silverware and they loved it. I could see right away why they gave the role to an older kid. The role of Beast was pretty critical to the whole experience. If you had a toddler with stage-fright, the whole thing was ruined. I accepted the situation as a fun one because the kids were happy, and well, it was a silly prayer anyway.

**More to come in Part 2**