The Year Santa Found Us

I’ve often shared my favorite Christmas memory, when at the age of 6, I received a refurbished doll cradle. That story can be found here. But there’s another Christmas that often comes to mind. One spent in different circumstances, far away from the sunny winters in San Diego.

My grandmother and step-grandfather (we called him Clarence) were tenant farmers in West Tennessee. I guess you could say they were poor. They lived in a house some might describe as a shack with no running water. Grandma used to say they had running water, but outside. No indoor plumbing. The house was drafty and cold in the winter, but Clarence kept it warm. Sometimes almost too warm. When you got out of bed in the morning, the linoleum-covered floors felt like walking barefoot on an ice rink. “Sure ‘nuf cold,” Grandma said.

Most years, they barely made it through. Grandma kept a vegetable garden and put up all the excess so they could eat all winter. They kept hens for the eggs and an occasional Sunday fried chicken. Christmas was just another day for them. There was no Christmas tree and usually no gifts for Grandma.

One year when I was around eight years old, we’d gone to visit Grandma on Christmas Eve. When we got ready to leave, Grandma and Clarence begged us to stay the night, spend Christmas with them. I can imagine my mother’s panic when Dad agreed. These days, I know how Mom felt about Grandma’s house.

My older brother and I went to bed in the big four-poster in the back bedroom and snuggled down beneath the numerous quilts, me wondering if Santa would find us way out in the country. Big brother already disbelieved in Santa, but he tolerated my wide-eyed innocence.

“They don’t even have a tree,” I whispered. “Where will Santa put the presents?”

“Maybe there won’t be any,” Mike said.

I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to go to sleep as misery churned in my belly.

Grandma’s grandfather clock struck the hour, every hour, throughout that dark night. I tossed and turned and worried and fretted. Finally, I heard Clarence up stirring the fire. It was almost time. I poked Mike in the side. “It’s morning! Let’s go see if Santa found us.”

Mike moaned and snuggled deeper into the covers. I turned over and waited a few more minutes. When I heard Grandma in the kitchen starting breakfast, I crawled out of the covers and hopped around on the cold floor, pulling my clothes on before dashing out to the warmth of the fire.

My eyes bulged at the sight of a Christmas tree in the front room and beneath it, toys and gifts. I immediately ran back to the bedroom and woke Mike. By now, Mom was up with little brother then Dad wandered out and we were allowed to open our gifts.

As the fire in the old pot-bellied stove roared and its heat filled the room, my brothers and I played with our new toys. Nothing else mattered to me, beyond the joy in my heart. Santa had found us and had somehow managed to slip into the house, bringing everything we needed for our Christmas celebration.

I now know Mom and Dad made a late-night trip back to our house and gathered up Christmas, including the Christmas tree and whatever Mom had planned for Christmas dinner. I can well imagine what she said to my dad on the way. I have been privy to many similar discussions over the years. And I can’t say that I blame her. But looking back, I remember the joy shining from Grandma’s face as she was able to watch her grandchildren open their Christmas gifts—a rare treat for her—a Christmas present like no other.

That sacrifice made by my parents, putting aside their plans in order to spend Christmas with Grandma and give her something they knew she’d love, stuck with me all my life. I never forgot it. To this day, when I hear the chime of a grandfather clock, my mind spins back to that cold, dark Christmas Eve. And then I remember a glow of warmth that came not from the old stove, but from the general region of my heart. Grandma didn’t have gifts for us, but she gave lots of warm hugs and kisses.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I hope you enjoyed the story and if you did, I hope you’ll take a moment to let me know. Leave a comment below and share one of your cherished Christmas memories.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, Dear Readers!


Nothing says Christmas like a snow-covered pine bough. We’ve seen lots of the white stuff so far this year, which is a little unusual for our region. But it does give my Christmas spirit a boost. I hope your holidays are filled with family and fun this year. And remember, the important gifts don’t come in boxes. Time. Touch. Sound.

I know there are times when family can’t be physically together for the holidays. It’s those times that you can still take time to call or skype. Hearing a loved one’s voice from far away can make the holidays so much brighter. God bless you and your family with the most important things in life.

Now, I need to go hang up my stocking and put a pan of cookies in the oven while I watch my favorite Christmas movie. Thanks for stopping by. And don’t forget to buy books!

If the snow has you housebound, here’s a couple of Kindle suggestions for you. Happy reading! Nike Chillemi’s Goodbye, Noel, Write Integrity Press’ A Ruby Christmas (various authors), and The Christmas Tree Treasure Hunt (various authors). Those last two are novellas and so much fun! By the way, these are not paid links. I do not receive any payment for these suggestions.

Happy Holidays!

Paid in Full – an Epiphany

There are moments in life when we figure something out and the knowledge sets us free. We sometimes call this an epiphany.

I had one of those things this week. If you owe someone a lot of money and you can’t pay even part of it back, you’re not going to be excited to see them. But one day, a man in similar circumstances (we’ll call him Ray) received a summons to appear before someone from whom he’d borrowed a large sum of money (we’ll call this guy Arnie). Arnie had a business to run after all, and needed his money back. Ray dreaded the appointment because he didn’t have the money to repay the debt. The time came for him to go to the meeting with Arnie and knowing he couldn’t get out of it, he went.

