Eight years. It has been eight years ago today.
Eight years ago, my life drastically changed with a tragedy I only knew of through movies and TV; I never thought it would happen to me.
Eight years ago, I clung to my Jesus tighter than I ever had in my whole life.
Eight years ago, I learned to stand firmly on Jesus Christ, my firm foundation and solid Rock.
Eight years ago, my dad’s life was taken from him in the most brutal and horrific way.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my dad and the wonderful memories we shared. Although we had struggles in our relationship, I choose to embrace the good. I miss him very much.
I share this story to offer the hope that Jesus Christ has given me. No matter what storm you are facing or what tragedy you have experienced, Jesus is and always will be there for you. He is forever faithful. Stand up on Him. Stand upon the Rock.
The following is an excerpt from my book, Yielded in His Hands: Becoming a Vessel for God’s Glory:
One Sunday night, our pastor was talking about using your life to impact others’ lives for God. Towards the end of the service, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart, Why do you want to be an actress? Who are you going to help by pursuing a career in acting? Those questions were a part of a major turning point in the direction of my life. I was deeply convicted.
As I drove home, I poured out my heavy heart to Paul over the phone. I told him that I didn’t think I was supposed to move to LA at all to pursue a career in acting. “Praise God!” he said. He had been praying that God would speak to me about this because he never wanted to move to the west coast. He didn’t want to be the reason I made the decision to stay; he wanted me to hear it from the Lord instead. He wanted to raise our family in the church he grew up in and be close to our families. He was so blessed to know this dream would come true. Although I felt a weight lift from my chest, I was terrified because I had built my life upon what I had wanted and planned, not what God had planned for me. I had a plan, and it was all laid out. Now everything was completely unknown to me. God had already established my steps before the foundation of the world. This was my first attempt at walking in them and surrendering my will. I believe this was the moment I decided to stop living my life on shifting sand and plant my feet firmly on solid ground because I was trusting in God’s word and not my own understanding.
The next morning, I went to work and tried to wrap my mind around what I had just decided for my future. It didn’t make sense, but I knew it was right. Trusting God will never make sense to our human minds, but that’s because God’s thoughts and ways are not our thoughts or our ways. God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). During nap-time, I sat down to journal my thoughts.
Suddenly, my mom called me and told me that there was a family emergency and that it involved my dad. She did not discuss any details, but told me that I needed to come home from work immediately. I called the father of the boy I cared for and explained to him I needed to go home as soon as possible, even though I had no idea what had happened to my dad. A part of me wondered if he had been in some kind of accident involving drinking and driving; it had happened before. I knew that I needed to stay calm and not let fear overtake me. I prayed the whole way home and asked God to give me His peace.
I rushed home, and looked for anyone from my family, but no one was around. I ran up to my room trying to figure out who to call. Worry and fear gripped my heart, as thoughts of what actually happened circled my mind. I immediately started to have a panic attack and fell to the floor crying and hyperventilating. Within a few minutes, my aunt, step-dad, and Paul were surrounding me trying to calm me down. I wanted to know where my mom was and why she wasn’t there. “What is going on,” I cried out.
My aunt then uttered the words, “Honey, your dad has been killed. Someone shot him in the head and killed him. His body was dragged across the street to an abandoned building and the building was set on fire. They identified his body this morning by the metal plate in his pelvis.” My mind couldn’t comprehend what I had just heard. The phone conversation he and I had just a couple weeks prior to this ended in him hanging up on me. I never got to say good-bye or tell him that I loved him. I immediately went into shock and couldn’t stop shaking or crying.
My mom was at the police station with my brother, my grandma and aunt (my dad’s mom and sister) identifying his wallet and other belongings the police had found at the scene of the crime. This couldn’t be happening. This isn’t real. This sounded like something out of a movie or a forensic science TV show, not my life. There isn’t much I remember about that day, except being surrounded by my loving boyfriend, family, and my old pastor and church family from high school. God’s love held me and carried me through it all, I know. Because of God’s amazing grace, I was able to plan my dad’s funeral and endure the days following.
I was never very close to my dad’s side of the family because of the divorce between my mom and dad, but during this time, we needed to be. Many of his siblings had no idea the kind of lifestyle he was living and wondered how I was able to handle my grief. I gave them two reasons: the man that died was not my father (a bit dramatic and extreme, yes, but the devil had truly deceived him and had overtaken his soul) and of course, the strongest reason I could endure this dark time in my life was because of my faith in Jesus Christ. At the funeral service, which was held in the church I grew up in, I read one of my dad’s favorite poems, “Footprints in the Sand”and declared from the pulpit that Jesus is the only One who could carry us through this tragedy. And He did.
Thanksgiving that year held a different meaning for me as I realized how thankful I was for my life, even though I had suffered and struggled greatly through it. Through the tragic event of my dad’s death, I saw how fragile life was. God’s mighty love shined through all of that darkness and reminded me that He would never leave me nor forsake me, and He would give me strength to overcome any obstacle or tragedy, such as the murder of my dad. The devil tried all he could to knock me down and take me out, but there I was, standing on Christ, my solid Rock.
“He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”Psalm 40:2b, NIV