Giving my thanks…

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This post has been brewing in my subconscious…and in my heart for the last several days. I kept getting nudges about it…when I was driving…before I went to bed…whenever I let myself be quiet. For me…these are nudges from God. I believe that is how God speaks to me.  I also believe this is why it is so important we work to find time to be quiet, hard as that may be…but…all that is perhaps for another post.

I knew I had to write this when I was sitting in church on Sunday. We had a guest pastor. I was especially engaged because of this (good or bad as that may be). His talk addressed the issue of “family splatters”. You know…those messy family moments when you aren’t sure if you should be pissed-off or heartbroken…or both. I heard him say, “Don’t ever allow THINGS to get in the way. I have heard it and seen it time and time again. When our time comes to an end, people are never concerned with the things. They are focused on the people.” This idea isn’t anything new or mind shattering, but when the right information finds you at the right time, the impact can be eye opening…soul opening.

Often, when we think about “things” we focus on material objects. I think this is short sighted. The label applies to much more than what can be bought or sold. The “things” are sometimes events, mistakes, or major blunders…regrets.  If you are lucky enough to live long enough and have meaningful loving relationships, you will inevitably, at some point, experience one of these “things”.

You know what I’m talking about…that moment when your heart is ripped from your chest. The hollow feeling that resides echoes with an ache you know will never be quite whole again. Maybe it was something you did to someone and the shame is insurmountable…maybe it was something done to you and the broken trust is beyond repair.

This “thing” is so painful you believe your only options are to build a wall around the hole and defend it so you are never venerable again, or to patch up the hole and make the cover-up look so perfect no one will ever know there was a hole there to begin with. Getting past these kinds of “things”…truly healing from such injuries…such holes…is infinitely harder than getting beyond the material objects. At least, it has been for me.

When I was growing up, I was a Grade-A be-itch to my younger brother.  Oh, we had our moments when we would play play-dough for hours, or ride big wheels in the driveway until the sun went down, but when we grew a little older it was harder and harder for him to be cool enough for his “big” sister. He loves to tell the story about how I would drop him off blocks from his junior high school building and make him walk the rest of the way so I wouldn’t be late for my first period class at my high school. I never told him I loved him. If anything, I told him I hated his guts.

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I’m probably pinching him in this picture.

I did love him, of course. I know because he was threatened once in junior high…bullied. The anger that built up in me…the desire to pummel anyone that was picking on MY little brother was proof of my secret affection. Still, telling him I cared about him…loved him…would have been far too touchy-feely for this “tough” older sister. No, I was tight lipped and quick quipped.

When I was 15, I was the cause of a terrible car accident. There were many tragic side effects of my mistake. I could write a dissertation on how this thirty-five second “splatter” changed the course of multiple lives. Many holes were made.

For the purpose of this post, I will say that my younger brother was in the back seat. I was the driver. After withstanding the car rolling three-and-a-half times, his little twelve-year old body was suspended in the air, hanging from the seatbelt that held him tight…terrified. He was alive and he didn’t sustain any long-term physical injuries, but that snapshot of time changed the course of the rest of his life. It changed all of my family’s lives.

I won’t say that one moment directly lead to the result of any other, but I can tell you that as an adult, and at the culmination of many factors, the trauma of the wreck included, my brother developed an addiction to prescription pain medication.

If you aren’t sure if you love someone or not…watch him/her voluntarily kill themselves over the course of long slow months or years while they still have immeasurable life left…you will know. The yearning desperate desire for them to just be “better” is a persistent reminder of just how much you love them.

Mutual love and mutual angst about my brother’s condition brought my whole family together. It also tore us apart…even more so than the result of the car accident and the death and destruction it created.

I can’t speak to what the experience was like for anyone else. I can only tell you what it was like for me.

It was that moment…that place when you aren’t sure if the hurt is worth it. In an effort of self-preservation…you make the choice to cut off the tie. Much like the survival of an animal trapped, you sever your own limb, believing that in freeing your remaining body from the snare you will be able to save your greater self.

Sometimes that is all that can be done.

But, this isn’t one of those stories. This is one of my favorite kind…the happy ending kind.

Against the odds, and with the never wavering love of our parents, my brother came back to us. I cannot begin to explain the pride I feel for what he has accomplished. What he has done…in the coming back…he has done what so many are not able to do. He is a recovering addict.

His sobriety, and what that has meant for my family in the past twelve months is what I am most thankful for this year.

I have seen the Facebook posts…the “thankful” exercises that many partake in the month of November. They make me think…I have many things to be thankful for. I am blessed. I don’t say that in the sake of vanity or arrogance…it is true…honestly, most of us are blessed.

This year I realize that not only am I blessed by God’s grace in His providing for my life…I am the recipient of answered prayers…very specific prayers. I am the recipient of forgiveness for my own “family splatters”…those I have created and those I have been witness to.

Additionally, my brother who I berated, took for granted, loathed…and love…is here. He is alive…he is in my life…he makes me laugh and brings me joy.

I thank God for him and I thank him for showing me God in this life…whether he realizes it or not.

It is my hope this Thanksgiving, all whom I know and love are able to celebrate with family (blood-related or not), that you are kept in thoughts and prayers, that your own prayers might be answered, and that you have many thanks to give. I know I do.

God often speaks to me through music. The song, Ghosts That We Knew by Mumford and Sons reminds me of what we can be in moments of “family splatter”. If we believe it…we will be alright.