grateful

Mama b4 and afterMy poor mom was a victim of COVID. Although she had asymptomatic COVID at one time during the pandemic, that isn't what I'm talking about. She was a victim of the lockdowns. She was in a facility in Northwest Arkansas where she had enjoyed regular visitors. Mama was very social and all about family. With Alzheimer's, family visits were her best medicine. But when lockdowns were implemented, no one was allowed in to see her. Fortunately, we were allowed to FaceTime with her. She could hardly understand that and sometimes it just confused her more. She cried out for family members up to 12 hours a day, and was often hoarse from the effort. She declined rapidly. 
 
By six months into lockdowns, she had fallen twice, breaking a hip each time, she had two hip surgeries, and lost 26 pounds. But still, no family was allowed into the nursing home. One night, my sister nearest to Mama's facility, Diane, got a call from a nurse saying that Mama's vitals were not good and that Mama might be dying. Since she might be dying, Diane was allowed to go be with her. (If a patient is "dying" the family is allowed to visit.) My other sister, Stacie, from North Carolina, immediately headed to Arkansas to be with Mama too. 
 
After a couple days of Mama not dying, the administration told my sisters they had to leave and my sisters challenged them. It didn't go so well and instead they transferred Mama to a hospice house so family could be with her as she died. This was great news and once Mama was at the hospice house we all got to visit. Only one visitor at a time was allowed, but if the visitor was Mama's 84-year-old twin sister, another person could be there to prevent Aunt Jill from getting overwhelmed. It was a wonderful set up. We all spent lots of quality time with Mama. 
 
She was so precious. I'll always cherish the memories. Her mind didn't miraculously return, but her soul needs were clearly being met. We talked, she caressed us, patted us, called us Darling, Sweetheart, Honey and told us how much she appreciated us. Having not been able to see her because of  lockdowns, it was such a blessing. Such a blessing!
 
Well, with all the love and familial interaction, Mama rallied and the hospice house doctor told us she had to go back to the nursing home. We were utterly devastated. She got to the point she was at, we believe, from lack of human contact, and once she got the love, touch, conversation, and compassion she needed, she vastly improved. But improvement dictated that she go back to the nursing home and she was transferred that evening. We grieved and we wept. What a messed-up system! Mama roommate
 
We frantically started thinking outside the box trying to find a way to have her with us. That first evening, my daughter and son-in-law, Stephanie and John Mark, offered to let Mama and me live there until Mama died. We were over-the-moon excited. 
 
John Mark tore down the king-sized bed in the guest room and traded it for a twin bed making room for Mama's hospital bed. The room was set for us to be roommates. We were overjoyed knowing she'd get to be surrounded by family. I was committed to staying in Arkansas for as long as it took. I looked so forward to more time like we had at the hospice house. 
 
I was giddy with thanks. Thanks for Stephanie and John Mark offering to take Mama and me in, thankful for who they are, pro-family and pro-life in every sense of the word. Though a family of 10, they didn't hesitate to take in two more. Such generous spirits, they have.
 
I was so grateful that eight of my grandchildren would get to be part of sacrificial love in action. I hoped it would make a profound impact on them to see respect and dignity given to their great grandmother. 
 
I was so grateful for Gordon who shared the conviction that it was the right thing for us to do during this season of life. Not every husband would be supportive of their wife living 2000 miles away indefinitely (until her mother died, which we'd been told would be 1-3 months). I was so grateful that he is that kind of man, pro-family and pro-life. 
 
I could not think of a greater honour than to take care of Mama during her last days on earth. What a blessing to be able to serve her and help usher her toward her heavenly home with love and compassion. But that time was way less than expected. 

a thanksgiving prayer

It's another Thanksgiving Day and a perfect time to express my thanks to you. You have given me an amazingly full life of goodness and grace. Thank you for relationship with you and letting me experience life knowing you. Thank you for the work you've done in my life, for forgiveness, for healing, for the tremendous changes you've made in me. I'm grateful from the core of my being. You've changed me from the inside out and I'll never be able to express my thanks adequately. For the changes you've made in the deepest places of my heart, I'm thankful beyond words.

Gordon and hazeThank you for Gordon; he is a man of integrity, honesty, kindness and faithfulness. I'm thankful we share similar values and convictions and that he is the daddy to our daughters. I'm thankful for sweet memories I have of him pushing them on the merry-go-rounds, taking them on dates to watch the "marching guys," reading to them, tucking them in at night and the numerous sacrifices he's made for them. He's never been a passive dad and I'm thankful.

