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Celebrations with family & friends…

What are your favorite traditions for Christmas? Did you watch specific things on TV or via DVD during the Christmas holidays? Are there specific things that you really like to eat at Christmas? These were among some of the things that came up in conversations during this year’s family Christmas. Something else that is a part of our family’s time together is always playing games. This year was no different, especially with the gift of Rummikub & Triominos that were given to my cousin’s kids. We enjoyed every one of these and more, together.

Christmas has always been a favorite holiday in my life, and spending it with family has always been a priority as long as I’ve known. I remember one year my cousin was living abroad for the year, and I was super bummed he wasn’t going to be there for the holiday, but much to my surprise he came in on Christmas day as a gift to his mom and all of us! And I like most children, grew up with the sweet memories of Santa, Christmas Eve candlelight services, making butterscotch Chinese noodle cookies with my mom & other special moments celebrating with my family. But when living overseas, life doesn’t always lend to being home for Christmas. So, this year I was extra grateful for the opportunity to go to Austria, and celebrate with family for the holiday.

It was full of seeing the sites around town, including quite a few touristy sites and of course our fair share of Christmas Markets. Some of my faves was taking a picture of my parents kissing in front of “The Kiss” by Klimt at the Belvedere, enjoying the lightness of Monet’s “Waterlilies” & the Raphael exhibit at the Albertina, and even the quirkiness of the unique creation of Hundertwasser. I was of course thankful for the gifts given during our exchange, the greatest gift was being together with them. And though that is an AMAZING gift I realize, the greater gift was given over 2000 years ago when God came to earth in the form of a baby, to not only tell us how much He loves us, but SHOW us by becoming one of us. So, it was really sweet to be in Europe, and to stop into so many churches during our that time where they too were celebrating this miraculous birth.

I’ve now celebrated Christmas in 6 countries around the world, and as I’m learning, living outside of your home culture many celebrations come and go without you there. Whether it’s Christmas, birthdays, baby births or weddings; missing times like these could very well add to anyone’s homesickness. On top of that, so many of these types of celebrations often aren’t recognized as we might at home. Here in Turkey, there are lots of Christmas decorations but it’s really more that they are leading up to New Year’s with the actual celebration.

New Year anew…

As many do as the year comes to an end, reflection was upon me as well. I’m not always about setting resolutions per say, but I do enjoy a good list of “goals” for things I hope for looking forward in a new year. So, as I’ve been catching up on things back at my place today, I have enjoyed reading other reflections of their year. 2017 hasn’t been a year I’d really want to remember much, so I like my friend Jack felt the same, “Happy New Years! I’m ready for the New Year!”. Also, I really appreciated how Jacey Verdicchio put it via my friend Jamie Golden’s FB page, “May we tuck 2017 into bed, with its nightmares and disappointments, its dreams deferred and dreams fulfilled. May we count the losses and the wins, big and small. May we silence the lying, lurking monsters that loom large, like shadows, in our imaginations. May we have the power to topple them, to take them captive, to declare our victory. May we remember that darkness will not have the final word, that it is dispelled with even the tiniest burst of light. May our hearts twinkle like the lights on our Christmas trees, bubbling with hope and anticipation for what’s to come, celebrating what has been. May we open fists that are clenched in anger or anxiety or dread and let go, aware of our emptiness and our inability to fill and fix ourselves. And then may we raise our open hands and return once more to a God who sustains, who is with us in our weakness and our pride and our joy, that He might fill us once more.” I really enjoyed William Haun’s post to help keep a proper perspective on it all, “May God make your year a happy one! Not by shielding you from all sorrows and pain,  But by strengthening you to bear it, as it comes; Not by making your path easy, But by making you sturdy to travel any path; Not by taking hardships from you, But by taking fear from your heart; Not by granting you unbroken sunshine, But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows; Not by making your life always pleasant, But by showing you when people and their causes need you most, and by making you anxious to be there to help. God’s love, peace, hope and joy to you for the year ahead!”.

So, in my efforts to reflect, I’d like to share some of the highlights rather than the hardships.

