Giving Thanks

One of my most memorable Thanksgiving experiences didn’t take place in the midst of festivities, family, and friends. It didn’t even take place on Thanksgiving Day.

My memorable Thanksgiving began as an ordinary day in the fall of 1992. At the time, my husband was working for a police department in a small tourist city in Arizona. I was supposed to drop him off at the station early in the morning so he could take a patrol car to a three-day seminar in Flagstaff.

While he gathered his belongings, I loaded our four small pajama-clad children into the car. Then off we went. I was expecting the trip to the station and back home to take about an hour, but when we arrived at the station no patrol cars were available, so I had to drive him up the mountain to drop him off at the seminar. I hated driving the road through the canyon. I also wasn’t thrilled about having another hour and a half of drive time.

On the way back down the mountain, the children started poking each other and whining, “Moooom, how much longer!” Since I had been teaching the kids about being flexible and practicing thankfulness, I figured it was a good time for a life lesson. At the time I had no idea that I was the one who needed the lesson the most. “Guess what kids! I exclaimed. This is a great opportunity for character building.” They knew when Mom mentioned character building it meant that we would try to make the best out of a frustrating situation. It also meant that at any moment Mom was going to erupt in song. As expected, I began to sing praise songs and practice thankfulness, which basically means saying your thankful when you don’t feel it. My six-year-old son Joshua and my four-year-old daughter Shanna sang along with me as their toddler sister Rebekah and baby brother Caleb expressed themselves by making joyful noises.

I was thankful that the kids were having fun and the ride was going smoothly, that is until I heard a guttural noise and a gushing sound. I looked over my shoulder at Joshua. He was covered with vomit. His little sisters were echoing each other with sounds of disgust. Because of the sharp curves, I had to keep my eyes on the road, but I kept my ears tuned in to the commotion in the back seat.

It wasn’t long before I heard a second guttural noise. “Oh no, Joshua! Not again!” I shouted.

He shouted back, “It wasn’t me, Mom!” As I approached the next curve, I glanced back just in time to see Shanna empty the contents of her stomach. With two of them throwing up, the stench in the car was awful. Rebekah was fussing, and baby Caleb started crying. I wanted to cry too.

I rolled the windows down and I shouted toward the back seat. “It’s okay kids. We will be home in 50 minutes. We will just keep worshipping. Let’s count our blessings!” I then began to sing another praise song. I was hoping that Joshua and Shanna would sing along, but they both threw up again. After we rounded the next curve, Rebekah joined them, and by the time we got to the base of the mountain the baby was also puking. I continued singing and offering words of encouragement, wishing that home was around the corner instead of 40 more minutes away. “Lord, help me!” I begged.

The drive seemed to take forever. I kept telling myself, “Stay focused. Stay thankful. Even if you don’t feel it, practice thankfulness.” At one point I quit singing and began laughing. What were the odds of four small children puking at the same time? I looked back at my four very unhappy vomit-encrusted passengers. The entire situation was ludicrous.

After what seemed like an eternity, I parked in front of our apartment. One by one I carried the children inside, stripped off their jammies, rinsed them off, and laid them on blankets on the floor. After placing a puke bucket next to all but the baby I removed the car seats and hosed them down and then cleaned up the car.

I then went back inside to tend to my children. A few of them had continued to vomit. Thankfully, they were using their buckets. Taking the baby in my arms I sat down in my rocking chair and prayed. I felt sorry for my sick children. I felt even sorrier for myself.

I got up and laid the baby on a blanket and emptied and resituated the buckets. Before sitting back down, I grabbed a book to read to my pathetic little pukers. I figured reading them a book might distract them from how awful they were feeling. The book I chose was one I had recently purchased about the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving.

I had learned about the Pilgrims in elementary school, but that day I got a lot more insight. I was fascinated by the information the author had accumulated from journal entries as well as history books.

The Separatists, later known as Pilgrims, had endured persecution, imprisonment, and poverty before they had been given the opportunity to establish a colony in America. They had fled from England to Holland, but their desire to spread the gospel and for their children to prosper pushed them toward more.

