Faith · Short Stories

With My Love – A Short Story

Lord, I want to be a blessing this week, I prayed as I followed my youth group into the nursing home. This was only one of the many service projects we’d do as part of our weeklong local mission’s trip, and that prayer had become my mantra. I wanted to serve Jesus, but I also wanted to bless others. How? Not too sure. Guess I’d wing it and see what happened, but I was also nervous about our visit today; wasn’t sure how it would turn out. The last time I’d visited with my mom, I had run out of things to say, and no one was talking back. Talk about awkward.

My eyes swept across the large room, taking in the sight of all the old folks grouped at various tables. All of them were in wheelchairs, but not everyone noticed the group of twelve that had suddenly invaded their space. Probably because they were too busy eyeing the cake sitting on a nearby table, waiting to be served, I thought.

A woman in bright green scrubs greeted us with a hello and waved us all into the room, out of the doorway. “Hello! Thank you for coming. As you can see we have some cake…would some of you like to help me hand this out to the residents?”

Most of the group migrated over to the cake table, but I stayed put. Too many cooks spoiled the broth—or in this case, cake. My friend Claire must have had the same idea. I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, trying to decide what to do. Just as I was about to approach a table and try to start a conversation, another smiley worker approached Claire and I.

“Would you two like to make bracelets to hand out to the residents?” she asked. She led us over to a table in the corner and picked up a white slap bracelet. “There’s stickers you can decorate them with, and then you can go around and ask if anyone would like one.”

This was perfect! Handing out the bracelets would give me an “in”—a way to break the ice and get conversation rolling. Claire and I busied ourselves decorating the white slap bracelets with a variety of stickers. After I’d made seven of them, I gathered them up and walked to the table closest to me.

I greeted the four women seated at a table. “Hello! Would you like a bracelet?”

The lady closest to me leaned forward to get a better look at the bracelets I held. I fanned them out more so she could see them. “I don’t have my checkbook with me,” she said. “I don’t have any money for you.”

“Oh! No, no, they’re not for sale,” I said with a chuckle. “You can have one if you want one. For free.”

The woman broke out into a wide, gap-toothed smile. “Oh, you’re such a sweetie,” she said as she took a bracelet. She looked at it with uncertainty, her shoulder length white hair swishing as she cocked her head from side to side, trying to figure out how to put it on.

“Here, let me help you,” I offered, gently easing the bracelet from her fingers and showing her how to bend it around her wrist. “See? Looks great on you. The blue stickers even match your shirt,” I said, gesturing to her sky blue blouse.

I offered bracelets to the other three women, but only two of the ladies wanted one. We were silent for a few seconds before I realized I’d never introduced myself. “I’m Ella.” I learned that the lady in blue’s name was Sally, and the woman directly across from me was named Gertie. I never got the other two ladies’ names. They were more interested in the ice cream cake that my friend Dylan was delivering to everyone at the table. Seeing the cake gave me an idea though…

“Did you ever like to bake?” I had directed my question to Sally, but I looked around the table to make sure that the other women knew they were included in the conversation too.

Gertie gave a sharp nod of her head. “I baked all the time. I was always bakin’ for the cub scouts, boy scouts, girl scouts, brownies…always had somethin’ in my oven.”

“I used to make banana cake,” Sally said. She closed her eyes as if she were picturing the cake in her head. “Oh, that was so good. I loved me some banana cake.”

Interesting, I thought. I’d never heard of banana cake before, let alone eaten it, though that wasn’t likely to change, seeing how my mom absolutely hated bananas. “What kind of frosting do you put on banana cake?” I asked.

“Buttercream. Oh, I haven’t had it in years, but I did love it so.”

“Cool! I love baking too. One of my favorite things to make is soft pretzels. I think they’re really fun.” I pantomimed rolling out the pretzel dough with my hands and chuckled. “Oh, and I really like to bake a lemon sour cream pound cake. That’s yummy.”

Gertie leaned her forearms on the table. “Ella, right?” At my nod she continued. “What grade are you in?” She forked a bite of cake into her mouth.

“Oh, I graduated this year,” I said. My knees were beginning to get sore from kneeling on the floor but that was okay. I couldn’t believe how smooth the conversation was!

Gertie and Sally both looked at me in alarm, both of their cake forks poised in the air. “You can’t be graduated!” Gertie objected, and Sally nodded her agreement.

