Giving thanks

I love teaching teens how to write. One, it gives me an excuse to indulge myself and write about topics I wouldn’t ordinarily. And, two, I love it when they are proud of what they’ve written and want me to read it.

While it’s fun to be indulgent, the greatest rewards with writing—and anything else—come with giving to others. Friday at school I changed up the game plan, so instead of having my students write about themselves, I told them to use their words to bless others, to tell one of their teachers why they are thankful that their lives have crossed. I don’t know what the students wrote, but I hope their words made a positive difference.

I noticed on Facebook that people have been counting down to Thanksgiving by naming a new reason each day as to why they’re thankful.

I haven’t joined in the game, but I’ve done a lot of soul searching.

I have to confess. I’m not jealous, but every time I read what these Facebook writers say, I find myself wanting more. Or less. I guess it depends on how you look at life.

I want MORE of a closer relationship with God but less ritual. I don’t want to go to church to fill my schedule with committee meetings, play practices, and parties. I want more God.

I want MORE love, not necessarily on the receiving end but on the giving end. I want the fulfillment that comes with giving a part of yourself to others. But in today’s world, people are suspicious. They think there’s a catch so they put up walls to ward off manipulation. I don’t want or need anything in return except maybe for people to accept without feeling obligated to give anything back.

I want MORE Jesus but less middle-man. Facebook has been come our new town hall, our new beauty shop or barber shop, our new front porch where people go to sit a spell and just talk. I don’t dislike that people talk about Jesus on Facebook, but I don’t like the posts that say, “If you love Jesus, share this photo.” I don’t think he’d appreciate that.

I want MORE philanthropy and less chalkboard. I find myself questioning my motives whenever I do something unselfish. Am I tallying up my goodness to pass myself off as a “good” person, or can I do good without telling a soul?

I want MORE thanksgiving and less regret. We make mistakes. We face disappointments. We get hurt. I want to put aside all of those things. I want to be happy for the moment, for a moment is sometimes all we have.

So with that being said, I’ll try to catch up with my Facebook friends and add my five reasons why I’m thankful this season.

  • I’m thankful for creativity. If God didn’t orchestrate creativity, our five senses would be useless. I don’t want to take for granted all the beauty that surrounds me.
  • I’m thankful for serendipity, that God allows us to think with the mind of a child so that our hearts can leap a little when we discover something wonderful, that we don’t succumb to sarcasm and take for granted the wonder in life.
  • I’m thankful to be a mother, that I can nurture and protect.
  • I’m thankful for friends who allow me to let down my guard and who let down theirs without thinking I have ulterior motives.
  • I’m thankful for family, who gave me part of themselves so that I can carry part of them wherever I go.

(Okay, maybe I don’t do math so well, but I can’t leave out this one:  I’m thankful for you for reading my blog and for offering me encouragement. You’ve changed my life in a good way. I hope I can help change yours.)

Midnight madness

Gather round children, oh ye with aching feet and depleted pocketbooks. Most of you who are reading this have just awakened after your first round of napping. I know where you’ve been. I know what you’ve been doing. I know what you are.

Early birds.

If you think this blog does not apply to you, don’t stop reading. There is always the chance that you too could fall into danger next year and drink the Kook-Aid.

I don’t blame you. There was one a day when I too fell under the spell of desperate merchants tempting me with their buy-one, get-one-free one-day deals. But the truth is people just don’t think right at four a.m.

Now that you’re a little more clear headed, think with me. Did you really need that sweater or that toy? Did you get caught up in the frenzy and buy one of everything just so somebody else wouldn’t beat you to the punch?

And, hey, if I were to give you ten bucks, would you go stand in line two hours to buy one of those sweaters for me? No? Then why did you stand in line two hours this morning? Is ten bucks not worth your time? I’ll bet you’d consider paying somebody else twice that now to finish your shopping list.

I gave up early bird Black Friday shopping this year. Why? Because I found a mall where all the stores opened at ten p.m. Thursday. I’m a night owl anyway.

Before I left, however, I set some ground rules.

One, I reminded myself there was absolutely nothing I had to buy for me or anybody else. I was going for the sheer adventure of it.

Boy, was I stupid. I wore cowboy boots.

Okay, here’s the deal. I’m going to break a cardinal writing rule—don’t stray from the subject. But, hey, I’m driving this bus. Every now then it’s okay to take the scenic route.

See, I’ve had these boots for over year. They were a Christmas present from last year or the last. I haven’t worn them much. In fact, the only other time I’ve ever had cowboy boots was when I actually wore them to keep my feet from slipping through the stirrups when I was riding. But my absolutely adorable snuggly brown vest went so well with them, I wore them anyway.

Plus, there’s something about cowboy boots that’s empowering. I figured should I have to fight my way out of a mob of insane shoppers, I might as well be dressed for it. I only planned to shop for a couple of hours.

Again, stupid me.

The traffic was so backed up it took forever to get there. Then I had to wait in line forever in the cold because fire codes permitted a limited number of shoppers to enter each store at a time.

When I finally entered Old Navy, my eyes lit up. Mesmerized. Scarves! Only a dollar each. I grabbed an armful for everyone I knew. Then I looked at the line. It wrapped around the store twice. I came to my senses. I left.

I checked out several other stores, but again, I really wasn’t looking for anything except a little adventure, a little people watching. But everybody looked the same. They all had the same drop-jaw expression that said, “What am I doing here?”

I finally made my way to the Gap and endured the line. I figured I’d better bag something during my bargain hunt.

But my greatest act of stupidity was letting the aroma of coffee lead me to Starbucks. The line was out the door, for goodness sake! But I fell in line anyway. This is when I realized that my cowboy boots might come in handy despite my aching feet.

