You may have noticed the beautiful photography in my blogs. Especially the Little Isabel stories. They were taken by my dear lifelong friend, Kathie. If you are looking for an excellent photographer for Christmas, New Years, Birthdays, Weddings, Special Occasions or even pets, Kathie is your gal. Check out her site!
Eugene sat in the front of the sleigh beside Mama to make room for Sally Anne.
“Is everyone nice and warm back there?” Mama turned and smiled as Isabel and Maggie held up their fur muffs, feeling the softness against their cheek. “Tuck in those blankets, Curtis. It’s beginning to snow again.”
It wasn’t long until the horses stopped in front of the first house. Everyone bounced out of the sleigh, singing Jingle Bells before reaching the house.
“Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the Little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head…” Mama pushed Maggie forward as the neighbor opened the door. Soon the entire household stood on the porch, joining the serenade. Maggie timidly offered a package containing cookies and was rewarded with a hug from the lady of the house.
“Oh, that was wonderful!” the woman said and motioned to the door. “Won’t you all come in for some hot cider?”
“Thank you, no,” Mama said with a smile. “We have several more stops to make.”
Each household was as friendly as the first. Isabel was beginning to get cold and buried her head in the soft furry muff to warm her frozen nose. Finally, there were only two packages in the sleigh. One contained a basket of food for an unfriendly neighbor who had been battling influenza.
“Now children, Mrs. Barker has been ill so I will take the basket to her door. She may not be up to our serenade tonight,” Mama said softly, “We will go back to Sally Anne’s home and pick up little Sylvia.”
“Papa, do we have to stop at widow Barker’s house?” Eugene asked as they turned and headed the back way to the Albright home, passing by a dark, unkempt small house.”
“Oh Eugene, I’m surprised at you!” Mama said softly. “Mrs. Barker has been ill. She needs this visit more than anyone – don’t you think?”
“But Mama, everybody knows she hates boys! She makes us walk on the other side of the street when she sees us going and coming home from school,” Eugene said.
“She’s not very nice!” Curtis agreed.
“It isn’t nice to speak unkindly of our neighbors, boys,” Papa said and coughed towards Mama. “They’re right.”
Mama stepped out of the sleigh and reached for the basket on the floor. “I will be right back,” she said and walked gingerly over the icy sidewalk and up one step to the small porch. The door opened slightly and Mama passed the basket to her through the door. “Hope you have a Merry Christmas, Mrs. Barker and I’m praying you will feel better soon.”
“Thank you, Miz Greene, and the same to you.” Without acknowledging the family in the sleigh, she quickly closed the door, leaving Mama to find her way over the ice back to the sleigh.
Papa helped Mama back into the safety of the sleigh and covered her with a fur rug. “Good thing that was the last house,” Papa said, “Feels like that snow is turning to sleet. Getting colder by the minute.
By the time they reached the Albright house, Isabel’s teeth were chattering. The three girls snuggled closer together under the thick blanket and started singing Away in the Manger.
“Look at that!” Sally Anne exclaimed as she pointed to the sky. “Do you think that’s the Bethlehem star?”
“Nah,” Eugene said with confidence. “That star is all the way in Bethlehem!”
Soon the laughing group pulled into the Albright drive. Mr. Albright met them with a bucket of oats for the horse.
“Go on inside for hot cocoa and cookies,” he said as he lifted the girls one at a time from the red sleigh.
Isabel picked up Sally Anne’s gift and quietly handed it to her friend.
“It’s not as nice as the muff but I helped Mama make it.” Sally Anne squealed as she tore away the brown paper to reveal a cloth doll with yarn hair. “Oh, I love her. Thank you, Isabel!”
By the time the children warmed by the kitchen stove with two cookies and a cup of hot chocolate, Isabel felt her eyes drooping. When she awakened, she was in her own yard and Papa was unhitching the horse.
“Alright children,” Mama said as she hung up coats on hooks in the screened- in- back porch. “you may place your gifts from your friends under the tree and then hurry up to bed.”
Excitement filled Isabel as she ran into the parlor, lit by the fire in the fireplace. There on the table holding the stable were three new carved items. A man, a woman, and a donkey.
“Look!” Curtis said, “It’s Mary, Joseph and the donkey she rode on to Bethlehem!”
Isabel slowly walked to the stable and traced the figures with her fingers. “Where did they come from? How did they get here?”
