Thanksgiving 2016 is already shaping up as one of my most memorable — for various reasons. Our household is experiencing change and with it stress as retirement and, in our case, relocation are upon us.
My wife retired as an educator in late spring and I will do the same as a Baptist journalist within a few weeks.
All of this is naturally prompting thoughts about this next stage of our lives and the impact of the decisions we are making and the changes we are experiencing.
People go through these life changes all the time, some very smoothly and a few almost traumatically.
Our transition means that by physically relocating from mid-Missouri to southern Illinois to live closer to family, we are leaving behind a house that has been home for 18 years and a community that has been our residence for more than 20. We’re moving away from very fine neighbors and a city that we have grown to appreciate.
We leave behind valued work colleagues both past and current, she in the fields of education and counseling and I among Baptists in Missouri and beyond.
We’ll be seeking a different church home than the one that has nurtured and matured us in the faith and has afforded us opportunities for Christian service over two decades. Local churches are all different and distinctive. We’ll need to find our niche, a place to receive fellowship and spiritual nourishment and to discover opportunities for service in our new locale.
We’re starting fresh in what for us will be a new community. Nearly two months ago, we secured a retirement residence. We have been inquiring about recommendations for physicians and other people we will depend upon.
Our plunge into retirement and our relocation are not experiences we dread; on the contrary, we are looking forward to this stage of life. We will be in closer proximity to siblings that have aged at about the same rate as we during the 39 years since we left this part of Illinois.
We will live closer to our grandchildren and their parents, and we will be in a better position to take in their athletic events, concerts, recitals and various other pursuits. It will be a benefit to us to live nearer to both our sons as time marches forward for all of us.
Thanksgiving for me has become more significant this year because I have reflected intentionally for the past several months on my life up till now. At this juncture, it seems impossible not to look back and ponder undeserved blessings. And to be grateful.
The first “people” who influenced me deeply spiritually were Mom and Dad. Mother is increasingly frail and shaky, in large part a result of nearly 20 years with Parkinson’s Disease. Dad died quickly from his first heart attack 28 years ago. At 61, he had not yet reached retirement age.
From early on, they demonstrated faith and faithfulness. The morning after Dad’s emotional conversion, he went to work and discarded his tobacco products in front of his work colleagues as a way to illustrate his newly changed life. The next Sunday, he and Mother became immediate and lifelong tithers and led their children to do the same.
Their four children were expected to model love for each other and for others in the style of Christ. I was reminded over dinner out recently when the siblings were all together at once that I had missed such opportunities on a regular basis. What a wonderful evening with people who love each other.
After all, what we have most to be grateful for are the relationships we have. It starts with our relationship with Christ, of course, but includes family and all the people Christ has brought our way through the years.
My regret has been that I have not been more active in routinely showing my appreciation — thanksgiving — for them. Now is a good time for me and perhaps for you to catch up before it is too late.
Bill Webb is editor of Word & Way.