Saturday, December 22, 2012

TWO CHRISTMAS PRESENTS FOR YOU

Three days until we celebrate Christ's birthday and I wish to give you, my viewers, a Christmas present along with a chance to win another. My first present is the short story below about forgiveness. Many of you may face this challenge during the holidays. I hope it ministers to you.

For everyone who comments, I'll put you into a drawing to win one of my books. I'll draw the name and post the winner on Christmas Day at eight in the evening. When you write your comment, tell me which book you want, and be sure to give your e-mail address. Choose Victoria and the Ghost an inspirational, paranormal YA or you can indicate you want, Diving Dining: 365 Devotions to Guide You to Healthier Weight and Abundant Wellness, my latest release.
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Now, here's the story TOGETHER FOR CHRISTMAS

High school let out for Christmas holidays. Tammy burst through her back door. She frowned when she saw her mother busy with Christmas preparations. “I dread having David here. It messes up everything.”

Pain washed over her mother’s face. “You should be ashamed. This is your brother’s first Christmas with us in four years.”

Tammy crossed her arms. “He should stay in prison.”

Mother’s eyes flashed. “Go to your room and reflect on your bitterness.”

Tammy slammed the door to her bedroom. Every time she thought of David, she got mad. Two uniformed cops had taken David away in handcuffs the week before her twelfth birthday.

Her hero, her big brother had stolen, lied, and sold drugs.

The family crumbled after David left. Her mother cried all the time, and her father stayed gone, finally dying in a car wreck. Tammy’s church friends picked up her life pieces. Last year, she gave her heart to Jesus, thanks to Casey, the new youth minister. Surrender came hard, but the love of Christ applied a salve to her wounded heart.

A few months ago, she had led her mother to Christ. Tammy hung her head. She wasn’t being a good example to her mother with her bitter language.

Perching cross-legged in the middle of her double bed, Tammy picked up a box which had remained unopened since David left. Tears of remembrance dripped onto the box as she dug to the bottom.

Her fingers grasped a necklace of pink and white beads. Her brother had earned money washing dishes to purchase it. Once upon a time, she’d worn it with pride. Next, she pulled out an autographed baseball. When she turned ten, David took her to her first major league game. When he caught a foul ball, he presented it to his “birthday beauty.”

Voices filtered from the den. He was here. Tammy opened her door and inched down the hall. The man standing with his back to her bore little resemblance to David. His hair, though still black, was cut close to his head. His skin draped loosely on his big frame.

He must have sensed Tammy’s presence because he turned. A half smile stole across his face. He stepped backward with a slight limp.

She recalled hearing about his accident in the prison’s exercise yard. She cringed at his pain, but stood firm.

“Tammy …..” David dropped his head. “You’re so grown-up.”

Without you. The taste of resentment was like bile after vomiting. “Go away.” She ran for her room’s sanctuary.

Tears scalded her cheeks. Pain saturated like tanning oil did her body in summer. He was no longer her beloved big brother, but a stranger to her. He had betrayed their family. He had betrayed her.

Mom demanded Tammy join them for dinner. The three gathered around the round maple table Mother bought last year at a garage sale. Every crunch, chomp, and chew resounded through the silent kitchen.

Mom offered the mashed potatoes to David. “Bet you haven’t got food like this for a long time.”

“Not hardly.” David scooted back indicating his bony arms and shrunken stomach. “You can tell by the weight I’ve gained.”

Mom sliced off more roast and laid it on her son’s plate. “Well, I intend to fix that.”

After she ate, Tammy escaped to her room. Later, loud words came from the living room between her mother and brother, then Tammy heard her brother leave. Her mother’s sniffing noises drifted to the daughter’s room like when the police had arrested David. He shouldn’t have come back.

Tammy’s clock showed after one in the morning when she heard the front door open. Her brother, she assumed, walked down the hall.

She listened to a whispered conversation only feet away from her door.

Mom must have waited. “You could come home at a decent hour.”

“You’re not my keeper.” David’s voice sounded gruff, but sober.

Mom started crying again. “I wanted to spend time with you. It’s been so long.”

David’s tone softened. “I’m sorry, Mom. There was something I had to do. We’ll visit tomorrow and Christmas Day. I promise.”

“Aren’t you moving home with us?”

Tammy strained to hear her brother’s words.

“I’d better not.”

At ten the next morning, Tammy woke. Sounds came from the back yard. She opened the door and peeked out.

Mom watered the oak tree she’d planted in the fall trying to save it from the winter’s cold ground. “Hi, sleepyhead. You and your brother are sleeping the day away.”

Tammy stepped outside. Her mother’s eyes were red and swollen. “I’m sorry I lashed out at you about David. I’ll try to do better for Christmas.”

“You need to pray, Baby.” Her mother shielded her eyes from the sun. “Don’t you work today?’

“Yeah, but I don’t go in until noon.” Tammy worked part time at a dress store to make money for gas and car insurance.

“What’s everybody doing out here?” David came through the back door rubbing his eyes. “Brr… it’s cold.”

