Favorite Thanksgiving Moment

After a week full of Thanksgiving festivities, I am feeling quite bloated with great memories and good times.  Nuked leftovers cannot compare.  However, there is one moment that stands out as my all-time favorite.

I could tell you it was…

* Holding hands with my man while strolling through Rockefeller Center

* Playing games with the entire family clan

* The first snowflakes of the season dancing on our windshield

* Everyone gathering around to watch Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving

* Our trek to NYC and walking for hours upon hours despite foot surgery just 7 weeks ago

* Lots of laughs, smiles and hugs

* Enjoying my favorite pizza in the entire world – Lombardi’s!

* Going to church together

* Taking the traditional after-dinner walk with my kiddos and nephew

* Black Friday shopping with my sister-in-law who is one of my closest friends

* Cold turkey sandwich using only bread, turkey, mayo and pepper – don’t mess with a classic!

* Watching the kids ice skate

* Tucking in sleepy kids after a good day of playing

* Endless jokes!

* Going to a matinee with the whole crew – on a work/school day!

*  Traveling with my family of 5 plus the dog and a hedgehog.  Just being in the same place at the same time even if it’s stuck in a van from sun up to sundown.

* Watching how excited our dog gets to see that famous red chicken outline or those golden arches while traveling on the highway.  She gets grilled nuggets or a hamburger patty and loves to help with the drive-up window ordering.

* Saying grace before the Thanksgiving feast with everyone holding hands

* Admiring beautiful blue rocks the kids found in a nearby creek

* Having friends come over for Thanksgiving dessert to catch up

* Showing some family folks Pinterest for the first time!

* Long talks with everyone

* Football

* Macy’s Parade

* Not setting an alarm clock for an entire week

As much as all of these (and more) meant to me, there is one moment that will stay with me forever.  It was Thanksgiving morning and I had slept in a bit.  Sounds around the house told me I was one of the last to wake up.  I hustled through a shower and all that jazz – feeling like I needed to join everyone.  After all, the parade had already begun!

I knew my brother-in-law was preparing the turkey, bed-headed kids were sprawled on the floor playing games and adults were bustling about getting everything ready for a great day.

Feeling hurried to join in and help, I abruptly stopped.  One important step in my morning routine had been overlooked.  I had not said Good Morning to God.  Every morning I pray to God and tell Him I love Him.

I had packed my devotion, but honestly, with a house full of people and a calendar of fun to be had, it is difficult to squirrel away and have quiet time.  Nonetheless, I stopped and prayed and put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-19).

The clock was ticking, and because I overslept I felt like I needed to get moving.  But, I wanted to spend time with my Abba Father who gave me every reason to be thankful on Thanksgiving.  Torn between God, family and what I felt was my contribution to help out around the house, I literally stood frozen in the middle of the bedroom and didn’t know which way to turn.

In a quick moment, I turned, left the room and headed for the stairs.

As I walked toward the stairs, I felt a strong pull on my heart.  It was odd.  I took more steps toward the stairs, but with every one, I felt like I was pushing into a force that was stronger than me.  A hesitancy.  Lagging.  Drawing.  I couldn’t figure it out.  I was torn between being a wife, mother, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt…and child of the King.  I thought perhaps it was the guilt I felt for not spending longer with my God who deserves more.

Just as I stepped onto the top step, the morning sun brightly shining into my eyes, God spoke ever-so clearly.

He said, I love you, too.

My breath caught as I gripped the handrail.  In four words, He changed me.  In four words, He told me He understood.

Yes, God always deserves our best, our most.  We often fail to give that to Him.  I am guilty of putting others before Him, people-pleaser that I am.  Ug.  I get caught up in projects and deadlines and busyness.  Double ug.  But, this morning, it was my heart – not my head that was torn.

I wasn’t avoiding Him, hiding from Him, angry at Him or anything else that would keep me from staying with Him longer.  I just didn’t know how to be all to all and caved in thinking pleasing people was momentarily more pressing.

You know what God did?  He cut me some slack.  Gave me grace.  Met me where I was. He simply loved me.

An action we could apply to all of our relationships.

He read my mind and heard my heart.  He, God of the universe, time and space, turned His face toward me and spoke to me.  That was the draw.  His presence was almost tangible. That is what I sensed.  It was as though He stood on the step in front of me, gently placed His hand on my anxious heart, and made me stop to hear Him.  All that was missing was eye contact, and that I felt through the blazing sun shooting through the window.

