For today’s post, I am sharing the first writing that I ever did. I had no idea when I wrote this story in 1999 how many stories and articles that I would eventually write. I wrote this story sixteen years ago and gave it to my parents as a Christmas gift. I had long ago forgotten about writing it until one evening last week when suddenly the memory of writing it came back to me. I texted my mom and asked her about the story, and she told me that she had just seen it a couple of days ago. She sent it to me, and I retyped it so that I could use it as my Christmas Eve post. I did my best not to change the story as I typed it. I did fix a few things like typos and misplaced commas, but for the most part it is in its original form.
When I first reread it, I was quite surprised that the tone of the story is very similar to many of the posts that I have already written for this blog. I know that I should not have been surprised, but I was. This story and the letter that served as the introduction is proof that God continues to talk to us even when we are completely unaware of it and that His words do not change with time. The only thing that really changes is our understanding of His words and our willingness to listen to His voice and go where He leads. I hope you will enjoy this story, and I hope that it will help you achieve a little bit more of that much sought after Christmas spirit.
December 25, 1999
Mom and Dad,
This is a very special season in the history of our family, a time to be together and to show our love for each other through gifts. As you know, the most precious gifts are those that come from the heart. This is one of those gifts.
This story is based on a time in our lives long ago. It’s about the most precious gift of all, the love shared within a family. It’s about two parents who never knew the meaning of selfishness and sacrificed to provide for their family. It’s about having faith in God and resting in His wisdom.
This story is not a masterpiece and if you look closely, you will find many mistakes, but it came from my heart. I hope that it somehow brightens your day. I hope that you always know that your many sacrifices have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated. Always remember, God has a plan. He always does, but sometimes people forget and try to make their own imperfect plans. People can only see a little way down the road, but He can see the whole trip. I dedicate this story to both of you with all my love.
The Best Christmas Ever
The wind was unusually bitter as Darlene went to her car in the deserted parking lot of the grocery store where she worked. Darlene had just worked the night shift, and the Thanksgiving rush had worn her out and made her feel much older than her 36 years. Darlene had decided a long time ago that she would be a stay at home mom, a decision not very popular in the early 1980s. But the situation she and her husband, George, were in now completely changed her plans. George, a hard working coal miner, had been laid off a few years before. The only way for their family to survive was for both of them to get minimum wage jobs to try to make ends meet.
That night the wind sent a cold chill through Darlene. An even colder chill was felt deep in the pit of her stomach. The cold weather was an all too real reminder that Christmas was coming. This would normally fill Darlene with warm thoughts, but on that night it brought her terrible dread. For at home in their beds were three little boys. Darlene thought of how much she loved those boys. They were “the apples of her eyes.” She would have gladly given her life for them. She and George wanted to give them everything, but finances seemed to make that impossible. At this time of year it didn’t seem like enough to just clothe them, feed them, and provide a warm bed for them. They wanted to make all of their Christmas fantasies come true.
When Darlene arrived home, she went in to check on the boys. They were fast asleep and had been for quite some time. As tears filled her eyes, she whispered a silent prayer, “Dear Lord, provide for my boys this year. George and I need your help desperately.” Darlene finally got into bed after doing the dishes, packing lunches, and doing a load of laundry. When she lay down in bed, she began to fall asleep when suddenly she was awakened by hundreds of ideas.
Christmas was the season when anything was possible, and in the early hours of that morning Darlene really began to believe it. She took mental notes of all the things she needed to do. As she began to fall asleep again, she whispered another prayer, “Thank you Lord, I know everything will be okay.”
The next month seemed to fly by. Darlene and George were busy with their jobs and trying to raise their boys. Still, somehow, they each found time to complete, one-by-one, all of the projects on Darlene’s list. It seemed, at times, they would never finish. Deep down they both knew they would.
Soon it was Christmas Eve, and the boys were in their beds trying desperately to go to sleep. When the last gift was wrapped and placed under the tree, Darlene and George stood back in awe. “This sure doesn’t look like a Christmas Tree of a family who was without money. In fact, it looks like a tree of a prosperous family,” they thought. Darlene and George went to bed satisfied and thankful for their many blessings.
