In 2015 I began praying about my “word” for the year. Does anyone else do this? I pray as the current calendar year is approaching an end that God will provide me a word by which to live for the new year. It’s not a resolution. Rather, it’s a guide for what God has in store for me in the coming year. I then begin studying scripture that contains the word, thought or theme, and keep a journal of moments throughout the year in which God showed me the word. It might be found in challenges, opportunities, storms, or answered prayers.
This particular year, I began praying earlier than normal. It was September and for some reason, I felt God calling me to a purpose. My Dad had also begun to decline substantially in his health. I had no idea if that purpose would be relating to my parents, to my husband and son, or to something else. Yet each time I prayed for a word, God put “grow” on my heart.
By the time the year had come to a close, we had changed church homes, my Dad was admitted to a rehabilitation program at a nursing home after a long hospital stay, and I was being called to become the leader of our Women’s Ministry at church. Growth had definitely begun. However, I was completely unprepared for how God would continue to grow me over more than the current year.
In 2016 I began praying for a theme for the Women’s Ministry. That word grow kept popping into my thoughts. Before long God made it clear that this theme was not only applicable to my personal life, but also my life in ministry. That’s where the years long growth process began to ignite.
I prayed for a scripture that would be applicable to the Women’s Ministry, and God led me to 2 Peter 3:18. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” That made perfect sense for the Ministry because my desire was that they would grow in fellowship, in biblical knowledge, and in their relationship with the Lord. I assumed the growth in my life would be as I began to lead. That certainly was only the very tiniest speck of what God had in store.
My whole life, Dad had been an emotionally abusive, narcissistic, alcoholic. Mom and I did our very best to hold on for the ride, and trust that one day the horrible life we had grown to know would be over. It had been much easier for me to deal with Dad over the last 22 years as I was married, had our son, and lived 650 miles away. Yet as Mom’s only sounding board who could understand her pain and frustration, I found myself more and more angry with Dad for putting us through all that he had. I was angry, bitter, and perfectly content in staying that way. Until…
His health had been declining from a rare neurological disease Dad has suffered with for 15 years. Immune suppressing treatments combined with the significant alcohol abuse had finally taken its toll on his body, and Dad was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He was hospitalized due to significant muscle weakness from round one of chemo before the doctor ever had a chance to review the PET scan.
I have no idea what day it was that Mom called to say that I needed to come up as soon as I could. The doctor had discussed the results of the scan with her, and it wasn’t good. Dad’s body would not be able to tolerate the chemotherapy, and the cancer had spread to his brain, throat, rectum and kidneys. She wanted me to be there when the doctor came in to tell Dad the news, and to help her address the need for him to begin hospice care.
As I began to prepare for the trip ahead, God put it on my heart that forgiveness was the only option. I was going to have to stretch, grow in compassion, and grow in forgiveness. How on earth was I going to do that? “God? What do you mean I need to forgive him? Don’t you remember all that he did to us?” It was then that God reminded me what Jesus did for me was far greater than anything that had ever been done to me. My purpose was clear, I had to grow in forgiveness.
(Stay tuned for the rest of the story)