Thanks for Giving

Happy Thanksgiving from Northern Ireland! After all our time spent out of the United States, yesterday was the first holiday we spent away from extended family. I guess we always just planned our travels around the holidays.

After some deliberation, I decided to make a dinner of all our favorite Thanksgiving staples, and tweaked the recipes to make them more healthful. There’s no way I’m going to spend two days preparing foods only to feel like crap for the next few days! We invited some friends over and shared a roast chicken (Turkey is hard to find and quite expensive!), gravy, cornbread casserole, mashed potatoes, cranberry salad (we actually used currants… no cranberries until Christmastime!), stuffing, sweet potato casserole, apple pie, and pecan pie cookies. Everything turned out pretty well and I’m proud of John and me for pulling off an entire Thanksgiving meal ourselves.

thanksgiving2015Traditionally, this day is so focused on the preparation and eating of food. I am not complaining about that… I love to eat nutritious foods! I love celebrating by spending time in the kitchen with loved ones. This year looked different from years past, but the idea was the same. It’s also a great day to really focus on what we are thankful for.

I am so thankful for my family (near and far). I am thankful for fast friendships that have turned into familial ones. And I’m thankful for an abundance of food on my table.

We have been the recipients of so much generosity these past two years. Our fundraising period and our time abroad has shown great witness to the wonderful love of God’s people. There is no way I could ever say “thank you” enough to those who have shown so much kindness, hospitality, and sacrifice for our family. Our church families (past and present) have given up their time, their finances, and their resources to support us this year. On this Thanksgiving 2015, I want to say THANK YOU for giving! I know it sounds cheesy, but we really are so grateful. We are thankful for you.

Peace, love, and cranberry (currant) salad.

<3

Sunday Confessional, 15 November 2015

I confess that I started celebrating Christmas early this year.

I can hear you now, “What about Thanksgiving?”

I know most Americans have a (turkey) bone to pick with people who start Christmas festivities before (they’ve eaten their weight in mashed potatoes at) Thanksgiving, but THERE’S NO THANKSGIVING here in Northern Ireland, so hooray! The Christmas season is upon us!

Advent officially starts on the 29th of November this year, but I’ve already simmered our first batch of chai tea on the stovetop so that means winter is coming. In our house we’ve been listening to Christmas music, making extra treats (healthy of course!), and beginning conversations about advent with our 3 year old. John has even been making little nativity scene people out of empty toilet paper rolls. I think we’ve got a few shepherds so far.

Surprisingly deep questions have surfaced from our 3 year old. I shouldn’t be surprised though; every intelligent and thoughtful human being can ask good questions.

“Is Jesus God? Where is God? Who are the magi? Are they magic? Why are the magi wise? Did Jesus like his presents? Was Jesus a baby like my baby brother? Why was he a baby?”

I love talking about this kind of stuff with Hosea. Sometimes (okay, many times), he drives me bonkers with all the questions he asks. But there is really something wonderful about watching him sort things out in his head and try to understand complex ideas.

I love this “extended” Christmas season as I’ve decided to call it. There is so much expectation in the period leading up to the 25th of December. The feeling of anticipation bubbles up; a baby will be born and he is the Savior of the world! So much joy. So much hope.

I personally know the joy that a baby can bring. I also personally know the joy that Jesus can bring. I hope you’re ready for this advent season to begin in a couple weeks. I know I am.

<3

Peace, love, and chai.

Sunday Confessional November 8th

I confess that my story is often told in one way, but there are usually two versions.

The Facebook version

This week I had the opportunity to be a loving husband and allow Abigail to take a couple days to retreat. She spent five luxurious nights, and six beautiful days on her retreat while the boys and I got to enjoy some quality time in Northern Ireland. Every day the boys and I would wake up to see the sun rise and take our time getting dressed before going about our daily activities. On Saturday we got to go to a friend’s birthday party. On Sunday we went to church, and then the boys helped me set up for the marriage course. Later on, my youngest helped me serve tea and coffee to all of our attendees. On Monday we went shopping for our week’s groceries, and then decided to go again Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday because my boys just love fruit! I think they’ve turned into precious little “fruitarians”. My oldest voiced how much he loved me and how much he wanted to stay home with me and Moses instead of going to school. After the boys went to sleep on Thursday, their mama returned home from her time away. What a week!

A Different Version

Saturday morning at 4:30 am found our boys wide awake as we took Abigail to the airport for a conference. She was gone for six days! Every day while she was gone, the boys woke up well before the sun rose, and getting them dressed made me realize why God led me to become a wrestler in high school. After the airport we went to a birthday party where my boys ate their weight in sugar. On Sunday we made our way to church and the boys went to creche while I got some much coveted alone time. Later that day we went back to church to set up for the marriage course. Hosea ran around moving the tables into a giant ‘A’ and Moses clung to me. My youngest then cried his way out of creche and insisted on me wearing him while I served tea and coffee. On Monday, even though I felt crazy, I went to the grocery store on my own with two boys and we tried to get everything we would need for the week. The boys ate MY weight in fruit that day, requiring us to brave the store again the next day. And the next. And the next. My oldest refused flat out to go to school, and it took twenty minutes of negotiating to get him into his uniform and out the door, all while holding Moses. My youngest finally fell asleep about an hour before mummy got home and woke back up in time to see her. What a week!

We rarely let people see our struggles, but it’s important to know that struggles are real, and common. For everyone’s Facebook story, there’s another story that goes along with it. It is important to note that neither version of this story holds the full truth, but when they are put together they show a more realistic picture than when separate.

I’ve made my confession, now go make yours.

Sunday Confessional 1st November

I confess that I used to be more friendly.

I was painfully shy as a child and my parents had a hard time getting me to talk to anyone. I hated unwanted attention (or any attention at all) and even cried when people would sing “Happy Birthday” to me every July. I was one of those kids who was kind to everyone, but didn’t really have a BEST friend growing up. Something changed in my later highschool years and early college years. A friendly introvert, I had a lot of friends and even a few close ones. I still didn’t like going up to people and starting a conversation; I just couldn’t ever think of what to say! It was like every step toward the person sucked out one more possible conversation starter I could put to use.
In my last year of college, there were aspects of my character called into question by two of my “friends”. Already embarrassed by my flaws, I didn’t need anyone else to highlight them, but there they were. Things were said that could not be taken back, and I left those conversations feeling hurt. I didn’t realize I had been marked so deeply by their words until months (and then years) had passed, when I was still feeling anxious and vulnerable. So vulnerable in fact, that I began to enjoy being more invisible than visible. New conversations induced more anxiety than calm. I worried about offending people when there was no cause for offense, and coming across the wrong way after commenting on something completely harmless. It had become so bad, that often the thought of talking to people made me want to crawl under the covers and hide. I’m not trying to be funny, these are serious thoughts that have gone through my head. I was convinced I was a terrible friend.
Recently I heard a pastor preach about “Just walking across the room”. How simple is that? A thought that would have caused me anxiety recently, but something I can stomach now.
My mentor says that loneliness is a bigger epidemic than physical illness! Approaching someone in the loneliness of their day to encourage, offer a hand, a smile. I can do that.
I’m called to do that.
Looking back now, I feel silly for letting those words affect me the way they have. I lost one of my brightest character traits as someone who was friendly and kind! I forgot who I was for a while there.
I remembered recently that I CAN be a good friend. Recently, in a seminar full of people I’d never met before, I found myself walking across the room! I started conversations, I smiled, I even made people laugh, and got others involved in the conversation as well.
I praise God for allowing healing to come into my life so I could remember who I was and can, once again, offer true friendship to those who need it.
I’ve made my confession, now go make yours.