Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Thoughts

“Only a few years will pass
    before I take the path of no return.”
Job 16:22 (NIV)

Wendy and I enjoyed our Thanksgiving yesterday. We were up early to put turkey in the crock pot and a loaf of bread in the bread maker. We headed to Des Moines with our contributions to the Thanksgiving meal and arrived at my folks’ house just before noon. The house was full. Tim and Kumi drove up from Texas. Terry, Bonnie, and Ellie made the trek from Chicago with their two Rhodesian Ridgebacks in tow. Our nephew Sam had to work the weekend and was unable to accompany his parents out east, so he joined us as well.

This was the first Thanksgiving meal, the first real family gathering, since my mom was diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s. Many things yesterday were, to quote the Talking Heads, “same as it ever was.” And yet, beneath the visible surface of our traditional Vander Well Thanksgiving meal, afternoon conversation, and family game time around the dining room table, there had been a major shift in the tectonic plates of life. Some things will never be the same again in this lifetime.

In this morning’s chapter, Job makes his next speech. After dismissing the poor comfort of his friends, Job draws inward and becomes introspective about his plight. He contemplates the reality of the end of this life journey that each one of us will reach. I believe that most of us spend our days filled with the minutiae and urgent details of daily life to the point that there is no room left for looking too far head. The end of the journey for ourselves or our loved ones is not a comfortable subject. There are, however, certain way-points along life’s road that remind us where the path leads. And, having reached the way-point and looking back, we realize there are certain places to which we will never return in this journey.

Today, I’m thankful. I’m thankful for family who gathered and prayed and feasted and laughed and played and hugged and loved. I’m thankful for a lifetime of Thanksgiving memories. I’m thankful for parents whose deep faith leads and comforts them on a the murky path that lies before them. I’m thankful for our daughters, both off on their own journeys, who had good friends and companions with whom to give thanks. I’m thankful for Jesus, whom I follow, who promised “I am with you always – to the very end.”

Tough Climb

Canon EOS 7D f/10 1/250 ISO 100
Canon EOS 7D f/10 1/250 ISO 100

While in Colorado visiting Madison for Thanksgiving, I made a quit trip to Garden of the Gods with Taylor and Clayton. As we walked back to the car we caught sight of this rock climber making his way up one of the rock towers. It’s not something you see in Iowa…ever. It was a gorgeous sunny day and I thought it an interesting shot with the minuscule spec of the climbers green jacket against the vast natural colors of the trees, rocks and sky.

Celebrating Art!

Canon EOS 7D f/4 1/40 ISO5000
Canon EOS 7D f/4 1/40 ISO5000

While in Colorado for Thanksgiving, Courtney and Becky sprang for the whole family to spend the afternoon at the Denver Art Museum. Taylor mentioned that she loved this particular piece of artwork which consisted of long panels of sheer pink fabric with strips of gaudy sequins. When she caught me taking her picture in front of it, she went into “ham” mode and gave me a couple of blissfully enjoyable shots. This is one of my favorite pictures from that weekend.

Thanksgiving 2013 (Rocky Mountain High)

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Wendy, Suzanna, and I headed west this past Wednesday morning. We picked up Taylor in Des Moines. Clayton and his younger brother, Spence, followed us on I-80 westbound and we made the long trek to Colorado. Clayton jumped in the car with us at Fort Morgan while Spencer headed to Fort Collins to meet up with their brother, Ty. We arrived in Denver in the early evening and dropped Suzanna off at sister, Becky’s, house. Wendy, Taylor, Clayton, and I headed south to Colorado Springs and arrived around 8:00 p.m. Madison was working at P.F. Chang’s that night so after checking into the hotel we dropped in for a later dinner. It was so good to see Madison and to meet her friend, Aubrey, who is a hostess at Chang’s. We were wiped out after a long day of travel and sacked out early.

