Thanksgiving doesn’t have feelings.

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With Ugandan Santa in November 2013.

Before living in Uganda in 2013, I was a hardcore “no Christmas ANYTHING until after Thanksgiving” type of person. I felt like doing anything Christmas before Thanksgiving was just, well, rude. Who were we to pull out our red and green before the calendar was done with orange and brown? How dare anyone disrespect Thanksgiving!

But in Uganda… there was no Thanksgiving. I even went to work on Thanksgiving because, well, it’s not a holiday in Uganda. We went to Christmas craft shows in early November. We put up our tree in November. We even started listening to “All I Want for Christmas is You,” and no one judged us! Basically, we didn’t have to worry about hurting Thanksgiving’s feelings because it didn’t exist in Uganda.

When I came back to the U.S. in 2014, I found myself wanting to experience Christmas cheer before Thanksgiving. But I felt awful. I felt terrible. NO CHRISTMAS UNTIL AFTER THANKSGIVING! We simply cannot celebrate Jesus’ birth with trees and tinsel until after Turkey Day!

Last year was really difficult. I felt the Christmas itch in mid-November, and it was strong. There is so much crap in the world, and Christmas is all about JOY and HOPE! Couldn’t we all use a little more joy and hope? However, people around me said, “Don’t do it! It’s not even Thanksgiving!”

I ended up caving about a week before Thanksgiving. I decorated for Christmas. It felt great. It prolonged the joy I feel from Christmas decorations. It made me happy. And I would love to decorate my home for Christmas right now, in early November. I’ve had my fall decorations out since September, and I’m tired of orange and an unimaginable number of pumpkins. But the world (eh hem, Facebook) tells me that I can’t decorate for Christmas yet. It’s disrespectful to Thanksgiving!

IMG_9560Then it hit me. An incredible, unbelievable, thought occurred to me: Thanksgiving doesn’t have feelings. Thanksgiving will not have even one negative thought about me putting my tree up before its special day. This is because Thanksgiving doesn’t have thoughts. Or feelings. It’s a holiday.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving. I love the food and fellowship. I’ll wear my turkey scarf on Thanksgiving proudly. Thanksgiving will have its day!

Another thing to think about, though, is how late Thanksgiving is this year: November 28. That leaves less than four weeks until Christmas. If you’re like me, you put A LOT of work into your Christmas decorations. To do all that work and enjoy it for less than a month is just sad, especially knowing it brings so much joy.

I will not offend Thanksgiving by decorating for Christmas. Thanksgiving doesn’t have feelings. I recently saw a post on Facebook that was going viral. It read: “How about instead of rushing from Halloween to Christmas, we use November as a month of THANKS to properly prepare our hearts to celebrate Christmas for what it is really about, the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

The comments were hilarious, in my opinion. So many people were saying, “Amen!” And someone even said, “So sad that you even had to say that to remind people.”

Wait… it’s sad that people “rush” into Christmas? What exactly is so sad about it? Thanksgiving doesn’t have feelings, it’s not sad if I put my tree up before it’s had its day. And I don’t know about you, but I try to be thankful year-round. I try to prepare my heart for whatever God has in store for me every single day! Decorating for Christmas has nothing to do with whether or not I’m thankful OR preparing my heart for the birth of Jesus.

I will say, most of the “haters” on social media do it in good fun. They just like razzing their friends about decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving. And I used to be one of them, until I realized how much joy my Christmas decorations bring me each year. But some people are really nasty about it, and it baffles me. Especially those who act like Thanksgiving will be hurt and wounded by it.

Whether you’re a strict, “No Christmas until after Thanksgiving” type of person, or a “Bring on the Christmas cheer NOW!” type of person, you do you. And know that if you do decorate for Christmas before Turkey Day, Thanksgiving will not be offended. Thanksgiving doesn’t have feelings. So spread that Christmas cheer!

Thankful for the love

“We have to allow ourselves to be loved by the people who really love us, the people who really matter. Too much of the time, we are blinded by our own pursuits of people to love us, people that don’t even matter, while all that time we waste and the people who do love us have to stand on the sidewalk and watch us beg in the streets! It’s time to put an end to this. It’s time for us to let ourselves be loved.”
― C. JoyBell C.

