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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Family--Long Distance or Short--At Christmas

Our family, being a missionary family, is normally divided several ways by thousands of miles. There are over four thousand miles between us and our “homeland,” (though we’ve now lived as expats more years than at home). Our children live in two different countries, and our parents about thirteen hours by car from each other. The last time we were together with both children and their spouses was shortly after our son’s marriage back in 2010. (We’ve thankfully been able to see both since, but not at the same time.)

Two Christmases ago, our daughter brought her husband and baby to Spain for the first time. She hadn’t been back for quite a few years, and her husband had never been to Europe. We took it easy, because of the baby, and we only did day trips around here when we felt like it. Her husband LOVED everything and took pictures of all around him. It was like feeling history to a guy who loves history. We spent Christmas Eve in town, surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands, of people in traditional Basque costumes, singing children, and a choir of men. In the evening, we attended a Basque Santa Claus (totally different from what you think, I assure you) event in our little town. "Olentzero" came down from the mountain leading his burro, laden with burlap bags of presents for the children. Torches lighted the very crisp night as our son-in-law peeped over a stone wall to snap dozens of pictures. Such fun!

Last year we were home alone for Christmas. We spent it quietly, but celebrated as well, with some special foods and simple pleasures—like watching our grandson opening his presents on Skype. How thankful we are for technology!

This year, our son and his family are with us—another baby crawling around on the floor and pulling up on everything. What a blessing to anticipate a Christmas Eve and morning with family!

Do you have family far away? You can “bring them nearer” all year long, but especially during the holidays:
  • Stay in touch. We find Skype, e-mail, Facebook, and telephone to be most practical for us, but there are many other ways you can talk to your children or parents regularly. For Christmas, ask to see your loved ones opening the gifts from you, if it can be arranged. It’s especially fun to watch small children.
  • Send pictures. It’s great to do some kind of a “2013 in pictures” so all of your loved ones can visualize the highlights of your year, your home projects, and anything else you want to share. Make sure you include plenty of pictures of yourselves, even if you don’t think you’re photogenic. (I like doing this after Christmas, as I have more time, and I can include Christmas pictures.)
  • Plan vacations to be with family. Be there, if you can, for the births and other important times. Try not to have too many years between seeing your parents and your children. It takes planning and sacrifice, but family is always worth it.
  • Don’t have private pity parties. Instead, count your blessings. Make the most of time spent together, and make it happy. When you can’t be together, enjoy your spouse and the life the Lord has given to you.
  • If you can be together for any time at all, make sure you take photos of all of you together. You will treasure them later. (They don’t have to be formal photographs. It’s enough to have a picture all around a table or lined up on a couch or outside with trees in the background. Just get the whole group together for a photo. If you want something you can frame, take some thought as to clothes. I’ve seen some great ones with everyone in white tops and khaki skirts or slacks. Some color code families—all in the same color tops for each family unit, grandparents in a different color. You can also just make sure you don’t clash and let everyone dress as they wish, or give guidance as to casual or dressy.) The important thing is to get everyone in the photo, so that everyone has a photo memory of the special together occasion.
  • Be thankful for technology. You can share more of each other’s lives than any generation before. (As missionaries, we are so thankful that today, unlike thirty years ago, we don’t have to wait three weeks for a letter to go to the States and then another at least three weeks to get a reply. We are happy we can have mini-visits with our children and grandchildren by Skype, see their faces, talk to them in real time, and enjoy the contact—so different from our parents’ experience when we took their only grandchild across the sea twenty-nine years ago.) 

This year, with son, daughter-in-law, and tiny grandson here, we are already having a wonderful Christmas. We plan to visit with our daughter’s family sometime by Skype, and that way, we can all be together—for a few minutes of sharing.

We hope your Christmas is just as wonderful, long distance or short.

But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting 
upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children.
(Psalm 103:17)


  1. Thank you for this post, my sister is in Florida and I miss her so.

  2. Muy buen post, si que es bueno poder ver a quién se tiene lejos.

    1. Gracias, Tere. Es un privilegio y bendición tener a los nuestros con nosotros este año.


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