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Christmas Wreath


The Advocate



22 Authors Share Their Most Memorable Christmas

by C.J. Darlington


December 25th. A day to celebrate the birth of our Lord. It's also a day when many of us hope to spend time with family relaxing and enjoying a little time off. Whether rich or poor, single or married, part of a huge family or a family of one or two, chances are there's a Christmas that sticks out in your mind as one you'll never forget. These authors share theirs with us. May we never forget the joy of Christmas and the reason we celebrate!!

Enjoy their stories, shared in no particular order:



Francine RiversFrancine Rivers (Marta's Legacy series): The most memorable Christmas was the year Rick and I got married – on December 21, 1969. We had an evening candlelight wedding at the Pleasanton Presbyterian Church and reception at a Haps Restaurant. We didn’t leave until late, and we were tired. We had planned to drive to the family cabin in Pinecrest, high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains beyond Twain Harte. It was going to be a cozy, snowy honeymoon. We drove about ten miles and checked into a motel on the outskirts of Livermore and shared a bottle of champagne my father had given Rick for the occasion. The next day, we took our time driving up to our honeymoon “lodge”, trekked through the snow and shivered our way over the threshold. Rick built a nice fire in the Her Daughter's DreamFranklin stove while I got dinner ready: chicken and artichokes! After dinner, we settled into the hide-a-bed in front of a Franklin stove. We awakened to rats invading the aircraft potty garbage can in search of our leftovers. Rick banged the coal shovel on the floor and the rats scurried away. They came back quickly, and were not again frightened off by banging shovel or shouts. We moved into the bedroom and let them have their “Christmas dinner” in peace. We returned in time for the family Christmas Eve gathering. Everyone was there, including my parents. Needless to say, everyone was teasing the newlyweds about their three day honeymoon in a frigid, rat-infested cabin with snow up around the windows. Over the years, we have gone away for a couple of days on our anniversary. After 40 years of marriage (41 this year), that first Christmas together remains one of our fondest memories. www.francinerivers.com



Christmas at Harrington'sMelody CarlsonMelody Carlson (Christmas at Harrington's):
One of my most memorable Christmases started out as a natural disaster. When I was eight, we experienced the worst flood in recorded Oregon history. Just a few days before Christmas, our streets became shallow rivers and the governor proclaimed a state of emergency. As a result, my mom, a single parent, decided it was unwise to make our usual three hour trek to our grandparents’ house. But my sister and I protested. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas unless we went. Mom finally gave in and we piled into the car and headed out.

Flood waters climbed higher as we neared the coast, and about halfway there the road was closed due to “high water.” The state policeman told travelers to cross “at their own risk.” We followed a Volkswagen Bug into the water—then actually witnessed the bug floating away! Of course, there was nothing to do besides plow through the water, which appeared to be nearly two feet deep! Thankfully, our ‘52 Chevy did not float away, although water seeped in and pooled on the floors. We made it safely to the grandparents, where our other relatives were gathered and had the happiest Christmas ever! www.MelodyCarlson.com


Leanna EllisFaceliftLeanna Ellis (Facelift):
My most memorable Christmas was twelve years ago when my baby boy was only six months old. Of course, it's very exciting for that very first Christmas with a baby, especially your first. You get to finally play Santa! But what made this Christmas extra special was that my son was born with a hole in his heart. Two weeks after his birth, we were sitting in a pediatric cardiologist's office having an echo-cardiagram done. Let me tell you, that's a pretty scary situation. It's not like his nose was born crooked. Nothing else will get you on your knees like the health of one of your children. But the Lord healed my son's heart and changed mine. When we had his recheck with the cardiologist right before Christmas the hole had closed, which meant he wouldn't need to have surgery or a procedure done to close it. For us, it was truly a season of miracles. www.LeannaEllis.com



Amy ClipstonA Place of PeaceAmy Clipston (A Place of Peace):

While I am the mother of two boys under the age of ten, I think the most memorable Christmas was the one before our older son was born. He was due at the end of January, and we knew he was going to be a boy. We were so full of anticipation and excitement that we lined wrapped gifts up for him under the tree. Santa brought him cases full of Hot Wheels cars and a full set of Sesame Street dolls. He still plays with the cars, but I don’t think he ever looked at the dolls. That Christmas we knew we had some much to be thankful for and to look forward to. All of the Christmases since he and his brother were born have been magical, but I think that Christmas was one of the most exciting for us. www.AmyClipston.com


