Category Archives: Christmas Gift
Live nativity dramas fill the Christmas season. I love them. I love the warmth, the holy joy and the reminder of who this is all about. And I know that I am not the only one who feels that way. I close my eyes now and say a quick prayer. Jesus fills my heart and my mind. At this very moment I can imagine Him actually enter with a crowd at an outdoor nativity play. Come, imagine with me…
He did it with no fanfare at all. Truth be told, the big fanfare to come…ah, that special coming will reveal itself another time and the whole world will see Him. But tonight, well tonight Jesus looks just like you or me. I refocus on the nativity scene and see Him inhale this offering. The celebration that began in the heavens well over 2000 years ago continues still in the hustle and bustle of this night. How it pleases Him. It is His private gift to be with His children as they remember Him. Watch Him with me…
A sweet ache pierced His heart as He caught the arm of an old man who stumbled as he tried to calm the nativity animals. Jesus gave the man a quick hug and walked to the side of the seating area. He leaned against a tent post to watch everything. He didn’t want to miss anything at all. He chuckled at the children’s squeals and antics waiting for the drama to start. Two pre-school kings ran into His legs and made everyone laugh as they continued to barrel through the crowd – determined to play, at the play!
Jesus enjoyed the twinkling lights, the costumes, the music, and the Star of Bethlehem high above the wooden stable. He loved it all – and He loved them. Jesus walked up the aisle and shook hands, hugged those around Him, and greeted everyone like His family. No one knew anything was different tonight. Old people, young people, married people, single people, church people and passersby stopped and entered the tent looking for a place to sit. Everyone was eager to watch the drama unfold. After all, everyone wanted a reminder in this busy season of what it was really all about. Christmas is so hectic, so media driven, and so commercial.
Suddenly Jesus turned and headed to the far edge of the tent where a woman was sitting by herself. Her head was lowered so her hair shielded her face. He came around the row and sat beside her. No one else saw the tear overflow as she closed her eyes, but Jesus did. He quickly reached out and caught it as it rolled off her check. He also saw the bruises she hid underneath her makeup and the wedding ring lying in the bottom of her purse. Quietly He breathed a command to His angels concerning her, to guard her in all her ways. How He loved meeting them at the place of their need. Then He stood and walked outside.
Behind Him the lights dimmed and the drama began. It was time for Him to go, but He wanted to visit the extra animals not needed for the play first. He knelt down to hold them. He grinned as they all tried to get to Him. He noticed a little lamb behind the others and stepped through the herd to pick it up. About that time He heard the angels in the play proclaim His birth. He walked to the edge of the stable door and watched as His children honored Him by laying baby Jesus in the manger.
He felt His heart sing a song that only He knew. He shifted the lamb to His left hand and raised His right hand to run it across the top of the door frame. He wanted the world to get it. He wanted them to see that tonight wasn’t really about Him, it was for them. Christmas was simply the beginning of Easter. And it was all so that He could be with them always. As Jesus turned to walk away, He glanced back at the blood that only He could see wiped across the top of the door frame. With a smile He leaned down and whispered to the little lamb that He held, “I was born to be you little one. I AM the last sacrifice.”
He put the lamb down, glanced up and was gone. There on the ground by the lamb was a gift tied with a large red bow. On the gift tag it read – All my love, Jesus.
From me to you this Christmas season, open and receive all your gifts with love. Especially the one that Jesus gave you.
Patti Corbello Archer
December 13, 2015
2014 Christmas thoughts…with love
I remember. I remember you Jesus.
I don’t just look at a Christmas tree and see the twinkle of decorations. While I love the glitter of holidays and sharing joy with family and friends, I never forget you. How can I not fathom that you left your crown behind and stepped out of heaven and into skin to lay in a manger made of wood and straw. You weren’t a new gift to the world. You were the prophesied hope of the world. You came to show us the way to love beyond skin and fleshly things. You opened the door to your spiritual world so that one day we could lay aside our skin and join you. But for now we celebrate Christmas…in hopes of that tomorrow. It is unreal that we use a tree to decorate when your last crown and breath on this earth was on a tree. But life has its peculiarities. So for me, and for all that love you, I pray that when we look at our Christmas tree – that the top has a spiritual crown that resonates within our hearts. A powerful reminder of the true gift and the true promise of love and a sincere Merry Christmas.
Patti Corbello Archer
December 14, 2014
My Christmas card to all of you. Blessings…
The Church Carpenter
With one finger he tilted her chin up and watched as her lips parted with the hint of a gasp. His crooked smile flashed then faded as his lips got closer and closer to hers. He paused and let their breath kiss… before their lips ever did. The tension between them grew. He felt her going soft in his arms so he put his other arm around her and pulled her tight into him. After a quick look into her surrendered green eyes he crushed her to him. They kissed. Finally.
The lights came on and the credits began to roll on the screen. The audience began to shuffle, gather their popcorn and coke cartons and move on to another part of their day. Amanda still sat there stunned at the beauty of the love she had seen on that screen. She finally began to breathe again and bring herself back to the present. Not that she wanted to – she would rather stay in that embrace with that look in his eyes. Now THAT was her kind of Christmas story!
Her cousins sat on the right side and finally noticed her preoccupation. They began to pick at her as they gathered their purses and made more mall shopping plans. “Come ON Amanda! We have to go!” And then they all talked at once as they joined the line to leave the cinema. They all laughed and dramatized the last love scene in the movie but Amanda knew that they had husbands to go home to. Maybe not perfect husbands, but someone that loved them, missed them, held them, and kissed them. Shaking off the thought, Amanda began the goodbye process with her 4 cousins with lots of fanfare. Southern style goodbyes came with hugs, kisses, hair touching, hand holding, encouragement and love. No proper southern goodbye would last less than 10 minutes! It was great.
She walked to her car and smiled. Her cousins could always be counted on to make her laugh…or cry, they were the best. Her phone buzzed once she got in her car. She worked at a small country church close to home and there was a Christmas play tonight. She still had many things to finalize before the cast even arrived. “Oh no!” she said as She glanced at her watch. She knew the new carpenter the church had just hired would be there to finish the manger scene at 3 p.m. and it was 2:30 p.m. now. In fact, that was him that had just text’d her.
By the time she returned all her phone calls she was back at the church. She unlocked all the entrances and walked back through the church. She paused in the church sanctuary itself, loving the stained glass picture stories in the windows, the baptismal pool behind the platform, the wooden pews and the tall rafters that covered the ceiling. Church was always a place that Amanda loved. Even alone in the building she loved knowing she was never alone. Jesus was always with her…and she knew it. Spiritually He had opened her to so much of Himself and she literally took Him at His Word.
She had learned that many people saw Jesus in the way that they needed Him, i.e., Healer, Savior, Provider, Comforter, Warrior, Father, King and many more. But for Amanda…Jesus, the Lover of Her Soul was the one she spent a lot of private time with. Since He lived on the inside of her, let’s face it, how easy was it for Him to rise up and make Himself known to her in any situation? Like today, well, today, she needed more hands than she had to get everything done! She laughed as she walked onto the platform doing a mental check off list of things that still needed to be put in place. The Star of Bethlehem needed to be hung, the Kings set up with crowns and gifts, and the manger brought in with baby Jesus…
She turned at the sound of footsteps and saw the new carpenter coming up the church aisle toward her. “Hi Amanda,” Lee said in his deep voice.
“Oh, hello Lee! I am so glad to see you. How could we do this without you?”
He laughed and stepped up on the platform with her. “There is no place I would rather be, I promise you. Why don’t you turn on some music and we can get this done in no time. I love the music you play here.”
Amanda walked to the sound booth and put in a Jewish Christmas CD that she loved. She kept the sound low but where they could sing along if they wanted to. Her phone rang. She answered and for the next few minutes talked to the pastor.
Lee smiled as He watched her. She made His heart sing, she just didn’t know it. He loved the sound of her voice and her joy. She was contagious! He started working while she was on the phone and He got most of it set up in no time at all. He turned and faced the manger scene and picked up the crowns for the finishing touch to the 3 Wise Men. He placed the crowns on them and positioned them in the front of the manger. He could not help but chuckle to Himself.
He remembered the night that the 3 Wise Men came to Him many, many years ago.
Amanda hung up the phone and came up to the platform. “Lee,” she said, “Is baby Jesus up there?” Hiding a grin, Lee said, “Hmmm I don’t see him, hold on and let me look in this box.” “Oh, I remember now!” she said, “They had to sew the blanket on him so it would not fall off when Mary picked him up tonight. Let me go get him.”
Lee…Jesus in fact…could not help but grin as she hurried down the aisle to her office.
In just a moment she headed back to the platform. “Here he is!” She stepped over to the manger and said, “Would you mind holding him for a second?” and handed him to Lee. She knelt by the manger and ruffled the hay…making it smooth for him. “Lee?” she asked. He didn’t say anything but knelt down beside her with baby Jesus in his arms. “Yes?” he asked quietly.
“You know, sometimes Jesus is so close to me. I can literally feel him. Do you know what I mean? She looked at Lee intently, searching his eyes for truth.
“Oh Amanda, I certainly do. I know with everything deep inside of me that he loves nothing better than to spend personal time closer to us than we can ever imagine.”
She closed her eyes. “I believe that too,” she said. “Jesus is a unique experience not just once, but every day. Some days He reminds me of standing on the seashore with the deep in front of me and the breeze surrounding me. Other days, it is like the smell of fresh cut grass where I walk as His footsteps lead mine. Or maybe, it is the sweetness of a fragrance that makes me wonder what He smells like.”
Amanda knelt there with her eyes closed as Jesus literally knelt next to her…his eyes drinking in the sight of her beauty, smelling her totally unique fragrance offering and loving her from heaven to earth. Placing his holy hand on the small manger next to her he felt his heart explode into the Star of Bethlehem all over again.
“How can anyone wonder if a love affair with me is worth it?” he thought.
He swallowed hard, and said, “Amanda, I think the greatest gift we can give him is the one that he gave us…” She opened her eyes and smiled at him. “Lee…you are so right,” as she laid baby Jesus in the manger.
“Thanks Lee…Merry Christmas….you are the greatest Carpenter ever.”
Patti Corbello Archer
December 23, 2012
Tracks for a Miracle
Jeremy jumped from the slow moving freight train and landed with both feet flat on the ground just on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas. As he stood up and straightened his clothes the trains whistle seemed to echo goodbye in the cold night air. He watched the railcars head off into the darkness and kind of gave’em a little salute as if to say, “Thanks for the ride!” He pulled his tattered army jacket together and saw that he had lost the last two buttons that held it together. He groaned against the wind. He knew he still had a good long walk ahead of him. He yanked his knit cap down over his ears. It used to be a plaid cap but was now just an ugly one. But, truth to tell, he could care less what it looked like – he had learned long ago not to focus on those things that didn’t help with survival. When you lose so many valuable things, where do looks matter in the scheme of things? He did have to say that he missed his long reddish brown hair that had kept his neck warm these past winters. A buddy offered to cut his hair for him just before he left the last homeless shelter. At the time it seemed important to make that small concession toward conventionality… considering his journey.
Shivering again, Jeremy flipped the collar of his coat up and glanced toward town. His eyelids hid very, very tired green eyes. It had taken him four days to cross two states as he searched for rides in empty railcars on trains bound for Texas. There were a lot of people like him on the tracks these days. Some chatted along the way but most didn’t have much to say because they were lost somewhere between their past and their present…homeless because of a myriad of reasons. Hobos. He still found it hard to think of himself as a hobo. At 33 years old?
