I'm squeezing a few posts in before 2016 comes to a close and 2017 is ushered in with joyful anticipation. Thanksgiving was celebrated in Tennessee and it gave us an opportunity to realize that if we are truly Christ followers, then when we are faced with challenges and adversity, we are to remain steadfast in our trust of the Lord and His eternal lovingkindness.
Our adventure began as most do, with excitement and expectation of what is to come. We stopped at The Crayola Factory in Easton, Pennsylvania and in Bristol, Tennessee (and Virginia).
We drove windy back roads and discovered Davy Crockett's homestead and brushed up on his connection to Andrew Jackson.
We arrived at Greg's parents house Sunday afternoon and we were a bit surprised that his mother did not look so well, or feel so well for that matter.
(Grace practiced photography with the help of her first teacher, Gus)
On Monday she was admitted to the hospital due to issues with her breathing. She is fine now and will need some follow up care however, she spent the week in the hospital while the doctors worked to discover what was causing her distress and figured out how to bring her comfort. During this time Greg, his sister, cousin and father took turns at the hospital while I took the girls out.
We visited Sequoias' Museum, Fort Loudon, an amazing used book store, LifeWay, had amazing barbecue, and attended The Cumberland Playhouse's performance of The Sander's Family Christmas (which was amazing).
While we were able to experience some time together as a family, Gram was on our mind and in our prayers. I have come to rely on the Psalms as prayer in time of need and we prayed for her healing. We also prayed for the wildfire in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains that was mostly contained during our visit. Some days there was a faint trace of smoke in the air, as if someone in the neighborhood had a fire pit burning. A faint haze hung on the horizon and filtered light oddly over the lake. Because we felt it was safe, we traveled to the park to visit one place I have always wanted to go and never have: Cades Cove. I wish I could say it was everything I had hoped for. We did see 2 elk but the traffic took us over 2 hours to loop through and I thought to myself how scary it would be to be in these mountains at night with a fire so close by. I had no idea what was to come for this area just a week later.
Thanksgiving was not what we were expecting for sure. We had an empty seat at the table. But it taught us that life is not about us. We get caught up in selfish expectations of perfect meals, beautifully set tables, delicious desserts and forget that it is always better to give of oneself than to receive. Having dinner with friends of Greg's parents was a gift, even if his parents were not able to dine with us. Listening to the stories of the Air National Guard, Vietnam, travels in Europe, and about friendships that span decades was a gift. The meal shared with family was a gift. The skilled doctors that worked on my mother in law were gifts. The fact that she came home before we left on Saturday was a gift. The time together for the four of us was a gift. Not all gifts come wrapped in packages, and the ones that don't are usually the ones we treasure most.