Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 39 Share on Twitter 1 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
Exclusive to OpEdNews:
Life Arts    H1'ed 12/24/15

The Widow Thibodeaux's Miracle: A True Christmas Story

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   13 comments, 3 series
Become a Premium Member Would you like to know how many people have read this article? Or how reputable the author is? Simply sign up for a Advocate premium membership and you'll automatically see this data on every article. Plus a lot more, too.
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Meryl Ann Butler
Become a Fan
  (84 fans)

(Article originally published here on December 24, 2013)

(Image by Collage by Meryl Ann Butler)   Details   DMCA

I don't think anyone knew how old the widow Thibodeaux was. Maybe no one ever asked, and I'm not sure she would have remembered. But both the length of her dark grey braids, and the depth of the wrinkles that almost swallowed her eyes, commanded wordless respect.

She was Choctaw. I guess she must have married a Cajun fellow once upon a time, but whoever he was, he had been gone so long that we didn't know anything about him. It was hard to imagine her as a young, beautiful bride with big dreams for her life and visions of a future filled with children. But once in a while you could almost see a remnant of that dream in her quiet gaze.

When the widow Thibodeaux climbed the three uneven steps up to the tiny church on Wednesday nights, with one hand on a railing that was almost as weathered as she was, and the other on her old cane, you couldn't help but hold your breath til she got up safely. No one ever helped her - not because we didn't care, but because we did. We honored her determination to climb those steps on her own.

Back in those days, folks used to say that there was a church for every dozen people in Beauregard Parish. Louisiana was like a simmering pot of religion jambalaya, and this little charismatic, loosely Pentecostal church was just one of the many flavors.

Sister Thibodeaux was an active member of the congregation. Her trembling voice would suddenly get rich and deep when she described a vision of the divine, or offered words of testament or prayer. The services were often a couple hours long, filled with music and eager participation by members who seemed to get happier, the longer the service lasted. There was no printed program, like there was in the Methodist church I grew up in, above the Mason-Dixon line. No, these folks would never have understood how anyone could print a schedule ahead of time - how could you anticipate what God might decide to do? With them, it was all improv of the spirit. When a parishioner felt that she had received a divine message, she would stand up and deliver it, sort of like the Quakers did. But unlike the Quaker meetings, in this church there was also lots of joyful jumping, dancing, shouting and rousing music.
I was still exploring religions back in those days, and I loved the heart-centered, off-the-cuff creativity of these rolicking services. I loved the idea that the ministers were not on a payroll, they were there because they felt "called." Not that the little congregation of a couple dozen poor folks could have supported a paid minister, anyway.

You knew folks were there because of the passion in their hearts and souls. I never got that feeling in the Methodist church. As a kid, it had never even occurred to me that religion had anything to do with emotions. Church was about following a script, standing, sitting, or reciting, as the script directed. On a good day, the minister offered a few jokes in his sermon and you didn't leave feeling guilty. But if he went over his allotted time even slightly, church would let out a minute or two late and he'd get rebuked on the receiving line. The members made it sound like a joke, but even a kid could tell that underneath they were dead serious. His congregation was intent on getting to their Sunday dinner on time, by God! And you couldn't blame them for wanting to leave, those pews were mighty uncomfortable.

I always thought the Methodists were aptly named, since they were all about the method. Stay on schedule. Put your money in the plate. Stand up and sit down when instructed. Recite the doxology. Don't get me wrong, there were lots of intriguing concepts for a young baby boomer's mind to ruminate over while sitting quietly under the stained glass windows. And I did plenty o' ruminatin' since my family never missed a Sunday. I wondered about where Jesus went during those unrecorded years. You sure could live a whole lifetime in those missing years, maybe he did. And I wondered what he and the disciples meant when they were discussing what a baby born blind might have done before birth. And how John the Baptist had lived before as Elijah. And I wondered why Mary Magdalene didn't get more kudos for being the first one to recognize Jesus after he rose, and why Peter was so jealous of her. There was lots of puzzling stuff to think about that no one really explained, even if you asked.

Still, Methodists have traditionally been noted for some good qualities such as intelligence, tolerance and charity. And great music. I still love to hear a lot of those old hymns, though even as a 9-year-old I knew that "Onward, Christian Solders Marching as to War" was all wrong. But one quality that the Methodists, at least the ones up north, have never been known for, is gushing emotion.

And while the heart and soul of the little charismatic church in the Louisiana countryside was a delight, and the music could lift your spirit into bliss and joy, the members did tend to be a little slim on the intellectual aspects. Once I heard a minister there say that he had only read one book in his life, and that was the Bible. And he said he only read the King James Version of the Bible, because that was the one that Jay-zus used. I wondered if he thought Jay-zus used the red letter version because - like the Methodists - he needed a script. But I didn't ask. I wanted to respect that minister's good heart and passion, and his struggle to find joy and meaning in life even though he'd been hindered by poor educational options. Some folks have heart, some have smarts, some have luck, but very few have all the horses going in the same direction at once. I figured he was doing the very best he could, just like most of us.

And back then I was still trying out samples from a smorgasbord of spirituality, choosing the tidbits for my plate that looked tasty, and I was perfectly content to leave the rest for people who preferred other flavors.

In Louisiana during the 1970s, plenty of folks like the widow Thibodeaux lived on less than $100 per month. That didn't pay for luxuries, but it pretty much paid for housing, utilities, food, and enough gas to get to church and back in a rusty ol' truck. Lots of those little country houses had old newspapers and scraps of lumber covering holes in the floors to keep the cold and the critters out. Indoor plumbing and reliable heat were still appreciated as one of life's recent upgrades, lots of those elderly Louisianans hadn't grown up with fancy extras like that.

One cold, December night Sister Thibodeaux raised herself up unsteadily in church, and her voice was thin as she asked for special prayer. The heating unit in her home, fixed several times by church members, had broken again. This time, when the repairman came to check it, he told her it had to be replaced.

The wrinkles around her eyes swallowed up a few small tears. The cost of replacing the heater was monumental, much more than her monthly Social Security check. A neighbor had loaned her a tiny, temporary heater, but she was cold and worried. She didn't know what she was going to do, so she did the only thing she knew, she "gave it to God." The poor little congregation prayed with her. And, as was their custom, they all praised the Lord in advance for whatever the answer would be.

My husband and I weren't rich back then. We became much more well-to-do later. But at that time we had plenty of expenses, with our new baby and his three tween and young teen kids. Still, we'd managed to save up a couple hundred dollars for Christmas. But after hearing the widow Thibodeaux's story, we realized there really wasn't anything we needed. We had plenty of food, we were warm, we had each other. Things the widow Thibodeaux didn't have.

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).


Must Read 4   Inspiring 4   Well Said 3  
Rate It | View Ratings

Meryl Ann Butler Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Follow Me on Twitter     Writers Guidelines
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEdNews Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

CEO Ridiculed for Raising Minimum Wage to $70K Has the Last Laugh

The Bizarre Theft of Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski's Miracle Cancer Cure

Mysterious Bayou Sinkhole Continues to Cave In: Radiation, Hydrocarbons Detected

Tips for Avoiding Coronavirus

Relentless Bayou Corne Sinkhole Nearly 30 Times Original Size (UPDATED with Cave-In Video)

Sex, Love, and Jesus: A Few Surprises in the Easter Basket

To View Comments or Join the Conversation: