Our world is either shrinking at an incredible rate, or our neighborhood is growing alarmingly. No, it's not a population explosion, but a social expansion. Now, it is so much easier to have internet friends, people I play games with like Judy Marie Chandley-Adkison, Toni Visage, Wanda Shaddix, and Adam Justice. And, people I chat with, like Darlina Sakamoto, Minna Mäkinen, Dyan Prine, Indra Penyayang, Dayan Ruz, and Mac Witsell -now there is a funny story. I knew his Aunt Melissa Booth Witsell in Rome, and then ran into him on Facebook because he lives here in Tallapoosa, immediately noticing the moniker and that he had pics of him with Melissa and her children. After striking up a convo, I found he was her nephew. Funny how quickly the neighborhood shrinks... or stretches.
Then, Travis dropped his High School ring outside Crossroads Restaurant one Sunday last summer before we moved here, and it wound up at his school, because someone ate there and knew the secretary from his school in Rome. (It is only the best food in the whole Tallapoosa River Basin! So, folks from all over eat there.) The secretary then called my friend and neighbor Diane, who called me. The internet definitely expands your friend circles. But, I want to give thanks tonight for 10 special friends, people who I have known in "real time" who make my world more interesting.
1)Michael Clark- I can say we go back a long way Mike, at least a milenia ago. :) We've traveled to Kenya on the A-Team together, where we rode in a safari and learned about a different culture, while teaching the Gospel. We've coached kids in Bible Quizzing together. You also spoke at a Singles Ministry dinner for me, which I appreciated the inspiring words. You and Susan have had me over to your house numerous times, where I learned you were a great chef! You always treated my children well too, and I will never forget it. Thanks for being an awesome friend Mike!
2)Sandi Caldwell- Thanks for helping us fit right in at church. You have been so much fun to work with. I enjoy the dramas as well. Thanks for including me in all the inspired ideas Sandi.
3)Robert Caldwell- Robert, you are always very kind. Thanks for letting me be a part of the Children's Ministry. You do a wonderful work in Children's Church. Thanks for all the help you gave cutting the plywood for my set up in the Pirate VBS. You and Sandi are wonderful friends and you make me feel like a welcome part of the church. Though we know we are always welcome to Jesus, it is great to feel like we have friends who want us there too. :)
4)Janet Dotson Collins- Thanks for being my friend for the last thirty years Janet. There is nothing like time to cement a friendship. I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving, full of the love of family. Those are wonderful children you have. And, your husband Vick has a great name. And, so does your daughter Victoria. Lol. 5)Kimberly Howard Terry- You were a lot of fun to hang out with at Ci Ci's and camp meeting. And, thanks for providing me info on the Ladies Retreat. But, now we mostly see each other online. I enjoy reading your posts, and especially seeing your husband's photography. It would be nice if we could get together sometime in real time, maybe for a cup of coffee or lunch somewhere between here and there, if you can't come down my way. Give my love to Lizzy as well and I hope you have a blessed Thanks giving!
6)Richard Langston-Thanks for all the conversation at the Family Day dinners and beyond Richard. I enjoyed the Couples' Nights activities, too. And, thanks for taking the guys to the Falcon games. Travis certainly enjoys talking to you. You and Kim are great neighbors in the sense that Jesus used the word. And, I really appreciate all your comments in Bible Class. I always learn something when you guys speak up.
7)Carol Ann Reece- Two words, Road Trip! Carol, thanks so much for taking me on the trip with you to Kentucky and Indiana a couple of Christmases ago. I will never forget that night at the truckstop diner. Lol!@ That was a blast! You are much fun to travel with. You are a lot of fun, and I enjoyed working with you in VBS too. Have a wonderful holiday week with your family!
8)Tammy Johnson- It has been a pleasure getting to know you Tammy. Your daughter Jessica is a sweetheart. I would have only liked her more if I could have given birth to her myself. Thanks for all the fun. Our ladies group has the most fun of any in the world! Bowling, Mexican food...keep this up and you ladies will never get rid of me. Jessica has me addicted to those pizzas at Subway. Thanks for all the humor and inspirational posts on facebook as well. I hope Joel gets to be home for Thanksgiving and that you guys have the best holiday weekend ever.
