Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has to be my favorite holiday. I think my love of the holiday began the day I was born, Thanksgiving 1971. We’ve had a special relationship ever since. Every once in a while, my birthday falls on Thanksgiving, so I always have that to look forward to. I hear some people complain when their birthday happens on a holiday, but I’ve always loved having a holiday birthday. Who else gets to have all their family members present for a big feast on their birthday? And they all bring gifts, of course, because they have memories of that Thanksgiving day I was born (and because they know they’ll feel like a loser if everyone else remembers and they don’t). So it’s special to me.

My grandparents. My grandma was being silly wearing that crazy hat.

My grandparents. My grandma was being silly wearing that crazy hat.

Growing up, my family always went to my grandma’s for a big Thanksgiving meal. She made it all: turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, pies. She was a great cook, too, so it was all good. When I got older and moved away, I celebrated with other people. In Ukraine, the missionaries got together and celebrated. Of course, it’s not a holiday for people in Ukraine, so life went on as normal for them. I remember my first Thanksgiving there. I had two other single women stay over for the night. We got up and went to the market to buy food for the pitch in we’d have later, and the market was full of people doing their regular thing. Nobody knew it was a holiday for us. That felt a little strange, but we still enjoyed going to the other missionaries’ apartment and eating the traditional stuff, even when the downstairs neighbors banged on their ceiling to tell us we were having too much loud fun together.

One year especially stands out to me. I was still in Ukraine and had travelled to Kharkov to celebrate Thanksgiving with the other Americans living there and to celebrate my birthday with my boyfriend, Andrew. That year, my birthday fell on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. I woke up to find that Andrew had brought me a dozen roses and left them at the house where I was staying. Later we went to dinner at a restaurant with a huge aquarium that covered a whole wall of the restaurant. He was quiet and I wondered if he was mad (foreshadowing for the rest of our life LOL). We left and decided to walk instead of taking a taxi. It had begun to snow those huge snowflakes that fall softly and pile up quickly, and we walked through the downtown and through some parks, visiting all of the places we’d gone so many times while we were dating. It was all very romantic, a perfect birthday. We went to his apartment to watch a movie, and before he took me home he said, “Let’s read the Bible together.” He handed me a Bible and said to read where the bookmark was. I opened it, and there was a ring attached to the bookmark, encircling the word “Love” in I Corinthians 13! He asked me to marry him, and the rest is history. Needless to say, that celebration the next day was more exciting than any Thanksgiving ever!

This is a rare picture of my sister and her husband, my parents, Andrew's parents, and us all together. It was 2009, I think.

This is a rare picture of my sister and her husband, my parents, Andrew’s parents, and us all together. It was 2009, I think.

After we moved back and had kids of our own, I wanted them to like Thanksgiving, too. When we lived closer to family, we celebrated with them. Now that we’re far away, we invite friends over.

Our first Thanksgiving in Nebraska. We celebrated with the small group and their families. One of my favorite Thanksgivings!

Our first Thanksgiving in Nebraska. We celebrated with the small group and their families. One of my favorite Thanksgivings!

To me, Thanksgiving is Christmas without the hype and materialism. It’s a day to get together with people we love or to do something for people we want to love. It’s a day to remember the good things God has given us without the distraction of buying, wrapping, opening and putting together toys. It’s a day to eat and not feel guilty about diets. It’s a day to sleep in and have fun together.

So today on Thanksgiving, I wish you all the best day. Whether you’re alone or with family or loved ones, may you find meaning in the simplicity of remembering God’s blessings.

 

Andrew was present this year. He took the picture!

 

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Go West!

A few years ago, I drove home from work thinking, “This is it. This is what I’m going to spend the rest of my life doing. Driving to and from a mall to work in a little store with people half my age.” Despite the fact that I had a decent amount of education and remembered feeling some passion and drive in my life, at forty years old I felt stuck in a low-paying, low-respect customer service job. Not long after that, my entire world changed. My husband lost his job and found another one almost half a continent away, and we picked up and moved west to the prairie. When the chaos of the job loss hit, we feared everything. How would our kids react to moving? Would they have friends in the new place? Would we like the new town and our new jobs?

Oregon Trail Marker

Then we moved, and everything changed. When it changed, it changed for the better. Now I work in the same college that my husband does, and while I’m only working in an office, I still feel like I’m contributing to training the next generation. Not only did my work change, but somehow in the process of picking up and moving, my family and I changed. My kids grew up. My husband became a more constant presence in my day to day existence. We acquired a lot of pets. We eliminated a lot of debt. We began to learn to slow down and enjoy each other.

I decided to stop holding onto quite a few things I held dear before, a lot of stuff from the past that weighed me down, and start looking at what was good in life. And you know what I found? I found that there’s a lot of good stuff going on.

We now can say we have lived in Nebraska for an entire year. During that year, we weathered a cold Nebraska winter. We traveled along the path that many settlers traveled going west and visited quite a few historical sites along the way. We learned a new town, found our way around, and put down some roots. This blog is about the things that changed, the things we experienced and keep experiencing. I’ve learned a lot in the last year, and maybe the thing that stands out the most to me is how sometimes in life the things that look bad are, in the end, good. Very, very good!

I found this in the snow in our back yard. My daughter wrote it.

I found this in the snow in our back yard last winter. My daughter wrote it. She’s right. Thanks, God!