I posted this quote on my Facebook wall a few years ago, and just ran across it today. It fits perfectly with what I was wanting to write my Thanksgiving post about: love.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for love in all its many forms.

DSC_0014Romantic Love

“…blinded by our own pursuits of people to love us…” the quote says. Wow was that ever true of me for years and years in my relationships with guys. I was always in constant pursuit of receiving the love of a guy, and it was usually the guys who weren’t interested in loving me back.

It’s been years since I could say I was thankful for romantic love at Thanksgiving time. And even then, five years ago when I was in a relationship with someone who “loved” me, it was on the rocks. This Thanksgiving, I am so thankful for the love of my “manfriend,” as I call him. He is showing me so many things I never knew about love, and he’s showing me a love I’ve never known before. For that, I am so thankful.

Friend Love

“…the people who really love us, the people who matter…” Similar to how I treated romantic relationships in the past was the same way I treated friendships. Friendships shouldn’t be hard work. They shouldn’t be one-sided. The people who matter will always be there for you, they will be loyal and have your back at all times.

I’ve spent many moments of my life wondering what happened to certain friendships, especially those with my high school friends. While a group of them have remained in contact with each other and get together every time they’re in town, somehow I stopped being invited. There was no falling out or anything, it was like I just disappeared from their memories. It upset me for years, and sometimes it still stings, but instead of dwelling on it, I allow myself to be loved by the friends who choose to love me right now.

2I am so beyond thankful for my friendships. I do not have what many people call a “circle” of friends, and, to be honest, that’s the way I prefer it. No disrespect to anyone who does, I’m just speaking for myself. I like fewer friendships that are of a great quality. I’d rather get coffee with a close friend than go out for drinks with 10 friends. And let me tell you, my close friends are amazing. I’ve never been more thankful for those who stand by my side, near and far.

Family Love

 12115756_1102313943121710_7441055260110890453_n“…the people who do love us have to stand on the sidewalk and watch us beg in the streets…” Who knew that those words could apply to family? I love each and every person in my family, but that love isn’t always returned. However, those who want my love, those who cherish it, who recognize it, who “beg in the streets” for it, they are the ones I am going to focus on. You can’t make someone love you, and that includes family members.

I am thankful for the love of my family. Family is never perfect, but I couldn’t be more thankful for the people I’ve been blessed with.

God’s Love

My “manfriend” and I might not last long enough to get married. A good friend of mine might do something spiteful. A family member might decide to disown the rest of us. But God, and His love, are perfect. There is absolutely nothing that will change God’s love for me.

So even if God’s love was the only love I had, I would have enough. God’s love is all I need. It’s all anyone needs. It’s what keeps me going when the love, or absence of love, from guys, friends, or family members, isn’t cutting it. My heart is satisfied and thankful for the love of my Savior.

This Thanksgiving, I encourage you to let yourself be loved. If there are people who refuse to love you, it’s OK to love them back, but focus your attention and time on those who love you with open arms. Stop beating yourself up for whatever reasons certain people have for not loving you back.

“It’s time to put an end to this. It’s time to let ourselves be loved.”

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I am thankful for each and every one of you! God bless!

 

A rather odd “thankful” list…

I can tell you about a million things I’m thankful for in the US. And that was before I moved to Uganda. Now that list has grown by leaps and bounds. You think you have a lot to be thankful for  in America, but you truly have no idea until you’ve lived without it.

Today is Thanksgiving. While families across the US, including mine, get together for turkey, football and fellowship, I am heading to school. It will be just another day here in Uganda, a place the pilgrims apparently didn’t stop at on their journey to America.

My “What I’m Thankful for” list this year is unlike any other I have ever had. I’m skipping over the obvious things (God, family, friends, etc.) since those things clearly hold true no matter where I live. But here it is, what I’m thankful for in 2013 as I celebrate Thanksgiving while living in Uganda:

Samosa Day at the school snack barIMG_20130905_101345
Forget turkey and stuffing. Every Thursday the most delicious and delectable treat to ever enter the world is served at the school snack bar, “The Watering Hole.” Thursday is samosa day, I always eat two and skip lunch with hopes that I can get another one after school. Samosas are kind of like egg rolls in triangle form. And they are a party in my mouth.

