Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2015

Our first Thanksgiving here at Vander Well Manor in the Pella Theatre District, and the family from both sides came our way to break in the digs. It was my first time cooking the Thanksgiving turkey, but I’m happy to report it went really well. By the time the family arrived the house was filled with an amazing aroma.

Anyone who know Wendy knows m’love does hospitality right. We had appetizers and wine as the house filled with the din of family conversation. The kitchen and the dinner was well planned like the D-Day invasion. Because there were 16 of us, we had to split the crew. The elders feasted in the dining room while the five youngest (along with Uncle Scott) dined nearby in the Great Room.

Dessert was a splendid spread of goodies provided by all. The men enjoyed a little nip of single-malt downstairs at the V-Dub Pub. I had several family members who came into the studio for a little photo portrait, which was a lot of fun. Madison, who was spending Thanksgiving working on a term paper in an Asheville, North Carolina hotel room, joined us for a FaceTime visit.

Driving rain and falling temps chased everyone away far sooner than we would have preferred. I get it. They wanted to get home before the rain turned to ice and snow. So did we, really. We’ll rest easier tonight knowing that everyone is resting, all snug in their beds, with visions of Christmas dancing in their heads.

After a generous dose of clean-up, Taylor, Suzanna, Wendy and I watched This is Where I Leave You which was a wonderful way to end a family holiday. We then settled in for a little Thanksgiving football and relaxation. I didn’t get a Thanksgiving nap, so I think an early bedtime will have to do.

So thankful today for family, friends, loved ones, and blessings innumerable.

Thanksgiving Thoughts

It’s early Thanksgiving morning. As usual, I’m up before the ladies. In a couple of hours the house will be bustling with preparations. For now, it is so quiet that my increasingly deaf ears can hear the wind and rain hitting the house.

It’s a very different holiday this year. In that past 15 months my mom and dad were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and cancer, respectively. This summer they moved into a retirement community. We have so much for which to be thankful despite present circumstances. Medication has slowed progress of mom’s illness. While dad’s cancer will require ceaseless cycles of oral chemotherapy, tests show that the cancerous proteins in his blood are now held at bay. They are in a wonderful retirement community filled with warm and enjoyable new friends. We are so thankful.

It has been a huge year of transition. Madison, sadly, will be flying the friendly skies today and is unable to join us. She has been working tirelessly and will graduate from UCCS in a few weeks. Taylor returned from Scotland with a master’s degree and diligently continues the job search. Suzanna is kicking it in her first year of college. Wendy and I sold a house, built a house, and moved. We’ve been more intentional with our local gathering of Jesus’ followers and stepped down from leadership in the community theatre. There has been so much movement on everyone’s respective life journeys.

All that said, I find my heart struggling to find equilibrium in the pre-dawn hours of this Thanksgiving. I am so thankful for everyone being relatively healthy and happy, yet I acknowledge the intense and painful struggle required for some of us to be able to report that. I am grateful for the blessing of family to be together, and still feel the heartache of missing family I have not seen for far too long. I am giving thanks for our wonderful new home where 16 of us can gather comfortably, and at the same time grieve the passing of family traditions that have been woven into the tapestry of our lives for so many years.

Yesterday I read about the relatively unknown story of Squanto. The native American who became a miraculous life-line to the Pilgrims in that first year in America had actually been abducted and sold as a slave in Europe. Given his freedom by Catholic friars in Spain, he lived in London for a time. He found his way back to America on a trading ship, agreeing to provide his interpretation skills in the new world in exchange for passage. When he returned, however, he found his tribe had been wiped out, likely by disease. He found his way home only to find himself alone in the world.

When Squanto wandered into the Pilgrim’s camp, he was uniquely prepared to help them. He had lived in London longer than some of the Pilgrims. He spoke their language. He understood their ways. He was uniquely qualified to teach them the skills they would need to survive the American wilderness. The Pilgrims had been through hell on their voyage and that first deathly winter. They were unprepared for life in the new world. Having lived through enslavement and a decade of struggle to get home, Squanto needed a tribe and a family. Having lived through the struggle of voyage and a terrible year of death, the Pilgrims needed someone to teach them how to survive in the New World and to communicate with their new neighbors. How miraculous that they found one another.

This morning in the quiet I find myself thinking about that first Thanksgiving. I find it fascinating that the gratitude for both Pilgrim and Native came at the end of a period of incredible challenges, struggles, defeats, and transition in their respective life journeys. And yet, they stopped to feast and offer God thanks in the midst of it all. They’d found each other, and in one another they’d found God’s gift of hope. It seems oddly familiar this year.

I hear Wendy in the kitchen. The rattling of pans has begun, and it’s time for me to start preparations for the feast and for family. Thanks to all who join me on this blogging journey and who, from time to time, take a moment to read my early morning rambling and meandering of heart. I’m grateful for you.

It’s time to roast a turkey. Blessings to you all.

Top Five: Thanksgiving

Wendy and I are hosting Thanksgiving this year and the house will be packed with both my family and hers. For Top Five Tuesday, here are the Top Five Things I’m looking forward to on Thursday:

  1. Gathering with loved ones, quieting our hearts for just a minute, holding hands, and thanking God together for the abundant blessings He’s showered on us.
  2. Making the Thanksgiving turkey for the first time (say a prayer…for all of us!).
  3. Having so many family members together around the table (there will be 16 of us! Yikes!).
  4. The pre-feast goodies, the feast, and the dessert.
  5. Afternoon games, conversations, and naps.


featured photo by Satya Murthy via Flickr

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)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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.