Thankful for much

By Heather Walton

As today is a day to highlight that for which we are thankful, I want to share some of the blessings in my life.

  1. Twenty-two years ago, I met a man who changed my life and my eternity. His name is Jesus, and He is my creator, my savior, my best friend, and my reason for living. He has given me the promise of eternal life in heaven, which is beyond imagining, and He has given me an abundant life now, which I never could have predicted for myself.
  2. A year ago today, Terry and I got our marriage license. We’ve been married for eleven months, and I never cease to be amazed by how much we love each other. It’s an incredible thing to love and to be loved, to be married to my best friend, to spend my life with someone who has such similar goals, hopes, and dreams, and to experience a second chance at love.
  3. Though I experienced the loss of our unborn children this year, I am so blessed to have given birth to four healthy children and to have three step-children. My life is filled with kids, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  4. My family and in-laws are wonderful people who help me, listen to me, and regularly show me love.
  5. I have many supportive friends who have helped me through difficult times and have rejoiced with me through good times. I know that I can call on several godly women for counsel and understanding.
  6. God has chosen to use me to develop a ministry to families looking for educational alternatives. In 2013, I began a school that I thought would be very small, but it has grown to 82 children in preschool through high school. I was not the most likely candidate to run a school, and I had no idea what God had in store, but I believe that’s exactly why He chose me–so He alone would get the glory.
  7. Though I initially had a good deal of strife with my ex-husband, we are now able to work together in a civil manner to co-parent our children, and this is to their benefit.
  8. I live in America. This is a true blessing, as long as we can keep our perspective on heavenly treasures, rather than earthly treasures. I am thankful to live in a free country where I have all my needs met. There are many great countries in the world, but I am glad to be an American.
  9. I am healthy. This is often taken for granted, but it should never be. I have known so many people who have battled great illnesses, some of whom lost the earthly battle at young ages. So in their honor, I will appreciate my own health.
  10. I have a roof over my head, a full fridge and pantry, a running vehicle, and plenty of clothes. Though I have gone without a paycheck from time to time, I have never gone without having my needs met.
  11. I have two children waiting for me in heaven, who will never experience any of the pain of this life. I don’t have to worry about whether they will accept Christ, because they are already in His presence. This doesn’t minimize the fact that I wish they were in my arms, but I am looking for the good in the situation.
  12. I have been blessed with grief. Over the past few years, I have experienced some of the most difficult situations of my life, and I have become a more compassionate, understanding person because of it. Though I would trade the situations that caused the grief, I wouldn’t trade the growth they have brought.

Happy Thanksgiving 2015! To God be the glory; great things he has done!

Family Photo 11-15

A tribute to five fathers who have shaped my journey

By Heather Walton

Cate graduation family

Terry, me, and three of our seven children on my oldest daughter’s high school graduation day.

Dictionary.com defines “father” in the following way:

Father
noun
1. a male parent.
2. a father-in-law, stepfather, or adoptive father.
3. any male ancestor, especially the founder of family or line; progenitor.
4. a man who exercises paternal care over other persons; paternal protector or provider:
a father to the poor.
Throughout my life I have learned that the only perfect father is our Heavenly Father. Regardless, all of the fathers in our lives shape us into who we are.
The first father I knew was, of course, my biological father. I’m told that he was essentially a good man and that he adored me. I wish I could remember him that way. However, children often remember people by the strongest impressions made on them. My dad died of cirrhosis of the liver at age 29. Unfortunately, my memories of him are scarier than they are tender, but I have to trust that he was a man who wanted to love me, but who put his alcohol first.
I went 7 years without any kind of father in my life, as both of my grandfathers died within a year of my dad. When I was 15, my mom remarried, giving me a step-father. By this time, I had an active life. Between school, a part-time job, friends, and a serious boyfriend, I didn’t spend much time at home. I left for the military at 17, right after graduation. Because of my age and a full life, I didn’t form much of an attachment to my stepdad at that point.
At 18, I eloped with that serious boyfriend, who also was a soldier. Six years later, he became the third father in my life–the father of my children. We had two daughters and two sons together before our 23-year marriage broke up. Because of those children, he is still in my life as a co-parent.
During the divorce process, my stepdad and I became closer, as he began giving me fatherly advice and helping the kids and me out in ways that we’ve needed and appreciated.
My stepdad walking me down the aisle at my wedding.

My stepdad walking me down the aisle at my wedding.

Six months ago, he got to walk me down the aisle, as I married the fourth father in my life.

