For All These Things, We Give Thee THANKS!

It is SUPER early on Thanksgiving morning.  I’ve actually been awake since 3:00 am (thank you, puppy), and have since scrolled through Facebook, sent some work emails and messages (I know, shame on me), and have read through a Litany of Thanksgiving.

In the Episcopal (or Anglican, depending on which continent you live) Church, worship services are dictated by rubrics and pre-written prayers and responses.  I grew up in what was considered a “progressive, spontaneous” denomination, and for the most part, prayers were personally developed and not prescribed.  As a middle-aged gal, although sometimes the structure of the liturgy can be boring, it also provides a centering point, being that the worship service is not about me.  Those pre-written prayers have often forced me to consider things and contemplate God in a way I wouldn’t on my own.

So here it is, the Litany of Thanksgiving…with my own little touches here and there (because progressive and spontaneous, right?):

Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so
freely bestowed upon us.

Every good and perfect gift comes to us from the Father of lights…have you ever considered just how gracious God has been with you, for all the amazing and sustaining gifts and blessings He’s bestowed?  I’ve been participating in the 30 Days of Gratitude challenge on Facebook, which has so powerfully helped me to acknowledge just how good my Heavenly Father has been to me – from the simple things like a new puppy to a fantastic house in which to live to meaningful work…all comes from His hand.

For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and
sky and sea.
We thank you, Lord.

The last few days in Baker have been amazingly warm and temperate for this time of year…what we thought would be an early onset winter, complete with ice and snow and plows and chains, has turned out to be a lovely fall.  I have so enjoyed not totally bundling up every day, and not freezing all day long.  But even when the days turn frigid and I long for the warmth of spring, I have to remember that God set in motion the seasons, gave us day and night, seeded the earth with all forms of beautiful and often entertaining life (just watch my pets in action!), and called it all good.

For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women,
revealing the image of Christ,
We thank you, Lord.

“I see Jesus in you, I see Jesus in you; in your eyes, and all that you do, I see Jesus in you.”  I have so many dear ones in my life about whom I can sing that…too long to list…how about you?  When was the last time you looked at your spouse/sibling/parent/friend and recognized the light and image of Christ in them?

For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and
our friends,
We thank you, Lord.

Today I’m not preparing a huge Thanksgiving meal, for which I am utterly grateful; we are blessed to be able to go out and pay someone else to feed us.  As I write this, I’m sitting in a gorgeous old home that I love, knowing that my husband is upstairs (wondering why on earth his wife is not in bed with him – he’s not much for insomnia). I have a list of friends and family to whom I will send a “Happy Thanksgiving” message to in just a few minutes, people that I know I can turn to in times of joy and sorrow, people that surround me with love and prayer and share my laughter and my tears.  But I have to think, too, of those who don’t share that experience – I should never, never, NEVER whine – about anything; I am far too blessed.

For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve,
We thank you, Lord.

Does it ever strike you funny that God entrusts His work to us?  That He has placed within our minds the capability to plan and create and implement; places us in networks of people who rely on us for not only physical, but emotional and spiritual support; and opens doors of opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World?  “You’re the only Jesus some will ever see, you’re the only words of life some will ever read” (The Imperials).  What an amazing amount of trust we have been given…

For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play,
We thank you, Lord.

I get up every morning, before the the sun, on work days and days off, and start a long list of to-dos.  Some are enjoyable, some are tedious.  Regardless, I rarely have to take a sick day and I am still, even in middle-age, amazingly strong and capable.  It is a wonder, and I am so thankful.

For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering
and faithful in adversity,
We thank you, Lord.

At the same time, so many go through their days with difficulty.  I used to work in Child Welfare – talk about patient in suffering.  First responders, social workers, medical personnel, our military…day in and day out of YUCK.  Yet we wouldn’t have a functional society without their dedication.  I think I’m going to go hug my veteran…

 
For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice,
We thank you, Lord.

I hope we’re all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice.  Today, take a few moments to think about how you can promote these things in your own little corner of the world.  And thank your spiritual leader(s) the next time you see him/her/them.  It’s sometimes quite exhausting to search the Scriptures and exhort the flock of Christ to better things…
For the communion of saints, in all times and places,
We thank you, Lord.

