We didn’t have a bustling, people-filled Thanksgiving celebration this year.
We don’t know many people in this city yet, and South Africa doesn’t know Thanksgiving. We are our pinching pennies (or rands), and the table is tiny in our current rental house. And all of my placemats and tablecloths are in a storage unit in Johannesburg until February. This is not the proper recipe for a Hallmark Thanksgiving special.
I couldn’t contain my cry-voice for a solid three days as I walked around the rental house muttering, “Thanksgiving is important.” It’s an entirely delicious holiday centered on gathering at a table around family, feasting and gratitude. That’s my dream world. Thanksgiving is important.
We came to Cape Town with a plan and a purpose. For me, it seems like all of Cape Town should be at our Thanksgiving dinner table, laughing, loving and learning that pies are sweet and not savory. But we just aren’t there yet, guys.
We moved less than a month ago, and to say we are still learning our way is the understatement of the year. Chris and I entered a foreign mission field one time before and remember the adjustments – driving the wrong way down one-way streets, not understanding anything someone just said even though they were actually speaking English that time, and the enormous amount of extra energy it takes to understand your surroundings and to live, really live there. We are still in the same country but feel like we are doing it all over again.
And then there’s Lifa, who had never even seen a big city before we moved here. We all learned he has a fear of heights after his first experience on a 3-story escalator. He can’t figure out why there are squirrels instead of monkeys in the yard, and he’s been taking 3-hour naps daily because the thinking, feeling, observing and trying to process his new world has exhausted him.
We’ve got a lot going on over here, y’all.
God told us to go to Table Mountain, and that He has prepared that table for us. Yesterday, as we congratulated ourselves for successfully running one errand and meeting with a local pastor, I realized we might not be ready for all of Cape Town to sit down at our dinner table just yet.
I love feeding people and preparing tables. But there is a better feast and a bigger table than what I can imagine, and that’s the one I want to gather at.
Let’s be real, there is no better table presentation than this:
|Table Mountain. My man takes beautiful photos.|
So what did we do for Thanksgiving? We prepared a beautiful table as a thanksgiving offering to God, proclaiming we are going give our everything no matter how meager.
We made a budget and began preparing the most cost-effective, wonderful Thanksgiving meal in the history of South African Thanksgiving meals. Lifa found security in sitting at a table with me to help trim green beans, tear bread, and sing worship songs. He found a little more of himself when I put him in charge of card-making and table-setting.
I secretly assembled and cooked the dishes during his naps so he could operate within his capacity and still feel like an accomplished Thanksgiving ninja. We picked rosemary and lemons out of the yard to dress the turkey, cut flowers and vines to decorate, and set beautiful tiny tables with borrowed tablecloths.
We gathered our little family at the base of Table Mountain.
God prepared the table. We brought everything we had to it, and we sat down to eat. It was the sweetest, most important kind of Thanksgiving there ever was.
It reminded me of another similar Thanksgiving feast that had a tight budget, tired people and limited capacities. It was a long time ago, and it wasn’t a family of 3 or the city of Cape Town. It was a crowd of 50,000 families sitting hungry on a hill listening to Jesus. They probably came to that hill like we came to Cape Town, with awe, expectation and promise. There was so much to hear, see and learn, they eventually got tired, hungry, and possibly had cry-voices. Jesus’ disciples muttered that there was not food, just like I muttered that there were no people or tablecloths.
And then there was that one kid.
I like to think that kid wore a superhero t-shirt and had a slightly squished packed lunch from his mom. He probably woke up with extra shiny eyes set on adventure that morning. When tired and cranky hit like a hurricane, he took what he had – one little lunch that probably had a note written on the napkin – and he ran with it. He ran it to the front of the mob like it was the most practical, logical thing in the world. If someone’s hungry, you share your lunch.
There’s something powerful about gathering up the meager portion that’s yours and putting it in holy hands.
We’re not sure how to maneuver through Cape Town, find refreshment on sabbatical, or even where we are going to live in December and January while we are in-between rental house leases. But we are sure of one thing: We’re going to run with what we have to the front of the hungry crowd, and put it all in holy hands.
We have a healthy 8-year old, leftovers in the fridge, and a lot to be thankful for. Lifa has been set apart with a special calling for his nation, but right now he just needs extra naps and to practice subtraction and multiplication. So that’s what we’re doing today. While he takes naps, we are also starting a process for his advocacy, justice and future.
Tomorrow we will release a newsletter with a more illuminating account of the realities of education and dire need in South Africa. We can’t stand on top of the mountain and solve all the world's problems on a Tuesday, but we can invite you to gather on the hill and be a part of the miracle with us.
Giving Tuesday is an international campaign for starting the giving season with the kind of giving that leaves a legacy. We will be sharing through a newsletter and social media how you can join us this Giving Tuesday by starting with one little shiny-eyed kid, one future, and one need that just might be a catalyst for a lot of shiny eyes, bright futures and miracles.
What if we become a part of something much greater than lunch on a Tuesday?
What if we bring what we've got, and end up with a lifetime of leftover miracles?
Eat some leftovers today, and think about it.