Saturday, December 30, 2017

Christmas, a Laptop, and a Blog Party // December Recap

Y'all...2017 is coming to an end. And I'm kinda excited for next year and I kinda don't want this year to end. But I'll save all that for my next post and just get on with this one. xD

\\ Life. \\ 

>> The bro and I took pictures of each other with the creepy lil' Santa to celebrate December.

>> I slept in. A lot.

Me: *wakes up* Oh great, it's probably something insane like 9 o'clock.
Me: *sits up* *sees clock* 9:04?! Darn it!

But, ya know, maybe I needed the sleep because I sent this to a certain person the night before... 

>> There was sparks flying out our chimney one night. No big deal, right? Yeah, that's what I thought...until Dad sent Tucker for the water hose. (Spoiler: We all survived.) 

>> I fell down the stairs to the basement and was sore for a week. I'm not even kidding. 

>> I was crowned the Queen of Christmas. 

>> I decorated my bookshelves with Christmas lights. Allllll the heart eyes. <33

>> I discussed Christmas contemporary music with Dad. 

*Drummer Boy by fK&C comes on*
D: I'm not sure about this group just yet
Me...I like that song.  

>> We got like 13-14 inches of snow. And had apparently been indoors too long by Sunday afternoon. 

Dad: How much tree has our water drunk?
Mom: *replies without even catching it*
Dad:....I think I said that wrong.
Me: *chokes on coffee*

>> I acted like an immature little human over a cup of bad coke. 

In the car on the way home from Wednesday night church....
Tucker: I'd kill for something to drink right now.
Me: *looks down at cup holder* oooh, I have coke from Chick-Fil-A! *grabs it*
Tucker: *glares at me*
Me: *smirks* would you share with me?
Tucker: *doesnt even bother answering*
Me: *drinks coke and eyes him* see, I have this sudden, really bad cold. *coughs harshly*
Tucker: I'll drink without the straw.
Me: *pulls up lid and coughs into cup*
Tucker: I'll drink from the other side.
Me: *pulls lid all the way off and continues fake-coughing* I'll even lick it. *licks the rim*
Mom: *rolling her eyes at her supposedly-almost-adult-daughter*
Tucker: I'll drink from the other end of the straw.
Me: *pulls straw out and licks the other end*
Tucker: ....I'd still drink it.
Me: *takes another sip* it's actually watered down from the ice and not very good.

End of matter? No one drank the rest of it. 

>> Christmas happened! Which meant lots of epicness including a Christmas play at church, a blog party (more on that in a sec), and a laptop from my parents. O.O Yeah, they're kind of awesome. 

>> Another moment of craziness... 

Mom: Where's *youth leader* tonight? 
Tucker: He has an absent tooth.
Me: Abscessed. 
Tucker: That too.

\\ Books. \\ 

So...I kinda read a ton of books this month except they were mostly more like short-stories, but I'm still counting them because I can. #logic

When I Fall in Love by Melissa Storm -- 2 stars 
The Art of Thankfulness by R.A. Rooney -- 4 stars 
Christmas by the Sea by Beth Wiseman -- 5 stars -- Review HERE.
The Christmas Star by Ace Collins -- 5 stars -- Review HERE.
The Christmas Candle by Richard Paul Evans -- 3 stars 
As in Olden Days by Jesseca Wheaton -- 5 stars -- Review HERE.
The Proposal by Becky Wade -- 5 stars -- Review HERE.
Ephesians -- 5 stars 
Christmas Smiles by Rebekah Morris -- 4 stars -- Review HERE.
The Purpose of Christmas by Rick Warren -- 5 stars -- Review HERE.
Red Boots by Kate Willis -- 5 stars -- Review HERE.
Titus -- 5 stars 
Esther Ashton's New Dress by Kelly Roth -- 5 stars -- Review HERE.
Haywire Christmas by Jenni Hunt -- 4 stars 
Mistletoe Mistake by Lynette Sowell -- 3.5 stars 
The 12 Cats of Christmas by Perry Elizabeth Kirkpatrick -- 3.5 stars 
Christmas Eve at the Backdoor by Rebekah A. Morris -- 5 stars -- Review HERE.
Dashing Through the Snow by Debbie Macomber -- 3.5 stars 
Shooting at the Stars by John Hendrix -- 4 stars 

Sooo...I got some books for Christmas, and I bought some books myself. (And only one was from a Black Friday sale. Mwahaha, look at me being all smart and responsible.)

