Thankfulness, Day 17 (finale)

Near the end of yesterday’s thankfulness post, I alluded to today’s topic, although I’m the only one who knew that (I didn’t want to say it because I was afraid something would keep me from posting today!).

Every post in this 17-day project has had thankfulness as its theme, but I’ve barely mentioned to Whom I’m thankful.

Most of you know that I am a follower of Jesus Christ, the Savior of all mankind. And you can read between the lines: You know that when I’m thankful, it’s to God. (If you didn’t know it before, you know it now.)

December is the month we celebrate the birth of the Savior, and leading to that we celebrate a holiday known as Thanksgiving. As we have done with Christmas, we also have done with Thanksgiving: We’ve made it a secular holiday more about how much we can eat and how much football we can watch than a remembrance and recounting of our blessings. I’ve begun to loathe the term “Turkey Day,” although I have been guilty of saying it.

I never want to trivialize these occasions we have for giving God the glory for how He has blessed us.

For, even though I am no stranger to the habit of complaining, I am keenly aware that God has blessed me abundantly.

If you read my posts of the past few weeks, you’ll see that this has been a happy year for my family: Bruce and I moved to Batesville in May, and we have a house we love that’s close to my mom, brother and aunt; I have a great job; we attend an awesome church; and we’ve been involved in the community, even more so than we were in North Little Rock. I’ve been able to reconnect with old friends and make new ones, and this has brought much joy to our household.

God made me wait quite a while before he moved us back to my hometown.

I was growing quite impatient, even though I knew that He had a plan and our move would be in His time  and not ours. His ways are often mysterious to me, but I have read the Bible enough years to know that His plan is always best, even when His purposes are not clear to us.

I once heard it explained like this: Life is like a parade, and we can see only a little piece of it as we watch from our little spot along the street, whereas God is above it seeing the entire scene. He sees the big picture, and we see things from our limited perspective.

God can see eternity, and we often cannot see beyond our own noses.

I try to see things from an eternal perspective. When I step outside myself and forget about my own wants and “needs,” I sometimes can do that.

When I get to feeling sorry for myself (“This is hard!” “I can’t afford that.” “I’m starving!” “You hurt my feelings!”), I sometimes have the good sense to stop myself and think for a minute. When life is just “too hard,” I remember the Cross.

Jesus, who knew no sin, willingly gave up His life – dying a horrible, painful, publicly humiliating death – for me.

Did I deserve His sacrifice? No. Can I ever be good enough to earn His gift of salvation, freely given? Not a chance.

When I remember the Cross, all the thankfulness I can muster will never be enough.

In my best moments, I remember that.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. – James 1:17

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Thankfulness, Day 16

Today I am thankful for my new/old hometown.

This year has been so busy that I haven’t done what I’ve wanted to do for the past seven months – talk about my old/new place of residence.

Yeah, I posted a brief note when we found out we were moving to Batesville, but we have been in a whirlwind of activity ever since.

On Friday, May 7, I said goodbye to my former employer (we had also relocated offices that very same day), and on Saturday, May 8, I took my final exam in Accounting II at Pulaski Tech. That afternoon, we loaded the car with the Spice Dogs and a few belongings and headed to Batesville. We spent the next five weeks living at Mom’s and driving back to North Little Rock on the weekends to continue packing. (Because I was in school all semester in addition to working full time, we hadn’t finished all our packing, so we made trips and hauled little loads each weekend.) On June 5, a bunch of guys from Fellowship North came over and loaded the furniture and other heavy stuff, and we hauled it to Batesville and spent our first night in our new house that night.

There is SO VERY MUCH to tell about our new home. I could stay up all night expressing my joy at all the wonderful things that have come of this move, but I will try to hit the high points:

