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.

A Man Like Boaz

The world is full of men. Honestly, some of them are like the men that Carrie Underwood sings about. There’s the father in “Blown Away” who was abusive. There’s the adulterer in “Two Black Cadillacs” who led a double life. And yes, there are times in my life when I listen to Carrie Underwood. Lately, for instance. “Good Girl” happens to be a favorite for me these days. There have been men who have crossed paths with me that fit into the category of “no good for you.”

But still, I know good men exist. I know because I’ve seen them. There’s a pastor at my church that noticed during a period of time when I didn’t seem like myself. There’s the man who brought me topsoil for my raised beds this spring. There’s the grandfather figure, along with his wife, that showed up for me after the death of a friend. There are those men who love their wives and treasure their children, and I can see that. There are men that are genuine.

I have someone else to present to you today. His name was Boaz. He was the son of Salmon and Rahab (Matt. 1:5). If you are familiar with the Bible, you will remember that Rahab was the prostitute in Jericho who hid the Israelite spies. She was a foreigner, which I think very possibly affected Boaz’s views on life. I’ll explain later. Salmon and Rahab named their son “strength.” Indeed, he would turn out to be a strong man. Physically, we don’t know his capabilities, but we do know that he was a strong man at heart with a strong character. I like Boaz. Quite frankly, I’d like to marry someone like him. 

When Ruth came into Boaz’s life, he went out of his way to show her kindness. Personally, I think one of the reasons he was so willing to show a non-Israelite woman kindness was because of who his mother was. We as humans are quick to look down on people who are different than ourselves, but if we have walked in their shoes, we aren’t as likely to condemn.   

Kindness is one of the marks of a man worthy of respect. When someone goes out of their way to provide for the needs of others, it shows a heart of love. Boaz was already doing Ruth a favor simply by letting her glean in his field, but he did so much more than that. He invited her to eat with them. He gave her instructions to drink the water that his workers had gotten. And in a delicate way, he further provided for her, without hurting her dignity, by instructing his workers to purposely drop grain for her to gather. What incredible sensitivity! 

Boaz also protected her. He said, “‘Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you?’” (Ruth 2:9 NKJV) He was concerned for her well-being as a woman and recognized her vulnerability. In today’s world, women like to prove their ability to take care of themselves, but personally, I love the way Boaz validated Ruth’s worth as a woman by showing her that her body was something he would respect and he would make sure others did the same. 

Boaz was quite decidedly not an immature adolescent. He had servants and grain fields, and he was involved in the work that went on. I’m not saying a man has to have reached success in the business world before pursuing marriage, not at all. However, he should have a job. Expecting him to have a job is most decidedly not being too idealistic.

Whether you’re a romantic or not, you have to love the way Boaz responded to Ruth when she came to him asking for a remarkable favor. Had I been Ruth, I would have been blushing inside and out at the seeming boldness of the request. “Excuse me, sir, but you know that I am a widow, and it is the duty of a relative of my late husband to give me a child. You are a relative. Will you marry me?” Oh no! All the awkwardness just laid out in the open. I wrote a blog post previously exploring this issue a little bit- check it out: https://twentysomethingthoughts.com/2020/04/09/ruth-taking-risks-for-love

But Boaz had such a charming response. He does not say, “You shameless woman! How dare you presume upon my kindness like this?” Instead, he makes her feel like she is doing him an honor by coming to him rather than “young men, whether poor or rich.” (Ruth 3:10 NKJV) In responding to her like he does, he is gently cradling her heart. 

He recognizes, however, that he is not the man who has the first right to marry her, and this shows his fairness. He’s willing to give the other man a chance. He plays by the rules, and while this may not seem at first glance to be a romantic quality, it demonstrates his trustworthiness. He is a man that can be depended on, and that is worth a lot. Naomi says of him, “…the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day.” (Ruth 3:18 NKJV) He is not a shirker of responsibility, and he is also prompt. 

In short, Boaz was a man of integrity. And personally, I think that is pretty attractive. I’m a woman, and I like a handsome man as much as the next woman. But in the end, strong marriages are not built on appearance and fun feelings alone, rather on commitment. I’m rather intrigued by the story of Boaz and Ruth. But then again, I’m a hopeless romantic, so why wouldn’t I be?!