Wendy and I spent Thanksgiving morning getting a little work done in the hotel room while Taylor helped Madison make Thanksgiving dinner at her friend, Mike’s, house. We grabbed Clayton and headed to Mike’s about 11:00 a.m. It was a relaxing Thanksgiving dinner as we watched football, chatted, and admired the feast being prepared. Mike prepared what was, hand’s down, the BEST Thanksgiving turkey any of us had ever eaten. It was an incredible feast along with a buffalo cranberry stew that Madison made. Wow! We ate well. So well, in fact, that we decided to let things settle and make dessert our evening meal. Wendy’s peanut butter chocolate cheesecake and dark chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel frosting were more than enough to satisfy us. We watched football,  Anchorman, and chatted the evening away. It was late by the time we made our way back to the hotel.

Friday morning dawned. We enjoyed incredibly wonderful weather the entire weekend. Madison and Wendy headed for a coffee date. Taylor, Clayton and I decided we had to get out into the sunshine. So we headed Garden of the Gods and enjoyed a leisurely hike. We headed to Denver mid-day, picked up Suzanna, and headed to Broomfield to enjoy a late lunch at Buca Di Beppo’s with Clayton’s family. Every Buca’s has a “Pope Room” which is adorned with various papal pictures and includes a giant table with lazy susan adorned by a bust of the pope. We all had an amazing meal and a lot of laughter as we feasted for the second straight day. Clayton’s family (along with Taylor) headed to the Denver Nuggets’ game, Mike and Madison headed back to the Springs, and Wendy, Suzanna and I headed back to Becky and Court’s house.

Friday evening was spent at Becky and Courtney’s house. We all felt fat and lazy as we lounged and enjoyed catching up with Wendy’s sister and her husband. Clayton had to head back to Des Moines with his family to work, but Taylor joined us for the remainder of the weekend.

On Saturday we all headed to the Denver Art Museum and enjoyed a exhibition of French artwork and paintings of nature by the Impressionists. Madison drove up from Colorado Springs and joined us mid-afternoon. We dined together at Cap City pub and talked about the artwork we enjoyed before Madison headed back to the springs and the rest of us headed back to Court and Becky’s.

It was an early start this morning (5:00 a.m. MST) but we made good time and arrive home late in the afternoon. It was a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving weekend and we returned home with a full Rocky Mountain High.

An Iowa Psalm

Iowa annual fainfall, in inches, created in ES...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 65

You take care of the earth and water it,
    making it rich and fertile.
The river of God has plenty of water;
    it provides a bountiful harvest of grain,
    for you have ordered it so.
Psalm 65:9 (NLT)

For the record, I’ve never been a farmer. Though I’ve lived all but four years of my life in the state of Iowa I’ve got the most rudimentary understanding of how farms operate. I was raised in the city and have rarely stepped foot on a farm. Nevertheless, I’ve come to understand that being from Iowa gives you an appreciation for the land and the symbiotic relationship we have with it. You can’t escape it. The land and the people woven together. There’s cadence to life here that begins with planting, leads to harvest, followed by subsequent thanksgiving and celebration of the holidays before it ends in deep winter and the hope of next year and doing it all over again.

I tend to think that this relationship and dependence on the land and the weather is what gives us a rather humble and simple faith. Those whose livelihoods are rooted in agriculture realize our dependence on so much that it completely out of our control. You live life constantly making adjustments to what the earth and sky throw at you and have faith that it’s all going to work out in the end. When harvest does come and the crop comes in, there’s a realization that a large part of your success had absolutely nothing to do with you.

The chapter this morning tapped in to all of those thoughts and emotions. This is an Iowa psalm; A farmer’s psalm. David’s lyrics are full of that humble understanding that God’s creation is immense. No matter how much we strive to tame it, it only takes one massive storm, flood, or drought to remind us how dependent we really are.

Today, capping off a holiday weekend of Thanksgiving, I’m saying Psalm 65 as an extra prayer of gratitude.

Thanksgiving 2012

I must say that Thanksgiving 2012 has been one of the more odd holiday weekends for Wendy and me simply because it’s mostly been a quiet weekend just the two of us. The one family gathering we had was on Friday night when we helped host Wendy’s mom’s family at a potluck. We’d managed to rent some space in our church for everyone to gather and kind of took charge of making sure everything went okay for everyone. It did.

