Christmas from Japan to Papua New Guinea

headshot-jayna-breighBy Jayna Breigh

Long before my husband (let’s call him Bill) and I ever met, Bill seriously considered being a missionary aviator. To prepare for his possible life as a missionary he learned to fly by taking private flying lessons at a little municipal airport. He also spent a year in Japan teaching English through his denomination.

Bill spent one Christmas in Japan while on this mission and remembers it well. Christmas was not a “legal” holiday there like it is here. Banks didn’t close and children had to go to school. I asked Bill if there were decorations and gift exchanges. He said there were secular decorations—Santas and reindeer, but no gifts. As he put it, there were the trappings of Christmas without the Christianity.



Bill did have a very moving remembrance of his one Christmas in Japan. He was working at a Church in Wakayama City (the capital of the Prefecture of Wakayama–yes it has the same name twice like New York, New York). Wakayama City is a seaside city in Southern Japan, about an hour’s train ride from Osaka. On top of the church was a large illuminated cross visible to boats and ships in the Pacific Ocean. A Pakistani Christian sailor saw the cross from his ship in the harbor and joined the congregation of Bill’s church for their Christmas Eve service.

It did not work out for Bill to be a missionary aviator. One of the requirements to fly (at least at that time) was that the pilot had to be married, which Bill was not. The concern of the mission’s agency was that the isolation and depravations of mission life would prove to be too severe a temptation to a single man. Flash forward to today.  Bill ultimately became a commercial airline pilot. And our family now supports a missionary aviation family in Papua, New Guinea. The husband transports medical supplies, translators, Bibles, and other goods. He also flies medical personnel into remote areas and flies sick people out. His wife homeschools their four children. If I had met my husband years earlier, this could have been my life. And just like the missionaries we support, we would have spent Christmas in a remote village, far away from friends and family, far from modern conveniences, far from American commercialism, and surrounded by traditions that are so foreign to the way we were raised.


Papua, New Guinea

I took the time to look back through four years of newsletters to see how our missionaries celebrated Christmas in Papua, New Guinea. Since it is in the Southern Hemisphere, it is summertime when Christmas is celebrated. The photographs in the Christmas newsletters of our Papua, New Guinea missionaries show green grass and lush vegetation in the middle of what is our winter here.

In the states, even if someone lives in a seasonally warm state like Arizona, Christmas is still marked with scenes of Winter, songs about snow and the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. And whether one is religious or not, the basis for the celebration of Christmas — the birth of Jesus Christ — is understood. In Papua, New Guinea, it is different. There are more than 850 languages in Papua, New Guinea, the most in the world. Yet, the Bible remains untranslated in approximately 300 of them. That means in these places there isn’t even a written Christmas Story for the people to read if they wanted to.

And this is part of Christmas around the world.

Writing Prompt: He pushed send on the application for the Missionary aviation position. He’d put a name on the application in the space marked “wife.” But, he hadn’t actually given her the ring that was currently in his pocket. In fact, he hadn’t introduced himself to her yet…



headshot-jayna-breighJayna is a wife, home educator, and an attorney who practiced in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles for more than a decade.  Currently she resides in the Southeast with her husband and two children.  Jayna enjoys online word tile games and British period dramas.

Jayna has spoken at women’s retreats, led women’s Bible studies, and has taught and facilitated women’s and parenting seminars on topics ranging from sharing the faith, life skills management, and mother daughter relationships. She is also a member of the ACFW.

Her current work in progress is a Finalist in the Inspirational category of the First Coast Romance Writers 2016, Beacon Contest, and took Second Place in the Central Ohio Fiction Writers 2016, Ignite the Flame Contest. You can connect with Jayna at and on Facebook at

Christmas Celebrations and Decorations

11157649lBy Jennifer Hallmark

Breathe in, breathe out. It’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I have vegetated in the recliner all morning after an early invigorating walk, staring at the harvest/Thanksgiving decorations surrounding me. It’s an hour and a half until the Iron Bowl starts, the biggest football game of the year for Alabama and Auburn fans. I have plenty of time to get my thoughts on paper for my next post.

Our focus is on what Christmas means to me. Yes, it means family, my kin by blood and my church family, connected by the blood of Jesus. I love the Christmas plays, parades, television specials—from cute cartoons to moving stories about the birth of Jesus. I dress up in Christmasy clothes and shop more than any other time of the year.

This weekend, these three or four days after Thanksgiving, however, is where it all starts for me. I live in a rural area, near a small town, so on Black Friday, my husband and I venture to WalMart, CVS, Tractor Supply, and Dollar General. The crowds aren’t bad in our area, it’s enjoyable, and we always find a few treasures.