  • Family: My mom, my brother, my nieces and my many cousins, uncles, aunts, in-laws and outlaws are the reason we’re here. We had prayed for a long time for the Lord to allow us to be closer. Yes, North Little Rock is only 90 miles away, but it had just gotten to be too far for us. We wanted to be close. And we are: Our house is about 3/4 of a mile from my brother, JT, and if you walk through his back yard, you reach Mom’s house in just-over-3/4-of-a-mile. And my Aunt Pat lives across the street from us. And in July, I got new family members: JT married Lisa, and she brings to our family Chance, Cobhye and Catie. And Chance became a first-time dad a few weeks later when we welcomed baby Maggie to the fold.
  • Church: We traded Fellowship North for Fellowship Batesville. I tell ya, leaving Fellowship North was my biggest challenge. I had been a member there for 16 years, and I just wasn’t sure how God was going to come through for me on a church. How could He top Fellowship North? Well, He didn’t have to top it, because it’s not a competition. But I was spoiled for a contemporary, nontraditional church that reaches out to the community. Fellowship Batesville, which congregates in the old Landers Theater, fits the bill for us in a way only God could have ordained. Bruce and our pastor, John Mark, have become friends, and I think the world of John Mark’s wife, Desiree. And we’ve made some other fast friends at Fellowship Batesville. We couldn’t be happier.
  • Work: I love my job! Two years ago I couldn’t have said that. And maybe it took the job I had then to make me appreciate the job I have now. Sure, I had a great job in the between time (from October 2008 to May 2010), but this one just fits me. It fits my personality, my skill set, my left-brainededness (yes, I know that’s not a real word) and so many other things. My co-workers are a joy to be around (most of the time), my physical surroundings are pleasant and my employer is community minded, a trait I cherish. The commute is short (10 minutes when there’s traffic; 5-7 when there isn’t); in fact, most places around here are within a short distance of my house.
  • Play: My childhood friend Michael has co-founded a local camera club, and I’m an inaugural member. I’m still an amateur, but it has been fun learning from the “experts” and the serious hobbyists. I love to take pictures, and I love that I now have a place to get personalized advice. Also, Bruce and I have been to several high school football games this fall, seeing my alma mater through an undefeated season until Round 3 of the state playoffs. We have sat through heat, humidity, cold and rain for the Pioneers! My sweetie and I have bitten off lots of little slices of the local scene in the few months we’ve been here – everything from a music night at the local coffeehouse to summer fireworks to grilling hot dogs before a BHS football game as volunteers for the bank. We’re on a first-name basis with the clerk at Sherwin-Williams (her husband has Crohn’s disease, and she noticed our CCFA shirts one Saturday morning) and have enjoyed showing off our furbabies to anyone who cares to meet them. (Our neighbor’s 2-year-old grandson likes to come over and visit the Spice Dogs, and in fact he named his new stuffed dog Salsa.)
  • Education: I’m taking Principles of Banking at UACCB, and I’m also learning a lot about banking on the job. I get to do a lot of reading, and I enjoy that. (One new employee who was being introduced around the office a couple of weeks ago thought it a bit odd that I actually enjoy reading regulations. At least that knowledge helped him remember me later when I had to e-mail him about getting his insurance license!) In the spring, I will continue working toward an associate’s degree in banking and finance. Next summer, I will be eligible for the bank to pay for my schooling. Sweet!
  • God: The thread that weaves through every inch of the above tapestry is my heavenly Father. Without Him, none of this would be possible. Without Him, my life wouldn’t be possible. He is the Source of all good things. I cannot thank Him enough for all my blessings. I hope I never forget to thank Him.

There is so much more to tell, but maybe I will manage to remember it and continue to tell you the tales in the months to come.

Tune in tomorrow for my last “thankfulness” post of the Month for Giving Thanks.

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Thankfulness, Days 9-15

I have been soooo lax in posting this week. I’ll blame the busyness of the pre-holiday season (can I get away with that?). Not posting doesn’t equal not being thankful, though. I have continued to count my blessings, even though I haven’t logged on to tell my little blog audience about it.

Because it’s been 7 days since I posted, I guess I need to list at least 7 things I’m thankful for. Trust me, the number of blessings is much higher, but I will be up too late tonight if I list more than 7.

Let’s see if I can remember things in reverse order:

Day 15 (Sunday, Nov. 28): I’m thankful for Bruce’s birthday gift to me this morning. He bought me a domain name, so now instead of suzyandspice.wordpress.com, you can visit me at www.suzyandspice.com. For you, it just shortens the Web address a bit; for me, it allows flexibility in appearance and content. Bruce and I can make the site look more like I want it to look. Yippee! We’ll be working on that over the new few weeks; he will be doing most of the work, at my direction. He’s the real geek, and I’m still a geek-in-training.

Day 14 (Saturday, Nov. 27): I’m thankful for football! Bad news first: My high school alma mater, the Batesville Pioneers, lost in Round 3 of the state playoffs Friday night (and it was doggone cold while we watched!), but we enjoyed the experience, nonetheless. The Pioneers did us proud this season. The good news: The Arkansas Razorbacks ended their regular season with a big win over LSU last night. It was an awesome game, and I thought my heart was going to pound out of my chest a couple of times (especially that Mallett TD pass with 6 seconds to go in the first half. “Take a knee,” my foot!).