It was a miraculous moment.  A private moment between the Almighty God and me. I was undeserving.  Lavished on.  Humbled.  Loved.

I love you, too played over and over in my heart for the rest of the day.  He knew I felt straddled between two worlds and instead of judging me – He joined me on the journey.

I will never forget the magnetism that drew me to Him on that stair.  The electricity of His presence.  How incredibly and deeply loved I felt.

This was my favorite moment of the whole week – and it will be one I carry with me for the rest of my life.

Thanksgiving one-liners, oh my!

My family traveled to visit extended family for Thanksgiving week. When you put 12 people – ranging from 9 to 73 years old – a dog, and a hedgehog in one house, it’s bound to be interesting. Thought I’d recap some of the one-liners from the week. Enjoy, and I apologize in advance…

And for the spicy, jalapeno turkey I stuffed a bottle’s worth of Tums inside it.

We decided to have a bloodbath to end it. (Re: The annual testosterone-filled, “friendly” game of Risk)

(Worried about our fuel supply driving to our family’s house, I wanted to stop and fill up, but Bruce didn’t. On a lonely stretch of highway, in the dark, I looked out the window and saw a gas station off the highway.) To prove my point, I said, We just passed gas! Everyone busted out laughing. Took me a minute to get it. 🙂

I can’t help it. I hear the music for Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving and my eyes won’t stay open.

Do it again and I’ll take the keys to your car away.

We should’ve never teamed up. (i.e. Risk)

(Road trip stop at Chic-Fil-A) – May I have 4 grilled chicken nuggets…for my dog.

***

You’re in my personal space!

No! You’re in MY personal space!

***

It was me! Hey, everyone does it sometimes.

If we’re going to be stuck in the Holland Tunnel much longer, I’m going to use this empty cup.

It’s never a good idea to hit bumps on the road while drinking hot chocolate…just look at my shirt.

Let’ play a game…everyone close their eyes. I’ll hide the turkey and you guys try to find it!

(At the movies with our motley crew with a very annoyed candy clerk) Hey! Would you look at this! We have coupons for free popcorn, free soda and cheap candy. It’s our lucky day! Oh, and can we have 4 little drink cups and 5 popcorn trays? (Tacky, I know.)

I’ll moon you!

The dog is on the table… again!

Get the plunger!

Do you realize all our men have left us wives, children and grandmother alone in Chinatown, in the dark, without our car?

I think the dog did it.

Totally worth it! (Re: Lombardi’s pizza and Ferrar’s desserts)

Screaming and crying – My pet hedgehog’s paw came off and there is blood all over the place!*

Sister-in-law after returning from the vet with me – It’s interesting to see what a day in the life of your family is like…

We’re in Kahootz!

There’s a reason why the bathroom has a fan and a can of apple cinnamon spray.

Yeah, I couldn’t eat my breakfast of sausage, eggs and ketchup after the hedgehog incident.

(Regarding the hedgehog to cousins) So, do you still want a hamster?

Roll down the window!

***

So…um…my watch caught the edge of the table that had Uncle’s chocolate frappacino on it…sorry!

Get the carpet steamer…QUICK!

***

(On Sunday) When is it a good time to do some of our laundry?

Saturday… when you go home! 😉

***

Conversation –

Do you have any Sprite?

No, I’m sorry we don’t.

That’s okay. (Spontaneously found one in the garage fridge and drank half the bottle. Sister-in-law returns to the room.)

I replied, Hey! I found one!

Really? Let me check the expiration date because we never buy this. (Pause)

I can’t read this…does it look like 2010 to you?

(Pause) Yep, as I nearly spit it out.

***

Conversation taking family pictures –

Now that I’m 18 can I be in the adult’s picture?

No.

***

You forgot to wear deoderant again, didn’t you.

I need a nap.

(Re: the Macy’s Parade) Hurry up in the bathroom, you’re going to miss your favorite floats!

If everyone would just stand still and smile, we can get this photo over with sooner.

Eww, he swallowed his loogie!

Someone left rocks from the river in the bathroom sink and it freaked me out cause it looked like something else!!!

Stopping for a restroom break on the way home, one person took longer than usual. Questioning if they were okay – the response…Sorry. I fell asleep on the toilet.

