It’s been twenty years now, since my husband left me. Oh not left me in the divorce sense, but my dear man passed away. I miss him more today than I would think possible. For you see, he loved Christmas best.
We had many happy Christmases my husband and I. I still have vivid memories of all of them. And now memories are all I have. Our first Christmas as a married couple still brings a smile to my weathered face. We were poor, as many were at the end of the Great Depression. My gift from him that year? How could I forget? I had been admiring a Nativity set in Woolworth’s window. I knew there was no possible way for me to ever own it, but I did so admire it. Jack was good with his hands and a pocketknife. I never knew just how talented he was until that Christmas.
Jack had noticed me admiring the nativity set. I still can’t believe he did this, but there it is, sitting on my mantle today. He took his pocketknife and some wood and that dear man whittled me the entire scene. Oh it is so much more beautiful than the one in the shop window.
For his gift, I took apart one of my sweaters and knit it again into a scarf for him. He wore it with such pride. He did look fine in it, and his Army uniform. Little did we know, he would be drafted a week later. Spending the rest of our first year of marriage fighting overseas. I thought I missed him then, I miss him more now.
My Jack, so full of life, came home from the war a changed man. He was more aware of the fragility of life, the preciousness of it. He wanted to live life to the full, to enjoy every minute of it. And no time more than Christmastime. Our house was always full, full of people and full of laughter and love.
Yes, I do miss Jack most at Christmas. He always made the season so merry and full. His gifts were always full of thought and love. I knew Jack loved me most at Christmas time. I knew he loved me throughout the year, as he was always finding new ways to show me. But at Christmas time, that was Jack’s time, and I knew, oh I knew he loved me.
Twenty years ago this Christmas Jack passed away. It seemed fitting somehow that he would lose his battle on this day. Fitting but a bit unfair. Men so full of life should not die. Jack, living life fully one minute, the next fighting for his own life. How did that happen? My husband, my Jack, is foremost a hero. He returned from World War 2 a decorated war hero. And he died being a hero.
It was Christmas Eve; Jack and I were driving home on a lonely stretch of icy road. Our Christmas gifts piled on the back seat, we were singing along with Bing Crosby on the radio, when the car in front of us slid on the ice and tumbled into the ravine ahead of us.
Jack stopped the car as quickly as he could and went to offer his help. I tried and tried to get him to stay with me and call from home. But he wouldn’t listen to me. He never did. He left with a “Stay here, sweetheart. I’ll be back soon.” And he was gone singing a Christmas Carol. I don’t remember now which one and I suppose it matters not.
He does returns soon, to send me home to call for help. He said he’d stay with the family, a young mother and her son, until help arrived. Reluctantly I agreed. I’d not been home long when I heard a knock on the door, I remember thinking that was odd, Jack would just come in.
I was only slightly surprised when I saw a Sheriff’s deputy on the porch. I thought he was here because I had called about the accident and he wanted to tell me they had things wrapped up and soon Jack would be home. Instead he told me the family was fine, but Jack, Jack had been outside in the freezing temperatures for too long. He was on his way to the hospital.
On our way to see Jack, the deputy told me the story. After I had gone home, the car, already precariously perched on the bank of the ravine, had slipped in. Jack, always the hero, dove in after it.
I spent an anxious night at the hospital. I’ll spare you the details. Early the next morning, Jack breathed his last. He breathed his last on his favorite day of the year. My life has not been the same since.
For awhile I saw the family Jack rescued around town. I tried not to be bitter, but it seem so unfair that they should be fine while my Jack had given his life. The last I heard they had moved away.
For a time I showered with invitations during the Christmas season. But as time has marched on, most of the friends Jack and I shared have passed on also. Christmas tends to be a lonely time for me.
A lonely time of reliving memories. Yes, I have a lot of time for that these days. No one comes and no one calls anymore. No one has time for an old lady and her stories. I don’t blame them, really, but I do get awfully lonely.
Which is why the visit I had yesterday was special. I had been busy ruminating on my memories, when I heard the doorbell ring. I admit, I was surprised it still worked, but there it was. I was even more surprised to see a little boy from up the street there, holding a red Poinsettia.
I cracked the door open an inch and asked him “What do you want, young man? I’m not buying any plants today.”
“Oh no, Ma’am. I’m not selling plants. I’m giving this one to you.” I opened the door a little wider and put out my hand to receive the offered gift. “Would you mind if I came in? I’d like to talk awhile.”
I had to let him in that was Jack’s line. He was always saying, “I’d like to talk awhile.” I opened wide the door and heard myself offering to make some hot cocoa.
As the water was heating on the stove, we settled in the rockers. I wondered what I would say to this child. He started the conversation with, “I’ve been meaning to come down for awhile now. I’ve wanted to say Thank you.”
“Yes, thank you. Thank you for giving up your husband so my Daddy would be able to live. You see, my Daddy tells me about a Christmas Eve twenty years ago. He was with my Grandma and they had an accident. Your husband saved my Daddy’s life. My daddy also told me because he did, he died.”
