And There Were in the Same Country Shepherds Abiding in the Field…

 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night…I don’t know why but this part of the Christmas story always reminds me of God watching over us. I find it so comforting to know that, even in our loneliest moments, we are not alone and God and his angels are watching over us.

I don’t know if the story I share today is true – therefore, it may not be a story of a “true” miracle. However, I loved the spirit of the story so much, that I decided to share it anyway. I hope as the day we celebrate Christ’s birth draws closer that the spirit of his love for you burns ever brighter! Enjoy!

“A Christmas Miracle”

Rose rubbed the sleeve of her nightgown against the frosty glass and peered out into the night sky. The moon peeked over the mountain behind the little cabin.

Rose searched the sky. She needed to find a shooting star. Christmas was only three days away, and she had to make a wish.

“Rose McKenzie, stop your daydreaming,” Mama said. She pulled the curtain shut and kissed the top of Rose’s head. “It’s time for bed.”

Rose scrubbed her face and hands in the washbasin and ran a brush through her tangled hair. Her brothers, James and Henry, were settling down on their mattresses near the fire. Baby Bonnie was already fast asleep in her little bed — a drawer lined with soft blankets that rested on the chair beside her parents’ bed.

Rose leaned over to kiss the baby good-night. Then she kissed Mama and Papa, blew out the lantern, and crawled into the little fold-up bed next to the window that she shared with her sister, Sarah.

Rose tugged the covers to her chin. The fire in the fireplace hissed and popped. Papa’s snores rattled through the cabin. Outside, the wind rustled through the trees.

And Rose thought she would never fall asleep. It was too close to Christmas, too close to the most wonderful day of the year, and too close to the morning when her family would open small homemade gifts again.

 

Rose looked out the window again. She remembered how Mama had stared at the lacy green dress in the window of Mr. Pranger’s store when they drove into town. Rose wanted to give her mama that dress.

She closed her eyes and could see Mama opening it on Christmas morning.

There was Mama, laughing out loud in surprise. The green lace dress matched Mama’s sparkling green eyes.

Then Papa opened his gift — a shiny black pipe. Not a homemade one, whittled from a hickory branch. A brand-new pipe ordered from a catalog and shipped all the way from New York City.

Bonnie’s gift was a crib, carved and painted, and the boys got new wool coats. In Sarah’s gift was a note that said, “Look outside.” Sarah pulled open the door, and there stood a dapple gray pony with a big red ribbon around his neck.

“They got just what they wanted,” Rose murmured.

She opened her eyes. Sunlight streamed into the cabin.

Rose shook her head. “It was only a dream,” Rose said, as she smiled. “But what a wonderful dream. I wish it could come true.”

After breakfast, Rose helped her mother wash dishes. “Mama,” she said. “If you could have anything for Christmas, anything at all, what would you wish for?”

Mama smiled and set the clean plates in the cupboard. “I already have everything I could want — you, your brothers and sisters, and your father, all in good health.”

“I know, but I mean something extra,” Rose said, as she squeezed out the dish towel. “Something wrapped in a box that you could open on Christmas morning. What would it be?”

“Well, it would be a mighty funny-looking box,” said Mama. “But if I could have something extra, I’d wish for a Christmas tree, tall and full, with so many decorations you could hardly see the branches. And a big, plump turkey I could roast with dressing and potatoes.” She leaned against the cupboard and smiled. “And when it was done, we would sit down at the table next to our Christmas tree, and eat the finest Christmas dinner any of us have ever tasted.” She closed her eyes. “I can almost taste it now.”

“And a new dress?” asked Rose. “Would you like a new dress?”

“Yes,” Mama nodded. “A new dress.” Then she shook her head. “But there’s no sense wishing for something you can’t have.”

Papa chuckled. “Looks like Rose isn’t the only dreamer in the family.” He reached for his rifle. “I can’t promise you a turkey, but maybe I can find a fat goose for our Christmas dinner.”

He pulled on his coat and headed toward the woods.

Rose waited for Papa all morning. While she swept the cabin, peeled potatoes, and mended her stockings, she kept peeking out the window to see if Papa would bring home a goose.