“The donkey brought them, silly!” Eugene said with a smile before mussing her hair.
“It’s bedtime children,” Mama said, “hang your sock on the mantle and then go on to bed. Morning will be here before you know it.”
“But Mama,” Maggie said with a tear in her eyes. “Baby Jesus isn’t here. The manger is empty! Did Mary and Joseph forget the baby?”
“No, dear. They are still waiting for the baby to be born.”
Every time Isabel entered the parlor, a new carved animal rested in or near the stable but she never saw Mama or Papa go into the parlor without the children.
“How did they get here?” Isabel asked Mama and Papa but their reply was the same.
“Must have come to see the Baby Jesus!”
After dinner dishes were washed and put away, each child donned their coats, hats, scarves, mittens and boots while Papa packed the sleigh.
“Did you remember to put on your woolens?”
“Yes, Mama but they’re so scratchy!” Isabel said as she scratched her arms and legs. When she struggled to scratch her back, Mama smiled. “Okay young lady, I’m convinced.”
“All aboard!” Papa said as he helped Mama into the front seat and handed her baby Sylvia. “Poor baby,” he said, “you have her so bundled, she can’t move a finger and probably can’t breathe with that piece of blanket flopped over her face!”
“She wouldn’t be able to breathe at all if I didn’t protect her face. That cold air will take her breath away – especially once we get started. It’s awfully breezy, you know. Besides, this is a very thin blanket with air holes since it is crochet.” Mama lifted the blanket long enough to place a kiss on the baby’s head, smiled at the child’s cooing.” Isabel followed Eugene into the second seat, followed by Maggie and then Curtis.
“Mama, make them scoot over so I will have room,” Curtis said as he gently pushed Maggie against Isabel who slid into Eugene who bumped his elbow against the sleigh. “Hey, watch what you’re doing!”
“I didn’t do it,” Isabel said as she looked past Maggie in Curtis’ direction. “He did it!” “That’s enough, children,” Mama said cheerfully. “Let’s see, what shall we sing on the way?”
“Why don’t we sing Jingle Bells?” Papa said as he handed Isabel a leather strap with jingle bells attached. “Try to keep time with the horses,” he said with a grin. “See? They’re wearing jingle bells!”
The entire family began to sing. “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way; oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh.” The children finished three songs before they reached the Albright home.
“Oh boy,” Isabel exclaimed. “May I see Sally Anne?”
“Yes, you may. I wanted it to be a surprise but your friend is going with us. Mrs. Albright and Cookie have volunteered to take care of baby Sylvia while we are caroling.”
“Oh Boy!” Isabel stood up in anticipation and fell into Eugene’s lap.
“Hey, sit down silly goose!” Isabel jumped out of the sleigh, hitting a piece of ice, sliding face down into six-year-old Curtis who landed with a thump on the ground.
“Hey,” he said sternly, “watch where you’re going!”
Isabel looked down at the torn stockings and already felt the sting of skinned knees.
“Oh dear,” Mama said, “you must be careful. It’s awfully slippery out here. Are you alright?”
“I’m okay,” Curtis replied as he pointed to Isabel. “Looks like the silly goose skinned her knee.”
“Son, don’t call your sister silly or a goose. Now wipe the snow from your clothes and carefully stand at the foot of the steps so that we may sing at least one Christmas Carol for the Albrights before we go inside.” Isabel brushed away tears from her cold face and tried to sing Joy To The World with the rest of her family but her knee stung as well as her pride. Sally Anne was standing at the door when Isabel fell and cried out to her friend.
Papa picked up Isabel in his arms and led the family into the welcoming light of the Albright home. “Come in, come in,” Mrs. Albright said as she reached for baby Sylvia. “Oh, what a sweetie. Cookie and I have been looking forward to this all day, haven’t we Cookie?”
“We surely have,” Cookie confirmed and reached for Isabel. “Why don’t you come with me, child? Cookie will get you all fixed up!”
“Yes,” Mrs. Albright said, “Sally Anne has a pair of woolen stockings Isabel may have. She can’t go out into the cold with the torn ones.” And so Isabel followed the Albright’s cheerful cook into the kitchen to sit by the warm stove. When it was time to go, Isabel had a bandaged knee, new woolen stockings and a peppermint stick for being brave.