Photo Journey of an Apple Pie

I love my cutting board. And big knives are the greatest in the kitchen! Slicing the apples for the pie…
The sliced apples covered in cinnamon, sugar, molasses, and a bit of salt
I keep my most frequently used flour in this crock now. It’s purely for the asthetic appeal, and because it’s so vintage. Smiley face.
This is one of the best kitchen tricks ever that someone taught me for biscuits, and it works for pie crust, too. Grate your butter into the flour, rather than using a pastry cutter or a fork. So helpful!
Nice crumbly flour and butter crumbs
Pie crust ready to be formed into a ball to roll out
Rolled out
The pie filled up
Upper crust put in place
Edges pinched and the pie is ready to be brushed with egg.
All brushed, or as I refer to it when I’m with the little girl: painting the pie
While the pie bakes, I’ll use the leftover dough to make Hanswaschlin. We used to make these at home once in a great while. Roll out the dough and add some jam.
Roll it up, and cut into little pieces. A piece of dental floss works amazing to cut them. Slide the floss underneath, cross it on top, and pull.
Ta da! Now they can go into the oven as well.
While they bake, I’m going to clean up the mess. No dishwasher in this apartment, so all our dishes get washed by hand.
And they are finished!
Have a piece of pie! Smiley face.

A Dozen Thanks Givings

1. Hedgehog cookies. Aren’t they the most adorable cookies you’ve ever seen?

2. The headline this morning about the Supreme Court’s decision concerning the houses of worship in New York. I am encouraged to know that our right to gather in freedom to worship is being upheld, pandemic or not. I believe the gathering of believers is essential; we need each other. Of course, be courteous and stay home if you’re sick.

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

-Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV

3. A Thanksgiving text from a friend whom I haven’t heard from in a long while.

4. God’s provision.

5. Coffee. I love coffee! And I love my winter coffee mug.

6. Our delayed winter this year… It’s been a gorgeous fall. And if the snow could just stay away a little longer; my snow tires are on the way (I know, I should’ve been ready earlier).

7. Growth. It’s always encouraging, since I’ve had a rocky past, to look back and see the growth that has happened in me over the years.

8. This cozy apartment. No, it’s not my dream house by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s home for now.

Home is where your books are.

-Erica Jong

9. My books.

10. My people. Those people I can count on. The ones that choose to do life with me. The ones who have captured my heart. And the ones who have helped me in this story of life.

11. Lights on the Christmas tree. And the upcoming Christmas season.

12. My little red car, Dorrie.

Second Dose of Quarantine Activities

I’ll confess, I’m not really feeling the motivation today. It’s Day Ten of Quarantine, and life is tasting a little stale at the moment. I like very much to have a day off now and then, honestly. But to have endless days off, that’s not healthy for me, either. Day Ten of Quarantine and Day Four since I actually got sick… The past three days have felt extremely unproductive to me. Too much screen time, too much couch time, too much sleeping time, but I’ll have to give myself a little grace. I was sick, after all. However, I am on the mend, and I need a little pep talk to remotivate myself. It’s so easy to fall into depression when you’re isolated from real life. 

Some more ideas for quarantine: 

Idea Seven: If you are feeling ill, it’s completely permissable to rest. I have trouble being okay with unproductivity, and this makes it a little inconvenient when I’m sick. There are times, though, when our bodies need a break so they can recuperate. So, make that cup of tea, and wrap up in a blanket. 

Idea Eight: Read books. This is a perfect thing to do on any cloudy November day. You might try a book that isn’t just mindless reading- something with substance- and in this way, you can exercise your brain muscles. I recently read  In Order to Live, by Yeonmi Park. It was a recommendation from my roommate, and gives us an insider’s view of North Korea. It’s not the kind of book I’d typically pick up, so it stretched my horizons. I’m also reading How to Read a Book, by Charles Van Doren and Mortimer J. Adler, which is an intellectual look at the different levels of reading. It’s definitely an educational book, rather than one for entertainment. The other day, I picked up The Fellowship of the Ring again. I started rereading it quite a while ago, but as often happens with books I read, I’m better at starting them than finishing them, so they get some kind of bookmarker and get laid aside. Typical INFP that I am, it’s normal for me to be in the process of reading more than one book at a time.  

Idea Nine: Go on a walk. Just make sure you find a place where there aren’t other people. Fresh air can do so much for you. It makes you hungrier, and this time of year, it can leave you a little chilled, which makes it so much nicer, then, to come back inside and drink hot chocolate. Or coffee. Or tea, for that matter. It’s also really good for your mental health to get outside, which, when in quarantine, is especially important. 

