Most Wonderful TIme of The Year
I do not know what to do with myself this morning. For the last several years I have hosted Thanksgiving for up to 25 people. The last two years, here in West Virginia, have been smaller but I still fixed a massive amount of food. Today, my Mother-In-Law is cooking. (Her stuffing is made with mashed potatoes…seriously looking forward to that.) I feel a little out of sorts not waking up on Thanksgiving morning with the smell of turkey floating through the air. Honestly, it makes me just a little sad but it gives me time to think about many things.
Mary & Martha (Luke 10:38-42)
I have so much to be thankful for this year. I am well aware I bombed the whole “month of thanks” postings both here and on Facebook, but I do not recall a Thanksgiving where I was more thankful. I miss my family in North Carolina. I love them and they are such a huge part of who I have become. I grew up in a family that loves fiercely. In some cases we love each other to the point it makes us a little intolerable at times. My Mom and my Aunt have always had a complicated relationship, but the conflict lies in more in their personalities and their approaches to life. You can talk to either of them separately and the love they have is overwhelming. If they ever get on the same page…watch out, they would be unstoppable. My sister and I are very similar. I know she loves me and I pray she knows that I love her. (No seriously, I am the big sister and I will hurt you if you mess with my baby sister…that’s my job after all.) We are just very different people at different points in our lives. We love each other and each other’s children so much that we would stumble over one another to take care of them. Some people might say it is a dysfunctional family. I know I have said it at times. In hindsight, we are not dysfunctional…we are just family.
I think about Mary and Martha when I think of my Mom and my Aunt or my sister and I. Both Mary and Martha loved Jesus. Both wanted to serve and honor him. They had different approaches. Mary’s proved to be the better choice, but Martha loved the Lord no less. I have to be careful of slipping into “Martha Mode”. I fret and worry over things being done well when I open my home or host events. I have learned over the years to work hard to have everything ready in advance so that I can stay in “Mary Mode”. This juxtaposition has been created by my Mom and my Aunt. Mom tends to be a bit of a “Martha”. She wants things done a particular way. She focuses in on making sure everything is done well. She taught me everything I know about preparation of my home for company and hosting large events at church. This was taught by observing all that she has done over the years. (This was a valuable education as I use it in my church today.) She pours so much into the preparation that she sometimes empties her jar before the event even takes place. My Aunt trends toward the “Mary” mode. She too gets busy with preparation and wanting things to be good, but her jar is emptied in the actual function of being a hostess. She wants everything “just so” but if it isn’t, it doesn’t seem to panic her…she just wants the people there.
This is not an essay on who is better between my Mom and Aunt. They have different approaches, both of which I greatly appreciate. It’s funny to me because when it is an event in my home or church I prepare, clean and organize like my Mom. However, when the event is in my home, I tend to take on more of my Aunt’s characteristics. I am so thankful that both of these women have inspired me throughout my life. My Mom gave me a love of music I can not even express. She taught me the value of patriotism, integrity and honor. She encouraged and fanned the flame of my writing. She prayed for me when I would not even pray for myself. My Aunt gave me a love of reading and encouraged my writing. She inspired me to push through with my education. She created my confidence in the kitchen and fanned the love of cooking. I can trace every one of my gifts back to one or both of these women. I am deeply grateful for the impact they have had on my life. The impact they continue to have on my life.
2016 started off in a nightmare. I remember in January having to change my password for work and I almost used “Badyear16”. Something inside me screamed “NO!”. I’m glad I listened to that voice, otherwise I would have been professing that 2016 would be a bad year for at least 90 days. It started bad, I cannot pretend otherwise. The events that took place in January pushed me down a path back to my faith, back to a relationship with God. Those events have ignited major changes in my family…good changes. What unfolded is still heartbreaking to me. It started the end of my son’s brief marriage and tore my former daughter-in-law’s three little boys from our lives. It was not our choice to be estranged from the children, but it has been made clear that as much as we took them into our hearts as our own grandchildren, their mother did not feel the same. I pray for those boys and their mother daily. God has healed my heart and has worked some miracles in my son’s life as well. We move forward in God’s grace and promise. I want to make clear…God did not create a bad situation to draw us closer. He DID NOT break our hearts to bring us to him. These were hurtful and dark events and God is Good. God did use the situation for good in the end. I am thankful his ways are not our ways…because I have nothing figured out.
