CHRISTMAS THROUGH THE FOG

“Christmas Through the Fog”

A short story by Mary Kay Moody

SNOWY EVERGREEN TREE -crop - half Cmkm colorMother was still as we drove the meandering roadway quickly becoming snow-covered. She faced the side window, watching the swirling snow, and mumbling sharp words I couldn’t make out. I mumbled too, aggravated that a jack-knifed semi blocked the expressway and we had to battle back roads in a snow storm. I had to get us home before she breached her fragile containment and had a meltdown.

Had I known two weeks ago how bad the weather would be this Christmas Eve, I’d have given up my attempt at a traditional family Christmas. Though Mom’s mind was elsewhere, lost as if it had flitted into the snowy forest, at least she would join Sandy and me and the kids. We hoped for one last holiday before the teens drifted away into college, jobs, and marriages that threatened to fling them from coast to coast, and before Mom’s mind wandered into some dark wormhole permanently.

SNOWY ROAD 2

Rounding a curve, we hit a patch of ice and slid sideways. Mom, hands still resting in her lap, hollered “Whe-e-e.” I breathed a prayer as I eased off the gas and steered out of the skid.

CLOUDS + Yosemite woods - winter crop cprt

 

The sky lightened. The snow-covered woods glistened in the weak afternoon sunlight like a Currier and Ives Christmas card sprinkled with glitter. Progress was agonizingly slow, but perhaps the storm would end and we’d just have an uneventful drive and a picture-perfect holiday. Suddenly we were free-wheeling … right towards a massive oak.

I gripped the wheel. God, please, help …

“James, these horses are a bit frisky,” Mom said. “Can’t you rein them in?”

I grunted. What does one say when one’s mother thinks she talking with one’s father? When she doesn’t know what age she is or that a car is about to ram a tree?

Sliding into the snow along the road’s edge, we gained traction and I righted the car, pointing us toward home again.

SNOWY SCENE“James,” she said, looking square at me. “How soon do we arrive? We’ve been a very long time, and I’m cold in this sleigh.”

“It’s me, Mom. Travis.” I glanced over to see how she’d take my intrusion into her fantasy world.

 

EERIE Scotland sceneShe glared at me. “What have you done with my husband?” Her words reverberated through the car, and held a shade of panic laced in the bluster.

“Nothing, Mom. He’ll be back soon.”

“I should hope so. I don’t take rides with strange men.” She scooted closer to the door.

Well, at least she didn’t appear too terrified of this strange man at the moment. I wondered how long before I morphed into Dad again, and if her imaginings brought her comfort. She remained quiet as we crawled along the winding road. Finally we pulled into the driveway. The front door flew open.

Sandy scurried out along with TJ, our eldest son. “Merry Christmas, Mom,” Sandy said. “Let me help you.”

As usual, Mom looked bewildered, but allowed Sandy and TJ to grasp an elbow and walked her toward the house. Karl stood sentry, holding the door open for her as if she were a queen.

I gave him a thumb’s up. Of all the kids, at three years old he should have been most confused by his grandmother’s unpredictability. Yet he seemed unfazed by her nonsequiturs and how she drifted away mid-sentence.

KITCHEN - country style 50 pct crI put the car in the garage and tramped inside. Sandy had Mom seated at the dining room table with Karl as he prepared snacks. Sandy and I went into the kitchen where the smell of garlic and roasting beef mingled with coffee. I poured myself a cup and she returned to tending casseroles and pans of whatever. “I heard about the accident. We’ve been on pins and needles waiting for you. I’m so glad you weren’t caught in all that.”

“Avoided it, but the back roads were no breeze. I’m not certain we can get mom back tonight.”

She put a pan on the stove. “But, Trav—”

“I know.” I shrugged. “She hates unfamiliar territory. But the road was risky enough in daylight. I’m not taking chances after dark.”

“Maybe a salt truck will come by.”

I looked askance. “Christmas Eve? This far out?”

She smiled and jiggled her curly head. “If not, we’ll just have to take turns sitting up with her.”

“You’re a brick.” I kissed her cheek. “Anything you want me to do?”

CHRISTMAS thru FOG Art 1 brt cr cprtShe poured steaming cocoa into a mug depicting a woodland trail and a sleigh. Was she a mind reader? “Would you take this in to her? She might be chilled.”

“Sure.”

“Go sit and enjoy her while …” Her smile faded.

“Yeah.” I went down the hall and stopped at the dining table. Karl had a silver platter arranged with crackers and cheese. Now his face scrunched as he tried piling chucky peanut butter in—not all over—celery stalks. He already had a half dozen lined up, but practice didn’t seem to make the task easier.

I placed Mom’s cocoa in front of her, then ruffled Karl’s mop of brown hair. “Want some help? I could put the cranberries on top for you.”

“Daddy,” he said, pulling a pout. “That’s the fun part.”

I chuckled. “Okay. I’ll sit with Grandma. We’ll be your cheerleaders.”

He just nodded, his tongue busily working, as if helping guide his knife.

I patted Mom’s hand. It felt chilly. “Mom, you warm enough?”

She glanced at me vacantly, then went back to observing Karl’s every move.

“This will warm you up,” I said, moving the cocoa right beside her hand. I sat across the table, hoping to see any expressions of recognition or joy fly across her face. Working a holiday around her needs, with a rowdy quintet of kids, was a challenge at best. I’d hoped seeing family at home might … No sense wishing. Clearly she still floated in an Alzheimer’s haze. But maybe we’d still have a joyful holiday—if nothing sent her mind and emotions hurtling down some path of terror and shrieking.

A blob of peanut butter fell off Karl’s knife, thankfully landing on the cracker plate. He swiped it up with a finger and dropped it into his mouth, then tried again. Half the gooey stuff stayed in the celery, the other sliding over the edge. Quick as a wink he licked the overflow off and held the stalk up for inspection.

“Travis James!” Mother said.

Karl and I both startled and turned to her.

She wagged a finger at my son. “Don’t you dare put that on the serving tray, young man. I’ve told you if you lick off the excess, put the celery on a separate plate. Even family might not appreciate second-hand turtles-on-a-log.”

GRANDMA Asenath + DadKarl gaped at her a moment before peeking at me. I wondered if he heard anything beyond her calling him by my name. Then he beamed at her. “Yes, ma’am.”

With a smile she passed him a saucer, leaving a solo china cup on the table. “That’s a good boy.” She turned to me. “James, our boy is polite and a quick learner. He will go far in this world.”

I nodded as a smile warred with piercing sadness. Though she couldn’t say it to my face, she was proud of me. That was an unexpected Christmas present, and I’d hang on to the memory a long while.

She nodded as if providing the exclamation point to her announcement. Then rose and reached toward me. “Shall we go to the parlor and listen to some music?”

I glanced at Karl who gave me a smile and returned to his task. I took her arm, hoping I was “playing along” correctly.

We walked into the family room. I guided her to the piano. She stopped, and her hand drifted to the gleaming walnut top. “Why, James, when did we get a new piano? Where is our …” She began scanning the room.

Red Roses 407 crop

I tensed, ready to run for Sandy who always managed to soothe mother whenever something rose up and knocked her out of awareness and into who-knew-what territory. “Um … Merry Christmas, Katherine.”

She glanced at me, a question in her watery eyes, then she stroked the shiny surface. “Well, don’t you beat all? It’s lovely.”

Dodged a bullet. I relaxed, enjoying the serene smile on her face.

She glanced at me. “James, you always have the best surprises.”

Her world was jumbled, yes. But it hadn’t completely evaporated. Dad had given her a piano. A birthday gift, but hey, the memory was still in there somewhere. “Try it out.” I urged her toward the bench.

She stepped over and regally sat, lifting her thin arms and holding her gnarled hands above the keys. Staring off into space, she began to play. Slowly, stiffly. The melody came in fits and starts. But as her hands loosened, the tune flowed. And her face took on a luminescence I hadn’t seen in years. Decades more like.

Karl appeared at the doorway behind her and watched, nodding to the beat. Slowly the others joined him as Mom continued playing carols. The room seemed like old—happy—Christmases, and I stood there enjoying it. This might be the closest we’d come to the Christmas of my hopes.

Mom finished and sat straighter as the echo of the piano faded. She smiled broadly at me. “Merry Christmas, Travis.”

“Merry Christmas, Mom.”

— by Mary Kay Moody

God With UsGod has surprising ways of answering our prayers. What’s one of yours, eh?

May you and yours have a blessed Christmas.

  • Many thanks to Mary Pauline Hart for her drawing.

WHERE LOVE IS …

Each year we spend time in the story “Where Love Is” by Leo Tolstoy. Sometimes we read, but our favorite is to listen to the amazing radio drama version played years ago on the Moody Bible station. A bit of it follows~

God tells recently widowed shoemaker Martin that He will visit this day. Listening to it is HOME IN EDIN w garden apt blog postso rich. We’re impacted by even the sound of the wind blowing when Martin opens his door to assist a child pelted with snowballs. We’re caught up at the crunch of snow as tired street sweeper Ivan walks away, warmed by Martin’s mug of hot tea and pair of gloves. 

Martin’s assistance to others passing his window continues, but his disappointment is palpable as the day grows late. He sighs, glancing at the window. “Lord, I thought you were coming today. … I guess it was only a dream. A lonely old man’s dream.” 

LukeHe opens his Bible and reads from Luke, but his eyelids grow heavy and he slumbers. Suddenly a voice calls his name. He startles, runs to the door, and flings it open. 

Darkness stared back. He slammed it. “Acht. Another dream.” 

“No, Martin. It is I, your Lord.”

“But, Lord, where were you? I thought you were coming to visit me   today.” Martin held his breath. Maybe he should not complain to the Savior.

            “But I did come today, Martin. You were a wonderful host. Did you not see me?”

            “No, Lord. I did not see you. When did you come?”

“But you fed me, Martin. You warmed me, and you clothed me.” 

Martin scratched his head. “Lord, when did I feed you? Or warm or clothe you? I did not see you.” 

Then the soft, clear voice said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Hearty soupIn his mind, Martin saw the old street sweeper; the sad, young lad; the frightened young mother with the hungry child. And he smiled.

“Thank you, dear Lord, for visiting me today.”

“It was my pleasure, Martin.” *

 What are some of your favorite Christmas stories?

 I hope this one blesses you and brings you joy this Christmas.

[* Note: Section above is transcribed from the Moody Bible broadcast, but I’m unable to give credit to specific copywriters as MBN can no longer locate information about this radio play. The entire story is available on-line to read free or for purchase from various book sellers.] 

 

(adapted from a previous post)

Easy to think Christmas, but hard to act Christmas

“It is easy to think Christmas, and it is easy to believe Christmas, but it is hard to act Christmas.” [Act Christmas by anonymous]*

Christmas Tree Painting Scripture, especially Matthew chapter 25 gives me ideas of how to act Christmas. There I read that Jesus will say to some, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” because they fed, clothed, and in other ways ministered to Him. When they questioned how they ministered in such ways, he answered: 

“…Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matt. 25:40

So it seems that doing Christmas is more about serving others, meeting others’ needs. Perhaps even sacrificial giving.

When my son was young, we started a tradition of hanging a stocking for Jesus. A dark green singleton that’d lost its mate. Humble, like Jesus. But throughout the Advent season it was a great visual reminder to think about what would make Him happy. We dropped in slips of paper identifying gifts given in Jesus’ name ~~ gifts of time, love, words, cookies. But also occasions we’d chosen to yield our way, our turn, our preference in favor of someone else.

Gift of a MealA couple of those early years were very lean, and we had need of help from Food Stamps or generous family and friends ourselves. Still we looked for ways to give to others. One year Karl added a few toys, a pair of jeans, and some getting-tight shirts to a box of food and homemade goodies we packed for a desperately poor family in our church. Late one night we nestled it on their front porch, rang the bell, and dashed away. 

Karl did Christmas the next Sunday after church when he glowed, telling me he’d seen the young boy of the family wearing a shirt Karl had given. Karl was thrilled—and never told anyone aside from me. 

Some ways our family has chosen to add to Jesus’ stocking is to reach out to homebound neighbors, bring Christmas cheer to those sidelined in the hospital,work with Angel Tree (a part of Prison Fellowship), or make donations in the names of our kids and grandkids to charities— Amazima Ministries, World Help, International Justice Mission, Heifer International, Sonshine Haven, or Samaritan’s Purse. 

Please share some ideas you have for filling Jesus’ Christmas stocking. We can all use some good tips. And may you have great joy doing a Merry Christmas.     

Making Room at Advent

Our neighbor, Marge, faced Christmas from her bed. Battling illness, she’d grown so weak her life was pared down to activities of survival.

My friend, Jean, had emigrated from Scotland fifty years earlier and still reveled in all things Scottish. When any of us was ill, mourning, or struggling in any way, Jean’s gift was always a prayer and a tin of luscious shortbread. 

Jean remembered Marge’s comment from a previous Christmas. “My grandson said your shortbread was the best cookie he’d ever tasted.  I’d love to have your recipe so I can make him some.” Marge’s grandson, serving overseas, was coming home for Christmas and to see her before she died. So rather than shopping, or singing carols around the neighborhood, or watching Christmas movies, Jean baked shortbread. She wrapped it up in bright Christmas paper, tied it with a red bow, addressed the tag to Marge’s grandson, signed the card “Love, Grandma,” and walked it over to Marge’s. 

As we walked and talked about Christmas, Jean praised me for teaching a Bible study and said she wished she had some talent God could use. Jaw dropping, I stopped and stared at her five-foot form, then shared my disagreement. She was being God’s love to Marge and Marge’s grandson ~ yet didn’t really see it herself. Her comment highlights the way many of us have trouble knowing how to convert our beliefs into actions.

 We’ve heard that when Jesus was born, Bethlehem was crowded, and with no room available, Joseph and Mary had sought out some humble space to rest.

Whether stable, cave, or what, we don’t know exactly, but Immanuel’s first crib was a manger—a crude feed trough. In our modern world, we often hear the admonition, “Make room for The Christ Child.” But what does that mean? How do we do that nowadays?

Some ideas:

Making Room in our Hearts 

Purpose to clear out junk that may be residing there~bitterness, grudges, sin. Pray and ask for help in identifying areas that need sweeping clean, then give up keeping trash that needs evicting. If something or someone holds a position of more importance to you than God, that idol needs moving off its pedestal. If God could (and did!) give World War II concentration camp survivor Corrie ten Boom the ability to forgive a guard who, years later, apologized and reached to shake her hand, He can sweep clean any filthy areas I retain.

Making Room in our Lives 

Christmas season, above all others, seems to ratchet up the busy-ness. It takes focus and discipline to set priorities and limit our activities, expenditures, commitments. Or, it takes the practiced discipline of living in God’s Presence and letting him guide us moment by moment. But then, life can only be lived moment by moment—so why not let Him Who is omniscient guide our steps? 

The Christmas season in the United States is celebrated with ever bigger light displays, pageants, music. More and more activity, food, presents. But perhaps making room for The Christ whose birth we celebrate will mean forgoing some parties, avoiding some shopping malls, and collapsing on the floor with a toddler to read a Christmas story. Or spending an afternoon baking Scottish shortbread.

[adapted from a previous post]

Blessed Advent to You

Despite hubby’s cancer treatments and deadlines and jury duty narrowing my focus, I think:  How can I not be blissfully light? Advent points me to a powerful truth – Jesus Christ is God’s “I Love You!” to the world. And not the world in general, but to each of us.

ED n JOEY at 4 months

He wrapped “I Love You” in a baby, called “Emmanuel” meaning God With Us*. Of course this is true every day. And yet, having a time set aside as a focused reminder works. I do focus on these truths, and my peace and joy are expanded.

 

EL CAP in Winter color cprt I hope that’s also true for you. What does remind you?  Peering out at a quiet, snow-filled world where you almost hear the angels singing? Snuggling in front of a fire with loved ones and cocoa? Rousing Christmas carols among crowds?

Whatever helps you focus. Whatever helps you remember—spend some time doing that. Whether softly whispered or joyfully sung ~ listen for His Words of Truth and Love sent.

What seasonal activities speak to your heart?

Starla, Chris, Brad & Sarah at Christmas

 

*Matthew 1:23

Book Review Bites

Returning after facing down the big C ogre with hubby ~ ta-da, more bites from the (huge) apple of my review backlog. Today, two offerings from three-time Christy Award winner, Julie Klassen.

THE TUTOR'S DAUGHTER coverTHE TUTOR’S DAUGHTER ~ Julie Klassen

Surely in her Minnesota hometown, Julie Klassen must spend time fishing ~ for in The Tutor’s Daughter she set the hook on page one and steadily reeled me deeper as the story unfurled. [Though, truly I was captured by the cover first. Isn’t it a delight?] I easily engaged with sweet, intelligent Emma Smallwood and empathized as she endured loss and navigated disconcerting changes to the predictable, comfortable life her father made for the two of them after Emma’s mother died.

When a changing economic situation forces her father to consider closing the small boarding school for boys, Emma grasps at any straw she can conceive of to save them. But when an offer comes, Mr. Smallwood closes the school and moves them to an estate in Cornwall where they will tutor two boys. And though she faces the change with trepidation, she does so with grace and a smile, hoping to encourage her melancholy father.

From the time the Smallwoods enter Cornwall and Ebbington Manor, the story’s twists and surprises continually ramp up the mystery. It seems everyone there harbors secrets, and Emma faces perils that kept me reading later than prudent.

 photo courtesy of Wikipedia

photo courtesy of Wikipedia

I savored every bit of description, England being a location I enjoy, and Cornwall nearly above all others. Klassen uses the setting with great skill not only to draw the reader in but to advance the plot ~ always a nice touch. Not every author adds this bit of quality, and I appreciate being immersed in a pleasant locale.

If I can resist ripping off the cover to hang as a piece of art, this book will remain on my TBR shelf, as I will certainly enjoy another sojourn in Cornwall.

 

LADY MAYBE ~ Julie Klassen

LadyMaybe_HPHaving read at least a half-dozen of Julie Klassen’s books, I am a fan. LADY MAYBE is chock full of the high-quality writing with well-developed, interesting characters and rich, historically accurate setting she does so well. The story is gripping from its creative and compelling inciting incident. The powerful consequences and possible losses that could result from each choice the heroine faces kept me eager to continue reading. Occasionally I thought I’d figured out the next turn of events, but nope. I was always surprised. Klassen is a gifted storyteller.
I do think LADY MAYBE fell a bit short in one aspect—the romantic plot thread. The content was more sexually-oriented than others I’ve read by Klassen. Also, the heroine waffled between love interests but, for me, her motivation to do so wasn’t clear. This left me with no particular hero to root for. I wondered if the marked difference between this novel and other Klassen offerings’ usual delightful mix of drama, mystery, and romance is the result of the new publisher.

Visit Julie at her blog and learn more about her fascinating stories rich in unique characters and unusual situations. You won’t be disappointed.

 

AND THE GOOD NEWS IS Review

So, barely back to the blog, I aim to catch up on some reviews.

GOOD NEWS Cover DPerinoAND THE GOOD NEWS IS by Dana Perino is like reading two good books in one.

First is an intriguing story of how a mite of a gal experienced life and became a powerhouse of a woman. It’s an engaging read, packed with poignant, piercing, or hysterical anecdotes from life on a Wyoming ranch to the halls of power in Washington, DC. (I challenge you to read the story about her podium without having an out-loud reaction.)

The shadow story behind is of life lessons learned along the way ~ the good, the bad, and the funny. Especially helpful was on “making butterflies fly in formation” and the importance of civility and networking in this tech-heavy world.

PATH thru WOODLAND 2

We all face challenges in our lives, roadblocks in our jobs, unfairness or losses in our personal lives, assaults to our economy and peace. In the Washington DC culture individuality, spunk, creative thinking, and joy are often ground out of those caught in the cogs of the political machine.

If Dana Perino, planted firmly in that DC culture can survive ~ and beyond that, even thrive ~ she has learned some life lessons and gained wisdom. And the good news is ~ we can too, because this intelligent and generous woman shares it with us in GOOD NEWS. It rightly could be called A Handbook for Success, but that’s not as much fun as the title she chose. But it is a good source to help young people avoid costly blunders as they set a course for their future …

STONE WALL-dry stone dyke w purple + flr 2

and for the rest of us to avoid slamming into brick walls and find peace and perspective. I think it always nice when I learn a lesson with a sprinkling of humor and grace rather than with a sledgehammer. I highly recommend AND THE GOOD NEWS IS.

Up Words

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter our onslaught of CRUSH words, some uplifting words have been poured into our lives ~ numbers look good, tumor reduction, treatment working. There are still challenges:  time, money, energy … But we cannot discount the power of encouraging words. And the need for them is great in our world.

 

Recently a friend described her sense of utter exhaustion and emptiness. I heard a person on television dismiss and demean an entire group of intelligent, generous, motivated individuals. And in my morning devotion, I read about a man deep in depression who experienced affirmation, encouragement, even being energized by a gentle pat on the back. Misery, confusion, fear, and anger abound in our world. Trouble comes. It comes as naturally as sparks from a fire fly upward. [Job 5:7] The people in our lives need us to speak some good words into their world.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Certainly if friends are close enough, a touch can also speed healing, spur hope. And our words are like arrows. Once sprung, they may hit a place or in a way that we didn’t intend and cannot control. Jennifer Dukes Lee says in her similarly-themed blog on (in)courage:

“Words can take you prisoner, or they can set you free.” And

“Our words always fold into the souls of other human beings. That’s no small thing.”

Words are powerful. And we are so grateful to those who’ve spoken gentleness, grace, encouragement to us as Ed and God take aim at the cancer. Who’ve spoken prayers on our behalf. We aim [as explained in 2 Cor. 1:4] to use the comfort of those words to encourage others in their pain. Words. What a gift, yes? Imagine trying to convey all this with a few motions or drawings.

There can be only one Mistress of Tall Acre

In The Mistress of Tall Acre, Laura Frantz has shared a marvelous story with us. (And at the end of this review, she also shares a tidbit from her unusual writing regimen.)

from The Declaration of Independence

from The Declaration of Independence

 

Who do you trust when the whole world has turned upside down? When you live in a new country with new loyalties, expectations, resources? When family and friends are all dead or gone? When one wrong word or glance can jeopardize your fragile hold on life?

Whether you’re a twenty-something spinster or a five-year-old motherless child ~ that world is a frightening and dangerous place. It is into just such a post-Revolutionary War period that Laura Frantz drops us in MISTRESS OF TALL ACRE.

MOTA-Never Forget LILY CATEMay I introduce:  General Seamus Ogilvy~ whose “battlefield manners often follow him into the parlor.”

His daughter, Lily Cate ~ a motherless five-year-old with no remembrance of her father or the loving words he whispered over her on the day of her birth.

And Sophie Menzies ~ young woman, neighbor to Lily Cate and General Ogilvy, who is presently without family. Some have perished. Others, loyal to England, fled America. And a brother remains mysteriously unaccounted for despite the war’s end.

A HERO - if only she knew QuoteFrantz is a masterful storyteller. THE MISTRESS OF TALL ACRE is a rich tale that abounds in surprising plot twists, powerful character and setting depictions, and perfectly on point historical details. We ache with these people whose hearts call out for something … someone … that no longer exists. Navigating their losses and the changes required by new allegiances and cultural expectations is precarious. Finances, health, peace, even their very lives are at risk.

 

With her usual flair, Frantz creates a rich story world that seems to leap off the page and unfold before readers like a play in their own living rooms. Aye, so real that as I read, I often felt the bone-deep chill of rooms with hearths bereft of logs.

 

 

We shiver at the haunted cries that slice the night. Hold our breath as we hear the crunch of footsteps on the crushed shell pathway. We startle at the crash of pottery breaking in the next room. Oh, sleep will not come this night.

 

We feel their fear, their hunger pangs. And panic at the sound of thundering hoof beats that threaten to carry away all that is familiar and beloved.

 

by Rebecca Graham

by Rebecca Graham

But this is not only a bleak world. Frantz warms it with beauty, rich sensory details, and tender acts of devotion. You might smell the warm scones with peach preserves, enjoy the lilting brogue of a recent immigrant, or be comforted by the soft songs from the slave quarters.

 

The Thorn - child's face

 

Frantz displays a talent for developing delightful, innocent characters who add marvelous depth and flashes of pure joy. Who could not ache to hug a winsome, motherless child who tells her father he works so hard that surely his brain must be crowded? Then she asks, “Is there room for me?”

 

And Frantz’s skill at character development helps us clearly see the world through their  eyes and adds another layer of depth to the story. Of all the ways she could have described an overcast sky, she chose the manner that only a military man would ~ “Clouds … stacked like cannonballs on the horizon, threatening rain.” [pg 84]

Or this ~ “Williamsburg in its heyday was something Seamus carried around in his head like a map, reluctant to roll it up and let it go.” Who thinks of describing a person’s connection to a city in such a way? A masterful storyteller.

 

Mistress of Tall Acre coverI’m not typically a big reader of the “romance” genre. And I do love history brought to life. THE MISTRESS OF TALL ACRE, while labeled “Historical Romance,” is actually more a drama whose characters live during a particular time and deal with the challenges that era forces on them.This year our travel to The Sierra Nevada mountains was cancelled. So I indulged in imaginary time travel. Laura Frantz’s THE MISTRESS OF TALL ACRE carried me back to 1783 Virginia. Now, whether I jumped into the story, or if the words reached out from the page drew me in ~ that is still unclear. But I was captured by Frantz’s superb story. And it is now back in my “to be read” pile. Despite the large stack, I can scarcely wait to read this engaging, compelling story again.

Now, an insider bit from Laura. She writes her novels by hand, pen and paper as did Jane Austen. In this day of tech tapping, I think that’s astonishing ! Laura Frantz ~ Writing Chair on Mull

And here she shares a photo of the chair at a bed and breakfast on the Isle of Mull where this story was birthed. Doesn’t it look cozy?

I wonder if the sensory act of writing rather than typing helps Frantz craft such evocative and full stories. I suggest ~ read this book! (I’d offer a giveaway, but you wouldn’t want my copy anyway~marked up as it is. :-)  )

Visit Laura at her website. And visit her Pinterest board to see her vision of the characters and setting. Lovely. .

EMMANUEL ~ God With Us

21-Days-of-Christmas-Cover-medium-150x212Hearing that the Christ child would be called Emmanuel, meaning “God with us”* stirs my heart and boggles my mind every time I read it. With, such an intimate word. To me, that is the Christmas celebration, and exactly what I aimed to convey in the short fiction devotional, “Sculpting a Perfect Gift” which appears in 21 Days of Christmas: Stories that Celebrate God’s Greatest Gift[Planning a give-away next week, so if you like Christmas stories, check back. ] 

To get you in the spirit, here’s a post-from-the-past about another touching Christmas story of God with us.

Each year we spend time in the story “Where Love Is” by Leo Tolstoy. Sometimes we read, but our favorite is to listen to the amazing radio drama version played years ago on the Moody Bible station.  

God tells recently widowed shoemaker Martin that He will visit this day. Listening to it is so rich. We’re impacted by even the sound of the wind blowing when Martin opens his door to assist a child pelted with snowballs. We’re caught up at the crunch of snow as tired street sweeper Ivan walks away, warmed by Martin’s mug of hot tea and pair of gloves.

Martin’s assistance to others passing his window continues, but his disappointment is palpable as the day grows late. He sighs, glancing at the window. “Lord, I thought you were coming today. … I guess it was only a dream. A lonely old man’s dream.”

He opens his Bible and reads from Luke, but his eyelids grow heavy and he slumbers. Suddenly a voice calls his name. He startles, runs to the door, and flings it open.

Darkness stared back. He slammed it. “Acht. Another dream.”

“No, Martin. It is I, your Lord.”

“But, Lord, where were you? I thought you were coming to visit me today.” Martin held his breath. Maybe he should not complain to the Savior.

“But I did come today, Martin. You were a wonderful host. Did you not see me?”

“No, Lord. I did not see you. When did you come?”

“But you fed me, Martin. You warmed me, and you clothed me.”

Martin scratched his head. “Lord, when did I feed you? Or warm or clothe you? I did not see you.”

Then the soft, clear voice said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

In his mind, Martin saw the old street sweeper; the sad, young lad; the frightened young mother with the hungry child. And he smiled.

“Thank you, dear Lord, for visiting me today.”

“It was my pleasure, Martin.” *

What are some of your favorite Christmas stories?

[* Note: Section transcribed from the Moody Bible broadcast, but I’m unable to give credit to specific copywriters as MBN can no longer locate information about this radio play. ]

Perhaps 21 Days of Christmas: Stories that Celebrate God’s Greatest Gift will be just the thing to help you get into the Spirit of Christmas this year, or a holiday delight for a loved one.          

*Matthew 1:23