Friday, November 26, 2004

THANKSGIVING INSPIRATION


God gives us beautiful trees and faithful friends.

Thanksgiving Inspiration
by Janice Price

This admission is going to startle many of those who know me, and my mother may well pass out from the shock, but this needs to be said.

There are times my mother is an absolute inspiration and encouragement.

Life hasn’t been easy for her and it is especially hard for her now. She has been housebound for several years, since before I moved across country to live nearby, which means she has been forgotten by society and is often lonely. Her eyesight and hearing are poor and her speech isn’t always clear. She propels herself around the house in a wheelchair by using her feet, determined to remain as independent and self-sufficient as possible.

Everything in her circumstances is working against her, and too often this includes her daughter and her one son in this area. Five years ago we buried another son, the one who lived with her. Of course, having four living children doesn’t replace the one she lost.

Doug and I try to help her, but he often works long hours, so I am Mother’s pack mule. In other words, I run her errands and haul everything upstairs from the street to the sidewalk and then up the porch steps. This isn’t easy for me, as I’m sure her neighbors are aware. Yes, I often complain – loudly!

So I was amazed when the thought occurred to me that I wanted to do something really special for her for Thanksgiving this year. I could see it in my mind. I would take my card table, cover it with a tablecloth, and set it with the familiar silverware, plates and glasses she gave me this summer when I cleaned out her storage shed. I hoped Doug and his friend Theresa could join us. It would be a lot of extra work, but we could have at least one special Thanksgiving together while we have the opportunity.

I never saw any food in my mind’s vision, only the table settings. I knew we didn’t have the funds for the meal, but I was still disappointed last weekend when the dream was lost to reality. There wouldn’t be a Thanksgiving meal, with or without a fancy table.

While I struggled with grumpy discouragement, Mother also had a dream that wasn’t to be. She wanted to treat me to a shopping spree for warm clothes today, the day after Thanksgiving.

"How could you think I would want to go shopping for myself when we need food?" I asked, in disbelief, proving once again that my natural walking position is with foot in mouth. I have since apologized for this, but still the hurt from the unkind remark lingers.

"I wanted to give you a special Thanksgiving," I told her.

"I guess God has other plans," she replied.

Funds became available Tuesday afternoon. Some people could plan a meal, thaw a turkey and rush to get it all done on time, but to do so much at the last minute would leave me out of commission for weeks. Everything in this small town is closed on Thanksgiving. Mother and I agreed to have pizza together on Wednesday afternoon and pumpkin pie on Thursday.

"Every day is Thanksgiving," Mother assured me. "It doesn’t matter what we have, I’ll be thankful for it."

"The pizza is courtesy of Mark and Janet," I told Mother after we ate, "but you bought the pumpkin pie for tomorrow."

I was barely home before Charles, a neighbor and member of our watch group, arrived, walking on crutches. His young grandson carried an air tank for Charles to blow out my gas space heaters. The weather was about to change and although my landlord had again forgotten me, Charles remembered and came to light the pilots.

A couple of hours later Martha, the local Red Cross manager, called and said she had something she wanted to share with "you and your mama." She brought half a cooked turkey.

Then Johnnie asked if she could drop off a chicken plate on Thanksgiving for "you and your mama." I never turn down her delicious cooking! She and her husband brought us a full meal yesterday.

Theresa invited me to her niece’s for sandwiches in the evening. She came by so I could follow her over there without getting lost. She brought a plate of turkey and stuffing for "you and your mama." Her niece sent me home with some leftover turkey and a slice of melt-in-your-mouth pecan pie.

By now I should know that God is much more generous than I am and that he doesn’t overlook the poor or the lonely. I’m so grateful for the kindness of all these people. This was a gentle reproof to me that God can and will provide without my help if I get out of his way and concentrate on his blessings instead of on what I don’t have.

It was also another reminder that God has not forgotten or abandoned my mother in her isolation.

Mother doesn’t talk much about personal matters, including her faith, so this was also a reminder that Mother has a faith strong enough to withstand disappointments and loneliness. So often in the daily grind, such as taking out her trash or carrying laundry back and forth, I lose sight of the fact that she’s not only my mother, but she’s a sister in Christ.

I don’t know that I’ll ever be an inspiration and encouragement to anyone, but I do pray I will remain as strong in my faith, no matter what the circumstances, as she has.

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

THANKSGIVING PROVISION

Thanksgiving Provision
by Janice Price

You’re going to have Thanksgiving dinner, courtesy of Pat.

The thought is strong and explicit, but confusing. Mother and I are okay with our plans for a Thanksgiving dinner of macaroni and cheese. It doesn’t matter that we can’t afford a big meal this year. We are still thankful for our blessings.

You’re going to have Thanksgiving dinner, courtesy of Pat. This thought is insistent.

