The first part of the month just kind of dragged on in this emotional dread of the holidays to come. The plan had always been to spend Christmas Eve with Katya's - my boss - family, and then travel to Sofia the next day to spend the day with some American friends there. It wasn't until I was sitting around the table with Katya, her two kids, Petya's boyfriend, and then a friend of mine that I realized that when you're far away from home, "family" begins to take new and exciting forms. Nothing will take away from traditions with my parents and brother and sister in law, aunts, cousins, uncles, grandmas back home... but I was experiencing a new kind of family that I'm not sure I truly appreciated until that night - over two years after I first got here. I had originally felt guilty about inviting an additional person to Katya's family meal, but when I explained that Justin only got a few days off, and we were both like "kids from the orphanage" without our own families this year, she told me later that she felt honored that we both chose to spend Christmas with her. I felt honored too, to be sitting around a family, communicating in an unbelievably comfortable combination of fluid Bulgarian and English, and laughing like I was with people I'd known for my whole life.
The next day, Justin and I took the bus to Sofia around lunch, and spent the rest of the day relaxing around the fire, eating, playing games, cuddling with puppies and little kids, eating some more, and partaking in some of the most much-needed fellowship I've ever experienced. It was so refreshing, in fact, that New Years was spent in much of the same fashion - with the Christ-followers God called to serve in Bulgaria. Amazing.
Family. I'm ready to have the blood-bound, "stuck with each other for life" ;) people back in my life on a daily basis, but wow. I continue to have my mind blown by the new family members that have entered my life in the last 2+ years. I can't wait to be back in my US home in the months to come (THIS year!), but it is going to be so hard (impossible, maybe?) to say goodbye to this home... this family.