November 26, 2014

Giving Thanks Today

It is the day before Thanksgiving and I am sitting alone in my room working at my computer. It seems like I am always working at the computer (so goes the life of the college student). Today is a beautiful day in Phoenix. The temperature is right around 70 with the forecast saying that warmer days are coming through the weekend (highs in the low 80s through Sunday).

It is always a bit weird to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas in the desert. It does get cold here, but our daytime highs top out in the mid-high 60s usually so it doesn't really feel like fall or winter. I do miss the cool and crisp fall days. I remember how it felt to have a fire going to keep the chill in the air -- outside. I know folks who live in northern climates would switch places with me since most of the East coast is bracing for heavy snow fall today through the weekend. Still, there is something wonderful about the change of seasons, and I do miss the cool fall days and wet winter months.

As I sit here, I think back to my childhood growing up in the East and Midwest. I have many happy memories of those days (not all, but many). I remember play days most and I have very fond memories of Christmas shopping with my Mom -- especially when it was snowing. I can remember all the days when we would head to the grocery store or the mall. Those Christmas memories stick with me most. I think it is because I love snow, and I remember seeing all the twinkling lights flickering through the snowfall. I also love Christmas music, and my Mom always put Christmas music on for us to listen to while we were at home. I can remember shopping at K-Mart one very snowy Christmas and hearing Johnny Mathis on the loud speaker. I don't recall what he was singing, but it was a traditional Christmas song. It is weird how some memories just stick on your mind like that, how they come back to your memory so clearly.

Just yesterday, Mom and I were out shopping, and I had one of those Deja Vu moments. In truth, it was a recalled memory that was stimulated by touch. You know how that works -- it happens when you touch something, smell something or hear something and your brain triggers the recalled memory. Often memories are associated with our senses so that we can recall them faster or in more ways then to think just about the context of the memory. So back to my recalled memory...I was with my Mom at JCPenny's and I touched this sweater that was hanging on the rack. It was navy blue and it had little flecks of other colored yarns twisted in it. It reminded me of the kind of sweater I would have worn when I was in high school. So as I touched the sweater, I was thinking about my high school days in IL. Sweaters were the mainstay of our fall and winter months and I still love to wear them (I don't get much chance here in AZ). The memory that came flooding back to me was of a time when I was 12 or 13. I was shopping with my Mom in IL at our local mall, Lincoln Mall. We were in Carson Pirie Scott and we were school shopping. In a flash, I was touching a sweater there in the store.

It is weird how that happens but the memory that came back was sweet. I stood there thinking about  how many times over the years I have gone shopping with my Mom. Mom is 81 now. I think we have shopped together for almost 40 years. We still enjoy shopping now, and we go often (even though Mom is not able to do as much walking as she once did.) Anyway, it was a nice memory and I enjoyed thinking about my life then and now and all that has transpired in the moments in between those years.

I am feeling wistful today because I sent my son off with my ex-husband this morning. They are driving to Kansas City to see my in-laws. It was so weird to see him out the door on a trip that didn't include me (not that I wanted to go, just that in years prior, we would have made that trip as a family). I am happy my son is getting to go see his grandparents, and I am happy that he will have some time to spend with his dad. It was just such a weird feeling to see him off in that way.

I think a lot of it has to do with where I am in my life right now. My son is 21 and is practically grown up. He still comes to me for help, for needs, and for advice. I am thankful for those small mercies. I hope that he will always feel that he can talk with me or that he will want to spend time with me. I hope that is the case, I really do.

Experts talk about the empty-nest syndrome and for many parents, seeing their children go out on their own is difficult and sometimes is depressing. I am not really that way, at the least, I don't think so. I am very excited to see what the Lord is doing in my son's life. There is so much going on and there are amazing opportunities, doors really, opening up for him. I see God's hand on his life, and it is such a good, a welcomed thing. Yet, no matter how happy I am to see these doors open, there is a part of me that is scared of being alone, all alone. I think I feel this way because right now I am in between two generations of people I love and I see their lives changing. My son is 21 and my parents are 81. On the one end of the spectrum, my son has his whole life ahead of him and there is great possibility sitting there for him. On the other end of the spectrum, my parents are failing in health, and I see the end drawing near. I see myself in between both of these events and I think about how alone I will be when my parents pass away and my son moves out on his own.

