When you live on the backside of the desert… in a land that has not traditionally recognized your favorite holidays and special life moments the way you always have…
…it’s easy to feel at a loss as to how to make those moments special.
Which sometimes encourages me to not look forward to those times.
Let me admit right off the bat, guiltily, that I often have dreaded days that should have been, instead, special highlights for me and for those I love. I traditionally think about that a lot during these months. For in a span of 14 weeks, our family celebrates seven birthdays, three big holidays and one anniversary. That doesn’t include any of the smaller local holidays – you know, those ones scheduled according to the lunar calendar?
It is easy to wonder what else to do when you are hot and tired, when you are already all idea-ed out, when there is comparatively very little locally available and when nine-tenths of the even remotely appealing ideas (via Pinterest) require so much work, first to figure out and then to find appropriate substitutes for all that is not available – but would have been so easy to get… if I could’ve only gotten myself to a Walmart.
I so clearly remember a particular conversation I once had with a group of other local expats on this very topic…
We’d get together once a week, moms and their mostly preschool-aged plus a few younger home school-aged kids. Moms would talk while kids played. That grouping of ladies from so many places and backgrounds and histories was a God-send, an initial wealth of how to’s, where to’s and how to’s – at least for me, a then still young mom and relatively new to the country. A few years passed and I had definitely “learned the ropes;” still this ever metamorphosing group continued to be a great resource and a place to brainstorm really important things such as strategies for making homemade marshmallows, ideas for birthday party games or how to convert sheets of gelatin to the teaspoon measurements in all of our US cookbooks.
In that particularly memorable discussion, we were talking about different “date” ideas. My husband and I had, fairly recently, celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary. He and I’d already started brainstorming – considering different ideas of something, anything really, special AND different we could do the following year for our tenth. Only we were coming up with a blank. So I thought I’d throw that question out to my group of mom-friends.
They had lots of ideas.
Only one problem: their suggestions basically echoed everything we’d already considered… pretty much all the same sort of stuff we’d do for a regular, ho-hum-sorta date night. More than a bit discouraged and thinking I’d say something funny to change the topic and move on to something else, I made a flippant comment, something like “Knowing my luck, I’ll end up spending my tenth in labor having baby number six…” We all laughed and the bavardage prattled off in who knows what subsequent direction.
I didn’t really remember that conversation until I found myself in a clinic, in labor, on my tenth anniversary. Our second boy arrived that evening, even though I begged the midwives for some strategy to slow labor down, striving to wait for midnight. Not many laboring women want it to last even a few seconds longer – particularly not in a developing world clinic where pain management is bring your own tylenol. I was more interested in the fact that really didn’t want to share our anniversary, so I was hoping. (I’d certainly never make the claim of being either logical or rational while in the delivery room.) It didn’t work, and since that evening, we’ve shared our anniversary with the best anniversary gift ever.
Needless to say, God gave us a memorable way to commemorate our tenth! Today we laugh and remark that God certainly has a sense of humor! However, we’re definitely not planning a repeat for our next “big” anniversary.
But that brings me back to this:
Can anyone else identify with this struggle to make special life moments unforgettable when you live, work and minister in circumstances inconvenient to easily do so?
Please share what you do… have done… or presently plan to do… to make this Christmas season, an upcoming birthdays, or a soon anniversary, etc., a wonderful time where those involved feel loved and celebrated or know beyond any shadow of doubt that they’ve participated in beautiful and meaningful traditions?
Do you have a particularly memorable holiday or special day story that you’d be willing to share with the rest of us?
What traditions does your family include (or have you adapted) that make holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving special and feel like home for you?
– Richelle Wright, missionary on home assignment from Niger, W. Africa
blog: Our Wright-ing Pad ministry: Wright’s Broadcasting Truth to Niger facebook: Richelle Wright