Tammy turned to go inside. “I should get ready for work.” She brushed past her brother without making eye contact.

That evening Tammy dreaded going home, but it was Christmas Eve.

Around the dinner table again, Mom asked Tammy to say grace. The previous night they’d both forgotten.

“Thank, you, Lord, for this food and this day. Amen.” Tammy stopped.

A knot gripped her throat. How could she pray with bitterness in her heart? Casey taught her to repent first. She raised her head and caught David’s eye. Turmoil seized her mind. She couldn’t eat. She couldn’t speak. She ran.

Throwing herself across her bed, Tammy picked up the box. Pictures lay beneath the necklace and baseball. A heavier David with long hair blowing in the wind held Tammy, a nine-year-old skinny blonde, high on his shoulders. They both laughed in the photo as if sharing a joke. Tammy looked at David’s senior picture. She’d thought he was the most handsome guy that year. Where had things gone wrong for him?

Tammy reached to the night stand for her Bible. She read her favorite verses.

After coming to the Lord last year, she often talked to Casey about her family. Her youth minister stressed forgiveness. “Jesus forgave you, and you must forgive others.”

Her mother’s coming to Christ forged a bond between them stronger than blood. When Tammy prayed, God’s love flooded her soul and eased the rough patches. Why couldn’t she pray now for David?

As she thumbed through the pictures, tender feelings resurfaced. Her eyes stung as she choked down the memories.

When David was being led away, Tammy ran to clasp his legs. His last words brought wounds that never healed. “Quit being a cry baby.”

Tammy had made a decision that day. She had no brother. She’d never written. Now God forced her to face David. Despite the changes in her life, she couldn’t correlate that man in her house with the sweet brother of years past.

Tammy picked up the phone and dialed Casey’s number.

His advice didn’t surprise her. “Perhaps you never opened the box because you had not forgiven David. Maybe now you’re ready.”

“But it hurts so much.”

“Because you love him so much.”

Tammy shouted. “I don’t. I hate him.” The tears came anew.

Casey remained silent. Tammy knew the answer. When the police drove away, David never looked out the window for the little sister crying in the grass. He hadn’t cared.

She heard Casey’s voice. “David needs your forgiveness as much as you need to give it.”

“You think so?”

“Yes, and Jesus will help, but you have to ask Him.”

Tammy hung up the phone. She prayed and read more in her Bible preparing her mind for what Jesus wanted her to do.

Christmas Day dawned sunny and crisp. David bent over the dining table reading the paper. As Tammy and Mom prepared a turkey dinner, Tammy handed her mother a gift-wrapped package.

After Mom opened it, she kissed her daughter. “I love the blouse.”

David’s face reddened. “I’m sorry. I didn’t get you anything.”

Mom threw her arms around the big lanky man. “That’s okay. You’re here. That’s the best gift I could have.”

Tammy was the last to be seated for their meal. “May I say grace?”

Her mother’s eyes filled with confusion. “Of course.”

“Thank you for the food, and the beautiful day, and your love.” She clamped her teeth determined to go on with God’s help. “And, Lord, thank you for bringing my brother home.”

When she raised her head, her mother glowed, and David smiled at her. Tammy lost a hundred pound weight from her heart as God’s forgiveness and love restored her family.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Janet, what a precious story that reflects the season so very well. I pray you and yours have a wonderful holiday season. Thanks for sharing your story. Much love and Merry Christmas, Phyliss

Janet K. Brown said...

Thank you, Phyliss, I wish the same for you. May 2013 be a year of excitement and good things.

Linda Broday said...

Janet, Christmas time is so emotional and comes with a lot of stress. I don't know if this is normal or not, but I always take a look back at the year and examine myself. There are always things I wish I'd done differently. And there's always some regret. Forgiving myself is much more difficult than forgiving another person. You made great strides this year, my friend. Your life changed in so many ways. Big congrats for the two books. And I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!

Janet K. Brown said...

Thnk you so much for those heartfelt words, Linda. I agree. Forgivining ourselves is often much harder than forgiving others. One thing is for sure, we need the Lord to do either. It doesn't come easy. Marry Christmas to you & yours.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

A lovely story, Janet. Christmas is a time for me to count my blessings and to thank God for what He's done for my family and me. And to stop complaining.

Merry Christmas. (I just received your book from 4RV. Looking forward to reading it.)

Janet K. Brown said...

Thank you, Beverly for ordering my book. Yes, it's a time of gratitude. I pray your Christmas was wonderful. Mine was.

Moonine Sue Watson said...

What a nice Christmas story. Sometimes Christmas is hard for families when there have been problems to overcome. It isn't always a jolly season for all. Forgiving someone who hasn't asked for forgiveness is a difficult thing to do, but God wants us to do it for our own well-being. I have both of your books so I would let someone who doesn't have a chance.

Janet K. Brown said...

Thanks, Sue. Forgiveness causes lots of Christmas problems for families. Thanks for stopping by.