Saturday, November 11, 2017

Thanksgiving JOY

Christmas seems to start earlier every year.  While stores are focused on sales and quick to replace pumpkins with pine trees, people also appear to be yearning for the season a little sooner.  Maybe because Christmas is a favorite holiday of many, but maybe also because people need more joy.

On the road, the hodgepodge of the holidays hits you with each passing mile.  Ghosts, pumpkins, harvest wreaths, inflattable Santas and giant penguins are scattered from house to house.

Thanksgiving, a celebration of gratitude for our blessings, has nearly been replaced by the countdown to the ultimate shopping day.  Families no longer linger over pie and coffee but are out the door and off to the mall, while the dishes soak.

When I was a little girl, the wait for Christmas seemed unending.  Now that I'm older, time passes much more quickly.  One can sit and almost watch it slip away.  No matter how much you will it to slow, there is no stopping the ticking of the clock or ending of another day.

It's already the middle of November.  

The busyness of the holidays are among us and, before you know it, another year will be gone. 

Choosing to pause in gratitude is how I welcome the season.  Focusing on thanksgiving each day keeps me from getting swept up in the chaos that can become christmas.

Recognizing my blessings is the best tradition I can think of to celebrate the birth of my Savior.

Because, to me, Thanksgiving isn't just a day - not even just a month -but something I hope to encompass every day of the year.

Gratitude = JOY 

In the search for the perfect season, slowing down in Thanksgiving might just be the unexpected gift people are looking for - and one that can never be found in the store.

Psalm 100
A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

Shout for JOY to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with Thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Little Lies…Big Trouble

Many years ago I took a few classes on writing for children.  It has always been a dream of mine to write a book and this was a way to practice the art.  Going through old files I found a few of the short stories and thought I'd share one with my readers.  If you have kiddos, maybe it'll give you a new story to read to them.  Stories like these remind me of the Highlight magazine I used to read as a kid.

Little Lies…Big Trouble

“But I don’t want to live in this dumpy old trailer!” 

The walls were so thin, I could almost hear the tin rattle with my scream. 

“Jeremiah, I know this place isn’t great to look at but I’ll fix it up.  I can’t pass up the chance to live somewhere free, work is hard to find,” Dad said, exhausted from the arguments we’d been having about our new move.

“What do I tell kids at school?”

I didn’t hang around for an answer but huffed down the tiny hallway, my elbows banging against the dingy walls, to grab my backpack.  It was my first day at a new school, which is never easy, but when you move around as much as me you get better at it.  Dad lost his job again and he’s decided that moving in next door to an old lady, Betty, is the answer. 

We live in ugly, rundown trailer for free and he gets paid to work at her house and farm.  I guess the good thing is that the trailer sets far enough off the road that nobody can see it from the bus stop; besides, the walk lets me think up my new identity.

The roar of the bus alerts me, as it comes down the gravel road, and slows in front of Miss Betty’s house. I notice it’s already full.  So much for finding a seat early and trying to blend in! It’ll be obvious I’m the new kid now.  I scan the rows for an empty seat up front, but no luck.  The only empty seat is at the back, and of course, it is surrounded by boys my age, at least they look about 11. 

I can hear the whispers and feel their stares on the back of my neck.  I wait.

“Hey kid, are you new?”
            “Where’d you move here from?”
“Did you all buy Miss Betty’s house?”

Looking down at my ratty sneakers and last year’s jeans, I know the story of buying that house would never fly.  I had to come up with something – and fast.

“Uh, no.  I’m just staying with Betty for awhile.  I ran away from home and she found me in her barn.” I lowered my voice to a whisper. “Said I had to go to school or she’d call the cops.  Name’s Jeremiah.”

All their mouths dropped and the boys huddled in, ready for more.  They hit me with a dozen questions like why and how and when.  I didn’t want to give away too much at one time.  After all, a run-away needed to have his secrets, be mysterious.

“Listen, my dad is an undercover cop.  I didn’t really run away. I just had to get away from the trouble.  Dad will come get me soon as things cool down.  Can I trust you all with this?” 

I locked eyes with each of them, hoping they’d buy it.  I explained that we were running from a bad gang my dad was trying to bust.  If they wanted to help in this secret operation, they needed to keep it quiet.

“Well, who do we say you are?” one of the boys asked.

“Just say I’m Jeremiah and that Betty is my grandma,” I explained as we pulled into my new school.

I hopped off the bus. I could feel a line following me.  The good news was they believed my tall tale; the bad news was it was a bigger lie than I had planned.  I made my way into the office to find out what class I needed to be in, hoping my new fans would disappear.

As I exited into the main hall, most of the boys from the bus were gathered, waiting.  Maybe I’d get lucky and I wouldn’t have class with any of them so the questions wouldn’t continue.

“Who has Mrs. Tichenor for a teacher?” I asked, hoping.

Only one kid raised his hand and the great thing was he was kind of shy.  Maybe I could escape this lie; or better yet, they’d all forget about it by the end of the day. 

It was so busy that I actually didn’t have a chance to talk much to other kids, this was good because I felt like my little lies were growing bigger on their own.  I worried about the bus ride home and the questions I knew I’d get.  I tried to make it to the bus early so I could pick my own seat, but I was one of the last on and again had to make my way to the back.  The boys didn’t waste any time.

“So what kind of bad guys was your dad chasing?”
      “Was there a gun fight?”
“Did you go on the bust with your dad?”

I tried not to go into too much detail, using the excuse that it was all top secret police stuff and telling them would put them in danger.  As we neared my stop, one of the boys, I think his name was Gavin, bounced next to me in the seat.

“Hey, I live pretty close to you.  Maybe I could get off the bus with you and we could play ball or something?” he asked.

I gulped. “Uh, no.  I don’t think Miss Betty would like it if I just brought company home without asking.”  I slid out from around him and headed for the door, eager to get home and over this crazy day. 

“Hey kid, how was your day?” Dad asked soon as I walked through the door. 

I shrugged it off, “Ok. I’m pretty tired and I have lots of homework.”

That would keep him out of my way for the day.  Maybe I could figure a way out of this lie before it hurt my Dad.  I wish I had told the truth.  Now I was in too deep.

During the next several weeks I avoided questions about my hero-cop dad.  I used to love making up stories because they were more fun than real life. But this lie was too big – too heavy to carry. 

When I had a day off from school, I looked forward to exploring more of Miss Betty’s house.  As shabby as our trailer was, Betty was a great lady who made terrific cookies and let me look through her old things.  As I stepped onto her porch, she met me at the door.

“Jeremiah, one of your friends called for you this morning.  Good thing I wake up with the rooster’s crow or I’d not been too happy answering” She held her arm out from the screen door so I could duck under and go inside.  “Don’t really remember who it was, but he said he’d come by sometime today.”

I froze in my tracks.  I’d tried to avoid having kids come home with me, using every excuse my mind could invent.  If they showed up, they’d want to see my room, which was not in Betty’s house. Worse yet, they might run into my dad and start asking questions.

“Uh, thanks Miss Betty.  Sorry about that.  Listen, I forgot something back at the house so I gotta go,” I yelled on my way out the door.  As I made a turn for the dirt path that led to my trailer, I heard voices at the side of the house.  It was my worst fear.

“Hey, are you Jeremiah’s dad?” Gavin said to Dad, trying to keep up with my dad as he worked on the yard.  “Jeremiah didn’t say you came back home.  You sure don’t look like a cop. Are you still undercover?  It’s ok, you’re secret is safe with…”

By this time Dad’s eyes locked with mine, and I could see the pain that my lies had caused.  He didn’t say anything to Gavin, just made an excuse to go to the shed.  I didn’t even care about being in the trouble I knew was coming.  It was punishment enough to see how much I’d disappointed him.

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