\\ Writing. \\ 

I wrote a little over 3,000 words this month...which sounds super lame, but then I remember that I wrote like 28+ blog posts....I don't feel so bad. xD

I also started a new story/book, a sort of sequel to "A Soldier's Freedom", which is fun and sweet and adorable and YAS. ^-^

\\ Music & Movies. \\ 

I watched lots of Christmas-y ness! And some not. xD

Love's Christmas Journey 
Silent Night 
Waltons Christmas (S5)
Sweet Nothing in My Ear
Signed, Sealed, Delivered (Lost Without You, Higher Ground, and Home Again)
Dashing Though the Snow
WCTH Christmas: The Wishing Tree
Christmas in Canaan & Christmas Comes Home to Canaan
It's a Wonderful Life

\\ Blogging. \\ 

>> The 12 Days of Christmas blog party happened! It was sooo much fun. :D Find all the goodness here

~ Favorite Posts of the Month ~
*Not including 12DoC posts*

Living for the Other Side // You Can't Be Everyone's Favorite Sauce

Novels, Dragons, and Wardrobe Doors // Her Son, Her Savior & The Faith of the Carpenter

More Precious Than Gold // Seasons of Life: Winter

Apples of Gold // I came. I saw. I judged.

\\ Goals. \\ 

~ December Goals 

>> Read 12 books.      Nailed it xD

>> Edit through chapter 25 of War Tears.      *dramatic coughing* Erm, no. I didn't even touch that messy ol' book this month.

>> Finish writing the second Christmas story, edit the first.     I edited the one (and let y'all read it!), but I still haven't finished the other.

>> Stay caught up with emails.     Pretty much. ;D

>> Host the 12DoC blog party.       Yup!!

>> Participate in Liv's Little Women Read-Along. I'm still only 1/4 through the book, but I still plan to finish.

>> Have a very, Merry Christmas!      Yup! :)

~ January Goals 

>> Read 8 books.

>> Finish editing part one of War Tears, start part two, and send part one to my alphas.

>> Stay caught up with emails.

>> Survive school.

>> Rewrite/edit a short story from last year to, hopefully, publish soon. (By the way, anyone interested in beta-reading that in a few weeks? :P)

>> Write 1-2 short stories for a contest.

>> Finish a beta-reading project.

>> Take a break from blogging. (Yup, that's right. Other than a few posts next week, I'm taking January off from blogging. I'll be back with a recap around the end of the month. ;))

>> Host a bookstagram challenge! (This is gonna be a lot of fun, y'all. :D Also, for anyone who doesn't have Instagram, I'm going to be adding my pictures to a page on this blog sporadically. ;))

How was y'all's Christmas season/December? :D Any thoughts on what I should add to/take away from these monthly wrap-ups in the new year? 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

SURPRISE! // We're Hijacking her Blog

Twelve days of Christmas is over already.  All of us participants had such an amazing time!!  As a result of all of her hard work, we just wanted to hijack Faith's blog for a day to say "thank you".

Dear Faith,
Thank you so, so much for spreading the joy of Jesus! Putting together a blog party for the past few years definitely hasn’t been easy - but you not only pull it off like a champ, you also keep spirits lifted to Yahweh through the craziness! Thank you so much for the 12 Days Of Christmas. It means so much to me the past 2 years I’ve participated. You’re definitely amazing, girl. Merry Christmas and a very happy new year!

First off, thank you so much for all the work you do to make 12 Days of Christmas a reality every single year. I know it entails a lot of organization and we’re all so very grateful for everything you do to keep it up and running. I’ve loved being able to participate for these past two years and be able to make blogging connections with you and everyone else who participates. Blogging can be pretty lonely and daunting if you don’t have other blogger friends to support you, and 12DoC helps us all build a little “blogging community” where we can encourage each other. Thank you for your willingness to do this and we hope you know that we’re all here to help support you!

So, putting aside our sharing the greatest name ever (;)), I just wanted to say thank you for putting this together. You took time out of your season to create a HUGE blog party, and it’s been super fun! I wasn’t able to post much, but what I got to put up and read was amazing. We love you--thank you so much for all your dedication and work to make this Christmas season terrific!

Faith!!!! This has been my first year participating in the 12DOC and wow, you my dear are amazing! December is probably the craziest time of the year and then add blogging every day!  Thank you so much for organizing this! It's been quite a pleasure to be a part of Celebrating Christmas and most importantly honoring  the Birth of Christ! Also how Fantastic is this that we get to connect with people we've never met before! This has been such a wonderful experience for me to be a part of! Thanks again!
Merry Christmas!

Wow, Faith, this is seriously the busiest time of year for you, on top of having a crazy busy year, and yet you still take the time to put together an amazing blog link up. You're epic dearie.
I love ya lots and am so blessed to be able to have been a part of the 12DoC every year since it's started. It's been a blessing to me, and I know it's blessed so many others as well.

Wow, girlie.  During the Christmas season, you’re not just getting ready for Christmas.  You’re doing school, making wreaths, helping out on the tree farm, practicing for a Christmas play, AND AMONG ALL THIS, you’re organizing a twelve-day-long blog party, posting twenty-four times within those twelve days.  Yet, through all this, I’ve seen how you focus on God and His reason for Christmas.  The fact that He sent His son to earth.  For us.  Faith, you’re an inspiration.  I’m blessed to be a part of 12DOC.

Hey Faith! I’m just participating in 12DOC for the first time this year, and wow! How do you manage to do so much during such a busy time of the year? I’m beyond impressed! I know how crazy it is to get posts out on time sometimes - and twelve at a time? While organizing twenty-one other bloggers? YOU ARE A SUPERHEROINE. And I love that you’re doing it all to the glory of God. I can only imagine how many people will be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas this year! So … thank you. Thank you for giving me (and all these other bloggers) an opportunity to be a part of this. With love, Kell

Hello Faith. I’m just swinging by to say thank you. You have truly done something amazing here. For the past 3 years you have takab random bloggers from all over the world, all different walks of life, who didn’t know each other, to all participate in a 12 day Christmas blog party. I know it isn’t easy. And I know you do a ton of work for this. So, thank you for all your hard work this year and every year. I hope to be able to continue to participate and hopefully help you out in the coming years. Again thank you for all your hard work and have a blessed Christmas and New Years!

Faith!! Thank you SO much for all your hard work in putting together the 12 DoC blog party again this year. It’s been so fun participating with you all (though I wasn’t able to do as much as normal, apologies for that :P) and it’s been equally amazing seeing how the party has grown in the past three years. Talking about the past...can you believe it’s been three years since we “met”?? Crazy!! It’s been awesome seeing how you and your love for Christ has shone the past few years through your blog. Keep up the amazing work, girl!
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!! <3

Faith, I just wanna say thank you. You multitask it all like a pro and have given everyone apart of this such a great time. I know it takes a supreme level of patience to take care of everyone’s needs in a blog party, and a whole lot of communicating...and you aced it.
Thanks so much for making this Christmas shine brighter & for bringing Christ’s joy into the spotlight!
Lotsa love girl,
Merry Christmas

Ahh Faith, you have done so much this year in organizing the 12 Days of Christmas blog party, and I’m so glad I get to be apart of it! You are truly an example of a hardworking, cheerful, beautiful Christian girl, and I really appreciate all you’ve done!! The 12DoC blog linkup has helped me to focus more on Jesus as Christmas arrives, and that’s a really really good thing. You’ve created something that people are blessed by and THANK YOU for that. You’re amazing to have done all of this ON TOP of everything else you have in your life, like schoolwork, homework, Christmas planning, and whatever else in between!! You’re an inspiration and a light for Jesus. Keep it up! I hope you have the best of Christmases and an awesome New Year.

