Because it's Thanksgiving, here are nine things for which I am everlastingly thankful.
1. My students. They are not without challenges, to be sure, but they are funny, creative, enthusiastic, and incredibly sweet. They make it fun to go to work every day.
2. My Family. Without their love and support, I would not be the person I am today. Celebrating holidays without them is difficult, but somehow, knowing that they are still gathering, celebrating, laughing, and telling stories makes it easier. As I have interacted this week with a young girl whose mother wants to send her to an orphanage because she does not feel she can care for her any more, I am intensely grateful for parents and an extended family who have always loved me.
3. Modern Technology. I may be an ocean away from friends and family, but I love being able to see pictures of my cousin’s newborn baby girl, read the latest journal entries from my friend’s kindergarten-age daughter, download the latest sermon from my home church, check out the art exhibit my art teacher friend has posted, and chat with my brother about his paper on St. Augustine (which, by the way, he will be presenting at a conference in Athens, Greece in the spring. Not that I am bragging or anything.). Facebook may have it’s disadvantages, but I can only imagine what William Cary or David Livingstone would think of being able to read status updates from friends on four different continents, all in one place, instantly. For global nomads, that is nothing less then miraculous. I bet Mark Zuckerberg has no idea what a blessing he has been to missionaries who live thousands of miles away from family and friends.
4. The Beauty of Africa. I often catch myself humming “For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies. . . “ as I hike in the mornings. There are no words to describe the landscape around here.
5. My classroom. It’s an eclectic mix of supplies and books that people have brought and/or left behind over the years and I love it all. We have more classics in this room than some libraries do.
6. Music. When people ask me what kind of music I like, I have a hard time answering. I like it all. I am especially grateful this week for the talent and beauty of the Kenyan choir who sang Tuesday night. Thanksgiving services don’t get much better than this.
(I could not find a way to upload a simple audio file, so I--rather haphazardly--
scanned through my iPhoto library and created a slideshow of things for
which I am thankful to accompany the music. There are pictures of people, places,
images, and experiences that I have loved over the past year.)
7. My Supporters. I have said it before and I will say it again: I am a missionary because they are, too. They just play a different role. I am here, teaching in Kenya, because they are faithful to the work God is doing here.
8. Warmth. As I look at friends’ pictures of snow in Michigan, Kentucky, and even flurries in Georgia, I am glad to be here. Early morning hikes may be a bit nippy (as in the low 60's) and the afternoons often rainy, but overall, I cannot imagine more beautiful weather.
9. The Unpredictability of life. As one very wise person pointed out, we make lots of lists and goals detailing the things we want out of life. Thank goodness God did not give me the life I had planned out for myself. I could never have imagined here, in rural Africa, miles away from family on Thanksgiving Day. I could never have imagined the places I have visited and the people I have gotten to know over the past few years. I am unspeakably grateful the Lord has given me infinitely more than I could have asked for.