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Thoughts on life by Teri McCarthy

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Nature versus Nurture

Posted by admin in August 11th, 2009
Published in Blessings

I’ve always wanted to be from a big ol’ ethnic family that was noisy, argued a lot and ate good food. I wasn’t even particular about the kind of ethnic family it was; just that it was big, loud, noisy and that they ate amazing food around big noisy tables. Okay, so the table doesn’t make noise, you know what I mean…

My parents moved around a lot when I was a kid. I went to 13 schools. It wasn’t easy. My sister Cindy and I had no sense of community and we had no life-long friendships. We just couldn’t, moving around like that. But another aspect of life we missed out on was extended family. We moved so often (and most of the moves took place during the summer), we never got to go to family reunions, and we seldom went to funerals. As a result, Cindy and I never knew our extended family. We had no sense of roots or history or heritage. We often felt very disconnected like helium balloons unanchored and detached. And that was life. And that was all we knew.

Two years ago a dear family member died. Her name was Inez. Now, I knew Inez because a few times my parents would be driving through Jones County, Texas, heading east or west, they’d let us stop off to see our farming relatives there. Also, Inez was close to my Mom’s parents—my Grandma and Grandpa Outlaw (yes, that really was their name). This relationship with my grandparents kept us in touch with Inez and her husband J.C. They farmed cotton and peanuts out there in west Texas. They were always good to us.

Since I’ve settled here in Kansas City these past 15 years I’m a lot easier to contact. Not being overseas or in a country without phones, it’s easier to stay in touch with folks. I heard about Inez’s passing from my Mom. I told Daryl I really wanted to attend her funeral because she had meant so much to me as a child and was part of the very small collection of memories I possessed from my youth. So, we decided to go to Inez’s funeral. All the way out to west Texas to a small town called Anson. We drove. It’s a stinkin’ long way.

The funeral home was a small converted house cooled by a window unit in the wall of one of the back parlors. It was August and it must have been 110 degrees outside. When we walked in, it was hard to get our eyes adjusted to the dark. We stumbled around a bit. When our eyes adjusted, I realized I didn’t really know many people there. We were kind of strangers. But Daryl and I are used to meeting strangers, so we delved right in and began shaking hands and asking people their names and introducing ourselves. It was shocking to Daryl that all these folks were my relatives, my blood kin, and I knew only a handful of them by name.

The funeral was beautiful because Inez was a godly woman and people die the way they lived. The Lord’s presence was there in that Southern Baptist church in that small town called Anson.

Afterwards, all the church ladies fixed us dinner and the family went into the fellowship hall to talk and catch up and eat. No one cooks like west Texas women. No one! The food was phenomenal. It was there in that church’s fellowship hall with long, paper covered tables and beige folding chairs that I met my family. My kinfolk. It was there I found my roots. I met J’Lynn my 3rd cousin who had married late in life, just like me and was a teacher, just like me and loved God, just like me. I met her Mom Janis and her Aunt Linda, my other cousins Joann and Carolyn. Carolyn looked like a movie star and reminded me so much of my classy, well-dressed older sister. I met bankers and school teachers and farmers and shop owners and they all belonged to me. They were my family. We hugged and kissed and got acquainted and took a zillion pictures—every combination imaginable—the older ones, the younger ones, the daughters and mothers, the Texans, the others.

Surprisingly, we all did a great job of keeping in touch after the funeral. We sent old photos to each other and emailed regularly and once when Daryl spoke in Ft. Worth they all showed up to hear him speak. It was marvelous to introduce them, “This is my cousin and her husband.” I was so proud of each of them. Janis, J’Lynn’s Mom said to me, “We all need to get together at an event other than a funeral.” She was right. We had way too much fun at Inez’s funeral. Not that Inez would’ve minded. She may have even been rejoicing that she brought us all together. Even in death she was ministering to me.

On August 6th, my seven cousins from Texas traveled up to Kansas City with my sister, my Mom and my niece Anna Jane to attend the first ever annual Cuzzins’ Extravaganza. They drove for hours. I cooked for days. And when they all got here something miraculous happened. Something only God could do. It was like a dream.

