Before the Resurrection

Saturday is a day that gets missed in celebrating Easter. There’s Thursday with the Last Supper, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. What about Saturday? The despair and lack of hope that the disciples and followers of Jesus must have faced after the crucifixion needs to be remembered as well.

I wrote this poem for the Easter season last year and shared it on Facebook, but for some reason, it never made it onto my blog. So I’m sharing it with you now:

Wakened by the Sabbath sunrise
Disciples stir with burning eyes
It rushes back- Friday’s pain
From their hearts come stifled cries.

Why did they run? And hide away?
Had no one courage enough to stay?
On their souls- a blackened stain
What was there now left to say?

They’re terrified, still hiding now
With broken hearts and broken vow
Men and women both- they weep
As in unison they bow.

Hearts are broken, hope is dead
All they can see is grief instead
The agony- it settles deep
Peace has gone from every head.

Nothing’s right, and all seems wrong
Joy is crushed, a shattered song
Confusion creeps- it slithers slow
This Sabbath day feels ever long.

Women gather, speak of plans
Somehow meet their souls’ demands
Anoint Him- do what they know
One last gift with gentle hands.

But ere they journey to the tomb
They will endure this night of gloom
While light is growing in the womb
Of darkest earth.

Finding Real in Fantasy

One of the reasons Tolkien and Lord of the Rings are so popular, I think, is because the words are so incredibly applicable to our lives. During the beginning of the pandemic a year ago, this quote popped up. You might remember how perfect it was for those months.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” -Tolkien

We see real life even in fantasy. I see that in Tolkien. And sometimes, in fictional characters, we find real people. The hobbits, for instance, are extremely similar to the culture I grew up in. Yet, let me insert a disclaimer here. I am not trying to stereotype everyone that is Amish, for as with any culture, the people within it vary greatly. But, I know a people, who, like hobbits, are quite fond of eating and who can become totally immersed in a conversation regarding genealogy. They are a people, especially the older generation, who struggle to express their feelings and who have a tendency to closet themselves from the world. Yet as Tolkien says, “You can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence others out.”  

There are also real world places that remind us of Middle-Earth. The lake minutes away from my apartment, at sunrise, tells this message:

…Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind: a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass and silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise. -Tolkien

Then there were the woods last autumn, so reminiscent of Rivendell. Elf-like, beautiful, and otherworldly. And of course, where there are mushrooms, there must also be hobbits. 

Of Galadriel’s gift to Frodo, the star-light, she says, “it will shine still brighter when night is about you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.” And then when I read 2 Peter 1:19, the similarity is super cool, at least I find it so. “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place…” 

Forgive me for straying to the movies, but I love how Aragorn’s coronation is such a great illustration of the meek inheriting the earth (Matthew 5:5). Aragorn could have been the definition of meekness. Besides, listen to this from Psalm 37:11: “But the meek shall inherit the earth, And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” In the movie, Aragorn says, “Let us together rebuild this world, that we may share in the days of peace.” Love it! And I also love the irony of the people bowing to the hobbits in one of the next scenes. They were such an unimportant people in Middle-Earth, yet in the end, they had such honor, which I find to be another picture of meekness. Another disclaimer: I am not saying that The Lord of the Rings is an allegory. It is not. I have listened to enough episodes of The Prancing Pony Podcast to know that! However, I am trying to show how relatable Tolkien’s fantasy world is to the real world and to our individual lives. 

This living life through the lens of literature is probably a nerd thing. I’ll admit that. I wouldn’t change it, though. I think it adds a richness to life. Happy Tolkien Reading Day!  

Inspired by Ireland

Surely I’m at least a small percent Irish. After all, the freckles and auburn highlights have to come from somewhere. But I’m of Anabaptist faith, and typically we are largely of Swiss and German descent. One of these years, I’d like to do the DNA test to see what my ancestry really looks like. Until then, I shall continue to believe in my heart that I’m a little Irish. Regardless of my true heritage, I do love St. Patrick’s Day.

Not that I’m into the drinking and the leprechauns and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. That’s not what St. Patrick’s Day is really about for me. I don’t drink, and I don’t believe in leprechauns. I’m into the culture and the music and the food and the real story of St. Patrick. And Arby’s green Mint Chocolate shakes. 

First things- if you want a quick lesson on St. Patrick, that is also fun to watch (even for adults), I highly recommend the Veggietales version. I’m not a devoted Veggietales fan or anything, but I find this to be quite amusing.    

Seriously though, this story is a reminder that God can change the history of a country with one obedient person. It’s also a reminder that God can use the negative experiences in our past to write our histories in an amazing, redemptive way. St. Patrick, I am certain, did not dream of being made a slave. You probably didn’t want the loss, or the absent parent, or the broken heart, or the mental confusion and torment. These experiences do not define you, though, unless you let them. I confess I’m letting some of my experiences define me. But they don’t have to. What incredible story might God be wanting to write with your messy past, and with mine? He did it with St. Patrick; He can do it with you and me.