9)Keith Turner- Keith, I really appreciate the incredible prize package you put together for the Fitness Contest. That was unbelievable. You sure made it worth all the effort. What were the words you used? I had "reached my lactate threshhold." That sure made me feel less like an idiot for puking in class, and more like a hard worker. If you hadn't said that, I was so embarrassed, I may have never went back. :) I really miss your Body Flow class, especially. Thanks for helping me overcome my fear of being a Klutz and helping me with Body Jam. You are the best Fitness Manager a gym could have. I am glad but not surprised in the least at the way you held everybody together after the gym closed with the Street Fitness classes. That was an incredible community service! And, it is wonderful to see that all your hard work paid off with the opening of the new Velocity Gym. Thanks for the messages you've sent, and keep me in your prayers that I may be able to ride my bike and workout again one day. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
10)Freddie Hunt- Yes, you are my Mother-in-Law, but I have you listed with friends, because we hang out together like I do with my friends. I loved it when you took me to play Bingo, though I felt like a complete novice. Thanks for helping me keep up with the cards. I wish we could have gone out more often before I got stuck in the house too much. See you Thanks giving though, and hope to have a blast then.
We find more everyday how true the words of Jesus were, when he told the story of the Good Samaritan. I would find it difficult to answer which of my friends was the best neighbor, in the sense of the word as Jesus used neighbor. But, the key is, that Jesus was instructing believers to love their neighbor as much as they love themselves. Luke 10:33 I'm thankful that I have been blessed with so many friends. Come back tomorrow night for the final in the set of ten thanks giving blogs.
I like to count my blessings... and recount them. How do objects become so important to us? To me, they signify the people who gave them. So I treasure a few things that were gifts because of the person and the thought behind them. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Tonight I am giving thanks to ten of the people who have given me gifts over the years, though there are many more gifts I could never list.
1)Susan Hemp- I met Susan in Brunswick, when I first went to Job Corps in early November 1982. My 18th birthday was on the 24th, and it was the first time I had ever been away from home. I felt alone, and I hadn't been there long enough to be granted leave off base yet. When I woke up the morning of my birthday in a pretty much empty dorm room, I felt something on top of the cover on my feet. The covers were tucked in tight because of the hospital corner enforced regulations. But, I raised up to see a stuffed dog laying there on my feet. It was a birthday gift from Susan. I can't describe how this made me feel, so far from family and home for the first time in my life, to have someone notice my birthday. I named the dog Hershel, and yes, I still have him sitting on a bookshelf in my bedroom to remind me of love that sneaks up on you when you least expect it. I lost contact with Susan after Job Corps, though I know she was from Kentucky and training to be a hospital lab/tech. Thanks Susan for this life-long memory, wherever you are...
2)Susan Clark- Some friendships that start quickly like that one, come to stay. Susan Clark, you are such a friend. I met you right away in the McDonnough Church and we became friends instantly. I can't lose you no matter where I go. When you were my houseguest last, New Years 2009, you gave me this large and lovely framed art piece that is still hanging in my living room. But, the real gift is your undying friendship. Yes, you texted me while I was in the middle of typing this blog tonight. Thanks for all the gifts you have given me over the years.
3)Glenda Welch- Mamma you gave me this prized doll collection. I guess I am getting soft in my forties, and I am sure you noticed I couldn't keep my eyes off of them for the past couple of years. I will treasure them forever knowing they were a gift from you. Thanks for giving me this part of your memories, Mamma.
4)Dawn Hunt- Dawn, I love the Wedding photo Book you gave me from our Wedding. It means so much to have the pictures. I appreciate you doing that for me. Thanks! You are an excellent photographer! I am proud to be a part of the family.
5)Diane Davis- Diane, you have given me much over the years I have known and worked with you. But the pouch covers you sewed me were the most treasured of all. I am glad I don't need them anymore, but I still have them for the memory of how your friendship got me through three of the toughest months of my life. Thanks Diane!
6)Celeste Parker- One year I pulled my mail out of my box at work early in the morning and found a lovely large Cross with the words to the Prayer of Saint Francis at Christmas time Celeste. I hang it on my Christmas tree every year. It says, Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.~ Thanks, Celeste.
7)Matt Mitchell- Matthew, I will never forget the year in Thomson that you gave me the Mother's Day Tape. You were only in Fifth Grade. But, you took a cassette tape and recorded over it, telling me in so many words Happy Mothers day and that you loved me. It was sweet, because you had to fill the tape, and you just kept talking and coming up with more ways to say it. Then you took a sharpie and marked out the original title, and wrote "Mom" on it. Yes, I still have that and I still cry everytime I listen. But, that is not as treasured as "the note." I found the note rolled up like a little football, tucked inside the tray in my desk drawer the year you were in sixth grade at the same school I taught . That note laid in that tray for 12 more years, and now it is still in the tray packed away carefully. You said simply, "I love you Ms. Mitchell" for no reason at all. Thanks for all the gifts you gave me over the years son.
8)Ryan Morrell- I still have the shadow box you gave me Ryan. You drew a picture of me hugging you and Shelby inside, in 2nd grade, and wrote that you loved me. You gave it to me for no reason at all and I will always treasure it. Thanks for thinking of me Ryan. You are a special person.
