Hello everyone! Today is...*gasp* Christmas Eve?!?!? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN SO FAST???? AHHHH!!!! *groan* Anyways... I'm enjoying this Christmas season very much. The presents tucked away under the tree, the Christmas goodies covering the kitchen counter, the lights on the trees (yes, we have two. When you live on the tree farm, you can do such things :D) The Christmas-y songs on the radio – becoming louder when I walk past...until Dad claims it's giving him a headache and sends me turn it down... That, however, is a story for another time, which I shall leave for another time. B-)
It has been raining (no, pouring) for days now. I spitefully glare at it and say that it should be snow...but what kind of raindrops would they be if they listened to a strange teenage girl? ;)
Enough of my ramblings, here's the short story I told y'all about yesterday. I'm planning to write many more stories with these characters, so if you all enjoy them I'll be posting them here. ;) Enjoy! And I'd love to hear what you think! :)
Staring out the back window of the car, I sighed as I thought over how much my life had changed over the past year.
Last Christmas my twin sister and I were in a good home. Mr. and Mrs. Evans were a sweet, older couple and earnestly tried to make Christmas merry for us. Sadly, we were only with them through January. Since then we've been in five different homes. Five!
I should probably stop now and explain something to you. You see, my twin and I are what most of you know as foster kids. Our parents we’re killed in a car accident when Kaitlyn and I were eight and our brother, Braden, was eleven. Having no immediate family willing or able to take us in, we were put into foster care.
Beside the fact that I was still grieving for my parents, I didn't mind it so much at first. At least we were together. I never felt like I really belonged with any of the families, but with Kaitlyn and Braden around, it didn't bother me. That all changed two years ago.
Kaitlyn and I were fourteen and Braden was seventeen. At that time we were living in a group home. There were these certain foster parents who could only take two kids. Seeing as how Braden would be considered an adult and would be out of the foster care system come his next birthday, they opted to send Kaitlyn and I.
For the next three days, after hearing the news, my twin and I bawled. We cried over being separated from Braden, we cried because no one would listen to our pleas to stay at the group home, and we cried because we had always knew this was coming. Unless a family wanted to adopt all three of us, eventual separation was inevitable.
That horrible day, as we were saying our goodbyes to Braden, my brother pulled me into a warm hug and whispered something in my ear. “You're stronger than she is, Ashlyn,” he said. “You have to be the tough one and hold it together for Kaitlyn’s sake.”
I slowly released him and looked up into his question-filled eyes. And I nodded. It was just one simple nod, but it was a promise. A promise to be the strong one, to not get beat-down, and to be there for my sister.
We left that day and we didn't see Braden again for a long time. We were able to keep in touch with him by phone and snail mail, but it just wasn't the same.
Health issues arose and that couple wasn't able to keep us for very long. I was so upset. Because they wanted us we were separated from our brother, and now they couldn't keep us? It wasn't right and it wasn't fair, but I didn't shed a tear over it or say a single negative word about it. Not then, not when we were sent to the next one, or the one after that…or the one after that. I had to for Kaitlyn. I’d promised Braden.
After turning eighteen and leaving the group home, Braden joined the military. Kaitlyn and I were worried about him, but we understood that this was something he needed to do; had to do even.
He was deployed overseas the year after enlistment. That sort of bothered me. It meant less communication and a long time until seeing Braden was even a possibility.
For the last six months Kaitlyn and I have been back in a group home. And for almost three months, we've heard nothing from Braden. I'm terribly worried about him, but I'm trying to be strong, think positive, and not let my emotions show.
About two weeks ago, a church group visited the home. Their goal? For zero kids to have to spend Christmas in that place. Kaitlyn and I were lucky to have been among the first kids chosen. For the past two weeks we've been staying with the Robertson family. They're a fairly young couple with three children under six. They're great to us, and we love living with them and helping out with the kiddos. Unfortunately, we’re only with them through New Years.
One of the best things about living with this sweet family is that they take us to church. There's a candlelight service tonight; I'm so excited about it!
And then there we were. Standing with our current foster parents and siblings, holding candles and lighting the sanctuary of the small country church. Enjoying the peaceful, blissful setting.
Our pastor finished reading the Christmas story from Luke 2 and it was time to raise our voices in harmony.
The pianist struck a few chords to get us started off right, and the entire congregation broke into “Silent Night” acapella.
I looked around me at the dark church, lit by the light of each individual candle. Just as the world is lit by each Christian who has the True Light residing in their hearts.
I sighed. Not a sigh of longing for things to be different, not a discontented sigh due to yet another unhappy home, but a joyful sigh. A sigh that said on this special, silent, Christmas Eve night, peace reigned within me.
If only… I shook my head to clear my thoughts.
As we came into the third verse, a movement at the front of the church caught my eye. I slowly turned to my right and studied the area. Pastor Chris stood at the podium before the pulled curtain and Mrs. Crystal, his wife and the church pianist, had moved from the piano bench to her husband’s side. Maybe that's what I saw, I mused. Her moving halfway across the room.
I was turning my gaze back to the candle I held when it happened again. This time I was almost fast enough to catch it and I saw the curtain falling back into place. That's strange.
There was yet another rustle of movement and a silhouette appeared on the curtain next to Pastor Chris, illuminated by the light from the large candle at the center of the table.
My heart beat faster and faster. “Oh my goodness…” I felt the tears forming in my eyes but for once I didn't care. I nudged my twin. “Kaitlyn, that's–”
“I know,” she whispered, her own voice just as shaky as mine. She'd seen him too.
Without giving a single thought to my actions, or rather the aftermath of them, I shoved my candle into Mr. Robertson’s hands. Squeezing past Mrs. Robertson, I slid into the nearest pew and hurriedly sidled down it as fast as I could toward the middle aisle. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Kaitlyn right on my heels.
When I reached the aisle I broke into a run. I knew not to run in church, I'd been reminded of that many times. But I was fairly certain that, given the circumstances, God would forgive me.
I didn't stop until I reached the front of the church and threw myself into my brother’s arms. “Braden!”
He held me close, drawing me up in his arms until my feet left the floor. “Oh, Ash,” he murmured.
Kaitlyn appeared next to us. Braden returned me to my feet and scooped her up.
I stood to the side and watched the reunion between my siblings. Something trickled down my cheek. I couldn't believe it. Tears? I hadn't allowed myself to cry since the day social services had separated us from Braden at the group home. And now here I was, blubbering like a toddler.
Braden set Kaitlyn down and held out an arm to each of us. “Come here, you sissys.” He grinned, calling us by the nicknames he'd given us during childhood.
I swiped at the persistent tears and stepped forward into Braden's inviting hug.
“I've missed you two.” His voice broke, and I couldn't care less.
“We've missed you,” I sniffed. “I’ve been worried, with not hearing from you for months and…”
“I know,” he said, almost sorrowfully, and cleared his throat. “That's mostly my fault and I owe both of you an apology.”
“What do you think, Ash?” Kaitlyn peeked around Braden to me. “Forgiven?”
I smiled and squeezed him tighter. “Forgiven.”
Braden chuckled. “My pretty girls.” He planted a brotherly kiss on each of our foreheads.
I sighed and leaned against him. I couldn't believe it. Braden was really, finally here with us!
I was all too soon jerked back to the Christmas Eve service when “Silent Night” came to a close and I realized everyone was watching us.
Pastor Chris smiled in our direction and didn't comment on Kaitlyn and my behavior. “Let's dismiss with a prayer.”
My siblings and I reverently bowed our heads for the prayer. I missed most of Pastor Chris’ words because I was caught up in my own talk with God.
Thank you, Lord. How else can I say it? Having Braden here, even if it's just seeing him briefly, is the best gift we could've asked for. I'm so grateful, God, so grateful. Help me to keep my focus on You, this Christmas and always. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
I lifted my head after Pastor Chris’ prayer concluded. The service was over and people began making their way back to their seats to collect coats and things before leaving.
I sighed as I wondered how this would all go over. “This will be fun to explain,” I muttered.
“What did you say?” Kaitlyn asked.
I realized I'd thought aloud again and I started to explain. “Well, I was just thinking how difficult this–”
Another voice broke into our sibling trio. “I'm assuming you two know this young man.”
I turned to find Mr. and Mrs. Robertson standing behind us, curiously eyeing Braden. I could only imagine how this looked to them – two teenage girls, who they're responsible for, interrupting the service to run and hug a stranger in uniform.
“I'm Braden Dalton, sir.” He held out his hand. “These two are my little sisters.”
Mr. Robertson smiled and shook Braden's hand. “Samuel Robertson. This is my wife, Cassandra, and our children, Blake, Joe and Caroline.” He motioned to the three children staying close around their parents.
I breathed a sigh of relief; the Robertsons weren't upset with us. On the contrary, they seemed happy for us.
“Nice to meet you, Braden,” Mrs. Robertson spoke up. “Your sisters are staying with us over the holidays. We've heard a lot about you.”
While Braden exchanged ‘nice to meet you’ and ‘how are you's’ with the Robertsons, I became aware of something. With a sick feeling in my gut, I realized we would have to say goodbye to Braden. Again.
As I came to terms with this aching reality, Kaitlyn turned to our brother and softly whispered a question. “Will we see you for Christmas?”
Braden's face became downcast. “Well, I–”
Before he could offer an answer, Mrs. Robertson spoke up in her usual bubbly manner. “Oh, of course! We'd love to have you, Braden. Come on over to our house anytime tomorrow. And the rest of the week while we have the girls, if you like.”
Braden cleared his throat and nodded. “Thank you, ma'am. I appreciate your generosity and your family opening your home to my girls. I wouldn't be getting to see them right now without you all.”
Mr. Robertson smiled and turned to his wife. “We are more than happy to do what little we can.” He reached down and grabbed each of the boys by the hand. “We’re going to let y'all have some time alone while we get this gang herded towards the car.”
Mrs. Robertson nodded and smiled sweetly to me and Kaitlyn. “Take your time, girls.”
Alone in the quiet, dark sanctuary with my siblings, I felt more tears fill my eyes. At that was when I knew it. This Christmas was going to be perfect. Not only was I with an amazing Christian family; not just because I was I going to be blessed by being able to spend Christmas with Kaitlyn and Braden. But for the real reasons. Because true peace, love and joy reigned within me. Because the True Light, the Light of the World, made His abode in my heart.
And that, folks, is a blessing in it's self.
~ Verse of the Day ~
Today's Christmas-y posts!!
~ Visit Counting Your Blessings One by One for a Christmas album review!!
~ Visit Rebekah Ashleigh's blog for a Christmas-y tag!!
~ Visit Whimsical Writings for the fourth part of Jesseca's beautiful Christmas story, "I'll be Home for Christmas"!!
~ Visit Simply Stories for the conclusion of Rebekah's inspiring Christmas story, "God Will Provide"!!
Merry Christmas everyone! I'll be scheduling tomorrow's post sometime today. :) Have a blessed Christmas from our family to yours. ;)