My Thanksgiving Takeaway.
For those who don’t know, our family took a trip last week to celebrate Thanksgiving in the mountains of Malawi. When friends have asked me how our getaway was all I can say is, “It was a gift.” It truly was an incredible gift and something I pray I will never forget. Though it wasn’t “perfect”, due to a nine month-old cutting three teeth and a mommy with allergies and gallstones, it was absolutely perfect for us.
Zomba Mountain is a little bit over an hour away from our house, and a sweet couple at our church owns a cottage there. They rent it out and charge only a small fee for missionaries. When we were trying to decide how to make Thanksgiving special, my sweet husband suggested we take a three-day trip to Zomba. Since we have never had a family getaway just the five of us, it was something all of us were very excited about. We began the trip Wednesday afternoon, loading up a truck full of stuff necessary for a trip with three little ones. The drive was relatively short and pleasant, which was a wonderful gift. Once we got there we settled in and ate peanut butter and jellies before putting the kids to bed.
The next morning was Thanksgiving! We opened the day with pumpkin pancakes, a thanksgiving story picture book, and making a thankful chain. Our thankful chain was essentially a family gratitude list, made into a paper chain. I loved hearing what the girls are thankful for. Clara’s first two things she mentioned were God and Mommy, which melted my heart. Some of my favorites Ella Jane shared were playing outside and Zomba. Of course grandparents, extended family, and friends were on the list as well. After a wonderful thankful breakfast, we played outside and explored the cottage property. The girls loved climbing up the big rock and swinging! We then packed up and drove through the beautiful mountains to have lunch at a delicious little Italian restaurant. With full bellies we returned to the cabin for naps followed by Thanksgiving supper. I was able to make a dish that had most of the basic Thanksgiving foods in one dish, including dressing, chicken (we couldn’t get good turkey), green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy. It was a delicious dinner to close a delightful day.
Friday was a day of rest and connection. We played outside, got dirty, went on walks, and got to walk down the road to the horse stables. Seeing the horses was what Ella Jane was most excited about prior to the trip. She has never been around horses but she loved the idea, so Josh and I were excited to see her reaction. When we walked her over to the first horse and it stuck its beautiful long neck out of the stall, Ella Jane’s face filled with excitement, shock and terror all at once. It was pretty comedic. Clara was equally as shocked and certainly timid, but animal lover that she is she actually did not get scared, which is a miracle for our fearful little cuddlebug. They both cannot wait to go see the horses again, and we might eventually work up to riding them. We ended the day with a picnic in the living room while watching a movie. Each moment of that Black Friday was a gift I’ll treasure.
Saturday morning we conquered the enormous task of getting everything clean, packed, loaded in the car, and all three kids and dog fed and dressed before heading to a friend’s house. We met these friends (Editor’s note: They are from Kentucky so we naturally clicked pretty well!) a few months back when the husband preached at our church. The husband, wife, and their five children live in Zomba but make trips into town regularly. When I mentioned to the wife that we would be in Zomba for Thanksgiving she generously decided to host a Thanksgiving Potluck for all the Americans in Zomba and Blantyre. Once we arrived at this sweet friend’s house I think my girls said about three words to me. They were too busy having so much fun playing with all the other kids! There were five families total, and it was such a fun time. We knew all but one of the families, and enjoyed getting to turn some acquaintances into friendships. We had a full thanksgiving spread right down to the cranberry sauce. Even better than the turkey (Editor’s note: A turkey that was running around the yard that morning.) was the friendship. It was a true blessing to be surrounded by American accents for a little, sharing thoughts on ministry, life and raising a family. That potluck was a true gift.
As per usual in Malawi, we found a nail in our tire before we left our friends house, so Josh had to change it before we left. Which was actually a blessing in disguise because it meant we got to spend a little extra time with the friends who hosted. After the tire was changed we headed home, ate leftovers and cuddled on the couch. Josh had to break down our hall door because the skeleton key broke off inside the locked door (Editor’s note: This was a four hour endeavor that did indeed end with me shouldering the door in. Yes, it feels as good as it looks to do that. Overall, the door is ok with a new lock of course.). So after he took a crow bar and the full force of his body to our hall door the kids were able to go to bed, ending our terrific holiday weekend.
The whole three days felt like a place of belonging and was a reassurance that God was and is good in calling us to Malawi. When I think about all God has done in a year I’m amazed. Last Thanksgiving was hard. Very hard. We were two months in to this Malawi adventure, and had only been in our new home a week. We knew one American couple. We tried our best to make it special and in many ways I look back on that Thanksgiving with joy. My husband made a to-die-for ham, we made thankful turkeys, and watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. But it wasn’t home and we were lonely. We wanted to be with family and I convinced myself I was doing a disservice to my girls by bringing them to Africa. BUT GOD! God is faithful and He has done above and beyond on our behalf. We have wonderful friends from all over the world, a church home where we can serve and grow, a ministry that is growing, a beautiful country that we have the privilege of exploring, and a host culture that is warm and welcoming. I truly am thankful and I pray the lesson I learned this Thanksgiving is one I choose to remember daily. God is good. Always. No matter your location.