Monday, November 30, 2009

Too Much Holiday

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and are in recovery mode from too much holiday (as the Berenstain Bears would say). I would have welcomed Monday morning with the now-we-can-get-back-to-our-routine, but we had early morning appointments for SaraGrace and Kate at Boston Children's Hospital. We were given very good news! SaraGrace's conduit is still working well, and she most likely will not need open heart surgery this year! Woohoo! The cardiologist said he will just continue to monitor her.

Kate also was given a good report. The doctor wants to do more testing on both girls--and mentioned exploring the possibility of trying a full repair for Kate. He said that although her surgeon at U of M is one of the best in the country for that type of surgery, he still wanted to check into the possibility of giving her a full repair since she does have two ventricles. Interesting...

And now for a re-cap of Thanksgiving....

Getting ready... eat lots of this

and this.

Grandma turns on her "light-up sweater" to delight the grandchildren

My very cute nephew and his pretty Mama

Grandma brought supplies to make a gingerbread house

Lookin' good!

Kate and Grandpa were snuggle bugs

And then, after dinner on Thanksgiving Day, my mom suggested that we take a group to Plymouth to look at the Mayflower. So off we went...

My niece puts her head in the giant lobster

OK--forgive me for this photo. I know it's kind of dark, but there was an Asian family posing and since I can be a stink-bug, I thought it would be fun to take their photo. If you have ever been to China, you will know that it is customary for complete strangers to come up to you and ask to take a photo with you--or, if you are getting a family photo taken, strangers will also come up and take the same photo. It always cracks me up! My girls were mortified that I took a picture of total strangers...ha.

The Mayflower at dusk. The boat was open, so my brother and his family toured it. How cool is that? They walked on the Mayflower on Thanksgiving Day!

The Mayflower life boat

And then, BLACK FRIDAY!! I don't have a clue why I subject myself to this somewhat ridiculous tradition, but I must confess to looking forward to it for months. There is just something special about Christmas music, decorations, lunch with my mom (and now my girls are old enough to join us), etc.

Girls' lunch at The Cheesecake Factory

This time, there was a very sweet surprise. We live by....drum roll... an American Girl store! We have never been to one and was amazing. It was so fun to watch my girls wander the store and point out their favorite dolls, stories, and outfits. My mom scored us some seats in the American Girl Cafe, where we treated the girls to some milkshakes. So fun!!

American Girl Cafe--they let the girls borrow a doll to 'eat' with them

My girls

We had a wonderful weekend...lots of bonding that will have to tide us over until the next visit.

Best Buddies

Despite his doting admirers, this little guy ate his breakfast without missing a beat

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Miracle of Squanto and Thanksgiving

Plimoth...the location of the first Thanksgiving

I grew up hearing vaguely of Squanto, the native American who helped the Pilgrims grow crops and hunt so that they could survive the winter in Massachusetts. Until a few years ago, however, I had not heard the full story...the miraculous story...of how God used this young man to save the lives of the struggling Pilgrims and breathe life into a fledgling new nation.

The Pilgrims were not the first to land on the rocky shores of Massachusetts. Years before 1621, there were traders who would come from other lands and trade with the native Americans. Some of those traders had evil intent, and when the Indians came to trade, they were kidnapped and sold into slavery. When Squanto was eight years old, he was captured and taken to Spain, where he was sold. I can only imagine the fear, pain and anger in that little boy's heart. He was purchased by some monks, who treated him well and raised him. They exposed him to the Christian faith and when he was old enough to travel alone, they made it possible for him to go to England. It was now 1615 and Squanto wanted to find a ship that would take him back to his home and family in America. Well...there were no ships. Ships were not yet routinely sailing to America.

Left with no other choice, he stayed and worked for several years as a stable boy. And he learned English. Finally, a trader ship was found, he was hired as a translator, and made his way back to Massachusetts. Imagine his joy and anticipation after being away from his family for 10 years! Upon landing, he rushed to his home only to was gone. Gone. His entire village had been wiped out by smallpox. Everyone was dead.

He stumbled into the woods to try to process this awful nightmare. How could this be? How could God do this to him? He had been through so much...had made his way home...only to find that his whole purpose was lost. Gone. Wiped out by disease. What was he supposed to do now? Go back to England? Stay in America?