January 2017 – enjoying the gift of snow days to bake in a beautiful kitchen, beginning wedding planning for Mary Kate & Caleb Goins’ wedding, sweet babies turning 1, a fun partner at work that can enjoy a walk when the day is warm enough

February 2017 – being creative, sunny moments & beautiful views while at work, the gift of work, “It’s a girl” for the Bards, unexpected dinner with friends full of love, pets that greet you like they are yours when you’re at work, reunion of old friends to support another, sick day package from Deb Mills

March 2017 – kids (my friend Sarah’s oldest) hiding under the table, another year for Brian Burns, community group dinner done for you (thanks to Sarabeth Hancock), daffodils, crafting for money, let the bridal showers begin, medical care, sick day baking, #shereadstruthlent, gelato

April 2017 – gift of time with friends from afar (ok Nebraska), a dinner table that’s stood the test of time, the Jenkins crew that’s awesome at fixing things around the house (mine as well as theirs), bathroom renovation, curb appeal work, hosting family for Easter, surprise gifts in the mail, new places to breathe

May 2017 – Mary Kate gets married, Megan’s birthday & donuts, best community group ever painting party, gift crafting, new spots with an old friend, soaking in RVA, meeting Theo Bunch, lasts, little league in NOVA, laying floors, peace after storms, saying goodbye to a house that was a GREAT home, cousins visit Hollywood (cemetery that is)

June 2017 – new direction, Greek food festival (not as tasty as Thessaloniki), celebrating baby Wilson, “yaggies” graduate college (WHAT?!!!), Julia Meadows, Mom’s birthday fun RVA style, baseball & ballet with the cousins, Williamsburg with Deb Mills, spontaneous time with Sarabeth, when you need to have a “last” you eat Secret Sandwich Society, a reasonable HVAC installer, moving the lasts, dinner at a “strange” place with Becca Schneider, fast buyers for my car, looking up, 1 Samuel study, work that really matters with old friends, house sitting when you no longer have a house of your own, gardens (Dave Mills is a great gardener, I just picked a few veggies to share)

July 2017 – MY PEOPLE are the best, locking the door on MY HOUSE one last time, packing parties (almost nightly), a sendoff of so many sweet friends and family, a movie that makes you face HOME, new friends, new places, new city, coffee, rugs, old friends in a new city, friends that let you stay in their home when you have none, veterinarians, guinea pigs, Movement friends visiting, new place, shelter from the storm, Brandon

August 2017 – kids in the apartment building, #First5 app, new teammates but old friends, textile seller, ferry boats, touristing, birthdays, Meredith, SC friends, language organizing, local fresh market, attitude adjustment for a new perspective, beauty, the house sells, technology that allows for connection to home

September 2017 – sacrifice (mine has been made forever more), house visits, fun little boys, a day trip to a “creedal” city, a new look, lunch with a “chef”, refugee children fun, pancakes, picnic day (great weather!!!), sleep over night with the girls, new roomie, Sarabeth & Arthur are engaged!!!

October 2017 – trying out new recipes, language sinking in a bit, a seat on the bus, Pumpkin (thanks Luke), celebrating 6 months for the roomie, chill afternoons to check out the city, fall colors, a day trip to a beach town, get away, finding favorites in a city of millions, residence visa APPROVED, roof top breakfast spot, sun given by the Son, productions on the street (reminders of a past job)

November 2017 – conference trip to warmer place, new perspective, new friends, emotional moments of joy, gifts of meeting other nations, restful refreshment (at least for one day), packing out a friend, airport runs early in the morning (but friends to do it with), gifts from home (thanks Kathy), neighbor friends, Thanksgiving meals with full tables, an adventure to a new land I’ve only heard stories of for over a decade, a gift of seeing an old friend from home

December 2017 – UNESCO sites (from the inside this time), meeting friends’ friend, Christmas trees, decorations (thanks Sarah Cearley for so many of these), pizza and the Sound of Music with the girls, spontaneous dinners with a visiting friend, meeting a professional “championship” basketball player, crafting for a party, family Christmas, notes from home, calls from home & chill New Year’s with the roomies (and a party of kids outside with sparklers)

More to come of those New Year’s goals, but for now what are your highlights of 2017?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrations anew

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