Now, for some more lighthearted content: This is Irish Soda Bread. The members of this household liked it, so I’ll probably end up making it again. It’s a good kind of bread to make when you’re short on time, because it can be mixed up and baked right away.

Then, we have this beautiful Irish Cottage Pie I made at work. Also a success, but certainly not a quick meal if you’re chopping vegetables and making mashed potatoes from scratch. The bottom of the pie is a mixture of ground beef, carrots, celery, onion, mushrooms, and tomato paste. You then cover that with mashed potatoes mixed with cheese. By the way, here’s a secret I learned from my mother about mashed potatoes: use cream cheese and garlic powder in them. Honestly, it makes the best mashed potatoes ever!

And this is Irish Apple Cake. It’s supposed to be served with a custard sauce, which I was going to make, but I ran out of kitchen energy today. Maybe later…

I have a mini fashion show for you in these next couple of photos. I really wanted an Irish-inspired outfit this spring, but I wasn’t wanting to spend a fortune. Gabe’s to the rescue! Obviously, I know very little of traditional Irish attire, but this is my attempt. Note: I love the sleeves on this dress!

Ironically, I didn’t wear a green dress on March 17th. White and green socks were the extent of my greenness then. But that’s okay. St. Patrick’s Day has been more of a season for me this year rather than a day. And I don’t consider it to be completely over yet.

There are still things I want to do before March ends. I ordered a kids’ book with the story from the library, and I haven’t taken time to read it yet (Once I do, I will try to share some thoughts on my new Instagram account: treasurethepages ). I also picked up an adult book about Ireland, which is quite a bit more intimidating. Someday, I want to read the writings of St. Patrick himself, but that may have to wait until next year. Pretty sure I haven’t listened to enough Irish music, and there’s Irish cheese in the fridge that I bought at Aldi, which we haven’t opened. So, if you missed March 17th, there’s still time! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Lament During Tax Season

‘Tis time to give to Uncle Sam
The gold he did not earn,
Why this seems a proper thing
I have yet to learn.
It wearies me, to work so hard
Then pay the government,
An age old curse of working man
And this is my lament:

O taxes faithful, go away
Leave me now in peace,
I know you’re constant, tireless
I dream of your decease.
I do not wish to dine with you
And watch you eat my meat,
After which, you drink my wine,
Then ask for something sweet.

O taxes cheerful, lose your grin
It isn’t even nice,
To come to me again this year
And flaunt your gruesome price.
You know the numbers tire me
Before I even start,
But you just laugh hysterically
And tear my brains apart.

O taxes boastful, arrogant
You like to see me crawl,
So calm and strong you seem to be
How to make you fall?
Please hit your head and bruise your nose
Forget that I owe you,
Maybe then I’ll shake your hand
And pay you ‘fore it’s due.

Twenty-Five

Tonight, as I write this, it’s my last night of being twenty-four. Maybe that’s not such a big deal; after all, twenty-five may not be much different. It is, nevertheless, a milestone of sorts; it is quite probable that I’ve already lived over a quarter of my life. That’s a nice morbid view to take of the matter. I’m starting to feel old. Laugh if you like, but it is possible to feel old this young. 

Truth is, this isn’t where I wanted to be at 25. It’s a good thing I didn’t know this ten years ago. At 15, I already had dreams. The other night I was driving home from my mentor’s house, and I had the radio turned on. “Eye of the Storm” came on, and these words impact me more in this stage of life than they ever have before:

“When my hopes and dreams are far from me
And I’m runnin’ out of faith
I see the future I pictured slowly fade away
And when the tears of pain and heartache
Are pouring down my face
I find my peace in Jesus’ name.”

I would venture to think that those of us who hope most fervently are also those who are crushed most easily. It’s akin to the theory that if you hurt deeply when someone dies, you have loved them much. 

Yet, as my mentor pointed out to me the other night, rather than focusing so much on what I don’t have right now, I need to instead focus on what I do have. It is true that life hasn’t worked out the way I wanted it to. It’s true that I have dealt with disappointments and hurts. She told me it’s okay to be sad, but I need to not stay stuck. 

So, as twenty-four leaves and twenty-five dances in, I am blessed. There is a little girl in my life who scribbled on her belly with a marker yesterday, but I love her so much- that wild hair included. My church family is incredible, how they walked my journey with me rather than leaving me to find my way alone. This little town has stolen my heart, and I hope we will have a chance to become even better acquainted in my second year of living here.

There’s a coffee shop eight minutes away, and I have shelves full of books. There’s the Bible Study on Habakkuk that was given to me as a Christmas gift (the timing is perfect for that), and I also just bought a copy of Little Dorrit several weeks ago, as well as that book on forgiveness I ordered from Amazon. While there are books and coffee, there is always the potential for a little burst of happiness. 

I am blessed with friends. Don’t ever underestimate the value of friends. Through 2020, with not always getting to spend time with people, I think I came to realize how important other people actually are. I need people. Not because I’m an extrovert, because I’m not, but because we were created to need other people. Not just on a video call, either, but in person- face to face. And yes, sometimes I really need a hug.

