Finding My Father — a true story

Finding My Father — a true story

I’m often asked why I’m so darn happy all the time.

I always find this funny because, well, I’m not. How can I be? I am human, after all. I experience deep emotional pain; I sob my heart out; I am no stranger to the lure of depression. However, I do have something…

An incomprehensible, inexplicable, deep-seated, everlasting JOY that never ever leaves me – no matter what life throws my way. (And it hasn’t all been Champagne and roses, I assure you.)

Here’s my story.

Up until the age of eight, I had the best childhood. Life was great, and both my parents were loving and caring. Then, out of the blue, they asked me, ‘Who do you want to live with?’

What a ridiculous question. Of course I replied: ‘I want to live with both of you.’

It was impossible for my young brain to comprehend that they were getting divorced. When they explained they would no longer be living together and then told me I’d have to choose with whom I wanted to stay, I cried my little heart out.

Eventually, I decided that because my dad had another daughter (from a previous marriage), but my mom didn’t have anyone except me, I would go and live with her. But it was a tough decision; I loved them both so much.

Within a year they were divorced. 

And my dad cut off all contact.

After a blissful childhood, where my mom and I had had more than enough, suddenly she was a single mother and I was a fatherless child.

The worst part was: my dad was still in touch with my stepsister. She not only received birthday and Christmas presents but she also got to spend holidays with him. I didn’t even get a phone call.

I couldn’t understand it. After much deliberation, I concluded it was because I’d done something wrong. Because I’d chosen my mother over him, maybe? But no one explained anything to me.

I was hurting. Of course I was. But I was not broken. Because something had happened a couple of years before that had prepared me for this.

Something that would impact the rest of my life.

I’ll come back to that.

My mom soon remarried. But her new husband was not a father to me.

The next seven years were emotionally and psychologically challenging. Our house never felt like a home.

Then: a revelation.

Just before I turned sixteen, my mom revealed that the man I’d called ‘dad’ was not my real father.

I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped to the floor.

Tears cascaded down my mom’s face as she told me she’d married my ‘dad’ when I was two years old, and he had adopted me. My real father was someone she’d loved very much when she was nineteen; and he’d moved away before she knew she was pregnant.

My mother was embarrassed and upset. She’d kept this from me for sixteen years and had no idea how I’d react.

Me? I was overjoyed! It was like finding treasure! First of all, the ‘dad’ who had abandoned me wasn’t even my father, so it didn’t really count. Secondly, I had a real dad out there somewhere who didn’t even know I existed. I was thrilled.

The last my mom had heard, my real dad was living in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was quite a while ago. No internet or mobile phones. Imagine! As we were living almost 1,000 miles away, in Cape Town, and we didn’t have a car – and public transport and flights were too expensive to consider – there wasn’t much I could do about this revelation at the time. However, I was content to wait.

I was nineteen when I finally met my biological father.

I’ll get back to that in a moment. Remember I mentioned that something happened a couple of years before my ‘dad’ and mom split up? It was – and always will be – the most significant event of my entire life.

When I was six, my aunt Margaret said to me, ever so casually, ‘Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour?’

Just like that. Like she was asking what sandwich filling I’d like.

Now I have to clarify: my aunt was not wanting to know if I was interested in joining a religion. She was asking if I had a relationship. With God.

Bear with me… 

I knew about Jesus because I went to Sunday School. (I think my mom sent me every week so she could get some peace and quiet.) I knew Jesus was God’s Son, and that He loved me so much that He came to earth as a man to die for my sins; and then He rose from the dead and went back to Heaven. So saying yes to a relationship with God was an easy decision.

We knelt right there and then, on the floor, and she led me in a simple prayer, and I gave my life over to Jesus. And at that very moment, I became a child of God. He adopted me as His daughter and became my Heavenly Father. Best of all, He promised He would never, ever abandon me.

In His Word, the Bible, God says, The moment you accept My Son, Jesus, you become My child – no matter how old you are – and I’m your Father in Heaven. Forever.

