Happy Thanksgiving Week!
I’m posting a day early this week because we have children and grandchildren coming in on Wednesday, and I’m sure all of you are either cooking too – or traveling. This is the same post I wrote for the Lake Blackshear Blog that posted yesterday, so if you read that one, no need to go further – well, unless you want to read it again!
I’ll see you back here next week on Wednesday, November 30. Have a blessed holiday!
Not being a regular television watcher, I don’t keep up with much on the small screen (or the big screen, as so many of them are these days), but I do know David Letterman has a “Top Ten” list for just about anything of relevance in today’s world. Sitting on the sun porch this morning, sipping coffee and watching our birds happily munch away at “Horton’s Fine Feathers Cafe”, I conjured up my “Top Ten” list of blessings. Here’s what I’m thankful for – from cherished to most cherished.
Number 10: Sunrises, Sunsets – and Everything In Between. Whether in Georgia or on Mackinac Island, I pretty much miss sunrise each morning, choosing instead to snooze right through it unless I have an early morning appointment somewhere. Thank goodness there are others less lazy than I who bound up, ready to tackle the day and verify for all of us late risers that the sun does indeed come up each morning – signaling the end of night and the start of another day that the Lord has made – just for us. Between the sunrise and sunset, I’m thankful for every single moment I’m given – to love deeply and to live fully. As I’ve grown older, the need to cherish each moment God grants me has grown. The whirlwind of younger days has been replaced with an appreciation of the finer things in life – sun sparkling on water, trees budding in the spring, the kaleidoscope of leaves in the fall, the long stretch and curve of dirt roads in the country, the clip-clop of horses hooves on Mackinac streets, the natural wonders of the woods in the South and in the North, the song of birds. My comforts now lie mainly in what God has made, not in the man-made, rapidly replaced “stuff” we invent for our pleasures. Sunsets herald the end of another day, the peace of slumber, and the hope that the daytime hours were well-spent – and at least somewhat pleasing to our Maker.
Number 9: The Joy of the Double-Nest. Ted and I both know how blessed we are to enjoy summers in Michigan and winters in Georgia. When telling strangers about our life-style, we often hear the phrase, “You have the best of both worlds!” It’s true, and we give thanks every day. There may come a day when what we do is no longer practical – or possible – but for now it keeps us looking forward to every minute of every day. When we returned home a few weeks ago and went to our doctor for annual physicals, he said to each of us separately, “I predict the six months you spend on that island will add years to your life.” All our blood work, our x-rays, our EKG’s – everything was perfect. No cars equals more exercise. Note to self in Georgia – drive less, walk more.
Number 8: Retirement. What a wonderful time of life! When I was very young I once said, “We do it all wrong. We should be free to enjoy life when we’re young – maybe from college to age 35 – then go to work and work till we die.” Oh, the stupidly of youthful thoughts! How could I have possibly imagined the joy that would come from having worked and done a job well, while my brain was clear enough to handle it. As a young person, how could I possibly have known the joy of the “light at the end of the tunnel” that would flicker more brightly with each year – something to look forward to. Retirement – the joy of free days to do nothing if that is my choice, the joy of volunteering, the joy of grandchildren, the joy of being old and feeling good and NOT having to go to work. I sure am glad the system works as it does – not as I once thought it should.
Number 7: Pets. What would we do without them! Bear and Maddie and all those before them . . . Bud, Shotzie, Calico, Whiskers, Tyler. They fill our days with undiluted happiness, even when they are at their most annoying. They bring us unconditional love while they live and heart-wrenching sorrow when they leave us. Our lives would not be as joyful without them, and when my final hours on this earth approach, I pray I will spend them surrounded by family – and with a good dog’s head resting under my hand.