Julie LessmanA Hope UndauntedJulie Lessman (A Hope Undaunted):
Certainly one of the most memorable Christmas's I've ever had would have to be the first Christmas I was engaged. First of all, that anyone would marry me in the first place was pretty special to me because I was the last of thirteen kids in my family to get married and quite frankly at almost 28, I thought it would never happen! :) Anyway, in a family that large, all the kids would wake up Christmas morning to a wall of presents halfway up our ceiling-height tree. I remember it being pure chaos with everyone opening gifts at the same time, paper flying and everything over within minutes. It wasn’t until that first Christmas with my fiance (now my husband) that I experienced his family tradition of sitting in a circle while each person took their turn opening one present at a time. Say what??? A Christmas with order and peace and appreciation??? How novel!! I truly never realized how magical and peaceful Christmas could be. Lots of ooohhs and ahhhs laced with love and gratitude while we enjoyed the unwrapping of other’s gifts as well as our own. Pure bliss!!

And as if that wasn't enough, God taught me a valuable lesson that year when my fiance gave me a watch, which I absolutely hated! Now, it wasn’t his fault because God knows I am one of the most particular people on the planet when it comes to watches—they have to be digital, waterproof, have a day and date window, a second hand, have both silver and gold metal on it so I can wear it with either gold or silver jewelry, and a stretch band skinny enough to fit my wrist. Yeah, you get the picture—NOT easy to find, especially with numbers big enough for someone with poor vision to see.

So I faked it, of course, thanking my future husband and telling him how pretty it was because he was just so darn proud of his gift (and it was pretty, of course, just not what I wanted!!). But I didn’t “fake it” with God, oh no!! I went straight to His throne in prayer and BEGGED Him to help me love this watch. I even went so far as to write the prayer request on a piece of paper and put it in my Bible so I could pray it every day. Which was fine … until my husband used my Bible a few years later and found the note. “You don’t like your watch??” he confronted me with hurt in his eyes. “What are you talking about?” I asked, somewhat confused. He held up the note. “You told God you hated it in this prayer note I found in your Bible.” Gulp … oh-oh … BUSTED!!! So I gave the love of my life my brightest smile and a quick kiss on the lips and said, “Oh, that was then, babe, but I love it now, really!” And you know what? I did!! www.JulieLessman.com



Tessa AfsharPearl in the SandTessa Afshar (Pearl in the Sand):
The first Christmas after I became a Christian is the one etched most deeply in my memory. I was cooking most of the Christmas dinner that year. There was a juicy roast sitting in a pyrex dish in the oven. My sister-in-law came into the kitchen to heat up a sauce and she walked out without realizing she had left the stove on. Because we had an electric stove, I didn’t notice, and placed the roast on the stove. The dish exploded! We were just about to serve dinner, so most of the rest of the food was sitting on the kitchen counter. Shards of glass went everywhere: in the food, on the floor, in my hair. But there was not one scratch on me.

Because this was the first time I knew, soul-deep, what I was celebrating, I had wanted my family to have a perfect experience of the birth of the Savior. My plans went awry, of course. Our dinner that Christmas was more meager than I had planned, but my heart overflowed with the joy of Jesus’ protection. Everything had turned out perfect after all. www.TessaAfshar.com


Candace CalvertCode TriageCandace Calvert (Code Triage):
As an ER nurse, I often chose to work Christmas—the evening shift, which allowed me to have morning with my family. Then I’d pull on my scrubs (green, with a festive holiday vest and candy cane socks) and go to work while everyone else was flaked out on the couch eating See’s candy.

Patients only come to the ER on Christmas if they’re really sick or hurting. Like toddlers who eat glass ornaments or mistletoe berries; desperately lonely people that swallow a handful of pills---washed down with a bottle of brandy; elderly folks, sadly confused, who arrive with suitcases . . . dropped off by family who find them too much of a burden on that festive day.

Christmas shifts had their up sides too: free pressed-turkey dinners, carols on the PA system, paramedics in Santa hats, tinsel and garland strung between gurneys. Overtime pay. And mostly, the priceless camaraderie of a team of people willing to share their Christmas Day in the true spirit of giving. Comforting that toddler, listening to the lonely person, and even being substitute family to an abandoned senior citizen. Those days felt good—and will always be among my most memorable Christmases. www.CandaceCalvert.com


Jeff NesbitPeaceJeff Nesbit (Peace):
Our most memorable Christmas was 2008 – the first one our family was in different parts of the world on Christmas day. Our oldest son, Josh, was in Malawi, implementing a new pilot project that allowed community health workers in 100 rural villages in Malawi to send simple text messages to St. Gabriel’s hospital via cell phones and a software database system called Frontline SMS. Back in the states, our family translated the messages in Chichewa to English, coded the messages and organized every SMS sent by the community health workers by keywords or phrases (e.g. symptoms, deaths, malaria, tuberculosis, etc.). That Christmas project for our family doubled the number of diagnosed TB cases in those 100 rural villages, and was the
beginning of what is now a new global public health campaign: www.hopephones.org.


