An Empty Chair At The Table

An Empty Chair at the Table

Inside, the fireplace is blazing because outside, a bitterly cold wind is blowing. Yesterday, it was a balmy 70 degrees. Welcome to November in West Texas!

Bright and early the Saturday morning before Thanksgiving, I was bundled up and running errands to make sure we had food and other supplies for the holiday week. I’m as guilty as other folks of buying groceries like the stores are all closing forever, not just Thanksgiving Day. Oh, my! The crowds!

Please understand that I am not a shopper, but rather a purchaser, so this was merely a mission, not a journey. List in hand, I navigated only the aisles needed to get this job done quickly. Before two hours had passed, purchases had been made at four stores, the trunk was full and I was heading home.

Countless folks were doing the same thing. Why? Because we love this ritual, the food, the family, the friends. It can be joyful and it can be stressful!

It is a sad fact that we all probably know someone who will have an empty space at their holiday table for the first time this year.

My friend, Mary Lu Grant, said this recently regarding the first holiday after the death of her daughter, Shalyn, in October of 1984:

“Those of you that have a NEW EMPTY CHAIR in your family this upcoming holiday season ~ ~ it is usually not advisable to try to do your normal traditional holiday, because it is going to be anything but normal. We found it a little bit helpful during our tragedy to vary away from the norm a little. We loaded up and took Lynn (son-in-law) and Casey (grandson) to Ruidoso for the holiday and it seemed to take Lynn’s mind off of his pain just a little. Lynn skied and wore himself out and, therefore, wasn’t thinking just about the holiday and the painful empty chair. Nothing can take away what you are feeling but a different emphasis did help somewhat. We also gave money to a cause that we thought would have been meaningful to Shalyn and, even though none of this changed our circumstances, it did give us a different slant on the fresh pain in our heart!!!!”

(parenthetical notations made for clarity)

Mrs. Grant was my 5th grade math teacher. She has always been an example of faith, fortitude, grace, forgiveness, peace and joy. In fact, there isn’t a fruit of the Spirit that I don’t see in her.

If you are an educator, never discount the lifelong effect you can have on the life of a student! In October of 1984, I was 20 years old, had a husband who was still healing from major surgery and two babies – Ashley was 2 and Josh was 1. I was just beginning to build an adult understanding of my faith. I remember being so sad for my former teacher when Shalyn died and wanting Mrs. Grant to know that I cared. We exchanged letters once in a while. It was powerful to watch her stand securely in her faith and be so sure of His presence, in the midst of her unrelenting pain. I developed a hunger to study and find out more about such hope, forgiveness and joy. Once Facebook came along, I saw that she shared those thoughts with anyone who would read her posts. She has a ministry!

God uses us, if we let Him.

We are going to be ‘used’ today; every single one of us. We get to choose if it’s by God or by satan.

(no capital “s” on purpose)

As we rush headlong into the last few weeks of 2015, remember that it’s not about buying, it’s about being.

God bless you and yours as you share all that the Thanksgiving holiday has to offer~