Finally, just before noon, Papa tramped out of the woods carrying a gunnysack over his shoulder. Rose threw down her mending and burst out the door.

“Papa, you did it!” she cried. “We’ll have roast goose for Christmas after all.”

Papa laughed. “Not quite, missy.” He opened the sack. “I didn’t see any geese, but I did bring home a pheasant big enough to feed seven hungry McKenzies.”

Papa hung the pheasant under the eaves outside the cabin. Its russet and green feathers gleamed in the sunlight.

“I’ll need to clean it,” Papa said. He blew on his hands and rubbed them together. “First I need to go inside and warm up. Is that your mama’s potato soup I smell?”

Rose followed Papa inside and helped Mama ladle out seven bowls of soup.

While they ate, Rose tried to watch the pheasant. But every time she glanced out the window, Papa said, “Eat your soup.”

After lunch, Rose ran to the window and shouted, “Oh, no! Papa, look. He’s eating our Christmas dinner!”

Rose pointed at a bear that had wandered into the yard and pulled the pheasant down from the eaves.

Papa flung open the door. The bear ran off into the woods. All that remained were a few russet feathers lying in the grass.

The next day was Christmas Eve. After breakfast, Papa, Henry, and James pulled on their boots and coats and set out for the woods.

“Don’t worry,” Papa said. “We’ll have a fine Christmas dinner yet.”

Rose waited by the window. Sarah came and sat down beside her. The sun rose high in the sky. Finally Papa and the boys hiked out of the woods. James carried a gunnysack over his shoulder. Rose and Sarah rushed to the door, and Rose flung it open.

“Did you get another pheasant?” Rose asked.

“Is it as big as the first one?” asked Sarah.

“Not a pheasant,” said Papa, “and not as big.”

James opened the sack and pulled out a small quail. “Birds just aren’t that plentiful this time of year,” said Papa. “But we won’t leave this one under the eaves.” He laughed and said, “That pesky bear can catch his own Christmas dinner.” Papa and the boys cleaned the quail right away and brought it into the house.

Rose stared at the little bird. “But this can’t be our dinner,” she said. “It’s barely enough to feed Bonnie.”

“Nonsense,” said Mama. Then she kissed Papa on the cheek. “It’s exactly enough. Rose, you can help me peel potatoes, carrots, and onions for quail soup. And Sarah, you can help me bake loaves of bread. Then you can both take turns churning fresh butter. This will be the finest meal we’ve eaten in months.”

Mama pulled her big soup kettle from the cupboard and put it on the stove.

The quail soup simmered, and the bread dough baked into crusty brown loaves. Savory aromas filled the cabin. Rose and Sarah churned butter until they were sure their arms would fall off.

Finally, as the sun sank over the mountaintop, Mama said, “Help me set the table, Henry. Dinner’s ready.”

Sarah and James scrambled to their chairs. Rose placed the bread in the center of the table, and Henry set out bowls and spoons. Mama carried the hot soup over from the stove, and Papa held Bonnie in his arms. Then they all bowed their heads to give thanks.

Tap. Tap. Rose looked up. Someone was knocking at the cabin door.

Mama frowned at Papa and said, “Who would be visiting way out here at this time of night?”

Tap. Tap. Papa opened the door. A stranger stood on the step. His eyelids sagged with weariness.

The stranger’s voice quivered. “Could you shelter a hungry traveler from the cold?”

“Of course,” Papa said. He opened the door for the stranger. “You’re just in time for dinner. We don’t have much, but you are welcome to share what we have.”

“Bless you,” said the stranger. “Merry Christmas.”

Mama set an extra place at the table and began ladling out the soup. When she finished filling the eighth bowl — the stranger’s bowl — the soup kettle was empty. “Look at that,” Mama said. She set the bowl in front of the stranger. “We have just enough.”

After dinner, the stranger helped clear the table, then sat in a chair by the fire.

“Where did you come from?” Sarah asked him.

The man chuckled. “I’ve traveled for so long, it’s hard to say just where I’m from. I’ve been to the Great Lakes and to New York City and to the White House. I’ve even met Abraham Lincoln himself.”

Henry’s eyes grew wide. “Abraham Lincoln!” he exclaimed.

