It was a fabulous Thanksgiving 2019. The only thing that would have made it better was to have our dear Aaron and Bailey with us. He’s our youngest son (19), and she is the eldest of our children. As these beautiful offspring of ours grow, they seem to go farther and are away more frequently.
Since she was 19, Bailey—who is now 24—has been in Hawaii for every Thanksgiving, save one exceptional Thanksgiving Day in which she and I rendezvoused in Italy. The stars were aligned that year when I asked Scott if I could fly to meet her as she traversed the globe. As Providence would have it, we just happened to have enough miles for me to take the low-budget air travel route.
So on November 23, 2016, I flew myself silly, Chicago to Dublin to London to Naples and met Bailey just in time for the most delicious Thanksgiving Day pizza I will EVER enjoy. It was a wonderful joy to meet my daughter and be part of her world tour for 10 days as we experienced an absolute cornucopia of culture: Pompeii to Pisa, Rome to Florence and Venice. We ate and “arted” ourselves silly.
The Thanksgiving I was 20, I was in Salford, England, on a university study-abroad program. I remember sadly walking alone on a dark street in nearby Manchester on the evening of Thanksgiving Day, passing a pub sign advertising an “American Thanksgiving Dinner Special” and thinking, Nope, sorry blokes, it’s not just about the turkey, stuffing and a £1 pint. I missed my family a lot that day.
Next to Fourth of July, Thanksgiving has become my favorite American holiday. The older I get, the more grateful I am, for the main course—family—and all the fixings. I relish the looonng weekend to rest and reflect on the beauty all around us and the blessings of love, laughter and salvation.
"Make a joyful noise to the LORD,
all the earth.
Serve the LORD with gladness;
come into His presence with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God.
It is He who made us, and we are His;
we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and bless His name.
For the LORD is good,
and His loving devotion endures forever;
His faithfulness continues to all generations."
On Thanksgiving morning, after he put the brined and rubbed bird in the oven, Scott and I took a long pre-meal calorie-burning walk. I snapped a few photos to share…
Scott, as usual, cooked our Amish bird perfectly. My dear mother-in-law, Gerry, contributed a veritable feast of complimentary sides--stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy (did I mention the gravy? mmm, with those adorable little onions), carrots, corn, rutabaga (in her girlhood home of Newfoundland, these were a staple), and my personal favorite, Nanny's homemade cranberry sauce which is always the perfect combination of sweet and tart.
I am ashamed to admit--but do so willingly--thanks to Polly, I have not made pies or rolls in a few years. Polly is the sweet Amish woman who runs a cottage bakery about 20 minutes from our cabin. I cannot make pies or rolls better than Polly, so have given up trying. Her apple, pecan and pumpkin pies graced our table and our bellies. I did actually do something though!! I whipped the cream. And you'll not taste a better whipped cream than that which has Scott Spry's maple syrup sweetening it.
Before our feast, I made everyone pose for a couple of family photos...
After dinner, we all soporific, sat on the couch watching my father Bennie's all-time favorite holiday classic film It's A Wonderful Life. It is now my favorite too. I think there may have been some dozing going on as our kitty Tikvah--who joined us for this trip to the cabin--enjoyed a cozy spot on Poppy's lap.
The day before Thanksgiving, we received a lovely photo of Aaron and his girlfriend, from his girlfriend. To his credit, Aaron did send us some beautiful photos of Pennsylvania rivers and mountains on Thanksgiving Day, but none included humans.
My dear sister and her family arrived the day after Thanksgiving and we continued the resting and feasting. The men went out for the final whitetail rifle hunt of 2019 and saw mostly does. The teenagers hung out by the fire in the buck house (the staging and warming area for hunters) while the rest of us watched a not-so-classic 1962 Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. We topped off the night with a rousing euchre competition (and maybe a few shots of something). It took quite a few hands until a team (go Scott and Kevin!) beat Jacob and Liam, who were undoubtedly cheating (not).
