Thursday, April 16, 2015

Thankful Throwback Thursday

In some circles, today is also known as "Throw Back Thursday." On Facebook, many people post photos of themselves or their friends or family members from days, months, years, decades gone by. Today I posted this photo.
It is a photo of an image on the wall of my mother's home.
My college graduation portrait.
I knew so little then. So very little.
I was madly in love.
I longed to return to Spain.
I was about to begin life as an adult - but I was such a baby.
I look at the face of my 21 year old self 
and I thank God 
for protecting me from more foolish decisions 
than anyone ought to escape from unscathed.

These are my parents around the time of their wedding in 1956.
In the 1980s, their wedding album was stolen from their car in Manhattan.
My mother and I recently talked about how sad we still are about that loss.
We are convinced that the thieves discarded it once they saw what it was.
I'm glad she still has several photos of them from those early days.

Sitting at the piano in the sanctuary of the 
Sixth Avenue Baptist Church,
Brooklyn, New York. Circa 1973.
I am the youngest of four children and the only daughter.
Was I already daydreaming of escape?

A few years later in my parents' living room.
We had come a long way since that piano portrait.
I miss my father - so much.

I shouldn't even be alive. I should never have been conceived. Let me rephrase that - I could never have been conceived if my parents' plans hadn't been drastically altered. When my parents met each other, they were each already engaged to other people. 

But God...

My father had returned from World War II and settled in Brooklyn, New York. He attended Mount Pisgah Baptist Church where he sang in the choir. My mother was a student at Shaw University here in North Carolina and went to Brooklyn one summer to work and earn money to pay for college. She spent that summer living with one of her brothers - who was a member of Mount Pisgah Baptist Church. My mother joined the choir. Before long, their other engagements ended. They were married less than a year after they met. 

Three sons.
Then me.

My mother tells the story of being heavily sedated for my birth and upon awakening being told that she had a daughter. She says that her response was, "Doctor, you better not be kidding. I have waited a long time for a daughter." Well, there I was. 

I owe my mother a deep apology for being such a tomboy during my childhood. I wanted no part of ribbons or fancy dresses. I wanted to know why I couldn't wear pants all the time like my brothers. I remember telling her that God didn't care what I wore to church; she said that she did care. Why couldn't I play football and basketball and baseball with them all the time? I played with them a lot, for sure, but I wanted to be with them all the time. 

One day, in a vain attempt to keep up with them on a bike ride, I fell behind, and was pursued, overtaken, and bitten by a dog that had broken free from its chain. My rear right bumper - butt cheek - took the hit. Ouch. 

I owe her another apology for disobeying her direct instructions and running directly across the street from my cousin's house instead of walking to the corner and crossing at the light per her direct order. As my mother watched in horror from our front door, I was struck by a car. Ouch again. 

A concussion at Sunshine Acres - the summer camp I attended and worked at for years.
A fractured ankle during a basketball game when I was in tenth grade.
Suspended from school for (not) drinking a beer on a choir trip during my senior year in high school Full disclosure: It was the spring of 1983; the legal drinking age was 18. In the company of several other students at a restaurant in Georgetown, I ordered a beer, took one sip, hated it, and left it on the table. Unfortunately for us, the choir director and the other chaperones arrived at the same restaurant soon thereafter, saw our drinks, and very graciously/foolishly allowed us to finish our meal with the assurance that justice would be meted out later. But the choir director and the headmaster didn't care about the technicality of not drinking it. I was punished just like everyone else who got caught. I wonder if that incident is part of why I have never, ever liked beer. 
Anyway, I messed up. (Mom, I'm sorry for bringing dishonor to our family.)

Throwback Thursday.
Thrown back into memories of mistakes, accidents, bad choices, and bad behavior gone by.
Thrown back into memories of blessings, protection, and adventures gone by.

I look at photographs, journals, letters, postcards.
I look at notebooks filled with sermon notes, class notes, teaching notes.
I look at mementos, posters, artwork.
I look at scars, wrinkles, laugh lines.
And I remember the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
I remember falls and breaks, crutches and stitches.
I remember hugs and tears, kisses and farewells.
I remember safe landings and flat tires. 
I remember late nights with fevered children and early mornings with chemo chills.
I remember wedding parties and funeral processions.
I remember so many names, so many faces, so many stories.

On this thankful Thursday, my thankfulness goes all the way back to 1955,
when Otis and Eleanor linked eyes, hearts, and futures,
took a chance on each other, even after having committed themselves to two other people.
My thankfulness goes back to early 1965, when they chose to try one more time for a daughter.
My thankfulness goes back to the God who made all of this possible:
a man from South Carolina met a woman from North Carolina in a church in New York.
A man who loved God more than he loved himself or anyone else.
A woman who loves and follows hard after God to this day.

 Their love created space for our love 
and our love created space for these two amazing people

who have grown up to be two young adults that I now count among my best friends.

My thankfulness goes back and includes 
every step, every stumble, 
every laugh, every love,
every friend, every frustration, 
every trip, every treatment,
every book, every ballad,
every hymn, every hiccup,
every joy, every journey,
every prayer, every promise,
every sorrow, every secret,
every grace bestowed,
every pardon granted,
every day, every hour, every moment
that has brought me, carried me, welcomed me,
to this place, to this time, to this night.

Where and how far back does your thankfulness go back tonight?

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