Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I'm Thankful- Guest Post by Alicia

Today I would like to introduce you to Alicia of Virginia Living. She is a fellow Anthropologie lover who actually lives in the Hampton Roads area- my hometown, and we never had the opportunity to meet in person, but have developed a wonderful internet friendship.  I have loved corresponding with her on a regular basis, and was hoping that she would join in the guest posts about Thanksgiving. Take it away, Alicia!

1 Thessalonians 5:18~ Give Thanks in All Circumstances...

I am thankful for the opportunity to reflect and give thanks for everything that I have been given on this special Thanksgiving day...no matter where I am or what I am doing.

For most of my life Thanksgiving has been the same.  My family getting together to eat loads of made- from-scratch food. Food- coma inducing sleep in front of the television while watching the Lion's lose again. After some naps and newspaper ad browsing, the card games and euchre are pulled out and played into the evening. Of course more food is consumed. The highlight of the day for me (and I believe for most people present) was when everyone listed one thing they were thankful for that year. Some were silly, some were funny and some were serious and drew tears. In fact, 75% of the thanks brought tears to all. Everyone always has so very much to be thankful for.

Since moving away from my Michigan home at 18, and never fully moving back, my Thanksgivings have changed quite a bit. 

The last Thanksgiving I spent at home with my family I had my wisdom teeth taken out the day before. Soup, mashed potatoes and vicodin was my meal. I remember being so thankful to just be home and be taken care of. It was a hard Thanksgiving personally, as I was on the eve of graduating from college and all the final projects that come with that. My romance life was in shambles and I was unsure of the future. I could care less that the only thing I could eat was in liquid form. I just was so thankful to be home.

The first Thanksgiving of my married life brought a new apartment, a new state, a new husband and no family within 17 hours. We decided that we would volunteer at the local food shelter, and then just pick up some Boston Market food for our dinner. I think my mother may have had a heart attack at the thought of us eating Boston Market for dinner. The shelter was a complete bust. There were twice as many volunteers as people eating there. We were yelled at by the people we gave the food to, "Why are you even here?! How come you can't show up any other time of the year? Do you think you are good for this? You think you are doing a good thing? Do you feel sorry for me?!" Yeah. Not what we expected. While it was true that volunteering should be done more than once a year, we did not want to offend anymore. So we quietly left and went home to eat a little dinner. It was sad and lonely, but I was so thankful that I was with my new husband and we would work through that first Thanksgiving together.

The first Thanksgiving with my oldest son Jack was spent at a friend's house. My friend Roza and I prepared the meal on our own for the first time in her tiny little kitchen. Ryan, Jack and I and our friend Dave were the only Americans that were there! We celebrated Thanksgving with our South African friend Richard, his Russian wife Roza, her strictly Russian-speaking father who was visiting from Moscow, Sorin from Romania and a few other young single men from across Europe that came for a hot meal. It was an international celebration of a strictly American holiday! But oh the conversations we had. I was so thankful to have friends with such different life experiences coming together to give thanks for all that the Lord had given us.
Since then, we have spent Thanksgiving with friends where their conversations were splattered with Spanish and English and we just barely kept up with them. We have been alone with just our tiny family and ordered Cracker Barrel or stuffed ourselves into a college apartment with other master's students. There has been highs and lows.

 But my most favorite Thanksgiving was when I was in Kampala, Uganda. I helped build a house that would hold 8 children that were orphaned by the AIDS pandemic and one single house mother. They would become a family, those  eight kids and that one mother. They would be a family for the rest of their lives and the kids would be able to have the best schooling in the country. That Thanksgiving I carried heavy bricks, moved rocks and debris. I was covered in the red clay earth and sweaty sunscreen streaks. My hair had been twisted back while wet in an attempt to keep my head somewhat cooler. I wore old thrifted shirts and shorts. Nothing fancy, nothing nice. Just work clothes that could get covered in dirt and mud. I was a mess. And I was the happiest. I ate a meal prepared by local Ugandan women that comprised of mashed plantains, rice and chicken and the best pineapple you have ever eaten. I ate my meal on a picnic table and drank Fanta orange pop out of a glass bottle. Never in my life had I seen such a kind, caring people. Never had I seen such bright smiles radiating off of dark faces, eyes bright and twinkling. You can't drive those dirt roads, look into those shanty houses and still see such hope and not be dramatically changed. You can't hold orphans in your arms, coaxing shy smiles out of them and not be thankful for that one lone smile. You can't see, hear, smell and touch Uganda and not be thankful. Every single Thanksgiving, I think back to this one simple day. And I am forever thankful.

Regardless of where I am, who I am with or what we are eating, the theme of giving thanks and remembering the goodness of the Lord is something that never leaves. Though the circumstances may change, even the locations, the end results is always the same. Giving thanks in all circumstances!

What are you thankful for today?

Alicia, thank you for the reminder that Thanksgiving is in our hearts, not matter what our circumstances are. I needed to be reminded of this as I spend this Thanksgiving apart from my parents.  I have been blessed.

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