On Sunday morning, December welcomed us with four inches of winter beauty. It made for an enchanting landscape, but a white-knuckle drive home.
Switching Gears, a Poem
Ellipses. The wait. The saliva gathering under my tongue. Pregnant pause.
I know what the DNA results are not.
They are not a relationship.
I think they must be a strain of hope, the idea that my biological matter matches at least two other's. But there are probably more, siblings I have never known.
But I have such a happy life, such a blessed and full life.
I don’t need this. Then, why?
What has drawn me to this oddity--to spit in a tube and mail it to stranger-scientists to analyze my DNA?
I have paperwork from my adoption that defines my ancestry as “mainly English extraction”.
I am not a tooth, pulled violently from its gums.
I am a BABY, extracted from my mother’s body with forceps.
I also know this from paperwork.
Like too many of us born in the 1950s to 1970s, our heads were captured in these obscene salad tongs designed to grab unborn humans out of our mothers as they lay limp, drugged objects.
I know from a fantastical connection--a woman in the same maternity ward as my mother--that "Katie", the young woman with a Southern accent, was the only one in the ward full of new mothers who never held a newborn in her arms.
She had a baby girl.
I am hers.
I was hers.
We share DNA.
We share a distant memory.
We are from our Creator,
and I am from Bennie and Bonnie.
I have the results.
I will check them. Soon?
For now...I wait...knowing results may reveal little or much
that does not ultimately matter.
When I am ready.
I'll know when I'm ready.
~ Shawn Marie Spry
We Like Sheep
I woke up the Monday after Thanksgiving with a craving for Messiah. It's a very healthy craving. Yes, I do crave for our Savior to fill me with His Spirit daily, but in this case, I mean I had a strong desire to listen to the oratorio composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel. So I searched on Spotify and found a beautiful version by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir.
I have been listening to Messiah throughout this last week, sometimes repeating tracks to better appreciate them. One day while vacuuming with headphones on, And the Glory of the Lord caused me to be overcome with emotion, my eyes filling with tears. Then very late last night, I got a great laugh while listening to All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray.
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:6
According to Wikipedia, the librettist/songwriter of Messiah, Charles Jennens, "intended to challenge advocates of Deism, who rejected the doctrine of divine intervention in human affairs." The Biblical imagery of Messiah is rich throughout, based solely on: prophecy regarding Messiah's arrival and purpose, apostolic writings of Messiah's life, death and resurrection and Messiah's promise of return and final redemption.
The comparison of humans to sheep is a common Biblical theme. I prefer to be compared to a little child or a chick desiring to be covered by its mother hen's wings. But very often in scripture, we are likened to sheep, which tend to be vulnerable and prone to wander.
The LORD is our shepherd, David reminds us in Psalm 23, and we lack nothing. Yeshua is the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for us! "Do not be afraid, little flock," he says, "for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom." He left the 99 sheep to find the one that was lost. Examples abound.
Knowing all of this awesome TRUTH increased my joy late last night, when, as I sat pecking away on my laptop listening to All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray from Messiah and beginning to fall into a writer's trance, I was jarred to laughing by the prophet Isaiah's words repeatedly set to loud chorus song: "WE LIKE SHEEP!" Instead of hearing that all of us are like sheep, my tired brain heard sophisticated voices blaring that THEY liked sheep!
Well, anyway, Jesus does LOVE his sheep. And whether or not you like sheep (I do), I hope this Advent season you may listen to an exquisite masterpiece of music and songwriting, like Messiah. Moreover, I pray that you ponder the enormity of our sinful condition and the immensity of Messiah's love and sacrifice for us. May you embrace the only one--Yeshua/Jesus/Immanuel/God with us--who is able to redeem/save.
"And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it." ~ Isaiah 40:5
Earth's Loss, Heaven's Gain
Loved and Redeemed LD Shellnut
Son, Brother, Cousin, Nephew, Friend, Husband, Father, Uncle, Grandfather, Great-Grandfather
World War II Veteran
April 17, 1926 - December 7, 2019