A few strings of lights & a small Christmas tree + Christmas music on a flash drive & no presents for each other…….. That’s our Christmas is this year. Or is it? We went from years of elaborate decorating with enough lights & decorations inside & out to make Clark Griswold seem lame to minimal décor. We hosted our annual “In Between” celebration which is 1 month of decorating, cooking, ordering chocolates & prep and 120+ people filtering through the house for 6 hours getting their fills as we served them. The holiday season was very special to us.

fileBut really? Is that all Christmas is? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know…. “Jesus is the reason for the season.” I get it! But is it just that? Are we just celebrating Jesus’ birth or should it be something deeper? If I have learned anything in the past year of mass upheaval as our lives were turned inside out moving to this strange land with tribes & cultures so different from our own, it’s that God wants us to see something deeper than what’s just on the surface.

By purging our lives a year ago (it’s almost been a year!!), we gained far MORE than we ever had.

img_4812We lost material things including 20 crates of Christmas stuff & traded up for some things we can’t put a price on. If I could impress one thing upon all of you it would be that there is an amazing freedom in giving up the “American Dream” to see an entirely different vision of life. We can both honestly say as we look back over the past year; we have no regrets. Our path was ordained by the same God who sent His Son into this world through the womb of a special human being. That birth, that baby, is who we celebrate year after year. How did it get so distorted by how many presents are under the tree? The real present, the real Gift is the Savior who lived & died for us who lives again! But it is deeper than that!

img_4842Sure we are struggling this holiday season being separated from our families, friends & our old church family not to mention the fact that we didn’t experience fall & we are now entering into our summer instead of “dashing through the snow on a one horsed open sleigh!” We miss our old house and being able to dress it up nice and open our doors to the masses to show our appreciation for all God has done! But we are surrounded by…….

and this is the MAIN POINT of this article…….. We are surrounded by gifts beyond our wildest imaginations!

img_4740These amazing a.k.a HOPE kids were the main reason we gave it all up to come here. Each one of them is a gift! But that’s, not all! There is the new church family we have, our friends here who have embraced us and us them, and a host of gifs of opportunities to serve. We are celebrating Christmas this year but it has taken on a whole new meaning. God gave us the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

But He also gave us the gift of being here so we can give the gift of our lives to help others!

img_3928Christmas isn’t just a celebration of the birth of Jesus……… It is a celebration of the gift of life we receive here as well! When we abandon ourselves to Jesus and allow Him to use us where we were always meant to be, we realize we have been given amazing gifts in this life & one of those gifts is that we get to give back. Not in material ways…… In better ways……

It is the gift of giving ourselves to others.

img_4340While we miss the routine we had for these last 2 weeks of the year, we are blessed to be able to embrace a new way of doing Christmas! This year we won’t be opening up presents. We will have a Christmas Day church service that I was asked to lead & give the message for. We will spend the day with the kiddos that didn’t head back to Kampala to see their former guardians.

We will get to have Christmas with those who have captured our hearts over here. We won’t have an elaborate Christmas dinner….. We will build a new tradition with a new understanding of what Christmas is all about!

Oh BTW, we are having our “In Between” celebration Uganda style on New Year’s Eve. It will be very small but it will be more than adequate! I am learning as time passes that the best gifts we receive are the ones we give! I have learned that is what life is truly about! [Jesus] “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:10a-11) We have life abundantly here & it doesn’t come in the form of material or monetary abundance. It comes in the form of gifts we never dreamed of ever receiving! Merry Christmas to all of you!

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