Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas Without Mom

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I’ve been extremely melancholy and tender hearted these last few days.  This will be my first Christmas without my Mom.  When she passed away last March, we were all greatly saddened and yet happy for her to be released from her body that was making her unhappy.  She was ready to go home and be reunited with Dad.

Our first Christmas without Dad was hard too, but for some reason, this year it’s super hard for me with Mom being gone.  She loved Christmas so much.  Perhaps it’s because it’s the first Christmas without at least one of my parents here.

I’ve probably talked about this before, but Christmas has always been a big deal for me…. as far as family goes.  While the hustle and bustle and anticipation have always been fun, the most important thing of all was having family together.  Our family traditions are what made me look forward to the Christmas season.  As I get older, I realize just how important those family times are.

I was raised in a close family.  At least those of us that lived around got together often.  While raising my kids, we spent almost every Sunday evening at my parents home.  We would gather for ‘cheeseies’ (a family tradition of an open faced broiled cheese sandwich) each week, spend time together and the cousins would play.  It meant the world to me and was a priority in my mind.

At Christmas time we would gather each Christmas Eve.  The evening would start with a big dinner; with tables and chairs strung everywhere as the family grew.  Then we would gather in the living room and portray the Nativity with each of the kids acting out the parts.  My daughter, Mandy, being the youngest girl (of only a handful of girls) in the family got the honor of playing Mary for many years.  Our costumes always consisted of sheets, towels, scarfs and tinsel with the manger being a doll cradle and who knows what doll for the baby Jesus, unless there was a newborn in the family…. then they got the honored roll of being the Baby Jesus.

After acting out the Nativity, we would sing songs (sometimes my kids would be the entertainment since they participated in a kids performing group back then) and we would wait in anticipation for Santa’s arrival.  We always tried to keep the kids distracted and occupied while we waited for his arrival.

Once Santa arrived through the front door, it was mayhem and excitement!  He would sing a couple of songs with us and then reach in his big bag and call out the name of each of the kids one at a time.  They would come sit on his lap and get their small gift from him.  It was an opportunity for each child to have their photo taken with Santa by their parents.  It was a joy to watch from year to year, the young kids go from being petrified of him to jumping on his lap.  (And what a hoot to look back at the photos and see the styles we wore!)  He would have us sing a few more songs and end with Jingle Bells as he left to ‘go to the next house’.  What a fun tradition that was.

Then we would exchange gifts amongst cousins and adults (drawing names as the family got bigger).  Then off to our own homes to get the children all snuggled in their beds with visions of sugar plums dancing through their heads.  Christmas Eve.  The best part of Christmas for me growing up.

As my parents aged, they were getting tired of all the clean up…. plus the family growing with many great grand kids made it a tight fit for their home.  We spent several years trying to do it in their church cultural hall.  Then grand kids grew, started marrying people who had their own Christmas Eve traditions and it turned into a party at some local ‘event’ place (like a Roller Skating facility) one a night other than Christmas Eve for the last few years before my Dad passed.

Once Dad passed and Mom had had her stroke, she ended up needing 24 hour care and spent the last 6 years of her life in an Assisted Living facility.  We were always able to reserve one of the rooms there to hold a family party, but it was never on Christmas Eve again.  Too many family members with their own Christmas Eve traditions…. but none the less…. we gathered.

Mom with Daisy on her lap last Christmas Eve at her place.  You can se the joy in her face of having us there.

Mom with Daisy on her lap last Christmas Eve at her place. You can se the joy in her face of having us there.

The last few Christmas Eve’s, my little family has spent the evening with my Mom at her Assisted Living place.  Sometimes we sang for all the patients there…. but last year, we just spent time with her in her room and sang to her.  She loved it.  It meant so much to her.  We always took the time to look through the Christmas album the family and made for my parents several years back with photos of all those great Christmas Eve’s.  I’m feeling sad I don’t have that at my house this year.

I just don’t know what I’m going to do with myself this year without her here to spend Christmas Eve with!  My heart has been so tender these last few days.  I’ve shed many tears missing her and Dad and those sacred traditions.  I want so desperately to carry on some of those traditions in our family.  It’s been hard because my children haven’t been married with kids of their own up to this point, so we haven’t had the little ones around to treasure those moments.  I know it will come.  Jon and Ali got married this year and I have BIG hopes of it all beginning soon.  I just pray that it will become as important to them as it is to me.

Family is everything to me.  I want to spend more time together than we do.  I love them all so much.  We are trying to carry on the larger gathering of the family for a Christmas party.  I promised Mom we would.  Though it won’t be till the first of the year…. we will still gather and enjoy each others company…. laugh at the White Elephant exchange and just be grateful for one another.   As with anything in life, it gets harder and harder to make the schedule work for everyone to be there….. but we will do our best and miss those that can’t make it.  And Mom will be happy we did.

I am SO grateful for parents who started and kept such special traditions in our family.  The thing that amazes me the most is that none of the spouses of us siblings had a spouse with Christmas Eve family traditions.  The party at the Bangerter home was the priority!  And you darn well better be there!  It wasn’t until the grandkids started getting married that we ran into conflicts with other family gatherings.  We were blessed to go so many years without those conflicts.

I’m grateful for my family and want them to treasure this time of year as much as I do.  I know Mom and Dad will be with us all in spirit, but I miss them so terribly much this time of year!

Much love to you all and may you have a blessed and wonderful Christmas with cherished loved ones by your side.  And if they aren’t able to be with you…. may you be able to communicate with them all your love.  MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL…. but especially to you MOM!!  May your first Christmas in Heaven with Daddy be one of your best!  You can SEE and MOVE and SING!  I love that….. it makes me so happy to think about that.  Miss you tons!

I Am Grateful!  How Are You?

Story Day 20 — If Your Missing Jesus, Call 7126

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Thanks to my husband looking through some old files I had on my comuputer…. today’s story is perfect to end our story a day series with.  I took the liberty of renaming the story, since it was just titled ‘A Beautiful Story”.  I think you’ll see why I did that.  There is no known Author to my knowledge.  Hopefully, he/she would approve!

Often things that appear to be a mistake are really only there to put you in the right place at the right time.  That’s the way with this story.  Answering the call of need when unexpected.  Again…. a great example of what Christmas is all about!

I hope your Christmas day was filled with family, friends and love and that these stories have brought you a little Christmas cheer this season.

If Your Missing Jesus,  Call 7126 baby jesus hunt 8

About a week before Christmas, Mom bought a new nativity scene. When she unpacked it, she found two figures of the Baby Jesus. “Someone must have packed this wrong,” mother said, counting out the figures. “We have one Joseph, one Mary, three wise men, three shepherds, two lambs, a donkey, a cow, an angel, and two babies. Oh, dear! I suppose some set down at the store is missing a Baby Jesus because we have two.”