Faith, I've been enjoying this link-up since the very first year, and it never fails to encourage me and introduce me to other amazing blogger's who seek to glorify God during the Christmas season. I have the awesome privilege to call you my friend, and I sincerely hope this little post we’re doing on your blog can scratch the surface of the gratitude we all feel for the time and effort you put into this fun blog series. :)
It hit me yesterday as I worked on scheduling my first post that having this link-up to look forward to each year has become a highlight of December for me. That's the highest compliment I can give anything, Faith, because December is one of my favorite months of the year, and there are so many things to keep me busy...but I wouldn't want to miss being a part of this link-up even with everything going on in my life right now. It has become one of those things that make my Christmas, like the decoration of our house, watching “It's a Wonderful Life”, and making Christmas cookies at my grandma’s house.
So thank you for everything you do to make this possible. I hope this post we’re putting together blesses you as much as your effort toward the link-up has blessed all of us. <3  I can honestly say that my Christmas would not be the same without it.

From all of us here,

Monday, December 25, 2017

12 Days of Christmas // Wrap-up + Christmas Story + Winners

Merry Christmas, dearest readers!! :D I hope y'all have a fabulous day with family and friends, celebrating the birth of our Savior.

Today I'm doing a wrap-up of the party, sharing the Christmas story (I'm gonna be not-so traditional and do Matthew instead of Luke ;D), and announcing the giveaway winners. Here goes! 

First off, how could we have a Christmas party without the true Christmas story? ^_^ 

18 ~ Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 
19 ~ Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 
20 ~ But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 
21 ~ And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 
22 ~ Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 
23 ~ Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 
24 ~ Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 
25 ~ And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.” 
~ Matthew 1:18-25 KJV ~ 


Okiedoke, party stats. xD This year, we ended up with posts from 16 different bloggers. Our most posts in a day was 13 on the 16th and our least was 5 on the 17th. Our total number of posts was 117! Woo-hoo for us, y'all! This makes me super happy. :D 

Lists of epic participants... :D 
Rebekah @ RebekahAshleigh
Olivia @ 9 Kids Plus 2
Kaitlyn @ Twin Thoughts
Rebekah E. @ Rebekah's Remarks
Marrok @ Marrok MacIntyre
Kellyn @ Reveries
Michaila @ Seventy Times Seven


And, now for what you're all probably waiting for, the giveaway winners!! The prizes go to... 

Maddy C (book and ornament)


Olivia F. (CD and ornament) 

Congrats, girls! I'll be contacting y'all soon to obtain your mailing addresses so I can get your prizes sent out. :D 


Most of today's links are not direct like they usually would be, since I'm scheduling ahead of time and didn't think ahead enough to get permalinks from everyone. I'll be back on to swap to direct links later today or even tomorrow, so if you're reading this late, you're good. ;D

The Peculiar Messenger // The Joy of Christmas
RebekahAshleigh // Merry Christmas
9 Kids Plus 2 // Christmas Vlog & It's a Wrap
Whimsical Writings for His Glory // Christmas Day
The Ramblings of a Book Worm // It's Christmas Day
Twin Thoughts // It's About the Cross
Colorful, Creative Cards // Jesus' Birth
Rebekah's Remarks // Christmas Traditions
Chosen Vessels // Book Review

Well, that's a wrap, as they say. I'm kinda tired of doing two posts a day for nearly two be honest. ;D Y'all will see me popping in to finish commenting on everyone's post sometime this week, and then I'll be back for the December recap, of course. I'm considering taking a blogging break early in the new year though...we'll see. :P 

Merry Christmas to all! 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

12 Days of Christmas // Anna, the Prophetess

Hey guys! Hope y'all are having an amazing Sunday. :) And, um, yeah. Christmas Eve? How did that happen? *shakes head*

Hugs and love and kudos and all that good stuff to my amazing mom who gave me a ton of great notes, since I ended up scrambling for time to get this ready. ;) 

Today we're gonna talk about Anna. (Don't know who this amazing lady is or her connection to Christmas? Go read Luke 2:21-38, especially those last three verses, and then come back. xD)

Anna. What do we really know about this woman? 