They paid a high price to fulfill their God-given dream. Half of them would lose their lives before the first harvest. Some of them would die before they even reached the shore.

A couple of chapters into the book, Joshua had asked for something to eat, so I gave him a little bit of flat soda and a couple of saltine crackers. Then I sat down and resumed reading. The next chapter was about the voyage. I read about horrible sea sickness and food shortages. I was sure that my two oldest could relate a little when they heard that the Pilgrims survived on ale and stale bread.

At the request of my children, I continued to read. We learned about how Squanto had been kidnapped as a youth. After he had been educated in England he returned to his home to discover that his entire village had been wiped out from disease. God had positioned him for such a time as this to help the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims had a dream, but God had plan-not just a plan for a new colony but a new country.

When I finished the book, I thought about the sacrifices and the blessings surrounding Thanksgiving. Squanto had lost all of his family and friends. The Pilgrims had lost many of theirs. But in the midst of loss they celebrated together. As two people groups united with thankful hearts they ushered in a new beginning.

When I closed the book, I looked at each of my children and whispered a prayer of thanks. “Thank you, Lord, that they only have the flu. Thank you for our freedom. Thank you for your care. Thank you for everything!” A frustrating day had turned into an amazing one. For most, Thanksgiving was just around the corner, but in our little apartment it had already arrived.  I no longer had to practice thankfulness.  It was overflowing from my heart and coursing through my entire being.

Happy Thanksgiving!

May you be overwhelmed by the goodness of God!

God bless,

Jeannie

 

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV).

photo by johnhain – pixabay

Wrappings

Last March, I began communicating with a man I had met on-line. He was a handsome business owner and a dedicated father who was involved in his church and community.  After a month of text messages and phone calls we agreed to meet in person. To say that I was excited would have been an understatement. Since he was coming from another city and I hadn’t agreed to date anyone for the past three years, I had already begun to lightly sketch him into my life’s painting as my possible Boaz.

As I was getting ready for my date, my hopes were high. Putting on my makeup I felt like a schoolgirl preparing for the prom. Even though it was just a lunch date, I wore a nice dress and high heels. “This might be it,” I said to myself, “After 17 years of singleness, I might be meeting the One God has been preparing for me.”

Ten minutes into our date my high hopes turned into hope deferred. Not only was there a lack of chemistry, I found him to be incredibly boring and materialistic.

I don’t cry often, but after I got home I bawled like a baby. That night I asked for prayer and my pastors prayed for me.

When I awoke the following morning, past scenarios in my life were running through my head like movie clips. Anytime I had trusted God and obeyed Him, even in the midst of difficult seasons, I was thankful because I could now see the blessings. It was the times when I had disobeyed God or made decisions based upon what looked good to me that had caused me grief and filled me with regret.

I had recited the phrase “God is good!” many times, but that morning I understood God’s goodness at a whole new level. God is not only is good, He always knows what is good for me. Even when the packaging of my circumstances didn’t look or feel good, He was always good.

I wrote the following poem during a discouraging season. At that time it was difficult for me to see God’s goodness; but I can clearly see it now. I pray it will bless you.

Wrappings

Two packages lay before me,

One elegant; one plain.

The one in finest wrapping.

The other brown with string.

With delight I grabbed the first one;

Gently removed the bows

And folded down the paper

While anticipation rose.

But disappointment surfaced

Almost immediately

As I opened up the box

And it contents I did see.

For instead of finest treasures

Of diamonds or of gold,

It was filled with thorns and thistles

And miseries untold.

So reluctantly I reached out

And placed the second on the floor.

With its drab and plain appearance

What horrors were in store?

Then cautiously I cut

The fraying well-worn string,

Removed the plain brown paper

And opened up the awful thing.

All disappointment left

As delight filled up my soul

For in that plain and simple package

Were treasures to behold.

Sometimes God’s greatest gifts

Are hidden for a season.

It’s often later down the road

We understand the reason.

Jeannie Boatright

I have learned that sometimes the most incredible gifts come in the most unusual packages.

