The following is a story that was published in my book, “Woman To Woman Wisdom”. It is one of my most popular stories so I was asked to post it again. As you prepare to enjoy one of the most celebrated holidays remember to focus on what's most important: love and family. If your dinner doesn't turn out perfectly, enjoy it anyway!
The Turkey Exchange
Most of us really cherish family gatherings during the holidays. If your family is like mine, you have certain traditions that you respect and follow every year. At my house, holidays for the most part are fairly predictable: special family recipes are shared, cherished stories are retold, relationships are rekindled, and in some cases new traditions begin.
But holidays can also be times loaded with stress, especially our best-laid plans threaten to collapse. As I’ve learned, in such times you simply need to adapt as best you can and then look for the blessings it brings. This was the case for our family one Thanksgiving several years ago. My husband kids and 1 decided to spend a nontraditional Thanksgiving aboard a small fishing boat anchored off the beach in Baja California. As with every year, I wanted this to be a memorable and perfect holiday for my family—so I was a little bit anxious about our change in plans. Everything had to be precisely choreographed so that we could make the best use of the small space—and even smaller oven!
Weeks ahead of time, we made lists that included the measurement of the oven, the pots and pans available, etc. Upon close scrutiny, we decided that the oven would accommodate only an eight-pound turkey, which would be quite a change from our usual twenty-two to twenty-five-pounder. About two weeks prior to the trip, I found a great price on an eight-pound turkey, and I tossed it in the Deepfreeze. About the same time, my mother called and wanted to know if we had room in our Deepfreeze to store a twenty-two pounder for her. She was planning on having guests for Thanksgiving dinner and needed a turkey bigger than her freezer could hold. “No problem,” I told her. “I have plenty of room.”
So we prepared for our trip. My very helpful husband always packs the cooler for all of our family outings—it’s just one of the jobs he likes to do. So while I was helping the kids get their bags closed up, Robert loaded the turkey into its “cold box” for our trip, and off we went. Well, you can imagine my surprise when, at our destination, I opened the ice chest to find a huge turkey staring back at me! Robert had inadvertently taken my mother’s turkey! I screamed at him to come and explain why he’d done such a stupid thing. Poor Robert didn’t know that my mother had stored her turkey in our freezer. His defense was that when he looked in the Deepfreeze, he only saw one thing that looked like a real turkey to him…so that was the one he took! This didn’t make any sense to me, because we’d discussed the size of the turkey weeks ago. But to Robert, it just did not compute that a small eight-pound turkey would actually look more like a frozen chicken. He had taken what looked to him like the only turkey.
Well, after getting quite upset—and after leaving a panic-stricken and apologetic voice message for my mom via cell phone—I finally calmed down. And, of course, we had a really good laugh about it all and prayed that my mother would hear the voice message in time to shop of a new turkey. I did feel really terrible about flying off the handle, but really, who doesn’t get stressed out by the holidays, especially when you want everything to be perfect?!
Well, you know what? Our Thanksgivings weren’t ruined after-all. My possibility-thinking husband creatively butchered the turkey so as to fill our small, eight-pound roasting pan beautifully. We gave the rest of the bird to a local family nearby, and they were very happy about it—because, as it turned out, it was to be their only taste of turkey on Thanksgiving! And it worked out OK for my mother, as well, because her dinner party plans changed and her company did not come. We had a lot to thank God for on that Thanksgiving Day. Truth be told, there were blessings enough to go around—blessings of sharing, blessings of new acquaintances—as we gave away our extra turkey to another family. And it was all made possible by the unexpected “turkey exchange”! No one could have planned it better than, of course, our Father, the Grantor of all blessings.
There’s a Yiddish proverb that says, “Man plans, God laughs.” (of course that’s true for women too!) I like to imagine God holding his breath, waiting for Donna to explode when she discovered that the enormous turkey instead of the one she’d been expecting! As this situation taught me, God always has a way of making our mishaps work out somehow. I should have remembered this when I blew-up at poor Robert! When things don’t go as we think they should…when our holiday plans get messed up…when people don’t do the things we think they should do, we need to keep in mind that God is in charge, and if we trust in Him, He will help us through. In this case, my family survived—even thrived—and had a wonderful Thanksgiving after all, even if it didn’t go exactly as I had planned.
Remember this the next time you make a cake for the school bake sale—and your son drops it on the floor. Remember this when you get to your vacation destination---and discover your luggage was shipped someplace else. Remember this when you’re racing to make an appointment---and your car battery picks the same day to die. Stay calm. Ask God to show you the wisdom in your situation---and ask Him to let you be pleased with the surprise blessings it brings. And learn to laugh when things go wrong---which I have to tell you, we’ve done so many times since that day.
Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!
God is blessing you. Donna