Happy days after Thanksgiving everyone and an early Merry Christmas to you! We had a grand Thanksgiving holiday week in Utah with snow at my parents’ cabin in the mountains. The kids got to go sledding. Not once, but twice! Once using their own kidpower on the hill by the cabin, and then again with Grandpa pulling them in a big sled using his toy, a “side-by-side” (a Yamaha off-road vehicle, ORV) on the mountain roads.
This post contains pictures of our Thanksgiving vacation and elements of what makes a perfect Thanksgiving for me. For the record, snow on Thanksgiving is not perfect for me. It is for my kids, though, because they like to sled. I like to sled too, if properly outfitted and I don’t have snow flying into my face. These kids had snow flying all up their neck and face and laughed it off. I would not be so happy about that! I just had other things to do, like pack up what I brought to the cabin, including leftovers, and prepare for the next leg of the journey, which is another post for another day, about how moms usually end up missing out on fun because we are behind the scenes getting ready for the next round of joyous events (like a baby blessing and missionary homecoming).
I have finally decided that November is my favorite time of year and that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, although I love Christmas and it was my favorite for decades. For a long time I didn’t like that my birthday was in November. It is such a bleak, drab time of year, especially in Utah. Late spring, early summer have been my favorite times of year and Christmas my favorite holiday. Yet, the fall months have grown on me. November can be a brilliant month, even in Utah. Even if it’s gray outside, I now know how to make it warm and cozy with hygge! I knew before, LOL, but now it’s like I feel permission to be OK about being cozy.
As for the holiday contest in my mind, now that I’m a grandma and have had a lot of Christmases under my belt as the responsible Santa’s helper who has to put it all together for 7 kids, I prefer Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is just so much simpler and yet still full of the great stuff of Christmas: food, family gathering, and praises and thanksgiving to God. It even involves presents, at least for me, this year, because my birthday and my married daughter’s birthday were within a week before Thanksgiving so we had a party. We opened presents and had pie and ice cream on one night during our holiday vacation. I hardly get to see her now that she is a wife and mom living two states away. We also had the baby blessing of her baby the same night so that was wonderful. (She got me some Pioneer Woman kitchen ware, just what I wanted. I can’t wait to bake some muffins in the ramekins! It goes with my Pioneer Woman butter dish she gave me two years ago. My adult son gave me the whole set of Lark Rise to Candleford episodes on DVD too! Then my other kids gave me more Pioneer Woman stuff and the live action Cinderella movie on DVD.) The only thing to stress about as a mom on Thanksgiving is the food, instead of all the planning and shopping and wrapping of presents and all the concerts and parties that everyone wants to have.
Thanksgiving also has special meaning to me now that we have moved as a family two times the weekend right after Thanksgiving. Fourteen years ago and then once again three years ago. In fact, I realized this morning that it was three years ago today that we moved into our current home. We woke up at a lodge where we stayed just outside the Grand Canyon and then we drove to our new home. My husband was itching to tour the Grand Canyon on our moving voyage so I obliged.
So, after attending church today, as I was reading these verses in Alma, I felt deep in my bones again just how good God has been to me. He brought us to this home three years ago after much fervent prayer and fasting. I feel to rejoice as the Jaredites and the Pilgrims did hundreds of years ago as he brought us over “the great deep.” (Ether 2:25) We didn’t travel literal ocean like the Pilgrims and Jaredites did, but an ocean of mystery and challenges, nevertheless. He rescued us from a sticky, complex situation that I was so desperate to get out of, including a small home and a small kitchen where I felt depressed everytime I walked into it. Now I have a huge kitchen that I don’t dread working in. I attribute it all to God’s working in my life.
This time of year as we transition from harvest time to storm time, we all want to be “safely gathered in.” If we are safely gathered in, then there is no reason to fear the storm. Here are the verses from Alma 26:4-8 that I read today:
4 Behold, thousands of them do rejoice, and have been brought into the fold of God.
5 Behold, the field was ripe, and blessed are ye, for ye did thrust in the sickle, and did reap with your might, yea, all the day long did ye labor; and behold the number of your sheaves! And they shall be gathered into the garners, that they are not wasted.
6 Yea, they shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them; yea, neither shall they be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry them.
7 But behold, they are in the hands of the Lord of the harvest, and they are his; and he will raise them up at the last day.
8 Blessed be the name of our God; let us sing to his praise, yea, let us give thanks to his holy name, for he doth work righteousness forever.
