I am sitting in a local cafe working on the computer, listening to Christmas music, pondering the count down until Dec 25th, and sweating from the warm air a fan insists on assaulting me with. It’s the first day of winter!
Formal work at V4Y closed down last week until January, so I have enjoyed relaxing and spending time around Arusha with Violet, Johanna, Laura & Tarik. Friday I will head to Nairobi for 6 days at the Amani Garden Inn. The Inn used to function as a Mennonite guest house so Laura, Tarik, Jacob Martin, and I get discounts for being East African volunteer residents!
The holidays this year have certainly had a different flavor to them. My Thanksgiving was tasty as always though it was with a totally new crowd. And I haven’t really thought much about celebrating Christmas until just this past weekend.
I was shocked to realize how much I missed the familiar Christmas trappings I have known for the past 25 years. Laura, Tarik, and I attended a wonderful Christmas celebration Saturday evening with ten or so Mennonite missionaries and volunteer workers. There were candles, cookies, carols in the background, hymn singing, prayer, and sharing stories of Christmas come and gone.ACC is a local non-denominational international church that feels like home. This is their beautiful side chapel.
Though I was far from cold, my heart warmed at the familiar loving community. During the evening’s sharing time, I read the blog post I wrote two years ago: “My Reason for the Season.”
This is my first Christmas away from home. And away from each of the things I focus on in that post. And yet 9,000 miles away I find the short list of things I’m thankful for each season still ring true:
- I am thankful for a family that loves me, challenges me, makes me laugh till I can’t breath and shows me that life is best when shared.
- I am thankful for the desire to give. To give love, to give gifts, to give my time, energy and knowledge, to give comfort and support.
- I am thankful for good health and a body I experience the gift of life through.
- I am thankful for hope and faith. For me this season blossoms from a religious tradition that starts with a humble birth of a human child. A visceral human experience that brings hope to a troubled world through faith in a loving God.
My Christmas experience cultivates a longing for connection and gratitude. We give thanks with those around us and search for a closeness to a God who became Immanuel– God with us.
Here in Tanzania, I am still thankful for a warm and sunny, loud and dusty Christmas season.
- I still feel the love and support of my family and friends from across the world. I am thankful for the love, the laughter, and the patience of my growing community here in Arusha.
- I am learning everyday the patience it takes to give. To give time and energy to self-care and to keep myself open to the needs of strangers and acquaintances. To focus my best efforts in giving my knowledge, skills, and talents where they can be of use.
- I am thankful for good health. I love going to local gyms for group workouts and figuring out ways to make my local food options keep up a balanced diet.
- I am thankful for my hope and faith in Immanuel. Present even when all the tangible trappings of the season are stripped away. Present even when my focus is too often stollen by the great need, the great suffering, and the many horrors of this world.
I hope your Christmas season draws you to what is most meaningful to you. May you feel love, give thanks, have fun, and exude joy this season! Someone please throw a snowball for me.