Christmas in 2015???

I have already stated that this is a weird Christmas… our last in the beautiful AQP. I can’t help but wonder where we will be calling home one year from now. If Greg is accepted into one of his top three choices for doctoral work, there is no telling what Xmas 2015 will look like. (If he isn’t accepted, we are happy with living in middle TN leading up to Christmastime.)

Pasadena, CA (not much different than AQP)

pasadena

Boston, MA (I will have to emotionally prepare for this snow.)

beautiful image of snow covered street with christmas lights on a snowy afternoon in bostons beacon hill

Dallas, TX (not much different than TN)

dallas

 

Christmas in 2015???

The little lights aren’t twinkling, Clark.

I am not one to put out Christmas decorations or listen to Christmas music until at least after Thanksgiving. This year has been different. I am dreading the tearful goodbyes that I know will come during this Christmas season. Dad and Mom arrive on the 17th, and they will be taking the kids on the 28th back to the states. So… all that aside,

I decided to start listening to our Christmas music early. I am really enjoying it. I made cookies this week. Ana, who has a mild case of chicken pox, has been cooped up in the house with me this week. She asked if we could get the Xmas decor out of the box. I took the majority of our decorations back to TN in October, but I kept our stockings and several homemade adornments the kids have made me in our time here. I sold our tree, garland, and lights after the 2013 Christmas season to Manuela’s family. I am glad I did, but we can’t have Christmas without a tree! So… Ana and I decorated today while Maggie and Cohen were in school. This afternoon, we blasted the Christmas music, and all three of the kids and I made homemade ornaments and a paper tree.

Take that, “international move that isn’t going to take our Christmas tree away!” I miss the string of lights, but the kids seemed very happy with our large homemade tree. We are going to make the most out of Christmas cheer until it isn’t so cheerful. ūüôā Making memories 2014!

xmas3
Ana enjoyed helping me make an advent calendar.
xmas1
Ana enjoyed helping me make an advent calendar.
xmas2
Ana enjoyed helping me make an advent calendar.
The little lights aren’t twinkling, Clark.

December 2012

I am behind on blogging about several different events from this month so I thought I would just kill 20 birds with one stone. ¬†ūüôā ¬†This won't cover it all, but here is our December at a glance with some pictures to help tell the story…

1.  Our new Cafe Connection location had its inauguration.  I have been averaging a pan of brownies a week to sell to the cafe.  Business is picking up.  Slowly but surely.

Emilia and the kids standing at the entrance to the cafe. The cafe shares an interior patio with a restaurant in the downtown area.
Emilia and Emilio manning the counter.
Maggie and Ana enjoying their hot drink at the inauguration.

2.  Emilia has been teaching a Christmas series this month for Sunday School.

singing with our house church kids. Emilia knows so many kids songs in Spanish. She has been such a wealth of knowledge.

3.  Somebody got their first major haircut.

before
After. She says she still has “hair like Rapunzel.”

4.  We made Christmas cookies.

the sprinkle queen

5.  Ana's Kindergarten graduation party

the graduate
Ana and Alejandro (they have a history)
father/daughter dance
in all her glory

6.  We have eaten our share of Paneton and hot chocolate this season.

Cirilo shared in the Christmas treat with us one day before his study with Greg.

7.  Christmas dresses that Gram bought last year fit us this year!

aren't they cuties

8.  Greg and I celebrated our 8th Anniversary.

we look a little bit older than our engagement photos. ūüėČ
Aside from a fun date night, Greg wrote me my traditional love letter and I made him a blackberry cobbler… his favorite.

9.  A little paint action outside on the patio.

sibling fun. I love that these three can play well together.

10.  I can't find poinsettas here, but I came up with my own red and white flower arrangement for the season.

my $2.50 bouquet from the neighborhood market

11.  We performed a Christmas drama in both of the schools where I work.  It was our family Christmas project this year.

Don't we look like a great Maria and Jose gringo pair?!
the set-up of the five “casas” that Joseph and Mary visited the night of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem

And Ana sang a solo in the drama…

12.  Our Celebration gathering met the Sunday before Christmas in Naranjal.

the church handed out toys to the children in the community
We got to meet Alfredo and Judith's new sons!!!

