Below is the essay that I submitted to the Karen Ehman speaker scholarship contest that I wrote about in my previous posting. Thank you so much to Cecil Murphey for sponsoring my registration fee to attend this amazing conference.
“He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4, ESV
As a seventeen year-old girl standing by the bedside of her dying father, this verse was the last thought on my mind. I had no idea of the much bigger plan that God was weaving together at that very moment. A plan that would allow me to use the pain and grief of my entire girlhood to bring God’s comfort to people who are experiencing the same pain.
I am the daughter of an incredibly handsome, charming and talented man, who also happened to be addicted to drugs and alcohol. His addiction led him to abandon his family, to bury his talents and ultimately to lose his life in a drunk driving crash that he caused. My childhood memories are filled with pain because of the absence of my earthly father. My grief did not begin that cool October day in 1994 when my dad died. I had grieved for my father my entire life. That day was the day that my healing began.
Six months later, I was asked to speak to a group of high school students about my father’s life and death. I said, “no”. My heart was hard and frozen. I did not want to let anyone in or any of the pain out. This teacher would not take no for answer, though and I found myself standing on stage in front of 2,000 teenagers. As I shared our story, the ice began to melt from my heart. After my presentation, as I stood and spoke with over 50 young women about their own experiences with absent fathers, I realized that my message was not just one of sobriety, but of the healing that comes from crying out to our Abba Father. “A Father to the fatherless . . . is God in his holy dwelling.” Psalm 68:5.
As women, we so easily view God through the glasses of our earthly fathers and for many of us those glasses are scratched, bent and damaged. My desire is to help women put on new glasses. Ones which allow them to see God for who He truly is. A Father who will never leave them or forsake them, One who loves them unconditionally and who sent His son to die on the cross so that they might live.
My life’s calling was realized on that stage that day. Not only had God given me a message, but He had also given me the talent to share that message effectively. For the decade following my father’s death, I traveled the mid-atlantic region speaking to young people, using my affliction to comfort others the way that God comforted me. When my first daughter was born in 2006, that calling got put on hold, but the dream and desire to share God’s message still swells in my heart.
During the decade that I spent speaking, opportunities to speak came through word of mouth. I have always struggled with the aspect of self-promotion that seems inherent in the profession of public speaking. When it comes to the logistics of obtaining bookings, you are selling yourself and I have a difficult time reconciling that with Christ’s call for us to be humble. One of the things that I hope to learn at this year’s She Speaks Conference is how to effectively market myself, while still retaining a sense of humility. More importantly, I wish to develop relationships with other women who share the same dream.
I once had the opportunity to present a workshop entitled “God, the Father” at a church convention. I expected a few women to choose my breakout session, but was completely overwhelmed by the response. Over one hundred women walked into that room wearing the scars of their relationships with their earthly fathers. I was so humbled that God allowed me to walk with them on their journey of healing. I also know that there are many other women out there who need to hear the same message. These women are daughters of absent fathers, abusive fathers, work-a-holic fathers, fathers who have died, and emotionally distant fathers. But more importantly, they are daughters of the Almighty God in heaven. Because we are a one income family, we are not in a position to pay the registration fee to this year’s conference. Being given this scholarship and the opportunity to attend the She Speaks Conference would provide me with the tools that I need to be able to share God’s great love with His daughters all around the world.