You know how you hear about a person finding her birth mother after years and years of searching only to find out that they are almost identical in actions and mannerisms? Or twins separated at birth that are finally reunited and discover they’ve chosen the same professions, wear the same clothes and have the same tastes in food? It was like that. All eleven of us sat around my kitchen table and we talked and laughed and ate and told stories and cried and laughed some more. They are all followers of Jesus and devoted women of prayer. They all had mannerisms that were familiar to me, moral women who loved family and church and looked after each other. I listened to great story tellers and caring women, some of whom I was meeting for the very first time, but felt I had known them all my life. Are we who we are by nurture or nature? Without a doubt, nature played a tremendous role in our connecting there around my kitchen table.

They love to cook and they are excellent at clean up duty. None of them had ever been to my home and yet, when they did dishes—not a thing was out of place. They instinctively knew where stuff belonged. And the house was spotless when they left. They are kind and gentle and they prefer one another. They are smart. Hardworking. Most of them are teachers. They are well-read and funny and interesting and they’ve traveled and seen things.

Sitting there at my crowded kitchen table I suddenly realized I was finally home. Truly home. I have found my place and where I belong. I’m 50 years old and I found the family I’ve always longed for. And they are beautiful.

Am I resentful that I didn’t know them sooner? Am I angry about missing out on all those family reunions and get-togethers? No. Not at all. Because my God is able to redeem the time and make up for all we lost. I just rejoice over my lineage, one that I really knew nothing about. We all come from a couple named James Logan Moss and Joanna Savage Moss who were married in a country store in 1882 in Clay County, Tennessee, and then they pilgrimmed (I made this word up) to Texas where they raised 15 children. Of these 15 children two sisters formed a tight bond and friendship; they were Emma and Nellie. These two sisters are our grandmothers (or for some of us great grandmothers and for Anna Jane Rice, my niece, a great, great grandmother). Connected by six generations.

Hebrews 11 says that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. I believe with my whole heart that as we crowded around my kitchen table and told tales and laughed and ate, that as we prayed and sang choruses, our dear Emma and Nellie were a part of that great cloud and rejoiced with us. I have to say it was truly a taste of heaven. And next year we’re meeting in Texas for the Second Annual Cuzzins’ Extravaganza! I can hardly wait. ‘Cause as we say here in Kansas, “There’s no place like home.” Peace.

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184. big sister said,
August 11th, 2009 at 11:51 am

My dear sweet precious sister, I couldn’t have said it any better. Thank you for speaking for the both of us! God is truly awesome and we have come home…Lots and lots of love and hugs! Sis

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185. BeausMom said,
August 11th, 2009 at 12:01 pm

LOVE IT! You write beautifully about time spent with family and I feel like I was there! Can’t wait to go to the 2nd annual get together!

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186. jalling1 said,
August 11th, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Teri, you are truly gifted with words. I loved reading what you wrote on paper (screen) and it was the same as I am thinking. You are so good at putting it in words.

We, cousins from Texas, probably didn’t know our blessings of having each other when we were younger. We are so grateful to share our Texas kin with you from OK and KS and to include you in our life now.

You opened your home to us and loved us in a way I have never been loved. You cooked for days and had everything ready to welcome us.

This was truly a foretaste of heaven and we had it down here on earth.

Thanks, Teri, for the words you wrote for all of us.

Here is to next year,

Janis from Texas

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187. Texas cuzzin Linda said,
August 11th, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Our Cuzzins’ Extravaganza was amazing. I’m so thankful for the experience – God’s love and presence was exceedingly abundant. Love and hugs to my cousins.

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188. admin said,
August 11th, 2009 at 6:00 pm

See what I mean? These women are amazing. 🙂

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189. Cuzzin J'Lynn said,
August 11th, 2009 at 7:18 pm

My mom has a picture of my great-grandmother Emma in her house. That tiny picture always reminds me of what my mom says about her, that she always wanted everybody to be together. I’ll bet she and Nellie did a little rejoicing in Heaven when she knew about all of her “kids” getting together. Thanks for having us in your home, Teri.

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190. Carolyn said,
August 12th, 2009 at 7:41 am

Girl, you said it all. God certainly has us in his hands. Looking forward to next year. Expecting our attendance to grow. There’s more of us than you’ve met so far. And we can stretch that dinning room table a long way.

Carolyn from Pecan Plantation

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