Even though I didn’t have the greatest examples of dads, I had God as my ‘Papa’ from a very young age.

Without Him I would not be alive today.

That’s the honest truth.

God is amazing. His timing is always perfect. He knows every detail of our lives, from beginning to end. He knew the divorce was coming, so He ensured I had a perfect Heavenly Father to take the place of an imperfect earthly dad before I even realised I needed Him.

He knew that at the tender age of ten, my childhood would be stripped away. So He made sure I knew Him, so I could turn to my Papa God for comfort and healing.

I went through a lot of ‘stuff’, especially in my teenage years.

Several times I seriously considered suicide.

But God carried me through every single moment of my life – and He still does.

The past few years have been filled with challenging seasons; there have been many dark days. But God always gives me the strength to endure anything that comes my way.

See, He’s promised to work ALL THINGS – every detail of my life – into something good. And I believe Him.

And you know what else? He even gave me the love and forgiveness for the men who abandoned me, the men who let me down… And I mean total forgiveness. 

Do you have any idea how free I feel? It’s wonderful!

The most important thing is: I have peace.

Peace that surpasses all understanding.

Throughout my life, God has been there as my Heavenly Father. Whatever He’s allowed me to go through has only served to make me stronger. So when I found out that my real dad was out there somewhere, I was OK to wait on God’s perfect timing.

Almost four years later…

I was nineteen and had just arrived in Johannesburg to be a missionary with a performance group. So, I picked up a telephone directory (no Google, remember?) and looked up the name my mom had given me. And there it was; the only one. It had to be him.

Feverishly I wrote a four-page letter: my life in a nutshell. I ended it by saying that I didn’t want to mess up his life. I knew nothing about him. For all I knew he had a family of his own, and I could just imagine how life-wrecking a nineteen year old turning up on your doorstep and claiming she’s your daughter could be. So I said I just wanted to see him, to meet him once. And then he could go on with his life. I was OK with that. I told him that I didn’t harbour any ill toward him; I understood that he didn’t know I existed.

Three days after I posted the letter, I received a phone call.

I will never forget that call. His voice was like honey. He was in shock. The conversation started with him saying, ‘But I don’t have a daughter.’ And at the end of the conversation he stated, ‘I have a daughter!’

It was a magical, unforgettable moment.

We arranged to meet, and he brought his wife and their two little boys. It felt surreal. We stood staring at each other for a long time.

Meanwhile, my heart was beating like it was trying to escape.

His wife was the first to speak. All she said, with no doubt in her voice, and a serene smile, was: ‘This is your daughter.’

I cannot tell you how overjoyed I was.

And guess what?

The timing of all of this was perfect!

Firstly, the letter arrived on the last day the postman would deliver to my dad’s street. From the day after, it would be post boxes only. And as no other address had been listed in the directory, if I had mailed my letter even one day later, I can’t say it would have got to him.

Secondly, my dad and his wife had just come through a rough patch. If that letter had arrived any earlier, they weren’t sure their relationship would have been strong enough to handle it.

When my dad explained all this to me, I smiled. God is amazing. He never comes too early or too late.

And the best was yet to come.

No earthly dad is ever going to be perfect, but I can’t imagine a more fabulous human dad than mine. He is amazing. And his wife is so much more than I could ever have hoped for: my best friend, older sister, mother, spiritual counsellor, all rolled into one. She’s beautiful, inside and out, and the relationship I have with them is incredible.

So that’s why I’m so darn ‘happy’ all the time. Because…

I am grateful.

I have been blessed, blessed, blessed by God. And I don’t deserve any of it.

My Heavenly Father, out of no motivation except pure love, looks after me, looks out for me, and brings me back to Him whenever I stray off the path. He is unfathomably compassionate and kind and the most perfect ‘Dad’ ever.

The reason I’ve shared this? I just want you to know: Whoever you are, whatever you’ve done – you are loved by the Creator of the universe. He loves you so much, He sent His only Son, Jesus, a perfect man, to die a horrific, undeserved death – so that you can have a FULL life; life in abundance!