God has blessed me, but even without the blessings I’ve listed, even without fuzzy blankets and warm pajamas and sourdough, I would still be blessed. My favorite part of Habakkuk is the following passage:

“Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls-
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
-Habakkuk 3:17-18 NK

This is the challenge. Have I lived like this? No, but I should. This is trust unlike anything I’ve ever known. Yet this is the kind of trust that we as Christians should embrace. Is it hard? Incredibly hard. Do I even know how to trust like this? No, I don’t. 

Happy Birthday, me. God is holding me, twenty-five and clueless. My job this year is to trust Him. 

A Sinful Prayer

As a Christian, to say I am disturbed about the prayer offered in the Senate is an understatement. The “Awoman” would have been enough by itself. But what bothers me even more than this incorrect usage of the English language, and the fact that I believe it to have been irreverent, are the words that preceeded the closing of the prayer. I consider it to be a problem that the “awoman” is being given more negative attention than the more blatant heresy that was included in this prayer. 

To include in a prayer to the Christian God the name of Brahma, and “god known by many different names by many different faiths” (Cleaver) is a sure way to greatly displease the True God. Idol worship is strictly forbidden. While tolerance is the message being spread in society today, let me assure you that God is not a tolerant God. He does not and will not tolerate sin. Yes, He loves us, but His love is the real kind of love that corrects us when we do wrong, not the weak love that is promoted today- basically saying that if we don’t accept everyone and everything, we are not being loving. Love isn’t like that. Love cares enough about us to administer discipline when we are making sinful choices. 

There is only one God, and He has declared Himself to be a jealous God. When He gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, the first of those commandments was the instruction not to have any other gods (Exodus 20:3). While Moses was receiving these commandments from God, the Israelites were worshipping a calf made of gold. Their actions were not without consequences. When God saw what they were doing, He would have destroyed them, but for the words of Moses. Even so, three thousand men were killed. And after this, God said, “…in the day when I visit for punishment, I will visit punishment upon them for their sin.” (Exodus 32:34 NKJV) This is the same God Christians serve today.

Let us not be fooled into thinking that just because Cleaver wasn’t struck dead on the spot, that God will overlook this sin. God is not okay with just being included in a list of gods. The prayer that was given was a dangerous prayer, and I do not want to be standing under the wrath of God. It was a blatantly sinful prayer, including idol worship, not to mention the irreverance. That’s not the kind of prayer God is going to respect, and America is in a dangerous decline if those are the kinds of prayers we are offering. 

Please, I beg you, read the Bible. Truth is still truth, even if people are trying to make it irrelevant. And truth is what will keep us from caving in to pressures and accepting heresy. We must know the truth! We have seriously fallen since Peter Marshall prayed this prayer in the Senate on January 6, only 74 years ago:

“O Lord our God, if ever we needed Thy wisdom and Thy guidance, it is now- as the Congress begins a new session, standing upon the threshold of a new year, fraught with so many dangerous opportunities… May they remember that Thou art concerned about what is said and done here, and may they have clear conscience before Thee, that they need fear no man. Bless each of us according to our deepest need, and use us for Thy glory, we humbly ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.” -Peter Marshall

How does a nation fall so quickly? The answer is quite simple, actually. We have forgotten our Creator. The consequence is given to us in Psalm 9:17: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God.” (NKJV) Oh God, may this not be America! May we turn from sin and choose to honor You alone! 

Hope for 2021

I believe many of us would agree that we are more than ready to bid this year goodbye forever. But, here at the end of the year, there are moments when I do have hope. Maybe it’s a foolish hope, just the persistent and at times unrealistic optimism of the INFP, but if we had no hope, where would we be? 

What is hope? Hope is Advent, the expectation of Christmas, which may be part of the reason I am reluctant to let go of the holiday season. 

Hope is a bride and groom as they promise to love each other, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health… There is an immense lot of hope in the hearts of people getting married. After all, how many people are wed who expect the marriage to turn out badly? 

Hope is Hannah, begging God for a son. Hope is Elizabeth, and Sarah, and Rebecca- all barren women who eventually felt the incomparable joy of life within their bodies. Hope is a mother who rocks her daughter to sleep and dreams of the woman that will be.

Hope is a child on his way to the ice cream shop, a farmer planting rows of corn, and a nurse administering medicine to a patient. Hope is an author with a pen and a blank sheet of paper. Hope is a teacher dishing out phonics like a grandma dishes out soup. Hope is a pilgrim with a Bible. These are snapshots of hope. 

Hope is resilience. All of us have experienced some kind of heartbreak, but hope is us bouncing back and choosing to believe that there may still be joy. I was 21 when I copied the following lines into a notebook: “Hearts do not break, they sting and ache, For old love’s sake, but do not die, As witnesseth the living I.” I don’t know who first wrote these words, but there is some truth in them. I disagree slightly, for I do think hearts break, but there is very often recovery. Do you remember that time when you were in love, but the love was not returned? I do. It took me a while to get over it, but I did eventually. 