Lost in thought he headed to the south side of town. Hunched against the cold wind he walked down the alleys instead of the main roads so no one would even notice him. He was used to preconceived notions about the homeless and tried to make himself invisible. Shaken by a dog that snarled at him through a rod iron fence, he took a deep breath and switched to the other side of the alley. Tonight was Christmas Eve and what a journey into irony it was. He had spent 11 years trying to forget who he was and what had happened and yet was drawn back here, tonight. He reached the third block into the neighborhood and stopped. The road sign was covered with ice and he couldn’t read it – but it didn’t matter. He knew the name of the street as well as his own. Well, it was his actually. Gallagher Lane. The last time that he was on this street it had been Christmas Eve. That was the night that he ran away. That was the night that he had killed Jessie, his twin brother. Jeremy got lost in the pain as he remembered.
It had been a holiday accident. They had been 22 years old and had moved back home from Texas A&M. They had just graduated and had plans to open a business together by summer. Jeremy was an Architect and Jessie was a Civil Engineer. Their dad was a successful attorney and planned to give them their start in business. They came from a large Irish family that had immigrated in the late 1800’s. Everyone always got together on Christmas Eve – well, for as long as he could remember. And the twins as they were called – had been responsible for the fireworks display since they were teenagers. Using their creativity that year they worked unceasingly on an elaborate lighted musical Christmas carousel in honor of their four younger sisters.
It was meant to be the best of the best. But it was the worst of the worst. Jessie must not have noticed the ice that melted right under the electrical extension cord that he plugged in. Jeremy was the one that found his brother lying on the ground not breathing after all the fireworks had ended. He didn’t remember screaming but he must have. All he remembered was the look on his mom and dad’s faces as they shoved him out of the way to get to Jessie. Jeremy had sent Jess to plug it in. Something inside Jeremy snapped and he ran…
And here he was. He had been on the run all these years. No phone calls. No letters. No FaceBook or Twitter. He had never tried to reach them. He worked construction jobs that didn’t require identification or at homeless shelters across the country so that he could eat. Of course, he knew that he couldn’t outrun the pain – he just knew that he had to try. It always followed him and met up with him when he would see brothers together or the unmistakable sound of a carousel. He never forgot and he never got away from it. The guilt and sorrow literally ate at him every single day chiseling him into the very strong, reflective and quiet man that he was today.
But a couple of months ago he had stayed and worked at a new homeless shelter in Colorado. A preacher there showed interest in him. After a few weeks the preacher began to call on him to help design and build additions to the shelter because of the winter cold on the way. They became friends. Then the preacher was in the right place at the right time and Jeremy told him his story. That’s when the preacher introduced Jeremy to Jesus. It seemed like he cried for days. Eleven years was a long time to hide from the truth. Eleven years was a long time to lose yourself because you caused the loss of your brother. After the tears, hope seemed to rise in the days ahead.
Two weeks passed and early one dawn he went into the kitchen for coffee duty and the preacher was waiting for him. He said, “Jeremy, do you realize that Christmas is just five days away?” Jeremy said, “Yes, Preacher – sure. Why? Do you need me to do something before then?” The preacher said, “Actually, Jeremy, I do need you to do something …but not for me.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“I need you to take a trip. There is a family that has been waiting a very long time for something and Jesus has impressed upon my heart that He wants you to go and bring it to them. Will you do that for me?”
Jeremy said, “Sure, preacher, I don’t mind at all. Traveling is all I do. Where am I going?”
“Home,” the preacher said. “Jeremy, Jesus said it is time for you to go home. He has something He needs you to deliver this.” He opened his hand to reveal the pocket watch.
“Go home? Go home?” It echoed in Jeremy’s mind. It even seemed hard to say the word. Choked up, he couldn’t say anything but look at the preacher in shock. After a few minutes of silence Jeremy turned and began making the coffee. All the men would be up soon. Jeremy heard the preacher pull out a chair and sit down. He fixed them both a cup of coffee and he sat down too. The preacher had laid the pocket watch in the middle of the table. It was quiet in the room.
Before long the men began coming in for their coffee so they could get their chores done. No one stayed at the shelter without giving back. That was the rule. One of older guys said, “Hey, an old pocket watch! Whose is it?” After a brief pause, Jeremy picked it up and said, “It’s a gift that I am delivering to someone. I leave in the morning.” All the guys started telling him not to leave. The preacher smiled.
It was a simple goodbye when he brought Jeremy to the train tracks the next morning. The preacher wanted to pay his way home on a bus but Jeremy insisted on going back the same humble way he ran away from home. He needed time to think… and pray. He pulled his train hopping clothes out and turned to face his past.
It seemed a long walk down Gallagher Lane but Jeremy knew that the man he was now was much stronger than the boy he was when he ran away. Time and Jesus had made this journey possible. He didn’t know what he would face when that door opened, but he knew that he didn’t face it alone. He cupped his hand around the pocket watch in his pocket and stopped. He turned and faced the home that he ran from 11 years ago and started up the walkway. He wondered if they would receive the man he was now in place of the young man that had left.
The house was all lit up for Christmas and it hadn’t changed that much. There were a lot of vehicles in the driveway that he knew had to belong to all the voices he heard laughing on the inside. His heart pounded as hard as the watch ticked against his palm. It was time. He knocked on the door.
Several people hollered “Come in!” and “Merry Christmas!” simultaneously but he froze and couldn’t open the door. He swallowed hard and the door knob turned and began to open. A little red headed girl with green eyes about five years old opened the door and said with her hand on her hip, “Come on in…who are you? I am Holly and I am the hostess tonight.”
Jeremy wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. She looked just like him and his brother Jessie when they were little! Oh my, he thought! No telling how many times his four sisters had made him an uncle! This must be his nieces and nephews running all over. Jeremy said, “Is your grandmother….” and the door opened and his mother stood there. She looked older and wiser…and for a moment, speechless. She started to say something then she stopped…tried to talk and then just screamed and grabbed him.
It took about five minutes for the commotion to reach everyone in the house. Jeremy and his mom just cried and held each other as the crowd gathered. No one else even knew who he was. Finally, his mother stepped back to look at him and said, “Jeremy…I never stopped looking for you.” At her words, the sisters finally realized who he was and they started crying and hugging too. Then all the kids got scared and began to cry. He heard his dad’s voice before he saw him. His dad rounded the corner of the den and froze in his tracks. He saw the smile he knew in the face he didn’t and grabbed me.
