That is 9 Thanksgivings without my family. Without a giant turkey and the smells of my childhood. Without Lions football. Without Black Friday. Without the Detroit Thanksgiving parade.
Some days I wake up and I cannot believe that this is my real life. That although there is so much I have learned to live without, I have somehow been given back so much more.
This year I have much to be grateful for but because this is my 9th Thanksgiving in Zimbabwe, I thought I would share my top 9:
1. I am married!!!! After what seemed like a lifetime engagement, I am now Mrs. Chari. And it is WONDERFUL. All I can say is that I married very, very well. This man is not perfect—but we are opposites in almost every way and he is the perfect man for me.
2. We had the best wedding. Ok, being married is taking up 2 of the 9, but I am a newlywed after all! After a quick plan to get married in court, our So Cal friends planned an entire wedding--- in a WEEK—and married us off surrounded by love and beauty and such joy. I know that our hearts will ever be grateful. So in actuality I am grateful for two things here: AMAZING FRIENDS who planned an AMAZING WEDDING! I also love that we have a church community at Woodside that loves us enough to put our wedding story in their paper!!
3. There is a little girl named Ruth who captured my heart years ago and we have been blessed to give and receive love from her for yet another year. We do not take this for granted and are starting to view each day as a miraculous gift from God.
4. I become more grateful for my family with each passing month. We are not perfect and some might say we are a bit crazy, but I wouldn’t swap them for anything in the world. I miss them terribly on holidays and special occasions, but it is in the general ebb and flow of life that I appreciate them the most. My father has made some tremendous changes this year and I can honestly say that I am grateful for his efforts.
5. On the way home to Zimbabwe after our whirlwind American wedding, I stopped over in London to meet my mother in law for the VERY FIRST TIME. This caused some anxiety to say the least, however she is a gift straight from God. She has been loving and gracious and patient with me. Today is her birthday and I am so grateful for her life and thankful for the way that she raised the man who loves me so.
6. I have been sober for 14 years (MIRACLE) and this year our church began walking a journey of recovery to allow us reach out to the broken in our community. The leaders have graciously allowed me to walk them through the 12 Steps as we prepare. This is so very humbling and each week that we meet, I feel the Holy Spirit move in a special way. I am grateful that God saved my life 15 years ago so that I would be here for such a time as this.Hopefully we will be seeing a lot of these key chains around Harare!
7. After lots of years (9 since my last graduation) I am back in school getting a masters in missional leadership. This semester has grown me in outrageous ways and has made me more confident than ever that the work I am doing matters. I am not very grateful for the work load, but I am extremely grateful for an opportunity that I do not feel qualified for or worthy of-- and for the 5 guys in my cohort who are constantly encouraging me!
8. I have had the distinct pleasure of studying under a woman named Dr. Karyn Purvis who is a hero in my field. What an honor it has been to learn from her wisdom and experience. She has revolutionized the way in which children with attachment disorders are treated in therapy. The time I spent in Dallas this year has made me a better therapist and I am more equipped to help the kids with complex developmental trauma that I encounter in Zimbabwe.
9. Once again I have spent an entire year doing work that I love and believe in without a salary and yet I have been provided for in miraculous ways, every day because other people believe in what I am doing enough to sacrifice and give. Can I just say that I am feeling so very blessed that I get to do what I believe God has called me to on a daily basis? I come alive in the sacred places in which I am allowed to listen to the stories of the kids in this place!
So there we have it, 9 things that I am most thankful for today on my 9th Zimbabwean Thanksgiving! What are you most thankful for today?