I laughed at their response. “Yup, sure am.”

Sally patted my arm. “Well, what do you want to do now dear?”

I shrugged my shoulders to indicate that I didn’t know. “I’m just doing whatever the Lord tells me to do. I really want to travel though. I haven’t seen the ocean or palm trees before.”

Sally broke out into a smile. “That’s a good idea. Do it while you’re young, dear.”

Was she saying follow the Lord while I was young or travel? I didn’t know but didn’t ask. Sally lifted her hand to my shoulder and patted it twice and said, “I like you, you’re interesting.”

In my surprise, I laughed. “That’s a good thing, right?” I said good-naturedly. Both ladies assured me that it was.

While Gertie finished up her cake, Sally told me about her travels. “I went to California once. It was a dream of mine to wade into the ocean, and I did.” She sighed at the memory. “And I always, I always wanted to pick an orange, right off the orange tree. So I did.”

“What’d you do?” Gertie asked.

“I said I always wanted to pick an orange, right off the tree.” She pretended to pick an orange as if the tree were right in front of her.

How cool. It was then I decided that picking an orange off an orange tree would be a dream of mine too. I’d never thought about that before, seeing as how the nearest orange tree was 2,000 miles away, but that was a neat idea.

We chatted for a few more minutes before conversation really started to lull and I decided that I should visit with some of the other residents before I left. “Well, I better move around a bit,” I said. “I really enjoyed chatting with you though. I hope you enjoy your cake, Sally.”

Sally took hold of my hand and squeezed. “Oh, I enjoyed you more than the cake.”

Aw, she was so sweet. I found another table that didn’t have a teen at it and settled in. “Hi! I’m Ella,” I said. The only lady who was interesting in talking was a woman whose name I learned was Marge.

“No one could ever pronounce Marjorie,” she explained, “so everyone just called me Marge.” She shrugged, and I couldn’t tell if she liked her shortened name or not.

We chatted for a while, her and I, and I learned that she loved to roller skate. When I asked her if she’d ever learned how to skate backwards she said that she tried, but she had always been too scared because she couldn’t see where she was going.

Marge knew how to play piano and the guitar. In school the music teacher always assigned Marge the instruments that no one else was interested in, so that’s what she learned. I asked if she’d ever learned how to play the banjo—that was one instrument I thought would be fun to play. Marge replied that that was one she could never quite get the hang of.

While I was talking to Marjorie, one of the youth group leaders, Gwen, caught my attention. I turned around and Gwen said, “Ella, sing?”

My breath caught in my chest as my eyes widened. I excused myself from Marjorie and joined our little group. I loved singing and even sang on the Praise Team at church, but…now? “By myself or with everyone?” I asked Gwen. I needed the clarification.

Gwen laughed and assured me that I would not be performing a solo performance…this time. The residents that she had been talking to had asked if we would sing for them, so we all shuffled into a corner of the room where everyone could see us.

“Who’s going to lead?” Paul, another YG leader, asked, his gaze traveling over the twelve of us. No one spoke up.

“Ella do you want to lead?” Gwen asked me. “Let’s start with Victory to Jesus first,” she suggested.

I glanced around to make sure that everyone was ready, took a deep breath, and began to sing the first line: “I heard an old, old story….” My friend Claire was the first one to join in, and then the rest of the youth group—though I noticed that some of the guys had strategically positioned themselves in the back and were not singing very much, if at all.

We finished the first verse and then the chorus—and the song stopped. Gwen leaned forward to whisper, “Does anyone know the other verses?”

“Oh! I do!” I whispered back.

We owned a couple of hymnals at home, and in my spare time I plunked around on the piano, trying to teach myself how to play using the songs out of the hymnals. It was a two-birds-with-one-stone scenario, because in addition to learning how to play the music, I also learned the words to many hymns, including Victory in Jesus. I sang the second verse, the rest of my group joined in on the chorus, and I soloed the third verse.

They clapped for us when we finished, and someone threw out a request for another song that most of us happened to know. The residents sang along and there was no mistaking the joy on their faces. One gentleman caught my eye, as he raised his obviously arthritic hand in the air and closed his eyes and sang. While his voice was strong, he was also singing off-key. Whether he knew it or not, it had no effect on him. It didn’t matter. He was singing to the Lord.

