I didn’t want to be there. Yes, I loved my mom but my step father….
It was my junior year in college. I had spent the last two Thanksgivings at my dad’s in Fresno. Now Dad had moved to Southern California and Mom had moved back from Virginia to San Bruno, just an hour north of me.
I had to go.
To be honest, I remember almost nothing of that holiday. I don’t even remember if any of my siblings made it there.
The food was good. The conversation polite if strained. I declined the invitation to spend the night. My little quiet room in Mount Hermon was far more appealing.
Life almost 40 years later is different. I cherish the time with family. I may not see eye to eye with them on everything, but our love for each other far outweighs any differences in opinion. I want to be with them as much as I can.
Did I handle that Thanksgiving of 1984 correctly? I don’t know. I know the fact that I spent so little time there hurt my mom, but she knew that she wasn’t the reason I kept the visit brief.
I did manage to avoid arguing with my stepdad. But that was more because I knew I couldn’t win any arguments with him. That man was more stubborn than, well, than even me. And that’s saying something.
So why would I share this story of my dysfunctional family Thanksgiving? There’s a couple of reasons.
First, if your family is full of love, peace, and forgiveness, be sure to give an extra round of thanks to God and to your family. (Thanks Fam!)
Second, if your family is dysfunctional, you’re not alone! I would urge you to come to your family get-togethers with as much love and patience and forgiveness as you can muster with God’s help. Love heals, though it may take time.
If your family is at a point where getting together is not an option, I urge you to get together with someone. I heard earlier this week of a couple that just moved to a neighborhood from another country. They posted on Next Door that they would like to share Thanksgiving with a local family if anyone would open their home to them. They got over 200 invitations!
So, if you are alone this Thanksgiving, reach out to those around you. If you make the effort, you may just find the true meaning of family love.
Feel free to share in the comments on the social media posts for this blog if you need a place to celebrate Thanksgiving or if you are willing to open your home to those in need this Thanksgiving.
I confess I feel a little like a hypocrite writing this because, with an at-risk daughter visiting us that day, I cannot have people outside the family over on Thanksgiving. But if your situation allows you to share, you may be amazed at the blessings sharing will bring!
Why has it taken me over two months to post another blog?
What do I really want to say to you?
My last few blogs have been about love. Today I want to go into the word “passion” in terms of what I “love” spending my time doing. What are my passions?
You may have heard it said that to see what a person values, look at their bank statements (Apparently I value eating!). I would add to that, look at their calendar. You value what you spend time on.
I value my God, my wife, my family, my church, and my writing. That’s where my passions are directed. That’s where my time has been going.
Writing is a passion of mine that has been playing second fiddle to my other passions lately. My attention has been going to making good things happen for my family and for the kids I teach. There’s some exciting stuff coming up! I’ll share more later, both here and on the Wandering Pen You-Tube channel. In some ways we are in for a wild ride!
But right now, I’ll concentrate on my passion for writing.
Reymons is progressing! The limited time I’ve spent writing it has been fun. My characters keep throwing surprises at me. That nice, neat outline I have of the story keeps being blown apart! Sometimes literally! I’m curious to see what will happen in the end. Will my planned ending pan out? Stay tuned.
I am also signed up to attend the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. I am approaching it a little differently this year. Instead of intense planning and sweating over my elevator pitches and synopses, I am going there to learn and enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll have copies of Wil Clarey and will meet with editors and agents. But I am taking a more relaxed attitude with me this year. I don’t have much time to prepare so I will soak in as much as I can and, if I can get someone interested in publishing Wil Clarey’s stories, great!
I won’t promise another blog before the conference. If something smacks me in the head, I’ll write it down and share it here.
I once owned a diesel VW Rabbit. It was slow, but I could drive a thousand miles on a single fill-up.
Until that one day.
It started overheating. I added water. It kept overheating. I made it home, spewing white smoke behind me. Then I made it to the mechanic. The bill was staggering. You mechanics know why.
