It took until earlier this week, but I was reminded of why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It's not a simple answer, such as "no gifts," "little commercialization," "time with friends/family."
It was in my whole week. I had been struggling this year with getting into the holiday spirit. Normally I love the colder weather, the Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions...all of it. But this year, I'd been discontented, irritable, but really trying not to show it.
My favorite event at my Fresno church is our annual Harvest Banquet, a massive potluck where we fill the church gym and reflect on God's blessings from the past year. I enjoyed it but for whatever reason, I wasn't "feeling it."
I'm sure a lot of it is the increased stress at work right now, with our audit well underway and threatening to continue through to New Years. Ugh.
There's an old-fashioned "Lessons & Carols" concert that the FPU choir puts on every year that I also cherish. But this year, I didn't feel like going, so I just decided to stop forcing myself on this.
I received a visit from Fred & Cinda on their way north for Thanksgiving on Tuesday and was able to spend the afternoon with them. It was wonderful to get a touch of Orange County since I haven't been able to get down there in two months and December doesn't seem hopeful for any significant visit.
On Wednesday, my auditors gave me a much-needed break to catch up and worked from their office. So I was able to have a nice feeling of a productive workday.
That evening, I called Amy to borrow one of her children to help me bake a dessert for Thanksgiving dinner. So I picked up Jaden (11 years old) to come over and spend the night. Baking was a series of misadventures, but we had fun. I accidentally gave Jaden a can of cut sweet potatoes to open instead of pumpkin pie filling (the cans are the same size, and generally used the same time of year). So I texted Amy to let her know I'd be bringing candied yams in addition to a pumpkin dump cake. Then I scorched one of my pans trying to glaze pecans. The burned sugared pecans were a nice snack though, kind of like burned caramel popcorn. I ran out of flour, and could only make one loaf of an apple bread recipe I had been wanting to try, but stupidly mixed the ingredients in the wrong order, and had to add a lot of oil to get the whole stupid thing to gel into dough. It came out very bland and I ended up throwing it away. Oh well, we had fun and laughed a lot.
On Thursday morning, I babysat Todd and Alicia's 4.5-year-old twin boys Griffin and Derek so they could go play volleyball with a group of their friends. These kids are so precious. I brought with me "Don't Spill the Beans" given to me for Christmas by Joanna for Christmas a couple years back and construction paper strips for advent chains. The boys loved both, plus wrestling with them all over the living room. Thankfully, they have very big padded furniture, perfect for catching children hurtling through the air, although their recliners do tip a little too easily.
Thanksgiving Dinner was over at Amy's, and we probably had 20-25 people. Amy's mom Joan had actually been assigned sweet potatoes and brought six pans with different varieties, so mine never got put out. But my dump cake was a hit. All the food was delicious, and we ate until we were stuffed. The crowning moment was having someone bring a German white wine (only a couple of us drink) that no one could pronounce the name of, and me telling Wilma (Amy's aunt), a wonderful, loud, southern-to-the-core, black woman from Texas, "Them is MY people." We all burst out laughing, and Wilma was thrilled to finally know "where y'all is from."
After we cleaned up, Amy and I went for a quick walk around the block just to try to relieve our soon-to-be-aching stomachs before I took my leftovers and headed home exhausted. I built a fire and my friend Stephanie came over and we watched a couple Christmas movies.
And I avoided all Black Friday shopping by responding to my sisters' texts of what I wanted for Christmas with the movies I wanted that were on sale at various stores. It was great.
On Saturday, I ran 6.5 miles with Alicia, Karey and Amy. Karey and I hung out at Starbucks for a couple hours afterward talking. It was neat to get to hear more of his story of how God brought him and his family to Fresno. I spent the whole middle of the day in front of the fireplace just blogging and getting computer stuff done. Then Spades that evening.
On Sunday, I attended a church budget Q&A in anticipation of the business meeting next week. I always enjoy getting to see how God is doing in the church with numbers and finances. I taught Kindergarten during second hour, and God graced me with only seven kids. A much-needed blessing since I had gotten my lessons mixed up and prepared the wrong story.
In the afternoon, I went with my friend Hanna to a choir sing-along of Handel's Messiah at a Presbyterian church downtown. No performance, just everyone showing up, sitting in sections by vocal part, and singing through about 2/3 of the whole score. Hanna's dad and I sat together, and he's a crack-up. It was just an encouraging afternoon.
So I'm still not 100% "in the holiday spirit" this year. The house isn't decorated yet, and I don't know if it will be. I think I just need to focus on the simple and restful opportunities. God will take care of the rest.