I have hope for 2021. Hope and dreams, they walk together much of the time. Maybe this is the year I’ll find true love. Maybe this is the year that my purpose in life will be made more clear. Maybe this is the year I’ll find a healthy balance between work and rest. Maybe there will be tremendous growth in the still broken places in my heart. Maybe I’ll suddenly become the queen of organization and my room won’t look like a disaster (just don’t tell my sister I said that; she’ll hold me to it).

Or maybe not. Sometimes hope looks foolish. It’s like that scene in the LOTR movies, where Pippin is asking Gandalf if there is hope for Sam and Frodo. Gandalf’s reply is, “There never was much hope. Just a fool’s hope.” That’s what hope can feel like- just foolish and unrealistic. 

There’s certainly that possibility of not. And that possibility stirs up fear in my heart. Yet ultimately, even if my dreams continue to not work out, there will still be hope. How? Because the One who enables me to hope will still be here for me. 

Welcome, 2021. We are ready for you. 

Christmas in My Town

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We’re just another small hometown,
Where the snow comes drifting down.
Right beside the interstate,
The winter’s long; spring’s always late.

But thoughts of spring are premature
As evidenced by the decor,
Gifts we’re buying in the store,
Snowy bootprints on the floor.

Filling boxes up with cheese
Curl more ribbon, would you please?
Mocha steamer in a mug,
Giant snowman gets a hug.

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Make angels in the parking lot,
Soup for dinner, toasty hot.
Give that pumpkin bread away,
Shine a light in someone’s gray.

The bridge is wearing winter white
And five o’clock brings chilly night.
Christmas lights across the street,
We’ll find the elf for you to meet.

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Experience Christmas here with me,
Live a part in this story,
And maybe then you’ll really see
Why I’ve chosen here to be.

A Christmas Short Story

The plot I suggested in my last post, with the coffee and the tree and the Christmas date happened to be a short story just waiting to be written. Humor me as I attempt some fiction, decidedly Hallmark-like, with a bit of a Christian twist. It is totally predictable and a little unrealistic, with a healthy dose of the thing we all want so much- love. I introduce to you: 

“Not Single for Christmas: A Short Story”

She had seen him before, actually many times over, but never had she seen him so flustered. It would’ve been funny, except for the fact that there was a stream of coffee running down her coat. It was her favorite coat, too, the one with the faux fur around the collar. She had splurged more than a little on that coat, and it remained to be seen whether the stain would come out. 

He was all apologetic as he pulled napkins off the nearest table and mopped up the floor on his knees. She stood there awkwardly and assured him it would be fine; the stain would wash out, surely. 

“And I thought I was clumsy,” she said aloud, before realizing it wasn’t exactly a polite thing to say. Then, as the redness swept over his face again, she knew she had only made matters worse. She tried to redeem her mistake. “I meant that as a joke,” she tried desperately. “I really am clumsy, but I shouldn’t have insinuated that you are as well. Really, it could’ve happened to anyone.” She stopped, and underneath her warm coat and hat, she suddenly felt as though she was the famous chestnut roasting in the open fire. 

He rose from the floor and tossed the bulky mess of coffee-laden napkins in the trash. “I don’t know what happened to me today,” he confessed. “I’ll buy you another coffee.”

He turned to the young curly-headed barista. “We’ll have another one exactly like she had, and I’ll have the peppermint mocha, please.” The barista appeared to be inwardly amused by the incident, but she graciously refrained from laughing. 

As they waited for their drinks, the man turned to the woman. “I know you from somewhere,” he said.

She grinned. “I hear that often. It happens when you’re a public face out of the proper context. Yes, you’ve seen me before. I work at the library.” 

Recognition appeared. “Exactly,” he said. “I should’ve remembered. You look like the bookish kind.”

“I do?” She asked.

“Why, yes. The plaid skirt and the glasses.”

She frowned. “Is that a good thing?” Now it was his turn to realize he should’ve bitten his tongue. He, too, tried redemption.

“Of course,” he said hastily. “I’m very attracted to intelligent looking women.”

She had thought she was roasting before, but now she was sure she was burning up with embarrassment.

“I’m serious,” he assured her, and the barista mercifully handed them their coffees. The librarian stumbled over her thank yous and hurried out into the refreshing cold.

As she got into her little red car, she saw him getting into an old truck. It looked exactly like the picture hanging in her kitchen, red and vintage. The only thing it was missing was the tree in the back. He waved as he drove away.

The next time she saw him, she was having a moment of frustration. She was at a Christmas tree farm, for she had resolved to buy a real tree this year, in lieu of the tiny fake one from Dollar General. The money had been handed over, and now, she was trying to direct the less-than-helpful employee as to its placement in the car.  

“Yes, I want it in the back seat,” she said, and the employee resumed his baffled teenage look.

“I don’t think it’s going to fit,” he stated.

“Can we try and see?” She begged.

“I think you’d be further ahead to strap it on top of the car,” he said in a way that meant, You’re being difficult, woman.

“I don’t have straps,” she said stubbornly.

“Well, lady, it’s not going to fit in the back.”

