Posted by: bree1972 | November 20, 2011

A Thanksgiving Top Ten 11/21/2011

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

We have children and grandchildren coming in on Wednesday, and I’m sure all of you are either cooking also –  or traveling.  This will be my only post this week, and I’ll post this same one on the Mackinac Island blog.

I’ll see you back here on Monday, November 28.  Have a blessed holiday!


Not being a regular television watcher, I don’t keep up with much on the small screen (or the big screen, as so many of them are these days), but I do know David Letterman has a “Top Ten” list for just about anything of relevance in today’s world.  Sitting on the sun porch this morning, sipping coffee and watching our birds happily munch away at “Horton’s Fine Feathers Cafe”, I conjured up my “Top Ten” list of blessings.  Here’s what I’m thankful for – from cherished to most cherished.

Number 10:  Sunrises, Sunsets – and Everything In Between.  Whether in Georgia or on Mackinac Island, I pretty much miss sunrise each morning, choosing instead to snooze right through it unless I have an early morning appointment somewhere.  Thank goodness there are others less lazy than I who bound up, ready to tackle the day and verify for all of us late risers that the sun does indeed come up each morning – signaling the end of night and the start of another day that the Lord has made – just for us.  Between the sunrise and sunset, I’m thankful for every single moment I’m given – to love deeply and to live fully.  As I’ve grown older, the need to cherish each moment God grants me has grown.  The whirlwind of younger days has been replaced with an appreciation of the finer things in life – sun sparkling on water, trees budding in the spring, the kaleidoscope of leaves in the fall, the long stretch and curve of dirt roads in the country, the clip-clop of horses hooves on Mackinac streets, the natural wonders of the woods in the South and in the North, the song of birds.  My comforts now lie mainly in what God has made, not in the man-made, rapidly replaced “stuff” we invent for our pleasures.  Sunsets herald the end of another day, the peace of slumber, and the hope that the daytime hours were well-spent – and at least somewhat pleasing to our Maker.

Number 9:  The Joy of the Double-Nest.  Ted and I both know how blessed we are to enjoy summers in Michigan and winters in Georgia.  When telling strangers about our life-style, we often hear the phrase, “You have the best of both worlds!”  It’s true, and we give thanks every day.  There may come a day when what we do is no longer practical – or possible – but for now it keeps us looking forward to every minute of every day.  When we returned home a few weeks ago and went to our doctor for annual physicals, he said to each of us separately, “I predict the six months you spend on that island will add years to your life.”  All our blood work, our x-rays, our EKG’s – everything was perfect.  No cars equals more exercise.  Note to self in Georgia – drive less, walk more.

Number 8:  Retirement.  What a wonderful time of life!  When I was very young I once said, “We do it all wrong.  We should be free to enjoy life when we’re young – maybe from college to age 35 – then go to work and work till we die.”  Oh, the stupidly of youthful thoughts!  How could I have possibly imagined the joy that would come from having worked and done a job well, while my brain was clear enough to handle it.  As a young person, how could I possibly have known the joy of the “light at the end of the tunnel” that would flicker more brightly with each year – something to look forward to.  Retirement – the joy of free days to do nothing if that is my choice, the joy of volunteering, the joy of grandchildren, the joy of being old and feeling good and NOT having to go to work.  I sure am glad the system works as it does – not as I once thought it should.

Number 7:  Pets.  What would we do without them!   Bear and Maddie and all those before them . . . Bud, Shotzie, Calico, Whiskers, Tyler.  They fill our days with undiluted happiness, even when they are at their most annoying.  They bring us unconditional love while they live and heart-wrenching sorrow when they leave us.  Our lives would not be as joyful without them, and when my final hours on this earth approach, I pray I will spend them surrounded by family – and with a good dog’s head resting under my hand.

Number 6:  Friends.  I believe you can have only one BFF (“best friend forever” – for those not into the modern initials of the texting world) –  mine is Helen McCorvey.  I don’t mention her often, but she knows she’s the sister I never had and always longed for.  She’s there for me always, knows all my secrets . . . and loves me anyway.  We don’t talk or see each other nearly enough these days; but I know – and she knows – that a phone call would bring us running to each other to help with anything.  Helen taught me English when I was a Junior in high school, and one day she praised something I wrote for a special assignment.  That praise planted the seed for what I do today.  Over the years she’s been my teacher, my boss, and my mentor.  Now she’s my best friend forever – and when I finish this sentence, I’m going to get up and call her.

