Christmas on our mission has felt different---but very good---this year. We enjoyed spending time with ward members, the other missionaries, and then Skyping on Christmas day with each of our children and their families. It was a sweet experience for us to open gifts via Skype with each family. Mike and Heather's family did a Nativity play also. They did several different scenes over a few days so everyone had more than one part, then they emailed it to us. So fun to watch! Besides the '12 Days of Christmas' gifts and memories that Jared's family sent, we had other special gifts sent to us from others in our family. It was always fun to see a package at our mailbox.
Our "Christmas card door tradition"
In previous years we remember feeling a little emptiness at times when we just seemed too busy to really appreciate the quiet beauty of the season. We still got busy towards the end, but keeping things simple, and concentrating on visiting and serving others was so refreshing. We were able to get our few gifts and Christmas decorations done very quickly and things put away in about an hour compared to a whole day or so at home. What a relief!! Substituting a poinsettia for a tree might not be such a bad idea!
On the 23rd we were invited to a ward members' home for a holiday party for many people in the ward who were not leaving town to see friends and family. As we were visiting, we made another interesting connection! We met the Liu's who are second generation Chinese members of the church. He is from Texas and she is from Taiwan. He is a student at CMU (Carnegie Mellon University) and she is teaching school. We found out that Sister Liu actually taught in the Chinese Immersion program in Jordan School District before they moved to Pittsburgh. We were especially interested in that because our granddaughter, Kennedy, is in that program also. Anyway, as we visited with them, Sister Liu shared how satisfying it has been to have some of her students being sent all over the world as missionaries
On Christmas eve we were invited to a "chili dinner" in the area of the mission where some other senior couples live who work in the mission office. When we got back from dinner, we gave the Elders who live in our same building a call. They had two other elders in our district staying
We found out that the elders had spent the earlier part of the evening decorating their van with removeable car paint that said "Merry Christmas" and "He is the Gift". Then they drove around downtown Pittsburgh shouting "Merry Christmas" to everyone. They had a ball and we had fun listening to how excited they were.
We invited the Elders to our apartment on Christmas morning for our traditional 'breakfast casserole' and we also had 'monkey bread'. Then we opened our computers and Ipad for them to Skype with their families. Christmas Day and Mother's Day are the only two days of the year that the younger missionaries can Skype or talk on their phones to their families--- so they were really excited for the opportunity.
Besides all of our Skype fun on Christmas, we were also invited for Christmas Day dinner to the home of the Hoskins. Getting to their home was an adventure in and of itself. It is at the top of the steepest hills we have been on in Pittsburgh so far! Sister Hoskins is