Serving in the Temple

I love serving in the temple!  I’ve always known that, but yesterday was really a reminder of just how much.

John and I have found a home we want to buy.  It’s being built so we won’t be able to move into it till the first of the year.  While we are very excited to make the move back into a house, we are saddened that we will be moving out of the Jordan River Temple district and therefore will need to be released as Ordinance Workers there.

John is having his knee replaced today, so yesterday was his last day.  With the Temple closing in a couple of weeks for cleaning and the Holidays coming up, it worked out to be his last day.  Depending on how things go with him, it may have been my last day too.  Knowing that, I was very melancholy as I performed my duties serving the Patrons.

It hit me the most as I was sitting in the front of the room for the Endowment session.  We had several older Sisters in wheel chairs on that session.  When that happens, it’s usually an opportunity for us to serve them even more than we would a healthier Patron because we are often needed to help them put on their Priesthood robes during the session.  I was lucky enough yesterday to have a Sister to help.  I love doing that.  It endears me to them so much.

As I observed those Sisters during the session, I was touched by what many of them are enduring in their old age.  One of the Sisters had Arthritis so bad in her hands its hard for her to hold her hands straight, which makes part of the ceremony a little more difficult.  Another of the Sisters feet are so twisted that taking off her shoes and putting them back on was a little difficult.  She is stuck in a wheel chair for the remainder of her life.  You could see that the muscles in her legs are disappearing as she is unable to use them.  It broke my heart for her, yet it made me so grateful that I had the chance to help her.

Jordan River Temple (photo by Kendall Davenport)
Jordan River Temple
(photo by Kendall Davenport)

I was choking back tears yesterday knowing that it might be my last chance to do that for sometime.  I was also choking back tears regarding everything that has happened to us in the last two weeks (both good and kind of scary)  that makes me very aware that my Heaven Father knows and loves me.  I know that he sent those Sisters to the temple yesterday to be on the session I was helping with, so I could have a reminder of just how much joy I receive doing His work there.  Not going to lie,  I’m not always in tune with the spirit when I work there.  Often I let my mind spin on worldly things and not focus on what I can feel there if I allow myself to do so.  That’s why yesterday was so special to me.  It completely made me focus and realize that it might be the last time for sometime that I will get to help perform those ordinances.  We hope to maybe work in the new Temple district once we get moved and settled, but it may be a while.

Because we work on the early shift on Wednesdays and have to get up so early, often I am tired while I’m there.  And often, I have been known to close my eyes during part of the session and doze off.  I’m not happy to admit that, but it happens more often than not.  Yesterday I was surprised at how I wasn’t tired.  Even though I had forgotten what night it was when I went to bed the night before and didn’t get to bed till 11 pm.  I was surprised at how much energy I had.  Again…. I think it was The Lords way of reminding me what joy I have had serving Him.

I’m so grateful for the blessing of working the The Lord’s House.  I have many sweet memories and have gained some wonderful friendships both with fellow workers and with Patrons who come so often.  What a blessing it is to do His work!  I guess I will have to settle for just being a Patron myself for a while.  I can always attend during the hours that we worked and hopefully be able to say “Hi” to some of those friends while we are there.  Being a Patron is a blessing too.  One I haven’t taken as much advantage of as I should.  Now I will have a chance to finish up those Family File cards a distant relative gave me to do.  And that….. will be a blessing too!

I Am Grateful!  How Are You?

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Story Day 20 — If Your Missing Jesus, Call 7126

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 18 — Papa Panov’s Special Christmas

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 14 — A Christmas to Remember

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

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

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?

Story Day 11 — The Real Story of Christmas

What I share today is not your typical Christmas story.  Instead…. it’s from an email that I got today.  Funny thing is, it’s not one of the emails that I typically open up, but the subject line caught my attention.  I’m not even sure why I subscribed to get the email.  Do you have those in your inbox?  One’s you can’t remember why you subscribed to?  Yeah.  I have a lot.  I keep telling myself everyday as I delete those and don’t even open them that one of these days I’m going to stop long enough to unsubscribe.  Hasn’t happened yet!

