24 Apr THE UNSEEN
Have you ever had an experience where you discovered something – something you remember so vividly – an event that causes your heart rate to go up, your thoughts become cloudy or confused, and your stomach to ache? I have had more than a few of these experiences in my life, but here is a snapshot of one of those memories for me.
“God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing.” Psalm 68:6
I was sitting on my bed, scrolling on my laptop when I saw I had a friend request on Facebook. I saw this a few weeks before, but still couldn’t place who this person could have been. The name of a person, I did not really recognize. Bill…and the last name Conway. I actually did recognize that name, it was the last name of my father whom I had never met in the 32 years of my life. Despite that, I immediately wondered if this was a patient from the hospital trying to contact me, being that I was an ICU nurse at the time. Maybe they wanted to stay in touch or the family wanted to let me know how things were going. It would be a first, but the thought ran through my mind.
So on this day, I felt a surge of confidence and decided to Google this stranger’s name. Y’all, be careful doing this. The heart wreckage that came next was just that. And words will not be able to express the emotion I was to experience over the next moments and the weeks to come.
An obituary resulted at the top of the search. I clicked it. My heart started to race.
As I read through the first line, I knew that I knew this person. I read: Donald Curtis Conway was led by heavenly angels from this earth on April 9, 2012. (I checked the calendar today was April 25, 2012). This was recent. I began to read quicker, and stopped when I read, “and survived by his daughter Amy Nicole Conway.”
Heart now racing, pounding in my chest, my breath was unsteady, tears pouring out, the emotion overwhelmed me. My chest was heavy with pain and something else I couldn’t describe. My stomach felt like lead.
The words, survived by his daughter “Amy Nicole.” This was notice of my dad’s recent passing.
The first thing that came to mind was feeling loved by my dad for the first time. “But how?” I asked myself, “he did not know me.” I also experienced grief. I cried out literally, knowing that I would never experience this relationship with someone who actually cared to me call me their daughter. I had grown up believing what my mom said, that my dad never wanted anything to do with me and didn’t think twice about me. But reading those words, all that was shattered – and I felt something in my heart I had never felt before.
Claimed. Valued. Loved.
Growing up in a trauma-filled life and feeling completely worthless, forgotten, and damaged, this was a game changer for me. My heart felt something new. I was confused and shocked at the same time by this new feeling. Overwhelmed with emotion that I could not understand.
I decided to contact the Bill Conway who wanted to friend me – my uncle. I read through two messages he had already sent to my Facebook account trying to contact me. Yes, he was my dad’s brother, and my dad had recently passed away. In the message my uncle told me that my dad specifically named me as his sole heir to what he had at the end of his life. To ME! Amy Nicole. The same girl that never knew love, never felt worthy of anything good, never knew what I could possibly offer a dad as a daughter. I had nothing to give.
A girl that was never chosen, never loved, and who always felt like a dirty washed out old rag because of my brokenness. Yes, this made an impact in my stoney hard heart on that day.
I read those words feeling like, “What!?! This man never knew me!” He didn’t know how awful I was and what I had done to mess my life up, but he loved me til the day he died and he always carried me in his heart, enough to mention me in his will 32 years later and leave me his estate. It might seem weird that I would feel those feelings, of being claimed and loved by someone I had never met or established a trustworthy relationship with, but I had such a warped sense of self because the overarching theme in my life of being “unloveable.” This penetrated piercingly into my heart. As I look back, I see that God was making a way for Himself in this very moment. That he started to do something new in my heart. Showing me what love feels like in an earthly relationship. Even if I would never be able to embrace my earthly father, I still felt the love that he had for me.
The message to my uncle sparked a flood of emotion and changes in my life. While my dad and his family were originally from a town in central Texas, his brother, my uncle, and his family were literally across town from me! My uncle immediately shared that he was married for 26 years, and had 4 grown daughters and he wanted to do what was right by my father and honor his wishes. So he found me.
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my righteousness be revealed.’” Isaiah 56:1
You might think the story stops there, but wait! When God does things, He doesn’t just do something, His plans have layers and meaning. Soon, my husband and I were on our way DOWN the street to have dinner with my uncle. And not just my uncle but his amazing, loving family.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19
That first night we were together, they shared pictures and stories of my dad, and my uncle shared about how much my dad loved me. That he was hard-working, he was kind, and loving. That there were times when my uncle wanted to find me, but my father did not want him to. I don’t know why – perhaps he felt I wouldn’t accept or love him. I will never know. The next days and weeks, love in me grew bigger and my heart became softer. I started to see what a blessing God had given me in this extended family that I never knew I had – what a blessing that they not only lived on the other side of town, but they also loved Lord. God was moving.
“Then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you.” Deuteronomy 30:3
At this point, I was not a believer. I had been going to church for approximately 1.5 months and was in the very beginning stages of hearing truth and love spoken to me from God’s Word. Every week I would hear how I was loved unconditionally, and that Jesus died so that I could be washed clean of my mistakes, and have a relationship with Him. That I could be in a right relationship with His Father in Heaven who loved me so much. That truth was starting to dent this heart of mine.
“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
My uncle’s messages and the passing of my father were all part of God’s timing. He was in the details as I processed through this shocking discovery of having a father who KNEW me and had not forgotten me (even though he had given over all rights to me when I was one year old). I reached out soon after hearing this news to a sweet friend that had been shepherding me, even though I did not know it. I let all my walls down to her and expressed my confusion as well as so many questions swirling in my head. “How do I respond? What do I do? Should I feel guilty because of what could have been had we had a relationship? What if he knew I was okay and had a family – would that have helped him?” My friend’s response was a gentle comforting truth, “God loves you, Amy, He wanted you to know your father loved you, and He wanted it exactly this way.”
A loving Father in Heaven, preparing my heart for even more love, and an adoption into His Kingdom and His family.
Since this day, I have established a real relationship with a part of my family that I did not know existed for 32 years. Seriously, God is crazy good. They care for me with love and kindness through their actions and words, and seek to know my heart. They love my kids and pray for us. We get to share life and laugh – making our own memories together. They do this not because of anything I have done, but what God has done. He placed us in one another’s lives for a reason. Through His love and for His glory. He is good.
“He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” Ephesians 1:5
The feelings of hope started to well up within me, Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see without knowing it.” In 2012, I had just started to go to church and I was far from God. There was so much wreckage to wade through, I wouldn’t have known where to start. But God did. He started where I needed it the most, to know and feel His love. His unconditional love.
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” I couldn’t see my earthly father or his love and I never would on this earth. But I had faith in the love he had for me, and hope for something even bigger. Hope found in the promises God has given.