"Life is lived forward, but understood backward. It is not until we are down the road and we stand on the mountain looking back through the valley that we can appreciate the terrain God has allowed us to scale.” Jill Savage

Sunday, December 19, 2010

They will know we are Christians by our . . . love!

We can never be the better for our religion if our neighbor is the worse for it.

What Christmas is all about.

Better bundle up - the goose bumps will freeze you!! I think I need to read
this every year at Christmas. Yes, it's long, but you guys are tough ... and it is worth it!

"Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their
means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were
genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him
that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from

It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the
world had caved in on me because there just hadn't been enough money to buy
me the rifle that I'd wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that
night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we
could read in the Bible.

After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the
fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling
sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn't in much of a mood to read
Scriptures. But Pa didn't get the Bible, instead he bundled up again and
went outside.

I couldn't figure it out because we had already done all the
chores. I didn't worry about it long though, I was too busy wallowing in
self-pity. Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there
was ice in his beard. "Come on, Matt," he said. "Bundle up good, it's cold
out tonight."

I was really upset then. Not only wasn't I getting the rifle
for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly
reason that I could see. We'd already done all the chores, and I couldn't
think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like
this. But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one's feet when
he'd told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and
got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened
the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn't know what..

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the
work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going
to do wasn't going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never
hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load. Pa was
already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him.
The cold was already biting at me. I wasn't happy.

When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed.
He got off and I followed. "I think we'll put on the high sideboards," he said.
"Here, help me." The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I
wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were
going to do would be a lot bigger with the high side boards on.

After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came
out with an armload of wood - the wood I'd spent all summer hauling down
from the mountain, and then all fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What
was he doing? Finally I said something. "Pa," I asked, "what are you
doing?" "You been by the Widow Jensen's lately?" he asked. The Widow Jensen
lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so
before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I'd
been by, but so what?

Yeah," I said, "Why?"

"I rode by just today," Pa said. "Little Jakey was out digging around in the
woodpile trying to find a few chips. They're out of wood, Matt." That was
all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another
armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to
wonder if the horses would be able to pull it.

Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait. When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand.

"What's in the little sack?" I asked. Shoes, they're out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this
morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn't be
Christmas without a little candy."

We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen's pretty much in silence. I tried to
think through what Pa was doing. We didn't have much by worldly standards.
Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was
still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split
before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that,
but I knew we didn't have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and
candy? Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer
neighbors than us; it shouldn't have been our concern.

We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as
quietly as possible, then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door.
We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, "Who is it?"
"Lucas Miles, Ma'am, and my son, Matt, could we come in for a bit?"

Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped
around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting
in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any
heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.

"We brought you a few things, Ma'am," Pa said and set down the sack of
flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had
the shoes in it. She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair
at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children -
sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully.
She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her
eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she
wanted to say something, but it wouldn't come out.

"We brought a load of wood too, Ma'am," Pa said. He turned to me and said,
"Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let's get that fire up to size
and heat this place up." I wasn't the same person when I went back out to
bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to
admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. In my mind I kept seeing those
three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with
tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she
couldn't speak.

My heart swelled within me and a joy that I'd never known before, filled my
soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had
made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of
these people.

I soon had the fire blazing and every one's spirits soared. The kids started
giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked
on with a smile that probably hadn't crossed her face for a long time. She
finally turned to us. "God bless you," she said. "I know the Lord has sent
you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his
angels to spare us."

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up
in my eyes again. I'd never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but
after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I
was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started
remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many
others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.

Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed
when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I
guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make
sure he got the right sizes.

Tears were running down Widow Jensen's face again when we stood up to leave.
Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to
him and didn't want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I
was glad that I still had mine.

At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, "The Mrs. wanted me to
invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey
will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous
if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We'll be by to get you about
eleven. It'll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here,
hasn't been little for quite a spell." I was the youngest. My two brothers
and two sisters had all married and had moved away.

Widow Jensen nodded and said, "Thank you, Brother Miles. I don't have to
say, May the Lord bless you, I know for certain that He will."

Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn't even
notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, "Matt,
I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little
money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but
we didn't have quite enough. Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money
from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real
excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into
town this morning to do just that, but on the way I saw little Jakey out
scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I
knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy
for those children. I hope you understand."

I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very
well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my
list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look
on Widow Jensen's face and the radiant smiles of her three children.

For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block
of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt
riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle
that night, he had given me the best Christmas of my life."

Thank you Cheri at Chez Cheri.

Love you all,


Buttercup said...

You've got me crying. Have a beautiful and blessed day!

Country Wings in Phoenix said...

Oh Sweetie...
I cried through the whole story and I have never read it before. It was so touching and heart warming for this Sunday and for this beautiful CHRISTmas season.

The season of giving. A beautiful share from a beautiful lady who gives of herself all year long. Thank you sweet friend for always blessing me richly when I stop by and see you.

Many hugs and SO much love sweetie, Sherry

Linda O'Connell said...

Ah, the Golden Rule. Blessings to you for posting this.

Linda @ A La Carte said...

And That, my dear friend, is what Christmas is all about. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story! My troubles are so small and I must remember how blessed I am!

Pat MacKenzie said...

A beautiful story. Thanks from someone else you left in tears this morning.

Sandra said...

I do so wish everyone on the face of the earth could say that first quote and mean it.
We can never be the better for our religion if our neighbor is worse for it! WOW what a difference that would make.

Ginny said...

A story about the true spirit of Christmas!

DaCraftyLady said...

What a touching story...have a very Merry Christmas...Debb

Melanie said...

I read that story just the other day. It was so good. What a wonderful reminder to be concerned about others and share.

Home In The Hollow said...

Absolutely BEAUTIFUL!...:)JP

Just Be Real said...

Sandie, thank you for sharing. Blessings.

Sharon Kirby said...

This was the most heart-warming story. It really touched me. That old adage is really true - it IS more blessed to give than receive.

I'm so glad that God GAVE the gift of His Son to this dark and lonely world. I'm so glad He gave Jesus to me...

Will be keeping you in prayer tomorrow - everything will be fine.


(p.s. Sent you an email yesterday - don't worry if you don't have time to respond - just wanted you to know that I was thinking about you!)

^..^Corgidogmama said...

Oh honey...I'm so glad that I stopped by to read your wonderful post tonight. Simply perfect way to end the day...makes me feel humble, thankful and blessed. Sigh...doesn't take much these days to touch an old girls heart.
Giving is always better than receiving....wish those spoiled Hollywood starlets realized that. They could touch many lives, and not be so miserable with their own!
Prayers being said tonight for your venture tomorrow. Take care, and God bless you and your surgeon.

Jane said...

This is a wonderful story. You should read A Foxfire Christmas sometime. You are in my prayers tomorrow and always,


That corgi :) said...

great story! I think the boy had to go to see the conditions that family were living under for him to fully appreciate the fact that he wasn't going to get the rifle but others were going to get things he took for granted; definitely one to remember for a very long time!


Susan said...

That was a great story, Sandie. Susan

Terry said...

Howdy Sandie
Now that I have soaked all my sweet christmas hankies I hope to dry the water works long enough to remind you that I am praying for you !!!
God Bless you sweetie .
May the good Lord bless you with comfort ,peace and a calm understanding that you are healed by the stripes of Jesus Christ your Lord your healer and confidant in this place you call home .
I love you but not as much as God Loves you !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Until next time
Happy Trails

Tweedles -- that's me said...

Thank you for being true to yourself..
"They will know your christians by your love"
Here is to a new knee,, and