So I was pretty silent here during the holidays, for a variety of reasons. We ended up having a fun Christmas, but we are still so, so busy and can’t wait for our deadlines.
But Christmas Eve, we were having a rough day. The electricity had repeatedly gone off and back on all week, but we just weren’t in the mood on Christmas Eve. We were homesick and wishing we were with our family in the States, who were all getting together in Oregon and in Texas. I was fighting a stomach bug all week (there’s a bout of giardia going around here), and it was mild enough to allow me to be up and about, but rough enough to keep me home bound.
Worst of all, though, was that our packages of Christmas presents from the States never came. We ordered most of our gifts, had them sent to parents, and then they sent them to us — but the mail being the unpredictable service here that it is, the packages we were praying would arrive before Christmas are still somewhere en route (and hopefully not floating in the middle of the Atlantic).
Thinking about the gifts in those boxes — the stocking stuffers for the kids, my gift to Kabob, and a few other things that would just make our holiday a bit brighter — made me really bummed. I had a horrible attitude, I admit.
The evening of the 24th, we packed up the kids and went to the nearby store to find replacement gifts. It didn’t help my mood, because I was annoyed that to the general public, it was just another day to run errands and buy groceries. It makes total sense, since most people here don’t celebrate Christmas, but I guess I was searching for some Christmas spirit, and it tailspinned me further in my downward spiral to fight the crowds of grocery shoppers.
The other thing that frustrated me was the quality of stuff available for the amount of money. This was not new to me — almost everything here is pricier than goods in the States, and it’s usually not as well made. It’s the very reason why I don’t buy toys here. So I was so annoyed to pull out cash for toys that were just so… cheap. Cheaply made, but more expensive than something of higher quality I’d buy in the U.S. I knew we had fun stuff en route, so to replace it with plasticky things, it just churned my stomach.
Did I mention I had a bad attitude?
So anyway. Back at home, the postman delivered a package, and it got my hopes up. But it wasn’t our package — it was a surprise care package from our dear friends, Jonathan and Kerin. Inside were some spices, chocolate chips, Craisins, and a few other little treasures we can’t buy here. There was a Matchbox truck for Garbanzo and some markers and a handwriting kit for Chickpea. Brooke had thrown in an awesome scarf for me. They included some Ghiradelli cocoa.
I burst into tears.
There was nothing big in that box, but it didn’t matter. It could have been filled with Saltine crackers, the point was that someone was thinking about us. I think that’s what was bothering me so much. I felt alone. I was missing our home culture, our family, our friends. I didn’t want to be here.
But that little box spoke volumes to me, and it brightened my day considerably. Jonathan, Kerin, and their kids took the time to fill a little box of things they thought we might like, they went to the post office, they spent their money on postage to send things to our home, and we were on their minds while they did all this. We weren’t forgotten.
And then the next morning, when Chickpea was absolutely giddy to see that Santa had indeed come and filled our stockings, it reminded me that gifts just don’t matter. They don’t.
Chickpea could care less that the candy in her stocking was candy from here. It didn’t bother her a bit that the gifts were not what we ordered from the States — she didn’t even know about those things. She was just happy it was Christmas.
My attitude was much better come Christmas Day. God had gently reminded me what the season is about, what the festivities are supposed to remind me of — the best gift of all. Our friends came over that afternoon, and we had a laid-back day of snacking, relaxing, and playing a round of White Elephant.
I suppose that package is still on its way, and those things will simply be moved on to become birthday presents. That’s fine. It doesn’t matter. God is with us here, and that’s all I need. And He’ll continue to sustain me.