Snow is falling lightly outside the window, Christmas carols playing on the radio. I’m curled up on the couch with a real book in my hands, enjoying a slow morning.
I’m home in my passport country for the holiday season for the first time in four years, and it feels like I’m seeing everything with new eyes. I’ve missed Christmas sweaters and the scent of pine filling the whole house, dazzling lights sparkling next to all of our favorite ornaments.
Christmas was so different in Cambodia. I’m a Nebraska girl spoiled by cold weather and snowflakes, and wearing short-sleeves and sweating in December just never seemed quite right. I would hear Christmas carols playing in the fancy mall and get teary-eyed because I wasn’t at my home church to sing by candlelight on Christmas Eve. Christmas cookies took effort, searching for the right ingredients and adjusting and simplifying to deal with the heat and humidity.
Somehow, though, those little gifts brought joy. I didn’t miss the hustle and bustle of all the shopping and parties and programs, but savored the moments of reading through the Luke account of Jesus’ birth with the AC on and cup of hot chocolate in hand. Our little tree with a few precious decorations made me smile every time I walked into the room, and a pine-scented candle added a special touch as my very favorite carols played from my iPod.
Now, just as I have the last three years, I slow my heart, breathe deeply of God’s peace in the Christmas season. I am learning, slowly, to find joy no matter where I am. I can savor the familiar traditions with my family, baking cookies with my mom, and eating caramel corn next to the real tree with only the Christmas lights on, just as the new traditions in a far-away country have grown precious and sweet. So, as I add a few extra layers of clothing to stay warm against that chilly Nebraska wind, I can smile and choose joy, right here, today.
Check out these posts of Christmas musings from years past, as I’ve wrestled with what Christmas looks like in a foreign country:
Traditions, Old and New (2012)
What Does Christmas Look Like? (2013)
Finding Joy in Christmas Cookies (and in Jesus) (2014)