A Thanksgiving Story by a Native Californian

I am part American Indian. Actually a large part of my heritage is Indigenous Americas-Mexico. My father was born in Phoenix, Arizona, so some where in the back roads of history my ancestors were part of Thanksgiving. I am also part Spanish, which links me to the Conquistadores who first came to Florida.

The First Thanksgiving

When I was in elementary school I learned about the indigenous people and the Pilgrims getting together to celebrate the first Thanksgiving. The historic images were always the same an Indian chief presenting a feast to the Pilgrims, and the Puritan women serving the meal. They all sat down and enjoyed a wonderful bounty. But is this what really  happened? Or is this where fake news originated? Yes, back in 1621 the Puritans, who were English Protestants/Separatists, wanted to break away from the stronghold of  King James I and the practices of the Roman Catholic Church, so they came to a New World seeking religious freedom. They came across on the Mayflower and landed on the cold shores of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Little did they know that the Wampanoag Natives had inhabited the land thousands of years before their arrival. Fifty -six years before the Pilgrims’ arrival, the Spaniards  landed in Florida. It was the feast day of St. Augustine; they named the colony after the saint and built an altar to give thanks to God for their safe journey. The Timucuan Indians watched as the Spaniards celebrated Mass. The Native Americans were invited to feast with the new settlers. The Timucuan tribe may have brought wild game, squash and seafood, while the Spaniards may have cooked up some cocido, a Spanish soup made with pork and vegetables. This should have been considered the first Thanksgiving celebration. St. Augustine was also where the first Mass was held in the U.S. The first mission to American Indians originated in St. Augustine. And since I’m more than 1/4 Spanish, my ancestors were part of the first Thanksgiving.

Abraham Lincoln

Can you imagine the stress level of this wonderful President? Abraham Lincoln was doing everything in his power to heal a broken nation. The Civil War was raging, and all the fighting was taking its toll. In the meantime Sarah Josepha Hale was on a letter-writing campaign; she was petitioning for Thanksgiving to be made a national holiday. Through her urging, in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day, making it a national holiday. President Lincoln was distraught about the division in our nation and wanted to bring back unity in the country. It was not until 1941 that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved the date to the fourth Thursday in November. This was done to boost the economy and to kick off Christmas shopping.  I thank God for Abraham Lincoln and for all of our presidents of this great country because I believe that their positions are God-ordained.

Ben Sira 10:4 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Sovereignty over the earth is in the hand of God, who appoints the right person for the right time.

Abraham Lincoln was the also the first president to pardon a turkey. His son Tad adopted a turkey as a pet, but when it was time to eat the big bird, the boy begged his father not to kill it. The turkey was spared and the rest is history.

Sonja’s first Friendsgiving
Using wedding china for the first time

Thanksgiving Red Flags

For as long as I can recall my wonderful husband has prepared our Thanksgiving meals. This year our daughter Sonja and her husband Russ hosted a “Friendsgiving.” Sonja asked Mike if she could help prepare the meal. She said that she wants to learn the recipes so that soon she can take over making the meal. If you were to ask our son Mikos, he would say that his sister just wanted Dad to cook for her friends. either way Sunday was our first Friendsgiving.

Sonja’s homemade turtle cheese cake

Mike was putting the finishing touches on the Friendsgiving meal, Sonja and I were folding her laundry when she received a disturbing phone call. The call was from her old district manager, informing her that another colleague had passed away. This man was a dear friend and mentor to Sonja. She was in shock. The holidays may bring joy to many, but to others it’s a time of sadness. Satan hates joyful family gatherings and uses these opportunities to take advantage of those most vulnerable. Not an hour had passed before another friend called Sonja to inform her that his sister-in-law tried to commit suicide. Thank God she was not alone.

Ben Sira 30:21-22 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

21 Do not give in to sadness, or torment yourself deliberately.  Gladness of heart is the very life of a person, and cheerfulness prolongs his days.

With the help of her husband, Sonja was able to put on a brave face for her guests, but we knew how much she was hurting for her friends.

Thanksgiving is a time to not only be thankful for our  loved ones, but to reach out to our friends who have no family around, and to make sure that they have a special place to sit at our tables. God knows, your kind act could be saving a life.

My Thanksgiving Prayer:

Dear Lord, I ask that You bless all families getting together for Thanksgiving.  Let us keep all our differences to ourselves. May we be gracious to our guests, and show the love of Christ in our homes. Let us truly give thanks for this wonderful country we live in. Both the Pilgrims and the Spaniards had You in mind when they landed in the New World. Allow us to heal our differences and to accept Your will to be done in our country. May our speech be seasoned with love, and may You pour out special blessings on our nation. We lift up all who are hurting from the loss of loved ones. And for those who are lonely, bless them and let them know You have a clear purpose for their lives. Amen

Happy Thanksgiving, and we give thanks to God for all of our blessings!