You never know what going home will be like. You never know if your fears will be your future. But I learned with Jesus that night that going home with Jesus is a miracle like no other. As my Mom and Dad hung onto me my Dad suddenly bellowed, “Jessie! Get in here!” I thought my Dad had gone crazy but suddenly I could hear something creaking and looked up to see a Jessie I didn’t know round the corner. He was fussing about always being left for last when he rounded the corner in a wheelchair. Gone was the young boy man….and a fine looking man was in his place. Time stood absolutely still as Jessie and I looked at each other. Did I tell you that we were identical twins? Everyone just watched us as I stumbled toward him as he worked to stand up to reach me. There wasn’t a dry eye left anywhere.
Finally, Jessie sank back down into the wheelchair and I sank on my knees before him. We were both trying to explain. And then we laughed. What a glorious feeling it was to laugh with my brother and my family again. I don’t know how this glorious gift of tonight was mine. Then I remembered Jesus and the pocket watch. I said, “Wait Jessie!” and he looked up as I held out the pocket watch to him. He held it in his hand and I said, “I am here because Jesus sent me to bring it to you. He said that it was time for me to go home. This gift is yours.” Jessie smiled the biggest smile that I had ever seen and said, “He always told me that He would bring you home.”
And everyone began to talk at once.
A few months later, spring blossomed in the Colorado mountain side. It was a beautiful Saturday morning and a preacher was outside the homeless shelter drinking coffee on the front porch. He enjoyed the peaceful morning. Then he noticed a shiny black Chevy duly towing a construction trailer round the corner of the cliff road and pull down the driveway. It turned and parked across the front yard. Preacher stood up to greet them and saw a Texas license plate. About that time the truck doors opened and two red headed men got out and turned to face him. It was Jeremy! Two Jeremy’s! The preacher jumped straight off the porch and shouted, “Hallelujah Jesus!”
And everyone began to talk at once.
Merry Christmas from Patti Corbello Archer
May the glory of Jesus light your holidays.
Twas the Night Before Christmas…Believing for a Love Story
For above the Earth…heaven stirred as Jesus gave instructions to four massive angels. Winged and dressed for a journey, they knelt before Him, leaning close to hear His every word. Their excitement was apparent as their wings lifted and folded in anticipation of their journey. The joy on their faces reflected adoration to the one before them. As Jesus finished His instructions to them and laughed, they shouted and raised muscular arms in victory. “Go now,” He said to them. “I command you to guard both of them in all their ways, to lift them in your hands so that they will not strike their foot against a stone! This season is my plan…my gift to them.”
The blizzard was in full force as it pressed against my Jeep. I don’t know how many times I held my breath as I slowly maneuvered and slid my way up the steep Arkansas mountain road. Refusing to contemplate the massive drop off on the other side of the railing I just kept an even pace and let it guide me as I trusted it to show me where the road actually was. I don’t know if it was determination…or shear stubbornness that kept me going in this weather. I just know that I had planned this trip, mapped out my path from Louisiana and believed this was my destiny adventure. I was prayed up and knew in my spirit that I was brave enough to do this! Of course, I hadn’t planned on the blizzard to hit just before I got to the lodge. But who can plan a winter mountain vacation if you can’t handle a little adventure? This was my dream – to take off in December and finally begin the novel that I had put off for way too long. Most of my family would be gone for the holidays this year…so the timing was perfect!
Screaming “Jesus” at the sudden lurch of my Jeep towards the railing on my right, I clenched the wheel even tighter and fussed at myself for allowing my thoughts to distract me. Two hours ago when I reached the base of the mountain and the blizzard hit I had even turned off my Christmas music just so I could focus on what was in front of me. Not that I could see much in front of me!
Slowing down a bit I glanced at my odometer and knew that I only had five more miles to go before the turn off that would take me to the Smokey Creek Mountain Lodge. Grinning despite the hazardous situation I found myself in, I was thrilled to finally know that I was near the lodge. I had researched online and found the massive three story log cabin lodge, with stone fireplaces, carved staircases, and glass walls appealing. I loved the personal aspect of a lodge that had all the beauty of the nature around it and none of the social glitz of many winter lodges. I had leased the two-room Rustic Suite on the second floor that had a private balcony, 3 fireplaces, fur rugs, a thick quilted bedspread on a log frame bed that I would need a step to climb into. The bathroom had a round iron tub and fireplace next to windows overlooking the mountain valley. Of course, my favorite piece of furniture in the brochure was the massive carved desk that sat right in front of the windows looking out over the balcony. Knowing that I am finally at a point in my life that I can step away from everyday life and free my mind is exciting! As a writer, I desire this time…knowing God will release words through me…words to touch the hearts of many.
As a woman, well, I also have another desire. But…for some reason my soul mate is yet to be. I have been waiting a long time. But I guess it has taken a long time. Two divorces and lots of healing take time I guess. But truly, I do trust Jesus. I just wish His timing for me to meet my soul mate would come! After all, I am 47 years old and would like to be…well, beautiful for him. But, oh well, that dream will have to come true at another time. For now, I will write!!!
I glanced down again at the odometer and saw that I was almost at the turn for the lodge. There, there it is!! Glancing at the roadway ahead and in my rear view mirror I didn’t see any lights peering through the blizzard. I turned left under a huge stone archway stating “Smokey Mountain Creek Lodge” and began the trip to my new home for the next month.
It didn’t take me long to realize that there was no longer the highway railing to guide my path. My heart began to pound as I slowed down and tried to make my way through the trees and snow. I was grateful the blizzard was letting up but night was falling and the snow covered any roadway in front of me. I had to guess where the road was as the land rose in tiny hills and valleys through the trees. I turned my lights on bright and swallowed hard. I reached for my map and tried to make out the path of the road to the lodge. Grumbling because I picked a rustic location…I looked up just in time to see a wall of fir trees right in front of me. Yanking the steering wheel sharply to the left the Jeep began to spin and slide in the snow until the land gave way and I dove sharply down into a blur of white. I rammed into something hard and the last thing I remember was my luggage slamming into my seat as my head flew forward.