Close friends come and go throughout our lives, and I’m thankful for each and everyone.  The ones who stick through all the ups and downs are the ones I remember and the ones who hold such a special place in my heart.  They’re the ones I call when I need a pep talk or want to brag about my children or grandchildren.  They’re the ones, although I don’t see them for months – or talk to them for weeks – don’t hold it against me, and pick up the next conversation as though we only spoke yesterday.  In the close-knit communities of the lake in Georgia and the little island of Mackinac, it’s those close friends I long to get back to when we are away.  In a perfect world, I’d haul them all back and forth with us each year.  Practicality prevents that, of course, but it sure would make both our “nests” pretty much perfect.

There’s another group that must be mentioned in this friend “thankfulness” list – those of you who have become networked together through these two blogs – one in Georgia and one on Mackinac Island.  You’re such a loyal group – over 1200 strong in Michigan and over 700 strong in Georgia.  I’m thankful for each of you.  A few years ago, none of us knew each other, and most of us will never meet face-to-face or even speak on the phone.  Nevertheless, we are friends.  We care for each other through our mutual love of a place.  I think that’s pretty doggone special!

Number 5:  Family.  Family is everything.  As an only child I always longed for sisters and brothers, and loved spending time with my first cousins (most of my aunts and uncles had large families).  Life being what it is, we’ve all ebbed and flowed into each other’s lives at different times over the years, and it is only since the deaths of the uncles and aunts that we’ve really become close again.  I’m so thankful for that, and I love each of them with a love born from the blood that courses through our veins.  We are kin.  They are my roots.

Cousins are very important in Ted’s family also, and I’m so thankful for Cathy and Charlie, who come to see us each summer.  Another cousin from Ted’s family came into our lives in the last few months.  After almost 30 years, Ted reconnected with a first cousin in Ft. Thomas, KY, and I am so thankful they’ve found each other once again.   Jan was one of the the children he played with at his grandparents cottage in the Les Cheneaux Island in Michigan – during long. lazy summers spent fishing and playing in the woods of the U.P.  I have yet to meet Jan, but we’ve spoken on the phone.  What a blessing to reconnect with family after such a long time apart.  We’re hoping to visit with each other next summer, and what fun it would be to have Cathie and Charlie, and Jan and her family all in Michigan together after all these years.

Number 4:  Parents.  Mine were the best.  Tom Brokak called them “the greatest generation”, and I whole-heartedly agree.  As young marrieds, my mom and dad knew all about pinching pennies, and whatever they had was earned with long hours and lots of toil.  When daddy went off to war, mama went to work – and when the war was over, daddy came home and jumped right back into earning a living for his family.  My childhood was filled with love – but not the kind that spoils.  There were many “things” I thought I would truly die if I didn’t have – but I didn’t get them, and I’m still here.  We went to church together, and they taught me – through demonstration – their work ethic, which I’ve tried to emulate.  They loved me unconditionally, and of all the things I miss about them since they’ve left this earth, it is that unconditional love I miss the most.  I think about them dozens of times a day and talk to them all the time – just like they are here.  I will see them again, and what a joyous day that will be!

Number 3:  Ted.  When Ted and I married, my boys were 16 and 12.  What could he possibly have been thinking – marrying me when part of the “package” included two hormone-pumping teenagers!  But marry me he did, and we’ve never been sorry.  Ted brought a man’s 24-hour-a-day perspective to our home, and my young men thrived on it.  Even to this day, when we’re all together, I’m told of something that happened “back in the day” that Jason and Blake went to Ted with – not to me.  Does that hurt me?  Not one bit.  I thank God every day that we’re together.  Ted loves me, loves my children, laughs with me, cooks every night, volunteers because he wants to give back to the community, and is the most fair, unprejudiced person I’ve ever known.  He’s also the most stubborn man I’ve ever known and sometimes the most annoying.  I love him.  He is my rock.

Number 2:  Children and Grandchildren.  Our friend Chris Ann from Michigan calls her daughters- and sons-in-law “bonus children”.  I’d never heard that term before, but Ted and I immediately claimed it – for in-laws AND each other’s children.  Julie, Ted’s daughter, is my bonus daughter, and my children are Ted’s bonus sons.  Sounds so much better than step-children, doesn’t it!

Jason and Blake are my heart, and God must have thought I was pretty special to bless me with these two.  Are they perfect?  Oh, please!  They caused every single gray hair I have to spend hundreds of dollars a year covering up.  But, as my parents loved me, so I love them.

Jason’s unflinching love of everything life has to offer partially rubbed off on me in my later years.  It was Jason who first pulled me onto a plane when I was well into my 40’s.  He couldn’t believe I’d never flown, and practically man-handled me into a tiny sea-plane in Panama City one summer.  The flight was almost half-over before I ever opened my eyes, but from that day on, I’ve loved to fly.  He can make me laugh even in the worst of a bad mood.  One of the happiest days of my life was when he married beautiful Blair.  She compliments him perfectly, as he does her.  They are a great team, and I thank God they found each other.  Jason is my favorite oldest son, and I am so proud of him.

