Top Ten Thursday – Things to be thankful for on the day after Thanksgiving

So yesterday was the first Thanksgiving that the Mister and I have ever spent away from family, and it was definitely atypical, but a wonderful sort of atypical. I spent the morning and early afternoon babysitting Thing 1 and Thing 2, cradling Thing 2’s warm baby softness on my hip more than usual because he wasn’t feeling well. Then I came home and cooked my corn bread casserole in a frenzy, hopping up and down to make the oven cook faster (because that totally works) and sending the Mister on a classic whirlwind dash to the grocery store after the first cornbread mix I opened was, umm… shall we say, not alone?

Anyway. OISK.

It turned out wonderfully, coming out of the oven piping hot just in time to wrap it in blankets and carry it across the island (funny how, here, going literally across the country on a daily basis is normal) for our potluck-style Thanksgiving dinner with our island family. I also made spiced holiday cider, which was well-received despite the group’s initial disappointment about its lack of alcohol.

We are always thankful for each other, for friends and family back home and for the blessings that allow us to be independent. However, since this list is a day late, I’m going to assume you know about all those obvious things and instead focus on the things we are thankful for on this day AFTER Thanksgiving.

1. Meera has not thrown up in the house, even though her belly is full of the rubber duckies she sent to their dooms while we were gone yesterday.
2. Our roommates made more food for their island dinner than we did and have graciously offered to share their leftovers.
3. We have a wonderful island family to be able to share important moments with. We are forever thankful for having such a solid foundation here, even when we’re all so far from home.
4. We get the keys to our new apartment tomorrow afternoon!
5. We head back to the United States two weeks from tomorrow!
6. I don’t have to worry about the temptation to venture out on Black Friday and spend a ridiculous amount of money because stores here have never heard of such a thing.
7. The Mister fulfilled his agreement to do well on at least three of his last four exams, so we are celebrating tonight by having dinner at the Marriott and hopefully seeing Catching Fire in theaters for the second time.
8. A beautiful sunshiney day with a good amount of breeze, and the hope that I won’t be covered in a sheen of sweat by the time I’m done packing without air conditioning.
9. The fact that a half-dozen people told me my corn pudding and cider were wonderful last night and asked for my recipe. One of the highest compliments a southern woman can get, and it rarely happens, so I’m reveling in it. 🙂
10. The fact that this blog has spread wider and become more popular than I ever thought it would, thanks to referrals by viewers like you (cue PBS sponsor music). But seriously, thank you for all your support over the last two years, and I look forward to entertaining you long into the future.

[Oh, and in case you want those recipes, here they are below. :)]
Corn bread casserole : I’ve found that cooking on 350 for 45 minutes leaves the inside too gooey, so I would say either leave it in a little longer or cook on 375 instead. Just make sure you can scoop a little out and it’s fairly solid in the middle.

Spiced holiday cider : For those who were at the dinner last night, I used only about a cup of pineapple juice because I ran out, so it’ll probably be a bit more punch-y if you want to use the full amount.

And now, for the Christmas music! Happy holiday season everybody.

Be Careful What You Complain About

So my second “moment of clarity” is actually a series of moments from last Sunday (May 5th). The Mister and I were able to attend church services for the first time here on the island, and I was struck by several things over the course of the morning and evening services.

1. I, as an American Christian, am spoiled beyond belief.

Our taxi drops us off in front of the building and the first thing I notice is that the doors and windows are all wide open. We quickly discovered this is because the building has no air conditioning, which should not have been surprising, since electricity is an incredibly expensive luxury here on the island. The building is stifling hot, despite the ceiling fans and brief breezes from the coast, yet all the attendees are still modestly and respectfully dressed to worship the Lord. The evening service was slightly cooler, but mosquitos buzzed around our heads, a small lizard climbed the wall behind the pulpit and at one point a bat flew in the open door and hunted moths over our heads for several minutes. When was the last time that happened at home?

I won’t say it was all I could think about, because I did enjoy and appreciate the sermon and the worship service, but a prominent thought in my mind throughout was, “What would the little old ladies say about this?” Every congregation has those individuals who want to complain about how hot or cold the building is or how uncomfortable the seating is; we all know who they are. I would just like to remind them, and you, if you are one of those people, to say a prayer of thanksgiving every time someone goes to adjust the thermostat for you. Be thankful you have a thermostat to be adjusted, because so many of our brethren don’t.

2. We, as American Christians, often keep ourselves too secluded.

The doors and windows of this church building are wide open throughout the services. The minister, Brother Prentiss (they all use “brother” and “sister” here), speaks through a microphone, not caring that his words are booming out over Five Points (an outskirt section of Basseterre, the capitol) and might be disturbing someone in a house nearby. Our singing drifts out over the streets and housetops, not caring that someone might be trying to sleep or study. The gospel is for all; the gospel should be shouted from the rooftops; the gospel should not be shut inside a building and only available to those who venture inside.

3. The gospel is everywhere. Christians are everywhere. Christ will not be stamped out and conquered.

The Mister and I were surprised to learn of two St. Kitts congregations and one on nearby Nevis while we were still in the U.S. We go to worship on Sunday morning believing this to be true. There are two other new Ross students there, and two more regularly attending students expected back from break next week. Sunday night, on our way out to the main road to meet our ride to evening services, we are approached by a Ross security guard asking where we are headed. It turns out he is a Christian as well and worships with a third congregation just south of Basseterre. On a piece of land in the middle of the ocean, where we thought there would be few Christians, there is a Sunday school teacher guarding our dormitories.

