Blogmas 2018 – Day 18 #christmas #blogmas #blogmas2018 #christmas2018

A big part of Christmas for many (and certainly for me) is the music. I get nerdy-excited when Christmas music starts playing on the radio in mid-November and am like a kid on Christmas morning. For someone who doesn’t usually have the radio on, November and December is the time I do. This year, I’m loving Pentatonix and Michael Buble’s versions of a lot of songs, but I especially love the old, crooning versions, like Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.

My favorite Christmas songs, in no particular order:

  1. “It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas”
  2. “The Christmas Song”
  3. “Silent Night”
  4. “Joy to the World”
  5. “I’ll be Home for Christmas”
  6. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
  7. “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
  8. “Silver Bells”
  9. “Carol of the Bells”
  10. “My Grown-Up Christmas Wish”

What are some of your favorites?

Poetry Tuesday – The Greatest Gift

Everyone gathered, young and old,

Around the Christmas tree topped by a star of gold.

Smiles spread across faces; the air was light and warm,

For it was many years ago the Blessed Babe was born.

Content with what they had heard,

They could now rest assured

That peace and goodwill toward all men

Would prosper as long as love would never end.

It seemed the snow falling gracefully had a way

To bring magic to this wondrous day.

The family thought of all the years all had cared

As those happy and sad memories they shared.

As the little children opened their gifts,

Oh, how high the spirit within lifts.

All those happy years seemed from other lands

As the little boy held the picture in his hands.

“Mommy?” he asked. “What happened here?

Where are all the people who shared in that cheer?”

“Oh, dear child of mine,

Sadly, things have changed with time.

All the elders are long gone,

And all the children have grown and moved on.

The winters have become so cold,

And Grandma’s little cottage was sold.

All the decorations were taken down,

And family has moved out of town.

I know things are not the same,

But one very important thing does remain:

The Greatest Gift, the Child of Love,

The Divine Savior from the Lord up above.”

Blogmas 2018 – Day 17 #christmas #blogmas #blogmas2018 #christmas2018

Christmastime is often filled with many activities, some of which can feel like obligations, sucking the joy out of them. Standing in long lines at the store, trying to find a parking spot, writing out cards, baking cookies, trying to find the perfect gift, the social engagements…all of it can wear on a person if the reason behind the act becomes one of obligation instead of joy.

Giving back is always something that gives me joy at Christmas. I have three young kids, so it’s hard for me to find time to give. Sure, I donate money to charity or drop off toys or canned food. That’s relatively easy, but there are a couple of events my church does every Christmas that I participate in to give of my time.

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Decorating cookies at my church’s cookie baking day for shut-ins!

The first is a gift-giving tree that my Christcare group (a small group of women who meet every Monday afternoon and do various book and video faith-related studies together) puts up in our lobby. People from the congregation purchase items for kids living in a special-needs facility. After all the gifts are collected, my group wraps them.

The other event is baking cookies for shut-ins. Whoever wants to come shows up at church and bakes, decorates, puts in tins, and delivers cookies to people in the church who are elderly, ill, or lonely. I’ve participated in both of these events for the past several years and really love being able to do something tangible.

What ways to you give back?

Blogmas 2018 – Day 16 #christmas #blogmas #blogmas2018 #christmas2018

Hope for the Christmas Season

Such beautiful music fills the air,429377_10151361094345030_1804996509_n
Bringing its promise everywhere.
From far away souls, to those near, 
The message is the same, year after year.
To a place and time beyond does transcend
God’s mercy that does not end.
Many are lost, lonely, angry, or sad,
But true love overcomes all that is bad.
In moments of silence,
Let us fall to our knees in repentance,
Our true selves laid open and bare,
Every thought and feeling to share,
Not to feel awful and full of shame,
But rather to call on Jesus’s name.
Remember this and be thankful
For a most precious gift so beautiful,
Not only at Christmas, but all through the year,
Loving others as He first loved us so dear.
In right spirit of giving over receiving,
Let us hold fast to our blessed Savior, believing
That He is forever and everywhere.
Life in hope and not in fear.