My goodness. It’s hard to believe these two bath rats are celebrating Maddy Kate’s 21st birthday this weekend.

The rest of the family spread out this year. Madison is in Colorado Springs and celebrated her 21st birthday on Thanksgiving Day this year (Woohoo! Happy Bday MADDY!). Taylor flew out to Colorado to spend the weekend with her little sister and to have a girls weekend.

Most of the VW clan were in Chicago at Terry & Bonnie’s for the holiday. We were bummed to have missed it, but having to be home on Friday to help with the Roozeboom festivities would have made it a crazy quick trip. My brother Tim also missed the festivities. He’s been working in Texas and stayed down there to celebrate Thanksgiving with Kumi.

Dad Hall & Suzanna are in Germany to see Josh and Kirtana.

Wendy’s family was also spread out. Her dad and sister flew to Germany to see Josh, who’s serving in the military there. They’re also the first to meet the newest member of the Hall clan, Kirtana, whom Josh married in Nepal back in August. With Jesse still in Germany, Heidi & Sophie in Florida, Luke in Tennessee to see his girlfriend, and Nathan and Bonnie in Oklahoma, there were precious few of the Hall clan around with whom to celebrate.

So, Wendy and settled in and decided to try and be productive on our long weekend alone. We did a massive house cleaning on Thursday and then I put a few steaks on the grill that evening, we opened a nice bottle of wine, and we sat down to a candlelit dinner for two followed by a lazy evening finishing up the first season of Downton Abbey on Netflix.

This is what decorations looked like when we got them out yesterday morning. They still look pretty much the same this morning. I think we’re behind on the task list.

Friday was supposed to be decorating for Christmas Day, but our morning errands to Wal-Mart and Hy-Vee got out of hand. Then Wendy had to bake and prepare for our Roozeboom potluck, the USP Box Office phone started to ring (Wendy and I ARE the virtual USP Box Office), and Mom Hall showed up in time to watch the Iowa State game. Needless to say, the living room is still full of decoration boxes and a half-decorated Christmas Tree is sitting in the middle of the room. We scurried off to an enjoyable gathering with the Roozebooms. It was 10:00 when Wendy and I got home and I made the mistake of turning on the television to find that the movie Moneyball had just started on one of the movie channels. Wendy sat on the couch next to me and next thing you know it was Midnight.

Today we finish decorating and continue on a long list of honey-dos. The weekend is scheduled to be a combination of chores and relaxation. We’ll see how it all goes. I can already tell that we’re not going to accomplish anywhere near the number of to-dos we had on the list at the beginning of the weekend. C’est la vie.

I hope that anyone reading this post has enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones wherever find yourself.

No Satisfaction

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 63

You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
    I will praise you with songs of joy.
Psalm 63:5 (NLT)

Seriously. Aren’t we all just looking for satisfaction?

We strive for satisfaction in our jobs and never really find satisfaction with the amount of money in our paycheck. We want satisfaction from our spouse and in our marriages. We seek to be satisfied by our kids, our friendships, and our church. We’d kill for a satisfying night’s sleep. Many of us are entering this Thanksgiving Day will all sorts of expectations of how family, food, and football will fill us up. But, as the Rolling Stones so wonderfully remind us, satisfaction is elusive.

Sometimes this chapter-a-day journey provides just the perfect touch of synchronicity. How poignant on a day of Thanksgiving feasting to read this verse from Psalm 63. I’m reminded this morning that satisfaction can even elude us on a day when we’re supposed to stop and be thankful for all with which we’ve been blessed, and all with which we are called to be content.

As Wendy and I sit down to share a Thanksgiving meal together today,  Psalm 63:5 will be my prayer.

P.S. Among the many things for which I want to express gratitude today are those of you who take the time to read this blog once in a while and share the journey with me. Some of you I know. Others of you choose to quietly lurk, and that’s cool, too. Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.