Thanksgiving Snapshots: From Nicaragua to Missouri

Ok, I know we are now in full swing Christmas-season, but I wanted to take a moment to share about our wonderful, low-key Thanksgiving this year, and recap our unforgettable Nica Thanksgiving last year.

We spent last Thanksgiving in Nicaragua, and considering we were living at a childrens’ home on a volcanic island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, we were able to make it a pretty fantastic day.  A few days before, several of our teammates took the ferry to the mainland and traveled to a nearby city to go to the grocery store which would have many of the items we needed.

The morning of Thanksgiving, Brittany, Tiffany, Angela, and Robert, an American who lives at the childrens’ home full time, and I began preparations in the kitchen, as some of our other teammates played football outside, played with the kids, or did other random ministry jobs around the home. 



Robert made some kind of fried flowers from the garden, which sounds weird, but they were actually really delicious.  Here I am, sampling some of the flowers, and I always find this picture amusing because I am cooking Thanksgiving dinner in a tank top, shorts, and flip flops.  When I am shivering from the cold this winter, I try to remember that I was wishing for cozy sweater weather last holiday season.

Our Thanksgiving cooking crew were able to make everything pretty much just as we would have in the States, with a few exceptions.  Fried chicken instead of turkey, and ayote instead of pumpkin.  When dinner was served, it was funny to see the kid’s reactions to our American holiday staples.  Stuffing was not a hit among them.  🙂



(The Thanksgiving meal cooking crew, right after we finished cooking.)

During dinner, we all went around, Americans and Nicaraguans, and shared what we were thankful for.  After the meal, we set up the projector on the wall outside me and Josh’s room, and watched Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving with the kids.  It was a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I am so glad we got to spend it in such a unique way.

This year, we decided to go to my family’s for Thanksgiving, because it had been almost 2 years since our whole family had been together.  It was long overdue.

We set out on the road after I got off work on Wednesday night, with Walter (my sister and brother-in-law’s dog) in his crate in the backseat.  Jess, Tyler, and Henry had left a week before to spend time with Tyler’s family, and I was anxious to see them, and to hear Henry greet me with, “Eh Jee!” (Aunt Jen) again.  During the 3 1/2 hour drive, we were freezing, because my car had a radiator leak (I think?) that caused the heat to not work well.

We finally made it to my Mom and Dad’s, and I was greeted at the door by Hemi, my family’s elderly black lab, and by the smell of my Mom doing some preparatory cooking.  One of my favorite things about coming home is sitting on one of the barstools at the kitchen island, and talking with my family as they cook or hang out in the kitchen.

The next morning, I went in and woke up my sister Shelby to come watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with me.  This is a concrete tradition for me.  You HAVE to watch the parade.  And not just any parade.  The Macy’s parade.  Anyway, we watched the parade with my Dad, while my Mom continued cooking.  Can I just take a moment to point out how much work my Mom put in to cooking a whole Thanksgiving meal, pretty much by herself?  She had a little bit of help here and there, but did almost everything.  She has such a servant’s heart, and I am so thankful for her.

We thought we were going to be eating Thanksgiving lunch, but there was a scheduling miscommunication with Jess and Tyler, and they were not going to be able to make it until later that afternoon.  So, we decided to change it to dinner, with the hopes that the timing would coincide with my brother Drake’s break at work.

While we waited that afternoon, we got the table ready to go, so we could eat as soon as Drake got home on his break.  We put a long, fold up table next to the regular kitchen table so there would be enough room for everyone to sit around the table, and I laid some table cloths down, and made a pretty centerpiece, which was definitely Pinterest-worthy, if I do say so myself.

When Drake got home, we pretty much ran down stairs, somehow squeezed everyone on the couch, and took our family Christmas card photo.  The last time we got one with the whole family was two Thanksgivings ago, the night that Jess and Tyler told us that they were going to have a baby.


(A picture of me and my sisters from the family photoshoot two years ago.  One of my favorite pictures of us.)

After the pictures, we headed back upstairs, and finally had dinner.  It was delicious, and even though it was not long before Drake had to go back to work, I was happy that our family got to gather around the table and have a meal together.


(The only photo I got of the table, right before we cleared it.)

Our times together, especially all together, are few and far between, but that just makes our times together even more special.  I guess it’s just part of growing up; your family gets bigger as spouses and babies are added, and it is harder to all get together.  But when you do, even if for just a moment, it is magical.

Enjoy your families this holiday season. 🙂



A Year Ago I Was a Missionary in Honduras…Today I Served Chicken Sandwiches in Suburbia

I’ve been needing to write for awhile.  And not like the I-feel-obligated-to-blog-every-so-often needing to write, but really needing to write.  But for some reason, I just haven’t really been able to do it.  Every time I sit down at my computer, motivated and ready to write, I close the WordPress tab just as quickly as I opened it.

The problem is, this Great Story I’ve been trying to live hasn’t felt, well, quite so great anymore.

By that, I mean that it is not as exciting as my life was several months ago.  This time last year, I was living with Josh and the rest of our team in a small concrete room in the back of a church in Tablon, Honduras.  Our days were filled with walking around the rural mountain town with Pastor Jesus, meeting with and praying for people in the community, gathering at Duma’s house with her family as they prepared corn tortillas, rice and beans for us, bathing in the river (in swimsuits of course), hand washing our laundry and hanging it to dry (for days and days as they got extra rinse cycles from the rain), and going to bed on our sleeping mats on the floor and in our sleeping bags at 8:30 because it was dark and there was just nothing else to do.


Today, I woke up, ate a bowl of cereal and said a quick good morning to my nephew Henry, went to work at Chick-fil-A, hung out with Henry a bit, ate dinner at my sister and brother-in-law’s church, and hung out with Josh at a coffee shop.

My life is SO different than it was a year ago.  But, I’m realizing that different is okay. 

My sister has been doing a 31 day blog challenge, and every day, she writes about a particular lesson learned.  Today, she wrote about cultivating gratitude, no matter what your situation is. 

I’ve been thinking about this topic for the last few weeks, and even though my life after the World Race is definitely different than I thought it was going to be, even just a few months ago, here are some things that I know I am grateful for.

I am thankful that I get to spend this season with my sister who is my best friend, my brother-in-law who always makes me laugh, and my sweet nephew Henry who I am convinced can do no wrong.  The best part(s) of my day is when his face lights up and he says, “Aunt Jen!” when I enter the room or get home from work.


I am thankful that Josh and I have been welcomed into the Central Baptist Church Kansas City family.  This church is an amazing body of believers who love to love you.  They are incredibly diverse, and almost if not every person has been an international missionary or involved in international and domestic missions in some way.  Cheers to having people who understand what it’s like to choke on Cambodian dust while riding in a tuk tuk, or to hear, “Mzungu! Mzungu!  How are you?” every day in Africa.  🙂

I am thankful that the wonderful people at Chick-fil-A Liberty decided to take a chance on me, even knowing that I might not be around in a few months when we (hopefully) move to Georgia to start a new chapter working for Adventures in Missions.  It’s been awesome, humbling, tiring, and an adventure every day.  Not to mention that it’s very nice to have a paycheck after more than a year of not getting those exciting pieces of paper every two weeks.


So, life might not be traveling-the-world-exciting-Facebook-status-worthy right now, but I am grateful for what it is-a season full of love, rest, expectancy, and of course, pumpkin spice chai.  🙂