I was surrounded by a hundred caffeine addicts just dying to get a triple shot caramel latte. I found myself in the middle of several manly women discussing a Zombie run and their plans to check out an obstacle course the next day.

My greatest fear was the baristas would mix up my drink with theirs. The only advantage I had was my boots. There was no way I could outrun them even if I were wearing sneakers. I think one of them was a cage fighter.

Needless to say, my shopping experience was a bust.

I froze. My feet hurt. I waited nearly 45 minutes for a cup of coffee that was cold by the time I found my parking place, and I got so buzzed up on caffeine I couldn’t sleep once I finally made it to bed.

So children, those of you who make the vow to give up early bird shopping next year, don’ t be deceived by midnight madness. It is what it is.

Thanksgiving prayer

 

FREE

FREEBIE! FREEBIE! I’m giving away a Christmas edition of Chicken Soup for the Soup. And my first Chicken Soup for the Soul story is in it! You have a chance to win. All you have to do is (1) be a subscriber to this blog and (2) leave a comment. What are you thankful for? You have until November 30 to add your comment. I’ll post the winner’s name in the December 1 blog. I’m thankful that you’re willing to take time to visit my blog.

It’s well after 2 A.M., so technically Thanksgiving has arrived. Of course, it’s never to early to give thanks. Most of us give thanks daily for the blessings in our lives, our family, friends, our jobs, our talents, etc.

But tonight—this morning—what I’m most thankful for is what I have never seen—what’s on the other side of “the” line. I have no doubt that in my lifetime I’ve teetered on “the” line. We all have. I just don’t know what to call that line.

It’s the line that separates “all is well” from “nothing will ever be the same.”

The first near disaster I can remember was when I was in elementary school. Only one other person in the world knows this story, and I’m ashamed I have this story to tell.

I grew up with no brothers or sisters, and the little boy who lived across the street from me was the closest thing I had to a brother. One day we were snooping around a neighbor’s garage and found these odd bottles that had been hidden away. Nobody knew we had found these bottles. I had never seen bottles like these. We didn’t have anything like them at my house.

The funny thing about these bottles is that most of them were empty, but a few of them still had a liquid in them, and this liquid smelled funny and strong. Very strong. I’m pretty sure these bottles had a man’s name on the front. Jack, maybe. Or George.

We took these bottles to my garage, which was detached from the house, and we decided to perform a chemistry experiment, not that we knew what chemistry was back then. We were probably around six or seven years old at the time.

We put these bottles in a garbage can and dropped matches in them. WHOOSH! The more liquid in the bottle, the bigger the flame. And what pretty colors. (I’ve always had this thing about fire.)

It wasn’t until I was grown that I realized just how close we probably were to burning down the garage. My dad always kept his gas for the lawn mower in a round can just above the old garbage can where we were shooting flames. And turpentine. And probably a dozen other flammable liquids.

The only thing that stopped us is we spotted the fire marshal, driving by in his red car. We were sure he was out to get us, so we hid out the rest of the day.

Oh, how thankful I am that I don’t know how close I’ve come to going over “the” line.

Last year my family and I were returning home from Franklin one night, and our truck hit a patch of black ice on the interstate. Without warning, our truck went totally out of control and started sliding sideways toward the median. We came so close. If we had driven off the road, I have no doubt we would have flipped and landed in on-coming traffic. But we’ll never know how close we came to crossing “the” line. I’m so thankful.

A few years ago we traveled out west and crossed the border into Juarez. We stepped off the bus at the wrong stop and found ourselves wandering around clueless that the city was notorious for its drug wars and murders. We were happy go lucky, admiring the sites. But God sent a young man name Chuy to take us where we needed to be. We naively hopped in his van, and off we went.

Was he really honest? Did he have ulterior motives? Did something change his plans? Were we ever in danger? We’ll never know. I’m so thankful. (And just as we were returning to El Paso, they closed the bridge, and we were detained due to a terrorist threat. What might have happened had we boarded the bus? We’ll never know.)

I carry a chilling memory from my college days. I remember heading for the campus bookstore, not a care in the world. Just as I was about to enter, a boy called me by name. I approached him, and we talked. I had never seen him before in my life. But he seemed to know everything about me—my family, my interests, all sorts of unusual things a person wouldn’t expect a stranger to know. I asked the boy to identify himself, but I didn’t recognize his name as a friend or acquaintance.

It wasn’t very long after our strange encounter that I heard this boy’s name in the news. He was a perpetrator in a homicide-suicide, involving a young woman. How did this boy know my name? Why did he stop me as I was walking in the bookstore? I will never know. I’m so thankful I don’t know.

So often we are delayed in traffic. A phone call keeps us from walking out the door. Why? We may never know. Perhaps we entertain angels unaware. Or perhaps God sends his angels to snatch us back to safety as we put one foot over the line.

Several years ago my mother became very, very ill at Thanksgiving. I don’t know how close we came to losing her. She spent some time on a breathing machine. All I know is that I’m glad Jesus spared us from crossing that line.

Holidays can be very difficult, especially for those who have recently lost love ones or who have suffered life-changing events. Let us remember to give thanks both for giving us blessings and for sparing us from unseen sorrows and evils. Are there people in your life who need your prayers?  Are they close to crossing “the” line and not even aware? We may never know.

Dear Lord, it is my prayer that you will put a hedge of protection around all the readers who visit this blog. Please bless them and keep them safe throughout the holidays. I thank you for sending Jesus to save us from our sins. It is in His name, I pray. Amen.