Perhaps I know what you're thinking right now because, at a time, I thought the same thing. C'mon, seriously? She's only mentioned once in the Bible, resulting in only three verses. How much can we know? 

Enough, my friends. Enough that we should want to be like her in many aspects of our daily lives. 

Let's dig into her history a bit and see what we know about Anna. Her name means 'favor of grace' or 'beautiful.' It's also the Latin version of Hannah. She was of the tribe of Asher. She was a prophetess and an elderly Jewish widow. (Did y'all catch that? Yeah, she was old. The Bible says she was of a great age, and she obviously was. A widow of eighty-four years? Even if she married when she was ten, she wasn't young by this time!) 

Hmm...she still doesn't sound that special, does she? Let's see what the Bible has to say about her. 

And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 
And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 
And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
Luke 2:36-38 KJV ~ 

Yep, that's it. Three little verses stuck between the shepherds and the Passover. I think we've covered everything in the first verse, so let's move on to the second. 

She departed not from the temple... Y'all, let's just stop and think about that. She didn't come to the temple once a week. She didn't come daily. She didn't come twice a day. She lived there. She never left. God's house was her dwelling place. Night and day, she fasted, she prayed, and she never left. 

She dwelled in His presence, day in and day out. How amazing is that?! Her life was spent anticipating the coming of the Promised Messiah. 

And you know what else? Her patient waiting paid off. That day that probably began so ordinary quickly changed. I believe that she, like Simeon, knew who Jesus was right away. She didn't doubt, didn't view Mary and Joseph as just another set of parents with just another newborn baby. And she wasn't surprised by His arrival. 

She just believed and accepted Him. How often do we accept His will that easily? I don't think I would be wrong to say it's rare. Very rare. 

In that very instant that she laid eyes on her Savior, Anna knew. She believed. She accepted. And she praised Him. 

But it didn't end there, the ending of the last verse from this passage tells us that she spread the news of Jesus to "all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalam." She didn't hide the joy away for herself, but she shared it with the world. 

It also specifies that she shared it with those in Jerusalem. That could mean those that came to the temple, sure, but I can't help wondering if it means something else. After her days of waiting were over, did Anna depart from the temple? Going forth to share this good news with anyone who was seeking redemption? I don't know that she did, but we also don't know that she didn't. It's something to think about, for sure. 

May we all await Christ's second coming in the same way Anna awaited His first, readily and faithfully. And while we wait...let's spread the Word of the Greatest Gift this world ever has and ever will receive. <3 

So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. 
~ Hebrews 9:28 KJV ~ 


Twin Thoughts // A Contemporary Christmas
9 Kids Plus 2 // Christmas Story, part three
RebekahAshleigh // Book Review
Living in Faith and Fun // Snow and Little Women
Whimsical Writings for His Glory // A Christmas Short StoryChosen Vessels // Book Review

Thoughts on Anna? Thoughts on how tomorrow is Christmas?! #whaaattt 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

12 Days of Christmas // Home by Christmas {3 of 3}

Happy Saturday, all! :)

Slight change of plans. I had planned to do a different post today, but something came up and I didn't have time to get it written in advance. So I'm gonna give y'all the conclusion of the story today instead, and that post tomorrow. ;) 

