Excerpt from Christmas Charity by Susan G Mathis

“I heard you were newlyweds from Canada. From Wolfe Island? It’s a mighty lot to adjust to, that’s for sure. But how’s you doing, dearie?”

Susan bit her lip and studied Mabel. Could she trust her, this stranger? Susan needed to talk with someone, especially since her mama wasn’t here. “It’s … all so sudden. Patrick is a good and kind man, but …” She looked toward the door and sighed. “I’m sure I’ll adjust … with time.”

Mabel took Susan’s hand in her tiny, wrinkled ones. “Change ain’t easy, I’ll give you that. But you can nudge it in the right direction. Charity is what you need, dearie. God’s love for that spitfire of a girl. I ’spect she be hurtin’ a mighty bit with all the goin’s on. She’s a child sneaking her way to womanhood I ’spect. You be a woman who must guide her along the path with a strong dose of charity.”

“That’s what my mama said. Not quite in those words.” Susan smiled and swiped a tear that had leaked out.

“We old folk knows such things. We’ve tried and failed many a time afore learnin’ the way. You’ll learn to, in time. But I feel in my bones that charity is the tool you need to use to crack that hard shell your girlie has formed around herself. What happened to her mother?”

“Died of pneumonia when Lizzy was seven, short of four years ago. Patrick and her had several stillborns and miscarriages before Lizzy came along, so Patrick …” Her words trailed off.

Mabel finished her thought. “Spoils her.” She grinned as Susan shrugged. “I could see it in her eyes the minute she cast her icy glare at ya.” Mabel chuckled. “She be a stubborn one?”

Susan sucked in a breath and nodded. “She hates me.”

“Naw. She fears you.”

Susan’s brow furrowed and she shook her head. “She doesn’t fear anything. I, on the otherhand, fear her.”

Mabel patted her hand. “Now you just stop that right now. You’s the grownup and mustn’t fear her. She’s but a child and needs you, dearie.”

Susan countered with a furious shake of her head. “She needs her father, not me. She despises me, and my marriage to him.”

“She’s just protecting herself, afeared to let you in, afeared you’ll take her daddy, afeared that she’d be betraying her mama, afeared that if she lets you in and loves you that you’ll die like her mama. It’s just the way them babes think.” Mabel touched Susan’s cheek and tenderly gazed into her eyes stinging with tears. “Now, be puttin’ away those tears and straighten that spine and fill that heart of yours with a boatload of charity for that prickly little thing. And do not fear! God will give you victory, dearie.” Mabel grabbed a towel that was lying on the table and wiped away her tears. Like her mama would have done.

Susan G Mathis is vice president of Christian Authors Network. She’s a multi-published author of stories set in her childhood stomping ground, the beautiful Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence River in upstate NY. Her newest novella, Christmas Charity, her first novel, The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, her Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, and her novellas will take you to a time and place few have gone. Susan is also author of two premarital books with her husband, Dale, two children’s picture books, seven stories in compilation books, and hundreds of published articles. Visit her at www.SusanGMathis.com.

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Our annual church Christmas pageant gave me the impression the humble barn where Jesus was born was a quiet setting. The Nativity scene was the crowning moment of each extravaganza. Dressed in bed sheets and their fathers’ bathrobes, the children sang Silent Night.

Then I moved to the country, got a barn, and had my own birth in the stable.

Drought forced a farmer to sell a soft-eyed, pregnant mare.
 “She’s like Mary,” my teens implored. “She needs a place to have her baby.”

So this innkeeper found room in our stable. A baby monitor let us hear what happened in the barn at night. Birds in the rafters supplied a cacophony of twittering and mice scampered through hay. Once asleep, the horses passed gas so loud we thought the mare was giving birth, and dashed to the barn at 3:30 a.m.

Following weeks of false alarms, the baby was born on a night I was too sleep-deprived to tiptoe to the barn. What an exquisite wonder that morning to discover a newborn in the stable.

That’s why this year’s Christmas pageant is my favorite. “Let’s have live animals,” the music director crowed.

Opening night staging was elaborate. “Joy to the world,” the audience joined the choir as words appeared on the overhead. “Let men their sons employ.”

Choreographed to mask the noisy rearrangement of animals on stage, the pianist’s solo was a wasted effort. The keyboard was unplugged. From behind the curtains, the audience heard the trainer smooching at the donkey who was reluctant to come on stage and more reluctant to leave. The wise men bowed before the wailing Christ child. Mary and Joseph tried to look holy while goats nibbled their robes.

Suddenly, a runaway sheep dashed about the little town of Bethlehem. Engrossed by the drama, the drummer forgot to drum. The conductor looked up and paled as the speeding sheep fairly leapt into his arms.

By the second performance the “g” was added to sons, the keyboard found the plug, and fencing was added for the sheep. The rest of the pageants were without hitch, but my favorite was opening night. It seemed a better reenactment of what probably happened years ago in that starlit stable.

