What a wonderful time of year to remember and reflect.
For some it is a season of stress. Deadlines looming. Expectations crushing in. Disappointments highlighted.
For some it is a season of hope. A Savior was born. Family and friends share meals and fellowship. Joy and love ignited.
So, as I move into the waters of remembering Christmases gone by, I expect a mixture of emotions. And overall, I would say this season is a season of HOPE. A time to remember the good that is still surrounding me in this crazy and mixed up world today. Some complain about all the lights, tinsel, and songs that inundate us in this season. For me, I enjoy the festive mood that this brings. It reminds me to celebrate life and all its goodness.
Now as an expat, I try to find the stores that have taken on the Western culture of decorating for the season. I decorate my home, even though in a more modest way these days. And I love hearing the Christmas carols that speak of the true meaning of Christmas as I walk through shopping centers. I love this especially in countries known for religions that are not Christ centered. This brings a memory to mind, being in a mall in Thailand (known for their Buddhist worship) and hearing What Child is This playing.
What other memories come?...............
I think of the Christmas mornings as a young child waking up to the smell of oranges and other fruit in our home. It was a time that our stockings and home were filled with apples, oranges, mixed nuts, and of course candy! Then there were the presents. They were always a highlight under the Christmas tree. AND along with the gifts came time with family and fun together. I love remembering the talks around the table and the happy greetings as family members streamed into the house to celebrate this very special day together. I also love remembering cooking special dishes with my mom. And I remember change.
As I moved through life, Christmas changed. Christmas brought traveling and some years Christmas brought slower and smaller family gatherings as I snuggled into my own home and family traditions with my children. Christmas also brought struggles as I sorted through priorities in the season. Sometimes we had to decide to travel or not to travel. Sometimes we had to decide to make Christmas giving more modest than others to avoid debt. And in the midst of it all, I remember learning to love and to give what was in our hands to give. Sometimes the gift was a phone call to say, “Merry Christmas” and give wishes of love. Sometimes the gift was the gift of self to travel and spend moments together with extended family. Sometimes the gift was to open our home to others outside of our family to welcome them in for a day of celebrating and love.
As I reflect, I think of this question that has probably haunted me at times…"What is the right thing to do at Christmas?” Well, is there really a right or wrong? I would say the foremost thing is to remember what the day is all about CHRISTmas. It is also a day that family can gather together and create memories and family culture. But even more than that, to honor CHRIST in Christmas is the highest form of celebrating. The greatest way to bring honor to this day is to show love. Love can be expressed in so many ways! The number one way I think of is, Forgiveness. Who can you give the gift of FORGIVENESS to this Christmas season? I believe that would be the highest level of celebrating Christmas for this season and every season.
As I run into various expats, especially those from the Western side of the world, there is an independent nature that many seem to possess. It makes a lot of sense that someone who would be traveling this globe to explore and maybe even "find themselves" would carry this strong streak of independence. We could call these expats/travelers/tourists the Lone Rangers of travel.
There is another type of expat that I have also met. The ones who travel with partners.This type seems to be just as common especially as I run into the tourist travelers.They have their buddy or partner with them. Together they are sorting through the experiences of exploring new territory. We could call these the Buddy Systems of travel.
As I reflect on the Lone Ranger and the Buddy System, I remember some travels I took in the States in 2016 while John was overseas. He was gone for a 2 1/2 month stint of time. It had been a looooong time since I had lived life as a "single" traveler and it was an experience!
In times past (before married life), I reveled at the Lone Ranger type of mentality. Independent, self-sufficient, make it on my own, etc. type of ideas. As I faced singleness again for a few months, I noticed something had changed. Along the continuum of life, I had moved from the Lone Ranger mentality to the Buddy System mentality. It's funny how you don't recognize how the strength of another fills your gaps of weakness until they are not there. In those moments your weaknesses are staring at you in your face.
So...As I trekked out in my travels in March 2016 without my buddy, John, I had to improvise. I found that I wanted a travel buddy. I wanted buddies along the way. Being alone was okay, but having the companionship and supply that others bring was much better.
Okay...Are you ready for a chuckle? My first implemented plan to have a travel buddy happened while I was on the road. Who was that to be?? Well, Cinnamon the bear (the picture) came into my life during my first travel destination. It came as a gift at a ladies' conference. A nice cuddly teddy bear that took me back to the comforts of my childhood. So, Cinnamon became that stand-in buddy as I drove to various destinations in the 2 1/2 months of John's absence.
Now, Cinnamon the bear wasn't actually enough because I needed the supply of other people in my life as well. So I found that my connections with old friends as well as making new friends was so valuable for me. I also found that my inner thoughts and meditations with My Father grew even sweeter to me in this time.
By the time that John returned from his journeys, I had found a deeper appreciation for his strengths, wisdom, and simple company. I remember something that had been impressed in my heart during my years of fierce independence. It was such a novel and astounding thought to me in those younger years of life:
"You can be too independent. You need to be interdependent."
I truly thought you could never be independent enough and I scoffed at the idea of "needing" someone to help me.
Now fast forwarding back to current times, I have come to realize there is such a beauty, strength, and high value in interdependence. You begin to see that life is not all about YOU. It is about US. It is about OTHERS. There is a flow of giving and receiving in life. It is a flow that you learn as you experience it. I hope you learn to enjoy that flow as I have.
Click on Read More to see some photos of my Buddies in my 2016 travels. Precious people who enriched my life during that time and even to now.
Cindy writes about her adventures, observations, and other nuggets from living in another nation. She and John live in SE Asia. She will also share nuggets from her 58 plus years of life.