A Christmas story

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pdfangus

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This is what Christmas is all about... Actually, this is what being
Christian 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 rifle for 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, an
d 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 r ight 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? 0Widow 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 mu
ch 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 owed20me 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.




Don't be too busy today. Share this inspiring message. God bless you!
 
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