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Rejoicing though far apart on Thanksgiving!

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   Any missionary family deals with this all too familiar fact of life. While other families gather round to celebrate Thanksgiving with the classic turkey and dressing, pumpkin pie, green bean casserole, banana spice cake (a family tradition for 3 generations in my family), sweet potato casserole, or whatever unique recipes are considered traditional, families of our missionaries celebrate Thanksgiving defined more by the country of their residence than tradition.

   Because our missionary children are likely living in a country that doesn’t mark the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving, our missionary children will often have to modify the dishes of their celebration and the manner in which they celebrate. What is available or not available in the country where they live will determine the menu of the day and setting aside a non-holiday day as a holiday may not be so convenient. 

   The circumstances of their country of residence will also determine the guest list. Expatriates like themselves or fellow missionary families will likely gather together to make their own and unique Thanksgiving celebration.

   But then again, they may find themselves enjoying a cozy Thanksgiving dinner with just their own small family. That is the situation this year with my son and his family. My daughter in law, who by the way is a fantastic cook, is planning a traditional feast using fresh pumpkin for her pumpkin pie. Bless her!

   It’s not easy celebrating Thanksgiving far apart but it’s what we have to do. And this year, yet another one of our four children (along with her family) won’t be able to join us. But this is our reality! So we will all be careful to focus on the abundant blessings we have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, as we celebrate apart from each other. (Our enemy, Satan, would have us focus on our separation, but we are wise to his fiery dart tactics.)

Therefore, we will video chat as much as possible, enjoying the day to the fullest! Always remembering that

This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 (NKJV)

Finding thankfulness in separation

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   The Thanksgiving holidays typically presents a challenge for me and my family! While this year we celebrated in full by traveling to the Smokey Mountains with our 3 daughters and their families to our favorite resort that boast of an indoor (which our grandchildren stormed) waterpark, it was never far from our minds that 4 of our members were missing–our son, his wife and their two sons.

   However, my son, by the grace of God, was able to connect with all of us via a phone call, catching up with us at the restaurant where we met for breakfast after checking out of our hotel. Yet I found myself feeling guilty as I began describing what a wonderful time we were having, as if we had no right to be enjoying ourselves so much when he and his family couldn’t be there to join in.  It’s kind of a tricky emotional balance to celebrate Thanksgiving enjoying the presence of my daughters and their families while grieving the absence of their brother and his family.

   While sitting out on the balcony of our room one morning, I contemplated the blessing of celebrating Thanksgiving with my 3 daughters, 3 sons in law, and 8 grandchildren as close as an arm’s reach from me! But how could I be thankful that thousands of miles separated me from my son, daughter in law, and 2 of my grandsons.

Then God brought this to my mind.

   “Consider the love your son has for Me. It is deep and consuming. It is the kind of love that motivates and empowers him to make the sacrifices and live the life to which I have called him. Likewise, it is the kind of love for Me shared by all of you, that enables you to release him to his calling and make the sacrifices required during this particular time of the year.”  

   For sure, I wrestled on and off with the temptation (I call them fiery darts) to focus more on the reasons I had to be downcast than on the reasons I had to be thankful. Remember the account in the Bible where Peter, one of the 12 disciples, almost drowned during a storm at sea when he took his eyes off Jesus and began focusing on the storm (Matthew 14:22-33)?

   So for me it was a matter of where I placed my focus. My family’s love for God and their willingness to be sacrificially obedient to Him was the focus I needed if I was to celebrate Thanksgiving with a ‘thankful’ heart. It wasn’t a focus that ignored the sadness that I felt in being separated from my son but one that comforted and strengthened me in that sadness without diminishing the joy I felt as I celebrated Thanksgiving with those around me. 

THANKFULNESS!

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I am departing today from posting from my journal while visiting my missionary son on the field where he serves, to share some thoughts about Thanksgiving.

THANKFULNESS

My husband and I shared a beautiful Thanksgiving with our 3 daughters and their families. We did something quite out of the ordinary for us and traveled to a place in the Smokies to celebrate this special day. It was a Thanksgiving that exceeded my expectations and while it lasted only 4 days the happy memories we packed into that short time will last us a lifetime.

Yet as wonderful as it was to celebrate Thanksgiving together, one family group was sorely missed by all of us.  There’s always the temptation to feel sorry for ourselves when we can’t be with loved ones on Thanksgiving Day, but even more so when those loved ones are thousands of miles away. And I am just as tempted as any missionary mom would be who has to be separated from one of their children on Thanksgiving Day.

