Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Nativity Box

Stepping out of my usual genre, I am sharing a fictional Christmas short story I wrote.


It wasn’t the right time to be cleaning out the attic, but what else did Pat have to do on Christmas? With his daughters spread half way around the world, no one would be stopping by. This time last year he would have been visiting with his mother Louise for a few hours, but her recent passing had changed everything.

Pat was now left with a drafty attic, full of what was most likely junk, and a heart full of regrets—regret for ignoring the fleeting grimace of pain he saw crossing his mother’s face when he visited in September; regret for not returning her calls; regret for letting work and too many hours at Casey’s bar consume his family relationships. And now, he was alone on Christmas—and every other day of the year.

“Guess I’ll start with these old boxes of Christmas decorations,” he mumbled to Darcy, his mother’s long-haired feline. She lifted her head from her paws and thunked her fluffy tail on the wooden floor slats in acknowledgment.

Most of the featherweight boxes were crammed with ancient glass ornaments whose once shiny surfaces were now discolored and crackled. He stacked them atop one another, in readiness to take an armload down the precarious attic steps and out to the dumpster parked along the side of the house.

One box, however, seemed heavier than the rest—heavy enough to pique Pat’s curiosity.
Opening the box, he began unwrapping the crumbled layers of yellowed newspaper. Pat sneezed as dust particles assaulted his nostrils. He’d need an allergy pill when he finished. “Whatever is in here is sure packed well,” he said aloud.

Darcy ambled over to check out the newspaper, sniffing and sneezing along with Pat. She clawed and bunched the paper till it was arranged to her satisfaction, then hunkered down to watch Pat work.

As he withdrew the last of the newsprint, he saw a wooden box wrapped in tissue. Removing several layers of thin paper he turned the box over. He traced his fingers gently over the intricately carved nativity on the lid. “Wow! This is beautiful!” he whispered in awe. “I don’t remember seeing this box before.”

Though he was merely speaking his thoughts aloud, Darcy mewed in reply. Pat smiled and rubbed her head. “Shall we see what’s inside, old girl?”
Loosening the clasp, he opened the box. Letters neatly stacked and in order by postdate filled the box. Bearing old Air Mail insignias, every letter was addressed to his mother Louise and postmarked England. “Must have been when Dad was in the Air Force,” Pat mumbled to the cat.

A gust of wintry wind whistled through the louvered vent. Pat shivered. Tucking the box of letters under his arm, he gently gathered up Darcy and retreated downstairs where he could read in the warmth and comfort of the kitchen over a steaming cup of coffee.

Pat was startled to learn that the letters were not from his father, but from a man named Joseph Dooley who was a pilot during WWII and who had apparently been engaged to Pat’s mother, Louise. His letters shared humorous happenings with his fellow airmen, descriptions of acts both courageous and generous, and of course, expressions of ardor for his fiancé.

Woven throughout every letter was the man’s deep trust in Jesus Christ—a poignant reminder to Pat of the many conversations in which his mother had tried to share her faith. However, Pat’s vitriol skepticism and turned head effectively stopped her mid-sentence—another of his actions he now regretted.

In his letters to Pat’s mother, Dooley gave God the credit for sparing him from day to day. He shared with Louise passages from the Bible that he depended on, encouraging her to also trust in God and His Word:

“God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So, we will not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken and mountains fall into the ocean depths; even if the seas roar and rage, and the hills are shaken by the violence . . . The Lord Almighty is with us . . .” (Psalm 46:1-3, 7)

“[Lord, you are always with me.] You hold on to my right hand. With your advice you guide me, and in the end, you will take me to glory. . . My body and mind may waste away, but God remains the foundation of my life and my inheritance forever. . . Being united with God is my highest good. I have made the Almighty Lord my refuge.” (Psalm 73:23-28)

Dooley often quoted John 15:13, “The greatest love you can show is to give your life for your friends.”

The last letter, dated October 1943, must have accompanied the box. Dooley told Louise how he found it in a small antique shop on Portobello Road. He shared that the carved picture reminded him that Jesus willingly gave up His life in Heaven to come and live among us. “Jesus lived John 15:13. He showed us the greatest love, by giving His life to save us from our sins,” Dooley wrote.

At the bottom of the box Pat found a brittle, yellowed obituary for Joseph Dooley. It stated he had been killed in action on October 14, 1943 while flying a B-17 bomber in a raid on Schweinfurt, Germany. In the margin at the bottom of the paper, in the small, precise handwriting Pat recognized as his mother’s, was written, John 15:13.

Fishishing his coffee, Pat contemplated the truths he had found in the box. Dooley obviously lived out the faith he spoke of in his letters. And, despite his resistance, Pat couldn’t deny that his mother Louise had also trusted in the One who showed His love by giving His life.

As he set down his mug his eyes fell on the worn and cracked leather cover of the Bible his mother always kept on the corner of the kitchen table, within easy reach as she ate her breakfast or sipped a cup of tea in the evening. Perhaps the old book held something worth looking into. . .

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


“Well, hi there, kitty cat!” I spoke softly to the beautiful tan swirled tabby cat at the edge of our yard.