On the way, he contemplated, what is the worst that could happen? Well, at that particular time in history, the worst could be death or imprisonment. Or, Ray and/or his family could be sold into servitude to pay his debt. Which is exactly what happened. When Ray told Arnie he couldn’t pay, Arnie got mad, slammed his fist on his desk and promptly called for his minions to take Ray and his entire family and sell them. Sell them. Slavery. The money made on the sale would pay off the debt.

Yikes. Ray was pretty upset. This was not one of those seven-year indenture kicks, it was life. Not just for him, but his whole family, too. Ray fell on his face in front of Arnie and began to weep. “I’m so sorry! I’ve been an idiot. Please forgive me, and allow me a bit more time to come up with the money.”

Arnie was smart enough to know that a man like Ray would have a really hard time coming up with the amount of the debt, which was great by the day’s standards. Years of compounded interest had ballooned the original sum. But Ray’s humility as he sobbed like an infant, lying on the floor, touched Arnie’s heart. “Get up, Ray. Today’s your lucky day. I’m going to let you off the hook.”

Ray stood, blew his nose and wiped away the tears. “When do you need payment? I’ll get it somehow.”

“No,” Arnie said. “You don’t understand. I’m letting you completely off the hook. You don’t owe anything.” He picked up the paper that Ray had signed, tore it in two and tossed it on the fire. “The debt is paid in full.”

Ray was speechless. Once again, tears ran down his bearded cheeks, obscuring his view of Arnie. He swallowed a grapefruit-sized lump in his throat, and pushed out a word of thanks. Confused and kind of in shock, he backed out of the office and started home. Then it hit him. His debt was paid in full. He owed nothing. Zero. Naught. Zilch. He danced all the way home.

I am standing here today, free from debt. Set free from a load of debt I could never repay unless I’d won the lottery or. . .ok, that’s just silly. I have no debt. None. Zero. Zilch. Free. It feels good. I’d like to break into a song and dance routine, but it would scare the neighbors.

When someone pays a debt for you, a really big debt, after you recover from the shock and humility, you’re going to feel pretty good. Like Ray, you may want to dance. But one thing I would urge you to do: Do unto others. You’ve been forgiven, forgive others. No matter how big the debt incurred against you. Forgive. In complete forgiveness, there is true freedom.

I know this is a little different, but it comes from my heart. Thanks for reading.

The Refurbished Christmas Gift

When I was six, my family lived in San Diego, California. The house we lived in was just blocks away from the San Diego Zoo and the mission at Balboa, so our yard was often filled with exotic sounds like the roar of a lion; trumpet of elephants and call of the peacock.We didn’t have much money, but my mother would always find a way to make Christmas special for us. 
Dad had been looking for another place to live, further out from town, so we would often spend the weekend looking at houses. I liked one particular house very much, because it had an upper story, which fascinated me. There was even a life-sized cardboard cutout of Shirley Temple in one upstairs bedroom. In the yard, there was a pile of trash; junk left behind by former residents. On that pile, I saw a handmade doll cradle. It was broken and dirty, full of leaves and rainwater, but to me it was a treasure. Only rich kids had such things. I knelt down beside it as children often do, to get a better look. In my heart was a deep longing, too innocent to be described as covetous. 
Christmas Eve, my older brother and I were begging to stay up. “Just a little bit longer, please!” To no avail, for I’m sure my mother had a million things to do to get ready for the big day. She stubbornly resisted our pleas. She even received a little unexpected help by way of a stiff breeze outside. The front door blew open, just about six inches or so. Mike and I stopped our pleading to look at it, eyes large and mouths open. 
“See there?” Mom said, always quick on the uptake. “Santa is trying to come, but you two are still up! He can’t come in while you’re awake.” There was no more argument. We ran as fast as we could and jumped into our beds. 
Early Christmas morning, we tiptoed back out to see what treasures had been left for us overnight. Oh, there seemed to be so much stuff beneath that tree! My brothers dived in at once, grabbing toys and showing them off to one another. I stood in awe, for there to my great surprise and joy, was the same little doll cradle that I had seen on that trash pile. I knew it was the very same one, even though it had received a fresh coat of powder blue paint and was no longer broken.
Mom had made a small mattress and pillow, complete with embroidered sheet and pillowcase. A brand new doll lay on top of it all. That doll could cry real tears and wet her diaper, but I barely noticed her. I was enraptured; overjoyed with the refurbished cradle, even though I knew its last home had been a trash pile. 

Long after I outgrew playing with dolls, that cradle sat in my room. When I was finished with it, Mom (a big believer in living green) used it as a planter. Every time I saw it, I remembered that special Christmas. This has become one of my most cherished memories. 

It’s not always necessary to spend a lot of money to make Christmas special. Sometimes a little imagination and a whole lot of love can bring the most joy to someone’s heart. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?