First, I added water when I should have added coolant. Worse, I added it when it was hot. I ignored the owner’s manual and the advice of experts and it cost me a new engine head instead of just a gasket. Lesson learned.
The designer of that engine knew what I needed to do.
How many times do I ignore the instructions of the Designer of my life?
Yes, I believe that Someone designed me.
I know that many reject that idea.
Some see God as a strict judge with a bunch of rules designed to control us. I can understand since that image has been perpetuated by religious people for centuries. If that was an accurate picture of God, I would probably reject that too.
But God is a Dad!
I have four kids. I’m far from perfect but my love for each of them is deep.
I’m not a very strict dad, but what rules I enforce, I do for their good. When my kids try to do things their own way, I feel for them. I know that they’ll have to deal with the consequences. Sometimes I have to intervene with some tough love. If I were to catch them intentionally hurting others, I would probably be angry at them.
How do you think God, who created the universe, would raise his children?
Wouldn’t He give His kids rules designed to help them grow into healthy adults that fit into this world?
When His kids wander away, don’t you think God’s heart breaks?
How would you feel if your kids denied that you even existed?
Jesus referred to God the Father as “Abba”. That means “Daddy”. That’s the kind of God I believe in. He loves us enough to provide commands designed for our good. He is fiercely protective of His kids. Try to harm them and you might experience the fierce side of His love.
No one obeys His commands perfectly. When you mess up, God made a way for you to be restored.
If you reject Him, He allows it. But that breaks His Daddy heart.
How do you see God?
Do you believe He exists?
Is He a strict judge?
Is He an egomaniac?
Or, like me, do you see a loving Daddy who wants the best for His kids?
If that’s true, how do we respond to that? Let’s talk about it.
“Everyone, please welcome Anne.She just moved here from Oregon.” Mrs. Simms pointed to a desk. “Go ahead and have a seat there.”
She walked down the row – to the desk next to mine! The sun shone! Birds sang! Butterflies fluttered, in my stomach!
For the first time in my life, I was smitten! Second grade would never be the same!
I would say that was overdramatized, but, you know what it’s like. My innocent little world was turned upside down. Maybe girls didn’t have cooties!
Anne (not her real name) and I became friends. We played together after school at her house. I was too afraid to tell my parents and siblings that I had a friend who was a girl.
Then the impossible happened. She changed schools – some private school nearby.
I still rode my bike past her house often. I was too chicken to knock, but maybe she would come out.
A couple of years later she did. I panicked. I didn’t know what to say or do. I fled. She chased me for half a block before giving up. I rode faster than her. It was the worst thing I had done in my young life.
Life goes on. I’ve fallen in and out of love along the way. I am now deeply in love with my wife. Over the years I’ve discovered that love is not what I thought it was as a child.
Like most people, I thought love was an emotional rush. An attraction so deep that I never wanted to leave the object of my love. I had it exactly backwards.
That emotional rush never lasts. The attraction ebbs and flows. But that’s not love.
True romance is a commitment so deep that it generates those feelings all by itself. When you are committed to bring love, security, happiness, and peace to your partner, you do things that make you and them feel that emotional love.
I love my wife not because she’s beautiful (she is), talented (she is), or loving (she is). I love her because I am committed to her. My love is as imperfect as I am, but it’s true. True romance springs out of that.
If you are struggling with love this Valentine’s weekend, go back to the basics. Commit yourself to your spouse. Do those things that spark the feelings, even if it’s hard to dredge them up. I strongly recommend the movie (and/or book) “Fireproof” for ways to do that.
For those of you who are single (thanks for reading this far) I encourage you to shift your focus away from attraction and romance and towards being the kind of person you would want to love you back. Don’t settle for false romance based on feelings of attraction. Wait for the one who will commit to you for life.
In the meantime, we should all focus on the one who loves us so much that he laid down his life for us. God loves us more than words can express. He welcomes us with open arms. What better love could we hope to find?