I couldn’t speak. I was choked with emotion. I tried and tried to swallow the lump in my throat, all I could do was gather this dear child to myself, hold him and rock while the tears ran rivers down my cheek. He said, “Ma’am, I’d like to see you smile. That’s why I brought the Christmas flower. I think Christmas must be my favorite time of year. I think I’d better go now, but maybe I can come back some day and you’ll tell me stories? I love to listen to people tell me stories.” And with that he was gone.
He did come back. Jack, for that was his name, came several times throughout the years. I found a special friend in young Jack. He loved to share my stories; he loved to laugh with me. He loved to bring his friends over and we’d have an impromptu party. All the lemonade those boys could drink and cookies they could eat. Sometimes we’d play games of my generation. Other times we just sat and talked. He reminded me so much of my Jack. One would think it would make me miss my dear husband more, but it didn’t. It healed the hurt a little more.
I’m very proud of my young friend, Jack. You see, he is following in his namesake’s footsteps. Just yesterday I received a Christmas card from him. Oh he looks so handsome in his uniform, and the scarf I made for him. Although why he is wearing it in Iraq I’ll never know. He said he wants to be a hero, I tell him he already is. He is serving his country with a pride unequaled in any man, save my Jack.
I wonder a lot if he will come back. I miss our times and our talks. It’s funny, me so old and him so young. But like a long ago winter day, the doorbell rings. And there he is! What a vision. I can’t help but cry, sob really as I look at him.
“I told you I’d come back. Can I sit and talk awhile? Here! I remember poinsettias are your favorite Christmas flowers. I’d love to see you smile.”
Pursuing Gold is a novel of the Civil War and is a work of historical fiction.
With his father dead and his business partner incapacitated, Peter Chandler inherits the leadership of a bank in economic crisis. With only a newly minted college degree and little experience, Peter joins his partner’s daughter, Mary Beth Roper, in a struggle to keep C&R Bank afloat while the Civil War rages around Chattanooga. Political pressure for unsecured loans of gold to the government stirs up trouble as tempers and prices rise. Their problems multiply when Mary Beth discovers counterfeit money with Peter’s forged signature. Can they find the forger before the bank fails? The two friends must pursue gold on behalf of their business, as they learn to pursue their heavenly Father to find hope and peace.
I enjoy a work of historical fiction, and as just that this novel is good. It feel flat on a few things though.
It was a little too long on dialogue. It seemed a little forced and predictable. And a lot too short on description.
It read a lot like a first novel, which I’m sure it is, and I think with practice Cynthia Simmons will make a GREAT novelist!
I received a free copy of this book from Litfuse.
But God demonstrates His own love toward Virginia, in that while she was yet a sinner, Christ died for Virginia. Much more than having now been justified by His blood, Virginia shall be save from the wrath of God through Him. (Romans 5:8-9)
Therefore, having been justified by faith, Virginia has peace with God through her Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom also she has obtained her introduction by faith into this grace in which Virginia stands, and she exults in hope of the glory of God and not only this, but Virginia also exults in her tribulations. Knowing that tribulations brings about perseverance and perseverance proven character, and proven character hope. And hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within Virginia’s heart through the Holy Spirit who was given to her. For while Virginia was still helpless – at the right time Christ died for ungodly Virginia. (Romans 5:1-6)
When I fully realize that all of everything I do is because of His grace toward me – I fully realize I have nothing to prove and therefore I have nothing to defend. (Romans 6:1-3)
Therefore Virginia has been buried with Jesus through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father so she too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)
Jesus died in the flesh, so I could live in the Spirit. (Romans 6:8-9)
Lord, here I am – a weak, frail, fleshly girl – I present to You my body as one alive from the dead. I present my members to You as instruments of Your righteousness. I place myself under Your grace – because sin shall not be my master. (Romans 6:12-14)
But THANKS be to God that though Virginia was a slave of sin, she became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which she was committed, and having been freed from sin, Virginia became a slave of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18)
Slave of Sin = Dead to Righteousness.
Slave of Righteousness = Dead to sin.
Alive to sin and the law = Dead to Righteousness and God
Alive to Righteousness and God = Dead to sin and the law.
I was made to die to the law through the body of Christ that I might marry (be joined to) Christ – every time I serve sin I am committing adultery. (Romans 7)
There is therefore now no condemnation for Virginia who is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in Virginia, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to her mortal body through His Spirit who indwells her. (Romans 8:11)
For Virginia has not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again…
BUT Virginia has received a spirit of adoption as a daughter by which she can cry out, Abba! Father! (Romans 8:15)
Suffer – then Glory.
Suffering brings glorification. (Romans 8:17)
Glorified. (Romans 8:30)
What then shall I say to these things? If God is for Virginia, who is against her? (Romans 8:31)
When I am in tribulation, distress, being persecuted, in a famine, and naked, peril or seeing a sword (instrument of death), I think I have been separated from the love of Christ but that isn’t the TRUTH! I overwhelmingly conquer through Jesus who loves me through them. (Romans 8:37-39)
(all verse from the New American Standard Bible)
Love. It’s what we all want. What we all need. It is what we crave.
