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JOY to the world…

December 27, 2023


Decorating the photo booth for the Christmas Party

There was the potential this year for Christmas to be a sad time, or at the very least, a bit melancholy.  We were away from our “home” and all our family and friends. However, at least we could look forward to our 2 big kids coming for a week after Christmas… but then that plan blew up.  Long story short, because of an immigration issue with Colin traveling as an unaccompanied minor under 21, upon the advice of the US Embassy we had to cancel their flights an hour before they were to leave for the airport. Subsequently, we all had to shoulder the disappointment of a visit that was planned but would not ultimately happen.


However, upon reflection (and working through my thoughts and emotions on the situation) I realized that everything happens for a reason and I know there are no accidents.  Something compelled Pat to research our immigration status late that night when he stumbled upon the Honduran law about travelers under 21. Finding that information when he did prevent a much worse situation, had they flown all the way to Honduras and been detained at immigration and then sent back to the US at our expense.  And as far as the trip not happening, I know there's always a bigger reason that we sometimes just can't see.  Maybe one of them would've gotten sick and been miserable; maybe they're meant to come at a different time.  We just can't possibly know.


And that's life, isn't it?  We're called to graciously accept the disappointment of things not working out the way we've orchestrated it, go with the flow, and accept the will of God in our lives.  Mary most likely didn't expect her unplanned pregnancy, nor did she plan to give birth in a stable.  With that thought in mind, I was immediately brought right back to the true meaning of the Christmas season and what we can learn from it.  


I learned some other things this year as well.


One of my favorite things about Christmas is the time of preparation that comes before it. I'm not talking about the preparation of “stuff” - buying and wrapping gifts, decorating the house, baking, sending Christmas cards, attending a bunch of parties and events.  I'm referring to the preparation of our hearts in the season of Advent.  This year I decided to do a daily Advent reflection from a book called In Conversation With God:



I never could have estimated the impact of this daily practice, which really brought the season into perspective. Granted, it's easier to strip it down to the basics when a lot of the distractions of the season have already been removed for us, considering where we are… there was no hustle and bustle of shopping, no calendar full of parties to attend, and we were not baking all the usual treats (although we attempted cut-out sugar cookies and they were actually good). 


A few of the daily reflections focused on finding joy no matter the circumstances.  The very first Christmas was a couple (Mary and Joseph) who traveled far from home to Bethlehem, away from their family and friends in Nazareth, yet were able to experience the most profound joy - Christ!  When we do the same (keep our focus on Christ at the center of it all), we can find the joy of Christmas even when it looks different on the outside.  Even when we're away from family and friends, and even in the absence of the usual traditions, Christmas can be just as special, beautiful, and JOYful.


And speaking of joy, I also read a beautiful quote from Bishop Barron a few weeks ago…"What everyone wants is rest, but not in the sense of relaxation. Rest here means achievement of joy. The great illusion is that joy will come from filling up the ego with goods. But in fact, it will come from emptying out, from turning one’s life over to the direction of God." This really struck a chord with me because I felt like for the first time in many years, we didn't spend Advent “filling up” (filling up our days or filling up our lives with “stuff”). By literally emptying our days of the things that would typically fill them in years past, we actually created space for them to be filled with more time for prayer and reflection, and also for beautiful NEW Advent and Christmas traditions.  One example is Las Posadas…a Latin American tradition, celebrated between December 16-24.  Each day a procession, led by two people dressed as Mary and Joseph, “travels” from house to house and are turned away like the Holy Family was in Bethlehem. Every day the same songs are sung and the same script is used - and after being turned away at two houses, they are let in at the third.  The entire community sings, prays, listens to a Gospel reading, plays a game, and then eats together. You can read more about Las Posadas here.


Bernadette had a chance to play Mary on the 8th day of Las Posadas, and Pat and I were asked to be Mary and Joseph on the 9th and final day (much to the surprise and delight of all the kids! 😂) We experienced a lot of other unique and beautiful Christmas traditions this year, that none of us will ever forget.




I had to resist the temptation to focus on what Christmas WASN'T this year and focus on what it WAS - which was different, but just as rich and beautiful.  It was also extremely humbling, as we faced not being with our family (and even our own kids) because it was a stunning example of how to unite our hearts with these children we're serving who also do not have their parents or families for Christmas.


May you and your families be filled with the JOY of the Christmas season, no matter the circumstances.  


Paz y bien,

Shannon

xoxo


Some more pics from Advent and Christmas at Finca del Niño…


Dancing at the Christmas Eve Party, after the Talent Show, visit from Santa, and tons of games!

Two of the sweet Honduran Tias

The girls teaching a visiting group of students from Tegucigalpa how to play Texas Hold ‘Em poker!

After Christmas Eve Mass

Twas the night before Christmas…

Pat is rarely without his entourage of little boys, even at Mass!

Fresh tamales homemade by the Tias

The beautiful Finca chapel, all in white for Christmas

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1 Comment


maggiemae149
Jan 05

I love reading your story and a very humbling story it is❤️🙏❤️🙏

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Hi! We're Pat & Shannon.

We have a passion for education and a heart for service. Our goal is to make a global impact beyond our local community.

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