This will be the first in twenty-three years that my parents and I do not spend the holidays together. Perhaps, for some, the thought of not being together on such a special occasion does not even exist. For them, the concept of spending Christmas away from Mom and Dad is absolutely foreign. But, all-too-often, for global working families like my own, separation is inevitable. The miles cannot be shortened, nor can the expense be lessened, and so we resign ourselves to the undeniable reality: This year will be different.
My older sister and I have been missionary kids since we were very young. We were blessed with holidays at home with Dad and Mom all the way through college. She, who has been out of school longer than I, missed her first Christmas at home three years ago. I guess I hoped my day would never come. But now, as the leaves begin to fade from vibrant green and the wind blows with a slight chill, the days close upon December. I begin to question why Christmas means so much to me.
Being in a global working family meant change. Sometimes I think we defined the word “transition.” Through the age of nineteen, I lived in seven different cities and thirteen different homes. It seems unlikely that my Christmas could hold all the sentimental value it does for someone who spends the holidays in the same home every year.
Yet, through the hard work and constant love of my parents, Christmas has become a time when all the changes are put on hold, and our traditions reign supreme. For us, Christmas meant opening up the same boxes of decorations every year. It meant me at the tree with Dad, my sister picking out just the right music to set the mood, and Mom planning all the holiday meals. The ornaments never changed, we just added a few new ones every year. The tinsel grew thin through the years, but we still used it. The tree lights were years out of style, but none of us could bear to part with them. The pine cones lost their fresh smell, candle wax stained the linens, and here and there you could find a missing piece on this or a torn part on that. These things meant Christmas to us, though, and so we held on to them. No matter where we lived my parents brought those boxes. I always had my ornaments and stocking to put up no matter what town, state, or country we were in. We always read the story of Jesus’ birth before we opened presents. The story was followed by a prayer, and then we each took turns opening gifts. My Dad passed them out, with all of us offering suggestions and hints as to who should get to go first. Whenever someone asks me to describe home, my thoughts turn to the four of us at Christmas, transforming whatever house we lived in at the time, to our special “home.” My parents worked hard to create those precious memories for me. I thank them for giving me a true picture of what home is…traditions and togetherness.
Global working women, your children will cherish memories of home. Begin traditions this year that your children can count on no matter where they are. Moms, if your children are far from home this year, may the Lord bless you richly as you let them know that they are loved and missed in your home.
To my Mom and Dad, may your lives be full this Christmas. The Lord has been so good to us through the years and I am thankful for all the holidays we did have together. As I begin my own traditions, in my own home, I will never forget your example. I pray that my children will feel the “home” of Christmas whether they grow up on the field or in America.
This article is a classic originally published in our early print magazines.