Alison Strobel MorrowReinventing RachelAlison Strobel (Reinventing Rachel):
My most memorable Christmas was the one I spent away from my family for the first time. I was studying abroad in Scotland my junior year of college, and a friend and I spent our winter break traveling around Britain. We stayed in a B&B in Edinburgh, Scotland for Christmas, and I remember using up two phone cards calling my family back in Illinois on Christmas morning. It was very bittersweet--I was having an amazing time in Europe, but Christmas is my favorite holiday, and I always cherished the family traditions we celebrated every year. I cried a lot that day! But it was also really lovely, being somewhere so different on one of my favorite days of the year.
www.AlisonStrobel.com


Colleen CobleThe Lightkeeper's BrideColleen Coble (The Lightkeeper's Bride):
From the time my children were born, I thought about the mate they would someday pick. After I became a Christian, I began praying for my "new" kids who would join the family. But our son didn't seem inclined to settle down. He turned twenty-five, then thirty. I began to think he would never find the right woman. Then he met Donna. My husband just knew she was the right woman for our son from the first time he saw her. One day Dave called up his dad and asked him how he knew I was the right woman for him. As my husband counseled our son, he was smiling because he knew he'd been right, and Donna was about to become our daughter.

Dave got Donna a ring for Christmas in 2005. He'd also gotten her a coat. In the pocket of the coat, he hid the ring. She liked the coat, and thought that was all there was to it. He told her to look in the pocket. When she pulled out the ring box, I think she thought it was earrings or a necklace. She opened the box, looked at the ring, then at Dave, then back to the ring. She screamed and leaped into his arms. He said, "I take it that's a yes?" She nodded incoherently against his shoulder. It was a moment I love and still smile when I think about. And she was so worth waiting for---a perfect fit for our family. And thanks to her, we now have our granddaughter Alexa who is the light of our lives! www.ColleenCoble.com



Robert J. MorganThe Nativity CollectionRobert J. Morgan (The Nativity Collection):
My most memorable Christmas? That’s easy. It was Christmas of 1978, the night we brought our firstborn home from the hospital. My wife and I had just begun our first year in our first pastorate---a little stone church in the Tennessee mountains. Katrina was expecting, and her due date was January 22. Our house, the church parsonage, was very small, but I'd taken the spare bedroom for a study. One evening about a week before Christmas I was at my little desk working on a sermon while Katrina washed the supper dishes (Don’t ask me why I wasn’t helping her; I don’t remember). I heard footsteps running to the bathroom as though in a panic, and the next thing I knew we were headed to the hospital. Though Victoria came a month early, we were able to bring her home on Christmas Eve with a little Santa Stocking on her head. That night, as we sat by the Christmas tree with our new bundle of love in our arms, we had the truest sense over of what Christmas was all about. www.RobertJMorgan.com



DigitalisRonie KendigRonie Kendig (Digitalis):
One of my most memorable Christmases was Christmas 1985. My parents were divorced, and it was just me and my mother at home. Having immigrated from Ireland in 1963, my mother did not have a very strong start in life in terms of education, but she was working full time as a daycare director at a church, which did not pay much at all.

That Christmas, I was shocked at all the gifts my mother gave me. She had no money; we were drinking powdered milk, getting food from friends who felt sorry for us, and from the shelter downtown. . . yet under the tree she had a sterling silver swan ring holder, a brass/glass trinket tray, and treats.

Stunned, I asked her (with a great deal of grief over the money spent) how she afforded all that? Sheepishly, she said that by filling out credit card applications—ones she knew she didn’t qualify for and was rejected (how humiliating for her!)—she was given the gifts free.

