Loving thoughts of Gratitude

It’s Thanksgiving week in the year 2020.

I am truly empathetic to those who have found this year to be a constant struggle. I am especially solemn in my thoughts for the nearly 300,000 Americans lost to this vile virus from China.

It seems like ancient history, though it was only 10 months ago that our nation was cruising along at break neck speed, with a growing, vibrant economy. We were making peace in the Middle East. Illegal immigration was dropping to remarkably low levels given the booming economy. The Wall was being built. And a President more efficient and effective in achieving his stated goals for our country than any in decades (perhaps ever) seemed well on his way to re-election in spite of the unprecedented opposition loaded up against him. Things were good and we had every expectation that they would get better.

But the problems that would mark this year as terrible in the eyes of many were all well on their way to combustion.

The year started with Democrats inartfully trying to impeach President Trump for essentially nothing. Sadly, all Democrats in Congress found zero need for Patriotism and national well-being in forcing through impeachment against a unanimous GOP opposing this embarrassing episode.

Corona Virus was already exploding in China. And the Chinese and the World Health Organization lied about its severity and subsequently enabled its escape into the world and our country.

Democrats fomented racial division by convincing the ignorant in our country that their President was a racist. And with the seed of hatred firmly planted racial battles infected nearly every major city on the U.S. after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Though called a murder by nearly everyone who commented on the incident, evidence that came to the public knowledge much too late indicated that Floyd had himself ingested a fatal amount of fentanyl along with 3 other illegal drugs. But this information came way too late and was not widely reported by an American news industry hell bent on pushing their own agenda.

Job losses from Corona virus lockdowns blew up the unemployment rate from record lows in February to over 22% in April. Cities and states around the country instituted policies prohibiting evictions and foreclosures. As a result 10s of thousands have not paid their rent or their mortgage in months. The catastrophe that looms when these eviction and foreclosure prohibitions comes to an end has not yet registered with the media or, it seems, politicians. It’s hard to imagine what’s going to happen.

And in a country that for decades has held life-long politicians at the same esteem level as that of a murderous pedophile has seemed to elect a life long politician who also seems to have a disturbing history of inappropriately touching and sniffing young girls to the office of President. The wisdom of putting a 78 year old DC statue into office during this difficult time will only be proven or disproven in time. Suffice to say, not even his supporters are enthusiastic about what Joe Biden might be or accomplish.

These dark and sad occurrences in our country belie the fact that this author individually, and in my immediate family has had a pretty awesome year.

First and foremost after nearly 7 months of negotiating and maneuvering we were able to achieve a life-long dream of mine in purchasing and moving into our house on a lake. While I’d never given up on this dream, I had come to the point in my life where I believed if such a home existed for me it would be somewhere in the boondocks far away from the higher priced homes and the big city. But as it turns out we’re only 20-25 minutes from Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue and Snoqualmie Pass; otherwise known as the center of the universe…or at least…my universe.

We then proceeded to make the year all about improving our home; making it beautiful. Making it our own. We enjoyed the most spectacular 4th of July in my lifetime right on our own lake. And we enjoyed nearly daily walks on our 1+ acre property down to our lakeside. Needless to say, fishing and canoe rides occurred, frequently.

My wife and I were treated by her generous, loving adult kids to a trip to Disneyland to celebrate her milestone birthday at the start of this year. And we ended this year with a long, deserved, private get-away to the sun in historic St. Augustine, Florida. Two wonderful trips indeed. Both provided life long memories.

And in spite of all this, at this writing, we have more money in the bank than either my wife or I have ever had. No, we’re not rich. But we are very fortunate and very grateful.

We have been blessed by God.

I can’t believe we’re the only ones to enjoy a terrific year in spite of all that has transpired. My joy and enthusiasm has been significantly quelled by the knowledge that so many have struggled in our country and around the world. But my prayer for you is that you, like me, can find the gems that allow you to offer gratitude this Thanksgiving to God and all those for which you have received blessings.

It’s not as hard as you may think to be grateful during a year when so many tears have been shed. After all, the first official national day of Thanksgiving was declared by President Abraham Lincoln for November 26, 1863 while our nation had been at war with itself for over three years. Six-hundred thousand Americans would die by the time this conflict finally ended in April 1864. Yet, in spite of such horror and turmoil Lincoln found the ability to say To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and my you and your family be blessed, as have we.

Have you Felt God’s Intervention In Your Life?

What seems like tragedy can often be God’s gift to your ignorance of what’s to come in your life. I know. I am the blessed recipient of God’s intervention many times in my life. But most recently it was two related tragic events, 1 month apart from the other, that enabled me to be a home owner and a happily married man.

In 2016 I was starting a year for the first time in 30 years as a single man, having divorced a wife who had changed so drastically from the woman I married that she was hardly recognizable, and proved no longer trustworthy or deserving of my respect. The revelation of these many facts that allowed me to write the previous sentence devastated me. I was lonely, depressed and scared. But through my re-found devotion to God and the confidence, or hope, that he would find grace with me I pressed on and tried to begin a new life by embracing the things I loved most.