I have seen my precious husband lead his biological children and my biological children in a Godly way. Together, we have seven children. Like each of the fathers in my life, except my Heavenly Father, Terry is not perfect, but he is committed to being the father God has called him to be. I never expected that my children would have a stepfather, but I’m so glad that they have the example of this kind, patient man who exemplifies 1 Corinthians 13. He hasn’t had an easy road with his kids or with mine, but God is blessing the fruit of his labor, and I can see it happening day by day.
Not only is Terry my children’s stepfather, but he is the biological father of our child, a child we will not meet here on earth. I suffered an ectopic pregnancy a month ago, and the grief is real as I consider that today is Father’s Day. I believe we would have been great parents to this child, because we have about 40 years parenting experience between us. Much of what we have learned about being good parents was discovered through making mistakes. Often that’s the most effective way to gain wisdom. However, we will not get the chance to parent the precious child we lost–the child we both were so excited about. We simply have to trust that our little one is being raised by the only perfect Father there ever was.
No father compares to our Abba in Heaven, but I know that I wouldn’t be who I am today without all five of the fathers I’ve had in my life, from my biological father to my Creator. To dads everywhere, however imperfect, I say, “Happy Father’s Day!”
Our whole family at our wedding. Our children were the wedding party.

Our whole family at our wedding. Our children were the wedding party.

No Pretending: No Perfection Here

I used to be a pretender. The past few years have taught me that there is no reason to be. Hiding from the truth is an excellent way to avoid fixing problems. I spent the majority of my life hiding behind the mask–you know, the one–the “I’m OK, fine, good, great, fantastic, etc.” mask, the Sunday morning, “We were all fighting in the van on the way to church, but you’ll never know that because we are gonna grin and share the joy of the Lord with you” mask, the one that acted like everything was fine in my marriage, though in reality it was falling apart. That mask. Some of you know that mask because you’ve worn it, or because someone close to you has worn it.

I got tired of wearing that mask a couple years ago. I had worn it all my life. As an Adult Child of an Alcoholic (ACoA), that’s all I really knew to do. When circumstances finally allowed me to see the neon sign that had been flashing in my home for decades, the one that read THIS IS NOT NORMAL! THIS IS WRONG! TRUST YOURSELF! YOU DON’T HAVE TO LIVE LIKE THIS! YOUR KIDS DON’T HAVE TO LIVE LIKE THIS! DO SOMETHING!, I pulled off the mask and stopped pretending. It was liberating.

“You shall know the truth,” Jesus said, “and the truth shall make you free.” Lord, yes, I want to be free. I am free. I am free from the oppression under which I consented to live for most of my life.

Now it’s my children’s turn to be freed. There are factors that negatively influence their freedom, but those things often are not in my control. Their own free will plays a part too. But as far as it depends on me, I choose to take off the mask and to take away any pressure to look good for the sake of looking good, to perform for appearances sake.

I want my children to feel safe and loved in every way, and I want them to feel free to be themselves. I don’t want them to feel pressured to conform to society’s arbitrary or pointless expectations. I want them to live up to God’s expectations, and His alone. I long for them to understand the peace that surpasses all understanding.

But as long as I’m willing to pretend, even just a little, to wear a mask, even a small one, I’m robbing them of that opportunity. I have to be willing to be vulnerable. I must be honest and open. I need to accept myself for who I am and my children for who they are, without reservation, shame, guilt, or an agenda. This is grace. This is the key to peace and joy. This is the key to healing.

The difference a year can make

10285258_10205378926856698_7225796448017537297_oChristmas Eve, 2014

I began this blog 14 months ago with the post “How should we respond to the consequences of other people’s choices?” The point of that post was that we often are affected negatively by the decisions other people make. The opposite can be true as well. We can be positively impacted by other’s actions.

This time last year, I was in the midst of a divorce that was the result of repeated devastation. I remember not feeling at all festive as Christmas approached the next day. All I could think of was that my family had fallen apart and that I would be sending my kids to be with their father at 2 p.m. on Christmas. Still, I had joy because I knew that Christmas isn’t really about presents or even about family–it’s about a baby who would grow up to change the world by giving His life for our sins.

During the agonizing process of divorce, several people told me that I would feel so much better after a year had passed. Repeatedly, I heard people say, “I know you don’t believe it now, but it really will get better.” They definitely were right, but even they had no idea what God had in store.

Soon after the divorce was final, I began praying for a “kinsman redeemer,” someone who would love me as Christ loved the church and who also would love my children. Two months later, God answered that prayer. We soon became best friends, then more than friends, and last week, we were married. Not only married, but parents to seven children between us. We are off to a good start for sure, and I look forward to seeing how God uses us in ministry together.

Just as my life seemed to be devastated last Christmas, due to negative choices made by another, my life is absolutely blessed this year, due to positive choices made both by myself and by a man who loves me with a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love. Now I have what I never even knew was possible in human terms.

What a difference a year can make … and I look forward to the year ahead as I learn what further beauty God wants to create from the ashes of the past.

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