Holidays were always hard for me, especially Christmas and Fatherís Day. Any holiday that included a celebration was not enjoyable for me as it should be in childhood.
I grew up in spiritual, emotional, relational, and physical poverty. I really yearned to grow up in the stability of a two parent household. Growing up in a fatherless household, I fantasized of being a member of the Huxtables on The Cosby Show.
I had a difficult childhood with my Grandma. I know she loved me, but she was hard to live with.
When I was a little girl, my Dad tried to be a part of my life twice, but my grandma instilled fear in him, pushing him away. I watched my Dad walk away two times. After the second time, the seeds of anger and disrespect towards him were planted in my heart.
Life went on; I grew up; and as high school graduation approached, I received a letter from him telling me he would attend. I was so excited, but he never showed up. Needless to say, I was disappointed, and my feelings were hurt. For once in his life, I just wanted him to keep his promise to me.
Unbeknownst to me, he was incarcerated when I was 16. At the time of my graduation, he was 2 years into his sentence. I found out about his incarceration my freshman year in college.
Unfortunately, I had become a statistic. I had to deal with the stigma of being a child with a parent in prison. I had to deal with feelings of guilt, not being good enough, and unworthy.
However, with Godís grace and patience, He released me from those illegitimate feelings. Instead, He had me see myself through His Eyes. My Dadís choices were why he was in prison. His choices were his own and not my fault.
I also had a branch on my new, unique, and unlikely family tree-the Angel Tree.
I can relate to the 1.7 million children who have a parent serving time in a state and/or federal prison now. I am one of the 10 million young people who have had a parent spend time in jail and/or prison in my lifetime. **
My Dad served 12 years in prison for his crimes. He was released in June 2009. I wish I could say I have a happy ending, but I would be lying.
God has started the healing process in my heart towards my Dad. Forgiveness comes before reconciliation. My heart is open to this process. I know God is able to restore the relationship between us
My story is one of many Angel Tree stories. They have partnered with Prison Fellowship Ministries by making it possible to prevent future generations of children from enduring the struggles I went through by implementing programs for families to stay connected through fundraising through the Transformational Experience. *** This ministry is helping children affected by having a parent incarcerated accept and make peace with their past and current circumstances so they can embrace their future. This ministry is truly doing Christís call (Mt 25:36).
I know God has not wasted my tears and my pain. I know in my heart and spirit everything is working for His Purposes (Romans 8:28). I know good will come from my pain, not only in my life, but also in the lives of others. Angel Tree Ministries connects families regardless of the bars separating them by displaying the love of Christ one family at a time.