Give thanks

To me, the holidays bring a sense of belonging. There is a warmness, an extra niceness. 

Yes, the world gets frantic and grumpy when the store shelves aren’t stocked with what we want and the check-out lines are too long and the children need naps and, well, so do we but we still need to make that Aldi stop because Wal-Mart was out of pumpkin pie filling.

But then we come home and the individuality fades and there is a togetherness again, even in the hustle and bustle of a busy kitchen.

Celebrating far from family isn’t quite like this. The sense of belonging is lessened. Not vanished, but subtle, something I need to search for. But those remaining shards are precious too. Even from far away, I belong. And that belonging tints the world with bright, warm tones and I find myself extra happy this Thanksgiving and Christmas season. 

I don’t want to spend the holidays wishing I were somewhere I am not. I choose to contribute to the joy of right here, because this is where I belong too.

Ten things I’m thankful for this year:

  1. the great faithfulness of a loving Father
  2. Spain’s acceptance of my 5-year residency application
  3. the tail-end of COVID-19
  4. friends and neighbors that I bump into every time I step outside
  5. strong family dynamics, even though I live thousands of miles away
  6. music
  7. opportunities to travel and experience other worlds
  8. my team, my “right-here” family
  9. sweater and boots weather
  10. enough, even with climbing energy and food prices

What are you thankful for?


Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Christmas this year

Christmas this year looks different. There is a usual busyness, made busier by a short trip to Africa wedged in between full weeks (more on that later).

It’s my second year of celebrating Christmas in Spain. But unlike last year, this year I have the opportunity to be with friends that don’t celebrate Christmas.

I love Christmas: lights, carols, gifts, markets, chocolates, roasted chestnuts, scarves and winter coats. It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

This year I want to indulge in that warm, fuzzy feeling. I want to enjoy the celebration of Christmas. And primarily, not secondarily, I want to experience a fresh joy and excitement of the Messiah’s birth. A Savior, born into the world, a light born into thick darkness.

He’s still shining.

Sometimes, surrounded by people who know the Christmas story by heart and perform it every year, I forget to savor that first Christmas joy.

My sister has been telling my 1-year-old niece the Christmas story using a miniature nativity set (minus the minor character sheep which may have gone out with the trash).

Telling the story to someone who has never heard it makes the story exciting again. What would happen in my own heart this year if I could share the wonder of Christmas with those who have never heard?

Who do I laugh at?

The sun came and went as ominous clouds marched across the sky. I shivered and wondered why I hadn’t checked the weather before I had walked to the park to study. Winter was coming; that was certain.

On the other side of the bubbling fountain of the garden plaza, a man was stretched out on a bench in front of the bamboo forest. I had seen him there before. He wore several layers of clothing all with that grimy, unwashed tinge. He was a perfect picture of a North African homeless. But he didn’t bother anyone. Even when he awoke, stood up, and stumbled to another part of the garden.Beside me, just on the other side of the fig tree, were two boys pretending to be men. They smoked cigarettes, played music, and took selfies.

But when the homeless man got up and walked away, the boys gawked at him. Then they whispered something to each other and snickered.

I was angry. If the man had bothered them, I could have understood the sentiment to mock him. But as it was, the man had done nothing to deserve anything less than their respect. And yet they laughed at him. How dare they!

While I was still high on my judgment throne, God asked me, “Who do you laugh at?”

Me? Laugh at someone?

How many times have I amused myself at the expense of another? In short, who do I look at and tell myself I am better than they? Maybe it’s not the homeless man. But it could be the boys smoking cigarettes. And really, does that make my pride any less hideous than theirs?