Blake is the strong, silent type – until you get to know him.  Then he’s strong, and not-so-silent.  He is serious about his faith in God, has an abiding patience with life I wish I had, and can bring calm to most any storm.  He seems to care not a whit for creature comforts, preferring to live with a few necessities and go with the flow.  His years serving in China taught him a deep appreciation for other cultures, but he loves the United States and is so enjoying being back here.  Whether he will ever know earthly wealth is something only God knows, but even now he is one of the richest people I know.  Blake is my favorite youngest son, and I am so proud of him.

Julie – my bonus daughter.  If I had carried a daughter within me for nine months, I could not have asked for one more beautiful or sweet or loving than Julie.  She is a constant amazement to me.  I’ve watched and listened over the years as she and and bonus-son Matt have raised our precious grandchildren, Jordan and Matthew, and often wondered, “Where did she learn all this stuff?”  I think she could write a best-selling book on mothering, and I’d be glad to be her agent. Together, Julie and Matt also make a great team.

Number 1:  God.  When I was nine I joined the First Baptist Church of Sylvester.  I was caught up in the annual revival meeting, and it seemed to be the “right thing to do” at that time in my childhood.  I was baptized the next Sunday, and my parents were so happy.  Did I have a clue what I was really doing?  No.  Oh, I called myself a Christian from that time on, but as years went by, I took all of it for granted.  Church was someplace I was expected to be on Sunday mornings, but when I left my parents’ home for marriage, other things became more important.  Children brought me back into the church because I knew they should be there.  Divorce took me away again.

Many years later, on a lonely road between our lake house and my job in Albany, early one morning in March as the sun was rising over a cotton field, I pulled over to the side of the road.  Blake had gone to China for the first time months before, and I could not stop worrying about him.  My every thought seemed to be for his safety, and it was affecting my whole life – my relationship with Ted, with friends, with my mother, with my job – everything.  One of the things I promised myself I would do when Blake left was to read the Bible straight through, and I started that process on January 1.  The more I read each morning, the more I realized my relationship with the Lord was not as it should be.  I knew I hadn’t made Him first in my life in years, and I knew I was miserable.  That morning, sobbing on the side of the road, I asked forgiveness for the sins of my life – naming them, at least all the big ones, and putting all the others under “and everything else I’ve ever done that I shouldn’t have” phrase.  I asked Jesus to come into my life that morning for the very first time – at least fully knowing what I was asking.  My next prayer was for Blake’s safety in China, and even before I could say “Amen”, a peace unlike anything I’d ever known filled me.

Do I still struggle with sin?  Oh yes.  But I know for sure now that when Christ died on that cross, he was dying for me – so my sins would be forgiven.  I know one day I will meet Him in Heaven, along with all the loved ones that have gone before. God is my anchor, and with Him, all things are possible.

God bless.



  1. Loved reading your #1! As I’ve read your blog and your references to prayer and church, I’ve been curious about your story. Those are precious words you wrote. Thanks for sharing them here.

  2. Beautiful. Loved everything, Brenda, especially number 1, where God should be.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and to all the readers.

  3. My my – what a way to start my day. I’m sure many will agree with me when I say that we, your long distance unseen friends, who are privileged to share a piece of your life and your heart, are thankful to be so lucky. You’ve given us all pause to sit back and reflect on all that we are and should be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving to you, your human family and, of course, your fur babies.

  4. Well I can see that this is one article I will have to print out and keep, to reread over, again and again. You are a very special person Brenda and I am so happy to know you and Ted.

    Happy Thanksgiving to the Horton family and to all the friends that read your blogs. Many blessings to you!

  5. Very nice-once again you go right to my heart! I’m having dinner Thursday with my sister for the first time in 30 years so the bit in #5 about Ted reconnecting with his cousin hits close to home for me.
    Hope you and all of your family have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Annie – wonderful news that you and your sister will have Thanksgiving dinner together. What a great day that’s going to be!

  6. Wow, that brought tears to my eyes. I am a loyal Mackinac blog reader, and sometimes reader of this blog. That was a great way to start my day.
    You truly have a lot to be thankful for, as we all do. For me, sometimes Thanksgiving is hard, as my wife and mother haven’t spoken for over 7 years. I spend the Holidays with my wife and 2 kids and her side of the family every year, and rarely get so see my parents on the actual Holiday (and they live only 1/2 mile away. It is hard, but I know it could also be worse. I am 45 now, and know that our parents may not be here that many more years. But I just try to enjoy every moment as much as I can as my kids grow up.

    Have a great Thanksgiving!

    • Dave, Praying that the gap between your wife and your mom is narrowed and one day disappears entirely. Life is so short.