“You two run back down to the store and tell the manager that we have an extra Jesus. Tell him to put a sign on the remaining boxes saying that if a set is missing a Baby Jesus, call 7126. Put on your warm coats, it’s freezing cold out there.” The manager of the store copied down mother’s message, and the next time we were in the store, we saw the cardboard sign that read, “If you’re missing Baby Jesus, call 7126.” All week long we waited for someone to call. Surely, we thought, someone was missing that important figurine.

Each time the phone rang, mother would say, “I’ll bet that’s about Jesus.” But it never was. Father tried to explain there are thousands of these scattered over the country, and the figurine could be missing from a set in Florida or Texas or California. Those packing mistakes happen all the time. He suggested that she just put the extra Jesus back in the box and forget about it. “Put Baby Jesus back in the box?! What a terrible thing to do,” said mother. “Surely someone will call. We’ll just keep the two of them together in the manger until someone does.”

When no call had come by 5:00 on Christmas Eve, mother insisted that father “just run down to the store” to see if there were any sets left. “You can see them right through the window, over on the counter,” she said. “If they are all gone, I’ll know someone is bound to call tonight.” “Run down to the store?” father thundered. “It’s 15 below zero out there!” “Oh, Daddy, we’ll go with you!”

We began to put on our coats. Father gave a long sigh and headed for the front closet. “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” he muttered. We ran ahead as father reluctantly walked out in the cold. Tommy got to the store first and pressed his nose up to the store window. “They’re all gone, Daddy,” he shouted. “Every set must be sold. Hooray! The mystery will be solved tonight!”  Father heard the news still a half block away and immediately turned on his heel and headed back home.

When we got back into the house, we noticed that  mother was gone and so was the extra Baby Jesus figurine. “Someone must have called, and she went out to deliver the figurine,” father reasoned, pulling off his boots. “You kids get ready for bed while I wrap mother’s present.”

Then the phone rang. Father yelled “answer the phone and tell ‘em we found a home for Jesus.” But it was mother calling with instructions for us to come to 205 Chestnut Street immediately, and bring three blankets, a box of cookies and some milk. “Now what has she gotten us into?” father groaned as we bundled up again. “205 Chestnut. Why that’s across town. Wrap that milk up good in the  blankets, or it will turn to ice before we get there. Why can’t we all just  get on with Christmas? It’s probably 20 below out there now. And the wind is picking up. Of all the crazy things to do on a night like this.”

When we got to the house at 205 Chestnut Street, it was the darkest one on the block. Only one tiny light burned in the living room, and the moment we set foot on the porch steps, mother opened the door and shouted, “They’re here! Oh thank God you got here, Ray! You kids take those blankets into the living room and wrap up the little ones on the couch. I’ll take the milk and cookies.”

“Would you mind telling me what is going on, Ethel?” father asked. “We have just walked through below zero weather with the wind in our faces all the way.”

“Never mind all that now,” mother interrupted. “There is no heat in this house, and this young mother is so upset, she doesn’t know what to do. Her husband walked out on her, and those poor little children will have a very bleak Christmas, so don’t you complain. I told her you could fix that oil furnace in a jiffy. My mother strode off to the kitchen to warm the milk while my brother and I wrapped up the five little children who were huddled together on the couch.

The children’s mother explained to my father that her husband had run off, taking bedding, clothing, and almost every piece of  furniture, but she had been doing all right until the furnace broke down. “I  been doin’ washin’ an ironin’ for people and cleanin’ the five and dime,” she said. “I saw your number every day there, on those boxes on the counter. When the furnace went out, that number kept goin’ through my mind….7162, “Said on the box that if a person was missin’ Jesus, they should call you. That’s how I knew you were good Christian people, willin’ to help folks. I figured that maybe you would help me, too. So I stopped at the grocery store tonight, and I called your missus. I’m not missin’ Jesus, mister, because I sure love the Lord. But I am missin’ heat. I have no money to fix that furnace.”

“Okay, okay,” said father. “You’ve come to the right place. Now let’s see. You’ve got a little oil burner over there in the dining room. Shouldn’t be too hard to fix. Probably just a clogged flue. I’ll look it over, see what it needs.”

Mother came into the living room carrying a plate of cookies and warm milk. As she set the cups down on the coffee table, I noticed the figure of Baby Jesus lying in the center of the table. It was the only sign of Christmas in the house. The children stared wideeyed with wonder at the plate of cookies my mother set before them.

Father finally got the oil burner working but said, “You need more oil. I’ll make a few calls tonight and get some oil. Yes sir, you came to the right place.” Father grinned. On the way home, father did not complain about the cold weather and had barely set foot inside the door when he was on the phone. “Ed, hey, how are ya, Ed? Yes, Merry Christmas to you, too. Say Ed, we have kind of an unusual situation here. I know you’ve got that pickup truck. Do you still have some oil in that barrel on your truck? You do?” By this time the rest of the family was pulling clothes out of their closets and toys off of their shelves. It was long after our bedtime when we were wrapping gifts.

The pickup came. On it were chairs, three lamps, blankets and gifts. Even though it was 30 below, father let us ride along in the back of the truck. No one ever did call about the missing figure in the nativity set, but as I grow older I realize that it wasn’t a packing mistake at all. Jesus saves, that’s what He does.

Author Unknown

I am Grateful!  How are You?

Story Day 19 — The Gift of the Magi

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Perhaps one of the most well known Christmas stories is the ‘Gift of the Magi’.  A lesson to be learned here is that of sacrificing something very precious all for the benefit of another that you love.  Who could ask for a more difficult thing of another?

If you’ve never read or heard the story, I hope you will enjoy it.  If you have…. perhaps it will be a reminder to you of a true display of love.

Merry Christmas!

THE GIFT OF THE MAGI

by O. Henry

giftofmagiOne dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name “Mr. James Dillingham Young.”

The “Dillingham” had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called “Jim” and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling–something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: “Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.” One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the “Sofronie.”

“Will you buy my hair?” asked Della.

“I buy hair,” said Madame. “Take yer hat off and let’s have a sight at the looks of it.”

Down rippled the brown cascade.

“Twenty dollars,” said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

“Give it to me quick,” said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation–as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim’s. It was like him. Quietness and value–the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends–a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

“If Jim doesn’t kill me,” she said to herself, “before he takes a second look at me, he’ll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do–oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?”

At 7 o’clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: “Please God, make him think I am still pretty.”

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two–and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

“Jim, darling,” she cried, “don’t look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn’t have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It’ll grow out again–you won’t mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!’ Jim, and let’s be happy. You don’t know what a nice– what a beautiful, nice gift I’ve got for you.”

“You’ve cut off your hair?” asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

“Cut it off and sold it,” said Della. “Don’t you like me just as well, anyhow? I’m me without my hair, ain’t I?”

Jim looked about the room curiously.

