While it is still the Christmas Season, we wanted to answer some questions about how we spent our first Christmas in Germany. We were able to move into our apartment on December 17th so that we could have a Christmas at home with our own stuff...but we didn't get as far as decorating or getting a tree. So all of the great after-Christmas-sale stuff I got last year will have to wait yet another year. ;) On the bright side, I didn't have to buy anything new this year and by next year I will have forgotten what I bought last year and just decorating will be like an early Christmas, surprise after surprise. haha
A lot of Americans, as you can imagine, head back to the States for the holidays, but a few are like us and had reasons not to leave. We felt that we were not yet settled in enough to leave and didn't know how to make plans for the animals while we were away...so, we'll head home to PA for family visiting later in the winter. We started talking to some of our American friends who were sticking around to find out what people do for Christmas here, secretly hoping to not have to cook at all...and had several lovely invitations to dinners, activities and parties. We also learned that the Army Base Chapel, where we attend on Sundays, has a Christmas Eve service annually. So we started to make plans...
We planned to attend Christmas Eve service, where we were asked to participate by reading and lighting the final advent candle, the Christ candle...then we planned to go home and open our gifts from family so that the next morning we could take our time getting ready to go on a hike to a hutte/lodge where we would eat Christmas dinner with friends who Ben works with and then sled back down the hill...get home, shower & clean up, go to Ben's office to call home and talk to our families (we still don't have our own phone line...any day now!)...before we headed off with more friends to join a dessert party up the mountain in Ettal.
We did attend the Christmas Eve service, AFTER we had what can only be described as an emotional meltdown resulting from the changes, adjustments, stresses and sadness of missing our family and friends. But God is good and we were able to pull ourselves together and make it to the service. Being a part of it felt really special since we are so new here, but it also felt natural-after all, we were with God's family. The Chaplain, Larry Pundt, gave an excellent sermon on how God fooled the devil at Christmas...reminding us all of God's sovereingty. If you google that title, you can find this sermon, apparently it is popular, but Ben & I couldn't remember hearing it before...and Larry is a man of God with a passionate heart and certainly made it his own.
We did open our presents Christmas Eve. :)
Christmas morning it was raining. So we didn't hike. We did stuff around the house, watched a couple of movies, made nachos and talked more about what had caused me in particular to breakdown the night before...but Ben was able to share a lot of what he is struggling with too. Mostly, the hardest thing has been not having good communication with our support systems. I know we have each other, and that is a true blessing...but when you are both feeling crummy about things and aren't paying enough attention to the feelings of the other...or expressing yourself properly, things get mixed up pretty quickly. So after talking about what we were each having a hard time with, we agreed to help each other out, made some goals and we both felt a lot better about our new life here...when you know someone else is missing some of the same things, it helps!
We did get to talk to our families (except my dad who we left a message for)...and our nephew Logan sang to us...something about his bicycle has no handlebars...he is Brook's son, afterall. :)
We did go with friends to the dessert party and had a fabulous time.
So, our Christmas wasn't a happy or spectacular or fun adventure like we had hoped...but it was certainly a time of reflection...reflection on God's love in the form of the Christ-child, reflection on how we are doing after moving to a new country, a new culture, a new life...relfection on the goodness that God shows us-as undeserving as we are. And it was fun!
Have a fabulous New Year...and remember to reflect on God's goodness in your life!