(At 4am) Help! I have a booger stuck in my nose and can’t get it out!

***

Should we tell them the bread was molded?

Nah.

***

(Madden Football on one tv, Wii playing on the other and the women want to watch “Say Yes to the Dress.” We women stood united and outnumbered the male Wii players) – Estrogen has entered the building and we’re taking over the t.v.

Hey! It’s the Naked Cowboy! (In NYC)

***

(Sitting on icy cold, metal bleachers outside watching the cousins ice skate)

I can’t feel my butt.

Me either.

***

Is that snow?!?!?

Yes, and never eat yellow snow.

***

On a long stretch of dark highway – Uh oh. My braces just broke.

I’m glad I can’t smell.

Seriously, how long can you wait till we have to stop?

My feet are bigger than yours!

Keep a watch for Sasquatch! (While changing drivers in the pitch black middle of nowhere.)

(Re: metal folding chairs at the Thanksgiving dinner table) – Why do I have to sit in a fake chair?

Do you have any household disinfectant?

With a pouting chin resting on the kitchen table, I don’t want to go home.

I’m going to miss you.

And the award goes to the best one-liner of the week – Someone needs to wipe.

Family time. It may be crowded. Loud. Cluttered. Chaotic. But it’s also so much FUN! Put the whole shabang together and you gotta love it. Happy Thanksgiving from our crazy family to yours. 🙂

* Hedgehog will be fine. The vet determined that she ran her paws raw on her spinning wheel. It was a horrible sight of blood everywhere, but her paw was in tact. It was a wood ship covered in blood that was mistaken for her paw. She is on 10 days of bed rest with no spinning to recover. She’ll be fine, but my nerves won’t be for a while!! Sheesh! :O

Thankful for it all

Have you ever felt so many things at once you don’t know how to feel?  That’s me tonight.  I am humbled beyond measure for my family who loves me.  I am forever grateful for friends who have become family to me.

Tonight, as family sat around the dinner table, I looked around and saw such beautiful people.  People that are in my life because my husband, 27 years ago, gave me the time when I asked.  Because of that moment, I sit with his family today, bloodline and in-law, and am in awe that I am here.

Not just in this moment with them, but in this place in life.  Loved.  Accepted.  Wanted – by people who have known me for decades and family who have only known me less than a year.

I miss my dad.  It’s the first Thanksgiving since he died, and I feel I am only beginning to come out of a daze that he is gone.  I will forever treasure my last conversation with him, when love finally overcame my stupid pride and I was able to tell him deep truth about us.  Maybe it was because he was physically unable to respond that made it easier to feel vulnerable and speak my mind.  Maybe it was because I knew we only had moments left together this side of heaven.  Either case, we made eye contact, real eye contact, for the first time ever.  I cried in front of him for the first time ever.  I touched his arm, with tubes coming out of many places in it, and was able to say goodbye.  I asked him to promise to do something in heaven for me – and he nodded his head yes.

I never got that opportunity with my mom.

As we watched our kids and cousins ice skate today, a little girl fell pretty hard on the ice.  Her mom quickly came to her rescue.  I said to my sister-in-law, Sometimes we all need our moms.  I felt the sting of loss prick my heart.  But as soon as I did, I felt the healing hand of God cover my heart with His palm until the pain subsided…again.

There is little I love more than sharing life with my family.  The holidays, the nothing days and every day in between.  I love hearing my kids laugh, watching my son and daughter walk arm in arm down the street, and enjoying warching my other son bust a move in the living room to Madden 2012’s music.

On the other hand, I can’t help but hear this giant clock ticking my head.  A countdown to when they will be grown and gone.  As much as I hate it, this clock taints even the best of moments.  Try as I might to ignore it and drown it out with today’s joys and blessings…the clock is there – counting down. Silly, I know, because we are not promised tomorrow – so why mourn something that hasn’t happened yet?  Ug.  I wish I had an answer.  Solution.  Resolution. Peace.

I have so many blessings for which to be thankful – and the whole picture tells the whole story.  I am thankful for wearing two running shoes that match.  Getting out of the boot and surgical shoe was such a relief!  But, had I not been in those awkward things would I still be thankful for matching shoes?

I am so thankful for my husband and children and extended family.  However, would I hold them so closely – never taking them for granted – if I had not ever known what it feels like to lose everyone in my life?

