Wednesday, December 4, 2013

10 things I am thankful for

Sunday was Thanksgiving here in La Plata, Argentina.  The nice thing about celebrating a holiday in a country that does not actually celebrate that holiday is that you get to choose when you want to celebrate it.  So I made Thanksgiving on a Sunday afternoon.  I was blessed with the company of roommates, various friends, including friends from the comedor, and two other volunteers, Erin and Josh, who travelled from Buenos Aires.  We had a lovely day of food, games, music and mate in the park.  The only thing that was missing was turkey.  Turkey is not widely sold here, and the ones that are fall outside my price range.  So we had a turkey day minus the turkey.  But we did have some delicious chicken cooked outside in the parrilla (pic below).  It was a hot day which made it extremely fun to be cooking with the oven, stove, and grill all day (NOT). Even with the heat, we enjoyed the day all the same.

AND in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I would like to take some time to share what I am especially thankful for this year:

1.)  I am thankful for my family (including those not shown in photos, all Nyland and Zollos clan, you are a blessing in my life!)...

My parents, my beautiful sister, Katelyn, and my brother-in-law, Brad, have all been an incredible support throughout my life, and especially within my time here.  I am who I am, because they are who they are.  I think they they're all pretty great people, so I hope that means I'm turning out okay...  

I am thankful for them even though they like to send me pics of themselves doing fun things without me....such as eating at my favorite restaurant...

 ....and taking Thanksgiving hikes in the woods.

This year I give thanks for two members of my family in particular.  Within this past year, my family lost both of my grandparents on my mother's side.  While it was very painful to have them leave us, I could not be more grateful for the 22 years I had with them both.  They taught me about life, love, faith, and family.  A saying by Mother Teresa reminds me of the life they lived together.  She said, "We cannot do great things, we can only do small things with great love."  Nothing they did was extraordinary from a worldly view, but they lived out each and every day doing small things with great love for their friends, for their church, for their family, and for their Lord.  I had the blessing of feeling that great love each and every day of my life and I give thanks.  

2.)  I am thankful for my friends.  Once again, I'm thankful for all of you, but a few particulars this year....

One crazy friend who went on a big adventure with me.  I'd say I'm lucky to have someone that I still consider one of my greatest friends after almost 3 months of traveling together and almost 2 years of living together. 

These two, Aimee and Kelsey, have had my back since grade school.  I think Aimee and I may have been born friends, because I can't recall a time without her in my life.  I could not be more thankful for their friendship and support.  We were attempting to star gaze during the meteor shower in this photo.  We also look slightly high thanks to a really bright flash on a really dark night. 

All these folks here +Erin.  They have been such wonderful friends and support throughout my time here.  I love the moments we get to spend together even though their few and far between.  Can't wait till February!

And last but certainly not least, I am thankful for my friends from La Plata.  I am really bad at taking photos, so unfortunately I did have enough to display all the people who have been such good friends here, but here are some recent ones:

At the IELU churchwide assembly with the San Timoteo reps and my good friends Caro and Cristian.  

Drinking mate in the park after the Dia de Gracias festivities.

3.) I am thankful for children.  Not my children (I won't be thankful for that for a long while), just children.  Yes they can be so incredibly annoying at times, but how great are they?  They have such joy and energy for life.  I am so thankful for the time I get to spend with the kids at the comedor each week.  I hope that I am having some positive effect on their lives, because they are having a positive effect on mine.

4.)  I am thankful for the food on my table each day and those who grow it.   I love everything about food.  I love cooking, I love eating, I love the places where it is grown and the plants and animals from which it comes.  But I also think it is important to be conscious about the food we are consuming and the way it is produced.  I give thanks for good food, especially good food produced in good ways.

The organic farm on which we had our retreat in Uruguay.

Farm tour!

Breakfast during our retreat.  Most of the food was grown or produced on the farm.  

5.) I am thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow within a new culture.  I feel so blessed to be where I am right now.  I am blessed by both the good days and the bad.  Maybe even more so by the bad days since those are the ones I find myself learning and growing the most from.  I give thanks for the beauty of culture and the beauty of inter-cultural relationships.

6.) I am thankful for the beauty of creation. I think we live in a pretty amazing world.  There is so much beauty in nature and I love taking the time to explore it.  Unfortunately, living in a city, I do not get quite as much nature time as I would always like, but I am still thankful for the parks, plazas, and green spaces that fill La Plata.  Below are some picture of the natural beauty of my "home(s)".
The Metroparks of Cleveland with Caddis (my sister's dog).

A sunset on Lake Erie while home in Cleveland, Ohio.

On my way to La Plata from Buenos Aires.

And the natural beauty of a few other pretty amazing places I've had the opportunity to visit this year:

Plitvice, Croatia




7.)  I am thankful for my church communities, both here and afar.  I do not know where I would be without the Lord in my life, and it is largely thanks to the churches I have been apart of, that my faith has been nurtured  and grown.  My childhood and family church (and school) Messiah Lutheran continues to support me to this day while I am here in Argentina and I could not be more thankful.  I thank Purdue Christian Campus House for showing me what community and living out your faith means.  And I thank San Timoteo for welcoming me in and caring for me throughout my time here in La Plata.

8.) I am thankful for my education...

I have been incredibly blessed with the opportunity of education.  I have grown to realize how valuable education is on all levels.  This brings me back to family, because I would not be thankful for my education, if it were not for my wonderful family who pushed me and sacrificed so that I could have the education I do.

9.)  I am thankful for animals of all kinds, probably a little too much.  These are a  few that are especially close to my heart:

Mora, professional pigeon hunter and our pup here in La Plata.

And my three favorite pooches of the world, Max, Buck, and Caddis.  They have been a wonderful part of the the Zollos family for years.  Well, Caddis hasn't but she quickly worked her way into our hearts and is slowly working her way into Buck and Max's.

10.)  I am thankful for those who have a heart for helping others. I have come across some pretty amazing people this past year, with servant-like hearts that have been so incredibly inspiring.  I've met people who everyday stand up for people without the means or ability to stand up for themselves.  I've seen people open their homes and lives to others in need, and making great personal sacrifices in doing so, because it is the right thing. I am so thankful that there are generous and humble people like that in this world.

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