13.  A McKinzie Christmas

the “Santa” loot
two little girls wore their helmets nearly all day waiting for the family to go the park to try out their new bikes.
and one sweet little boy got a sandbox (that his Daddy built)
a sweet picture if you ask this momma

14.  An end-of-the-year party for the girls school and a gathering for the teachers and principals I worked with

the two third grade classes, the principal, one of the teachers, and me
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December 2012

Christmas thoughts 2012

I am convinced that many Christians have taken Christ out of Christmas in our U.S. culture.  It has been a blessing to live in Peru and spend almost every single Christmas for the past 4 years here.

1. ¬†Peru is a Catholic culture. ¬†I DO NOT agree with worshipping Mary and the saints, but I love the fact that during the holiday season the focus is Jesus’ birth scene. ¬†There are more nativity scenes than Christmas trees and Santas.

2. ¬†Getting mountains of gifts is not cultural here. ¬†One reason is that the people don’t have the money to spend on tons of gifts. ¬†But their tradition is that the parents buy their children one gift and give it to them at midnight Christmas Eve. ¬†The children might receive gifts from aunts, uncles, or grandparents, but it still isn’t a mountain of gifts.

3. ¬†The Christmas “treat” is fruitcake and hot chocolate. ¬†How many Christmas treats exist in the states? ¬†Even though I am not a fan of the fruitcake, I love the simplicity.

4. ¬†The majority of Peruvians decorate the week leading up to Christmas, and they don’t take their decorations down until January 7 (symbolizing the time of the wise men visiting). ¬†I love this.

Jen Hatmaker wrote an excellent post.  You can read it HERE.  I firmly believe that my generation of Christians is fighting a culture war against Christmas.  I am relieved to hear friends and my siblings share with me that they are making changes.  I want my life to be more simplistic.  How do I teach that to my kids?

Greg and I seem to make more and more changes every year. ¬†I am so glad we are moving in that direction. ¬†Here are some changes that I didn’t grow up with…

1. ¬†This year, our kids are receiving one “big” gift. ¬†We are also stuffing stockings with little things. ¬†We explain the tradition of Santa. ¬†Our kids don’t believe in the white-bearded Santa. ¬†We also stress to our kids that others do believe so they shouldn’t talk about it. ¬†Our kids don’t make a “wish list.” ¬†I grew up looking forward to Christmas because I would make a list of all the things “I wanted.” ¬†I don’t want my kids falling into that.

2.  Every year we do a special Christmas project as a family.  2 years we prepared food baskets for a poor community and had a friend deliver them anonymously.  Last year, we fed a group of homeless men on Christmas Eve.  We try to do something that our kids can participate in.  It is getting better and better as they get older.

3.  On my side of the family, the siblings draw names.  Last year and this year, we have changed to choosing a charity, and giving $50 in honor of that gift we usually bought.  Also, the cousins are drawing names, and giving a book or small gift card.  Simple.

4. ¬†Each year I want to emphasize the Advent season more and more. ¬†I am learning, because I did not grow up with this tradition. ¬†I want our kids to know the details of Christ’s coming forward and backward. ¬†What better way than with storytelling from the Bible? ¬†Again, it helps that they are getting older. ¬†I want the emphasis to be Christ.

These are just a few things we are doing differently. ¬†I still decorate, but I am considering taking Santa out of the decor. ¬†Many Christians struggle enough with their view of God. ¬†How many people view God as an old man looking down from heaven wagging his finger at them? ¬†This isn’t a healthy view at all. ¬†But isn’t that what we have turned Santa into? ¬†I remember when Ana was three. ¬†She was crying that December. ¬†When we asked her what was wrong, she explained that she didn’t want a scary stranger coming into her house at night (referring to Santa). ¬†We explained exactly who “Santa” was that evening to her. ¬†“Elf on the Shelf” has become such a fad. ¬†That fad didn’t sit well with me the very first time I heard about it. ¬†I want my kids to be good because we strive to be like Jesus, not because they want a spy to report back to Santa who is making a list about their behavior. ¬†I realize there is fun in all of it, but I am seriously considering what exactly I am teaching my children through it all.

It certainly isn’t what I was raised on, but I want to build on the things that I was taught and add to it. ¬†My prayer is that my children can do the same. ¬†I am ready for Christ to be back in Christmas.

Christmas thoughts 2012