My life began on the first day of spring, March 20, 1988. Born into humble beginnings, my life was simple. Daddy worked a job at the local mill, and Mama stayed home. We lived in a two-bedroom frame and brick house complemented with a cozy fireplace. Mama always had a good meal for us at suppertime, and Daddy always kissed her afterwards. She'd tuck me in at night, and he'd leave the bathroom light on, "just in case I got scared." Life was good.
Then December 1995 came...and Mama left.
The evening was a nightmare of vocalized obscenities and shoving matches. It all ended when Daddy threw a beer bottle as Mama slammed the door on her way out. The brown glass shattered, and the aroma of the malty beverage filled the room. I still bear a scar from the ricocheted pieces. My heart bears a scar, too. That was the day my life ended...the day Mama left.
She called me once and said she was gonna bring me a Christmas present...the toy John Deere tractor I wanted. Christmas came as expected, but she never did. Daddy gave me one present...a box of Legos. I built bridges and castles, and I even built a tractor like a Deere. I pushed my boy-made contraption all around the kitchen floor and paused only for a moment to ask Daddy just one question.
"When's Mama comin' home?"
He shrugged his shoulders, shuffled his Budweiser across the counter, and then looked into my 7-year-old face with his blood-shot eyes and said, "She's not. She's found another family." My heart iced over.
Years went by and things went from bad to worse. Daddy lost his job at the mill, and he lost his driver's license too. I heard him tell his friend, Mitch, it had something to do with a DUI. He eventually got another job at the pallet company, but still no license. So, Daddy walked to work, and I rode the bus to school. He worked 12-hour days, and I stayed at home by myself in the afternoons or when I was sick.
Mama never called. She never came to see me. My heart became stone cold.
Life with Daddy was pathetic, and school brought its troubles to add to the wretchedness. I hated school. I hated the smart kids and the well-dressed kids. I hated the kids who laughed. I hated the PTA functions when all the parents came to see their child shine except for mine. Neither one of them came. I was convinced nothing would ever warm my teenage heart.
Then, one day, a pretty blue-eyed blond sat beside me in the cafeteria. She smiled and began to talk...to me! Her friendliness was not a farce either. She did the same the next day and the next and...before I knew it, I was sitting beside her in church one Sunday morning. My heart began to melt.
I listened to the singing and the testimonies. I even listened to the preacher as he talked about the beauty of a new life in Christ and how it was like spring.
"Spring...a time of new beginnings...a time when we change the I will statements of the winters of our lives to I am action statements. Take the opportunity on this first day of spring and forgive others, whether they want your forgiveness or not. Jesus did. As He hung upon the cross, He said, 'Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.' His accusers never asked for His forgiveness, but He forgave them anyway."
That day was a celebration for me - not because it was my 16th birthday, but because my new life in Christ began. My life had not ended! It was just beginning! And, now, it was up to me if I would be obedient to my Savior.
I found Mama sitting underneath a gnarled oak tree. The wrought iron gate swung open and my feet began the approach. It was obvious she didn't recognize me...my tall stature and broad shoulders didn't match her memory of a shy and scrawny lad.
"I'm not interested in whatever you're selling." She shooed her hand at me.
The icy fingers of bitterness declared war, and I paused, contemplating my retreat. Our eyes connected though, and I saw her coldness. Silence hung thick between us and time stood still. But then...a spark of recognition. She straightened in her chair. Her depressed affect lifted and she reached out her hand...
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