Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I'll Be Home For Christmas...If Only In My Heart

    Again a month flies by since my last post, and yet it feels like I have a year's worth of stories to tell.
Thanksgiving has come and gone, Christmas is well under way, and I have said my goodbyes to the students as they go home for winter break.
    I was pleasantly surprised to find myself feeling sad to see the students go home for the next month. Of course I am happy that they will have time with their families and friends, to relax and celebrate the holidays, but I will also miss them and their enthusiasm each sunday and hearing their "lows, highs, and hows (God moment)" each week. It has been such a blessing watching each of them find their way to Jesmond Methodist Church, and seeing how they have settled warmly into their role as a part of this family.  I look forward to when they return, to see them reunite with the community, to hear their stories from home, and continue to watch them grow in each of their personal faith journeys.

    I have to be completely honest, and admit that facing the Holidays away from home is not the easiest part of this year.  It will be my first Christmas without snow; without reuniting with childhood friends; without hiding our nativity's baby Jesus until the 25th: without disturbing the late night Christmas Eve service in fits of uncontrollable laughter or setting my mother's hair on fire (great story to ask me about sometime); without peacefully sitting around our tree after the service; without monkey bread and mimosas and an argument or two about who gets to sit in the big chairs christmas morning; without being the designated gift distributor...without my family. Those who know me well, know that I like tradition and am not the biggest fan of change, but here I am living in the reality of change, and knowing that all my Christmas traditions will go on without me this year.

    Now before this post gets too dismal, I want to tell you about a few things that have been pulling me through the fact of spending the Holidays half way across the world.

  • Getting a tree with my flatmates and decorating the flat while all singing along to Christmas music (for a moment, it was as if we were in a cheesy hallmark movie).
  • Filling up my schedule with carol singing, christmas concerts, and Holiday meals with the JMC community.
  • The invitations to become apart of another family for Christmas.
  • The Christmas cards being sent and received each day.
  • The chance to bring love and laughter to international students who will also be away from home this Christmas.
  • And ironically enough, the thing that has helped the most has been the chance to learn about so many new Christmas Traditions here in Britain:  new songs, new christmas fairytales, new traditional Christmas foods, new words for familiar Christmas bits and pieces, and even new snacks for "Father Christmas" on his big night-- milk and cookies in the States, mulled wine and mince pies in England, and whiskey and mince pies in Scotland.  No wonder American tradition is milk and cookies...the man has got to sober up after being over here! Maybe a few of you back home can leave him some water and aspirin this year as well :)
Yes, this christmas I will miss the snow, the traditions and my family back home, but it is beyond explanation how worth it the trade is to have this opportunity. Christmas will be different and 8 hours earlier than usual...but with a community like JMC, I know I won't be alone.

Happy Christmas :)
...or as the Gordies say..."Calm doon an' ha' ya' sel a canny Christmas! Cause Santie is comin to toon!"

PS: if you would like to hear about my Big Thanksgiving Meal here, then send me your email address and you will receive my next Newsletter :)

Here is a sneak peak into Thanksgiving:
-one of the 10 pumpkin pies I made for Jesmond's first Turkey Day Celebration! I was also able to celebrate down near Durham with Abby (another YAGM up here in the Northeast!)