Sunday, December 15, 2013

No Room at the Inn

Whether you’re a non-Christian, atheist or a believer, by now I’m sure you’ve all heard the story of Mary and Joseph who were in a crowded city; Mary full with child, His birth imminent. There was no room or bed available to them anywhere. One inn keeper led the couple to a stable where under the most humble of circumstances, Mary gave birth to her baby – the Savior of all human kind.

Flash forward to 2013. My daughter and her husband were doing everything right. They owned their own, small home. My son-in-law is completing his studies at Brigham Young University. His job is tied to his attendance at the school and after finals this week, his position will be terminated. So the kids decided to move to be closer to family. (Believe me, I was delighted that I’d get to spend more time with my two-year-old grandson.)

First, their house didn’t sell. So they looked for rentals and because they have a dog and cat it wasn’t easy. All autumn they searched and finally found a duplex. They figured their verbal agreement was sufficient until they could sign papers when they got to town, just before Christmas. Then right after Thanksgiving, with three weeks until the move, the owner decided she was going to sell her home instead of renting it to them. By this time, the kids already had a renter for their home; a man with a written contract.

Suddenly, they were without a home. Some rental managers wanted to take advantage of their desperation and hiked up the price of the rentals. Time and again the “actual” amount of rent was higher than the advertisements, once the agencies found out the date that my son-in-law and daughter wanted to move and the reasoning behind the short notice.

My husband was on the phone with my daughter a few days ago. He said that the kids could move in with us. MOVE IN WITH US! Not just themselves, not just the baby, but their dog, cat and furniture. We already have our own cats and furniture. I couldn’t get my mind around it. If I’d only had more time to prepare, not just a week! I could have made the basement a home for them. I could have rearranged furniture, my youngest daughter could have moved upstairs, and darn it, “Now I can’t put the nice heirloom ornaments on the tree!”

I was on the phone that night with my little girl, now a grown woman, about to come home. I fussed and fretted until I became hyper-ventilated and seriously doubted my worth as a mother. A one-time tom-boy, my daughter even joked that they’d live in our barn if they could. I wished they would, just so they could have their own space. (The story of Mary and Joseph briefly flashed into my mind.) Then I remembered that there was no electricity to the empty barn; long since vacant of horses, barn cats, chickens, ducks and rabbits. Snow was thick and white upon the ground and below-freezing temperatures held the night creatures hostage. Weathermen were urging people to bring their pets inside. My daughter’s little family needed a home. How could I turn them down?

My daughter had already overcome so much. At less than two months of age, suffering from a high fever, she’d had a spinal tap. At twelve years old, she nearly died of salmonella poisoning. At nineteen a five found mucinous cyst was removed from her body and she was told that it would be difficult for her to become pregnant.

Then there was her husband. One winter at age nineteen he’d nearly died while hiking on a mountain side. He was afraid that his college roommates had not received his distress call because the battery on his cell phone was dead before he could finish his plea for help. He was found in the twilight, shoeless and suffering delirium from hypothermia. He nearly lost a couple of his toes. Years later, the two met and married and soon after, my daughter found that she was carrying her first child! Again, they faced tragedy and near death when the train we were riding was broadsided by a truck. As we made our way to the emergency room via ambulance and helicopter, we were eventually reunited, and I can tell you, the best sound I ever heard was my grandson’s heartbeat in the trauma unit. He was alive! Two months later, the little fellow was born.

So if the Lord in his wisdom had gotten my daughter’s little family this far, I just had to believe that with our help, they’d be spiritually and temporally cared for at some future time, if I just felt the same generous sense of sharing, without question, that my husband has.

After an evening of prayer and heartache, turmoil and doubt, I awoke with a clearer perspective. The vintage family ornaments could hang on a wreath this year. Maybe I’d make a permanent decoration with them! The kids wouldn’t have the entire basement to themselves, but we could let them have a room upstairs and store their furniture in the basement. Maybe Christmas wouldn’t be perfect in the sense of materialism, but we’d be together as a family. Maybe I wouldn’t have enough time to make them cozy, but I COULD AT LEAST MAKE THEM FEEL WELCOME.

