From my earliest memories, they have been there. Loving. Supportive. Proud.
I was their first born and pride and joy. Blonde and blue eyed. Intelligent. Adorable, if I may say so myself. And throughout hardships, normal wear and tear, life happenings, sadnesses, triumphs, siblings born, and just living out life, I knew without a doubt that I was safe and I was loved.
My parents are God-fearing and they instilled that faith into myself and my two sisters. We believe that the Bible is truth, that Jesus came and died for our sins, and that love conquers all. My parents aren’t perfect but they don’t expect to be. Well, maybe my dad does just a little bit. Nicknamed “Practically Perfect” because he chooses integrity every time. Whether it be in a new appliance, a vehicle purchase, or a life choice, he always chooses top of the line, made to last, and whats right. And my mother, she is warmth and caring and kindness and she exudes an energy of welcomeness and light and quiet calm.
My parents marriage isn’t perfect but it’s the closest thing to it I have ever witnessed. My father is the patriarch and my mother his right hand man. They may have a spat or maybe even a full out disagreement but the moment my father senses that he may have even come close to hurting my mother in any way, he chooses to love her instead. And should my mother disagree with him, she will choose to defer if he truly believes he is right. And do you know why? Not because she is submissive where the wife must do as the husband wishes no matter what. Not because she feels she is losing or has no choice. Not because she fears punishment of any kind. But because she knows that my father tows the line of integrity and chooses Jesus and then her every single time. And that is something she can trust implicitly. They are as close to a fairy tale as this world gets. And even more blatantly in love and passionate than they were 35+ years ago when they chose each other.
But it wasn’t until the age of 30 that I realized just how extraordinary my parents are. That I realized how beautiful the souls of these humans are. That I realized that I was and am beyond blessed to call them my own.
It was at the age of 30 that I completely broke and in that brokenness, I chose the wrong path.
It was at the age of 30 that my monster called my parents and demanded that they drive the three hours to our house so that he could expose and humiliate their daughter to their faces.
It was at the age of 30 that they refused to allow him to degrade me like that.
It was at the age of 30 that when I confessed my deepest and darkest shame and fully expected their wrath and hatred, that they wrapped their arms around me instead.
It was at the age of 30 when my father said, “I will walk out every single consequence with you” and I fell to my knees in relief and shock. And make no mistake, he has proven that. Over and over and over.
It was at the age of 30 that my mother said, “God will give you what you need to make it through each and every single day”. And He has proven that. Over and over and over. And often times, it came in the form of her gentle voice and guidance.
It was at the age of 30 that my parents would call every morning gripped with fear that I would not answer because I hadn’t made it through the night. And then listen in shock as I recounted what I had endured the night before at the hands of my monster.
It was at the age of 30 that my father spoke the words, “You deserve to be loved every single day without earning it”, and I believed him.
It was at the age of 30 that I was allowed to crawl into my parents bed in the middle of the night with them for the first time in my life as the anxiety and fear and hopelessness gripped me. And my father laid his arm over me. And my mother laid her arm over me. And for the first time in years, I felt safe.
It was at the age of 30 that my mother packed her bags fully intending to move into my home and become a barrier from my monster for as long as it took if they couldn’t get through to me that going back to him was dangerous.
It was at the age of 30 that they used every single resource they had to protect, guide, shield, and love me.
My parents have been relentless in their love. They have been relentless in their search for good. For making things right.
My parents reached out to and loved on my monster all the while knowing his truths. Despite knowing his truths.
My parents have not let this break them but have only used it to make themselves stronger. As individuals and as a team.
My parents have never once thrown guilt at me for catapulting them into this dark world.
My parents have extended grace again and again. Grace he didn’t deserve. Grace I certainly don’t deserve.
My 6’5″, 300lb, mighty man of a father has been reduced to tears within all this. But in the absolute moments of crisis and chaos, he has been a solid oak tree holding up every single member of our family. He is my hero.
And my 5’2″, 120lb mother has been an unforeseen warrior in the moments when no one else could forge on and yet a safe place to rest. She is everything I want to become.
My winter isn’t mine alone to bear. I brought my winter down upon those of my family too. My parents. My sisters. My nieces and nephews. My own children. And our winter has been long. But at the moments when it really counts, every single one of these people have pulled on their parkas, grabbed their shovels, and shown up with nothing but love, grace, and fortitude. And I am humbled. But the story doesn’t end there…
At the age of 33, another gauntlet came down. A vicious and sharp and condemning slice that wiped out all the ground I had gained and left me once again staring into the void of complete loss. And I once again felt the pain I felt when I was 30. The kind of pain that comes from the heart and down the limbs. The pain that makes your belly ache and your muscles spasm. The pain that hits like a wave and there is nothing to do but curl up in a ball and hold yourself tightly. That pain that causes wracking sobs and wails that well up from so deep inside and sound of complete loss and humiliation and torment.
And I crawled into bed unable to cope or breathe and broke down into nothing but a sobbing body racked with pain and tears. And I gasped for each breath as another wail would escape outside of my control. I was out of control. And my mother, my gentle and beautiful mother, she came in to my room and she wrapped me up in her arms and she began to pray. She prayed for the brokenness and the loss. She prayed for strength for this journey that none of us understood. She prayed for the people shielding and loving and wrapping around us. But what I recall the most is what my mother said in her prayer. She said, “Last night as I was rubbing oils on my daughters feet and rubbing her hair, I thought to myself that I have never been more proud to be her mother. That I have never been more thankful that God gave me this beautiful girl to be my very own.” And for a moment, I cried for something different than just pain.
And the next day, as my father drove me to face yet another consequence… my father of very few words… he reached over and he grabbed my hand and he said to me in one of my most humiliating moments, “I feel the need to tell you that I am so very proud of you. And I am so sorry that I wasn’t the father you needed to shelter and protect you years ago when you were suffering. But I didn’t know. I didn’t know things were so bad. But I have watched you persevere through hell. I have watched you walk through things with dignity even if it terrified you. I am so proud to have you as my daughter. And I am always here for you. Always by your side.”
I am now 35. And my winter has been endless torture, endless unknown, endless climbs only to be thrown back down again, endless bitter cold. But I sit here and write out all this with a sound mind, a steady hand, and a quiet strength that I only possess because of the two people who brought me into this world. Because of their strength, resilience, love, support, bravery, kindness, and most of all faith. I’ve never considered myself lucky. But who needs luck when they were given the gift of being their daughter? Not me. I’d choose them over and over and over.