He eventually joined up with another Indian tribe, but he was more English than Indian and no longer fit in.

He then headed back to the spot where his village had been. To his great surprise, there were people there. the very spot where his family had lived, there were now some new folks. And these folks were suffering. They had been through an incredibly difficult year. They had started out from England, truly believing that God had led them to go--but half of them had died. What was God doing? Had He brought them all here to die in this strange new land?

What was the deal? Where was God? They cried out to him in their anguish and fear.

And He answered.
One day, a tall Indian brave walked into their newly formed village. To their shock, he approached and spoke to them in English! An Indian brave who spoke the King's English? What are the odds of that? Squanto soon found a purpose. The Pilgrims soon realized God had sent a rescuer. They adopted him as part of their family, and he helped them prepare food for the long winter. Squanto wasn't just a helpful native American. He had grown up in that very place. It was his home. He knew everything there was to know about planting corn, he knew where the fish and lobsters were, how to get the eels out of the muddy streams and how to store food for the winter.

God had been up to something after all. A young nation, a 'city on a hill,' needed some very brave pioneer spirits to make the harrowing journey from England. A grieving young man, had the knowledge to enable these brave souls to survive the harsh conditions in the New World. The young man needed a family and a place to belong. The Pilgrims needed a rescuer.

And a nation was born.

If God had not allowed Squanto to be captured and taken to Spain and England, Squanto would have died in the small pox epidemic.

If the tribe had still been there when Squanto returned, would he have ever befriended the Pilgrims? Probably not...and they would have all perished that winter.

Consider the amazing set of circumstances that took an eight year old boy from American to Spain, to England and back to America. He was kidnapped, sold into slavery, and although it seemed like a horrible nightmare, God did protect him from harm by directing monks to be his purchasers. They treated him well, taught him about God, and enabled him to get to England. There he learned English, worked until he could get a ship to take him back to his home, arrived there to find it gone, and later re-visited it to find a group of people who desperately needed his help. A group of people who just 'happened' to land in the very spot where the young boy had grown up.

A series of miraculous events or just interesting coincidences? You decide. I know what I believe!

And this story sounds so much like Joseph's story in Genesis 37-50. Check it out!

" (men) intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Gen. 50:19

Plimoth Plantation

Chatting with the women who survived the Mayflower journey

'Main Street' at Plimoth Plantation

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving - Where it All Began

The infamous Plymouth Rock. Legend has it that the Pilgrims first stepped onto this rock as they set foot into their new land.

Saturday, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, was the annual Thanksgiving Parade. We were fortunate enough to be able to attend and it was very touching to be in the very place where it all began so many years ago. The parade was emceed, and the announcer started out with a brief synopsis of the Pilgrim's arrival on the Mayflower. I was so happy to hear them tell the story and include a quote by William Bradford, who said that the colonists were hoping to advance the gospel of Christ. Full quote is below.

In 1620, the Pilgrims left England to escape spiritual persecution. After a difficult journey on the Mayflower, they arrived in Plymouth. They spent the harsh winter on board the ship, as it was anchored in the harbor. During the following spring and summer, Squanto, and other native Americans, taught the new settlers how to grow crops and hunt for fish and game. Their first Thanksgiving was a feast of thanks to God, who had enabled them to survive.

As quoted in The American Patriot's Bible, "The purpose of the Pilgrims was to establish a political commonwealth governed by biblical standards. The Mayflower Compact, their initial governing document, clearly stated that what they had undertaken was 'for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.'

...When these colonial settlers arrived in America, the influence of the Bible on their lives came with them. For many, their Christian faith was as much a part of who they were as their brave spirit, and it touched all they touched. "

"[The colonists] cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations...for the propogations and advance of the Gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world." --William Bradford, second governor of Plymouth

Come know you all want one of these hats...

Every branch of the military was represented in the parade and all veterans in the crowd were recognized.

An exact, to-scale replica of the Mayflower

Replica of one of the first homes built in the colony at Plymouth (or Plimoth, as they spelled it back then).

Yes, they allowed the British Redcoats to be represented as well

Followed by a raggedy band of swashbucklers

The farmer-soldier float

Civil War soldiers

No parade is complete without the balloon head of Indians and Pilgrims

No idea what this has to do with Thanksgiving...but those horses are so pretty

Before the parade started, we were able to see this, up close and personal....