It's that time of year again.
The time when my facebook timeline is overflowing with messages of thanks, and people everywhere (myself included) are carefully choosing what to wear Thursday, preferring pants with a little stretch and give in preparation for the big meal that is coming.
And this is all great.
It's so good to be thankful for our many blessings.
But this year, Thanksgiving looks differently to me.
After going to Africa twice in the past five months, the one thing I have heard over and over again is, "I'm sure you made such a difference there," or "I know they were so thankful for what you've done for them".
The truth is, I have done very, very little in the big scheme of things.
I'm not even sure that my two trips have made ANY lasting impact whatsoever.
And that is OKAY.
I am one person.
I will not be able to make a noticeable difference in the life of every person I meet in Africa.
That's simply not how it works.
But, that also doesn't mean I should stop trying, stop serving, stop praying, or stop going.
It also doesn't mean that a lasting change hasn't been made.
Because I can say without any hesitation that Africa and the people there have made a forever change in me.
My eyes, mind, and heart have been opened to these beautiful people and their culture.
And if there is one thing that they do well in Africa, it's be thankful.
I have never been surrounded by a more appreciative group of people.
It's not that Africa has made me want less or feel guilty about what I have.
Instead, it's made me appreciate what I do have and not long for MORE.
Our culture seems to be all about the 'more' lately, and I'm just not buying it.
Instead of wanting more, I am counting my blessings for what I DO have.
I am thankful for the air conditioning in my car and the fact that it doesn't guzzle gas like this beauty we used in Malawi.
I am thankful for paved roads, even though they sometimes include potholes. But I promise, the ride is smoother than this road was....
Even though they are older and not front-loading and fancy, I am thankful for my washer and dryer...as well as indoor plumbing and electricity.
Although our house is smaller, older, and lacking in the storage department, I am thankful that we have a place to safely keep our belongings and for a roof that doesn't leak.
More than ever before, I am thankful for clean water, water that doesn't make my family sick. Water that won't kill my babies. Water that helps, not hurts....
Although I have far less than most girls I know, I am so thankful for shoes. I'm thankful that my girls have shoes that keep their little piggies safe and warm. Until this year, I was completely guilty of taking shoes for granted. I didn't realize the difference they can make in your quality of life and in your health. They really are a NEED and not just a WANT.
I am so very thankful that my girls have the chance to just be kids. They don't have to worry about major health scares, a doctor that is miles away, will there be anything to eat tomorrow, and when will my parents come from me. I am so thankful that my girls were born into a family...not all children have that luxury.
And I am thankful for the lessons I learned in Africa. There are so many, but one of the most meaningful came from this:
While at an orphanage in Malawi, this was THE ONLY TOY we saw. Now my kids are good kids, but if this was their only toy, I can only imagine the endless stream of 'I'm bored' and 'This ball is broken' that would echo through our home. But the kids at the orphanage played with it with a smile on their faces. They didn't complain or one time mention wanting 'more'. They helped me better understand that STUFF is not what is important. STUFF does NOT make us happier, healthier, or better. In fact, I think stuff sometimes gets in the way of the important things. And I could not be more thankful for this lesson.
I am so very, very thankful that God opened my eyes to Africa and for the forever changed that has occurred in me when I said 'yes' to Him.
Here's hoping your eyes have been opened, and if God is trying to call you to something or to teach you something, please say 'yes'.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and you and you.....and Africa.