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My Deconstructed Thanksgiving

There’s been nothing like 2020 to make me really appreciate the things I have, or still have. It was always my intention to give thanks for the people and things in my life that are good, but I wasn’t always entirely sure how that would look.

My family at large decided weeks ago that we would celebrate separately. While it was a painful decision, it actually made the holiday more pleasant not less. I didn’t feel like I was losing something so much as actively making a different choice.

We had our turkey and cranberry sauce. On November 11th. I purposely bought an early turkey and just baked it one Wednesday. It was amazing. The potatoes were soup, basically, but all else was a delicious meal. And then I made broth with the bones.

Work has been busy of late. Busier indeed than it has been for me to this point. My husband and I have been limping for a little while. We said we were limping into last weekend. Then we were limping to the holiday. Then the oddest thing happened.

I made a list. Well, no, that’s not the oddest thing. It’s not odd in the least. The oddest thing is waking up Thursday morning, having forgotten to prepare the annual bubble bread Wednesday night, and working on anything that wasn’t from my workplace. I transferred photos to our NAS, I updated Google Classroom for Book Camp 2021, I downloaded bank statements that my husband turned into beautiful ShyJot Fine Arts financials, I backed up my hard drive, made my next two-week menu and grocery list, and balanced my checkbook. And I felt GREAT! It was exactly the thing I wanted to do with the day. My kids played on devices all day, on the phone with a friend part of the day. My husband helped me out. And we managed a couple of naps, Frito chili pies, chicken pot pies, and the apple pie my boys co-baked. My husband baked the last of the fall pie pumpkins.

We’ve seen my parents half faces (above masks only) twice this weekend. Once to take them an apple pie and once to lend them space heaters. I didn’t expect to see them at all, and the brief encounters felt like an unusual luxury.

On Friday, my husband pulled down all the Christmas decorations from the attic. We put up shrubbery lights for the first time every and a few other front-porch decorations my father made. We got the inside of the house completely decorated, save for the tree(s), which I suppose is a pretty big part. But we also trimmed the hedges and raked pine needles and dusted the books and got the dining table to baseline zero.

Now it’s Saturday. I woke early. We still haven’t had bubble bread so I decided to make it this morning. I suppose we’ll eat it tonight. That pie pumpkin is being put to use today, too.

There’s still so much to do. Always. And there’s still a lingering sadness about being apart from the ones I love. Always.

But I am thankful. Most of what I’m thankful for is purely circumstance, right? What if I didn’t have a warm home. What if I didn’t have enough to eat. What if my loved ones were actively dying or newly gone. And on. And on. I fervently hope I’d still find thankfulness in some corner of my soul. And I just as fervently hope I don’t ever have to test that hope.

I’m not here to judge how anybody feels this holiday season. I’m not here to tell you that getting stuff off your to-do list will magically make life better. I’m certainly not here to tell you not to miss your loved ones, not to mourn with those who mourn, not to rejoice with those who rejoice. I’m not here to tell you to be thankful or how to be thankful.

I am here to say this: I’m thankful you’re in this whole wide world with me. You make it richer and more vibrant. You make me want to be and do better every day. Thank you for being.

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Representation Matters, Christian Edition

This post is particularly intended for my fellow humans who claim Christ, and more particularly a subset of these fellows who are white and think representation is a newfangled idea born of newfangledism.

Jesus’ story is a story of representation. Pretty much exactly as we mean the term today. The story of Jesus says representation matters. And it says it over and over again.

The story begins in the womb of an unwed mother. Jesus is born on the way to a religious pilgrimage. As a baby, Jesus, along with his mother and stepfather, become political refugees seeking asylum from certain harm.

Representation matters. Jesus was a Nazarene. Maybe that doesn’t mean anything to you, but to the people of the day Nazarene whispered words like thug and animal.

Jesus was the son of a carpenter. He was homeless as an adult. His friends were a rough sort—tax collector and fishermen and the like. He ate with prostitutes. He was unbothered coming near to children and lepers and bleeding women and Samaritans and a freshly caught adulteress.

Representation matters. Jesus broke the rules of his society. He angrily purged the temple for its failure in purpose. He fed people who were hungry and healed those deemed worthless and unclean by society.

His first recorded miracle was extraordinary in its simplicity and lack of religiosity: he turned water to wine for wedding guests because his mother asked him to.

Representation matters. Jesus avoided those in power who sought to trap him, to kill him. He made the powerful small whenever they interacted.

Representation matters. And Jesus died as a political captive. For no crime but angering those with power. On baseless accusations of nonexistent threats to overthrow Caesar. So hated that the mob chose to free a known murderer just to kill Christ.

Representation matters. From the one who bore his cross to the one who bought his tomb, from the sinner on his left to the sinner on his right, from his best friend to his grieving mother, the lowly are the ones highlighted.

Representation matters. Women found the empty tomb. If you wanted to build a false religion around a tomb not really emptied, it wouldn’t begin with women. With unbelievable, unbelieved people without class or station. But this is the story of Jesus and representation matters more than society’s systematic oppression.

Jesus challenged institutional racism (see the Samaritans), systemic oppression of the poor and those without a class, the lofty proclaiming their own loft, the way things have always been done. Jesus practiced socialized medicine and fed people in a socialized manner in that he fed whoever hungered.

Jesus even counseled that the first will become last and the last will become first.

Representation matters. It matters to Jesus enough to fill his story with people who had little representation. It still matters today.

Note that Jesus, obviously, was Jewish by birth, born in Bethlehem (Palestine). You can know if you view Jesus as default white simply by this litmus test: when you picture the Jesus you let into your heart, is he in any way a brown man of a dispossessed race?

Consider that Jesus was born as he was, where he was, and when he was on purpose. The savior we both claim walked this earth—and was always meant to—as a brown man of the Middle East, a member of an oppressed race.

I am represented in Jesus’ story as a woman, as a sinner, as a believer, as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, as a person who bleeds, as a person in need, as a member of a different race. I have found my representation in the story and it matters to me. And his ability to lift up the representation of so many, that matters to me too.

I owe no less in my story than to reveal a broad representation of people. Both in my real story and my fictional stories. There are many still waiting to see themselves in the story of America, the stories on our shelves and televisions, and the stories of American infrastructure. As Christians, we have a well-made blueprint of inclusion and representation. If only we’ll use it.

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