Father-Shaped Hole

Eventually I learned that Jesus, and only Jesus, can fill the father-shaped hole in my heart.

The mere utterance of the word “father” paints vividly different picture for many different people.  For some, the picture is alive and well and changing every day.  For others, the colorful picture is full of wonderful memories, each painted in the throes of happy times over a lifetime of events.  For others, more of a black and white, dull emotionless; and for others still, the picture of blackness, representing the loneliness of the father-shaped hole in their heart created by the absence of that essential relationship.

In the month of June each year we honor our fathers on the hallmark day set aside for them.  I remember so vividly the pencil holder I made for Fathers’ Day when I was in third grade.  It was made by meticulously tearing tiny bits of masking tape, applying them randomly to a soup can until it was completely covered.  Then, after covered in masking tape bits, gently rubbing brown shoe polish, applied with an old rag, created the appearance of an aged, cracked glass container – in this case to hold pencils.  I was proud of that pencil holder, and looked forward to giving it to my Daddy.  As I put the finishing touches on his pencil holder, cancer continued to ravage his body to degrees that my 8 year old mind could not comprehend.  I knew he was sick, but did not fully understand all that his sickness would mean in my life.

Father’s day came, and he was thrilled to receive my work of art.  That work of art would be gently placed in his casket only days or weeks later.   I remember so clearly the night that he passed from this world into eternity – the details of which I cherish in private.  The finality of his death took many months for me to realize – it all seemed so surreal to me that I thought it was all a bad dream from which, one day I would wake.

Through his sickness, my father’s faith in God never waned.  He was, and remains to me, one of the most Christ-like men I have ever met.   When he was well, he would spend his lunch hours on the streets of Pittsburgh looking for people to whom he could witness – bringing the hope that he had through the saving grace of Jesus.  He knew that when he passed from this world, he would be entering eternity with Jesus.  For him, it was wonderful.  For me, it was devastating.  For many years, I could not understand how God could take someone like my father away from his family.  I was angry at God, and spent many years searching for ways to deal with the father-shaped hole left in my heart.

My mother, though wounded, stood as strong in her faith as she had through any hard times in life, and was the rock that my sister and I needed to keep us grounded.  Over the years, we continued to go to church and build relationships with those who eventually helped me to see that, thought I may not understand all, God indeed has a plan for my life.  Eventually, and through means and methods weaved into my life through God alone, I learned that Jesus, and only Jesus, can fill the father-shaped hole in my heart.  Though I may never understand, on this side of Heaven, why he chose to bring my father home when He did, I am confident that my life experiences have prepared me to continue that work; to spend time looking for people to whom I can witness – bringing the hope that I have through the saving grace of Jesus.

There are so many people who have father-shaped holes in their hearts – for some, the father-shaped hole may be have been created by fathers who have left, fathers who have died, or even fathers who are physically present but emotionally absent from their children’s lives.    My prayer is that they may come to know their Heavenly Father – and that He will fill the father-shaped hole in their hearts, preparing them to continue His work, looking for others to whom they can share their Hope.

Blessings to you all, my friends.

Copyright 2017 – Journey For Life – All rights reserved

Lucky Ducky Dog

If ever there was a time in my life that I wondered if God heard my prayers, those doubts disappeared one summer as God answered the prayers of a 10-year-old boy.

Our middle child was born with enormous compassion for people and animals.  At the age of 3, his decided profession was a zoo keeper.  We had two dogs that he loved very much.  The first one passed, and then a few years later the other passed.  Brokenhearted, he asked his dad if we could get another. His dad said, “No.”  He asked again, and again, and again, many times over the next several years.  Every time, his dad said, “No.”   Sometimes his dad would tell him, “When you have a house of your own, you can get a dog.”   Every Sunday during prayer request time in his Sunday school class, he would pray for a dog.  It got to the point where the Sunday school teacher would look at me when I picked him up from class and say, “Would you just get the kid a dog already?”   I would smile and say, “You don’t understand. Dad said, ‘No.’”

One day he had a brilliant idea.  Instead of praying that he would get a dog, he began to pray that God would change his dad’s heart.  I know this because his Sunday school teacher told me.

That summer, our church was preparing for vacation Bible School.  The theme was Avalanche Ranch and they had asked to borrow artificial Christmas trees as decorations.  Willingly, I donated our tree but kept forgetting to take the box out of the back of our van.  We drove to vacation Bible school each evening, and I would say to myself, “Don’t forget to get that box out when we get back home”, and then I would forget until the next evening when I saw it again.  This went on every evening from Monday until Thursday evening.

