The split peas and ham bubbled away the day in the crock pot.

All day the house smelled like anticipation.


Having returned for a week in the midst of my semester away, I find the house both familiar and strange.

Words that have graced the library wall for years seem to speak anew

to this day and to this time in our world.

The verse below on the right says:

Let thy soul walk softly in thee
As a saint in heaven unshod
For to be alone with silence
Is to be alone with God.


As I write these words, I am alone with silence.

I am alone with God.

The children and grandchildren are driving south from east and west of here.

I pray for their safety, grateful for their willingness to drive in the dark.

So that our circle of love around the table be unbroken.

The lights are on in their rooms.

The South Africa Room

The South Africa Room

Mennonite heritage room

Mennonite heritage room

The sleeping bags for the 5 and 4-year-olds.

The sleeping bags for the 5 and 4-year-olds.

We’ll have three precious days to be together.

We’ll break out the old recipes, covered with spills from holidays past.

Potato buns from a cookbook given as a wedding present in 1969.

Potato buns from a cookbook given as a wedding present in 1969.

On Thanksgiving Day, we’ll add uncles, aunts, and cousins, 19 of us together.

Holy chaos will ensue.

On Friday, we’ll cut down a tree together in Singer’s Glen.

Decorating as we sing songs and tell the old, old story.

A simpler Christmas this year.

A simpler Christmas this year.

The waiting tonight fits the season of Advent we are about to enter.

It’s a season that I have felt in my body ever since I became a mother 40 years ago.

It’s a season that again quickens my inner life.

The sculpture below, which resides in the Stella Maris Chapel next to Lake Sagatagan, has spoken to me often this fall.

Here in Virginia, tonight, I am just another expectant mother.


“Madonna with Child,” the work of the distinguished artist, Alexander Tylevich. Photo by Aelred Senna, OSB

“Madonna with Child,” the work of the distinguished artist, Alexander Tylevich. Photo by Br. Paul Jasmer, OSB

Are you waiting today? How would you name the object of your anticipation? If you are having a “holy chaos” family reunion, tell us about it and enjoy! if you are waiting in silence, please share what that is like for you, I hope the poem above spoke to your condition and brings you quiet joy. May you be blessed by Gratitude itself.

Shirley Showalter


  1. Laurie Buchanan on November 22, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    Shirley — The poem you shared spoke to my heart as silence is one of my dearest friends. Scrolling through your photographs, my eyes welled with happy tears when I saw the sleeping bags for the wee ones. They’re going to have such fun—ALL of you are!

    One of the few “things” I have of my mother’s is a splattered recipe card with her handwriting on it, so the photograph of your the cookbook made me smile.

    Nineteen people at the table on Thanksgiving day—“holy chaos”—indeed! I love that you’ve got the “smell of anticipation” to keep you company as you—expectant mother/grandmother—await the arrival of your loved ones.

    One of my closest friends is in the hospital in Apple Valley, California. I am waiting in silence for continued good news. I know well how to claim promises and never worry about God standing true. I have asked for the highest and best good. All will be well, of that I am certain.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 23, 2016 at 2:11 pm

      Laurie, the wee ones are taking a nap in their “nest” right now. Owen said he thinks we should put grass and feathers in the nest. It’s so much fun to see him develop his sense of humor, and you are right about both of them enjoying their “big kid” adventure outside of their parents’ room.

      I hope your friend continues to recover and that you too have a blessed holiday.

  2. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on November 22, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    Love your theme rooms, Shirley. We stayed in a B&B once that had theme rooms. Your kids will feel so welcome and so special and of course the grandkids…! Have a wonderful time together, all of you!

    • Shirley Showalter on November 23, 2016 at 2:17 pm

      Thank you, Elfrieda. Your Canadian Thanksgiving is already past, but I am sure you, too, are looking ahead to Advent and Christmas.

      The themes for the rooms just came together gradually over time. The SA one from one trip to Capetown, and the Mennonite one the result of heirlooms passed down to us.

      What a “goodly heritage.” So much to be grateful for.

  3. susan scott on November 23, 2016 at 11:26 am

    Thank you Shirley, such a lovely post! The rooms – even a SA one! The quilt in the Mennonite Room is so beautiful!

    Thank you for the lovely quotes – they ring so true. And for the photograph of the ‘Madonna with Child’ –

    How wonderful that you’ll all be together! Many blessed Advent greetings to you and yours …

    • Shirley Showalter on November 23, 2016 at 2:22 pm

      I was hoping you would discover the SA room, Susan. 🙂 The photo is a little dark, so you can’t really see the lovely pillows in their brilliant colors and lovely handwork. I’m sure you recognize the style of the artwork on the walls.

      The Madonna and Child is so much more human than many of the sculptures of the Virgin from the Renaissance, lovely as they are.

      I extend the same greetings to you as we enter holidays throughout the world.

