ANOTHER THANKSGIVING, ANOTHER TURKEY

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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It occurs in autumn, my favorite season, and it’s all about family, food, and love. About the only shopping required for Thanksgiving takes place at the grocery store, and I even love grocery stores at this time of year. All those special seasonal foods.

As I was getting my dressing together this morning I was remembering past Thanksgivings and trying to remember how many Thanksgiving dinners I have prepared. How many times have I made that dressing? I’ve cooked a LOT of turkeys!  I can’t remember many Thanksgivings from my childhood. Of course that was a LONG time ago. I do remember having Thanksgiving with my grandparents and my cousins a time or two, but as time went by I can’t remember Thanksgiving being an especially big deal. Broken families sometimes make for difficult holidays. I’m sure we must have done something for Thanksgiving because my dad was a fabulous cook. This happened out of necessity because my mother had neither the skill or the inclination to boil water. But that was our gain, because Daddy had an interest in cooking and an adventurous palate. His meals were the best! I guess that is where my love of cooking began.

So after Jerry and I married at the very tender age of nineteen (smart!), I wanted to tackle a turkey. It’s a good thing I didn’t try it at Thanksgiving because I caught it on fire. Turkey flambé! Gosh who knew there were bags of really gross stuff inside those cavities? So I’m thinking the first couple of Thanksgivings we must have had with Jerry’s family.  On our first Thanksgiving we went to Jerry’s Aunt Mary and Uncle Sam Lomonaco’s house with the Italian Carona family. That’s when I made the happy discovery that some people have lasagna and spaghetti with their turkey. Awesome!

It didn’t take many years for me to start preparing the Thanksgiving meal.  I don’t know how many Thanksgiving dinners I have made. I’m guessing around 40 or so, maybe more. When we moved into our first house I wanted to have Thanksgiving at our new house. In the beginning, I didn’t do it every year, but after a while it became mine to host and I loved it. We would have my grandparents, Jerry’s parents and sometimes his sister and her family. Many times my two great aunts, Una and Tess would join us as well as my Uncle Arthur when he was in town. There were times when my siblings and their families would join us, and a few times when we went to their homes. One of my funniest memories was the time I stopped up the sink and water from the garbage disposal, complete with bits of broccoli and onion, was backing up through my washer! As luck would have it, my brother-in-law owned a plumbing company. He went back home and got his snake and climbed on the roof to snake out the pipes. It was one of those Dallas days that started off warm but a “blue norther” came blowing in while he was on the roof and he just about froze!

 

A few years ago my daughter moved into her new home, and asked if I would mind if she hosted.   Are you kidding me? I’d love for you to host. Please take the torch! I am mostly ready to pass it on to the next generation. But this year I asked to have it back again. I guess I’m not quite ready to give up being the hostess. And like I said, I love Thanksgiving.

 

So this year as I make our traditional favorites, I thank God for my family. There are 19 of us now and we will all be together except for Kaylee and Austin who will be with his family. I now have to share my children and grands. I’m thankful for those who have passed on and for those who are still with us. I’m so thankful for our children and for this new generation, our grandchildren, and even thinking about those babies that are hopefully still to come. I’m thankful for our extended family and for our friends who have become family. Most of all, I’m thankful that I get to spend another Thanksgiving with my husband, the patriarch of our ever expanding family. There were some frightening days when I didn’t know if he would live to see another holiday. We tell each other almost daily (once in awhile we might forget), “We got another day.” So thankful for another turkey to roast, a table to set, and a family to gather round.

 

 

THE EMPTY CHAIR

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The following is a letter my friend Cathy wrote to some of her friends who have recently lost their mothers.  She gave me permission to share it.  I know too many of my friends are facing an empty chair this Thanksgiving.  You have lost parents and grandparents, spouses, and even children.  Please know I am thinking and praying for you all, even as I type these words.  You are not alone.

THE EMPTY CHAIR

The holidays are coming . . . and I dread the “empty chair”.

You are receiving this letter because you are my friend and we share a common bond. We are each one of six who have experienced the passing of our mother and walked with her through death this past year.

For all of us this has not been a sudden event, rather a long and plodding journey we have travelled with our mothers inch by inch. This journey has brought emotions and questions as each of our mother’s health and function declined and we could see the end coming. In moments of angst and suffering we would wonder when the end would come and yet . . . we embraced her at every turn not wanting to let go. And then . . . we knew the end was near.

As my mother came closer and closer to death in her final weeks, I felt more and more the presence of God. I prayed for His grace and mercy for her soul and mine. Death is a most sacred time . . . a time no one can completely understand, but you know God is near and your loved one is transitioning into the life after death. For all of us this is part of the human experience, we know it is coming, but it takes on a much deeper meaning when you sit by the bedside of the mother you love. You know God is there as you witness the spiritual mystery when her soul leaves her body like a whisper in the quiet of the night. She is gone.

Now after several weeks, I still reflect often on my mother’s life and her passing. And now . . . the holidays are coming and I face the “empty chair”.