I am thankful for every sunrise, which holds a promise for a new day that God has granted, because I remember when I wished I would never wake up again.

I am thankful that I am going to bed miserably full from my family’s generous cooking, because I vividly remember what it felt like to be unsure of how I would find meals for the rest of my life.

I am thankful for friends who are not fair-weathered.  We are in this together for the long haul, because I definitely know what it feels like to be alone and am blessed God has joined our paths to journey life together.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for it all.  The good times and the bad, because it’s the low’s that make me that much more grateful for the high’s.  I am also thankful for the One who appoints all things.  God alone is sovereign, and He allows the difficult and blesses us with the easy.  With every step I traverse on this earth, I am acutely aware of how much I need Him.

Some may praise God in the good and curse Him in the bad, but I will worship Him in both.  Circumstances change, but God remains the same – faithful and on the throne.

I’m really glad a day is set aside to give thanks.  More than football, parades and feasts, it is a time for hearts to worship God, our Father.  I will worship with a full heart.  A grateful heart.  A thankful heart.  More than the bounty set at the table, I am thankful for the endless grace Christ bought for us with His own blood.

Whether I feel on top of the world or as if my heart if being torn in two, I can trust my Savior, rely on my God, and live the abundant life believers are called to.  This Thanksgiving will be a day of celebrating who God is and the eternal work Christ has done.  For that alone I will celebrate.  As for my family, friends, sunrises, improving health and endless blessings – my cup runneth over.

Philippians 4:12-13, I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

For some, this is the best Thanksgiving you’ve ever had (like my family who is celebrating their first Thanksgiving with twins!).  For others, this is the worst (like my friends who just buried their teenage son and will spend this day without him).

I pray that in all circumstances, the strength of Christ will fill you and bless you; His grace will cover you; His peace will be with you; and His love will pour over your soul and spill over onto others.

Happy Thanksgiving!

~ Kristi

10 Thank You’s

At the beginning of the school year, my youngest had an interesting school assignment.  He had to tell something about his life using the numbers 1-10.  Pretty cool!

As we near Thanksgiving, I’d like to share ten things about life I am thankful for using the numbers 1-10.

#10 – My great-grandmother gave me, for my 10th birthday, a 110 Instamatic camera.  As soon as I held it, I was hooked for life.  Someone once told me photography is my voice to the world.  Nailed it!  Although my cameras have changed over the years, it’s been an unending love affair ever since.

#9 –  God has richly blessed my life with nine fantastic girlfriends.  These are women I deeply admire and respect.  They are funny, smart, godly, and irreplaceable.  They are women who I know I can call anytime of day for anything – and they me.  We laugh till it hurts, pray for and with each other, and love sharing life together.  They never cease to amaze me with the bottomless love, grace and mercy they weave into their lives.  I want to be like them when I grow up!  We may have many friends and acquaintances, but I am spoiled with these nine women who generously let me in their worlds and love me back.  You know who you are!

#8 –  This Thanksgiving I am thankful for eight years with my dad.  With his permission, I published a devotion about our story (click here) , and today I find myself sitting here thinking about him.  This will be the first Thanksgiving since he died last December.  This time last fall, we were traveling back and forth almost every weekend crossing state lines to visit him in the hospital.  Every time we went, he was a little weaker.  On the fifth trip, we received the call to hurry and say goodbye, and so we dropped everything and went.  I am so glad we did.  When I was in his hospital room, a different kind of sadness overtook my heart.  It seems most people have a hard time letting go of a loved one because of how much history they share and how deeply they have loved.  I found myself mourning not what we had, but what we won’t have.  Over the past year, I have mourned the lack of a future together rather than a past.  Our history involved decades of silence and hurt.  But, once we reconciled, with Christ as our mediator, we got 8 great years together.  Driving home from saying goodbye to him for the final time, I said to Bruce, Life is messy.  People aren’t perfect, but many people live their whole lives with family only on the surface level.  Ray and I may have only had 8 years together, but they were deep.  I would have rather had 8 years of fulling loving each other than a lifetime of staying merely relatives.  I miss him a lot.  I continue to miss what we won’t get to have this side of heaven.  But, I look forward to the day I will see him again – cancer free – and this time we have eternity to look forward to spending together.  No more goodbyes.

