This year has been a bell-ringing year for me.  In May, my husband died.  While miss him terribly, there is a peace that he is with the Lord.

A big part of that peace has come because the people I love the most have given their best to me.  It is hard to stand facing Thanksgiving Day and not feel a deep sense of love and appreciation for the people who have poured themselves into my life.

My children take time to visit and phone me.  We are all busy and we respect the time restrains of full lives.  But they have called to reassure me of their love.  Some of their visits have been longer than usual.  A few of them have been too short for the amount of time and money it takes to get here.  They check my Facebook entries everyday to be sure I’m all right.  They text and email me often.  My children and grandchildren have shown me such respect that I’m overwhelmed.

Additionally, my siblings have come to Florida simply to let me know that I’m loved.  My older sister has come again and again.  She laughs that she is taking advantage but I know that she is coming out of respect for me.  When she comes, she often piles other people I love into her vehicle.  For a few days, my home is once again filled with the laughter of children and the delights of food prepared for the masses.

My friends who are living near have surrounded me each day with their love and respect.  I’m invited to their home for Fourth of July and Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Even their family’s birthday celebrations have become my time to be included.  Each week, I have more activities than I could ever attend included in my calendars.  My Special Gathering members have reached out to express a healing touch.  One lady prays for me several times each day.  Frankly, her family is getting a bit tired to her prayer routine but I’m not.  She has become the embodiment of Paul’s admonition to prayer at all times.

As I approach Thanksgiving this year, I’ve experienced first hand how respect for the people we love can transform a time of grief and despair into a period of loving reflection.  I thank God for each person who has helped and called.  I’m deeply grateful that people I love have given to me the best of their love.

As I passed through the family room I heard a TV Talking Head speaking about money problems.  “One of the things we must learn is to have respect for what you have,” she said.

I stopped wanting to take note of who was speaking; but The Head had disappeared from the screen as they often do.  While The Head was gone, her point stuck.  I reached into my pocket and found 10 crumpled $1 bills.  I stopped to straighten the errant bills and put them back where they belonged.  Then I decided to take a survey the other possessions I have that I’ve disrespected.

I placed a towel that had fallen on the floor into the dirty clothes hamper.  This morning as I dressed, I had carelessly stepped on the towel rather than pick it up. Then I attempted to repair the blinds in a bedroom that had been broken by the last guests in our home.  I had spent a few minutes trying to straighten it but concluded that it would be easier to buy something new than keep fiddling with the cranky window covering.  Miraculously, after an additional ten minutes or so, I found the secret to the repair and the blinds obeyed my command to go back to its lower position.

I wiped the inside of my refrigerator and freezer where I’d neglected spills.  I straightened my food pantry and removed the out-of-date items.  I cleaned out the bottom of my cabinet where I keep those glass jars when the jelly is gone.

These were the easy fixes.  My monthly bill file drawer will take more than 10 minutes to return to its proper location.  The garden in the back of our house will be a day project.  My dented auto will put my traveling out of commission for about a week when it’s repaired.

The people who dwell in that mixed-bag called the mentally challenged community are sometimes void of an appreciation for what they have.  At times, it’s a part of their disability.  Terri is an exception.  She can’t understand the difference between a nickel and a $1,000 bill.  But over the years, her parents have taught her to appreciate the things she possesses.  They are proudly displayed and carefully dusted each week.

Once again, the Lord had spoken to me through an unusual source, the TV Talking Head.  But it’s a lesson I seen worked out through my friend, Terri. Thanksgiving must be a time for prayers of thankfulness.  However,  showing respect for the many things God has given to me will show my thanksfulness in tangible ways.

There are some things I don’t like that are happening in my life right now. I’m being audited by the IRS for the past three years. And there is a possibility that I may be sued for an auto accident that happened years ago.

While dealing with the grief associated with my husband’s death and major life changes which go along with this realignment of my life, I’m not happy about these other obstacles hitting my life.

It was only one month after I learned about the audit that I received a letter from my insurance company. When I was told I could be sued, I asked the Lord what was the lesson He wanted to teach me from these two bad situations. Immediately, He spoke to my heart, “I want you to learn to enjoy the journey.”

God isn’t shaken by the IRS or a person who claimed he wasn’t injured until a lawyer contacted him. The Lord knew that I would be facing these circumstances in the middle of a major life-changing event. God isn’t wringing his hands, deeply concerned or sweating in anxiety.

But is this God’s plan for me? Learn to enjoy the journey? An ancient Chinese proverb says, “Today is the tomorrow you dreamt about yesterday.” Sounds wise; but what does the Bible say about my situation?

When the people of Judea were sent to Babylon in exile, they were told by God to build houses, marry and have children. The Lord, through Jeremiah, said that they would be in exile for 70 years; and they shouldn’t waste their time desiring to go home. What was God’s plan for his children while in exile? Enjoy the journey.

