While I have been known to lament how we miss the red cup and how we long for a sled riding day with family or a stroll on Michigan Avenue with twinkling lights aglow I must say living here is a gift. For many reasons.
We get to do Christmas on our terms. No competing messages of buy, consume, look better, get more. No guilt about what you “should” be doing or buying or cooking. While we will always miss a good stroll through a decorated mall just before Christmas I have realized that stuff can drown out the real longings of our souls. That may sound trite but for me it really is true. Here we cannot rely on anything external to “get us in the Christmas mood” and really nothing besides time reflecting on the gift of Jesus should be able to do that. For me being here can either be a sad time of missing family and friends and all things familiar or I can choose to believe God knows what He is doing. That there is much for me to learn. Much sweetness and joy for our family waiting for us to grab hold. Much for me to cherish about being here for Christmas.
Christmas is not about what you get or even give. If there are glittery decorations everywhere and holiday music playing or none at all. Whether or not there is snow outside or sweat inducing heat. No, it is about the Creator of the universe deciding to come rescue His creation through a small baby born in difficult circumstances in an obscure part of the world. And that is the miracle. Worthy of joy, contemplation, anticipation, gratefulness, and celebration. And with very little hype here we are forced to really think about what that means. For us. For the world. We will celebrate with our friends and neighbors today at our home (and are praying the power comes back on as right now I am writing using precious generator time and we made a sideshow of pictures we want to share with everyone). We will play games, eat pilau off communal plates, and share in celebrating Krismasi, Evy’s first Birthday, and the shule watoto (they will sing if they get the courage!). Yesterday was all preparation; we brought 25 kilos of rice, 9 kilos of meat, too many veggies to count, 100 packages of cookies, 100 bottles of juice, and so many spices our entire house smelled like cumin and cinnamon last night. Celebrating with our neighbors is quickly becoming a tradition for us and we pray it will be a time of sharing and laughing and loving and eating and Joy.
Anni & the kids from shule decorated the invites..I love that the people are wearing kofia (the men’s hats) and headcoverings in all Anni’s drawings
party prep is exhausting…just ask Evy
And I am finally getting around to sharing our new family tradition. I decided a while ago we needed an advent calendar up in here. And we knew one mailed from the states would more likely have globs of melted chocolate than angels behind each door once it reached us. Nope, we had to make do with what we have here. First I stole some of a friend’s idea and made it our own (partial theft is actually how most of my crafty ideas originate) and went to work on creating small bags made out of kanga (the cheap local fabric that is used for everything and anything). I sewed small varied shapes of ornaments and then took the Christmas story in Luke into chunks for each day and wrote some questions and prayers. Using those verses I made little people, symbols, words, etc for each day and sewed (and hot glued when I got tired…which was about after 3) them on the ornaments I stuffed with local cotton. Then I hid each ornament in a bag and Anni wrote the numbers of the days and we attached them to each bag. Every day we search for the correct number, open the bag, reveal the ornament, guess about the part of the story we will hear today, read it together, answer questions, pray, and get chocolate! We started a bit late so around these parts baby Jesus may not make his appearance until the 27th or 28th but we are loving our advent calendar. Especially Miss Annikah who never allows us to forget to hang the ornament on a local craft tree made from banana leaves I bought in town and then quickly consumes her two M&M’s (searched out and bought specially for the occasion). It is a sweet reminder of the anticipation and excitement of God with Us, of the miracle, of the Joy, of Krismasi.