Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,--Hebrews 12:1

Sunday, June 19, 2011

1st Father's Day Without Amanda

Father's Day. The first one in a lot of years that Amanda wasn't here with us. I so wish she was, but it was still a good day. As much as I wish I could have seen her and talked to her and kissed her and hugged her this morning, I still have a lot to be grateful for. I have a beautiful, loving wife and a wonderful daughter still here with me who I'm thankful for. And, though they were way too few, I'm so fortunate to have had the years we shared before she were killed.

"give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." -- 1 Thessalonians 5:18

One thing I have always told my students is to be thankful for what they have. Whenever kids start complaining about how hard life is, or about what they don't have, I always tell them to look around and they will see someone less fortunate than they are. I usually give them the line, "Even the poorest person in our country is rich compared to most people in the world."

After Amanda was killed, it wasn't easy to practice what I've been preaching in this regard. It took a while, but now I've come to a point where I can be thankful for what I still have, and for the years I was blessed to have Amanda in my life.

That doesn't mean today went without tears, or that I'm never sad. On the contrary, today was tough and several times I found myself drifting away from my surroundings and remembering Amanda's life and death. I remembered so many years before, on this day, when she'd come into the kitchen in the morning carrying a present for me. Face beaming with a smile that I miss so much, she'd hand me the present and just glow as I opened it. I am fortunate to have those memories, and so grateful that God gave me the years with Amanda that we shared.

I missed her today, but I'm so appreciative that Courtney is still here. I felt extremely blessed when she came out of her bedroom this morning with my present. I'm so thankful that I still have her and Janice. As I've read and searched the web for anything and everything dealing with the loss of a child, I've learned of and corresponded with many who lost more than one child. Some lost their only child. Some even lost their entire family.

I lost Amanda, but I was blessed to have her in my life for these past few years and I continue to be blessed with a wonderful wife and daughter. I continue to thank God for the time I had with Amanda, and for the family I'm still blessed with.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." -- Romans 8:28

In a tragedy like we've suffered, it's hard for most people to understand this verse. How can God make something good come from something so evil? Let's take a look.

At Amanda's funeral, 60-100 people accepted Christ as their Savior. One of Amanda's friends later wrote me and told me she shared Amanda's story at church and over 20 people were saved that day. Numerous others have written and told me how they were either introduced to God or turned back to Him as a result of Amanda's death. Just this week, a young lady I have never met wrote me and asked that we start a prayer chain for her 5-year-old niece who was recently diagnosed with Leukemia. We did and many were praying for young Cadence, people from across the country who didn't know her and lacked any connection except for our organization. Cadence's aunt wrote the next day to tell us her niece is going to be okay.

All those people are evidence that God is working to make good come from the bad. But there's more. Since March, our readers have donated over $3,000 to St. Jude, Arkansas Children's Hospital, and Soaring Wings Ranch through our fundraising pages. Lives are truly being changed and good things are happening that are keeping Amanda's memory alive.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." -- Philippians 4:13

I'll never understand why she had to die. I honestly don't believe it was God's will that she be murdered. An evil man, inspired and influenced by Satan took my beautiful daughter's life. I can't change that. The only thing I can do is choose how I react to it.

I was asked today if I was running to God, or away. The woman who asked me that knew those were the two choices I had. I choose to run toward Him. I choose to give my life to Him to use it as He sees fit, for the glory of His Kingdom. Then, in His time, I'll be reunited with Amanda in a glorious place with no pain and no suffering.

I can say I had a happy Father's Day because Jesus gave me the strength to find peace and happiness in my wife and surviving daughter, and in the memories built in the years we were blessed to share with Amanda.

Thank you Lord for giving me the strength to keep going in the face of terrible loss, for the strength to look at what you have blessed me with and be grateful, for the strength choose to follow You in these difficult times. And thank you Jesus for giving me the peace that comes with the grace and salvation one can only find in You. I am truly blessed, and truly grateful.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

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