Thoughts on life from Pat Oaks
“A pessimist gets nothing but pleasant surprises, an optimist nothing but unpleasant.”
-Rex Stout, Fer-de-Lance
“But, instead of what our imagination makes us suppose and which we worthless try to discover, life gives us something that we could hardly imagine.”
Ahhh…Thanksgiving! The wonderful aroma of sauces, spices, and sundries sautéing, simmering, sizzling, soaking, steaming…all stupefying the senses and stimulating a special sort of…ok, enough with the “S’s”. It’s simply a satisfactory holiday!
Then, there’s family! A fabulous festival of friendly folk fortunate to…I’ll quit.
Honestly, I haven’t been a big fan of the holiday for years and years. In fact, this may have been the first year that I can remember that I actually spent a moment being thankful. I have always held these contrarian viewpoints that want to brush people the wrong way or stir up some type of strife. It is in my nature and needs constant taming. I love to point out the brutality of white-conquest, or over-indulgence, or the coming parade of capitalism that will be jockeying for position against the birth of Christ…again, it’s in my nature. And, good grief, is it obnoxious. But that doesn’t mean I’m not thankful.
This year was a rare situation for me. I really haven’t had Thanksgiving with my mother, father, or brother for about 25 years. My daughter and I had a full-day of it with them about 3 years ago. Other than that, it’s only been an evening dessert drop-in at best. That’s another blog post though. I didn’t think I would be there this year, but with how everything ended up working out in the last minute, I drove over.
There wasn’t any grand entrance or red carpet, it was just family. Mom scooted some chairs aside and set a plate for me. I filled my self up with all of those delicious “S’s” and was completely satisfied. After the meal, the “F’s” started in. It was family time. If you know my dad at all, you will be quite surprised to find out that he had a prepared agenda for the family (insert laugh track here). He passed out a number of readings for those in attendance and we all learned a bit about Thanksgiving’s history. I, of course, had to make some off-handed comment about the Native Americans…but it blew over (sigh).
After the readings, dad wanted all of us to recount a memorable Thanksgiving. After hearing mine, he and mom asked if I would share it as a guest blog here on “Prisha Patter”.
Thanksgiving 2010, I was living in Pasadena, California with my (then) wife, son, and daughter. In my mind, it was amazing on it’s own because I’d wanted to live in the Los Angeles area since I was 13 and was finally there. That said, being there meant being broke. I was a full-time student at Art Center College of Design and had a part-time job at the public library that paid about $150 a week. $150 a week for a single person in Los Angeles is laughable - for a family of four…
My parents were constantly asking if we needed anything, but I was always needing something out there. They had asked again just before Thanksgiving. Because of my pride, I said “No. We are all set!” We weren’t set.
I did get paid from the library the Tuesday before. I had to take care of many other things like fuel for the car and who knows what else. It left me with very little money for Thanksgiving food. We lived in walking distance from a Ralph’s, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods. I went to each market looking for the best prices on the things on our "eat’s" list - sweet potatoes, corn, pumpkin pie, and whatever else had been requested. One of those items on the list was turkey. The turkey was the problem. It was too expensive. I would have to either get turkey and one item, or all of the “fixings” without the turkey.
I’d finally gathered most of the "fixings" and ended up at Whole Foods. Yeah, I know, Whole Foods doesn’t seem like the right place to go for a turkey deal, but that’s where I’d ended up. I had gathered a few items there and had made my way to the turkey station. I finally found a really small turkey, but I would have had to sacrifice a couple of the other items in my cart. After picking the turkey up and putting it back down again a couple of times - trying to make a decision, an attendant behind the counter walked up to me and whispered, “Hey! We are open until noon tomorrow (Thanksgiving Day), and all of the turkeys are gonna be 70% off!” Needless to say, I was thrilled!
I took all of the items home and was, of course, questioned about the turkey. I didn’t elaborate because it would have caused problems (again, that’s another blog), but just said that I was picking the turkey up tomorrow.
