Of the nearly 30 years that I’ve been married, I’ve been away from home at Christmas 3 times. Some would argue that a 90% at-home rate is pretty good, especially for a military family, but when you’re in the midst of that 10% absence, the 90% doesn’t bring a whole lot of Christmas cheer.
According to the Department of Defense, about 220,000 Service Members are serving overseas this Christmas season, so I’m certainly not alone and by comparison to the men and women in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, I don’t have it too bad, but all the same, it would be nice to be home with family.
With that said, being alone over the holidays does give one the opportunity to reflect on what is really important and on the blessings that are enjoyed, even when separated from friends and family. So, on this Christmas morning, with Christmas carols playing on the stereo and cinnamon rolls baking in the oven (see, I really don’t have it that bad!), I want to take a minute to share some of my blessings.
Unlike many men and women in uniform, I did get to go home and celebrate Thanksgiving with my family (all but one child was there!). This was a great blessing after 5 months away from home. Even having a “honey-do” list while there, just being home with my family encouraged and renewed me.
It’s also my family who continue to be a blessing. Just knowing that they’re there, “there” as in home, is a blessing. To have the love of a family who cares, blesses more than words can adequately express. To know that my home is where my family is -even if I’m not there- and that that home is full of those I love and who love me is a wonderful thought that helps to get me through these difficult times.
While my wife is part of the family I’ve already mentioned, she brings an even greater blessing to me. She has to take up much of the slack when I’m away. She has to be the mother and the father. She has to take care of the repairs and maintenance…and she also has to deal with me being away from home. The knowledge of her commitment not only to me, but to my calling is a blessing of saintly proportions. To know that she is not only behind me in what I do, but often beside me when I do it, enables me to drive on when the road seems too hard to travel.
When away from home, our reliance on other relationships for support becomes more important. For me, these relationships are best found in the Church, the family of God. Having the opportunity to worship with another part of the Body of Christ during one of the most important holy days of the year is a blessing that lives on and continues wherever the military takes me.
With recent messages received, I’m reminded of the blessing of my church family at home, as well. A pastor and wife who remember me in prayer and the rest of the church family who look after my family while I am away is a blessing for me now and will be a blessing for them later.
There are also those unexpected blessings that come. Since I’ve been in Korea, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and fellowship with people I would have never otherwise had the opportunity to know, like a pastor and his family of my denomination who is ministering here in Seoul. And like the missionary from South Africa, also from my denomination, who was here visiting a family member and I was able to have lunch with. To be able to have coffee or lunch and great conversation in person with Christian friends (and thinkers) is an immense blessing.
Bottom line, wherever I go, I know that God is there. Whatever I face, I know that God goes with me. Whatever discouragement I may feel, I know that God comforts me. So really, I’m not alone at all. The Jesus who I celebrate today is with me. The God who chose to become man and walk on this earth with humankind, continues to be present with me today. This is a true blessing. The salvation that He brings me, makes this Christmas -and every Christmas- more than just a holiday to celebrate with family and friends, but a relationship to experience which never leaves me alone and never leaves me wanting. Alone this Christmas? Not by a long shot!