Day 27: Dear heaven-sent lady

*Thank you, Cecilia Baker, for sharing your love story with us on Day 27 of the Dear Gratitude project.*

Cecilia Baker weddingI wish I could thank the lady who decided to do her laundry one Friday night.  She was my fairy godmother.  She appeared one night, and I guess I will never know her until I get to heaven.

The thing is she was not too busy to speak to a young man who had recently moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to take a new job after having been in the Army for two years. He was doing his laundry as well in the apartment laundromat. She struck up a conversation and said, “What is a young man like you doing his laundry on a Friday night?  You should be out with your friends having a good time.”

He must have told her that he was new in town and didn’t know anyone yet. She just “happened” to go to Belmont Heights Baptist Church and decided to tell him they had a Single Young Adult department that had around 50 young professionals his age and that he might like to visit the class. Being shy, he probably wouldn’t have gone to the class without more encouragement.

It didn’t end there because she remembered his name, John Baker, and told the director of the Singles class and must have also told him the apartment number. A few weeks later John had a knock on his door, and the director, Joe Haynes, and a young man from the class were paying him a visit.

Maybe you have participated in an outreach from your church before and visited newcomers to your town or visitors to your church.  Don’t ever think it’s just a minor thing to do. It can change someone’s life.  These two fellows introduced themselves and told him about the class and gave him directions and the times of services, and one Sunday when he was not going back to his home in Memphis, he decided to visit.

He walked in the door of our class which was in a house adjacent to the church. I saw him right away and really didn’t get to meet him personally that day.  I was disappointed when they put him in a different small group from mine.

He started coming when he was in town, and I did meet him later. The whole Singles department was planning a weekend retreat, and the week before the retreat, I summoned up my courage and asked him if he wanted to sign up to go on the retreat.  He said he was thinking about it.  I told him it was the last chance to sign up today, and he said he would like to go if I would ride with him!  Of course I said yes.  Cecilia Baker's wedding

He and I began dating after that, and the rest is history!  I am so thankful for the mystery lady who I now think was heaven-sent to encourage a young man to go to church, my husband, Johnny Baker.

Day 25: Dear Need

Day 25 in the Dear Gratitude project is submitted by yours truly :).

Dear Need,

I first remember meeting you, Need, when my father fell from his heroic platform in my mind. Grappling with drug addiction, he stood in our living room in Augusta, Kansas, in 1984, and admitted that he had fallen for Caroline. I remember my mom crying, scorching, angry tears spilling over, commanding him to explain himself to his four daughters. He tried to. And then he left.

And I didn’t shed a tear, although I was surrounded by four emotionally distraught females.

My dad, circa 1984, who I've grown to love again

My dad, circa 1984, who I’ve grown to love again

I didn’t know then how much I needed a daddy and how much the lack of having one would alter my path in life. I didn’t know that, as Naomi Shihab Nye claims in her poem The Traveling Onion, “It is right that tears fall for something small and forgotten.” I didn’t know these things, but I would learn them later. Because of you, Need, I spent years trying to replace my dad with insufficient substitutes. I can’t say that I’m proud of that, but I know that you, Need, are often something I can’t even detect in myself—but God can. Thanks to you, Need, I eventually found a Father. Thank you, Need, for leading me to create a path of destruction uglier and more harmful than the mess left behind in Wichita after a tornado. Seeing myself realistically finally led me to accept and love my dad again.

Need, you became a part of our daily family life. We needed food, clothing, and shelter, our little family of five, a single mom with four daughters under the age of seven. You, Need, introduced us to welfare. You acquainted us with embarrassment and shame. You moved us into a trailer park. You are the reason I cried for an entire afternoon because I did not have a denim skirt to wear to my friend’s birthday party, and you are the reason my mom could not purchase one, even though she wanted to.