And in Christmas 1992, she worked her Christmas “magic,” once again. A pair of gold-plated earrings with a pearl drop from Avon, a used book about the Bronte sisters from the library where she worked. . . It was our last Christmas together. But she taught me so much about making the most of Christmas, even when finances are dry as the winter ground. By the way—I still have all those gifts and remember her generous spirit. www.RonieKendig.com


Robin Jones GunnUnder A Maui MoonRobin Jones Gunn (Under A Maui Moon): My most memorable Christmas is this year because my husband and I just moved to Hawaii! We are in the midst of unpacking boxes and are waiting for our car to be shipped over from the mainland but we are here! After 35 years of coming here every chance we could, God opened a wide door of opportunity and we are now officially Island Dwellers. I'm trying to persuade my wonderful husband to string twinkle lights on the palm tree by our driveway. He's more interested in getting all these boxes out of the hallway. Mele Kalikimaka!
www.RobinGunn.com



Carla StewartChasing LilacsCarla Stewart (Chasing Lilacs):
My five-year-old fingers trembled as I tore off the wrapping paper. Granny’s Christmas presents were always the best! From the box I lifted out a fat, pink, crocheted doll. Pepto-Bismol pink. With embroidered slanted eyes. Black yarn hair in equally fat braids. Even the dress was
crocheted. It was horrible. Ugly. And scary.

I burst into tears and ran from the room.

Immediately I knew what an awful thing I’d done. Mother followed and held out the doll. My fingers reached for it, but I couldn’t touch it.

“Take it,” she said. “And tell Granny thank you.”

How Granny, with her arthritic gnarled fingers that crocheted exquisite doilies and tablecloths, could’ve made the ugly doll seemed impossible. But she’d made it for me.

I took another look. The red yarn mouth tilted into a smile. I touched her soft, nappy body, then held her close. Warmth enveloped me.

When I marched back into the living room, clutching the doll, Granny opened her arms. I ran into them and buried my face in her familiar bosom. Love for the doll . . . and Granny with her lovely, twisted hands . . . nearly burst my heart. “Thank you, Granny.” www.CarlaStewart.com


Julie CannonI'll Be Home For ChristmasJulie L. Cannon (I'll Be Home for Christmas):
I was thirteen years old that December; an awkward, gangly-limbed, myopic girl with no boyfriend. It was a Christmas my father made memorable for me. When he called to me to jump in our station wagon, I had no idea where we were going. We rode way out into the Georgia countryside, past expanses of pine trees and frozen ponds, finally pulling down a long dirt road and stopping beside a barn. "Come on, gal," my father said, a twinkle in his eye as he climbed out and opened the back of the car. I stood beside him, gazing open-mouthed at a Western saddle and bridle. For years I'd been in love with the shape and the smell and the thought of horses, but I knew money was tight in our household and I would never dream of asking for a horse. But on that day, I became the proud owner of an aging Arabian mare named Molly who was blind in one eye. But she was perfect in my eyes, and I still tremble with gratitude now, at forty-eight years old, when I think of that Christmas. www.JulieCannon.info


Mike DellossoDarlington WoodsMike Dellosso (Darlington Woods):
Like most kids, my childhood Christmases were spent mostly in the homes of relatives I saw once, maybe twice a year. Easter being the other time. We’d get up early, open our presents, then hit the road, leaving our new Star Wars figures and Atari games behind. The rest of the day was spent getting kissed by great aunts with whiskers, teased by loud-mouthed uncles, and sitting around listening to awkward conversations, thinking of all the other things I’d rather be doing. Like most kids, I just wanted to spend Christmas at home and enjoy my toys.

A few years ago my wish came true. The snow started falling on Christmas Eve and went all through the night. It accumulated quickly and by the time we awoke Christmas morning the world was tucked in with a blanket of white . . . and the snow was still coming down. All day it fell, piling up nearly two feet.

We were stuck, stranded, and forced to stay home the entire day. After thirty-some years I finally got to spend Christmas at home playing with toys. With three little daughters there were no Star Wars figures or Atari games, but it didn’t matter. www.MikeDellosso.com



Tricia GoyerBeside Still WatersTricia Goyer (Beside Still Waters):
Last year was a memorable Christmas, just four days before a birth mom, who was seven months pregnant, approached us about adopting her baby. She was a friend of a friend and knew we were open to adoption. I met with the birthmom and then she met the rest of the family. We hit if off and were thrilled when she confirmed she did want us to be her child's parents. Alyssa Catherine Marie is 9 months old now. She is a doll! Last year at this time I was just learning about this little girl who has been a great gift to our family ... and this year I'm trying to keep her out of the Christmas presents! Joy!
www.TriciaGoyer.com


Muareen LangWhisper on the WindMaureen Lang (Whisper on the Wind):
My first reaction to this question is to think back to my childhood, since that’s such an exciting time for kids and I have so many wonderful ones to remember. Instead, I’m going back only about a dozen years, to the day my family and I moved into the house we’ve lived in since then. We took possession on Christmas Eve, and my husband and our three children arrived from the closing with just enough stuff to “camp out” for that night and to open presents in the morning around a miniature pre-lit and pre-decorated tree. Soon after that, our friends and families arrived to help us move in the rest of our belongings. What a gift that was! Everybody was shivering but cheerful, happy to spend the holiday together and helping out. When the last box was brought in from the truck, we sat down to a traditional holiday meal, catered by my mother. It wasn’t our usual Christmas Day celebration, but it was fun and memorable! www.MaureenLang.com


Anita HigmanLove Finds You Under the MistletoeAnita Higman (Love Finds You Under the Mistletoe):
When you live in subtropical Houston you only dream of a white Christmas—you rarely ever get one. So, when a Christmas Eve came along with the promise of snow, everyone was tuned into the coming miracle.