So what I share with you today is the complete content of the email I got from 100 Day Challenge.  Rather than a story with characters like you are used to, this one is more of an explanation of how Charles Dickens played a big part in what our modern day Christmas is like.  Not in the way you might think.  I thought the information was interesting and worth sharing.  I hope you do too.

I share it with you exactly as it came in my email.

The Real Story of Christmas!scrooge-and-tim

Last night, I spent some time with my children and shared with them the real story behind Christmas. Sorry Santa!

The kids particularly enjoyed the story and were surprised to learn that the author – Charles Dickens – is the man most responsible for the modern celebration of the season.

This is a story that deserves to be more widely known…

Dickens is one of the greatest writers in the English language. He published twenty novels in his lifetime. None has ever gone out of print.

Yet in 1843, Dickens’ popularity was at a low, his critical reputation in tatters, his bank account overdrawn. Facing bankruptcy, he considered giving up writing fiction altogether.

In a feverish six-week period before Christmas, however, he wrote a small book he hoped would keep his creditors at bay. His publishers turned it down. So using his meager savings, Dickens put it out himself. It was an exercise in vanity publishing – and the author told friends it might be the end of his career as a novelist.

Yet the publication of “A Christmas Carol” caused an immediate sensation, selling out the first printing – several thousand copies-in just four days. A second printing sold out before the New Year, and then a third. Widespread theatrical adaptations spread the story to an exponentially larger audience still.

And it wasn’t just a commercial success. Even Dickens’ chief rival and foremost critic, William Makepeace Thackery, bowed his head before the power of the book: “The last two people I heard speak of it were women; neither knew the other, or the author, and both said, by way of criticism, ‘God bless him!’ What a feeling this is for a writer to be able to inspire, and what a reward to reap!”

Today we all know the tale of tight-fisted Scrooge – “Bah! Humbug!”- and his dramatic change of heart after being visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

But A Christmas Carol didn’t just restore Dickens’ reputation and financial health. It also breathed new life into what was then a second-tier holiday that had fallen into disfavor.

As Les Standiford notes, in early 19th century England, the Christmas holiday “was a relatively minor affair that ranked far below Easter, causing little more stir than Memorial Day or St.
George’s Day today.

In the eyes of the relatively enlightened Anglican Church, moreover, the entire enterprise smacked vaguely of paganism, and were there Puritans still around, acknowledging the holiday might have landed one in the stocks.”

The date of Christmas itself is an arbitrary one, of course. There is NO reference in the gospels to the birth of Jesus taking place on December 25th, or in any specific month. When Luke says, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,” there isn’t the slightest indication when that was.

And while the day was marked on Christian calendars, celebrations were muted. That changed when A Christmas Carol became an instant smash, stirring English men and women to both celebrate the holiday and remember the plight of the less fortunate. This was exactly the
author’s intent.

Dickens grew up in poverty and was forced into child labor. (His father, a naval pay clerk who struggled to meet his obligations, was thrown into debtor’s prison.) Yet despite these handicaps,
Dickens educated himself, worked diligently, and rose to international prominence as a master writer and storyteller.

He was a great believer in self-determination and, in particular, the transformative power of education. With learning, he said, a man “acquires for himself that property of soul which has in all times upheld struggling men of every degree.”

Yet in the London of Dickens’ day, only one child in three attended school. Some worked in shops, others in factories. Still others resorted to theft or prostitution to live. Dickens was determined to expose their plight.

A Christmas Carol, in particular, is a bald-faced parable, something few novelists attempt… and even fewer successfully execute.

Dickens said his novels were for the edification of his audience.  His goal was not just to entertain but to enlighten. And A Christmas Carol was designed to deliver “a sledge-hammer blow” on behalf of the poor and less fortunate.

It worked. Scrooge – a character as well known as any in fiction – is now synonymous with “miser.”

Yet through his remarkable transformation, the author reminds us that it is never too late to change, to free ourselves from selfish preoccupations.

Dickens’ biographer Peter Ackyroyd and other commentators have credited the novelist with single-handedly creating the modern Christmas holiday.

No, not the contemporary orgy of shopping, spending and ostentatious display. In fact, in A Christmas Carol, there are no Christmas trees, gaudy decorations or – apart from “the big, prize
turkey” at the end – any presents at all. The only gifts exchanged are love, friendship and goodwill.