Day 13 (Friday, Nov. 26): I’m thankful for my workplace. Post-Thanksgiving Friday was a quiet one at work; several of my co-workers took an extra-long weekend, and the office was relaxed and casual. A couple of people in my department decorated the department’s Christmas tree and chatted about football, food and the upcoming Christmas season. I so enjoy my job, my co-workers and my workplace. Friday was also the day we had our Thanksgiving celebration at my brother’s house; just chalk it up to a logistical challenge. My boss let me take a longer-than-usual lunch break, so it was nice and relaxing, and I didn’t have to stay and do the dishes!

Day 12 (Thursday, Nov. 25): Thanksgiving Day. I’m thankful that I am healthy. I spent a few hours at the hospital with a young woman from my church who is a college student away from her family. She has endured several health challenges in the past few weeks and was back in the hospital this past week with new symptoms. Her family was far away, and she was alone in the hospital on Thanksgiving, save for a couple of people from church who went and sat and watched over her. (Bless you, Desiree, for taking her under your wing.)

Day 11 (Wednesday, Nov. 24): I’m thankful for … okay, this is another workplace thing. My co-workers – who knew that Friday (the last workday before my birthday) would be a day when several people would be absent – threw me a little birthday feast. I stuffed my face on summer sausage and crackers, chicken enchilada dip and tortilla chips, brownies, cranberry cookies and a host of other delights. What a sweet (literally) surprise.

Day 10 (Tuesday, Nov. 23): I’m thankful for Luanne. My co-worker and I had to visit the bank’s Highland branch (she for marketing-department reasons, I for audit reasons), and we had a nice visit on the drive up and back. We left at 6 a.m. in the rain, but the sun was shining by the time we arrived. She is a special woman, full of interesting and hilarious stories, and she loves Jesus as much as I do. This was the first out-of-town trip we’ve made just the two of us (usually a third co-worker is with us), and we shared on a deeper level this time. She speaks so lovingly of her family, it’s just nice to be around her. (We share family in common, too. We’re both excited that Judy [my third cousin] and Bill [Luanne’s brother-in-law] will be moving back to Batesville next month.)

Day 9 (Monday, Nov. 22): I’m thankful for education. My “Principles of Banking” class at UACCB is on Monday nights, and I’m so thankful that we have a community college where I can work on my second degree (I earned a bachelor’s in journalism from ASU 21 years ago). I’m majoring in banking and finance this time, and in the spring I will be taking Intro to Business, also on Monday nights. After I’ve been at the bank for a year (in May), the bank will pay for my schooling – another great blessing. It may take me forever to finish, but I’m plugging away at it.

Wow – a lot of blessings to remember. I will try to post the next two nights, the final two days of my half-month of thankfulness.

God is good.

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Thankfulness, Day 8

Today I am thankful for a little girl whose name I do not know.

I was very, very tired in church this morning. I remember thinking at one point, after the announcements were over and we had prayed and our worship leader had us stand again (we stand during every song): “Do we really have to stand AGAIN?”

I was so tired.

And then, along about the third song, I heard a sweet little voice behind me, singing loud and clear, those words of praise on the big screen in front of us (we sing choruses at Fellowship Batesville, and the words are projected on the big screen).

When I heard that voice, everything changed. My heart melted, and the weariness went away. My body was still tired, but my spirit wasn’t.

I didn’t want to turn around and stare, but I wanted to know who belonged to that sweet, sweet voice.

After a break in which the kids are dismissed to their classrooms, I turned around. She was small, maybe 5 years old. How had she known those big words? Either she could read them or she has heard the songs enough times to know them by heart, but even I didn’t know the next song we had sung, and she had sung along to it, too.

When church was over, I wanted to catch her mom and ask the little girl’s name and age, but Mom was already gone when I turned around.

Next Sunday I’ll make a point to find her. I’d like to introduce myself and tell her and her mom how she blessed me today.

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Thankfulness, Day 7

Yesterday was too busy and I was too tired when we got home at 9:30 last night to post my thankfulness (people, I spent 2 1/2 hours at Walmart yesterday!). In fact, I didn’t even think about posting until this morning. So the date on the post will be a day late, but this is for Saturday, Nov. 20.

And … I have pie crusts to make before church this morning, so this one will be short and sweet.

