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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Giving Thanks: For Jennis & Mollys & Jens & Debbies & You

Well, it's Thanksgiving week.  And, shamefully, I started this week being less than full of thanks.  I have gone home to Texas for Thanksgiving just about every year for the past twenty and this year we weren't able to go.  High school basketball coaches, understandably, do not take kindly to an entire week of missed practices and games.  So, even though in years past today would have been dedicated to spending time with my parents, brother and sister and to perfecting my outfit and my jedi mind trick strategy for the Texas Longhorns Thanksgiving Day game, we are not to be in Texas this year.

After a day full of pouting though, I woke up excited to see my boy play his first home scrimmage for his high school tonight and to spend time with our Virginia family and friends this week without the hassle of traveling and packing.

(And I think we all know that the jedi mind tricks I've been trying to send to my Texas Longhorns have been colossally ineffective this season, so perhaps I can leave that to someone else.)

When I get in the mood I was in yesterday, I tend to selfishly focus on the absence of certain people in my life.  And for a few whine-y moments, I forget that God has gifted me so many people in the time I have lived away from Texas.  I have some very close, dear friends and family members - those who I speak to or spend time with most days of the week.  It is very clear that God sent them to me specifically.  Those people who know my heart, who've seen my "ugly cry", who I could call in the middle of the night if I needed them and they would be there?  I am blessed beyond measure by these people.

But this morning, in an effort to count blessings, I realized that the list is not just limited to these people.  In fact, there is not one person that God has put in my path that has not had purpose for me and who, even in the smallest of ways or the most infrequent of circumstances, has not been an integral part of the wide variety of folks who now make up "my people".

In For the Love, Jen Hatmaker writes that in each person, "God created an entire package.  It all counts.  There are no throwaway qualities."  In the same way, I'd say there are no throwaway people that God puts in our lives.  As we move into the holiday season, there will be crowds of His people - at parties, at dinner tables, at shopping malls, at school and work events  - and I would think it might be beneficial to remember that everyone - EVERYONE - can bring a gift to my life.  And, it's possible, that I might have a gift for them, too.

There are those folks who aren't part of my every day or even my every week or month who are examples of how uniquely God makes each person and how uniquely each can bless another.  For me, their names are too many to list.  I'm going to tell you about a few of them that have been on my heart this morning.  I would bet you have some Jennis or Mollys or Jens or Debbies in your life.  Or maybe you are a Jenni, a Molly, a Jen or a Debbie.

My friend, Jenni is calm and wise.  She has four boys.  FOUR.  One set of twins in there.  And yes, you read that correctly.  Jenni, the mother of four boys, is the calmest person I know.  I met her a few years ago when I started volunteering for Kyle's Kamp, a charity for children with cancer, where she volunteers as well.  I can talk to Jenni about anything.  We talk about parenting, about Jesus and about how some times - all the time, really - the cancer situation is just too much.  I had known Jenni for well over a year before I knew that she had survived cancer herself.  I had no idea.  You know why?  Because Jenni really, truly listens.  I jabber on and on about the fact that I'm doing the parenting of boys wrong and that there are too many kids dying and parents suffering and also, what am I going to do when Joe leaves for college and yada, yada, yada.  Jenni looks me right in the eye and she doesn't interrupt me.  She doesn't feel the need to fill up space with chatter before she knows what she really wants to say.  And just about every time we speak Jenni reminds me without condescension or exasperation that this world in which we live is not our final zip code.  That there is an eternity awaiting us that contains a glory that is so much more than the suffering we see now.   Jenni's peace and wisdom are a gift to me.

Are you a Jenni?  It's okay if you're not.  That just means you're someone else He needed.  If you are a Jenni, thank you.  The world needs Jennis now.

My friend, Molly, is someone I don't see consistently because our lives run in different directions except for the couple of months of the year that our boys play golf together.  Whenever I am lucky enough to run into her, you would think that Molly has never been so excited to see a person in her entire life.  I know that this is how Molly treats everyone, but her face lights up so that I am sure she has been waiting all day to see me and me alone. Let's say I was running into 7-11 for a Diet Coke and Molly was pumping gas. It would be as if she had been thinking of me the whole time and then LO AND BEHOLD!  IT'S JENN SKINNER!  RIGHT HERE AT THE 7-11!!!  HOLY COW! SHE CANNOT EVEN BELIEVE IT!  I expect to look around and see that maybe by some odd coincidence, Oprah has shown up to give Molly a brand, new car at the same time as I walked up, but then it's just plain ol' me.  Molly's enthusiasm and joy are a gift to me.

Are you a Molly?  It's okay if you're not.  That just means you're someone else he needed.  If you are a Molly, thank you.  The world needs Mollys now.

My friend, Jen, and I don't see each other nearly as often as we'd like.  We make it a point to try to get together for breakfast or lunch every month or so, but often it turns into every other month.  We don't get our feelings hurt if our lives keep us apart for awhile.  I always know that no matter how little or how much time I spend with Jen, when I sit with her, my heart will slow and I will feel calm in the midst of the craziness of our schedules.  We don't have to offer apologies and excuses as to why we haven't seen each other in FOREVER, we just feel blessed to be in the same space. Sometimes, even though I am way past middle school, I get that 13 year old girl feeling when I walk into a party or a school event . . that feeling of insecurity and doubt that I won't find someone I know and will end up all alone.  If I happen to be lucky enough to scan the room and spot Jen, our eyes will catch and hers will twinkle and I will instantly feel a sense of belonging.  The way Jen makes me feel at ease and comfortable is a gift to me.

Are you a Jen?  It's okay if you're not.  That just means you're someone else He needed.  If you are a Jen, thank you.  The world needs Jens now.

My friend, Debbie and I don't spend a lot of time together.  We don't meet for lunch and our kids aren't involved in the same activities, but we are lucky to live close by each other so we run into each other at block parties or neighborhood gatherings.  Debbie is the funniest person I know in real life.  She makes me laugh so hard I can't breathe.  People who have parties should pay Debbie an appearance fee because she is one of those people that just make you happy to be breathing air in the same wonderful world where she breathes air.  She just makes me so darn happy.  I know also, through deeper conversations and messages with Debbie that her heart is big and sensitive and compassionate.  Debbie's humor and her heart are a gift to me.

Are you a Debbie?  That's ok if you're not.  That just means you're someone else He needed.  If you are a Debbie, thank you.  The world needs Debbies now.

As we move into a holidays, we can be overwhelmed by all the people.  Sometimes, it makes me want to curl inward or just spend time with those closest to me.  This season I am going to try to remember to be grateful for all the people God brings into my days - even if it is only every few weeks or even every few months.  I'll try to remember that God does not make people with any throwaway qualities and that each person's gifts are right there in front of me to be opened.

There are no mistakes in the ways God chooses to place people in community.  There are no mistakes in the way He made you.  The mistakes are made when we neglect to notice that it is His grace and love for us that is reflected in each of the Jennis and Mollys and Jens and Debbies He sets along our paths.

Use your gifts this week.  Look for gifts in the people around you.  And remember there are no mistakes in them or in you. Not a one.

"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms." - 1 Peter 4:10

PS I am thankful for all who visit this space.  Happy Thanksgiving, friends!!!

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