Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving in Haiti

As much as I wanted to open my eyes on Thanksgiving Day, look outside, see the intense need right around our house, and let that suffering completely rid me of my need for a Thanksgiving feast, what I found myself wanting on Thanksgiving Day was a piece of home.  Something mashed potatoes. 

We live in Haiti.  I thought I would have sat in this country on Thanksgiving Day and replayed the list of all the one million things I'm thankful for, things I didn't even know to be thankful for a few short months ago.  I did think about those things.  How can I not?  But what I really wanted was some gravy and pecan pie. I'm not sure what to do with those truths, or what I think about them, or what you'll think about them.  But there they are. 

I was surprised by how much I wanted turkey. How much I wanted family.  How much I wanted tradition.  How I longed for excessive things while people right outside my gate may be wondering if they will get to eat at all on Thanksgiving Day, much less gorge themselves into a tryptophan induced coma.

It felt odd to know the sadness that surrounds me and yet to still really want a traditional Thanksgiving.  That's a new part of our life...this friction we carry in our souls every time we look around this country and then still do things like treat ourselves to an occasional, expensive ice cream, or spend a big chunk of our grocery budget on a tiny cup of real milk.

Friction.  It's our new, intimate friend in Haiti.  It walks with us down the road as we pass hungry people on the way to go buy our groceries.  It sits in our pockets.  It is constantly holding our hands.  It won't let go.

On the drive over to Beth's house, we rode through streets filled with trash, shacks, tents, naked children, the every day Haiti.  There was this sweet moment as I sat in the van, smelling cakes and green bean casserole where I tried to reconcile these hard things.  "Should I feel guilty about this, Lord?  I'm having a hard time not feeling guilty."

I didn't know what to do with all my thoughts.  Ten years from now, I still might not know what to do with them.  But there they sat.  I held my pile of feelings and my cupcakes in my lap.  Unsure how to feel or think about any of it.

Friction.  Frustration.  Guilt.  And yet looking forward to the banquet...the feast awaiting us at the end of our long, bumpy van ride...thinking of the Kingdom, and how heaven will be a time of celebration where we'll gather with friends, loved ones, for worship and a feast that will rival any American Thanksgiving. 

Walking into Beth's house on Thanksgiving Day was therapeutic.  It was a beautiful thing to see people gathered around tables of food.  Men sucking the grease and juice off turkey bones.  So normal in a country that is never normal.

Meat.  Piles of it.  Meat as the main dish is rare for our family in Haiti.  This was such a delicious treat.

Food and cooking in this country are major headaches for me.  Seeing this table was extremely exciting.  I've never been more thankful for food in my life. This took a lot of effort for everyone who cooked.  We savored every bite.

I made these little turkey cupcakes for the kids.  So fun.

They are smiling, but really they are irritated with me because I made them quit eating the turkey off the bone for one second while I took a picture.   After the camera flashed, they dug back into the bird like Vikings.

Beth's table.  It seats about 500 (mild exaggeration).  She teaches me so much about hospitality.  I want to be her when I grow up.

Gravy in a pitcher.  I thought we only did that in Texas.

It was also my birthday on Thursday.  Thanks for all the sweet comments.  It was a sweet, sweet day.  Good to meet all you lurkers!  What a fun gift.

This is me trying to not look awkward while everyone sang Happy Birthday.  I totally failed.

This is a butt-ugly picture, but I'm including it for the people back home.  Unfortunately this is what my face does when I'm really laughing hard.  Hideous.  The horse laugh face.  Kirby will see this picture, and probably say, "Aw...I miss that terrible face she makes."  I'm only posting it because Kirby was so nice to me on my birthday.  If someone posted this picture on facebook I would immediately untag myself.

I shared my birthday with Esther...the cutie in the pink dress.  How adorable is she?  I love her and her mother. Esther turned one on Thursday.

Brittany made the cake, but everyone already had a Thanksgiving baby so we sent the cake home with Esther to destroy.  You're only one once.