The stranger nodded. “Twice. I plan to keep traveling and meeting good folks like yourselves. I want to see the ocean someday, and the Grand Canyon.”

“And the giant redwoods?” asked James.

“And the giant redwoods,” said the stranger. He pulled a harmonica from his pocket and began playing. Papa pushed the table aside and pulled Rose to the center of the floor. Sarah picked up Bonnie, Mama grabbed the boys, and soon everyone was dancing.

The stranger played and played, and Rose’s family danced and danced. Finally, Mama collapsed in a chair. “Time for bed,” she said.

James and Henry piled blankets on the floor by the fire for the stranger, and everyone crawled into bed.

Before Rose closed her eyes, she took one more look out the window. A bright yellow star shot across the sky, leaving a sparkling trail behind it. “Oh!” she cried. Rose stared at the shooting star.

“Please let my family have a wonderful Christmas,” she whispered, “and let Mama have a Christmas tree.”

Dawn peeked over the mountain. Rose opened her eyes. It was Christmas! She would surprise her parents and the traveling stranger by making the coffee before anyone else awoke.

She tiptoed toward the fire. James and Henry were fast asleep, and the stranger was gone! On the floor where he had slept lay a bulging gunnysack.

“Mama! Papa!” Rose shouted. “Look.”

Her parents rushed over, Sarah stumbled out of bed, and the boys sat up on their mattresses. They all stared at the sack.

“It’s filled with presents,” Papa said. He pulled out a box and read the tag. “This one’s for you, Sarah, and this one’s for Mama.”

He passed out the gifts, then he, Mama, Sarah, and the boys began pulling off wrapping paper.

Mama lifted a green lace dress from her box, and Papa opened a shiny, new pipe. James and Henry unwrapped new wool coats, Sarah unwrapped a toy horse, and Mama helped baby Bonnie unwrap the biggest gift of all — a crib, carved and painted, just like in Rose’s dream.

Rose watched in silence. She was happy for her family. Still, the sack was empty, and there was no gift for her. She ran to the window to hide her tears.

“Oh!” she cried. “Look!”

Outside stood a fir tree, full and tall, with beautiful hand-carved decorations. Rose ran out the door. On the tree was a note that said: “To Rose. Merry Christmas.”

“It’s a miracle!” she shouted. “My wish came true. Merry Christmas!”

Today’s story shared from the following website: http://people.howstuffworks.com/culture-traditions/holidays-christmas/christmas-stories-a-christmas-miracle1.htm

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Merry Christmas

christmas41During this holiday season, I always think about the good things that occur as we feel more inclined to reach out to friends, family, strangers and those in need. I love Christmas – but more importantly I love what Christmas represents. Our Savior’s birth and his death are pivotal events in the history and potential of mankind. I believe that few of us can truly comprehend the profound influence and blessings our Savior’s gifts to us.

In the most difficult of times, we are so richly blessed!

Seeing the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes in the nativity on my living room table reminds me of so many things:

  • The potential of each and every newborn baby
  • The incredible and perfect love of our Father in Heaven who knew only too well, at the birth of our Savior, what lay ahead for his infant son.
  • The ability of our Father in Heaven to communicate to his children and the resulting visits of the shepherds and wise men to the baby Jesus.
  • The mission that each of us is born accomplish and the responsibility that we each have to carry out those missions.
  • How interconnected we are as a human family and how important it is to love and support each other.
  • The importance of family and how our families were planned well in advance of our births.
  • The Joy that is meant to be ours as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father.

I sometimes struggle with the blatant efforts of commercial establishments to make the Christmas Holiday less of a spiritual experience and more of a see-how-much-we-can-get-consumers-to-spend experience.

However, I know that the true celebration of Christmas depends on us and not some box store that is brimming with consumer goods. I am grateful for the Christmas spirit that resides in my heart and in my own personal celebrations and I am grateful for the true Christmas spirit that I see demonstrated so often by my fellow men (and not just at Christmas time).

I am thankful for you and for the goodness you contribute to the world!

Merry Christmas!

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God Has Confidence in You…You Need to Too! A Glimpse of Heaven

I’m not that special. I’m not like her (him). I wasn’t in the right line when they handed out that talent…the list goes on and I know I’m not the only one who has heard these types of remarks. Maybe it’s you that has been saying them…to your friends, your family, and worst of all…to yourself.

