It seems that my life has been and will continue to be marked by constantly conflicting emotions.
I knew that having holidays overseas would be hard; and I knew that the first one would be the hardest. I also knew that they would be some of the most beautiful if I let them.
I dove into the festivities around the center; desperately wanting to jump into the new normal. The parties, the caroling, the cookies, and the movies. I decorated and played Christmas music, I looked at the lights, and drank hot chocolate when the temperatures dropped to a chilly 70. I kept myself busy. We even took a family break to the coast where we snorkeled and dived in the Bismarck Sea; and it was so, so good for my heart. I didn’t realize how much we needed a break until we were there; it was like a healing balm to our tired hearts. No expectations. No agendas. Nothing but sand, surf, and sun.
But even keeping busy wasn’t enough to keep the homesickness from rising to just beneath the surface. I wasn’t prepared for Facebook and Instagram. For seeing the people I love doing the holiday things I love, but can’t do. Visiting the dazzling decorations at the Disney hotels. Walking through the live nativities. Sitting through a Christmas ballet. Sipping peppermint mochas from red cups. Wearing sweaters and boots. Candlelight services, Lo, How a Rose, and In the Bleak Midwinter (which is – inexplicably to my husband – one of my favorite Christmas songs), and the beautiful reminder that Christmas is just the beginning of Easter.
In short, I was jealous.
However, I had a candlelight service with caroling surrounded by an ever-growing family of dear people who get it, a rotating door of visitors, and no shortage of love. We even managed to score a Christmas ham! The creativity and love that went in to every bit of celebration made this a very special Christmas for me. Sometimes the best present is a bar of chocolate that hasn’t melted 18 times before getting to you, or a very practical set of oven-mitts that actually match and are not dish towels for me to set accidental fire to.
It wasn’t the Christmas I knew, but it was so beautiful. Jesus came and we celebrate Him regardless of location, age, number of presents, background, company, or what’s on the menu. And isn’t that why we came to live and serve in Papua New Guinea? To celebrate Jesus and tell everyone else about Him?
2015 has been a year of beautifully conflicting emotions. I celebrated my golden birthday and hugged my sweet grandma before she died. I left my family to move across the world and found family here, too. I learned a new language and forgot which side of the car to get in on. I experienced such love and generosity. God poured out grace upon grace upon grace for me: to say goodbye, to travel, to find the sweet in the bitter, and to live thrive in a constant state of in-between. This has been a year of surprises and immeasurable goodness. Thank you for standing with Josh and I, for your prayers, your gifts, your love, and your stories.
So long 2015; and hello 2016, I can’t wait to see what you have in store!