Steph's family 2012Thank you for Stephanie and John Mark and the stable life they have. Thank you for giving John Mark to Stephanie. He is a good man and and excellent father to those precious babies. Thank you for the choice they've made for Stephanie to be a stay-at-home mom during these years. Thank you for how easy she is to talk to, her humor, her easy-going nature. She is so refreshing.

Thank you that Stephanie and John Mark have taken Deborah into their home and hearts for this time. I was sinking into a dark abyss dealing with her issues. I'm grateful for the reprieve of the past several weeks.

Debs in ar. 2012 1Thank you for Deborah's improvements in their care. She is stronger and less fragile. Thank you for the opportunity she has to have a clean slate. She is a polite, kind, caring child and I'm thankful for her sweet disposition. I know her life is ultimately in your hands and I'm thankful you love her more than I ever can. Thank you for that peace. Thank you for letting me be her mom.

Chris 2010 in front of airplaneThank you for my man cub, Christopher. He is a hard-working young man and I thank you for his strong work ethic. Thank you for the strength and perserverance you've given him over the past couple years of working and going to school full time. Thank you for his tenacity. He's a kind young man and I love that he's never shyed away from showing this mama bear affection. Thank you for choosing me to be his mom.

Thank you for my headstrong Rachael. Thank you for her common sense, her ease with conversation, her openness, her passion. Even as she embraces so many things that are contrary to what we taught her, I'm confident she will do life well. She's got what it takes. I'm thankful her life is in your hands.

Rach and hannah 2010Thank you for Hannah. She is a caring and loving person who likes to help others. I'm thankful those traits are there and I believe I'll see them flourishing again. She's an artist and I'm thankful her beautiful work fills my house. Those paintings remind me of who she really is. 

I don't think I could bear these years of having three teenaged daughters without the confidence that everything is in your loving hands. "All things are working for my good" is the mantra that infuses me with peace.That promise is carrying me these days. You are good, even in the darkness.

I'm awed by your goodness, your grace and your gifts. Peewee napping on my lap as I write this, Casanova purring at my side, blue sky, golden trees, beautiful music, a warm charming house, good jobs, loving families, peace and freedom, . . . Your gifts are innumerable, your goodness amazing. Thank you.


michael, the farmer

I've been gone. I was negligent. I was overwhelmed. But I'm back, with bells on. Well, not really, but you get the idea.

Life is good. My new job schedule is starting to gel and I'm getting the hang of my work. I told Gordon that until my probation is up (3 months) I'm going to be afraid of the boss saying, "this just isn't working." It's never happened before, but this job is the closest thing to feeling out of my league that I've ever had. (That, of course, doesn't count the cake decorating stint where being fired would have been just too cool.)

You know how I get all reflective and spend a lot of time navel gazing as each year closes, right? Well, this week I've been thinking about the year and its blessings. I've had a number of blessings this year, but right now I want to hone in on my brother's heart surgery. Michael had a 7-bypass open-heart surgery and came through with flying colors. I am grateful beyond words. Thanks be to God, he's better than he's been in years. That is the single best thing about 2009 for me.

Michael 
 

Michael's my only brother and I love, love, love being around him. When all the siblings and my dad were at Michael and Lawana's in October, we decided to take some pictures. While Michael went to change shirts the rest of us went outside to hash out ideas on where to take some pictures. While we're chattin' it up, Michael walked out with an expression of "ok, let's get this over with." However, he had his sweat-shorts pulled up to to his chest. We all knew he was goofing off, trying to make us think he really planned on having his picture taken looking so ridiculous. And ridiculous just doesn't sum it up accurately. His shorts were up so high, well, I just can't describe it. But it was darn near vulgar. I started trying to take a picture of him, but in my hysterical laughing, I couldn't figure out the camera. So I got a couple shots, but by then, the shorts were already sliding down. If my fingers had been more nimble, even just two seconds earlier, you could have seen it yourself.

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Michael, although he's usually the life of the party, is still mildly anti-social. When he first got on Facebook, I was both surprised and excited, thinking we'd "talk" more. That hasn't really materialized. While in Arkansas I asked him if he ever got on Facebook and he said he goes on Farmville. I've never been on Farmville so I know little about it, except it's wildly popular. (I have plenty of vices on the web, but Farmville isn't one of them). I asked what he does on Farmville and he said a simple, "I farm."

He sounded like a little boy with a toy farm. He replied to my laughing with, "you may laugh, but I have a million bucks saved." I realized he had a little addiction to Farmville at that point and I think I may have sat with my mouth open for a few seconds. Lawana chimed in by saying, "It's true, Valerie. We work all day and then come home and farm all night."

