A Texas Cousins Adventure: First Christmas in Greenhome

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Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

 

The trees were trimmed and the halls decked. Good Christian men and women rejoiced, and all the stockings were hung on walls and over fireplaces in several homes. A few days before Christmas, nine cousins gathered together to cut out snowflakes and draw pictures with Grammie while eating more sugar than their mommies really approved of, but it was the holidays. Cookies, fudge, and pie filled the house.

Tired, slightly grumpy, and played out, they gathered around the lighted tree for a story:

Once upon a time, Aunt Abby started, there was a little town east of Fort Worth called Greenhome. It sat out in the middle of flat Texas plains surrounded by a hedge of white roses that bloomed year around. A tall tower stood near the gate in the Hedge with a loud bell ringing and ringing from its tippy-top. An old olive tree guarded the way into Olive Hall where boys and girls ate three meals a day.

See, the boys and girls in Greenhome were orphans. They had no mommies and no daddies. They were all alone and they didn’t know anything about Christmas.

“That’s so sad.” Imogene frowned.

Remi and Shannon nodded in agreement.

“I’m glad I have a Mommy and a Daddy,” Jules stated.

“I have a Mommy and Daddy too!” Ellie shouted with her eyebrows raised.

“And I bet all of you know about Christmas?” Aunt Abby asked.

“Yes. It’s when we get presents,” Bruce said.

Joshua grinned. “Lots of presents.”

“And toys,” grunted Jude.

“And,” Constance said. “It’s about Mary and baby Jesus.”

“Sunday school answer.” Grandpa interrupted from the couch.

They didn’t know, Aunt Abby continued, that the King had come. They didn’t know he had humbled himself so that peace could come between him and sinners. They didn’t know about Christmas. They didn’t know that what was important about a babe in a manger wasn’t the sheep and the donkeys, but that God, who created everything, became man to save the worst people in the world just like he’d promised.

“What did they know?” Constance hugged Shannon sitting in her lap.

Well, these children in Greenhome were very special children. They weren’t just orphans. They were also specifically chosen to live in Greenhome.

“Were they the kind people?” Jules asked.

“I bet they were very brave,” Bruce guessed.

“I bet they were very obedient,” Ellie joined in.

Joshua and Jude waited with Imogene and Remi to see what made these children so special.

Nope. They weren’t kind, obedient, or even brave. They lied. They stole. They hit and kicked smaller children. They were horrible, awful children. They were children who were so bad that they were about to be thrown in prison.

But! Just as the prison gates opened, the adults from Greenhome came. They paid the cost for all the children and then adopted them into their homes.

“Oh yuck!” shouted Ellie. “I wouldn’t want those bad boys and girls in my home.”

“Me either.” Jules crossed her arms.

“Awww,” Aunt Abby said. “But see, that’s what Christmas is really all about. Jesus came and paid the cost for sinners who believe in him and then adopted them into his home. See, even though the children didn’t know what Christmas was they had experienced all the magic of Christmas already.”

“So, did they find out about Christmas?” Bruce wanted to know.

“Why yes they did!”

“How?” Imogene leaned forward.

“That’s another story. Would you like to hear it?”

“YES!” Nine cousins agreed.

“Let’s try again, and no interrupting,” Aunt Abby instructed.

From the tallest to the shortest, biggest to littlest, all the cousins scooted closer around their Aunt.

Once upon a time, a long hot summer faded into a wet fall around Greenhome leaving puddles in the streets and leaves in the gutters. Children studied history and math with no end in sight. In a house in the back near the Hedge an old man grunted as he sat down. He knew winter was coming and had spent all day gathering fuel to keep warm against the wind and snow. In his big chair he rested, alone and lonely. His wrinkled boots sat near the fire and his battered hat hung on a hook. His knurled hands ached, and his bushy white mustache hung limp around his mouth too tired to curl up around his face.

Someone knocked on his green front door.

“Who is it?” he called grumpy at a disturbance so late in the evening after a long day.

“It’s Soul.” A clear voice answered.

Grumbling, the old man climbed to his feet and made his way through his messy house to the door.

“What do you want? Can’t you see it’s dark out?”

“I need you, Claus.” Soul held up a lantern lighting up his bald head and bright eyes.

“What for?” Claus didn’t like the sound of that. Need? He didn’t want to be needed. He wanted to go sit in his chair.

“He’s not very nice,” Imogene said.

“Shhh.” Constance hushed her.

“Shhh.” Joshua hushed Constance.

“Be quiet.” Grammie ended the argument before it started.

