Thanksgivings from Thanksgiving

Today was a pretty full day, because it's that time in the semester -- life is busy, not in a bad way so much as in an inevitable way.  We're rapidly hurling towards the end of the semester.  (When did that happen?)  We'll celebrate Thanksgiving more formally on Saturday with the city team in DJY (yay!) but today was ordinary for the most part, as far as such things go, here at Chuan Wai.

Which is to say, I've also hit the point in the semester where living in China feels normal (most of the time) and I'm not really sure what about my daily life is going to prove interesting to friends in other places.  (Maybe I'll write a post trying to explain daily life and normal, but not today.)

I thought about Thanksgiving last year and how very grateful I am that I did make it home after all.  I wonder about what's happening with my story-telling bus friend, Daniel, and hope that the Father has sent other people into his life who've listened to him and had chances to offer hope.  I thought about my Thanksgiving the year before, with my dear friend Hilary and her family, and the two Thanksgivings that I've spent before in China -- progressive meals involving mashed potatoes from KFC and apple pies from McDonald's and some of the most delicious turkey dipping sauces ever, matching team sweaters that were so ugly they were cute. (Or maybe it was just us that had the cute factor going.)
And my heart is full.

I think about today, how I got to FaceTime Laura and Eric (and even see Joselyn) and how grateful I am for technology and all of the many friends who go out of their way to stay in touch with me, to let me know that I am still a part of their lives even though I'm so far away.

I opened a Thanksgiving letter from Jack, one of Miriam's former students who faithfully comes to our office twice every week and is becoming a dear, hilarious, thoughtful friend.

This afternoon I got to eat lunch with Miriam and Sophie and two of my students, Dengela and Candy.  It was a long, frigid wait, but I'm so thankful to have people to spend time with.  I'm especially grateful for students who I've gotten to eat with multiple times and the ways that relationships grow, layer upon layer.

I'm thankful for a heater in my apartment that Miriam and Sophie and I could crowd around this afternoon, laughing together and just chilling.  I'm thankful for the slap-happiness that kicks in when I'm super busy, because laughing about silly things (or nothing at all...) is a much more pleasant feeling that being stressed over things that I can't control.

A couple hours of this afternoon were spent in working on red-tape forms, which was not my favorite thing ever, but even so, I'm thankful for Nancy, the teacher in our department who works most closely with us, and how friendly and welcoming she is, and how much she tries to help us every time we need something.  We're blessed at this school.

I'm thankful for students who crack me up by, when I ask who's going to come make cookies Friday evening, responding with, "I Jenney Winter Alina and so on ;-P about 8 people."  I can't wait to see who "and so on" turns out to be.

This evening was spent with Miriam and another teacher from the US, Quinn.  It is fun to live in a building full of teachers from all over the earth (France, Yemen, Vietnam, Germany, Thailand, Portugal, Chile, Japan, England, Russia.)  It's been fun to get to know them a little better, to goof off together, as we meet to practice once a week for our performance of Kung Fu Fighting at the New Year's party.

There are hard things about being so far away from home, family and friends at holidays.  But there are also joyful things that I get to be a part of because I'm here.  Today I hit Matthew 10:34-39 and while my first, gut reaction was, "Well there's a hard saying," I am learning to be grateful for the learned response that takes over, "This is the word of the Lord.... thanks be to God."  And honestly, it was a very well timed passage.  I was left thinking about the joyful words of the woman in the Song of Solomon: "I found Him who my soul loves," and how yes, He is worth it, worth selling everything and giving up everything to follow, to obtain. (Matt 13:44-45)  It's a joy.  A hard one at times, but a joy.

[And bonus, I'm also thankful for this song, which I've had stuck in my head.]  


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