Later my sister Diane told me that once Michael phoned home to remind Lawana to water the garden (that would be the Farmville garden) because he'd forgotten. Michael and Farmville. I never would have guessed they'd be so close.

I asked lots of questions about the surgery and saw the scar that you could drive a small car through. He told me he'd been having some problems for a long time. He'd told the doctor about his acid reflux getting worse and worse and the doctor kept prescribing new acid reflux meds. He said it was really cool that he had that relationship with the doc -- he'd tell the doctor the problem and the doc would prescribe the medicine he needed. Michael said, "only trouble is, I misdiagnosed."

So today, I'm smiling at some of my brother's cute ways, even laughing a few times. And especially, I'm again saying a thank you to God for taking him through his heart surgery safely.

Daddy and sibs


happy u.s. thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving family and friends south of the border. Today may be the last of my Thanksgiving posts. Remember I was posting thanks from Canadian Thanksgiving to US Thanksgiving. So technically that ends today however it is a good practice any time of year.

My dad was involved in a car accident on Tuesday. It was a huge deal for him and could have been very serious. He has a lot of soreness but no serious injuries. (Don't tell him I said his injuries weren't serious). 40) I'm thankful he wasn't hurt any worse.

This morning before I left to take Deborah to school, a friend dropped by to see the new house. That was cool. She oohed and awed nicely and I was blessed. She offered to take Deborah to school so I had an 41) unexpected hour to sit and be thankful. (Thanks Lydia). I sat there thinking of my family down south who no doubt have a grand day of festivities planned. I thought of the laughter, good conversation and great food I'm missing. But I smiled the whole time I thought about it just because they're 42) my family and I'm thankful for them.

After a bit of meditating on thanks I put on a load of clothes, dusted, and washed down the bathroom. I was so blessed by that extra hour to sit alone in my new house for the first time and listen to the washer hum and the clock tick. I revel in peace and quiet and it was nothing short of a reveling time for me. I sat and smiled.

43) Did I mention my new Maytag washer? Actually it's not brand new, it's 7 years old. She's not one of those modern pieces of art, she's just a regular white top-loading washer. But since my old washer is 37 years old, this one seems like quite the washer. The old Maytag is still at the other house, still going strong, left there for the renters. I'm still curious about how long she'll live.

44) I've biked 120 kilometers so far this month. My goal is 200 and I'm obviously woefully behind. But I'm thankful for the 110. I'm thankful that God put this get physical notion in my head. I've been sedentary for years and 2008 has been a great year for turning that around. I don't think anyone could accuse me of being sedentary any more. I've mentioned it before but it's worth mentioning again. I've prayed for so long that God would change my heart, that He'd help me learn to love physical activity. He's done just that and it's a huge answer to prayer. It's not my work or tenacity, it's been His work. I honestly don't have words to express how grateful I am for that.

Life is good. It's been a good morning to sit and think just how good it is and how blessed I am. Often I measure my good life by how much more I have than others. I think about the hungry children in the world and feel guilty for being thankful that it's them and not my kids. What a horrible confession, but it's true. I grieve for them but that grief drives me to be more thankful for my own kids' good life.

I think of the 5-year-olds who have to work to help feed their family and I'm overcome with sadness for them and thanks for me. It makes no sense to me how hard they have it and how good I have it. And it sure makes no sense how little they have and how much our culture consumes and is still driven by want for more. Surely in the next world there will be a reckoning. Maybe God will even things out, maybe they have something special on the other side that those of us who've never known true hunger won't get. I hope so.

My Christopher announced to Stephanie last week that blogs are over-rated. "They're so melodramatic," he said. :-) This post is certainly that and I apologize for the dramatic expressions of thanks. It's not exciting stuff but it's such a good day to express thanks for some little things.

 

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thanksgiving 26-35

Thank you friends and family for your kind regards and patience during my move. Yes, we are in our new house and I absolutely LOVE it. 

Thanksgiving 26) I am really thankful for the new house. The kitchen is smaller and the pantry is smaller but in other areas it either feels bigger or is bigger. It looks tiny from the outside, but the house is deep.

27) Our movers didn't show up. There was a bit of a mix up and on Saturday morning, moving day, we woke up to NO movers. Gordon rented a truck and he and I moved us entirely by ourselves. Good times. Good times.