Too often we don’t take time to thankful for where we find ourselves at the moment. Instead we anxiously attempt to forecast what will be the next tornado. We can’t enjoy lunch because we are concerned there will be no dinner. We don’t sleep peacefully because we fret that we may not be able to function tomorrow.

Everyday I am confronted by people whose children and loved ones face debilitating diseases and circumstances. These aren’t people who sinned but they were born with special needs. This portion of our population almost never endures their trip through life. They remain sincerely grateful for the journey. A Thanksgiving value that could replace much of my worry and fitful unbelief is having a grateful heart for each new day. The question I’m asking myself is Am I ready to show true thankfulness this Thanksgiving day by enjoying the journey?

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I try hard to not eat sugar all week until Friday.  Of course, I know that sugar and fructose is hidden in many pre-prepared foods but I TRY to eliminate it until Friday.

I have to admit that it is hard.  Ordering an unsweetened iced tea when others are having cheese cake or ice cream is brutal.  But when my body began to tell me that I had a sugar problem I tried to listen and respond.

Waiting for Friday represents hard work to me.  I find that it’s the same with the Lord.  God wants to give us good things but he often makes us wait for them.  In one of my most unfavorite verses  Acts 1:7, Jesus said to them, “The Father is the only One who has the authority to decide dates and times. These things are not for you to know.”  

Of course, we remember the story of David and Saul.  Saul was king but God had rejected him and anointed David.  After David figured out God’s plan, he tried repeatedly to kill David.

Saul even took his entire army out to find David.  But as the Lord often works, David and his army found Saul and his army first. When David found them, Saul was asleep.  David was given the perfect opportunity kill the king who no longer pleased God.  But David did not kill Saul.

David was willing to wait because he understood that God had made Saul king and God had not stopped Saul’s reign.  Saul was still king.  David showed respect for Saul and for God by showing restraint and allowing Saul to live.  As David found out, waiting for God to do good things in our lives can be painfully hard.

However, God has used David’s example to teach us that God expects us to wait on him to make good things happen.  Sometimes, it seems that the places in our pathway and easy way out.  This does make waiting especially hard.

I have to be honest, given David’s circumstances, I don’t know that I would’ve found the grace to wait on God.  Too often, I try to make things happen in my life.

Like David, however, there are some things we can do when we are waiting on the Lord.

1)   I can pray.

2)  I can daily remind myself of God’s promises to me.

3)   I should keep busy doing good while waiting.  This exercise will prepare me for the future plans God had promised.

4)  I can continue to believe that God will do what he has promised.

It is a fact that God wants to do good things for us but he will make us wait for the good things to happen.  This week we are all preparing for Thanksgiving.  Our hearts are primed to look for things for which we are thankful.  Perhaps one of the things we should be most thankful is that God doesn’t give us everything the moment we ask for it.  He allows us to wait for his working in our hearts and in the hearts and lives of others.

There are a group of pastors who minister in rural Florida who have become my friends over the years.  We meet each week for prayer and fellowship.  As program leader of The Special Gathering which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, I occasionally feel like a fifth wheel in pastor’s groups.  However, from the beginning, this group of pastors was different.  For one thing, they meet every week.  It’s a prayer/fellowship group where the men and women are free to share their concerns and problems. 

It is an interesting group.  There is a former boy evangelist who grew up in the pulpit preaching, leading praise and worship and seeking God.  He is now a respected pastor who has pioneered two churches in the area.  There are four or five Pentecostal pastors and their best friend is a fundamental Baptist.   The Lutheran pastor who left the area two years ago but keeps in contact through e-mail and phone calls is another female.  The Episcopal priest is a renegade even in conservative Florida Dioceses.  Two of the men are youth pastors who are not yet 25.  

One young pastor in our group is finishing up his thesis for his doctorate.  One of the pastors has been so successful that he regularly teaches in a large Christian university in Central Florida, even though he has no college education.   There is a former magazine editor and a former Wal-Mart employee.  Four or five of the men own motorcycles; most of them drive a truck.  Though one of the trucks is a Cadillac Escalade.  A former strong man evangelist –known to fold frying pans, rip phone books and break layers of bricks–rounds out the group. 

I’m the oldest person in the conclave.  They have shown great respect for me and affectionately call me “one of the guys.” They listened to me whine for more than five years regarding a problem that was greatly effecting my personal life.  Because they were mostly a group of men, they expected me to get to be bottom line quickly and to bring my concerns to a speedy conclusion. 

This has been the best counsel and the most compassionate stern advice I’ve ever received.  They let me whine for about four minutes; then gently ask,  “And what can we pray about?”  There is much more that I could say about these supportive, wonderful pastors; but the best thing that I can say on this Thanksgiving Day is “Thank you for being my friends and letting me be ‘one of the guys.'”