Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: REDUCE (11/05/15)
TITLE: A Forced Reevaluation
By Jenny Fulton
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For the first time in my life, I was spending the holiday away from home. And this wasn’t an away in the sense of being in another state, or even away in the sense of being across the country. This was an away in the sense of being on the other side of the world; an away that meant I would be experiencing Christmas day while my family was still celebrating Christmas Eve.
In anticipation of a rough and depressing day, I deliberately packed my schedule as full as I could. If I kept busy enough, I wouldn’t have time to be homesick, right?
I had breakfast at a friend’s apartment. We exchanged memories of how we would celebrate at home and opened the gifts our families had sent.
Homesickness threatened to invade.
I pushed it aside as hard as I could, grabbed my guitar, and headed out the door for my first engagement.
The atmosphere in that Chinese city made it hard to believe it was actually Christmas. Everything looked the same as it always did. People went to and fro about their lives—going to work or school—just like always.
Back home, the cities would be decked out in lights and garland. A sense of excitement and magic would be filling the air. You would instantly know you were in the midst of a special time. But here, not of trace of that glorious season existed among the general public.
The difference between what I had grown up with and what my favorite holiday was now lacking never felt so drastic, or so disheartening.
I met other expats at a Chinese elementary school for second-born children and performed Christmas songs for an excited group of youngsters. For a short time, my heart was cheered. Maybe my life wasn’t really so bad.
Homesickness didn’t agree. It persisted to poke at the edge of my consciousness.
I spent most of the afternoon hanging out with friends and then returned to my apartment to rest before my next commitment.
Never had my apartment felt so quiet and empty. I lay down on my bed and—
That’s when Homesickness found its opportunity. It rushed over me in a furious wave. Silent tears grew into a deafening torrent. I curled myself up into a ball on the floor and still the tears came.
“Why God?” I cried out. “What am I doing here?”
I thought about this Christmas day. I thought about all the Christmas days I had enjoyed in the past.
And then I wondered—had I ever truly enjoyed Christmas for Christ? Or had I enjoyed it because of the time I spent with family—the memories, the activities… This thought brought me up short.
“Have I ever really celebrated Christmas for you, God?” I asked.
Homesickness persisted, but was at least abating somewhat.
I looked at the time. If I was going to make it to my next event, I would need to leave soon. I considered calling my friend and canceling. I just didn’t have the energy.
Somehow, the thought of canceling didn’t sit well.
“God,” I said, “if I’m going to make it, I need You to give me the strength.”
The tears threatened to begin again as I slowly pulled myself to my feet. Feeling completely drained, I took hold of my guitar and walked out the door.
During the taxi ride, I found myself thinking about Christmas and all it meant. I thought about the lyrics to the Christmas carols I would be presenting. The words hit me like never before.
I arrived at the college campus and found my way to my friend’s English class, right on schedule. At her introduction, I set up my music and began to play.
“Joy to the World, the Lord has come…”
A joy that had been absent all day rushed over me. I smiled as I sang. Joy had come to the World, even to this place where Christmas didn’t appear to exist. Never did the simple message of the season mean so much to me as it did in that time and place where everything I had once valued about the holiday was missing. As I shared this simple message with a room full of Chinese college students, I suddenly realized that I was finally beginning to understand it myself.
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