One of those things I have always done and always loved was camping and all that’s associated with it, the fishing, hiking, hunting, camp fires, etc.

Michael Schuett in a river

The Author hooking something

In my previous marriage we had over the course of the years some camper trailers that made the outdoors more palatable for my family, and I have to admit, for myself as well.

So in starting my new life I committed to getting a new camper trailer. This goal I successfully accomplished in April 2016. It was one of the few happy events in my life over the previous 3 years; and I was excited to take it out. On July 4th weekend the trailer, my then girlfriend, and my teen daughter traveled to Leavenworth, WA for a five day weekend with friends. Only, we wouldn’t make it to five days. We didn’t make it through 3 days.

In the early morning of the third day I woke to take my dog for a walk. My girlfriend got up and out of the trailer to visit the showers at the camp grounds where we stayed. In returning from my 10 minute walk and coming back into the park’s camping area I saw a large plume of smoke just out of my site. It took me a moment to realize the smoke was a fire in a camper. It took me another moment to realize the camper was MINE! OMG- my daughter was in the trailer!!! My heart raced. In my oversized flip-flops I began running. My 100 lbs labrador retriever, who was never particularly good on a leash, wanted to play and tugged on the leash to go the other way. I immediately dropped the leash to let my dog fend for himself. I had to get to my daughter. The flip flops didn’t help my speed, and I soon ran out of them and made my way over the dirt and gravel road in my bare feet. I arrived at the flaming trailer just as some stranger was emerging from the smoke billowing from the trailer’s only door with my daughter in tow. Thank God she was safe. It seemed like hours but was probably more like 10 minutes, fellow campers and I used hoses and fire extinguishers to dose the flames. The trailer was a total loss.

Once again I was crushed. Fast forward four weeks. I was determined to get back on my feet and get my new life started as I wanted it to get started, with a trailer and with frequent camping trips. But, God had different plans for me. I had to wrangle with my insurance company for a fair settlement on the burnt up trailer. But upon receiving that settlement check immediate found a brand new trailer to purchase with it. The insurance settlement would go for the down payment, and I would finance the remaining balance. I had ordered some special accessories for the new trailer, so had to wait for their installation before picking up my new treasure. It was all set. And I was again looking forward to better days.

Then on the morning I had scheduled to drive to the trailer dealer and pick-up my huge expenditure; my truck died. I was on the side of the road, gritting my teeth, and knowing my dreams had once again been dashed. I knew it was the trucks transmission. And I knew how expensive it’s replacement would be. For those who have never experienced the joy of replacing a transmission on a heavy duty, 4-wheel drive truck, its a lot more expensive than replacing a standard transmission in a car. Where a car’s transmission can often be replaced for under $2000. For my truck, including some other minor repairs that were necessary, came to over $5000. I called the trailer dealer late in the day after getting the initial dark estimates from my repair garage and told them I couldn’t purchase the trailer. God clearly didn’t want me to have a trailer, at least not at this time.

If you haven’t been trough it, divorce can be devastating to an individual’s financial well-being. Such was the case with me. Besides losing half of everything I/we owned and tens-of-thousands of dollars, I also had my credit rating severely damaged by a wife who liked credit cards and liked them so much she never bothered to tell her husband (me). I mentioned this because while severely hurt by the divorce I wasn’t destitute. And I had hopes of buying a new home. But I was under the impression that I would have to wait four years or longer to repair my credit and distance myself from my ex-wife’s atrocious spending habits. However, I was wrong. Some two weeks after my truck’s transmission collapse had destroyed my efforts to own a camper trailer I had a chance meeting with an old acquaintance who happened to be a mortgage agent. After relaying some of my tough circumstances he assured me that he could get me a mortgage; though I still needed to wait a few months, but not a few years.

To wrap up this story, I got my mortgage and my house in April 2017. Based on my mortgage agent’s opinion the closeness of my divorce, and damaged credit made my mortgage a 9 out of 10 in terms of difficulty for approval. And most important had I the debt of the trailer purchase not to mention the added insurance expense and trip/vacation expenditures I never would have had the money or the credit rating to get my home. You see, my insurance settlement covered the $5000 repair…but I had some left over. The few thousand left over from my insurance settlement would be all the cash I had remaining in my bank account upon closing of my house.

It didn’t occur to me for some months after moving into my home the circumstances that had strangely twisted tragedy into benefit for me. The fire and the transmission were both unexpected and both in combination were REQUIRED for me to be a home owner. And through God’s intervention I was independently stable, in my own home, and in being so comfortable asked my girlfriend to become my wife. And BTW- my wife and I hope to have a new trailer by this coming Summer.

Perspective. Use it. Or lose it. Thank you Lord for your many blessings.

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