As the holidays approach I hope to embrace the gift of the “empty chair”. I know from the life my mother lived that I am worthy of receiving and giving love, joy, and generosity. I know my mother faced challenges, difficult decisions, and made mistakes in her life and yet she endured. She never gave up, but kept on keeping on. This remembrance inspires me to do the same . . . forgive others and yes also myself, when I am weak to remember I can be strong, and know I can be kinder and gentler, more compassionate and empathetic to others.

The empty chair also reminds me of the depth of love within my family and the reason to keep that love alive and make it even richer. I am also reminded of the love of friends and how that love blesses my life and how I want to be that kind of friend to bless others. And . . . walking with my mother and witnessing her death reminds me to turn to a more consistent life of prayer and dependence on God embracing His love and mercy.

All of our mothers lived long lives and they endured and pressed on. And now . . we have the “empty chair”. We have been left with many gifts from the “empty chair” and It is our time to press on, to reflect and examine our own lives and genuinely embrace the joy and pain of life, allowing it to mold us into a better person, one filled with love and hope, kindness and understanding.

As you and your family gather, I pray you, my friend, have holidays filled with an abundance of love and joy and remember the gift of the “empty chair”. Yes there will be tears, but through these tears we have received many gifts.

Keep on “keeping on” my friends . . . and know I will be thinking of you and your family during this holiday season. I am sending abundant wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving and Christmas season with prayers for comfort and peace.

Lovingly,

Cathy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BAKER MAYFIELD, PART 2: A CAUTIONARY TALE

 

 

Listen up boys and girls, and all of us older adults too. There are lessons for all of us from Saturday’s game. Who would have thought the OU-Kansas game would garner so much attention? On Friday of last week I was watching a college football talk show (yes, I actually watch them) and someone was asking Paul Finebaum what Sunday’s headline would be. I’m thinking some upset, although with it being Cupcake Saturday there didn’t seem to be much likelihood of that happening. If the news were to be about Baker Mayfield, surely it would be about some record-breaking statistic. Well Baker Mayfield was the story and he is still the headline on Monday. Driving to my 6:30 AM hair appointment this morning, the radio buzz was still about “the incident.” So what are the take-homes from Saturday?

1. Baker Mayfield. Be better than that. Yes I know the Kansas captains disrespected you, I know there was a lot happening under those dog piles, and yes I cringed at that cheap shot that happened late in the second quarter. That should have been a targeting penalty. I get it and support that you always play with a good deal of emotion and moxie. And I also understand when you get all that adrenalin and testosterone flowing it’s hard to put on the brakes. But you are Baker Mayfield. You are the face of the Sooner Nation right now, the presumed winner of the Heisman Trophy, an award that is given for “pursing excellence with integrity.” A first round draft pick. You must be better. You are held to a higher standard than other players, especially the Kansas players. We love watching you play, but we are all a little concerned about your bad boy behavior. It’s time to grow up. Don’t be a Johnny Manziel, and you are getting dangerously close. Be a Manning. Be a J. J. Watt. Be a Tim Tebow. You must get used to having this big target on your back because it’s only going to get bigger. Do you think your first day at pro camp is going to be a group sing of Kum Ba Yah? Even your own teammates are going to try to knock that chip off your shoulder. Get used to it. By the way, thank you for your apologies. One can hope they are sincere.

2. Kansas. Do something about your football program! Right now your football team is the sacrificial lamb that allows you to play big boy basketball. If you are going to be Division 1 start acting like it. Put some money and effort into your program. I can only imagine how your players feel being the perennial joke of the Big 12. Everyone’s creampuff game. It’s easy to understand why they are so frustrated, why they resort to unsportsmanlike behavior. And also, please teach them good sportsmanship. One can hope that the refusal to shake hands didn’t come from the coach. Thank you Kansas players for the apologies. No more targeting!

3. Fans (including me). This is the hard one. Are we expecting too much from a bunch of college kids? We get so caught up in it all, and I’m the first one to proclaim how much fun college football is. Those of us who are big fans get caught up in a concept psychologist refer to as BIRG-ing. Basking In Reflected Glory. We say things like “We won!” or “We played a good game,” as if WE actually had something to do with it. When our team wins we feel great, but when we lose it feels bad. I have to admit; Saturday’s game left a bad taste in my mouth. It didn’t even feel like a win. Baker Mayfield has been my boy. But I had to put my cardboard Baker Mayfield in time out. He disappointed me.

