Sunday, November 11, 2012

a gift from my father, years after

i was going to take this blog a different direction, but i realize i am too fragile at the moment. i am suffering quite badly in my body, in my mind and heart, and i'm just not up to the task. so i'm taking a different route.

i am hoping this fragile "set back" i am experiencing is due to a few different contributing factors, with the main one being the 5 year anniversary since my dad took his life in our front yard, and other reasons like stress and attacks from pharisees.

hmm, i think i better pause here and take a moment to ask anyone reading this to please not give me any advice on what i write here. not that many of you do, but sometimes there will be one or two people who, instead of sympathizing (entering into another person's suffering) they give "advice" or try to suggest a "different perspective" and it's really just awful and hurtful. and like i have said before, it is actually a form of emotional abuse --i kid you not-- and it even has a name: invalidation. i do appreciate comments and thoughts, but unsolicited advice/preaching/correction is not alright and i'll call your arse out on that shiznit! ok then. you few have been warned. back to my story.

throughout my life, i often turned to my dad when i needed encouragement and support (i was actually asking him for advice, so what he told me during those times was not invalidation). my dad was always supportive of his children, in whatever road they took in life, he was there when you needed him --and sometimes he was there when you didn't want him-- but i believe all 6 of his children, myself included, would say our dad was always just a phone call away to give good, solid advice, encouragement and he always offered to help in any way he could, and it was really a great comfort to know that.

my dad was a great example to his children to be creative, to "think outside the box" as he often said, to be an entrepreneur, to approach life in non-traditional ways, and to take chances. he questioned "why?" a lot. why do people have certain mindsets? why does our culture do the things they do, believe the things they do, or practice certain traditions? he was so intelligent, so incredibly wise, and was not afraid of confrontation in-the-least! he was able to tell someone how incredibly offensive and stupid they were in such a way that it left them utterly speechless, or in one case, speechless and crying. (that one was not very nice, and in retrospect, i think he'd now appreciate that woman's point of view).

when my dad decided to devote his life to the Lord he was as zealous as Paul after falling off his horse. he even confronted an entire church board meeting when he saw how the money they were receiving from the congregation was actually being spent. he pronounced anyone who agreed with the way the money was being lavished on the head pastor as hypocrites. they too were speechless, but ended up justifying themselves. surprising? not really.

all of dad's children inherited this confrontational gift in one form or another, and each with their own varying beliefs and opinions. i think it is a trait on my dad's side of the family, actually. my dad's parents were reporters, my dad was a photo-journalist and editor for many years, and that whole reporter-type questioning and boldness is in the blood of every McCuen, and it manifests in really different and wonderful (for the most part) ways. you can imagine how this trait could have it's downfalls too, and downfalls there have been. but that's a subject better left for my memoir, if God so pleases me to write.

about a year before my dad died, Jeremy, Jonah and i visited my parents at their home, and we were having lots of great food and conversation as we often did. i remember my dad stopped for a moment in the conversation and said to me, "Oh, Heather, before I forget: your Mom and I recently watched a movie on the Sundance station, and it's called 'The Girl in the Cafe'. As we were watching, I turned to your mother and said, 'You know who that girl (the main character) is like?' And I said, 'Heather. Heather is like that. So make sure you watch it. 'The Girl in the Cafe'. Alright?"

i didn't get around to seeing it. every time i looked for the movie in our local video store, i would forget the title. by the time we got a Netflix account, my dad was gone, and when i asked, mom couldn't remember the name of the movie either. all i knew was that it had to do with a girl in a place. a shop? a restaurant? then a little more than a year ago, it came to me! i searched Netflix, and there it was! "The Girl in the Cafe"! i put it at the top of my queue and couldn't wait for it to arrive.

upon watching the beginning of the movie, i was really confused. i thought, 'okay, so my dad thinks i am like a lonely girl who shacks up with a really old man? what the heck?' then i saw this scene and got it:

the character, Gina, is a guest at this conference of the world's most powerful people who make decisions that effect us all. she's not afraid of breaking tradition, of speaking up (she does this a few times to a couple of men before this scene, but this is her most powerful one, in front of all of them) and she challenges them to do what is right for the sake of starving children.

it is not so much the subject matter here that my dad was comparing me to (although if given the chance to speak up for children who are starving in the world because of stupid bureaucrats, i totally would!) but my dad was comparing me to Gina's boldness in speaking out, in questioning 'why' and 'why not', and for her taking a risk despite the knowledge of the consequences that would follow.

i cried very hard at the end of the movie as it came at a time when i was questioning (with love and guidance from God) the decisions people were making for our body of believers, and i had received some strong and hurtful opposition.

since that time --and every time now-- when i open up my heart and speak out on a topic (like animal abuse, for example) or question something (like the way church functions) and in return i am opposed or attacked (see the blog i wrote before this one) i go back to this --to this gift my dad gave me even after he was gone...but of course, not truly gone. each time some pharisee or hard-headed-opinionated person doesn't like what i question or a truth that i share, i remember this, and i feel my dad's encouragement, and i am truly strengthened.

i do not want to come across as puffing myself up with pride. not at all. i have learned, and continue to learn when i should hold my tongue and let God be God of other people's lives. who am i, anyway, to judge anyone? but i will speak up when led by the Spirit, and i will continue to "question everything" to get to the truth of the matter, despite how painful that can be for me, and i will not settle with "it's just the way things are" mentality. not ever. and it's not just me! my family has this same gift, and the people i love to be around --my friends-- are this way too (some much much better at it than me!)

so thank you, Dad. your love, wisdom and support continues to be with me, as does the Spirit, whose presence you see clearly, whose love and truth you now know fully, as i will too, someday.