“Do you deliver?”

“No. Now look lady, I need to go help the next customer. Find some straps, and then I’ll help you.” He strutted off with his teenage know-it-all self, and our unfortunate woman was left in despair.

There was a tap on her shoulder, and she jumped. “I’m sorry to frighten you, Miss Librarian,” he said, “but the tree isn’t going to fit inside your car. Fortunately, I happen to be driving a truck, which will hold your tree and the one for my grandma. Give me directions, and I’ll deliver it to your house.”

“You are a knight in shining armor,” she said gratefully. “I was nearly ready to cry. Thank you for coming to my rescue.”

He laughed. “Glad to help. Perhaps you’ll find me less clumsy today.” 

Together, they loaded the tree into the truck bed. Well, actually, the truth of the matter is that he loaded it, while she made an effort to be of assistance. Her tree looked rather small beside the giant one for his grandmother, but it was a living tree. Or, it had been, before it was sawed down. His red truck followed her red car, back into town, past the library two blocks, and into the parking lot of a tax accountant. 

“Don’t worry,” she said when he got out of the truck with a perplexed face. “I don’t live in the office. How could I? I despise numbers. My apartment is underground. I’m a hobbit.”

She liked to hear him laugh. “Lead the way to your hole then, Rosie,” he said, “and Sam will follow.”

“I can get it,” she tried. 

“I’d hate to underestimate your abilities,” he replied, “but your tree is heavy, even if it is small. I’ll do the honors.” 

Around the back of the office and down the basement stairs the tree went, and the kind gentleman deposited it on her living room floor. 

“Do you accept hot chocolate as payment?” She asked. “I really am very thankful you came along.”

“Certainly,” he said.

“Make yourself at home then,” she said, “and I’ll get the chocolate.”

When she returned with the mugs, the cat was sitting on his lap. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I should have warned you. George is a big baby, really, but he can be a little too friendly.”

The man smiled. “He’s fine. Typically, I don’t enjoy cats, but this one seems to be quite likeable. Why George?”

“I named him after Mr. Knightley in Emma,” she explained. “He’s a respectable, distinguished, handsome fellow, except when he’s hungry. Aren’t you, George?” Kitty purred. 

“Speaking of names,” the man said, “what’s yours? We never were properly introduced.”

“It’s Charlotte,” she said. “Charlotte West. And you are William. Although I don’t remember your last name.” 

“It’s Fike,” he said. “Do you remember the names of all your patrons?”

“Oh no, only the regulars.”

“And I’m a regular?”

“Not unless you call a weekly Thursday visit a regular,” she said. “Of course you’re a regular! And you get books on almost everything from homesteading to business. You’re well read.” 

“Thank you,” he said. “Coming from a librarian, I take that as a compliment. You seem to be rather versed in literature yourself.”

“Albeit a different kind, perhaps. I like old classics, stories with depth.”

“I used to read classics,” he said, “for fun. These days I don’t have time to read for mere enjoyment.”

“What do you do?”

“I’m a carpenter.”

“Then why the books on gardening and agriculture?”

“I want to have a homestead someday,” he admitted, “with a carpentry business on the side. Find a wife, have children, and let them grow up on the land.”

“I think that’s a wonderful dream,” she said, “and one I have a great deal of respect for. I’d like to buy a little house with some acreage and try homesteading myself, believe it or not. But our dreams often take a lot more financing than what is possible in the forseeable future. So, I live in this little basement and feed my book addiction with my job.” 

“You seem to have your own library right here,” he remarked, looking at the bookcases on every wall.

“I read aloud to George in the evenings,” she admitted. 

The hot chocolate gone, William made his way to the door. “I need to deliver Grandma’s tree,” he said, “but I enjoyed the chocolate and the company. I’ll see you Thursday?”

After he left, Charlotte set up her tree, to the great interest of George, who tried to eat the ornaments. It must be said, she was a little distracted, and didn’t notice George licking out the chocolate mugs. It must also be said that her preoccupation was not regarding the tree, but rather the man who delivered the tree. Of course, she saw him every week at the library, but she had never noticed just how charming he actually was. Or how handsome. Why had she never observed how delightfully dark the man’s eyes were, browner than the chocolate they just shared together?

She was reshelving books when she heard someone walk up behind her. It was William, coffee in hand. “Good morning, Charlotte,” he smiled. “I brought you some coffee to counteract the effects of a dreary December day.”

“Thank you,” she said. “That’s very thoughtful of you. Can I help you find anything today?”

“Actually, yes,” he said. “Do you have a manual on how to ask a nice girl to go with me to the Christmas Tree Lighting tomorrow night?”

“I don’t think I have a book that will outline the proper etiquette,” she replied, “but my personal opinion is that bringing the girl some coffee is a good way to start.”

“Does that mean yes?” He asked.

“I believe it does,” she said, smiling at him. “Thank you for the invitation; I’d be delighted.”

“Would you care to join me for dinner as well?”

“I’d like that a lot,” she said.