December 24th, 1944 

  The train chugged down the tracks, eating up the miles as they crossed the great expanse of the American continent. Ruth rested her head against the cold glass window to her right, still trying to believe that she was really here. Almost home, on Christmas Eve, with Doug at her side. Mama and Papa would be thrilled by their surprise arrival, not to mention Doug’s fiancée’s sure-to-be-emotional response. 
  Somewhere between South Carolina and their home state of Texas, the train stopped to pick up a few passengers. A woman boarded, dragging two young children along by the hand. The little boy dawdled in the middle aisle, gawking at Doug until his mother pulled him on down the car. 
  Ruth swallowed and glanced at her brother out of the corner of her eye. So far, he'd been handling the stares better than she expected, but she knew it still hurt. How could it not – to be stared at like you were some sort of creature instead of a human being with hurts and fears and dreams? 
  She reached a hand toward him and squeeze his forearm. He looked up and smiled at her touch, turning halfway to see her since he no longer had an eye on that side, a black eyepatch now in its place. “I'm okay, Ruthie.” 
  “Really? Because you look as exhausted as I feel,” she teased. Scooting down in her seat, she leaned back into the window. 
  “Lean on me,” she offered, shifting and indicating for him to rest his head on her shoulder. 
  He shook his head, glancing warily around. “Switch seats with me.”
  “Why?” Ruth asked, even as she stood and let Doug slide into her seat. He held onto her arm to steady her until she was safely in the seat to his left. 
  “Better.” He leaned his shoulder against the side of the car and held out his arm to her. “Here. Let me take care of you now, Ruthie.” 
  Finally catching on, Ruth smiled and snuggled into his side. “If you say so.” 
  The siblings fell asleep to the lull of the train, rocking away the remaining miles between them and home. It may mean walking the mile and a half from the station, but they were going to make it home by Christmas. 


  “Thanks, Jim!”
  “Yes, thank you!” Ruthie joined her brother’s call of gratitude as they slid out of the back of the truck, belonging to the man who had given them a lift from the train station to the end of their driveway. 
  Having left their baggage at the station, the siblings hustled through the snowy night. 
  As they came into the edge of the yard, with inviting light spilling from the windows of their childhood home, Ruth’s heart filled with love and happiness. This was it. This was home. 
  “Wait.” Doug reached out and grabbed her arm. “They know…right? I mean, they're not going to be startled or–” 
  “No.” She cut him off, looping her arm through his and leaning her cheek into his shoulder. His self-consciousness sliced her heart. “They know all of it. And they're waiting to welcome you home with open arms. Okay?” 
  He let out a pent-up breath, covering her hand in his. “Okay. I'm all right.” 
  Ruth smiled and they continued toward the porch steps. He really wasn't all right, but he would be. When he was welcomed into this wonderful home and wrapped in the love that waited for him in the beautiful hearts just inside. 