Today, I thought about the inn keeper’s wife. Was she so preoccupied with giving her guests and tenants the perfect tax-time-and-census feast that she just couldn’t take in two more souls, let alone tend to a newborn? Was there maybe a tiny room that had been vacated recently that was still a little unkempt or messy? Perhaps she prided herself on having the loveliest inn of all Bethlehem?

What about now? Maybe you could have offered your neighbor a ride to church but thought “My car is a mess and the kids spilled gum drops on the seats. Well, perhaps next week.” Did you spend all weekend making the best gingerbread house ever created, when instead you could have been baby-sitting for the single mother down the block that got called to work overtime during the busy Christmas season? What about the old drunk on the corner. Did you step over him and not meet his eye or did you merely throw ten dollars at his feet and walk away? Maybe you could have given him a blanket and bought him a sandwich and spent lunch-time with him. Christmas should be a season of getting out of our comfort zone. I know I had to.

I wonder how the Christmas story would have played out if the inn keeper and his wife had shared their room and spent the night in the stable themselves. I may just do that. I may just move out to the barn. At least I know my kids will be warm and happy. That’s all that really matters to me.

Merry Christmas. I love you.

(Image via Simon Dewey)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Pearl Harbor Day December 7

Who here today remembered that it's the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor?

My husband David and I went to a veterans' home to hear the few remaining survivors speak. They were being honored, but it was an honor to be in their presence. A Catholic Priest gave the opening prayer and we saw a multi-media production of Native American Vets, warriors and code-talkers. Paiute dancers did their part, and we heard poems and songs from other servicemen. I got to see two men who were actually at Pearl Harbor during the attack and survived the horrors they saw, of burning ships and bloodied men. Another man honored there was three miles away from the harbor at the time the Japanese Zeros began their raid. He fought valiantly where he was. David saw his old friend Dr. Creed, who spoke about the American airmen that served with the RAF. (American Air-fighters who served in England and returned to the USA when we later became involved in the second World War.)

I was dismayed that so many people left before the two hour program had ended. I purposely left my cell home. A few times we could hear the chimes of phones. (Even vets can't miss a call these days, I guess.)

David Chung, a Vietnam Vet and former liaison to Washington DC also spoke. His late wife Cheryl was supposed to talk as well. A former nurse, she helped get the war memorial honoring women vets in place in Washington DC. She died September 4 due to complications of Agent Orange. I later introduced myself to Mr. Chung. He told me some stories after the program. Chung left his calling, voluntarily when awkward meetings (dare we say, anti-American gatherings) took place between him and the present administration in Washington. At one of these get-togethers, he was introduced as a liaison and US veteran of Vietnam. Nancy Pelosi asked him when he first came to America. He said he was born here. She asked him when his parents came here. Chung said they were born in Arizona. She asked where he was from and he said Utah. Ms. Pelosi was very put out that she was introduced to an American War Veteran and was hoping that David Chung was Vietnamese. She wanted to apologize for the horrors we put the communist troops through. She stormed off. Chung was basically told that he should have played "his part" because he was not being politically correct. Excuse me? He served our country honorably and Pelosi wants the "little old Asian man" in his place? She should know better, she serves the people of California and the entire USA.

We come from many backgrounds and ethnicities. Many vets see the writing on the wall, the end of freedom as we once knew it. They are old. They've fought for our freedom, yet most Americans stay home on Veterans Day and watch football or party all night, forgetting that someone gave their younger years, their time, their freedom and sometimes their own lives, just so some pea-brained politician can apologize to other countries for our perceived short comings.

Nancy Pelosi, a man like David Chung and all our vets deserve better. They deserve at the very least an apology from you. We should be shaking their hands and asking for their autographs.

Bless our "boys" young and old.

A Sideshow Journey by Liesa Swejkoski

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