So here is what God has been telling me. Our small group recently studied the book of Exodus, and the Ten Commandments. It struck me that my cardboard Baker Mayfield might be my graven image. While I don’t actually worship the Sooners or Baker Mayfield, am I giving them something that belongs to God? Has football become too important to me, too high on my list of priorities? Maybe football is not your obsession, but most of us could insert something else here. Instead of thanking God for our blessings, do we become too preoccupied with them, even to the point of worship? It can be sports heroes, celebrities, clothes, money, houses, career, politics, church buildings, prestige, and anything else that we ‘worship.” What captures our attention, our love, our time, and our money? Have I crossed some spiritual line here? I hope not. But this is where BIRG-ing becomes idolatry. If I am getting a sense of accomplishment, well-being, or self worth from my team or from any of the things mentioned above, I am committing idolatry. And God takes idolatry very seriously. The only reflected glory I should be basking in is the glory of Jesus Christ. He is my hero. I pray that I keep all my pastimes in their proper place. And I keep reminding myself that it’s just football. But oh my goodness it sure is fun!

You must not make for yourself an idol (graven image, KJV) of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. Exodus 20:4.

No longer will you need the sun to shine by day, nor the moon to give its light by night, for the LORD your God will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Isaiah 60:19

BAKER MAYFIELD’S IMPOSSIBLE DREAM

 

hi-res-02a69cff4047e59f556c0d6d2d282ac0_crop_northIf you have known me for any length of time at all, you know that I am a huge Oklahoma Sooner football fan, and this year especially, an even bigger Baker Mayfield fan. I just love watching that kid play football. He plays with so much joy and enthusiasm…it’s contagious. I even like that he plays with moxie, swagger, and a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. And talent! He has a serious arm. Can we just go ahead and start working on a new statue for OU’s Heisman Plaza?

So I was listening to an interview he was doing recently and something he said really resonated with me. He said he just believes in himself. And the way he said it was not arrogant or narcissistic. He was just stating a fact. He believes in himself. He just doesn’t accept “no.” He has audacity.

When people told him he was too small to be a quarterback (and he was!), he just kept on throwing bullets. When he showed up for football practice as a Lake Travis freshman, he was only 5”2” and barely 100 pounds. But he had an arm and he had a belief in himself. Even after leading his team to a state championship as a senior, he still got little respect. He wasn’t what the big colleges would consider Division 1 quarterback material. No scholarship? No problem. I’ll just walk on. Win the starting position, but still no scholarship? I’ll walk on somewhere else. Maybe 14-year old Baker Mayfield dreamed of winning a Heisman, but I imagine no one else could see it within his reach at that time. In psychology we call that self-efficacy, and it’s a healthy quality to possess.

Psychologist Albert Bandura has spent much of his career researching how people are able to shape their own futures through human agency, the belief in their own capabilities to produce desired effects by their actions. It is the understanding that I have some degree of control in obtaining a desired outcome and preventing an undesired one.

People with self-efficacy are quick to recognize and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves, and they find ways to get around obstacles. Baker Mayfield had a big obstacle to get around at Oklahoma. Starting quarterback Trevor Knight had led the Sooners in an “impossible” victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl just a few weeks before Mayfield made his decision to come to Oklahoma. People thought he was crazy. He would have no chance to start. But he just refused to listen to the naysayers, to accept the impossibility of his dream.

Self-efficacy is not the same thing as self-esteem. My sense of self worth is different and independent of my abilities. For example, I can’t dance. I’d love to be able to, but I look like an ironing board with feet on the dance floor. No rhythm. But the fact that I can’t dance does not change my value as a person.

One of the problems I see in my psychology practice is the ways in which people relinquish control over their lives. And they do this without realizing it. I hear it all the time. “I can’t be okay unless Person X does Thing Y.” She needs to apologize. He must stop drinking. They must like and accept me. Maybe all these things should happen, but the reality is they might not. We have no control over the actions of others. We only have control over our own thoughts and behaviors. Waiting for someone else to take some action in order for us to be happy is giving away our power. It is putting our happiness and well being squarely in the hands of someone else.

Then there are some people who have no sense of self-efficacy. “I could never do that.” Maybe someone has told them that or maybe someone has always done things for them. It’s learned helplessness. But just because you have never done it before doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It just means you haven’t done it yet.

For me, as a Christian, my sense of self-efficacy begins with my faith in Jesus. That sounds contradictory on its face. Self-efficacy is not the same as self-reliance. I’m totally reliant on Jesus Christ, but I believe He will equip me to do what He calls me to do. When I am walking by faith I am not weighed down by personal doubt and by the “what ifs.” Yes, Jesus still performs miracles, He still delivers. But more often He commands me to take up my mat and walk. And being able to take up my mat and walk is a miracle in itself. The same grace that saved me equips and enables me. So maybe a better term for Believers is spiritual efficacy, the belief that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13).

So as I’m writing about Baker Mayfield, I’m remembering another guy who was too small and too young to kill a giant. He didn’t command a lot of respect. But he believed in his ability. He had been training for this day his entire young life. And most importantly he believed in his God. You know how the story goes. Against all odds, David killed the giant with just a slingshot and a stone.

How big are your giants? Maybe God has been preparing you for just this moment. You can do this! How big is your God? With Him, nothing is impossible.

“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” Jer. 32:27.

 

“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,” 2 Cor. 3:5.