In one small book, Dickens changed the culture, inspired his contemporaries, and helped restore a holiday they were eager to revive.

More than a century and half later, A Christmas Carol is still a tonic for our spirits – and an annual reminder of the benefits of friendship, charity and celebration.

Thank you for your support and my very best for a joy-filled holiday season!

Gary Ryan Blair

And may I add:  “God Bless Us, Everyone!”

I am Grateful!  How are You?

Story Day 9 — The Heart of Christmas

Here’s another one I found on the internet.  It’s hard to post anything cheerful on a day like today after what happened in Connecticut.  So many families suffering.  Heart breaking.  Though Christmas won’t ever be the same for those families and the community, I know that they all love their children a little more today.

Today’s story is proof of a Mother’s love and hope for a special Christmas for her children.  Sacrifices made, yet given hope through charity and kindness.   Hug your children a little tighter today!

The Heart of Christmas

Woman-Holding-Child-5466158

By Christine Duncan

 

It was ten days before Christmas and Jenny Lindley had already settled back at her desk after lunch at Worldwide Bank when her cube mate, Rita Howard came in laden with Christmas packages.

“Look, at all the neat bargains I got,” Rita bubbled, her bobbed dark hair tousled, and her eyes crinkled from her wide smile. “I’m going to be the Santa with the mostest.”

Jenny smiled at her friend’s enthusiasm, although the smile didn’t quite reach her blue eyes. She leaned her blonde head on her hand. “You do look like you bought out the stores.”

Rita set the packages down and shrugged off her coat. “You should have come with me, Jenny. I found the best sales.”

That went without saying. Rita, was a veteran sales prowler, her generous heart kept her searching for presents not only for her own grown children and family, but for all her friends.

“And guess what? I saw that Baby Bubbles doll that Emma wants.”

Jenny’s smile faltered. Her daughter Emma, who was only three, had been happily chattering about the doll since the ads started on all the cartoon shows months ago. But first Jenny couldn’t find the doll anywhere. And now, when it looked like the doll might be going to be available, Jenny had spent all her Christmas money on emergenc repairs for her aging Honda, and medicine for baby Justin’s croup.

Christmas this year was going to be tight for the single mother. She’d bought a few stocking stuffers months ago, just after Michael left, as a way of trying to concentrate on a better future. Now she had just enough left to think about a small present for each child. But there was nowhere near enough money for “Baby Bubbles.” As a matter of fact, she wasn’t sure there would be enough money left over to even think about Holiday baking.

“That’s nice,” Jenny mumbled.

Rita dark eyes watched Jenny more carefully than Jenny wanted right now. “Are you going to your parents?” Rita asked.

Jenny shook her head. Her parents were five hundred miles away from Jenny’s home in Wyoming. Her car was better, but there was no point in straining it. Besides her dad was recovering from surgery after an auto accident and her mother was stressed from the bills and the worry about her dad. “We’re just staying here, this year.” Jenny tried to maintain her smile.

“Why don’t you come over to my house then? We’re going to early service and then having lots of people over for brunch. It will be fun.”

Jenny was tempted. But she couldn’t even offer to contribute anything toward the brunch. And if she were there for Christmas, wouldn’t she need to bring presents for her hosts? No. She couldn’t, though Rita was a dear to ask. Jenny turned toward her desk, hoping her friend would take the hint and get on with work, dropping the subject. “That’s sweet, Rita. But I can’t.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Jenny saw the older woman turn away, her brow furrowed in confusion. But Jenny’s eyes were silently dripping tears and she couldn’t–wouldn’t explain why.

 

The evening before Christmas Eve, Jenny walked from the apartment’s car port to the house, Justin in her arms, Emma tugging on Jenny’s worn black wool coat. It was already getting dark, and the wind whipped cruelly at her face. She’d been late to pick the kids up from daycare again and the center had had to wait for her to come before they closed, causing a scolding from the center’s director. She’d been working frantically, hoping that by putting in some overtime she could get more money for Christmas. But this week one of the tires on the car had gone flat, and the doctor told Jenny that Justin’s frequent respiratory infectons were caused by asthma and asked her to buy a nebulizer. That was over two hundred dollars, and it didn’t look like her insurance would cover it. She was farther behind than ever.

