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A Blessed Week of Thanksgiving

It was almost a week–a week of Thanksgiving–beginning Sunday the 22nd after the beautiful Thanksgiving dinner at our church, Christ Alive. It was mid-afternoon when Jerry and I drove the 4 1/2 hours to our Crestline home. Our home is situated in such a way that we pass the rear of the house before making a sharp turn and pull into the driveway in the front. As we drove past the backyard, both Jerry and I noticed lights on in the upstairs area of the house.

“Rebecca must have left on a light,” I thought. She had gone up a couple of days before to oversee carpet cleaners who tackled all our downstairs carpets.

As we pulled up the driveway and into the garage, though, we noticed lights everywhere…and then we saw her car. Our sweet daughter and her son, Nathaniel, were already there, with the house warmed–a crackling fire roaring in the living room fireplace.

And so it began…an exceptional week of Thanksgiving with our family and friends. Except for Michael, who was with Mel at her family’s home, on Thanksgiving day, all our children were with us, along with our grandson Chris and his family. Friends Jay and Holly rounded out the group of 18 who were seated for our traditional luscious Thanksgiving dinner.

Chloe had set the table, choosing to use these combination napkin rings and place cards. Shawnna did the calligraphy. I always want to have the children sit with the adults, but our table just won’t stretch that far, so we set a children’s table…using red plates! (Click on any of the pictures to view them in a larger size.)

You can’t see Gentry at the table, but he is pictured well in the kitchen with his beautiful yeast rolls which he made totally “from scratch.”  Everyone pitched in to cook this exceptional meal. When Steve and Dearrah came in from San Diego, he was bearing two large ham butts which were coated with a scrumptious Cajun glaze. Rebecca bought a huge tom, and together we chopped and mixed and seasoned until the giblet gravy and the cornbread dressing were perfect. Chloe peeled, boiled and whipped potatoes into a fluffy, buttery mound. Shawnna prepared two large casserole dishes of her famous, cheesy green beans, and before Friday night was over, there wasn’t a green bean in sight. Desserts abounded, but before we began to eat, Jerry stood at the head of the table, expressing his love for everyone there, and calling on Nathaniel to read portions of beautiful Psalm 136 that speaks so eloquently of thankfulness.

Gloriously inevitable were the games where we hooted and howled with laughter, and one night after Jerry had gone to bed and we were still at the “gaming table,” open swung the bedroom door on the landing, and the sweet Patriarch growled, “You’re being too loud! Woke me from a sound sleep.” We snickered, and said…sorry…and went right back at it, until finally we were all tuckered out and went to bed.

Friends came by; we ate leftovers and ordered in pizza. We encouraged everyone to take at least one bite of the myriad desserts, never forgetting Chloe’s beautiful chocolate meringue pie. We hugged and patted and washed dishes…and did it again…and again…and went to the store one more time, and put jackets on the babies, and took them off again, and matched up gloves for the cold hands and found boots that fit the growing feet. We opened the second pound of Starbucks coffee beans, made another pitcher of tea, and unloaded the dishwasher and put clothes in the dryer.

I had been disappointed to read weather forecasts that predicted moderate, dry weather…and the forecasts were accurate. But I knew the beautiful weather was a blessing in a way for the youngsters had a great time playing outside, even to a late evening football game. Daddies and one grandpa were running about and huddling with Ella-Claire who is two and with Drake who is three. It was a delight to watch.

But on Friday evening, a cold rain began, and during the night a blustery storm blew in with thunder and lightening that is unusual in our part of the country. Our house shook so that some persons got out of bed and spent part of the night in the living room. I awoke to the crashing of thunder and when our bedroom was illuminated with brilliant lightening but promptly went back to sleep.

Silently and without my being aware, began the snow, so that when I peered from the bathroom window early Saturday morning, the ground was blanketed with two or three inches of that pristine covering. It was a fairyland. The trees were white and icy. The temperature had dropped 23 degrees from Friday morning…and so ended the Thanksgiving week. Snow suits and boots came out in earnest, snow ball fights ensued, and one beautiful snow man was built, sporting carrot features and a bright red scarf and hat.

The day had cleared with peeks of blue overhead, but just before we left, the sky lowered and dark clouds built. Hurrying now, we finished packing and as we drove away, fresh snow was falling. We left Rebecca in our home, and when I checked on her yesterday, she was still there. “Nathaniel doesn’t have to be in school until Tuesday. We’re just hunkered down here. It’s so nice.”

I knew there was plenty of food for Rebecca and Nathaniel; there were fresh coffee beans and lots of wood for the fireplace. I consider it a pretty nifty way to finish up the Thanksgiving week. Hope yours was as delightful as was ours…Now on to Christmas, my favorite time of the year!

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The Struggle for Home

From the beginning, she seemed inordinately calm. On the first day of building, I sat in a deck chair no more than eight feet from the converging spot of umbrella ribs where she was weaving the crib.

