When Thanksgiving Doesn’t Look Right

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When I was little I loved watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving every year.   I would get excited when they started showing the commercials announcing the day and time that it would be on TV.   And I hoped that we didn’t have to be anywhere that night because we didn’t have a VCR to tape it.  If we missed it….we missed it. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without Snoopy and Woodstock.

I still watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving  with our girls every year.  We giggle when Snoopy fights the chair.  We giggle again when Woodstock sticks Snoopy’s ear in the toaster and then butters it.  And we giggle some more when Snoopy begins to toss plates filled with toast, popcorn, pretzel sticks, and jellybeans to each guest around the ping-pong table.  But there’s one person who isn’t giggling.  After all the plates have landed on the table Peppermint Patty completely loses it.  She yells “What’s this?  A piece of toast? a pretzel stick? popcorn?  What blockhead cooked all this?  What kind of a Thanksgiving dinner is this?  Where’ the turkey, Chuck?  Don’t you know anything about Thanksgiving dinners?  Where’s the mashed potatoes?  Where’s the cranberry sauce?  Where’s the pumpkin pie?  Peppermint Patty angrily tosses her popcorn on her plate and then Charlie Brown quietly gets up and leaves the table.

Peppermint Patty didn’t care that they were eating at a ping-pong table surrounded by mismatched chairs.  She didn’t care that they were eating outside instead of inside.  She didn’t seem to have a problem with any of the guests.  She was having a good time until Snoopy started putting the food on the plates.  The sight of toast, pretzel sticks, jellybeans, and popcorn sent her over the edge.  Peppermint Patty didn’t think Thanksgiving looked right.  She made the mistake of thinking that Thanksgiving was about the food.  In that moment she failed to realize that Thanksgiving is about being thankful for the people who are sitting around your ping-pong table.

Sometimes Thanksgiving just doesn’t look right.  My mom had a broken leg one Thanksgiving and my mother in-law had a broken hip last year.  Thanksgiving dinner looks different when moms can’t cook.  And it tastes different. too  But all that really mattered was that our family was sitting around the table together.

There was another Thanksgiving that really didn’t look right.  My younger sister didn’t come to Thanksgiving dinner because her baby boy had just been born. I wanted to act like Peppermint Patty and scream “What kind of Thanksgiving is this?  Where’s Cathy?  We can’t eat Thanksgiving dinner if she’s not here!”  I’m thankful that was the only year that she wasn’t sitting at the table.

We want Thanksgiving to look like it did last year.  But sometimes it looks different.   And sometimes it will always look different.  It may look different to a special needs family who is spending Thanksgiving at the hospital instead of at home.  It may look different because of a divorce.  And it may look different because your heart aches for the one who is no longer here with you.  I pray that God’s presence will surround you as He carries you through this holiday.

This Thanksgiving let’s be thankful for the food we have.   If the gravy is runny and the mashed potatoes are lumpy just smile as you eat them and be thankful it’s not cold toast and jellybeans.  Forgive the blockhead sitting across the table from you.  And remember that he probably thinks you’re a blockhead sometimes too.   Be thankful for everyone sitting around your table.  And pray for those who are hurting because someone they love can’t be at their table this year.

The Gift In A Plain Red Cup

I felt weary and frazzled as I sat in the parent’s lounge.  I was enjoying a quiet moment with no drama when a man entered the room.  He walked up to the vending machine and put his dollar in.  The vending machine didn’t like his dollar.  He put the dollar in again.  It spit it back out.  He put it in again.  It spit it back out.  Then he started yelling at the machine.  I jumped because it’s usually very quiet in the parent’s lounge.  I’ve never heard anyone yell at the vending machine before.  I wondered if he realized I was in the room.  Surely he wouldn’t be acting like that if he knew someone was watching him.  After numerous attempts the machine finally decided to accept his dollar and he left with his snack.  And I sat on the couch thinking about how I would’ve handled that cantankerous vending machine.  I would’ve tried twice and then given up.  I would’ve walked away thinking that it was God’s way of telling me that I didn’t need a Snickers.  I certainly wouldn’t have yelled at the machine.