When William was safely out of sight, Charlotte did a victory dance in the aisle. She’d been asked out! Unfortunately, her exultation was witnessed by a little old lady, who shook her head and mumbled something about the irresponsibility of youthfulness. Happily, Charlotte was unaware that she had been observed, and the little old lady never told anyone, thinking it was a disgraceful thing to mention, how the librarians of today jumped around in the aisles. 

If she was honest with herself, which she was in the habit of being, she was dreading the fact that she’d be single for Christmas again. She’d never been fortunate when it came to her love life, as all the guys she’d secretly fallen in love with ended up with other girls, never her. Christmas was always the same; her brothers and sisters showed up at their parents’ house with spouses, kids, and friends, and she came alone, year after year. This year, she was considering not even making the trip. It was a four hour plane ride back home, and the more years that passed by, the more awkward she felt around her own family. They were always happy to see her, of course, but it seemed to turn into a matchmaking session, where they’d try to pair her with all the eligible bachelors they’d met in the past year, and they’d comment on how maybe she’d have more success if she wasn’t such a nerd. 

Nerdy. Old-fashioned. The labels bothered her, yet she couldn’t change her values, even if they were considered out-of-date. Yes, she liked books, she wasn’t what anybody would consider a successful career woman, her wardrobe was decidedly vintage (she refused to call it old-ladyish), and she went to church because she believed in God, not merely as a social obligation. Therefore, she was misunderstood, often. 

On her lunch break, Charlotte sent her two best friends a group message. Help me out tonight? I need fashion advice. I’ve been asked out tomorrow night. When she got home at 5:15, Sara and Sammie were already in her parking lot. 

“I say we go shopping,” Sara said, hugging her friend, then proceeding to dance around her in a circle.

“Can’t,” Charlotte replied sadly. “I already spent my budgeted clothes money for the month on my Christmas tree, which is quite beautiful, by the way.”

“Unfortunately, you can’t wear a tree,” Sammie said. “And I told Sara you’d never agree to buy something new, even if it is your first date ever. So, we’ll improvise. We searched our closets and found some options. Grab some bags, ladies! We’re going to have some fun.”

They piled the clothes on the bed and debated dresses for the next hour. Not too formal, because she had no idea where they were going for dinner, but not too informal, because it was a special evening. Not something too heavy for dining, but something warm enough for the tree lighting. 

“Are all dates this much work?” Charlotte groaned, after the twentieth dress or so. Then she saw it. A wine colored sweater dress. “This. Absolutely this,” she said with satisfaction. “I have those tall leather boots I can wear with it. It’s dressy, but not too much so, and it’ll be warm as well.”

Sara and Sammie nodded in agreement. “I like it,” Sara said. “It’s simple enough to suit your taste, but fashionable enough to be acceptable.”

“Do you have a coat that’ll work?” Sammie wondered. “And your hair.”

Charlotte laughed. “Yes, the coffee stains came out of my coat nicely. That’s how this started after all. I’ll tell you the story sometime. And I can do my own hair, although I’m sure you’d be happy to do it for me. I like my vintage updos, and I wouldn’t be me with my hair down.” 

Sammie agreed. “You’re an oddity, my dear, but I like you that way.”

“Why, thank you,” Charlotte did a mock curtsy. “Now if you could convince my family, I’d be thrilled.”

“Watch them be transformed by Sammie’s opinion,” Sara giggled, and the night ended with lots of girl talk and ice cream.

The dinner and tree lighting was a success. How could it not be? William was the perfect gentleman, and Charlotte looked beautiful. Add to that the enchanting feel of nearly every house in the neighborhood with a light display of some kind, the carol singing around the tree, and the snow that crunched underfoot. It was a magical evening, and riding in William’s old red truck made Charlotte unreasonably happy besides. 

“Are you busy Sunday night?” He asked when he dropped her off. “My family has a Christmas tradition each Sunday evening of Advent. We get together at my parents’ house for coffee and dessert, light the Advent candles, and my father reads the Scriptures. I’d love for you to be a part of it.”

Charlotte gladly accepted. “That’s the sweetest Christmas tradition I ever heard of. I’d love to be there. And to meet your family, of course.”

“They’re wonderful,” he said. “You will love them, and they will love you. I’ll see you Sunday night, then. Oh, and my mother would like to meet George. You can bring him, too. She’s a little obsessed with cats.”

“Then I love your mother already,” Charlotte laughed. “I like anyone who appreciates George.”

She was too thrilled to go to bed at a reasonable hour, although she knew she’d regret it at work the next day. There were good men left in the world, and she knew in her heart that William was one of them. She finally fell asleep on the couch at midnight, with her open journal in her hand, and George curled up at her feet. She dreamed of Christmas trees and a young man who fed George Christmas cookies. The Christmas trees turned into people in a church, and there she was, wearing white, and William drove up in his truck and offered her a piece of wedding cake. She ate it, and then she and William drove away in his truck to a land filled with chickens. 

Mrs. Fike came to the door to invite them in. She was a plump woman with a big apron tied around her middle, and she had the most welcoming smile. Without waiting for the proper introductions, she hugged Charlotte in a motherly embrace. Then she took George from her son’s arms and cooed all over him.

