This hasn't been the greatest of weeks...come to think of it, hasn't been the greatest of months, to be honest with you. The kids were sick towards the beginning of November with a stomach flu and then we had just a few healthy days before they got sick again with a respiratory infection/tonsilitis. In the middle of that, Micah fell in the street at a friends' house and partially dislocated one of the bones in his arm at the wrist...we are very thankful that it didn't fracture, as it could have been a lot more serious than a minor dislocation. However, he has had to keep a splint on his arm and had to quit soccer practice and I miss my noon-time dish-washer!
As if that weren't enough, over the weekend I realized that I had a UTI that was already affecting my kidneys a little and spent most of Sunday and Monday in bed guzzling gallons of water and juice and natural remedies in an effort to avoid taking antibiotics. By Tuesday, I was feeling much better but still not over it and I had to face the fact that I wasn't really able to plan well for Thanksgiving. I normally would have baked some pies and cornbread dressing and perhaps a chicken or two, but not having an oven kind of put a damper on those ideas.
Wednesday found me feeling stressed and feeling...something, but I wasn't really sure. And then it hit me, I felt sad! My first instinct was to shut it down (old habits die hard...), but then I realized that I needed to give myself permission to be sad and I let myself grieve. I think the depth of my grief surprised me because I hadn't sensed it before. I grieved being so far away from family and friends on a holiday that really is all about sharing a special meal with family and friends...I also grieved not being able to provide my family with traditional favorites that we usually try to enjoy even if we're overseas. I would have loved to have shared a meal with some of our new friends here, but grieved not being able to invite someone and then provide them with traditional Thanksgiving fare either.
I pretty much concluded this Thanksgiving was going to be an epic fail and cried myself to sleep last night. Some of the last words that went through my mind as I drifted off to sleep were "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5b) and oh how I hoped that joy would come in the morning!
It didn't feel like much joy had come in the morning, however, and I found my stress levels rising as I dragged myself out of bed late, prepared breakfast, dealt with our puppy who has been less than cooperative this week, and got the family up and around for the day...I found myself easily irritated and raising my tone of voice to the kids and then Miguel about things I could have communicated to him much more calmly and concisely.
Stressing about the puppy's behavior, I began remembering what I've been learning about puppy training, how dogs can pick up on our emotions and anger/impatience/stress is perceived by dogs as weakness and then they can lose respect for their owners and begin reacting to the 'negative energy' instead of learning how to follow a confident, firm leader. The articles I've read advise dog owners to visualize the desired positive behavior instead of focusing on the negative behavior the dog is showing so that their pet won't pick up on those negative emotions and react accordingly. How it's important to relax and enjoy the interactions with the dog so that trust and confidence can be built into the relationship.
Ironically, it was those puppy training techniques that got me...I began to feel convicted about the way I often interact with my family, allowing my emotions to run amuck...I began to see how that often my 'negative energy' spills over onto everyone else (puppy included). How I tend to maximize the negative and minimize the positive and so I tend to see my kids as bundles of failures instead of accepting them just as they are in all their potential...how I am often not relaxed enough to just enjoy my kids or my husband. How trust and confidence struggle to grow in an environment like that. I began to realize that something about me needs to change...a lot of change has happened in the last few years, but this is God taking it down another level...
I apologized for my behavior and that's when it happened, peace and joy returned. Control established, relaxed and peaceful, and with renewed energy I was able to move on into my day with a new confidence that everything was going to be okay. Things aren't perfect, but they are good and this was going to be a good day.
And it really was. Puppy cooperated (for the most part...) and the kids and I worked on our new family tradition, a Thanksgiving tree, while Miguel was out shopping for lunch. Then we gave thanks for home-made mashed potatoes and a roasted chicken and a cheesecake-type pie and we were more than satisfied.
And while giving thanks, our thankfulness 'grew'.
Counting blessings is a blessing in and of itself because there are so many to count.
So there it is, our first Thanksgiving in Puebla.