Three-year-old Maggie stood quietly behind Mama looking around the room and timidly receiving a gingerbread boy from Mrs. Albright. Sally Anne, dressed in her warmest clothes, a hooded cape, and a fur muff, stood by Isabel until Papa declared it was time to go. She jumped up and down with excitement and then ran to the Christmas tree. “May I please give Isabel and Maggie their gifts now, Mother?” With a nod of the head from her mother, Sally Anne reached for two beautiful hat boxes.
“This one is for you, Isabel,” she said as she handed her friend the largest package. “And this one is for you, Maggie,” she said with a smile. “You may open them when I say … Go!” Isabel looked at her little sister and they lifted the box tops together.
“It’s a muff! Just like Sally Anne’s! Look, mama, look!”
“It’s soft, Mama!” Maggie said as she ran her fingers over the soft fur.
“Oh Lillian,” Mama said with a catch in her voice. “You shouldn’t have!”
“We wanted to,” Mrs. Albright replied with a smile as she adjusted the muff around Maggie’s neck and showed her how to slip her hands inside. Maggie’s eyes grew enormous as a shy smile spread over her face. Isabel had hers on in record time.
“What do you say, girls?” Mama asked as she dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief.
“Thank you!” they said in unison.
“You’re quite welcome.”
“Mama,” Isabel pulled at her mother’s cape, “may I give Sally Anne her gift now?”
“Her gift is in the back of the sleigh so why don’t we wait until we come back to pick up baby Sylvia?”
“Yes, ma’am.” It was then Isabel noticed her two brothers wearing leather gloves instead of their knitted mittens. They were also eating gingerbread men, jamming them in their mouth as they turned toward the door.
“This is going to be so much fun,” Sally Anne said as she linked arms with Isabel. “This is the best night – ever!”
Isabel awoke the following morning to the sound of clinking in the kitchen. She sat up, rubbed her eyes and looked around the room. Frosted window panes pelted with sleet diminished the sleep in her eyes. Isabel jumped on her bed, singing. “It’s Christmas Eve and it’s snowing. Get up Maggie, get up and see!” Maggie jumped out of bed and ran to the window just as Mama opened their bedroom door. “Well, it looks like our little ladies are already awake,” Mama said with a smile. “Get dressed quickly girls, breakfast is almost ready.” “Snow, Mama, snow!” Maggie exclaimed. “Yes, it is really snowing and sleeting too. That means it is very cold and slippery outside. We need to hurry before Papa and the boys come in from doing chores. They must be chilled to the bone!” Mama had both girls dressed and beds made in record time. Isabel and Maggie hopped down the steps and skipped toward the kitchen. As they passed the parlor, Isabel stopped. “Look!” She shouted and pointed to the tree before running into the room to investigate. The stable had been placed on a table in front of the tree and one lonely wooden lamb stood in front of it. “Where did that come from?” “Oh, a lamb!” Maggie said as she gently stroked the small white figure. “It must have walked here from Bethlehem,” Mama said with a smile. “It wasn’t here last night!” They entered the kitchen just as Papa, Eugene and Curtis entered the back door – stomping snow off their boots. “Papa, Papa!” the girls cried in unison. “Come and see what Jesus sent us!” “Hold on there, gals and let me get out of these boots and wet coat and then you can tell me all about it.” Isabel and Maggie waited patiently until Papa put on his slippers and hung up his coat before dragging him into the parlor. “Well, I’ll be! How did that get in here?” Papa said with a grin. “Guess it came early to see the Baby Jesus! Let’s go back into the warm kitchen before our breakfast gets cold.” Papa walked with the girls into the kitchen, over to the stove to warm his hands before helping Mama carry dishes of eggs, pancakes, bacon and a large dish of grits to the table. “If the weather gets any worse I’m afraid we won’t be able to go Christmas caroling tonight after all,” Papa said as helped Mama clear the table after breakfast. “Oh dear,” Mama exclaimed as she pointed to the stack of packages and baskets on the work table. “We have all of these cookies, cakes and bread to deliver tonight. If we wait until tomorrow, I’m afraid it will be too stale.” “We’ll see,” Papa said as he closely looked at the packages and picked up a basket. “Who’s this one for?” “That one is for the Widow Barker. I heard she has been sick so I wanted to make sure she has plenty to eat.” “Don’t know why you want to give her anything but a good tongue lashing – the way she does to every boy in the county,” Papa said as he rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “That’s why we need to remember her, Papa.” Mama placed a jar of chicken soup into the basket along with a loaf of bread, jam and a bundle of cookies. “Jesus said to do good to people who are unkind to us. Perhaps she will realize that Jesus loves her too and will have joy in her heart.” “We’ll see,” Papa said. By lunchtime, sleet had turned to light, fluffy snow. “Looks like it will be a good night for a ride in the sleigh to deliver gifts and to go caroling after all,” Papa said with a smile. “The boys and I will get the old cutter ready.” “Girls, I want you both to take a nap today since we are going caroling tonight,” Mama said as she sat down in the rocker by the stove with baby Sylvia in her arms. Isabel wanted to protest but the look in Mama’s eyes stopped her. “Yes ma’am,” she said quietly. At that very moment, Maggie squealed. “Look! Look at the stable!” Isabel ran into the parlor and stopped in amazement. There were two more sheep and a cow in the stable. “It’s a miracle!”