I'm very thankful that I had the strength needed to do this very big job. "Sometimes my own strength scares me." Click here to find out why I say such a thing. I had visions of Gordon sitting on the porch with his head in his hands crying like a baby. I was so glad I got to keep him from breaking down. :-) I'm not joking or bragging, I'm just saying I'm thankful I had the strength to help him and that we were kept safe.

28) I'm very thankful that the move is behind us. We still have to get the deep freeze from one basement to the next, but I'm still recuperating. It will come in due time.

29) Gordon and I didn't move the piano. Our piano is over 100 years old and is an upright grand. It weighs 3000 pounds. Two moving guys spent 5 hours getting it from one house to the other and I was major stressed. First I was stressed for the safety of the piano, then I got totally scared for the movers' lives. They were in positions that could get them killed. Thankfully the piano and the movers finished safely, although the window by the front door didn't fare so well. Broken. But the young movers are fine and I'm thankful.

30) I love to hear Deborah play the piano. She has talent and I feel such joy listening to her music. I'm thankful for her love for music.

31) I've been remembering some Christopher stories and enjoying the memories. Once we were travelling from Edmonton to Cranbrook and through one section there was some strong livestock smells. As we drove, 4-year-old Christopher rolled down his window and hung his head out and yelled at the horses: "Horses stop stinkin'!"

32) During a long spell in Christopher's boyhood, he couldn't say the l sound. L's were pronounced as w's. Yellow was yewwow. Lizard was wizard.

Christopher was fond of his cousin Ben, who he called Bean. Once when he was three he was playing in the living room when my sister Diane and her four kids pulled in the driveway. Beside himself with excitement, Christopher ran in circles saying, "Howey Mowie, there's Bean." This weekend when things would surprise or excite me, I let out a "Howey Mowie, there's Bean."

33) My little lawn manger scene is complete. My friend Trudy finished painting it last week. I'll be decorating in a couple weeks and am so glad to finally have a manger scene for the outside. They are extremely rare here, so I'm very happy to have one.

34) In the office building next to mine is a new little puppy. The bookkeeper brings the puppy to work with her. I get daily doses of smiles as the puppy gets taken outside throughout the day to do her business. She is so adorable.

35) I got a new toothbrush. Actually we all got new toothbrushes. In the old house I told Gordon that I couldn't wait to get a new toothbrush. It seems that we were having boundary issues regarding toothbrushes. I didn't even know which toothbrush was mine. Toothbrushes were a free-for-all. We all used whichever one we grabbed first. I was looking so forward to correcting this in the new house. As if she'd been a fly on the wall and overheard that conversation, I received a package of 5 toothbrushes from my sister-in-law Lawana. I was so excited. We all were. Now we guard our toothbrushes and no one shares. Life is good.

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thanksgiving 22 - simple decor

 

I'm thankful for simple beauty. I love things that are simple and beautiful in one little package. Rachael made a cloth pumpkin in home ec class. Now mind you, she hates it and generally hates home ec in general. But I think her little pumpkin is adorable.

Everyday this little website sends a pretty picture to my inbox. Usually it's something relatively simple and the pictures nearly always make me smile.

Typically I don't look at a lot of home decorating type magazines because I know they could make me feel discontent. (This has often happened. I enjoy home decorating mags but often they wake up a wanting mindset in me that I really don't need to be awakened).

However this website, the inspired room, doesn't do that. It just makes me smile and I enjoy the beauty.

 

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thanksgiving 15 - 19

 

15. I’m thankful for this blog. You may think that’s silly, but it’s a wonderful record for my family. I have captured many memories here and those memories are very valuable to me. This blog gives me an outlet and one of my fondest hobbies.

16. I’m thankful for the girls’ schools. They are in good schools – next year they’ll all be in the same school as Deborah moves to Rachael and Hannah’s school. They have caring, supportive teachers and Rachael and Deborah have good friends from good homes. (Hannah doesn’t have the quality friendships that Rachael and Deborah have, but I’ve decided she has made that choice and it doesn’t break my heart like it used to. Hannah and Rachael are best friends and that seems to be enough for Hannah.)

17. I’m thankful for Gordon’s leadership. I think I have the best husband in the world (and I appreciate that you think your husband is the best. I think that is the way it’s supposed to be.) We are presently casting the net into unknown territory and it should scare me. There’s a bit of fear there, but I know I’m not the only one praying about it. I know that Gordon is seeking God’s wisdom and wouldn’t be foolish and knowingly jeopardize our family. I’m thankful that I can trust Gordon this way. He is an amazing husband and father, but this week it’s his leadership qualities that I’m appreciating so much. (Regarding that casting the net thing, I’ll let you know about that once we know for sure what is happening.)

