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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Excerpt from Christmas Charity by Susan G. Mathis:

Mabel opened the door and noticed the darkening sky. “Come in, Susan. Looks like a Nor’easters a building. Might have snow by nightfall.”

Susan entered the elderly woman’s abode. Neat and tidy with lots of memorabilia, just as Susan had imagined. Mabel led her into the kitchen. “I was just making tea. Care for some?”

“Yes, please. How are you, Mabel?”

“I’m just fine. Been praying for you and that girl of yours a fair bit. How’s it going?” Mabel stopped pouring the tea and stared into Susan’s eyes. “Tell me truthful-like, ya hear?” She tilted her head to accentuate her command.

Susan dropped her eyes to the oilcloth-covered table. “Not good. She won’t let me in. Patrick says to give her time, but…”

Mabel sat down next to her and rubbed her braid like her mama always did. Susan turned to make sure she wasn’t dreaming that Mabel was her mama just then.

“But what? Her father let’s her get away with too much? She has free rein to be prickly?” Mabel grunted. “My brother did the same thing when his wife died, and now my niece is unbearable. I know the signs.”

Susan nodded. “So what do I do? I love Patrick. He’s a kind man but he’s too kind sometimes.”

“Pray, dear girl, and pour on the charity.” Mabel sipped her tea before continuing. “Thomas Aquinas said that only God gives us power to show charitable love to another. He says that it’s the most perfect way to love. It’s love that’s given by choice, by your will, not expecting anything in return. True charity not only touches the heart of another but once you pour it out, joy and peace will also fill you up.”

“But…if I can’t even talk to her or touch her or interact with her in any way, how can I show her charity? I don’t understand.”

Mabel gazed at the wall for several moments before answering. “God has to show you the specifics, dearie. The love chapter in Corinthians gives us some ideas. Part of it is having faith and hope that God will give you the answer. It has nothing to do with her accepting you or even liking you. You can talk to her all you want, but if you don’t show her charity, it’ll sound like a noisy, irritating gong. You have to choose to pour on the charity expecting nothing in return.”

Susan felt her brow furrow. She bit her lip until it hurt, trying to understand Mabel’s words. Mabel patiently sipped her tea and let the sounds of silence fill the room. Susan heard the wind howl and the clock tick, until the quiet comforted her. But she still had questions.

“So, it has nothing to do with her? I have to choose it, no matter what she says or does?”

Mabel smiled, patting Susan’s hand. “Exactly. But you can’t do it in your own strength. You have to let God fill you with charity and then you pour it out. Like this pitcher.” Mabel took the little, white creamer and demonstrated as she poured a little cream into her tea. “Just like that. You don’t make the cream. You just pour it out. You’re a vessel, girl.”

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 articles. Visit her at www.SusanGMathis.com.

 

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 In our living room is a symbol my husband, Dale, and I used in our wedding. It’s a three-fold cord of red, white, and gold. It symbolizes that the commitment we made to marriage wasn’t just between the two of us. The covenant is between three of us, with God at the center. Scripture says “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). That’s how we want our commitment to be, and that takes making daily choices to keep our commitment strong.

Of all the major decisions in life, making a commitment to marry is one of the most important and for some, the hardest. Hopefully, this decision is far more important than buying your first car or house or deciding where you’ll go on vacation.

A commitment to marry is more than just signing a contract. Marriage is a sacred covenant, a plan God created for our benefit. In the Bible, God made covenants with His people, but others made covenants, too—like Jonathan to David and Ruth to Naomi. They were committing to love, serve, and care for each other. Covenant promises are unconditional—there is no escape clause or money-back guarantee. It’s made on the foundation of faith and love—and it’s permanent.

Permanent is a word seldom used today. In our culture, everything seems disposable—even relationships. Commitment wavers when it’s based on what makes us feel good or is convenient for us personally. God’s plan is so much bigger. Just as He has never left us or forsaken us, even in our worst sinful state, so He wants us to know and enjoy the permanence of an intimate relationship with our mate.

We all know couples, maybe even our own parents, who divorced. Maybe they grew tired of each other or one of them “found someone new.” Whatever the reason, they broke the commitment they made, and the painful consequences of their choice affected many others.

