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With Thanksgiving just around the bend I would be remiss not to share a little Indian humor. Note the politically incorrect school art project and family keepsake.
Enter lunchroom. I've invited my mom (full blood Cherokee) to join my son's class as they "break bread" and offer humble thanks for the role Native Americans played in creating a holiday destined to repeat on iPhone calendars across North America until Jesus returns.
Imagine long tables lined with make-shift table clothes. A roll of white paper from art class roughly the length of a football field and some crappy tape that doesn't hold. The finishing touch is brought to fruition by dressing half the children as Pilgrims and the other half as Indians. Can you see it?
My sweet mother, within ear-shot of my son's teacher says to me, "If they really want to be accurate they should segregate the Indians and the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims refused to sit next to us, ya know."
And now for what I am most grateful for. I mean it when I say that I am grateful my life fell spectacularly apart in 2012. At the time I wasn't grateful. At the time I felt confined to a tunnel of pain with despair at one end and rage at the other. I'd loved my husband for so long; given so much. All that "praying and staying . . . to no avail.
Betrayal is a vicious beast of a thing that can cause a person to feel as insignificant as humanly possible. The first Thanksgiving and Christmas on my own I felt like a discarded speck caught in a vortex of disillusionment. Who was I? How would I relate to God as I moved forward?
I didn't feel compelled to read my Bible. I'd always read my Bible. At night I'd place it over my heart before drifting off to sleep. In the mornings I'd read a sentence or two at my kitchen table before closing my eyes and resting my head on open pages. Several months passed before it dawned on me that my Bible studies were rooted in only hardships.
I didn't know "the joy of the Lord is my strength." I only knew how to pray harder. Try harder. I was exhausted from my attempts to manage the damage. For the first time in a long time, I had nothing to offer anyone. It was all I could do to get out of bed and breathe.
I fell apart. But then I made a commitment to face the pain, the confusion; the illusion I'd wrapped scripture around for years--expecting God to bless the world of denial I'd built in the name of Jesus. Well, He did bless it. He brought it down Old Testament style. If life was a board game, I guess you could say the God of the Universe cleared the pieces of mine with one breath.
To be stripped of oneself is a great gift from God. I remember the first day I opened my Bible and could read again. Really soak it in. Not because I had something terrible to survive, but because I had a life to live. And a God who desired for me to live it abundantly. What would become of my relationship with Christ . . . as a single mother? More importantly, as a woman who no longer lived in denial.
What I've learned so far; what I'm most grateful for this Thanksgiving is that today, when I open my Bible, chalked full of highlights from years of study, what means the most to me are the pages stained with tears. God used every one of them to water what I'd highlighted in yellow. He brought me back to life.
I'm alive in Christ. Which is to say, I'm not afraid to let myself feel or face anything. Good or bad. I've learned that in all things Christ communes with me. What I find most touching is that just this morning as I thanked Him for a life replete with the manifest evidence of His goodness, in my heart I heard the gentle whisper, I'm grateful for you, too, Wendy.
I am not a speck.
I am somebody.
I am grateful to be God's child. And He is grateful to be my Father.
I wish you the same peaceful resolve this Thanksgiving. You are not alone. You are not a speck! You are God's child. You are somebody!
Peace and good,
Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him (Psalm 126:5--6).
Published on Wednesday, November 27, 2019 @ 6:27 PM CDT
Roger Elwood Strassner.
He is my stepfather.
30 years ago I was pregnant with my second child when my mother's hair dresser arranged for their blind date.
He joined us for Easter dinner. My mother cautioned us not to embarrass her . . . to no avail. When my first son filled his diaper at the dinner table, I turned to ask, "Christopher, are you packing a load?"
It didn't take long for us to learn that Roger had a twisted sense of humor just like the rest of us. He fit right in.
I lost my biological father three years ago. I love him. I miss him. I find myself longing, still, for all that might have been. For many reasons, he did not have the capacity to return the reach when I extended my arms. (Although he did on his death bed.) A memory I cherish.
Roger . . . . "Rodge"; aka Grandpa Rah Rah--he was my daddy. My head tells me I should be doing "more." Instead, I allow my heart time each day to grieve the unexpected loss of a man I loved dearly. Dearly. It's odd how grief comes in waves. How one minute I feel at ease and the next I'm crying in the bread isle at Walmart. (The man loved to grocery shop at Walmart.)
When the pilot program for a class-room series on forgiveness was approved at my parish, Roger said, "Kick ass, kid." Who's going to encourage me with swear words when I'm nervous about starting something new? Who's going to drink German beer with me and ignore my mother as she counts the bottles we throw into the bin? Rodge was diabetic and mom didn't think beer was a good idea even after his doctor (also German) said, "Oh, a couple of beers aren't going to hurt him."
I miss him so. He passed away unexpectedly in his sleep on October 9, just a few days before my next visit. I'd already purchased the ingredients for meatloaf. One of his favorites. I'd already planned to pick up his German beer.
My heart is broken. This is his favorite time of year. Chilly weather. Fall color. Home cooked meals. Music. Birds. Deer. (Their house is nestled in the woods.) His love for nature makes every gift of nature somehow greater than I already believe it to be.
Please join me in prayer for the repose of his soul.
Roger was good to me. As you know, I endured a lot of "not good" in my youth.
Roger was a good man--and good to me.
Good. To. Me.
There's a hole in the universe because he is not here.
I'm so aware . . .
God Almighty, I miss him.
Peace and good, Rodge. Welcome to the Light. Heaven trumps Pennsylvania. I promise to wear your shirt when the Cowboys play the Eagles, eat potato chips, and drink beer.
The memory of you will shine in my heart forever. See you again on the other side.
Praise to God for loving fathers; for good men.
Published on Wednesday, November 13, 2019 @ 5:36 PM CDT