For the next forty-five minutes we sang all hymns that we knew the words to, until Gwen announced, “Thank you so much for letting us come and sing with you! We had a great time, but we have to leave now.”

They were disappointed, but they clapped for us all again with smiles on their faces. Those who belonged in my youth group began to file out.

While I waited to move I watched as the old man who had been belting out all songs held his hand out to each teen in our group. Claire took his hand and the old man gripped it, looked into her eyes and said, “I love ya.” Claire responded with a smile. He released Claire’s hand and reached for Dylan’s. “I love ya.” Dylan looked uncomfortable and unsure what to do, so he nodded and moved ahead. One by one the old man went down the line, shaking each person’s hand and saying those three words—“I love ya.”

Now it was my turn. Although I had watched him do the same thing to each of my friends, it still took me by surprise and caught me off guard. The old man took my hand in his wrinkled one, looked into my eyes with his blue ones, and said, “I love ya.”

“Oh…um…thanks.” I smiled my brightest as I moved through the room, saying goodbye to the residents as I passed.

One woman even commented on my singing voice, saying, “You have a beautiful voice. I can’t sing but I notice people who do, and yours stood out.”

It was probably one of the nicest compliments I’d ever received for my singing, but as I continued through the room and bid the residents adieu, my thoughts kept circling back to the old man in the wheelchair. He hadn’t known us, didn’t even know our names, yet he said he loved us. I went over it again in my head. I had a strange feeling in my heart…like I had missed out on something.

And I wondered…should I have told that old man I loved him, too?

Our group herded into the hallway to wait for the stragglers to join us before we could leave. The feeling in my heart didn’t go away. A nudge, a whisper…a regret. I should have told him I loved him.

But, I reasoned in my head, I don’t even know him! How can I tell him that I love him if I don’t even know him? It made sense, right?

I know him. The words echoed within me and in my spirit I knew that it was the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart. Ella, I know him, and I love him. Love him with My love.

I knew what I had to do. What I should have done ten minutes ago. But was it too late? What if he was gone? I peeked into the room and looked—and there he was.

I poked Gwen. “Um, Gwen? I’ll be right back.”

At her nod, I slipped into the dining area again, walking straight to the old man in the wheelchair with a grin. He seemed surprised to see me as I took his hand in mine.

“I—I wanted to say thanks again for having us,” I began. Then I looked him square in the eye so he would know that I meant it. “And I wanted to tell you that I love you.”

The deep swelling of emotion that flooded his eyes gripped my heart, and I was filled with such an unexplainable feeling, as I saw for myself how much those three little words had impacted his heart.

His eyes glistened with tears and he covered my hand with his other one, patting it. “Thank you,” he whispered in a raspy, emotion-filled voice.

That was it. That was all. He released my hand and I returned to the hallway. I had just received one of the sweet rewards of listening to the Holy Spirit. I had told the Lord I wanted to be a blessing to others this week, but I hadn’t expected to be blessed in return.

With My love.

Fun · Short Stories

The Kangaroo Explorer – A Short Story

Once upon a time there as a kangaroo. It lived in a place unusual for kangaroos, but this was its home nonetheless. The kangaroo’s name was Analia, and she lived in the North Pole, in an igloo.

Some called Analia crazy—why leave the warmth of Australia for the rugged artic? To give up the desert plains for the icy straits was insane. But Analia had long wondered about the rest of the world beyond Down Under. As soon as she could leave her mother’s pouch she packed her own pouch with some supplies and set off for the unknown.

China did not appeal to her. She found the famed Great Wall cold and unfriendly. She hopped over to India but didn’t last long. Analia left after sampling the ever popular chicken curry dish. Spicy foods were definitely not her thing.

From there she traveled to Turkey and Greece. Neither one of those countries interested Analia as she had hoped, but she fell in love with the Italian culture. Maybe it was the Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Alps—or was it those delicious risotto croquettes? Whatever the case may be, Analia was sorely tempted to settle down in Naples, or maybe Rome. But when she thought about everything she had yet to see she knew she couldn’t settle down—not yet.

Germany, France, England…

She was tired of hopping, her tail seemed so heavy, and her pouch was nearly empty. Her adventurous spirit was still going strong, however, so she pressed onward.

While the adventurous kangaroo was in Ireland, she caught sight of a rainbow in the horizon. It was a perfect, full arch of vibrant colors. Analia had heard of what lies in wait at the end of a rainbow, so she hopped toward it, as fast as she could. What a find a pot of gold would be!