“Sarah is getting a Baby Bubbles, too.” Emma informed her mother, with a smile on her small pink cheeked face.

A lump gathered in Jenny’s throat and she reached down to smooth her daughter’s tangled golden curls. “Maybe Santa won’t be able to bring you Baby Bubbles, Emma,” she cautioned.

“My daddy will then,” said Emma, confidently.

But Michael hadn’t even sent child support since the divorce, and the last time Jenny had tried to call him the number had been disconnected. She shifted Justin on her hip and looked down at Emma, making her eyes big so her daughter would know she was serious. “Emma, honey, sometimes we can’t get all that we want for Christmas.”

“But all I want is a tea set for my babies and Baby Bubbles,” Emma pointed out reasonably.

Jenny swallowed, and inserted her key in the lock of the small apartment. She had gotten Emma a small plastic tea set. The tiny tea pot had roses on it and the cups were sized just right for small hands. Jenny had been thrilled to find it and had done without lunch the last few days to help afford it. She’d gotten Justin a small plastic police car with lights and a loud siren. It came with two small police figures. Both presents were already wrapped.

That was it. All she could do. Jenny stared blankly into the darkened apartment, her eyes not focusing on the blue plaid sofa or the silent hum of the heater.

They would do all right, she reassured herself. She’d finally accepted Rita’s coaxing to come to brunch on Christmas, so she wouldn’t feel so alone that day. If she could only bring just a small gift. Something she’d baked or something. She’d feel better.

“I’m hungry, Mommy. And it’s cold. I want to go in,”Emma whined.

Jenny swallowed again and smiled. “What was I thinking of? Of course, let’s make dinner.”

But that night, after she’d made dinner, read the kids a story, bathed them and settled them in bed, Jenny couldn’t sleep. There had to be some way. Something she could sell. Some way to get more money for Christmas.

Her eyes searched the apartment desperately. But the TV was a hand me down, as were most of the furnishings. Really, there wasn’t anything.

She looked down at her own threadbare slipper socks. She should have taken on a second job. She’d thought about it, but didn’t want to take the time from the children. And then there was always the problem of after hours day care. Any job that she got would have to pay pretty well to cover that. As it was, day care was her second largest expense. Really it was almost as bad as rent. So what was she supposed to do?

There was nothing she could do now, she realized. And she cried herself to sleep.

Christmas Eve was a Saturday, and Jenny slept in, only to be awakened by Emma chattering. “Mama, Santa’s at the door. He left us a package. Come see.”

Jenny stumbled out of bed, gathering her old robe around her. “What on earth?”

She peeked out the front door’s small window, sure that her daughter was just caught up in the excitement of its being Christmas eve.

Snow was falling in fitful starts, driven by the wind. But sure enough, out on the front step stood a box, with Jenny’s name on it in large print letters.

She opened the door and looked both ways down the walk, but no one was in sight. Not enough snow had fallen for there to be footprints. If it hadn’t been for Emma seeing “Santa,” the package might as well have fallen from the sky.

She stooped over to pick it up. The box was heavy. What could it be? She examined the label once more. To Jenny.

Pushing aside thoughts of bombs and pranks, she heaved the box up and took it in, depositing it carefully on her coffee table. It was sealed firmly, with tape. She nodded at it thoughtfully.

Not sure what she would find, she set the kids to drawing at the kitchen table. Justin was hardly able to grasp the thick crayons yet, his little tongue touching the corner of his mouth. Emma was busy coloring a tree she’d made when Jenny tiptoed out of the kitchen.

Quickly she attacked to the box with scissors opening it carefully. Inside was a bag of baking supplies: nuts and chocolate, flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, powdered sugar and cream. Jenny’s heart lifted.

She poked around the box some more. Next to the grocery bag were green and red gaily wrapped packages, which she was careful to conceal from the children in the next room. The packages were marked in the same lettering as the box was. To Emma, read two big boxes. To Justin. To Jenny?

They know us, she thought. Whoever did this knows us.