But you, Need, are also the reason that my mom went back to college and pursued a career in dental hygiene, something she is still passionate about. You are part of the reason that I studied so hard to try to obtain a scholarship myself. You are the one to thank for the circumstances that led to my mom becoming best friends with Kay Egan, a woman with a gigantic golden heart. You’re to thank for the chance to grow up with near-cousins and to be loved by near-grandparents, for the chance to climb trees, explore barns, and ride tractors. You, Need, are who taught me that I’m no better than anyone else. That people in poverty aren’t always stuck in the mud as a result of poor choices. Thank you for making it impossible for my mom to take care of us on her own. If she’d been able to, I wouldn’t have received countless gifts of kindness and selflessness, like my Sunday School teacher in first grade who offered to pay for me to learn gymnastics, which is still my favorite sport.

Kay and John Egan, 2000

Kay and John Egan, 2000

Need, I could choose to hate you. But I don’t. I’m thankful for your place in my life, even today. I’m thankful for the irritability and negativity that rises up in me when I don’t focus on the Solution. That need prompts me to change. I’m thankful for the times when I have to spend less and save more. This keeps me humble and dependent on the Giver. I’m thankful for the times when I can’t make my daughter feel better and for the times when I can’t figure out how to get her to eat more, nurse less, or go to sleep. It keeps me from attaining parental perfection, and that leads me to accept help and input from my Wise Dad who knows my child better than I do. I’m thankful for my own powerlessness and lack of ability to manage every situation solely.  This keeps my egotistical, self-righteous self from bragging and annoying everyone I meet, and it keeps me coming back for help from the Ultimate Guru.

I need you, Need, to get me to gratitude.

I need Need to get me to God.

 

Day 24: Dear Ricco

*Day 24 in the Dear Gratitude project is written by my friend and former fellow board member, Latresha Woodruff. I’m thankful Latresha was willing to fill in for another writer and still submit today’s post for the project, too.*

RICCO

Latresha and husband 2I want you to know I think you are the most awesome husband anyone could have.  The day I met you my life changed for the better.

You are all I could ever want in a husband; you love the Lord, you’re caring, you’re a good father, you’re a good person, you take care of me (sometimes better than I take care of myself) and you would go to the ends of the earth for me.

I have fond memories of WXVT because doing that job (even though they worked my fingers and nerves to the bone) led me to you one sunny day down by the casino on Lake Ferguson.  That day propelled me into the happiest time of my life.  We’ve had nine wonderful years together, and I pray GOD blesses us with at least 109 more.

When I have a bad day I know that when I get home you will be there to comfort me and let me know things will be alright. Wherever you go, I will follow because you are the best part of me.  You make me a better person.    Latresha and husband

I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. YOU’RE MY WORLD.

YOUR WIFE,

LATRESHA

Day 23: Dear Stick

*Today’s post on day 23 of the Dear Gratitude project is written by Toi Thomas, a talented writer and fellow blogger.*

Dear Stick,

Hey man, we been friends a long time, and I just wanted to let you know that I’m glad. I mean, I’m glad that I’ve had a chance to be your friend. When I look back and think about how rocky things started out for us, it makes me laugh, but hey, you were there; you know what I’m talk’n bout.

For more than ten years now we’ve been hanging out and talk’n bout movies, especially the weird ones that none of our other friends or family seem to like or get. We been talk’n bout comic books and action figures, which seems to only become cool recently thanks to The Big Bang Theory, but we were already cool long before that. And now, even our days of vinyl hunting don’t seem so magical now that “Vinyl is back with a vengeances,” but it hasn’t stopped us from growing our collection anyway.

What else can I say man; it’s been really cool having you around for all these years. I hope to continue hanging out with you for many more.

Dear Eric,

Toi and husbandIt’s been so long since I’ve taken the time to let you know how blessed I am to have met you. I remember how much I used to be so annoyed by you and all your “cool” friends, but then one day… you were mine. I know how it happened, I was there, but it still seems so unbelievably amazing to me.

From the beginning, you have showered me with: food, laughter, culture, affection, attention, understanding, acceptance, and most of all, love. You see beauty in me when I don’t see it in myself, and you make others view me the way you do. I could be happy to sit alone with you in a room for days, but you won’t let me. You give me strength to go out into the world and interact with people. You make me look and feel good in so many ways. It’s the way you build me up and make others take notice of me when they normally wouldn’t; thank you for that.

