We’ve had a thrilling week in this corner of the world, and I’ve been excited to share all the news with you. Life is made of peaks and valleys, and I’m on a summit right now. I know it won’t last—such is the ebb and flow of life—but I’m soaking up the view from this mountaintop while I’m here!
The Thanksgiving Table
When you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence.
I don’t remember where I found this simple sign that hangs in our back entry, but given our past lessons in stretching our home and our table, I knew I needed this reminder every time I walked through my door. Part of my discontent with the suburban life we left four years ago was the way we’d bought into society’s lie that we must buy and create Insta-worthy homes with privacy fences in safe, cookie-cutter neighborhoods where everyone shares a common socio-economic status.
Maybe that works for some people—not knocking you if that’s the way you live—but that life is boring to me. This vast world holds such a variety of people and cultures and experiences and stories—oh, the stories! I just get excited at the thought of learning from others! When I think about the legacy I want to leave my kids, it’s one of curiosity, love, and hospitality of the heart.
Our daughter Chelsea hosted Thanksgiving this year. Her family of six moved into a new house this summer after years of living in a small apartment, and it is a perfect space for a large gathering. I messaged her a couple of weeks ago to say I’d bring more food because I invited my niece, her new husband, and his three kids as well as one of Jonah’s friends from rehab. She immediately responded with, “Not a problem!…We are in the process of building a longer table, not a higher wall, so I love that.”
She and Josh get it—they are figuratively building a longer table with their life, inviting others in and sharing their home and themselves. Nothing makes me prouder than knowing they are carrying on the legacy I’ve tried to build. And how fitting that she was literally building a longer table when I messaged her that day.
She’d found and added the leaf to her small table, refinished it, and added new chairs. Of course, this new six-seater only accommodated a quarter of the people who came to enjoy the holiday, but she had plenty of other makeshift tables and chairs throughout the space.
Chelsea offered a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving before we dipped into casseroles, turkey, and desserts. She spent the day not fretting over food or decor or children’s meltdowns, but making family—old and new—feel loved, welcomed, and comfortable.The group included humans from various backgrounds who’d experienced the highs of new homes, pregnancy, promotions, and rebirth, and lows of addiction, open-heart surgery, abuse, divorce, job loss, mental health struggles, and more.
Our proverbial table was a slice of humanity, and I would not have wanted it any other way.
A Stem Cell Transplant Update
Many of you have followed my brother Van’s cancer fight through my series on being a stem cell donor, and I knew you’d want to hear the good news on that front. His 90-day bone marrow biopsy results were “perfect” with “no evidence of any myeloid blast population.” His medical team continues to be amazed by his progress and to praise his sister’s magic cells. When I see them again, I’ll be sure to set the record straight—no magic here. Just divine intervention for a purpose beyond my comprehension!
One of the goals Van kept looking toward as he underwent his transplant and treatments was to be well enough to hunt during deer season this year. While bagging a deer is exciting, the thrill of it for him is sitting in the peaceful stillness of the early morning with nothing but his thoughts and the beauty all around him. He also enjoys time with his buddies at the deer camp, carrying on traditions and friendships he’s built there over decades.
He returned home from his transplant a full month before anyone anticipated he would, and he felt well enough to take to the woods this month. I woke a few mornings ago to a text and a photo, and it looks like I’ll get some venison for Christmas!
Van will continue maintenance treatments for a while, but we are hopeful he will enjoy many more years with us. For now, he’s taking it one day at a time and looking forward to his spring goals: hunting during turkey season, turning 50, and expanding the table for his first grandchild.
Granddogs and Grand Moments
We’re currently in charge of our granddog Levi while our son Noah and his girlfriend Pam are globetrotting with her family. He’s a low-maintenance Texas Heeler (a Blue Heeler Australian Shepherd mix) who’s mostly well-behaved except for sneaking a dried starfish from a shelf during the night, eating it, and hurling all over my kitchen floor. Apparently, it’s common—a Google search returned many solid stories of similar starfish scares. I hope he learned his lesson, but just in case he didn’t, I moved the other starfish to a higher shelf.
