Soon, my yard will smell like onions. Why, you ask? Because in this part of the country, wild chives grow everywhere. When we mow the grass with all the chives popping up here and there, fresh onion odor infuses the air. Not terrible, but I would prefer the smell of freshly mowed grass. I love all the fragrances that welcome springtime. Daffodils and Bradford pear trees are in full bloom; my azalea has buds, and soon tulips and hyacinths will be out. I close my eyes, breathe in God’s wonderful perfume, and give thanks. The new freshness of springtime is amazing and beautiful, and I worship my Lord in it. Continue reading
A year ago around this time I was devastated. Driving home in a daze, I reflected on what just happened. Without warning, I had been told I could pack up my things and leave work. Just like that.Budget cuts and right-sizing had eliminated my job. I wasn’t sure what to think – what to do; our family medical insurance and major income came from my work.
But, as I look back over this past year, I can’t help but be amazed and feel blessed. Not even a month had passed when my husband was offered a full-time job – exactly what he’d hoped for—one that highlighted his skills, wisdom, and knowledge. I had scheduled yearly physical, dentist, and eye appointments in January – so all of those were out of the way. We were able to stock up on a quarter beef and half a hog in January—which provided meat in the freezer for a good part of the year. All those expenditures were taken care of.
While many gardens didn’t do so well last summer, ours boomed. We had fruit and vegetables galore with jars of jam, jelly, and spaghetti sauce canned.
My husband shot a grand buck and a turkey in our back woods – so now we had venison and turkey to add to our meat choices, plus fish from the pond.
During my hiatus, I was able to finish writing two novels, completing the Journey Home trilogy, and edit three other books for friends and help publish all of them.
Wonderful family time was spent with relatives from California to South Dakota and Ohio. I was able to enjoy
my “time off” with my favorite hobbies: spray-paint art and quilting. And God blessed those endeavors too by some amazing sales, and my art hung in the Gillioz in Springfield and in Museum Contempo in Olympia, WA.
But that’s not even the best part. I went back to work in a temporary setting in August, and from that job came the most wonderful position yet: a job where I can teach and train other employees in technology.
God is good, and His mercies everlasting. God knew all along where I would be, and knew more what I needed than what I thought I wanted.
He has our lives in His hands every day… if we only choose to trust.
Found on adventcandy.blogspot.com
Joseph helped the baby enter the world. They both marveled at the first cry. Beams of brilliant starlight suddenly streamed through the stable window, haloing the infant in Joseph’s arms.
“Look, Mary. Your son.” Mary took the soft cloths she brought with her and wrapped the first Christmas gift, settled back on the straw and closed her eyes in sweet relief and joy. “Thank you, Joseph,” her words faded as she drifted off to sleep, with the baby in her arms.
Joseph’s mind traveled back to a few months before as his mind wrestled with what to do. What was the right option?
He remembered how he had watched her from a distance. There was something mystical about her he couldn’t quite explain. He kept out of sight as she lowered her bucket into the well.
Her face, though pale and drawn, reflected a strange sort of peace and beauty – almost seemed to glow. Her body bulged with child. She just seemed so…so…so young. Only a babe herself, maybe in her early teens. Children pointed and laughed as their mothers pulled them away. Joseph watched them whisper to each other behind the girl’s back. The city elders frowned in disdain as they passed. Respectable women did not draw their water in the middle of the afternoon. Older men refused to look at her, but she drew her water determinedly and paid no attention to them. She held her head high and headed home with a strange smile on her lips, like she knew something no one else did.
She had been the talk of the community, and rightfully so. Me – her husband-to-be became a laughingstock. She was promised to me, and now she’s pregnant. The rumors flew through Nazareth. “Was it his? If not you, Joseph, then who? How could she? The law is clear: she must be punished. You must leave her. Her actions are shameful, her talk is that of a crazy woman. She is a disgrace to her family and a discredit to her once spotless reputation.”
Joseph gazed down upon his wife, now asleep on the hay. His heart melted with love at the sight of her peaceful face.
Mary had known the consequences of her actions, yet she willingly accepted them.The village thought she had gone mad. Her parents could not bear the stress and even sent her away for a while. He wondered at that time what secrets she knew. What was she was not telling him? She claimed it was God’s doing from the start. She said it was God’s special gift. She told me she was scared, but didn’t ask for pity – or forgiveness. She only wanted understanding.“Please, just trust me,” she had said. “I only need you to believe me.”
He remembered how his mind whirled.He knew the child wasn’t his; he was an honorable man. Her words did not make sense. Yet, he knew her to be a chaste woman. She would not prostitute herself as the townspeople claimed. He had thought of leaving her in a way that wouldn’t bring so much disgrace upon her and her family. He was beginning to think she was crazy too – until one night when he had such fitful sleep.
An angel had appeared to him in a dream one night and unveiled the secret. The dream was so real. He woke up with a new realization, and for some strange reason, he believed Mary.