“You say your hair is gone?” he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

“You needn’t look for it,” said Della. “It’s sold, I tell you–sold and gone, too. It’s Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered,” she went on with sudden serious sweetness, “but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?”

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year–what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

“Don’t make any mistake, Dell,” he said, “about me. I don’t think there’s anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you’ll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first.”

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs–the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims–just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: “My hair grows so fast, Jim!”

And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, “Oh, oh!”

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

“Isn’t it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You’ll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it.”

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

“Dell,” said he, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ‘em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on.”

The magi, as you know, were wise men–wonderfully wise men–who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

I am Grateful!  How are You?

Story Day 18 — Papa Panov’s Special Christmas

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Once again we need to remember the scripture, “When ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”.

This is a great story by Tolstoy depicting just that.  Which is really what Christmas is about.  It make it special for all of us.  I also heard through social media that someone has challenged everyone everywhere to do 26 random acts of kindness in remembrance of each of the victims of the Connecticut shootings.  I think it’s a great idea and would put this scripture to good practice!  Are you up for it?

Papa Panov’s Special Christmas 1 cobbler
by Leo Tolstoy

It was Christmas Eve and although it was still afternoon, lights had begun to appear in the shops and houses of the little Russian village, for the short winter day was nearly over. Excited children scurried indoors and now only muffled sounds of chatter and laughter escaped from closed shutters.

Old Papa Panov, the village shoemaker, stepped outside his shop to take one last look around. The sounds of happiness, the bright lights and the faint but delicious smells of Christmas cooking reminded him of past Christmas times when his wife had still been alive and his own children little. Now they had gone. His usually cheerful face, with the little laughter wrinkles behind the round steel spectacles, looked sad now. But he went back indoors with a firm step, put up the shutters and set a pot of coffee to heat on the charcoal stove. Then, with a sigh, he settled in his big armchair.

Papa Panov did not often read, but tonight he pulled down the big old family Bible and, slowly tracing the lines with one forefinger, he read again the Christmas story. He read how Mary and Joseph, tired by their journey to Bethlehem, found no room for them at the inn, so that Mary’s little baby was born in the cowshed.

“Oh, dear, oh, dear!” exclaimed Papa Panov, “if only they had come here! I would have given them my bed and I could have covered the baby with my patchwork quilt to keep him warm.”

He read on about the wise men who had come to see the baby Jesus, bringing him splendid gifts. Papa Panov’s face fell. “I have no gift that I could give him,” he thought sadly.

Then his face brightened. He put down the Bible, got up and stretched his long arms t the shelf high up in his little room. He took down a small, dusty box and opened it. Inside was a perfect pair of tiny leather shoes. Papa Panov smiled with satisfaction. Yes, they were as good as he had remembered- the best shoes he had ever made. “I should give him those,” he decided, as he gently put them away and sat down again.

He was feeling tired now, and the further he read the sleeper he became. The print began to dance before his eyes so that he closed them, just for a minute. In no time at all Papa Panov was fast asleep.

And as he slept he dreamed. He dreamed that someone was in his room and he know at once, as one does in dreams, who the person was. It was Jesus.

“You have been wishing that you could see me, Papa Panov.” he said kindly, “then look for me tomorrow. It will be Christmas Day and I will visit you. But look carefully, for I shall not tell you who I am.”

When at last Papa Panov awoke, the bells were ringing out and a thin light was filtering through the shutters. “Bless my soul!” said Papa Panov. “It’s Christmas Day!”

He stood up and stretched himself for he was rather stiff. Then his face filled with happiness as he remembered his dream. This would be a very special Christmas after all, for Jesus was coming to visit him. How would he look? Would he be a little baby, as at that first Christmas? Would he be a grown man, a carpenter- or the great King that he is, God’s Son? He must watch carefully the whole day through so that he recognized him however he came.

Papa Panov put on a special pot of coffee for his Christmas breakfast, took down the shutters and looked out of the window. The street was deserted, no one was stirring yet. No one except the road sweeper. He looked as miserable and dirty as ever, and well he might! Whoever wanted to work on Christmas Day – and in the raw cold and bitter freezing mist of such a morning?

Papa Panov opened the shop door, letting in a thin stream of cold air. “Come in!” he shouted across the street cheerily. “Come in and have some hot coffee to keep out the cold!”

The sweeper looked up, scarcely able to believe his ears. He was only too glad to put down his broom and come into the warm room. His old clothes steamed gently in the heat of the stove and he clasped both red hands round the comforting warm mug as he drank.

Papa Panov watched him with satisfaction, but every now and them his eyes strayed to the window. It would never do to miss his special visitor.

“Expecting someone?” the sweeper asked at last. So Papa Panov told him about his dream.

“Well, I hope he comes,” the sweeper said, “you’ve given me a bit of Christmas cheer I never expected to have. I’d say you deserve to have your dream come true.” And he actually smiled.

When he had gone, Papa Panov put on cabbage soup for his dinner, then went to the door again, scanning the street. He saw no one. But he was mistaken. Someone was coming.

The girl walked so slowly and quietly, hugging the walls of shops and houses, that it was a while before he noticed her. She looked very tired and she was carrying something. As she drew nearer he could see that it was a baby, wrapped in a thin shawl. There was such sadness in her face and in the pinched little face of the baby, that Papa Panov’s heart went out to them.

“Won’t you come in,” he called, stepping outside to meet them. “You both need a warm by the fire and a rest.”

The young mother let him shepherd her indoors and to the comfort of the armchair. She gave a big sigh of relief.

“I’ll warm some milk for the baby,” Papa Panov said, “I’ve had children of my own- I can feed her for you.” He took the milk from the stove and carefully fed the baby from a spoon, warming her tiny feet by the stove at the same time.

“She needs shoes,” the cobbler said.

But the girl replied, “I can’t afford shoes, I’ve got no husband to bring home money. I’m on my way to the next village to get work.”

Sudden thought flashed through Papa Panov’s mind. He remembered the little shoes he had looked at last night. But he had been keeping those for Jesus. He looked again at the cold little feet and made up his mind.

“Try these on her,” he said, handing the baby and the shoes to the mother. The beautiful little shoes were a perfect fit. The girl smiled happily and the baby gurgled with pleasure.

“You have been so kind to us,” the girl said, when she got up with her baby to go. “May all your Christmas wishes come true!”

But Papa Panov was beginning to wonder if his very special Christmas wish would come true. Perhaps he had missed his visitor? He looked anxiously up and down the street. There were plenty of people about but they were all faces that he recognized. There were neighbors going to call on their families. They nodded and smiled and wished him Happy Christmas! Or beggars- and Papa Panov hurried indoors to fetch them hot soup and a generous hunk of bread, hurrying out again in case he missed the Important Stranger.