18. I am thankful for my aged van. She just keeps going. A few months back I thought she was coming to the end of her life. But after having her see the doctor we learned all that was wrong was a tiny rubber thingy had worn out. It was a $12 part and Gordon was able to fix it. My van is 12 years old and has 250,000 kilometers (150K+ miles) but she’s still chuggin’ away, still reliable and I’m grateful. She’s not the prettiest car in the lot, but she’s been paid off for a long, long time.

19. I’m thankful that Gordon is a great fix-it guy. He can fix almost anything that needs fixing. He’s saved us thousands of dollars, no doubt.

 

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thanksgiving 14

 

Recently a girlfriend from high-school and I re-connected through Facebook. She and I were rebels together and I’m glad that her life simmered down like mine did. Both of us are committed to following God and committed to our families. When I think about who we were as teenagers, I’m very thankful God brought us through those years fairly intact. Furthermore, God gave us good sense to try and train our children to live differently than we did. My kids and her’s have chosen higher paths and I’m thankful to God.

Years ago my mom received a “still small voice” Word from God. I believe it was bang on and it comforts and encourages me regularly. (I may get the words all wrong, but I think I’ve got the idea right.) My mom was going through a time of healing and was reflecting on her own parents’ lives and their upbringing. As she thought about how they had been brought up, the baggage they carried and subsequently the baggage they gifted their kids with, she prayed for her kids and that the cycle would be broken. I don’t remember the wording, but the gist of what she heard from God was that every generation would progressively get more whole. The one phrase that I think I remember accurately is this one: “and your grandchildren will go free.”

My great grandparents had lots of baggage. My grandparents had lots of baggage, but probably less than their parents. My parents had their share of baggage but still less than their parents. My siblings and I have our baggage, but I like to think that we too have less than our parents. And finally I see so many chains broken on the next generation. Yeah they have baggage, but a whole lot less than I had/have. My kids, and my nieces and nephews, had healthy upbringings for the most part. I look at them and am so thankful to see evidence of wholeness.

Re-connecting with Paula and seeing the spiritual and emotional health that her girls and my kids take for granted, I’m thankful beyond words that God’s grace has penetrated mine and Paula’s lives and especially the lives of our children.

 

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thanksgiving 11 - 13

 

I’m in the third week of boot camp, counting the days till it’s over and till I can be just a regular girl going to a regular gym at a regular time of day. This 5:00 a.m. business is really hard. I’m quite tired these days. God is good to me and I have many many things that I’m thankful for and that give me joy day in and day out.

11. I’m very thankful for my job. I couldn’t have found a better job had I tried. The hours are superb for me, the location is superb, my office is superb, what I do is ok. Sometimes I think my employer can’t justify my position and fear the position will be terminated. I hope not but I don’t take it for granted.

12. Boot camp is almost over -- I count the mornings every day. Hang on till next Friday, Val. Hang on. My friend Elaine is doing this with me and I’m thankful for that too. It makes it easier knowing she’s expecting me to pick her up at 5:15. I’m tired, but it’s a good kind of tired. The desire to do this is a God thing and I know it. For several years I’ve prayed that God would change me from the inside out; that He’d change my desires and make me want to exercise. I’m incredibly grateful that He has answered that prayer.

13. I’m very thankful for the quiet time that is built into my day every work day. After dropping the girls off at school, I have one hour before I start work. I go to a park down the road from Debs’ school and that is my prayer and Bible reading time. It works perfectly for me. That part of my day is another reason I love my job as different work hours wouldn’t work so well for this element of my day.

 


thanksgiving 8

 

About a week ago one of my neighbors got really upset with me. I did something really stupid, but it wasn't intentional. I pondered how to correct it but was kind of stumped. Yesterday I came home and the neighbor was out. I told him I was really sorry and that I didn't mean for everything to happen. I am so thankful that little experience turned out well. We are back on good terms and as far as I know, there's no ill will between us.

 

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thanksgiving 6

 

Yesterday I was the first one up to welcome Thanksgiving Day. Like I've said before, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and the time alone first thing in the morning was a lovely treat. My coffee and I sat in the window taking in fall beauty and peace. I thought of how luxurious my life is. Coffee, a comfortable sofa to sit in while I looked down the street of a Canadian middle class neighborhood. Down the hall my family slept safely, soundly, and comfortably with hardly any cares. All around the world women don't have those simple things that would be nothing short of luxurious to them. I am thankful for the peace in my life, the peace in my home, the peace in my country.