 

Blogmas 2018 – Day 15 #christmas #blogmas #blogmas2018 #christmas2018

Today’s post is an excerpt from Christmas Day of 1944 in my unpublished novel, Rocks and Flowers in a Box:

We stepped into a winter wonderland after the service concluded. White dusted our shoulders as we made our way to the Speedster. When we reached the car, we stopped and looked at the heavens.

“This was always my favorite part of Christmas as a kid,” I said. “I hoped for snow to be falling when church let out at midnight.”

“That means it’s Christmas Day.” Tristan kissed me. “Merry Christmas, my darling.”

“Merry Christmas, my everything.”

Tristan opened the door for me. I got in. He joined me a moment later. He didn’t turn the car on, and when the silence drew long, I cast a puzzled look at him.

“Is something wrong?” I asked.

A soft laugh escaped from his lips. “Nothing is wrong. Nothing at all.”

“Then why so quiet?”

“I was just thinking how much I enjoyed this evening.” HIs hand took mine over the shifter.

A smile eased onto my face, my worries evaporating. “I’m so happy to hear it.”

With a gentle smile on his face, Tristan started the car and drove home. The snow was still falling with the grace of angels singing. I imagined that first Christmas night when the baby Jesus lay wrapped in his mother’s arms in a manger as I stepped out of the car and gazed at the sky. The stars were obscured, but it was the same sky as nearly 2000 years ago. What amazement, what fear the shepherds must have experienced when the Heavenly Host appeared among the stars and proclaimed the birth of the Savior!

“Thank You,” I whispered to God, then withdrew my gaze and took my husband’s hand.

We entered through the side door, throwing on the light. After peeling off our coats, gloves, and hats and hanging them, Tristan said, “There’s something I want to share with you before we head to bed.”

“Oh?” I sent a puzzled look his way, but he was already leaving the kitchen.

I followed Tristan into the living room.

“Please, sit,” he said, gesturing toward my father’s armchair. He flipped on the switch, and the tree bloomed with light.

I eased into the comfort of the cushions. Tristan got down on one knee and reached under the tree among the few gifts. He withdrew one and set it on my lap.

“Go ahead. Open it.”

“Shouldn’t I wait until morning?”

“I want you to see it now.” His eyes danced in the low light.

Smiling, I ripped the edge of the paper, careful to keep it in good condition for the following year. A box about three inches thick stared up at me. I removed the lid and stared at a bound stack of paper, only it wasn’t just any stack of paper. On the first page were the words “A Flower Among Rocks.” Then “By B.R. Stevenson.”

My mouth hung open in awe as my eyes shifted from the manuscript to Tristan. “Is this—?”

Tristan covered my hands with his and squeezed. “It is. It needs to go to my agent and be edited, but this is the first draft of my next novel. I contacted Riggs two weeks ago—the day after you received your brother’s letter, in fact. He’s anxious to receive it. I mailed it to him the next day.”

“That’s wonderful, Tristan!” I took his face in my hands and kissed him. “You did it! You really wrote another book, and to think I’ll be the first to read it… Thank you so much!” I flung my arms around him.

He returned the hug, awkwardly leaning forward as he knelt in front of the chair. He laughed. “Let’s just say a certain someone was the inspiration.” He tapped my nose.

“You are the sweetest, most thoughtful man on the planet. I can’t wait to read it. And this copy…it’s mine?”

He nodded, chuckling more. “You may have wondered what took me so long. I had to type out another copy.”

“You could’ve used carbon paper.” I laughed.

“That would’ve been the sensible thing to do, and we know me and sensible don’t match.”

“Truer words were never said.” I lost myself in laughter and hugs.

When our chuckles subsided, Tristan said, “But seriously, Lorna, I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d be living a life like this. You have done more than you’ll ever know. When I told you I wrote when I was down and out in the past, that was true. Being married to you, though, sparked something new and alive in me. I found you were my inspiration to write now.”

