Merry Christmas! This was our first Christmas in Uganda, and we celebrated the birth of our Savior with some old traditions, and some new. One of the really neat things we got to help out with was a Christmas party for special needs children at one of the local Ugandan churches. (In the photo below, our oldest son, Britt, pretends to listen to music with one of the sweet little girls at the party). I'll do another post in a few days, specifically about that party. It was certainly a very special event that reflected the heart of Jesus and brought a huge smile and genuine joy to each of the children who attended.
Christmas in the tropics is certainly a lot different than Christmas in the wintery U.S. But there's also a lot that's the same. We miss being with our immediate and extended family and friends back "home", but we celebrate with our "family" here. We enjoy people, food, fellowship and traditions. But most importantly, we celebrate Jesus! And it doesn't have to be a white Christmas for that to happen! :-)
Here's a few of the things we've done over the past few weeks. Our old, plastic Christmas tree was shedding pretty dramatically, so it got left behind in Indonesia when we moved here. Faced with the choice of either decorating a live banana tree, or buying another fake pine, we opted for the pine. We keep things simple--just a few lights and basic decorations, though they do include (if you inspect closely enough) a handful of tiny red and green Tabasco bottles, and some pine-scented car fresheners for ambiance.
Decorating the tree is always a fun family time.
One evening a few weeks ago, we had a few MAF families over to decorate some Christmas cookies. We also attended the school Christmas program, and went to several different Christmas and caroling parties. It was all good fun and fellowship.
On Christmas morning, our family enjoyed some special treats for Christmas breakfast--things that we don't get to eat very often b/c of our tight budget, and/or desire to not get too fat. But boy do we enjoy them on Christmas morning!! Bacon! Bacon-friend eggs! Orange juice! And this year--the favorite that we called "Cinnamon Monkey Buns!" They were sort of like Monkey Bread, but made in the shape and pan that Cinnamon Buns would be made in. So they were a cross between the two, and hence the name Cinnamon Monkey Buns. And boy were they delicious!
By their own choice, there weren't many presents under the tree for our children this year. A few months ago they came to us with a "unanimous decision" that they wanted to give up their Christmas presents this year, so that the money could instead be put towards helping our gardener/day guard, who's two cows were stolen (that was his entire life savings) and our house helper who's always dreamed of going to school so she can work in a hotel or in the tourist industry. So with help from both sets of grandparents, other family and friends, and us, we were able to do both of those things, and it was not only potentially life-changing for the recipients of those gifts, but was also a fantastic opportunity for our kids to see and experience the real joy of Christmas and of giving, rather than receiving.
Our little foster boy, who's deaf and has other special needs just could not stop laughing and giving us his million dollar smile Christmas morning. Although he can't hear, he reads people well, and picks up quickly on the moods around him. He can also influence the mood--often bringing much needed perspectives and smiles to situations that otherwise would be frustrating or depressing. He just seems to enjoy life right now! For him, the simplest of things--being loved and accepted--brings great joy and he just can't seem to contain it! So anyway, although although our kids expected nothing this year, in the end, each of our children still got a few small wrapped gifts from grandparents that just couldn't resist. :-)
But the biggest gift they got this year could not be wrapped up and stuffed inside a box. This Christmas I think they learned what it's truly all about! I hope they always continually bubble over with that joy that comes from knowing Jesus and giving His love to others! Indeed, that's what was happening at the Christmas Party for special needs kids that I previously mentioned, and it's been happening right here in our home as well! It's a joy to see and experience!
This is our 8-month old South African Boerboel puppy. She's already about 90 lbs and if she grows as big as her mom, she'll wind up being about double that when she's full grown at three years. She was thrilled b/c she got a little present for Christmas--a foam mat to sleep on. She always wants to be with the family--right where the action is. But now that she has a "bed", she stays on it, rather than trying to lay on the sofa or chairs or us. Everyone wins! :-)
In the afternoon, several of our MAF friends came over. They brought along two grills and a bunch of food and a water slide and we we just had a great time hanging out in the yard and visiting while the kids played. We did Mongolian BBQ, where everyone fixed their own plate of desired veggies and meat and sauces, and then you dumped it on the grill to be cooked to your liking. Fun stuff! And yummy!
Our yard has a general slope to it, so it was the perfect place to put this old vinyl street sign, all soaped and watered up, so the kids could slide all the way down. They had a great time! Probably not the kind of thing most people in the U.S. or Europe would be doing on Christmas day. :-)
After a while, though, it clouded over and got rather cool. For those that had been water-sliding it got down rite cold (photo below). The thunder rumbled and the skies grew dark! During all the years that we've lived overseas, we've always dreamed of a cold and rainy Christmas day--the tropical equivalent of a "white Christmas" in the U.S. It never happened--until this year. This year we were woken up on Christmas morning, very early, when it was still dark, to the sound of pounding thunder and the blindingly-bright lighting strikes. The wind was howling, the rain was pounding on the tin roofs, and we loved it!! Of course, the down side was that we lost electricity, but that was a small price to pay for the "white Christmas" we had hoped for. It kept storming for quite a while eventually fizzling into mist and overcast. It was the perfect morning to stay inside and drink coffee and pretend it was a cold and wintry day. In the middle of the day the overcast thinned for a few hours, just long enough to enjoy the outside activities with our friends
But by 4:30 pm it had started to rain again--hard! We quickly rushed to bring everything inside. Only Hudson was crazy enough to stay out in the cold, hard rain. He was having a blast, and wasn't about to let a little rain end his fun! That's my Hudson--crazy and adventurous, a kid after his dad's heart!
It was a great Christmas! We missed our families back "home", but we're so thankful for the friends and family that God has given us in this, our new home in Uganda, and we're thankful for the old and new traditions. But mostly, we're thankful for Jesus, and the fact that He came to earth to live and die for us!
Stay tuned. I'll soon be posting photos from the Christmas party for the special needs kids.