Christmas Joy.

Last month I walked into my friend Lori’s apartment it was April and her Christmas tree was up. I laughed and then I stared awhile and I touched (as I often do with most things) a few of the ornaments and branches. WE caught up and had a nice chat over coffee and her delicious quiche. Later, when I was alone it got me thinking though. That Christmas tree. In Morocco. In April. What was Christmas to me? How do I feel around Christmas time? What memories do I have?

Christmas to me is my grandma Meyer’s sugar cookies. Gatherings with both sides of my extended family. Christmas to me was cutting down or finding a deliciously smelling tree, needles on the carpet, my mom rearranging the ornaments we would put up as kids, angel Gabriel at the tippy top. Candlelight Christmas services, silent night, and Christmas morning pajama joy. Stockings, driving around to see the lights, and playing in the snow.

Christmas got me thinking and stirred up so many emotions inside of me. What were my Christmas traditions the last four years? Surely, they weren’t how Christmas was “supposed” to be…but then again- my life didn’t turn out like I thought it always would and I can’t imagine it any other way. The past few years I’ve spent Christmas in sunny South Africa, at 10,000 feet at the top of Germany with family, in South Korea with our tiny tinsel tree.

When I asked my husband what Christmas meant to him he had similar memories to mine, but says it’s always been about the people you’re with. This is the daily struggle of an expat. When I sit down and have time to reflect I know that no matter where we are my heart longs for some distant place, an island we visited, a memory, a feeling, or most importantly family or friends who seem so far away. To say I’ve had some big struggles, with this exact thing the last two years while living in Morocco, is putting it lightly.

I recently read the book Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist and one part really stood out to me and has stuck with me over the last few weeks. I’ve revisited it and read it again and again because. WHOA, hello my life the last two years. There have been dark moments of lonely, sad, and empty feelings. Struggling with our job situation and the darkness of it all would overwhelm me to no end. I would pray. I would cry. I would hold on. But this, it just summed it all up so perfectly:

“The last round of decisions have been made in silence and solitude, and that’s been necessary and healing and challenging. I’ve wanted the committee, and at the same time, I’ve sensed that there are some seasons in which the only way through is alone, a solitary path of listening and learning. This is uncomfortable for me and I’ve yearned to gather around my people at every point, for familiarity, for safety. There are, though, certain passages you have to walk alone. When you arrive at the other side, the people you love the most will be there to meet you, certainly, to wrap their arms around you and walk closely with you once again. But it’s only when we are truly alone that we can listen to our lives and God’s voice speaking out from the silence.”

God has taught me so much the last two years here. It’s no secret that it’s been hard for us- I blogged about it here. I always say that I don’t know many things. I still have so much to learn- but what I do know is this:

He is faithful. He is there in the darkness. He has gone before us. He will honor our commitment. I learned that we needed to be the Christmas light & that Christmas joy that I love so much to such a dark world. That we were here, in Morocco, for a very specific reason. That people would come into our life at exactly the right time. and that it was by no accident. That they would take us in, dark moments and all, and that they would remind us of God’s everlasting love.

and so some seasons you walk alone when all you want is the company of your loved ones. You navigate that darkness, but you become stronger because of it. God used Morocco to bring the silence so that I could listen. Even when I would fumble through terrible internet connections and feelings of isolation & just not being able to relate or connect like I longed for to our peers back in the states. So even though it’s hard having all these Christmases away I know that God drew us near. That even though it feels we are often worlds away and who knows where our next Christmas will be spent– that God gifts us each and every day with so much more than I deserve. That as we anticipate the birth of our baby in about a month that Christmas joy I so often long for isn’t in the things, but the people that God continues to bless us with.

5 years ago around Christmas time Tom wrote me this note and I still have it saved.

JOY.