"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
June 27, 2012
I shared my birthday, July 1st, with my Uncle Nathan, who was my mom's oldest brother. Growing up, I remember many times when Nathan would call to tell me "Happy Birthday", or he would come down and bring me a card or small gift. His wife made bead necklaces and there were a couple years when she made me a necklace for my birthday. At the time, I was young and really didn't appreciate the fact that Nathan and I shared a birthday or how special that seemed to be to him. It seems like I may have called him a few times, if Mama reminded me to do so. I'm sure that she realized that Nathan thought it was special to have a niece that was born on his birthday, but I never truly appreciated that fact.
Nathan was 48 years old when I was born, so he always seemed like an old man to me. (Not so much anymore, now that I'm hitting 47 myself!) I don't think I realized how much the two of us sharing a birthday meant to him, until about a year before he passed away. We had a Parton reunion, and he was unable to attend, due to health reasons. Nathan's oldest daughter came to the reunion and handed me a birthday card from Nathan, saying that he wanted her to make sure that I got it. She told me that he had always loved the fact that we had the same birthday, and he had always thought about me each year. He passed away about a week before his 82nd birthday, which would have been my 34th.
Looking back, I wish I had taken the time to go visit him on our birthday, especially when I became an adult. I told Rosemary to tell Nathan "Thank you" for the card, but I wish I had bought him a card and taken it out to him. I wish I had spent more time with him and got to know him better. I'm sure it would have meant the world to Nathan had I done all those things. I wish I had realize how much it would have meant to him for me to have gone out to see him on our birthday each year, and how special it was to him for us to share a birthday, and that this had been more important to me.
In a recent conversation with my sister and brother-in-law, Jimmy mentioned how much he missed his granny's canned goods from the garden. Janie commented that we probably didn't appreciate the hard work that his granny and our mom did for us at the time. We took for granted that they would plant the garden, tend it, and can or freeze the produce from it. We enjoyed the meals they prepared from the garden, but didn't think about all the hard work that had gone into it.
Janie said that she always hated having to help in the garden. She remembers the first year that Mama told her that she was big enough to start snapping green beans, peeling tomatoes, etc. for canning. I was five years younger than Janie, so was too little to help. She remembers thinking that it was not fair that she had to help and I didn't.
Later, she mentioned that she really wished that she would have had Mama show her how to make the chocolate cake that she just stirred up from memory. None of us girls know how Mama made that cake, but remember how good it was. She also made homemade chocolate cookies from scratch that none of us know how to make. When we were young, we thought we'd have her with us for many, many years and never knew the importance of having her teach us some of those things that we liked so well.
We often don't truly appreciate those seemingly small things, such as a yearly birthday card from an uncle or a homemade cake from your mama, until we no longer have them.
As I was thinking about this, I started going through things to find that last card that Nathan gave to me. I know I have it somewhere but couldn't locate it. But I ran across other sentimental notes and cards that I've kept over the years. I found a sweet note that a cousin, who passed away from breast cancer a few years ago, gave me probably 15-20 years ago.
I found a birthday card from Grannie Horton. I don't remember ever getting many cards from her, in fact this may be the only one. I'm pretty sure she gave it to me on my birthday the year that Mama passed away. The reason I remember that is because she also gave me some money for my birthday (which she never ever did) and told me to buy myself some new underwear. I remember my sisters and I laughing about it. Our take on the situation was that she thought with Mama gone that Daddy would not think to give me money to buy new underwear and I'd never have new ones again. That might have been true, but that would have been my 16th birthday, so I'm sure I would have figured out a way to get new ones when needed. But it was sweet of her to think of that.... and a little funny.
I am pretty sentimental, especially when it comes to family, and I like to reminisce about different family members and happenings and events throughout my life. Some of my very best memories are family-related. I think of my parents, sisters, uncles, aunts and cousins with much love. They made a strong impact upon my life.
But I also have wonderful memories of others; friends, pastors, co-workers, people I attended church with, etc. I have been blessed by having so many awesome people as part of my life.
It makes me wonder what type impact I'm making on the lives of others; if any. How will I be remembered when I'm gone? When my nieces and nephews and friends reminisce and think of past memories, will I be in their thoughts or will I be someone that they will forget after a few years? After I'm gone, will they think, "I wish I had appreciated her more and not taken her for granted;" or "I wish I had asked her...... and learned from her?"
