Thursday, September 08, 2016

Thankful Thursday

Don't let my silence fool you.
Don't let my lack of Thankful Thursday posts fool you.
Gratitude overflows down here in Charlotte.

Flipping back through my journal tonight, I found things like this:

"I just ate a delicious peach. Lord, thank you for its delightful deliciousness."

"My son is leaving  for college tomorrow. Lord, in your mercy, please protect my beloved child. Your beloved child. In whom we are both very well pleased. Thank you for the gift that he is and has been for us. I will miss him, but I know this is good."

I described an encounter I had with a little girl at an outdoor children's science museum. She was probably five years old or so. She approached me and commented, "I like your earrings. Are you a mama?" I responded: "Thank you. Yes, I am a mama, but I don't have my children with me today." As I walked away with my friend and her son, I turned and bid her farewell. She turned to me with confusion on her face and set me straight by clarifying: "I'm not leaving." So sweet.

One of the highlights of this summer for me was watching the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Certainly there were many issues and problems and fears. Would there be proper facilities? Would the athletes be safe? Would there be terrible traffic issues? I kept thinking about all the years of hard work, the years of not having dessert, the hundreds of competitions and practices and tryouts, the miles traveled, the money spent. How did the equestrian competitors get their horses to Rio? I wondered about the athletes who trained for years in their chosen discipline, were sponsored by their families, friends, and countries, arrived in Rio and lost their first race. Truly they were "one and done." I thought about those had a false start in a racing event - and never got to even run their races. I watched athletes weep with joy and gratitude at the end of events. I watched others weep because of injuries. So much passion. So much courage. So much joy. So much wonder. I am grateful to have been a witness to it. I am grateful that there were no terrorist acts. I am even grateful for the Ryan Lochte foolishness because of all the conversations around white privilege that have come out of that series of idiotic events.

The man who won the 400 meter track and field race is from South Africa. That young man's mother was a world class athlete earlier in her life, but she was never permitted to represent the country internationally because she was (and is) a woman of color in a nation governed by the brutal and racist system of apartheid. Anyway, for those who are not familiar with track and field, the 400 meter race is one of the toughest. It is a full lap around the track, run at top speed. The longest sprint. One of the most painful races a track athlete can run. The athletes who compete in that race stay in their lanes the whole way around the track, so they have what's called a staggered start. They begin the race a yard or two away from each other. Lane 1 is the inside lane, the one closest to the infield, and the runner in lane one begins the race with all the other runners further ahead on the track. Lane 8 is the outside lane. The runner out there cannot see any of the other competitors when the race begins. The athletes placed in lanes 1 and 8 in a final heat are only rarely in contention to win the race.

For the first time in Olympic history, the winner of the 400 meter race was in lane 8. Not only did he win the race, but also he set a new world record. He ran the entire race without ever seeing any of his competitors on the track. He led the way from start to finish.

And that got me to thinking and wondering - how hard is it to keep going, to keep running as fast as you can, even when you don't know where the other guys are and whether they are catching up to you? How do you press on and do what you know you need to do, even when there is no one else to push you and keep you motivated? Where does that inner strength come from? I am grateful for the lessons and questions and hope and excitement the Olympic games brought to my life this summer.

I had the tremendous honor and responsibility of participating in the baptism of the daughter of a dear friend of mine. To stand with their family, to present her for baptism, to ask the congregation to commit themselves to teach her and walk with her and "strengthen her family ties with the household of faith" was one of the highlights of my summer, of my year. I love that little girl and her entire family. Her mother and I are soul-sister friends. I am grateful for my church family and for the deep friendships I have with people there. I am grateful for the welcome my family and I have received there and for the many opportunities to use my gifts, to teach, to preach, to ask questions, to listen, and to love these co-travelers on my faith journey.

Standing in my study recently, I pulled out a few journals, both my regular journals and my travel journals as well. Flipped through a few pages. Reread a few pages. Looked at stickers and ticket stubs and magazine clippings tucked between pages. I have met some fabulous people in my life. I have traveled to beautiful and devastated places. I have laughed and wept. I have been blessed going out and blessed coming in. For all of that, I am grateful. For the journals that record so much of it, I am grateful. For the bookshelves, the walls, the roof, the floor, for this home we have, I am grateful.

For life and breath, for hope and joy, for strong shoulders I can cry on, for my husband's ability to make me laugh, for my daughter's cooking, for my adorable little dog, for our new neighbors, for my ongoing friendship with the neighbors who moved away, for x-rays and band-aids, for my reliable car, for silence, for prayer, for the love of God, family, friends, for all of this, I am grateful.

Thanks be to God.

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