Due to various work schedules, our family celebrated Thanksgiving on November 24 this year. It was a full day…starting with breakfast and ending after we made another stab at the leftovers. Wonderful, wonderful, time…gone too quickly.
Sometime during the afternoon our conversation turned to Christmas. On my “bucket list’ I stated that before I died I wanted to, just once, have Christmas lights on our house!! We always have candles in the windows, and lots of lights inside, but I’ve yearned for lights on the house!!
Yesterday, the day before Thanksgiving (and my regular day to blog, by the way), granddaughters #2 and #4 came to spend the day and asked if we could put up the Christmas decorations. Now, why would a grandma ever say not to that? So began the ‘hauling out’ process.
Then…..then!!!! To my complete surprise, youngest son, Rob, and his family came walking in (they live 1.5 hours away) and announced they came to put Christmas lights on the house…they even bought the lights and a timer!!
My heart is so full. Silly? I don’t think so. We ordered in pizza, oldest son, wife and granddaughter #1 joined us, for another Thanksgiving gathering.
Of course, I told wife of #2 son that they were now my favorite, and she quickly whispered to wife of #1 “yeah, but they live closest to you”!!
I love our family. There are not a lot of us….12 to be exact (until they start adding soulmates) But it warms my heart to pieces when it takes fifteen minutes to say goodbye because everyone gets hugs….everyone!!
As they drove away, I stood and admired the way the lights around the house made rainbows on the soffit below them.
The only thing that worries me, just a tad–I DID say I hoped to have lights BEFORE I die. And I’m wondering if they know something I don’t?
How very blessed we are.
Perhaps it’s the sudden cold weather we’ve had in my part of Ontario, or the dusting of snow, but I’m in the mood for Christmas. So here’s my list for this week’s theme…
Five Things About Christmas That I’m Thankful For:
- Christmas Carols. Every year there is an ongoing debate and griping about Christmas music starting too early, blah, blah, blah. Aren’t there more serious things to complain about? Come on. Christmas music is generally cheerful, pretty and nostalgic. It has its season and then is gone for another year. Relax. Enjoy it.
- Outdoor Lights. I used to prefer only white lights, but over the years I’ve come to appreciate the twinkle of red, green, blue and purple at night. Every town has a section that’s known for elaborate decorating. Where we live, the houses along Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River put on quite a show. It’s a tradition to take a late night drive to enjoy the view.
- Church Christmas Pageants. What could be more adorable than toddlers in angel wings and halos? For years, we had a creative woman at our church who would write her own Christmas plays with specific members in mind. It was always interesting to see what roles she dreamed up for whom. I also cherish that it is a time to come together as a church community and to also welcome visitors to join in worship.
- Dinners. It’s such a cozy feeling to dash from your car in the winter to a warm house with the inviting smell of turkey, potatoes and cider to greet you. It’s also the one time of year, when we put our busyness aside and make an effort to sit with people we may not have seen all year.
- The Greatest Gift of All. When the trees are taken down, decorations are put away, carols have stopped playing—I’m still in amazement of that silent night, holy night.
What are you thankful for with the Christmas season approaching?
This Thanksgiving, I’m counting my blessings for these five groups of people:
1. Mires Sisters – Janie, Paula and Tammy. Of all my family, I have the most in common with my three older sisters. We shared parents and a room; we still look alike and sound alike and understand each other, despite the years and miles between us.
2. The Pages from Stages Writers. Our faithful readers know how wonderful these ladies are. Cherie, Julane, Kathy and Sara – you’re the best. And readers, I’m thankful for you, too!
3. Agri-Business Expo Center Co-Workers. What would it be like to go to work and find you don’t just share an office, you share a friendship? It’s pretty sweet. Sharon and Sarah, I’m so thankful to work with you and the whole Ag Expo board.
4. Connection Group. Sometimes called a Sunday School class or a small group or a Bible study. I just call them my friends. I would be lost without these ladies who cry and pray and encourage and admonish. They have been the hands of Jesus in my life many times over.
5. Missionaries. I am so very grateful for those who sacrifice the comforts of home and family to carry the light of Christ into dark corners of the world. May I be more faithful to pray and support you.
“God will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.” Hebrews 6:10
By this time next week, Thanksgiving day will be almost over. Usually I finish up the week but today, I’m going to jumpstart next weeks’ topic.
Some years it seems the holidays sneak up on me and suddenly it’s Thanksgiving morning. While I’m hurrying around preparing food, I have a sinking feeling that once again, I was too busy to really think about what I’m thankful for.