“I have a boy that needs to be saved before he gets sent to prison,” Soul said softly.

“What? Me?” sputtered Claus. “I’m an old man Soul! What would I do with a boy under foot?”

“You’ll feed him and let him play with those snow globes you’re always making. Someone needs to play with them.”

“No. A boy from the prisons will only break my snow globes.”

“He’s selfish,” announced Remi who had just learned the word ‘selfish’. She caught Grammie’s eye and quickly shut her mouth.

“He might, but you could teach him to make more.”

“Go bother someone else.” Claus started to shut the door.

Soul stopped him, hand on the doorknob. “There is no one else, and I’ve chosen this boy to be saved.”

Muttering, murmuring, grumbling, complaining, and whining, Claus put back on his wrinkled boots and his battered hat. He slipped into his old sheepskin coat and stomped out to the shed in his backyard. Old Tell, his longhorn bull, turned his head and stared at him with one eye while he chewed his cud.

“Come on, you old monster,” Claus said. “Soul says we have to go save a boy.”

Old Tell flicked his tail and backed out of his stall so Claus could hitch him to the wagon with a bell-covered harness.

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Cold night air gathered in the dark around Claus as he flicked the reigns and drove Old Tell towards the prison. Bells jingled and jangled. Claus hunched down and wished anyone other than himself had been sent to pick up some wild urchin who probably didn’t even know how to eat or speak properly. Why him? He wondered. Why would anyone, especially Soul, send an old man to save a boy?

Late in the night, he arrived at the prison with a ringing twinkle of happy bells that only grated on his nerves.

“Who’s there?” The prison warden called.

“It’s Claus. Soul sent me to save a boy about to be sent in.” His voice came out muffled from his numb lips and frozen scarf.

“Come on down.” The warden waved. “I’ll take you to him.”

Claus stumbled from the wagon, patted Old Tell, and stepped into the warden’s well-lit and warm office.

“Here he is. They say his name is Haze.”

A tall little boy with a cut by his eye and a bruise on his cheek stumbled into the room. He straightened up and made fists of his hands. His clothes were too small, showing ankles and wrists. He looked skinny and hungry and cold.

Bruce leaned in closer. “I had a cut like that.”

“Yes, you were my inspiration, now be quiet.”

Something in Claus cracked. All his grumbling and complaining mocked him. He had a warm home, work to do, a nice fire, warm boots, and Old Tell with his bell-harness. He had friends like Soul and little Ms. Carolyn who lived next door and baked him pies. He had all that and more and he complained because Soul asked him to help a little boy with nothing.

The crack grew until all his selfishness shattered down around him. Claus knelt down in front of the lost little boy and held out his hand.

“My name’s Claus. Would you like to come live with me?”

A puzzled look came over Haze’s face. His eyebrows wrinkled. His fists relaxed.

“Claus? Like Santa Claus?”

“Santa Claus? Who’s that?”

Haze reached under his threadbare shirt and pulled out a small red book. On the front was an old man in a red sleigh being pulled by eight reindeer.

“Santa Claus brings presents to children,” Haze recited, “in honor of the greatest gift given to mankind: salvation.”

“I’ve never heard of Santa Claus.” Claus paused shocked to realize that that one little red book may have made Haze richer than he ever could be. This little boy had a story about salvation, and what did Claus have? Nothing but wanting to be left alone. He was a selfish old man. Wiping a tear from his eye, Claus said, “Will you come home with me? I have snow globes you can play with, and a little room you can have. We’ll get you some boots and Ms. Carolyn can make you a pie.”

Haze’s eyes widened. “You’re my Christmas present. I never got a present before. Why would you give me one?”

“Because the salvation you talked about is given to people who don’t deserve it.”

Haze threw his arms around the grumpy old man. Claus stumbled back not sure what to do with a hug. Then slowly, he wrapped his arms around the little boy. “And I think you’re mine.”

Nine cousins cheered.

Grammie smiled, a twinkle in her eye.

Claus bundled little Haze up in a blanket and hurried out to Old Tell. With many a jingling bell they drove back to Greenhome. Haze told Claus all about Christmas, Santa, Presents, and the real Christmas Story. They reached Claus’ home as the sun rose on a crisp white morning. Haze smiled. Snow edged the gingerbread house and smoke curled up out of the chimney.

“Today is Christmas day!” Haze flipped to the back of the book and showed Claus the calendar.

“Then come on!” Claus jumped from the wagon like a man far younger. “Let’s give someone a gift in honor of our gift of each other.”

The two hurried into the house where Claus chose his favorite snow globe from a high shelf.