All too soon the winter dusk fell. When Papa Panov next went to the door and strained his eyes, he could no longer make out the passers-by. most were home and indoors by now anyway. He walked slowly back into his room at last, put up the shutters, and sat down wearily in his armchair.

So it had been just a dream after all. Jesus had not come.

Then all at once he knew that he was no longer alone in the room.

This was not dream for he was wide awake. At first he seemed to see before his eyes the long stream of people who had come to him that day. He saw again the old road sweeper, the young mother and her baby and the beggars he had fed. As they passed, each whispered, “Didn’t you see me, Papa Panov?”

“Who are you?” he called out, bewildered.

Then another voice answered him. It was the voice from his dream- the voice of Jesus.

“I was hungry and you fed me,” he said. “I was naked and you clothed me. I was cold and you warmed me. I came to you today in everyone of those you helped and welcomed.”

Then all was quiet and still. Only the sound of the big clock ticking. A great peace and happiness seemed to fill the room, overflowing Papa Panov’s heart until he wanted to burst out singing and laughing and dancing with joy.

“So he did come after all!” was all that he said.

I am Grateful!  How are You?

Story Day 17 — Christmas Day in the Morning

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Material gifts are nice…. but there’s nothing like the gift of love!  It’s the best present you can give anyone and it doesn’t cost a thing!

Great little story showing just that.  Enjoy.

Christmas Day in the Morningmilkcow
By Pearl S. Buck

He woke suddenly and completely. It was four o’clock, the hour at which his father had always called him to get up and help with the milking. Strange how the habits of his youth clung to him still! Fifty years ago, and his father had been dead for thirty years, and yet he waked at four o’clock in the morning. He had trained himself to turn over and go to sleep, but this morning it was Christmas, he did not try to sleep.

Why did he feel so awake tonight? He slipped back in time, as he did so easily nowadays. He was fifteen years old and still on his father’s farm. He loved his father. He had not known it until one day a few days before Christmas, when he had overheard what his father was saying to his mother.

“Mary, I hate to call Rob in the mornings. He’s growing so fast and he needs his sleep. If you could see how he sleeps when I go in to wake him up! I wish I could manage alone.”

“Well, you can’t, Adam.” His mother’s voice was brisk. “Besides, he isn’t a child anymore. It’s time he tok his turn.”

“Yes,” his father said slowly. “But I sure do hate to wake him.”

When he heard these words, something in him spoke: his father loved him! He had never thought of that before, taking for granted the tie of their blood. Neither his father nor his mother talked about loving their children–they had no time for such things. There was always so much to do on the farm.

Now that he knew his father loved him, there would be no loitering in the mornings and having to be called again. He got up after that, stumbling blindly in his sleep, and pulled on his clothes, his eyes shut, but he got up.

And then on the night before Christmas, that year when he was fifteen, he lay for a few minutes thinking about the next day. They were poor, and most of the excitement was in the turkey they had raised themselves and mince pies his mother made. His sisters sewed presents and his mother and father always bought him something he needed, not only a warm jacket, maybe, but something more, such as a book. And he saved and bought them each something, too.

He wished, that Christmas when he was fifteen, he had a better present for his father. As usual he had gone to the ten-cent store and bought a tie. It had seemed nice enough until he lay thinking the night before Christmas. He looked out of his attic window, the stars were bright.

“Dad,” he had once asked when he was a little boy, “What is a stable?”

“It’s just a barn,” his father had replied, “like ours.”

Then Jesus had been born in a barn, and to a barn the shepherds had come…

The thought struck him like a silver dagger. Why should he not give his father a special gift too, out there in the barn? He could get up early, earlier than four o’clock, and he could creep into the barn and get all the milking done. He’d do it alone, milk and clean up, and then when his father went in to start the milking he’d see it all done. And he would know who had done it. He laughed to himself as he gazed at the stars. It was what he would do, and he mustn’t sleep too sound.

He must have waked twenty times, scratching a match to look each time to look at his old watch — midnight, and half past one, and then two o’clock.

At a quarter to three he got up and put on his clothes. He crept downstairs, careful of the creaky boards, and let himself out. The cows looked at him, sleepy and surprised. It was early for them, too.

He had never milked all alone before, but it seemed almost easy. He kept thinking about his father’s surprise. His father would come in and get him, saying that he would get things started while Rob was getting dressed. He’d go to the barn, open the door, and then he’d go get the two big empty milk cans. But they wouldn’t be waiting or empty, they’d be standing in the milk-house, filled.

“What the–,” he could hear his father exclaiming.

He smiled and milked steadily, two strong streams rushing into the pail, frothing and fragrant.

The task went more easily than he had ever known it to go before. Milking for once was not a chore. It was something else, a gift to his father who loved him. He finished, the two milk cans were full, and he covered them and closed the milk-house door carefully, making sure of the latch.

Back in his room he had only a minute to pull off his clothes in the darkness and jump into bed, for he heard his father up. He put the covers over his head to silence his quick breathing. The door opened.

“Rob!” His father called. “We have to get up, son, even if it is Christmas.”

“Aw-right,” he said sleepily.

The door closed and he lay still, laughing to himself. In just a few minutes his father would know. His dancing heart was ready to jump from his body.

The minutes were endless — ten, fifteen, he did not know how many — and he heard his father’s footsteps again. The door opened and he lay still.

“Rob!”

“Yes, Dad–”

His father was laughing, a queer sobbing sort of laugh.

“Thought you’d fool me, did you?” His father was standing by his bed, feeling for him, pulling away the cover.

“It’s for Christmas, Dad!”

He found his father and clutched him in a great hug. He felt his father’s arms go around him. It was dark and they could not see each other’s faces.

“Son, I thank you. Nobody ever did a nicer thing–”

“Oh, Dad, I want you to know — I do want to be good!” The words broke from him of their own will. He did not know what to say.

His heart was bursting with love.

He got up and pulled on his clothes again and they went down to the Christmas tree. Oh what a Christmas, and how his heart had nearly burst again with shyness and pride as his father told his mother and made the younger children listen about how he, Rob, had got up all by himself.

“The best Christmas gift I ever had, and I’ll remember it, son every year on Christmas morning, so long as I live.”

They had both remembered it, and now that his father was dead, he remembered it alone: that blessed Christmas dawn when, alone with the cows in the barn, he had made his first gift of true love.

This Christmas he wanted to write a card to his wife and tell her how much he loved her, it had been a long time since he had really told her, although he loved her in a very special way, much more than he ever had when they were young. He had been fortunate that she had loved him. Ah, that was the true joy of life, the ability to love. Love was still alive in him, it still was.

It occurred to him suddenly that it was alive because long ago it had been born in him when he knew his father loved him. That was it: Love alone could awaken love. And he could give the gift again and again.This morning, this blessed Christmas morning, he would give it to his beloved wife. He could write it down in a letter for her to read and keep forever. He went to his desk and began his love letter to his wife: My dearest love…

Such a happy, happy Christmas!