He pulled me to standing and tucked me into the crook of his arms. “I’ll never, ever stop loving you.”

I cried happy tears into his shirt. “There you go, being all poetic with words again, reducing me to a blubbering, incoherent mess. How could I not love you?”

He chuckled, scooped me into his arms, and carried me into the bedroom.

 

Excerpt from Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful (Chapter 29)

On Christmas morning, Brenda was busy playing with her new toys in the living room, remarking that she needed a cradle and a buggy for the baby doll.

Hannah worked in the kitchen at preparing a sweet potato casserole for later that day.  The whole family would be gathering at her parents’ house that afternoon for the main meal, and the kids would be spoiled by all the aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

“We should try to stop by to see your mother afterward,” Hannah suggested to Edward as he sat at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee in one hand and his nose buried in the paper.

“That’s a lot for one day.  Make it tomorrow.”

Hannah frowned.  “But your mother hasn’t been well these past several months.  My family shouldn’t take priority.”

“You have a family, darling,” Edward cut in, lowering the paper, his tone bitter.  “My mother is not in her right mind anymore. I have you and Brenda. That’s all I need.  You, on the other hand, have siblings and both parents.”

“Do you ever wonder what happened to your father?” Hannah asked, knowing it was a touchy topic.

Edward set the paper down and scowled.  “Did I ever tell you the story about the one time I saw him when I was a kid?”

“No, I don’t think so.  I’d have remembered something like that.”

“I was eight or nine.  It was the middle of winter, frigid cold, wind blowing around me like crazy.  All I wanted was to get home. Mother and I were walking back to the house after a school program one evening.  We were living with her parents again at the time. We were always moving around until she remarried. Anyway, as we walked past the park, there on the bench by the sidewalk was a homeless man, a bottle of booze held in one dangling hand.  He was snoring, although probably passed out from the alcohol. ‘That’s your father,’ she told me. All I could do was stare at him. I didn’t feel anything. He was a stranger. It wasn’t until I had time to really think about it that I resented him for leaving my mother, for being a damned coward.  I knew I never wanted to know him.”

Hannah took the seat adjacent to Edward and took his hand.  His eyes met hers. “How come you never told me this?” she asked, her brow creased in concern.

“I didn’t want to burden you.  What good would it do? Does knowing change anything?”

“I think it’s terrible, but it’s also incredibly sad… sad for you, sad for your mother, and sad for him.”

“You pity him?” Edward asked incredulously.

Hannah considered this.  “Yes, I suppose I do. His alcoholism was stronger than his need to be a husband and a father.  It trapped him and ruled him. That’s no life. When I think about how alcohol affected Harry, I know it changed him for the worse.  He went from being the fun-loving brother I’d always known to a bitter man. Of course, he used his jokes to hide a lot. It took him years to sort out his life.”

“Yeah, I remember how angry you were at him.”

“And to think that was the first time you met him.”  Hannah smiled slightly.

“Your family was supportive and welcoming, though, and Harry straightened his life out.  That had to have taken a lot of willpower. That’s more than my father ever did.”

“True.  Harry says the temptation to drink is always with him, but he stays away from it.  Seeing his wife and children reminds him daily of what and who he’d be hurting if he allowed his addiction to take control.  I guess I just hold out hope that your father might have regretted his choices, but he’d been too afraid to come to terms with them.”

“You have a softer heart than I do,” Edward conceded, “but that’s one of the things I love about you.”

Hannah was about to reply when they were interrupted by Brenda running into the kitchen.

“Hurry, Mommy and Daddy!  The baby has a cold! She needs to go to the doctor!”

Hannah and Edward exchanged amused glances and couldn’t help but chuckle.  Brenda placed her hands on her hips and glared at them.

“This is a very serious business,” she said sternly.  

After the baby doll’s health was restored, the family packed up the car and headed over to Ma and Pa’s house.  Upon arriving, they parked on the street in front of the small dwelling. Edward took the gifts while Hannah carried the casserole, still piping hot from the oven.  Brenda proudly clasped her new doll to her chest, remarking the whole time that she couldn’t wait to show it to her grandparents.