  7. Amen. Have a wonderful holiday with family and friends.

    Dave came home Sat. He has been feeling good until the wee hours of this morning. He’ll get a shot of something today. Hopefully he’ll feel better by Thursday,. He is looking forward to seeing the family then. It looks like our weather will be wonderful that day.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all.

    • Prayers going up for a great day with your family, Judy. Also praying that Dave is feeling better and the shot has helped him.

    • Judy, I am glad to hear that Dave is home. Even though we haven’t met, I will pray for the both of you on this tough journey.

  8. Brenda you have such a way with words. I love reading your blogs and today you made me cry it was so beautiful. I hope you have great joy over Thanksgiving I too will have a house full Heather is coming home from collage and my family is coming down to share the meal with us. We are truly blessed that is for sure. May God bless all of us this holiday. Safe travels to all.
    Your friend, Denise and Scooter!

    • All our love to you, Mike, Scooter and the whole family. We will be thinking of all our Michigan friends this Thanksgiving as we gather around the table in Georgia. Have a wonderful holiday!

  9. Thank you for helping remind us that even during these crazy weeks to come, that we should try to remember the great people in our lives and also to thank God for blessing us. Take care!

  10. thank YOU, Brenda, for giving us such a great gift to “open” today…and thank you for sharing your journey to God in an open, honest way. I think many of us have struggled with so many “things” getting in the way of our relationship to our creator God; but thankfully He is always there, waiting for us to “walk with Him”. many of your other “top ten” made me smile, in agreement. it seems the LITTLE things in life are the ones that mean the most in the big scheme of life….not the material things we may have. God bless you this Thanksgiving “real good”:) OH! and thought I’d mention a book I’ve just started but am finding eye-opening: Ann Voskamp’s “one thousand gifts”….might be something you’d enjoy.

  11. Enjoyed your posting. Makes one think of their own blessings and brings up things I had’nt thought of in a long time. Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

  12. Your words can make me misty, but such a warm, fuzzy misty. Thank you for sharing your heart. I believe that kind of sharing is what makes the connection from your home to all of ours so potent. That’s why so many of us enjoy your blogs so much. This time of the year makes us all, hopefully, more aware and thankful for all the blessings we have. Looking back on the last year of my life, I know it is only by the grace of God I survived it. Your blog has been a constant companion and in all my thankfulness, I’m also thankful for you. Happy Thanksgiving!

  13. Okay, now you made cry. Thank you so much for your openness and your truthfulness.
    Some people go to the Congo and some go to Mackinac Island. You are able to speak about the love of the Lord and your life with such frankness that I believe that the places you live and your blogs are your mission field. 🙂
    I had a teacher my junior year like your Helen McCorvey. Her name was Miss Miller. Her encouragement that confusing year is the reason I write. I wish I could find her after so many years.
    Thanks again for your tender words. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  14. Beautiful!

  15. If more people read and subscribed to your “Top 10” list, we would have a lot better world.
    Having No. 1 will always make the other 9 better.

  16. Brenda,

    A truly beautiful blog. If I had your talent with words, I could properly thank you, but I think this will be better:

    Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.
    Serve the LORD with gladness;
    Come before Him with joyful singing.
    Know that the LORD Himself is God;
    It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
    We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

    Enter His Gates with thanksgiving,
    And His courts with praise.
    Give thanks to Him; bless His name.
    For the LORD is good;
    His lovingkindness is everlasting.
    And His faithfulness to all generations.

    (Psalm 100 NASB)

    How could we not be thankful?

  17. Brenda, you brought tears to my eyes. You touched on everything we should all hold dear in our lives. You were spot on when you wrote, “My comforts now lie mainly in what God has made, not in the man-made, rapidly replaced “stuff” we invent for our pleasures. That is a message we should keep close, especially in this holiday season. My dear cousin, who is the sister I never had, and I have plans to attend the Mackinac Island Christmas Bazaar again this year. Hopefully, there will be some snow on the island yet not enough to make driving hazardous! I’ll send you some pictures.

  18. WOW…couldn’t have said it any better. Thank you for sharing your Top Ten. Maybe we should all have a list like this to keep reminding us how much we have to be thankful for all year long. I could put it alongside my list of “Books to Read”!

    Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

  19. I love all your numbers! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!!

  20. Brenda, I am so happy for you and your family! I knew Ted about 3 years(?) at GSW and he was a younger version of the man he is today! I’m sure he’s the answer to pray as is my Jerry. He had full custody of his 7 year old, David, when we married 38+ years ago. David has always been a joy and is now a wonderful husband and father. God has certainly blessed both our families abundantly! Your blog brings much happiness to many….and helps me realize how fortunate we are.

  21. This….rocked!

  22. Words can not express my thoughts after reading this. Thank you!

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