The squeak of the back porch door and the sound of Papa and her two older brothers prompted Isabel to investigate. “Isabel,” Mama scolded, “one of these days you are going to hurt yourself; jumping off the stool that way!” “Yes, Mama.” Isabel smiled and slowly backed to the door and then ran the length of the back porch to hold the screen door. Papa entered the back porch, stomped snow off his boots, and then made a show of wiping his feet on the braided rug before entering the kitchen door. “Temperature’s dropping awfully fast,” Papa said as he sauntered to the stove to warm his hands while Mama poured a cup of steaming coffee into a heavy mug and offered him a gingerbread cookie. “Here’s your tree, little princess,” Papa teased as he pointed to a tiny tree before stepping aside to reveal a large pine. “Oh, Papa it’s beautiful!” Isabel jumped and clapped her hands simultaneously. “That is a lovely tree!” Mama reached over Isabel to open the door wider. “Let’s move out of the way, dear so that Papa and the boys can bring that lovely tree inside.” Isabel skipped into the kitchen and moved her stool out of the way before running to Maggie. “It’s here, it’s here Maggie. Wake up!” Maggie sat up and rubbed her eyes. “The Christmas tree?” “Yes!” Isabel sang, “The Christmas tree and we get to help decorate it!” Both girls danced around the kitchen as Papa carefully carried the tree into the front parlor and placed it gently into the corner where it could be seen from the kitchen and through the windows. “Now girls, don’t get too excited. We need to prepare supper and clean up the kitchen first. Besides, we haven’t finished stringing popcorn. We will work on that tonight and add a few of the decorations. Tomorrow we will wrap up cookies to give to our neighbors when we go Christmas caroling. How does that sound?” “Fun!” Isabel and Maggie sang in unison.
After the dishes were done, the popcorn strung and handmade ornaments hung on the tree, Mama picked up the family Bible and the children gathered around her.
“Did you know that the people of Israel waited for the birth of Jesus – the “Messiah” for a very long time?” “As long as we waited for baby Sylvie to come?” Maggie asked softly. “Yes,” Mama said as she reached down and touched the child’s cheek. “They waited many years. “That’s a long time!” Isabel exclaimed, walked closer to Mama and sat cross-legged on the floor. “Almost since the beginning of time – since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden.” “Did Abraham wait for Jesus to come?” Eugene asked as he folded a piece of paper to cut into the shape of a snowflake.” “Yes, Abraham believed! God even showed Abraham that He what salvation is all about; He showed us what salvation is by promising Abraham a son and then as precious Isaac began to grow and learn how to be a man for God, he was used as an example of sacrifice.” “God asked Abraham to take Isaac to the mountain, didn’t he Mama? Eugene said as he laid his craft aside and leaned on his elbows as Mama flipped the pages of the Bible to Genesis. Papa turned from adding water to the bucket holding the tree, rubbed his chin and joined the conversation. “Abraham was a very old man when little Isaac was born, you know.” “Older than you, Papa?” Curtis asked innocently. “Oh, I guess Abraham was about fifty or sixty years older than me.” “He was old!” “Yep, he and Sarah both were much too old to have a child. That is part of the miracle – right Mama?” Papa tossed the question back at Mama who had found her place in Scripture. “That’s right,” Mama smiled at Papa and then looked at the children. “Sarah was much older than me so don’t need to ask. She was even older than Gammy Isabella and Grandma Sarah Elizabeth too. Abraham was one hundred years old when Isaac was born and Sarah wasn’t much younger.” The children quieted as Mama pulled the lamp closer to her chair and lifted the Bible. “Genesis chapter 21 tells us about the birth of Isaac. It also tells about what happens when people try to take matters into their own hands to make things happen instead of waiting for God to answer but we will discuss that another time. Tonight, we are talking about the very long wait Abraham and Sarah had to wait for the son God had promised to them. Oh, they were so happy to hold that sweet baby in their arms! Every day he grew bigger and stronger making their parents proud to be chosen by God for such a blessing! They laughed as he smiled in his sleep, watched him try to fit his tiny fist in his mouth – just like you did when you were babies.