But what does Love mean? What does it mean to live loved? Is that even possible? Is it possible to live loved all the time, even when we feel loved less than?
I’ve mentioned a teary time or two that I’m reading Ann Voskamp‘s book, The Broken Way. I’m currently in a love-hate relationship with it. And with Ann. I mean nothing bad about Ann at all. Don’t misunderstand. But it’s like she lives in my town, or at least in my head and is pointing out all the places I need to change to grow.
It was through her book I started putting a red cross on my wrist. As a reminder to me every day to live cruciform. To live in the shape of a cross every day. To remember the best gift is to love others. To remind myself to Be The Gift…to Give It Fully Today.
When I choose to focus on someone else who is just as needy as I am, to focus on them and meeting their needs, trusting the Meeter of my needs to meet my very great needs. When I do this then the healing of my broken and shattered places begins.
When my healing begins, my cup is no longer empty.
It’s a little oxymoronic I think to have a blog about my FULL cup when it seems my cup lives empty.
But that is how I am to live. I am to live empty, poured out, given out in love to the One who loves me.
“‘Love will always make you suffer. Love only asks, ‘who am I willing to suffer for?'”
Those words leaped of the page of Ann’s book last night. I underline it in green, and read it over a few times. Trying to grasp the meaning. Rejecting the statement as impossibly untrue. Love doesn’t make you suffer. Love erases suffering.
Then I read further.
“Love, before it is anything, to be love at all, it is first patient. …patience is nothing but a willingness to suffer. Patience and the word passion, they both come from the exact same root word, patior, to suffer. …Passion embraces suffering because there’s no other way to embrace love. Love isn’t about feeling good about others; love is ultimately being willing to suffer FOR others.” (from Ann’s book, The Broken Way, page 137. emphasis mine.
And I was stopped dead in my reading tracks.
Love is being willing to suffer for others…because Jesus (LOVE) was willing to suffer for me.
When the words you read make you jot down your thoughts on the other side of the page and then you take a moment to read them. The realization of my own black-hearted self-centeredness washed over me like a waterfall.
I can not say I love anyone if I am not willing to suffer for them. I can not.
I’m rather reserved with my “I love Yous” I am. They don’t come easy for me.
This doesn’t come easy for me either. Every time I have said it thus far in my life has more than likely been a lie. A complete fabrication. A lie I’ve said to make myself feel good and to make you feel good.
The man I promised myself to in marriage. If I am not willing to suffer for him, I am not willing to love him.
Those children that I gave birth to, if I’m not willing to suffer for them. I do not love them.
Those precious souls I’ve been blessed to have befriend this broken pile of flesh, if I’m not willing to suffer for them, I’m not willing to love them.
As painful as all of that was to realize, I knew in the very deepest part of my soul, if I am not willing to suffer for Jesus, I am not willing to love Him.
If I am not willing to take up my cross and follow Him in the path of His suffering, joining in His suffering for me, then I am not willing to love Him.
And if I am not willing to love Him, I am not willing or able to love anyone else.
So my prayer for myself and you this Christmas season is simply to be willing to be willing to love Him as He loves us. To be willing to suffer for Him because that is the path to wholeness, life and love.
My soul exalts the Lord,
and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior
Can I do that? Can I really do that when the pain is great and goes so deep?
Can I choose to exalt my God when He seems so far away?
For He has regard for the humble state of His bond slave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
What will I choose to focus on? This? Or the pain that is crushing? The ache in my heart that won’t go away, the feelings that are oh so real, or my God who is even more real?
For the Mighty One has done Great things for me;
And Holy is His Name.
And His mercy is upon generation after generation
Can I remember the great things He has done for me? I know He has. Even now when pain is clouding my vision I know He has done GREAT things for me. I know because I remember, fondly and long for the GREAT again.
It seems light years away. I know it was last week, but it seems like a forever ago to me.
Since deciding the best way to help my hurting soul was to Be The Gift to someone else, I have failed so miserably. I decided to Go MAD Monday, to Go and Make A Difference in someone and for someone.
Right now I don’t even think I know how to do that anymore.
Change your focus.
Focus on Living Cruciform.
I don’t know how to do that when life hurts and falls apart. When I’m holding on by one fraying, thin thread. When it takes all my concentration to put one foot in front of the other and keep marching.
I need to remember that I have a choice. Every second. Every day.
Even when the tears run silent rivers down my cheeks, even when my body is racked with heaving, shaking sobs, I can choose.
Even when it feels I have no choice. Even when I feel stuck. Even when I feel He is silent. Even when I feel abandoned and alone. Even when my prayers are stuck in my throat. Even when my prayers are sobs.
I can choose.
He has filled the hungry with GOOD Things
…He has given help to Israel His servant in remembrance of His mercy