Then I suddenly realized that I had just judged a man who I didn’t even know.  I had no idea what was going on in his life.  Maybe he hadn’t had anything to eat all day and he was famished.  And then when the machine kept spitting his dollar back it sent him over the edge.  Maybe his child had just been diagnosed with a condition and his nerves were on edge.  Maybe his wife left him that morning.  I don’t know his story and I never will.  But if he wanted to yell at the vending machine it was really none of my business.  The man left the room not knowing that I had judged him.  But I was still wrong for doing it.

We live in a world where people are constantly judging others.  We think we have the right to judge Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and Josh Dugger for their choices.  We judge stay-at-home moms, working moms, moms who bottle-feed, moms who breastfeed, parents who homeschool, and parents who send their kids to public school.  People read facebook posts and blogs and they hide behind their computer screen and pass judgment on people they’ve never met.  They judge people for saying things that they never said.  There’s no end to the things that we judge others for.  And, of course, it’s important to judge a business for the cup that it chooses to serve its beverage in.

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Oh, the plain red Starbucks cup.  It’s a huge deal, isn’t it?  The Starbucks Christmas cup controversy makes me want to sit in a corner and cry.  I want to cry because we live in a country where people make a big deal out of things that simply do not matter.  And as all of this coffee cup drama is unfolding here in America a child in a far off land wishes he had a cup of cold water to drink.  He’s drinking water that’s eventually going to kill him because it’s full of parasites.   All he needs is for someone to send $48 to help build a water well.  And then he and 9 other children would have clean water for the rest of their lives.  He would be thankful to have a cup.  Any cup.  And meanwhile here in America we’re so busy giving our opinion about the cup and judging Starbucks that we don’t even think about the needs of others.  God help us.

Matthew 22:37-39 says Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”   And that’s all we need to do.  We need to love God and love others.  We need to see people through God’s eyes and not judge them because of the choices they’ve made.  We need to take time to get to know people and their story.  And then we’ll understand why their choices are different from our choices.  If we’re busy loving people we simply won’t have time to judge them.

Perhaps we need to read Matthew 10:42.  And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.   And then we should go and give a cup of cold water in His name.  It would change a little boy’s life even if the water is in a plain red cup.

photo credit: http://www.theodysseyonline.com                      

The Heart of a Mom

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I don’t remember whose idea it was.  But I know it wasn’t mine.  I’m not a leader.  I’m a natural-born follower.  I didn’t often get into trouble when I was a kid.  But on this particular day I listened to the wrong voice.  I don’t remember whether it was the voice of my older sister or the voice of my younger sister that led me astray.  But the one thing I do remember is the sound of our mom screaming.

A man had stopped by the house and brought mom some elderberries.  They were talking and working with the berries when mom’s “must check on girls” alarm went off.  She came around the corner of the house and she suddenly turned as white as a sheet.  She screamed and almost fainted when she saw all three of her little angels perched on top of the roof of the house.

The man came running when he heard mom screaming.  He glanced up and saw us lined up on the roof.  He did the same thing that our dad would’ve done if he’d been there.  He doubled over with laughter.  Mom didn’t want to yell again for fear that it would make us fall off the roof.  So she calmly asked us “What are you doing up there?” One of us gave the obvious answer.  It was the answer that made complete sense in our 3-year-old, 5-year-old, and 6-year-old minds.

“We’re having a tea party!”  And once again the man doubled over with laughter.  But not poor mom.  There was absolutely nothing funny about it.  But let’s be honest. Doesn’t it take a lot of imagination and creativity to come up with such a splendid idea?   Why have a tea party inside of the house when you can have one on top of the house?  We thought it was fun.  Mom just didn’t understand.  My 5-year-old mind thought that she seriously overreacted to the situation.

The man walked over to the TV antenna tower and climbed up to retrieve us.  That tower was what started this whole mess.  It wasn’t a tower that held up the TV antenna in our minds.  It was a ladder that led us to the best tea party that three little girls ever had.  I wish we had a picture of our tea party on the roof.  But it was 1976 and mom didn’t have a smart phone in her pocket that she could use to snap a quick picture.  She didn’t have time to run in the house and grab the Polaroid. She had to watch as each of her darlings were rescued from the roof.  Once our six feet were back on the ground mom’s face suddenly looked normal again.