Some people welcome that alone-ness, they like it, and they long for it. I can say that for a short while after my separation, I was glad to be alone. I liked having the freedom to call the shots, to go wherever I wanted, and to do whatever I wanted to do. I bought groceries for the first time and I didn't have to buy what my husband liked. I spent money as I wanted, and I enjoyed the quiet of a house that was setup the way I liked it. There were many positives in those early days. There were many times when I was glad to be set free from the trials, the turmoil, the trauma of my former life. I say that now with full understanding that what I was glad about was being able to walk away from the drama (and oh, was my life filled with drama -- day in and day out!)

When you live with constant drama in your life, there comes a time when you pray the curtain will just reign down and force the action off the stage (if you get  my drift). I spent nearly 28 years (at the time of our separation, we had been married 26 years) living with the highs and lows of a very demanding extended family. This coupled with the years of financial struggle (constant) and legal issues, my life was always about something or someone else. It was never about me (not that I am selfish, I just mean it was never about what I wanted, which was a home filled with peace and quiet, solitude, normalcy, and simple living).

Now that I am on the backside of all of that emotion, I am looking forward and what I see scares me a little bit. Yes, I am secure in the Lord, and I love Him with my whole heart, but I can say that there is part of me that sees that very soon I will be all alone. I will have my PhD, my teaching career, but no family. My brothers are connected to me through my parents, so when they pass away, I doubt seriously that they will visit me the way they visit with our parents (and vice-versa). My son may end up in Iceland for all I know and I will be living on my own. I am not afraid in the sense of being provided for or having enough money to retire, etc. I know the Lord will provide that for me. It is more that while I have friends, none are what I would call close to me. I keep in touch via Facebook and email, but I don't have "people" I hang out with or with whom I could share my life. I think it is more than the sharing of life because what I miss most is family. Friends, colleagues and peers are great, and the family of God, well they are swell too. But, there is nothing like family and like a home. I think I will miss having a home.

I know -- I am being maudilin. Oh, Carol, get a grip on yourself...

I can remember the first Thanksgiving I spent after I was separated. I had moved into my own place, and I was very happy to be out of the home I shared with my husband. Our house was going into foreclosure after the 1st of the year so moving out was a necessity. I was happy with the place, I loved that it was so clean and new, and I loved decorating it and making it look nice. I can remember sitting at my computer on Thanksgiving day and reading through Facebook posts. I was reading all the "Happy Thanksgiving" posts when I saw a family picture flash across my feed. It was from my niece and she had posted it of her family (my brother's family). It was a great picture of the family (they are all so photogenic) laughing and having a good time. My brother has four grown children, and here they all were hanging out together. I can remember the feeling of jealously run through me. I love my brother and his family, don't get me wrong, and I love every single one of my nieces and nephews, but here they all were together and something just snapped in me. I broke down and cried. I mean I cried huge sobs over the fact that my brother had an intact family and I was sitting home alone (my son was still asleep) with my family torn apart. It was so heart wrenching for me to come to terms with that fact, that my life was forever altered because of certain choices. I was facing the future alone (with the Lord at my side, of course), and I was doing the hard work, you know, I was doing the necessary work of making a living, keeping on keeping on. It just didn't seem fair, it just didn't seem right. That was three years ago and I am far from those feelings now, though at times, I still feel a great sense of loss over my family breaking apart. I have accepted the fact that things are the way they are and I have moved on, but still there is always this feeling of loss.

Today as I consider what my future looks like I do see great hope on the horizon. I see the possibilities of an open ended future, a new chapter just beginning and a new ending to be written. The Lord is moving behind the scenes to create for me a life of His choosing. I am open to what He has in mind for me, to go wherever He intends for me to go. I feel so strongly that the plans He has for my life are good, so very good. I am learning to lean on Him and to trust Him even when the path forward seems unclear at times. I am resting in His sufficiency and I am looking up and waiting on Him rather than staring down at my feet and my empty hands. The Lord knows the plans He has for me. The Lord knows my days and my weeks, and He knows my end.

I give thanks to the Lord today for His goodness. I give thanks to the Lord for His blessing and mercy. I give thanks to the Lord for the people He has brought into my life recently, to the good friends and companions He has chosen for me to love. I give thanks to the Lord for His provision of good work, a good home, and a good future. He has everything under His control and I rest in the knowledge that He is able to do all things according to His will in Christ Jesus. I rest today, and I give Him thanks.

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