My name is Autumn Buzzell and I live and work in Ghana, West Africa with City of Refuge Ministries. Here, I run our school, Faith Roots International Academy, and get to be a part in rescuing and the healing of children who have been trafficked into the fishing trade, orphaned, abandoned, and those who just need a little extra loving. What an amazing gift this life is!

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas and Thoughts on being Homesick, Cookies, The Shack, and Dancing

I'm 32 years old (almost 33...shhhh...don't tell), and this was my first Christmas away from home.  In all my years, I have always made it home for Christmas.  I would miss Easter and Thanksgiving, but Christmas was the must-make-it-home holiday.  There's just something about being with your family at Christmas.  I was always guaranteed a sleeping spot on the couch, a fridge full of goodies, and so much love and laughter. 

Since moving to Ghana, my annual trip home at Christmas had become my tradition.  I would leave right after school ended and go straight home to Colorado and the cold.  I loved cozying up under piles of blankets with a good book or a movie while the snow fell gently outside.  My dad always commented that the snow knew when I was coming home and honored me with its presence, coating the ground with white and the sparkling fresh hope of all things new and clean.

But, this year, I stayed here in Ghana.  It wasn't cold and it didn't snow.  I didn't need piles of blankets to cozy up under.  I didn't need hot chocolate to warm my bones or the scalding hot showers to warm up my mornings.  A few days before Christmas, I felt the weight of it all...missing that feeling of family, of home, of security...I cried and cried and wondered why I had decided to stick it out in Ghana for the holidays.

The next day, God told me why.  Power outages came frequently with hours and hours without access to electricity.  I couldn't charge my computer, my ipad, my ipod.  I couldn't fill my hours with mind-numbing television.  Instead, all I had were the books on my bookshelf and my Bible.  So, I lit my cinnamon candle and pulled out my Bible and a few of my old devotional books and dug in.  And God began to speak.

He spoke of His love for me.  His desire for my full attention.  His pursuit of me.  And tears flowed down as I realized that maybe, just maybe, my home was fully in the center of His heart.  My longing for family and snow and that feeling...it was fully justified.  But, my longing for home...it was there...in Him.  All I needed was a little pressing in. 

I spent a day and a half re-reading The Shack, a book I haven't read since my days in University.  Whatever your feelings on the book, it rocked me as it did the first time I read it.  And it almost seemed the most perfect gift that I could have received for Christmas because it reminded me again of the true revelation of God made Man--Jesus limited to human form for the sake of you and I.  Limited, not because of His lack of power, but because He desired so much to change our relationship with God the Father and knew that could only be done through the most perfect sacrifice.  Jesus...limited because of His all-out, indescribable, unbelievable love for us.

For days, I simply felt...tender.  Understanding that this Christmas, however hard it was to be away from family, was exactly what God was calling me to.  It was what was needed.  It was what was required.  I needed to hear from the Lord.  I needed time by myself to bake cookies and pies (baking is like a healing balm to this hospitality heart) and sing at the top of my lungs and read and cry and hear from the Lord.  And God knew that it couldn't have been done any other way. 

While Christmas Day came with some expectations of sadness as I Skyped with family back home while opening gifts in our traditional fashion, it was actually filled with such rest and joy.  We hung out at home, enjoying each others company, finishing up pies and watching movies.  Then, we all got into our Christmas dresses (how we celebrate Christmas here, with new matching outfits), and hung out in our canteen eating dinner.  As soon as we finished eating, the music came and the dancing began.  We danced and we danced and we danced.  It didn't matter if we knew how to dance or if we knew the song, the sweat poured down as we danced.  We all danced with smiles on our face, knowing that THIS was Christmas.  THIS was celebration.  THIS was how we could best glorify God.  A big birthday party for our Jesus filled with the sweetest gifts of all...our laughter, our joy, our dance.  I felt the joy of the shepherds coming to see Jesus and going out into the towns and fields sharing the message of the newborn king.  I felt the awe of the wisemen as they admired the child Jesus.  I felt the majesty of the angels who worshipped in all their glory.  It was all there.  In Valentina's groove.  In Malvin's smile.  In the majesty of a unified mismatched family.

This was Christmas.

This was the heart of God.

This was HOME.

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