Nearly 40 years have passed since the tea party on the roof.  I now realize that mom was just doing her job. It’s a mom’s job to protect. It’s her job to worry.  It’s her job to scream and even faint if she needs to when she finds her girls up on the roof.  I’ve never seen any of our girls on top of our roof.  But I’ve screamed and almost fainted a few times.  It’s just what moms do.

I’ve cringed as I watched her fail to stop her roller skates.  And then I took her for x-rays and a pretty purple cast.  She leaned on the sliding screen door and I watched her fly out onto concrete when the screen fell off the side of the house.  And, yes, I screamed and I almost fainted.   I’ve had my “must check on girls” alarm go off and realized that not everyone was inside the house.  And there was a little darling out in the middle of the street playing with our cat.  I screamed and a nice man named daddy saved her.  And then he bought dead bolts so little sweethearts couldn’t get out of the house.  That’s what dads do.

The heart of a mom is full of fierce love for her child.  It’s a love that makes her scream when her child’s in danger.  It’s a love that makes her wish she could trade places and wear the pretty purple cast.  It’s a love that wants to dive onto concrete to save a child from injury.  It’s a love that God put in our hearts that no one can ever take away. The heart of a mom is a beautiful thing.

Happy 1st Blogiversary

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It was November 4, 2014.  I had just hit the publish button for the very first time.  You Want Me to Start a Blog? Are you Kidding Me! was suddenly floating around in cyberspace.  My heart was pounding and my knees were shaking.   I was way outside of my comfort zone and I honestly had no idea what I was doing.  And now a year later?  I’m still outside of my comfort zone and I still don’t really know what I’m doing.

It’s not been an easy year.  I’ve typed in the middle of the night when little voices weren’t talking to me.  I’ve had to lay down my pride and publish things that I really didn’t want anyone to know.   I’ve pushed through when writer’s block ran over me like a freight train.  My husband grabbed my hand when I almost drowned in a sea of criticism.  He pulled me out and he told me to keep going.  I kept going when everything in me wanted to give up.

The main reason I didn’t give up is simply because I’m stubborn.  I made a commitment to blog for one year.  I was going to blog for a year no matter what happened.  At the end of September I counted the weeks until November 4th.  And I whispered to myself that I would be done.

The very next day I received a comment from Ileana.  She had read my Taking the Long Way Around post.  She said that she’s familiar with taking the long way around and that she’s very blessed by my blog.  I was suddenly reminded of why I started this blog in the first place.  I felt isolated and alone.  And I knew that there were other families out there who felt the same way.  I hoped that my words would touch hearts and that my story would help others live their story.  If my blog touches even one life then it’s worth my time.  I sent Ileana an email and thanked her for her comment and she encouraged me to keep writing.

So this isn’t the end of Two Upside Down Turtles.  It’s a new beginning.  It’s a new year for us to share together.  Thank you all for your support over the last year.  I’ll keep writing and I hope that you will keep reading.

I would like to end this post with a walk down memory lane.  Here are my Top 10 posts from the last year.

10.  When Your Faith Shatters you learn that God hears your prayers even when His answers seem to tarry.

9.  Brett made the reservation for our family to see the ocean and we began Waiting For Something Awesome To Happen

8.  Something Awesome Happened  when Mikayla and Hope stick their feet in the ocean for the first time.

7.   She just does it different than you do.  Hope Through Daddy’s Eyes

6.  Our family sees the ocean for the first time but Mikayla & Hope want to go to the swimming pool. Hoping Something Awesome Happens

5.   Life is short.  We should Just Let Them Have the Cotton Candy and enjoy their smiles.

4.   I Can’t Do This Anymore so I asked God if He could do something to make life better for our family.

3.   The girls yelled I Want a Corn Dog! and then I had a meltdown in the church parking lot.

2.   I chose to enjoy what I have instead of wishing for what I don’t have in Why am I in Holland when I Really Wanted to go to Italy?

1.     I learned that she probably walks in a pair of shoes that I don’t have to walk in.   To The Lady Who Shook Her Head