Giving Thanks

giving thanks
Signs of a time for giving thanks

Thanksgiving, the unique day set aside for giving thanks, is nearing. Ever struggle to say Thank You in a way that feels sufficient? 

an occasion for giving thanks
I’m giving thanks for The Calling of Ella McFarland

I’m embroiled in this experience at present.

My first novel, The Calling of Ella McFarland, is due to be released on December 1. I expect to hold an actual book in my hands very soon and have yet to link together the words and phrases that will express my gratitude.

What emotions will the sensation of holding that first book engender?

Between the covers will be pages filled with words I chose with care. For readers’ sakes. For the sake of the memory of my mother and grandmother who identities are woven into the characters Ella and her mother Betsy. And for Jesus’ sake, which is the closing line of every prayer I’ve prayed over this story.

giving thanks
I’m giving thanks for Mama, a grandmother who left a name worthy of a great-great-granddaughter

The seeds for the story were planted decades ago when I sat on my grandmother’s lap for tales bout life in Indian Territory prior to Oklahoma statehood. Mother watered the seedlings with intrigue and love for that state of her birth.

As I grew up the daughter of a South Texas farmer in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, I learned what connected me to my family roots buried in rural soil was the constancy of Jesus Christ who heals, enlivens, and sustains.

giving thanks
I’m giving thanks for the sweet aroma of the Rose of Sharon.

For generations He has brought the sweet aroma of the Rose of Sharon to the gruesome stench of death and heartbreak. He has taken the dreadful sultriness of a summer hail storm, destined to wipe out a cotton crop and a year’s earnings with it, and replaced it with the gentle breeze of Hope, the Anchor for the Soul. And He has transformed the gut-wrenching sight of a loved one, maimed and becoming more so each day, into a vision of a new body in a new heaven.

I thank Jerry B. Jenkins and his team of judges for choosing this story as the first place winner in the 2014 Operation First Novel contest. The award has made possible the revealing of Ella McFarland who was born as I imagined what shape my gentle, quiet, shy grandmother’s world might have taken if the kaleidoscope of her life had twisted a hair’s breadth in either direction.

On Thanksgiving this year I will give thanks for Jesus, my family, friends, a home that shelters me, food in abundance, and more conveniences than are good for me. But this year I’ll add a Thank You for a once-in-a-lifetime blessing of a debut novel. Surreal.

giving thanks
Thanksgiving: a time for giving thanks

My words of gratitude won’t feel sufficient, but they’ll be the best I can muster.

Thankfully, the Lord can read my heart.

One thought on “Giving Thanks

  1. Teresa Brooks

    Amen! I am thankful for all you mentioned as well and can’t wait to hold my copy of your book in my own hands! Love you and the story that tumbled out of your heart and will soon be here for all who read it to be blessed!

     
     

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Faithful Stewardship

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I intended the Bible lesson on faithful stewardship for four-year-olds at Oak Hills Church. But this seven-decades-old teacher learned a thing or two, as my mother would have said.

Mark 12:41-44 tells the story of a poor widow giving her last two pennies. In the vernacular of my growing-up days, the woman gave her last red cent.

In search of supplies for creating money bags for my students, I browsed through drawers of old sewing materials, some from my 55-year sewing past and some from my mother’s that extended 75 years back.

I found a pattern not for the money bags … but for stewardship.

Much like Betsy in The Calling of Ella McFarland, Mother believed negligence in caring for what hard-earned funds had purchased ranked somewhere close to the unforgivable sin. She took care of what she had and kept on hand everything that could be used again. Trash was trash, but still-usable items were not. She did not buy new if old would do as well.

Mother’s philosophy returned as I rifled through a drawer she would label a mess but I call easy going. Amid a jumbled array of my recent purchases–vinyl zippers, hem tapes, piping, seam binding, needles, and buttons–still in their wrappers, I found her old button tin, originally a container for Singer parts, that sported dents and rust and wear.

Inside the tin were buttons from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. All showed signs of wear. She had removed them from clothing that had served its purpose. But the buttons were still usable, so into the tin they went. I also found a faded and dented fruit cake tin Mother had saved from some Christmas past. Within the tin were metal zippers she had clipped from garments bound for the rag basket.

Alongside Mother’s repurposed tins, sat a handy-dandy, snap-together, see-through, color-coded odds-and-ends contraption that I purchased on a whim. Inside my fancy container? Never-been-used, still-attached-to-the-cards, bright and shiny buttons galore. But not a single used button. Nor did I find in my drawer of disarray a single used zipper. I had tossed them out with perfectly usable clothing. I had never opened the new zippers, nor had I given more than a fleeting thought to the hard-earned funds with which I bought them.

1938-circa_Mama-4Kids_Although a widow for many years, Mother did not learn stewardship skills in her widowhood. She learned them in a cotton field in South Texas where her mother knew every handful of raw cotton meant another spoonful in her children’s mouths. She learned them during the Great Depression when she and her mother lived in a corner of a barn they called home. Mother refined her skills as the wife of a farm hand who earned $5 a week but lived on $2.50 until the money he borrowed to Wilson&GoldieBrooks.FirstHouse.circa1935.5x7.sepiabuy their wedding clothing was paid back. In years to come, Mother never reached for her last red cent, but she came close a few times. Had she not learned stewardship alongside her mother, she would have found herself faced with the same dilemma as the widow in the Gospel of Mark.

I’m neither a widow nor destitute. I give from my abundance. I have never been called to give my last mite, but as I gathered supplies for the Bible lesson, I wondered what I would do if I were. Would I, like that faithful widow of old, give my last red cent? Was the jumbled array in my sewing drawer a call to better stewardship?

IMG_3015I completed preparations for the Bible class for four-year-olds with my spirit lifted. There on my kitchen table I had set out materials fit for the worthy steward who reared me: a skein of yarn from twenty years back; playtime coins from five years ago; a decade-old jewelry gift bag; scraps of fabric of indeterminate age; a four-decades-old thimble; and a 1940s packet of heavy-duty needles that came in handy when Mother patched canvas cotton sacks.

Those four-year-olds took home more than plastic coins. They carried with them a bit of long-ago when times were simpler but harder and harder but more faith filled and, tucked into the recesses of their little drawstring bags, the prayer of their teacher: May they never know a time when they are down to their last red cent, Lord. But should that time come, may they hold their pennies in hands outstretched and open wide. For Jesus’ sake.

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