I am Grateful!  How are You?

Story Day 16 — The Little Girl Santa Claus Didn’t Know

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I guess it’s OK to just post a cute story.  Not one that has a lot of significance….but a cute story full of hopes and dreams.  If only wishes could come true so easily!  Then again….. many other beloved Christmas stories are similar to this!

I hope you enjoy it!

THE LITTLE GIRL SANTA CLAUS DIDN’T KNOWsanta-claus

A poor woman wandered through the city streets on a cold and miserable winter evening. She was expecting a baby and about to give birth. Each step brought her closer to that moment. Eventually she had to squat down behind some dustbins. If you had been there you would shortly afterwards have heard the baby’s first cry. But of course you weren’t there, for little Maria was born on Christmas Eve. At that time you were probably waiting impatiently for Santa Claus to knock on your door.

The poor woman wrapped her baby tightly in a shawl to protect her from the cold wind. She looked down at her, smiled and carried her gently to some cardboard boxes where she lived. No doubt you think that Santa Claus should have given Maria a present, but he had never heard of the poor woman and no one had told him that a tiny child had been born that Christmas Eve. No one in the whole city knew her or that she was expecting a baby. Santa Claus landed Rudolf the reindeer and his sleigh in the town square.

He consulted his big book of names, and went from door to door handing out presents. On his way he passed by the cardboard boxes where the poor woman lay with her new-born child. He thought he heard a baby cry but could see no one. To be quite certain he consulted his book again, but there was no mention of a child living there. “It’s just my imagination,” he thought, and continued through the city with his gifts for the children.

Maria turned 1, 2 and 3 years and still Santa Claus knew nothing about her. She lived with her mother, and all they had to eat were the scraps of food they could find in the dustbins. They were badly clothed, in hardly more than rags, and very poor. At night they still lay under their cardboard boxes as they had no real house to live in.

By the time Maria turned 4 and Christmas Eve came around once again she realised something was wrong. They sat in their cardboard house and watched as Santa Claus landed in the nearby street. Santa took a large sack of presents and went from door to door with gifts for the children, but he didn’t come to her.

Maria turned to her mother and asked “Mummy, why don’t I get Christmas presents like the other children?” Her mother did not know. “Perhaps it’s because we are so poor,” she replied stroking Maria’s hair consolingly. “Didn’t you get presents when you were little?” she asked. “No,” her mother said, “I was never given any presents either. Maria thought this most unfair. She glanced across at Santa’s sleigh and wondered whether she should run across to it and wait there until he returned. Then she would say to him “Here I am Santa Claus, why don’t I get presents like all the other children?”Yes, that’s what she would do!

She ran from the cardboard boxes and jumped into Santa’s sleigh. Her mother shouted after her to come back. But just then Santa came out of a house and hurried back to his sleigh. Maria became frightened when she saw Santa Claus coming towards her so she ducked down between the large sacks of presents. Santa Claus jumped in, grabbed the reins and shouted “Gee up Rudolf.” Before Maria had time to think, Rudolf set off down the street.

From her hiding-place among the sacks she saw her mother standing by the cardboard boxes watching what happened, in dismay. Maria wondered whether she should jump off, but suddenly they were airborne. She peeped cautiously down, the wind blew through her hair and she could see tiny houses with yellow lights far below. Above her the stars twinkled and the moon smiled down at her. Santa Claus held the reins and Rudolf galloped as fast as he could go.

She was rather frightened, and that isn’t so surprising, but she believed Santa Claus to be a kind man. She studied him for a while from her hiding-place. He looked as if he was thoroughly enjoying himself. He smiled and laughed and sang Christmas carols the whole time. His white beard looked very soft and warm and his eyes shone.

She crept carefully from her hiding- place so he could see her. She was very embarrassed as you can well imagine, but also very excited. When Santa Claus saw her among his sacks of presents he was quite startled. “Ho, ho, what’s this, have I got a visitor?” he said and smiled. “And a little princess too, what a lovely surprise. Who are you?” Maria looked shyly down at her shoes and replied “I am a girl you don’t know.

“Santa Claus looked shocked. “I don’t know you? It can’t be true,” he said “look here, I have lists of every little girl and boy in the whole world,” and he showed her his book of names. Maria was feeling much braver by this time. She looked at him and said “It’s quite true Santa Claus. You don’t know me, and you didn’t know my mummy either when she was a little girl. I was born behind some dustbins on Christmas Eve four years ago.”

Santa Claus looked very upset. “Is that so,” he said seriously. “Have neither you nor your mother ever had any presents from me? How dreadful. Now you must tell me your name.”Maria gave Santa Claus her name and he looked through all his books. He searched and searched but couldn’t find her anywhere. “Then I had better add you to my list,” he said. Santa Claus took out his pen and wrote her name in the book. “There we are, now I will make sure that a present is made for you every year.

” Maria realised that she wouldn’t be getting any gifts this year either. First they had to be made in Santa Claus’s workshop. She was terribly disappointed and turned away so that Santa Claus shouldn’t see the tears rolling down her cheeks.

But Santa Claus is a wise man and knew what Maria was thinking. “I am terribly sorry,” he said, “I only have presents for the children listed in my book.” He put his arm around her and gave her a hug. “Don’t be sad,” he said, “I have something even better here in my pocket.

“Santa Claus took out a glass ball and showed it to her. It was full of water and inside was a cosy little red house. “As you have never had a Christmas present and because it is your birthday today, I am going to give you this magic ball.” Maria held it in her hands and smiled. It was smooth and shiny and when she shook it, it became full of snow which fell slowly onto the roof of the house.

“Thank you,” she said and curtsied. “It is really lovely.” Santa Claus smiled at her fondly. “It is a very special glass ball. When you shake this one you can make a wish at the same time.” Maria looked at the ball and thought of all the things she would like, but then Santa continued: “But you will only be granted one wish, so you must choose carefully. It must be something you need very badly.

“By now they had arrived at the next town on Santa Claus’ list. He pulled on the reins and steered Rudolf down towards the ground. Maria clasped the glass ball tightly as they descended. The tiny houses grew larger and larger and she could even see a train far below. Rudolf looped around the church steeple and landed in front of the railway station. Maria would have liked to stay with Santa Claus and help him deliver the presents. She looked up at him and said “Do you think . . ?”

But Santa knew what she had in mind. He leant towards her and said, “I am very busy you know and must hurry around to all the children before Christmas Eve is over. Your mother is sure to be very worried about you, so here is a ticket for the train to take you back home. “Maria gave Santa Claus a big hug and thanked him again for the present. Then she ran to the station and caught the first train home. She had the compartment to herself and sat looking through the window at the dark and silent snow-covered landscape passing by.

