Well, Thanksgiving may be over, but I am still plenty thankful! Our three twenty-something children were home and we added to our fun and funny memories together! We ALMOST took our Christmas card picture when we all looked pretty bad one morning at the breakfast table, laughing together and telling old family stories. The caption would have been, “This is how we have fun as a family!” Everyone did look sorta scary and I thought it would be funny, but a couple in our group would not give in to this quirky idea. So let me tell you a few things I am grateful for today as I reflect on last week.
Rob has become Chef Rob! He made an awesome coffee cake one morning. It was a Kanakuk recipe, so of course we relived a few Kamp Kanakuk stories while enjoying our breakfast. Not stopping at that, he made an unbelievably delicious cheesecake and a very tart raspberry coulis for topping! (I don’t remember ever hearing the word coulis, but I googled it and found out how to spell it!). Who knew? Rob also helped with picking out the Christmas tree, getting it safely home and decorating it! He and Mary Margaret put the lights on and I am especially grateful for that!
Mary Margaret – best friend ever
Mary Margaret stayed right by my side all week and helped me get things done and most efficiently! I wish she could be my personal assistant all the time! We both tried our hand at making a roux – she made gumbo and I made shrimp étouffée. Each came out great and along with the red beans and rice, our Louisiana party on Friday was a huge success. She took care of choosing our Christmas card picture (a traditional pose), and she placed the order as she does every year. She helped with numerous Christmas gifts and that is huge! My cookbook, Shugie’s Favorite Recipes with a Lot of Help from Mary Margaret, has been re-printed and she sent a notice out to any who might want to order one. See http://bit.ly/1cTNSVT if interested.
JB – fun Dad and full of ideas
JB also took a turn in the kitchen and made his banana pudding – another hit with everyone! It was his idea that we get up early and attend first service on Sunday morning. Worship was great and we had time to enjoy a leisurely brunch and some afternoon time before the last of our kids had to leave. However, hands down, the best idea he had all week(and somehow I am sure it was his idea) was a surprise on Friday. After our large number of guests left from our mid-day party, the kitchen and dining room were covered with dishes to be washed. I told the family we would tackle it a little later and Wes and I went into town to exchange cable boxes. When we returned about an hour later, Mary Margaret said, “Well, here we are sitting right where we were when you left!” Then I glanced to the right, noticing my kitchen sparkling clean with not one plate or pan in sight! JB, Mary Margaret and Rob had worked a miracle as a clean-up team. Wow! Talk about being grateful!
Every family needs a Wes!
And then there is Wes, our technical director! He upgraded phones, computers, TV’s, remotes, etc. the whole time he was home. We are so grateful he knows how to do all of these things and even more grateful that he likes to do these things for all of us. Every family needs a Wes. Hopefully JB and I can operate the 4 remotes (really??) and get to our TV programs and favorites on Netflix.
You can have Black Friday!
Probably my favorite memory of the holiday was our family shopping trip on Wednesday. We all went, and even managed to get along! I am so grateful we all love each other and can enjoy being together; I do not take this for granted. Wes needed a few clothing items and was willing to go to a store and try on some things! That is noteworthy because he rarely, if ever, has been willing to shop. The good news is that we really got him fixed up with some good looking clothes and he survived the experience. I found out quickly that he was not interested in mine or JB’s opinion about much of anything, but if Mary Margaret thought something looked “cool” he wanted it! Also, getting Rob’s nod of approval several times meant a lot to Wes. We walked away with some nice new wardrobe items for our 25 year old! It was a sweet time. Rob also found some things, and he actually left yesterday with new shoes on his feet – an early Christmas present! The best part of our shopping trip was that we went on Wednesday, not Friday, and the stores were practically empty! We did not have to wait in line for anything and we had plenty or room to roam in the store. You can have Black Friday, and I’ll take Wonderful Wednesday.
God is large and in charge
Besides the trivial, but significant memories mentioned above, I am also grateful for extended family and friends. It was great to be with cousins on Thanksgiving. I am grateful God has placed us in Newnan, GA for this chapter of life. Re-connecting with friends from childhood has been a wonderful experience, and serving at our church in Peachtree City is a privilege. Thank God He is in charge of my life – new adventures and surprises appear every year and even when disappointments and tough days surface, He is large and in charge, always sufficient and providing grace for the moment.
A dear friend of mine is suffering right now. Sarah has fought the good fight with cancer, and with a great attitude, but right now it appears the cancer is winning the battle with her life. Another close friend and former roommate called yesterday to ask me to pray as she has her first round of chemo today! There is a part of me that just can’t stand these situations and it has certainly crossed my mind, “why these wonderful women and not me?” I imagine you know someone who is struggling at the moment also. My Mama is moaning in her room right now and I can hear her. She is not in pain and while our caregiver is at her side, there is not much we can do about it; it is just part of her health condition. Struggles are very painful – for the individual as well as for those who care about them and for them.
Suffering is part of life; no one escapes.
There is no glossing over pain, disappointment, grief, disillusionment, depression, failures and fears. BUT, for those who have accepted Christ as personal savior, acknowledging that he died on a cross to pay the penalty for sin, we have great hope! Jesus rose from the dead; it’s a fact. He defeated death and he lives forever, offering to all who believe a new life, with him at the center and in control. He will make a way when there seems to be no way; it is a matter of faith and trust in the God of the universe. And those who believe have the hope of eternal life with him, once our time on this earth is done. That is huge and worth taking the leap of faith to believe!
