I sat quietly in my apartment in Spain, an ocean away from my family in Canada, alone.
It was two months before Christmas, and I knew I couldn't go home. I'd been teaching in Spain for only a month, and I hadn't earned enough money for the trip.
My new friends tried to comfort me, offering to share a warm vacation in the Canary Islands or go on a trip to Germany. As wonderful as those trips could be, every time the topic came up I would feel sad.
I come from a big family, and Christmas is a time of gathering to share memories, sing carols, and read the story of Jesus' birth together.
I remember begging God to give me the strength not to go home, but this only ended in tears.
I sat quietly to think about the situation. I thought that what I was feeling was natural. Wouldn't anyone in my position be homesick? Suddenly, I awoke to the word "sick" that I had attached to home. I knew home was natural, but sickness was not. Sickness was not part of what I think of as God, Love.
I had believed that homesickness was powerful, more powerful than God's love. With this change of thinking came a flood of good ideas. I recognized that as God's child, it was unnatural for me to feel anything other than Love's presence.
I considered what Christmas meant to me. It is a celebration of the presence of the Christ. To me this signified a reminder of my relationship with my Father-Mother God.
Like the little child who starts school, I was being asked to leave the attachment of family to recognize God's presence with me, always, whether family was there or not. I was being asked to broaden my view to see every individual I was meeting as part of family.
I knew my family wouldn't think less of me for not going home. And I saw that home is wherever I am because that is where God is. It was no longer a struggle to think of staying in Europe.
My immediate response to these thoughts was to read that week's Bible Lesson from the Christian Science Quarterly. These lessons have been an inspiration to me over the years. In that particular lesson was the passage from the Bible, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:13).
I realized another mistake I had been making: by begging God to give me strength, I wasn't acknowledging it as something I already had. I knew then that I had the strength to go forward, no longer with a sense of martyrdom, but rather with joy.
A week later, a friend called from Canada. He offered to pay for an airline ticket home for Christmas. Without any hesitation I thanked him but told him I was looking forward to experiencing a European Christmas.
I spent that Christmas with a friend's grandparents in Germany. When I arrived at their door, I was greeted with a bouquet of flowers. In order to communicate with one another, we spoke in six different languages, but the most important language was the genuine caring we shared.
When I went to church with my new friends, a member of the congregation welcomed me. I explained that I was a visitor and usually attended the Christian Science church. She responded, "We are all in one family in Christ."
Her comment reminded me of something I'd read in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science: "With one Father, even God, the whole family of man would be brethren; and with one Mind and that God, or good, the brotherhood of man would consist of Love and Truth, and have unity of Principle and spiritual power which constitute divine Science" (pp. 469-470).
I will never forget the love I felt that Christmas, embraced as part of God's family.