The turkey has been demolished. The yummy delicious dishes that took time to make are now mostly devoured and declared to be good. Naps and sleep that were forgone in order to make the dishes in between juggling baby and real life are forgotten in the warmth of memories made around the food. Hearts are full and grateful here.
It was a Thanksgiving to remember.
We had a relaxing day with my folks coming to lunch. It was the first in a long time that I’ve made them a meal! I started making food last week, preparing one or two dishes a day and freezing what I could ahead of time so we could do this. I’ve spent a lot of Thanksgivings a little lonely for family. This year, I spontaneously said to Brandon, ‘Let’s invite my folks. They rarely get out over Thanksgiving and besides, I’m cooking a big meal already.’ Then I panicked a bit and wondered what I’d said. Was I ready to let down some walls and accept the muted, not so appealing colors that help make up the tapestry of my life? Was I ready to release and let go of unanswered questions and longings? Was I ready to give and love big without expectations? I chose to resolutely push through these walls, questions, and fears as I made each dish and it was so worth it! I am 40 years young. It kinda felt like a crossing over a Jordan spot into the Promised Land for me. Surreal peace and fulfillment at the end of the day.
I never could have done it without Brandon and the kids! Everyone was a team and helped so willingly! Brandon was supportive and steady, taking care of Winston most of the morning and during lunch so I could get things ready. He delivered the meal I had made for one of our friends in Lancaster City. The kids were so excited about Grandpa Champs coming and pitched in super well! (My mom wondered if they always help so cheerfully.) I set Sarah loose to take care of the decorating. She had made napkin holders for her art class and used them along with a homemade leaf wreath she creatively made with yarn and leaves collected from outside. There was cranberry salad, squash rolls and butter, individual cheese balls with crackers and pretzels, stuffing, mashed potatoes smothered in brown butter, sweet potato casserole topped with perfectly browned marshmallows, buttered green beans, the big bird and vanilla pudding with pumpkin cream cheese roll. The latter was eaten only later because everyone was so full from the first course that we all needed a break before dessert!
There were stories told, recollections talked about, a play of the pilgrims put on by Sarah and Johannes of their own free will and creativity. And then it seemed my folks had just come and it was time for them to leave. I had no idea how full my heart would feel at the end of the day or how genuinely happy it would make them. We will do this again hopefully. One of the things they taught us well was hospitality and outrageous giving. Even when it hurt. It felt like I had let that part of my heritage die, but yesterday it was uncovered and brought to life again as I set out the fine China that was passed on to me from my Grandma Champ and prepared the food.
I value and honor the lessons my folks taught me when it comes to community! I value and honor the good parts of the heritage they sacrificed to pass down to me and am thankful for that!
After they left I snuck out the lane for a solitary walk in the gorgeous weather while the kids oooed and ahhhed over the bag of Thanksgiving gifts our friend, Stephanie had sent back with Brandon when he dropped off the meal for her. Think LEGO sets, gel pens, a terrarium and more. They were in LEGO heaven creating all manner of things when I got back from my walk and are still creating today!
We took off today to just chill and relax, and in the relaxing, I keep being awed by God’s love and faithfulness with each of us where we are in our personal journeys. I couldn’t have forced yesterday and made it happen if I’d have tried. All I was doing was walking into ‘the next yes’ I felt God was asking from me. As I cooked and got ready the last two weeks, I kept asking myself what it is I want for this thanksgiving? I kept coming back to one thing–I want to love big. And if I’m going to love big then I would need to let go of self. I would need to allow myself to know and be known by Love so I could give a piece of Love Himself to the ones He placed in my life. It would require letting go–letting go of unanswered questions, letting go of walls, letting go of hurts and gripes, letting go of expectations.
In life, if I pay for something, I value it and take care of it much more than I would some freebie. It’s the same in relationships. If I go the whole way and willingly pay the price to invest in the other side without thought for myself, the relationship becomes full of value. The fulfillment, peace and satisfaction are over the top and the price is worth it.
