Thanksgiving — and Giving Thanks
Its slender, writhing body rose into the air and spat into my face with diabolical force.
No, not a snake. And it was just water. But I was still mightily aggravated.
I was cleaning the sink in the downstairs bathroom when the sprayer suddenly came alive and jumped off the hook. It started writhing around like a snake, shooting water all over the bathroom. I grabbed for it, but like a live thing it reared up on its hose and sprayed me in the face.
Frantically I tried to close the shutoff valve. It wouldn’t budge and the sprayer kept careening around the bathroom like it was possessed. If I didn’t know better I would have thought it was after me. I wrestled the thing into the toilet bowl and slammed down the lid. It fought against the restraint, but I made it out of the room before it escaped and continued its rampage.
The phone, of course, was upstairs. I ran up the stairs, dripping all the way, and finally found it and called Paul.
“What do I do?” I wailed.
“I forgot and left my vise grips out of my toolbox,” Paul said. He was in Mae Ai for preachers’ training and, as always, his toolbox was in the truck. “I think they are in the kitchen. See if you can get it off with those.”
Usually I am slightly annoyed by tools and sundry other belongings being left in the kitchen, but this time I was delighted. I found the vise grips and waded into the deluged bathroom. The “snake” had escaped and was squirting the walls, ceiling, and floor with undiminished force. With the vise grips I shut off the life force of the creature and hung it, limp and dead, back on its hook.
Things always break and go wrong while Paul is away at preachers’ training in Mae Ai. This week it was a bit more spectacular. And it went downhill from there.
Something went wrong with the pump and the water to the house went off – so that no one, including several sweaty boys, got showers before school. The drinking water dispenser broke right before Paul left. What is it with water troubles around here?
But worse was to come. The kids were abominably pesky. They fought and tattled, didn’t do their chores, and in general had bad attitudes. One dreadful morning I lost my temper completely. I’m sure the whole neighborhood noticed. After they were finally off to school I retreated to my air conditioned room with a book and completely annihilated my healthy eating plan with carbs as I tried to calm my shattered nerves.
Rather like the Israelites, who, when they were attacked by enemies, kept looking to the Egyptians for reinforcements instead of appealing to the true God who alone was able to help them.
But God is good to send encouragement and help whether I look for it in the right place or not. By the time the kids came home I was feeling better – after a serious nap and a day off – and I was thoroughly ashamed of my temper tantrum. The guys at preachers’ training had to leave early so Paul came home that afternoon. And we had a terrific English class that night with some real breakthroughs in reading for a couple of kids.
It wasn’t until that evening that I realized it was Thanksgiving Day here. I was thankful it was over!
Two great Thanksgiving services in the villages bookended the dreadful week. Last Saturday we traveled to nearby Long Khoad – only about an hour away – and had a good time of fellowship there.
Yesterday we drove to the beautiful village of Plang Hok, which overlooks a breathtaking mountain vista. An unusually large crowd gathered there, including visitors from several other churches and non-church-members from the village. It was a great service, followed by a typical Lahu feast of pork balls, bamboo, and other dishes.
We had quite a crowd for medicine, and I gave out the last of the hats — 80 of them — there. Although I only gave them out to the kids, I suspect that adults appropriated some.
One more Thanksgiving service to go for the year. We’ll be going to a Lisu village next Saturday.
And one more thought on Thanksgiving….
Yesterday morning I hurriedly scrambled breakfast together, reheating leftovers and making rice. One of the children ambled to the table and looked at it with evident disgust. She picked up one of the bowls of food and sniffed it.
“This is bad,” she said.
“No it isn’t,” I said. “Ika sent it over on Thursday and I heated it up yesterday, Friday, for the first time. When things are refrigerated, they are good for three days.”
She haughtily shoved it away, and I knew that no one would touch it now.
“Did you buy coconut juice?” she demanded, seeing me serve the orange juice several of the others requested when I asked for favorites.
“They didn’t have it in the big containers, so I bought a little bottle just for you. It’s in the fridge.”
She stomped over to the refrigerator and got it out without a word.
Then I heard her rattling around in the pan cupboard.
“What are you doing?”
“I want to cook something for myself,” she announced.
“Not this morning. We are in a hurry. You can help cook supper tonight if you want to.”
She slammed the cabinet door shut and got out a packet of noodles.
“Not noodles, either. I don’t have enough to go around this morning and the others will want them, too, if you fix them,” I told her. “You can fix toast or just eat what the others are eating.”
She glared at me.
“Or you can do without,” I added.
She stuck her nose in the air and sailed out of the room and up the stairs.
A familiar flare of anger rose in my chest. The little stinker. Who crowned her the princess today? Why should she be demanding and angry when we owe her nothing? Instead, we have literally given her every single thing she owns. We feed her, clothe her, and give her a life few in her situation could hope for. And she is always angry. Unthankful.
That brought me up short. The Lord could say exactly the same thing about me. Everything I have, He gave me. I am blessed above anyone I know. What right have I to be angry or unhappy because things break and children annoy and things don’t go my way? What does God owe me, anyway? I suddenly saw myself as God must surely see me – acting just like my stinky child. Unthankful.
“I’m so sorry, Lord,” I prayed. “You are good, and I don’t deserve any of the blessings you have heaped on me. Thank you for your mercy and forgiveness.”
I went upstairs to talk to the offended princess. She still was wrong, but I was determined to deal with her as the Lord dealt with me – with firmness but with lovingkindness and mercy.