By: James Tower
When I was a kid, around 1989 or so, we lived in the Columbia River Gorge in a small town called Goldendale. I was nine-ish and trapped in what felt like the middle of nowhere. My mother had left my sister’s dad and was raising three kids on one income and using every spare dime on a two-year custody battle to keep my sister. It was a dark time of recovery after escaping an abusive situation, and we were very poor.
I remember food stamps and food boxes full of government cheese and canned salmon. I remember Mom always putting the after-Christmas clothing on layaway to lock in discount prices and paying it off slowly for next year’s school clothes. I remember we had this black and white TV hooked up to rabbit ears with tin foil on them. It was a hand-me-down from someone, who, like the rest of the world, had made the switch to color ages ago. I didn’t know anyone else growing up who still had a black and white TV… but it kind of fit with my melancholy world.
Growing up, not knowing my father was hard, and at the time, I felt like the only kid in the world without a dad. I knew I was loved, but I remember being jealous of kids who weren’t enrolled in the free lunch program, who wore name-brand clothing, who could go out to eat as a family. Money sure isn’t everything, but it opens up a lot more doors than people realize.
Lots of people want a better life for their family. And in my life, I have been blessed with the privilege of getting to see how living for God can build momentum toward a better life. Not that everything in my life is roses and lollipops. Not that following God makes you exempt from suffering or pain, or insulates you from other people’s bad choices. But it has given me the opportunity to stretch and grow and learn from some mistakes that I, by the grace of God, no longer have to make for myself. God has lit up my life like the sun. My daughter has, in her own special way, done the same. It is the power of giving and receiving love at work within me, changing me, smoothing rough places and rattling loose corrosion.