Welcome Home

Along with cooler mornings, this Thanksgiving has brought the reality of a dear uncle’s final days. He is a young man, not yet 60. Cancer has laid a stake in his body and isn’t backing down. His beautiful children and grandchildren made the journey to East Texas along with him. 

Tonight, after second helpings of dinner and dessert had been cleaned away… after a last round of card games and dominoes had wrapped up and victors declared, we gathered around our uncle, brother, and son seeking mercy and comfort through prayer.

To see my 90 year old grandmother hold the hand of her dying child and call upon God’s grace was heartwrenching. A poet once wrote, “How much fear can one woman carry? How many children can she stand to bury?” She has buried three children in her time on this earth. She will bury another. Her faith that brings a peace to her heart and fills her home with love and respect every Thanksgiving, is something for which I am thankful. Watching her children, grandchildren, and great children gather around her and her son in strength and admiration, is beautiful.  I am thankful for this.

Witnessing this uncle return to the home of his family, to be welcomed with open arms and so much love, is something for which I am thankful. Our family having the opportunity to say goodbye to this beloved member is something for which I am thankful. Having this family is something for which I am thankful. Having faith that this uncle is surrounded by mercy and love of a gracious God who will look upon his face and state, “Welcome home, my son”, is something for which I am thankful.

An Un-forgone Conclusion

fortune-cookie

I consider myself fortunate. I say this not in a trite tone or the pat reply you so often hear that is spoken without due consideration.

At fifteen and a runaway, I had experienced violence, homelessness, poverty, seemingly endless meandering and searching for truth on the part of my parents, their drug use and poor decision-making that led to a life of constant moves, new schools, new towns, new states. We were uprooted faster than a turnip by Peter and his colony of cotton-tailed rabbits. More than once, we were even deprived of an education in a public school system that did not know what to do with homeless kids. We didn’t have a home, so there wasn’t an address under which to register us. Even now I shake my head at the ridiculousness of it all.

My future did not include drugs, drinking and despair. I’ve never battled depression or addiction. I was fortunate. At fifteen and a runaway, I could have been taken advantage of, raped, forced to live on the streets, become a teenage mother, a high school dropout or addicted to any number of substances. Instead I worked. I had an address. I graduated high school. I attended college. I built a life for myself. To be certain having so little for so long did have an affect upon me. I do not require a lot of things to feel happy. I am content with the few things I have. I have joy. I have peace. I have faith. It is in these that my happiness lies.

This good fortune was never lost on me. It is something I have known with acute awareness within a few weeks of leaving my family. It is something I give thanks for daily and will never take for granted. It is because I am so keenly aware of this fortune bestowed upon me that I have faith. I have faith in God. I have faith in humanity. Yes, even in these days…the faith I have in my fellow-man remains intact. I have faith in myself and my abilities. Love flows freely in my veins and my heart is still tender to the world around me. Yes, I am very fortunate.

I have seen firsthand people overcome insurmountable odds and pain to build the most exquisite existence. I have witnessed the transformation of addictions and the glory when addiction is fought and life reclaimed.  I have hugged a woman who had been tortured and raped by a gang of rebels only for her to smile with complete warmth and sincerity. I have seen men crippled by explosions during a war handed to them by cruel dictators, look upon the faces of their children with true pride and joy. The power of the human spirit to defiantly fight back, challenge defeat and love with grace is divinely beautiful.

I am fortunate because I realized that within me was the power to fight back. I realized from a young age that the life provided to me was not meant to be; that it must not be willfully claimed simply because it is what was.

It matters not what your experience has been heretofore. It matters not that you have hurt or caused others to hurt. It matters not the mistakes that you have made. It matters not who you were, who your family was or what riches you once had or lacked. Your life is not predestined for permanent defeat simply because you have had defeats. What was does not have to become what always is. Fortune will not find you unless you actively pursue it. Your value is not worthless simply because yesterday or all the yesterdays before today have not amounted to much. Defy your challenges. Make your future invaluable. ❤