On Wednesday, I asked my class of girls to share some things they are thankful for and that got me to thinking of my own list. These are in no particular order.
1. The good health of my family.
2. Believe in God who can work mighty miracles.
4. My faith
5. Twenty years of marriage to Mark
There’s other things on my list and throughout the next week I know I’ll add more. What’s on your list?
I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving and have time to reflect on what you are truly thankful for.
This past weekend, hubby and I celebrated our 55th anniversary with a short trip to Oklahoma City. One of the places we visited was the Oklahoma State Memorial–site of the Murrah building bombing in April of 1995.
Perhaps the most heart wrenching scene for me was the row upon row of empty chairs..memorials to those who died that day. We saw people standing, weeping, taking pictures, holding hands. And it was so very, very quiet, even with the crowd milling around.
This upcoming holiday time is a difficult time for so many. Even though they may be in a crowd with others, their tables laden with food, the empty chair that symbolizes a loved one tugs so deep on the memories and the hearts–and there is no time limit.
The chairs on the lawn of that memorial represented tiny ones who never had the chance to grow–and now, 18 years later, serve as a reminder to the parents and extended family how much they missed. To some it was a husband, father, brother, significant other–or wife, mother, sister and that someone very special.
The empty chairs on the lawn represented lives who were taken senselessly, tragically, hatefully. But there are many, many many empty chairs across the world representing loved ones who died protecting our freedoms, protecting our homes or the lives others. For some it was the result of a disease they have yet to find a cure for, or an anomaly that made their lives so fragile from birth. Some lived long full lives, some died in the womb. Men and women, boys and girls, whose families still mourn whether it be a decade, a day or an hour since their passing.
We are celebrating Thanksgiving on this coming Sunday. With two firefighters, on different shifts, it was the only time we could all be together. Our oldest son and his wife host our Thanksgiving celebration–and this year we start out with a breakfast. Son #1 says “it will be a day to be remembered.” And so it will be. We will laugh and eat and hug and dread the time of parting, and yes–we will indeed remember and perhaps even smile, or cry, over some of those precious memories.
I am the last one of my immediate family. I was with both my parents and my brother when they died. I was with our oldest daughter when she went to Glory, and I was home alone when I took the phone call that our youngest daughter was with Jesus.
Empty chairs. Empty hearts–yet so full because of God’s never failing goodness.
My biggest question…what kind of empty chair will I leave behind? Oh, I pray it will be full of fun memories, silly stories. I would hope they would remember that even if I scolded, I also wept and prayed and loved them all unconditionally.
And no doubt the grands will be relieved to know I can’t creep on their face book accounts from heaven!!
In the past couple months or so, three families I’m connected with had a child hospitalized for surgery. Reading the updates online brought back a flood of memories. My oldest son, Joshua, was born December 22, 2000 but didn’t come home until June 9, 2001. Since that time he’s returned for many shorter stays due to surgery or illness.
People often wonder how to help families in these situations. Before I give suggestions, it’s important to know that when you offer help be specific. Leaving messages that say “call me if you need anything” is just too general and to be honest, even trite. To show your sincerity, offer a few ways you could help. Don’t force on them what you think they need. Let them hear your offers and decide what is most helpful to them.
Here are some specific ways you can help:
- Pray. Let the family know that you are praying. It helps them not feel so alone.
- Visit. Even a short 15 minute visit can really make a difference in a long day.
- Bring beverages or snacks. Parents often can’t leave the room to get something, so bringing food to them can be a life saver. Try to bring food without strong odors and in a bag. Sometimes it’s hard to eat and drink in front of a kid who can’t so the parent may slip out of the room for a bite.
- Read/play/visit with the child. This provides the parents with caregiver relief, even if they don’t feel comfortable leaving the room.
- Take care of the family pet.
- Do laundry.
- Yard work.
- Listen without giving advice.
- Give money. Parking, time off work, eating out, childcare for other kids at home, gas, hotel rooms—it all adds up.
- Messages. It’s so easy to send a message—text, Facebook, email, Twitter, etc… Just a short one line to say that you are thinking of the family can mean the world during a crisis.
- Snail Mail. There are things called envelopes and stamps…
- Non-latex balloon bouquets.
- Gift cards. For restaurants and massages (once the whole ordeal is over).
- Babysit other children.
- Stack the freezer. Just imagine returning from a hospital stay to find a week’s worth of frozen dinners in the freezer…
- Be patient. It’s an overwhelming time so parents may not return calls, messages or post new status updates on Facebook as quickly as you may wish them to. (Just because they don’t respond, don’t stop contacting them). Give grace if they are short or frustrated when you visit. Sleeping in a hospital cot is no picnic.
