Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Good Things Outweigh The Bad

"Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
Serve the LORD with gladness:
come before his presence with singing.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise:
 be thankful unto him, and bless his name."
Psalm 100:1,2,4

Happy Thanksgiving!!

There will be an empty seat at our table this year.
The family circle has been broken...
and the reality that there is a missing link is hard to bear.
I never dreamed last Thanksgiving Day was to be our last one with Mom.

The other day, Kevin and I were sitting at the table...
just enjoying being together....
when he opened his heart.

"I kind of wish we could just skip it this year,
you know?
I will be sitting here looking at her empty chair."
He pointed towards the chair where she always sat...
directly across from him...
at the opposite end of the table.

We all miss her.

The absence of her....
is like a deep, dark void.

I have cried a bit more than usual
the past few days.
As Debbie, her family, Zach, and I sat in Zaxby's 
enjoying a meal together,
Debbie took out her paper and pen and reminded me
that we needed to plan out our Thanksgiving meal...
figure out who was making what, etc.

We were laughing, talking, enjoying the moment, 
when my nephew, Mark said,
"I'll buy the ham."

Bless his dear heart.
He has such a kind, giving spirit....
always so willing to help,
lend a hand,
share the load.

He meant so well, but hearing his words
was all it took.
My tears spilled over and flowed like a river...
which caused the tears of the others to start...
as the reality of it washed over all of us.

Buying the ham was Mom's job.
Those were her words....
so many times.
I can still hear her familiar voice..
"Cheryl, if you'll pick it up for me,
I'll buy the ham."
She has bought the ham more times
than I can remember.

She was so frail in recent years that 
she wasn't able to do much in the way of cooking.
So, most of her contribution would be made
in the way of sharing the expenses .

I finally regained my composure...
over the ham comment....
only to lose it again...shortly thereafter.

"I'll make the green beans"
I muttered, through coursing tears.

THAT was the one dish Mom still insisted on making each family gathering.
It wasn't so difficult to pour them in a pan, 
cover them with water, 
and allow them to cook.
She liked to buy the frozen ones, 
and no one could season them or doctor them up,
the way Mom could.

The loss of her hit me in the grocery store when I went to buy supplies.
And again after we got home and put them away.
And so many times since then.

But, right in the midst of my missing Mom,
the grief that is still so fresh, so profound, so times,
my heart rejoices.

How could I not rejoice?

Mom is in a better place.
I have no doubt.
And though she hated to leave us,
and we miss her so much down here,
she would rather be where she is.
What sweeter rest, than in Jesus' arms?

Mom liked Thanksgiving Day, 
but she always taught me that 
every day is Thanksgiving.
Every day alive is a great opportunity to thank and praise God...
from Whom all blessings flow.

We all shared many Thanksgiving meals...
and so many others...
through the years.

I appreciate every single meal...
every, single moment....
that God gave me with her.

How gracious He is to allow me extra time...
to enjoy and be with the others I love so much.

I try to count my blessings sometimes.
I start out doing pretty good, 
but the vast number of them soon overwhelms me...
and I completely lose count.
They can't be numbered...
for the number is too great.

God is so good.
He is a kind, loving, generous God, 
Who does not withhold good from His children.

Who among us has nothing at all to thank Him for?
Who can say they are not blessed?

Sure, we all have problems.
We all share suffering.
We all cry.

But aren't our blessings greater than our burdens?
Don't the good things in your life outweigh the bad?
They sure do in mine.

One of Mom's favorite songs was
"The Good Things (Times) Outweigh The Bad" made famous by
Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.

(I couldn't find it by Flatt & Scruggs online,
but I found a version by another group of guys, if you care to listen.)

Here are the lyrics:

"I've been sittin' here thinkin' back over my life
All of the good things the trouble and strife
Well my share of heartache yes so many I've had
But I still think the good things outweigh the bad

Well I've rocked my babies at night when they cried
I've seen the teardrops turn into smiles
And that's when I realize all the bad luck I've had

And I know all the good things outweigh the bad

Well I never have riches no money to spare
Just a sharecropper's wages is my only fare
Yes makin' my livin' just working the land

But I still think the good things outweigh the bad

Yes I've worked the cotton in the heat of the day
And then paid the landlord nearly all that I made
Well I've seen high water take all that I had

But I still think the good things outweigh the bad."

It is going to be hard this year.
There's no denying it.

But, I've been thinking that maybe instead
of focusing on how painful it is,
I am going to try to focus on all of the good times
we've had in the past.

There are so many great memories.
I cherish family times.
They mean so much to me.
And I have lots of pictures...
that I can go back and look at...
to jog those wonderful memories...
to the surface...
so it doesn't hurt so much.

Memories of Thanksgivings gone by....
when the circle remained unbroken.

Meals we've shared.

Happy times...around our kitchen table.

If our table could talk,
oh, the stories it could tell!
Happy stories of shared laughter,
good food,
and pleasant conversation.

She was there....
seated in her own, special chair...
straight across from Kevin...
for so many of the meals around that table.

For those moments, 
I am eternally grateful today.
And though the times of making memories with Mom are forever past,
no one can ever take away the ones we have already made.

These I will cherish...
and hold close to my heart....
as I count my many blessings today.

Maybe we all should take some time
to sit and think back over our life....
as the song says.
Perhaps we should pause to remember...
and consider.

I believe we would all have to come to the same conclusion.
If we put them all on the scale,
the side of blessing would outweigh the side of burdens.

Maybe you are feeling the pain, too...
of staring at an empty chair.
If you are,
my heart goes out to you, my friend.
I know how you feel.

Thankfulness truly lifts the spirits...
and the load.
Focusing on the positive dispels gloom.

Today, I make the choice to be grateful....
for good times past...
and good times to come.

I will lift my head...
and heart...
to the One Who always makes certain...
that the good times outweigh the bad.

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