The Child began to whimper, and he gently lifted the Babe from Mary’s arms. As he stroked the fuzzy hair of the child, the baby looked into Joseph’s eyes. Did he only imagine a look of approval? The baby nuzzled into Joseph’s chest and closed his eyes.
I’m glad I obeyed the angel and took Mary for my wife. I won’t regret my actions. God needs me to help raise His Son. The brilliant light from the huge star shone about the child, almost creating a halo around his head. He rocked the Babe and let his wife rest while he sat in awe with his thoughts.
Mary soon awoke, and seeing Joseph with the baby made her heart content. He would help her. They would be all right. She gave Joseph a weak smile. “Should we name him after you Joseph?”
“His name shall be called Jesus – just as the angel told me, Mary. Jesus Emmanuel, for indeed, tonight, God is with us.”
Reference: Matthew 1:18-25
Her pains subsided, giving her a moment’s respite. Highly favored among women? In a stinky stable with the animals? Mary’s thoughts tumbled in her tired brain. I am your handmaiden, I told the angel. Oh, what have I gotten myself into? I thought it would be different – not like this. She leaned back on the surrounding hay and sighed. Why here? Why now? She poked at the straw again to smooth out a space to feel comfortable. Another pain wrenched her body; she arched her back to subdue the pain, but it was too great. “OH!” A groan escaped her lips although she tried hard to be brave and strong. Is it really supposed to hurt this way? She bent over with the sharp pain. The contractions were minutes apart. Fear not, the angel said. But Lord – I’m afraid…
“Mary, what can I do to help?” Joseph’s face wrinkled with concern. “More blankets? I’ll see if we have any more.”
A few minutes of relief was granted and Mary gazed after the man to whom she was betrothed, busying himself with unnecessary things like a nervous father-to-be. The man who had first thought of leaving her because of this pregnancy. He hadn’t believed her…until…. But who would have? The child within is from the Holy Spirit? Mary smiled. It does sound unbelievable. How? I only know it’s true. I am a virgin, even though the townsfolk disbelieved me. Kind Joseph. What a wonderful man. The child isn’t even his, but he’s given me everything. He’ll be a good father.
She gazed through the opening of the dark little stable where they had found refuge. What a bright star tonight. We may need the extra light so Joseph can deliver this baby. Mary marveled at God’s handiwork in the skies. Even Heaven knows Someone special will be coming into the world tonight. Wish my mother could have helped with the birth. She wanted so badly to see her grandchild born. And dear Aunt Elizabeth – she would be happy for me too. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest. The Lord God shall give him the throne of his father David and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever. Of his kingdom there shall be no end. What does it all mean?
Her ponderings were interrupted as she was taken by another sharp contraction; her breath came in quick pants.
“Joseph…” she whispered through her agony. “It’s time…I need your help….”
…to be continued.
“Sorry. I have to rest a minute.” Her face grimaced as another pain took her breath away. She grabbed her over-taut stomach and pleaded with her eyes.
He sighed with concern. They had stopped way too many times so she could rest along the seventy-mile trek. As he watched her ease herself onto a nearby rock, his heart melted. How could I have brought her with me on this dangerous trip? Thieves were known to occupy this territory. However, the law demanded she travel with him. All citizens had to be counted, and they had to be there in person to sign in.
The journey had been long and tedious. Almost a week on foot over rocky mountains and terrain. It took much longer than they anticipated. Mary caught her breath to ease the pains that were starting to come with good regularity. Her husband watched in dismay as many travelers passed them by; they had lost valuable time in their journey, and darkness was upon them. He had to get Mary to a place where she could lie down. He saw a man pass with a burro in tow. Maybe he could buy it.
“Sir,” he said as he approached the man, “my wife.” He glanced Mary’s way. “Would you consider selling me your burro?”
The man looked at Mary sitting on the rock, her arms clutched around her belly. Kindness flooded his eyes. “I don’t need the burro,” he said. “You can have her. Let the mother ride the rest of the way.”
Joseph was grateful; they could be on their way again.
By late night, they finally reached Bethlehem, the small village of their ancestors. They had no family or friends in town, no reservations either. They had to take their chances at finding a place to stay. From place to place they asked, but the answer was always the same, “Sorry, we are full. You should have come earlier.”
Joseph didn’t want Mary out in the cold and dark with the baby soon to come. Only one place left to ask. “Please,” he pleaded. “My wife needs to lie down. Her pains are great, the child is soon to come.”
The innkeeper watched the young girl bending over the burro’s neck, gripping the mane with one hand, holding her stomach with the other. He looked back into the inn behind him. It was raucous with laughter; he had already let too many in for the night. Yet, he knew he couldn’t turn them away or leave them in the cold. He took pity on the young mother-to-be. “There’s a small space by the animals – out back,” he pointed with his head. “Best I can do. There’s just no room here.” He shrugged his shoulders and went back inside.
Joseph had other thoughts about the innkeeper while he bunched the hay into a makeshift bed, but he said nothing. He put his robes over top of the hay and helped Mary down as she clutched her belly.
“Help me…” her eyes pleaded as she contorted with another contraction.
