The Albino Turkey

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV

In my attempt at family bonding, I like to bring crafting projects, yummy treats, and table decorations to my parent’s holiday parties. It doesn’t happen at every get-together, although I try to incorporate it into our yearly festivities.

You see, I lived away from my family for many years, and those holiday seasons brought me an indescribable amount of sadness. When I moved back home, I changed my focus and tried something different during the holiday season — doing table projects.

The Perfect Thanksgiving Craft

Last year was no exception; I spent a good part of thanksgiving week researching the perfect craft project. I perused Pinterest diligently, creating a Thanksgiving board of perfection with all of my top choices for the year’s family holiday crafting projects. There were so many to choose from, and with my son, Eli having autism, this was becoming quite a challenge. He has a limited attention span and it was important to me that everyone at the table enjoyed their time together.

Finally, after hours of contemplation, my husband Eric and I decided we would all color turkey hats together. This was a good idea, of course. I convinced myself everyone would just love it and participate. At the end of the day, we could take a picture of our masterpieces and each other; this was a win, win in my book!

As I reflect on this Thanksgiving day, I love to think about how much fun we all had making those silly turkey hats. Sharing our colored markers and pencils across the long table, helping Grandpa put his hat on correctly. Taking pictures of everyone smiling, laughing, and having fun.

The Albino Turkey

I’m giggling now as I think about my brother Jim and my nephew Sam on this day. They would not color their turkey hats! Telling me their turkeys were special because they were ALBINO TURKEYS—ones that couldn’t be colored.

 It makes me laugh to this day how unique and hilarious the two of them were. They joined forces to remind me how special an albino turkey was, how rare it was to find one, and how being different is not only ok, it’s beautiful. Tears come to my eyes even now as I think about how much those two taught me on my journey toward celebrating and giving thanks for everything. 

This Thanksgiving

This year, Thanksgiving will be at my parent’s house. I looked for a craft on Pinterest this weekend, searching diligently for that eye-catching idea to make a memory last a lifetime.

Things are different this year, as we lost Jim in February.

With an unbearable loss, I only know to reach out to the Lord and hold on to his word. I grasp onto it and repeat it as it sinks into the depths of my troubled heart. I’m reminded of the verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 about giving thanks in all circumstances.

Sometimes, it’s hard for me to give thanks, especially now when my heart hurts. But remembering God’s promises gives me the strength to walk in faith and try to put one foot in front of the other. Believe me, this is not easy, but all things are possible with God.

So, this year, I’ve decided to do something unique and something a little of the same for our Thanksgiving crafting tradition at the table. I will put those crayons and markers out, and I’ll pull out some paper, and we will see what happens. As we all found last year, an albino turkey is rare and special. This is just beautiful.

  • This Side of Heaven
  • Stephanie Pavlantos
  • The Albino Turkey – Blog Post
  • Released Date: November 22, 2022


“I hate dogs!!!” was my thinking for years before a small, lovable puppy came into my life.
Before Ike arrived, my animal experience hadn’t been good for most of my life. In my short 40 years, I got scratched, bit, licked, and fell prey to the dreaded cat scratch fever (yes, it is more than an 80’s rock song). Having a dog would be out of the question. RIGHT?

Jumping back to 2011, I was 31, in love, and it was with the girl next door (literally). There was nothing that she could say that would stop me from marrying her. I had the ring, the girl, and a house for the girl to live in after the “I dos.”

So, the time had come. Everything was all set. I knelt down on one knee, nervously trembling as will you marry me, tumbled out of my mouth. Joy anxiously replied, yes, but insisted her dog Teddy was also part of the package.” Fear rushed over me like a bad case of food poisoning, and I awkwardly agreed as my stomach churned uncontrollably.

Our big day had come and gone by mid-august, as the wedding gifts were all put away, and my new bride was true to her word. Much to my dismay, a short time later, I was staring eye-to-eye with a little gray and white Shih Zhu as he stared back at me.

Teddy was a good dog, although, unfortunately, we never truly bonded. About six months after Joy and I married, God began to stir our hearts changing the family’s direction, and we could see a need to fulfill. Joy’s heart was torn; she knew how much her father, Roger, had bonded with Teddy when they had lived at the family home.

Roger missed Teddy after we married, and they moved away. So after much prayer and seeking the Lord’s will, Joy finally decided that Teddy should live with Grandpa and Grandma since he brought them so much love and happiness.

Although I could see Joy made a difficult choice, I thought everything was finally going my way; I had a wife, stepdaughter, house, and NO DOG. Life was finally smooth sailing, or so I thought.

Not long after Teddy’s departure, my new wife revealed she was unhappy without a dog in the house.

Reluctantly I went with the girls to our local shelter to just look at a puppy that Joy found on their website. It was a blow to my ego, and I was looking forward to the peace and quiet of living in a no-pet house.

His name was Ike, and he was a new arrival at the shelter. He looked pathetically adorable with his paw up on the cage, eagerly eyeing everyone as they walked by. When the girls came around the corner and saw Ike, I knew I was in trouble. They fell in love with him at first sight, and I wondered, out of all the dogs here, why Ike. I knew that if this was going to work, God would have to show up, and boy, did he ever.