Life is full of oops and falling short but that doesn’t mean that we don’t measure up or that we shouldn’t believe in ourselves.

Do we want our children (grandchildren) to believe in their selves the same way we believe in ourselves? Do we want them to use the same “measuring stick” that we use? Whose measuring stick are we using anyway?

When I think of all the things that I learned from my visit to heaven – I think the most important thing I learned may have been how different we are “measured” in heaven compared to earth. In heaven there is such a nurturing and honoring of individuality – and I’m not just talking personality here. Each individual is truly PRIZED for their unique strengths and qualities – would you expect anything different from Heavenly Father or a place in which His perfect love presides?

Yet, here on earth, we so easily buy into the falsehood that we should be like someone else or the most perfect person we know – which, of course, is a major falsehood all of its own.

We should listen to our hearts – our hearts know so well who and what we truly are and who we are meant to be. That doesn’t mean that being our self is always easy or without its challenges… but then isn’t that what we came to earth for? We are absolutely meant to grow and to be challenged and to make mistakes and repent and to keep trying and to do our best to become the best that we are capable of becoming. We are to believe in ourselves and work at developing the talents that we have been blessed with. If I am meant to develop my talent of holding a baby…that in no way diminishes another’s duty to develop their talent of sharing their amazing smile. You don’t think those are talents? I guarantee you they are!!! It is those talents that the “world” overlooks that are generally the most important of all!

Now granted…I don’t remember professional athletes or super models in heaven…but I can assure you that the most prized talents were not athleticism or physical beauty. The most prized talents were the ability to love and spiritual strength. Interestingly enough – those talents are talents which both here and there (in heaven) have to be sought after and developed – they do not just happen.

I can also assure you that Heavenly Father believes in Himself and He believes in us – not in our already present perfection but in our ability to get there. If we are meant to become like Heavenly Father (perfect) and He loves and believes in His self – wouldn’t it stand to reason that we should love and believe in our self? Can you even imagine a perfect, loving Heavenly Father sending you to earth so that He could enjoy the sadistic pleasure of watching you fail? (Pleeease tell me you can’t imagine that.) I can tell you that no one has more confidence in our individual ability to succeed. Heavenly Father has done all that He can do to set us up for success, the rest is up to us (but He still there to help). It may seem trite but developing our relationship with Heavenly Father through personal prayer, scripture study, obedience to the commandments and living the Golden Rule is huge to our ultimate success – and we will be successful if we have faith in God, live right and have faith in ourselves.

I’m not talking about the kind of success that says we will own a yacht, or travel the world, or be world famous. I am talking about the kind of success that truly matters – the kind of success that guarantees that the world will have been a better place for our having been here – the eternal kind of success.

So if you are struggling to believe in yourself…get down on your knees tonight and ask God if you have reason to believe in yourself – to believe in your potential and in your ability to live a life of purpose. Ask if you matter to Him. If you stay on your knees long enough to actually give Heavenly Father the opportunity to answer – I believe the answer will bring tears of joy to your eyes. Heavenly Father believes in your potential – when you come to believe in and accept that same potential – you will have your own Glimpse of Heaven! So…even if no one else is around to give you a hug – give yourself a hug and know that you are special and that you have potential you have never even dreamed of!

