Gratitude Day 535
Tues., Nov. 24, 2020
Proverbs 3:5-7 – Trust in the Lord completely, and do not rely on your own opinions. With all your heart rely on him to guide you, and he will lead you in every decision you make. Become intimate with him in whatever you do, and he will lead you wherever you go.Don’t think for a moment that you know it all, for wisdom comes when you adore him with undivided devotion and avoid everything that’s wrong.
It’s Tuesday of Thanksgiving Week … and I continue sharing little stories how I’ve come to experience Thanksgiving as much more than one day.
Yesterday, I shared the story about Jim and Grace provided food for Amy and me while we were teaching English in Kazakstan. Today, I continue the story.
It was a Tuesday night when Grace delivered the boxes of food to our apartment. Amy and I were planning to travel the next day to the neighboring country of Kyrgyzstan. We would be joining about 30 teachers who were teaching English in Central Asia to celebrate Thanksgiving.
It was a 4-5-hour bus ride from Almaty to the capital city, Bishkek. We rode in a 1950’s Soviet era bus with some other teachers who had arrived in Almaty from northern Kazakstan. It was cold. There was no heat in the bus. We bounced and rambled through the hills south of Almaty, as the bus grunted and growled around every corner and up every little raise in the shabby road. More than one of us simply prayed the bus would make it in one piece.
It was dark when we arrived at the main Bishkek bus station. For the next few days, we would be staying in apartments owned by local residents. Because of the size of our group, several apartments in the same area had been secured. Now, we just needed to find the apartments and the other teachers.
With no GPS and relying on local taxi drivers that knew limited English, I was less than optimistic we would find the right location. Amazingly, we did. It was late and we were tired and hungry. But we had made it. We were so excited to see American teachers we had not seen for several months.
The next day was Thanksgiving. Some of the teachers headed off to the local open-air market to find turkeys for our Thanksgiving meal. They brought back some type of birds. I’m not sure they were turkeys, but they would be our Thanksgiving dinner. The people staying in each of the apartments were assigned foods to prepare four our meal. Using small Soviet, apartment size stoves, I cooked two “turkeys” in a dinky oven, hoping there would be enough gas to adequate cook the birds. Our apartment also made gravy and potatoes while other groups rounded out the meal with cranberries, dressing, pumpkin bars (someone brought a can of pumpkin with them) salads, veggies and local bread.
Late afternoon, we gathered in the courtyard of the apartment complex to plan our strategy for dinner. A large room was reserved in a business building where we would eat together. This room was about a 30-minute drive from our current location. Taxis were enlisted and groups of people started going to the building. I was in the first group because I had cooked the turkey. With no aluminum foil, I covered the meat with a towel to try and keep the meat somewhat warm. It took a while for the first group to find the building and the room. The whole process became rather chaotic and confusing. About two hours after I stepped into the taxi, the last of the American teachers arrived for dinner. Again, I wasn’t confident we would all eventually make it to Thanksgiving dinner. Only by God’s grace, did this happen.
By now, all the hot food was cold and there was no way to heat it up. We had a large buffet table for people to fill their small plates with food. We gathered around a make-shift set-up of other tables to eat. It really didn’t matter how cold the hot food was nor how warm the cold food should not have been. We were together. We were eating food that looked much more American than most of us had eaten in months.
After dinner, we went around, and everyone shared what they were thankful for this Thanksgiving. No one mentioned the nice things they left behind in America. No, our blessings list became extremely focused. It was having heat in the room where we taught English … some of the time. Or hot water to bath in once or twice a week. A letter or rare phone call from the U.S. which brightened our day and provided longed-for information from back home. It was the hospitality a local family or student had extended. Some of us had email access at times and we cherished the few lines we received in a rather archaic version of email supplied via a dial-up Russian-style phone.
Every single teacher shared some little thing that deeply touched their heart and soul. Most of us could relate to every blessing that was expressed because we had experienced something remarkably similar in the last few months. We provided lots of time and space for people to pour out their stories and how this affected them. It was deeply personal, beautiful and yet raw with emotion and feeling.
The room had a window of walls on one side. It was very dark outside. In the room, a single light bulb provided elimination for the entire space, along with a few candles on the tables. The darkness hung amongst us and we all felt a little melancholy. After some moments of silence after the last teacher shared, someone began to sing “Silent Night.” Yes, it was Thanksgiving … not Christmas. But we knew that this was our celebration for both holidays, as we would not be together again before Christmas.
It didn’t take long for all of the teachers to join in. We sang completely acapella and slowly, harmony filled in the main melody. It didn’t matter if you were a “good” singer or not. Everyone joined in. Everyone participated. While it was impossible to see everyone’s faces in the room, I’m quite confident there was not a dry eye present.
Whether you have one, two, four or six at your Thanksgiving table this week, I pray that you will take a few moments and share your blessings. From your heart. Those things that are terribly personal, beautiful and yet raw the emotion and feeling. Even in the midst of uncertainty, a pandemic and so many things that are not normal, there are lots of reasons to trust in the Lord. To lean not on our own understanding but to trust in God’s wisdom.
May God guide your blessing and your sharing with your loved ones this week. Amen.
For patience in allowing this Thanksgiving to come together and touch me deeply, I am grateful.
Holy God – Too often, we look for the “perfect” holiday celebration … when this may not be reality. I pray we find the blessing in the simplicity of our Thanksgiving celebrations this week. May time be filled with reflection more so than food and football. May time be deeply personal, raw and speak to our hearts and souls. Amen.
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