Driving around Phoenix the other day, “I’ll be home for Christmas” came on the radio. I began humming and soon was singing the song. Sure enough, when the line, “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams,” was drawled out by Bing or Frank or whichever crooner sings that song, I burst into tears. Now, I almost blamed this on allergies, or a bug flying into my eye, but the reality is this: I am homesick.
At Maggie’s Place, first year MissionCorps stay at the homes in order to make Christmas special for the moms. When I first arrived for my year of service, I didn’t give much thought into Christmas. It seemed so far off, so the idea of spending it away from my family didn’t really sink in. It wasn’t until I was sitting on the 10, listening to Perry, Nat, or Dean sing about going home for Christmas, that it finally sunk in, I would not be going home for Christmas.
This put me in a pretty foul mood. I went from being Santa’s happy little helper to the Grinch all in about ten seconds. To add to my frustration, I was ready for my day off, and yet had to stay late at the house to decorate the tree with the moms. Bah Humbug.
This mindset entered into my prayers:
“Lord, why am I here? I want to go home. I want to be with my family.”
Enter St. Therese of Lisieux. In her memoir, Story of a Soul, she writes about Christmas of 1886, when she was fourteen years old. In France there was a tradition that the children would leave their shoes out on Christmas Eve to be filled with candy and gifts on Christmas day. Therese’s sisters did not want to see Therese grow up, so they continued the tradition well into her early teens. It was that year, that St Therese overheard her father grumble, “Praise God this is the last year we have to fill her shoes.” Therese was usually very sensitive, and having overheard this, was distraught. Her family feared that she would have a breakdown; however, she sucked it up, and swallowed her tears. She speaks of this as her conversion; when Jesus Christ entered her heart and allowed her to see how she had hurt her father by being, essentially, a brat. This was when St. Therese began offering up little sacrifices and entered upon her “Little Way.”
My St. Therese moment occurred when I was sitting with the moms on Monday night. I was sitting there thinking about how much I wanted to be at home, when I noticed the moms. We had three activities for the night: Decorate the tree, decorate gingerbread houses, and make supply bags for the homeless. I figured they would jump at the opportunity to decorate the tree or the houses, but rather, the moms all seemed to go straight for the bags for the homeless. I choked back tears, and was humbled by their love and their thoughtfulness for others. Throughout the night, as we decorated the home, listening to Christmas music, the joy in the house became radiant. The moms and Corps sat around the table, laughing and joking, and I was beautifully humbled.
My Advent and Christmas seasons are not lacking, as I initially thought. Although I will not be with my family of origin this Christmas, I will be with my Maggie’s Place family. Furthermore, rather than being the recipient of “a magical Christmas experience,” I have had the opportunity to create that special season for someone else, and in doing so, have discovered a whole new depth to the magic of the season.
God, in his infinite goodness, took hold of my Grinch heart, and allowed it to grow ten sizes. He revealed to me my selfishness, and in turn allowed me to see and feel what others were going through and what they needed. He transformed my Scrooge-i-ness, and blessed me with joy and gratefulness for getting to share this part of my life and this season with such incredible, strong women as the moms and MissionCorps.
I will be home this Christmas, my beautiful Maggie’s Place Home.
By Katie Eberwein, a MissionCorps member