 

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thanksgiving - hearing

 

Monday is Canadian Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s not the festivities that make it my favorite, but rather the spirit of gratitude that it’s all about.Traditionally on Thanksgiving I make a list of things I’m thankful for. The list seems to go on and on. Yesterday I had a brainy idea of sharing individual posts of some of my thanks. I’m beginning today and I’m doing it until US Thanksgiving. After all, I’m both an American and a Canadian.

Canadian and US Thanksgiving falls roughly a month a part. In the early days of our marriage I strove to celebrate both holidays in a festive manner. Alas, it was too much effort to facilitate work and school schedules. Now we just celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, but in my heart I celebrate both.

Today’s thanks: The Sense of Sound.

In the past I’ve under-appreciated the wonder of hearing. I have sensitive ears and often feel assaulted by noise. Furthermore I have a high need for peace, quiet, and down-time. On numerous occasions I’ve spurned the onslaught of racket. Trucks, loud cars and motorcycles, loud music, ringing telephones, saws, airplanes, the lady beside me who talks incessantly,… I focused more on the sounds I hated and regretfully, little on the sweet wonderful sounds that fill my life. I realize it’s a no-brainer for most people but it’s a fairly recent reason for thanksgiving for me. I never stopped to consider all the lovely sounds that infuse my every day.

Yesterday Deborah and I were outside in a steady fall breeze. I said, “Shhh. Hear that?” We listened to the breeze in the poplars and it was music to my ears. I told Deborah I think the leaves are one of God’s musical instruments. He sends the breeze and makes glorious melodies.

How many times have I been blessed beyond words by my children’s laughter? Innumerable. Even as I type this I smile at the thought of those sounds.

How often in years past did I smile (and I’m smiling now too) when my babies woke from naps and stood in the cribs and beckoned me with the sweet chirp, “Ma-Ma?” Priceless memories.

I remember Romie Boy and his “Whazat?” (“What’s that?” for those who may not understand Romanese.) I think of his “whazats?” often and joy wells up in me.

The sweet words from my children, they bless me day in and day out. A couple of days ago Rachael and I were walking when out of the blue she said, “Mom, I love you.” *Smile*

Gordon has a deliciously warm voice that makes me all cozy inside.

Johann Sebastian Bach’s music always relaxes me.

Lucy Dog’s groans of ecstasy when I rub behind her ears, it’s too cute for words.

God, I’m very very grateful to hear. Thank you for giving me the sense of sound.

 

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philippians and thanksgiving holiday

Philippians 1:3 "Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God."

I recently returned from visiting my family in Arkansas. My heart is tender and warm thinking about my time with these special people.

Michael and Lawana got the ball rolling getting me down there. When Michael learned that Stacie would be in Arkansas for the holidays, he phoned my dad and my mom to see if they'd join him in paying my way down. Each of them bought a ticket, allowing Rachael, Hannah and me to go. Not only did Michael and Lawana buy a ticket, they also carried most of the work and financial burden of the Thanksgiving meal. Michael made a turkey, ham, pork loin and a brisket. Lawana made vegetables, dressing, and desserts. On different days they took us out for supper. They treated us like royalty while we were there. Truly I was very touched by their kindness and generosity, over and over and over.

Stacie and her family joined us in Arkansas. They were only there for a couple days, but our time together was good. Stacie and Jimmy have four great kids and they are such joy to be around. They're helpful, gentle and kind. Stacie is a best friend and always great fun to be around.

Diane is another best friend. She gave me lots to laugh about and we enjoyed hours of great  conversation.

Christopher. I didn't have any alone time with him, but once the festivities were passed and the crowds started thinning, I saw Christopher's tender, gentle side again. How his gentleness blesses me.

Stephanie. Pretty as always, it was good to see how marriage and pregnancy are agreeing with her. She's about seven weeks along and still feeling pretty well.

Misty, my niece. A bundle of energy and captivating personality, she entertained me for hours, making me laugh over and over.

Jeff, my nephew, gave me plenty to laugh about.

CJ, another nephew. I love his affection and am happy I got to see him, as I didn't see him my last visit down.

Mindi, my niece that is most like me, always warms my heart and gives me plenty to laugh about. A few days away from delivering Baby #3, she was physically lethargic, but her great personality was alive and well.

Amy another niece. Nothing about Amy ever reminded me of myself until this visit. A new mom, I saw clearly how motherhood had changed her. Baby Jocelyn altered her life much the same that Stephanie's altered mine. I loved watching her and Salomon so connected to each other and to Baby Jocelyn. I was pleased to see how motherhood and wife-hood fit her so well.