9)Travis Mitchell- You've given me coffee mugs (including the huge, Big Boss mug,) a Soup Cup, a necklace, lapel pins, a punch bowl, various kitchen utensils, and the two wolfies :) But, more prized than any of those gifts is the birthday card with the big red rose colored on it that I found propped up on the coffee table when I woke up on the morning of my fortieth birthday, when you were 13. You always have known me well. Your gift that day is treasured above anything else you could have given. Thanks for that rose card son. And, thanks for always being there for me.
10)Larry Hunt- You have given me more gifts than anyone else I have ever known in the last two years. I couldn't list them all here, the laptop, camera, wrap, various clothing, among other things. But, my favorite is the tall Lighthouse Candle you bought me when we sat in the little shop on River Street in Savannah, on our 1st Anniversary, drinking coffee. It is so pretty, and it reminds me of how we found each other in this life. A lighthouse is a beacon of light, just like your love. Thanks for the lighthouse Sweetie!
As you can see, the real gifts that I have been given are friendships. James 1:17 says "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights..." That is the case with friends, as well. Friends come from God, because God is good and God is love. I am thankful to have been blessed with many good friends over the years. Remember to count your friends when you count your blessings this Thanks Giving. Tomorrow night, look for ten of the people who have influenced my faith in God.
We are more than the sum total of our parts. We are more than the arrangements of our genetic components. We are unlike legos that can be formed into a boat now and a house later. Something animated, living, being exists inside of us that legos don't have. This "aliveness" of our souls and spirits is affected by the people who have played a part in our lives. Our greatest blessings are people. People are likewise, our greatest catalyst to good.
I have been inspired by many people, but none so much as perhaps my hometown Pastor, Russell Snyder. But, though I am known to be, not a rule breaker, but rather a rule setter, and am likely to make my own parameters for how I plan to live this life, I do not plan to break the rules and thank Russell Snyder again tonight for the way that he shaped me as both a parent and a Christian. I can't do that, because I thanked him last night for responding to my writing. So, moving right along, and following the parameters that I have laid out, despite the fact that I broke the rules last night and thanked Cindy for inspiring me, as well as responding, my thanks giving tonight goes to:
1) Brandi Ulrey Hendrix - Drill Seargent/ Gym teacher, you pushed me to the limit. "VICKY, come on in here and join us! Let's go, Vicky! You can do it!" You made me want to do anything you asked. You have the inspirational impact of a motivational speaker. And, you have the Spirit of a Christian. It is great to see someone with the Spirit of Christ teaching people to treat their body as the temple of God. Thanks for the inspiration Brandi.
2)Hazel Stafford - thanks for all the inspirational quotes you share. My favorite was from back in January, "I see the sun rise in the morning and fall in the evening. I see the moon and stars at night, and just think to myself, isn't our God glorious?" That is so inspiring! And, of course, you inspired me with your devotion at Kate's bedside before she passed. thanks for the inspiration Hazel.
3)Mark Simmons - I often think about that sermon you preached where you used the illustration of a carrier at sea. You said they are not easy to turn around on the water. But, it's the big things in life that give you stability. On a carrier at sea, you don't really notice the waves, because the ship is so big. You compared this to the "big things" we might face. You explained that though they might seem devastating, they would give us stability and hold us together. I will never forget that analogy. You inspired me to survive a few "big things" in my own life, because I remembered from you that they would serve to make me more stable. Thanks for the inspiration Mark.
4)Stacey Giadrosich Tippin - Your love for Jesus, your worship, and your vision as an artist have inspired me to open my eyes and really see the world around me. You helped me to inspire the Quiz Teams. When I called you and described the scene I needed drawn for a particular Bible illustration, you brought it in just as I had imagined. You have the ability to make vision reality. Thanks for inspiring me to really see.
5)Bob Giadrosich - I see that the artistry runs in the family, only you make a living at it. Your work that most inspired me is the Lion painting. The eyes of the Lion remind me of the Lion of Judah, Jesus. Thanks for reading to my students and giving them all paintings to help inspire them as well as me.
6)April Watt - April you trully inspire me in the ministry that you and David carry out with the Bible Quizzers. Through you, I could see how a ministry is to be carried out. Thanks for leading me and helping me in the Quizzing Ministry. I could have never made it through that without you. Not only that, but you said something personal to me once that helped me in my personal situation in a way that I can't describe. You inspired me to push beyond the devil's stumbling blocks. Thanks for that inspiration.
7)Dana Peppers - Your work with the young people in Vacation Bible School and Drama is very inspiring. I love to see you become so animated with the kids. It is great to see the next generation take up the torch. It inspires me to see that in you. Thanks Dana!
