Instead I am being bombarded with advertisements, feeling the pressure to do a bunch of Christmas shopping, and not sure how Christmas is going to play out for us this year.
Now, don't get me wrong, Christmas in Asia wasn't always easy. The first year we lived overseas, we were in the hospital preparing for the birth of this little sweetie:
It was wonderful and precious to become parents on Christmas Day, 2004, but not exactly a tradition we wanted to keep up every year thereafter! :)
Our second year we hosted so many outreach parties, including two on Christmas day, that by the time the 26th rolled around we were dead tired and John got almost deathly sick. He was about as bad as I've ever seen him with the flu. All of my plans for starting new Christmas traditions were scrapped in favor of tea and toast.
By our third year overseas, we had talked a bit more about what we hoped Christmas would be for our family and come up with the start of some traditions. We also had teammates by that point and so started some traditions with them, like this one, gathering together for a special Christmas worship service and carol sing:
As time went on, we did develop some of our own traditions that our girls love. A special joy this year was unpacking all of the Christmas items and the girls squealing in delight as they remembered our Jesse tree, the cross-stitched Advent calendar, the wooden nativity set, etc. We loved celebrating Christmas as a family on Christmas Eve and then reserving the 25th as Clara Anne's special birthday celebration.
So, why does it feel so different this year? One reason relates to my dad's health and my parents' situation. We just are not sure what will be happening in the next weeks. We are eagerly anticipating the appointment at Mayo Clinic on the 14th but what will happen after that is almost impossible to predict. Also, we will not be in our own home. We will be at my parents' home, which is even better than being at home!--but it will feel different. The girls have already asked if we can take along our Jesse tree and some other special items; we'll plan to do that and continue some of our traditions that way.
I also feel, though, that there is more rush-rush-bustle-hurry in the States at Christmas than I had experienced overseas. There's more pressure to buy, buy, BUY and even though we don't want Christmas to be just about buying things, it's hard to know how to deal with all of it exactly. I trust this will be something we learn better how to manage when we've been here longer. For now, our plan is to give the girls each one (nicer) gift which we will shop for together, plus a few small things in their stockings. We'll see how it all turns out!
For the moment, I am trying to savor special Advent readings and Christmas stories, enjoy the lights and music of the season, and spend extra time in the Word as we contemplate the miracle of Immanuel. Though I'm not doing lots of baking, and I only had one outreach party, I am thankful to be here this Christmas. It will be a gift beyond price to be with my parents in this difficult time, and it is a joy to see my girls continuing to grow in their love for Jesus and their desire to know Him more as we read our Jesse tree Scriptures, learn Christmas carols, and remind ourselves of the truth that Love came down at Christmas.
How about you? What Christmas traditions are you looking forward to celebrating?