PeggySue Wells has two horses (because horses are like potato chips and your can’t have just one). She is the bestselling author of 28 books including Homeless for the Holidays, and Chasing Sunrise. Connect with PeggySue and find her books at www.PeggySueWells.com.

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While simplifying your holiday season, take time for relationships to thrive, not just survive the holidays.  Keep those relationships balanced with your holiday planning. People ARE more important than things at this time of year.  Here are some relationship principles using one of the familiar words of the holiday as an easy to apply acrostic:

 

  1. C enter your heart on the true, deeper meaning of the holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Year’s.) This will help everyone become easier to get along with because the heart of the holiday will remain intact.
  2. H ear what your friends and family are voicing as their stress, and listen carefully to them—a gift that will lower their stress.
  3. R each out as a family to help others in order to keep the proper perspective on what is really important in life.
  4. I nvest in memories, not material goods. Make time for family baking, tree decorating, or board games.
  5. S peak your love in words. The best gift you can give is for a person to hear their value and worth from your lips.
  6. T ake time for romance. The greatest gift you can give your spouse, children, and friends is a happy home.
  7. M ake time to reach out to extended family. Visit or call grandparents, aunts, and uncles. If possible, use modern technology like a Webcam to connect.
  8. A ssume nothing; ask those who are celebrating with you what their expectations are, and communicate the plan clearly so people feel informed.
  9. S tay flexible. Don’t be a Christmas Scrooge, ordering family around. Instead slow the pace, gather consensus, and give options so that you create an environment of connecting and sharing.
  10. ! Exclaim your joy with music, memories and by making the most of all your relationships!

 

Pam and Bill Farrel are relationship specialists, international speakers, and authors of more than forty-five books, including best-selling  Men Are like Waffles, Women Are like Spaghetti.

Visit www.Love-wise.com

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“…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV).

I can’t imagine losing one of my children. A friend recently lost her adult child and to see her grieve ripped my heart out of my chest.

Christmas should be a time of joy. After all, God sent His son that He might save us, and for the most part the season is joyful. Still, when I turn my Christmas tree on at night, and listen to the sweet sound of the nativity music box play Silent Night, I find my heart ripping in two.

The birth of Christ changed the world and eternity as we know it. God gave of Himself, the ultimate Lamb – a living, breathing child. So many lives were impacted by this birth. Joseph’s life was turned upside down. His bride- to-be carrying what the world called “illegitimate,” but what the angel called a miracle. And Mary, a child herself, chosen to bear the Son of Man.

Though His birth was nothing short of miraculous, His death tore a hole in the world. Mary sat at the feet of her dying son as the blood puddled around her knees and God Himself, looked away, heartbroken. All this…to show His love. To save us.

Christmas is a joyful time for family and friends, but for me, it’s also heart wrenching. I am grateful for the “gift that keeps on giving.” Just knowing the magnitude of the sacrifice humbles me every time I think of it. A child was born to carry the weight of the world. And though we know the end of the story, it didn’t change the loss of a child.

As Christmas nears, reflect on the child who gave His all that we might have life to the full.

Cindy Sproles is an author, speaker, and conference teacher. She is managing editor for Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, as well as executive editor for www.christiandevotions.us and www.inspireafire.com. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com.

 

 

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Speaker, Pam Farrel, author of 45 books

I often give Christmas messages for women’s ministries, and one is entitled “Christmas Joy”. Joy is the beautiful result of Christ coming at Christmas.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. (Luke 2:10)

In my book, LOL with God,  (co-authored Dawn Wilson) we chronicle just a few of the over 350 verses that speak to joy:

  • 1 Chronicles 16:27“Strength and joy [are] in his dwelling place.” (Dwell with God and find joy!)
  • Job 33:26“He prays to God and finds favor with him, he sees God’s face and shouts for joy.” (Pray, and joy will be reignited.)
  • Psalm 5:11“Let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.” (Hide your heart in God, and joy will erupt in song.)
  • Psalm 35:27“May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, ‘The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.’” (Rejoice in God’s righteousness, and justice and joy will return.)
  • Psalm 71:23“My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you—I, whom you have redeemed.” (Worship God for his redeem­ing love, and joy will naturally evolve.)
  • Psalm 92:4“You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands.” (Review the goodness of God, and joy will fill your mind and roll off your lips.)
  • Psalm 118:15—“Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: ‘The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!’” (Review God’s victories, and joy will accompany the rerun of love.)
  • Psalm 145:7“They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” (Throw a party to celebrate God’s provision, and joy will be the centerpiece of your life.)
  • Proverbs 21:15“When justice is done, it brings joy to the righ­teous.” (Do the right thing, and joy will stick.)
  • Jeremiah 15:16“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.” (Get into God’s Word—joy is there!)

Which one of these pathways to joy can you take this holiday to hold on to joy?

Discovering Joy In Philippians

(Coming in May: Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Devotional Experience – by Pam Farrel, Jean E Jones, Karla Dornacher from Harvest House Publishers )

Pam Farrel, international speaker, author of 45+ books, Co- Director of Love-Wise. Join the #LivingLoveWise community

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