8)Daniel Benefield - Thanks Daniel for working on the praise team. You are a great inspiration and a role model for the generation coming up. I am so glad that the adults don't have a monoply on the work in our church!
9)Scott Benefield - Your messages inspire me to reach higher in God. You speak quietly, and are often soft spoken, yet can be more inspired than any messenger of the Gospel that I have ever heard. I often read Charles Spurgeon's sermons, and wondered why preaching wasn't like that in this century; uplifting, inspiring, motivational, pointing to the Kingdom of God. You step beyond yourself and reach into the heart of Scripture to inspire your listeners. Thanks for the inspiration from God's Word Scott.
10) Ronnie Welch - My stepdad went to work every morning in the carpet mills. He inspired me to be a hard worker. But, more than that, he taught me to ride a bike to soar on the wind, to fly a kite (that we made with our own hands using newspaper) into the clouds, and he taught me how to drive a car so I could get wherever I wanted to go. He inspired me to fly and he gave me wheels and wings. Sometimes, he told me the stories of his tough childhood. I realized that he was doing for me what no one had done for him. Thanks Ronnie for raising me. You owed me nothing. You gave me everything you had.
God sends men and women just like these to inspire us to not only look upward, but to look inside ourselves for the best that we can be; to look outward to our fellow man to see what they need us to be. Job 32:8 But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty gives him understanding. Remember that someone is watching and listening to you. You have a bigger impact than you will ever realize! Tomorrow night, look for ten of the people who have given me gifts.
It is too difficult for me to whittle down a thanks list each year. This year I am concentrating on the 100 people (more or less) who make my life alive, over the next ten days. Writing has been a large part of the way that I have connected with those around me for much of my life.
My Grandmother Emily Nix, from Copperhill, Tennessee used to send me birthday cards with a five dollar bill every year. But, my Mother always taught me to write her a thank you letter. This task was something I enjoyed, and I learned a sense of respecting someone else's needs from the fact that my Mother said that it was important.
When I was 14-15, I had a pen-pal before computers and internet. I never met her face-to-face, so Avie Stafford was a friend who never knew me outside my handwritten letters. But, her responses to my letters made me realize I could communicate with people on paper. Growing up in a small town, I am grateful for the experience I gained in being friends with a person in Paint Lick, Kentucky. This was much like corresponding with someone in Japan now. It opened my world to include more neighbors than my physical vicinity provided. It enriched and expanded my world. I lost contact with Avie a lifetime ago.
Luckily, there are people in my life now that I can give thanks for entering into the world of thinking with me via print. This is more important to me than ever, now that I don't leave the house as much. The following people were chosen because of the degree of impact they have on me by responding to my posts, blogs, etc. online. They are mostly not shy people, as you can see by the verbal and written comments they give to my writing.
My thanks giving tonight goes to:
1)Russell Snyder -Thanks for the times you have mentioned my blogs in sermons you have preached. When you read my blog aloud in church, you made me feel my words were valued. I appreciate the fact that you not only listen, but you speak back to me.
2)Angela Dillard - Thanks for thinking about and taking my words to heart. You have always been my top commentator, even when we were children.
3)Cindy Benefield- You inspire me not only with your comments, but with the example you give me of worship. Thanks for showing me what worship looks like.
4)Mary Huffman Weaver- You are the only one on this list that I've never met in person, but you always have something positive to say. Thanks for being a "cloud friend."
5)Robert Tippin- Man, you are so intelligent! Do you know your every comment makes me feel special to have been noticed by someone I admire? Thanks for interacting with my thoughts and words.
6)Jaime Kennedy- Thanks for being so friendly and for having an encouraging heart Jaime. I like the way you tell me you like my comments, even just the little things on Facebook.
7)Virginia Hunt Byers- Wow, Virginia. You show me with all of the many, many interactions on facebook, that you are really paying attention to me. I know what you meant when you mentioned not knowing if some people are listening. But, you are engaged with what your friends have to say. I am sure each of your friends feel the same way. Thanks for including me as one of them.
8)Jan Peppers - You are a good friend to have Jan. I can see that we share many of the same interests. Thanks for all your comments.
9)Melissa Booth Witsell- Not only do you keep up with me online, but you have called me on the phone, and met up with me in town to communicate. I like that about you. I like knowing that you respond to my posts. Thanks for being there Melissa.
10)Donzell Snyder- It just fills me with joy when you comment on something I have written. Thanks for paying attention. I think it is odd that I look up to you, when you are several years younger. But, I always have. I have always liked smart people. :)
Just like John, I feel blessed because "... I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." John 15:15 And, like true friends, you have responded. Many, many thanks friends! Tomorrow night look for ten of the people who have inspired me.