I have been a little nostalgic about this holiday season as I remember where I was both physically and emotionally last year. Thanksgiving is tomorrow and its one of the American traditions that connects family and food for the purpose of being grateful for the blessings in your life.
In 2010 Nathan and I celebrated this day of thanks in a "mall" food court in the city of Kampala, Uganda. We were there as part of the process in adopting our youngest daughter. You might think we were away from family, but over the course of this past year I have learned a great deal about what "family" really means. Like Dr. Russell Moore says in his book Adopted For Life, "You are indeed designed to love 'your own flesh and blood,' but your design is redeemed in Christ to see as your flesh and blood those whom you previously didn't recognize as such." So looking back at it now, no we weren't celebrating Thanksgiving alone. We were definitely with family.
While we were in Uganda we made many friendships that I believe will last a lifetime. When we arrived there were two American families from the same adoption agency in country so we naturally grafted ourselves into spending time with them. But after they headed back to the U.S. we spent the majority of our time with a woman from Wales, U.K. also in Uganda adopting a girl from the same orphanage as our daughter was from. Her name is Natasha. If you read our journey while in country you have heard that name MANY times as we became quite dependent on each other as we all walked the crazy road of adoption in Uganda. She and her daughter became family. Sure we were only together for a few weeks but most days felt like years as we waited for each step in our process to be taken so we could all return home. The four and a half weeks we spent in Africa was probably the most vulnerable time of our lives as well. We were emotional wrecks so our new friends weren't getting the best of what Nathan and I had to offer. But they loved us anyway. They helped us to laugh and were there when we needed to cry. They helped us to see that even though we were far from home, family was very near indeed.
On Thanksgiving last year we invited Natasha and her daughter to celebrate life's blessings with us. We told them it was a day of feasting so when they got to our apartment they handed us a gift- a bag of microwave popcorn. It was so sweet I started to cry. Being that Thanksgiving isn't a British holiday, we showed them our American tradition by ordering a bunch of food at the mall food court and chowing down. We asked around the table what was one thing we were thankful for and we all shared our gratitude for God's gifts in our lives. Its safe to say we taught these Welsh ladies well.
This year I look back on those memories and my heart warms at the family we made while in Uganda. Not only were we finally united with our daughter but we got to have fellowship with my sister Natasha and my niece Lutaaya. I wish they could hop "over the pond" this year and sit at our table again as we feast and exercise gratitude again. I could never express how thankful I am for the way they carried me through our time in Uganda. They, along with so many prayers from our American family and friends, are what is on the forefront of my mind and heart today as I reflect on how blessed I am. Certainly it is well beyond what I deserve.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!