And then it happened. The white magic came.

Our whole family was so enamored with the white stuff that we had to be a part of it. But, unfortunately, the snowfall had been about an hour drive from us. Only a tiny problem. We were not deterred. We ate our Christmas lunch, locked up the house, and drove in breathless anticipation until we saw no more green. Finally we found a park with quilts and blankets of pristine snow and got right down to the serious business of having fun. We rolled up a snowman, took photos for next year’s Christmas newsletter, hurled a few balls, and drove home full of sighs and Christmas memories.

Snow, glorious snow. ‘Twas a Christmas to remember. www.AnitaHigman.com


J. Mark BertrandBack on MurderJ. Mark Bertrand (Back on Murder):
My wife and I set off across the frozen plains of Minnesota one Christmas Day, driving a borrowed car. What we didn’t know was that the fuel gauge was broken. We ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere, with the needle still pointing to the halfway mark. I trudged to the nearest farm house, underdressed for the biting wind, but no one answered my knock. My teeth started to chatter. I had an image of myself freezing to death on Christmas Day. We started hiking down the highway.

A lone car pulled up.

The driver and passenger wore dirty hunting coats, their faces hidden in a cloud of cigarette smoke. I was half inclined to keep walking, but what choice did we have? We slid into the back seat.

Pretty soon, the driver turned off the highway, telling us the nearest gas pump was inside a nearby barn. Right. We exchanged a look. I was pretty sure we were dead.

The barn contained a grimy tractor and every sort of scythe you can imagine, the blades dangling ominously overhead. The one ray of light landed on an ancient gas pump. They found a farmer, who filled a jerry can for us. Afterward, the two hunters dropped us back at our car in one piece, wishing us a Merry Christmas.

“Merry Christmas,” I called back to them, and I really meant it. They were an unlikely looking pair of angels, but I hope they got their wings. www.jMarkBertrand.com


Mary EllisThe Way to a Man's HeartMary Ellis (The Way to a Man's Heart):
Every year we spent Christmas eve with my parents. We would attend a huge family get-together, then go to church, followed by another big meal on Christmas Day. One year my husband insisted we do something "fun", so we booked a mini-vacation in Vermont. I was enjoying skiing on the wooded trails of Killington, but also missing both my mom and worship on the holiest night of the year. Since I'm not very fast at anything in life, everyone else had skied ahead and left me. Slow-poke-me rounded a turn in the trail and spotted something wonderful. Someone had set up a small manger scene under a pine tree, complete with stable, shepherds and angels. Votive candles lit the blessed scene which warmed my heart and soul. Turns out, everyone else had skied on past without noticing. But I saw Jesus in the manger, reminding me that my family was with me in my heart. And that God was always around the next bend in the road for every Christian. Merry Christmas!
www.maryellis.wordpress.com


Neta JacksonWho Is My Shelter?Neta Jackson (Who Do I Talk To?, Yada Yada series):
My most memorable Christmases were the years we were involved in "household ministry" for our church, which meant the large, three-story house we lived in was also home to another family or two (often a single mom with kids) and several singles—up to twelve of us at a time. At Christmastime, twelve stockings were hung by the fireplace with care. We drew names and most gifts were handmade (sewn or knitted or hammered or baked). We hid baby Jesus from the manager scene, and the household kids took turns moving the Mary & Joseph figures closer and closer to the creche under the tree until Christmas Eve, when Baby Jesus mysteriously appeared (if we remembered where we'd hidden Him!). A candlelight service at church was followed by caroling in the snowy neighborhood afterward . . . and Christmas morning was a delicious delirium opening twelve stockings at once. But "Secret Santa" gifts were opened one by one so all could enjoy the special thought that had gone into each one. Whatever difficulties we faced living with so many people were overshadowed when we celebrated the birth of the One who enabled us to live together in love and forgiveness. www.daveneta.com


C.J. DarlingtonC.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.