I promise you – no matter what your circumstances are – if you hand the reins of your life over to Jesus, He will turn things around for you. I’m talking:

A night-and-day difference.

No matter what you are going through, what you’ve been through, what’s ahead – you have a sure way to endure it all and to come out the other end stronger than before. Ask me, I know.

Surrendering your life to Jesus Christ is the best decision you will ever make. I’ve never regretted it.

As if that’s not enough, when your short time on earth comes to an end, if Jesus is your Lord & Saviour, you are assured of Eternal Life in Heaven. This is God’s free gift. You just have to take it.

As Paul the apostle says in one of his letters: ‘These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us.’ (2 Corinthians 4:17, The Message translation of the Bible)

So now you know why I’m so darn ‘happy’ all the time:

I’m a prisoner of hope.

A hope-aholic.

And there’s no reason you can’t be too.

This song pretty much sums it all up.

With Love,

Vx

P.S. If you have trouble thinking of God as a Good, Loving Father, I highly recommend The Shack (movie or book — they’re both amazing). Watch the trailer.

Have you made a decision to follow Jesus? I would love to hear about your journey! Share your story or a part of it in the comments section, below.

If you want to know more, please do get in touch. I’d love to introduce you to my Best Friend.

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

‘In ALL things God works for the GOOD of those who love Him.’ Romans 8:28

God’s timing is perfect.

God’s love is UNCONDITIONAL.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life.

#livinglifetothefullest

‘”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; to give you a hope and a future.”‘ Jeremiah 29:11

God is the only One who will never let you down.

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this post, feel free to comment below.

NEXT TIME on The Hopeaholic blog: 

More uplifting content!

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THIS IS WHAT A PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE LOOKS LIKE. . .

THIS IS WHAT A PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE LOOKS LIKE. . .

‘I find myself wanting to say something profound, but Haven of Hope makes me speechless! There are no words to describe just how awesome this place, these people and these horses are.’

Haven of Hope team

Haven of Hope Equine Aid Centre in Brackenfell, South Africa, offers horse riding and horse-related activities for children with disabilities, special needs or trauma.

Founding member, Maryke du Boisson, runs the stable of eight equines with the assistance of horse groom, Lamec. A team of extremely devoted volunteers assists with the riding.

equine therapy

Maryke, how did Haven of Hope come about? 

Many years ago I was a student at the University of Stellenbosch and a member of their horse riding club. We once had a group from Huis Horison (a Home for individuals with primary intellectual disability) come for horse riding. I was amazed at the horses’ gentle and accommodating attitude towards our guests (they could be quite a handful at times), and I realised that something very special was happening between our guests and the horses. That’s where my dream began. If I could devote my life to bringing horses and special needs individuals together… 

A dream for which I did not have the resources. 

For many years I was sidetracked by the issues and responsibilities of life, while struggling with God about what His specific call for my life was. I had this dream, this passion, but no money, no horses, and no special training. 

Many times I asked the Lord to take this dream away from me, and for a while it seemed He did, only to bring it back even stronger than before. He confirmed the vision to me through Scripture, people, and even a radio broadcast! 

In 2010 things started coming together. And on 9 February 2011 my friend, Juanita, and I adopted the first two horses from the SPCA and started with one special needs rider. 

boy and horse
HoH horse riding

How they have blossomed through the love of a hoofed friend!

Any memorable moments you’d like to share? 

Right at the beginning, someone in KwaZulu-Natal offered to donate two horses to us. Getting them down to Brackenfell, however, took almost a year. Therefore, in the interim, we adopted two from the SPCA. 

Usually when looking for a horse, their temperament, size, and age would be some of the important things to keep in mind. Yet when I heard about these two gift horses, all I wanted to know was, ‘What are their names?’ What they looked like didn’t matter to me at all! 

I had to wait months for the reply. And when it finally arrived, via email on my birthday… I almost fell off my chair. 

