Being away from home for the holidays is definitely bittersweet for me. In some ways, I'm SO grateful for the opportunity to serve in Tanzania, and be part of God's work here. I'm immensely thankful for the friends who have become family here. I love Tanzania, and the students I get to work with, the friendships I've built here, and God's perfect purpose being fulfilled. MUNGU NI MWEMA! (GOD IS GOOD!)
However, being away from my family, my culture, and the place I've called home for the last 26 years is so tough. All of the traditions, the excitement, the decorations, the cold weather, the parties and get-togethers, and the quality time spent with family is what I'm missing so much. There's a hole in my heart by not being there. But I know that if I was there, I'd also be missing this home here. You may remember my blog post earlier this year: Revolving Doors. They are ever-present, and make living life to the fullest pretty hard.
But, tonight, as my friends and I were worshiping and singing Christmas carols, I was reminded about what life was like on that first CHRISTmas. When heaven met earth, and when our Savior humbled himself to become a baby.
It was just another normal day, for Joseph and Mary. They had traveled far, on DONKEY. I'm about to get in a car and drive 8 hours to the beach in a couple days. I couldn't IMAGINE being VERY pregnant, traveling by DONKEY, in the intense heat. This is my first "summer Christmas" and I am NOT enjoying the hot temperatures. I'm sure Mary would have rather stayed home and taken a cool bath, instead of traveling day and night on a donkey to Bethlehem. BUT she followed God and did what she needed to do to be in the right place at the right time.
I'm SURE she did NOT think it was the right place. The only person she knew in the whole city was Joseph! No family, no friends, no one to care for her or take her in. Not even a hotel room to have her baby in. She was alone. I'm sure she was scared. She probably wasn't too happy about the conditions of where she would be giving birth, either. BUT she was courageous, strong, brave, and was a servant of the Lord.
I was thinking about how I would react, if I was a shepherd, or wise man, who had come to see baby Jesus. Or, even further, if I was Mary, looking down on my newborn son. The Savior of the Universe, in a tiny little body, sleeping in a feed trough for animals. It was dirty, smelly, and not so comfortable, but HE did it for US. Our Emmanuel is HERE. He was born on just another normal day, where the shepherds were trying to stay awake watching their sheep, the city was full of hustling and bustling people, it was HOT and DUSTY, and, still, Jesus was born among us. That leaves me speechless, thankful, and in awe of His unadulterated love for me.
And then I think back to my life here. I have the opportunity to focus on Jesus this holiday season, as there is so much I'm missing. That hole in my heart isn't actually a hole, it's just growing pains. Jesus is still here, and He's not going anywhere. He'll be here when life is messy and unclean, when you're lonely, sad, or just needing someone to be there. OH COME LET US ADORE HIM!!