In My Father’s House

Every year just before Christmas, my husband’s grandma would call him and invite us to the family breakfast at our local Elmer’s restaurant. “Matthew, this is Grandma”, she’d say, and he would respond by saying, “Yes Grandma, I know it is you, it says your name in my phone” and they would share a laugh.

In my Father’s house,
There’s a place for me.
I’m a child of God,
Yes I am.

Hillsong Worship

His aunt’s hand stretched backwards from the row in front of us at church, handing him two old photographs. In one, there’s a boy maybe twelve or thirteen with a red button-up shirt who looks like our son Cole, sitting next to a little black and white dog, that ironically looks like our dog Luna as well. As my husband studied the young man in the photograph, I studied him. Waiting to see if there was a warmth in his eyes as they tracked back and forth over the photos and to our son, as he compared them. Was there any reaction to seeing a man we seldom talk about? And there was, but I could see it was met with hesitation.

As I searched his eyes and studied his facial expressions, the worship band played Hillsong Worships, I am who you say I am. As we’re singing along, my mind realizes his hesitation wasn’t just rooted in the fact of the man being his father, or that he had passed years ago. His hesitation came from not knowing where his place was now. And how that picture was probably more important to him than he would care to admit. Mindlessly, the lyrics slipped out until I read the verse on the screen above, “In – my – father’s -house – , there’s – a – place – for – me -” and my voice cut out under the heaviness of the words. I couldn’t finish. None of us had a place in our father’s house, not God, but our biological fathers.

In my Father’s house there’s a place for me.

Over the years my focus had been on myself never having a place in my father’s house, and on my daughter, who didn’t have a place in her father’s house. My husband was raised by a wonderful man, who was technically his stepfather, but he accepted him as his own and treated him as such his whole life. He was his and is his father. It never crossed my mind that maybe he missed the lack of a relationship with his biological father. I had missed the fact that he too hadn’t felt as though he had a place with his own biological father, which explained more than I realized. But God’s plan was already in place; we just needed to trust and have faith.

I am chosen. Not forsaken. I am who You say I am.

Every year just before Christmas, my husband’s grandma would call him and invite us to the family breakfast at our local Elmer’s restaurant. “Matthew, this is Grandma”, she’d say, and he would respond by saying, “Yes Grandma, I know it is you, it says your name in my phone” and they would share a laugh. She would extend the invite, and we would accept. The last couple of years she would call out of the blue just to say hi and to tell him she loved him. And I would tell him he needed to spend more time with her, and he would agree, but it wouldn’t happen.

This past year that changed. What started with Christmas breakfast became a wedding, church, lunches, visits etc. It’s funny to look back now and see how smart she was in knowing that she planted the seed each Christmas starting with the breakfast, we just had to water it daily for it to grow. In January, there was a push in my heart and not a light one, it was more like a shove to get back into church, and to be closer with his family. Church was where his family was rooted, and where Grandma was every Sunday. When we would hug her and say good morning to her, I remember thinking she had the kindest eyes, and though I’ve never liked anyone touching my face, the way her hand cupped my cheek as she said good morning in return, is something I will treasure always.

Free at last, He has ransomed me. His grace runs deep.

The last time I saw her, she stopped my husband as he was walking out of her hospital room. She was asleep we had thought and suddenly we hear, “Matthew, don’t you leave me.” and it made us laugh for a minute. We had thought at first she was going to pull through, but it seemed as though we were wrong. While some other words were spoken in that room that night, that will remain in that room, but my husband received one of the grandest gifts he’ll ever receive. As he stood at her bedside she spoke to him and said, “Don’t forget me, I love you” and I don’t know that I will ever be able to recall that memory without crying, because I know he had thought of her so much over the years, but it was his hesitation that kept him away. It was one of the few times I had witnessed my usually strong as an oak husband, cry.

Grandma passed away a little over a week later, and although that was the last time I saw her, he visited her again which I know he is grateful for. Yesterday, we celebrated her life in the most beautiful way, through worship which was something I learned yesterday that she loved. Witnessing my husband up on stage with his cousins, all worshiping and singing praise together for both the joy of her living a loving life, and now dancing in heaven with Jesus was priceless. And, to know now that this writing piece that I have been working on for weeks, rooted around a song during worship and her, is all the more fitting.

I am who you say I am.

As we were about to leave her celebration of life, our son Cole, looked over at his great grandmother’s photograph and said he only – almost cried a couple times – and laughed, as he hugged me. He teased me for crying as he usually does because I cry all the time. When he asked what made me cry, I told him to look around, to see the surrounding family, the church we now belonged to and to remember it was all because of her, and that this was God’s plan all along. We just needed to water the seed from Christmas.

My husband is his grandmother’s grandson, his father’s son, his aunt’s nephew, and welcomed by the highest king whose love for him, found him and brought him home at the right time. While the push for me to return to the church, to be closer to his family is equally a blessing for me, it was all in God’s plan for my husband to find his place. The lyrics to “I am who you say I am” don’t just belong to a beautiful song of love, redemption and having a place with God, they also tell a story. A story of where a little boy’s grandmother reminded him of where his place was, how to get there again and that he was always loved and deserving.

The kind of Christian I want to be.