Open me first, said an envelope which she found slipped toward the bottom of the box. So she did.

 

Dear Jenny,

 

Rest easy, my dear, it said. Emma will get her Baby Bubbles. And there are a few things here for you and Justin to make Christmas Merry.

In love,

From

The Christ Child

 

Jenny’s tears rose from a lump in her throat so that she choked, crying.

Emma ran in at the sound, small face twisted in concern. “What’s wrong, Mama?”

“Oh honey,” she said, putting her arm around Emma and drawing her close. “I’m just so happy that Santa came early. Look at these gifts! Let’s put them under the tree.”

“Justin, too, Mom.” Emma said.

Jenny moved out to the kitchen to get Justin from his high chair. “Of course, Justin too. And when we get the presents under the tree, we’ll make some fudge and some cookies to take to Aunt Rita’s tomorrow.”

 

I am Grateful!  How are You?

Story Day 6 — The Santa Within Me

Once again…. I was able to find an online version of a story I’ve had in my files for a long time.  I figured since it had once been featured in Reader’s Digest in 1979 there might be a good chance I’d find it!  Yeah for the internet!

It’s another kind of long one, but not bad….  but a great story!  I know there a lot of people out there that have Santa within them!  How I wish more people could do things like this!

Here it is….. Enjoy!

-vintage-christmas-card-of-santa-claus-delivering-gifts-to-two-girlsThe Santa Within Me
by Jay Frankston

There’s nothing so beautiful as a child’s dream of Santa Claus. I know; I often had that dream. But, I am Jewish and my parents didn’t celebrate Christmas. It was everyone else’s holiday – a big party I wasn’t invited to – and I felt left out. It wasn’t toys I yearned for; it was Santa Claus and a Christmas tree. So when I got married and had kids, I decided to make up for what I’d missed.

I started with a seven-foot tree, all decked out with lights and tinsel. The year was 1956, and we were living in New York City. My daughter Claire was only two, but her eyes sparkled as she smiled at the tree. It gave off warmth that filled every corner of our home. I Put a Star of David on top to soothe those whose Jewish feelings were disturbed by the display. And, it warmed my heart to see the glitter, because now the party was at my house EVERYONE was invited.

But, something was missing, something big and round and jolly, with jingle bells, and Ho! Ho! Ho! So I bought a bright, red cloth and my wife made me a costume. Inflatable pillows filled out my skinny frame. A Santa mask, complete with whiskers and flowing white hair, made me look genuine enough to live up to a child’s dream of old St. Nick.

When I tried on the costume and looked in the mirror, there he was, big as life, the Santa of my childhood. I felt myself becoming Santa. I leaned back and pushed out my pillow stomach. My voice got deeper and richer. “Merry Christmas, everyone.”

Claire was almost four and Danny not yet one when Santa first came to our house. They stood in awe and I saw in their eyes the fantasy and magic of what I had become. Santa was special. He was the personification of kindness and gentleness. He was a little scary, too.

For two years I played Santa for my children, to their fright and delight, and to my total enjoyment. And, when the third year rolled around, the Santa in me had grown into a personality of his own and he needed more room So, I sought to accommodate him by letting him do his thing for other children.

One day, late in November, I saw this pretty little girl trying to reach a mailbox slot, and saying, “Mommy, are you sure Santa will get my letter?” My mind began to whirl. All those children who wrote to Santa Claus, whatever becomes of their letters? A phone call to the postal service answered my question. The dead-letter office stored the thousands of letter in huge sacks.

The Santa in me went Ho! Ho! Ho! and we headed to the post office. As I began rummaging through the letters, I became a little flustered at the demands and greed of so many spoiled children. Most of the letters were gimme, gimme, gimme letters. But, the Santa in me heard a voice from inside the mail sack, and I continued searching until I came upon one letter that jarred me.

Dear Santa, I am an 11-year-old girl, and I have two little brothers and a baby sister. My father died last year, and my mother is sick. I know there are many who are poorer than we are and I want nothing for myself, but could you send us a blanket ’cause Mommy’s cold at night. It was signed Suzy.

A chill went up my spine and the Santa in me cried, “I hear you Suzy.