#7 – My family is blessed to spend Thanksgiving with seven family members, in addition to our party of five, this year.  We love our extended family and cherish the tradition of getting together.  Cousins, grandmother, uncles, aunts, and in-laws – we have a great time together!  We are blessed that everyone gets along great and is as excited as we are to be together.  The family game of football, Black Friday shopping, and leftover turkey sandwiches are great times, but it’s an extra blessing to be with people who share life together not just on the holidays.  Although we all live in different places, we have so much in common.  Whether it be old memories of times we’ve shared or fond stories about people we miss, no one understands it like those who lived it, too.  I am very thankful for the blessing of family.

#6 – My dog turned six this year.  She is my 4th child.  Although I’ve had pets all my life, I always dreamed of a dog who wanted to be with me.  A dog I can let off the leash and not worry about her running away because she actually wants to stay with me.  This is my dog.  She is my shadow, my friend.  Yesterday, she had some oral surgery leaving her very sore and quite loopy from the anesthesia.  When we got home from the vet, she followed behind me making the most pitiful moans and groans.  I thought she was hungry because of the fast for surgery so I gave her a small amount of food.  She ate it all up, but followed me still.  I caved in and gave her more.  Gobbled it up, but followed me still.  She stood at my feet while I washed dishes in the kitchen, begging with her glassy eyes and shaved I.V. leg.  I remembered her favorite treats, so I cut up a couple really small.  She loved them, but returned under foot.  She had such a longing in her eyes.  I turned off the faucet, looked at her and said, I don’t know what you want?  What it is?  She cocked her head to the side like she usually does when trying to tell me something.  We have this special bond, and it was in that moment I said, Do you just want me?  She cocked her head again and raised her paw to me.  So, I left the kitchen and sat down on the couch.  She jumped up on my lap and snuggled down.  Within just a minute or two, she was fast asleep in my arms.  Content.  Comfortable.  Loved.

#5 – God hand-picked five incredible people to be a part of my life – through an unusual way.  Three of them (plus a brother in-law!) come by way of my dad’s third marriage.  I have two step-sisters and one step-brother.  From the day I first met them when I was 13 years old, they all welcomed me into their family and although we don’t get to see each other much, I love them and am honored to call them friends.  They are really good people.  You know what I mean?  Honest, sincere, funny and witty.  They love their country, family and never met a stranger.  The other two people are newer to me and are nothing short of a gift from God.  They are…my half brothers!  From my dad’s first marriage (we were marriage #2), these guys remained a mystery to me until last December.  When my dad died, they both came to his celebration of life service.  Oh my!  I was instantly smitten with the idea of having these two men in my life.  They are kind, genuine and want me in their life!  How about that?  Whereas we went to honor the loss of our mutual father, it was in his death that new life sprang up between theses guys and me.  We live long-distance, but it is an enormous blessing to share emails and Facebook with them.  Our dad would be so happy!  Also, I got to meet their mom and she is wonderful!  Actually, all 3 wives would get along great if my mom were alive today.  The peace and harmony in our colorful family is Christ.  Everyone single one of us are believers, and that is what makes this unique situation – not just work – but be one of the greatest blessings in my life.  I LOVE having two half-brothers and am forever grateful they have room in their hearts for me.  Life, no – God, is full of surprises!

#4 – I am thankful for four words – blessing, honor, glory & power.  One of my favorite worship songs is Philips, Craig & Dean’s When the Stars Burn Down.  What a great song about what is to come!  In the meantime, these four words usurp everything this world can throw at us.  Whether we are at our peak or in the deepest valley, it all pales in comparison to the majesty of the God we serve.  If I am shouting praise or crying His name through pain, who God is covers all.  The mere shadow of the train of His robe dwarfs the problems of this world as well as sets me up for the anticipation of the very real world that awaits.  With a word, the sun will fade, the moon will hide and the world as we know it will be changed.  In all of the seasons of life, my heart claims again and again and again blessing, honor, glory & power.  There is strength, healing and grace in the Name that saves.

