Showing posts from December, 2015

Christmas Gift for Life #12 in the 12 Blogs of Christmas

For a young couple living on the island of Okinawa, it would be a Christmas they’d always treasure. Military life so far from home is never easy—and even harder when expecting your first child. 
This was long before it was possible to stay in touch with loved ones via Skype and cell phones.
Gathered around a small tree, the couple shared their Christmas with another military couple, enjoying a meal and memories of Christmas’ past. 

What they didn’t expect on Christmas Eve was labor to begin. Eight hours later, on Christmas Day, the young couple welcomed their blond, blue-eyed baby girl. 
With generous permission granted by the military commander, a transcontinental phone call announced the arrival of Kerry Suzanne to surprised grandparents back home.

Many celebrations have since honored her Christmas Day birth, but it seems like I've been just as blessed. For to be Kerry’s younger sister has filled every Christmas with two celebrations—her birthday and the birth of our Savior. 

The Day Before Project #11 in the 12 Blogs of Christmas

Margaret had one of those Type A planner books with neat lines segregating the day into quarter hours. As Christmas approached those lines would all be full. But on the day before Christmas, every line was set aside for a special project. To give away the full day before Christmas took a lot of pre-planning, especially with the obligation to have everything just right for her own family on Christmas Day.
So, in early December Margaret checked off all the holiday duties and tasks. Not easy to do while caring for a baby girl and an adventuresome four-year-old son.

She’d been doing this Day Before Project every year since she was little—when she’d follow her mom around. Now, after all these years, Christmas Eve wasn’t the day before Christmas, it was an empty day in her planner to do exactly what she wanted—something dear to her heart. 

This year she was excited to bring along her young son. Loading her beautifully wrapped gifts in the backseat and trunk, the two headed to the local nur…

Feliz Navidad #10 in the 12 Blogs of Christmas

For two young boys, Christmas was always spent on different farms. Their parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all harvested a variety of crops from Washington to California. Even though they didn’t have their own house, Mama always decorated for Christmas. 
She’d carefully tape pictures on the crude walls. There was Jesus in the manger, Joseph and Mary, the shepherds, and the farm animals. Carlos and Miguel knew the story but the pictures were an annual reminder.

But this year was different. The family had trekked to a place along the Snake River in Washington. They’d been told a good dueño de la granja (farm owner) lived there and had built real houses for the workers. 
The farmer’s smile reached ear to ear and he spoke Spanish to all the workers. He’d built a small community on the hill overlooking the river—naming it Vista Hermosa (beautiful view).
The big family was hired and even though school had already started, Carlos and Miguel were welcomed. The boys only had to walk a short w…

Christmas Final #9 in the 12 Blogs of Christmas

It had been the hardest two weeks of her collegiate career. The gauntlet of finals in her senior year was arduous enough but she had a thesis deadline looming as well. Her airline ticket home was the carrot dangling at the end of a very long stick. 
She’d always gone home for Christmas—even when it meant taking the red eye and studying at 35,000 feet. 

Bleary eyed from her all nighter, she walked into Room 505. The professor stood unsmiling behind his lectern. Coffee, she needed coffee. None was allowed. He instructed everyone to take the test packet, place it face down until he called time.
Paper shuffling sounds filled the auditorium. Looking at the sea of faces the professor nodded to begin.
Turning the packet over, she raised her eyebrows in confusion. All of the pages were filled with the professor’s notes throughout the fast-paced quarter. No questions to answer. She could hear others paging through the packet. On the final page was one question. 

In 100 words or less explain wh…

Charlie's Christmas Hope #8 in the 12 Blogs of Christmas

Anyone looking at Charlie’s life would have agreed it was hard. Real hard. It seemed that every time he got settled into a new foster home, things would change and he’d be sent somewhere new. 
School didn’t come easy either, but it was a sanctuary of sorts. That’s where he could pretend to be like the other kids, eat in the lunchroom, play games at recess, and fill his backpack with school work he’d never have a chance to finish.

Going through the school system was much like foster care. Some teachers cared, some did not. But in 5th grade, Mrs. Reynolds came into his life. She was Charlie’s pretend Grandma. If Charlie could have a Grandma, she would be like Mrs. Reynolds. Her smile was the kind that made her eyes crinkle. She liked to laugh and hear the kids laugh too. It was the first time in his life that he remembered laughing every day.
At Christmas Mrs. Reynolds brought in several baskets of supplies. They were going to make presents for the kid’s parents. While the noise level …

Christmas Proposal: #7 in the 12 Blogs of Christmas

We worked planting and trimming trees together—which was unusual for a young lady. Needing to support her ailing parents, she was a determined lass. Up before it was light and on the work bus by dawn was our routine. She was beautiful despite the dirty coveralls and stocking cap that hid her curls.
It wasn’t easy work by any means, and the crew boss didn’t take to having a woman along. He expected just as much from her and was gruff most of the time.

