Revelations: The Viking woman
I wasn't expecting my father's compliment that evening, sitting on the sofa facing the living room fireplace.
The blessing, I suppose, of growing up in an argumentative family with tough, quick-to-correct-you parents is that when they offer praise, it is forever branded in your memory.
I stared ahead at the Christmas stockings that night and listened to the chatter behind me - a mix of voices and conversations going on in the kitchen.
My father stood behind me, watching the television over my shoulder, sipping a crystal tumbler of some pricey spirit he purchased for the family get-together the following evening. He was calm and grinning in that adorable way he does when he's truly in a great mood.
It's the crescent grin; the dimpled grin.
He was pleased, I recall, that his children were home for the holidays, even if we would all be on his nerves before morning.
During a commercial break, his attention shifted to me. He asked about work and life and asked if I was happy. He always asks if I'm happy, which to me sort of indicates maybe he thinks I'm not. I've always found it to be an odd question. Are you content or satisfied? Those would be easier questions to answer. But then so is "How was your day?"
My dad was never good at shooting the breeze.
But in that moment, like all the moments before when he asked if I was happy, I said, "Yes." And I meant it.
That's when he told me how proud he was of me. And that I was like the Viking woman of the family.
"You are. It's in your blood," he said, pointing to his bookcase of Scandinavian texts, bringing up the family's Icelandic boldness that he believes passed to me through his mother, my grandma Esther.
A Viking woman is somewhat of a misnomer because the Norse word vikingar is applicable to men only. But certainly Viking men married and those women were a part of Viking culture. And women of that culture were strong, independent, adventurous, bold and clever. Characteristics my father sees in me, he said.
I thought about the conversation I had with my father over the weekend during Easter church service at Mt. Nebo on Sunday.
I was one of two white women in the pews, and it didn't take long for those pesky negative, self-doubting thoughts to pop in my head as I walked in the church with Greg.
"You don't belong here." "Look, there's a white girl taking one of our men." "Why are they together?" "Just what the world needs, another interracial couple."
For the first 10 minutes or so, all I could think about was how many people in the church would rather I go back to the white church where I belonged. None of my thoughts made any sense, and everyone I encountered was beyond gracious.
But that's what self-doubt does; it lies to you.
I was trying hard to hold a strong face, a Viking woman face, a face that said, "I am not at all trying to figure out what you're thinking of me right now."
But then the Rev. Fred Hobbs started preaching about love, universal love, agape love.
He started preaching about God loving and desiring relationships with all people of every nation and background, of every color, across every border.
It was as if he could hear the distracting thoughts in my mind and was personally aiming to silence them.
His sermon Easter Sunday reminded me why I was at church in the first place. And that I was in a house of God with loved ones at my side.
When I looked around again, I wasn't consumed with self-doubt. I realized I was one among many followers in the sanctuary, equally treasured and cherished, worshipping the same God.
I didn't need my Viking face. My identity as a daughter was good enough.
Jennifer Preyss is the faith editor for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or on Twitter @jenniferpreyss.