That Thanksgiving was amazing. We had all the food we loved from home and a gigantic turkey that we feasted on for a week. We spent the rest of the day walking around Pasadena and ending up just off Colorado Boulevard watching the lighting of the Christmas Tree.
The quotes at the beginning are relevant to me. I am quite a pessimist - always. But, I have to question why things like this are a surprise to me. I have always had my loving Heavenly Father looking out for me and “surprising” me with things like this. I know He comes through, yet I always harbor doubt. My folks should’ve given me the middle name of “Thomas” instead of my brother. But, indeed, what a pleasant surprise.
The second quote is a very secular quote but, I am absolutely worthless without my Creator. I also do imagine the worst. Instead of “looking at the birds of the air” and knowing that they “do not sow or reap” yet my “Heavenly Father feeds them.”, I frantically run from store to store in a nervous fit trying to figure out how to pay for everything. There was nothing wrong with me running from store to store for a deal, but there was everything wrong with me “nail-biting” over it all. God always gives me “something we could hardly imagine”.
Years ago when Tommy and the boys were students at UT, we lived in a big old rambling rental on Maple Dr. in Fountain City. One day the sewage backed up in our house. I called our landlord and he said to call the city. I called the city and they said to call my landlord! You know how it goes.
Finally, in desperation I called my landlord and told him to work it out with the city. The city came...not too happily I might add. One of the men said that he had had to call his men from supper. I apologized profusely. While they were digging up my yard, I stood on the porch to watch. It was quite amazing! The man who was driving the back hoe, had one arm! You would never have known it by the way he manipulated that back hoe.
(By the way...it turned out that it was the city's fault not my landlord's. The man I apologized to, apologized to me!)
Second story. Tommy and John boy went to the gym next door this morning to pick up our equipment we had left over there after Bible study last night. We have a group of neighborhood men who come into the gym twice a week at 5:30 in the morning to play basketball before they go to work. When the guys went in this morning, one of the players was sitting on a chair drying off with a towel. His "leg" was lying beside him.
What's your excuse?
This has been a long, involved, sometimes grueling, weekend. It actually started on Wednesday when we went to the camp early for our prayer day on Saturday. We put a prayer day each month on the calendar for this next year. We meet at the camp and pray all day on Saturday.
We went up early to work at our barn in Elizabethton, and to get John boy's piano ready to move to Knoxville. We worked there on Thursday and Friday, were at the camp Saturday and Sunday, then moved the piano on Monday.
It may not sound like a big deal moving a piano...but if you have never moved one...it is. We used to always hire it moved, but the last few times have done it ourselves, with the help of friends. They gave us two piano dollies at the warehouse, and with the help of Tony and Tyler we loaded it onto a U-Haul and brought it to Knoxville. We had the help of Jason, Ross, Jay and another Tommy, getting it off and into the house.
The reason I write this is because we did not just physically move that piano. The Lord actually did it. We prayed long and hard before we moved it, and He delivered in a mighty way. I wonder why we don't always pray before we do anything?
The other grueling part of the weekend was a hike at Bays Mountain. In many places it was straight up, but the problem was the trail which was covered in roots and rocks. I honestly did not think I was going to make it, but again...with much prayer...Tommy and I both made it. We were slow, but we did it. We hurt afterwards, but we did it.
I say WE, but actually, the Lord did it. Had I not prayed we would have probably turned back.
When I look back on the weekend and realize just how packed almost every hour of the day was, but how calm and peaceful I felt when I went to bed at night, I wonder why I ever chafe when my days are busy. What is the alternative? Sitting at home crocheting like my grandmother did the last years of her life?
An old hymn we used to sing has a line in it that says "Work for the night is coming...when man's work is done." So many people my age (and younger) are constantly complaining about all their ailments. I have a solution to all our aches and pains. PRAY. Then...WORK. And, don't work without praying.