He became his Papa’s helper when he learned to walk and then run.” “Did they have sheep to sheer?” Eugene asked excitedly. “Oh, yes. Abraham had many fine animals and many workers helping him but I am sure he taught Isaac all about the animals.” Mama smiled and continued with the story. “One day, God spoke to Abraham and asked him to do something very hard. Something Abraham could never imagine doing but he trusted God. “What did he ask Abraham to do, Mama?” Mama began to read. “God said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you. So Abraham arose early in the morning and saddled his donkey and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son, and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship and we will come back to you.’ So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took the fire in his hand and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, ‘My father!’ And he said, ‘here I am, my son.’ Then he said, ‘Look to the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, ‘My son, God will provide Himself the lamb for the burnt offering.” Mama hesitated and then looked at Papa and then at the children. “Abraham obeyed God and made the altar just as he was supposed to. He put the wood on the altar and then he lifted up his son, Isaac and laid him on the altar where he would normally put a perfect lamb.” “But why, Mama?” Eugene stood and looked over her shoulder to see the Word of God. “Because God asked him too,” Mama said softly. You see, before Jesus was born, a perfect lamb or a ram had to be sacrificed to cover their sin. It was an act of faith to show that they believed God would forgive them – to lay the blame for their sin – and remember anything that displeases God is sin – on the sacrificial lamb.” “They kill the fluffy lamb like Papa has to shoot animals for food?” Isabel felt a tear run down her cheek as she remembered seeing Papa bringing home a deer and a turkey earlier in the week. “Something like that dear,” Mama said softly, “however, this was an offering to God and not for dinner. The animal used for the sacrifice was very special.” “So what happened to Isaac?” Curtis asked impatiently. Mama scooted closer to the lamp and continued reading. “Lets see now, where did we leave off? Oh, verse ten.” “And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of The LORD called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ So he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” “Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place The-LORD-Will-Provide.” “Phew!” Eugene exclaimed, “I thought he was going to kill Isaac!” Mama nodded in agreement and looked at Papa before continuing with tears in her eyes. “The Angel of the LORD spoke to Abraham a second time and told him: ‘By Myself I have sworn, said the LORD because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son- blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed (children) all the nations of the earth shall be blessed because you have obeyed My voice.” “Abraham and his son, Isaac went home,” Mama said softly as she pulled out a hankie, blew her nose and placed the hankie in her apron pocket. “In the New Testament book of Hebrews, chapter eleven, it said that because Abraham believed God, it was counted to him for righteousness. It also says that because Abraham obeyed God and offered up his only begotten son believing that God would raise him up from the dead. Boys, what was the Bible verse you learned in Sunday School class last week?” Eugene and Curtis stood up and began to quote together: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3: 16 “Thank you, boys,” Mama said as she closed the Bible. You see, God gave us a picture of what He planned to do for you and for me. He planned to send His only begotten Son – Jesus to be our sacrifice so that by believing in Him, we will have everlasting life with Him in Heaven. Abraham was just a man. Isaac was just a boy but Jesus is God’s perfect, sinless Son. He is God in the flesh. He is called Immanuel which means ‘God with us.’ We are human and sin. Some boys may have struggled to get away but Isaac trusted his father. Perhaps Isaac also trusted God to save him – and he did. He provided a ram. Jesus is our ‘ram’ isn’t He?” “Let’s see now,” Papa said slowly. God promised a son – Isaac to Abraham and Sarah but they had to wait many years before Isaac was born. Abraham’s seed or descendants had to wait hundreds or even thousands of years for Jesus to be born – right Mama?” “That’s right, Papa. The book of Matthew starts out with the people who were born and died before Jesus was born and it is a very long list! King David is on that list too, Mama said. The Bible is filled with mention of Jesus or the Messiah all through the Bible – from beginning to the end. Last week, the preacher said that it is as if there is a red ribbon all the way through the Bible and that red ribbon is Jesus. Remember when God created everything and then he created man? He said, ‘Let us make man in our image.’ Jesus is God the Son. It is hard to understand but God The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit are ‘three in one.’ We won’t truly understand it until we are in Heaven.” “But it’s Christmas,” Curtis said, “why are we talking about Abraham and Isaac?” “We wanted you, children, to understand how important Christmas is. It isn’t about the tree or the pretty decorations you made for it and it isn’t even about filled stockings.” Mama said as she leaned over and rocked baby Sylvia’s cradle. It is about the long-awaited, special, miraculous baby who was born in a stable like sheep to be the Savior of the world. Did you notice that God kept calling Isaac ‘your only son or your only begotten son?’ Jesus is God’s only begotten son. Isaac’s birth was a miracle because Abraham and Sarah’s age. Jesus’ birth was a miracle because He did not have an earthly father. God is His father. Jesus was born of a young woman who was pure. A virgin – but we will talk about that when you are older. Abraham and Isaac had to travel to the place that God would show them. Mary and Joseph, the man God chose for Mary to marry so that he would be a good fill-in father for Jesus, had to travel to Bethlehem. They later had to travel to Egypt because of the wicked King who wanted to harm Jesus. Jesus traveled in His ministry and then, he had to walk up the hill called Calvary to become the sacrifice for our sin. After He gave His life for us, His disciples, his family and followers waited three long days when Jesus arose from the dead! So you see, waiting so long for Jesus to come is very much a part of the Christmas story. Sometimes, we forget that because we focus on gifts and trees.” Mama said with a smile and nodded to Papa who stood and left the room. Papa returned to the room with a large bundle and walked slowly to the tree. “What’s that?” “Is it a gift?” “Who’s it for?” Everyone seemed to speak at once while watching Papa struggle with the bundle in his arms. “Mama,” Papa said with a chuckle. “Guess you had better help me with this before I drop it!” Mama rushed over and removed the gunny sack to reveal a wooden structure.
“Oh,” Isabel exclaimed, “is it a dollhouse?” “Of course not, silly!” Eugene said with confidence. “It’s a stable!” “That’s right, Eugene.” Mama smiled as she helped Papa lower the structure and placed it carefully under the tree. Next, he dug into the bag and pulled out some hay to lie on the floor of the stable. Next, he pulled out a box on legs and filled it with hay. “What’s that?” Little Maggie asked and reached out to touch it gently. “It’s a manger!” Curtis said. “You know – the bed for baby Jesus but it’s really a food box for the animals. Right, Papa?” “That’s right, son,” Papa said as he stood and placed an arm around Mama. “Why don’t we sing just one Christmas carol before we turn in for the night? I’m afraid the chickens have beat us to bed tonight! Mama picked up her squeeze box and played Joy to the World as the children and Papa sang along. Isabel looked once more at the stable with the empty manger. “Papa, what about Baby Jesus? Doesn’t he sleep in the manger?” “Well little Princess,” Papa said softly, “we have to wait.”
Before television, there was the radio. Before the radio there were books. Before there were books, there was the spoken word. Before then, God spoke the world into existence. For thousands of years, families gathered around the fire and shared family stories, legends and The Word of God. Storytelling was an art and it still is today.
I don’t know about you, but I have always loved listening to stories.
Whether it was my grandmother, Isabel talking about her childhood, Mom’s family stories or listening to stories on the radio.
I grew up listening to a Gospel Music channel who broadcasted Pastor’s messages on air and on Saturday. Back to the Bible radio show aired a show just for the youth of the 1960’s and 70’s on Saturdays with Danny Orlis stories. Check out this link: Danny Orlis HistoryThey also had a magazine called Young Ambassador. A friend of our family who discipled us when we first received Christ as our Savior in 1968 sent me a subscription to Young Ambassadors every year. I loved it! Back to the Bible’s Young Ambassador
Then there was Your Story Hour! I listened to this even as an adult. Our local radio station doesn’t run the Saturday morning line-up of “children’s programming” (I’m a child at heart.) The good news is that you can visit their website and listen to stories at your convenience. This is their link. Your Story Hour.