There were times she thought for sure she could hop no more; times she was certain she’d never make it. Panic set in when the misty rain cleared and the rainbow vanished—but it was only for a moment, then it returned.

Hours later and she was almost there. Then—finally—she saw it: the end of the rainbow, leading right into a cast iron cauldron full of gold coins. Exhilaration filled Analia and adrenaline gave her the strength to hop faster. At last! At last! She skidded to a stop and fingered the treasure, hardly daring to believe….

The brief bubble of joy, excitement, and awe the kangaroo experienced popped when another figure appeared on the other side of the cauldron. A penguin.

The penguin looked as surprised as Analia, and Analia hardly knew what to think. It was hers, she had found it first!

Hadn’t she?

“I’m Constantine,” said the penguin, surprised Analia when he thrust a wing forward for her to shake.

“A-Analia,” she managed, shaking Constantine the Penguin’s wing.

“Look,” Constantine began, “I don’t wanna fight over this.”

Analia agreed. “I don’t know who found it first; I’ve just been exploring.”

Constantine’s eyes lit up. “You’re an explorer?” At her nod he continued. “So am I!” He clapped his wings together. “I’m from the South Pole but I’ve wanted to see the world since I hatched as a chick. I don’t care for these temperate climates so I’m going to the North Pole. When I saw the rainbow, I thought I could use the gold to buy some land and build an igloo. So…what do you say? Want to come to the North Pole? We could be neighbors.”

The North Pole? It was so unlike the hot, dusty Australia she was used to.

Sounded like an adventure.

Analia said yes.

God's Love · Poems

Take My Hand – A Poem

Take My hand and let Me lead,

Trust that I will provide for your every need

From the big, to the small,

Know that I, the Lord, hold it all

~

Take My hand and come to Me,

Release your burdens and be free

You are loved, you are known;

You will never stand alone

~

Take My hand and grip it tight,

Walk by faith and not by sight

The end is sure; it’s in My hands;

I’m leading you to a brighter land

~

Take My hand and feel My peace,

My love for you will never cease

Through times of calmness and distress,

Draw close to Me and find your rest

~

Take My hand and always know,

I will never let you go

For I am standing at the end,

I know it all; on Me you can depend

~

Take My hand and in truth abide,

My love for you is deep and wide

My thoughts of you are more than the sand,

My child, I love you…take My hand.

___________________________________________

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” -Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. -Psalm 63:8 (NIV)

For we walk by faith and not by sight. -2 Corinthians 5:7

 

Christmas · Short Stories

A Reminder for Winnie – A Short Story

Our house, with the crackling fire, floating pine scent, and carols playing in the background, was the epitome of Christmastime. Per our tradition every Christmas Eve, it was a time dedicated solely to our little family of four to decorate the house, wrap presents, and play games. My eight-year-old sister Anna and I hung our stockings on the mantel, Dad popped popcorn and Mom carried in steaming mugs of cocoa. Outside, snowflakes continued to drift from the clouds, clothing the earth in a shimmering white garment.

“We’ve got to wake up early so we can open presents!” Anna, dressed in her purple and pink footie pajamas, hurried to the other end of the living room.

Repelled from the heat of the fireplace, Dad rose from his kneeling position, popcorn pan in hand. “Don’t worry; tomorrow we’ve got the whole day to party.” Dad winked at me.

I joined Anna and together we took it in: Our real pine tree, decorated with colorful bulbs and handmade ornaments, the ceramic snowmen balancing on top of the mantel…it was Christmas, all right.

Mom cozied into her armchair and held her mug close. “Anna, Winnie; you girls did a wonderful job decorating. Looks fantastic.”

Everything about Anna dripped enthusiasm. “I know!”

As if my sister’s joy were contagious, just from standing next her I felt excitement bubble up inside me. I wrapped my arm around Anna and squeezed. “Wait until you see what I got you for Christmas tomorrow,” I teased, thinking of the latest-and-greatest craft kit I’d purchased for my artsy sis.

I picked up my popcorn bowl and plopped myself on the sofa next to Dad. With only the light of the fireplace and the glow of the Christmas lights in the tree, it created a charming atmosphere. As I snuggled in next to my dad, I watched and listened to the fireplace crackle.

