When I was a young woman, from about the ages of 18-25, my dad would find an opportunity at least once a year to remind me, "You know, you can always come home."
Now me being me, a headstrong know-it-all who had moved to California on her own at the age of 17, I would exclaim, "Why would I want to do that?!?"
And my dad, knowing me as he did, all headstrong on the top but soft and anxious underneath it all, would reply, "You might never want to. I just think it's really important for you to know that no matter what you do, how bad things get, or how scared you are, you aren't alone. You'll always be welcome. You can always come home."
The ultimate promise to a prodigal daughter.
I've been thinking about that alot lately.
It's probably because my daughter turns 16 next month,
and the vision of her flying free can now be seen on the distant horizon.
I shared with her those thoughts from her dear, darling Grandpa Joe.
She looked at me and said, "No offense, Mama, but once I'm gone, I can't imagine I'd ever want to come back."
And I said, "No offense to you either, Colleen, but once you're gone, I don't want you to!"
We laughed and laughed.
Then I told her in all seriousness that,
though my job was to prepare her to take on life as an adult,
sometimes there are bumps along the road
(or seemingly unscalable mountains in many cases)
so I never wanted her to feel as though she was out of options.
I held out many times in dark circumstances with the light of Daddy's words shining a clear path for me.
Now don't get me wrong...
I don't believe Daddy was inviting me to come home, stay rent free and live off of them because of bad decisions on my part.
Daddy was usually tough love at its finest.
He and Mama once lent me $1500 to buy my first car,
a beautiful, shiny candy-apple red Volkswagen Beetle I named "Candace."
When I had received the money and was ready to make the transaction,
Daddy called me at my apartment,
which he NEVER did,
told me that he expected me to have a check for $150
at their house by the 15th of every month for the next 10 months.
They wouldn't charge me interest
which, of course, he reminded me was not the norm for a loan and was a privelege.
"If the check is not in our hands by the 15th of every month,
if you are even a day late, I will personally fly out to California
and drive that car back to Alabama. Do you understand me?"
"Yes, sir," I remember saying in a small voice, the pleasure of the moment AND the purchase being doused by the cold water of his very real threat.
Years later, I am eternally grateful for that lesson.
(And no, I was never even a day late!)
But despite these moments of tough, real, raw love
from a tough, real, raw, beautiful man,
I knew the depths of his heart.
I knew that no matter what,
I could count on him understanding...
being there for me...
welcoming me home...
home within his heart.
Isn't it funny how "coming home" sounds so much more warm and welcoming than "going home"?
And so I reflect on this man's invitation to me,
one that I almost took him up on about a dozen times,
and realize that my father's love was so much like my Father's love.
Simple and warm....
Unconditional and sincere...
Offered again and again and again and again
until I understood it and accepted it in the very recesses of my being.
How awesome and consoling to know that,
no matter what I do or say...
how bad or lonely or frightening or anxious things get...
No matter how old or fat or obnoxious or transparent or loving or kind or funny or sad I am...
No matter what the circumstances...
I know I can always come Home.