And then the wonderful Children’s Bible Hour with Uncle Charlie. I don’t know about you, but every time I hear the theme song, I want to say, “Hi, Uncle Charlie!” Along with the children. This was their opening for many years. Keys for Kids is also online now. Keys for Kids with Uncle Charlie
Who can forget the wonderful songs and stories by Ron Hamilton/Majesty Music as Patch the Pirate? Ron Hamilton has been a blessing to me since I first met him and his wife at a teacher’s conference over thirty years ago. For years, they produced cassette tapes, CDs and now the wonder Patch the Pirate series is online. Check it out – including Ron’s testimony. Many may not know that Ron and his family need our prayer now as he is having serious medical problems. What a wonderful legacy he is leaving behind for children today and for years to come! Patch the Pirate – Ron Hamilton
Last but not least has been one of my favorites for years. I loved listening to Adventures in Oddessey by Focus on the Family while preparing dinner each weekday. It has been online as podcasts for years. I still love listening to this program. Especially when the story is about history! Visit John Avery Whittaker at Wits End! Adventures in Oddessey
There are at least two websites you can go to for a variety of children’s programming and for adults as well. one is on the Christian Radio Station, BBN. BBN Radio Programming
Whenever I think of “story time” I envision the multitudes following Jesus, gathering around and drinking in every word. The disciples considered the children who wanted to be with Jesus, to be blessed by Him, as a nuisance but Jesus rebuked them.
“Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them and departed thence.” Matthew 19:13-15
Research Tip for Writers:
There are also several secular sites where you can listen to the old radio shows our grandparents and great-grandparents listened to back in the good old days! Old Time Radio Shows. This is a great site for historical writers!
I was unaware that this is Invisible Disabilities Week. Many of us have hidden disabilities. Some of us are able to function normally with the pain and others are knocked off their feet – literally. Or if you are like me and have bilateral Meniere’s, balance issues, vertigo, motion sickness, Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and Migraines which might be triggered by the weather, food, the smell of spices… So if you ever see me holding onto the wall, no. I don’t drink. Never have and never will. But people with hidden disabilities are often judged by others. “Just work through it,” or “It’s all in your head” are phrases often used by those who don’t understand that this advice causes emotional pain along with the physical pain. This is a great article written by my friend, Lisa Ehrman in her blog, Chronically Content. sure to click on the links below.
So if you are suffering from invisible disabilities, we are praying for you. If you know someone who is suffering – even though you cannot see the disability, do something kind for them this week. Something as simple as unloading the dishwasher or sharing a meal can be an amazing blessing.
I had a sweet blessing last week. A sweet young friend from Church has a cleaning business. I called to get an estimate from her but she asked if she could clean the house as a blessing to me? I love this kid from the time she was small and scribbling notes to me in Church to bringing cookies one Christmas. It’s the little things we remember the most. Thank you. Love you, Kelli B!
One of my favorite blessings is my wonderful husband, John Purdy. Sometimes after a hard day at work, he comes home and finds that his wife can’t function and so he takes a shower and goes out to buy our dinner.
Thank you for all you do, John Purdy. I love you, bunches!
Today, September 19, 2018, would have been Junie’s birthday. So I thought what better way to honor her than to share her story? Happy Birthday, Junie!
Meet Junie. June Ratcliffe McReynolds to be more specific. The grandmother I never had the privilege of meeting. Wasn’t she an adorable baby? I think so. I love this picture of her. I am especially curious about the little girl hiding behind her. She must have been playing hide and seek from the camera.
I never met “Junie” (the name she chose for her grandchildren to call her) but I did get to read a book about her family’s heritage in 1975. When I open the covers of Our Radcliffe Heritage, I can almost hear her voice as she tells stories of old. Memories and travels she made in order to complete her work. She even added photographs and sketches of old family homes. She didn’t just list names, birth and death dates but stories about her family and what their homes looked like. How did she remember everything in such detail? Her ancestors came to life as she put pen to paper. This personality makes all the difference! How did she do it?
Junie, the young lady in the center front, listened.