While she was laying in bed that early Christmas Morning, Darlene found it hard to imagine that her boys were having more trouble sleeping than she. Finally, six a.m. arrived. Soon the bedroom door opened, and she heard tiny footsteps. Without opening her eyes, she knew who it was, her youngest. The older boys always sent him to wake them. He was the most persistent, a quality Darlene was sure would assist him in the future. He spoke in a child’s voice, but sounded much older. “Mom, get up,” he said. “It is Christmas Morning and Santa has been here.” Darlene nudged George and said, “Did you hear that, honey? Santa’s been here.” Darlene and George wanted to jump out of bed and run for the tree, but it was Christmas, a time when tradition is very important. So, they both acted like they couldn’t possibly get out of bed. They even suggested that they all go back to bed and get up later that morning. Well, their youngest wouldn’t hear of it and almost demanded that they get up.
When they were all in front of the tree and Darlene and George saw the expressions on the boys’ faces, they knew that all of the hard work they had put in was well worth it. It seemed like the boys would never finish opening their presents. Each new gift was greeted with a loud cry of joy, especially from the oldest and youngest, who had the most trouble controlling themselves. Darlene and George could tell by the looks on their faces that they were happy and a little surprised. The boys had always been aware of the circumstances and had often wandered to themselves what Christmas would be like. It never, in their wildest imagination, was as good as this Christmas. Throughout the day, the boys could be heard saying, “This was the best Christmas ever,” and it was.
It would not be until years later that the sacrifices of that Christmas would be truly realized. Darlene and George had used their birthday and Christmas money that they had received from their parents. Even though they could have used the money for themselves, it was never considered. Darlene and George also made things for their boys, a tradition that would be carried on throughout the years.
George finally got another job in a coal mine, and Darlene was able to quit her job. The boys quickly grew up to become men, and they all went to college, another sacrifice made by Darlene and George. The oldest child, Rob, became an English teacher at the junior high in their hometown. Dan, the middle child became a special education teacher. The youngest, Andy, will graduate, with honors, in the spring with a major in Political Science. He will then go on to law school and become a lawyer. Even though the boys are adults now, they still think of that Christmas when their family was struggling and they will still reply, to this day, that it was The Best Christmas Ever.
The picture above is of my brothers and me. (Left) Andy, (Center) Rob, & (Right) Dan
As with any family, a lot has changed in the last sixteen years. My dad was able to work for many years as a coal miner and never lost his job again. He was finally able to retire in July 2015 after 44 years of being a coal miner. My mom continues to make gifts for us each year and each gift she makes is truly a gift that comes from her heart. She has been blessed with many gifts and she uses those gifts to bring joy to the people she loves.
Rob was married in 2000 and has two grown stepdaughters. He has been a wonderful father to his two girls and has given them a life that they would have never had had he not entered into their lives. Sadly, we do not see Rob anymore. He has chosen to live his life separated from us. We all hope that one day he will come back and be a part of our family. Until that day, we think of him and have fond memories of all the Christmases that we spent together as a family.
Andy, who we now call Andrew, did indeed go to law school and he is a very talented and dedicated lawyer. He met his wife, Amy, while they were both attending law school and they were married in 2004. They have three children, Katie is 9, Jake is 6, and Tessa is 2. The addition of these four people has made our family even better, and we have made and will continue to make many wonderful memories together.
Of course, you all know me, Dan, the middle child. I am still a special education teacher, and I also write and do photography for the magazine A Primitive Place & Country Journal magazine. I met Jeff in 2002, and we will finally be married on September 17, 2016 after being together for 14 years, proving that love certainly is patient.
When I look at how far our family has come in the last 16 years and think about all the good times and the bad times, the joy and the pain, the triumphs and the tragedies, there is one common thread that continues to bind us together, and that is love. The love we share for each other is strong and real. It has allowed us to overcome the bad times, the pain, and the tragedy. It has made us appreciate the good times, the joy, and the triumphs a little more. It has given us an ability to continue to move forward, always knowing that there is someone there to catch us when we fall. It has reminded us that the love of family is a gift that God gives to each of us. It is one of the many gifts that God has bestowed on us, and it is one that will sustain us throughout our lives because it is the memories of the good times, the sacrifices, and the thoughtfulness that we hold onto.
Those memories remind us of the important things in life and remind us of the love that God has for all of us. The love that God gives us will change our lives if we will just accept it and do our best to make the world a better place. It is a love that will bring peace to this world and PEACE MATTERS!
From my family to yours, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and pray that 2016 will be a year of unyielding peace for you and your entire family. May there be peace on earth because PEACE MATTERS!