- When the child returns home, it doesn’t mean it’s all better. There is a shift in healthcare to send patients home as quickly as possible. Finances are part to blame, but people do recover more quickly in their own homes with a reduce risk of infection. Once a child is home, there still may be weeks before he/she is fully recovered. As a result, the parents are still working hard and are very tired. Support once the hospitalization is over is so very important.
If your child has been in hospital, what’s your best advice?
I was especially interested in the town’s shoot-’em-up days of the cattle drives, when former Pony Express wrangler Wild Bill Hickock served as town marshall. We walked around downtown and these saddles were displayed in one shop window.
We visited a great local museum and took a walk around the grounds of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, where his boyhood home stands. After we got home, we stayed up late talking about the novels we’re writing and dreaming up ways to add some of this setting to the stories.
The song is right; Abilene is a pretty little town.
But my two favorite things about Kansas are my friends who live there.
And the sunsets.
KANSAS CITY – Naghmeh Abedini does not know if she will see her husband alive again. She is well aware that he may die inside the brutal Iranian prison where he has been held for over a year because of his faith in Christ.
Yet she assured messengers at the Missouri Baptist Convention annual meeting, Oct. 28-30, that she is not scared.
“You can’t fake this peace,” she said in a clear, confident voice. “It’s only found in a relationship with Christ. The dying world does not have that.”
I had the privilege of covering Mrs. Abedini’s appearance as a reporter for the Missouri Baptist Pathway. Having followed the news of her husband’s capture, I was struck by how young she is to be thrust in the midst of an international debate. She said one of her greatest challenges has been suddenly becoming a single parent and trying to explain to her two young children where their daddy is.
But the most striking thing about this beautiful young woman is her unrelenting faithfulness to Jesus Christ. Her testimony has pierced my heart.
Mrs. Abedini addressed the convention briefly Tuesday morning and then shared in-depth with women at the Ministry Wives Luncheon. (Watch the video here.) Born in Iran and raised in the United States, Mrs. Abedini said that she has always experienced some form of persecution since she was saved at age 9.
After her husband Saeed Abedini—an American-Iranian pastor whom she met while on a mission trip—was arrested for being a Christian, she reluctantly gained an immense platform. The campaign “Save Saeed” has garnered worldwide attention. As a result, she has been able to lead atheists and Muslims to Christ. She marveled that, as a young housewife, she addressed the United Nations in Geneva where 196 nations were represented.
“I told them the solution they’re all looking for to the world’s problems is Jesus Christ,” she said.
Mrs. Abedini’s boldness follows an experience in 2009 when she and her husband were arrested in Iran. An interrogator promised to release her if she said she was a Muslim. But if she professed to be a Christian, she would be tortured in prison. Fear threatened to overwhelm her in that moment.
“Is Jesus Christ that real to me? That I would go through torture and rape?” she remembers thinking. “He gave me the strength to say ‘I am a Christian.’”
Then, when her husband was interrogated, he told the captor about Jesus. “Saeed was never turned off by radicals,” she said. “He believed they were blinded and always tried to reach them for Christ.”
The man released the couple and her perspective on life changed forever. “The Lord taught me that our time on earth is in God’s hands,” Mrs. Abedini said. “Even through this, I’m not scared. I know my life is not in the hands of the Iranian government or radicals. I should have been killed years ago.”
Even so, her husband’s imprisonment has been very trying, especially for their two young children. “My whole life changed when he was taken,” she said. “Everything was taken from me, all my security.”
Mrs. Abedini’s uncle was executed in Iran’s Evin Prison, where Saeed is held. Saeed has been beaten several times and some of those who were arrested with him have died. Last week, his family learned that Saeed has been moved to an even more dangerous prison in Iran. His life is in immediate danger.
Even so, Mrs. Abedini has learned, as the Apostle Paul wrote, how to take pleasure in these circumstances.
“Don’t run from suffering. Allow it to show how weak you are,” she said. And in doing so, find freedom by falling into the arms of Christ. She urged the women at the ministry luncheon to surrender to the Lord. “He’s waiting for you as a woman to learn to let go. When you submit to God, He uses your life to reach the nations.”
Mrs. Abedini asked for prayers—for strength as she is serving in the public eye and for her two young children, to pray for Saeed to be released from prison soon and to pray for doors to be opened to the gospel. During his time in prison, Saeed has led 30 men to Jesus, and Abedini has been able to witness to the wives, some of whom have been saved.
“I can’t take any credit for it,” she said. “I hope you can see that it’s all Jesus. It’s all the power of Jesus.”