Yesterday I was thankful that all but one of my football teams won this weekend. The Batesville Pioneers whooped up on Monticello in Round 2 of the state playoffs; Notre Dame whooped up on Army at Yankee Stadium (cool!) and the Hogs beat Mississippi State in double overtime. Alas, my alma mater, Arkansas State, lost to Navy earlier in the evening on TV.

I love college football season, and I’ll be sad when it ends. But, hey, I guess we have a few weeks left, what with bowl games and all.

And I love my mama for letting us watch on her nice big HDTV.

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Tennessee Flat Top Box

This is my second post of the evening (be sure to read my earlier post below), but I’m so full of music tonight I couldn’t resist posting these YouTube videos of my all-time-favorite Johnny Cash song, “Tennessee Flat Top Box.”

The first video is Johnny from the album my dad had (and nearly wore out), and the second is from Johnny’s daughter Roseanne Cash. I love them both!

Heeeere’s Johnny:

And Roseanne:

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Thankfulness, Day 6

Today I’m thankful for two things: The Cinnamon Stick and music. Tonight those two things came together in a fun-filled, family friendly evening.

The Cinnamon Stick is a new coffeehouse and sandwich shop in downtown Batesville (a couple of doors down from the Melba Theater) that features local bands and all kinds of neat stuff. Tonight the bulk of the worship band from our church (Fellowship Bible Church of Batesville) played and sang. They did some Beatles, a few other oldies and some worship songs. Sean Roulier on a jazzed-up, Jars of Clay version of “It is Well (With My Soul)” was surprisingly enjoyable! (I say surprisingly because that old hymn is one of my top 2 or 3 favorites, largely because of the story behind it, and I was afraid I wouldn’t like “Sean’s version” – I have never heard Jars of Clay’s rendition, but Sean’s mom says it’s great.)

Randell, Tommy, Angela, Sean and Becky

Last night at the Stick, the Fellowship kids had karaoke night (check out our pastor’s rendition of “Ghostbusters” on my Facebook page), played board games and shot some pool. (I wasn’t there, but I have seen the videos.)

Bruce and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE music and are especially fond of supporting locally owned businesses. And when great food is involved … well, what more could you ask for?

You must go to The Cinnamon Stick. Immediately. Next time you need an iced coffee, instead of McDonald’s, stir up some friends and visit the Stick. Try the Loaded Baked Potato Soup and a hot tea or latte. Bliss!

The Cinnamon Stick is open on Saturdays. I may be there when they open tomorrow. Got to start trying their hot teas – one by one.

Won’t you join me?

Come on downtown and support your local coffeehouse. The Cinnamon stick is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

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Thankfulness, Day 5

Today I’m thankful for … our back yard and the cow pasture beyond.

Why? Because it’s so dark back there, you can go outside on a cloudless night and see a gazillion stars surrounding the big, shiny moon.

When the sun is just coming up, you can look out and see a mist across the entire stretch of land. Eventually, this scene gives way to daylight and, a few hours later, a harvest glow at sunset. Then as evening falls again, the moon shines down on the pasture, and the land seems to glow.

Sunrise, sunset, moonrise. At every stage of the day, it’s magical.

Some days I think God created that pasture just for me. This was especially true on the Fourth of July, when we were too tired to go to the river to watch any official fireworks show. I wandered out to the back yard in the dark and realized I had happened out there just in time for my own private fireworks display, above the row of trees that borders “our pasture.” Salsa and I enjoyed the show while Bruce and Pepper napped inside. (I don’t believe in coincidence, so I know that the light show was God’s special gift to me after several weeks of hard work.)

Salsa and I often enjoy sunrises together, too. We are the early risers. And we enjoy the fireflies together in the evenings. We had so many fireflies this summer it didn’t seem fair to the rest of the world. Surely we possessed them all in our little back yard.

I love sparkly, shiny things.

That’s probably why I also enjoy the trains.

Beyond the border of trees at the edge of the pasture is where the trains pass by. I love to listen to a distant train at night, and as the trains approach our pasture, you can see the lights reflect off the trees, illuminating the night sky. Another glowy display, accompanied by a lonesome sound that countless songwriters have tried to capture in words.

The trains are music to me. And so are the cows. To me.

To my furbabies, however, the cows are a different story. The Spice Dogs don’t look on the cows as benevolent creatures. The girls make their own kind of music when the cows come home. When the evil bovines get too close to the fence, Salsa and Pepper let them know they should back off – or else!

The cows don’t seem to listen, though. They don’t seem to mind the “music” my furbabies make when they’re sounding a warning.

The big guys just chew their grass and meander away when they’re finished.

The girls may not like it, but I love it.

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