Unseen to the naked eye, two angels stood at the front and back of the Jeep. Nathaniel – the angel in front of the Jeep was actually what the Jeep ran into – to protect her from the boulders on the other side of him. Benjamin – the angel in the back of the Jeep walked to her door and peered inside. He saw the puffs of smoke from her breath in the cold air. Seeing the slight lump on her forehead, he knew she was okay. Not even bothering to open her door, he reached through it and to pull her coat tightly around her. Taking a deep breath he inhaled and exhaled a huge blast of warm air to fill the Jeep. Straightening back up he looked at Nathaniel and said, “She is warm and sleeping. She is ready…”
Just a few moments later, lights could be seen coming from the lodge up on the mountain down the road towards them. Benjamin blew all the snow off the back of the Jeep so that it could be seen clearly as the coming truck’s lights rounded the corner. Benjamin and Nathaniel both chuckled. Suddenly the other two missing angels flew down and landed next to them. They were warrior angels named Gillian and Jeremiah. Gillian said, “We got him on his way – Nate will be here shortly but he has no idea the rescue he is about to discover is really his destiny…and hers!” Looking up towards heaven…their laughter reached the only One who could see them …and was smiling.
Bundled up against the cold, 56 year old Nate turned up the heater in his 4-wheel drive all the way. Boy was it cold tonight! Glancing around him, he was glad that the blizzard was winding down. The lodge owners had told him there were still three guests due in tonight and tomorrow. New to this climate himself, he said a quick prayer for everyone to arrive safe. Having lost his wife to cancer 18 months ago, he knew what it was like to need the prayer of others. And he knew what it was like to be lonely…but still know you’re blessed. Only in the last few months had he begun to contemplate a future…with love, happiness and adventure with someone again…while still honoring the love he used to have. It is hard to believe that God had another woman for him…another soul mate for this next season in his life. Chuckling to himself, he said out loud, “There is still some living I’ve had yet to do!”
Taking an autumn and winter break from his ranch and ministry in Texas was the best idea he had planned in a long time. Being at this lodge for the last two months had given him a new, fresh, healing perspective. Long walks before the snow set in showed him that he was ready for new paths. Spending time with God away from the church was a good thing. God knows that I am more than a preacher. I am also just a man. Remembering himself in the mirror this morning at the salt and pepper colored beard that he had grown since he had been here…he decided that he also liked being a mountain man.
Kicking his 4-wheel drive into low gear as he began to round the biggest curve in the path – he hit bright on his lights and slowly rounded the bend. Shaking his head at all the snow that had fallen so fast, his eyes scanned the area amazed at the change snow brings to a landscape. Just before he came out of the curve his top lights hit an area next to a rugged patch of fir trees and he noticed partial tire marks in the snow. Stopping his truck and facing his lights towards that area, he grabbed his fur hat and gun just in case a black bear or wolf came snooping around, and decided to see if the tracks led anywhere.
As he opened his truck door he was hit with a blast of frigid air. Pulling his gloves up higher, he climbed down the rails on his truck and onto the snow. Sinking about knee deep he turned on his flashlight and began the trek to the tree line. The closer he got to the trees the more he noticed he did not see tire tracks that turned around to head out. When he topped the last rise in the road and looked down – his breath caught. There was a vehicle submerged in the snow – nose down – with just the back hatch and tail lights showing. The vehicle was no longer running but the lights on. he knew that it hadn’t happened too long ago.
After firing off three shots with his rifle to signal the lodge of trouble, he climbed down and began making a snow path to the Jeep. He was juggling the rifle and the flashlight and breathing heavy in the frozen air. As he reached the back of the Jeep, he heard the coyotes and knew they would soon be in serious trouble. “Jesus,” he said, “Make a way, Lord!”
Rushing the remainder of the way to the driver’s door he was thankful to see that it wasn’t locked…but saw that ice crystals had formed around the door from the warmer air within. Taking his pocket knife he broke the ice around the door frame and opened the door. Pushing the luggage off the driver, he was able to see that it was a female. Her auburn hair covered her face as she lay against the steering wheel. Hearing the howl of the coyotes much closer…too close…he lifted her and laid her across the passenger seat. Grabbing his gun and flashlight he climbed in the driver’s seat and shut the door. The growling began. He knew that the lodge would send men soon so they would just wait it out in the Jeep.
Hearing her moan, he turned to look at her and gently lifted her hair off her face. Concerned he saw a lump across the right side of her forehead. Blood had trickled down her face. She was beginning to shiver from the cold air that the open door had let in. Pushing the seat back, he leaned her across his lap and wrapped his arms around her. Seeing a stack of blankets on the floorboard he grabbed some and tucked it around them. He put the flashlight on the dash and sat there holding her. “Keep her safe, Lord” Nate prayed….and waited.
Not sure how much time passed, he began to notice her breath puffs on his face. She had quit stirring and settled with him holding her. The growling coyotes were moving all around the Jeep but he knew they were no longer a danger to them. The men from the lodge would scare them off. About that time, he heard the rumbles of engines and the shouts of men and he blew the horn twice.
All four angels laughed at the antics of the coyotes as they fled at the sound of the Jeep horn. Then one by one the angels took up their unseen posts at the north, south, east and west areas of the rescue site. Proud of the honor of men to save another life the angels guarded them. Enjoying this mission they even swooped down and walked unseen among the men. Sighing at the beauty of love – they checked in on the couple inside the Jeep literally embracing each other…and their own destiny.
Jesus whispers to the couple from one of his favorite books…Song of Songs: “Gabrielle you will remember….like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men, I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.
And Nate, you will remember…my dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely. Truly…let me show both of you the love I that I have destined for you.”
Gabrielle was dreaming that she was dancing. It had been so long since she had been held and she was laughing as he whirled her round and round, round and round…when suddenly, “BEEP, BEEP” screamed through her dream. Her eyes flew open and she found herself looking into green eyes staring down at her, a strong mouth clinched tightly, and lots of fur and a beard. Trying to get her bearings, she shook her head and felt his arm around her. Beginning to become aware of her surroundings she began to struggle and panic. Nate said, “Its okay ma’am…you’re okay…you were in an accident and I am just keeping you warm as we wait on the men from the lodge to get to us.” “Oh, oh…let me up,” she said as she struggled to sit up. He helped her move to the passenger seat and she tried to look out the windows around her. Nothing but white….that is all she could see. Seeing her concern, Nate began to assure her that help was coming….but the sounds of men and the clanking of vehicles began getting louder and louder and she relaxed.
Pushing auburn bangs out of her face, she winced as her fingers brushed the lump on her forehead. Nate said, “You must have hit your head on the steering wheel as you slammed into this ravine. How do you feel?” She said, “Oh gosh, I am starting to remember the accident now…and I have a slight headache but other than that I feel okay.” He said, “You have a trickle of blood that has dried on your face but the cut is small so you shouldn’t have much of a scar to worry about.” Putting her hand to her face she felt the dried blood trail down her cheek.
Suddenly alarm flashed across her features as she began scrambling to look into the back seat. “Oh no, where is my laptop and all my files? Please God, don’t let it be damaged!!!” Nate said, “Easy there ma’am. Let’s wait till they pull your vehicle out of this ravine before we go jumping around in here. We aren’t sure if we are on level ground.” Seeing the wisdom of his statement, she settled back into the passenger seat.
He said, “The lodge owner told me more guests were coming tonight and I knew the blizzard would make it treacherous traveling. After he mentioned that, I felt an urgency to drive down to make sure the road was still passable. It’s a good thing I did! It would have been hard to find you if the snow had finished covering your tire tracks.”
Gabrielle reached across the seat and laid a hand on his arm. Beginning to get her personality back in place, she said, “My hero!! But seriously sir, I am most grateful…thank you, Jesus!” He said, “Ah, you know Him too! But as for me – just call me, Nate…no sir here. I am just a guest at the lodge – preacher and ranch owner here on vacation from Texas.” Laughing, she said, “I’m Gabrielle…and I would appreciate not being ma’am either!” They both were chuckling when someone banged on the driver’s door. “Hey Nate! We are about to pull the Jeep out – we have it hooked up with a chain to the old snow grader. We will have y’all out in just a minute. Is everyone okay? The driver isn’t hurt?”
“No, Jasper, she’s okay – just a bump on the head. I would say she is ready for hot coffee and a fireplace!” Jasper said, “We aim to please! Y’all hang on tight and we will have you out and back at the lodge in no time.” Feeling a hard yank…Nate put his arm in front of her and said, “Hold on!” After a couple of tugs the vehicle began to be pulled up and out of the ravine. As the snow fell off the Jeep Gabrielle could see the lights of the vehicles rescuing them and men walking around. The guys began to wave at them as they walked to check out the front of the Jeep. The oldest guy took off his hat and scratched his head and hollered, “We better just tow it in before trying to start it up again – the battery isn’t dead because the lights are still working but we don’t want to cause any more damage. Y’all just sit tight and we will tow you in. Nate, I will get Tom to drive your truck back to the lodge.” The snow grader pulled them steadily up the mountain road – and after Gabrielle checked out that her laptop was safe in the back they talked about Christmas being a fabulous time for a vacation, in spite of blizzards!
Nathaniel and Benjamin flew above the caravan…enjoying the mountain air…thanking Jesus for this mission. Jesus told them, “Enjoy yourselves this Christmas season….as you guard them….I know you are ready to kick up your heels a little!” Both of the angels yelled and zoomed into the forest – racing through the trees – making snow waves – and being real snow angels!!
Back at the lodge Gillian and Jeremiah…warriors always, went through Gabrielle’s suite making sure all was safe, after all, the Master always goes before her! They relaxed for a bit after that by the fireplace and looked out over the night sky for Nate’s angels. Sure enough, two huge angels landed out on Gabrielle’s balcony and simply walked through the glass. They all stretched out on the leather sofa and buffalo skin chairs and waited – enjoying and talking about this mission.
Even angels love the Christmas season – celebrating and loving the One they adore…and guarding and opening doors for the ones that He adores.
Destiny…A Love Story
He watched Gabrielle’s smile widen as she saw the lodge come into view. The massive log structure seemed to rise right out of the mountainside. It was covered with Christmas decorations, framed with snow and lit with gas lanterns all around the building. The welcome was more than obvious, it was warm and mesmerizing. Gabrielle said, “Oh…this is so much more than I ever dreamed. The trip was worth it!!”
Nate laughed and said, “Let’s get you inside out of the cold. Watch your step, it might be icy and you could be a little dizzy from the bump on your head.” Gathering her coat around her she grabbed her purse as Nate opened the Jeep door. Stepping out and standing up she gasped at the icy air that was between her and the doorway…and shivered. Walking around to stand by her, Nate said, “Jasper will unload your Jeep and move it to the barn in the back so why don’t we go on in? I bet you are ready for a hot cup of coffee and a fireplace!” Laughing, Gabrielle said, “You’re reading my mind!”
In no time at all, she was checked in and had her wound looked at – with nothing but a small bandage and a lump to tell the tale. A couple of guys hauled her luggage up the 18-foot wide cedar staircase to her 2nd floor balcony suite. And Jasper, tromping snow in, said her Jeep was just fine, “A miracle if he said so himself!”
Finally, Gabrielle curled up in an oversized leather cowhide rocker with a lap fur and several fluffy pillows – right in front of the biggest fireplace she had ever seen. It was in the center of the lobby – open on all sides – and rose right up through the roof. Sofas, rockers and overstuffed chairs surrounded it. A brick seating area was at its base. Fur or braided runs covered the floor in each seating area. Lifelike carvings of wildlife were displayed as wall pieces, statues and over the doorway arches. And two huge fir Christmas trees were decorated and graced each side the glass and log frame doors. Hunter trophies of moose, deer and antelope hung as proof that men will hunt, survive and conquer the world around them. Sighing contentedly, she snuggled down in the huge rocker – warm and safe. Hearing his booming laugh, she turned her head to see Nate walked toward her with a giant mug of coffee. For the next couple of hours they sat and visited in front of the fireplace about work, their families, the trip…and certainly beliefs and thoughts on their God- relationships.
It was relaxing and nice Gabrielle thought – she hadn’t had one-on-one time with a man in a long, long…well, long time. They hadn’t really shared “deep” so-too-speak conversation of course, but his interest was fun…making her feel younger…and wonder about the clothes she had brought to wear! His eyes… serenaded her if she had to put a name on what she felt. They were focused and sparkled – like he knows a secret that I don’t. His gray streaked hair was still amazingly thick with a touch of curl – and long, hanging to his shoulders. His laugh radiated deep and made her smile in return. She had never been much on beards though, but his short cropped one seemed to fit in with his tall, thick stature – rugged jeans, black turtleneck and hiking boots. “Jesus,” she said to herself, “Wow…what a rescue!”
Nate sat there enjoying himself. He had only experienced a few well-meaning family or friend blind dates, but no one had ever sincerely interested him to the point of pursuing them…till now. Garielle’s auburn hair was thick and wavy…hanging just below her shoulders. The fly-a-way layers framed her face…beautifully. She had gray blue eyes…that laughed with her when she laughed. She was closer to short…and had extra curves….but in those white jeans and turquoise sweater she made him glad he was a man. Looking at the trophies on the wall….he couldn’t help but smile at the trophies of his hunter brothers. The pursuit was exciting! “Jesus,” Nate chuckled to himself, “You are right…I am ready for this season!”
Seeing the lodge workers preparing the lobby for the bedtime hours, Gabrielle stood and told Nate, “I need to head to my room. I still need to unpack and get my thoughts together to begin my novel.” Nate stood too, and asked, “Who knew…you’re a writer? I am too!” And they began to walk up the staircase lost in conversation with each other. They never noticed the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Walker, smile as they watched the couple walk up the stairs – talking animatedly to each other. Mr. Walker whispered to his wife, “Think this is one of those God-appointments our pastor is always talking about?” Mrs. Walker chuckled. “Oh, yes dear, to be sure!”
Jesus sat in the lobby enjoying the fireplace as he watched Nate and Gabrielle walk up the stairs…literally beginning their journey together. Leaning His head back against the sofa He relaxed in the beauty of the moment. Glancing over at Mr. and Mrs. Walker, He chuckled at the memory of when they first met on this spot on the mountainside. Talk about playing hard-to-get, Mrs. Walker certainly did! But once their love bloomed…their grateful joy gave them the plan to build this lodge to give back for what they themselves had been given. Jesus reflected on all those that had worked and visited at the lodge since then…so many lives, so much faith…and so much love.
Hearing Nate and Gabrielle say goodnight to each other upstairs Jesus whispered, “Merry Christmas…”
The next few weeks were a whirlwind of writing, hot chocolate and talks by the fire, snowmobile rides, sleigh rides, skiing, sledding, meals , and discussions about family and Jesus. Nate and Gabrielle spent time together and time apart. He listened to her read her novel stories. She listened to him share his sermon stories and teaching. She would visit with the ladies around the fire. He would go to the barn and help as the men worked on projects. They fellowshipped with others and they discovered the beauty of friendship with each other. And they, step-by-step got to know each other.
One morning he knocked on her door waking her early to go for a horse drawn sleigh ride. Sitting wrapped in blankets they watched the sun warm the valley as they enjoyed biscuits and coffee he had brought from the kitchen. Another day they took off for a picnic after a snowmobile ride. She surprised him by insisting that she drive her own! Truly, they seemed to have so much in common…and yet on the flip side there was still so much more to learn about each other!
The first kiss came after an outing of sledding – wind blown, cold, and happy. As she passed under the mistletoe hanging in the lobby…he grabbed her laughingly…and threatened to kiss her. She acted like she was going to run and he lowered his head to claim his prize. Clapping broke out in the lobby!
Their first dance came a few days later during an evening of music and dinner in the main lobby. Dressing up was fun – everyone had been dressing so casual. Taking care with her makeup and hair, Gabrielle laughed at herself. It felt good to be Cinderella! And she wanted Nate to enjoy the transformation! She dressed all in ivory…ivory jeans, light skinned lizard high heeled boots and an ivory drape sweater that exposed the upper part of her back. She put on the finishing touch with pearl earrings – and was ready to go.
Walking to the top of the staircase her eyes found him downstairs talking to some of the men by the fireplace. Standing there waiting, her heart pounded at how handsome he looked – dressed in black slacks and open neck black shirt. His shoulder length salt and pepper colored hair and beard made him simply debonair. Smiling, she waited till she caught his eye. The Walkers saw her and motioned to him to look. Nate stopped talking and looked up at her. “All the days of my life, Lord Jesus,” Gabrielle vowed, “I will remember the look he gave me as he walked towards me.”
Nate walked purposefully up the staircase to meet Gabrielle, not saying a word. He knew that his eyes said it all. She smiled and said, “Are you the mountain man I was looking for?” Nate’s green eyes flared and he said, “Never for a second, doubt it.” Taking her hand he kissed her palm. Seeing her face flush, he chuckled. “Come with me, Gabrielle,” Nate said, “Come celebrate the Reason for the Season with me!”
So day after day, week after week, time passed as Nate and Gabrielle, once strangers destined to meet, grew to be friends…and now stepped across the threshold into romance. Ah…love…a most beautiful gift.
Jesus said, “I love it when I do that!” Knowing the plans that He has for both of them, he expected their quick response to each other. Of course, him being their definer of love …was indeed mighty fuel for the fire. After all, He thought, Song of Songs is my song – therefore my favorite gift to give!
And speaking of gifts…Christmas is tomorrow. I remember the moment when I, the miracle maker, became the miracle in a manger… and saw Earth through the eyes of Heaven for the first time.
I am looking forward to sharing the nativity sermon at the lodge tomorrow with Nate and Gabriel. I have a surprise for them!
Anticipation had built in the lodge as Christmas drew closer. Workers and guests alike jumped in to prepare for the special service – and the Walkers were thrilled that God led them to ask Nate to preach the Christmas message. Tradition at the lodge was that the nativity be set up during the service on Christmas morning. Nate was blessed and honored at the invitation to minister at such a special time.
Christmas morning dawned crystal clear…and cold. The lodge nestled on the mountainside with fireplaces and heaters kept all who resided there warm and safe. It was early when a door opened and shut as Nate stepped out onto the deck. Sipping from a mug of hot coffee he smiled at the beauty and majesty all around him. He said from the heart, “Morning, Jesus…I am here!” Watching a cardinal land on a fir tree branch close to the deck and sing made Nate smile. He knew Jesus had just said, “I have been waiting, Nate.” Stepping off the deck he headed over to the barn. He wanted some quiet time in prayer and to also make sure the nativity scene was ready for service.
Two traditional barn doors were latched with an iron hook in front. The entry was impressive in such a huge barn. Unlatching the doors, he stepped inside and the warmth of the space heaters greeted him. It had worked!! Looking across the barn floor the benches were lined up in front of a large wooden platform. Behind the platform a life-size carved nativity set stood – ready to be carried in throughout the sermon. The only things added to the statues were capes on the kings, a blanket on the manger, and shawl to cover Mary.
Nate sat down on the front bench, closed his eyes and squeezed his Bible. Deep in prayer he never even noticed the angels above on the walkway around the hayloft. Gabrielle and Nate’s guardian angels all stood at posts above the manger scene…eager for the service later this morning…eager for the glory of God to be revealed. A few minutes later, Nate went back to the lodge to dress and get ready.
Gabrielle was dressing for Christmas service. Blowing Jesus a good morning kiss, she gave herself a hug and threw open the closet doors. Knowing that it may be extra cool in the barn even with the space heaters she decided to pull on her red warm up set with a hood. Pulling on a black fur jacket and black fur snow boots she was almost ready to go. Stopping to dab on red lip glass and grab her Bible she ran out the door!
Down in the lobby there was a flurry of activity. Several neighbors on the mountainside came inside to grab a cup of coffee before everyone headed to the barn. A tractor stood ready outside …you might call it their country taxi! Within ten minutes they were all loading up and riding to the barn. Young men stood ready at the barn doors to let the people in. As everyone entered, there was an awed excitement as each person took to heart the reason for the season. Bench after bench was filled until only standing room was left. A couple of guys on the side of the seating area softly played their guitars to beautiful, age-old Christmas hymns.
Natural light came in from the windows around the top of the barn…and on the sides. Gas lanterns were stationed around the platform area encircling where the nativity scene would stand. One-by-one people began to pray…filling the barn with praise and worship. Gabrielle couldn’t remember a more powerful Christmas setting. After a few minutes the guitars began fading lower and lower till you could hear footsteps walking on the platform.
Opening her eyes Gabrielle saw Nate for the first time since Christmas Eve when he escorted her to her room. He walked on the platform with a gentle authority that no one could mistake. No one doubted the anointed message that was about to go forth. Nate began to talk about a night over two thousand years ago when another stage was being set. A heavenly production you might say. And Nate shared the Christmas story as he brought out the pieces one-by-one….discussing the part that they played in that holy drama. There was no shuffling in the seating area…no one whispered…there was only reverential silence as each word was spoken…as the scene played out before them.
One-by-one Nate made each statue’s role come to life. Everyone knew something was different with what was happening. And as Nate carried out the carved manger and knelt at Mary’s feet to lay her babe before her many faces sitting before the platform had tears running down their checks. At last they were all in place and Nate still on his knees turned to face the people. Tears of awe running down his own face, Nate said, “Each of these…chosen by God to fill a purpose…but only one was appointed to draw Heaven’s first breath as a human. Jesus…”
As the sound of Jesus’ name faded into the air – music begin to reach them from somewhere far above them. As they all looked up…for a moment in time there was no roof and all you could see and hear were massive angels with wings outstretched singing Hallelujah to the King of Kings….over and over. And then suddenly the music was gone. At first no one made a sound…then Nate stood and shouted the only name above all names, “Jesus!”
Gabrielle downshifted as she headed down the mountain. I know life will never be the same again for any of us that were in the barn Christmas morning. Truly, Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving. Just when I think I know Him…He shows me something else that only He can show me. Glancing over at the gift boxes and homemade goodies on her passenger seat, she smiled. Reaching for the white furry box with a crystal sugar star on top, she opened it. Keeping her eyes on the road she recalled sitting with Nate in front of the fireplace exchanging gifts Christmas night. They decided to use only their creativity and prayer to come up with something special on their last night here on the mountain. She gave Nate his gift first. It was in a cowhide leather box. He looked at her for several moments before he opened it. As he saw the items inside, he scooped them in his hand and took them out of the box. She explained to him, “The carved figure is to promise you that I honor your mission as part of you. The leather is to promise you that I admire and respect your strength and wisdom. The lace is to promise you that as a woman…my beauty is only yours. And finally, the arrowhead is a promise that you are my hero! He didn’t say anything…but reached out and pulled me to him…with a breathless kiss.
Then Nate handed her a white furry box. Rubbing her face on it she smiled and opened it. He said, “The feather is to promise you that I will always be gentle in relating to you. The match is to promise you that I will passionately love, protect and enjoy you. The ink pen is to promise you that I will support and respect your writing. And the last one, Gabrielle, the key, is a promise from God to tell you to open your heart…for “I am the one.” The second kiss lasted much longer…
Focusing on the road again, Gabrielle glanced in the rearview mirror. Seeing Nate’s 4-wheel drive follow her down the mountain to Louisiana she threw back her head, laughed and said, “Thank you for the desire of my heart, Jesus. Maybe I will write the novel next year.”
Patti Corbello Archer
December 24, 2011
Twas the Night Before Christmas…Believing for a Love Story