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This is what Christmas is all about...

Better bundle up - the goose bumps will freeze you! I think I need to read this every year at Christmas.













"Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.

It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn't been enough money to buy me the rifle that I'd wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.

After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling
sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn't in much of a mood to read Scriptures.

But Pa didn't get the Bible, instead he bundled up again and
went outside. I couldn't figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn't worry about it long though, I was too busy wallowing in self-pity. Soon Pa came back in.


It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. "Come on, Matt," he said. "Bundle up good, it's cold out tonight." I was really upset then. Not only wasn't I getting the riflefor Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly
reason that I could see. We'd already done all the chores, and I couldn't think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this.

But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one's feet when
he'd told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn't know what..


Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn't going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell.


We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load. Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn't happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed.. "I think we'll put on the high sideboards," he said. "Here, help me."

The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I
wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were
going to do would be a lot bigger with the high side boards on.

After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came
out with an armload of wood - the wood I'd spent all summer hauling down
from the mountain, and then all fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What
was he doing? Finally I said something. "Pa," I asked, "what are you
doing?" "You been by the Widow Jensen's lately?" he asked. The Widow Jensen
lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so
before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I'd
been by, but so what?

Yeah," I said, "Why?"

"I rode by just today," Pa said. "Little Jakey was out digging around in the
woodpile trying to find a few chips. They're out of wood, Matt." That was
all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another
armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to
wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to
our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and
a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled
and wait. When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right
shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. "What's in the
little sack?" I asked. Shoes, they're out of shoes. Little Jakey just had
gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this
morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn't be
Christmas without a little candy."

We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen's pretty much in silence. I tried to
think through what Pa was doing. We didn't have much by worldly standards.
Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was
still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split
before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that,
but I knew we didn't have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and
candy? Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer
neighbors than us; it shouldn't have been our concern.

We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as
quietly as possible, then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door..
We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, "Who is it?"
"Lucas Miles, Ma'am, and my son, Matt, could we come in for a bit?"
Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped
around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting
in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any
heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.


"We brought you a few things, Ma'am," Pa said and set down the sack of
flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had
the shoes in it. She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair
at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children -
sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully.
She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her
eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she
wanted to say
something, but it wouldn't come out.

"We brought a load of wood too, Ma'am," Pa said. He turned to me and said,
"Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let's get that fire up to size
and heat this place up." I wasn't the same person when I went back out to
bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to
admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. In my mind I kept seeing those
three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with
tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she
couldn't speak.
My heart swelled within me and a joy that I'd never known before, filled my
soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had
made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of
these people..

I soon had the fire blazing and everyone's spirits soared. The kids started
giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked
on with a smile that probably hadn't crossed her face for a long time. She
finally turned to us. "God bless you," she said. "I know the Lord has sent
you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his
angels to spare us."

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up
in my eyes again. I'd never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but
after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I
was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started
remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many
others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.

Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed
when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I
guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make
sure he got the right sizes.
Tears were running down Widow Jensen's face again when we stood up to leave.
Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to
him and didn't want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I
was glad that I still had mine.

At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, "The Mrs. wanted me to
invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey
will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous
if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We'll be by to get you about
eleven. It'll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here,
hasn't been little for quite a spell." I was the youngest. My two brothers
and two sisters had all married and had moved away.

Widow Jensen nodded and said, "Thank you, Brother Miles. I don't have to
say, May the Lord bless you, I know for certain that He will."

Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn't even
notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, "Matt,
I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little
money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but
we didn't have quite enough. Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money
from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real
excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into
town this morning to do just that, but on the way I saw little Jakey out
scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I
knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy
for those children. I hope you understand."

I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very
well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my
list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look
on Widow Jensen's face and the radiant smiles of her three children.

For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block
of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt
riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle
that night, he had given me the best Christmas of my life."






 

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Goosebumps and tears, Allie. What a beautiful reminder of what Christmas is all about. Thanks.
 

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Allie - I've read that before and still get a lump in my throat whenever I read it. So true.Thanks for sharing it. :grouphug:
 

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Sandi-- w/Kitzel (Kitzi) & Lisel (Lisi)
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My, haven't things changed since 1881! I sort of wish they were more like then---in terms of how people cared for their neighbors, etc. It is at Christmas that we are most often reminded of what "Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men" actually means.
Allie, you did well!
 
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