“What is it?” Haze gazed at it in wonder.

Claus turned it upside down. Snow swirled around an oak tree and a pine, settling on their limbs. Beneath them a man walked carrying a lantern and an umbrella.

“It’s a snow globe, my lad. And we’re going to go give it to Ms. Carolyn right now.”

And that is how Christmas came to Greenhome. In going to save a little boy who needed him, Claus was saved as well. He gave out many gifts that day, and by the next Christmas, he was called Santa Claus and had married Ms. Carolyn, who became Mrs. Claus.

Haze had many rough days as he learned to live in Greenhome, because, if you remember, he wasn’t a nice little boy. He’d been about to be thrown in prison when Clause rescued him, when he was shown grace. But he always had a friend in grumpy old Claus. Haze grew into a strong and good man, and he always celebrated Christmas with a full heart remembering the year Santa Claus came and gave him the greatest gift of all: salvation.

One day, when he was much older, Soul came to him with news of save several little boys about to be thrown in prison. Just like Claus had done for him, Haze saved those kids and was the better for it.

The End.

“Well,” Aunt Abby asked, “what did you think?”

“Who did Haze save?” Bruce bounced up and down on his knees.

“Well, that is a whole other story.” Aunt Abby ruffled Bruce’s hair.

“Will you tell it?” Joshua gave her his best smile.

“Sometime soon.”

“Happy Christmas,” Imogene said softly.

“No, it’s Merry Christmas!” Jules corrected.

“Merry Christmas!” shouted all the cousins.

“And God bless us, every one.” Grammie gathered everyone into a hug.

The End

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My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

 

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Quote of the Weekend

“There’s the saucepan that the gruel was in!” cried Scrooge, starting off again, and frisking round the fireplace.  “There’s the door, by which the Ghost of Jacob Marley entered.  There’s the corner where the Ghost of Christmas Present, sat.  There’s the window where I saw the wandering Spirits.  It’s all right, it’s all true, it all happened.  Ha ha ha!”

Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh.  The father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs.

“I don’t know what day of the month it is,” said Scrooge.  “I don’t know how long I’ve been among the Spirits.  I don’t know anything.  I’m quite a baby.  Never mind.  I don’t care.  I’d rather be a baby.  Hallo!  Whoop!  Hallo here!”

He was checked in his transports by the churches ringing out the lustiest peals he had ever heard.  Clash, clang, hammer; ding, dong, bell!  Bell, dong, ding; hammer, clang, clash!  Oh, glorious, glorious!

Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head.  No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells.  Oh, glorious.  Glorious!” – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I love the description of his laugh in this scene!

Merry Christmas!

 

2015 Jones’ Christmas: Baking with my extra Mom

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Baking is the theme this week, just like I had a week of gift wrapping and a week of card making. Wanda, my extra mom, is helping me get the more physically intense fudge and sausage balls done.  I’ve done one batch of each on separate days, but to finish the holiday right I need two more batches of each. I’m out of Time! So here we are enjoying Christmas baking together. Plus,  we included a lunch to Paneras. 🙂 I also made a batch of Cranberry Orange Bread which didn’t set right and turned into Cranberry Crumble. I’ll enjoy it just the same with a spoon.

What would I do without Family??? 🙂
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Merry Christmas!

2015 Jones’ Christmas: Sister Baking Day

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For several years we have done a Sister Baking Day. All of us Vincent girls (post and present) gather our ingredients and bake Ginger Snaps and Spice Cherry Bells. The first year this went great cause there were only two little girls involved and they were, well, little. The second year felt a little Anne-of-green-gable-ish as recipes got mixed up and the wrong amount of flour or salt or something got added into the cookies. Year 3 saw more kids but the cooking saw lest added ins.

Year four! Joy had everyone one over for a fun day of Christmas Tree Cupcakes, and a Gingerbread train. We didn’t really get to the Spiced Cherry Bells or the Gingersnaps, but we had so much fun decorating these goodies with lots of growing bakers. Also, Mom/Grammie gifted everyone with family copies of Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree. One of my favorite Christmas stories.

Highlights included Ellie getting into the frosting every time Joy turned her back, Jude eating a whole spoonful of flour, stealing salami right out of Jason’s grasp, reading two of Julie’s stories, Imogene’s adorable politeness–nothing is said without the proper please and thank yours–Rook’s giggles and pointing, Remi smiles, Bruce and Ellie telling the interrupting Cow joke over and over.

A good time was had by all!