Bootleg DVDs
It gets dark here at around 6 o’clock. There isn’t much to do after dark, considering it isn’t always safe. So what is there to do once papers have been graded and lessons planned? We don’t have a television, but we do have laptops. And thanks to the many, many vendors who sell bootleg DVDs in Kampala, we have access to every movie and television series ever made for approximately $1 each.

My students
While I loved my students in America, they were a major stressor in my life more often than not. Here, my students brighten my day. They are the reason I look forward to Monday mornings. They make me want to be a better teacher and a better person. They inspire me like no students ever have.

IMG_4562Palm Trees
I’ve always been obsessed with palm trees. Even though for the past five or so years I’ve spent Christmas in Florida, you would think I was seeing palm trees for the first time. I take pictures of nearly ever palm tree I see in Florida. In Uganda, they are everywhere, and the fact that I wake up to a view of palm trees each morning is simply a gift from God.

My WGM family
I may not have my biological family here, but this Thanksgiving I’m thankful for my World Gospel Mission family. We are getting together tonight for Thanksgiving dinner, having a turkey and everything! So thankful for their Christian wisdom, guidance, and friendship.

New friends
Nope, they don’t know all about my family. They don’t know the heartaches of my past. They don’t even know my favorite foods or movies or where I like to shop. They haven’t been around for any longer than four months, but I am so incredibly grateful for my new friends. Be it from Uganda, America, Canada, or anywhere else in the world, I thank God on a daily basis for the people He has put in my life as I continue this journey in Africa.

The new “little people” in my lifeIMG_4520
I hate not being Aunt Natalie, but Uganda has provided me with so many opportunities to love on little people, whether they are Ugandan or American. From Florence and Gideon (our day guard’s children) to my friend’s children, I have plenty of little people who bring joy to my life each and every day.

Stoney
A year ago I didn’t even know what Stoney was, and now I can’t imagine life without it. There’s IMG_20130904_175739 (2)nothing better than an ice cold Stoney on a hot day. The delicious ginger-flavored drink is now one of my favorites.

I don’t know where I’ll be a year from now. Perhaps I’ll be having another Thanksgiving-less November in Uganda, or maybe I’ll be back in the US celebrating with my family. Only God knows, but either way, there will always be plenty to be thankful for. God has shown me that year after year, no matter where I am.

“Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God
And a great King above all gods.”
Psalm 95:2-3

No Thank You

When life hands me crap, I want to say to life, “No thank you.”

Today I’m going to take some of the things in my life I am not typically thankful for, and turn them around into things that I am so grateful for, and to which I say to God on this blessed Thanksgiving day, “Thank you.”

The “No thank you.”– I have to work Friday.
The “Thank you.”– I have a job. So many people don’t.

The “No thank you,”– Ugh! The calories I will consume today at my aunt and uncle’s.
The “Thank you.”– I have a membership to the YMCA where I can go work off some of those calories tomorrow.

The “No thank you,”– I am not making as much money as I hoped.
The “Thank you.”– At least I’m making money.

The “No thank you,”– I live in a country where being a Christian is mocked and looked down upon by many.
The “Thank you.”– I’m allowed to be a Christian here in America where I can worship openly and freely without fearing for my life.

The “No thank you.” – Single at 32
The “Thank you.” – I get alone time whenever I want it, I can go here and there without organizing my life around someone else, I get lots of time to make myself better for whoever I end up with when I do get married.

The “No thank you,”– I live in Fort Wayne, Indiana
The “Thank you.”– I’m close to family, and they mean the world to me.

The “No thank you,”– Today is Thanksgiving #5 without Grandma Shideler. Even more Thanksgivings since Grandpa Trout was here. 30 Thanksgivings without Grandpa Shideler.
The “Thank you.”– I know they are in heaven, having the Thanksgiving of a lifetime each and every day.

Those things that life hands us and we want to say, “No thank you,” try turning them around into something positive. God’s got a reason for every trial and heartache.

What if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?”

Those words come from Laura Story’s “Blessings.” I think it is one of the most beautiful and inspirational songs ever written. Please remember that God knows what He’s doing in your life. Thank Him for everything – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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Here is a link to a YouTube video of the song mentioned above. If you’re a Christian and music gets to you, have some tissues ready!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CSVqHcdhXQ