But as I opened Facebook this morning to send greetings to my son, daughter in law, and grandson, I came upon a post from a young man who serves alongside my son there in Africa. His words touched my heart and allowed me to get this Thanksgiving, apart from my son, into perspective. I would like to share it with you:

Thanksgiving thoughts from a missionary!

This is will be our first thanksgiving without our family! It is really at times like these that home (America) becomes very real. Especially now that we don’t have a place to call home. We sure do miss our dear families and our friends during this time. We will definitely miss a great American thanksgiving meal and fried turkey with our family. We are very thankful for the family and team mates that God has blessed us with here. We are thankful that God has placed us in this country at such a time as this. We are so very thankful for what God has and is consistently teaching us. 

We are definitely in a fierce battle here in Africa, every day is a battle and we sure are fighting back and I do believe we still have a lot more of fighting left in us. We have our families, our wonderful team mates and amazing prayer warriors and partners in the US along side us. To be honest, some days we get our butts kicked here and other days we come out victorious. We just have to take it one day and one battle at a time. As my dear friend and team member (insert by me: that would be my son)  reminded me yesterday, (on a head pounding, bumpy road) we did NOT come to this land to watch,wait or get tired of fighting, we came here to fight (for the souls of the those God has called us to serve), we can’t give up or get tried, THIS is what we signed up for, THIS is OUR divine calling. We are so ready and excited about the task that is ahead of us and so thankful for the task that God has bestowed on us.

As you contemplated what you were thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day, did you thank God for the task that He has bestowed upon you?  I confess I had not.  My thoughts of thankfulness focused more on the abundance of those things that God had given me to enjoy.  And while this abundance should be acknowledge with a grateful heart, the words of my son reminded me that my gratitude is incomplete if that’s where it ends.  

The blessings my Heavenly Father has bestowed upon me, I am reminded, are given to me for the expressed purpose of being used as instruments to fulfill the divine calling He has bestowed upon my life.  Somehow and in some way each of those blessings are designed to encourage, challenge, inspire, enable, and assist me in the task to which God has called me.

Here are a few verses to remind us of an additional perspective on thankfulness!

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 4:15 
All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

1 Chronicles 16:8 
Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

Thanking God for Our Brand New Grandson!

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Here he is!

Our 9th grandchild; our 3rd grandson!

The long awaited moment has finally arrived and not without a few surprises.  I suppose the most dramatic one is that due to my son’s attendance at a language coach training 13 hours from his wife and baby, he sadly missed my grandson’s grand entrance by 2 hours.  THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN!  For he was a first baby for my daughter-in-law and everybody knows they are always late (at least most of them are) but someone forgot to tell my grandson!  For as my son set out for home, his son decided he couldn’t wait and labor began in earnest for my daughter-in-law!  She sent out an urgent prayer request and thousands of people were praying, “God please slow this birth down so his daddy can get there in time!”  But alas, as we all know, God works according to His timetable and my grandson would not be slowed down.  Two hours after he was born, my son rushed into the hospital where his wife and newborn son awaited him!

Sometimes God does things that I’m sure if we could see the bigger picture we would understand but with our limited viewpoint on such things, it was quite disappointing when the news trickled in that my son was shy 2 hours in arriving at the hospital. There was nothing to do but accept the situation–after all, it is what it is! And move on!

In his daddy’s arms!

Today was Thanksgiving and our 3 daughters (one came from 15 hours away) were here to celebrate it with us (my cup runneth over) and thanks to technology, our son joined us.  At one time, my husband held the computer and walked all through the house showing our son how things looked and then proceeded to the front porch and back deck to show him how the farm looked.  Kinda silly, I know, but for us it was a magical moment–sharing home with each other.  I missed it when our son showed his dad ,his place, but that’s okay.  I had seen my son holding our brand spanking new grandson, and I was pleased with that.  You gotta realize that baby was an ocean away and were it not for this technology I would not have been able to imagine (no matter how hard I tried) what he sounded like!  Oh yeah, I heard him crying and for this grandma that was music to my ears.

When my son moves his little family back to their home in the village where they live, then video chats will be sparse for they don’t have good internet access there.  That’s going to be hard but depending on God to help us with that.  (Praying God will see fit to provide high speed internet somehow and someway so I can watch my little one as he grows!)

I told someone a few days ago, that when God calls you to do hard things then He builds in special comforts of blessing for you.  Ours today was video chatting with our son and daughter-in-law and sharing this Thanksgiving Day with our 3 daughters and their families.  We were all together and even if we weren’t all together under the same roof, we made some sweet memories nevertheless.

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