This year my entire immediate family was in attendance for Thanksgiving. There were eleven from my branch, four + one from my brother’s, and four from my sister’s. My parents, who are now in their early and mid-80’s were over the moon. I could barely lead us in prayer as we blessed the meal, I was that happy. However, I fought through the lump in my throat and the tears that welled up. There was nobody happier at that moment than Mom and I. It is the best feeling to have all of your babies together, most especially when it rarely happens.
We have truly had a blessing-filled month, so much so, that I feel like I need to write it down.
Prior to the children coming home, we enjoyed sweet companionship from two couples that mean a whole lot to us. It was wonderful to gather and receive comfort and encouragement from them. I am surprised at how much they filled our bucket, providing us with strength and courage to continue on our path with one unsteady foot in front of the other.
Some special soul keeps putting gift cards in my mailbox at school and surprisingly (but not really), they are always at just the right time- just when I am at a point when the pocketbook is most light. It always puts a lump in my throat, and shockingly, that small supply is just what I need to get me to the next paycheck. The person who is silently lifting me up would be interested to know that on more than one occasion, I used it on the way home, only to come within pennies of the total order, with just what I needed. When and if I ever get past this lean time, I want to be “that person”. I want to be the silent blessing that pays it forward at just the right time and just the right moment.
My middle child had quite the experience on her trip home, which resulted in four cancelled flights, and a rescheduled flight that only got her as far as Atlanta. This resulted in many tears and frustration as she left the airport in search of a hotel that was booked by a friend in the wrong state, that left her stranded in the middle of the night, in the pouring rain, taking public transportation, to a shuttle that had a flat tire, with 5% phone battery, which resulted in a trip to the fleabag hotel in the middle of Atlanta, and a $5 cup of noodles from a vending machine at one o’clock in the morning. I don’t think I have ever prayed so hard in all my life. But God is good, and all those trips to NYC trained her well, and she survived, although there were a whole lot of frustrated tears throughout. Twelve hours later, she was in our arms.
It was a whirlwind visit and we tried to cram everything we possibly could into the days we had. I still needed to teach for two more days, so she took her father on little road trips, and they browsed through the Christmas section of their favorite stores. Once school was over, we followed traditions, and made bread at the farm with Mom and prepared the farm-house for the twenty-two guests. And that was the day my son and his family surprised their father…
My husband had been so bummed- mad actually. He was ticked to think that our son would return from Bahrain, only to head to Japan with his family without seeing us first. Little did my husband know that there was a plan to surprise him the day before Thanksgiving, and that the family would be with us for a week.
On bread making day, we purposefully vacated the house so that our son could have his moment. He snuck into the house and peeked around the corner. My husband thought it was our son-in-law who had just left. He wondered if he had forgotten something. Then our son pushed our two grandchildren out ahead of him, and my husband was reduced to a puddle. Fifteen months is a long time to wait for a bear hug from your favorite son. And so began the marathon: fitting everything possible into a one week time period.
An additional praise was a phone call from our local stove shop. An anonymous donor purchased 2 pallets of pellets for us, to be delivered that afternoon. This was a huge answer to prayer, since funds continue to be tight and heating our home during the winter months is costly- which causes me to fret. Through tears and sniffles, I shared my good news with close family. What an act of kindness and generosity.
Thanksgiving was busy, but surprisingly my favorite man did pretty well. Although, initially unhappy about pictures being taken, he got into it and insisted on a complete family photo that included my parents. I am so glad that we got it.
That afternoon, we went to a friend’s tree orchard and picked out the perfect tree for the house and the entire family took part in changing the living room around and decorating the tree. This will be the only tree that both our oldest daughter and our son’s family will have for the season because of travel. This made it even more special.
Traditional Black Friday shopping for Mimi is something the girls and I look forward to each year. There is just something about the experience of getting up early, buying coffee at 3 am, and looking around stores with happy shoppers who also want to welcome in the Christmas season. We traditionally return home to wrap the items that we have stowed away in the back closet throughout the year, while listening to Christmas music on the radio, and watching our favorite Christmas movies.
We made our traditional lasagna and Rice Krispie squares with the grandchildren as well as sugar cookies, because that “is what we always do” when we gather. At that time, we were so thankful for the Thanksgiving basket delivered to us from the church, that helped to feed our crowd. Our record trash making was 5 bags in one day!
More than anything, we enjoyed just hanging out together. It warmed our hearts to listen to the children laugh and the grandchildren giggle. We couldn’t get enough of it. We thoroughly enjoyed listening to our children goof around with one another. Remaining days were spent spoiling the two grandchildren we rarely see with donuts, ice cream, walks by the ocean, and snuggles in front of the fireplace while watching football on the brand new TV that our son and his family purchased for my husband for Christmas.
And just like that…our babies went back into the world and things are returning to normal. My focus is to create a quiet, stress-free environment so that my husband can get back to baseline from before the first round of craziness, and to prepare for the second round.
The good news is that our oldest daughter will be home from Arkansas in three weeks and will be with the six of us for ten days and through my birthday. By then, our son will be settled in Japan with his family and I can relax.
Ultimately, in this world full of despair and frustration, it would be so much easier to concentrate on what is not working. There is no shortage of that. It takes determination to push through and search for those precious blessings that refill our buckets. This vacation was just that for me. So on this first weekend of December, I wish to publicly share that I am a blessed woman. My friends, family, and children fill my bucket in so many ways and I am so grateful to call them my friends. What did I ever do to deserve them?