LTJ: Celebrate Life!

Written by Louise Tucker Jones in the July 2010 Issue

Hard to believe that half of 2010 has passed. Some highly organized people are probably already shopping for Christmas. Thanks, but no thanks on that. Being a procrastinator, I will wait until I feel the icy blasts of cold weather and winter snow before I hit the malls.

So far, this year has been filled with extremes—good/bad, happy/sad, fun/fearful. The first part of the year brought a trip to the ER and ICU for me, followed by a reflective time of healing. The following months, two of my children celebrated birthdays. We had a major celebration for our youngest, the child doctor’s never expected to live into adolescence. Jay turned 34! A miracle! And his older brother, Aaron, passed 40!  Singing “Happy Birthday” to these grown sons reminded me of the lullabies I sang to them when they were babies. Where did the time go?

In May, our family gathered in beautiful Bella Vista, Arkansas, where we celebrated my granddaughter’s 5th birthday as well as Mother’s Day. What a precious gift to be with my sons, husband, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, Alexandria and Axton, on such a special day.

However, on the trip home that following Monday, we ran into the outreaching sphere of a violent storm. Less than an hour from home, we found ourselves in the path of a tornado.  If we didn’t get off the highway, we would collide. We were able to exit I-40 to Shawnee and take shelter at the Comfort Inn, a welcome respite from the strong winds that nearly blew our van off the highway.

The hotel staff welcomed us and other travelers to the safety of a mattress-lined hallway, then after the storm, invited us for free coffee, donuts and juice while we waited for the interstate to open. What gracious Oklahoma hospitality!  It was late when we finally got home, nearly eight hours after leaving Bella Vista, rather than the projected four, but we were a thankful crew.  Thankful for protection from the storm.  Thankful to finally relax in our own home, yet sad for those who lost everything, even their lives.

Just ten days later, on another stormy day in May, my 19-year-old granddaughter, Monica, gave birth to my first great-grandchild, Jaylen Dale Hervey. While holding this 6 pound, 12 ounce bundle from heaven, God reminded me again that life can and does follow tragedy in all kinds of storms and it is always precious.

And now with July upon us, my thoughts turn to parades, firecrackers and homemade ice cream. It reminds me that life is always a celebration, in spite of the hard times we face. So many things to look forward to this summer—vacations, high school and family reunions, more birthdays and summer festivities. Yet, in the midst of these happy times will be bittersweet things like my middle son’s 37th birthday. Instead of a party, I will be putting birthday balloons on his grave and releasing a shiny helium-filled one toward heaven with a message that reads, “Travis, I Love You!” A different kind of celebration.

In this changeable and sometimes scary economic and social climate, where jobs are at stake, homes are lost and tragedies take the lives of loved ones, we can easily forget to thank God for the good things in our lives.  Things like a country where we still have the freedom to voice our opinions and worship as we please.  Things like wonderful neighbors, great friends and precious family members who love us deeply.

I invite you to make your own “thankful” list. Then as the fireworks explode on Independence Day, count it as your own grand gala. Dance to the music in your heart. Rejoice with the song in your soul and sing the lyrics of life. Celebrate! Celebrate life! Celebrate freedom! Celebrate the birthday of our country!

God bless you and God bless America!

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