“I just love cats,” she explained to Charlotte. “I used to have one years ago, but when it died, I decided it was in the best interest of my marriage not to get another one. My husband doesn’t like cats. Speaking of husbands, where is he? Honey, Will is here with his girl!” She led them to the living room, and Mr. Fike got up from the recliner to greet them.

“Glad to have you join us, dear,” he said, shaking Charlotte’s hand heartily. “Hello there, Will. Thanks for bringing your girl with you.”

Mrs. Fike set George down on the couch, and bustled back to the kitchen, telling Mr. Fike to introduce the girl to the others; she must check the pies. The living room was full, and Charlotte wondered if William’s family was as large as hers. She soon realized it wasn’t, but it seemed like a lot of strangers at first glance. There was William’s older sister Kate, with her husband and their three children. Then an older brother as well, Joel, with his wife and two children. And lastly, there was the little sister, Marsha, with her boyfriend. They both looked to be about 18. 

Kate and the sister-in-law, Faith, were both soft-spoken, but they were friendly, and soon had Charlotte chatting comfortably with them. Kate was nursing a baby, who couldn’t have been more than a month old, and she provided the perfect topic of conversation. When the baby was fed, Kate handed her to William, and seeing him with the little girl made Charlotte’s heart melt. He was clearly very comfortable with babies. Charlotte was still talking with the women, but her eyes kept going back to the man and baby beside her. She loved babies, and she never got to hold them. Her siblings’ children were too far away.

“Do you want to hold her?” William asked, and Charlotte nodded. He placed the baby in her arms, and she breathed in that new baby smell, so clean. The baby’s hands were tiny, and Charlotte stroked them. One of the little hands grabbed Charlotte’s finger and held it tightly. Her brown eyes stared into Charlotte’s blue ones for a moment, and Charlotte felt a lump form in her throat. A single tear slipped from her eye before she could stop it. William noticed the woman’s absorption with the baby, and he noticed the tear. 

“Are you okay?” He whispered.

Charlotte nodded. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I just haven’t held a baby for so long. I didn’t know how much I missed it.” 

Mrs. Fike came back into the living room and sat down in the rocking chair. Immediately, two of her grandchildren climbed into her lap. Mr. Fike called the other children from their play, and everyone gathered around. Marsha got up and turned off the lights in the room. All was dark, except the fire in the fireplace and the large Christmas tree in the corner. Kate got up and lit the first candle in the wreath on the coffee table. Only then did Mr. Fike begin.

“Kate has lit last week’s candle: The Prophet’s Candle. Tonight, we will light the Bethlehem candle.” He opened his Bible, which looked to Charlotte as though it was nearly falling apart, and read from Micah 5. “‘But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth…’” (scripture taken from NKJV)

Mr. Fike’s voice went on, reading the familiar words, and Charlotte felt the weight of the baby in her arms. Bethlehem, “little among the thousands.’ Insignificant in the eyes of the world. Like a baby. Insignificant in the eyes of the world. And yet, one baby changed history forever. The lone candle flickered. The Christmas tree lights shone. She felt William, strong beside her, and the baby, small in her lap, and the feeling of complete peace settled in her heart.

“ ‘For now He shall be great To the ends of the earth; And this One shall be peace.’” Mr. Fike closed his Bible. For this moment, all was still, even the children. A log fell in the fireplace, and the coals popped. “Charlotte,” Mr. Fike said, “Would you light the Bethlehem candle for us?”

Charlotte gave the now sleeping baby to William. She knelt at the table and dipped the second candle into the flame from the first candle. There was a new light shining. She wanted to stay there forever, in the peace and the stillness, in the Christmas holiness. But it was not to be.

“Now Grammy’s pie!” Shouted one of the little boys, and everyone laughed. The children scrambled off laps and headed to the kitchen. The adults followed more slowly, and William and Charlotte and the littlest Fike were left alone in the cozy living room. 

“That was beautiful,” Charlotte said, turning from the table and the lit candles.

William agreed. “It’s my favorite part of Christmas,” he admitted. “There’s so much peace in these moments.” He kissed the baby’s head. “Each Sunday of Advent, for just a little while, I feel as carefree as little Maggie here. I wanted you to feel it, too.”

“Thank you,” she said sincerely. 

The pies were eaten, the baby passed around, George was petted, the children played, and the adults drank coffee as they talked. Charlotte had never been in any house where she felt as comfortable. She told William so when he took her home. 

“I’m glad you liked them,” he said. “They liked you. I knew they would. When do I get to meet your family?”

“Oh, no,” she said. 

William looked confused. “You don’t take your boyfriends to meet your family?” 

“I don’t know,” Charlotte confessed. “I’ve never had a boyfriend before.”

“What?” 

“Nope. None. But what about you? Do you always take your dates to your parents’?”

He laughed. “No. You’re the first. I haven’t had a date since my last prom date in high school. But why don’t you want me to meet your family?”