It turns out there are three congregations on St. Kitts and two on Nevis. The largest, the one we’ve visited, has about 75 people on a good Sunday morning. The others range in size from about 35-50. They are just like our congregations at home. They worship three times a week, have a similar order of services and sing the same songs in the same ways. They have visiting preachers and singing services, and they have social gatherings and enjoy each other’s company (albeit they have potlucks on the beach, whereas we go to SportsCom). They greeted us like family and welcomed us into their arms. We are all connected. God is everywhere.

4. The gospel is still relevant, no matter where you are.

Sunday morning the Mister and I sat in the sweltering heat of the church building and swatted away the constant flies. We listened to the scripture reading and struggled to understand the heavy island accent reading in the King’s English. I thought of the beautiful (air conditioned) buildings of home and missed the beautiful singing. I thought about how coming to all three services might interfere with the Mister’s study and exam schedule, about how much it would cost per week to take a taxi to worship, about how it is hard to concentrate in such heat. I thought these might be good reasons to only worship on Sunday mornings and perhaps study alone in our apartment on the other nights.

Then the sermon was on excuses.

I have been struck on several occasions in my life with the feeling that a sermon was delivered especially for me. This time, the irony slapped me in the face. Satan wants to see if we will use our new surroundings as an easy excuse to drift away from God. If we take these excuses now, what’s to keep us from someday using crying children, hectic work schedules or unwashed dishes as reasons to avoid worship services? Life will always have mountains to climb, but as long as we keep our priorities in order the rest will work out. The Mister may have a lot to study, but if God is first, his schooling will work out. Our money belongs to the Lord first anyway, but if getting to service is the first priority, our finances will work out as well. (And already have, since we’re now on the pick-up list for the various members that run around the island picking people up each week.)

The gospel is the same, no matter where you go. Truth is always truth, sin is always sin, and God is always listening. You just have to be paying attention when He sends His answer.

Turkey Legs – A Collection of Holiday Quotes and Craziness, Thanksgiving, 2012

  • The Tuesday before we arrived home for the holiday, a noise scarily like the shot of a .22 rifle echoed through the Middle Tennessee Bone and Joint Clinic where the mother in law works. She screamed like a banshee. Half her office thought she had been shot. Panic ensued. What was it? A wheelchair blowout. That same night, a waitress dropped an entire stack of dishes right beside our table at The Cheesecake Factory. The mother in law jumped two feet in the air. So she is officially cancer-free (thus the fancy celebratory dinner), but now probably has post-traumatic stress disorder.*
  • While the mister and I were headed farther east on Friday, my aunt, cousin, brother and his girlfriend were driving through a safari adventure center and being half-eaten alive by cows and zebra (literally – the aunt’s happy to still have all her fingers!). Apparently you CAN fit an entire cow into an SUV!
  • Later that night, the aunt, cousin and I were prowling through her attic for extra decorations while the rest of the family assembled a nine-foot tree below us in the living room. Little did we know the two spaces would soon become one. “Oh, look at the mess,” were the aunt’s first words as she sat on the attic rafters and stared through her new living room skylight – a hole directly above the ceiling fan and the mister’s head. Yes folks, you see it on TV, you hear about it happening to other people, but you never truly expect to see a human leg appear through a 12-foot ceiling. The attic side of this event was rather anti-climactic, I must admit, since all I saw was my aunt suddenly get a foot or two shorter. However the living room angle was surely much better, as the mister noticed the falling insulation and wondered why it was snowing.**
  • At some point between our arrival at the grandparents’ house Friday and now, I have unfortunately realized my baby brother (he turned 19 this past summer) is interested in girls. I don’t know how far the interest goes and I never want to find out, but he, at any rate, has an official girlfriend. She’s a wonderfully sweet girl and spent several days here with the family over the holiday and I really do like her. But at the same time, it twists my brain into knots to think that the brother could have a real, growing-up relationship. It’s just not possible. In my mind my brother doesn’t know anything about girls and is not at all interested in ever finding out. It just isn’t going to happen. Period. The End. Yet, somehow, she was here, and they spent lots of time talking in a separate room from the family. I remember “talking” to the mister apart from the family, and I REFUSE to consider the brother being interested in anything remotely similar. (I can practically hear all four of our parents shuddering.) I suppose I’ll get used to this idea eventually (in, like, 30 years), but it’s made me realize that our house must be laid out so that all children must walk past our bedroom door to enter or leave their rooms. And that once they do start entering and leaving on their own, I’ll probably never sleep soundly again.
  • Also, the mister’s truck is so loud that two of my grandparents’ nosy neighbors called up the hill to the house to ask who had come to visit and why the vehicle made so much noise.

And now for a selection of memorable quotations:

  • “My GRE scores are going to take longer because of Thanksgiving. Thank you pilgrims and white people.” – the mister
    • “You’re going to be the big king daddy rabbit of vets and he still won’t listen to you.” – the mother in law
  • “He’s going to crap a whole busload of children.” – the mister
    • “There are holes out here we could throw you into and they’d never find you again.” – the mother in law
  • *strange noise comes from the kitchen at Chik-fil-a* “Are we ready to lea — I’m not entirely certain, but I’m pretty sure I just heard a goat.” – the mister
    • *Sunday night* “What do you want for dinner?” – me
    • “Nothing that clucks or gobbles. If it had wings at any point in time, I don’t want it.” – the mister

*I’m kidding. The mother in law is fine, I promise.

**The aunt is also fine. The ceiling is being repaired by a friend at no cost and the uncle finally remembered to ask if she was ok.