Well, the Christmas season is in full swing, with stores playing carols and holding special sales. Towns are decorated with manger scenes, lights and evergreens. People hustle and bustle, making holiday plans, and baking special seasonal treats.
Since I arrived back in the city shortly after midnight yesterday, I have shopped for ingredients for Christmas treats for my coworkers, searched high and low for cute Christmas plates or boxes to put said treats into, given a English / cookie baking class to an eight-year-old friend, attended her Christmas concert, eaten delicious panettone made by one of my coworkers, listened to Christmas music and programs on the Mars Hill Network, and enjoyed the festive lights and decorations here in Ji-Parana. Although I love the peace and quiet of the village and am not overly fond of this city, a week or two of holiday hustle and bustle is a welcome prospect at this time of year.
But instead of a Christmas post today, I’d like to look back at the last major USA holiday, Thanksgiving.
For me it was a normal day of ACL, finding Neno friends to spend time with and learn from, reviewing words and phrases, organizing photos for study, and practicing through conversation. But I set aside some time to reflect and practice gratefulness, in a more intentional way than normal. To be honest, though, thanksgiving is more than a day for me; it truly is an emotion or attitude that springs from deep within my heart, and overflows. I have so much to be thankful for that, almost on a daily basis, I find myself spontaneously thanking God for something, or everything. Or just exclaiming to myself about what an incredible life I have, and asking “Why would God even bless me so much?” When I do catch myself complaining about some minor inconvenience like tree frog droppings on the table, or a hundred crickets that live in my dirt floor and hop around the kitchen every night, or the lack of vegetables, God quickly reminds me of all the remarkable “bonuses” of missionary life and an attitude of gratitude normally returns in short order
This year, I wrote my Thankful Card a couple weeks ahead of time, hoping to get it into my parents’ hands to be read with the rest of the family. See last year’s Thanksgiving post for the background of this Quinn / Cross family Thanksgiving tradition.
Paulette’s 2017 Thankful Card
I am thankful to be a pilgrim, a sojourner, one who loves life but is constantly reminded that this world is not our home. I am thankful for the opportunity to be here in a “new world” – becoming part of another culture and language and community. A call and challenge accepted not because of what I believe, but because of who I believe in and love with all my heart, Jesus. I am thankful that Jesus loved me first, saved me from sin, brought me here, bountifully provides for me, enables me by His Spirit, teaches me through His Word, and makes every day an adventure!
I am also thankful for the Zoro people. As Squanto and company helped the Pilgrims nearly 4 centuries ago, my Zoro friends have helped me in this transition period. While I haven’t faced starvation or death, thankfully, they have been there for me through other challenges, extending true friendship to this “very, very white foreigner”, sharing their jungle bounty and their very lives.
The last two paragraphs, not included here, were a personal note to my family, telling them how thankful I am for them, and miss being with them.
However, God surprised me with something else to be thankful for on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. In the morning, I had the chance to go access internet at “the farm” with someone. It was so early that my call woke my parents, since they had been trying to sleep in a bit after the previous night’s festivities, but they didn’t mind at all. We were only able to talk for about 25 minutes, and of course no one else in the family was awake yet, but it was still wonderful to connect and hear a bit about the family gathering.
Then, late in the afternoon, some of my Neno friends showed up at my house, asked if I wanted to talk with my family, and said, “Let’s go the farm!”
Now this family doesn’t even have a cellphone or other device to access the internet. I thought maybe they had some other reason to go to the farm, such as eating mangos, or borrowing gasoline, but it turned out the only reason for the trip was to give me the chance to talk with my family. They gave of their time and gas, and made the effort just because they love me. With the high value the Neno culture places on family relationships and spending time together, they really seem to sympathize with how hard it must be for our family to have me so far away. Don’t I have the best friends ever?
And they had no way of knowing it was an American holiday and that all my siblings, grandparents, and one uncle and his family were still gathered at my parents’ house, so it would be easy to talk with all of them with just one skype call. Little did they realize that I had cried a bit that very morning (and maybe a couple times earlier in the week) just because being far away from family during the holiday season can make me a bit more emotional than normal. But God knew all of that. Don’t I have the best Heavenly Father ever?
What are you thankful for today? Who are you thankful for today?
Psalm 105:1 O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people.