I add the last of the clothes to the washer and return to my desk to read the mail. There is an envelope from my friend Pat, but no check. Still, You’re going to have Thanksgiving dinner, courtesy of Pat. By now I am thinking I am losing my mind.

The phone rings. Mother is excited. “Jan, I got a card from Pat. She sent me a check for our Thanksgiving dinner.”

The following day I will receive a note from Pat, “Your mother is treating you to Thanksgiving dinner.” But when I pick up the check Mother and I decide we should stick to the easy and cheap macaroni and cheese. Before I reach the bank, I remember how explicit the thought was earlier. I decide that if God says we are having Thanksgiving dinner that’s what we should purchase. There will be no dessert. A turkey and trimmings take all but fifty cents of the check. I stop at another store and spend that on an onion for the dressing.

Forty-eight hours later I start dinner preparations. I have learned to cook holiday meals the evening before, then pack our meals to reheat in the microwave at Mother’s home. I find the neck and giblets are frozen inside the turkey. They jiggle out under running water.

My brother Doug drops off some ice cream and laundry. “How long did you say that bird has been cooking?” he asks when I check on the small turkey. There is no tantalizing aroma floating around the kitchen.

“Three hours,” I reply.

“Something is wrong. It should be done by now. Are you sure the oven is working right?”

“It’s okay,” I say with more confidence that I am feeling.

Inside, I am praying: God, something definitely is wrong. Please don’t let me poison Mother with this turkey.

The phone rings. My friend Johnnie inquires, “Would you and your mother like for me to fix you a plate tomorrow? We’ll be glad to share with you. We’re having ham.”

I start to decline and remember this turkey is not cooperating like the turkeys in years past. “That would be wonderful, Johnnie. Thanks.”

I remove the aluminum foil tent and raise the oven temperature just a tad. An hour and ten minutes later I stick a meat thermometer in three different locations. All three readings tell me the internal temperature is higher than it needs to be. The turkey is done. It is well past dinnertime and I am famished, so I slice a little and nibble, but I am feeling a bit uneasy about whether the turkey is safe to eat.

I’m going to die is my first thought when I waken at 3:00 a.m. The back and leg pain went to bed with me but everything else is new. I decide to check on the turkey and see if it smells okay, so I pull the pan out of the refrigerator. It hooks the handle of a water pitcher and half a gallon of cold water flows through the refrigerator, into the vegetable bins and over the floor. I dump a sleeping cat off of the nearest cloth – Doug’s white shirts - for the refrigerator and grab a rag for the floor.

At 5:00 a.m., I find the thermometer and check my temperature - 95.6ยบ. I am not running a fever and I don’t have food poisoning. It is just a reaction to the changing weather and rising humidity. I manage a couple of hours of rest.

I am clumsy, befogged, and occasionally dizzy Thanksgiving morning. It is all I can do to shower, prepare a pot of tea, pour the liquid into two thermoses, and feed the animals. I take two aspirin with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and find a tube of muscle rub for my neck. These are barely finished and Johnnie is on her way with the food.

“I’ll tell you later what a lifesaver you are,” I tell her as I accept the two meals that include dessert.

I put the thermoses of tea and the bags of food into the car and drive to Mother’s house.

“What’s in this?” Mother asks as she looks at a covered container.

“I have no idea,” I tell her. “I didn’t pack this.”

Mother is surprised to find a ham dinner and a special dish just for her. “Didn’t you cook the turkey?”

Later, Doug calls. “My friend Theresa is sending a little something for you and Mother. I’ll be by with the plates shortly.”

I believe God has a sense of humor. It is times such as this that I believe it the most. While I was unable to sleep early this morning, I read in Psalms 111:5a, “He provides food for those who fear him.”

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Friday, November 19, 2004

SONS ARE FOREVER

Sons are Forever
by Janice Price

*Although this story was written a few years ago, it is still timely. Suicide is not a topic one would like to associate with any holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it is a reality that many grieving families face each year. Loneliness and depression can become overwhelming and too many potential suicides will become completed suicides again this year.

Many thanks to my friend Carol for the inspiration to write this story. Recently, I received a prayer request for a suicidal individual and emailed him a suggestion to read this story, in hopes he might realize the depth of the painful legacy he would leave his own family and friends. May Carol be blessed for her generosity in sharing her own pain in order to help others.



It is the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The weather is crisp and clear. My yard is buried in colorful leaves. It is a beautiful day to celebrate life.

It is also a day to grieve.

The e-mail message from Carol was fairly short. “It's 2 a.m. I've just been on the phone with Doris my best friend in PA. Her son Troy committed suicide today by shooting himself. I'm devastated, she's devastated, so we've been crying together. Her kids and my kids grew up together. I'm in shock. And of course sleep is the last thing I'm looking for so I thought I'd write and tell you. I can't say much more right now. I think my mind has turned off. I have a big day tomorrow and someone else is going to have to push me through it.”