#3 – I am blessed with three amazing kids!!!!!  Each one of them was born with a different love language and communication style, unique talents and gifts – life is never boring with them!  They are so much fun.  They love their family deeply and show it in their own way.  I never thought I’d have 3 kids.  Never thought I’d have boys – and I have two.  Never thought I’d have a daughter who is so much like her mother. 🙂  In the mornings while I sleepily gather lunchboxes, my oldest son tells me often how pretty he thinks I am.  To me, there nothing pretty about morning stick-up hair, my husband’s robe I stole from him long ago 😉 or my less-than-enthusiastic attitude pre-sunrise, but he says he sees a mom who is willing to get up and make breakfast and lunch and see him off for the day and that he thinks that’s beautiful.  My teenage daughter, when asked in a survey at a girls retreat who her best friend is, listed me!!  Need I say more?  My youngest, a tween, still hugs me every single time he leaves for any activity – and he doesn’t care who sees.  Even at school, in the middle of tons of cars and kids, he’ll give me a hug and a kiss.  I’m never going to turn it down.  I am blessed beyond measure with awesome kids and I never, ever take that granted.

#2 – Two surgical boots.  That’s right!  I am thankful for this season of healing for Bruce and me.  Although it is crazy, stressful, choatic and literally painful, this season has brought me such beautiful blessings of: having my husband work from home (I get to see him more!), some stolen lunches together (something we otherwise never get to have), and a renewed compassion for each other.  First, I was down for the count after surgery and he cared for me.  Then, he fell from 20′ and has been quite injured and it’s my turn to care for him – even as I hobble to do it.  Watching ourselves limp in tandem around the house, hearing the loud velcro strips from our boots either coming off or putting them on, sharing the ice machine – and even the shower seat (EWW!!) has slowed our pace, let us laugh at life, and has reminded us that in the daily grind of the week we are people, not machines.  Nursing our medical issues has also given us permission to simply go to bed earlier with no guilt.  Something both of us needed.

#1 – There is one Name that saves.  Only one.  His name is Jesus Christ.  He is my true love, hope, salvation, joy, purpose, friend, brother, King, Lord, Prince of Peace, manager, coach, cheerleader, encourager, my Savior – my everything!  I will give Him thanks today and always.  To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 24-25)

What is your top ten? 🙂

Breaking Tradition

Yesterday, I wrote about one of our family’s favorite Thanksgiving traditions.  Today, there is a different story to share.

Growing up, I used to come up with all kinds of ideas to hopefully draw our family closer together.  There weren’t many fun times that I can remember living through 2 divorces, a very frightful childhood with my stepfather and my mom dying of cancer when I was a teenager.  Still, something inside me just couldn’t lay down and die – though at one point I thought it may be my only hope to escape the stress and trauma I knew as our “normal.”

My mom said I was an eternal optimist.  I didn’t know what that meant, so she described it as always trying to see the positive in people and situations.  I’m not sure I understood that either as a child, but I knew that something inside me always wanted to look at the bright side of life – even if I had to search hard to find it.

To lighten the unrelenting heaviness that hung over our house laced with financial woes and other issues, despite my mom’s tireless efforts to provide as best she could, I tried to start little traditions.  Most of the time I was the only one who wanted to keep them going.  It’s okay.  I understood.

One tradition I came up with was at Thanksgiving was (this is not a new idea, but it was new to our family) when we gathered around the table with my grandparents and immediate family, we would all say one thing we were thankful for before the blessing was offered.

This tradition stuck for a while…until 1994.  By then, I was married (at 19) and was making the annual trek to my grandparents’ home for Thanksgiving – where our very small family spent all of our holidays.

However, this year, my grandfather was dying of lung cancer.  He was an honorable man.  Everyone in the community knew him and respected him.  He began his work career unloading shipments on the docks at 13 years old and retired with the same company at 65 in upper management.  He was faithful to his wife, said what he meant, and counted every penny.  I feared him – in a good way.  He was steady, consistent – something my home didn’t offer me.  He had a soft side that only we saw and was quietly generous toward others.

Thanksgiving 1994, Bruce and I came over like we usually did for the big feast.  I really didn’t have a thought in my mind about the day, as I had taught myself (for better or worse) to navigate holidays with a sense of numbness.  I allowed myself to feel happiness, but nothing else for those 24 hours.  I was a master compartmentalizer, if you will.

But, not so with Granddad on this day.  He most certainly had something on his mind.

We didn’t know at the time he was dying.  He was very sick, but we thought he was still fighting with hope of beating the odds.  Whether or not he knew differently, I’ll never know.  He pulled me aside.

A private conversation with him was rare.  In fact, I think this was our only one ever.

