Well hello there. It's been awhile. I've neglected my blog for quite some time but I've dusted it off and plan on breaking my 4-month-long blogging silence by spending some time reflecting on Christmas cards/photos of the past. With each photo, there's a story that chronicles our first few years overseas.
Let's start with Christmas 2011, shall we? Little Man's first Christmas. He was just a wee, little 4-month old. At this point, we had already moved out of our house and were hopping around between our families' homes until we moved overseas. We spent Christmas day at my parents' house and I'm pretty sure we snapped this family photo with a phone and sent it via text to our loved ones. I enlarged it so you can see those high-quality pixels (#blurry). Even though we had already sold most of our stuff via three yard sales and a "For Sale" album on Facebook, we were still up to our eyeballs in things we wanted to keep and store or pack up and take with us overseas. We became very aware of how much stuff we had accumulated in such a short amount of time.
By Christmas 2012, we were already living overseas. When we first arrived, we lived in another family's house for about 6 months. Then, we finally moved into our own house...a mere 2 months before the Christmas season. I gathered/made as much as possible, avoiding the high-priced decorations in the stores for as long as I could. I got some free stuff: a hand-me-down Christmas tree (pictured below) and some hand-me-down stockings (which we're still using this year). I made some stuff (only half of it survived to see another Christmas). And I finally purchased a few things to balance out all the handmade decor (hellooo tacky red and gold ornaments and multi-colored string of lights). It's worth mentioning, the tacky ornaments I bought didn't even come with string/hooks. So I had to thread, cut, and tie some white string through all of them before we could hang the ornaments on the tree. Fun times...
I knew I wanted to take a family photo so we could at least email our friends and family a Christmas card. I set up the camera on our shoe shelf, told everyone to get in their pajamas, grabbed a Christmas cookie to bribe our 1-year old to smile, and then we all said "CHEESE!"...and then we had to regroup and say "cheese" a few more times. And yes, I'm letting my child chew on a small bottle of hand-sanitizer to keep him happy. I guess the cookie wasn't even necessary.
Also, I thought my camera skills were the bomb.dot.com at the time (I mean, it wasn't a photo taken with a phone this time). But now I'm seeing that I still had a lot to learn in the photo-taking department.
Christmas 2013 had me feeling a little more on top of things. I tried out all sorts of new recipes, projects, and gift ideas. We purchased less-tacky ornaments for our 6-ft tall tree. We tried to do Elf on the Shelf and I found out I'm definitely one of those parents who needs an alarm as a reminder to move the elf. I even wrote a Christmas poem where I managed to both tell about events of our year and make it rhyme. Boo-yah.
And check out the Christmas card. We used a self-timer again. Same camera. Better lighting. Festive hats. We got that photo on THE. FIRST. TRY. As in, *beep beep beep*, snap photo, annnd we're done! It was a Christmas miracle. It's a good thing too because I don't think we would have been able to hide our sweat for long. There was truth to my witty, Christmas card tagline.
While Christmas 2013 proved that it is possible to hit a home-run with Christmas decor, food, homemade gifts and family photos all in the same year, Christmas 2014 has reminded me that all of that stuff isn't what's important during this season.
In October, we added a cute little princess to our family. Long story short: because I gave birth to her in another country, her passport took a little longer to get processed. Then we had to get new visas. We were finally able to come back home the first week of December.
Not only was there not a single Christmas decoration out once we returned home, but our house had flooded while we were gone. Thankfully we had friends and a house helper who had cleaned up the major damage while we were still out of the country. Unfortunately, mold moved in and was here and there and everywhere. I had some cleaning to do before I could decorate. I also had (still have) unpacking to do from my 3-month-long maternity leave spent in another country. Needless to say, I'm still throwing last-minute decorations up just a few days before Christmas. So don't be surprised if you still see Christmas decorations in the background of my Instagram photos in February...
I didn't try to do a self-timer photo this year. That probably would have ended in tears (my tears). I enlisted some last-minute help from a friend before she headed back to the States for the holidays. She did not disappoint. She somehow managed to get some great family photos despite the fact that Little Man was in a mood right from the get-go and Little Miss is 7 weeks old, so she's supposed to be unpredictable.
Since this was a last-minute idea, my attempts to make us all matchy-matchy was somewhat successful. For the record, my necklace matches Little Miss's onesie which has a plaid pattern which is supposed to go along with Little Man's plaid shorts, which has a dark blue stripe in it which matches my cardigan and the Mr.'s shirt (War Eagle). I'm going to pat myself on the back for coming up with something that not only matched but looked nice and kept the sweating to a minimum (except for my cardigan...I had to take one for the team with that choice).
-----Reflecting on our family Christmas photos has done my soul good. It's caused both nostalgia and anticipation for the coming years as I've looked back and reflected on not only each of those Christmases in particular, but also everything that happened between each Christmas season.
Growth. Pain. Tears of sorrow. Tears of joy. Laughter. Language learning mistakes... and victories. Hellos and goodbyes.
We live in a country that doesn't make a huge deal about Christmas. There are some decorations and the occasional holiday sale promo in stores. You'll find some larger stores devoting a small section for selling artificial Christmas trees and maybe devoting half an aisle to Christmas decorations. And it's always a pleasant surprise when Christmas tunes are played over the sound system.
At first, it bummed me out...not being able to see Christmas everywhere I looked. But then I realized how much I enjoy it.
I enjoy it because it helps me to remember and focus on the main reason we are celebrating. Each Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus. We celebrate that God himself took on flesh and came to this lowly, sinful world.
Christmas is more than just trees, stockings, cookies, and twinkling lights. And it's more than just a story about a baby in a manger.
This is the day redemption came.
This is the day peace was brought.
This is the day that forgiveness and freedom were made available to all who claim Jesus as Savior and King.
Prepare Him room in your heart this Christmas and for every day afterwards. Amen?