My thoughts wandered to all the presents under the tree, so many that a few weren’t covered by the pine tree’s hovering branches. I’d spent three months of my allowance on presents for my family…but what was waiting under there for me? Soon, although it seemed like forever, I’d be able to open all the gifts marked Winnie. Now, it was time to cherish the moment and breathe in the combination of smells that only come once a year.

Mom interrupted Anna’s constant chattering some time later. “Girls, you’d better head up to bed. It’s getting late, and you want Santa to come, don’t you?”

A pink and purple blur whizzed past as Anna raced into the kitchen. I heard the fridge door open and close, and moments later she reappeared carrying a plate of cookies and a glass of milk.

Torn between wanting to stay up later and tomorrow to come, I pushed myself up from the sofa. “Did you write a letter this year?” I asked her. At fourteen, I didn’t feel like writing letters to Santa Claus anymore.

“Yup. Right here.” Anna picked up a folded piece of paper from the coffee table and pushed it half under the cookie plate. In red crayon, the word Santa was scrawled on the front. “C’mon, Winnie, let’s get to bed. We gotta fall asleep so Santa will know it’s time to deliver our present.”

I could hear Mom and Dad chuckling behind us as Anna ushered me up the stairs to my room. “What can we do to make her this excited about bedtime year-round?” Dad joked.

Almost Christmas, I mused as I lay in bed, trying to sleep. What a day it was going to be tomorrow. I hoped everyone liked what I bought them. What did everyone buy me? Excitement continued to swell at the thought of all the fun things I was going to get. And breakfast…mmmm. Mom never told anyone what we were going to have for Christmas breakfast; she always made it a delicious surprise. But for sure and for certain, tomorrow was going to be the most wonderful day of the year…if only it would get here quickly.

~~~

The hard slam of my bedroom door meeting the wall jolted me out of my deep sleep.

Winnifred!

Groggy, I attempted to open my heavy eyelids. Though it was still dark, I could tell that the person in my room was too tall to be Anna, and that shriek definitely could not have come from my dad. “Mom?”

Mom raced to me, tore the covers from my bed, and gave my hand the death-grip as she pulled me to my feet. Disoriented, I stumbled a few steps behind her as she dragged me to my bedroom door.

“What’s happening?”

I could smell it before I saw it. With each step we took towards the hallway, the stronger it became.

Smoke.

We paused at the doorway. When I looked down the stairs, I could see the illumination of bright orange flames on the wall of the living room and my stomach filled with an inexplicable fear. I wanted to scream, but the strong smoke smell burned my throat and terror took away my voice.

Our house was on fire.

Across the hallway in the doorway to my sister’s room, Dad cradled a wailing Anna in his arms. Her cries were almost lost amongst the sound of fire consuming our house. When Dad saw Mom and me together, he dashed down the stairs with his youngest daughter. Mom, still clutching my hand in an ever-tightening grip, pulled me behind her.

I coughed and used my free hand to cover my nose and mouth against the smoke. At the bottom of the stairs, I was hit by the heat of the fire. Dad turned for the front door, but the flames were too great there.

“The back!” he shouted, directing us to the slider in the dining room.

Mom and I spun around, slid open the door, and ran. We didn’t stop until we were on the other side of the yard. I was shivering uncontrollably and my feet stung like being pierced with needles. I hadn’t had time to put shoes on; I was standing in six inches of snow in my socks. But I was alive.

“Mom….” Tears slipped down my cheeks as I watched our house burn.

She turned my head away, pulling me into an embrace. “Shh…it’s okay.”

No fences separated our backyard from our neighbors. Keeping a safe distance, we all ran next door to Mr. and Mrs. Howard’s so Dad could phone the fire department. In minutes, a red fire trunk, sirens blaring, halted in front of our house.

“What happened?” I asked Mom, finally having found my voice.

She shook her head, eyes wide and blank as if she were still in shock. “I…” she coughed, then looked to me. “I don’t know. It’s possible there was a short in our Christmas lights, and our tree was dry….”

I watched with Anna out the front window as firemen poured out of the vehicle and sprinted to action. A small crowd, consisting of all the people who lived on our block, gathered on the opposite side of the street. Even though Dad’s feet were three sizes larger than Mr. Howard’s, he borrowed a pair of shoes to go outside and talk to the fire chief. Mom went with him, but insisted that I stay with Anna.

Mrs. Howard, a woman old enough to be my grandma, startled me by running her hand up and down my back. “I’m sorry,” she apologized when I jumped. “Are you girls alright? Can I get you anything? How about some hot cocoa?”

The next few hours crawled by. The firemen were able to put out the fire and eventually Mom and Dad came back to Mr. and Mrs. Howard’s house. Anna had long since fallen asleep on the couch, but I couldn’t sleep. Didn’t want to. I wanted to wake up from this horrible nightmare that was supposed to be magical Christmas Eve.

Mr. Howard found an inflatable mattress in a closet and made me a bed. I wanted to take a shower, to get rid of the putrid smoke smell that was absorbed into my clothes and skin, but I had no energy. After running on adrenaline for the past few hours, I was beat. Somehow, in spite of it all, I managed to fall to sleep.

The sun shone bright the next morning when I woke, a sharp contrast to the night before. The first thing I did was cry. Silent tears; I didn’t want anyone to hear me. Everything was gone. There would be no Christmas for our family this year. Still feeling rotten but having no more tears to shed, I wandered into the kitchen to find something to drink.

Mrs. Howard was puttering in the kitchen, busy making a cup of coffee. She smiled when she saw me and pulled out another mug. “How would you like some hot cocoa this morning?”

Mute, I nodded and settled into a wooden bar stool at the counter and let her make the beverage for me. I wrapped my hands around the mug and brought it to my lips. “Where are Mom and Dad?” I asked.

“They’re sleeping in another guest room,” she answered, settling into the stool beside me. After a moments pause, she asked, “Did you sleep well?”

I shrugged and kept my head lowered.

“I know it might not feel like it, Winnie, but…merry Christmas.” Mrs. Howard, in a motherly fashion, laid her wrinkled hand on top of mine.

I pulled my hand from beneath hers and ran it over my face, distraught. “This isn’t Christmas.”

“Why not?”

“How can it be Christmas when everything was just taken away from me? Have you seen our house?” I thrust my arm in that direction.

“I know that your parents raised you up Christian, Winnie. You know that not everything has been taken away from you.”

“Everything that counts,” I muttered softly under my breath. Not softly enough, apparently.

Shocked, Mrs. Howard drew back. “Christmas isn’t about food, presents, or the best decorated tree. It’s about Jesus, the best gift that we could ever be given, one that could never burn in a fire.”

She was right. I had been so consumed in giving presents to other people, and anxiously awaiting all the presents I would get, that I had overlooked the most important part.

When I remained silent, Mrs. Howard continued on. “Jesus gave up everything He had in heaven so He could save us, He loves us that much. The most precious gift came in the form of a baby born in a dirty stable. It’s not that presents and Christmas celebrations are bad. It’s when it gets to be bigger than Jesus’ birthday.”

“I guess…I forgot that it was Jesus’ birthday too.”

“It can be easy to sometimes. Winnie, it might seem like Jesus has forgotten about you, but let me tell you, He hasn’t. God is bigger than all of this, bigger than your house burning and your Christmas flopping. I know that He has a plan for you and your family.”

“You’re right. We’ll be okay, no matter what happens. Jesus is the most important part of Christmas anyway, right? And He hasn’t changed.” For the first time since sitting down, I glanced at Mrs. Howard’s smiling old face.

“Exactly, Winnie. Exactly.”

Anna padded into the kitchen in her dirty footie pajamas, rubbing her eyes. The sparkle in her eyes was gone, and my smile drooped. Eight years old, and her Christmas spirit had been stolen from her.

“Merry Christmas, Anna.” I hopped off the stool and hugged my little sis. When she began crying into my side, I stroked her brown hair. “It’s okay.”

“But…everything’s gone…” she looked at me with puffy, red eyes and snuffed.

I looked over my shoulder to Mrs. Howard and grinned. Looking back to my sister, I said, “Everything?” I tapped her on the tip of her nose. “Yeah, everything’s kinda pretty awful right now. But I think we can still make this Christmas special. I know about a gift that can’t be destroyed no matter what, and that gift, when you accept it, can make you very happy.”

Anna looked puzzled. “What are you talking about, Winnie?”

I laughed. Laughing the day after our house burned down? Who knew such a thing could be possible? Maybe presents really weren’t everything. Maybe Jesus was just what I needed.


While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. ~Luke 2:6-7