For the 7 Christmases we have spent on the field, we’ve always been part of a team. Usually small enough for everyone to fit into one home, but big enough to share the load of cooking and baking for a holiday meal.
I have grown to love this team atmosphere, especially during the holidays. I love being with others on special holidays. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family dearly, but in my book, more is always merrier. (Ok, I do have limits, but I just love people!)
The two years we were in language school, our staff and students made up quite a few people. As we tried to figure out how to break up to celebrate Christmas, my husband and I felt the tug to invite a few of the single gals who lived near us to spend the day at our home. It’s hard enough for me to imagine going to the field as a single, but the holidays seem extra lonely. We wanted these gals to have a family atmosphere to perhaps reduce some of those lonely feelings.
Those former teammates and I still reminisce about that day. We invited them over in the morning for brunch, we exchanged gifts, and then we just hung out the rest of the day, playing games and watching movies. One gal even took a nap on our horribly uncomfortable couch! I smiled with joy to know she felt at ease enough to take a Christmas nap on our couch, backache included.
That same year, we trekked across the city to our teammate’s home for a “Dipped in Chocolate, Wrapped in Bacon” party. It was as deliciously amazing as you can imagine. Tons of people braved the sub-zero temperatures to join the party. It was so worth it to be together.
Because Christmas isn’t a big holiday in our country of service, everyone still works and goes to school. Often, we have to celebrate on the weekend. At first, I balked at such an idea, but over the years, I’ve grown used to moving things around on the calendar to ensure a better, longer opportunity to celebrate.
The last few years were some of my favorites. Our team, ranging from 9-18, gathered in one home, donning our favorite Christmas pajamas for a traditional brunch—cinnamon rolls (our family tradition since moving overseas), grits, egg casserole, bacon, and fruit. After stuffing ourselves to the gills, we exchanged gifts—which, with the team of 18 literally took hours! Afterwards, everyone relaxed with games or movies. For dinner, because we had already cooked a large meal, we ordered “steaks” and mashed potatoes for dinner. Because we lived 45 minutes outside the city, we sent a driver into town to retrieve our dinner. I mean, we didn’t want to take off our pajamas!
This year, we’re in a new organization with a new team, but this time everyone is spread across the city. Months ago, I started wondering how we would celebrate with others with this set-up. As I started asking around, I realized over half of them would be traveling during the holidays. The Leftovers, I’ve since named us, have all been invited to our home on Christmas to celebrate together. It will look different than years past, but in this life of constant change, I’ve grown used to holding most traditions loosely.
We don’t take for granted the few years we’ve been able to return home for the holidays, but we also fully appreciate and enjoy celebrating with our team family here. All of our hearts long to be with loved ones during special holidays, but I hope you have others nearby that can quench that yearning for community and fellowship this holiday season.
What are some of your traditions with team or those living nearby during the holiday season? What traditions have you had to let go of or be willing to change?
Chocolate chip cookies aren’t exactly Christmasy. But, our fellowship just sent us 3 ginormous care packages that included several bags of chocolate chips, so we broke our forced 5-month fast from them and whipped up a double batch!
We all have our favorite chocolate chip recipes. I used the same one for nearly a decade, but it used Crisco–which is super hard to buy here. When I saw this recipe from one of my favorite bakers, I tried it. It’s so good! Light crunch on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. Enjoy!
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes: 2-3 dozen
Ready in: 45 minutes
Slightly adapted from: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe
2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour (about 10 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup packed light brown sugar (7 ounces)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet or milk chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350* F (175* C). Make sure an oven rack is in the center of the oven.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
Either by hand or with an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until well mixed. Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla. Mix well until the batter has lightened slightly in color, about 2 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and chocolate chips at the same time. Mix until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
Form dough into tablespoonful-sized balls and place on parchment or silpat-lined cookie sheets.
Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes until the edges are set and just lightly browned (keeping in mind that ovens can vary in temperature so use your best judgment). Don’t overbake or else the cookies will be tough and hard. If baking frozen cookie dough, add 1 to 2 minutes onto the baking time. Store the baked cookies in an airtight container (or baked cookies can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months).