She said “Will you go up there with me?” and I of course said yes.  I said yes, because well I am in church, and what kind of a Christian would I be, if I said no?! I wanted to do what God would do, and because she needed my help. She asked me my name, and I told her, and she smiled as if she already knew and was confirming that she had the right person.

Today in church toward the end of the service, the pastor asked for the people who needed a miracle, and who wanted to let Jesus know they were ready to fully accept him, to raise their hands. Raising my hand in church is difficult. During worship when all the arms are raised, mine can be found folded cross-body or in my jacket pockets. Today though, I let go, and raised my hand. And, then the pastor invited everyone who had raised their hands to come forward, to join the others who had raised their hands and we could all pray together for them. “Nope, no way, not a chance,” were the words I spoke to my husband as I put my hands right back in my pockets.

Did part of me want to go up there, you bet! Does part of me want to raise both hands high and sing in my awful deaf tone voice that I love Jesus and I know I am forgiven, yes, more than you can imagine. But, I don’t. Because my sins are many and there are moments that even in church, I am reminded that my sins are bad. And, that even if God has forgiven me, which I know he has for the most part (there are two sins I’m still confused on), the others in this room may not treat me as forgiven. They may see me as my sins, and not just as a flawed human being with a story like everyone else.

Let’s be honest, there are always those Christians, who do not live the way God would want. They go to church, they can quote a scripture, they give to the poor, feed the hungry yet still judge and condemn. And, that is why I would go to church intermittently throughout the years because if I stayed, I would connect, and if I connected, I would talk. And, if I talked, I would be judged. If you know me at all, you know two things: 1. I cannot lie to you if we are face to face. and, 2. I am an open book, and once I start sharing, I physically cannot stop, and within an hour you will know not only my life story, but every deep and dark secret. And… that is when that look comes across their face, of an uncomfortable smile, and an awkward exit with a loud and clear message of you are not worthy.

When I am strong, I am very confident in my worthiness, and it was God who told me just months ago, that I was worthy. But, in moments of weakness, when the devil returns to destroy what is being rebuilt with Jesus, my worthiness decreases. My inability to raise my arms stems from that unworthiness, and where there is unworthiness, there is relapse of sins. Tomorrow is unknown, and although I know he has greater plans for me than I have for myself, I knew that for the past 23 sinful years. I knew his plans for me were greater when my suicide attempt was not successful. When I woke up from my attempt angry at God for not wanting me, for not accepting me, and making me stay in the hell that my life was at that time; I knew there was more. Yet, I still faltered, I still sinned, and I managed to get my life together, only to have it fall apart time and time again. So, tell me how I can raise my hands today exalting that I am forgiven, that I am saved, when my track record shows evidence of a potential relapse in sins.

God has been a constant from a young age in my life. Even when I was not actively following him as a teenager and adult, he was still my constant. Were there times that I was misled to thinking God hated me? Definitely. Were there times that I sat up at night going over what God and I would talk about when it came time to review my life? Yes, more nights than you can imagine. But then again, because I knew God, and had faith in him, I knew he knew my heart. I believed he knew that I was not that person from my past and that he still loved me. That he knew I was trying.

Fear is never something I’ve had for God, because to me he was the only one who has never let me down. He is who I look up to and respect, and do not want to let down, but not who, I fear. So, maybe I am doing things wrong. But you at least can understand why I always come back, and always find my way to his message in church. As, we sat there today, praying for the group of people who were stronger than I was, and had walked up front, I stayed planted where I was, with silent tears rolling down my cheeks. My heart was happy for those in front of me, and I was content in praying for them because my heart wanted their hearts to be at peace.

It was then that I felt a light touch on my back, and I thought it was my husband who when he notices I am crying, he will console me. But I realized quickly it was not my husband, it was a woman behind us. I turned to her thinking I had dropped something, or she needed something, and she said “Will you go up there with me?” and I of course said yes.  I said yes, because well I am in church, and what kind of a Christian would I be, if I said no?! I wanted to do what God would do, and because she needed my help. She asked me my name, and I told her, and she smiled as if she already knew and was confirming that she had the right person. She then said, “I don’t know why, but I’m being called to do this, either for you and your family, or for me and mine” and all I could get out were the words “oh, okay” as we walked up to the front arm in arm.

Once in front with the others who were just like us, we listened and pray, and I sobbed deeply and quietly. The pastor prayed for all the things, I needed, he prayed for a miracle, he prayed over finances and then he prayed for the devil to let go of our children, and I sobbed even more. Because this past Friday our daughter was in a situation that was scary, and a dear friend of mine said “Hear me out, the devil comes to attack when your family is close to god, and when he can’t break you, he will try and grab a hold of your children” and it made sense because this situation our daughter was in, was evil and hate filled. We needed the devil to flee.

As the sermon ended, and everyone walked away, I hugged her thanking her, an asked her name, it was Corinne. I hadn’t noticed her there before and she said she usually stays in the back and has a hard time coming forward so maybe that is why God led her to me. But I think God led her to me, because I needed her, because he knew I needed to be up front with the others, and I would go if it was to help someone else. Corinne didn’t ask what my sins were, she didn’t look at me with shame, or inequality, she simply put her arm around me, and walked beside me in front of all the others needing what we all need, God’s grace, love and acceptance.

I pray that I will get to see this woman again, and that each of you get to see the grace of god as I did today because it is the way Christians should be, and how I want to be.