And, so, it is December. The girls went home. Thanksgiving was the same day, so it came and went pretty quickly. I spent it up at the Stocksdales’ home with about 20 other people, which was very fun.
Then, the AIM Conference, where all Eastern region AIM missionaries come together for 3 days of worship, prayer, sermons, fellowship, and fun, took place here on the RVA campus. I didn’t attend all the sessions, but it was a neat time to meet new people – I met a couple who happens to live within 5 miles of my house, and knows my brother’s lacrosse friends from college! Small world, huh? And now, the campus is empty, quiet, and well, rather similar to a Ghost town. But, the quiet is just lovely.
And, it’s Christmastime! Carols. Crafts. Candles. Cookies. Cocoa. Christ’s birth. Community. Charity. Huh? Charity. What’s that, right? We live in an age where Christmas has become like a free ticket to jump into a personal funnel of delight, where each person is dragged away from the wide-rimmed top of community with others, to a narrow hole of self-indulgence and pampering.
Fruit Cake, I say! 🙂 It doesn’t have to be this way, my friends.
According to the Puritans, “Charity and its Fruits” (a book I remember my Dad reading a few years back) is the Love described in the classic passage in 1 Corinthians 13. And, one of those fruits is that Love is not self-seeking.
When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t help but think, “Wow, it’s December. This is going to be weird, being away from all my family on the most wonderful holiday of the whole year. What will Christmas in Kenya be like?”
And, then, after a split second of self-pity, I thought, “Well, what COULD my Christmas in Kenya be like?”
My dear friend, Susan Stocksdale, said something today that challenged me to make this my best Christmas ever. We were on our hands and knees sanding and varnishing the tiles and wood paneling of the bedroom floor inside the partially-finished cottage home they are building out by Lake Naivaisha, and conversing about Christmas in Africa vs. in the U.S. She commented on how much more enjoyable Christmas in Kenya is than in the States, because it is so much more focused on the poor, the needy, the sick, the suffering, and the lonely- and, therefore, more meaningful and fulfilling. For example, RVA staff and families will be delivering packages door-to-door to local Kenyans the week of Christmas, as well as doing Caroling by Candlelight on Christmas Eve to the local orphanage and elementary schools. Many staff members also keep presents minimal, and just focus on spending time together as friends and families. There will also be a ladies’ Cookie Exchange, a Potluck Dinner, and a Christmas Eve Open House. Personally, I am planning to have Emily and her two daughters, Mary and Rose, over for a meal and cookies and Christmas stockings as well. Our Kedong compound will also be giving a nice basket of goods to our outside garden worker, John, for him and his family.
Then, I thought, what if I created a special Christmas Charity Challenge (“CCC”) for myself?
CCC. It would be as simple as this: plan and do one intentional act of charity/service/kindness to somebody each day of the month of December. Even if I am doing things that are personally fun (Safari this weekend, a Kenyan wedding in two weeks, climbing Mount Kenya after Christmas) I can still keep my eyes and ears open, and see how I can serve or show love to another, right? Just because I’m on “break” from dorm parenting, there really isn’t any reason that I need to suddenly hold up my “rights box” and claim self-indulgence and pleasure and relaxation. Yes, refreshment and catching up on sleep and rest. But, also charity.
So, as today was December 1, my CCC #1 was serving the Stocksdales by going out to their cottage and helping them do interior prep work – sanding, scrubbing, sweeping, mopping, varnishing, and painting. I must admit, it was just so wonderful to get dirty doing something physical and tactile! We had a great time in the process – and the cottage is going to be a beautiful retreat of sorts. And, guess what? I was entirely blessed at the end of the day, because I made a memory with some great friends, ate a secret-recipe Chocolate Chip Walnut cookies that Susan made called a “Grazelle Cookie” which was delicious, and found out that they are giving 1 free night’s stay to each person who works 1 day on the house. So, there you have it – it is more blessed to give than to receive! 🙂
CCC #2. Not sure yet. We’ll see what tomorrow holds.