Thank you for being with me through those years of maturing. I’ve shared so much with you, so much more than I ever have or will with anyone else. Mind, body, and soul, I am a strong and fulfilled woman for so many reasons, but one of the major ones is you. Everything I know about intimacy, respect in a relationship, and how to really “be” with someone, I’ve learned from loving you.

Every morning when I wake up, I’m glad to see your face, and every day when I come home, I look forward to your kiss. I hope this never ends. I hope to wake up next to you until the end of time.

Mr. Thomas,

If gratitude could be measured, or perhaps weighed, you’d find yourself only yards from Heaven and showered in gold. For everything you do for me I’d give you a gold coin, and for every sacrifice you make for me, you’d be catapulted that much closer Eternal Peace.

But let’s be practical about this, Mr. Thomas. One cannot do these things, but one can proclaim, acknowledge, and praise where praise is due. You turned your life over and accepted the mantle of husband, and a man of God, and far exceeded my expectations. You are not perfect, but:

You always take out the trash and attend to the yard when it’s needed.

You’re not a slob, and even if you were, you’d feel bad about it.

You actually look forward to spending time with me and talking with me.

You like to share life and daily experiences with me, from all those times you and I can’t be together.

You help out around the house, especially with laundry.

You take care of all the car stuff between you and me.

You actually know me well enough to pick things out for me because I don’t like to shop, and you will even go out and get things for me.

You like me just the way I am even if I’m not the prettiest girl in the room, and you’re always trying to protect me because you think some weirdo is staring at me ( Sometimes I think you’re right).

You take care of me through all my ailments, and though it’s so much more than you had imagined, you show care and nurturing effortlessly.

You know how to make me smile when I get sad for no reason, and you stick with me through all my dark spells.

You believe in my dreams, even though you don’t always know how to say so.

You work two jobs to help make our lives together more comfortable while I pursue my dreams.

You are not a demanding and needy man, unless you fall ill, but who isn’t then?

While you love and enjoy spending time with your friends, you honestly proclaim that I am your best friend.

Mr. Thomas, you have proven yourself above and beyond to be a good husband. Your methods put forth to show me love and affection have been so catered to my needs and desires, that it seems you could not have been made to love anyone else. I do not believe there is an exact or accurate way to properly express the amount a gratitude I have for you.

I am truly a blessed woman.

Eric “Stick” Thomas, I love you dearly and am eternally grateful to have you in my life.

Your adoring friend, lover, and wife,

Toinette “Toi” Thomas

 

 

Day 22: Dear Mrs. McGrath

*It’s hard to believe Day 22 of the Dear Gratitude project has arrived! Only eight more days of letters from eight more wonderful guest writers. Today’s post is by LaDonna Busby, a friend and fellow church member.*

This thank you is long overdue, and it is going to someone long dead.  Why do we wait to express our gratitude to those who cross our paths in this life?  We need to remember to say thank you, even if we have to send letters read by someone other than the intended person.  So here goes:

Dear Mrs. McGrath,

1ST GRADEI wonder if you ever knew what a wonderful gift you gave me – something that I have cherished my whole life long.  You introduced me to READING!  For that great gift, I want to say thank you, and I am sorry it has taken me over 50 years to express this gratitude.

Oh, the people and places you enabled me to meet and visit.  I still remember you patiently helping us to learn “Look Jane, look.  See Spot run.  Oh, look Jane, see Spot.”

Thus began my adventures with some sweet characters, some not so sweet.  Many are like dear friends when I think of them.  Amy, Beth, Meg and Jo from Little Women – each one a different personality woven into a story that young girls can enjoy even today.  I still have a treasured copy of that book.  There were so many others – The Bobbsey Twins (Bert and Nan, Flossie and Freddie); Laura Ingalls;  Hester Prynne from “The Scarlet Letter”, Jane Eyre; David Copperfield; Romeo and Juliet; Tom Sawyer, and the list could go on and on.

