This is the first time I’ve posted in a long, long time. So much has happened in my personal life that there just hasn’t been time and energy for the educational philosophy side of things, but now that things are settling down a bit, that’s going to change. This post is just me, waving my hand, and saying “I’m still here.”
For 25 years, my family lived and served in Krakow, Poland. My children were ages 6, 3, and newborn when we moved there, and my youngest was born there in 2004. They grew up bi-lingual and bi-cultural, and after graduating from homeschool, moved on to other things that led them back to the United States. Now, it’s our turn. The year 2020 was as difficult for us in Poland as it was for everyone, everywhere, and while it was not the only reason we came to the decision to relocate back to the US, it was one among many factors. Mid-year 2021, we said goodbye to Poland (and just typing that makes tears rise to my eyes) and moved to Indiana. Since then, we’ve been settling in and adjusting to living in the US. For my youngest, age 17, this is the first time she has ever lived here.
Looking to the future, I’ll be more available for speaking engagements (I already have a couple lined up for 2022—more on those later), and I have a few book projects that have been simmering during this transition that are about to come to the boil (more on those pretty soon).
But apart from just quietly saying, “I’m still here,” this post is going to be a bit seasonal. As part of our trans-continental move, we had to downsize and declutter pretty strenuously. But you don’t leave 25 years of living behind altogether, and I want to share one of the special things that now has a new home in the United States.
Every year in Krakow, there is a folk-art fair on the main square in August. It was always one of my very favorite events of the year, and so many years I ago that I don’t remember when, I bought this little nativity. It was hand-crafted by a clay artisan, and I really liked the all-in-one little scene, sort of rustic and also reverent (which I think a nativity should be).
I visited the folk art fair every year, and the next year I began adding free-standing figures (just one or two each year) to stand around my little scene. The artist made wise men, and shepherds.
One of his specialties was incredibly cute little animals.He made all kinds of creatures–badgers, lizards, horses, turtles–but also some animals that fit my nativity. Over the years, I bought a donkey, and camels, and sheep.
Lots of sheep.
At some point, he switched from working with the red clay and began using white clay, and painting more detail on faces.
I added some angels to my collection.
And more sheep.
As my collection grew, so did his popularity, and it began to be a little harder to score the limited figures he made each year. One year, instead of a figure, I added a bread basket and a water jug. The little baby is also the bread of life and the living water, so I usually place them near the manger.
The very last year I was able to buy a piece—and I didn’t know it would be my last—I bought this little fence with the birds on it, happy to welcome the infant Jesus.
It’s an eclectic collection—one of a kind— accumulated over twenty years or more. Each of my pieces bears the stamp of the artist, and a few years ago, I took a picture in December of all the pieces I had collected across the years, and saved it until the following August to show the artist and his wife—they were really surprised about it. (And a little sad that they were sold out of the kings I was hoping to add that year.)
If I had no other Christmas—no decorations, no presents, no carols, no tree—but I had this, it would be all I would need to celebrate. Jesus was the best gift ever given, and this particular reminder of that gift encompasses a lifetime of living abroad, raising my kids (who used to argue over who would get this when I’m gone, but I’m not going anywhere just now), celebrating Christmas in lean times and in prosperous times, and always trying to keep our holiday focus on Him.
Last Christmas, which I knew would be my last in Poland, I had this out, and I wrapped every piece carefully for the long journey. As I unwrapped them this year for their first Christmas in the United States, I thought about the journey they had made, and I had made. The shepherds ran in from the field outside Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph had traveled from Nazareth. The wise men made a long, long journey, and the little one made the longest journey of all. We’re all travelers together, but here we are together. Welcome home.
Welcome, welcome Emmanuel.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
Merry Christmas, everyone. You’ll be hearing more from me soon!