“Here, kitty, kitty, kitty. . .” Imagine my surprise when he actually came running over to me! For lack of a better name, I called him Tanner and went to get him some food.

Tanner waited patiently on the porch and, in less than a minute, gobbled down the kibble I brought him. He appeared to be in good condition and obviously wasn’t feral. I patted his head and went inside. When I looked out later he was gone.

A few hours later, Tanner returned for more food. It has become a regular habit over the last month—come to Pam’s to eat at 6 AM and 5 PM. Sadly, after canvasing the neighborhood and posting his picture on Facebook, I have been unable to find Tanner’s owners. So, I have been searching for a new home for him. (I would adopt him but I am allergic to cats and already have my dear Watson.)

As the weather has grown colder, I lure Tanner inside to eat and warm up. For a while, he stood in the doorway—half in, half out. He now comes inside but is still nervous when the door closes and his means of escape is cut off.

While Tanner wants the good food that awaits, he is still leery of the unknown inside the house. He has trouble truly relaxing when he is with me inside the house. He trusts me to feed him, he doesn’t trust me to protect him.

Aren’t we often like that with Jesus? We hear all the stories about how good He is and how much He loves us, so we give life with Him a try. However, like Tanner’s hesitation, we are wary of committing fully to this radically different way of living. We think to ourselves: What might Jesus ask of me? Will Jesus really stick by me in the tough times?

When we finally submit to Jesus as Lord of our lives, we realize all the abundant blessings He has in store for us that have been there waiting for us all along.

Thankfully, tonight Tanner is being adopted by a loving, caring couple whose kitty passed away in the Spring. I know he will not enjoy the next few days—days full of new smells, unpleasant vet visits, and totally unfamiliar surroundings. However, you and I know that life for Tanner is going to be infinitely better than he could ever imagine.

And isn’t that true of life with Jesus?

“Now to Him who is able to do infinitely more
than all we ask or imagine,
according to His power that is at work within us,
to Him be the glory . . . “
Ephesians 3:20-21a

Be encouraged!

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Savoring the Season

Hillside Get-Together 12/10 . . . Nursing Home Gathering 12/13 . . . Nursery School Party 12/14 . . . Dinner Get-Together 12/15 . . . Family Party 12/17 . . . Dinner Gathering 12/22.

‘Tis the season to be merry! Right? I love all the parties and gatherings and get-togethers at this time of year.

I truly enjoy driving around neighborhoods, looking at the lights in yards and along streets and on houses. So many bright and beautiful displays to cheer the heart and put smiles on our faces. I wish I could capture the magical atmosphere with my camera.

I also like to shop, especially for kids and women. (Shopping for men tends to tax my creative energies.) Having a list of things is helpful, but sometimes I just like to wander around the stores and see what strikes me . . . Hmmm, Erin would love that long sweater; River would be thrilled with this new Lego set; Mom could really use a new pocketbook like this one.

Then there is all the wrapping and baking and decorating that goes along with this season of “merry and bright”. Such delicious flavors and smells and delightful sights and experiences to savor.

Savor: to give oneself to the enjoyment of; to have delight in; to relish, to revel (in), to thoroughly enjoy.

Savoring takes time—time to not just experience, but to mull over, to reflect on. Savoring cannot be rushed through.

Even church Christmas plays, mission projects, cantatas, candlelight masses and other special services can feel rushed and empty if we don’t slow down and truly savor them.

This Christmas season let’s lean in, listen more closely, close our eyes and feel, open our eyes and feast, sit back and bask in all the wonderful blessings God is placing along our journey to Bethlehem, and the birth of our Savior and King, Jesus.

Be encouraged!

©2017 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Smooth or Rough?

Why is this floor so rough? I asked myself as I swept the concrete in one of the sheds of vintage furniture where I worked. The surface looked like Havarti cheese!

The ones who poured the concrete were not professionals by any stretch of the imagination, but surely, they could have smoothed out the bumps and crevices a little better, I fumed inwardly! Dirt and dust had settled into all the shallow little holes, making it impossible to sweep clean!

And then it dawned on me why the floor was left so course. The irregular surface never got slippery! People could walk through that shed with wet feet and not be worried about slipping or falling. A perfectly smoothed and even floor would leave nothing for their shoes to grip!

That rough concrete floor taught me a lesson about effectiveness as a Christian. As followers of Jesus, we may feel we must present a serene, unruffled façade to the world, no matter what we are going through. But who could identify with that? No one!

We may think if others know that we struggle, we will be less successful witnesses. I beg to differ. When strong Christians own up to faults and shortcomings or admit that they are going through a rough time, I can relate. When they allow me to see that they are real, down-to-earth beings facing the same problems and challenges I face, I am attracted to them—like the traction rough concrete affords. I learn from how they handle what life throws at them.

God calls us, not to present a slick persona to the world, but to show the world what it looks like to face those same difficulties and trials with Jesus at our side. No, as Christians, we aren’t exempt from problems and challenges—our lives are just as bumpy and uneven as the next person’s. We just don’t tackle them alone. Our most effective witness comes when we are honest and say, with Jesus, 

“. . . In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! . . .”
John 16:33

Be encouraged,

©2017 Pamela D. Williams