When Jesus was on earth with His disciples and family and friends, I'm sure that the majority took Him for granted. Even though He told them that He would not always be with them, I'm not sure they comprehended what He meant.
After He died, was resurrected, and ascended back into heaven I'm sure that they all had many regrets; not of following Him or believing that He was truly the Messiah or of loving Him, but I'm sure they all wished they had listened better and learned more and spent more time with Him.
All throughout history, mankind has cycled through this same pattern of taking others for granted, then wishing they had done things differently once that person is no longer around. And I'm sure the generations coming up behind us will do the same thing.
So what can we learn from this? Personally, I want to appreciate others more. I don't want to take others for granted and assume that they'll always be with me. I want to learn from those close to me and not be afraid to show my love for them. I'm not a real demonstrative person, and it doesn't come easily to freely give out hugs and say, "I love you." But I don't want to always assume that those I care about know how I feel. I've been working on better expressing my feelings towards others. I want to work on becoming a much better wife, sister, aunt, cousin, niece, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, and friend. I want to love others and to be loved in return.
I also want to positively influence others for Jesus. I want people to see Jesus in my life, without my having to tell them that I'm a Christian. I want to exude joy, peace, and love. I want to be an encourager. I want to be trustworthy and a good listener. I want to make people laugh and help them enjoy life.
What do you want to do to make your mark upon the lives of those around you?
I remember Uncle Oscar. He was actually my dad's uncle, but we all called him Uncle Oscar. He taught us backgammon and dominoes. We enjoyed going to visit him, but didn't do it often. He passed away many years ago.
I also remember my Uncle Lee and Aunt Marjory who have both passed away years ago. I got to see them many times over the years before that. I'm thankful for the many times I got to spend with each of them.
I feel like I barely got to know my father-in-law, though. I wish I had gotten to know him better. He was a good man, and I didn't get to spend much time with him. I'm very glad that I got to meet him, ask his permission to marry Loretta (before I formally asked her), and got to watch him walk Loretta down the aisle to me. I'm also glad that I got to participate on his last Father's Day, working with the whole family to clean up his yard and home. It's a big yard, but with so many people, it wasn't hard. It didn't surprise me at all that the whole family was eager to help out. But it did surprise me that Loretta's dad was so willing to let others work for him.
Some of my better memories are of how others have been kind to me. Some of them are of how I've done things for them. If others are hoping to help you in some way, please don't turn them down. It might be a great memory to them later on.
2 Granny Smith apples
2 (8-ounce) cans crescent roll dough
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 (12-ounce) can Mountain Dew
Ground cinnamon -- to taste
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350. Peel and core the apples and cut into 8 equal wedges. Wrap each apple wedge in 1 piece of crescent roll dough, beginning at the wide end and ending at the point. Place the rolls seam side down in a buttered 8x10 baking dish. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar and vanilla and stir for a few seconds. No need to dissolve the sugar; you want the mixture to be grainy. Pour the butter/sugar mixture evenly over the rolls. Next -- and this is the crazy/radical part -- pour the can of Mountain Dew (yes, use Mountain Dew -- no substitutes!) all over the top. It'll look really liquidy and weird... but don't worry. It'll all make sense in the end. Finally, sprinkle the top with cinnamon. Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve the dumplings with vanilla ice cream, spooning on some of the syrup form the bottom of the pan.
***I have seen this recipe several times and just thought it sounded a little weird! But this is in The Pioneer Woman's new cookbook (both of her cookbooks are fabulous) and everything I've made from her cookbook or website have all been very good.
Birthdays were always a big deal in my family and was our day to feel special. Mama would always make a homemade chocolate cake (is there any other kind?!), with candles on top. The family would sing "Happy Birthday" as the birthday person blew out the candles. There would always be gifts to open. It may not have been a lot, and may have been a dress that Mama sewed for us, but there was always something to open. Whoever's birthday it was, it was their day to feel important and a fuss be made over them. I loved it! And I loved having a summer birthday. I still do!! I love birthdays and love being fussed over -- I have never outgrown that and hope I never do!!
The only thing worse than a quitter is the man who is afraid to begin. - unknown
We love you!
Loretta & Jon