  4. Linda Hoye on November 23, 2016 at 11:37 am

    So precious are the moments of silent anticipation and preparation for the feast of food and family that is to come. Happy Blessed Thanksgiving!

    • Shirley Showalter on November 23, 2016 at 2:23 pm

      I love that sentence, Linda. It’s like your photography: condensed to the essence. Thank you for your good wishes, and the same to you as we enter the holiday season.

  5. Carol Bodensteiner on November 23, 2016 at 11:51 am

    I enjoyed my stay in the South Africa room, Shirley. You made us feel so welcome. We, too, are expecting visitors this week, and the granddaughters will spend a night with us. We are excited about the time we’ll all spend together. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Stuart and all your family.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 23, 2016 at 2:26 pm

      Likewise to you and yours, Carol. One of the benefits of sharing writing is that it often leads to in-person meetings that continue the relationship again back online. I was blessed to have you stay here with us. You have left some of your spirit in this place. I love that.

  6. Audrey Denecke on November 23, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Thank you,Shirley. What a touching sharing of love expressed in preparation and welcoming. My eyes also welled up seeing the picture of lights on in bedrooms and bedrolls set up for the little ones! I am sure they will be delighted.
    I have memories of my dad rising early on Thanksgiving preparing the stuffing and dressing the bird. Our simple family home filling with mouth-watering spicy scents. He was a baker at the Drake Hotel in Chicago for a few years after the war. So, we looked forward as well to his fresh homemade yeasty loaves of bread, baked the prior day. My mom had also stayed up late the night before making her jello salads and preparing side dishes.

    There were other years we would travel to Chicago (from a northern county) to our paternal Grandparents apartment for the holiday. Nana would always set the large table with her lace tablecloths, putting out her best silverware,china,and crystal glasses. She would never fuss when inevitability one of the little hands around the table spilled a drink or the fresh cranberry sauce on that white table cloth. She would hug us warmly first, making light of it, and dabbing it lightly, and then refilling whatever had been spilled. It was always a treat to be with them. Several years ago, I made copies of a photo Of my grandparents in their small kitchen carving the turkey together for all my siblings. I take it out each T’giving and bring it into the kitchen with me.
    My memories, like the ones you have and are creating, will always be precious.
    Happy Thanksgiving Shirley,and blessings to you and your family.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 23, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      Wow, a baker at the Drake Hotel. That sounds like a glamorous job. Especially just after the war. I enjoyed this glimpse into the warm memories of your holiday times in the past and hope they sustain you in this year, Audrey.

      Your brother’s book is one of the few wrapped presents the children will get to open on Friday. Thank you! And please thank your brother for writing it.

  7. Janet Givens on November 23, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    Your post fills me with gratitude for the assurance I now have that I’ve made the right decision to stay home this holiday. My grandchildren will gather at David’s home in Cincinnati and my mom has driven there to be with them, but Woody and I will stay home with Sasha (still recuperating) and our chickens. I had felt rather wretched about it, but now feel that “peace that passeth …” and know I will welcome the quiet, the silence, tomorrow, as I do every morning, — that still, quiet center of my world — and look ahead to my visit with them in just a few weeks when 10-year-old Kendall will sing a solo in her school’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Coat. That was a very long sentence. Oh my! Have a VERY Happy Thanksgiving, one and all.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 23, 2016 at 2:34 pm

      A quiet Thanksgiving at home and the anticipation of lively celebrations in the near future. Sounds like a double dip of blessing, Janet. Hope you enjoy both and glad if this post helps you accept your choice. It can be hard to be alone for a holiday but it doesn’t have to be depressing.

  8. Tina Barbour on November 23, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    Blessings to you and your family, Shirley. I hope you enjoy your time together and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Shirley Showalter on November 23, 2016 at 2:34 pm

      Thank you, Tina, and the very best to you and yours also!

  9. marlin on November 23, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    Blessings to you and your family, Shirley. I hope you enjoy your time together echand have a Happy Thanksgiving!

    echoing Tina’s message to you, Shirley

  10. Marylin Warner on November 23, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    Lovely post, Shirley. The “old recipes, covered with spills from holidays past” carry joyous messages in the stains. Our holy chaos began this morning when family, friends and neighbors began appearing. These are the hours from which memories are born, according to my great aunt who watches, listens, touches and tastes–and hugs us all–and then pens precious Haikus for each of us.
    Thanksgiving blessings.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 23, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      How wonderful to have a great aunt with a gift for Haiku. That’s a special word in our family too, Marylin. And your holy chaos includes the neighbors as well as family.

      We are blessed to have family members AS neighbors, so we will eat the main course here, with mulled cider prepared by one neighbor-sister, and then walk down the street to a neighbor-brother’s house later in the day for dessert.


