Thursday, October 09, 2014

Thankful Thursday

How can I say thanks for the friends, the relationships, the food, the safety, the house, the clothes, the abundance without also saying thanks for the tears, the losses, the pain, and the suffering? It's nearly impossible for me to maintain hope during the latter without remembering the joy in the former. It's nearly impossible for me to appreciate the former without remembering the challenges of the latter.

One year ago tonight, I was aboard a flight from Miami to Madrid, on my first trip to Spain after surviving my kanswer journey. I was grateful for the ability to carry my backpack, to traverse the long corridors and escalators at Miami International Airport. I was grateful for the friends who were ready to receive me and host me and celebrate the end of the hard-fought battle to regain my health. I was grateful for my husband and children who once again released me to go to the place where I experience deep joy and profound peace. I look forward to getting back there sometime soon. Judging by the many people who have recently asked me when I'm going back, I think it's time to plan another Iberian adventure. Last week someone asked me why I keep going back there and don't go to new places. Because for me, Spain is new every time. New people. New towns and cities. New foods and drinks. New discoveries. Why take a chance going someplace where I might be disappointed when I know that Spain is a sure thing?!?

Tonight I am grateful for the time I spent with a dear friend this afternoon. In my family room. Talking. Laughing. Telling stories. Crying. Shaking our heads. We sat together and marveled at the foolishness, the pride, the deceit, the beauty, the strength, and the courage of the people we know - and also the people we wish we didn't know. Life is hard. Marriage is hard. Having children is hard. Being single is hard. Not having children is hard. I will say it again - life is hard. But we have each other. We lean on each other. We listen to each other. We love each other.

I am grateful for the challenges of parenting an 18 year old and a 20 year old. Their questions. Their orneriness. Their closed doors. Their refusal to just do what I say just because I say it. Their insistence that I listen to their point of view and their willingness to listen to mine. Their unwillingness to be treated disrespectfully and their willingness to admit when they have treated me disrespectfully. Let me be clear - I am even more grateful when they do what I ask just because I say so. I am even more grateful when they hug me and kiss me and speak to me with respect. I am more grateful when they cook and feed themselves and then clean up after themselves. I am even more grateful when they do their laundry and put their dishes in the dishwasher without being asked. These two people I gave birth to push me to want to drink heavily and scream loudly, but they also give me reason to laugh until my stomach hurts.

I am grateful for the difficult questions we ask and discuss at church. About poverty and peace. About wealth and suffering. About what it means to be a church in the heart of Charlotte, where there is so much homelessness, hunger, loneliness, sorrow, anger, fear, and also so much goodness, generosity, faith, hope, and the longing to touch one another's lives. I am grateful to be learning how to disagree and still be friends, still be a community of faith. I am grateful to be learning how to ask questions, how to not always offer answers, and how to work together to be people who are known for our love, our grace, our hospitality, our compassion, and our proclamation of the good news that Love wins.

I am grateful to be able to write and think and talk about the many ways that my heart has been broken in my lifetime by people who knew better but didn't do better. By people I trusted and loved and gave myself to. By pastors and teachers and family members and friends. By those I knew well and total strangers as well. Groped. Hit. Pushed. Laughed at. Embarrassed. Rejected. Beaten. Ignored. Taken advantage of. Ridiculed. Lied to. Lied about. I am grateful for the healing that comes when I write unsent letters to the perpetrators and talk about them out loud.

I am grateful for the many times that grace mercy, forgiveness, and compassion have been extended to me when I hit, pushed, embarrassed, rejected, took advantage of, ridiculed, ignored, lied and gossiped about, and wounded people I claimed to love. I am grateful to and for all the people who have accepted all of my apologies over the years.

I am grateful for the honor of listening to her story of the challenges of her marriage, the pain of watching his wife battle alcoholism, the challenges of her child's anxiety, wishing for children, longing to meet the love of her life, wishing he had never come along - I am grateful for the gift of their trust, for the gift of their friendship, for the gift of their time. Often I feel unworthy of all that I have been entrusted with so often by so many people. I am grateful that I can come alongside other hurting people and sit with them in their pain. I am grateful to be learning how to keep my mouth shut more, to just listen, to not jump in and tell my stories. As Kathy Escobar writes, that is very hard to do.

I am grateful for the book, Tattoos on the Heart. OMG - truly, Oh My God! It is a soul-stirring, mind-expanding, heart-rending account of one man's experiences working with gang members in Los Angeles. I read it in one day - and I need to read it again. I copied dozens of quotes from it into my journal.

Here are a few gems -

Where we stand, in all our mistakes and imperfections, is holy ground.

The no-matter-whatness of God dissolves the toxicity of shame and fills us with tender mercy.

Just assume the answer to every question is compassion.

Everyone is just looking to be told that who he or she is is right and true and wholly acceptable. No need to tinker and tweak. Exactly right. 

Everything on this side of death, however, is "requesting the honor of our presence" so we can delight in life's astonishing, joyful poetry. 

Robert Frost: How many things have to happen to you before something occurs to you?

Pema Chodron: You are the sky. Everything else, it's just weather.

Teilhard de Chardin: Trust in the slow work of God.

I am grateful tonight for the messiness, the mistakes, the imperfections that show us our need for compassion, tender mercy, and kindness. I am grateful for the increasing recognition that where we stand is holy ground - and all the ground between us is holy ground as well. I am grateful for how astonishingly beautifull and joyfull and hopefull life is - even in the face of illness, pain, loss, sorrow and death. I am grateful for the no-matter-whatness and slow work of God's love.

Grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful.

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