the learning house

where everyone (especially me!) is learning . . .

Homesick for the Holidays

on December 12, 2012

My husband, George, and I first came to Mongolia at Thanksgiving time, 2004. That’s right, the beginning of the holiday season. What were we thinking??? I can still remember how dismal that first December seemed. Cold. No, cold doesn’t quite do it justice. Hmmm, how about -40, frozen toes, icicles forming on your eyelashes, cold? And dark. No Christmas lights – anywhere. No Christmas trees. No Christmas music playing in the stores.

One afternoon George, trying to create a little Christmas spirit, put on some Christmas music at home. It seemed like a good idea for about 2 seconds – before I knew it, all I could think of was the family gatherings I’d be missing back home, the Christmas Eve candle light service we wouldn’t be attending, and several other traditions we wouldn’t get to participate in . . . and I was instantly home-sick. Picture me curled up in the fetal position on our bed. Needless to say, we didn’t listen to any more Christmas music that holiday season. We didn’t embrace Christmas at all that year – we just tried to get through it.

I’m happy to say that we’ve come a long way since that first Christmas . . . We have a Christmas tree adorned with hand-crafted ornaments made by little hands . . .


And an Advent Calendar to help us teach our kids the significance of Jesus’ coming into the world and to anticipate His birth . . .


And gradually as our young family grows we are developing new traditions. One tradition that I started after our first was born is making a photo calendar each year to give to all of our extended family back in the States and Canada. Not only is it a great keepsake for myself and fun to look back on highlights of the year, but our family appreciates it since they don’t see the kids throughout the year.


Our kids, now 3 and almost 5, know there will be gifts in their stockings and under the tree this year but they also know that the reason is Jesus’ birthday and that we give gifts at Christmas to show our love for Jesus and others. Yeah, they’ve heard of Santa in some movies and storybooks but that’s about it. They’ve never sat on Santa’s lap or heard of a wish list. In fact, the other day George asked our daughter what she wants for Christmas and she didn’t even know how to respond . . . she just stared at him with a confused expression for a second and then shrugged her shoulders and said, I don’t know. I’ll just know it when you get me it. I’ll just see it and then that will be what I want. I know it won’t be like this forever, but boy am I cherishing it!

OOAdmittedly I miss some of the razzle dazzle, hustle & bustle, parades, parties & festivities of the holiday season back home, but I’ve come to appreciate the simplicity of celebrating our Savior’s birth on Christmas. So although throughout Mongolia, December 25th still comes and goes like any other day, within the walls of our little apartment something more significant takes place. And the bitter cold and deep darkness are replaced with warmth and light.


10 responses to “Homesick for the Holidays

  1. Kay says:

    Beautifully written. Love you guys!

  2. Thank you for sharing your heart. I wonder if sometimes people in America take it for granted how much we are able to celebrate with loved ones. Your post has definitely given us something to think about and be grateful for.

  3. Shannon says:

    Around Christmas one year, a waiter who was taking our orders asked my son what he wanted Santa to bring him. He had no idea who Santa was and responded “a taco please.” 🙂 What a sweet answer from your daughter regarding gifts.

    I just love this. Your new traditions are ones worth imitating, and so is the simplicity. He is the Light! May He shine brightly in that apartment! 🙂 Merry Christmas to you and sweet littles!

  4. Linda says:

    Terri, your photo calendar looks like such a happy gift! What a great way to keep the family back home involved in your children’s growing up years! As for Christmas traditions, I try to remind myself that my daughter does not hold any traditions near and dear to her heart unless we develop them as part of her life. We don’t even talk about Santa in our home. Like your children, our child doesn’t yet have expectations of excessive piles of new toys–and we hope to keep it simple that way for years to come. Jesus is the reason for the season! He is the Light brighter than any lights on a tree. Enjoy!

    • Thanks for stopping by – I checked out your blog and really like your focus on being thrifty and resourceful with the goal of being a good steward of God’s gifts. Merry Christmas!

  5. What an amazing picture of victory in overcoming the discouragement of that first holiday! I love your daughters heart. How precious! Merry Christmas!!

    • Thank you. Last Christmas my heart almost melted when my daughter picked up the biggest present under the tree (which was her special gift from us, but she didn’t know it) and brought it over to me and with a big smile on her face said, “Here you go, mama! Merry Christmas!” Kids are just so fun 🙂

  6. Terri, Jorja’s answer is so profound, and so beautiful. I wish that was my trusting, humble, grateful attitude toward my Heavenly Father’s “gifts”. Miss you!!

    • I miss you too – and I love your new blog! You are such an inspiring person with so many fascinating talents. And “amen” to your comment – how freeing it would be to not have so many “wants” but rather just accept the gifts He gives us. Thanks for this reminder and challenge. Merry Christmas!

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