November is a special month to me in many ways. I have always loved November.
Obviously November is “Thanksgiving month”, and I do have much to be thankful for – every month, but certainly in November.
First there are the wonderful memories of growing up as part of a family who loved to get together at Thanksgiving time. In our family, as I was growing up, we would generally drive to Mamaw and Papaw Stidham’s house in Logan, WV to celebrate the holiday with our Stidham cousins who lived close by, and some years with our Wilson cousins, who were able to come in from Texas. It was always a joyous time, with a great Turkey and Ham feast, lots of fun for the kids to play together, and lots of laughter for the adults.
As my grandparents passed from the scene, and Linda and I were raising a family of our own, the holiday destination became “Hatfield and McCoy” territory along the WV/KY border at the home of her parents in Buskirk, KY. Their large family would gather in, with some traveling hundreds of miles to be together at Thanksgiving. Great food, fun and fellowship was the order of the day. Then, we would then usually celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday a day later with my Mom and Dad in Huntington.
Last Thanksgiving, Mom and Dad had dinner with us at our house in Ashland. This year they are both with the Lord.
Those days are long gone now, but I cherish the memories more than I ever thought I might.
November also is the month when we celebrate the birthday of our 3rd Grandson, Canon, who was born in New Orleans in 2004.
Concurrent with his birth, it was also the very same week that I was diagnosed as having “Stage 4, Incurable Colon Cancer”. My life changed drastically on that Monday after Thanksgiving, 2004. We were told that the “average survival time” for my type of cancer and the stage it was in was 18 – 22 months. Statistics showed that only 15 percent of patients in my category survive for five years.
This month I will celebrate my 10th year of survival. Praise God for the miraculous healing He has granted me!
November is also the month when I was called in 2002 to serve the congregation of Westmoreland Baptist Church as Pastor. Now, after twelve years, a cancer diagnosis, partial amputations, more than 1800 sermons, 21 weddings, 108 baptisms, countless hospital, nursing home, and other visits, and 140 funerals, I am still blessed to be the longest serving pastor in the ninety nine year history of this church. The twelve years I have served this congregation have been the most precious of my 64 years on the planet,.
I am obviously thankful for my wonderful wife, children and grandchildren. For my home, for my health, for my many friends, for opportunity to serve the state convention as president for two terms, for the opportunity to serve on the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Board of Trustees for eight years, for the 13 short term mission trips I have been able to make to the Philippines, as well as Disaster Relief trips and mission work in Canada. I am thankful that I have had opportunity to serve the Lord in several churches in Kentucky and West Virginia, and to continue to serve what I believe to be the greatest church with the most precious people anywhere. I am thankful for the fine staff members whom I have served along side of for these past twelve years.
I am thankful for a life of blessing as well as the challenges that came with them.
But I am most thankful for the personal relationship I have with the Sovereign God of the Universe, through His Son, Jesus Christ. He has forgiven my sins… given me an abundant life of joy and peace here… and reserved a home in Glory, for me, FOREVER.
Yep. I’m ready to celebrate Thanksgiving – on the specific holiday later this month – and the other 364 days of the year as well!
How about you?