Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Kosovo Chapter 4, Scene 4: The Christmas Gift

The Decision
Like most schools, Prishtina High School has a couple of weeks off over the holidays. Since the day I arrived, I’ve had people ask me if I would be traveling home for Christmas.


I made that decision before I came to Kosovo.

 I know myself. I made a commitment to the school. Going home would be fun but seeing my family may make it difficult to return to my teaching. I would return. I know that. But I may do it under duress. All it would take would be one of my grandchildren begging me to stay and I would feel like a heel for flying off again. Already, my four-year-old granddaughter asks me to come home every time we talk on the phone.

The Plan
Many of my school friends planned trips for Christmas. I wasn’t sure who would be around so I formed a plan. For my own good mental health, I planned projects I wanted to complete over the winter break. The list was much too long, so I pared it down to four projects I need to complete: Two for the school, one book to read, and a writing project. The two I’m working on for the school involve other people who are in town so we arranged a day to knock those out after Christmas.

Of course, I have a few things I’d like to do for my class. Teaching when you feel prepared always makes for a better January. But those can wait until just before school starts again on the ninth.

With much to do, I figured I’d sail through the holidays. You see I had a plan.

The Dilemma
Then a wise man …this time from the west… arrived bearing gifts. Not many, just one from each of my daughters and one from my mother. Small gifts he could stuff in his backpack. Small wrapped packages to place under my tree along with a few gifts from students.

This was NOT part of the plan. I’m being honest here. I wasn’t sure what to do. To me, opening gifts from home all alone in my apartment sounded sad. Pitiful. I don’t want to be either.

I thanked Dave for delivering the gifts, emailed my family thanking them for their thoughtfulness and then walked around the apartment trying to figure out what to do. 

I shared my plight with another woman who suggested we could open gifts together…as soon as and if her package from home is released from customs. I considered trying to get my family all together on Google Hangouts so we could talk and sing and open gifts, but the chances of that happening weren’t likely.

I fretted over the situation. I prayed about it and finally decided I’d simply leave the wrapped packages there until I was good and ready to open them. Even if it meant months.

I know this sounds silly. Even as I type it I wonder at how I stressed over something so trivial. But I did. I have no answers and offer this blog post in hope it will ultimately serve someone else.

Dave gave me the gifts on Thursday evening before Christmas. I worked a bit on Friday at school and had lunch with our first grade teacher and her husband. I ignored the presents under the tree.

Saturday I went to the opening and dedication of a new church in Pristhina (Very cool.) It was as much a dedication as it was a celebration of freedom of religion in Kosovo. The music was beautiful. I loved hearing “Mary Did You Know” in Albanian and the children acting out the story of the birth of Jesus were adorable. There were over 300 people in attendance. It was quite an event. I returned home several hours later and managed to ignore the gifts under my Christmas tree.

Sunday, Christmas Eve Day, was wonderful. I went to church as usual, but then we all went out to eat as a church family at Hotel Sirius. Their food is delicious and the view from their rooftop restaurant is spectacular. I left for church a little after ten in the morning and returned home around five in the afternoon. No time to worry about gifts or anything. I took a nap.

The Gift
Then, late that evening, something wonderful happened. That Christmas spirit filled my apartment. I turned on some Christmas music complete with a crackling fire on my computer. I fixed myself dinner and began singing along with the carolers. I could picture them gathering on a snowy street corner singing just to me over the internet.

I looked at the collection of wrapped presents. Opening one from one of my students wouldn’t hurt anything, right? And then another. And just one more.

The carolers were in full swing now.

Tentatively, I reached for one of the gifts from my family. My mother sent me a pair of tech friendly gloves.

“I was just thinking this afternoon I need to get some of those!” I cried out loud.  I tried them on. I swiped my phone. They were the perfect gift.

Okay…one more. But you already know where this is heading.

Allison, my oldest, had a calendar made for me with pictures of my family. Perfect!

Danielle went to the Jelly Belly factory and bought me a full bag of my favorite popcorn flavored jelly beans. Perfect!

Kendall sent me a palm tree necklace. (If you want to know why this is so special, clickhere.) Perfect!

I opened each gift and danced around like a child. There was nothing sad or pitiful about it at all.

It was all in the timing.

But isn’t that the story of Christmas? The gift was delivered and it’s all about when we are ready to receive it. The only sad and pitiful part, is not accepting it at all.

Join me as I spend these next months in Kosova (the Albanian pronunciation for Kosovo) in Southeastern Europe. Each week I share my experiences. Leave your comments and questions below. I’ll try to address each as best I can.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Holly! I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on my posts. You are such an encourager.

  2. I’m glad the Christmas spirit found its way to you :)

    1. Thank you, Lisa! And I so appreciate you dropping by and leaving a comment! That brings me a little more joy!!

  3. WOW Beckie, what a beautiful Christmas story. I could close my eyes and see each moment. My mind went back to when you an Tom were first married and your first Christmas together. The two of you were so busy with school, eork and life that Tom didn't have time to take the tree out, so you redecorated it. I saw it as celebrating Christmas all year. But then again, isn't that what were suppose to do.

    1. Oh Anthony! I forgot about that! You are so funny and sweet! How good to have you drop by my blog and thanks for sharing the memory!


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