Thursday was a day I was VERY much looking forward to. It was one of the main reasons I opted to decorate early, so that when our Thursday Night Life Group gathered for our annual Thanksgiving Potluck Feast, I wanted it to feel very festive. For me, this event is kind of the kick off to the holidays.
I knew Thursday was going to be a NUTTY day though, so I did my best to prep completely the day before. I'm so glad I did. It gave me the ability to enjoy these two ladies when they showed up to visit.
The fact that Kaela was here was quite a special scenario. She had told everyone else in our group that, due to the fact that she'd have to be coming down on Monday for Christi's shower, she would have to pass for financial reasons on this event. It's not cheap driving back and forth from Portland. However, her and I had talked, and had come up with a way to get her back to Portland (en route with us as we return to OHSU for John's surgery). It still wasn't a sure thing, though, and it was kind of a last minute "heart decision" for Kaela to decide to "just go for it" and come down to surprise everyone and absorb the encouragement and fellowship she'd been missing from our group.
Kaela hung out with Alysha and I for about an hour, and then left to meet with ladies from First Baptist that she used to hang out, giving Alysha and I some time to catch up on our own.
Whitley woke up from her nap while Alysha was here and totally lit up when she saw her....so cute!
A little sampling of some of the decor and how the tables/chairs were positioned to accommodate an even dozen of us (using seats) - along with Whitley at the end in her high chair.
We had set the start time for 6pm, but we had some folks coming late, particularly Christi who was bringing the most important part of the meal....
The turkey! A definite upgrade from the Costco rotisserie chickens from last year. Christi had set the turkey up, basting it and stuffing it with garlic and then her mom tended it in the oven while Christi went to work. Such a great team effort (including her dad who delivered it to her at work...) Thanks McClaggan clan for taking care of our group so well!
So, the gang had some catch up time as we awaited our final guest, Elaina (who was secretly bringing Kaela with her).
I tried to snap pics as Kaela walked in the door - some of the reactions were priceless - Kaela should feel so absolutely loved when seeing evidence like this!!!!
Love that look from Elaina - the "we pulled it off" look. When Kaela comes down to Eugene she stays with Elaina, so it was necessary to include her in our covert planning. Elaina has other reasons to be "glowing"....she is in love. And it has happened in such a story book way... A guy that has been family friends (his mom led her mom to the Lord!) began corresponding with her over the last several months. What began as just an encouraging friendship began to blossom into more, and eventually, "Brad" desired to come visit her here in Oregon (he currently lives in Michigan) to see her. This all happened last week, and while the week began with them still in the "friendship realm" as it unfolded, it quickly moved to much, much more. By the time he left to go home, he'd asked her mom for her "blessing" (Dad's out of the picture), they'd looked at rings, and he's begun making plans to relocate here in the spring. They are looking at an April wedding - with him returning around Christmas to propose... I COULD NOT BE HAPPIER FOR THIS GIRL!!!!!! She has had to endure seasons of waiting and sadness over situations out of her control and then, in the last six months, (before Brad was part of the picture) her whole outlook seemed to just turn to peace and contentment. And, then, in God's perfect timing, God unveiled His perfect plan. I'm so honored to be a part of her life and witness how God has moved in it.
The only person we are missing is Courtney. Based on an Instagram post, she was setting her alarm that night for a 3am wake-up call, most likely for her to be where she needs to be in her med school rotations. Being at our house was definitely where she wanted to be, but not a reality she could make happen.
This pic includes Mikayla...with Kaela taking the pic (John, who's usually our photographer, was at the Marist Football Awards Night with Brayden)
And this pic has Kaela in it as Mikayla snapped the shot.
A sampling of the delicious goodness on the table - turkey, green bean casserole, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, rolls, raspberry pretzel salad, green salad, even homemade orange-cranberry sauce. I shoveled the food in....it was embarrassing....
Whitley couldn't stop her intake of the turkey either - Steph could barely shred it fast enough for her.
Later, I offered to hold Whitley while Steph got a head start at an encouragement activity as she knew Whitley's time was limited for the evening festivities. She was snacking away on the spinach leaves, and clearly doesn't have a handle on etiquette yet with her bare feet all over the table.
After getting an "around the table" update on the majority of us, we moved into the living room. Christi has got less than a month before Elsie arrives....it won't be long before she'll be holding her own precious bundle!
Oh how these ladies bless my life!
This is the "Encouragement Activity". I had seen on Pinterest a glass ball filled with miniature rolled up scrolls of sheet music and wondered if we couldn't duplicate the idea, but instead of sheet music, use encouragement notes to each other. I brainstormed with Heather - she liked the idea - and I told her I'd grab the ornaments and paper strips if she took care of the rest. She did awesome!
Completing our "love notes" to one another took a while - especially as we had a jar for Mikayla and Whitley - and even Courtney.
This is what they ended up looking like as the jars began to fill.
Kaela laid her notes out to demonstrate....
And, then, after each person had read and treasured the love from the others in our group, they'd roll the strips up and put them in their ornament. I suppose the downside is that it would take destroying the ornament to reread the strips...but I guess if you were really desperate from encouragement it might be worth it! I think most of us, though, will just "ponder these things in our heart" (one of my favorite phrases from Jesus birth - in which Mary ponders the wonder of it all after He is born).
Whitley got cozier in some pj's and got some special love from Amanda and Mikayla....I love her crazy hair when we take her hair out.
Dessert included my Vanilla Bean Cheesecake (with toppings on the side so folks could choose), Darcy's pumpkin bars (a Paula Deen recipe...they were a huge hit), and Suzie's pumpkin pie which ended up not being touched...I'm sure Lance (her hubby) was delighted about that!
Ah....full bellies and full hearts - lounging and watching "The Thanksgiving House" from the Hallmark Channel. What a FANTASTIC evening, that absolutely exceeded my high expectations!