She thought of Santa Claus, of the trip in his sleigh and the beautiful glass ball he had given her. As she thought of the glass ball she took it out of her pocket. Now she had time to study it properly. She looked closely at the red house with its cosy little window and white painted door. The snowflakes lay still on the ground and roof, but if she shook it the snow would whirl around and slowly fall again. Maria began to feel very tired. The train chuffed steadily along the tracks “clickety clack, clickety clack.” Marias eyelids slowly closed. She was looking at the little house as she fell asleep. In her dream she could see her mother inside it.

Then she became part of the dream. Maria and her mother lived in the little red house. Her mother opened a window to shake a rug while she whistled and sang happily. Maria dreamt she had a dolls pram which she pushed along the pavement. At that moment the glass ball slipped out of her hand and crashed to the floor. Maria woke with a start. Pieces of glass lay in a pool of water. The snowflakes were scattered about and in the middle of it all lay the little red house.

Maria was heartbroken when she saw what had happened. She had actually broken Santa Claus’ magic gift! She tried to find all the pieces and put them together again, but it was no use. Maria fell on her knees by the broken glass ball and cried, her tears falling on the little house – drip, drip, drip. She picked up the house and pressed it close to her cheek. Then she saw something strange. Where the house had lain was a key, not a toy key, but a real big door key. Carefully she picked it up. It felt cold and heavy in her hand. She didn’t understand the significance of the key so she continued to weep over the broken magic ball.

The closer she came to the town, the road and the cardboard boxes where she and her mother lived, the more she despaired. She thought of all the thousands of useful things they needed, one of which she could have wished for by shaking the glass ball, but now it was too late. The glass ball was broken and they must continue living in their boxes as before, freeze at night and eat what they could find in the dustbins.

But when she arrived home something very strange had happened. On the spot where their cardboard boxes normally stood was a small red house. It looked exactly like the little house in the glass ball, but this was a real house to live in. Her mother stood outside and was very pleased to see her little girl again. She hugged her so tightly that it almost hurt. “My darling little Maria are you all right?”

Maria dried her tears and told her mother about Santa Claus, his book of names and about the magic ball which she had dropped and broken on the train. Her mother told her of how she had gone for a walk looking for food, and found the red house when she returned. She was wondering who owned it, because no one had moved in. The annoying thing about it was that all their belongings, including the packing cases lay underneath it, so now they had absolutely nothing at all, and that on Christmas Eve of all things. Maria looked closely at the house and remarked: “It looks exactly like the little red house in the glass ball.” Then she remembered the key she had found and took it out of her pocket. “Do you know something, Mummy, when I picked up the little house I found this key lying underneath it – do you think it fits?”

Her mother took the key and inspected it closely. Without a word she stepped up to the white door and put the key in the lock. She turned it slowly and with a joyful little “click” the door opened. They entered the house cautiously side by side, and there in the hall stood a dolls pram complete with doll – exactly like the one she had dreamed about. Then Maria understood what had happened. Her dream on the train had come true at the same moment the glass ball had broken and shown her the key. It was her house! Her wish had been granted exactly as Santa Claus had promised.

In that way Maria and her mother got a real house to live in, and Santa Claus came with presents every Christmas. He always gave Maria an extra big hug because he never forgot how surprised and pleased he had been to find her in his sleigh on that Christmas Eve.

I am Grateful!  How are You?

Story Day 15 — The Last Christmas Tree

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Ever been the last one picked at recess to play on a team?  If you have…. you can probably relate to the feelings of this little Christmas tree.

On the other hand…. we all have a special purpose in life.  Sometimes we might feel like we will never reach it.  But don’t give up!  You’re meant to bring cheer to someone special!  Maybe even someone like yourself.  Who could relate better to them!

Enjoy!

THE LAST CHRISTMAS TREEtree

From far away came the sound of the last Christmas carols of the evening. The laughter of families gathered for the holidays drifted into the silence of the falling snow.

The holiday sounds added warmth to the cold night air as a burly man with a black beard stood behind a rusty barrel warming his hands over the fire leaping from inside. He rubbed his hands briskly together and looked over the vacant lot that had been transformed for a few short weeks into a center of holiday cheer: a place to buy Christmas trees.

Bark-covered slabs of wood clung together to form a make-shift corral around the trees. Around the rough frame, a string of colored lights shone gaily. It was a cold and snowy Christmas Eve, and there were only three trees left who had not found a home for Christmas.

A white car rolled onto the corner lot and stopped. From the car stepped a mother and father and two young children. Frosty laughter spilled out of their furry coats. Crackling over the freezing snow, they hurried into the tree corral. Moving from one to another, they began to compare the few remaining trees.

Little Green, the smallest of the trees, crossed his twigs and made a wish. His heart pounded with anticipation. This little evergreen had arrived on the lot weeks before along with hundreds of others from Christmas-tree farms far away. Among the haughty blue spruces, the aloof firs, and the fancy white pines, he had felt lost and alone.

Day after day, as shoppers picked over the trees, Little Green had arched his trunk and stood as tall and straight as he could. He blushed with shame when children said, “Don’t take this tree, Daddy. It’s ugly and crooked. We don’t want this poor tree in our house.”

It hurt to be left behind time after time. But he was a courageous little tree. He never failed to look cheerful and gay for every family. Even now, after so many disappointments, Little Green listened carefully to what this family was saying.

“What do you think, Henry? Do we want a big tree or a small one?”

“You and the kids decide, Laurel. No matter what you want, it looks like pretty slim pickings.”

The man with the beard grabbed the few trees and stood them roughly against the slab boards at the edge of the corral. All three were poised on their wobbly trunks. Little Green flexed his needles and tried to appear strong and tall.

Beside him, a crusty old spruce slumped with boredom. He was resigned. He was sure it was the trash heap for him for Christmas.

On the other side prissed a frilly white pine, trimmed and sculptured into a perfect cone. Her nose in the air, the pine harrumphed, “Another family with absolutely no taste!”

“We’ll take this one,” said Laurel, pointing to the white pine.

The white pine acted nonchalant. She didn’t want the others to know that she was bursting with joy. During the past few days, she had begun to wonder if she was as beautiful as she imagined herself to be. Now, her pride was intact. By Christmas morning, who would know whether she was chosen last or first?

Little Green let his little green arms slouch, and his little heart sank.

Moments later, a rusted red pickup truck crunched to a stop beside the tree lot. A young man in cowboy boots leaped from the cab. Hastily, he reached over the top board and grabbed the surprised old spruce from the enclosure. He rushed up to the bearded man and shoved some bills into an outstretched hand.

In a shower of flying ice, the young man gunned his engine and raced into the night. The crusty old spruce peeped over the tailgate and waved a tiny goodbye with a fluttering branch.

Little Green smiled. He was happy for his friend.

The wind picked up. The traffic died down. Fewer people passed. Soon, there were none.

The man with the black beard began to count the money he had received during the day. Looking at Little Green, he thought, “Only one tree. Not bad. I’m not staying any longer for just one little tree. I doubt anyone will want that one, anyway.”

