It’s that time of year again friends….the most wonderful time of year! All the great food, Christmas trees, carols, fairy lights, parties, and our own traditions.
I’ve been living away from home working with YWAM Townsville for over 13 years now, and I’ve been married for six of those. Before I was married, I went home every year for Christmas, it was family time – I loved the traditions, the memories, and all the nostalgic moments that made Christmas meaningful to me. An angel I made in kindergarten was always front and centre on Mum and Dad’s mantel piece with a ping pong ball for a head, and a gold paper doily as a dress. Our Santa stockings were huge – like a metre tall – and contained things like whoopee cushions, fake dog poo and chocolate coins. My Dad always got landed with having to wrap all the presents for our grandparents, cousins, aunties and uncles. He wrapped them all on a fold-out table in the lounge, as carols played on TV. We would make fun of the cheesy American Christmas movies, full of snow and hot cocoa as we sat in our shorts and t-shirts.
And when I was 12, I was given Hanson’s “Snowed In” Christmas album (any 30 something’s out there that have this album?) from then on it became a tradition for my mum to sing along to Hanson’s version of “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree” while literally rockin’ around the Christmas tree (if you know my Mum, this won’t surprise you at all). As I list these traditions it makes me feel all sorts of warm and fuzzies, all the inside jokes, so much laughing, and a bit of fighting too…one year my Mum even cancelled Christmas (don’t worry, after some groveling from my brother and I, it was back on again).
And then family changes; our once-was four person family now includes my husband and my brother’s wife, and my four nieces and nephews. We usually spend Christmas together once every two years as we balance our work here, as well as time with my husband’s family. It can be a bit sad when you realise that the Christmases that you once knew will no longer be. But, it’s a new season and with that we have the opportunity to make new traditions and memories.
My husband, Matt and I are spending Christmas at our YWAM campus in Townsville this year. Instead of spending it with our families, we’ll be spending it with 100+ other YWAM workers – for most of them it is their first Christmas away from home. Matt and I have spent the Christmas season at the YWAM Townsville campus a few times now, and we’ve grown to love it as we’ve created new traditions, embraced the tropical heat, and the fact that we will celebrate the season with people we’ve only just met from all over the world. Our new traditions have come as we’ve embraced this next phase of our lives and have accepted Townsville as our home. We attend our city’s Carols by Candlelight and gather with friends to sing carols on a picnic blanket, in a park, with food and plastic light up candles. We consider which of our staff and students on campus we want to bless that year, and put surprises in their stockings on Christmas eve.
We volunteer at a city-wide Christmas event, where Townsville’s beach-front is transformed into the town of Bethlehem. We buy buckets of mangoes from the side of the road for super cheap, and eat them throughout December and January. We host a lazy Christmas breakfast or dinner at our apartment and eat from a buffet of food before we watch a movie in our fat pants with the air con turned up. And my favourite thing of all – we spend it with so many that are also away from their family, because we all chose this beautiful life called YWAM missions. The campus is our home-base that we all come back to after being out on the field – it is like coming home to Mum & Dad’s in many ways; full of care for one another, laughter and warmth. We are each loved, accepted and safe here. Even though we come from different countries and backgrounds, we are united by the fact that we all want to make a difference with our lives, and we have so much fun doing it.
Perhaps your life is changing and you’re struggling to accept the new. I fully agree with the saying “change is as good as a holiday.” If we allow it to, change can refresh our soul, expand our hearts, teach us new things about ourselves, and give opportunity for greater joy and fulfillment. As we wrap up 2017 and look ahead to a new year, may we each embrace the new that may come our way. Here’s to a greater measure of courage to take a step into the new season before us. Here’s to accepting a new place as home and here’s to allowing new people into our lives.
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Anna is from Australia and has been on staff with us for 13 years now. She works as the Communications manager and loves doing what she does! She enjoys coffee and telling others stories. A fun fact about Anna is that she’s been on 33 ship outreaches!