He surprised me by saying, This year, Kristi, when we sit down to eat, I don’t want to go around the table and say something we are thankful for.

My response was what it always was, Yes, Sir.

He walked away without another word, but I stood in the darkened hallway speechless, with my breath caught in my throat.

First, I was surprised he paid attention to my little tradition.  Being the baby of the family, I grew up feeling completely unheard (Thus, this blog! Hmm.) and oftentimes humored and even laughed at.  Many of my thoughts, convictions and opinions were discounted or just plain ignored by my family.  I really couldn’t believe he paid this one tradition any mind at all.

Second, which was more impactful to me, was that by him saying this to me, it was the first time since he became sick that I saw him as a fragile man.

He had always been larger-than-life to me.  He was…Granddad.  The military veteran, loyal employee, devoted husband, church-goer, excellent golfer and manager of their house. He was also a man of very few words.

When he pulled me aside, he allowed me to see a vulnerable side of his heart.  All of a sudden I saw him as human, not superhero.  I saw his cancer through fresh eyes and realized how serious it was (I was 24 at the time).  It’s like I saw a different man standing before me.  An aged man, weathered from life and illness.

He rarely, and I mean if ever, let his innermost feelings show.  When he asked/told me this, he was heading me off at the pass before we could reach the table where I would blindly begin the tradition.

I was stunned.  Humbled.  Somber.  Sad.  Grateful.

It was the first time I felt he looked at me as an adult.

Out of great respect for him, and for his risk in sharing with me his most private feelings, it was an honor not to bring up the tradition of telling what we are thankful for at the table.

Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a season and purpose for everything.  This was not the season for this tradition.

Although I can be very stubborn for the cause, pulling myself up by the bootstraps for what I believe in and fight for it, it was a humbling decision to lay this down that year.

He died a month later.

At the holidays, traditions can help us relive fond memories, create new ones, and make the season simply more fun and special.  But, sometimes traditions can hurt.  Even if they don’t hurt us, they may hurt someone we love.

I’m all for traditions, but Granddad taught me that it’s not all about me.  Other people are involved and have feelings, too.  Sometimes traditions need to be paused out of consideration of others…and that’s okay.

With the world spinning in chaos, who I am today, because of Granddad, approaches holidays light-footed.  I try to be sensitive to others around me whether it is: inviting those without family to be a part of ours for the holiday; to simplify things so as to not cause a financial burden on my husband; or even quietly let a tradition slip by unnoticed if it helps someone else through a difficult season.

We may not have practiced our thankful tradition that year, but I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give my granddad the gift of compassion.  Something a hardworking, proud man doesn’t easily receive.

No one ever knew about this moment between us until now.  I’ve kept it close to my heart, but want to share it as I know I am not alone in wondering how to approach the holidays – which are no respecter of problems, come what may.

I have found that if I step back, breathe and ask God how to handle certain traditions, He gives me a perspective different than the one I see from where my feet stand in the longitude and latitude of life.

If a special tradition isn’t observed this year because of a difficult situation, it’s okay to grieve it and let it go – for now.  However, sometimes it’s important to celebrate a tradition in spite of the situation, but it can be difficult to discern which way is best.  Rest knowing that God is bigger than all circumstance and loves us so much He is only a prayer away.  He’ll carry your burden and give you wisdom if you ask Him.  He may even give you back an unexpected blessing in return.

For me, the blessing was getting to share a moment with Granddad that we otherwise never would have had.  That moment is now one of my most special memories with him.  And when my family sits around the table this Thanksgiving and says what we are thankful for, I’m sure I’ll have lots to say, but one I will be feeling in my heart is the Thanksgiving of 1994 when, for the first time in my life, I could give back to the man who always selflessly sacrificed for me.  And for that, I will always be thankful.

Thanksgiving Traditions

If your home looks like mine, colorful fall leaves have found their way to every room of the house, my one annual, frivolous expense, a yummy smelling pumpkin spice candle is more than half-way used up by now, and the hall closet has been ransacked by kids hurrying to find a jacket to take to school on unexpectedly chilly mornings.  I love it!

With Thanksgiving next week, I am scouring Pinterest and my familiar cookbooks to decide what to make for “the dinner.”  We share this holiday with extended family, and it’s just so fun to have everyone bring their family’s favorite dishes to share.