It was cold and rainy during late autumn. The plastic rain slickers we wore over our coveralls didn’t keep us dry. Miserable way to make a living. But there weren’t many jobs available in these parts during the depression. 
But the weeks rolled by and Margie and I took our lunch break together. I discovered she loved books and would read to her parents every night. My folks were long gone, so my evenings were lonely.

Long story short, I decided that I wasn’t getting any younger and maybe meeting Margie in the middle of the woods was fate…

Home for Christmas #6 of the 12 Blogs of Christmas

Too young to be much help, and seeing the grim facial expressions, I stayed out of their way. The suitcases were being packed and the trunk was as full as I’d ever seen it. My sister and I carried a small bag with toys for the long trip south. 
I learned years later, that this was an attempt to cure Dad from a relentless case of pleurisy. All other treatments had failed, and living in the rainy, damp, and cold weather made his symptoms worse. Knowing we depended on his paycheck he often went to work sick, until his boss finally refused to let him come back until he was well.

Now we were on a six week journey to go live in the dry Arizona desert. The doctor hoped it would be enough time to clear his lungs and help him regain his strength. To my young eyes, Dad was still strong, even if he did have to rest a lot. All that time-off without pay must have been a hardship. Living in a low-budget motel wasn’t bad; it had a swimming pool and a fold-out couch I shared with my sister. 

What wa…

Felix and Santa’s Orphans #5 in the 12 Blogs of Christmas

Perfect. Everything needed to be perfect. Napkins—folded expertly, check. Gold trimmed china. Check. Crystal goblets. Check. Polished silver. Check. Centerpiece with fresh holly and tapered scented candles. Check. Catered dinner for twelve due to arrive shortly. Simone checked her diamond-studded watch.
Tapping her freshly manicured nails on the credenza, Simone’s brow furrowed in concentration as she mentally calculated when each guest would arrive. Certainly her oldest son would arrive first. Bart was always the punctual one—even if he had nothing nice to say. His wife, the shrew, would only add to the discord. At least they had the foresight to remain childless. Small recompense.

Next, her twin daughters and their horde would arrive. Goodness knows she could do without the antics of children tonight, but she couldn’t exactly un-invite her four grandchildren. 
Simone scanned the room for heirlooms needing to be moved to safety. Some reckless child could ruin an irreplaceable piece in…

The Oldest Gift #4 in the 12 Blogs of Christmas

Carefully using the paste stick, Sissy’s sticky little fingers made a mess of the Christmas gift. She attempted to re-apply the construction paper to the recycled juice can. Ostensibly, the finished product would be a pencil holder, but to the discerning eye of her teacher, only a parent could love the sloppiness. But it’s the thought that counts, right? 

A small family was drawn on the green paper with another one holding a duffle bag on the back side. Sissy explained that was her daddy who was coming home soon.This gift would be waiting for him. Lisa drew a triangle-shaped tree with crayon-colored ornaments.

Placing the school-made pencil holders in decorated sacks, the kindergartners lined up excitedly as they prepared to leave. Sissy held her sack in one hand and her lunch pail in the other. She could hardly wait to place her sack under the tree, because Christmas meant Daddy was finally coming home.

Now, nearly fifty years later, as Sissy packed up her parent’s belongings, she f…

The Fur Coat #3 in the 12 Blogs of Christmas

We didn’t talk about the diagnosis, nor the treatment plan, it was nearly Christmas after all. Mom had traveled half a day to squeeze in a visit between her chemo and radiation appointments. With her young granddaughter fully engaged in the excitement of Christmas, we decided to go window shopping in our little town. 

Like many small towns stretched across America, Christmas shoppers were essential, yet malls in bigger cities had a much bigger attraction. Oh, but our little town was festooned with twinkling lights and every store front window was decorated with glittering ornaments on evergreen trees. Shiny packages were nestled underneath giving further excitement to the presents that would soon be under our tree.

Walking hand-in-hand up one side of the street and down the other, it was as if we’d traveled back to earlier days—before malls, before hyper-commercialization, before cancer. We could wander through the stores without expectations and just enjoy sharing time together.


The Unforgettable Gift

In a time of harsh headlines, good news is a balm for the soul. Here's #2 from the Twelve Blogs of Christmas.

The hospital waiting room had an artificial tree decorated with a couple dozen shiny blue ornaments. It was an honest attempt to brighten the somber mood outside the intensive care unit. 
Someone must have known how hard it is to wait when a loved one was on the other side of those swinging doors. Especially a few days before Christmas. 
Cindy had come to offer support to her friend Janice, but what could she say to a mom whose only child is terribly ill and the doctors don’t know why?
As the two young women sat staring at the Christmas tree, Cindy’s silence didn’t seem to bother her friend. In fact Cindy’s quiet presence was exactly what Janice needed most. 

With her child hooked up to beeping monitors and doctors running all these medical tests, Janice didn’t feel like having to respond to needless chatter. 
The long night stretched on and the women walked the hallways t…