“We must be the last ones to get here,” Edward said as they walked up the car-filled driveway.

“So it would seem,” Hannah replied, eager to get inside where it was warm.

Before they even reached the front door, Ma was standing there, holding it open.  She was wearing one of her floral aprons, covered in flour. The pattern clashed with the red dress she had on underneath.  

“Hurry, hurry,” she said, beckoning them in.  “We don’t want all the warm air getting out.”

Hannah kissed her mother on the cheek and went to the kitchen, setting the casserole on the table.  She instantly noticed the plethora of dishes covering every square inch of every surface.

“Ma, don’t tell me you went through all the hassle to make all this,” Hannah gently admonished.

Ma shrugged, her stern face softening, the wrinkles around her mouth and eyes creasing deeper as she smiled.

“Ah, what’s the good of having family over for Christmas dinner if you can’t go all out,” she said.  “I saved up all year for this.”

“And I could’ve helped if you’d let me,” Hannah said, raising an eyebrow.  When her eyes fell on the dessert, her interest was piqued. “What kind of cake is this, Ma?”

“It’s called red velvet cake,” Ma explained.

“I’ve never heard of it.”

“I’m surprised you haven’t.  I’ve done my best to keep everything the way it’s always been for Christmas dinner, but this war, well, it affects everything.  The ladies at church in the quilting club introduced me to this new recipe that calls for red food coloring instead of cocoa. So, there you have it: red velvet cake.  Seems fitting for the holidays. I just have to frost it.”

“I’m sure it will be delicious, like everything you make, Ma.  Do you want me to frost it for you?”

Ma waved her daughter away.  “No, dear. Go visit with the rest of the family.”

Hannah’s younger sister entered the room.  She was still living at home, now a young lady of twenty-one, and engaged to a young man in the service.

Hannah smiled and turned to Irma, hugging her sister and asking, “Have you heard from Ross lately?”  

“Oh, yes,” Irma said with enthusiasm.  “Do you want to see the letter? You know, he promised me we’d marry as soon as the war was over and he mentions it every time.”

Hannah nodded, following Irma up the steps to their old bedroom, passing the living room, where Brenda and her cousins were the entertainment for all gathered.  When they reached the top of the stairs, the women took the first right and entered the girls’ bedroom. Despite Hannah having moved out and Amy having passed, two single beds and a desk were still nestled in the room.  

Irma went to the nightstand and opened the drawer.  Hannah glimpsed a pile of letters, among a couple of books and other papers.  Hannah took her place on the bed and took the proffered letter, reading Ross’s first-hand account of the war in the South Pacific.  She smiled when she reached the end, which contained his promise to marry Irma as soon as they were reunited.

Hannah passed the letter back to Irma, who promptly folded it and stowed it away.

“How are you holding up?” Hannah asked.  

“Oh, I’m fine,” Irma said softly, her eyes also drifting to the spot where Amy’s bed used to be.

“Can you believe how long it’s been since she left us?” Hannah asked, subdued.

Irma fidgeted with her hands, locking and unlocking her fingers as her eyes fell to her lap.  “It’s sad, but I feel like I didn’t really get a chance to know her properly, not as an adult, anyway,” Irma reflected.  “She was always so much older than me. Of course, everyone is so much older than me.” She shrugged, forcing a laugh. “I’m happy for you, Harry, and Erik, but I admit- I’m longing for the day Ross returns, and we can finally start a family of our own.”

Hannah shrugged.  “You’re still so young, Irma.  You have your whole life ahead of you.  This war can’t last forever. Our country’s boys will be home soon.  Maybe 1944 will be the year it finally happens.”

The sisters returned to the rest of the family, Irma with a renewed sense of hope.  That Christmas Day passed with all the merriment and wonder the season inspired. Long into the night, after the children had fallen asleep upstairs, laughter and the clinking of glasses could still be heard through the windows, and a warm glow emanated beyond the walls of the little house into the still, quiet world.

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