One dish that represents our clan is pie.  No, I’m not a great pie maker.  I’m not sure I’m even a good pie maker, but the story behind this pie is what has made it a family tradition.

Several years ago, I was in the kitchen, with the other women folk in the family, and we were cooking up a storm.  Every burner was hot, the oven was roasting, and every last inch of counter space filled was with cutting boards, knives, vegetables – you name it.  I was totally in my element.

In the background, the Macy’s Day Parade played with my husband and kids narrating every float so I could run into the family room to see our favorites.  The sun was bright, the air crisp, and Thanksgiving smells filled every room.

While I was busy chopping, dicing and slicing, my firstborn, barely double-digits, walked into the kitchen.  He came over to me and said, Can we bake something?

Um, huh? I thought as the menu was set and every minute leading up to the glutton-fest was allocated for demanding recipes already in progress.

A bit confused, I asked him, Like what, Honey?

I was thinking pie.

Pie? I asked.  I don’t really know how to make a good pie.

I’m sure we can find a recipe, or just make one up, he insisted.

Hmm.  I’m not sure we even have the ingredients and the grocery store is closed now, I answered while stirring pots and checking oven thermometers and whisking and blending and chopping.

I love to cook with my kids.  But, now?  It had to be right now?  I was obviously a little busy at the moment.

How about an apple pie? he suggested.

Welll, um, I began.  At that moment, my mommy’s eyes caught his gorgeous hazel eyes and I saw the sincerity in his request.  He wasn’t asking to make more food to eat.  He was asking to be a part of what I was doing.  He wanted time with me.  He wanted to do something special with me on Thanksgiving.

I gazed at his tenderness and saw just how young he still was, and the longer I looked at him, the more I realized my children won’t be little forever.

I put my cutting knife down, rested my hands on his shoulders, and said, You bet.  Let’s bake an apple pie!

He got so excited, but I didn’t know where to begin.  Putting everything on simmer, I abandoned my cooking projects for time with my son.

We combed through The Joy of Cooking cookbook and found a basic pie crust recipe.  Everything we made had to be scratch because stores were closed.  I am so glad they were, because otherwise I never would have know what an awesome pastry crust maker my son is!  He kneads that dough until you can almost see your reflection!  I am way too impatient to stand there and work it, but he loves it.

We found 2 apples, but a decent pie really needs at least 4, so we found out in our quest.  Thinking hard for something else we could add, I remembered my mother-in-law made a grape pie once that was really good!  I never would have thought of using grapes in a cooked pie, but it was delicious.

My son foraged through the refrigerator and sure enough we had exactly 2 cups of grapes. Perfect.

We assembled the apple & grape pie, and with a little leftover pastry dough we cut out a single turkey shape using a cookie cutter and placed it on top of the crust.

The Great Turkey Pie was born!

Not only was it delicious, but we had the time of our lives making it together.

Holidays can quickly become a nightmare when the stress of expectations steals our joy and the true meaning of the season is buried under futile projects (many of them self-imposed).  For that Thanksgiving, and every one since, I am truly thankful I have children who want to be with me, do fun things together, and aren’t afraid to ask and not assume Mom is too busy.

I never want to be too busy for my kids – especially on the holidays.

Every year when my son and I make this special pie together, it is time I so look forward to, because he’s getting older.  I want to make life promise me that he and I will always make this pie together, perhaps even with his children helping us one day, but life won’t make that promise.

What I do have is this Thanksgiving, Lord willing.  Whatever else is swirling around on the holidays, The Great Turkey Pie is my reminder to love, cherish and enjoy my family right now.  Here’s the irony – I have no idea what all of the other food I made was now!  All that hard work with no memory now whatsoever!  The perfect turkey or impressive side dishes, cute homemade place cards or a magazine-worthy table setting doesn’t come near to equating making memories with my family.

Yeah, I’d love to have a table and trimmings that look like something out of Pottery Barn or Sur La Table.  But, I’ll take committing to fewer bells and whistles in order to have more of myself to give my family.

More than a gourmet meal, my son wanted to spend time with me.  Me!  A regular wife and mom who constantly questions whether she’s getting this parenting thing right.  His desire for my attention told me how much he loved me, and stopping my agenda to be with him told him the same.  Fun times now.  Cherished memories tomorrow.  I am blessed.  I am thankful.