Idea Ten: Scrapbooking! This particular form of art is therapeutic for me, but it doesn’t have to take exactly that form for you. Some people prefer cardmaking, or painting, or sketching. Art is an expression of yourself, so it will look a little different for everyone. I am almost finished scrapbooking an album that’s destined as a Christmas gift; I think I will limit myself to one more page and call that project complete. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other pages to work on! I don’t work on pages or photos chronologically; I’m spontaneous in this as I am in so many other areas of my life, and my mood has a lot to do with what I work on. 

Idea Eleven: Write a story. This one I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to follow to fruition. Yes, I have one I’m working on, but that kind of writing takes a lot of time and creativity and committment, if you’re going to end up with something really worth reading. I’ve exposed myself to some great literature over the years, and it’s intimidating, for how can I compete with that? Maybe I try too hard. Some things are better when they’re not forced, and I think writing can be that way. 

Idea Twelve: Bake something unexpected. I might just try this tomorrow. I was scrolling Pinterest and found a recipe for adorable hedgehog cookies. Who doesn’t love a cute hedgehog? Fun fact: Baby hedgehogs are actually really ugly. My sister showed me a picture of them, and they look awful! Pink like baby mice, but with prickles… shudder. Back to the baking- often, we have our go-to recipes we make, the favorites that turn out well. Throw in some variation, some surprise, try something totally different. We don’t discover new favorites unless we try new things.

Happy Quarantine!

Quarantine Activity Ideas

If you are stuck in quarantine and are needing some inspiration for how to spend your time, this is a post for you.

Idea One: Plan your wedding. No, I’m not getting married. My goodness, I don’t even have a boyfriend! This might seem, then, like a pointless waste of time, however, it is quite entertaining. I have decided to have a lavender and wheat wedding- both the colors and the plants. It really captures my personality quite well. And I plan to serve sourdough bread. Yes, I even came up with a menu! Are you amused? Exactly. Sometimes, when things in the world around us look depressing, which seems to be the case all the time now, we need a little humor inserted in our lives. Humor and hope…. The story of the life of a single woman.

Idea Two: Make a wreath. I did this without going shopping for supplies, which of course is the appropriate thing to do when you are in quarantine. I bought an undecorated wreath last year, which looked really cheesy and quite terrible, but the point was, it was cheap. So, I took off the greenery (it was not worthy of being called greenery), and was left with the wire ring. I had some nicer artificial greenery to replace the old. Then my sister and I strung microwavable popcorn. It was unnecessarily buttered, but it was what we had. My string ended up on the wreath, for even after two bags of popcorn, my sister’s attempt wasn’t going well, due to her putting quite a lot of popcorn in her belly rather than on the string. Side note: She ended up eating what she had strung as well, as it really wasn’t long enough to use for anything else. The only other additions to the wreath were lemon, orange, and apple slices that I tried to dry in the oven. I think it turned out quite pretty, with a very Colonial Williamsburgish look.

Idea Three: Do that mending. I know, it’s been piled in your room for a long time, and you’ve been procrastinating. After all, you have time for social media, but there is never any time for sewing up clothes. Why is it that we tend to procrastinate on things that would take so little time if we just did them? Well, if you’re me, who doesn’t have a lot of patience for sewing, that would explain a lot of things. I feel quite housewifely and vintage when I do pull out a needle and thread. I should probably do it more often.

Idea Four: Reorganize your books. I’ve seen the idea to organize books by their colors, and quite frankly, it’s not an idea I was really sold on. I like to have mine organized more by size and author and subject. But, I had time, so I’m giving the color method a try. It does look nice, I have to admit. Does anybody else seem to have the problem of not enough bookshelf? I suppose the problem could also be too many books, but how is that possible?

Idea Five: Freak out. There are so many things to freak out about! When will I be able to go back to work? Am I getting sick? Am I not getting sick? What is my purpose? I typically like time off, so why do I feel so empty? When will this stop? Yeah, freaking out is probably something I should try NOT to do. It’s not beneficial. Idea Five Revised: Trust God. But it’s so hard!! Trust God. Trust God. Trust God. Trust God….

Idea Six: Actually read the Bible. There is such a limitless amount of growing we can do in God’s Word. And I desperately need truth. Right is seen as wrong, and wrong is seen as right too often in today’s world. How are we supposed to stand for truth when we don’t know truth? Besides, perhaps in reading the Bible, some of this anxiety will go away.

And remember! Quarantine will not last forever. Let’s use it well.