This Christmas season was not anything like I’ve been conditioned to know, and I’m pretty sure every person reading this can guess why.
I was actually kind of looking forward to getting out of the routine Christmas. I was actually looking forward to spending a Christmas away from home, and find out what it’s like halfway across the globe.
Since the kids are still behind in their school, we continued to do work until the 22nd. Later that day, I went to Sydney and Emily’s. At that point, I really didn’t know what I was going to do on Christmas Day; spend it with the Sperlings, or with Sydney.
As the days got closer and closer to Christmas, more and more frequently Sydney and I were getting ripped off. It took us forever to get a taxi that day. There had been three major accidents, and traffic was a little crazier than usual. After we finally flagged one down, about five minutes down the road, someone got out and the two men in the front seat made me seat up front with them. Sydney got out to follow me to the front seat, but the man stopped her and made her sit in the back again.
“Don’t worry,” he said, “I won’t take her. She’s safe.”
We drove maybe another ten minutes after that, and passed the first accident being cleaned up; a sugar cane truck had flipped and sugar cane was all over the road. We drove over the crushed sugar crane, and suddenly, there was a loud BOOM directly underneath my seat. My seat got really hot; there was definitely something wrong. The driver quickly pulled over, told me to get out, and flipped the whole seat open to check the engine. Oil was spraying everywhere. Sydney quickly hopped out, we flagged another taxi, and set on our way again. Normally, we’re charged 2,000 shillings each; we were charged 6,000 shillings instead. Merry Christmas. At that point, we didn’t even care. We just wanted to get home. It took us two and a half hours to get 30 km.
“Thank you, Lord.” I said as soon as we got home. We couldn’t have been more grateful for God’s protection.
After running some errands in Jinja with Sydney the next day, I went home to spend Christmas with the Sperlings. It’s definitely weird to think it’s the “Christmas Season” when it’s 27 degrees, there’s green grass, and there was no Christmas Eve service to get prepared for. As Christmas Eve was ending and Christmas Day was quickly approaching, I started to feel a bit antsy.
I woke up Christmas morning not really knowing what to expect. The kids were so pumped. All of them were hyped up even more than usual and we waited awhile for everything to be put under the tree.
Meanwhile, I saw a spider crawling up the wall and onto the roof. It was the size of my hand. The kids really loved making me squirm by telling me they’re going to catch it and put it in my hair. Real cute, guys.
Update: the spider crawled down the hallway, into the unknown. It is nowhere to be found. I continue to close my bedroom door, since it is too fat to crawl underneath the door.
Stockings were first. I really wasn’t expecting anything at all, but the mini-stocking was so cute and filled with Ugandan candies, a bracelet with my name weaved into it, a litchi fruit and a couple of candy canes. We ate breakfast, where I brought out the Nutella. I kind of made that to be my Christmas present for the kids; they couldn’t have been more excited. Then, we celebrated the last Advent with a devotion, and started on the gifts. Again, I wasn’t expecting anything at all, but Chris and Jane bought me a Ugandan, soccer jersey. It fits perfectly! After playing ping-pong with the kids for awhile, we cleaned up and ate an early Christmas dinner. Christmas dinner was beautiful; mashed potatoes, rice, turkey, gravy, Coke-Cola, orange Fanta, freshly made juice, and carrots and zucchini. It was just gorgeous.
I then took the opportunity to go to my room and slip into a turkey coma. Only, it didn’t happen. Instead, I suddenly slipped into a moment of weakness. I suddenly came into the realization that I wasn’t around any family. No eggnog, no hugs and kisses from my parents, no snow falling, no seeing my family’s faces when they open their presents, no hearing any of their joyful laughter, no reading from the Bible storybook before presents, no eating Dad’s famous egg sandwiches for lunch, no playing games after lunch, no sparkling apple juice, no waiting for the Johnson’s and the rest of the family to show up for dinner, no waiting for more company to show up for dessert and games.
I guess you could say that it all hit me like a train.
I began to cry. I cried and cried, curled up in my bed while holding onto a sweater I stole from my Dad a few years ago. To make me feel even worse, the internet plan had run out, so I couldn’t even message my family to tell them just how much I really missed them. I went on my laptop, and watched all the videos and photos of family and friends from my phone. Oh, my heart ached.
I opened up my Bible app, and began to look up verses to comfort me. And then the most valuable lesson I have learned in Africa so far was revealed to me.
This is a sacrifice.
How much more of a sacrifice it was when Heaven first sent down the Son of Man to earth that night.
How much more of a sacrifice it was when Christ gave Himself for me.
How much more of a sacrifice it was when Jesus denied Himself on the cross, and took my shame, my guilt, my sin, my brokenness.
Christmas seems to have a new meaning for me. So many years, I have known that Christmas is about Mary, and Joseph, and The Shepherds, and the birth of Christ, and blah blah. We all know the story. But Christmas, to me, also meant family. And when I didn’t have that for the first time, things got real. My heart was given a real reality check. Christmas really isn’t about family, like every Christmas movie makes it out to be. It really is about the first step of the biggest sacrifice ever to be made.
After sitting in a few moments of silence while this all processed through my head, I could hear The Lord saying to me, “It’s okay, I’m right here. There’s nothing to fear, or be anxious about. I am with you.” As my vulnerable soul shared its fears and struggles, He comforted me with the joy and comfort that I am right where He wants me to be. He reminded me that I am following His will, and there’s no better place to be than right there. He also reminded me that yes, I am giving up a comfort. I am giving up a sacrifice, but I will be rewarded with a treasure in Heaven far greater than any Christmas here on earth could give me. In fact, my reward in Heaven will be far greater than any earthly thing here on earth.
The fact is Christian life is really all about the daily sacrifice of the deepest parts of our very being.
(Ps. 51:17, Luke 9:24-27, Rom. 12, Heb. 13:15-16, Phil. 3:8…just to name a few references.)
After about an hour and a half of being in my room that afternoon, I finally went outside and joined the rest of the Sperling family hanging out in the yard. They couldn’t have done a more amazing job of making me feel as part of the family. I have a real, deep appreciation for each of them. I was even more ecstatic when Chris told me he was getting more internet so that I could FaceTime with my family that night, or their early afternoon.
Overall, Christmas was a great success. It’s the most I’ve ever learned about the true meaning of Christmas.
And I mean, come on; how many people do you know that can say that they spent Christmas in Uganda?
On Boxing Day, Sydney picked me up with another lady I hadn’t met before. I wasn’t feeling too awesome, but I decided to suck it up. After being introduced and driving about 4 minutes down the highway, I told them they should probably pull over cause I was about to puke my guts out.
Yep. I sure did. Hands and knees on the side of the highway, puking into the grass. I quickly got up off the ground, wiped my face off, ate a piece of gum, and I was set to go.
Nice to meet you, Sheila.
Sydney and I had another great bonding time; and we had a rental car so it only took us twenty minutes to get home instead of two and a half hours! We spent the day hanging out with the babies, watching Fear Factor, made a supermarket run, made a delicious dinner from scratch that I honestly didn’t even know I was actually capable of helping to make, reminisced about Christmastime being different, but how what we’ve learned from it, and sharing an overall, beautiful fellowship time.
I cannot seem to stress enough how sweet it is to have a sister in The Lord here. Thank you, Lord, for that extra-special blessing of having a little piece of home right here in the thick of it.
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33