My first Christmas on the field was pretty eye opening for me. Our first Christmas away from “home”was in Costa Rica at language school, which is the last big training step before we arrived in Peru. Granted, we were already having a difficult time… language school is NOT easy, the culture in Costa Rica was very different from what we had expected, our family was having a hard time adjusting, etc. And I guess I just never thought about what Christmas might be like for us as a family somewhere else.
I did have the forethought to pack our family Christmas stockings – so at least something from “home” was there and “normal”
for us. But I had underestimated my attachment to other things that were so tied to our Christmas traditions… my
Christmas dishes, my family ornaments, certain foods… suddenly I realized that these things were not going to be a part of my Christmas this year. And in a mother’s effort to try to make life (and Christmas) as “normal” as I could for my children, I began to go into a manic frenzy trying to find ornaments and things that would help us cope.
Big issue… we were spending Christmas in a tropical country in Central America! Guess what they don’t have? Nothing with snowmen, nothing anywhere close to hot chocolate, no gingerbread houses with snow icing, no cinnamon apple scented candles… none of that! And all the while, leaf-cutter ants were outside my front door destroying a rose bush and reminding me (I think they were taunting me) that I was living in a rainforest country and CI really started to go into a tailspin. I shopped everywhere to find ornaments or decorations that reminded us of home and a traditional Christmas, but to no avail.
So that was the Christmas that we had a tropical Christmas tree. We had a tree and we had decorations, but that is where the similarities to our traditional Christmas stopped. Our ornaments were tropical birds and rainforest butterflies, tropical flowers and brightly colored ribbons. It was different! (Okay, it was actually pretty. But it was tough to break the traditions from home.)
There was some normalcy – on Christmas Eve, our Costa Rican church held Christmas Eve services, complete with Christmas hymns and candles and full of families worshiping and sharing the reason for the season – worshiping our Savior Jesus! I
learned a lot that first Christmas away – I learned a lot about me and my ties to tradition, about my worries as a mother, about how other people celebrate in other cultures… but most of all I learned what Christmas IS and what Christmas ISN’T. It was a good lesson and a great Christmas!
Who am I? In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a Southern Living / Martha Stewart wannabe, a soccer mom, and a short term mission team coordinator / intern director for missions in Mexico... you name it, I probably tried it!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the Sarah (14) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading teams and mentoring, I just do it all in full-time service now! And I'm working hard at giving Southern Living and Martha Stewart a run for their money! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers and immigrant peoples, writing, and trying to figure out what life looks like for a Texas girl serving Christ in Southern Europe. Life in His service is AWESOME! I'm happy to share it with you here... Enjoy!