That’s not God’s plan for any of us.

We also know couples, married for decades, who are happy, despite the challenges they’ve faced. Our friends just celebrated fifty-five years together! Bob and Gayle love each other dearly. They are the closest of companions and deeply committed to each other. Dale says, “When we grow up, let’s be just like them!” Couples like them give us hope for our marriage. As you journey through your marriage, find one or two couples who model what marriage should look like, especially if healthy marriages have been rare in your life.

Who are your role models for marriage? Tell them what a blessing they are to you. I’d love to hear about how they made a difference in your marriage.

Adapted from Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage. Copyright © 2013, all rights reserved.

wedding candles

Susan Mathis

Susan Mathis

Susan Mathis is the author of The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness and Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage, The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy and four other books. She is vice-president of Christian Authors Network. Visit www.SusanGMathis.com.

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Communication is the lifeblood of any relationship. It will affect every aspect of your marriage. It can help you inform, explain, influence, and build intimacy with one another.

Good personal communication is the act of revealing yourself—your past experiences, present feelings, and future dreams. It’s sharing your fears, needs, and desires carefully and honestly. Communicating well is also about setting boundaries, confronting problems, admitting when you’re wrong, and extending grace to another.

“Honesty is paramount,” Ben says. “Authenticity—being who we really are no matter what—is critical. I experienced the lack of it in my first marriage, and I didn’t want that again. I’m so glad that Jennifer is the same person whether she’s speaking at a conference or sitting on the front porch with me. And I want her to know who I am. I believe that real love is knowing someone with all their faults and loving them still.”

When Adam and Eve sinned, they broke the communication they had with their Creator and caused isolation from Him. They covered up and hid; they were dishonest and ashamed. God never intended that, and He knew that a life of dishonesty and hiding would be painful and counterproductive. That’s why God delights in His people overcoming negative communication patterns and learning to communicate in healthy and loving ways.

“Be proactive in revealing who you really are,” Ben says. “Learn to be authentic in every area of your life. Allow your mate to know you completely and get to know him or her completely, too. And when you’re communicating about something, let your mate know what your thought process is, not just the decision you made. Let her see how you got there so she can understand how you think and how you make decisions.”

How have you learned to reveal yourself to your mate? We’d love to know.

(Adapted from The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness and Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage. Copyright © 2012, all rights reserved.)

Susan Mathis is the author of The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & HappinessCountdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage, The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, and four other books. She is vice-president of Christian Authors Network. For more, visit www.SusanGMathis.com.

 

 

 

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Practicing Patience

By Susan G Mathis

My husband has Parkinsons disease, so I am learning to employ a good deal of patience—the very thing I taught in my children’s picture book, Lexie’s Adventure in Kenya: Love is Patience —while we adjust to the challenges of such a terrible disease. God is never finished teaching us patience, so to that end, for all of us who need a bit of encouragement as we learn patience now or in the future, here are a few inspiring quotes that may help:

“God’s way of answering the Christian’s prayer for more patience, experience, hope, and love often is to put him into the furnace of affliction,” Richard Cecil. Yup, I think surgery might be my furnace at the moment.

“We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world,” Helen Keller. What a woman she must have been!

“Patience is not simply the ability to wait—it’s how we behave while we’re waiting,” Joyce Meyer. Very true. I’ll remember that when I have physical therapy. Smiles.

“Our real blessings often appear to us in the shape of pains, losses, and disappointments; but let us have patience, and we soon shall see them in their proper figures,” Joseph Addison. Hmmm. Got to ponder this one.

“I have seen many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience, and to respect the fury of nature,” Paulo Coelho. Interesting.

“Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character,” Heraclitus.

When all is said and done, may you and I be found with a new measure of patience and stronger, more godly character that will bless others, especially God.

 

Dear Lord, Help us learn patience more and more each day. In Jesus name, Amen

 

About the author: Susan Mathis is the author of The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy and four other books. She is the vice president of Christian Authors Network and the Founding Editor of Thriving Family magazine and former Editor of 12 Focus on the Family publications. She has written hundreds of articles and now serves as a writer, writing coach, and consultant. For more, visit www.SusanGMathis.com.

 

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