  11. Lanie Tankard on November 23, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    Oh Shirley, this is absolutely beautiful! I’m so thankful your family is in my life. Bountiful blessings to all of you as you gather. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Shirley Showalter on November 23, 2016 at 4:15 pm

      Thank you, Lanie. I’m so glad you and your family are in our lives too! We love seeing where you are and who you are with and the gusto you give to this stage in life also. Many thanksgiving blessings to you.

  12. June on November 23, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    Sometimes it is not the preparation of the rooms for loved ones, or the preparation of the food that will be eaten. It is the anticipation of the arrival of loved ones, both near and far. Enjoy this precious time with them. Enjoy the chaos. Blessings to your family this Thanksgiving, I learned from my parents, who traveled South to Arizona each winter, that Thanksgiving for Americans is bigger than Christmas. May you all enter His court with Thanksgiving.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 24, 2016 at 2:17 pm

      Definitely the anticipation, June! We are now celebrating 1.5 of our 3.5 days together. Just about ready to greet our guests. Each day brings new things to anticipate. The children can hardly stand looking at those stockings without touching them. Good practice in delayed gratification.

      And into his gates with praise! Thanks and good wishes back to you.

  13. Vicky Kirkton on November 23, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    Thank-you Shirley for that beautiful reflection! Since our family all lives in Elkhart County I have the blessing of them coming almost every Sunday for dinner! It is amazing and wonderful to me the “anticipation” they display almost every Sunday. Grandma what are we having for dinner today and what special dessert did you make? Even the teens (and there are 6 of them) make every effort to come on Sunday to eat and be with family! I am blessed! You have reminded me about the anticipation during the advent season! What will be revealed to me or us! Blessings to you as you have this special time with family!

    • Shirley Showalter on November 24, 2016 at 2:23 pm

      Vicky, I love seeing pictures of you with children and grandchildren on FB. You are definitely enjoying jubilación. I hope that you are recovering nicely from your operation and letting people wait on you this year.

      Enjoy your many blessings, and thanks for sharing them here.

  14. Merril Smith on November 23, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    Such a lovely post, Shirley. Your home seems like an oasis of serenity. I’m sure it will be quite lively once everyone arrives, but what a joyous type of chaos that is!

    I love Thanksgiving and all of our family traditions. I’ll be missing our older daughter and her wife, but they’ll be here for Christmas/Hanukkah. The rest of the family will be here tomorrow–no overnight guests.

    Wishing you and your family a happy and wonderful Thanksgiving!

    • Shirley Showalter on November 24, 2016 at 2:32 pm

      Merril, you made me smile with that word “serenity.” We actually named our house in Kalamazoo “Serenity,” and hope that even with five young children in “holy chaos,” the calm will be felt underneath.

      Glad you will be seeing all of your family. Staging the holiday togetherness has benefits too.

      Wishing you and yours the same!

  15. Sherrey Meyer on November 23, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    Shirley, a lovely post. I noticed in a comment that the grandchildren are nesting now. We don’t enjoy the kind of anticipation you’ve described of children arriving as our two out-of-towners are much too far away to travel for this weekend. We’ll be with the son’s family who lives here.

    I have a cookbook that looks much like the one you have pictured. It belonged to my mother-in-law, and the most treasured feature is not just the splatters but the handwritten notes she made. I’ve already earmarked it to the next family member to take charge of keeping it passing through the family.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and Stuart. Enjoy the warmth of love and family together.

    • Shirley on November 24, 2016 at 11:03 pm

      Thank you so much, Sherrey. I detect a little wistfulness for the children far away. I’m glad you have one family close by and hope you can all be together at another time.

      The signs of life left in cookbooks tell many a story of love for food and family. I’m glad you have this treasure!

  16. Elaine Mansfield on November 24, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    Thank you for this nourishing post, Shirley. One son left for home a few days ago and the other is with his wife’s family in NC. Yes, I miss family and miss those childhood Thanksgivings when extended family including cousins gathered at my grandparents Missouri farm. A long time ago, but my prototype of how Thanksgiving should be–with many flavors of your family gathering.

    I’m here on my snow-swept hill, waiting for friends to arrive. We’ll have a vegetarian feast and put more wood in the stove. Friends who live at a distance will spend the night, so their room is waiting. We’ll have a ritual of remembrance for those missing today–either far away or no longer embodied. We’ll say prayers for ourselves, our families, and the world, make offerings, light candles, and be grateful for each other.

    • Shirley Showalter on November 25, 2016 at 3:01 pm

      Your Thanksgiving sounds good also, Elaine. The rhythm of silence and food with friends, plus the memories of Thanksgivings long ago sounds good — especially for an introvert. 🙂 The big rowdy gathering make wonderful memories. The quieter celebrations warm the heart too, just like the real fire. I’m grateful too for your words this day and for this friendship at a distance.

  17. Elaine Hostetler on November 28, 2016 at 10:02 am

    This essay is absolutely exquisite. Thank you, Shirley for your feast for my soul.

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