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The Counters

As the littlest angel watched over earth, she was amazed at how busy everyone was.
“I wonder what keeps them so busy”, she thought to herself.
Then the head angel came to her and said, “It’s your turn to go to earth”
The littlest angel jumped with joy as she was given the date that she would arrive.
She was so excited that she started counting the days until her arrival.
Later, the head angel checked in on her to see how arrangements were going.
She proudly told him she was counting the days.
“Counting the days?” He asked. “Are you sure that is wise?”
“It must be” She remarked. “I have been watching earth and I have noticed that everyone does it.”
“I see,” said the head angel. “Perhaps we need to take a closer look at things.”
So the littlest angel and the head angel made a trip to earth.
First the head angel pointed out some little boys counting marbles.
One little boy remarked that he was surely the best marble player in all the world – after all he had just won 121 marbles and had not lost a single one.
The littlest angel was very impressed because she could not yet count that high.
Then the head angel showed the littlest angel the same little boy as a young man.
He no longer played marbles. Instead, he was counting his money.
“I am amazing,” he said to himself. “Look at all the money I make. Surely the world will soon take note of me and see how important I am because of all the money I make.”
Next, the head angel showed the littlest angel a young woman.
She was counting how many boys had asked her out on a date.
“Surely I am important because of my beauty,” she said to herself “Look at how many boys want to date me”
On they moved on to some brothers and sisters who belonged to the same family.
One of the girls was heard saying “I have had it. Billy always gets what he wants. I always have to wash the dishes and all he has to do is dust. I counted it up just the other day. Billy has gotten to dust the last three times. I have had to wash dishes five times in a row.”
Then, they moved from the family to a man saying his prayers.
“Please God” he asked “I have worked for the company for 25 years. Bob Johnson has worked for the company only 21 years. Surely I deserve the promotion more than he does.”
On they moved to a young married couple who were having an argument.
“I don’t see what the big deal is,” said the young man. “I spend over forty hours a week at work earning money to pay the bills. Why do you have to make such a big deal of it if I forget my socks on the floor once or twice?”
“Once or twice?” Screamed the young woman. “I’ll have you know that I have picked up your socks from off of the floor at least ten times in the last two weeks. That’s 10 times in 14 days. Once or twice is a forgivable offense. 10 times in 14 days means you think that I am your personal slave.”
The littlest angel turned to the head angel “Am I going to have to learn to count like this? She asked.
The head angel said “That will be up to you”
“But I don’t understand” said the littlest angel. “Counting seems to be such an important part of earth life.”
“Counting cannot be all that bad” she said. “Even Heavenly Father counts”
He told me that he knows how many hairs are on the head of each of his children. He knows when a bird loses a feather. I know that He even knows exactly how many children He has.
“Seems like some pretty impressive counting to me,” Said the littlest angel.
“Impressive it is” said the head angel. “Let’s look in on another home.”
They observed the mother of several small children for several days.
“Wow” said the littlest angel “I have been counting and that mother has a lot of things to keep track of. I could barely keep up myself with how many times she changed diapers, fed her children, washed loads of laundry and washed up scraped knees. How does she keep track of all of the counting?’
“She doesn’t” said the head angel.
“Why not?” asked the littlest angel
“She does what she does out of love” said the head angel
“That doesn’t make sense” said the littlest angel “How is she going to know if she is the most important, the most beautiful, the richest, the hardest worker, or even the most powerful?
“She won’t” said the head angel “But it won’t matter to her. She will feel rewarded if her children grow up to be kind, loving adults like she is.”
“Are you kidding me?” asked the littlest angel
“No” said the head angel
“Let’s move on to one more life,” said the head angel
The next life that they saw was that of the Savior.
“Look,” said the littlest angel “He just fed five thousand”
“See, even he counted” said the littlest angel
“He only counted the fish and loaves of bread that he had to divide,” said the head angel. His helpers counted how many were fed.
The littlest angel noted as she observed the life of the Savior how many times he forgave others, how many times he fed others, how many times he taught people to think of their fellow man instead of themselves.
Then she and the head angel watched as the Savior achieved his crowning act in mortality – his death and resurrection.
The littlest angel watched in humble adoration.
She knew that what the Savior had done he had done for every single one of Heavenly Father’s children.
“Oh head angel,” she said, “I think I get it”
“What do you get?” asked the head angel
“The Savior is our example and he is not a counter is he?” said the littlest angel
“No he is not,” Said the head angel
“He wants us to do everything that we do because of love – not because of the reward that we might receive. Kind of like that mom that we watched. She didn’t care how many times she had to do things for her family. She didn’t care because she loved them so much.” Gushed the littlest angel
“So if I am going to be like my Savior, I need to work real hard at not counting.” said the littlest angel.
“That’s right,” said the head angel
“We better return to heaven – I think you will be leaving for your turn on earth very soon” said the head angel.
“That’s okay,” said the littlest angel “but I am not counting the days any more – just let me know when it is my time to go.”

By JoAnna Oblander – Author of A Glimpse of Heaven

 

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