Now that Thanksgiving is over, Christmas music plays during my shopping, and presents lie on our bedroom floor waiting to be wrapped. It’s time. A smile spreads on my face as I sit here, envisioning the decorations that will soon cover the house. Lots of snowmen because they’re my favorite. The granddaughters love to see them all, though my two children roll their eyes at the explosion of roly-poly snow people of all colors, shapes and sizes.

They all have meaning as many were gifts IMG_20151209_075847333from friends and family, some no longer with me. Many were picked up from after Christmas on clearance tables or at summer yard sales. After a few seasons, I pass them on to others and we still have room to walk through the house.  🙂

Why? To me, Christmas is all about celebrations and decorations. Jesus was born in humble surroundings, but angels and one perfect star announced His birth. Shepherds visited him, and wise men bore precious gifts. Even in that tiny stable, Mary and Joseph must have celebrated as the presence of God visibly arrived in their world.

IMG_20151209_084915535Did the animals surrounding them sense the Son of God? Did the innkeeper or any of
the occupants of the inn visit them, drawn by a love beyond anything they’d ever sensed before? We’ll never know on this earth. Jesus is worth celebrating and as I decorate my home and play Christmas music, I think of Him. I envision my family gatherings and sometimes tear up with thoughts of family I won’t see or loved ones gone on to heaven.

Then the decorating is done. I walk through slowly, enjoying each decorated room, savoring the old decorations and new. I eagerly await the Christmas play that Ava, my oldest granddaughter, will star in at school. Her role is Mrs. Santa Claus. Then there is the play at church where she is an angel and little Sadie Rae, a lamb. She practices her baaing constantly.

A big Christmas Eve gathering and Christmas day visits round out the holidays. Before the New Year arrives, I carefully pack everything away, where it waits for its unveiling in 2016. I give a contented sigh while I sit, sipping hot tea and typing these last words.

Celebrations and decorations.

Jesus, the reason for the season.

My family and friends.

Writing Prompt: Write a short paragraph telling how the photo above makes you feel.

Christmas meaning? Wait for it…


IMGP2605by Cari Schaeffer

It’s That Time of Year again. Christmas preceded by Thanksgiving. I like that particular order – speaking for myself, spending a day focused on giving thanks is the perfect way to enter into the days leading up to Christmas. As a Christian, I am eternally grateful for Christmas (which leads up to Easter…but that’s another season and another post) because it’s the day of the year that we celebrate the birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The meaning of Christmas has changed for me over the years depending on my season of life. When I was a child, it was magical and I looked forward to it very much. I didn’t come from a family of tremendous financial means and so it was never a lavish affair. We didn’t have a formal dining room with fine china brought out just for the occasion, a roaring fire in the fireplace, a twenty-foot tree in the great room with shiny presents spilling out from under its branches, and parties every weekend. The homes I grew up in were composed more of single-wide trailers or apartments. What I did have was a mother and stepfather who loved me, a sister, and close family around for most Christmases. Some Christmases were sparse at best while others made my eyes as large as saucers because I got the brand new bike or EasyBake oven I so desperately wished for. My childhood Christmases were about presents, the smell of pine, twinkly lights, and really good food.

As a young adult, Christmas was often disappointing to me. I thought it was never quite good enough compared to The Ideal presented in every commercial, television program, and greeting card. Intellectually, I knew they were just sets and not real, but I still felt like I could never quite measure up to what it was supposed to be like. I was sure everyone else did it better than I. Then one Christmas I was sitting on the sofa and glancing around at our little duplex in base housing. My husband was at work (of course) and I had just put our three-year-old daughter to bed. It was just me and the cat. My eyes spanned the family pictures on the wall which led directly to the Christmas tree that still twinkled like I remembered from childhood. The smell of pine was missing because we had chosen a reusable faux tree. It was cheaper. Under it were enough presents to fill the gap. My gaze continued on and landed on my book bag resting against the wall by our front door. You see, I was enrolled full time at a local private university that cost more per year in tuition than my husband made as a member of the military. But it was paid for because I earned my GI Bill. I was very close to graduation. Our house was clean, warm, safe, and filled with everything I could possibly want or need – a husband who loved me, a healthy child, food in the fridge, and the promise of a very bright future. At that moment, the disappointment I felt every year for not having The Ideal Christmas disappeared in the light of truth. That feeling of inadequacy has never surfaced again. Christmas is not a competition. It’s a celebration.

Now, my children are teenagers with that little three-year-old girl turning twenty-three soon. We have intentionally never focused Christmas on “things”, but rather on what Christmas really means to us – love, family, and relationships. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to die for our sins, we are adopted into the family of God when we accept the sacrifice of His Son, and God restores us into right relationship with Him through the death and resurrection of Jesus. That’s what Christmas means to me.