Number 6: Friends. I believe you can have only one BFF (“best friend forever” – for those not into the modern initials of the texting world) – mine is Helen McCorvey. I don’t mention her often, but she knows she’s the sister I never had and always longed for. She’s there for me always, knows all my secrets . . . and loves me anyway. We don’t talk or see each other nearly enough these days; but I know – and she knows – that a phone call would bring us running to each other to help with anything. Helen taught me English when I was a Junior in high school, and one day she praised something I wrote for a special assignment. That praise planted the seed for what I do today. Over the years she’s been my teacher, my boss, and my mentor. Now she’s my best friend forever – and when I finish this sentence, I’m going to get up and call her.
Close friends come and go throughout our lives, and I’m thankful for each and everyone. The ones who stick through all the ups and downs are the ones I remember and the ones who hold such a special place in my heart. They’re the ones I call when I need a pep talk or want to brag about my children or grandchildren. They’re the ones, although I don’t see them for months – or talk to them for weeks – don’t hold it against me, and pick up the next conversation as though we only spoke yesterday. In the close-knit communities of the lake in Georgia and the little island of Mackinac, it’s those close friends I long to get back to when we are away. In a perfect world, I’d haul them all back and forth with us each year. Practicality prevents that, of course, but it sure would make both our “nests” pretty much perfect.
There’s another group that must be mentioned in this friend “thankfulness” list – those of you who have become networked together through these two blogs – one in Georgia and one on Mackinac Island. You’re such a loyal group – over 1200 strong in Michigan and over 700 strong in Georgia. I’m thankful for each of you. A few years ago, none of us knew each other, and most of us will never meet face-to-face or even speak on the phone. Nevertheless, we are friends. We care for each other through our mutual love of a place. I think that’s pretty doggone special!
Number 5: Family. Family is everything. As an only child I always longed for sisters and brothers, and loved spending time with my first cousins (most of my aunts and uncles had large families). Life being what it is, we’ve all ebbed and flowed into each other’s lives at different times over the years, and it is only since the deaths of the uncles and aunts that we’ve really become close again. I’m so thankful for that, and I love each of them with a love born from the blood that courses through our veins. We are kin. They are my roots.
Cousins are very important in Ted’s family also, and I’m so thankful for Cathy and Charlie, who come to see us each summer. Another cousin from Ted’s family came into our lives in the last few months. After almost 30 years, Ted reconnected with a first cousin in Ft. Thomas, KY, and I am so thankful they’ve found each other once again. Jan was one of the the children he played with at his grandparents cottage in the Les Cheneaux Island in Michigan – during long. lazy summers spent fishing and playing in the woods of the U.P. I have yet to meet Jan, but we’ve spoken on the phone. What a blessing to reconnect with family after such a long time apart. We’re hoping to visit with each other next summer, and what fun it would be to have Cathie and Charlie, and Jan and her family all in Michigan together after all these years.
Number 4: Parents. Mine were the best. Tom Brokak called them “the greatest generation”, and I whole-heartedly agree. As young marrieds, my mom and dad knew all about pinching pennies, and whatever they had was earned with long hours and lots of toil. When daddy went off to war, mama went to work – and when the war was over, daddy came home and jumped right back into earning a living for his family. My childhood was filled with love – but not the kind that spoils. There were many “things” I thought I would truly die if I didn’t have – but I didn’t get them, and I’m still here. We went to church together, and they taught me – through demonstration – their work ethic, which I’ve tried to emulate. They loved me unconditionally, and of all the things I miss about them since they’ve left this earth, it is that unconditional love I miss the most. I think about them dozens of times a day and talk to them all the time – just like they are here. I will see them again, and what a joyous day that will be!
Number 3: Ted. When Ted and I married, my boys were 16 and 12. What could he possibly have been thinking – marrying me when part of the “package” included two hormone-pumping teenagers! But marry me he did, and we’ve never been sorry. Ted brought a man’s 24-hour-a-day perspective to our home, and my young men thrived on it. Even to this day, when we’re all together, I’m told of something that happened “back in the day” that Jason and Blake went to Ted with – not to me. Does that hurt me? Not one bit. I thank God every day that we’re together. Ted loves me, loves my children, laughs with me, cooks every night, volunteers because he wants to give back to the community, and is the most fair, unprejudiced person I’ve ever known. He’s also the most stubborn man I’ve ever known and sometimes the most annoying. I love him. He is my rock.