…to be continued.
by Qene’ Jeffers
He wanted a Christmas tree. I wanted a Nativity.
The year was 1973. It was our first Christmas together in our own home located in Chula Vista, California. Pat spent most of that year on a tour of duty in Viet Nam – sweeping the harbor for mines. We were away from family, we were away from friends, but it was home because he was there. I was content with that. After much discussion and counting of coins the Christmas tree won out. Not because Pat was stronger, or selfish, or a slick-talker. No, the tree won because it was cheaper than the Nativity and we were poor folk living on the wages of a United States Navy sailor. I didn’t mind, really. I was just glad to be with him and once the tree was set and a few homemade decorations placed in the branches, I forgot all about the Nativity…..almost.
One sunny afternoon on a warm day in mid-December, my groom arrived home from duty with a smile on his face and his hands behind his back. We teasingly played coy guessing games, I chased him around the room, and finally when flirting and sweet-talk didn’t work he slowly brought his hands around for my eyes to see.
As he opened his fingers I saw the faint colors of pink and blue and gold. I couldn’t believe it as he held open his cupped hands and revealed the daintiest, most perfect little Nativity that I had ever seen! The pieces were no more than three inches tall but their shape and color were perfect in every way. There sat beautiful mother Mary, gazing lovingly at her babe. Proud Joseph, staff in hand, stood at her side beholding the beloved Christ Child. And, there in a little manger, perfect and precious, was the Son of God – Son of Man – Yeshua, our Jesus.
I cried with joy that day. All these years later I still remember the excitement of that moment. My shrieks of glee filled the room as I begged to know how he came to own it – to give it. He proudly shared the story of how he saw it in the ship’s store window as a decoration for Christmas. The minute he saw it, he knew he had to have it. It was only after much talking and convincing that he was able to purchase it for me, his bride. The purchase took every penny of the change he had in his pocket, but at the time the price of $2.00 seemed small for such a treasure that was so valued, so desired.
For many years that little Nativity was the only one I owned. I now own more than thirty sets, big and little, plain and beautiful. But that little Nativity, that priceless gift from my beloved Pat, is my favorite of them all.
Receiving this priceless gift and claiming it as my own reminds me of the priceless and perfect gift given to us by our Heavenly Father. It is unlike any gift that has ever been given or received. It is truly a gift beyond compare.
John 1:12-14 KJV
12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
The Father gave me Jesus and I received Him…..have you?
About the Author – Qene’ Manon Jeffers
She says, “This was such a special time in our lives. We have truly come full circle – once again, it’s just Pat and me-and we are accomplishing what we set out to do, growing old together.” Qene’ is a friend, a fellow-writer, and former coworker. She works at the National Assemblies of God offices in U.S. Missions/Intercultural. Her husband also works there and is a pastor.
My dad used to say you could tell a whole lot about a person by looking at their hands– where they had been, what they did for a living, what kind of person they were. He claimed he could tell by a handshake what kind of character was in a man. If the man’s hands were smooth and soft, well-manicured with clean, even nails, Dad surmised he knew nothing of hard work or any other kind of labor. Desk job, he concluded – especially if their handshake was weak or “slimy,” he called it. Dad worked hard for a living, usually putting in twelve to fourteen hour days at his gas station in Clark, South Dakota.
My dad’s hands were large and almost square. His knuckles commonly had bruises or cuts. He’d just say “knocked the bark off.” Grease and gasoline stained his rugged hands which labored tirelessly at the gas station he owned fixing other peoples’ cars. Chipped and dirty nails were ordinary fare and no amount of scrubbing could make them clean. Rough and calloused from splitting wood, cracked from working in the dirt – but still gentle, warm, and loving.
I loved the scent of my dad’s hands: oily from fixing a tire, or earthy from working in the field. Sometimes they had the whiff of sawdust and freshly-hewn wood from whittling or building, or the pungent fishy, wormy smell from the fishing he loved. I remember, because to me it meant love. My daddy’s hands held me, hugged me, and applauded me. They were safe hands that opened up in love and acceptance. They guided and encouraged without being pushy and protected without smothering.
My sister agrees. His hands spoke volumes to everyone. She wrote the following poem:
— GIFTS OF LOVE –
by B.J. Woodland Clausen
His hands were wrinkled, calloused, cut
Reminders of many years of work
When asked about an open wound
“Knocked the bark off,” he would reply.
He labored long to do his best
Numerous hours spent his skill to perfect
But he felt his work was second rate
Because it was his very own
He could not know or understand
How treasured his homemade gifts became
How fondled, dusted, and locked away
His gifts have become today.
Our dad’s hands were examples of my Heavenly Father’s hands. Jesus was a carpenter and fisherman, too. His hands were kind and gentle, yet rough from work. Gentle enough to hold a small child and beckon the little ones to come to Him, yet bold enough to take a whip and drive everyone from the temple. They were also strong enough to bear a nail from which all his weight hung. He gave us a gift too.
You can tell a lot by a person’s hands.