The mare’s name was Thembi and the gelding was called Jabu. I was dumbstruck. God could not have given me greater confirmation that we were doing His will with this project. I knew enough Xhosa to realise that Thembi meant Hope — and Jabu meant Joy or Praise. I then realised why I’d been so adamant to know their names. God is so faithful. Since then, Thandi (Love) and Musa (Mercy/Kindness) have also joined our team. 

Any memorable moments you’d like to share? 

Right at the beginning, someone in KwaZulu-Natal offered to donate two horses to us. Getting them down to Brackenfell, however, took almost a year. Therefore, in the interim, we adopted two from the SPCA. 

Usually when looking for a horse, their temperament, size, and age would be some of the important things to keep in mind. Yet when I heard about these two gift horses, all I wanted to know was, ‘What are their names?’ What they looked like didn’t matter to me at all! 

I had to wait months for the reply. And when it finally arrived, via email on my birthday… I almost fell off my chair. 

The mare’s name was Thembi and the gelding was called Jabu. I was dumbstruck. God could not have given me greater confirmation that we were doing His will with this project. I knew enough Xhosa to realise that Thembi meant Hope — and Jabu meant Joy or Praise. I then realised why I’d been so adamant to know their names. God is so faithful. Since then, Thandi (Love) and Musa (Mercy/Kindness) have also joined our team. 

HoH horse riding

How they have blossomed through the love of a hoofed friend!

Tell us about a few of the children for whom HoH has made a difference. 

J, an eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy and blindness, has been riding with us for the past four years. For months he cried every time he was on a horse. The farm sounds, our voices, and the movement of the horses were new and terrifying to him. Hats off to his dad who persisted, continuing to bring him every Saturday. Today J loves horse riding! His laughter while on horseback is so contagious, one cannot help but laugh with him for joy. 

E, an eight-year-old girl with physical disabilities as well as heart failure, is passionate about horses and aspires to assist me in caring for them in the future. Her smile — her joy and passion for life — is so humbling. 

Some of the foster kids who have come to us have at first been fearful, angry, unsure… How they have blossomed through the love and care of a hoofed friend! 

horses bring joy
equine peace

When God has called you for a purpose, He will provide all you need.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to make a big difference? 

Don’t try to do it alone. There were so many aspects of starting up and registering as a non-profit organisation (NPO) and public-benefit organisation (PBO) that we did not have a clue. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. It is good to have a team around you for insight and support.

And remember, when God calls you for something specific, He is the one who qualifies you — not the standards or expectations of this world. 

 

Did you require any specific education for this role? 

Although my passion for, and years of involvement with, horses is definitely an advantage, I am not a therapist; therefore we only offer informal riding and socialisation with the horses in a safe environment on the farm. Our riders benefit from the interaction with horses as well as the riding.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to make a big difference? 

Don’t try to do it alone. There were so many aspects of starting up and registering as a non-profit organisation (NPO) and public-benefit organisation (PBO) that we did not have a clue. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. It is good to have a team around you for insight and support.

And remember, when God calls you for something specific, He is the one who qualifies you — not the standards or expectations of this world. 

 

Did you require any specific education for this role? 

Although my passion for, and years of involvement with, horses is definitely an advantage, I am not a therapist; therefore we only offer informal riding and socialisation with the horses in a safe environment on the farm. Our riders benefit from the interaction with horses as well as the riding.

equine peace

When God has called you for a purpose, He will provide all you need.

What was your steepest learning curve? 

Trusting God for finances. This is still an issue sometimes. Also: trusting Him to send us the right horses for our needs.

In the beginning, Juanita and I selected horses we thought would be suitable for special needs riders. (God had to work quite a bit on our pride as we liked the good-looking, flashy ones.) None of those worked out, and they had to be rehomed. But those horses that were donated to us, the ones we thought would never work, were exactly the ones God had chosen and sent. 

 

Any nuggets of wisdom for people struggling with trusting God? 

For anyone who confesses Jesus as their Saviour, as we do, God is their/our Heavenly Father. He supplies all our needs. So it is mostly a daily confession of a lack of faith; and laying everything at His feet again. 