Once, from the fence that divides our place from Bill’s, she stared at me as I angled my long lens her way. Later, as I sat inside the study before the glass door, she edged her way over, as it seemed she had selected a long green strand of deck carpet to line the nest. Forcefully, she pulled, but the thread was still attached, and after a bit, she gave up. As I watched this maneuver, there was only a glass door between us.

Over the last few days as I saw her labor, I have considered how similar–yet how strikingly different–is the building of a human home and that of a robin. Common to both is that of immense struggle.

On the first day of building, I saw that Stellar Jays had partially destroyed her early construction, and so I told the grandkids if they saw molesting birds approaching the nest, they could open the slider and yell at the intruders. I waved fiercely at several myself. I watched as Mama Robin fought off both jays and other robins, and as she worked through the day–twig by twig–twisting a nest for the soft blue eggs that instinctively she knew were nearly ready.

When I address groups of women on certain subjects, I frequently state a disclaimer. For when I issue a godly challenge or describe a superior way or point to an elevated highway of holiness, without the disclaimer statement, I am a hypocrite. For I have never attained true and enduring godliness. I’ve yet, without misstep, to traverse the elevated glimmering highway of holiness. I still flounder. I persist in my own struggle.

On the days when I write a piece in which I glowingly describe my home and my family, I think often of you who read here, who sight from around the world, and who exist in a myriad of conditions. I consider thoughtfully those who may be discouraged by such reports.

For, you say, “Why can’t I have a home like that?”

“Where is such joy for me?”

“Why can’t I even have a baby–much less grandbabies? Why, God?”

“Why is my husband a drunk, or a drug addict or won’t even hold a job?”

“Why do I have no energy? Why did the cancer return?”

“How is it I live in a tiny urban apartment with rare glimpse of sky and grass?”

“What is the cause of my lack of peace?”

“How is it that I don’t understand ‘tent revivals,’ and grandfathers who tell to babes the ancient stories of the patriarchs? How is it I have no hope?”

“Why are my children backslidden? What does ‘backslid’ mean, anyhow?”

It’s a struggle to build a home.

It’s been a struggle for Jerry and me, no doubt in much the same way that it has been for you. Oh, the particular situation and details will vary greatly, but–to a person–we all have struggled. In our home Jerry and I have had to regroup and correct our course. We’ve failed and we’ve been careless. We’ve made mistakes and misjudgments. We’ve been hurt and we’ve hurt others. We’ve wept and groaned through long nights. Everyone does that. Everyone struggles.

It’s not easy to build a home.

I’m blessed with a positive nature, and I’ve chosen to look on the bright side of things. I choose to be happy…I just like it better. I prefer upbeat feelings to dark ones of gloom and discouragement. Generally I talk in a positive way. Not to say I will ignore challenges in our world, nor fail to point to inequities and silliness, nor be reticent about suggesting that we endeavor to solve problems that affect us.

Example: I could have written about Grandkids Week and honestly included the following:

** There is biscuit dough all over the kitchen floor.

** “How many times do I have to tell you to keep that baby away from the hearth?” (Pappy said in his lovely growling voice.)

** The button project ended with the floor littered with buttons, the table covered in same manner, and not a kid in sight.

** Red and black checkers were scattered so widely that I fear we may never locate them all.

** One of the bear slippers is missing–can’t be found anywhere.

** “Granny, I want some hot chocolate.”

“Well you’re not having it right now,” the granny replied as she was just finishing dishes from the meal from which said grandchild had just arisen.

** Ella Claire slept poorly the first night. She had a cough and she probably missed her mother.

** When the grandchildren were finished with morning chores, it was sometimes hard to tell a “made” bed from an “unmade” one.

** Someone didn’t take their clean, folded clothes from the dryer to their suitcase.

** Some of the pieces of a 1000 piece puzzle became mingled with pieces from another puzzle, and some of the pieces will probably never again see the light of day.

…and on…

So you see, we’re all pretty much the same. We all struggle with similar and yet dissimilar challenges, and with problems that may not be easily solved..

I’m quick to say that many of our struggles are much more hurtful than are dirty kitchen floors and smeared high chairs. It is within the home and among family members where the deepest, darkest wounds and misunderstandings slash and fester and throb. I understand. It has happened to me, and such struggle is the deepest disappointment of my life.

But I choose joy…and have decided on happiness.

Late yesterday afternoon, I noticed Mama Robin was no longer visiting her nest. This morning, I observed a quiet deck, with no activity among the umbrella standards…and I was sad. Perhaps the mother had abandoned her home. Maybe there are been too many disappointments, too much frustration, too many interruptions. Perhaps it was just too much of a struggle…too much of a struggle to build a home.

But a couple of hours ago, I saw that she was back. I smiled.