I wanted to be there for Carol in person, but we live too far apart. We were close friends as teenagers. She married Bob and had four healthy, mischievous children. I moved away and we lost touch for many years. We regained contact four years ago through my brother Bill, but it has only been within the last few months that we have regained communication on a personal level. I know she meant what she said; she is truly devastated today.

Carol is a survivor of two suicides. Fourteen years ago Carol and Bob buried their son Robbie. Five years later, on his twenty-second birthday, they buried their youngest son Jay.

Until this summer I thought that the subject of suicide should be avoided, but I learned that it is not a verboten subject. Tiptoeing around the subject or avoiding it altogether does not help those left behind. Family members need to talk about the loss of their loved one. It is part of the healing process. Carol put it succinctly, “Yes, it’s painful, but it’s a lot more painful if I don’t talk about it or if everyone goes around it. Time does not heal, but it dims the bad things and brightens the good ones.”

She sent a photograph of her children. The last time I saw them they were toddlers. It was the first time I saw them as teenagers. It was hard to imagine the hole that was left in the family with the loss of two good-looking young adults. How does a parent cope when a child dies.….by violence …..by his own hand? Not well and not easily, by Carol’s own admission. Your world is out of kilter when you live to bury your own children. It must be especially hard when they are young.

There are no words equal to the task of consoling those left behind. How do you comfort someone who is haunted by nightmare images of the death scene, who battles self-recriminations and who must bear the unbearable?

Prayer is the most loving thing we can do. We can pray for their peace of mind, for proper rest for their minds and bodies to recuperate from the extreme stress they are undergoing, for their financial needs in the crisis so they can bury their loved ones and have opportunity to grieve - the list of needs is endless. Most importantly, we can pray for their faith to be strengthened and for them to lean on God and not turn away from Him or blame Him. He can attend to all their needs by sending some neighbors with food, some friends with financial donations, some church members with cleaning supplies, and even some strangers with a warm heart and a listening ear. He can give them strength to endure the funeral, to accept condolences, and to survive one moment at a time.

The family needs more than prayer. They need moral support. They need love, hugs and assurances that the deceased will not be forgotten. He died; he wasn’t erased. They need reminders of happy memories of the deceased. They need to know that not only are you here for them today, but that you will continue to be there for them tomorrow. As Carol said, the pain of a suicide never goes away. Occasionally, there is a need to talk to someone about the loved one because the anniversary of his death, or his birthday, or his favorite holiday is approaching. Will you or I still be willing to listen ten or even twenty years down the road?

Carol has been on a long journey. It hasn’t been an easy one. A support group of bereaved parents helped her for a time. Two years after Jay died she had a heart attack and moved from her home state. Since then she has had trials beyond measure. In one recent year she had eleven surgeries. She has had two knee replacements and is headed for shoulder replacement surgery. If you were to ask her, she would tell you that nothing she has been through could begin to touch the pain of losing her sons.

It would be easy to criticize or try to assign blame. That seems to be what we often do when we haven’t faced a particular trial ourselves. Someone who has never been through a depression couldn’t understand how a person could reach the point of ending it all. Someone who has never faced what could appear to be a failure on the part of the parents could not empathize. The truth is that suicides happen in broken families as well as “perfect” ones. It isn’t the fault of the parents.

Suicide is a baffling subject. Depression is a major motivation for wanting to self-destruct. Some think you can will yourself out of it, “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps”, or freeze a grin and whatever is bothering you will just go away. Depression has also been described as anger turned inward. Some doctors say it is a chemical imbalance in the brain, while others say it is all in the emotions. Some ministers will tell you that it is totally a lack of faith in God, while others will say you are demon possessed or influenced.

None of us know what it would take to push us over the edge. But we do know what it does take to pull us out of the mire. We don’t come out by our own bootstraps. Perhaps if we try we can fool ourselves as well as others for a time, but eventually we have to face the truth. It is only when we become dependent on God that we are lifted out of depression, over and over again if necessary, but it is not in our own strength that we win this war.

I admire Carol. She has slogged through the pits wearing leaden shoes. Most days she manages to laugh and to be positive. Today her heart is breaking. She is carrying the weight of her friend’s loss along with her own. There is fresh pain mingled with the old.

I can not imagine the depth of her pain – or her friend Doris’. But I do know that Carol is uniquely qualified to understand how deeply Doris is wounded, to offer comfort, and to listen with her heart and not judge or condemn. She might not be able to make the long trip for the funeral, but Carol will definitely still be listening and lending moral support to Doris many years from now.

The age of a child when he dies is inconsequential to a grieving parent. A mother assumes that title for life, and as far as she is concerned, sons are forever.

