As you know, when I was growing up, my family was probably the prototype of American poverty. My mother & father, my 2 brothers & 2 sisters and I had very little in the way “worldly possessions”. Throughout my childhood, we lived in quite a few houses, but we never had a home.
I know it’s become a trite phrase, Lord, but our family literally sometimes had no idea where our next meal was coming from. The Food Stamps that kept our family (mostly) fed rarely lasted the entire month (5 kids can eat a lot of food), and during the summer months--when school was out—the free school lunches we could count on for minimal nutrition simply dried up til the Fall.
For a lot of reasons, my father had a wandering spirit & he got easily bored, or ticked off at his boss or the landlord or the neighbor, etc., etc., and he picked up the 7 members of our family, put us in the rickety old car we had & we moved on to the next town. We never got to know the meaning of “roots” or “neighborhood”, and we never really had the chance to make friends. Looking back it seems like we were always on the move…always searching for a better life…and always failing to find it.
Now that I’m grown, I can look back & see how much we didn’t have, and I can see how frustrated & angry my father must have been in working so hard for the very little he had, and how much he must have hurt knowing that, without government assistance, he couldn’t properly take care of his family. I was angry at my father for so long—not because of the THINGS he couldn’t give us—but because of the time & attention he couldn’t seem to find for his kids. Working from dawn til dusk (sometimes 7 days a week) at a back-breaking job that he hated, he couldn’t find time to be an unskilled laborer AND a dad. I see that now. I understand how little he had left for the world—and for his family.
But, Lord, the pain I feel when I think about those days comes not from all the “stuff” we never had, or from the (many) meals we may have missed; it comes from the memories of a father who lived with his family, but whom none of us kids ever got to see much because he was too busy earning his minimum wage “living”; it comes from imagining how much he must have hurt knowing that, where his future was concerned, the die had already been cast, and that his lot in life would never improve because his hands had already become too calloused, his back too bent & painful & his spirit too broken. When he passed away a few years ago from the too-long-untreated effects of hypertension (of course, because he had no health insurance), I couldn’t help but feel grateful to You for ending his pain & for finally bringing him the peace he never had while he was here.
I am thankful to You still, Lord, for every minute of my life—even the darkest hours of my “life” in the closet—because it has all gone into making me the person I am still becoming. In Your plan, God, I know nothing happens without a reason & nothing goes to waste.
I truly believe that it is making me a better person, and it’s helping me to understand—TRULY understand—what really matters in life. I know that, if I had to, I could do without so much that I now have in my life.
As the life I’ve known these past 13 years is changing so drastically & so quickly, and, even as out of control as my life feels these days, I am reminded again that it’s not the material possessions that I hold dear & which I treasure; it’s the sublime, ethereal things like love & friendship & fellowship that put real life into my life, and that makes everything I must endure in it more-than-worth it.
I anticipate that a new life on my own will not always be easy—at least not in the beginning—and it will take some getting used to, but I know that, as always, You will provide what I need (even if not what I THINK I want! ;) ).
So, I honestly want to thank you, Heavenly Father, for all I never had, and for all I never had the chance to take for granted. In exchange for the dearth of physical things I cannot hold in my hands, You have given me a life-long appreciation for those things & those people I can always, always hold in my heart.
Even in the midst of the river of tears I have shed as I leave behind a life I had come to love, and as I cautiously head on to the next chapter in my life, I remain most thankful, dear God…and I know I am blessed.
I pray You will continue to lead me & protect me & always remind me what is REALLY important in this life.