The communion of saints – living and dead.  I am surrounded by saints on earth and know that those who have gone before continue to surround me with prayer and encouragement, encircling me with a cloud of witness that strengthens me to run my earthly race.

 
Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and
promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord;

My husband – God bless him! – often gets on my for not giving him time to answer the question I just asked before asking another one, or completing the task I requested before hounding him about it (I really am quite the nag when left unchecked). Just the other day I was reading in Lamentations, written by Jeremiah, “the weeping prophet.”  In the middle of all that doom and gloom, I came across this:  “It is good that a man (or woman, or child, or anyone) should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:26).  That really convicted me – I am so unwilling to “hope and quietly wait” for Jesus to fulfill His promises – I want everything RIGHT. NOW.  So I made my own little covenant, in that moment:

Lamentations

(If you don’t keep a Scripture and devotional journal…try visiting The Holy Mess for some great ideas and even a free kit!  It’s not what I use, but Sara has some great tools for making your studies exciting and personally relevant!)

To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and the
Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

AMEN!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Turning the Heart – A Mother’s Day Reflection


It’s that time of year again…that time when mothers are celebrated and gushed over and sent flowers and chocolates and cards and Facebook GIFs and, if they’re lucky, get breakfast in bed and have the house cleaned for them by someone else.

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I generally don’t get any of those; I am one of the non-traditional, alternative-type mothers: step- of three…

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Three awesome stepchildren and their spouses and the grandkiddos they’ve brought into the world…how we got all of us in a selfie I just don’t know…

…adoptive- of one (who was a senior in high school when he joined our family)…

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Who knew that, when he moved here from Thailand at age 4, that our lives were bound to collide?  Apparently we have the same eyes…

…and foster, for a brief time, to my nephew.

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Foster parenting: the hardest thing in the world.  My heart was never the same.

I haven’t birthed any babies; in fact, if I had to accurately describe myself, it would be like, “I’m not really the ‘mom’ type”. Not that I don’t nurture and love and get all gooey over babies and children…I just prefer that said babies and children belong to someone else.  I actually love kids! It possibly explains my draw to helping children in other ways; I’ve been a youth pastor and a social worker, and am still in contact with many of my former church and foster youth.  Now I’m a teacher.  No one can tell me that teaching isn’t a maternal sort of vocation…

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Teacher Appreciation Week 2017

And I’m a granny now, too…I see my my grandkids, who live about 2 hours away, a few times a year, and that’s pretty sufficient to get my quota of hugs and kisses and then they go home and I have my house back.  It works.

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I’m definitely a C&E (Christmas and Easter) grandparent…love those holidays!

Now, with that lengthy introduction, I have to say that this post is NOT about why I’m as much of a mother as any other mother; I resolved that issue years ago and am quite comfortable with how my journey has turned out.  I don’t get weepy on Mother’s Day and wish for cards and chocolates and breakfast in bed.

This post is about this daughter and her mother.

My mom and I have struggled over the years.  Really struggled.  I come from a long line of abuse; not intentional abuse, but abuse that happens when people get damaged, and thus marry damaged people, and thus create damaged people.  I was very damaged growing up, and we didn’t talk about it.  Talking about it might incur blame on someone, and there’s no way anyone was healthy enough to accept responsibility for the dysfunction enough to make conscious changes.

That damage leaked into my own marriage and my own attempts at parenting (already challenged by the step- issue).

That damage has impacted and shaped every decision and every turn I have made in my life.

That damage has caused, among other things, a long personal history of never really feeling connected to anyone or anything, a feeling of being rather “tribeless”.  As a kid, I never felt like I belonged in my family.  Holiday meals where my mom and her sisters and my grandparents and all the cousins gathered? I dreaded them, and tried really hard to hide in a corner with a book.

I left my hometown when I was 20 and didn’t look back.  I’ve been back to Yakima, Washington, enough times to count on one hand since then.

I don’t have close sibling relationships.  I haven’t seen my brother in 11 years.  I hadn’t seen my sister in 8 years; we did, finally, meet for lunch last year.  And contact with my mother has been rare and occasional since 2006.

I chat with one cousin, occasionally, on Facebook.

I’ve struggled with that lack of connection with my husband and his family; the fact that I’ve remained married for nearly 20 years is absolutely miraculous; it must be a God thing.