Daddy. I was very blessed by his contribution to getting us down there. Thanksgiving Day was clearly a blessing to him and I loved seeing him excited and happy.

Mom and Pabob. Unfortunately they got stuck with picking us up and delivering us back to DFW Airport. I know that was a hassle of enormous proportion, so I'm thankful they rose to the occasion. (And I promise to never fly into DFW again.) Mama worked hard cooking for our Thanksgiving meal too and it was her idea to rent the community hall. And did that ever improve the day.

On my last day there, Mama, Memaw and I were involved in a car accident. It was one of those that easily could have been much worse. I'm thankful for getting off as easily as we did. Poor Mama got the worse deal, a broken foot that has to have surgery next week. I'm sorry about her foot, but thankful to God that she and Memaw are alive.

As I read Philippians 1:3 this morning, I thought of all the above people and how they blessed us last week. I sincerely thank God for all of them and for the joy they gave me in Arkansas and give me in life just by knowing they exist.

Philippians 1:7,8 "It is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a very special place in my heart... God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus." My thoughts precisely!

happy canadian thanksgiving

Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy. - Jacques Maritain

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving. People ask me often if my countries celebrate Thanksgiving the same way. Yes, they do, but it's a bigger deal in the US.

In my ideal world, our family celebrates both. Admittedly though, it's unusual for Gordon to have both days off, making it near impossible to celebrate both. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and because of that, I do make a bit of effort to pull off two celebrations.

One of our traditions, and one that I look forward to from year to year, is our prayer of thanks before we eat. We go around the table thanking God for the things that mean the most to us. It's simple, but very meaningful.

Every Thanksgiving, I set aside some time to write out things I'm most thankful for. I could write for hours about those things, but I only want to write about one, and it will cover a lot of ground.

I am thankful I'm a child of God. Because I'm a child of God, I cannot lose. Everything that has happened, is happening, will happen, is for my good. With each passing day this mantra becomes more solidified in my heart: All things are working for my good. (Romans 8:28) If I really believe this, which I do, how could I be anything less than grateful? It's a spiritual principle that never ceases to awe me.

I'm thankful for all the redemption I've experienced in my life. Again and again I've seen God use the horrible messes in my life to bring me into greater truth and deeper faith. And in many of my personal tragedies I can see clearly that God was protecting me from me. Just to name a few:

- Pregnant before marriage at 18. It was to that point the most devastating thing in my life. Now I look back and think "Thank You God," because I realize many things I was probably spared. I was on a dangerous path. Through pregnancy, God barricaded that path and I'm so thankful He did. (Bonus, I got Stephanie). But it was one of the darkest, hardest times of my life.

- Bipolar Disorder. Oh how I hate depression, but it's been another unlikely tool God has used in my life to transform me. My weakness and fragility keeps me from taking on too much, which in turn keeps me totally engaged in being a wife, mother, and homemaker. This combination has made for a rich home life. (To those for whom that was news, medication keeps me on the level).

- Financial problems. From them spawned my immense gratitude for what we have and the recognition that I could have much less and still have way more than needed. Through financial problems I came to see my own materialistic way of thinking and how that mindset is so opposed to gratitude.

(Stephanie, Christopher, me and Booper 1992)
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- Losing custody of Stephanie and Christopher takes the prize for the most horrific time in my life. I still cannot understand, much less articulate, what all happened in the spirit world through that whole process, nor what continues to happen. But again, I see I was protected from myself and Stephanie and Christopher were too. Through that wilderness journey, I lost all control of my life and learned a new dependence on God.

Years ago at a Billy Graham Crusade, pointing to her wheelchair, quadriplegic Joni Erickson Tada, told the crowd, "This is the prison that set me free." That so resonates with me. Losing Stephanie and Christopher, by far the hardest thing ever in my life, was the prison that set me free. God totally broke me and remade me a new person.

- Through all of the above trials, my ugly propensity of pride and arrogance have been weakened. I've learned a humble life is much easier than a proud one.

So today, I again recognize how thankful I am for everything I've listed above. They were all used to teach me another element of who God is and how much He loves me. He will stop at nothing to bring me closer to Him. Rich Mullins said, "It's the reckless raging fury, that they call the love of God." His love can indeed look like a reckless raging fury. But it's love nonetheless.

thanks

(Our family in 2001. The little guy Stephanie is holding was our foster child, Markie Boy.)
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Psalm 50:23 "But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me."