Don’t look to people and what they can offer; people will come and go in your life. When God has called you for a purpose, He will provide all that you need. Trusting that Haven of Hope is His, we know He knows our needs, and we recognise that He often supplies in different ways than expected.

equine care
feeding time

Where does the financial support come from? 

We rely completely on donations. We do not break even every month; often the volunteers or board members (of which I am one) need to chip in to keep us afloat. 

 

How did COVID-19 affect Haven of Hope? 

Unfortunately we lost some of our regular sponsors who could no longer contribute. But since we do not charge for our services (we only ask for donations), we were not dependent on rider income during the pandemic. The horses missed the interaction with the children, however, and of course the apples and carrots!

Where does the financial support come from? 

We rely completely on donations. We do not break even every month; often the volunteers or board members (of which I am one) need to chip in to keep us afloat. 

 

How did COVID-19 affect Haven of Hope? 

Unfortunately we lost some of our regular sponsors who could no longer contribute. But since we do not charge for our services (we only ask for donations), we were not dependent on rider income during the pandemic. The horses missed the interaction with the children, however, and of course the apples and carrots!

feeding time

Who are Haven of Hope’s greatest supporters? 

Afreshventure Durbanville provides us with eight bags of drought feed every month; Indwe Risk Services sponsors 50% of our public indemnity & liability insurance premium; our church makes a small monthly financial contribution; and parents and volunteers often assist with building or fixing paddocks, shelters or any work that has to be done. 

Pre-COVID we organised workdays where people could sign up for a variety of tasks that needed to be done such as fixing paddocks, tack cleaning, building projects, etc. We would all pitch in and do the work, and then braai (BBQ) together. By the end of the day we’d be bushed, but joyful for all that had been done. I love the Haven of Hope family and miss our workdays. 

breast cancer awareness
horse riding

How can the public help? 

We are always grateful for donations of, or funding for, horse feed (oat hay, teff and lucerne). And always looking for volunteers who can assist regularly with riding, feeding the horses, and, every second weekend when the groom is off duty, cleaning of paddocks.

We need businesses to get involved as well. (All financial donations are tax deductible as we are registered with SARS as a Section 18A organisation.)

 

Maryke, you are such an inspiration: a true example of a purpose-driven life. May God mightily bless you & Haven of Hope!

 

READERS: If you’d like to know more, or if you want to support Haven of Hope, pop onto their FACEBOOK page.

How can the public help? 

We are always grateful for donations of, or funding for, horse feed (oat hay, teff and lucerne). And always looking for volunteers who can assist regularly with riding, feeding the horses, and, every second weekend when the groom is off duty, cleaning of paddocks.

We need businesses to get involved as well. (All financial donations are tax deductible as we are registered with SARS as a Section 18A organisation.)

 

Maryke, you are such an inspiration: a true example of a purpose-driven life. May God mightily bless you & Haven of Hope!

 

READERS: If you’d like to know more, or if you want to support Haven of Hope, pop onto their FACEBOOK page.

horse riding

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

MAKING A DIFFERENCE IS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT. 

WHEN GOD CALLS YOU, HE QUALIFIES YOU. 

PURSUE YOUR PASSION. FOLLOW YOUR HEART. 

GO FOR IT & NEVER GIVE UP! 

WHEN GOD HAS CALLED YOU FOR A PURPOSE, HE WILL PROVIDE ALL YOU NEED. 

FYI…

I don’t receive any reward/commission for promoting any of the people, businesses or charities on my blog. I just want to inspire & motivate as many people as possible to fulfil their purpose & potential.

 

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

NEXT TIME on The Hopeaholic blog: 

That’s it for February. I’m taking a week off to ensure our house move goes smoothly. And then, from March 2022, I will only be publishing one blog post per month, as I’ve made the decision to focus on my novels and screenplays. Until then, take care of yourself & each other.  

If you subscribe to my weekly news blurb (it’s brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