A Sober Thanksgiving

angelus

The blog below was written in 2013. Even five years later, there is much to be thankful for. Although this Thanksgiving is a somber one for me personally, and for our state due to the immeasurable trauma from the fires, there is some room for thanksgiving.

November 2013

Wow, Halloween came and went. October came and went. What a whisking whirlwind the beginning of fall was. I was driving up Skyline Drive just two nights ago….early November…and I saw a Christmas tree in someone’s window.  Whaaat?? Already. There is a special holiday that sometimes gets drowned between the ghosts and goblins, and the tinsel and trees. My mom is saddened that Thanksgiving is overlooked. Well, this next column is dedicated to the sentiment, the emotion, which has its own holiday, a sentiment that I hope my children cultivate, and an emotion that Henry Ward Beecher so delightfully expresses:

“The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!”

I’ve strove to be grateful and appreciate all that has come my way. I know I take much for granted, but there is much for which I am deeply and truly grateful. Here are a few things.

Over five years ago, I had to go on assistance. This was a hard decision to make and I had to swallow a lot of pride, but it was necessary for me and my family. Actually, I should have done it much sooner. I want to say thank you to the taxpayers who support this government that provides this service to those who are in need.  I am slowly weaning myself off assistance and am glad to be working and paying taxes to replenish at least a fraction of what I used. Nonetheless, I am thankful to have had this resource available, and I thank the community for supporting this program.

I am thankful for the many friends I have in my life. To those who have given me emotional and prayer support as I raise these kids on my own, I thank you. My Facebook friends have encouraged me in my writing. Thank you. I am thankful to my family and all the help they have given me. And, of course, my ten children and one son-in-law. In countless ways, great and small, they bless me, they love me, they honor me and they are my greatest gifts.

Finally, and supremely, I am grateful to the God who is. I am grateful for his creation that I thoroughly enjoy. In Pacifica, we are beyond spoiled with natural beauty. The ocean with her perpetual pounding, peridot-colored waves is but an earthly example of an eternal entity. I am grateful to a church that has been entrusted with the Gospel, the good news, and its noble and transcendent themes: redemption, reconciliation, eternal life and love. All I can do is echo the psalmist’s declaration: “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Even in my trials and afflictions, I can be thankful, I stumbled on this verse from Psalm 119 during a dark time of my life: “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn your statutes.” (v. 71) As difficult as it was to be thankful for the trials in my life, I have learned that those times have yielded the precious fruit of patience, trust and an increased faith.

I hope my children learn to be grateful and be thankful for all the benefits, as well as the difficulties, that come their way each day.

“For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

My Cup Runneth Over…

abundance--my-cup-runneth-over-sandy-tracey

Abundance – My Cup Runneth Over by Sandy Tracey

https://fineartamerica.com/featured/abundance–my-cup-runneth-over-sandy-tracey.html

Well, today is my birthday. Here I am on the cusp of 60. One of my first columns the Pacifica Tribune ran was titled “You’ll Never Be This Young Again”. It was a little reflection upon my imminent fifties. Like that column, this blog is a reflection as I now approach the big 6-0. I woke up early this morning, had a weird dream and couldn’t go back to sleep. Maybe I was excited like when one gets on the night before the first day of school or Christmas Eve or one’s birthday, if you will. 🙂 So with some extra time this morning, I remembered the story of the children of Israel creating a mound of stones as a remembrance of crossing the Jordan River, and I thought I would spend this time remembering and thanking God for the many, many blessings I’ve received these past six decades. Before long, my cup was running over….

The first thing to come to mind was thanking God for my friend, Mary, who invited me to the church where I came to a personal, living knowledge of Jesus Christ.  My whole life’s trajectory changed with that decision. I thanked Him for our church’s drama team, my excursion to Belgium in 1983, my short time at St. Mary’s and my graduation which was a present to my father. I thanked Him for Erma Bombeck whose writing I try to emulate, and my godfather, Phil O’Connor, who inspired and encouraged me to do so. I thanked Him for my ex-husband, and the kids we had together.

I thanked Him for them, and how their lives have enriched, energized and established me. Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:15 that women are saved through childbearing – really, Paul, how medieval – but for me, child rearing has indeed saved me. Saved me from myself and taught me to REALLY love someone else. They have taught me perseverance. I have had to keep at it. And for this dyed-in-the-fur hare, it has been my “salvation” and the means of transforming me into a semi-tortoise, and enabling me to begin to produce something meaningful in my life.