Several other families wanted to adopt Ike and filled out the application; there were too many to count. Thankfully after much prayer, we were the family God chose, and the girls were overjoyed; I guess I was mildly excited too. We ultimately adopted Ike into our family and brought him home. It was a happy time for Joy, and she thrived with having a new puppy to love; it was a relief knowing that the decision to bring another dog home was just what she needed to adjust to married life.

My work schedule changed a year or so later, allowing me to spend more time with Ike. Then, Ike and I truly bonded and became the best of friends. The bond we developed has become a source of fuel for my creativity, bringing laughter back into my life and allowing me to tap into a new creative place of writing.

Seeing God’s plan for Ike in our family back then was difficult, but now I’m uplifted. He’s a comedian and gets the whole family to belly laugh. Nowadays, Ike is like our third child, spoiled by Joy, the kids, and especially by me. Ike is essential, and I can’t see life without him. I wouldn’t have believed it years ago, but with God’s direction, I went from being down on dogs to living my best life. One that I’m happy to confess includes my puppy best friend, Ike.

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD,

thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Through Her Words

Our words matter! Discouragement has hit me hard the past few days. Throw in a bit of fear, and I felt upside down and right side up! That was until today, and although it was a Saturday morning and I was working, it was still a fantastic day. I was given the most extraordinary patient; she was kind and gentle.

There was such a peaceful presence throughout our appointment. This was a blessing, especially since I working on a weekend while my husband and son were having fun at a bounce house. The time flew by, and towards the end of our appointment, this sweet lady told me I was an excellent mother to both of my children and that she would pray for us.

This shook me to my core! How did she know I was struggling with this thought and to emphasize my oldest child as well. How did she know that this fear kept me up at night and that I needed her prayers desperately? I know that God was aware and placed it in her heart, and what a prayer it was, so filled with the spirit.

Then and there, I decided to follow her example and openly pray for others. I wanted to be like this lovely lady who walks in her faith and shows such loving kindness, even to someone like me, a stranger mending a broken heart. (A mama who cries into her pillow because she is not able to change the past, one who is only able to walk in faith towards what is to come.)

Ephesians 4:32
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

In the midst of it all

Recently I was given a fantastic opportunity to attend a bible study with two beautiful, kind-hearted Christian ladies. They were wonderful to be around. The time we shared was a precious gift, and I drove home that night cherishing our time and felt a renewed spirit of hope after our discussion.

I woke up this morning, momentarily terrified after a fitful night of sleep. My jaw was clenched, and I was filled with a false sense of disparity after having a bad dream. Thankfully, this time instead of retreating, I was instantly reminded God is my advocate. He is in the background, fighting for our good. He is the one who has given us loving family members and friends to help us, guide us down this path, to provide us with much-needed encouragement along the way. Hold our hands when we need them the most and love us when we are unlovable. He knows our beginning and end, and nothing surprises our God.

I took this picture last week just before an afternoon rain shower. The dark clouds circled in the sky, giving my co-workers and me a glimpse of the storm that was to come. As we looked up, anticipating the rain, and watching the view in awe, for a brief moment, the sun shone through the darkness, reminding me that God was right there in the midst of it all.

I Choose Hope

One summer, our neighbor, Mary, gave Sis a beautiful gift. She noticed Sis’s desire to garden and decided to give her this unique pot with vines to return yearly. This way, Sis could watch them grow, year after year. Sis was very thoughtful with her new task. She watered it daily and watched intently, waiting for the tiny flowers to arrive. Although the green vines were lovely, they did not bloom.
For the last several months, I have struggled in everything and every aspect of life. In my time of grief, I ignored Sis’s pot, abandoning it and all the memories that went along with it. I didn’t water it and even left it on the side of the house that receives absolutely no sun. It was painful to look at, although I didn’t have the heart to throw it away. The vines were long gone and held nothing but old memories and dried dirt. It was lifeless.
Towards the end of July that year, after a period of miserable heat, I felt this tug in my heart, “Move the pot. Move it over with others, and you will see.” I ignored the words and the urging, making a more significant effort to avoid that side of the house altogether.
A few days later, an event in my life forced me to travel toward that side of the house. The place I didn’t want to go and the memories I didn’t like to acknowledge. Walking around the house, I felt the familiar nudge to look down and see. Slightly annoyed, I peered into the pot, fully expecting to see nothing but the cracked, dusty dirt. But today held a different ending. The tiniest green plants in the corner of this pot struggle to push themselves through the dry, hardened soil. I grabbed the jar and held it up, straining my eyes to view this perfect little plant, forcefully trying to grow. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I felt my Lord near and heard his whisper, “Give it water and watch it grow.” This moment marked a new beginning. One of growth, not just for this tiny plant but for our family. Soon, our Prayers were being answered, and movement began to happen. Doors were opening once closed, and I could see God’s hand working for our good.
A few weeks later, I struggled to get my little guy and our bags into the house as quickly as possible while the rain poured down all around us. Quickly, I reached down to gather our remaining items and absently glanced down at the pot. To my amazement, a beautiful flower budded on the single vine. It was beautiful, and I was reminded again to keep going. Although there is a season for everything, today, I choose hope.