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Part 1.

I know. I haven’t been blogging as much lately. And I don’t like it. I actually miss it. I miss capturing every day nonsense and every day outpourings of God’s favor, and immortalizing them on these virtual pages in the global blogosphere.

And I miss seeing my stats with more than two visitors and three views in a twenty-four-hour period.

I hate it when my laptop sits, lonely. Calling to me, begging me to create. And I would write more, but there’s actual physical work to be done that I cannot keep ignoring.

Like, one-third of January is past and the tree is still up. The ornaments are packed away. We did manage that. But the lights are still on, and the garlands are collecting dust atop bookshelves and door frames. Stockings and tins and Christmas decorations lie forgotten under the tree. The same tree that is also collecting dust.

And, life has been happy lately, or happier. For some reason, I write better when I’m sad, when life tastes bitter. Just ask the guy at Ben’s Bitter Blog. He knows.

Yes, happier. With the holidays and my kids telling me they couldn’t come for Thanksgiving… (Yep, Son, I’m blogging about this.)

Then popping out of the kitchen to scream SURPRISE just as I walked through the door at 9:25 p.m. while E’s best friend caught it all on video. After two full days of twelve hours of caregiving on the Tuesday before the original American holiday.

And I was a little tired, overwhelmed, discouraged, and teetering on middle-aged gloom, trying to figure out how to do all that baking in the one day I had left before the big day…

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Plus, wondering how to squeeze in shopping, and working, and card-signing

(and sealing and addressing and stamping and mailing),

and writing, and parties (planning and organizing and attending and cleaning up afterwards),

and keeping the budget balanced, and working and writing some more,

and music practice, and special church services, and wrapping presents,

and actually finding time to reflect on the real meaning of Christ’s birth…

But that Tuesday night before Thanksgiving turned out to be one of the absolute best series of connected moments of my mommy years. After trying to find reasons to be thankful on the first holiday since our nest emptied and both our kiddos had flown away.

Thankfully, a friend from church did invite us to spend Thanksgiving with him—and about 25 other friends and relations at his gorgeous log cabin home on top of a small mountain. All I had to bring was warm yeast rolls and my cranberry-apple-pear sauce.

Where we could go and sit and relax, and enjoy not having to entertain a house-full at our house this year—I mean last year. Hard to believe that was last year already.

So, I really was thankful, in a first-world-nation sort of way.

Because in the few weeks before the invitation, my body and spirit were feeling weighed down with everything, and the approaching holidays on top of it. I’m still adjusting to working another part-time job, even though it’s a great job, custom-made for this writer, but it’s another addition to my to-do list… and I’m not as young or ambitious as I was twenty years ago.

Did I mention, I was tired?

Yeah. Time to start praying.

Dear Lord, You know we always open our home for Thanksgiving and have a big dinner and host a crowd of friends who don’t have family close by. But I don’t think I can do it this year, and Em’s not here to help, and I don’t know what else to do.

And everytime I think I get to scratch off a responsibility from my ever-growing to do list, two more responsibilities appear in its place. Not sure how that happens, but it does. Everytime. So, Father, if You would just show me what to do, I’d be grateful, because I’m at a loss. I’m amazed I’m even surviving this craziness, without my home and church and life being more chaotic than they are. Please, help? Amen.

And thank You. Really. I’m just tired. And looking at the next few weeks of the holiday crush just makes me tired-er. Amen. Again.

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On the following Sunday before services started, Frank and I were talking. And he mentioned how we always have company for Thanksgiving, but how he’d love to have us come to his place. And he just sort of threw that comment in before continuing with the original topic of conversation, which I’ve forgotten what it was now.

Because that’s when I stopped, and plopped myself in the chair beside the chair next to him, and I reached out my hand to grab his (he’s old enough to be my dad, and sweeter than most men his age).

And I said, Really?!?! We can come to your house for Thanksgiving? Then after explaining in my not-too-whiney voice, similar to how I’ve just done here, he nodded and grabbed my hand and said, Of course you can. Anytime. Just come.

And the Preacher’s parents, too? I added. Because they always come to our house…

Yes, bring them. Call my daughter about the food.

He wrote down her number. And within two minutes on a Sunday morning during a casual conversation in between the rush of getting our act together before church members arrived, my entire life changed. For good. With an unexpected answer to my prayer!

Two weeks later our kids showed up. After recovering from the shock, I grabbed them and hugged them and kissed their cheeks and held on in disbelief.

And after the next day of baking, it was Thanksgiving Day. And melancholy set in. Because that’s my family—gifted, eccentric, slightly above-average intelligence, but borderline-socially-challenged introverts. (Except for the baby, of course. But she still has her, Don’t bother me, I like my cocoon days.)

What will we do there? And we aren’t gonna stay long, are we? Because we won’t know anyone (besides Grandpa and Grandma). No, I don’t want to bring my guitar, and no, I won’t bring any song books. Thirty people?!? Will he have enough room for all of us? Sounds boring to me. Couldn’t we just stay home and roast a chicken? And I don’t like singing for people I don’t know. And will there be anything gluten-free? Okay, maybe I’ll bring the guitar and leave it in the trunk. But please, Mom, don’t tell anyone I play. And why are we going there again…?

Off we went anyway, up the mountain for a holiday feast. With a car full of slightly grumpy family members and a praying mom.

Dear Lord, This is a good thing—this answer to my one last desperate prayer before letting go of the rope hanging over the cliff called midlife female despair. And who cares if no one else enjoys the day, I plan to. Even in a house full of strangers. I really do care, though, so if You could help in this situation, I’d really appreciate it. Again. Amen.

The college-age relations weren’t very friendly, but most everyone else was. And Frank was thrilled to see us and introduce us to all his kin.

My turn to surprise! The plan ended in success, and my family enjoyed the day after all. What’s not to enjoy. Fascinating man. Beautiful home with state-of-the-art kitchen (built by the same). Awe-inspiring scenery overlooking the Sierra foothills and into Yosemite. And a gourmet holiday meal.

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Eventually the one sat at the piano and played. The other went to the car to pull out the guitar. They played, and we sang. And we feasted and visited and feasted some more, and then helped clean up, and kept finding things to talk about. And before we left we made plans to come back to visit our friend in the gorgeous log cabin on top of a mountain.

To be continued…

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