--Gordon, I'm thankful for Gordon, my husband. We don't always see eye to eye, and sometimes we fight, and sometimes I wish he'd not treat me like a child, ...... But I'm still thankful for him. He is a "family man" and since it's my family, I find that very attractive. He is intelligent, honest, hard-working, an excellent daddy, a good provider, committed and faithful.

--My Children, I'm thankful for my children. I have 5. Stephanie and Christopher are my first litter and Rachael, Hannah, and Deborah are my second.

Stephanie is 20. Her life turned me to God and I will never get over the impact she had on me. I didn't know it was possible to love so much and so deeply. In 1 Corinthians there is a man mentioned whose name was Stephanus. Stephanus "refreshes my spirit" Paul wrote. Well, my Stephanie refreshes my spirit. She is sensitive, funny, Godly, idealistic, good and pure. She is quick to see the good in others. Now that she is a woman, I find her an absolute blast to hang out with. She is a lot like me, but a ton wiser than I was at her age. I'm thankful for her and for her wisdom.

Christopher is 16. Over the past two years, I've watched him become more and more manly. Subsiding are the fantasies of being a super-hero, and surfacing is a man. For a number of years I thought Christopher was "off." I worried that he was a few fries short of a happy meal. He was the sweetest and gentlest child I ever knew. I called him my "Little Gentle Man." But I worried that he just "didn't get it." He went a number of years thinking he was invincible. He thought he could fly, beat up anyone, fight any bear in the woods and win, and that everyone trembled when they saw his brute strength. One summer we forbade him to play his superhero roll. He wept and wailed, "but I'm not playing, I really AM a superhero." Yep, I imagined sitting in the psychiatrist's office with him as we learned more about delusional behavior. But fortunately Christopher now has a grip on reality. He is a good worker, he is thoughtful and kind, sensitive and good. He too is committed to God, and I'm thankful for all he is and all he is becoming.

Girls in canola Rachael is my Dykstra child. She is the most like my husband's side of the family. She knows more than a typical 9 year old. (Read between the lines, she's a know it all.) She is full of life. I love how her eyes sparkle, they smile every bit as much as her mouth does. She loves to read and loves physical activity. She is well rounded. She laughs easily at my corny jokes. She is a very good worker; she's the one I count on to help me most. Rachael is beginning to read the Bible regularly and I'm thankful for her and her love for knowledge. I am thankful for Rachael.

Hannah is 8. She reminds me of me when I was little. She is thoughtful and sensitive. When she was three we were in the van when we encountered in the lane coming toward us a motorcycle parade. A policeman on a motorcycle was on the side of the road, stopping traffic for this parade. I was so touched by Hannah's 3-year-old sensitivity when she said, "Oh that is so sad. They won't let him in." That is Hannah! She is artsy, tender and loves lady type things. (Presently she claims to be a tom-boy, but believe me, she may be active and tough, but a tomboy she's not.) I am thankful for Hannah.

Deborah is the baby of the family (in more ways than one). She is 5. She's stout and tall. I think she may end up the biggest of the girls. She looks like me, I think. She is very social, loves people, has lots of friends. She is polite. She still sucks her thumb and makes little effort to give it up. "It tastes so good," she says. She has just learned to read and we are all excited about that. She still loves to be held and cuddled lots. I am thankful for Deborah.

--I am thankful for my church, my pastor and his wife, and all our friends there. Our church is going through a hard time. A lot of people have left and maybe more will be going. But I know my church is Christ centered and that comforts me.

--I'm thankful for God's gifts to me in the form of the Bible and prayer. These are our road maps in these troubled and confusing times. I'm thankful for the guidance.

--I'm thankful for the freedom and beauty of my country.

--I'm thankful that our needs are met and that my children's needs are met. Not long ago I read about a man visiting Brazil. At a red light a little girl about 4 years old came out to wash his headlights. This was a modification on the windshield washer's job. She wasn't big enough to reach the windshield, so she washed the headlights instead. He gave her some money and drove on. He cried out to God, "God why don't you do something about that?" He sensed God respond with, "I am. I created you." The story was a heart-wrenching story and I have yet to get it out of my mind. It could have been my children in the streets washing headlights for a quarter. I'm thankful for our met needs. (I wish I could reconcile in my mind why we have so much and others so little. Nonetheless, I'm thankful for my children's needs being met.)

--I'm thankful for the experiences and revelations I've had over the years that have shaped me and brought me closer to God.

--I'm thankful that God continues to take me deeper in my relationship with him.

Psalm 50:23 "But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me."