  Treading softly up the porch steps, the siblings stopped at the front window and peeked inside. The lacy curtains prohibited a full view, but did allow them to make out three figures in the front room. Mama, in the rocker with her knitting in her lap, probably mittens or a scarf to send overseas. Papa, in the armchair, glasses on the end of his nose and the family Bible in his lap. And Mary, settled in the floor with curls in her hair and holly berries pinned to her Christmas dress. 
  “What is she doing here?” Doug hissed under his breath. He had thought he'd have tonight to face his parents and could put off seeing Mary until tomorrow. 
  “She's always here for holidays,” Ruthie said, as if that explained it. “You know that.” She looked at the door and then back at him. “Should we knock or barge right in?” 
  Doug shrugged, reaching up to straighten his eyepatch. He needed it on straight. His parents and sweet Mary didn't need to see his ugly, sunken eyehole first thing. “Up to you. I just want to–” Keep from breaking down in front of them… 
  “I know.” She smiled up at him in the glow of the porch light. Funny how Mama had left it on, when she wasn't even expecting them. “Just remember how much they love you.” 
  Swallowing hard in effort to tamp down his emotion, Doug followed his sister to the door. 
  She raised her hand to knock – and then quickly drew back, swirling around to face him. “I've got it! I'll go on in and send Mary out. Y'all may need a moment alone.” 
  We may need more than a minute. But Ruthie grabbed the doorknob and barged into the house before Doug could object. 
  He stood in the shadows, unable to do anything more than smile at the joyous voices spilling out into the night as Ruthie was welcomed into their midst. 
  “Mary,” he heard his sister say. “Why don't you step outside? I left your Christmas present on the porch, and he's probably getting cold.” 
  Mary squealed so loudly Doug nearly jumped out of his skin. Her footsteps came through the room, slowing as she reached the doorway. 
  Heart tripping over itself due to the high speed at which it was functioning, Doug stepped into the light of the doorway with the left side of his face toward his fiancée. 
  “Oh, Doug…” She whispered, voice breaking until he could make out the tears in her words. 
  Why was he doing this to her? Why let her see his brokenness and cry even harder, hurt even more over his pain? 
  “No…” He muttered under his breath and placed his hand over the door casing, where the storm door met the house siding. 
  “Doug, what–” 
  It vibrated under his palm as she tried to push through anyway. “Mary, stop.” 
  He could hear her quiet sobs cutting through the chilly air, another, a moment more, and then quiet. 
  Doug swallowed and held firm. He didn't know why he didn't just let her see him; she would soon enough. She would cry, harder than she was now, she would pity him. And she would hurt all over again, and somehow he would feel responsible for her pain. Why wouldn't she let him protect her heart in this way, even if it was just for a little while? 
  Around the side of the house, a door slammed. A doubled thump hit the steps at the other end of the porch and Doug glanced up – and quickly looked back down. Mary was standing at the other end of the porch, without even her coat. She must have snuck out the kitchen door to get to him. 
  “Mary, please don't…” 
  But she ignored him. She always did when she wanted to do something that he didn't want her to do. He heard her quick footsteps come across the porch, and then her catching breath as she stood a few feet ahead of him. 
  “Doug…please let me see you.” 
  “No, Mary. You don't want to have to look at me.” 
  Still not heeding his words, she stepped closer until she stood so near that their heads nearly touched. Her hand appeared at the end of his coat sleeve, fingers linking with his. “Please, Doug…” She whispered again. “You're making my heart hurt.” 
  No… Sweetheart, I'll only make your heart hurt worse. Contrary to his thoughts, Doug slowly lifted his head to look at the young woman before him, reaching for his eyepatch with his free hand. She would see all of him sooner or later; he couldn't save her that pain forever.
  When she saw his face and eye, she didn't jerk away in shock, or run in fear, or cry out and flee. Instead, her grip on his hand tightened, and the light coming through the open door and frosted windowpanes glinted off the tears on her cheeks. She fought to still her jaw as she reached out and pressed her palm to the disfigured side of his face. 
  “Doug, I love–” 
  He shook his head and drew back from her touch. “Mary, no, you don't want to–” 
  “No, you're going to listen this time,” she insisted, stepping close to him again. “I love you, Doug…so much. And I'm going to be your wife.” 
  Fighting back tears of his own, Doug stopped fighting her, stopped pulling away from her love. Seeing the tears spill from her sparkling eyes, he was compelled to open up to her. To share his true heart. 
  “I love you, but… Mary, I don't want you to be ashamed of me.” 
  “Ashamed of you?” Her face crumbled, lip puckering. “From what I hear, I have a war hero on my hands.” 
  He shook his head, incapable of drawing his eyes from her face. “Don't believe everything you hear.” 
  “I have reliable sources,” she whispered, but neither of them were paying any attention to all that now. “Doug, the One who loves me most is scarred. You know that? And He took those scars because of His love for me.” 
  Doug swallowed and tried to drag his mind away from the feel of her hand on his wrinkled cheek. 
  “He sacrificed for me, just as you did. Willingly and freely gave, for those He loved.”
  Mary’s face blurred as tears crowded his eye. “That was not a fair or accurate comparison.” 
  She laughed, soft and sweet. “Maybe not.” She wrapped her arms around his middle and snuggled her face into the front of his coat. “But it made you smile at me. I like it when you smile.” 
  He was smiling? One arm around her shoulders, Doug reached up and felt the taut, scarred side of his face. “Doesn't even feel like a smile; I don't know how you recognized that as one.” He dropped his hand and hugged her close. “To you I probably look like a–”
  “Doug, stop.” She lifted her face from his chest and placed her cold hands to either side of his face. “Don't talk like that. I don't want to hear it. You're home…here with me, that's what matters.” She stood on tiptoe to press a kiss to his cheek. 
  As she drew back, Doug leaned forward and kissed her lips. They'd only kissed once before, and that was the day he shipped out. But the way she was talking, treating him like he was something special, loving him in spite of everything…she deserved to know how cherished she was. 
  The kiss was over as soon as it had began and Mary stood before him with a beautiful look of love on her face. 
  “You know, this makes kissing a little awkward, with only half of my face wanting to move.” He leaned in again and kissed her forehead to demonstrate. “But I guess we’ll just have to practice a lot.” 
  She laughed, tears still rolling down her face. “Now that sounds more like the Doug I fell in love with in eighth grade.” 
  He couldn't help grinning then, and he gathered her back into his embrace. Yes, they would be all right. Not the same, not ever the same, but all right. They had a living hope. 
  He rested his cheek on her head, and they swayed side to side, snowflakes clinging to their hair and clothes. “Hmm?”
  “Can we go inside now? I'm freezing.” 
  Doug quickly drew back and glanced down at her attire, feeling like he was seeing her for the first time. She wore no coat or sweater and her feet were bare. “Mary! Where are your shoes?” 
  “Inside.” She shrugged and turned toward the door, pulling him along. “I was in a hurry.” 
  Now he felt like an idiot for letting her stand out in the cold so long. But at least this way he didn't have time to think about what to say to his parents – or how they would react to seeing him – before he stood before them, Mary at his side. 
  Papa stood with Mama on one side and Ruthie on the other, his arms around his girls. The awkward silence lasted only a moment, before Mama broke away and rushed into Doug’s arms. Sobs shook her slight frame as she clung to him, her hand finding his scarred face and staying there. 
  Doug tightened his arms around his sweet Mama, afraid she was going to collapse onto him. He glanced up in time to see Papa kiss Ruthie’s cheek and move to join them, wrapping his strong arms around his wife and son. 
  Held tightly in his parents arms, surrounded by their love, Doug felt his barriers begin to breakdown, bringing what Mary’s words had begun to consummation. He was home. He didn't have to be strong, put up a brave front, tuck his true feelings down deep inside and keep pushing forward. He could be open, real, genuine, and raw. The people in this room loved him and knew him. They wouldn't judge his pain, misinterpret it for weakness. 
  Tears fell from his eyes – or eye, as it was – and a cry rose from somewhere deep within him, somewhere that hadn't been touched since he'd crawled away from a burning tank in the dark of night. 
  Amidst his outpouring of hurt, Doug felt small hands on his back and then someone leaned their head against him. Mary. Seconds later, another figure appeared at his side, opposite Papa, and Ruthie wrapped her arms around him and Mama. 
  Doug knew that with his parents loving guidance, his girl’s confidence in him, and the support of the sister who had seen him lower than, he prayed, the other’s ever would, he truly would be all right. 
  After months of being apart, being separated on opposite sides of the globe by a war greater than any before, but not greater than their God, the family was finally united again. 


  As the minute hand rose to a vertical position, the clock on the mantle began to chime. Twelve full strokes, which ended with the family sitting in silence except for the crackle of the fire. Christmas Day. 
  Doug smiled as his mother approached him with the coffee pot. “More, son?” 
  “Thanks, Mama.” He held out his mug for her to fill, his other hand occupied by Mary’s. 
  Every coffee cup in the room had been refilled or topped off before Mama returned to her seat. She sank into the empty rocker by the fire, across from Papa. Doug and Mary sat on the sofa facing them, Ruthie on the ottoman between. 
  “Papa…” Mama laid her hand on her husband's knee, their eyes meeting in the firelight. “Why don't you lead us in a prayer to thank God for our children’s safe return?” 
  As they bowed their heads, Doug tightened his arm around Mary’s shoulders, nudging her closer to him. He couldn't help smiling when she pressed a kiss to his scarred cheek and nestled her head into his embrace.
  Yes, they loved him for who he was deep inside. He wasn't the same person that left, but he had survived the war. And he’d made it home to the one he loved, home just in time for Christmas.


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RebekahAshleigh // Movie Review
Twin Thoughts // A Country Christmas
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Chosen Vessels // Book Review

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