Before January 2016, I could not tell you the last time I cracked open a bible and read it. I could count on one hand how many times I had been to church in the last three years. I only prayed when a crisis fell upon me and then I never prayed in strength and promise. Everything has changed drastically. I rededicated my life while praying alone in February. Found Centerbranch Assembly of God in March. Went through Growth Track in April, joined the church in May and have been a very active member since. In fact, my husband and I now handle the hosting (food and set up ) for Growth Track. Ironic right? Not really…God has a sense of humor and he laughs with me often.
I fasted for the first time in August. In fact, the fast inspired a blog that I believe is my highest read entry to date. (Go check it out) I received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit August 18. I have been healed of a neurological condition called Hemiplegic Migraines and dumped all my maintenance meds in October. This has not been a bad year, it has been an AMAZING YEAR. I struggled with being depressed from about November 1st through sometime in January…not now. I have never been more joyful in my life. GOD IS GOOD.
As much as I feel displaced in not making Thanksgiving dinner to day, I look forward to Friendsgiving on Saturday. My dear friend Erin, her mom Joi and their little family is joining us for a feast filled with everything I normally make on Thanksgiving. This family has given me so much to be thankful for. Wonderful friendship and support that cannot be put into words. Sisters in prayer when intercession is needed. Someone that sees the world and reacts to it, a lot like I do. Last night we went to see Christmas light at Oglebay together. Going to see lights has been a family tradition since I was a girl. It was nice to have this experience with my West Virginia family. We are creating some new traditions and that is perfect for me. I am thankful for the Norris family. They have been a gift from the Almighty from the day I met them.
I know, I have a tendency to brag about my church, but it is just that amazing. When you hear the word of God preached and the congregation actually absorbing it and living in their lives it is a sight to behold. You won’t see a flashy Christmas show but you will see service to our community and to one another. This is a church that is invested in God’s kingdom. Everything that takes place has a purpose to reach the lost and/or engage and encourage the believer. When they say they are “Connecting people to the newness of life found only in Jesus Christ” it is a way of life, not just a snappy slogan. I do not remember ever “missing” my church service when I was out of town. In fact, it used to be a relief to have a break. I missed one Sunday because I was visiting family and I mourned not being at Centerbranch. I watched the Livestream but I wanted to be at my church. This is exciting for me.
I have grown more in 9 months in my faith than I did in the previous 40 years. I am studying my bible. I am praying. Certain aspects of my behavior are changing. I have been made a new creation and there is no turning back. I am thankful for my church, our staff and their families and the people who serve. You are a gift from God!
Speaking of newness in life…I lead a connect group and work with the youth. (Erin is my right hand in both areas. Again, God is Good and is humor is amazing.) I have found true friendship in my connect group. We study our lesson, cook and connect to one another. We share our triumphs and our struggles and walk away feeling empowered to face the next challenge. Aspire Youth has welcomed my son and tapped into his love of music. I never had daughters, but I now have a bunch of teens referring to me as Momma Sue. (Because they found out I do not like being called Mrs. Gallien or Mrs. Sue when the youth pastor Jonathan referred to me as such.) I am a Momma by proxy. I cannot express the gratitude I feel having these young women reach out to me, trust and love me. It is a privilege and honor I do not take lightly. I am thankful for all of these young people. I am thankful for your youth leadership. The youth Pastor, his wife and the volunteers are so passionate about these students. The dedication and love is overwhelming. We are blessed to be among them.
Sometimes I get surprised when someone says, “I saw that on your blog.” Truthfully, I honestly do not know how to act. I get so excited that someone has read the blog and I am grateful they took the time out of their life to read my thoughts. My response is usually a little confusing. Try saying thank you when you want to squeal and jump up and down. That being said…THANK YOU. Yes, you reading this blog. Thank you for reading. Thank you for sharing. I appreciate you and you have helped make this an amazing year for me. My blog is growing and you made that possible. My heartfelt thanks.
Time for Coffee…and the Parade
I was up early this morning with a heart bursting with gratitude. Now the smell of coffee fills the air and it’s time to get ready and then enjoy the Macy’s Parade. I do not remember a year when I could just watch the parade. I know it is not the same as when I was a girl but I am excited to watch the festivities, drink my coffee and…I need to get some pies in the oven.
Happy Thanksgiving to each and everyone of you. Remember to carry the attitude of gratitude with you always. It truly can change your life for the good. My God bless you and keep you safe.