I love December! I love the holiday coffees, Christmas lights, giddy children anticipating Santa, Christmas church services and programs, and the family Christmas traditions. I love decorating for Christmas and just taking in all of the extra bright, merry lights that give depth and joy to our streets, stores, and homes.
While I often think of Christmas memories over the years, December also reminds me of a handful of (December) visits to Pattaya, Thailand. Thailand changed my life forever and opened my heart in ways I did not know it could be opened, reshaped and reignited. God used these amazing people with hardly any possessions or money to show me that kindness and compassion makes you “rich” in ways that can’t be put into words.
While I love the holidays, I know it can seem frustrating when you see people talking about all of their new toys, iPhones, iPads, and other gadgets I cannot even begin to understand. It can bring about a sense of jealously, if we are being honest.
“Oh, so and so’s husband bought her –??”
“Wow, how are they able to afford all of those toys for their kids?”
I’m sure we have all been there at some point in our lives. But, here’s the thing – we all know things can’t fill a void or teach us about being thankful and compassionate. I’m not going to lie – I love gifts – especially when people know me so well. Anyone who buys me pinesol, candles, Dollar Tree or Starbucks gift cards just GET ME! No, this is not a plug to buy me a gift! Ha!
Therefore, I am slowly learning that this season of giving/receiving is also about being reminded of who Jesus is, how He blesses us every single day, and how He gave the Ultimate sacrificial gift.
It’s also a reminder to learn to see myself how He sees me.
It’s a reminder to find the beauty in simplicity and to soak up blessings in the every day.
Here are 3 things I am reminded of this holiday season as I reminisce on the beautiful memories and challenges of my time in Thailand:
- Do not forget to be thankful. In Thailand, we visited the poorest of the poor (see a few pictures below of their homes). We brought a few snacks, some uncooked rice, and sang songs for them. The message of Jesus and salvation was also shared by a local Thai pastor who led this ministry. It was amazing! They were clapping for the uncooked rice and snacks. They were grinning from ear to ear in their unwashed clothes as they were covered in dirt and filth. The children were barefoot (little ones without clothes and diapers) and often looked malnourished. I walked through feces at one point. Running water and bathrooms? No way. However, they were so gracious and kind. They offered us Coca-Colas! I was speechless and in shock. Scenes like this and people who are so thankful and joyful, with not much if anything to their name, is a reminder that I need to be thankful. What a blessing it is that I live in a safe area, have a roof over my head, have warm, running water and I do not live in a home made of scraps. My son is clothed, bathed daily, and always has diapers and food. We are immensely blessed.
- Be more compassionate. Thailand reminded me that there are much worse problems in the world and in other people’s lives. There were 5 year olds walking the streets of Pattaya alone trying to sell bouncy balls to make money to buy dinner. There were women and children being trafficked all over the place. We met children who were being trafficked and wanted to hide their food before their handler came back to check on them. They would get high by sniffing glue because they were in such pain and agony. Oh, my heart hurts just thinking about them and remembering the fear in their eyes. I remember their faces so vividly. Thailand reminded me that I need to be more caring and open my eyes to the world around me. People are contemplating suicide. People are being trafficked, stolen, and violently beaten all around the US and beyond. Many people are alone on the holidays. A lot of people have serious health issues that leave them in the hospital at Christmas. There is so much going on in the world, and this year, I want to be reminded to be more like Jesus. To look at the needs of others, pray for others, and be kind and compassionate to other people.
- Find beauty in simplicity! This is my motto for the year! Russ and I have been learning to find the beauty in the small things – in cooking together, in taking our son to the park, in just sitting at the same table working during our son’s naps … There are many blessings in just taking the time to look at the beauty in the falling leaves or to enjoy a sunset. I want to continue learning this lesson and learn to appreciate the big and small things that God has blessed me with. We have so much to be thankful for!
What is God teaching you right now?
As we approach the holiday season, remember that you are valued by God. You were created by Him to do amazing things!
Do not let others devalue you and tell you that you will not amount to anything. Remember to encourage other people, find the beauty in simplicity, and to count your blessings.
Find someone who may be alone or hurting this holiday season and let them know they are loved and valued, too.