I (Haley Martin) asked our lovely editor/blog writer, Gabriella Naine some questions on how to handle being away from loved ones during the Holidays. Gaby is currently a student at Liberty University. She grew up overseas in Cameroon. While she moved to the states for college, her parents and family remained overseas in Cameroon.
Gaby is currently finishing her senior year at Liberty and her parents just made the move to Kenya. She is sometimes able to go home on breaks, but this year was not the case. She spent this summer in Lynchburg, and spent time with her grandparents in Richmond. She will be able to see her family for a few weeks when they visit the states over the holidays. We hope this interview encourages all of you who will be away from your loved ones over the holidays!
Haley: Where does your family currently live & how many times a year do you see them?
Gaby: My family were missionaries to Cameroon for twelve years, but have moved to Nairobi, Kenya in the past year. I see them once or twice a year for a couple weeks at a time at most.
Haley: How do you handle not seeing them as much, especially when the holidays roll around?
Gaby: My family has adopted a rather large number of Christmas traditions and I was blessed to have a family that always made Christmastime so magical and all about Jesus. I also didn’t necessarily grow up in a place where Christmas began at the beginning of November, so Christmastime is an odd time for me these days. While I’m just as obsessed with Christmas music, food and movies as the next person, It definitely makes me miss my family more.
To feel not quite so far, I try to do all of the things my family would do around the same time. I make my great grandma’s sugar cookie cut outs, listen to Bing Crosby, decorate my christmas tree the day after thanksgiving, watch White Christmas and make sure I get out to see the lights in town… just as I would do if my family were here. While one could look at that and think it makes me feel farther, it makes me happy to know that we’re all doing the same Christmas-y things even if we aren’t in the same place. I call them, too of course.
3.) Haley: What kind of traditions do you have when you are away from your family?
Gaby: Like I said before, a lot of my traditions will be the same as my families’. We always wait to start “Christmassing” until after Thanksgiving, we listen to pretty much only Christmas music until after the holiday, watch certain movies, go out and see the lights in town and make lots of fun family recipes. Another great tradition that my family has adopted over the years is reading a specific book series during the Advent season. I love to read these books even here on my own because I grew up listening to my mom read the stories aloud and they still remind me of what really matters this season: the gift of Jesus. I have adopted a couple of my own traditions too, however, like making my own gingerbread, lighting far too many christmas candles, going to my university’s tree lighting ceremony and attending my church’s christmas show (which always features a live camel).
4.) Haley: How has your relationship with your family affected you from the time differences?
Gaby: I mean, I don’t think time difference specifically has affected our relationship. I’ve definitely become a bit more independent with them being so far away but only because I had to. We still talk as regularly as we can, I just call them in the morning (for me) and reach them before they go to bed (nighttime for them). I still talk to them about important things in my life and talk to my mom about just about everything.
5.) Haley: For people who are going through the same thing, what advice can you give to them?
Gaby: Honestly, make the most of where you are. Don’t wish away the time and moments you have because you wish you were somewhere else. You never know what God has for you right now in this beautiful season. Also, just because your family may be far away, doesn’t mean that you can’t still celebrate Christmas like you usually do. Just remember what the season is really about, because celebrating Jesus and His gift to us can be done anywhere you are.