 May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

photo from Pixabay

A Memory

Some people have a gift of capturing beauty in photographs. Others capture beauty through their words. My friend Shelly is gifted in both. In today’s post, Shelly paints a beautiful memory with her words.

A memory:

On our way home from Dallas today, we stopped at a Wendy’s. After we sat down, a middle-aged man entered with a tiny, elderly woman. He gently guided her to the line and showed her the menu board. He carried her small purse, handles frayed, to a table and went back to retrieve her and their trays.

He helped her unwrap her food and made several trips to gather the extras for their meal.

Her back was to me, but his merry eyes lit up each time she said something. I crossed near them to dispose of my trash and I saw him reach across the table and pat her cheek gently. “Mom, you’re such a beauty. I hope you know that, ” he told her.

She smiled and dabbed her mouth as she nodded her head slightly. He steadied her shaky hand when she pulled the fork upward for another bite.

I had to stop. “You two…it’s wonderful.”

He grinned. “Well, she’s still my best girl, aren’t you, Mom? Even though you’re 94, we still enjoy our dates, don’t we?”

She nodded and her eyes crinkled softly as she patted his hand.

I don’t know what their story was before, or where the road led them after, but in that moment, they were perfection. Pure, righteous, holy.

contributed by Shelly Smith Morales

 

Walking

Laura and I worked together. I liked her from the moment I met her. She was dedicated, determined, and cared deeply for the residents living in the facility where we were employed. She was also punctual, which says a lot because she didn’t have a car.

During one of our brief opportunities to chat, I invited Laura to a Bible study I was teaching in my home. Since she worked many double shifts, she didn’t think she would be able to come. But God made a way for her to attend.

During discussion time, Laura let loose. I don’t remember what the topic was, but once she started “sharing” our night took a turn. (Some leaders might have seen it as a turn for the worse, but God knew it was a turn for the best.)

As Laura exploded in expletives, my sweet friends just listened with their hearts. Interlaced in a sea of (f) words was a story of abuse, loss, and pain. No one chastised Laura for being inappropriate, they just loved her, listened, asked questions, and prayed.

After the other women went home, Laura sat down at the table while I cleaned up. I could tell she was thinking. After a bit, she said, “I know you care about me.”

“Yes, Laura, we all love you,” I responded.

“Nobody judged me,” she stated, as she looked me straight in the eye. “Nobody said anything about my cussing.”

That night, Laura and I visited for a while. We talked about God’s unconditional love. We talked about healing, forgiveness, and freedom. We talked about a lot of things. Then I drove her home.

After that night, Laura began to regularly attend our weekly meetings. Since she worked most Sundays, she rarely attended church, but it was obvious that she loved Jesus. In the midst of her daily challenges, Laura would silently pray for people, trust God (even in the hard times), and continually give God credit for anything good in her life.

Laura’s death was a shock to everyone. The last day of Laura’s life seemed like every other day. She had set out walking to work, but this time instead of arriving at the retirement apartments, she entered Heaven’s glory. While she was on her way to work, she suffered a severe asthma attack, passed out, and hit her head. She died instantly from brain trauma. Sweet Laura with a heart of gold is now walking on streets of gold.

Whenever I think about Laura, I think about God’s grace and the brevity and uncertainty of life. We never know while on our way to our daily destinations when we will be rerouted to our final destination.

The night Laura opened up her heart and shared her pain, all of us present had a deeper glimpse into God’s heart and His unconditional love for all mankind—reminding us that there is nothing that we could ever do or say to earn or negate His love for us.

Father God is not shocked, nor repulsed by “colorful” language—or “colorful” stories. He is always there with a listening ear and an open heart—just loving us.

Jesus was always walking beside Laura, but Laura didn’t recognize Him until seven years ago when she took hold of His hand and accepted Him as her Savior. The day Laura took her last walk on this earth she went from seeing Him in part, and just holding His hand, to seeing Him face to face in all His glory!

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

Corinthians 13:12 “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely” (NLT).