The Smell of Christmas

Today I want to share a raw piece of my heart, and a part of the downside of my life that you won’t see from my social media highlight reel and others that have found themselves going down a more off-beaten path.

There are two sides (at least) to everyone’s story.

Let’s never forget that.

I was recently attending a wedding in Singapore and the 8-course evening wedding dinner was well underway when I decided I needed to stretch my legs, go to the restroom and take a break from the loads people. This is quite normal for me at big events or parties. My introverted side kicks in, and I need a little quiet time and reflection alone so that I can recharge a bit and go back in and enjoy the rest of the evening.

I was on my way back in to the celebration when an unannounced smell invaded my senses.


 The dinner venue was at the Gardens by the Bay, and they were setting up for the holidays. The walk from the bathroom to the dinner venue shared the airspace with a section of the open gardens, and they were setting up a huge Christmas tree.

I couldn’t leave. I needed to smell this smell…well…forever if possible. Memories came flooding back, and I began thinking back over past Christmases and thinking about being in Asia this Christmas instead of at home. The tears began to well up. I kind of tried to hold them back, to keep them under control. After all people were walking back and forth behind me, and there I was leaning over the edge of the walkway in a floor-length black dress and heels trying to breath in as much fir tree as possible while I had the chance, all the while trying to keep my thoughts and emotions under control.

I finally decided not to stifle and stuff. I needed to cry. Like really cry.

I didn’t want to wander too far off so I just went around the corner and up the stairs.   I spotted a large stand of sorts with 3 flower arrangements on top.   I initially thought I’d just sit on top, but then people could still see me. And at this point I wanted the filter off and the freedom to release.

So behind the stand and onto the floor I went. Sequins and heels and all.

And I cried.

Honestly, sometimes it just sucks when you miss those familiar faces and places and takes and smells from home. What’s almost just as hard is that a lot of times there’s no one physically present that can relate and grieve with you.  Those are the tricky, upside down feeling times where leaning on Jesus is essential.

This time this year these little moments seem to be a bit more frequent than I’m comfortable with. With Fall, Winter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year all jammed into the span of a couple of months the longing for the special flavors and moments that my heart crave just aren’t as easily accessible as I’m used to.

I want boots and scarves and flannel and live Christmas trees and all things pumpkin.  I want to see trucks with 4-wheelers loaded into the truck bed and camo covered men at the gas stations, and yes, I’m even missing the sound of football games coming from the TV (thanks, Daddy), but most of these things are out of my reach in the ways that I long for them.

Thanksgiving hit me hard in a lot of ways. A wonderful American family invited me over to celebrate. There was a mix of nationalities around the table, but the family’s traditions and dishes mirrored so much of my own family’s. Several times that day I had to leave the room to blow my  snotty nose and dry my unrelenting river of tears. There was such a bitter sweetness in it. Missing home and family but also being filled with thankfulness for the Father’s thoughtfulness, faithfulness and provision in every area of my life.

I was in awe of Him.

I grew up with a family that did this well – inviting others into our home. My parents have always loved on everyone that’s walked through our back door and made them feel at home. There’s always room for more at the table. Being the recipient of this kind of love and hospitality all over the world has made me increasingly appreciate that. I believe I’m reaping the benefits of what my parents have sown.

So I encourage you this holiday season to love on the “strays” around you.   Send a card to that friend that took a job away from home and doesn’t have the luxury of being nestled in their treasured familiarity this Christmas. Even if someone isn’t overseas for the holidays, even if they’re only one state away from their roots, believe me they are craving to be included and loved on and seen.

God is just so faithful. That’s all there is to it! It’s a part of Who He IS.

Through all the highs and lows one key thing I’m learning is that HE IS HOME.

“Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for My sake and for the sake of the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.’”

Mark 10:29-30


9 thoughts on “The Smell of Christmas

  1. Jessica. heart goes out to you as sweet memories invade your thoughts…thank you for the reminder that Jesus is who we lean on and to make sure we welcome strangers. scripture says you never know that you might be entertaining angels (or missionaries ) ;)… love you


  2. Jessica, Thank you for your honesty. Life away from all that we have known and the memories we have made is HARD. Longing to be near to those things and family is very normal. However in this season the Lord has called you to be where you are. Cherish the old memories but work at making new ones as well. You may not, probably won’t always be in Malaysia, so right now make memories to take with you when He calls you elsewhere. The Father is with you wherever you are and will comfort you and give you the strength that you need. You are away from familiarity for the right reasons! If I could I would cut down and mail you a Christmas tree! Merry Christmas!


    1. Oh Bill! Thanks so much for your encouragement. You’re absolutely right. And I know you would cut down a Christmas tree for me, and that means the world to me! I miss you guys and love you much. You’re on my heart and in my thoughts. Hope you have the very best Christmas yet. 🙂


  3. Thanks for sharing the harder sides of living the missionary life J-Ro. I send my love from the states. Sometimes I really wish it was as easy as jumping on a plane to go visit those that I love abroad and perhaps bring some pieces of home with.

    It seems so long ago that I was calling you “Mom” while living in the Hilton house and doing life together.

    I pray the Lord gives you some pleasant surprises this holiday season to go along with the smell of christmas.

    much Love

    – Austin


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