We do buy gifts for each other but never go into debt for it. Christmas comes at the same time every year. So in our earlier years when money was tight, we saved a little every month during the year in order to pay cash for the presents. We have no financial hangovers come January. We also remind our children that the gifts we give them represent the ultimate Gift of Jesus Himself.

This is controversial for some, but in our family, we have never done the whole Santa thing. We are Christians and there are enough things in our society to detract from the name of Jesus that we don’t feel it’s appropriate to distract even further by supplanting what CHRISTmas is all about.

I hope that you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Keep it simple or lavish, but whatever you do I hope you remember the Reason for the Season.

This entry is my final adieu in this blog. It’s been fun sharing bits of myself with all of you. I have enjoyed my time here and found the Crew to be a great team full of grace and knowledge. God bless you all on your writing journey.

20140428_144615Farewell and God’s Blessings on You,




Our Christmas Traditions

By Cari Schaeffer

Our family Christmas traditions are not quite as lofty as others might be – we keep it simple and fairly straight forward.


candlelightWhen I was growing up, my family traditions consisted of opening one present on Christmas Eve and attending candle light church services, most years. We would gather with my grandparents, cousins, and other relatives for a big family meal on Christmas day. Some of the traditional food served, other than turkey and ham, was banana pudding, three bean salad, apple walnut salad, and tamales. Go ahead and raise your eyebrows – you should! My family consists of red necks with just a little bit of Hispanic culture thrown in because I was raised in the southwestern portion of the United States. Laugh all you want, it was good eating!


One of my husband’s family traditions was to stay up until midnight on Christmas Eve and open all the presents as soon as Christmas day arrived at the stroke of the clock. His family would typically stay up most of the night (there were six children) into the next day. We ditched that tradition when we came together and had our own children. Who wants cranky kids on Christmas Day? Not I, said the little pig…


For our family and as Christians, we are sure to keep our focus on the real meaning of Christmas, which is the birth of Christ. We attend candle light services at church on Christmas Eve and listen to the retelling of the birth of Jesus found in the book of Luke. We don’t open a present on Christmas Eve because we tend not to purchase a lot of them. Don’t get me wrong – gift giving does take place, but there aren’t piles and piles of them. Christmas comes the same day every year and we budget for it. The day after Christmas, we have no remaining debt from it. We have taught our children that we give presents to remind ourselves that Jesus is the best Gift we have ever received. The feeling we have when opening gifts is just a small taste of what it’s like when we receive His gift of eternal salvation.


We made a conscious decision not to have Santa Claus as part of our family culture. I know there are folks who weigh heavily on one side or the other on this issue. I understand that – to each his own. But for OUR family, we prefer not to allow a non-existent character to take the focus away from the real person of Jesus – the true meaning of Christmas. As a disclaimer, we also don’t do the Easter bunny (for the same reason) or the tooth fairy. One Christmas season many years ago, we were milling around the foyer after church when an older woman leaned down, smiled at my four year old son and asked him what Santa was bringing him for Christmas. He looked at her, frowned, and said, “We are Christians. We don’t do Santa. He’s not real, but Jesus is.”file0002074159204


On both Thanksgiving and Christmas morning, I make my home made cinnamon rolls. As my children have gotten older (two of my boys are now teenagers), I have had to increase the number of pans I make because otherwise I won’t get any! They are devoured rather quickly, but have to sustain us until Christmas dinner is ready. We usually eat around two in the afternoon and I make the whole thing from scratch, to include the rolls. As a Chef, I can do no less. The only canned item I purchase is the evaporated milk and pumpkin to make my pumpkin pie. I even make my own cranberry sauce, which is ridiculously easy to do and so worth it.


Every year, we must watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Christmas Story. My husband is an absolute Charlie Brown NUT. He shamelessly dances to the tune of Linus and Lucy. On our tenth anniversary, we were at a very high end restaurant. There was a gentleman playing a grand piano in the dining area who was taking requests. I slipped my request to him. He smiled and winked at me while shuffling around some pages. Finally, the tune began to fill the air. My husband’s filet mignon paused in mid-air on its way to his mouth. He cocked his head, looked at me with wide eyes and asked if I had done that. I grinned and nodded. He loved it. It is still one of our favorite memories. Every year, I try to get him a gift of something that has to do with Charlie Brown.

Even though our Christmas traditions aren’t lofty, they are meaningful and they are ours. I love them and how they bind us together as a family. There is always a lot of love, laughter, and good cheer bouncing off the walls in our home. I hope your traditions do the same for you.

Merry Christmas!