Hands covered in flour and holding my mouth just right, trying to roll the sticky dough into pretty crescents the way my mom always does, I wondered if in a few hours one of my sisters would be doing the same.
The messages started dinging in from the volunteer group. More than twenty other Americans will gather around the table later today, each bringing to this new family a piece of their own tradition. This is the family that I have been knitted into as we have laughed and struggled, prayed and discovered together over the past four months. “No pressure for what time you get here; it IS a holiday,” Kelli writes to us, “but we will eat all the food if you arrive after 1:05.”
Leandra joined me in the kitchen. “I’m hungry for breakfast, but I don’t want to eat too much.” We laughed about how typical that feeling is on Thanksgiving Day. She pulled a tub of rice-filled grape leaves out of the fridge and offered to warm up a plate for me. “One of Nellie’s students sent it home for us,” she explained.
Nellie then emerged from her room and joked about the banging of the dishes. As we worked, Leandra crocheting, Nellie straightening up, and me fighting with the rolls, we chatted about our holidays at home, each of us exposing more pieces of the puzzles of who we are.
My phone dinged again. With floury fingers I picked it up to see that it was Rasha inviting me to come spend the evening and night with her family. “Everyone will be here today,” she wrote. “My sisters are all coming and my brothers, too. My mom’s making chicken filled with rice and cooked in the oven. It will be fun- we’ll play games and you will love it.” She finished her series of messages with a big smiley-face.
I put the rolls in the oven to rise for another several hours. As I turned back to the messy kitchen, I realized how many emotions were rising within me. I miss my family. I miss my friends. I love my new family. I love my new friends. I miss my kitchen. I miss my mom’s cooking. I love talking with my roommates and I love all the things that get stuffed with rice. Tears puddled in my eyes and I escaped to my room.
For every thing that I’m missing that’s familiar, there’s a new thing that is exciting. My world is growing- my friendships, my experiences, my understanding, and my confidence that God is giving it all as a great gift. That’s what I’m most thankful for this day.
So, even though I’ll spend it missing you at home, my day promises to be full of turkey and potatoes, chicken and rice, laughter and games, friends and family, and, most of all, LOVE. I hope yours is, too!