To love broken people...{A GIVEAWAY}

He's a mess. His six-foot frame stretches gaunt and frail under the hospital bed's starched white sheet, his bare feet sticking out the bottom uncovered. He's badly in need of a shave and long overdue for a hair cut. The tubing that delivers oxygen into his nostrils has rubbed the skin raw where it drapes over his ears too-large for his face, and the coke-bottle lens of his glasses magnifies the fear in his eyes.

And it breaks my heart.

I'm nearly fifty when Alzheimer's plays tricks with his mind and emphysema clogs his lungs and he tells me he's afraid of the nurses - afraid they'll take his oxygen away or be mean. I help him scoot up in bed, fluff the pillows, tuck in the top sheet to cover his feet and rearrange and loosen the oxygen tubing off the raw creases behind his earlobes, but I can't convince him there's nothing to fear. I reach for his hand, squeeze gently, and tell him I love him, and for the first time I can ever remember, he says he loves me, too. 

Within the year, my father died.

I know he always loved me - he just never knew how to say or show it. 

I was not a daddy's little princess. There were no bedtime stories, daddy-daughter dates, or the benefit of his counsel about boys or college. I've never known what it means to be loved, nurtured and cherished by a father - as a child or an adult.

But I also see that this is his story, too. 

I never knew my father's father or anything about him or his character - only that he divorced my grandmother when my father was young, leaving his mother to support herself and raise their four young children alone. We did not visit my grandmother often, but I did live with her for a while when I was in nursing school. She was pleasant, but private, proper, and aloof. I have no memory of receiving or seeing her demonstrate love and affection toward anyone - including her own son, my father.
It's so much easier to be angry than it is to forgive because forgiveness means dying to those angry feelings and not acting on them. And dying is hard, but resurrection is the easiest thing, because once you've died, only God can give you life. So it's not you doing it, but Jesus, and suddenly you're standing on top of a mountain seeing the world for its beauty. Emily Wierenga, Atlas Girl, p. 73,74
Knowing my grandmother, helped me to understand and forgive my father, which in turn, helps me to understand me. It doesn't erase the loss or the way my father was unable to give me the love and attention I needed, or how it affected the sinful choices I made in a futile attempt to meet that need. There's always the temptation to be angry and to pass the blame for my own brokenness on to my father, but in the lavish, extravagant love of Christ, I'm free to love, to forgive and to understand and honor the way my broken father lived and loved the best he knew how - because Grace fills the gaps, redeems what's lost, and earnest love covers a multitude of sins.

In her heart-rending, yet beautiful, memoir, Atlas Girl, Emily Wierenga weaves a series of riveting vignettes that describe, with captivating prose, the brokenness she experienced in not being able to receive the love she needed from her parents, her battle with anorexia, her "mum's" cancer, and her marriage to Trent. With fascinating detail, Emily takes us with her from Canada to the Congo, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and Mexico in her search for love, faith, and healing - a journey that ultimately takes her back home.

I am thrilled to be able to send a copy of Atlas Girl to one of my readers. Just leave a comment below before Sunday night. I'll choose a winner at random and post it on Monday.