Before we got to the cabin, we had a day and a half of prep time at my parents’ home, for shopping and also to gather with my parents and brother and his wife and childhood neighborhood friends for a funeral. The father of my best friend from childhood had passed away the week before so I had the privilege of attending the funeral. It just so happened to be when I was in town. It was such a sweet time to hear testimonies of God, His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, the plan of salvation, and the Book of Mormon. Seeing the “harvest” or “good fruits” of this righteous man: his wife, 7 children and 29 grandchildren also brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. His wife hosted many a gathering of giggling girls decades ago (my sisters, her three daughters, other neighbor girls, and me). I heard stories from his neighbors and kids about this man I didn’t know, how he was so slow to anger and quick to forgive. I pray I can be more like that! It was so strange to sit in the congregation and realize, hey, I’m now one of the old folks who has memories of this neighborhood that go past 30 years, LOL. I can tell stories about all these old neighbors that would elicit chuckles, gasps, and admiration, just like the stories told at the funeral. The organist at the funeral was so amazing. He heard the speakers talk about the deceased man’s love for cowboy music and for playing Taps on his trumpet. After the funeral was over, as he played the postlude music for the family to file out of the chapel, he played traditional somber music and then added Ghostriders in the Sky and Taps spontaneously right in the middle of the postlude.
That night we picked up one of my kids from the airport and reunited with some old friends and then my RM son went to a mission reunion. The the next day was for menu planning, packing (again, to get to the cabin), food shopping, and finally, going to the cabin! When we first got to the cabin, there was nary a snowflake in sight. The kids had looked at the weather report before our road trip from AZ. They saw a forecast of snow so they packed all their gear in anticipation of sledding. That first day at the cabin, my dad looked at the forecast and saw that snow was to come early Thanksgiving morning. Sure enough, Thanksgiving Day, t snowed all day and eventually we had a foot of snow. We were prepared! Before the snow flew, my dad had us all move our cars back down the mountain to the main parking lot towards the base of the mountain.
That way our cars would not get stuck in the snow on the unpaved ground of the “parking lot” of the cabin. (There’s not a parking lot, just lots of dirt.) Then when it was time to leave the cabin on Saturday, while the snow was still falling, we all rode in his side-by-side down to the parking lot to go back to my parents’ regular home for another day in Utah, before we headed home. That night, I was able to attend the temple, then witness my grandbaby receive a name and a blessing. The next day was my RM son’s “Utah homecoming” where he reported on his mission in the ward he left from to go to Argentina. It was so wonderful to see many friends that I haven’t seen in 3 years!
All day Thursday and Friday we were able to relax, safe and cozy in the cabin, eating, sipping hot cocoa, playing games and puzzling with cousins, talking and bonding. (Also Black Friday shopping for me! I was not about to miss out on some great deals for Christmas! I am determined to be done shopping by the 15th! I am so done with being a slowpoke shopper! Thank goodness for Wi-fi and my iPad!) My husband got to meet his new grandbaby for the first time and my kids their nephew!
This was an early taste of heaven. My returned missionary son got to see his sister for the first time in two years and meet her new husband. My married niece announced that she is expecting a baby in July as well. So the family is growing! More great-grandbabies for my parents! Three and counting. What rejoicing!
It’s so great to be prepared for storms so you can enjoy them instead of being beaten down by them! Just as physical storms are coming our way, so are spiritual storms. I love knowing that as we trust in God and prepare for Christ’s coming by moving forward (which means work) on the Covenant Path, as President Russell M. Nelson has directed us, we are safely gathered into the fold of Israel and can relax and enjoy the storms. Patterns of daily righteous living, wholesome family life, and helping others are definitely all part of this preparation.
God has rescued me and brought me through many storms. I am so grateful to Him for providing a Savior for me, Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer. I am so grateful to my parents for teaching me about God and taking me to church, having years of Family Home Evenings, and exposing me to the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon. I am so grateful that I know that God lives and His kingdom is established on the earth today in the form of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It also occurred to me today that hey, it was many years ago today that I got baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ. December 2 was the beginning of my new spiritual life on the Covenant Path, the day of my baptism, many years ago. December 2 is another happy day for me for another reason. It’s also the day I was blessed with the realization of a long-held dream: a new life in a bigger kitchen in a bigger home, three years ago. Yep, three years ago today we arrived in AZ, at the end of a four-day moving trip. This move was the culmination of many dreams, hopes, and prayers.
I know that God loves each of us. He is watching and waiting for us to invite Him into our lives. He knows all the details of our lives and will tell us all that we need to know to be joyful, despite all of our storms. He led me to this new home and new life here and I am so grateful. I found my answer to a puzzling problem by remembering a story from the Book of Mormon three years ago and applying it to my own life. I pondered, presented my decision to God in prayer, and got a confirmation of an answer which led us here. I know that reading the Book of Mormon brings great peace to anyone who will read it with an open heart and mind. It can bring answers to your prayers if you let it.
And now just for fun: here are more ingredients of a happy Thanksgiving for me, these three picture books that I get from the library every year to read to whoever will listen, and pumpkin pie.
Thanksgiving is just not Thanksgiving without these elements. Ahh, bliss!