Friday, November 23, 2012

Give Thanks to the Lord, for He Is Good!

* Be forewarned: there's lots of writing in this one! But I didn't have this blog until January, so I'm updating you a little bit here! :) *

I don't really remember when it made sense to us to start thinking about moving back to Memphis, but I think last Thanksgiving probably had a lot to do with it. It started small -- like I think it's something we were both feeling but weren't ready to verbalize -- after all, we had left Memphis and hadn't been looking to move back anytime soon. We had made Louisville our home, right? We'd had SO many conversations about how much we loved being out of Memphis, and even though we doubted that Louisville would be our forever home, we had no plans of moving anywhere anytime soon. After all, we'd bought a house. I still had three classes of seminary left. Even though Chris was basically taking seminary classes for fun at that point, not because he was planning a full-time ministerial career, he still loved his job at Humana and had no plans to uproot himself from his budding career there. 

And then the feeling grew and grew. By springtime, it was overwhelming -- suffocatingly so. I vividly remember taking a walk with Chris and pushing the girls in their stroller around our little mid-century ranch-house neighborhood in Louisville, crying because Tamsie and Evie wouldn't take their bottles without a blood-pressure-raising fuss, crying because no one could relate to this at all, crying because I wanted so badly to be back near family and didn't see it happening any time in the near future... and then having to wipe away my tears awkwardly and answer the standard questions as we walked past neighbors we'd never met: "Yes, they're twins. Five months old. I know they're small -- they were early. 11 weeks early. But they're doing great! No, we don't have family here. I don't know how we're doing it....," etc. 

And God was definitely faithful to give us the grace to get through it... but, as I remember my college roommate Jane once saying, He gives us just enough grace to get us through the situation He wants us to get through. Then, when it's time for us to make a move, the grace runs out! The grace was basically on empty by the time Chris got the job offer in Memphis. 

But back to last Thanksgiving. On my mom's side of the family, Thanksgiving is and has always been a very special annual affair. Each year, we gather together with my Aunt Lauren, Uncle Myron and cousin Chris over at my grandmother's house for the same traditional Thanksgiving meal, served roughly around 11:30 am. Each year, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is on in the background while everyone arrives and bustles around, trying to get everything ready. Each year, someone asks my uncle if he would like any rolls, and each year, he dismisses the notion as absurd, claiming that rolls are merely "filler." Each year, Mom tries to serve me some piddling amount of green bean casserole (she is the green bean casserole server, you see), and each year I give her the evil eye until she loads my plate up with the fabulous stuff. Each year, my uncle serves the dressing, knowing which parts (the sides) are specially reserved for Mom and me. Each year, we tease my cousin about the year he ate practically all the olives off the deviled egg tray. Each year, my grandma has a special cup full of plain egg whites just for me, since I abhor deviled eggs but love egg whites, food purist that I am, you know. Each year, my cousin makes the world's greatest pumpkin pie, my aunt makes a pecan pie, and my mom savors the fact that I don't like pecan pie -- leaving more for her, while I'm bewildered at the fact that my mom doesn't touch the pumpkin pie. Each year, we play games all afternoon while my dad and Uncle Myron watch football on TV... or sleep through football on TV. You get the idea -- Thanksgiving is a very special, traditional family event that we look forward to all year every year.

Last year, my girls were still in the NICU, so of course there was no way we were leaving town to be a part of the festivity. Instead, it went on without us. We called and said hi to everyone. Thankfully, my in-laws (minus Alex, who had to work) came up to Louisville to see us and the babies, and we had Thanksgiving dinner at our house. And our time with them was wonderful and very memorable, even though I missed my babies like crazy and missed the normalcy of what I had come to expect from Thanksgiving. Nothing was normal. It was a good reminder to be thankful regardless of the circumstances, and even so, we had so very much to be thankful for: after all, the girls and I had survived a very dangerous pregnancy and delivery! But in the background of the day's celebrations was the knowledge that my in-laws had driven at least 9 hours to come be with us, and they would have to leave earlier than we'd like them to and earlier than they'd like to leave in order to take the 9-hour-plus trip back home to Mississippi. They couldn't do this every holiday, and we couldn't expect them to. And we sure couldn't be taking the babies on a trip that long anytime soon. By living this far away from family, we were missing out on my family's celebrations, and we knew we wouldn't get to see my other family (Chris's family) very often AT ALL. This was NOT sustainable, and in the back of our minds, we knew it. 

This year has been one of the most joyful Thanksgivings I can recall, for many, many reasons. It has given us an amazing opportunity to look back on how far God has brought us in the past year. For starters, we woke up yesterday in our new house in Memphis, back near my family. We packed up enough stuff to keep the girls happy away from home for an entire day, and then we headed over to my 85-year-old Grandma's house for our annual feast. It was wonderful. The girls were so happy, and they were able to eat pretty much everything we were eating! Their favorite was the cranberry sauce! Later in the afternoon, Melissa came over with her mom, Mrs. Kathy, for the big Chicken Foot tournament. Last year, Mrs. Kathy was still fighting her battle with breast cancer. This year, she is cancer-free, praise the Lord, and she looks absolutely fabulous, too! Having Mrs. Kathy there at the table with us, laughing and playing Chicken Foot and feeling great, and having the girls there, giggling constantly while being passed around and then playing in their little play yard, my heart was so full it was about to burst. So many answered prayers, so much to be thankful for!

Today, when Chris gets home, we're going to Mississippi to visit his family. This is such an incredible answer to prayer too! While we wish that we all lived in the same place, it is so wonderful to be able to drive down and see them in less than 3 hours! This is a totally doable trip for T&E, and we can't wait to see Mrs. DeeDee, Mr. Herbie, Alex, and Noah! (Sad to be missing Jennifer and Tyler, but that just means we'll need to hang out again soon!) We're so thankful to be able to take the trip to stay with them and spend time with them over the next couple of days. I'll be updating about that part of our Thanksgiving once we get back. 

Here are the pictures I managed to get over the past few days. I really failed to get too many yesterday, but I'm OK with that because I was having so much fun with everyone! I didn't want to be behind my phone the entire time; I wanted to be fully present now that I have that luxury! :)
Tamsie Pearl a few days ago, having Mommy time while Evie was still napping

Evangelyn Rose rocking some serious bed head upon waking up from her nap

At Babies 'R' Us, restocking on some T&E essentials. They started out with socks and a hat apiece, but you can see Tamsie made sure that didn't last long. Not only does she rip off her own accessories, but she also doesn't mind helping Evie out of hers!

At my Grandma's house: Tamsie, my Dad, and some leaves

Melissa and Evie during the great Thanksgiving Chicken Foot Tournament '12

At home that night with Evie

Feeding time back at the Vafi house

Making a silly kissy face while feeding T&E... notice the books all over the table! It's chaos over here, folks - but the good kind of chaos. The kind to be very thankful for! :)

Mrs. DeeDee gave us this gorgeous frame for Christmas last year, and we finally got to hang it up in our entry hall with a canvas from Melissa!

Context! You see it right when you come in the front door!

I've been playing around with Instagram lately, so here's my requisite emo self-portrait. Ha!

Watching Sesame Street while waiting on their morning bottles. Notice the PIANO in the background, which one of Chris's bosses gave to us for free! What a blessing!!! :)
On that note, I am off to go pack for a fun-filled weekend with my Madison fam! Much love to all of you!

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