He rubbed his beard to free it of icicles. After turning out the colored lights that hung around the lot, he got into his car and drove away. Light from the cold winter moon was all that remained.

Little Green huddled in the darkness. His proud heart wilted. A tiny teardrop fell on a quivering branch. A snowflake formed in the cold air.

There was no more traffic; no one anywhere. Everyone is home, Little Green thought, decorating happy trees and wrapping presents and preparing for the most perfect day of the year. Maybe next year, he thought hopefully. He closed his eyes and wrapped his little green arms around himself to stay warm.

A gust of wind swirled his snowflake tears around his pointy top. Looking up, Little Green saw a figure moving quietly down the sidewalk. It was a lady in a bulky brown coat that hid a white nurse’s uniform. She wore freshly polished white shoes that became soiled and wet with each careful step as she tried to avoid the murky puddles of slush and ice.

The nurse passed in front of the lot and paused briefly to glance toward the corral. A soft light from the winter moon reflected off Little Green’s snowflake tears. She continued on her way.

Halfway down the block, she stopped and stood for several seconds. She then turned and walked with short strides back to the corral. Reaching it, she gently lifted Little Green from his lonesome corner spot.

The nurse moved briskly up the sidewalk. Pulling Little Green behind her, she made her way across the street. Coming to a huge building, she pushed open a side door and entered beneath a sign that read, “Ashleigh-Byrd Children’s Hospital.”

Clinging to the tree, the nurse pushed a button on the wall. An elevator door opened and the nurse stepped in and stood Little Green in the corner of the elevator. The door closed, and the elevator hummed its way upward.

The elevator opened on a wide white hallway. The nursed turned to her right and walked quietly but purposefully down the hall with Little Green coming along excitedly behind her.

In the last room at the end of the hall, a small boy lay in a hospital bed that sat sturdily in the middle of the room. A tube of clear liquid was suspended on a metal hanger. A faint buzz came from a small machine beside the bed.

There were no colored ribbons or bright packages in the room. There were no Christmas candles in the window. The boy was alone on Christmas Eve. Maybe next year, he thought hopefully. Crying softly, he closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around himself to stay warm. Holding Little Green by the trunk, the nurse backed into the little boy’s room. Standing next to his bed, she smiled down at him and showed him the little green Christmas tree. The little boy’s eyes opened wide.

Little Green arched his trunk and stood tall and proud. He knew, suddenly, why he had been chosen to be the last Christmas tree.

- – – written by Phillip E. Lewis

I am Grateful!  How are You?

Story Day 14 — A Christmas to Remember

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I hope you have a Kleenex handy before you read this one.  It’s teary eyed worthy and another true display of what Christmas is all about!
A Christmas to Remember… 1881house and horse winter

Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.

It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn’t been enough money to buy me the rifle that I’d wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.

After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn’t in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn’t get the Bible; instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn’t figure it out because we had already done all the chores I didn’t worry about it long though; I was too busy wallowing in self-pity.

Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. “Come on, Matt,” he said. “Bundle up good, it’s cold out tonight.” I was really upset then. Not only wasn’t I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We’d already done all the chores, and I couldn’t think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this.

But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one’s feet when he’d told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn’t know what.

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn’t going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load.

Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn’t happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. “I think we’ll put on the high sideboards,” he said. “Here, help me.” The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high sideboards on.

After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the wood shed and came out with an armload of wood—the wood I’d spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and splitting.

What was he doing? Finally I said something. “Pa,” I asked, “what are you doing?” You been by the Widow Jensen’s lately?” he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I’d been by, but so what? “Yeah,” I said, “Why?” “I rode by just today,” Pa said. “Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They’re out of wood, Matt.” That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait.

When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. “What’s in the little sack?” I asked. “Shoes. They’re out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunnysacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn’t be Christmas with out a little candy.”

We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen’s pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn’t have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn’t have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy? Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn’t have been our concern. We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, and then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, “Who is it?” “Lucas Miles, Ma’am, and my son, Matt. Could we come in for a bit?”

Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp. “We brought you a few things, Ma’am,” Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it.

She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children—sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn’t come out.

“We brought a load of wood too, Ma’am,” Pa said. He turned to me and said, “Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let’s get that fire up to size and heat this place up.” I wasn’t the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too.

In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn’t speak. My heart swelled within me and a joy that I’d never known before, filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference.

I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people. I soon had the fire blazing and everyone’s spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn’t crossed her face for a long time.

She finally turned to us. “God bless you,” she said. “I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us.”

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I’d never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true.

I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.

Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.

Tears were running down Widow Jensen’s face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn’t want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.

At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, “The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We’ll be by to get you about eleven. It’ll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn’t been little for quite a spell.”

I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away. Widow Jensen nodded and said, “Thank you, Brother Miles. I don’t have to say, “‘May the Lord bless you,’ I know for certain that He will.”

Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn’t even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, “Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn’t have quite enough. Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that.

But on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunnysacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand.” I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it.

Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen’s face and the radiant smiles of her three children. For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night.

Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night; he had given me the best Christmas of my life. Don’t be too busy today…

I am Grateful!  How are You?

Story Day 13 — The Letter From God

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I love it when I find a new story.  And I love that I can share it with you!

This one truly shows the example of the scripture, “When you  have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye had done it unto me”.  After all…. isn’t that what Christmas is really about?  Showing love to our fellow man, especially those less fortunate than us?  And even in the most unexpected places.

Perhaps next time you do an act of service for another person, you can imagine getting a letter from God yourself!

 

Mrs.-Blumenfeld-reading-a-letter-from-the-Rebbe-from-1958The Letter From God


Ruth looked at the envelope once again. There was no stamp, no postmark, only her name and address on it. She read the letter to herself one more time.

Dear Ruth, I’m going to be in your neighborhood Saturday afternoon and I’d like to stop by for a visit. Love Always, God.

Her hands were shaking as she placed the letter on the table. “Why would God want to visit me? I’m nobody special. I don’t have anything to offer.”

With that thought, Ruth remembered her empty kitchen cabinets. “Oh my goodness, I *really* don’t have anything to offer! I will have to run down to the store and buy something for dinner at once!” She reached for her purse and poured out its contents. Five dollars and forty three cents. “Well, I could buy some bread and some cold cuts, at least.”

She threw on her coat and hurried out the door. A loaf of french bread, a half-pound of sliced turkey, and a carton of milk… leaving Ruth with twelve cents left over until next Monday. None- the-less, she felt better as she headed home from the store, her meager offerings tucked under her arm.

“Hey lady, can you help us, lady?”, came a shy voice from a nearby alleyway. Ruth had been so absorbed in her dinner plans, she hadn’t even noticed two figures huddled together in the cold and dirty alleyway she was just passing by.