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Saturday, November 13, 2004

THE BLESSING OF BUDDY POPPIES

The Blessing of Buddy Poppies
by Janice Price

"If you can stand out here in this weather, then I can help too," one man said, as he handed me a dollar bill and I handed him a Buddy Poppy.

The small red flowers on a thin wire stem are assembled by disabled American veterans and exchanged for a donation to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The money collected helps veterans in nursing homes and in the community.

The past two days have been miserable, weather-wise. Yesterday began bleak, cold and rainy. My brain was as foggy as my hands were klutzy. The last thing I wanted to do was to load a thermos of hot coffee, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple, several cough drops and an umbrella into a cold car and go pick up a basket of poppies.

But soldiers work in conditions worse than this.

The thought popped into my head and motivated me to go forward. I decided I could do it with a smile, no matter what the weather. I spent a couple of solitary hours outside Ingles grocery store, protected from the rain, but with wet shoes and few prospects before the weather began to clear. Before my six-hour volunteer shift ended, I was sweating.

This morning I expected it to warm up also. Instead it got colder and windier. I wished I’d dressed in another layer of clothes.

Still, I greeted people with a cheery, "Would you like a Buddy Poppy today?" Some said, "I’ll catch you on the way out," "I need to get some change," or "I just bought one at Wal-Mart." Some wavered, then donated on the way in. Others approached with money in hand, eager to support our vets. A few stopped to tell a story.

One would hand me a dollar bill. Another might give me a handful of change. I tried to look everyone in the eye and let each know the donation was appreciated, even if I traded a poppy for a quarter. For one person, giving a quarter is more generous than giving a dollar. Fewer than I would have guessed wouldn’t look me in the eye or pretended not to see me.

One older man stopped and said, "I don’t have any money." His tone implied he would give if he could. I guessed he was a veteran and handed him a poppy. His face lit up as he thanked me.

Yes, the weather has been dismal the last two days and I’m physically exhausted, but the days have been good ones, filled with friendly people, smiling faces and laughter. It was a positive experience, well worth a few hours of discomfort and inconvenience to help our veterans.

As Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35b)

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

HONOR THE DEAD BY HELPING THE LIVING


A Veteran's Gravesite


Honor the Dead by Helping the Living
by Janice Price

It is time once again for Buddy Poppies. Volunteers from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Ladies Auxiliary to the VFW will be standing outside businesses offering a small flower for a donation of one dollar. Disabled American veterans assemble the poppies and the proceeds are used to help veterans in nursing homes and in the community.

I never gave any thought to what these poppies represent or why they are sold until last year when I was given information to put into a short announcement for the local media. What caught my attention was the phrase, "Please honor the dead by helping the living." When I consider it, this phrase is appropriate for Christians.

For many of us, a great Aunt Sally, a grade school teacher, a church member or a parent has set an example of service we strive to emulate, established a tradition of love we want to pass on to others, or taught us valuable truths that have improved our lives. Although each of them has passed from this physical life, their lessons remain with us.

We honor our deceased by helping the living. We pass on their wisdom and teachings by word and action as we live by what we learned from their examples. We enrich our own lives as well as the lives of others as we do this.
In Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV), we read: What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

We honor God’s deceased servants by helping the living. Some of their mistakes and successes have been recorded that we might learn invaluable lessons for our own spiritual journey. We help our families, friends, neighbors and even strangers as we put the lessons into practice.

Before Jesus could be resurrected, he first had to die. There is much wisdom and insight we can glean from the Biblical record of his three and a half years of ministry. In Matthew 11:29, Jesus says, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

Our lives will be enriched as we learn from Jesus’ example and help the living.

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com

Saturday, November 06, 2004

FROM THE HEART


Paul Dawn


From the Heart
by Janice Price

In order to write personal experience stories that can comfort, uplift or encourage, a writer must step outside of any personal comfort zone. The most effective stories are not written with a sense of human pride, but from the heart, and writing from the heart is humbling and often scary. These stories invite readers into the very presence of the writer’s core, where the tendency is to hide our mistakes and failures, and allow readers to see imperfection and pain.

This isn’t easy. It can effect the emotions of both the writer and the reader, inducing tears or laughter, but God does lead some to write this type of story for a purpose.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. I Corinthians 1: 3-4

This morning I read stories posted by Paul Dawn on his Hill Country Thoughts blog and was amazed at the depth of his ability to communicate his heart, but, then, Paul has endured tribulations in order to arrive at the point where he can encourage and inspire others with such honesty and courage. God has comforted Paul and now Paul is sharing that comfort with others. What a blessing, to be used of God in this way.

You can read Paul’s blog postings at http://hillcountrythoughts.blogspot.com/

© 2004 Janice Price
mercyandpercy@yahoo.com
www.mercyandpercy.com