Thursday, November 25, 2010

Banquets here and there, now and then....

Today is Thanksgiving. We still have the same wonderful family tradition that we did when Duane last ate Thanksgiving dinner with us, and that is that the whole family gathers at my sister and brother-in-law’s house. (This picture of Duane was taken on Thanksgiving Day in 2000 at Aunt Sally and Uncle John's house.)  I will bring baked squash and pecan pie. Actually, two pecan pies, because last winter in Florida, I bought a bottle of orange syrup, and on the side of the bottle is a recipe for Orange Pecan Pie, so I made that and a traditional Southern Pecan Pie, as my recipe books call it. There will also be pumpkin pies, apple pies and various other desserts, along with all the other wonderful things - turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and numerous delectable side dishes.

In my mind, and through my photo albums, I can go back through the years and visit Thanksgivings past. I can see my grandparents and parents, back in the days when we were much younger and much more carefree. And then I like to wonder and ponder about what our loved ones in Heaven are doing on a day like this. I'm sure it's way beyond anything that we can imagine!

This makes me think of a banquet described in the Bible. Isaiah chapter 25 describes God’s banquet for His servants in verses 6 through 9. The Living Bible says “Here on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the Lord of Hosts will spread a wondrous feast for everyone around the world - a delicious feast of good food, with clear, well-aged wine and choice beef. (Another version says “finest meat.”) At that time he will remove the cloud of gloom, the pall of death that hangs over the earth; he will swallow up death forever. The Lord God will wipe away all tears and take away forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The Lord has spoken - he will surely do it! In that day the people will proclaim, ‘This is our God, in whom we trust, for whom we waited. Now at last he is here.’ What a day of rejoicing!”

The Amplified Bible adds that this feast is symbolical of His coronation festival inaugurating the reign of the Lord on earth, after the background of gloom, judgment and terror. Jesus talked about a magnificent feast too. In Matthew 22:2, He said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding feast for his son.” If you read the story in the next few verses, you will find that the king ended up inviting everyone, but not everyone wanted to come.

Just think of all the wonderful feasts that are going on around our nation today. What a perfect day to think about the feast that the Lord All-Powerful, who is also our Father God, will put on for His Son. It will make all of our feasts, no matter how abundant, pale in comparison, and we are all invited.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Choose to laugh....

I wrote this within about a month after Duane left us: “Many of Duane’s friends wrote letters, poems and spoke tributes to him during the days we were mourning his loss. We honored the friends’ requests by leaving their written messages and expressions of love with him, but their words have created in me a desire to assemble a collection of memories that could be put in a binder or booklet. I would call this “A Tribute to Duane” or perhaps “Moments with Duane” so that his family and friends could know how much he meant to others. It would be a keepsake that we would treasure forever, a book of remembrances. I can even envision including these in a binder with all of his drawings.

Many of you asked us to let you know what you could do for us, so this is what we are asking: Please write down any special memories that you have of Duane or anything you would like to say to him or us and send them to us. Too often, we do not comprehend the specialness of those who have been loaned to us by God, and this will help us know of the impact he had on your life, or of the memories that you have of him.”

I’m going to start sharing some of those memories I’ve collected with you, the readers of this “Tribute to Duane” blog. This first one came from Duane’s cousin, our nephew, Joe Hunt:

“I want to first let you know we have been praying for you both. Duane’s death has been difficult to cope with and understand, but to know we will someday be with him again for eternity is comfort that only we as believers in Christ enjoy. I wanted to share a memory I have of Duane for your book.

(Note: I think Duane was probably five or six in this story, not seven or eight as Joe says.... they were 12 years older than Duane, so if they were in high school, he had probably just started school.)    

One day Chris and I (probably when Chris was watching Duane) took Duane for a ride in an International Scout I was driving at the time. Duane was seven or eight and we were in high school. Off we went, and our first stop was the Crooked Creek Road state shed. We thought we would try driving the Scout up a sand pile. As we attempted this silly stunt, Duane was laughing away in the back seat. Just as we started up the pile and the sky came into view through the windshield, it stalled and we rolled backward until the rear bumper stopped us when it hit the ground. Duane was still laughing away and Chris and I had joined in laughing. Well, to get the truck unstuck, we rocked the vehicle back and forth, and Duane continued to laugh and giggle away. We finally got unstuck and Duane finally stopped laughing. He really had a good time that day hanging out with his older brother and cousin. We really enjoyed being with him on that day as well. Duane’s untimely death has reinforced in me the importance of today and what we do with it. The importance of our faith in God, cherishing time spent with family, and staying busy doing the things we enjoy most with those close to us.”

Thanks for sharing that story, Joe.  I can just hear Duane giggling and then you two laughing heartily.  That was excellent closing advice, too.  I like to say, "Live with no regrets."

(Here's Joe and Chris at about the age they were at the time of this little caper!)

Is there anything that can give you more joy than the sound of a child’s laugh?  You just can't resist laughing when you hear a baby or young child laugh.  I love the sound of it.  That sound is one of the highlights of my days when I babysit our grandchildren. Laughter is so good for the soul.

Unfortunately, I sometimes feel as though it doesn’t come easily for me. I often think that if there was one word to describe me, it just might be “melancholy.” I do believe, though, that when I realize I am feeling blue, I can choose to change that.  To quote a popular TV speaker, Joyce Meyer, I can "think about what I'm thinking about."  I can deliberately find a funny movie to watch.  I can determine to focus on the good things in life.  I can choose to, as my Sunday School teachers taught me, count my blessings. November is an appropriate month to focus on thanksgiving and counting our blessings. Not only do I believe it’s important to do that, but I believe it is to my detriment if I do not choose to be thankful and instead choose to focus on that which makes me feel melancholy.

"A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing,
but a broken spirit dries the bones."  Prov. 17:22, AMP

If I want to be well and healthy and strong, I must develop and maintain a happy heart and a cheerful mind.  I can choose whether to focus on the people who will not be at the family table for Thanksgiving, and the things in life that didn't turn out the way I wanted, or to be thankful for the hard-working faithful husband that I have had for 43 years, our remarkable sons and their lovely wives and our four delightful grandchildren, our warm and sturdy home, and remember that Duane is still with us and always will be, though in a different way than before. I could make a very, very long list of all the things for which I can be thankful.

"All the days of the desponding afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and foreboding], but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast
[regardless of circumstances]."  Prov. 15:15, AMP.

I choose not to have anxious thoughts.  I choose to laugh and have a glad heart! I choose a continual feast!  (I think I can hear Duane saying, "Yay, Mom - you got it!")