Living Life

Jesus, Me, and the Kitchen Table

My Testimony Part 2 – Losing Dad

dad and me

In my earlier blog post “My Testimony” I shared how I was adopted when I was 3 weeks old and how I came to the Lord. Now I’d like to share some more of my story. I think I basically left off which my dad passing away my last year in college. He had been having problems breathing or getting short of breath for awhile. The doctor put him on some fluid pills. I don’t know if they ever told him what was wrong or not. If they did, he did not tell me. But he had Congestive heart Failure. I remember the day I got the phone call I had returned back to my dorm room from studying for finals at the library. A message on my answering machine from dad’s ex-wife Shirley said to give her a call. I knew that it was about dad — and I knew it wasn’t going to be good news. Something just told me. So when I called her, the tone of her voice confirmed it. She came over to meet me and told me that he had died of a heart attack while playing his guitar at a birthday party. That was interesting, because one of the way he wanted to go, was playing his guitar.
The next week was crazy. I had nothing to do with planning the funeral. It was all done by his biological daughter. I had not talked to her. By time I arrived in Normangee where dad lived, his place had been cleaned out. Some of the antique speakers with beautiful cloth coverings had been torn. Someone had gone in looking for hidden money. I think the bed mattress was also torn. That was kind of strange, I thought, since had JUST died. Also during that week I had to get moved out of the dorm. I moved to Bryan with dad’s daughter and her family.

The summer turned out to be the summer from Hades. I was taking chemistry at the local junior college and it wasn’t easy, but I made a “B.” Since it is a “freshman flunk out course” at my university, I had put it off until my senior year. I am most assured I would have failed it had I taken it at SFA! But during that summer we had to do the probate of dad’s Will. Dad had always told me that when he died, there was a certificate of deposit in the lock box under the bed that would mature upon his death. At that time, the executor of the estate, Eva, would give me $1,000 a year each year for 10 years. Dad was a man of his word. One thing he could not stand was a liar. So imagine my surprise when we got to the probate and I found out that the money was not there – or supposedly it wasn’t there. And to top that off, the lawyer told me he did not represent me, that he represented the estate. So there i was. Nineteen years old, still in college, fatherless, motherless, and with a feeling that something was very wrong with how the estate was being handled.
I had no idea what to do. I did the only thing I knew… ask advice from the church ladies who were older and with whom I was very close. They advised me to get a lawyer and find out what was happening. So I agreed to go meet with the attorney they had located for me. At that meeting, he told me that he would take the case, but warned me that pursuing it would probably mean I’d be estranged from my family. Keep in mind, I had no other family. I did NOT like that idea, but I did not know what else to do. I really needed the money, although it was not that much at once. I was encouraged to go forth with it because it is what dad would want – and that he would be rolling in his grave if he knew what was happening. So I went forth with it.
I really don’t know what happened as far as what the lawyer did with the lawyer of the estate or Eva. All I know is that one day the lawyer called to tell me that he had won the case and after his fees were taken out, I was going to receive $7,000. By this time, I was back in college in Nacogdoches. I needed a car badly because it was time for me to begin my practicum hours. I needed to be able to drive to the sites to do my observations and teaching. So the settlement came at an opportune time and I was able to get my first car – a teal green Ford Escort. This car was a blessing. Dad had talked about buying me a car when I reached this point in my education. So, in a way, he did!

Within a year or so I decided what I had done was wrong and I wanted to make amends with my family. I’ve always been quick to forgive others for their wrongs. I sent a letter to my sister (dad’s daughter) asking her to forgive me, that I realized I was wrong. I’m sure whatever I said sounded very weak, even though it was most sincere. I can’t tell you in words how badly I wanted to be reunited with my family. People told me things like, “It’s their loss, not yours.” and asked me why I’d even want to be with them after the way they did me, etc. But I had read in the Bible where it was wrong to sue your neighbor. And I was truly repentant. But as my attorney had warned me, so it was I think they read my first letter, but subsequent letters and our wedding invitation were returned to me, unopened.

My sister’s daughter and I had been very close growing up. Even though I am her aunt, we were very close in age. And we were in the drill team together at school and went to church together. We played together on weekends and in the summers. I have very fond memories of playing Marco Polo and diving for pennies at the pool in the summer. However, one day I called to talk and found out that she was angry with me also. She was still going to college and living with her parents, so I thought that she basically had no choice but to see it their way. She told me I was a traitor to the family and she never wanted to speak to me again. Those words cut me to the bone and broke my heart. I guess it was then that I sort of gave up my hope of ever being reunited with them.
It is a long story which I won’t tell – but in recent times, through Facebook, the two of us have reconnected. I did not know it but she had been following my story since the car accident. She sent me pictures she had found of me and dad when I was growing up. I was o glad to have these memories. But I am delighted that she decided to friend me on FB and we can at least keep up with each other’s happenings. God is good! This is an answer to my prayer. I may never get to speak to my sister again, but that is in God’s hands. I’m also glad to be friends with my sister’s son-in-law on FB. I wonder if anyone ever mentions my name at family gatherings? I admit it is strange seeing pictures of their children and not knowing who they are really, having never met them.

The year that followed was rocky at first as I grieved for dad and the estrangement from my family. I will never forget the way that God provided “family” for me during that first year. The holidays are always hardest and i truly had nowhere to go. But my vision teacher from high school, Jeanne, invited me to come stay with them and celebrate Christmas. I took them u pin it and it was wonderful, just different. It was strange because my family was actually in the same town, Bryan. But of course I did not see them.

