Friday, November 21, 2008

Taboo Blessings

It's Fiction Fridays, 
and Patty from Patterings is hosting. 
To learn more about her meme, click here:

Do you like short story fiction? Then go on over to Patterings and check out the links to more fiction posts.

Taboo Blessings

We were stuffed as a tick on a coon dog’s belly. The lethargy had kicked in—probably from the chemicals released in the turkey. It couldn’t be that we gorged enough carbs and sweets to send our bodies into a diabolic crash, no!

As for me personally, all I really wanted to do was slide into a pair of stretchy pants and lie in a reclined position until I fell into a dreamy sleep, but family traditions would rule otherwise.

It was time for the “Blessing Circle” to form near the fireplace in the living room. The football games: paused. The cleaning of the kitchen: halted. All the kids were to come in from playing wiffle ball on the front lawn.

It’s funny, because no one in our family even remembered when this custom was brought about or why, but my aunt Millie said she was going to make sure it didn’t die out on her watch. Every Thanksgiving since she could remember, the
Blessing Circle had formed, and this year would be no different. So we gathered, resistant and a tad resentful, into our round, robotic ritual of raving over our good fortunes from the previous year.

Aunt Millie introduced our tradition as if we had never heard it explained before. She said it was a time to “count our blessings one by one,” and if we “don’t take the time to do so, then, we just don’t deserve them.”

While Uncle Paul began to belt out the
Count Your Blessings hymn in the background, Aunt Millie rattled off her thank-yous with very little expression until she ran out of breath.

Mama eagerly chimed in. She was grateful for her good health and for her beautiful grandchildren.

“…Count them one….by……one….” Uncle Paul nodded off, though still barely rocking in his wooden chair. His head was cricked over, and the metal snap on his overalls made an imprint on his face.

Then there was a long pause, and Mama elbowed Daddy in the rib cage, which spoke him right up. “I’m very blessed to have a woman who keeps me in line,” Daddy poked at his other half. We all chuckled.

All of us awake now, we began to spew out our blessings, mixed with a little satire. Laughter filled the room, and even Aunt Millie’s upside-down smile wrinkles were turned a little sideways.

Second to last, we got to Tammy, my niece’s roommate and friend. She asked to pass in a quiet, croaky voice. She was not smiling or laughing like the rest of us.

What’s her deal? I wondered. Surely she had some blessing to boast about. Why, her very roommate was a jewel of a gal, that’s for sure. My niece Vickie was as Christian as they come.

Vickie recovered for her friend by sharing her thankfulness for a roommate who didn’t snore like her last one. Everyone got a chuckle out of that—except for Tammy.

Dusk snuck up, and all the family began to file out one by one, each with styrofoam plates filled with leftovers piled high. Someone decided that Tammy had been silent long enough. Out on the dusty gravel driveway, Aunt Millie took hold of Tammy’s arm as she passed by. “It must be a pretty miserable existence not to have any praises on your tongue.”

Tammy looked up. “Excuse me?” A mix of confidence and bitterness shot from her eyes.

“Everybody’s got somethin’ to be thankful for, darlin’,” Aunt Millie retorted.

Putting her hand gently upon Aunt Millie’s shoulder, Tammy looked her straight in the eye with the most fortitude I had ever seen anyone dare. “Millie, is it?” Tammy asked.

“Aunt Millie,” she corrected.

“That’s right.” Tammy slumped down and paused. Then all of a sudden she blurted out, “Taboo!”

Mama and Daddy grabbed Aunt Millie’s arm to hold her stance steady.

“My blessings are taboo. They’re not the kind of thing you talk about around such light-hearted folks,” Tammy explained.

Uncle Paul had slid into the driver’s side of the car and began to pretend drive.

Aunt Millie was stunned, “Why, I do declare!”

Tammy snickered, “See, I knew I was wise to keep quiet.”

“Go ahead, Tammy,” Vickie prompted.

She took a deep breath. “OK, here goes. One year ago today I lay in a hospital room with bruises and cuts all over my body. I was lucky to survive, they said. This year has been one of major tragedy bringing out memories of younger tragedies, all of which I’ve had to come to grips with. And up until your niece took the time to care, I didn’t have a single person to turn to or even a place to sleep.

