Shark Week

Someday I’ll own a throw pillow with the phrase “Live every week like Shark Week,” but until then all I have is the Christmas themed shark bunting that my mom sent me in my Christmas package. Knowing my mom, there was really no way to determine if she had found it or made it. Like a boss, she made it. I opened it on Saturday night after Liz had invited me to her annual Christmas Eve shark movie viewing with her niece and nephew. This year was the much anticipated Meg 2: The Trench because The Meg was the movie that started the tradition years ago.

When the family saw my bunting, they all agreed it was a God thing, and I was meant to be at the party. There are lots of family traditions around this time of year, and I’m grateful to be invited into a few. I just got back from an afternoon with another family from church who included me in their extended family gathering. Christchurch has lots of extended families, and that’s such a beautiful thing that is foreign to what I grew up with. The closest grandparent was a state border and four hour drive away growing up. I had plenty of Christmas traditions – going to cut down our tree with Mariela and her family at Hagg’s tree farm and getting McDonald’s happy meals on the way and hot chocolate after, baking the Christmas character sugar cookie rolls while decorating the house and blasting every genre of Christmas music, reading Luke 2 while eating Bisquick chocolate chip biscuits before opening presents. I haven’t done any of those things quite that way since, but while living overseas, I’ve found friends who’ve managed to make new memories with me while taking elements of what I traditionally did. No cutting down a tree, but I did have a year in Germany picking out a real, live tree that almost eventually set our house on fire when a housemate leaned it up next to the radiator for stability. No hot chocolate from Haggs, but I did have plenty of Glüwein over the years at Christmas markets. No fake sugar cookie rolls, but I’ve baked loads of cookies with loved ones during the holidays overseas. No Bisquick, but the Bonhams added Luke 2 before presents for me when I’ve celebrated with them.

I also got added into things like the Christmas Eve shark movie, the daily or weekly advent candle traditions of different friends, and the German meat fondue of “Second Christmas.” I was telling someone about that last week, and I already knew it was what I’d miss most this year. I’ve had ten years to miss and adjust from the American things I grew up with, but the German family who adopted me carved out a special place in my heart with their Second Christmas meal I was a part of over the last decade. One of the other attendees at today’s Kiwi Christmas lunch spent formative years in Malaysia, and it was fun to share some of the different traditions we’ve all enjoyed or learned through the years. Every Christmas has been a good one in my experience.

There are a lot of variables in my expat life, and I want to emphasise how much I love being overseas and living on mission in this incredible ministry opportunity God called me to where I get to love on Kiwi kids and provide member care to high school TCKs globally. Hear me loud and clear, it is so worth it. So much so that I continue to live on support to do it (any year end gifts can be given through my giving page at TeachBeyond and are tax deductible in most countries).

With all of the variables I’ve got in life, I’m grateful for the gift of created consistencies. One of those is Jacqui. I met Jacqui when she was a university student and youth leader at RCC five years ago. We started going out for coffee once a week, and I promised to keep in touch with weekly calls when I returned to Germany. Five years later, I talk more regularly with Jacqui than with pretty much anyone else in my life. No matter what, I know we have a weekly touchpoint; if it isn’t a call, it’s a voice note or text update. We’d talked for years about getting matching tattoos once I was back in country, and since Jacqui’s life is also a bit chaotic, I was sitting in my office on Tuesday when she texted, “You wanna get our matching tattoos tomorrow?”

I had the afternoon free, so we booked a spot, and I honestly am so sorry that I’ve not been able to upload photos the past few weeks which have been so image worthy. The ferns we chose are each slightly adjusted style-wise for the previous work we’ve got respectively, and I love how I get to celebrate this friendship with the permanent reminder. It also goes really well with the PDX bridge and the Black Forest already on my arm. While I never expected to have my arm covered in tattoos just as I never planned on living in three countries, I am forever grateful for the stories I have that show God at work in unexpected and beautiful ways.

As I laughed with my friends last night, I anyone who knew me in my university days was likely familiar with my Discovery Channel Shark Week obsession, and there are loads of stories of me riding a mechanical shark and planning my volunteer hours at church around the new programming and making my parents surrender the TV at their house when I didn’t have one at my apartment. How cool that I get to find new shark traditions in other seasons overseas. Summer Christmas has its oddities to me, but I am absolutely loving the long nights and pavlova and fresh (though expensive) berries all over.

Leave a Reply