I don’t have words for what I experienced yesterday. It was both healing and stretching; restful and rewarding. I had its moments of hard choices and some spots I had to leap over leading up to it. There were also a lot of moments where it flowed like a beautiful river and I knew we were in the right spot. The moments of resistance where we needed to push against the flow added their own beautiful song of grace and joy to the river. Being in the right place where I am full of joy doesn’t always mean easy. In fact, a lot of the time there’s enough tough mixed in to keep me leaning, reaching for Him and ‘the more’ that I need in Him.
I discovered that joy is actually strength–strength not dependent on my circumstances for its standing presence. The more I learn to know my Papa and the joy He brings the less afraid I am of the hard.
There’s a new strength and confidence in me that can’t be found in hiding behind walls and playing it safe, which, by the way, is an oxymoron. Playing it safe is one of the most dangerous things that will lead to potential loss and regret. So whatever it is you want, start today. Leap over the wall of self or whatever wall it is that holds you back and joy and Love will find you outside those walls. Push against the flow. Love big and do that thing that costs you without thinking of yourself and what might be in it for you. You will find a deeper satisfaction than you’ve known before. Confidence and joy. I’ve wasted a lot of time looking for confidence, joy, and inner strength. I’ve discovered they can’t be found when I’m looking for them. Instead, they find me when I’m quietly, selflessly doing the right thing; listening to the umpire of Peace in my soul and trusting my heart to Him.
Love well and love big today, my friends! Life is too short for walls and grudges! That doesn’t mean ignoring what happened because of others’ selfish negligence. It doesn’t mean that there have not been painful things in life. It simply means that you are willing to do the right thing and love well in spite of those things that happened and cannot be changed. Each one of our journeys is beautiful, personal, unique. We aren’t all at the same spot and that’s okay. All God needs from us is a ‘yes’ for Him to walk with us in the place He’s asking us to go. Then, as we lay down whatever we need to in order to go there, Love will find us and He will teach us there.
by Vera Smoker
Hi there! I am Vera, blessed wife of one and mom to three wonderful little people who make my world go round. I am an unashamed lover of Jesus, passionate about authentic relationships rooted within the identity that comes first from my relationship with Him. I’m a lover of good books, fat journals, sunsets and sunrises, long quiet country walks, and time with my family around campfires or on our front porch. Growth and mentorship are high on the list of values for me and I always thrill when I get to celebrate the wonderful journey of growth and discovery with others. The Hubs and I both love hosting so come relax with us sometime and we will chat the time away and connect over a good cup of coffee or chai!
Look at Me Flash Cards
Look at Me Flash Cards include eight sets of eight flash cards (64 total) with each set focusing on an area of the body. With a set for each body, ears, eyes, feet, hands, heart, mind, and mouth words of life are being spoken over each area not only for their physical wellbeing, but their spiritual health and strengthening forever.
Kintsugi has always intrigued me. When a small dish from the treasury of my Grandma’s china that had been passed down to me broke the other week, I almost tossed it right into the trash can. But mid toss I stopped and said out loud, ‘No. Verna! She knows how to do kintsugi! I want to do that with this dish.’ At that point I immediately picked up the phone and put in my request for a little help and know-how for the project which turned into a fun morning and lunch together.
In the past, and sometimes still, I can find it difficult to slow down the intake and focus on being established instead of frantically going for more. I’m learning that it’s okay to give myself permission to listen to the same message or read the same chapter over and over again; to learn and re-learn a new habit; to move in peace and let the message or lesson sink deeply into my spirit.
I haven’t always done well with living in touch with the desires inside of me. I haven’t always seen or treated them as gifts. But God is teaching me the beauty of them. The more I learn to lean into and trust the Holy Spirit, the more He’s teaching me the joy and the graceful art of embracing those desires while simultaneously releasing them and going quietly on with what is ‘today’.