I dug deeper into those sacks and came up with another eight such letters, all calling out from the depths of poverty. I took them with me and went straight to the Western Union office and sent each child a telegram: Got your letter. Will be at your house. Wait for me. Santa.

I knew I could not possibly fill all the needs of these children, but if I could bring them hope, if I could make them feel that their cries did not go unheard… I budgeted $150 and went out and bought presents. On Christmas day, my wife drove me around. It had snowed graciously the night before, and the streets were thick with fresh powder.

My first call took me to the outskirts of the city. The letter from Peter Barski had read:
Dear Santa, I am ten years old and I am an only child. I’m not sad because I’m poor, but because I’m lonely. I know you have many people to see and you probably have no time for me. So, I don’t ask you to come to my house or bring anything. But, could you send me a letter so I know know you exist?

Dear Peter, my telegram began, not only do I exist, but I’ll be there on Christmas Day. Wait for me.

Peter’s house was wedged between two tall buildings. Its roof was of corrugated metal and it was more of a shack than a house. With a bag of toys slung over my shoulder, I walked up the steps and knocked. A heavyset man opened the door.

He said a word in Polish and his hand went to his face. “Please,” he stuttered. “The boy… at Mass. I go get him. Please wait.” He threw on a coat and, assured that I would wait, ran down the street.

I stood there in front of the house, feeling good. Then, across the street, I noticed another shack; through the window I could see little back faces peering at me, and tiny hands waving. The door opened shyly and some voices called out, “Hi ya, Santa.”

I Ho! Ho! Hoed! my way over there, and a woman asked if I’d come in, and I did. Inside were five kids from one to seven years old. I spoke to them of Santa and the spirit of love, which is the spirit of Christmas. The, seeing the torn Christmas wrappings, I asked if they liked what Santa had brought them. Each thanked me – for the woolen socks, the sweater, and the warm underwear.

“Didn’t I bring you any toys?” They shook their heads sadly. “Ho! Ho! Ho! I slipped up.” said I, “We’ll have to fix that.”

Knowing that we had extra toys in the car, I gave each child a toy. There was joy and laughter, but when Santa got ready to leave, I noticed one girl crying. I bent down and asked her, “What’s the matter?”

“Oh, Santa,” she sobbed, “I’m so happy.” And the tears rolled from my eyes under the rubber mask.

As I stepped out on the street, “Panie, Panie, Prosze…? Sir, sir, please,” I heard Mr. Barski say across the way.

Peter just stood there and looked as Santa walked into the house. “You came,” he said. “I wrote and… and you came.”

When he recovered, I spoke with him about loneliness and friendship, and gave him a chemistry set and a basketball. He thanked me profusely, and his mother asked something of her husband in Polish. My parents were Polish, so I speak a little and understand a lot. “From the North Pole,” I said in Polish.

She looked at me with astonishment. “You speak Polish?”

“Of course,” I said. “Santa speaks all languages.” And I left them in joy and wonder.

The following year, when the momentum of Christmas began to build, I felt a stirring and I knew that the Santa within me was back. So I returned to the post office and to those heartbreaking letters. I enjoyed playing Santa so much that I did it the next year and the next. Then, at age ten, Claire handed me a poem that began:

I know that Santa’s make-believe
But I still love him so
‘Cause he’m my daddy
Ho! Ho! Ho!

So, now she knew. I took her to the basement where the toys were and let her rummage through Santa’s shop, ogling at the the imposing array. She read the letters and cried with me and became a true Santa’s helper, sorting and wrapping the toys in preparation for my rounds.

I made them for 12 years, listening for the cries of children muffled in unopened envelopes, answering the call of as many as I could – frustrated at not being able to answer them all.

As time went on, word got out about Santa Claus and me, and manufacturers sent me cartons of toys. Having started with 20 children, I had wound up with 120, door to door, from one end of New York City to the other, from Christmas Eve through Christmas Day.

On my last call a few years ago, I knew there were four children in the family and I came prepared. The house was small and sparsely furnished. The kids had been waiting all day, staring at the telegram and repeating to their skeptical mother, “He’ll come, Mommy, he’ll come.”

