Thursday, November 11, 2010

Overflowing with Thanksgiving

Overflowing with Thanksgiving

While you’re looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with family & friends, stop for a moment and remember.   Remember those loved ones far from home—keep in touch and say thank you!

She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. 
 Proverbs 31

Most of us have no trouble saying “thank you” as we’re standing at the door of a friend’s home after an evening of food, fun, and fellowship.   It’s almost like we don’t want the evening to end, so we say “thanks again” and the host or hostess blithely accepts our gratitude.   This may even happen a few times as we head down the front steps to the car in the driveway.   We turn back and wave, and shout another “thanks for a great evening!”   

When we finally get into the car, the warm feelings of a wonderful evening wrap us in warmth and good feelings.   We even say to our spouse, “we really should do this more often.”  The children in the backseats regret leaving their little buddies (and the toys!), “I had fun tonight!”  

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord,
continue to live in him,…and overflow with thankfulness.”
Colossians 2:6-7

And so it goes.

How about saying thank you to the special people in your life who are away from family and friends during the holiday season?   It’s easy to forget that there ARE people who aren’t able to fly or drive home for a three- or four-day weekend from college or jobs.

Me Uncle Bill & Aunt Donna, Indpls, Sept 2010
I remember my years in the Air Force (lo these many years ago!) with much fondness, but holidays were pretty much horrible.  There’s nothing like living in a dormitory, when many have gone home or to friends’ homes for the long-weekends or holidays.  Thankfully my first year I was stationed for tech school near my favorite aunt and uncle at Thanksgiving, so I was able to spend it with them.   Aunt Donna pulled me under her wing (we’re both much older now!), and I had a great time helping her.   

“A kind-hearted woman gains respect…” 
Proverbs 11:6

However, the next two years, I was at my permanent duty station of Offutt AFB in Omaha, Nebraska.   Too far from home in northern Wisconsin to make the almost-700 mile trip (one way) for the weekend.   Two years of being stuck in the dorm eating at the chow hall for Thanksgiving—ewww!  Granted the chow hall cooks tried to make us a great Thanksgiving feast, but turkeys roasted for hundreds of people, carved, then kept warm in serving trays over hot water—hmmm?—just isn’t as tasty as what a loving mother or an excellent aunt can do in their little home kitchens!  Nope!   Nothing tasted right—just hopelessly blah.  

And what really made me miserable was knowing my five younger brothers were getting to have a piled-up-high mound of Ma’s good mashed spuds, overflowing with her tasty gravy, puddling next to the stuffing and oozing under the slices of dark meat turkey!   Oh dear.  I was miserable both years eating my lukewarm turkey, icky spuds from a box and gravy that could’ve been made from concrete blocks.  Ugh.

So, think of the people you know who may be away 
from family and friends for Thanksgiving.    

Today's idea for thankfulness 
Put together a C.A.R.E. package and 
lighten up their holidays!   
Include a hand-written thank you note 
or letter of encouragement.  

Who Is a Likely Candidate?   Perhaps your church has missionaries stationed in another country where food-stuffs are difficult to obtain.   Or missionaries’ children are state-side while parents are overseas, and the student will be left to get-by in the dorm because it is too far to fly to be with the rest of the family.   Maybe you know of college students who are unable to get home for a short weekend with the family.  

Especially remember military members serving far from family—at great personal sacrifice in situations that are unbelievably spartan.    Our son recently left Afghanistan with some of the worst living conditions an American citizen can imagine for personal hygiene and privacy and safety.    It takes very little to make a soldier or marine thankful.    

A couple weeks prior to any holiday, host a Care Package Gathering with friends from church or the neighborhood.   If sending to a service member overseas, better plan this at least a month in advance so it gets there prior to the holiday (if possible).   Mail, even when “Express” or “Priority” doesn’t receive the same quick handling it gets here in the states.   

Packing a Care Package:   Obtain a large “priority mail” flat rate (make sure it says FLAT RATE) box from the Post Office, one for each package being mailed.   Print out the address label.   Any packages going overseas will need a Customs Declaration form, too.  

What to Send:   Ask each guest to bring something that will make a soldier or student happy.   It might be good to ask the youth’s mom or dad for specific suggestions, too.    Here are some general ideas of welcomed package items:    snacks, chips, crackers, jerky, gum, hard candy, candy bars, fruit snacks, pop-tarts, sunscreen, hand-wipes, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, family pictures, sports team stuff, games, puzzles, etc. 

My son’s favorite package was themed around “summer fun” for his Half-Birthday (August) when it was really hot in Afghanistan.    He really liked the John Wayne movies and the two bottles of Dr. Pepper (they don’t have any over there).   I included a package of cheap squirt guns for him and his buddies to “play” with and some other silly-kid things on clearance in the “summer” aisle at Wal-Mart. He loved it!    

Special Care:   Make sure anything spill-able is put into a clean zip-lock (just the right size) just in case it would accidentally get opened.  

Mailing the Package:   When you take your box(es) to the Post Office, remind the teller that your package is going to an active duty soldier in a war zone—you get a cheaper rate!!    Packages MUST be sent to a specific soldier, the military will NOT deliver to “Any US Army Soldier” or other non-specific addressee.   

As you’re filling out the Customs Declaration form, err on the side of keeping your description more “general” to avoid the box being stolen or vandalized.   Sorry to say, that does happen from time to time!    If the box is undeliverable to your soldier, you can mark the little box on the form to have it returned to you…but if you mark the box to have it left there…then they will divide it between the other soldiers there instead.

“A generous woman will prosper; 
she who refreshes others will herself be refreshed.”
Proverbs 11:25
 (modified to fit the womanly aspect of our discussion)

Our next post . . . 
Home-made Thankfulness for the Home

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