Thursday, December 27, 2012

Strange, full, unexpected, and blessed.

Christmas 2012: Soccer in the driveway, wearing their gifts.
Scrolling through Facebook yesterday brought a bit of sadness, glimpsing all those photos of a white Christmas in Little Rock, of all places. I'd prayed for that so many times for my kids. Well, and myself. But God was good: A few minutes later, I was playing Christmas music while I spread mayo for sandwiches. Some old lyrics belted out: Haul out the holly/ Put up the tree before my spirit falls again... And I realized, that was why I wanted to be there, enjoying the snow (not to mention the family!). I longed for the emotion of that Christmas sparkle; the cozy magic that, with all the right elements, seems to frost everything with a little light and togetherness. There's a very good place and reason for my longing, which recalls our built-in cravings for Heaven. I would have called it Christmas spirit, and in ways, it is. But this Christmas was more in the Christmas spirit than I could have hoped for, even though the weather was decidedly a breezy 75 or so.

Our December 25 was actually one of the best, but not in the ways we'd expect. You've probably gathered one of our favorite aspects of living here: there are so many opportunities to do good everywhere you look--you know, that "harvest is plentiful" thing. It feels like opportunities to give and serve and welcome people are just hanging around, like ripe fruit waiting to be plucked. It keeps pushing us out of our comfort zone and into our community. My sister and her husband, in Thailand--along with my parents as they're visiting--captured this with their own community Christmas shindig that, well, surpassed their expectations in size. (After this year, I deeply empathize with her sentiment of "plans schmans.")
But back to our own less-expected Christmas. Oliver spent Christmas Eve night and Christmas Day with us this year; fitting, because she is such a member of our family now. She had not had presents to speak of since her mother passed over ten years ago, so it was positively delightful to see her rave over her gifts and her stocking. I think we've definitely found a "love language" here! Another unexpected friend shared dinner and our game night with friends. John carried out a Christmas-y little plan, complete with Christmas dinner, for the eMi guards who couldn't return to their villages for Christmas. They were thanking him so profusely. Seeing John here with his gift of giving continues to amaze me. It seems he’s always got some idea to be generous in ways that really encourage people.
So our Christmas was less our traditional day together, and still more Christmas than we'd planned! Which was really cool. Especially since the next day was one of our first days in Uganda to be alone as a family, and the weather was beautiful for us to play new board games, watch The Nativity, and relax together.
I'm looking forward to what we hope will be next Christmas in the States, surrounded by the people we would love to smother with hugs. But all in all, our first African Christmas was like a lot of our first year: strange, full in every sense of the word, unexpected, and blessed.


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