About a year-and-a-half ago, as I was undergoing intense spiritual work, I felt a deep urging, though, to make peace with my mother.  To my clinically trained mind, that meant arranging long, therapeutic conversations about wrongs experienced, boundaries being laid out, and forcing the revisiting of things long past.  It made sense to me; one can’t forgive unless the offending party admits guilt, right?  And I felt there were so many things that needed to be redressed.

I had the opportunity to go to Portland for a conference last summer.  My mom drove 5 hours just to have lunch with me.  As I was driving to the restaurant, I started rehearsing everything I was going to say, and my anxiety grew and grew and grew.  Then, right before I got out of the car, the Holy Spirit spoke, loud and clear:

“Just LOVE her.”

That was the first time I’d seen my mom in several years, and I nearly cried when we met.  I was nervous, and felt awkward, but I started seeing her through new eyes that day.

June 2016
First mother-daughter pic in many, many years…in fact, I don’t have any others.

This was a woman who had survived – a lot.  My dad was mentally ill and terribly unstable; she kept their marriage together until he died and functioned very much like a single parent, before and after his death.

This was a woman who had sacrificed – a lot.  One example: for five years she squirreled away grocery money so that she could finally buy me a piano when I was 14.  That gift changed my life and really set me on my path towards discovering my purpose.

This was the woman who had successfully brought me, and two others, into this world, and had done her very best to guide us into adulthood.

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June 1987 – my high school graduation trip to Disneyland.  Mom, Ron, Beth, and me.

This was the woman who introduced me to my Heavenly Father, and who taught me from before birth to love His Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ, and to follow Him no matter what.  When I was away at summer camp, and after I left home, her letters to me always ended with, “Remember who you are, and whose you are.”

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Major Glenda Berko – a lifetime Salvationist (member of The Salvation Army).  I miss bedtime devotions with her.

As I looked through that new lens, all the wrongs – wrongs not imagined, wrongs very much real and visited multiple times in multiple therapy sessions – suddenly became not so important.  And that burden, the burden of finding my own sense of justice – fell off my shoulders.  Forgiveness happened.  I haven’t picked up that burden again, but keep working towards increased peacemaking and relationship-building; not just with Mom, but with my brother and sister.

But even so, connection with my family has been difficult.  The feeling of being on the outside, looking in, has remained so very strong.

Over the last year, I’ve spent many hours on Ancestry.com, researching my lineage.  Sent my DNA off to be analyzed and everything.

DNA
It’s amazing what stories can be told by a vial full of spit!

I started with my father’s side; I always felt more like a “Berko” than an “Ozanne”, so it was a natural place to start.  I had a great time seeing pictures of relatives of whom I’d heard brief mentions growing up, and seeing pictures of the grandmothers whose resemblance I bear.  Lithuanian (not Hungarian, like I’d thought) women are beautiful.

I went as back as far as I could.  The records stopped in the late 19th century, probably due to the Jewish pogroms in Eastern Europe.  I’d figured as much.

Then it was time to do my mom’s side.

I waited.

Then I dove in…

…so far, I’ve made it clear back to 1801, to the Channel Islands between England and France.  I don’t know any of the people that I’m finding…but they’re my people.  One entry discussed my mother’s maiden name; the very surname Ozanne, given in the 15th century, from the Hebrew word, “Hosanna”, denotes a family history of being Christ-followers.

More recently?  Quakers.  I come from a lineage of people who took a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ very seriously.

The more I discovered, the more names that kept popping up, names and dates and births and marriages and migrations…the more I felt that sense of connection, of history, of belonging.  These are my people, and I love them. I can’t wait to keep searching.

And as that sense of connection grew, my heart – so separated from and often cold towards my mother’s family – has started to warm, and I have realized that my mom, her mom, her grandmother and great-grandmother (and the paternal side, too, but this is about Mother’s Day), are part of a story that is so much greater than any one of us.  A story so great that it makes miniscule the imperfections and slights that have plagued my own life.

For the first time in my life, not even knowing the particulars of that story, I feel proud to be part of it.

This is a work of God.

Malachi 4:6 says:

“…and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers…”

The heart of this daughter has been turned back to her mother.

It is prelude of greater things to come, a magnificent healing in our family.  I know it.

Thanks be to God.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

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My mom.  Glenda Jean Ozanne Berko, from a long line of strong, persevering women of faith.