Like many dogs, Levi is a professional napper who only wants two things in life: treats and frequent games of fetch. When I tell him to get his toy (a blue rubber stick that every dog should have), he grabs it and runs for the door. He knows we are going to the bottom of the hill where I will throw this thing over and over and over again, an activity I’ve found oddly satisfying. I think part of it is the sheer joy on his face every single time he races after it.
But the look of joy on my granddog’s face pales in comparison to my own expression of joy at a message I received from Noah a few days before Thanksgiving.
“I have a surprise”
After a train ride through the Swiss Alps, he proposed to Pam in the snow on the rooftop of a beautiful resort. She said yes!
I suspected this was on the horizon—I mean, they’d be in Italy for nearly two weeks. What better setting? A while back I had a conversation with him about marriage proposals—what makes them special, what women want, what not to say. I won’t say he’s not romantic, but he’s always been my logical child—all about facts, not feelings. I told him it was my duty to make sure he got in touch with his sensitive side for something this important. None of that, “Hey, you wanna get hitched” while binging Marvel movies on the sofa.
Sometimes he listens to his mother.
I’d say he hit this one out of the park—with both the proposal and the girl. She is beautiful inside and out. She sends handwritten notes in the mail, loves books, and is kind and thoughtful. Best of all, she really loves my boy!
She’s had a place at our table for quite some time, and the whole family is overjoyed that now she’ll have a permanent seat there.
If you’re not familiar with the story, my almost 21-year-old son Jonah entered a long-term residential rehabilitation program in May after his four-year drug addiction finally spiraled into a fairly ugly bottom.His dad, who he’d been living with, took a short-term job in Alaska for the summer, so I finally had some influence again. I had access to the security cameras and keys to the house. I work as an IT security analyst, meaning I get paid for my ability to notice things that are “off.” It only took three weeks for me to realize his drug use had reached a new level.
I showed up unannounced on a Tuesday afternoon and gave him two choices—homelessness or rehab. Maybe that sounds harsh, but my son was going to die if he didn’t get help. Maybe one day I’ll write a post on how to pack your son for rehab in under four minutes or how to say goodbye to your kid on the steps of a detox facility, but not yet. It’s still too fresh. Today I’ll just say that he was tired of living a life he was never meant to live. So he chose rehab.
Seven days in, he had to choose it again when he’d detoxed and thought he was ready to go home. And at 21 days, he had to choose it again. At 30 days, again. Once again at 60. He’s been choosing his best option for 180 days, one day at a time.
On Thanksgiving Day this week, we ate turkey and cheesecake and crawfish dressing, and we celebrated six months of sobriety with him. He took a long nap on his sister’s sofa then got up and ate some more. We heard from George, one of his sober friends. We lamented that his friend R. relapsed a week ago after months of sobriety. Jonah told us about his job and high-calorie diet, a new thrift store he found, and an upcoming camping trip. He laughed and engaged with others and hugged me a lot.
We gave thanks. We give thanks, one day at a time. Not only thanks for his sobriety but thanks to the One who is helping him live the life he was meant to live.
Last Sunday I had lunch with Jonah—a one-on-one affair—and he told me he saw a difference between himself and some of the guys in his community who have relapsed. He has a family who cares and holds him accountable. He’s learning new coping and communication skills. He has a job he loves. People he sees regularly have begun telling him that the way he shares so openly about his addiction and his Higher Power is inspiring them. Hearing that was a fairly emotional moment for me, but what really made my heart swell was when he said, “Mama, I have a future.”
He certainly does. I hope he spends it building longer tables.
Thanks for being here and celebrating all the good things with me! Now tell me what’s happening in your world? Any mountaintop moments or simple moments of gratitude? Head over to the comments and let us celebrate with you.
Our definition of family extends well beyond the blood running through our veins. Some have blended families. Ours is blended, shaken, stirred, scattered, smothered, and covered.
JL Gerhardt’s post this week on being thankful for vs. being thankful to has been stuck in my mind this week.
Holly, I don't have the capacity to type all the 'Wows' that I'm wanting to wow at you, nor to describe to you the volume of very British English goosepimples I have from reading this post. EPIC. The whole thing. SUPERHERO. Amazeballs. WONDERFUL.
SO happy to have read this post, and to share in your delight for everything! 😊
I had to have that same conversation 'is it homelessness or rehab?' with my mum. It's a tough road, but she made the same decisio as your son. Thank God. All the best to you and yours.