On Thursday evening, we took the same route home that we had taken every other evening this week.  With a little less than a mile to our house, we came upon a commotion on our very busy road.  Cars littered the sides of the road, pulled off in a haphazard fashion, and a small crowd of people gathered on the side of the road.   Obligingly, I pulled over, too, and began to get out of the car to see what had happened.   As I reached the side of the road, a tear-stained teenage boy looked up from his vantage point over-top of a black and white dog laying on the side of the road.

“I don’t even know where he came from!” he exclaimed. “I didn’t mean to hit him.  I don’t know what to do.  My friends went around to all of these houses to see if the dog belonged to anyone, but he doesn’t.  He has a collar on, but no tag on the collar.”   Visibly shaken, the young man sat there petting the bleeding canine.    My heart broke.  Then I remembered the box that I had forgotten to take out of my van all week. Peering down at them, I realized that the dog was larger than I could handle myself.   Before thinking it through, I found myself telling this young man that if he could help me pick the dog up, we could put him into the box in my car and I would take him to the vet.  After all, I just happened to have a cardboard box in there! Sobbing, he looked at me in wild amazement and said, “You would do that?”

Before I could fully comprehend what had just happened, we were riding down the road with a bleeding dog in the box that used to house my Christmas tree, and I was calling home to say we’d be later than planned.  Because he wanted to be zoo-keeper, I told my son that this was “his moment” and he could come and give comfort to the injured dog.  Almost immediately, my son began to ask, “Can we keep him? Can we keep him?”    I knew I couldn’t make a promise like that because I had no idea how badly injured he was.   Our youngest, who was 3 at the time, kept shouting, “I don’t like this dog!  He’s bleeding everywhere and he stinks!”  I called the local emergency vet service to explain the situation and see if we could bring him in for evaluation.  They asked if I was willing to pay for it.  “How much could it be?” I thought. “Of course I’m willing to pay for it.”

When we arrived at the emergency vet, we went inside and explained that we didn’t think the dog would be able to walk.  The vet tech came outside with a gurney, and we loaded up our newly named, “Lucky”, which we decided was much better than “Angel” or “Dead”.   The girls waited in the waiting room while my son and I talked with the vet.  They said that he’d have to stay overnight for evaluation.  On our way home that evening, I said to the kids (as if we were playing Monopoly and I was telling them to go directly to jail), “Not a word to your father.  Go directly to bed. Do not mention anything about a dog.  Got it?”  Luckily, they obeyed, giving me some additional time to figure out how to break the news to my husband.

The next morning, the vet called me to report that “Lucky” had lived through the night.  The X-ray revealed that he has a luxated paw, which they could repair for $2500.00.   I had no idea what a “luxated” paw was, so I asked about the risk of not having it fixed.  When they said that he might develop arthritis later in life, I decided that was a risk worth taking.  We opted to simply cast it and hope for the best.

“Then there’s the screw we found in his stomach,” they said.  “Screw??”   “Yes, he must have eaten a screw.  We can remove it for $4,000.”     “$4000?    Or… he could poop it out?”     “Well, yes, possibly, but it could tear his intestine lining on the way out.”

At this point, I was awestruck. “Listen, my son has been praying for a dog for years.  I am pretty sure that God we serve is bigger than the screw in this dog’s stomach, so I’m going to let God work it out.”    I didn’t think about it at the time but have since wondered if the people who worked at the vet service thought I was a lunatic.  They were probably thinking they needed to call psychiatric services to have a straight-jacket ready for me when I came to pick up the dog.   “I cannot return for the dog until this evening after vacation Bible school.  Will that be ok?”    “Yes, that’s fine.   But your bill is adding up by the hour,” they told me at 9 AM.   “How much will it be?”   “$1800, so far.”   “Goodnight,” I thought.   Good thing I didn’t elect the additional surgeries.

I called my mother that day to fill her in on the dog’s condition.   “You cannot just show up at home with a dog,” she said.   Of course, I can.  It’s called:  beg for forgiveness rather than ask permission.  I do it all the time.  After all, my son had asked permission for years now, and it hadn’t worked in his favor!

That evening, during vacation Bible school, I mustered up the courage to call my husband.  I began the whole story by letting him know of our son’s Sunday school prayers, and slowly recounted the entire tale up through present time.  Anxiously, I listened to the silence on the other end of the phone.  After what seemed like an eternity of silence, my husband slowly said, “You hit the dog, didn’t you?” Ha.  You can’t make this stuff up.  “No, I really didn’t.”     “You’re bringing the dog home, aren’t you?”    “Um.  Yes, that’s my plan”.     S-i-l-e-n-c-e, followed by a long sigh.  “Ok, then, I’ll see you in a little while,” I said cheerily and then promptly hung up.   That evening, we went to pick the dog up while the girls went with my mom to buy dog food and leashes.   Poor Lucky had an enormous cone on his head, and his paw was bandaged in a small blue cast.  He stunk to high heaven… I mean… STUNK.

