Jamie Langston Turner


Thanksgiving in May

May 20, 2015

More than six months have passed since my previous newsletter last fall. I just reread that letter and was struck by how long ago October now seems and how that journey, which was so difficult at the time, has faded as greater challenges have replaced the old ones.

Last night while lying awake in bed, I suddenly remembered reading what seemed like a forgettably glib and platitudinous blog post someone I don’t even know wrote many months ago. It was about the importance of giving daily thanks for your blessings rather than focusing on your trials. It talked about the need to write them down, not just hurriedly run through them in your head. And then the blogger shared her own list to illustrate and inspire. I remember skimming them quickly, things like “I saw yellow crocuses today smiling up at me from a snowy bank” and “My ten-year-old son gave me an unsolicited hug” and “I can still wear my old cheerleading skirt—the one that comes to the bottom of my knee.” As I read them, I fired back responses: “Flowers in snow—oh, yes, such an original image” and “Okay, so now we all know what a good mother you must be” and “So you still have your youthful waistline and you were popular in school—what subtle bragging.” Clearly, I was not following the Biblical injunction of rejoicing with those who rejoice.

But last night for some reason, as my weary, worried thoughts traveled around and around, I thought of that blog post and heard a kinder voice in my head: Why don’t you think of your blessings right now? So that’s what I started doing. There were more of them than I expected, and at some point I fell asleep.

So rather than filling this newsletter with our current burden, which will certainly be followed by others in the days to come, I’m going to list some recent blessings, big and little. I’ll admit, it’s selfish—it’s for me more than you. I need to write a newsletter and I need to remind myself of God’s goodness.

So here they are in random order since I don’t have the mental energy to make decisions about relative importance right now. I know I’ll forget to include some big blessings, but today, May 20, I’m thankful for these things.

These come to mind as I look out into the back yard from where I sit in the den: Spring finally came, and our irises were particularly stunning this year—deep purple, white, yellow, lavender, peach, burgundy. The last one drooped its head several days ago, but they will bloom again next April. They always do. The hummingbirds have returned to our feeder, and I love watching them come and go. My husband recently got the storage barn he has wanted for many years. He has painted it red with white trim, and it looks good. It will keep him busy (building shelves, laying floor, arranging tools, running electricity) for a long time, AND, very exciting for me, it will free up space in the garage so we can park our car there.

I taught a class in Novel Writing this past semester and had five talented students. I hadn’t taught the course for several years and wasn’t sure I wanted to again, but I’m glad I did. In some indescribable way it expanded my world. While on the subject of students, I have an extensive gallery of them in my mind. So many faces and names stretching back to the fall of 1971, including fifth graders and graduate students, their current ages ranging from around 20 to 54. Many have kept in contact and are not just former students but also close friends.

Over the past few months I reread two of my favorite books—Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River and Marilynne Robinson’s Home. In fact, I required my Novel Writing students to read them, too. For the most part their responses were intelligent and articulate, though they all need to read Home again when they’re older and wiser. Speaking of books, last week I went to the library and brought home a stack for summer reading. Books are a big blessing. They take you to new places and bring you back home a different person.

My mother is doing very well “considering her age and station in life,” as her doctor says. She has adjusted to the limitations resulting from her car accident last summer and is back in her own home, which is where she most wants to be. She is sweet, generous, and witty. She prays for our whole family faithfully. My husband continues to feel good after his heart attack last summer. Our son just completed his doctoral degree in music composition from Indiana University. We were able to attend his recital in March. Our daughter-in-law planned a beautiful reception, and we had another opportunity to see our precious grandchildren. They are all healthy and we trust them to God’s tender care. We have other family members who bear our burdens and give their time and love unstintingly. I have wonderful memories of my father and four grandparents, whose conduct and testimony set a straight course for me daily.

I have friends who should give lessons in friendship. They love, pray, give, encourage, sharpen, understand, forgive, challenge, remind, comfort, and delight. They’re always ready with listening ears and uplifting words.

I hear from readers who warm my heart with their letters and emails, confirming that I should keep writing. One reader traveled from Michigan recently and showed up in my office on campus to thank me for my books and present me with a lovely inscribed silver pen.

God has blessed me with good health. My husband bought me a bicycle not long ago, and I’ve spent happy hours wheeling around the neighborhood on it. Not a rugged mountain bike or sleek racer—mine is pink and has a basket.

I love my husband of almost-44 years, and he loves me. Marriage is one of life’s most complex adventures, a journey that takes you through valleys and across mountains. There are days you wish you could rewind for a do-over, either to relive their beauty and joy or else to correct your failures. But on you go, continuing to love and learn. I’m grateful for a husband who is tender-hearted, willing to listen, strong of conviction, industrious, artistic, good-natured, and generous.

I have a God who forgives, over and over and over. And, unlike my flawed human forgiveness, his is perfect and divine, the kind that chooses to forget my wrongdoings, never again holding them against me, wiping the record clean, counting me righteous because of Christ’s sacrifice.

And on that pinnacle of praise, I think I’ll stop. Later I’ll think of other things I wish I had included, but for now my heart is full and running over. How can I not trust in a God who has given me so very much?

Happy almost-summer to all of you. May your faith be strong.


Selected Works

"As Turner weaves her tale with a wealth of vivid detail, she avoids both sentimentality and patness."
--Deb Richardson-Moore
The Greenville (SC) News, Dec. 31, 1995
"In a lifetime of reading, a handful of books stand out—this is one of them."
–Michelle Rapkin, Editor, Doubleday/Crossings Book Club
"This thoughtful, warmly humorous novel takes a fresh look at the age-old search for peace and joy in a troubled, temporal world."
--CBA Marketplace
September 1999
That February afternoon was equal parts joy and heartache, but it began a journey Elizabeth Landis would never forget.
"Besides the fact that he was a married man, it was clear as soon as he spoke that his mission was anything but romantic. 'Do you have a toilet plunger?' he asked."
“Genuine humor and well-crafted characters make this a memorable and inspiring novel.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"I love putting little pieces together to make something beautiful. In a sense I saw the structure of this book as a mosaic." --From an interview with the author
"You can't rush through Jamie's books any more than you can rush through life itself."
--Sheila Petre
Mercersburg (PA) Journal, July 9, 2014

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