A man and woman, both of them dressed in little more than rags stared in her direction… “Look lady, I ain’t got a job, ya know, and my wife and I have been living out here on the street, and, well, now it’s getting cold and we’re getting hungry and, well, if you could help us, lady, we’d really appreciate it. Please lady.”

Ruth looked at them both. They were dirty, the alleyway smelled of garbage, and frankly, she was certain that they could get some kind of work if they really wanted to.

“Sir, I’d like to help you out, but I am a poor woman myself. All I have is a few cold cuts and some bread which I was planning on serving because I’m having an important guest for dinner tonight. “Yeah, well, OK lady, I understand. Thanks anyway.” The man put his arm around the woman’s shoulders, turned and headed back into the alley.

As she watched them leave, Ruth felt a familiar twinge in her heart. “Sir, wait!” The couple stopped and turned as she ran down the alley after them. “Look, why don’t you take this food. I’ll figure out something else to serve my guest.” She handed the man her grocery bag. “Thank you lady. Thank you very much!” “Yes, thank you!”, the man’s wife murmured slowly. Ruth could see now that she was shivering uncontrollably. “You know, I’ve got another coat at home. Here, why don’t you take this one.”

Ruth unbuttoned her jacket and slipped it over the woman’s shoulders. Then, smiling warmly, she turned and walked back to the street without her coat and with nothing to serve her guest that afternoon. “Thank you lady! Thank you very much!”, said the man, holding back a tear. Ruth was chilled to the bone by the time she reached her front door, and was worried too. God was coming to visit her and she had nothing to offer Him. She fumbled through her purse for the door key.

But as she did, she noticed another envelope in her mailbox. “That’s odd.”, she said to herself, “The mailman doesn’t usually come twice in one day.” She took the envelope out of her mailbox and opened it.

Dear Ruth, It was so good to see you again. Thank you for offering me the lovely meal that you did. And thank you also, for compassionately giving me the beautiful coat that you did. Love Always, God.

Warm tears trickled down Ruth’s cold cheeks as she realized what had just happened. There are times during the hustle and bustle of the holidays we forget there are others without and the true meaning of what it is to give of ourselves. And, to remember that God is in ALL of us! Here’s wishing you and yours a truly Joyous Holiday Season!

I am Grateful!  How are You?

 

Story Day 12 — Two Little Boys and Their Christmas Stories

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You’re getting a double wammie today.  The second story was one I actually had on my list to post, but paring it with this other sweet story only adds more depth to it.  Once again…. thanks to the internet!

I’m not sure that I would necessarily define the first story as a Christmas story other than the charity and love involved… but paired together they are great.

Enjoy the sweet spirits of two little boys!

In These Christmas Stories, Two Little Boys Show Us How To Give

Two Little Boys and Their Christmas Stories

11-year-old Brenden Foster of Bothell, Washington, had leukemia, and just a few weeks more to live. On the way home from a clinic appointment, he saw a group of homeless people, figured they must be hungry, and decided he wanted to help.

He didn’t have the strength to go feed them himself, but to help them became his dying wish.

His love inspired others. Soon volunteers had handed out 200 homemade sandwiches to the homeless in Seattle on his behalf.

“He’s caused an avalanche of love and support,” said Shelley Rotondo, executive director of Northwest Harvest, a food bank that received donations on Brenden’s behalf and passed them on needy children, seniors, and others.

Just days later, people all over the country and beyond had heard about Brenden’s wish, and many rallied to carry it out wherever they were. In his name they organized food drives, gathered truckloads of food, and raised tens of thousands of dollars for food for the hungry from Florida to Ohio to California.

“Live life to the Fullest.”

Shortly before he died in his mother’s arms on Friday, November 22, 2008, Brendan expressed his amazement that one young boy could make such a difference.

Wise beyond his years, Brenden answered a reporter’s questions:

What made him sad? “When someone gives up.”

His message to other children? “Live life to the fullest.”

“Follow your dream. Don’t let anything stop you,” Brenden implored. He wants to continue helping people even after he leaves this world. He said he hopes to become an angel and accomplish more from Heaven than he did on earth.

Something to Be Thankful For

If you ever have a hard time thinking of something to be thankful for, why not try remembering Brenden? When asked what he felt the best things about life are, he responded, “Just having one.” And he’d been struggling with leukemia for 3 years! “I had a great time, and until it’s time–[until] my time is come–I’m gonna keep having a good time,” he added, just days before his time came.

“He made my dream come true. In my lifetime, I wanted to change the world and my son did that,” said his mother Wendy. “The world is such a beautiful place and [that became] evident the last 72 hours, and Brenden did that.”

Brenden’s message and attitude sowed enthusiasm far and wide. Daniel Chairez, also battling leukemia, explained how it has affected him: “He really inspired me because he’s not afraid, and he wants to help people, and he’s not selfish,” 12-year-old Daniel said. He wants to take up the torch and help the homeless, too.

“He left a legacy,” Wendy mused, “just by making a wish and speaking his mind.”

Watch Brenden:

 

 

Misha’s Christmas Story

As you’ll read in the following account, one of our favorite Christmas stories (which as far as we know is true, though we haven’t been able to find its author’s name), little Misha, too, found a way to give.two babes cuddling

 

 

 

Two Babes in a Manger

Author unknown
    In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on Biblical principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments, and a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage. The Americans relate the following Christmas story: 
    It was nearing the holiday season, 1994, time for our orphans to hear the traditional Christmas story for the first time. We told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. 
    Throughout the Christmas story, the children and orphanage staff sat and listened in amazement. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word. Completing the story, we gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me. No colored paper was available in the city. Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left Russia, were used for the baby’s blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt we had brought from the United States. The orphans were busy assembling their manger as I walked among them to see if they needed any help. 
    All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about six years old, and had finished his project. As I looked at the little boy’s manger, I was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. 
    Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger. Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, the child began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately-until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger. 
    Then Misha started to ad lib. He made up his own ending to the story as he said,
   “And when Mary laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told Him I have no mama and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with Him. But I told Him I couldn’t, because I didn’t have a gift to give Him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe that if I kept Him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, ‘If I keep You warm, will that be a good enough gift?’
   “And Jesus told me, ‘If you keep Me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave Me.’
   “So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and He told me I could stay with Him–for always.”
   As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found Someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, Someone who would stay with him–for always.

And that is what the Christmas story is all about.

One gave nourishment, the other warmth. These were their gifts.

Nourishment and warmth—what deep and timeless expressions of love!

The nourishment Brenden gave to the hungry and homeless nourishes compassion in our hearts; the warmth Misha gave to the little Baby in the manger warms our hearts still.

The very simplicity of their gifts teaches us.

The wisdom of their gifts flowed from tender hearts who felt another’s need, even when they themselves were needy.

How wise love is!

Who needs a gift from your heart today?

I am Grateful!  How are You?