Saturday, December 08, 2012

Thankful for Thanksgiving

the "thankful tree"
 For the past 4 1/2 years we have lived in a country which doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving as part of its cultural heritage. Our first year in Chile, living in Santiago, we still managed to celebrate by default since our children attended an American MK school and our mission team in the capital city set aside the day for a time of food and fellowship.

Pedro places his thanksgiving leaf on the tree
However, in Iquique it was more difficult to do so since our children and those of most of our colleagues attended Chilean schools and did not have the holiday built into their schedules. On top of that, Thursday nights are prayer meeting nights and as our team consisted of the pastoral leadership of the church it seemed impractical to cancel services just for our own benefit! 

JuJu with her thankful leaf
Interestingly, as I think back to Thanksgivings past while we still lived stateside I don't remember the holiday holding deep emotion for me. Certainly I enjoyed it and the time spent with friends and family was sweet; but Christmas was around the corner and usually I knew that there would be even more time to spend together when that holiday arrived. 

Owen shares his thankfulness

So it wasn't until Thanksgiving was taken away that it suddenly felt more precious to me. Perhaps it was simply being aware that back "home" time had slowed down and our family was coming together while life around us continued to swerve crazily full tilt ahead. On one hand I didn't feel we could sacrifice the time to stop and celebrate, nor would it feel the same doing so all alone. On the other hand I cried lonely tears because I wished we could transport ourselves back to family just for a few sweet hours.

Sabastian, our thankful teenager (and nephew!)

Either way, I remember that on Thanksgiving a year ago I was already dreaming about what this year's celebration would look like. It would be full of family (and needless to say, good food!) And praise God, He graciously allowed it to be just that. Mom-Mom put a lot of thought into the planning and preparation of our time together, even bringing crafts and coloring sheets for the younger children. We laughed over a Thanksgiving "mad libs" story and maybe even shed some tears over the sweet notes hung on Mom-Mom's "thankful tree." We prayed together and for one another.

little Sophia, hanging her leaf with help from Daddy
As with any true family gathering (especially one that includes so many children!) there were spills and squabbles and even a sick child or two. But most of all, there was love and thanksgiving and remembrance of all that God has done. He has been so good to us, in times of joy and times of trial. He has given us each other and this year, He has allowed us to be together. 

Which is why I am so thankful ... for Thanksgiving.

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