Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What are you thankful for?

Thanksgiving 2008 came as close to perfect as it possibly could, just short of actually spending it with my extended family, eating my aunt Glenda's homemade apple pies and aunt Nell's strawberry pretzel Jell-o salad and Sister Schubert's rolls. (Sister Schubert is not a member of the family…unfortunately.) When it was my turn to answer the above question, my answer was simple, and probably obvious: I'm thankful that my entire family was able to visit me in Natal this year. It was especially meaningful to actually have Mark and Kelly here with me on Thanksgiving day, sharing in our celebration and being thankful for the beach. :)

We celebrated Thanksgiving on the actual day with the other Americans living in Natal plus some of our special Brazilian friends. We had all the fixins, including a tropical turkey, rolls, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, pies galore, and Fanta and Coke to drink, of course! We spent the day at John and Samantha's, and ended the afternoon by playing a fun (and new to me) word/card game. It really felt just like Thanksgiving in the States, complete with sleepiness and thankfulness.

The "What are you thankful for?" circle at John and Samantha's house

The following Saturday we had our second annual Thanksgiving celebration for the LST readers. You may remember that last year it was called a Thanksgiving Party and had a lot of Brazilian elements. Well, this year, thanks to Cyndi the Thanksgiving Genius, we had a 100% American Thanksgiving feast. We included some of the fun elements from last year, including the Thanksgiving tree (an absolutely fantastic Thanksgiving tradition, if you ask me) and added some more high-tech ones, thanks to Lacy's powerpoint presentation on the history of Thanksgiving.

Visitors and church members working on their leaves

We closed out the opening activities by getting in a big circle and singing "For All that You've Done I will Thank You" and "Give Thanks," then the food was served and everyone DUG IN. I am quick to admit that traditional Thanksgiving food is a little weird, particularly since I didn't begin to appreciate it until about 8 years ago, but the Brazilians were very receptive to the break from their usual rice and beans and embraced our weird food with a smile and a line for seconds. One reader came up to me and said "Cris, American food is AWESOME!" I said "Why thank you, Lucas, I'm glad you liked it. But you know that this isn't what we eat every day, right?" "What?!" He was so disappointed. :)

The dessert table! YUM!

We had a great turnout with our readers and some other special guests, with about fifty participants total. We even had food leftover, including pumpkin pie, much to Sergio's unrestrained excitement. (I'm pretty sure he took a whole pie home…we're just spreading the Thanksgiving cheer around, one pie at a time.)

Kelly, Sergio, and I in front of the Thanksgiving tree

Thanksgiving is the American tradition I am most PROUD to share with my Brazilian friends, because the purpose of the holiday is so meaningful. The Brazilians were very receptive to the idea of taking a special day out of the year to give thanks, and did a great job of expressing themselves on the leaves we hung on the Thanksgiving tree. Some of the things they wrote were:
-All of the bad things that didn't happened (Hey, come to think of it, I'm thankful for that, too!)
-God (Written and illustrated by the youngest Thanksgiving Feast guest, Andy Jewell, age 4.)
-My divorce (We placed no rules on the Thanksgiving tree leaves…clearly.)
-My master's degree (If I was at the point some of these readers are in their graduate degrees I would be thanking God, too! Several of them have had to revise their master's dissertations seven or eight times and then go through the defense process…wow.)

Lacy chatting with a group of readers

The whole group!

Thanksgiving week culminated with the greatest celebration of all: the following Sunday we celebrated two more baptisms and two more additions into our church family! Talis, an LST reader, and Jefferson, one of Talis's friends, gave their lives to the Lord on the same day. Talis started the LST program with my dad in June and continues to study with Lacy, and Jefferson's first contact with the church was at our LST Costume Party at the end of October. Both are fantastic guys who will have a great impact on God's kingdom. Welcome to the family, guys!

Well, Mom, thanks for making it all the way to the end of this post. As I write, I am on a trans-continental flight back to Natal from Rio de Janeiro…another entirely-too-long post within itself. I predict it will be even more photo-ful than this one! Thanks for reading, and happy December!

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