Still a little unsure how my husband would respond, I led Lucky into our house and toward our bedroom to meet him.  As I entered the house, my daughters’ friend exclaimed, “Hey, I know that dog!  Call my dad!  He knows who owns him!”    Briefly, Lucky and I entered the bedroom, walked over to my husband to say our Hello’s, and then right back out to the garage.  When I called to find out more about the dog, Glenn told me empathetically that the dog was better off with us.

That weekend, we left word at the police station and local veterinarians that we had found a dog and posted information on Facebook, and various other places.  Had someone actively been looking for the dog, we left plenty of avenues for them to have found us.

A few days passed.  One afternoon, while visiting with Lucky in our garage, my husband stopped.  He bent down and petted his head, making a remark about what a sorry sight he was.  “You know, don’t you, that we don’t know whether or not he’s had shots, so we’re going to have to get him vaccinated.    If someone claims him, they’ll have to reimburse us for the vaccination.”   All of a sudden, a light bulb went of over-top of my husbands’ head – you know, just like in the movies!   “How much have you spent on this dog?” he asked.    Uh-oh.  “This is the end of the line,” I thought.  “Uh.  You don’t have to worry about it,” I said.   “Um.  Yes.  I do.”    When I told him what the bill was, I thought he’d fall over.   He exclaimed, “No one is EVER going to reimburse us THAT amount of money!”   After a brief pause, he said, “Well, looks like we better buy a pooper scooper.”


A few days later, we took Lucky to the vet to be vaccinated.  In a follow-up x-ray, they confirmed no presence of a screw in his stomach, and no damage to his internals.   Six weeks later, his cast and cone came off, and Lucky became a permanent fixture in our home.  Don’t tell, but I have often busted my husband cuddling Lucky when he thinks no one is watching.  😉

To be sure, we could have found a cheaper dog at the pound; but the story we can tell about Lucky is far more priceless than that. For me, Lucky represents I John 5:14-15, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”     Many of us would look at a prayer from a young boy as insignificant, but God didn’t.  Because I knew that God cared enough about a 10 year old boy to answer his prayer, I knew that I could trust God with prayers both big and small.  Lucky will forever be a part of my own personal journey toward a deeper faith in a God that loves us enough to answer the prayer of a 10 year old boy. Today, that boy is a freshman in college studying youth ministry, thanks, in part, to this answered prayer.


If you doubt that God hears your individual and specific prayers, think again.   He loves each and every one of us, and is waiting to hear from us so that He may pour His blessings out on us.

I would love to hear how God has answered prayer in your life.  Please feel free to contact me through comments below or at sbjourneyforlife@gmail.com.



In an Instant

The news hit me last Sunday evening like a ton of bricks.   My friend, Bob, lost his nineteen-year-old son in a car accident late Saturday night.   Ryan was a phenomenal drummer, a sophomore in college with a promising life in front of him.  In an instant it all changed.   His father, my friend, is a successful executive at a world-renown accounting firm.  Just over a year ago, he opened a recording studio – his lifelong dream.  Just weeks ago, the studio signed its first artist.   Bob and his wife, Dana, returned from a trip to Australia last week.  They were on top of the world.  In an instant it all changed.  Ryan’s brother Brett was following in his brothers’ footsteps, with talents of his own. In an instant, his world changed.

Later that evening, the news of the Las Vegas shooting broke, and I thought about all the “Bob’s” and “Dana’s” and “Brett’s” who lost sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends in a senseless act of violence.  In an instant, the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands of people changed.   From the mountain to the valley.  In an instant.

Throughout our lives, we all have mountain-top experiences and valley-experiences.  To live life on the mountaintop seems magical, but unrealistic.  Ironically, as we interact with an intimate circle of friends, we find some of them are on the mountaintop at the same time others are in the valley.  In a painful irony, my husband and I traveled to visit our son this weekend. It had been six weeks since he left home for his freshman year at a college nearly 1,000 miles from our home.  We were excited to see him – it felt like an eternity since we had seen him in person.  Pangs of guilt infused my soul as I thought about the fact that Bob and Dana were laying their son to rest for a true eternity.  This dichotomy of emotion is inevitable in the world we live.  In Romans 12:15, the Bible instructs us to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  I mourn with Bob and Dana, and with the Bob’s and Dana’s of Las Vegas.

The mountains have been shaken indeed this week, personally, locally, nationally.  As we  grieve with those who grieve and mourn with those who mourn, remember the words of God the Father, in Isaiah 54:10 10Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

Live in harmony with one another.



mountains and valleys3

Isaiah 54:10 10Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.