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this is what love looks like (part 2)

this is what love looks like (part 2)

Ahhhhhhh, the holidays. The most wonderful time of the year. A time for giving, hoping, loving, hugging, eating, shopping, wrapping, eating, singing, spoiling, spending, and eating. I absolutely love the holidays. I love hosting thanksgiving dinner and inviting my ‘homeless’ friends over… and by that, I just mean my friends who don’t have any family or plans that year. I always assign the turkey to someone else because I really can’t bear the responsibility of ruining it! I’m more of a ‘sides’ kind of girl and I love coming up with creative, fun new dishes to try. People are funny about their Thanksgiving dinners though… you can come up with new stuff all you want, but you had better have the classics or else people get crazy.

I remember my grandma, Norma Jeanne, was usually in charge of stuffing. She made the best stuffing… always from scratch, always ridiculously tasty! There was this one year, however, when Gramma almost ruined Thanksgiving. She discovered quinoa (yeah, keen-wah) and decided we needed to try her new stuffing recipe with quinoa and almonds and all kinds of other disgusting and healthy ingredients. I almost fainted when I saw it, and I may have actually wept a little when I tasted it. It was horrific. Disgusting. Awful. Bad. Guh-ross! However, because we loved her soooooo much, we got over it and tried to enjoy the rest of the day. She was reeeeeaaalllly lucky we didn’t make her sit outside.  We are serious about our classics, and stuffing is absolutely critical.

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This year, my Thanksgiving will look a little different. I won’t be hosting, for obvious reasons. You remember my blog “This is what Love looks like, part 1” right? Taunia and her family have adopted me and I will be celebrating the holiday with one of the most amazing, loving families I have ever met. I’m responsible for a nonessential side dish. Hahahaha! I just have to laugh. Taunia ain’t no dummy. I’m making brussell sprouts with garlic, bacon, and onion. Lemme tell ya: it’s amazing and they’re going to invite me back. I guarantee it!

I’ve been asked multiple times if I have a home to go to, and if I’m doing okay with ‘everything.’ People don’t really know what to say, but their hearts are telling me, “You are NOT alone. You are NEVER alone.” I just melt every time someone broaches the subject with me. I feel so blessed to have so many offers for dinner and so many expressions of love and support. If I tried to skip Thanksgiving, I’m quite sure I’d have a mob of concerned friends at my door, each with an invitation to extend. I love Thanksgiving, and I won’t skip it. I promise.  I love a full house, hugs, eating, cooking, laughing, games, pj’s, silliness, and family time (even if it’s someone else’s family).

I know people are wondering if the holidays will be exceptionally difficult for me so I want to share that, for me, every single day is exceptionally difficult. There isn’t one day that is more valuable or precious then another. I want Mason here for all of them! Maybe when the actual day comes, I will feel its full impact. I just don’t know. I know how I feel today, two days before Thanksgiving, that every day is just another day without Mase. Every day hurts. Every day takes super human effort to get through. Every day I wake up sad and go to bed sad, but every day I find moments of joy and laughter too.

Case in point: Casa de Luz (House of Light).

I was contacted by one of the leaders of Casa de Luz a few weeks ago about the possibility of speaking to their middle and high school students. I met with this leader, Briana, in person, and since then have met quite a few of the other leaders. What an incredible group of people they are. I feel emotional and sensitive and extra misty-eyed whenever I am in close proximity to one of them… what do you suppose that is about? I think that’s the effect that kindness and genuine, authentic, unconditional love have on a person. I just met these people, yet I want to hug them and serve with them every single chance I get!

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Each year, they host an event called “Thanksgiving Back” in the inner city, or the Naked City as we call it in Las Vegas. This is the place in town where you just don’t go if you know what’s good for you. It’s the scary part of town. It’s loaded with prostitutes, meth heads, drug dealers, pimps… oh, and children. Lots and lots of children. Casa de Luz volunteers help the kids with their homework, feed them anytime they are hungry, and share love & guidance with them at every possible opportunity. Basically, in word and deed, over & over, the folks at Casa are telling the kids of the inner city: you matter. No matter what they hear at home, or see in their neighborhood, these kids know there is a safe place to go to get fed, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. That’s every single day. Thanksgiving back is a special event done around this time of year and the whole neighborhood shows up! Families are given everything they need for a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner: turkeys, yams, cranberries, stuffing, potatoes, and more! They are also given hugs, and prayer, and their children get to play games and enjoy a fun, carnival-like atmosphere for free! 

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This year, the aMasongrace project was invited to serve at the event. I brought a small team with me and we made serving others look like a cake walk. No seriously, that’s what we did. We manned the cake walk! I was the DJ, Alisa was the Emcee, Arianna picked the winning numbers, and Roxana awarded prizes. What a blast!!! The faces were priceless. The gratitude was sincere. Watching someone win a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving was like watching someone win a car on the Oprah show. I felt like yelling, “And YOU get a cake! And YOU get a cake! AND YOU GET A CAAAAAAAKE!” I was filled with joy, humbled by the experience, and thankful I got to play a small role in ‘thanksgiving back’ that day. I always say, “It feels good to do good“ and you know what? I’m right.

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As I sat down to write in my blog, I considered what I wanted to share this week. Should I share the challenges of returning to work? How hard it was to just log in for the first time? Or the dread I felt when I realized that I actually have to shower, do my hair, and effectively interact with people again? Should I write about how I still cannot sleep through the night, or that I am tempted to become a recluse because it’s just easier? I could write about grief again. God knows, I have plenty of material there. To be blunt, I’m sick of Grief and her insidious ways. I could list a number of topics but I really just wanted to write about something that made me feel good. I wanted to write about faith, hope, and love.  Which one is the greatest of these??? Love.

It’s Thanksgiving, and I am thankful for Love.

Love from strangers and love from friends.

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Surprising love. Consistent, expected, reliable love. 

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Generous and unconditional love.

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Every day love and Holiday love.

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Love is so essential to our well-being; I am surprised and saddened to realize that so many people live without it. They don’t feel it, they don’t see it, or if they do they don’t recognize it. So here’s my little effort to change the world: THIS is what love looks like… Thank you, Casa de Luz.

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