After we ate I told Beth how grateful I am for her.  It doesn't feel like Fall here.  The weather has not really changed.  None of the normal cues occurred to make me start longing for the Thanksgiving holiday.   Yet I woke up Thursday morning with a deep desire for family, friends, and familiarity.  Apart from Beth making those things happen for us, I would not have known how to make a traditional Thanksgiving happen for my family in Haiti.  We all had such a beautiful time.  Great food, sweet friends that feel like family, and all the gravy we could have ever wanted.

I missed my family and our friends, but I had a wonderful birthday, and our family had a perfect Thanksgiving.  The boys loved every minute of the day and are still talking about the meat.  I'm raising a house full of carnivores.

So thankful for such a great day.


Bob & Judy said...

Your family missed you, too.

- Your family - (at least part of it)

mamamargie said...

Your longing for familiarity and tradition on Thanksgiving makes me think of our longing for the security of our Heavenly home. This is just a temporary place, not our eternal home. And, you're right, Thanksgiving is like a little taste of the joy of Heaven. Glad you enjoyed! Glad you had a great birthday too. Thanks for all you do.

Pamela Nees said...

Looks like you had a great time. Traditions, however done are so important!

Nice to see my friends Jarred, Jalayne and Karen, too! Blessings to you all.

Hendrick Family said...


What sweet friends you have! We love them.


becs_2 said...

Wow, what a beautiful post.

The friction...I feel inklings of it every day, even as I go about my daily life here in America. I've felt it ever since we adopted our son and my eyes were opened to the way that so many people live. I can only begin to imagine how hard it must be to see what you see on a daily basis and then indulge in a tradition like Thanksgiving. But you need to do the things that keep you whole and healthy and sane. Only then can you keep giving so much of yourself to others. Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Birthday and *thank you* for telling the stories about the things that so few of us have the courage to actually see, much less do anything about.

-Becca (You don't know me. Found your blog through another blog...can't even remember where :)).

Kirby said...

Oh, I do miss that face! And I do not think it is awful...I think it is wonderful...maybe the only thing I think that is awful about it, is when you're making that face, it usually means I have pee dripping down my leg.

So thankful that you had such a sweet day.

-The most spastic facemaker ever...incase you forgot before seeing that video.

Marie said...

What a beautiful humbling post...I forget how easy it was for me to go to the grocery and buy all the food I wanted to cook a thanksgiving feast for my family. What a great reminder...thanks for your honesty.
I'm trying to find the post on how your family ended up in Haiti? I stumbled upon your blog and would love to read all about it.
Blessings from TX!

likeravensandlillies said...

I was on my way to bed and thinking about your post and I so wanted to share with you what I was thinking. I was thinking about Jesus and the parties he attended and His desire to sit passover with His disciples. I think He lived perfectly in that friction. Jesus was constantly aware of the suffering around Him. Everywhere and in everyone, not just where it was obvious and He still participated in private moments with friends and family. He provided those cupcakes and that awesome turkey. I don't know why it was for you guys and not for thousands of others, but it was from Him so it was good. I hope this doesn't sound presumptuous, I so appreciate being able to share in your experiences and this was on my heart to share with you.

God Bless!

Jay and Allison Harris said...

I'm so glad you posted this because I felt guilty all day long...I'm glad I'm not the only one who wrestles with guilt over living my every day normal life and feeling indulgent. I can't even imagine how hard it would be to see such suffering outside my door and deal with that. Hope you had a great birthday!

Alyssa MacMillan said...

Thank you for posting this. Super encouraging to me for sure.
I am 20 years old and was in Uganda last summer for a one-month missions trip, and it changed my perspective on everything. I remember feeling SO much guilt when I first got back especially - How can I go out for dinner and pay $10 when a family in Uganda could live off that for more than a week!?
The excessive guilt has quieted a bit, but the everyday friction is still there and I really hope it never ceases. I never want to forget what I learned in Uganda, and the friction keeps me accountable to what God has put on my heart.
Thanks again for sharing. I hope and pray that one day my future family will be as obedient as yours is to God's call on your life.
Love in Christ,
Alyssa MacMillan (Ottawa, Canada)