Things really started locking up at the start of 1998 when I got my first teaching job and met Richard. I’ll talk about the way we met in a future post. Stay turned!

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My Testimony

For some time now I have felt like I needed to share my testimony with you, my readers.

Without going into all the details, I was raised by my adoptive father, who was single. I’ll call him dad from here on out. His first wife had committed suicide and he divorced his second wife. He was a bar owner and worked there all day everyday and late into the nights. He was 55 years of age. One of his regular customers was my biological mom. She was pregnant with me and already had two children, I think, in the welfare system. And she did not know what she was going to do with me either.

One day after I was born she came into the Jolly Joker lounge, the one dad owned, at 11 in the morning. I was out in the car. Keep in mind this was in Houston, TX in the summer. So dad wanted to go out and see me. When they saw me, I was in the car seat with my hands tucked under my head on one side. Now turn the clock twelve hours to 11 PM that same day. Once again she came into the lounge without me. Once again dad and she went out to the car to check on me. Dad said I was lying in the exact same position as I had been when he saw me that morning. It was late and dad was not prepared, but he asked her if he could take me home that night. So she handed me over. She did send a bottle but there were no diapers, wipes, no diaper bag. Not exactly how you would send your child off to stay with the grandparents or something!

Once at home that night, dad did not have any milk, formula, or diapers. So he did the only thing he knew to do…and that was to fill the bottle with sugar water.  For a diaper he used a handkerchief and pinned it together. It was a great cloth diaper….the best he had at the moment anyway. Howeever, when he went to change my diaper, he noticed that I had horrible diaper rash…. we are talking sores upon sores…. the diaper had not been changed all day. It was then he decided to take me to the doctor the next morning.

The docttor visit didn’t go very well and dad left thinking that I may not live. This same doctor was surprised when I returned for my 2 week follow-up appointment. That was the first miracle. At this point, dad had spoken with an attorney. Mom had decided to sign over her parental rights to him. So at that point I belonged to him, and he became my dad.

Next, dad discovered that I could not see well.  He said I did not react the aame way other babies did to lights.  I diid not notice them or reach out for them. So he took me to an eye doctor who told him that I was completely blind and there was no use in hoping for any improvement. But he did not accept this as a possible outcome for me.  He had read where a mother carried her baby upside down and eventaully the baby started seeing.  Sounds cooky, right? Well, maybe so. But he did begin carrying me in a head-down position for short periods throughout the day, especially as he walked around the pool table in the lounge. One dday, I began reaching for the lights. And lo, and behold, I could see. This was miralcle number two! Wheen I was about three years old, I could point at pictures on an eye chart at the doctor’s office – something they thought I’d never be able to do! My vision is not perfect to this day, and I do have low vision. But I see well enough to drive with telescopic lenses.

Growing up, we nnever really went to church. In the sixth grade, we moved to a small town called Normangee, TX. I began attending church at a small interdenominational chapel. The Sunday school class for my age group was taught by Lillian McReeynolds.   Since the chapel only had morning services, she also attended First Baptist Church in Normangee.  I began going home with her after church in the mornings, stayng with her Sunday afternoons and then riding with her to church on Sunday nights to First Baptist.

I distinctly remember one Sunday nnight service. I was in the 7th grade and like a lot of the youth ws not really paying attention to the sermon. When we stood up to sing the hymn for the altar call, I started feeling really nervous. The feeling is very hard to describe. There was resistance, but at the same time Divine nudging. I knew I had to go to the front. I knew I needed to accept Jesus as my Savior, even though I really didn’t know how to say that… At the altar the Pastor greeted me. I told him what I was feeling and he asked me if I felt like I needed to be saved, to accept Jesus. I said yes, because inside I knew that was it! He explained to me what this decision meant and i was so excited! Words cannot express the pure joy that I felt when Jesus came into my heart and I was “born again.” It’s just like the Scriptures say, the old had been washed away, and behold, the new creature was born. I had been bought with a price, just like you have. The precious blood of Jesus washes all of our sins away. And that is the cleanest feeling you will ever have in your life. It’s the cleanest feeling I’ve ever had in mine. People said I was literally “glowing” that night. I felt like I was glowing! I just wanted to tell everyone what had happened! An evangelist I know, who has gone to be with Lord, used to say, “Every drop of His blood paid for every one of your sins.” – Steve Hill.

Salvation is a gift but it is not free. It cost Jesus His life. And to those who accept Jesus, we need to give Him our all. he is worthy of it ALL!

And even though the road has NOT been easy and I have faced what I feel might be more than my fair share of struggles in this life, I can honestly say, that I could not have gotten through them without Jesus to walk with and even carry me through. Dad passed away my senior year in college from a massive heart attack. He had his wish of dying either while playing the guitar or working in the field. He was at a birthday party singing and playing his guitar. He could quote Scriptures, but he was not assured of his salvation. I’d ask him if he knew where he was going to spend eternity and he would say that there is no way one can know.

I had gone a mission trip to Mexico with the Baptist Student Union and we had shared the Jesus film with the people. Upon returning from the trip, I shared it with Dad and he changed. Through this movie and our talks, I know he accepted Jesus as his Savior. I could tell a huge difference in his life. And I know one day, I will see him in Heaven, with the girls (his granddaughters he never met) and our Lord.