Not only did I get to know some wonderful characters, but I also got to travel without even leaving my cozy chair. Through reading I have traveled the world over, learning many interesting things, seeing so many beautiful places – even if only in my mind and imagination.  Of course not all places are wonderful, but I traveled where the books took me.  Nowadays, a lot of my reading is about places of trouble and sadness.  Places of war, poverty and cruelty – but I read on filled with hope that some time I will read that things have improved for some country or its people.

Your gift has blessed my life in so many ways.  Reading is so important to me.  I have been able to read the letters sent by my brother when he was in Vietnam.  There have been cards – birthday, anniversary, get well, thank yous, invitations, and notes of sympathy.  Just think what I would have missed if I had not been able to read.

I am able to read the Bible.  Through my reading of scripture, I have become stronger in my faith.  My faith is so important to me, and I cannot imagine being unable to read the Word of God.  The Bible is filled with stories, characters and places.  You can read it over and over, each time getting something new and powerful from the reading.

I passed on this gift to my daughter, Susan, who loves to read.  I don’t quite like her choice of books – she loves the author Stephen King – but I am happy to see her read.  Now we are passing this love along to her sons.  The oldest had quite a struggle learning to read – but thanks to a compassionate and caring teacher, like you, he conquered that mountain and now loves to read.  So, you see your gift to me just keeps going and going.

I wish I had gone back to Mitchell Elementary and thanked you.  When we are young, we don’t think to do things like that; it is only as we begin to mature that we realize what has been given to us.  Thank you, Mrs. McGrath, for being my 1st Grade teacher.  You were a kind and gentle woman who helped many children to begin a journey that will last their whole lives.  Please know, there is at least this one student who will forever be grateful.

Fondly,

LaDonna Wittke Busby

Day 21: A look back

*Thanks to my friend Brandon Davidson for serving as the guest writer for Day 21  of the Dear Gratitude project. His post is guaranteed to make you laugh. It will probably cause you to pause and give thanks for all the people and circumstances that brought you where you are in your own life, too.*

Dear Bethany,

When you asked me to write a blog post, I agreed without really thinking about what in the world I would share with your readers.

I typically fly by the seat of my pants.

This is the story of my life.

One week after watching Batman Forever, I packed a trash bag full of clothes and hopped in a buddy’s truck. We were moving to Hollywood. We didn’t have the bankroll to get to Hollywood, CA, so we went for the next best thing–Hollywood, FL. (Newsflash, this is NOT the next best thing.) I spent a few months there and then tucked my tail between my legs and decided to move back to Arkansas and go to college.

I lasted one semester.

It was the classic story. Boy goes to college. Boy doesn’t go to class. Boy drinks way too much. Boy wakes up completely nude in a field, only to realize that he is just outside the outfield fence of a softball field while two high school teams battle it out.

Nothing to see here, just a dude cupping himself waddling back to campus.

Don’t worry, I’ll get thankful soon.

A few weeks later, I was asked to leave the school after mooning the Dean of the school’s wife and daughter.

The next year was a blur of playing semi-pro rugby, naked Trivial Pursuit, and trying to get back on track.

1. KathyI went back to school only to leave again when my Mom became disabled. I moved back home to be with my mom and brother. It was while in Batesville that I met Kathy and knew that she was the one. I asked her to marry me a little over a month after I met her. People thought we were crazy. We were, but we were also in love. Almost 15 years later, I can tell you without a doubt that I am who I am because of her.

I am thankful for Kathy.

After we got married, I spent the next few years in full time ministry in the Church.

I felt like I had a purpose, and it was intoxicating.

 

2. EmilyKathy and I welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world in 2003.  From the moment I met Emily Grace, she has brought light into the world and filled my heart with love.

I am thankful for Emily.

When Kathy and I were first engaged, I was diagnosed with a pretty severe liver disease. The doctor told me that my prognosis was 10 years max and that I probably shouldn’t get married or have kids. I laid all this out for Kathy and told her that I loved her and that I had no plan other than to be with her. I asked her if she wanted to keep flying by the seat of our pants.

SHE SAID YES, YOU GUYS.

Not long after Emily was born, I got very sick. As a last resort the doctors tried a new treatment option. To my surprise, almost 20 weeks later I was cured. That was 10 years ago. Kathy had a newborn baby and a weakened husband, but we made it. She was unbelievably strong.

