Moving to a foreign country might sound like a fairy tale story. But the reality of it could be quite the opposite. It was 14 years ago this year when we spent our first Christmas together away from home, in a foreign land, Germany. We moved to Germany as newlyweds of 7 months, with a newborn of 3 weeks, brought 2 of my 3 kids from my previous marriage, just buried my mother the year before, the only thing I could say in German was “I love you” and my new in-laws were opposed to their son's new life choices. We had nothing in the bank and several months of intense flight training still ahead for David. And with the weather being about 75F degrees colder than what we were used to from our homelands and no sunlight in sight we only had each other to stay warm, happy and content.
You might be asking, “How did we do it?” We've decided to give you 12 Christmas days of what helped and encouraged us in a place that seemed impossible and hopeless. We went through tough times that unfortunately didn't only last for 12 days but rather years. However, we want to share with you as living testimonies that with love EVERYTHING is possible!
So, if you're an expat, a divorcee, a blended family, a step-parent, lost a parent, have an unaccepting family, been broke, depressed, hopeless or alone, then keep reading!
There IS hope and there IS light at the end of the tunnel! We made it and so can you!
1st Day of Christmas- The first Christmas spent in Germany was the hardest because we spent it alone. However we were so blessed to have had my Bridget daughter come over from the states to be with us. And when there's beautiful Christmas decorations throughout the city, it can definitely help bring cheer to an aching heart!
2nd Day of Christmas- Exploring your new environment is so important when you move to a new place or country. Everything about Germany was so new to us. So walking as we explored the main city was something we frequently did as a family.
3rd Day of Christmas- We both came from big concrete cities where we never seen snow. Driving along the countryside was important family time for us. Especially seeing the white powdery snow covering the landscape, it was so magnificent!
4th Day of Christmas-There were no trains to ride in my hometown of Phoenix. Venturing out into the main train station was something so new. We even made sure every-so-often to hop on a train to travel, even if it was just a short ride!
5th Day of Christmas- You won't find windmills in Phoenix or Malaysia! And just next to the main shopping area in the center of Bremen sits this beautiful windmill! It's also a restaurant with great food! Eating together as a family is something that we treasure!
6th Day of Christmas- Growing up in a new country, I somehow never felt an excitement for history. But while living in an old country like Germany, history became a passion not only for me but also for the entire family. There's so much to see and learn just in Bremen alone. We make it a point to learn as a family!
7th Day of Christmas- Spending time together as a couple does wonders for your marriage! Especially when you really only have each other! I remember well, the first time we walked down the Weser river in Bremen, (it wasn't warm like in this photo), and I said to David, “As beautiful as it is here, I'm not too sure that I can handle the cold!” Fourteen years later, I still can't handle the cold. But if you're with the love of your life, you can endure anything!
8th Day of Christmas- There is nothing more lovely in Northern Germany than the Weihnachtsmarkt or Christmas Market in Bremen. Here you can see, experience and taste traditional German crafts and food. Getting to know and experience the traditions of your new home makes life much happier.
9th Day of Christmas- If you need some joy in your heart, eat chocolate! It works every time for every person in our family! And lucky us, we are blessed enough to have the actual Hachez chocolate factory and shop in Bremen! So, if you haven't had a piece of Hachez chocolate, I recommend to do so now! Joy overload guaranteed!
10th Day of Christmas- There's just something about Christmas lights! As kids, my parents would pack us in the car and drive us through neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights! The brighter, the better! Well, Germans don't really follow the same tradition of decorating their homes the way Americans do, BUT if you go into the main cities or malls, you are bound to find elaborate and colorful lights that are sure to light up your soul!
11th Day of Christmas- Being away from family during Christmas time is hard. Especially if you come from big families and big celebrations that took place every year. And being alone in a land far away, it was important to us that we found a way to celebrate Christmas in a special way. In a way that we could create our own family tradition that we could pass down to our kids. So, each year, each of us receives a special ornament with our name and year inscribed.
12 Day of Christmas- We found that the most important and special way to celebrate Christmas so far away from home is to stick together and to never forget why we celebrate. And even though the lights, the city, the snow, the history, and the food helps to ease the discomfort, no one and nothing will ever come close to the comfort that our Savior Jesus can give to us. Jesus is the reason for the season! Celebrate him!
I pray that if you are feeling lonely or you are going through something difficult in your life, you will find happiness and peace this Christmas season! If you need help or encouragement, please don't hesitate to reach out! Just send me a short note and let me know what I can do or if you need prayer. Everything told to me is confidential.
With Love and Blessings,
Robin and David
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