I thanked Him for my job. I’ve never held a job this long. I am amazed. I’ve learned so much, and have had the pleasure to work with some great people.

I thanked Him for my family. For my sister, Linda, who with Mike, got up in the middle of the night many years ago to bring Ricky to the hospital after he and James were jumped. Linda who helped extract me from the dangerous living conditions we were in, and who also listened endlessly as I vented about my problems. I thanked Him for my parents who have always helped me when I needed it. They housed me and my kids for almost ten years. I thanked Him for the sweet Christian school that miraculously took in my six shy little kids and prepared them for a traditional classroom environment, sowing the seeds of their academic success, and for the family member who namelessly, quietly, and generously paid for their first year there.

These are a few of the wonderful things God has done for me. I also thanked Him for the hard times. All the things above have shadows to them. My church was not perfect. My marriage ended. My children are human. My family has its own dynamic. There’s been work drama. There have been many bad times, many hard times. David said in one of his psalms, “It is good that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes…”. And I agree with him. I’ve learned much from my dark times.

But, God causes all things to work for the good, for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose: the tough times, the tender, the trivial, the triumphant and, yes, even, the tragic times. Death, in all its forms, can give birth to sobriety which gives birth to hope which gives birth to faith which gives birth to…..the impossible.

So, as I look upon another decade, Lord willing, I am excited to finish my extended course in motherhood – (legally, of course, because we all know it NEVER ends) – and to see what new things God has in store for me. And I thank Him for all of you who read my blogs and continue to encourage me in my writing.

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”    – John 10:10

 

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At Least There was Milk in the Fridge

milk

Often, I would have one of those excruciatingly painful conversations with one of my offspring when they highlight my failures as a parent. I never cared. I never listened. I never did anything for them. Well, I respond with, “at least there was milk in the fridge.”

Yeah, we had some tough times. Yeah, the kids went without a lot of things. Yeah, we had our share of drama. But I did what I could. I am certainly not perfect, evidently short-sighted and obviously not too good with money or birth control.

It’s funny what my kids remember. Some remember raising all the kids. Some remember never getting attention, some remember getting too much attention, some remember things I would like to forget. Some, though, remember a happy childhood, things weren’t so bad. Any painful memory my kids tell me makes me feel like crap, of course. We try so hard to shield our kids from the reality of pain and hurt in this world, but it’s futile. And it’s worse when that stuff comes from someone who’s supposed to be one of your biggest cheerleaders. And I feel bad when my kids say I wasn’t there for them. I tried, I don’t know where else I was, besides maybe in a nearby corner with a book.  At least there was milk in the fridge.

It wasn’t all bad. There were times when we had more than enough. More than enough room, clothes and food. We don’t remember those days so much. It is easier to remember what hurt because it still hurts. Yes, there were bad days, and the worst, only a few, when there was no milk. If I didn’t have milk, there were no bottles, no pancakes, no cereal, no homemade bread. Just beans and tortillas. We always had beans. And Ricky did make delectable butter tortillas. LOL. But I know for a fact there were only about five days when there was no milk, what I mean was there was no money for milk. No milk money. During this hard, hard time, God providentially supplied our milk needs. The pastor’s wife worked for OUSD, and would often bring crates of surplus little milk containers, she kindly gave them to me. That held us over for a while.

Five days in 30 years, not too bad. I also tried to provide a different kind of milk. I tried to be kind. I tried to teach kindness. The milk of human kindness has all sorts of nutrients. I hope they got some of that nourishment.

I’m loving those “humankindness” commercials, the one with the pony and the other with the little fella trying to blow out his first year’s candle. That’s what I wanted to provide in addition to all the things the kids needed physically. Kindness is a quality that only compounds with its usage. Once it is firmly rooted in one’s heart, it only needs exercise to grow.

Kindness is balm for the soul. “A soft answer turns away wrath.” It is powerful. William Wordsworth said, “The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.” I guess we don’t remember those times. I need to do better.

I am going to try to underscore those things, the kindnesses given to me. I will always remember the sweet texts my sons have sent me off the cuff. I’ll remember when my girls cleaned up without asking. I’ll remember when my friend gave me and my kids boxes of things we needed. I’ll remember when family paid for my kids’ schooling, housed us, helped in emergencies, all without complaint. When I remember these kindnesses, my heart is soothed. I guess it takes awhile to not only practice kindness, but also to remember those gifts we’ve received.

“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”
~William Shakespeare,
Merchant of Venice (Willie Wonka)