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Two Envelopes




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Two Envelopes
I’ll never forget the afternoon that two very different envelopes arrived in the mail. I realized instantly what was in the large manila envelope: my dad’s death certificate. I opened it carefully and located the autopsy results. There in black and white were the stark medical details; another official and painful pronouncement that my dad was gone.
The other envelope was small and white. The front was plastered with yellow postal labels and swirls of black ink. But something else jumped out at me: The return address label belonged to my dad. I stared in disbelief. With his mail now being forwarded to me, it seemed that the tiny envelope had been bouncing back and forth between post offices…for nearly a month! And now here it was in my hands; a note from my dad.
Two days before my dad’s car accident and subsequent stroke, we had celebrated Father’s Day together. I had given him a tiny gift book filled with hand written messages. The book had been an impulse purchase the Christmas before. But I hadn’t filled it then. We were in such a hard place.
My dad was battling a gambling addiction. With the loss of my mom years earlier, a life-long pastime had become a dangerous compulsion. By the time we realized what was happening, there were already grave consequences. My dad found it very hard to be honest about the situation; I felt very sad and somehow betrayed. But as a step toward recovery, my dad asked me to manage his finances. It was something of a role reversal which clearly left him embarrassed. I knew that he was fearful. And ashamed. Fearful of losing his home and of what others might be thinking. Ashamed of himself and that he even needed my help. I feared for his sanity, his safety and for his life. And I had no doubt that our relationship would never be the same again. Despite my disappointment and hurt, my love for him had not changed. But I don’t think he really believed that. Shame blinds us from so much truth.
As Father’s Day approached, I picked up that little book again. It had prompts like, “One of my favorite things about you is…” and “I loved it when you and I used to…”. All things considered, it seemed a bit trite. But I could do this. I wanted to do this. One by one I worked to fill in the blanks. And the more that I wrote, the more beautiful memories tumbled out onto the pages… Countless hours spent teaching me guitar, working on Algebra (not my favorite thing) or letting me tag along on errands with him. There were more hours spent on the phone later in life as my dad gave me detailed car advice or tried to ease my homesickness. I thanked him for being a friend to my husband and such an encouragement to his grand kids. Through his self-less example, my dad had helped me to grasp the reality of a Heavenly Father who always had time and affection for His children. I wanted to give that kind of love back to my dad. I wanted him to know that I loved him no matter what.
Reading through the pages of the little book, I realized that the hard place we found ourselves in could never steal those memories from us. This horrible addiction would not lessen their meaning in my life. Or affect my dad’s place in my heart. No matter what, those good and happy times belonged to us forever. And now we even had it in writing.
My dad went into the hospital two days after receiving the book. He never mentioned it, and I didn’t think to ask. But then, as I gently opened the tiny white envelope, the answer became clear. Inside was a thank you note that read in part:
“Missy, thanks for the wonderful Little Book. I’m truly blessed to have you all in the family…”
My dad almost never got that little book. I marvel at the grace that helped me to finish it, just in time. I marvel at God’s goodness in letting me know that indeed, my dad had really seen it. Love gains strength as we look for and celebrate the good. It doesn’t mean that we are denying life’s challenges; gratitude makes a place to work through them. And when we struggle with fear and shame, knowing that we are still loved gives us the desire to be all that we were created to be.
My very biggest fear was that my dad’s guilt and shame would keep him from turning to Christ. But from his hospital bed, and of his own accord, my dad reached out to the Lord through a simple prayer. In those precious moments, my decades-long prayer was answered.
“I sought the Lord, and He answered me; and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered in shame.” (Psalm 34:4-5 NIV)
Our fears and shame – no matter what they are or where they come from – are no match for the radiant mercy and love of God.
That little book will always remind me that God gave me a wonderful dad. It also reminds me to express gratitude while there is still time, and to let love pave the way when circumstances are hard. God uses our pain to show us the depths of His mercy.
And that afternoon, those two very different envelopes showed me the depths of His love.

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