And I am Cold

Silent_Night_Holy_Night_28The instrumental music to Silent Night plays and my tears begin to fall. It is a few days before Christmas and I am in Chicago, away from my parents for the first Christmas ever.

And I am cold.

I am a student nurse at a small school in the city. In the four short months since I have been here I have ballooned from a curvy teen to a size 16 – the chapatis, curry and chai of my upbringing replaced with midnight study breaks of trail mix and Chicago’s famous deep dish pizza. I have gone from cute to fat.

And I am cold.

I feel the strangeness of this city and the contrast between the life I have left and the one I am currently living. I have left family and community. I have left winter Bougainvillea and am now surrounded by trees with no leaves. I have left belonging and am now a stranger. I have left peace and I now feel conflict.

And I am cold.

My tears fall into the cold. It’s almost Christmas and even now my parents are gathering for the annual Christmas pageant with Christians in Shikarpur, Pakistan. They are making sure they have sweets to give all their neighbors, my dad making last-minute trips to the bazaar for mittai (sweets), packing them in square pink boxes. And I hope my mother is missing me.

I am so alone. And I am so cold.

And I think back on the story I have heard since I can remember. The story of a baby and a mom and a dad. A baby and a family away from their family home on that first Christmas. A teenager who is giving birth without her mom by her side; a young man who is walking by faith and that’s about it. A baby who has left, not only the womb, but something far bigger, and is experiencing the strangeness of a new place with a first cry, a first experience of cold and pain.

A baby who has left belonging and is now, like me, a stranger; has left peace and entered conflict.

In what can only be the comfort of the Holy Spirit, that mysterious third person in the Godhead, there is a breath of warmth, light, remembrance. Although nothing has changed, all of this feels different–And suddenly I am not so cold.

20 thoughts on “And I am Cold

  1. I was horribly homesick when I left Germany for college in the US. I’m so thankful that I was able to fly back for Christmas that first year – in retrospect, it must have been such a strain on my parents’ budget, and I wasn’t even aware of it. I had many ‘cold’ days and nights in that freshman year – even though I went to a Christian college and had many people to support me and pray for me, as well as kind grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins nearby who earnestly wanted to make me feel loved and ‘at home.’
    If you haven’t been alone on the other side of the world in an unfamiliar culture without your family and missing them terribly, it’s probably impossible to understand.
    So thankful to have Son#1 home from the US to spend Christmas with us.

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    1. Yes. Your second paragraph…..this is the part that can’t be explained, and definitely can’t be understood until experienced. Thank you. Also thank you that you, like some of the others in the comment thread realize this is so much more than physical cold…..it’s deep down emotional cold. And so glad that Son #1 is home. Recently while talking to my mom she said that one Christmas she realized that in all her years in Pakistan one of us had been able to be home every Christmas. What a gift.

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  2. You brought back so many memories…. I spent that first Christmas with Grandparents who meant well but who didn’t really understand. I was miserable and surrounded by snow and relatives. And calling Pakistan was $3.23 a minute!
    I too gained 60 pounds those first two years back….
    That particular Christmas I woke with a fever and slept most of the day….I remember thinking that that was God’s kindness to me….he cushioned me from what might have been too painful of a day.

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    1. The thought of you with your fever, laying there in a strange world is almost too much for me to bear. But you’re right, perhaps harder is going through the day feeling like you are pretending. I realized at one point that every holiday I got a terrible stomach ache….it was related to the tension of trying desperately to make everything seem right only to end the day exhausted and alone.

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  3. I remember my first Christmas away from my immediate family. I spent it with kind friends but inspite of their hospitality, I missed my family so much. You can be surrounded by people and still feel very lonely. Still, two decades later, a few days before Christmas, I have moments of sadness where I desperately miss my family before I suck it up and remember to enjoy what I have and to remember what Christmas is all about.

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    1. It was you and I both. We were in the lounge at West sub. As I remember we were both crying and then talked about how Jesus was away from home as well. You gave me much comfort – and of course we were surrounded by young women who were going home to where their moms had kept their bedrooms just as they were when they had left home….so there was a bit of a disconnect. Huge hugs to you.

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  4. I can’t exactly remember my first Christmas in Holland (I grew up in Africa and my family stayed there). I felt very cold and lonely too. The “cold” was also the culture, I was used to a warm “we” culture in Africa and in Europe it is a cold individualistic culture, foreign to me!

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  5. Marilyn, my dearest daughter, you had no idea at the time how very much we missed you! Although life was very full and very busy, there was a big empty space when you left home. And I never thought you were that fat – you just had the fate of being short.

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    1. Really? This hasn’t always been my experience. Sometimes no one comes along with comfort or love. Or sometimes they mean well and they try….but the mis-fire of that moment is almost more painful. I do know that coldness serves a purpose. If only to remind us of what that felt like when later we are warm!

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      1. I think I agree with this.. it’s like Sophie says above — we can be surrounded by well-meaning people yet it serves only to make us lonelier. It’s surely not the fault of the well-meaning. I was talking last night to three third culture kids and despite the age difference of hundreds of years…(.well, not quite! But I’m older than their mom!) our experiences are uncannily parallel – people wanting to mother us, telling us we were boasting when we “categorized our memories” through place eg “When I was in Australia I….” This was seen as boasting. People ‘mis-firing’ as you put so well. But ultimately that coldness has served a purpose.

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