Many years ago, when Tommy and both boys were in college at UT, we lived in a neighborhood that had a large housing project across the street. Everyday we had kids cutting through our yard or sitting on the bridge over the creek that ran by our house, smoking cigarettes and also smoking other things! After a couple of months of watching them we decided to have them come over for a night of food and games, so we put a sign on our fence.....FREE HOT DOGS THURSDAY NIGHT. We had about 50 kids show up in our back yard.
We had them over every week after that. One week we had hot dogs and the next pizza. Then a rough game of battle ball would begin. When it started getting dark we sat around and talked. After awhile we decided to start a Bible study on Tuesday for anyone who wanted to come. About half did! This ministry went on for 3 years until we moved to NYC.
Last night we had a reunion of as many of those people as we could get in touch with. This was in the early 90's so it was hard to find them all, but we managed to get hold of a few. What a wonderful night! SO many memories. Some who came had been baptized during those years.
One friend, Jeff, brought his son, Noah, who is 15. Many of the kids who came all those years ago were his age. Each of us shared what has been going on with us since then. I directed my words to Noah. Here is what I told him.
YESTERDAY, I WAS 15. (everyone laughed when I said it). I repeated...NO! I AM SERIOUS! YESTERDAY I WAS 15. TODAY I AM 81. WHEN I WAS 15 MY OLDER SISTER GOT MARRIED. I WAS IN THE WEDDING. THE THING I REMEMBER THE MOST IS THE UGLY PERMANENT MY MOTHER AND SISTER GAVE ME BEFORE THE WEDDING. I HAD THESE UGLY TIGHT LITTLE CURLS ALL OVER MY HEAD.
THOSE ARE THE THINGS THAT MATTERED TO ME YESTERDAY WHEN I WAS 15. TODAY, AT 81, I WISH I HAD KNOWN YESTERDAY, AT 15, WHAT WAS TRULY IMPORTANT. MY THOUGHTS AND ACTIONS AT 15 WERE PURELY SELFISH. I ONLY THOUGHT ABOUT MYSELF. I WISH THAT YESTERDAY, AT 15, I HAD REALIZED THAT THE ONLY THING THAT TRULY MATTERS IN THIS LIFE ARE KINGDOM THINGS. SO, NOAH, I HOPE THAT WHEN YOU TURN 81 TOMORROW, YOU WILL LOOK BACK AT YESTERDAY WHEN YOU WERE 15 AND REMEMBER THAT YOU DID THINGS THAT COUNTED FOR THE KINGDOM.
I hope and pray that Noah listened to everyone last night who said much the same thing, only in different ways. i am on a mission to tell young people especially, that tomorrow they will be 81. Live today so you will have no regrets.
Tommy is doing a podcast on Monday night on the book of Mark. Last night he talked about when little children were coming to Jesus and the disciples tried to send them away. The scripture tells us that Jesus was indignant.
We were at a Senior high week of church camp in Unicoi, Tennessee. Jason was around a year old. He always wanted either Tommy or me to hold him, and no one else. John boy would go to anyone. Not Jason Amos!
On this particular day, Tommy had asked a friend of ours, David Wheeler, to play the role of Jesus. David looked the part! It was a Sunday morning, and Tommy had all the campers stand on the stage like a choir and sing. At the proper signal, David was supposed to come strolling through the woods in his "Jesus outfit." Then, he was to come into the tabernacle where all of us were and sit in the audience and applaud our songs, which he did.
As always, I was holding Jason. I was also standing in the choir. When Jason saw David coming through the woods, he started kicking his little legs and flailing his arms about. Then over and over he kept saying, "Jesus, Jesus" and trying to squirm out of my arms and go to him!
I of course restrained him and kept telling him to be still and keep quiet!
I have looked back at that incident over and over through the years, and wondered why I didn't just walk down and hand him to "Jesus!"
I believe that Jesus felt indignant toward me that day.