 

Quote of the Weekend

“There was nothing of high mark in this. They were not a handsome family; they were not well dressed; their shoes were far from being water-proof; their clothes were scanty; and Peter might have known, and very likely did, the inside of a pawnbroker’s. But, they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time; and when they faded, and looked happier yet in the bright sprinklings of the Spirit’s torch at parting, Scrooge had his eye upon them, and especially on Tiny Tim, until the last.” – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

This made me smile since we didn’t have much growing up, but were often happy, grateful, and pleased with one another. 🙂

Merry Christmas

Theology and The Black Company

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The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace: More Than a Memory
By Richard C. Barcellos

In this book you will find a comprehensive study of the Lord’s Supper as a means of grace and encouragement to view it with a past, present, and future perspective. (Though I tend to want to yell “The ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future” every time I think about this. My problem, not yours.)
While this book was a fairly quick read, I think large portions of it went over my head especially in the middle. Even with that it was a valuable and encouraging read. I have felt convicted for a while now about my lack of understanding of the Lord’s Supper and the practical chapters at the end were very helpful to me. I plan on re-reading this book again in the future and recommend it even for the layman. If you are struggling to understand the Lord’s Supper, or the means of grace, you need to add this to your list.

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The Black Company

By Glen Cook

I’ve read this book twice and absolutely loved it both times. I love the writing style, though you should be warned, it takes some getting used to. I tend to get into an author’s cadence pretty quickly, but even the second time through, it took me almost half the book to feel in the flow. Cook writes with a very clipped vocabulary which does turn some people off of the story.
The Black Company is basically a military book in a fantasy setting. It’s gritty, bloody, rough, ragged, and wonderful all at the same time. The characters are fun and interesting. The world is well developed. I really enjoyed this story. I loved seeing the hardened men softened by a little girl. I love how the mercenaries try to find the lines of right and wrong. I love how Cook breaks so many of the fantasy rules, even rules I love, to make a very down to earth story.
I think this is one of my favorites in the fantasy genre. I would put it next to Starship Troopers as far as military fantasy goes.
Rated R: war, adult situations, language

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Shadows Linger

By Glen Cook

This is one of those books I read in one day… granted I was sick and had nothing better to do. Cook’s voice seemed to change quite a bit from book 1 to book 2. All the force of the story was there, but the clipped nature of his writing seems to have mellowed. Many who struggled through book 1 will enjoy book 2 more.
I really like how the pace didn’t slow down from one book to the next even though the events are very different.
I spent most of the book screaming about Raven and his lack of life or death. He’s my favorite character.
Ultimately this is a redemption story and I enjoy that element of it quite a bit. It wasn’t a “Christian” redemption, but a very human redemption which I always view as a shadow of what God did even when an unbeliever expresses it. Even they can’t escape this beautiful element of story telling. I really enjoyed the villain in this story. It was very creepy and unique. (I’m being vague for spoilers sake.) And I enjoyed the violent, redemptive, resentful end as well, though I was sad for all that happened to the Black Company.
I did feel like this book was a bit earthier than the last one, still very good.

Last, the cover is just so bad. They really really need to re-design it. Please don’t judge this book by it’s horrible cover art.
Rated R: violence, language, earthiness.

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Living in the Hope of Glory: A New Translation of a Spiritual Classic
By Adolph Monod

I think out of all the books I’ve read this year, this one is my favorite. Mike Gaydosh over at Solid Ground Publishing suggested it at our church’s conference this fall and I knew I wanted to read it right away. It is a collection of sermons preached by Monod a few months before he passed away. Every Sunday as he lay dying he would have a handful of fellow Christians over and they would enjoy the Lord’s Supper together and he would preach a small sermon. What a blessing to get to see this dear brother’s heart only months before he met the Lord. What riches and truth we can share in due to the hard work of the translator.
I was blessed over and over again by this brother who has gone before me. His perspective on life was convicting. His thoughts on affliction were so encouraging, and his last sermon on God’s love brought tears to my eyes as I thought of it being the last sermon he preached.
I can’t put into words how thankful I am for this book. It’s going to be hard not to just start it right over again. If you are looking for something to feed your soul and compliment what your pastors preach on Sunday, this is my suggestion. Read this book!

(If you click on the links, it will take you to Amazon where you can purchase the book. Bonus! I get a tiny kickback. 🙂 Thank you!)

 

 

Quote of the Weekend

“In a way,  all the tales are one tale,  the tale of how God’s power is found in weakness.  But that is the story of the whole life,  if you know how to read it right. ” – The Hawk and the Dove by Penelope Wilcock

(This book totally surprised me with it’s beautiful writing and moving story and this quote is perfect.)