As I rang the bell, the door swung open and they all reach for my hands and hold on. “Hi ya, Santa. We just knew you’s come.” And these poor kids were beaming with happiness and laughter.

I took each of them on my lap and told stories of joy, hope and waiting, and gave them each a toy. All the while there’s this fifth child standing the the corner, a cute girl with blond hair and blue eyes.

I turned to her and said, “You’re not part of this family, are you?’

She shook her head sadly and whispered, “No.”

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Lisa.”

“How old are you?”

“Seven.”

“Come, sit on my lap.” She hesitated, but them came over. “Did you get any toys for Christmas? I asked.

“No.” she said.

I took out a big, beautiful doll. “Do you want this doll?”

“No,” she said, and leaned over and whispered in my ear, “I’m Jewish.”

I nudged her and whispered back, “I’m Jewish, too.” Lisa grinned from ear to ear. She took the doll I had handed her, hugged it, and ran out of the room.

I don’t know which of us was happier – Lisa or the Santa in me.

Merry Christmas, my friends…

I am Grateful!  How are You?

Story Day 5 — When Angels Are Busy

Isn’t is amazing how the Lord will put us in the path of others when we are needed or send someone to help us when we need it?  It reminds me of the Amy Grant song,  “God Has Angels Watching Over Me”.  In fact…. I’m pretty sure I did a post on that very thing last year!

Today’s story was a reminder of that very thing!  I really never tire of hearing these stories over and over again!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  Once again…. thanks to an FB friend for reminding me of it!

Here it is:

selfish_helping_news“When Angels Are Busy”

This was written by a Metro Denver Hospice Physician:

I was driving home from a meeting this evening about 5, stuck in traffic on Colorado Blvd., and the car started to choke and splutter and die – I barely managed to coast into a gas station, glad only that I would not be blocking traffic and would have a somewhat warm spot to wait for the tow truck. It wouldn’t even turn over.

Before I could make the call, I saw a woman walking out of the quickie mart building, and it looked like she slipped on some ice and fell into a gas pump, so I got out to see if she was okay

When I got there, it looked more like she had been overcome by sobs than that she had fallen; she was a young woman who looked really haggard with dark circles under her eyes. She dropped something as I helped her up, and I picked it up to give it to her. It was a nickel.

At that moment, everything came into focus for me: the crying woman, the ancient Suburban crammed full of stuff with 3 kids in the back (1 in a car seat), and the gas pump reading $4.95.

I asked her if she was okay and if she needed help, and she just kept saying ‘I don’t want my kids to see me crying,’ so we stood on the other side of the pump from her car. She said she was driving to California and that things were very hard for her right now. So I asked, ‘And you were praying?’ That made her back away from me a little, but I assured her I was not a crazy person and said, ‘He heard you, and He sent me.’
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I took out my card and swiped it through the card reader on the pump so she could fill up her car completely, and while it was fueling, walked to the next door McDonald’s and bought 2 big bags of food, some gift certificates for more, and a big cup of coffee.. She gave the food to the kids in the car, who attacked it like wolves, and we stood by the pump eating fries and talking a little.

She told me her name, and that she lived in Kansas City Her boyfriend left 2 months ago and she had not been able to make ends meet. She knew she wouldn’t have money to pay rent Jan. 1, and finally in desperation had finally called her parents, with whom she had not spoken in about 5 years. They lived in California and said she could come live with them and try to get on her feet there.

So she packed up everything she owned in the car. She told the kids they were going to California for Christmas, but not that they were going to live there.

I gave her my gloves, a little hug and said a quick prayer with her for safety on the road. As I was walking over to my car, she said, ‘So, are you like an angel or something?’

This definitely made me cry. I said, ‘Sweetie, at this time of year angels are really busy, so sometimes God uses regular people.’

It was so incredible to be a part of someone else’s miracle. And of course, you guessed it,
when I got in my car it started right away and got me home with no problem. I’ll put it in the shop tomorrow to check, but I suspect the mechanic won’t find anything wrong.

Sometimes the angels fly close enough to you that you can hear the flutter of their wings…

May you find Angels when you least expect it!  Better yet….. may you BE one!

I am Grateful!  How are You?