Charlotte gave him a quick overview of her roots and her desperate escape from it all. “I usually go home once a year for Christmas,” she finished, “but it always ends up being miserable. All I learn from it is that I’m not like them. Of course I love them; they’re family. And I did have a relatively happy childhood. I have good memories. But since I left home, we’ve grown apart. Different priorities, different lives. No warm fellowship like your family tonight.”

“I’m sorry,” he said simply. “I know the type of family I have is rare these days. It shouldn’t be, but it is.” He reached over and took her hand. “When you do decide to go home,” he continued, “I’ll go with you.”

“But you don’t even know me that well,” Charlotte protested. “Why would you do that?”

His hold on her hand tightened a little. “Because, Miss Librarian,” he said, “I care about you. Is that okay?”

He hadn’t said I love you, Charlotte thought that night as she tried to sleep, but for a guy she’d only just started a relationship with, it was pretty close to the same thing.   

Single for Christmas

It’s the beginning of December, and the Christmas season has officially begun. I love the Christmas spirit, but I am feeling a little blue at the moment. It’s hard being single in the first place, and it’s hard being single this December. 

Do you find yourself desperately wanting to mean the world to someone? And do you feel like that is not the case?  I’m here to say I know what it’s like. I understand that feeling of desperately wanting to go on a date. I’m feeling it strongly after having spent two weeks in quarantine. It gets lonely, really lonely, even if you have girlfriends or roommates. And sometimes a girl just needs to dress up and spend the evening with a nice guy. Not that I know anything about it, really.  

I know that feeling of not being chosen. It’s not like you’re visibly rejected, because you’re not being dumped, but it is rejection all the same. It’s being passed over, and it hurts. It causes those of us with sensitive natures and insecurities to wonder what is wrong with us. Naturally, one of the main things I wonder is if I’m not pretty enough. Or maybe I’m too weird. I am weird, I admit it, mainly due to the fact that I’m hopelessly old-fashioned. But I like that part of me! Honestly, I couldn’t fit in if I tried. It does seem like it just might have an effect on my lack of popularity, though. 

I live with a tenacious hope, trying to believe in happily ever after. And yet, in the depths of my soul, I’m afraid. Afraid that because I want this so badly, that God will keep it from me. Afraid I’ll always be single. Afraid the right kind of man is never going to want me. And yet, in spite of all the fear, that relentless spark of hope keeps glowing.

I confess I cling to people tightly. At any given time in my life, I believe there’s always been at least one other person that I’ve attached myself to desperately. Is it healthy? No, it’s not. Yet I continue to do it. Old habits die hard, it is said. Underneath my crazy committment, I think there might be a little girl begging for validation. I’m sure we could dig deep into my past and figure out  what happened to make me so needy of the approval of others. But for the purpose of this post, it is sufficient to say the need is there. 

What can we do with our very real longing? There are plenty of cliche answers out there. If you’ve been single most or all of your life, you are undoubtedly sick of cliche answers. Because ultimately those answers are not what we want to hear. I don’t have any new or brilliant advice to offer, but I can sympathize. I’m walking the road of singleness, too, and it is hard.

It’s hard when your friends get married. Of course, you’re happy for them, but the struggle of jealousy is real. And it happens again when your friends get pregnant. You long for a baby of your own, and you aren’t in a position where it would be morally right to have one. So, you go to the weddings… you buy baby gifts… and your heart feels empty. You are happy for them, just sad for yourself. It’s hard when you wonder if you’ll have to buy a house alone or when you live the struggle of working more than one job. It’s hard when you know there’s not a husband and kids to decorate the tree with. I wonder how many women actually dream of living an independent life. I’m sure they exist, but if all women were honest, I’d venture to guess that the number is smaller than it seems. 

Christmas is supposed to be the season for miracles. And if you watch any Christmas movies at all, you’ll know in your heart that it’s also the perfect time of year for romance. 

I want a relationship this winter- somebody to start some new Christmas traditions with. If my life was a Hallmark movie, and it’s obviously not, this is where some nice guy would accidentally bump into me at a coffeshop, spilling coffee all down the front of my coat. He would apologize and buy me another coffee to make things right. And it would just so happen that I’d run into this guy again out looking for a Christmas tree. He’d notice me struggling to get my tree into my car (a tree would never fit in my little car!) and would offer to put it in the back of his truck and drop it off at my apartment. Of course, he’d wonder if I was needing someone to take me to the annual town tree lighting, and I’d graciously accept. And so the story goes… and of course by Christmas Day, I’d be meeting his family, and by next Christmas, he’d propose to me at the coffeeshop where we first met. Hey, maybe I should write these movies- terribly predictable and always with a happily ever after.

Making up unrealistic stories about what could happen isn’t going to cure the loneliness though.  

If you’re single today, I’m sorry. Hang in there. And whatever happens, don’t throw away that spark of hope. There is a God who does see the desire in our hearts, and He is not oblivious to the hurt. And who knows? Maybe Prince Charming will show up in that little coffeeshop tomorrow. Unlikely? Yes. Impossible? No.