I am thankful for my family.

3. ChurchWorking for the church was demanding and I was horrible at balancing work/home. I was rewarded for being a bad dad and a shitty husband. Something had to give.

I walked away from my career in the church, and I haven’t looked back. I can always find another church if I want, but I can’t find another family.

A couple of weeks later, with no insurance and no jobs (Kathy was fired from her job at the church after I resigned. It’s a cool story; I’ll share it sometime), Kathy found out she was pregnant.

WHAT.

We had been trying for years. That miracle cure that healed my liver also supposedly made me sterile.

NOT SO MUCH.

I had a wife and a daughter and a baby the size of a strawberry on the way. (Side note: why do we use fruit when we are giving reference to babies’ sizes?)

4. buttJosh is 3 years old now and painted the most amazing Butt watercolor last night.

Pretty great, huh?

Josh is sweet, funny and a little bit of a dumpster fire. I wouldn’t have it any other way. 5. Josh

I sure didn’t plan it this way, but somehow I ended up with an amazing life.

I am thankful.

 

Plotting Hope,

Brandon

 

Brandon Davidson is stand-up comic and social media strategist based out of Tyler, Texas. He is a husband, a dad, and a disappointment to many. He used to have to drink to have a good time; now he doesn’t need to have a good time. Follow @brandondavidson on Twitter if you love carbs.

 

Day 20: Dear Grandma

*Today, we have the pleasure of reading a post from fellow blogger Mark Luker. Be sure to check out Mark’s blog!*

Grandma,

Mark Luker grandmaThis is a letter I should have sent you a long, long, time ago, and even though you can no longer remember your life, or who I am, and you can’t even read anymore, I still feel a need to write it because I want to thank you. But in saying thanks to you, I will also be thanking God for your presence in our lives. I want to say thank you for being in my life, for taking care of us kids when our mother couldn’t. I thank you for being willing to be my father and mother – it must have been so hard to do, and I know I didn’t make it easy for you either.

I thank you for always managing to provide wonderful food on the table and for patching up my jeans and making those hand me down clothes somehow fit and look nice. I was too young to notice that you really didn’t have the means to feed us – and I was really too young to see how you trusted God to provide! But I guess I learned how to trust God from your example even though I didn’t know it.

I want to thank you for sacrificing your life, your wants and needs, at a time when you should have been retired and enjoying us like “normal” grandmothers would – from a distance. I am so thankful you never let there be a distance between you and us kids. I need to thank you for each instance when you gave away your own life so that you could care for ours. I need to thank you for not only caring for our physical needs, but also for keeping us focused on God.

You tried so hard to protect us from this world and I was so selfish; I thought you were just being mean. I’m sorry that when it came time for going to church, I was more like Tom Sawyer and gave you so much grief. I am so sorry I forced you to use that willow switch on me, because I know now that it really did hurt you more than it hurt me. But I am so thankful you never gave up on me! I apologize for not taking church seriously at a time when you were trying to keep me before God. I wish you could know how important God is to me now and how he has redeemed me.

I thank you for literally saving my life when I was so close to death- oh I know that you have always said it was God who saved me – and I agree – except now I know that God chose you as an instrument to keep me in this world, and I am so thankful that you answered his call. I remember all those times when I tried to sneak out the front door with nothing but my t-shirt on, with sleeves rolled up like the “cool” kids. I could never quite get past your door, could I?

Looking back, I remember how you would say that you wanted me to remember that God saw me before anyone in the world did, and that was all that mattered. I want to thank you for teaching me things that I ended up using in raising my own daughter – except I haven’t been as good at it as you were. I wish you could see her today, Grandma – using the very same things you taught me as she serves God herself. I see a lot of you and hear you speaking to me at church when I see her.

I thank you, Grandma, for showing us what serving God really means. I want you to know that all those times of struggling were not in vain. I need you to know that you can rest now from all the time you’ve spent in this world. Please know that you have served us well; now it’s time for you to have peace and look forward to going home. I know God is going to reward you in heaven for all the great work you have done on earth!

I love you.