Excerpt from Wil Clarey – School of Hard Knocks (rough draft)
In the midst of the attack, my mind retreated. I curled into a ball and isolated my mind from anything outside of that ball. The kicks and punches kept coming. I felt severe pain. And I felt something I had never felt before – rage!
Outside of my protective ball, I heard tires squealing, a horn honking, and a man yelling.
The attack stopped.
A distant voice asked, “Are you okay?”
There was a touch on my shoulder, painful though half numb.
Sirens and voices tried to penetrate my shield.
Someone tried to pull me out of my ball, so I rolled tighter.
“Wil,” Mrs. Brewer’s voice penetrated my shell. “It’s okay. These people are here to help you.”
I went slack and unconscious.
I came to as I was being loaded into an ambulance.
On the ride to hospital, I imagined the police holding Todd while I hit him. I imagined him in jail. Anger fueled the darker side of my imagination. My face and ribs burned with pain and my gut burned with hatred.
Mom arrived at the hospital just after I did. She tried to comfort me. When she spoke to an officer, I could see the fury in her face.
Doctors and nurses poked, prodded, x-rayed and scanned me all day.
Through each procedure, the pain fueled my hatred toward Todd and his friends.
Late that evening, they finally decided I could go home. I had a couple of cracked ribs and a lot of bruises, but nothing too serious. I think I could have won a costume contest for most zombie-like face.
They insisted I leave in a wheelchair. Mom pushed me to the open door of the room and stopped. There were two cops bringing in a badly beaten boy. The boy was Todd.
Mom tried to pull me back.
“No!” I grabbed the door frame. I had to see this.
Tears streaked Todd’s face.
Shame filled mine.
Not shame for being his victim. Shame for having the same kind of hatred that filled his face.
Mom rushed me toward the waiting room.
We passed one of the cops talking to a nurse. “His dad beat him for getting caught.”
I touched the officer’s arm. “Is he gonna be okay?”
He looked me over and said, “Probably about the same as you, except he won’t be going home. He has a spot waiting for him at Juvie.”
“Can I talk to him?”
Mom tried to move me on. “No, Wil, that’s not a good idea.”
“I just want to say one thing. I don’t have to be close.”
The cop smiled. “Sure kid.” He turned to Mom. “I’ll take him, for his safety.”
I wonder if the officer thought I was going to yell at Todd. I wondered what I was going to say myself.
I was stopped at the threshold. A nurse was swabbing his face.
“Todd.” I started.
The nurse turned.
Todd’s face turned to pain and hate when he saw me.
“I, I just wanted to say that I forgive you.”
I turned to the officer. “That’s all.”
I glanced one more time in Todd’s direction. The nurse was dabbing her eyes. Todd’s expression was blank.
I have struggled over the past week with what I could write to illustrate the idea of loving God and loving people. I looked in Vine’s and Strong’s and the Bible and racked my brain for good stories and kept coming up blank.
I sat down today and this scene from Wil Clarey – School of Hard Knocks came to mind. I argued with myself because the book deals with forgiveness, not love.
Then it hit me. Forgiveness is one of the purest forms of love.
Too often we think of love in terms of affection. We love because we have an attachment to someone, or we share a common family or origin.
When Jesus illustrated who we should love, he told the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Through that he showed that we should extend our love beyond our definitions to those we would otherwise hate.
In the Wil Clarey story, no one would blame Wil for hating Todd. I left out the most brutal parts of the attack. Wil had every right to be angry. And he was!
When Wil saw Todd in the same condition as himself, full of pain and rage, it opened his eyes. He realized that, if he continued down the path of hate, he would become that which he hated. He decided that it needed to stop with him.
Right now, we live in a country divided. Each group sees the other as so irreconcilably different that they are not worthy of our attention, much less our love.
How often do we look at those who are different and want to avoid them? Do we look at those who cause pain in our lives and want to cause pain back?
What would happen if we flipped that around and repaid hurt with forgiveness, apathy with caring, pain with love?
I won’t spoil the Wil Clarey story with what happened next. I will say that it was a much better path for Wil to take.