Number 2: Children and Grandchildren. Our friend Chris Ann from Michigan calls her daughters- and sons-in-law “bonus children”. I’d never heard that term before, but Ted and I immediately claimed it – for in-laws AND each other’s children. Julie, Ted’s daughter, is my bonus daughter, and my children are Ted’s bonus sons. Sounds so much better than step-children, doesn’t it!
Jason and Blake are my heart, and God must have thought I was pretty special to bless me with these two. Are they perfect? Oh, please! They caused every single gray hair I have to spend hundreds of dollars a year covering up. But, as my parents loved me, so I love them.
Jason’s unflinching love of everything life has to offer partially rubbed off on me in my later years. It was Jason who first pulled me onto a plane when I was well into my 40’s. He couldn’t believe I’d never flown, and practically man-handled me into a tiny sea-plane in Panama City one summer. The flight was almost half-over before I ever opened my eyes, but from that day on, I’ve loved to fly. He can make me laugh even in the worst of a bad mood. One of the happiest days of my life was when he married beautiful Blair. She compliments him perfectly, as he does her. They are a great team, and I thank God they found each other. Jason is my favorite oldest son, and I am so proud of him.
Blake is the strong, silent type – until you get to know him. Then he’s strong, and not-so-silent. He is serious about his faith in God, has an abiding patience with life I wish I had, and can bring calm to most any storm. He seems to care not a whit for creature comforts, preferring to live with a few necessities and go with the flow. His years serving in China taught him a deep appreciation for other cultures, but he loves the United States and is so enjoying being back here. Whether he will ever know earthly wealth is something only God knows, but even now he is one of the richest people I know. Blake is my favorite youngest son, and I am so proud of him.
Julie – my bonus daughter. If I had carried a daughter within me for nine months, I could not have asked for one more beautiful or sweet or loving than Julie. She is a constant amazement to me. I’ve watched and listened over the years as she and and bonus-son Matt have raised our precious grandchildren, Jordan and Matthew, and often wondered, “Where did she learn all this stuff?” I think she could write a best-selling book on mothering, and I’d be glad to be her agent. Together, Julie and Matt also make a great team.
Number 1: God. When I was nine I joined the First Baptist Church of Sylvester. I was caught up in the annual revival meeting, and it seemed to be the “right thing to do” at that time in my childhood. I was baptized the next Sunday, and my parents were so happy. Did I have a clue what I was really doing? No. Oh, I called myself a Christian from that time on, but as years went by, I took all of it for granted. Church was someplace I was expected to be on Sunday mornings, but when I left my parents’ home for marriage, other things became more important. Children brought me back into the church because I knew they should be there. Divorce took me away again.
Many years later, on a lonely road between our lake house and my job in Albany, early one morning in March as the sun was rising over a cotton field, I pulled over to the side of the road. Blake had gone to China for the first time months before, and I could not stop worrying about him. My every thought seemed to be for his safety, and it was affecting my whole life – my relationship with Ted, with friends, with my mother, with my job – everything. One of the things I promised myself I would do when Blake left was to read the Bible straight through, and I started that process on January 1. The more I read each morning, the more I realized my relationship with the Lord was not as it should be. I knew I hadn’t made Him first in my life in years, and I knew I was miserable. That morning, sobbing on the side of the road, I asked forgiveness for the sins of my life – naming them, at least all the big ones, and putting all the others under “and everything else I’ve ever done that I shouldn’t have” phrase. I asked Jesus to come into my life that morning for the very first time – at least fully knowing what I was asking. My next prayer was for Blake’s safety in China, and even before I could say “Amen”, a peace unlike anything I’d ever known filled me.
Do I still struggle with sin? Oh yes. But I know for sure now that when Christ died on that cross, he was dying for me – so my sins would be forgiven. I know one day I will meet Him in Heaven, along with all the loved ones that have gone before. God is my anchor, and with Him, all things are possible.