Contrary to what some mis-informed people may say, the life of a Christian is not perfect, nor is it without pain, suffering, and mistakes. Read the Bible, for goodness sakes! Those who loved and served God had tough times! Life happens … but God is good and he provides a way to endure and to ultimately be victorious! Some hardships are due to consequences, but many difficult situations come upon people who are filled with goodness and innocence…like my two friends mentioned above.
Mull over these things as we enter season of thanksgiving.
* Pause and spend a few minutes thanking God for things in your life right now that are good. Be specific and make a written list.
* Ask God to give you strength and wisdom to navigate any storms you are facing.
* Think of someone you admire who has weathered tough times well. Ask yourself, “how did he/she manage that?” If possible call that person; set up a coffee date and request to hear his/her story.
* Make a list of friends and family who are currently suffering. For each one write down something you will do. Take a meal, send a card, deliver a small flower arrangement, call a family member and ask how you can best offer encouragement. If you have ever been the recipient of these kindnesses you know how much each one means.
* Look back. At some time in the past, did you go through something horrific and yet you survived and perhaps became a stronger person? Can you thank God for the good that may result when we endure the bad?
* Ask yourself, “who do I want to be in charge – me or God?” Who has the best track record? Can you surrender your will to him, especially when in a trying situation?
* Hope is available for you, even through tears and pain and loneliness.
* Pray specifically for the needs of those suffering; believe God to provide comfort, strength, and his peace, which is not of this world.
* If you are a reader, open you Bible to Psalms and start reading. You will find passages that speak to suffering and also to hope through the promises of God.
* If music speaks to you, here are a couple of songs for you to look up and listen to intently – Praise You In the Storms by Casting Crowns and Blessings by Laura Story.
No, there is no way you can live in such a way to avoid all suffering. But God is ready and able to help you and others in your greatest time of need.
Yesterday I spoke to a group of young moms and JB stood in the back and listened. Later he told me I did a good job but then he ruined that compliment when he recommended I wear one of those chains around my neck to hold my reading glasses! He suggested a multi-colored one made of beads. Are you kidding? I wanted to hit him! I am NOT the old lady who wears one of those. But I have to admit I need the glasses even when my notes are printed in size 14 font!
Beware – your undue pride will be your undoing!
Years ago friends started pulling out reading glasses to read the menu when we went to lunch. Too bad for “them” I thought as I studied the fine print with no problem. Beware – your undue pride will be your undoing! It wasn’t long before the problem of seeing up close became my problem too. Thus began my journey and story with glasses. I thought I had it beat when the doctor put me into bifocal contacts; they worked just like bifocal glasses; the contacts were weighted, keeping the reading part always in correct position. This was awesome for a few years, but, lo, the heavy contacts began to irritate my (older!) eyes. Back to single vision contacts and constant need for the old-person glasses. And I mean constant need.
For those of you who are not there yet, trust me, you will be and my advice is that you buy many pairs — the cute ones and the multi-packs. (See my current sampling above!) The reality is that they must be everywhere because most people are not good at putting things back in a designated place. I usually put them up on my head when not needed, but, since this a true confessions story, I have found myself looking for my glasses many times while there were sitting right there in my hair! I try to keep glasses by my chair, on my desk, by the bed, in the bathroom, in the kitchen, in the car — you get the drift — like everywhere! After taking the pictures above I found three more in my computer bag! The most essential place I keep glasses is in my purse (or pocketbook, as we say in Newnan, GA.). It is essential to keep at least two pair or, better yet, three. One year at a large family get-together at the Varsity in Atlanta, I entertained our whole table showing them all the glasses in my bag and explaining why I had so many. Here’s what I’ve found. You’ve got to have the ones you want; but then you must have a back-up pair in case you forgot that #1 pair. And it is best to have an extra backup pair (perhaps those in a small, slender metal case) in the very bottom of your bag at all times for the rare emergency. Often you will find yourself sharing a pair with someone at your table in a restaurant – maybe a girlfriend or even her husband. One pastor friend of ours always struggled to read the menu and never had a pair of glasses with him so I would offer him one of mine. I wish I had taken a picture of him in my very cute red glasses!
If having to pull out the glasses to read a menu is not bad enough, let me prepare you that the day may come when you have to have your glasses at the table whether at home or in a restaurant. That is because you WANT TO SEE CLEARLY what you are eating! My line is that I don’t like to eat things that look fuzzy.
And we have not yet even mentioned sunglasses. I used to hate it when I was at the beach and reading a good book. I HAD to have the reading glasses, but also HAD to have the sunglasses! Why did I feel like the only person in the world sitting on the beach with two pairs on – one on top of the other? That was a very awkward stage. But while discussing this dilemma with my hair stylist one day, she told me that Steinmart sold sunglasses that were readers! Who knew? I should have given her a really big tip that day! Since then I have made frequent trips to Steinmart to stock up – for the car, the condo, my purse, and of course an extra pair in case my current favorite pair breaks or is lost, left on a table, counter, or in a public restroom — not that any of that has happened to me….. A big bonus to the sunglass readers is that you can read your phone while driving with your sunglasses on! This is huge, especially if you are trying to follow written directions (or read a text).
The domino story of the glasses continues…. all of this has affected the purses I buy. Do you see the connection? Any pocketbook must be big enough for my wallet, cosmetic bag, lots of kleenex (a quirk of mine), my phone, and of course the glasses. As you can see we are up to at least four pair of glasses in the purse at all times, and maybe five, if you want a spare pair of the sunglass variety!
Finally, for those of you who are young and think this will never happen to you — keep your mouth shut and just thank God you can see good NOW. You will probably join this club in the future and at least you have some tips for surviving and thriving when your time comes.