I have a confession to make – I was lacking the Thanksgiving spirit this year. There, it’s out there. I have another confession to make – this blog post will not end with a list of reasons that, upon reflection, I realized that I have to be thankful. I know that list well, and I’m thankful for those things and people on a daily basis, but I was still lacking the Thanksgiving spirit.

Why? Good question. First, we’ve had a lot of really hard things happening in the Vida Joven world. Shootings, police raids on communities, more stories of abuse at home, staff members houses being broken into and robbed while we’re at camp, conflict between leaders, and the list goes on. My spirit has been heavy as I walk with people through these situations.

Second, in the past we’ve done a huge Thanksgiving celebration with VJ staff, leaders, and their families. This year, we decided not to – mostly because we didn’t have the space or place to host that gathering, and partly because we’ve been doing a lot of partying with that group – post camp celebration was last week and the Christmas celebration is in two weeks. So we decided to do Thanksgiving with a more intimate group of friends. Except that none of them could actually celebrate Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving, which pushed our dinner to Friday night. It was great, but it didn’t feel quite the same.

Third, turkeys were crazy expensive this year. Like $4/lb and they only brought the 20lb butterballs expensive. I know the turkey doesn’t make the celebration, but preparing special food and gathering around a table is really special to me, and the price of the turkey made me sad. In the end we decided to make all the sides without the bird, and to be honest, that’s what my thanksgiving plate looks like anyway. But, it was still a factor I was working through.

Fourth, Guatemala has been decorated for Christmas since about September. Rainy season ended, the sun came out, and the Christmas trees went up. I’m still adjusting to this new seasonal rhythm. Instead of spring, summer, fall, winter, we go from rainy to dry and back again. It’s amazing the extent to which they rhythms of our lives dance around the changing seasons. In MI, I can “feel” Thanksgiving coming from October on, and my heart and spirit respond accordingly. Here it’s just another day on the calendar.

These are just a few of the reasons that I wasn’t in the Thanksgiving zone this year. They’re not excuses. I’m not looking for sympathy. Mostly, I just wanted to share a few of my thoughts and reflections from the past few weeks.

And, of course, I want to share some pictures of the awesome Gingerbread House Joel and I made – that is my favorite Witte family Thanksgiving tradition, and one that we decided needed to come to Guatemala!

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