She listened and took notes. Somewhere, there is a box containing small sheets of paper with notes Junie began taking as she listened to her “elders” tell about the good old days. She collected notes for years and put them in her memory box to be used later as a reference for her book.
I wish I had taken notes! For as long as I can remember, I listened to Mom’s family and visualized the events until I thought I knew the mannerisms and how “Mama” and “Papa” reacted to each other and to the children. This was the basis for The Vision of a Mother’s Heart. I wrote my story as fiction inspired by a true story because I didn’t have the foresight to take notes.
Her son, my Daddy, Charles McReynolds remembers her telling him and his older sister, Bobby stories about their heritage and it ingrained a love of history in my Dad too. He put his memories in a book called Memories of an Old Geezer. If you love stories of the good old days and especially if you like cars, you’ll love this book! (It is available on Amazon.com)
So, listen carefully, ask questions and take notes!
Many thanks to Daddy and my sister, Judi for providing a copy of Junie’s book and some of her belongings. A big thank you to my grandmother June Ratcliffe McReynolds for her foresight and hard work. She made this granddaughter feel right at home!
Sharpen those pencils and get out your notebook. Your family memories could be a book in the making. Listen to their testimony and how the Lord led the family through difficult times and filled them with the joy of His love. When I open the covers of Our Radcliffe Heritage, I can almost hear her voice as she tells stories of old. Memories and travels she made in order to complete her work. She even added photographs and sketches of old family homes.
“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7
There are some special people in our lives who never forget about us. They put themselves before others. That describes my grandmother. She went by so many different names. Katherine “Isabel”, Sis, Mama, Grandma, Granny (I switched from Grandma to Granny the first time I watched the Beverly Hillbillies. I thought it sounded neat. I couldn’t understand why she wasn’t thrilled. Now I do!) but to many people, she was “Nannie” and that fit her very well. Even neighborhood children called her Nannie.
Today “Nannie” would have been 104 years old. She was born on August 28, 1914. She is celebrating her birthday in Heaven with the Lord and her precious family. Parents, siblings, her husband, three children, a son-in-law and one grandson. She went home to be with the Lord in 1999 and looked forward to “going home”. I remember a few weeks before she was “called home,” she told me about a dream she had the night before. She said that as she woke up, her beautiful, sweet mother was sitting by her bed, stroking her hair. She reached up to touch her mother’s soft cheek and asked if she had come to take her home. “Not yet,” her mother had said, “but it won’t be long.”
Isabel was eleven-years-old when she lost her mother but seventy-four years later, she still remembered her mother’s face and voice. No. I don’t think she had a vision but was looking forward to seeing her loved ones again. Someday, we will see her again!
I was thinking of different ways to celebrate her birthday. I could bake a devils food cake with her seven-minute frosting but I don’t have a double boiler or a hand mixer. She used to bake pineapple upside down cakes which were simply delicious!
One year, I bought mint julep candies in bulk and sent them to Mom and her sisters to share with their children and grandchildren. Granny had craved these candies when she was carrying my favorite aunt. To this day, whenever I hear the word Mint Julep or see the candy, I think of her. Perhaps today I will buy a Kit Kat bar in her honor.
Then I remember how she used to take me downtown on the bus to pay bills and shop. We always had lunch at the five and dime where we bought candy to take home for Aunt Sandara and for everyone to share. When I visited her after she moved to Richmond in the 1960’s she invited me to spend at least a week with her every summer. I loved that! I so longed for everyone to be together. She didn’t mind that we all talked at once, laughed loudly and sang in the kitchen. I think she relished it! As an adult, I lived in Richmond for a while and worked at a retail store. She would call me at work and ask me to bring her a Kit Kat bar. I usually bought a few for her. She would smile when I walked through the door with her treat.
There are so many memories of my selfless grandmother. She had a hard life but she didn’t let that get her down. This is one reason I write about her childhood. She worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant until past retirement age because she loved caring for others. She raised and helped raise at least three grandchildren and loved every child. I think her favorite thing to do was to rock babies!
She was a good money manager and always made me laugh. She always cared about everyone. I feel blessed that she was my Grandmother. Love you, Nannie. I will see you again someday!
This site is devoted to the aesthetic appreciation of abandoned and decaying old homes and other buildings and such, and is the official companion web site to the wildly popular Abandoned in Virginia page on Facebook.