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On Gun Control

Aftermath, Saugas High School

Guns in my 𝐋𝐢𝐟𝐞

When I was eight or nine years old I paled around with my youngest sister Norma. We were always getting into mischief. We snuck into our brothers’ room to mess with their belongings. Carefully hanging on a wall was a gun rack with a huge rifle. I don’t know how, but I managed to take it off the rack. Both Norma and I climbed on top of one of our brothers’ beds, opened the window, and knocked off the screen. I pretended I was going to shoot someone. The mattress was unstable but that didn’t stop me. The rifle was so big and awkward that I had to rest it on my right shoulder. When I released the trigger, the fast movement caught my cheek and pinched it hard enough to draw a little blood.  This terrified me, so  I quickly put the rifle back on the rack, and Norma and I ran out of  the room. We never told our mother, and, other than Norma, no one knew of the mishap. I recently called my brother George to ask him if he remembered having this rifle. “That was one of my favorite guns, it was a 12 guage double barrel shotgun; it was our dad’s gun.”  George also mentioned that he made the gun rack in his woodshop class. “What ever became of the gun?” I asked. George told me that our brother Robert sold it.

Replica of the gun I was playing with

Around that same time a deranged man snapped and started shooting people in our neighborhood. The crazed man, a former school teacher and pedophile, shot at four persons before taking  his own life. My brother Robert and his friends, Ricky and Joe were just hanging out, sitting on hay stacks. When they first heard the gunshots they thought it was from firecrackers. Robert got caught in the crossfire. My bother was very thin and, thank God, because the bullets went right through his jeans and the sleeve of his shirt. My brother’s friend Ricky was not so lucky; he was shot in the stomach and had to undergo several extensive surgeries. This was big news in our small town of Brawley. The article made it all the way to the front pages of The San Diego Union and The Los Angeles Times. For years we had a copy of the article, with Robert showing how the bullets grazed his clothing. Today this would have been considered a mass shooting.

Saugas High School

In the early morning of November 14, 2019, a deranged young man killed two of his fellow students and injured three others. My heart dropped in great sadness as once again the news was playing a rerun of the same scene, adolescents filing out of school, with parents nervously waiting for their children. I rarely watch the news because it is so tainted and untrustworthy, but on this night I wanted to know more about the troubled killer.

 

Prayer vigil

The Boy                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       The pattern is always the same: a disturbed boy filled with loneliness that led him to a state of irrational thinking. This is a doorway to darkness and an introduction  to the strong hateful voice of Satan. The boy, like many who preceded him, did the unthinkable, and, as if the San Andreas fault gave way, California was violently shaken again. These boys are sociopaths; they believe that they have no other outlet, so they take matters into their own hands. These disturbing diabolical acts  are all too common in our society.

Reaction

What is the first reaction after a tragic shooting?  People become a force of unity.  If they have fallen away from God, they quietly make their way back. Those who have no firm foundation in their faith start looking to God for answers and comfort. Then there are those who can’t seem to get past the anger; they seek immediate action, falling into the cracks of the political movement to make a drastic change in gun control laws. I feel so strongly that gun control has too many loose ends. I am not a proponent of banning guns from responsible gun owners, but I believe we need to take additional measures. When our children were in high school, my husband and I signed an agreement from the school not to serve alcohol to minors in our home. We need to get connected with the community and find out who has guns in their homes. We also need to make sure that these weapons are under lock and key and that the school is aware of these guns. I understand that gang members have illegal weapons and that tracking guns from outlaws would pose a greater challenge, but gang members are not the assailants in mass shootings.

Removing God From the Schools

If we could all take a closer look at the core of this ongoing problem, we would understand the importance of God in our lives. The more we pollute our public schools with worldly, unnecessary indoctrination by forced, immoral changes, the more we shut out God. There is no spiritual protection when we remove God from the schools. These special interest groups have challenged Judeo-Christian values by denouncing moral guidance of the Word of God. Our Lord in not in the hearts of those who operate in rebellion. God is with the families that have lost loved ones, He is in the midst of  those suffering from broken spirits.

We all want answers. Why do these young men keep surfacing and taking innocent lives? The connection is clear – all of these young men need mental counseling. They are vessels of evil but because no one understood the seriousness of their suffering they exploded on the world.

Prayer

These are the words of Sean, a Saugus High School student. “I don’t know what happened. I don’t know why these things happen, they just do. It was just the comfort of having my teammates and my coach around us. We ended up just, all joining hands and praying in the room with our coach. He led us in a prayer to just calm us down and let us have the comfort of knowing that we’re okay.” That is all we can do when we are faced with something that is out of our control. We pray because only God has the right answers to this ongoing dilemma, and we all need to be still and know that He is there.

My Prayer 

Dear Lord, we will never understand why innocent lives are taken from us. We are all filled with grief and need Your comfort. I lift up the families of Grace Anne Muehlberger and Dominic Blackwell. These two beautiful souls left for school one morning never to return to their loved ones. Dear Lord, give these families special graces to get through their tragic loss. Lord, we have nowhere else to turn. Teach us to seek You always. Amen

 

The Christmas Job As if I were not busy enough, our daughter Sonja asked if
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How Small Talk Moves Mountains

 

Chapel of the Milk Grotto, Bethlehem

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”  St. Teresa of Calcutta

Small Talk

I am a big advocate of small talk; I make it a habit to talk to strangers. Small talk may make a person feel special because showing a stranger  kindness can change the direction of their day.