All of us stood speechless.

Except Aunt Millie.

“Oh, child,” she had streams of tears streaking down her pruned face. “If I’d only known.”

Tammy sobbed alongside. “People don’t wanna hear about these kinds of blessings.”

I'm sure were all wondering what “blessings” she was referring to.

She continued with emotion. “That night, when I lay in that cold, empty hospital room with nothing but my pain to keep me company, God gave me a gift.”

Uncle Paul was trying to get the radio to work.

Vickie wrapped her arms around Tammy who had lost her voice and finished the story for her. “She’s talking about the moment she received Christ as her Savior. I was her nurse on call that night. When I came into her room during my rounds, she told me she wanted to die. I didn’t know what to do other than to ask her if she knew who Jesus was…”

“When she told me…” Tammy regained her composure, “When she told me about this Jesus that SHE knew, He was so much different than the one I had heard about growing up.”

Tammy went on to describe the “hell, fire and brimstone” she was taught from her abusive father and the pulpit of her small hometown church. Never had she ever heard of the grace and the love that Vickie was sharing.

“I was totally amazed when she told me that Jesus wanted to be my friend,” Tammy concluded. “My FRIEND.”

It was as if the radio turned on inside the speakers of my Uncle Paul’s mind just then. “What a friend we have in Jesus. All our sins and griefs to bear,” he belted out.

Tammy began to laugh through her flooded eyes. “Now that’s the blessing I wish to speak of. The day that Jesus became my friend.”

We all gathered around her as if she were a part of our family now. Well, I reckon she was, and we were so blessed to have her. She reminded us where true blessing is found.

In unison, all of us joined the choir in Uncle Paul’s head: “Oh what peace we often forfeit. Oh what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry….everything to God in prayer.”

We were so blessed.

Count Your Blessings—text by Johnson Oatman, Jr.
What A Friend We Have in Jesus—text by Joseph M. Scriven

In the Key of HE,

12 friends shared a comment:

Kim @ Homesteader's Heart said...

How do you do it my friend. EAch Friday I'm almost drawn to tears with your stories. I always leave wanting more so I guess that's a good thing.
Hugs to you today my friend.

Denise said...

Wow, I am in tears, and speechless. This is beyond precious, bless you for sharing.

Unknown said...

Wow, what an awesome insight...that the blessings we get from His deep work in our hearts are holy things, not to be treated frivolously.

Thanks for this richness this morning!

Yvonne Blake said...

SMILE... love the reference to the songs! It seems we just "heard" the last one.

Debra Kaye said...

Oh my goodness..that one got me! I have tears a streamin!! Love ya to pieces...thanks for posting it.

What a great reminder to count our blessings and rememember to do it from an honest heart!

((hugs)) to you!

Sunny Shell said...

AMEN sister...our greatest blessing is God's greatest gift to all mankind....His one and only Son, our awesome, mighty and powerful, yet gentle and humble Savior, Jesus Christ!

BTW, speaking of the greatest Gift! I fixed the video, thank you for telling me! Stop by and take a peek!

Love you so much!

Patty Wysong said...

WONderful! And so perfect for this week! We have abundant blessings simply in God's grace and mercy! Wow! Thanks for that reminder and lift!!

Hoomi said...

Great "food for thought" in this coming week, and an apt reminder that Thanksgiving isn't just about feasting and football.

Sandy @ The Scoop on Balance said...

Just wanted to thank you for your kind comments today on my Internet Cafe post. As I'm hopping around the blogs of those who posted, I see a lot of the same faces, over and over. What a neat little community you have here! Thanks for letting me be a part of it for the day.

Sandy Cooper

Laurie Ann said...

Such a precious story! This one broke my heart - taboo, indeed. I loved it!

Joanne Sher said...

Absolutely, positively, undoubtedly incredible, my dear. This sent chills up my spine, and moved me deeply. Wow.

Lynn Squire said...

A good reminder that the greatest blessing of all is how Jesus saved us from our sins.