I love Thanksgiving. I love the focus on special foods, friends, and family and I love thinking back on Thanksgivings Past.
I’ve enjoyed various Thanksgivings in Texas, Montreat (I love the traditional morning gathering at church and taking an afternoon walk), Bolivia (letting the kids play hooky from school so we could keep our traditions), and exotic Ethiopia (with roasted warthog).
And there was one Thanksgiving in Dubai, UAE.
Here’s that story.
It was November, 2011.
Daughter #2 was living in Dubai and we wanted to meet their new baby F. and to play with the new big sister 2 y.o. H.
It was fun getting ready for the trip, sewing a baby quilt and painting doors and windows on the dollhouse Jake built for those grand little girls.
That week a friend sent me a book, and on the long flight I opened it. ‘One Thousand Gifts’ by Ann Voskamp.*
I decided to keep a thanksgiving list while in Dubai.
If I listed 50 things a day, at the end our three-week visit, I would have 1,000.
Could I do it?
Voskamp’s words spurred me on. “sleuthing for God’s glory.” “a hunter for beauty.” “I only notice because I am looking,” she wrote.
So I tried to be a sleuth, a ‘hunter’; I wanted to ‘notice’ big and little things to thank God for.
You would think it was wonderful, being with that sweet family in such a novel city, focusing on being thankful, but actually I struggled with feeling out of place (and control), awkward, not fitting in. I was afraid of not sleeping well, not feeling well, not doing well . . . well, you get the picture.
Plus the plans for Thanksgiving Day worried me. We were joining a large group of ‘strangers,’ my daughter’s American friends.
At the beach.
Now I am just not a beach lover. All I could imagine was heat, sweat, and grit: The sun burning me and melting foods, and sand blowing into my eyes.
I was a little bit dreading it.
I don’t remember what my daughter and I fixed to take, but I do remember driving to the beach park and being totally surprised.
First it was: Trees! Shade! And pleasant tropical breezes.
Then it was: Tables! Under the trees there were lots of tables with fancy cloths and napkins and special gold plasticware set for each guest. Two or three tables were crowded with dishes and pots of amazing cuisine. Simple decorations all around, a scenic outdoor banquet, the ocean a few hundred feet away.
I felt sheepish. Humbled.
And very honored. Who did all this for us?
We circled together to begin the meal, not with a prayer, like I am used to, but with a moment to express appreciation and gratitude, and in my heart I prayed for everyone, thanking God for all His love and mercy towards us.
The food and the conversation – it was so interesting, so good.
I loved carrying around our tiny baby F.
And I loved our sunset swim in the Persian Gulf and watching H.’s bravery in the waves.
That night my son-in-law said, “That was the best Thanksgiving ever!”
Yes, indeed it was.
It was easy to list 50 things that night.
In fact, it was easy every night on that trip . . . all thanksgiving goes to God!
P.S. I have my journal writings to thank for the details of this story. What a joy it was for me to reread it, to remember, and to summarize here what God did for me. Thank you for reading!