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.

A blessed year didn’t begin that way

Wedding centerpiece 3This was my Facebook post on January 1, 2014:

“My Scripture for the incoming 2014 year: “… one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3: 13b-14)
I’m putting the past in proper perspective and focusing on God’s good plans for me and for my children as we move forward into the new year and new beginnings. God is on His throne, and I trust His goodness and faithfulness.
Happy New Year!”

Sometimes moving forward can be difficult to begin. At the beginning of this year, it was challenging at times to focus on the future, rather than on the past. But I was determined, with God’s help, to do just that. And trusting God to hold my hand (and at times to carry me) as I journeyed into unknown territory has paid off. If anyone would have told me at the beginning of 2014 what God would do in my life this year, I’m not sure I would have believed them. But as this year draws to a close, I must say that, despite my initial expectations, it has been the single most blessed year of my life. In this year, I have learned much about the grace of God, lack of control over others, how to truly trust the Lord, and what love really looks like. I have had the support and encouragement of family and friends, both old and new.

I have seen my dreams continue to come true in my business, which is also a ministry. Most days I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. I started this business during the most difficult time in my personal life, but God truly caused the growth. I believe I am doing the work I was created to do, and it’s an incredible feeling.

As significant as that is, I have to say that the most pleasant surprise of the year was finding true love and having the opportunity for a new beginning. I feel completely blessed to have a wonderful husband, and to be beginning a journey that started with a “Broken Road,” but has turned into a new path that I’m confident will take us to beautiful places.

So yes, God has demonstrated His good plans for me this year in a major way. But those plans started with a season of heartache. Putting the past in perspective and looking toward the future was the first step in being able to move forward. It wasn’t always easy to do, but the results were worth it.

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.

He has brought beauty from ashes

3-stranded-cordChange can be scary, but sometimes you just know you have to take that step. I have had many changes over the past few years–several of which have been monumental. But nothing will ever compare to the change that took place 21 years ago, when I decided to follow Jesus. He is my First Love and always will be. So in the past three years, I have been through a variety of big changes along this “broken road” we call life.

I have been through the devastation of two separations and a divorce. I have spent time as a single mom, something I never thought I would be. Two years ago, I went through a period of major depression, so deep that I thought of ending my life at one point.

But I also have had some wonderful changes, such as having the opportunity to start my own school. I will tell you that I was not equipped to do this, so God did it through me. I still marvel on a regular basis that this is real, and not a dream.

Earlier this year, with fear and trembling (This was actual trembling, not metaphorical trembling.), I decided to enter the dating scene. (My last date had been 24 years prior, and things have definitely changed since then!) I figured I would date around and figure out what I really wanted in a man. I did want to remarry, but I expected it would be a few years. I reasoned that it would take awhile to find the right man. But I did pray that God would provide someone who would love me and my children, a godly man who put Jesus first in his life. So I had a few dates. It was fun and interesting, but also somewhat terrifying.

We should never be surprised when God answers prayer quickly. But often we are, aren’t we? After about a month on the dating scene, I met a godly man. We quickly became close friends, and then best friends, and then more than friends. I observed how he interacted with me and with others, including my children, and I knew that God had answered my prayer. So I look forward to marrying my best friend in December. It will be a change, another unexpected change, and frankly, it’s a little scary. But it’s not too scary, because I know that we both have placed Jesus first in our lives.

“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
(Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12)

That cord of three strands in any relationship should be the two involved in that relationship, with God in the middle. I am blessed and thankful that we have that strand in our relationship. God is good all the time, and He allows changes in our lives–some positive, some negative. But He always works those changes for our good, if we truly love Him. I look forward to seeing what God has in store for us as we embark on a journey through the “broken road” of life until the day He calls us into the perfection of eternity.

“beauty from ashes” Isaiah 61:3

Love is worth the risk

red symbols of loveLove is risky, but we shouldn’t give up on it. Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? I don’t know. But I do know this: If we don’t take a risk, we will never have the opportunity to love and to be loved, which is one of life’s greatest experiences.

What is love anyway? The Bible puts it this way:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Cor. 13: 5-7)

This Scripture is often read at weddings. I read it at my brother’s wedding and plan to have it read at my wedding, should I be blessed with a second chance at marriage. But this is more than a wedding Scripture. This is how we should conduct ourselves with everyone. Love is an action. Any relationship, including a romantic one, should be based on this kind of love.

So, rather than focusing on love lost, I choose to focus on the potential that love still carries–in all my relationships. Though love requires vulnerability, it offers possibilities I wouldn’t want to miss out on. Love is worth the risk.

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