Photo album of testimonies: Milk Grotto, Bethlehem
Photos of testimonies: Milk Grotto

About three years ago I was having trouble finding a reliable dry cleaning place. Through the suggestion of my daughter, I started taking my clothes to an eco-friendly place. The owner is a young, educated Middle Eastern man named John.  I know this because through small talk I’ve gotten acquainted with him.  We talk about a lot of things, like my missionary trips and visiting his homeland of Jordan. We never discuss religion because we both share the love of God. Last year, before I went to the Holy Land, I asked my friend if he had any special prayer intentions. He told me of his desire to have a child. He and his wife have been trying to conceive for years. I’m always prepared to jot down prayer requests, so I got out a 5X3 card and wrote out his prayer request. I tucked it into my purse with the rest of the petitions, to take with me on the trip.

For some special reason, John’s request really tugged at my heart. I started to pray for him before the trip during adoration after daily Mass.  We usually receive hundreds of prayer requests, and since I am the one in charge of  organizing them, I make certain that my personal friends and family end up in my pile. I remembered that the year before, I purchased some special powder from the Milk Grotto, so when I picked up my dry cleaning I handed John the small packet of powder. I gave him a brief explanation of the Milk Grotto and left. I cannot explain why, but my prayers for John and his wife were fervent.

Milk Grotto, Bethlehem

The Milk Grotto

Though I had been to the Holy Land numerous times, I had never heard of the Milk Grotto. It was not until 2013 while traveling with Father Leonard Mary, and Bro. Leo from EWTN that I was first introduced to the Milk Grotto.  It was through Bro. Leo that I first heard of the Milk Grotto. Bro. Leo was on a mission to purchase some powder for his sister, who was having trouble conceiving a child. I was overly excited to visit this holy site for the first time, so on the day we went to the Church of The Nativity in Bethlehem, we walked to the Milk Grotto. Like most Catholic churches in the  Holy Land, this small chapel is in the custody of the Franciscan order. This church is located a stone’s throw  from the Church of The Nativity. In the Holy Land, other than the regular church schedules, no one really knows the schedule for when the stores are open. From my past experiences sometimes the tiny Milk Grotto store is open, and sometimes, if you patiently pray and wait, the Franciscan  priest will show up and open the doors to the store. The powder is sold for $5 a package. As you walk into the small office, the walls of the shop are covered with pictures of babies, hundreds of them. The Franciscans have put together large photo albums of the testimonies of miraclous births. Couples who for years had been trying to conceive a child are now sharing photos of their beautiful babies. They write letters of thanksgiving for God’s answers to their prayers.

The Powder

When the Three Kings went to visit the Holy Family, the early Christians believed that the family lived in this grotto. While the Blessed Mother Mary was nursing baby Jesus some of her breast milk spilled on the ground, turning the red stone into white. The white stone is  taken from the spot where Mary’ s breast milk fell. Aside from healing infertility, there are many other miracles that have been experienced through the intercession of Mary with the powder from the Milk Grotto. The powder is to be sprinkled into a liquid beverage like coffee, tea, or milk. But without a doubt it is through praying that the miracles manifest. At that same spot where it is known that Mary was nursing baby Jesus, I prayed for my friend John and his wife. After asking Mary for her intercession, I was spiritually overcome with emotions of joy. I cried. This was not the only holy site where I petitioned on their behalf, but at all the holy sites. God entrusts us to carry these burdens for our friends and family, to restore faith in their lives.

The Miracle

Last week I went to pick up my dry cleaning. As my credit card transaction was being processed John said, “I have great news! My wife is pregnant!” I could not believe my ears. My reply was simply, “Oh my God, I prayed so much for you guys!” I tried not to show too much emotion but I started to cry tears of great joy. John came across the counter and we hugged. “She is 17 weeks, and we are having a girl!” John added. I cried all the way home and into the house. As my husband Mike unloaded the dry cleaning he asked me, “What’s the matter with you?” I shared the story and he smiled at me, and saying, “That’s amazing!” I am still praising God for granting my friend and his wife this wonderful miracle.

Eye Contact

We never know what a difference we make in the lives of others. The next time you are out in public, start a conversation with a stranger, share the love of Christ with others. You don’t need to beat someone over the head with a Bible to show the love of Christ. A simple smile makes the world a better place.

I have five package of the milk powder

“The deeds you do may be the only sermon some people will hear today.” St. Francis of Assisi

 

 

The Christmas Job As if I were not busy enough, our daughter Sonja asked if
I am part American Indian. Actually a large part of my heritage is Indigenous Americas-Mexico.
Aftermath, Saugas High School Guns in my 𝐋𝐢𝐟𝐞 When I was
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