Thank you for following along on another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude always begins my week in writing. Today I’d like to express my gratitude for being a guest in the home of a dear friend from Austin, Texas for five days, where I saw something demonstrated quite beautifully that I never really saw within my own family growing up, that being unconditional love.
If you’ve followed along in my writing for my blog throughout any of the past seven years, then you already have probably read at some point how growing up in the alcoholic and emotionally imbalanced home that I did that there wasn’t much in the way of unconditional love ever being shown. Rather, it was quite the opposite with conditional love offered only when big leaps and hurdles were achieved to appease my parents, especially my mother. That’s why it was such a welcomed gift to be a guest in the home of my dear friend Karen Werner Cudzilo, along with her husband Marty and her two children, David and Sarah. There, I witnessed for the entire time I was there some family dynamics that were what I had always hoped to have as a kid but never got.
A great example of this that comes to mind right off the bat during this trip took place one morning as I sat on the backyard patio eating some oatmeal. Marty was putting this peanut-butter-looking paste on various trees in the backyard for the birds in such a strange pattern that didn’t make any sense until he finished, because when he did, it was him actually professing his deep love for his wife using their initials and some symbols. And they’ve been together for almost 30 years! This wasn’t an isolated incident of an act of unconditional love either.
I regularly witnessed them praise their kids, even for the simplest of achievements made. I saw hugs and tokens of affection offered repeatedly. There were daily phone calls and texts just saying hi to each other and sharing bits of their days with each other. All of which was so different from my upbringing where I rarely got my parents attention to just listen to me because they were either fighting, not talking to each other, or focused on their drinking and watching tv.
Karen’s family’s natural language felt so foreign to me, but so familiar to them, and yet it was incredibly refreshing to experience. As we played the cornhole beanbag game multiple times in their backyard for example, while I watched friendly competition amongst them, I also witnessed them all cheer each other on and congratulate each other for when good achievements were made in the game, like when David scored four beanbags in a row in the hole to win a game. That was such the opposite to gaming in my family where everything was so rigidly competitive, as when losses occurred it was normal to see things like playing cards being thrown across the room or ripped up, or board games getting toppled over.
The fact is I never once felt uncomfortable in the midst of Karen’s family. They all paid attention to me when I spoke. They didn’t spend their meals engrossed on their phones and weren’t disinterested in topics of conversation I brought up. They made it a point to make me feel truly welcomed, which really felt genuine, as I haven’t been embraced that well by any family in a very, long time, if ever. I almost wished I could have bottled it all up, all that unconditional love energy, as it alone helped me to feel better with the daily bouts of physical pain I still felt during my trip there.
I know some people might think that it could have all been for show just because I was there, but trust me when I say that I’m exceptionally good at picking up when people are faking it and Karen’s family was most definitely not.
While some may think that the biggest gratitude I would have had during my trip to Austin would have been the unique sightseeing I did in the area, it really was far more about spending time with a family where the true love of Christ was demonstrated repeatedly and without effort. That alone was the best gift I could have received on this trip, as it showed me what a family home looks like when unconditional love is at its core.
So, thank you Karen, Marty, David, and Sarah, for welcoming me into your home for a few days, as the love I experienced from each of you truly made for the most amazing blessing, which is why today’s Grateful Heart Monday is dedicated to all of you.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson