A Less Commercial Christmas

What would I be doing RIGHT now this week if I was in the US???

Parties, decorating, shopping, school activities, church activities, more parties, memories to make, traditions to keep, family to see, cooking, baking, candle stick making.  If I am honest I almost make Christmas a sport as I try to fill our calendar with wonderful memories and magical moments the whole month long!  All wonderfully wonderful things–and some that I truly miss this year.  But there is a fraction of that here in our corner of the world.  Even if I wanted to, there is no competition for me to enter when it comes to the most holiday events to attend, parties, and festivities to fill your calendar.  As far as I can see the emphasis in Africa is just different.  I could drive for hundreds of miles and never see a blow up Santa.  (I mean do you have any idea the amount of electricity that one of those takes to run?)  I am just thankful when my fridge stays cold all night! 

Continue reading

St. Nick VS. Santa

So when you are starting to run a little low on curriculum for your children and are waiting for your next installment of material to come in…

You improvise.  Yesterday knowing that somewhere around the 1st of the month people somewhere in the world celebrated St. Nicholas, I decided we would do a little research to find out more about who he was and what he was all about.   I knew enough to know that he was a good dude, one we could learn from and model character traits.  After gathering some basic information…we did a little scavenger hunt around the compound…looking for clues…learning about his birth place…his history of generosity…and many other fun note-worthy facts about this historical figure.  

Continue reading

All I want for Christmas…

If you know me…you know that Christmas (to quote Buddy the elf)…is a GINORMOUS event in our family…and it has been for most of my life. 

We Ellis’ love a good Christmas season.  My cousin a few years ago had her Christmas wreath (or tree?) up the day after Halloween…we carry the same genes and are made from the same mold, and we like to stretch out Christmas as long as possible.  So I welcome Christmas music in early November and I often times have my decorations up through New Years Day. 

Every day of December I have a stocking that is filled with something for us to do to prepare for Christmas day.  A daily advent “stocking” activity: an act of service, cookies to bake, a musical to see, a present to wrap, a song to sing, a live nativity to experience.   I do miss those little stockings over the mantel, and haven’t quite figured out how to convert my family traditions to our UG apartment.  There are more reasons that I will discuss later as to why I have not gone all out and done Crazy Jenni Cockerham Christmas in Uganda…but the girl who goes BIG at Christmas time is a bit of  a Christmas minimalist this year! 

Minimalist at Christmas?  It can’t be??  Jenni, surely you can find other options and ways to celebrate and prepare!?!?  I actually think if I had realized we would still be here for Christmas I would have likely devoted an entire suitcase to be filled with decorations, treats, and Christmas comforts.  So there is that.  But here the Christmas decorations are a RACKET.  First of all–sorry–I try to only say positive–but this is my favorite season and I have very very high expectations for Christmas decorations.  These are honestly a bit gaudy, WAY over-priced, and remind me of something to be found in my grandmothers attic.   One wreath I found was 153,000 shillings which is about 60 bucks.  It was spray painted silver pine cones and some sort of twigs and branches twisted together!   Christmas lights are expensive, and I just keep thinking I don’t think I can pay for something I have back in the states and love for something that is SO expensive and uses a different socket than at home!   I did however find on the bottom shelf of a grocery store a wreath that you will see pictured below.  It was 7,000 shillings.  I made them do a price check twice because it is a plug in wreath that lights up and also flashes and does other crazy things.  Something I would have passed by at Target, but a GEM that is displayed proudly in our kitchen right now!   (This–to clarify was $2.75!)  What?  Thank you God for this little Christmas miracle!   Besides the wreath we have decided to go homemade this year.  We did an advent tree made of plastic plates so every day we count down to Christmas by checking out our tree that hangs in the window.  Also Kylee and I worked VERY hard to make these snowflake/Christmas stars ( paper snowflakes ) that hang over our kitchen table!  (Thank you Sarah Mullins!)  They were an absolute craft highlight so far…but there are more Christmas crafts to come!  

                                                       (Yep, a tad bit different this year!) 

                                  (These just make me HAPPY!  7 Snowflakes for the 7 Cs!)

All of this to say–Christmas is different this year.  One difference is without all my stockings, and shopping and other distractions the daily advent reading ( JESUS STORY BOOK ADVENT ) has been our Christmas focus each day.   Our advent time has been so very sweet to have a daily reading from something that EVERYONE can understand.  And to have discussion and prepare our hearts not just weekly with my beautiful purple, pink, and white candles…but daily has been good for my soul.   Thank you Sara Walters for suggesting it–it has literally been and will be our focal point for Christmas this year.   For those who are interested in a daily family reading between now and Christmas, check this out…her blog also has great ideas about how to do daily activities as a family to prepare your hearts and minds for Christmas…it is only the 3rd…they are short you can catch up quick!  (The author of this blog sounds almost as nutty as I am about Christmas…but I win…I just do.)

The biggest difference I have noticed about Christmas is the kids’ conversations.   Kylee is trying to figure out thoughtful homemade gifts for her friends.   About a week ago I overheard her say to her friend, “All I want for Christmas is my mom and dad under the same roof.”  Wow.  That will stop you cold.  And considering that I am sweating like crazy this December, this is quite difficult to do!  Coming from Kylee, whose love language is “gifts,”…she loves to think of thoughtful things to do and create for others!   She is always helping ME be creative and thoughtful with my gifts for family and friends.  My birthdays have exponentially changed for the better over the past 9 years because thoughtful Kylee ensures that my next birthday is better than the last.  This girl gives and receives love through gifts.  So for Kylee Cockerham to say, ALL she wanted was for her mom and dad to be in the same place about laid me out.  If I was hoping my children would have some perspective change while spending a few months in Uganda–I believe we are close to mission accomplished.  I know we all have many more lessons to learn while we are here–but I am truly truly thankful for the things that we are learning and the ways my children are maturing.  It was Mary who was told good news of her son and she “treasured them in her heart”…this mom is treasuring the life lessons that are being learned and the ways that He is transforming ALL of us from the inside out.  We will NEVER be the same! 

So THANK YOU Uganda for a more quiet Christmas.  For not having the Christmas displays that distract and cause me to go fill up my cart with stuff that will rust and pull my heart away from what really matters.  I am glad Christmas items are a bit gaudy and overpriced because it is allowing for hours of quality time with my daughter creating snowflakes and memories that will last a life

I am also thankful for the opportunity to spend this Christmas with new friends.  We hosted a December 3rd Christmas pancake breakfast at our place this morning–not fancy but the pancakes were green and reddish (pink)?!?   Our friends’ hubbies headed back to the US yesterday so our houses are all wives flying solo and I knew that the morning after Chris left I would have liked to have a pancake party!  Love these precious people and the things that I am learning from them, the fellowship for our children, and the ways that I have felt so supported during the time while Chris has been away.  


                                                           Check out her “winter” scarf!!!

           Jonathan with his pancakes and honey–he doesn’t like any bread without it!

                    Smiles and clean plates from little boys with earaches make me happy!

  (I am sorry but please stop and get excited about our rockin’ wreath for $2.75!)

There are more Christmas blogs coming–it is a subject too close to my heart.  But I pray as this month begins that you will take some time to TRULY slow down.  That you would not let the glitz and glimmer or the “to do list” distract from what really matters this season.  Because the parties, friends, family, food, service projects, and the rest are good…but if they take away from the true meaning of this holiday…one that came from VERY humble beginnings with no glitz, glam, or glory.  Then maybe just maybe we need to re-think our GINORMOUS Christmas holiday

May You Be a Blessing and May Christmas Be a Blessing to You



Cockerham Family Christmas Card 2012

Merry Christmas! 

Once again our Christmas card is green

No matter whether we are saving trees or money…let me tell you I do love holding your cards in my hands…so thank you for sending your lovely letters our way!  

Here’s a quick digital download of 2012…

My little bro graduated from UNC                Kylee danced!

In May we welcomed a new member to our family…                                  

In October we took a life-altering trip that started in London…

and landed in Uganda…


Watoto left an impression the size of Africa on our hearts!  

The kids dressed up…
One Nature Fairy, Will Turner, and a last minute change turned our “Pumpkin Pirate” in to a “tough” Brown Ninja…

This year provided laughter…

required some real effort…                

                               and expanded our world view!                   

2012 took us on some incredible adventures and allowed us to see the world with new eyes.   It filled us with a strong desire to invest more and more in things that really matter.

So whether we run, laugh, dress up, travel, or lift and load thousands of boxes, we hope to see this world not as our oyster but as a beautiful place filled with beautiful people.  People we hope to know.  People we hope to befriend.  We hope to inspire others to invest in relationships too.  So whether they love people close or far away…their lives and relationships would effect change.   

We don’t begin to pretend to know all that this means and we are pretty sure it is going to be messy.  It is only His grace that makes us worthy.   But by His grace we hope 2013 will be filled with more of Him and less of us. 

This green card is about to turn super FANCY…or weird!?!  Close your eyes and picture opening a Hallmark card that sings to you…press PLAY on the utube video…
(or if it is just too weird, scroll down!)

“It’s funny how it takes a holiday
To show us how the world could truly change
If we all took the time to really care
There’d be a little more of heaven everywhere.”
Heaven Everywhere–Francesca Battistelli
May this holiday find you ready for a New Year with New Beginnings, New Relationships, and New Opportunities to make a difference in this world and in the lives of those around you!

You are a Blessing and we are Blessed to call You FRIEND!

The Cockerhams 

An Unusual Christmas Wish

Recently I read that America’s greatest fear is inconvenience.  We want it our way, fast, hot and now.  We don’t want to wait, so now there are two lines at the drive through.  We want to get all of our groceries, garden needs, and clothing items in one quick stop.  In many ways we have achieved a very convenient way to live…we have grown accustomed to it and cannot imagine life without it.  

I think a better translation to all of this is that we want to be comfortable.  We want there to be an ease of life.  There is enough pain and discomfort in the world and so by our very nature when possible, we choose comfort.  Though quite understandable–ironically, it is in our discomfort that we grow.   On a run yesterday, I was reminded how uncomfortable running can be.  When I run I learn much about enduring, about pushing past my pain; about discipline and mental strength.  All these attributes surface in a few short miles while I endure discomfort.   

In our discomfort we also realize that this world is not about us.

After a lovely dinner, the beautiful host sat us down and shared her heart.  She shared her newest thoughts about the Christmas story.  And Mary.  She shared of Mary’s disgrace.  Who believes a little teenage girl who says that she will be carrying the Son of God in her belly for 9 months?  She shared of the public and private humiliation she must have endured.  Babies out of wedlock were not only disgraceful–they were unlawful.  For a time, a she experienced a broken relationship with her fiance.  The host spoke  of Mary’s discomfort.  Can you imagine giving birth in a barn?  Without your mother…with only a teenage boy as your nurse maid?   She did not live a comfortable life.  A carpenter’s wife.  She also experienced major changes of direction, not only with the obvious birth of an unexpected baby, but also with an quick uprooting move to Egypt when her child was very young.  My precious friend reminded us that Mary accepted disgrace and discomfort…she traded them as God’s will and portion for her life.  She shared that Mary’s courageous response was, “Never mind what people think of me…I will glorify the Lord.”  (not a direct quote–but her general sentiments!  Luke 1:39-55)

On that cozy couch last night I was reminded, God really shows up in the discomfort

I want Mary’s heart.  May I accept…or (eeeek) welcome the discomfort of this life…knowing it is where He dwells…it is where great things are birthed.  

Thank you Aliene for reminding us to shift our perspective.  Thank you for having Mary’s heart, for being willing to endure discomfort and disgrace for the glory of God.  Thank you for using your gifts to remind each woman that she is a treasure.  

Over the next few days as this year quickly moves to a close…might we dare whisper a new prayer for 2013…God may I move away from the things that bring me most comfort…so that I might better see and know your heart?  

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed!


Presents, Parades or Prophecy?

“Do we HAVE to listen?”

“Yes…it is 7 verses.  Just listen.”  

Those were the objections from my oldest and my rebuttals as we discussed our December 1st scripture reading about the prophecy of Jesus.  I get it.   She would rather be opening presents from her Granddaddy that we are visiting for the weekend, or going to the Christmas parade where Santa throws candy from a fire engine that is scheduled for later in the afternoon.  Christmas seems to have more flare to an eight year old when it is wrapped in bows or covered in sweets.  I am glad we pushed through…

As I read Isaiah’s prophecy (9:2-7) I realized that the kids might actually be able to share helpful thoughts throughout this month on what they are learning in December.  

We read, 

“…they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest…”

The object lesson was ideal this morning as just minutes before we had looked out over my dad’s farm and saw the land where the soybeans had been harvested.   Later that afternoon they took a combine ride…we literally experienced a view of “the harvest.”  

So I pushed…

“Why would someone rejoice over a harvest?”

The one who had not wanted to have this discussion piped in, “hmm…because they had been waiting for food for months to grow and they finally can eat it!”  

Okay.  Good.  

Moving on, 

“Unto us a child is born, to us a son is given.” 

Same child, “well, babies take a long to time come–so that was probably exciting too.”  

“Yes.  Now–this was not just any baby–tell me about this baby…”

The middle child, “this baby will rule over the world, He will be the prince of peace.”  

My baby pipes in, “he will be someone to praise.”   (Then he ran off after his Granddaddy and the dogs.)

“So what is this really about?”

“It is about waiting…just like we have to wait for our Christmas presents from Grandaddy and Grand Pickett–the people were waiting for this baby.  It is hard to wait…I bet it was hard for them to wait.”  

“Yep, and I bet they REALLY were ready for this baby–cause we are REALLY ready for our presents!”  

Isaiah talks about the people being in darkness.  They were longing for a Savior.   Farmers still wait for the harvest to come…and mothers anxiously await their child’s birth, children wait for Christmas presents on Christmas day…we understanding waiting.  I can only imagine the anxious anticipation from long ago as the people awaited a Wonderful Counselor, a Prince of Peace…a King that would uphold justice and righteousness from that time on and forever!  

Through this baby there would be HOPE.  I am so thankful that we are able to celebrate the birthday of One who enters in to darkness and brings peace.  

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed!