If we were having coffee together, I would have just poured you a fresh cup from a pot that just now finished brewing. Mmmmmm. My house smells wonderful. I think one of the reasons I love coffee so much is the aroma and all the memories it arouses. In my family, coffee was the main drink at our meals. And if company came over for a visit in the evening, we served coffee. So did all of our friends.
Also, in times of stress or when we were working through a problem together, we’d often put on a pot of coffee. Somehow, just sitting around the table together drinking the warm aromatic beverage — and maybe munching a cookie or two — just added a positive element to the atmosphere. And right now, I’m enjoying remembering all those times.
You would undoubtedly be drinking your coffee from a Christmas cup. I have loads of them, you know. And after all, it’s still Christmas. The official Twelve Days of Christmas celebration is not over until the end of the day today, January 5. I like to celebrate the whole season, and I’m still enjoying my Christmas tree and the Christmas lights on my front porch.
Tomorrow is Epiphany. I love that holiday. That’s the time during the year that Christians celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ came, not just for the Hebrew people, but for everyone in the world. The Gentile world (those who were not part of the Jewish heritage) recognized Him and worshiped Him as the Savior as well, and that’s why we celebrate the coming of the Wise Men to pay Him homage.
Many people don’t realize that the Wise men were gentiles from the Middle East who had studied the scriptures so carefully that they recognized that one particular brilliant star as the sign that had been prophesied hundreds of years prior to Christ’s birth. That star was their sign that Christ had finally come, and that’s why they made the journey to bring Him gifts. They didn’t arrive to visit Jesus and His family until Jesus was already about two years old. We often include the visit of the Wise Men with that of the shepherds at the manger, but the official celebration of their visit is actually scheduled into the church calendar for January 6.
Epiphany means “a sudden or great revelation,” and that’s why we use that term to commemorate the revelation to the Gentiles that Jesus Christ is the Savior for the whole world. So if we were having coffee today, I’d be talking about the wonder and joy of that revelation. And I’d also probably share that I’ve been working on some new videos for my YouTube channel that will spread the great news of that Gospel farther and wider.
Well, my first cup has cooled while I’ve been writing this post, so it’s time for a warm-up. I’m headed for the kitchen — and maybe a cookie as well. I hope all of you had a joyous Christmas season, and I wish you the best New Year ever in 2019.
Thanks to Eclectic Ali for hosting our coffee share.
coffee photo courtesy of Mammela @ pixabay.com
Been going through my Christmas story archives and pulled this one out for today.
“Well, what’a ya know,” Ben whispered, grinning, seeing his breath form vapors on the Christmas air. “Who would have thought it would be the brick sidewalk?”
He sighed. In one unexpected instant – as his feet had tread the bricks of this dear old sidewalk that had run the length of Main Street all his life – it had happened. He knew for sure the place he’d returned to was still ‘home.’
Just yesterday he’d been dreading coming back – as he had been for a week – from the time the doctors had told him he was almost well enough to make the trip. He knew for sure how much he had changed, and he couldn’t shake the deep, gut-wrenching fear that the whole world had changed as well – including the little town nestled at the foot of the mountains in Montana. He’d grown up here, played high school basketball, and dated the girl from three houses down the street until she’d decided to elope with the captain of the basketball team.
He had to chuckle to himself when he remembered how devastated he’d felt back then. It had been his first serious relationship with a girl, but in hindsight, he realized that he hadn’t really been in love – just fascinated with the boy-girl relationship.
Sometimes when he’d been hunkered down in the trenches, waiting the next command to move out into the threat of enemy fire, he’d started thinking about Allyson, and even though she belonged to someone else now, the memories comforted him. He knew even during those hours that it had nothing to do with Ally or their time together, but it was all about ‘home.’ When he thought of Ally, it took him away from the cold, wet, ugly war he was fighting.
Sometimes he’d remember his mother and could smell again the warm vanilla scent that so often clung to her from her constant baking. He’d conjure up the image of Granddad, sitting with his feet propped in front of the living room fireplace, sweet-scented smoke curling from his pipe. He’d hear again his father’s voice as he read the latest news stories from the paper as the family sat soaking up the security of their home and their quiet life together.
Then, sometimes, when he and his unit were on the move and trekking through secure territory, on their way to the next battlefront, he had remembered walking down that old brick sidewalk – past Old Man Chesterfield’s hardware store, Woolworth’s Five & Dime, the candy and tobacco shop, where he’d bought Ally that huge box of chocolates for the Valentine’s Day they’d celebrated together. There was Mrs. Gallagher’s Boutique next, and then Pansy’s Pancake House. Some days, when his senses were crystal clear, he could nearly taste those light, fluffy concoctions smothered in her special Cherry Cordial Syrup.
When he let his memory take him wherever it willed, he usually ended up thinking about Christmas, and he’d see again the decorations strung the entire length of Main Street, with lights in the windows of every storefront, snowmen standing sentry at almost every corner, and wreaths and holly hanging everywhere. He could almost feel the frost in the air and the festive atmosphere that surrounded shoppers and merchants alike from Thanksgiving to Christmas. And oh those chestnuts! The scent of roasted chestnuts hung over the main business district for two whole weeks before Christmas Day. And often he thought that sweet aroma was his favorite memory of all. Sometimes he swore he could smell those roasted chestnuts even though he was thousands of miles away on foreign soil with no hope of even a warm dinner for that night.
He’d been wishing he could have some of those chestnuts just minutes before the ambush occurred, but then bullets and grenades had killed all thoughts and images of anything but the hell breaking loose in every direction. Those same bullets and grenades had killed twenty of the men in his unit as well. When he’d taken the first hit in his leg and fallen, his best buddy had turned back to help him up. But the bullet that had caught his rescuer in the head had snuffed out his life in seconds, and Ben had taken a second bullet in the chest, blacking out at that point.
Five days later, when he’d regained consciousness in the hospital, he’d found himself hooked to all kinds of tubes and machines. The doctor had been compassionate and kind, assuring him that he was going to make it, but that it would be a month or so before he was fit to leave the hospital. When he’d asked about his unit, the news had been brutal, and he’d found himself so frozen by the grief that he hadn’t even been able to cry.
The day he’d been released and given his extended leave for home, his doctor had been wreathed in smiles. “We’re going to get you back to your family in time for Christmas, Son,” he’d said. And as much as the news brought a spurt of joy to Ben’s heart, it also brought a stab of fear.
He’s made a short journey first to the home of the man who’d been his best friend in combat, the man who’d lost his life trying to save Ben. He’d learned that Rick’s body had been shipped home for burial in the family plot. Ben knew he had to visit that grave and spend some time with Rick’s family before he could get started on the longer journey to his own family. And it was with that family, sitting in Rick’s home, remembering his buddy, that he’d finally been able to let the tears come. With his head on Rick’s mother’s shoulder, and her arms holding him tightly – the way she would never be able to hold her own son – Ben had finally cried out the pain and bitterness and loss.
Eighteen hours later, on the day before Christmas Eve, he boarded the bus that would take him to Montana. He had purposely refrained from letting his family know what bus he was taking. He had to walk out this journey one step at a time – in his own way and in his own timing. He had to find out what kind of world awaited him at the end of this journey, and he had to have the security of facing it on his own terms.
His physical wounds were almost healed, but the wound’s in his soul would be with him forever. And that’s what made him afraid. As long as he didn’t go home, he could always try to tell himself that it was still a place of peace and safety and love and laughter – and that life was still good there. But all the time he sat on the bus, heading to that little town in Montana, he battled with the fear. The questions kept circling through his mind: when he walked down the streets of his old hometown – when he stepped into his mother’s kitchen – when he visited the high school campus – when he sat in the park watching the breeze blow across the lake – when he met with friends in a restaurant –would he find what he’d left behind – or would it all be gone – forced out of existence by the same powers that had changed him forever?
Finally, at the end of the seven hour trip, he stepped off the bus, retrieved his suitcase and stood for a few moments just looking across Main Street at the row of well-remembered businesses – those stores and shops that had filled his dreams and imaginations hours at a time in the rare instances between battles.
Everything glowed with Christmas. It looked the way he would have expected it to look back before he’d had to wade through hatred, filth, and slaughter in another land. But could he relate to this place any longer? Could he ever belong here again? Would it welcome him – would he welcome what he found here now? He slowly walked across Maine and stepped onto the sidewalk that would take him from the north end of town to the south, where his parents lived.
He walked – slowly – hesitantly at first. His eyes caressed the old, worn bricks that stretched out ahead of him the whole two-mile distance of the business district, and he began to realize that each step he took was a familiar experience – the same experience he’d enjoyed for years, day in and day out – those warm brown bricks woven together by expert hands generations ago – just slightly uneven but plenty smooth enough for easy walking.
And every step reassured him. He began to breathe easier now, and as he took a good, deep breath, his nostrils twitched a little. Chestnuts, roasting, in a cart just up the street about two more blocks. He walked with more purpose then, his eyes still caressing the worn, welcoming bricks beneath his feet, stretching out before him invitingly.
Finally, he chuckled out loud. Yep … it was okay. … It was really okay. … He was okay. And this good old brick friend convinced him — more with every step he took — that home was still everything he needed it to be.
Oh Christmas tree, oh geometric Christmas tree,
Updated decoration of this century,
Combining old tradition with technology —
Eye-catching combination set for all to see.
I wonder if the architect has realized
That though his modern concept is a structural prize,
The Light that gives it meaning appeared to Moses’ eyes.
From burning bush to modern tree, it’s Jesus Christ.
photo courtesy of Ana_J @ pixabay
This post completes the’ Seven Days of Noel Cinquain.’ Hope you’ve enjoyed them.
photo courtesy of Geralt @ pixabay.com
photo courtesy of Geralt @ pixabay.com
photo courtesy of Geralt @ pixabay.com
photo courtesy of Angeleses @ pixabay.com
photo courtesy of Kalhh @ pixabay.com
The following story is an excerpt from my Christmas anthology: STOCKING FULL OF STORIES. If you’re interested in more stories, you can find the book on Amazon in paperback or digital.
Misty laced up her skates and glided smoothly across the ice. It had been more than a year since she’d come to her favorite pond. The trees were stark silhouettes against the deep snow, barren and seemingly useless in this white wilderness. She felt that way herself. The gray world around her matched her gray and barren heart. Words came back to her now from the whispering past.
“You can’t just give up, Misty. Marcus wouldn’t want you to quit skating. He wouldn’t want you to give up the life you’ve always loved.”
She continued to circle the pond, listening to conversations in her head – all from last year. After the accident. “I can’t skate alone. I’m no good by myself. It’s always been Marcus and me together – from the time we were seventeen.”
“But you’re so gifted, dear,” Mother had insisted. “You were skating beautifully long before you even met Marcus. Why, from the time you put on your first pair of skates – remember? – the pink pair you got for Christmas when you were six? – from that very first day, you’ve been a star in the making. All your fans want to see you back out there on the ice.”
Misty had merely hung her head and wept. She new her mother meant well, but she’d never be able to understand. And Misty was glad her mother had never known that kind of loss.
But her family didn’t understand about the fans either. Yes, her own family were her personal fans, but the fans in all the ice rinks around the world hadn’t been hers. They were fans who loved Misty and Marcus – together – “the darling duo” as they’d been dubbed in more than one news story. The fans wanted to see both of them on the ice, not just one lonely girl – lost now in a world that had been her own kingdom little more than a year ago.
The cold wind bit at her, but she welcomed the pain. It matched the pain in her heart. And she welcomed the gray world she skated in now. It matched the world she lived the rest of her life in with Marcus dead.
So she skated – round and round the pond – one hour – then another. And with each trip around that pond of her childhood came the memories – like warm flashes of sunlight: the first time she’d skated in her pink skates; the first day she’d invited Marcus to skate with her there; the first competition they’d entered – and won; the grueling hours of practice that both of them had loved.
Gradually, as the happy memories flooded back and thawed the ice that had held her soul in its lonely, gray world for the past year, Misty began to feel alive again. A smile spread across her face and she flung out her arms as if to embrace this precious pond with its stark trees and white emptiness. She found herself skating into routines she’d used before she and Marcus had become a team. And gradually, she found herself adding moves to those routines. They weren’t done consciously. They just flowed from her as naturally as water flows down a hill when a barrier has been removed.
Her heart began to sing. Her body followed suit. And although the pond and all it’s surroundings were still as gray and barren as they’d been when she’d arrived, Misty discovered that she was now skating in sunshine – in the warmth of her love for Marcus and in the fire of the passion she felt for skating. Perhaps her family and friends had been right after all. Perhaps she did still have a life to live and a gift to give to the world from her kingdom on the ice.
“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”
Proverbs 17:22, Holy Bible.
Beyond the scope
Of my understanding
To find the substance of my life:
My most recent lesson on YouTube.