For a Quick Reference

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

One of my favorite stories

Christmas Day in the Morning- by Pearl S. Buck
He waked suddenly and completely. It was four o’clock, the hour at which his father had always called him to get up and help with the milking. Strange how the habits of his youth clung to him still. Fifty years ago, and his father had been dead for thirty years, and yet he waked at four o’clock in the morning. He had trained himself to turn over and go to sleep, but this morning, because it was Christmas, he did not try to sleep.
He slipped back in time, as he did so easily nowadays. He was 15 years old and still on his father’s farm. He loved his father. He had not known it until one day a few days before Christmas, when he overheard what his father was saying to his mother.
“Mary, I hate to call Rob in the mornings. He’s growing so fast and he needs his sleep. If you could see how he sleeps when I go in to wake him up! I wish I could manage alone.”
“Well, you can’t, Adam.” His mother’s voice was brisk. “Besides, he isn’t a child anymore. It’s time he took his turn.”
“Yes,” his father said slowly. “But I sure do hate to wake him.”
When he heard these words, something in him woke: his father loved him! He had never thought of it before, taking for granted the tie of their blood. Neither his father nor his mother talked about loving their children – they had no time for such things. There was always so much to do on a farm.
Now that he knew his father loved him, there would be no more loitering in the mornings and having to be called again. He got up after that, stumbling with sleep, and pulled on his clothes, his eyes tight shut, but he got up.
And then on the night before Christmas, that year when he was 15, he lay for a few minutes thinking about the next day. They were poor, and most of the excitement was in the turkey they had raised themselves and in the mince pies his mother made. His sisters sewed presents and his mother and father always bought something he needed, not only a warm jacket, maybe, but something more, such as a book. And he saved and bought them each something too.
He wished, that Christmas when he was 15, he had a better present for his father. As usual, he had gone to the ten-cent store and bought a tie. It had seemed nice enough until he lay thinking the night before Christmas, and then he wished that he had heard his father and mother talking in time for him to save for something better.
He lay on his side, his head supported by his elbow, and looked out of his attic window. The stars were bright, much brighter than he ever remembered seeing them, and one was so bright he wondered if it were really the star of Bethlehem.
“Dad,” he had once asked when he was a little boy, “what is a stable?”
“It’s just a barn,” his father had replied, “like ours.”
Then Jesus had been born in a barn, and to a barn the shepherds and the Wise Men had come, bringing their Christmas gifts!
The thought stuck him like a silver dagger. Why should he not give his father a special gift, too, out there in the barn?
He could get up early, earlier than four o’clock, and he could creep into the barn and get all the milking done. He’d do it alone, milk and clean up, and then when his father went in to start the milking, he’d see it all done. And he would know who had done it.
At a quarter to three, he got up and put on his clothes. He crept downstairs, careful of the creaky boards, and let himself out. The big star hung lower over the barn roof, a reddish gold. The cows looked at him, sleepy and surprised.
“So, boss,” he whispered. They accepted him placidly, and he fetched some hay for each cow and then got the milking pail and big milk cans.
He had never milked alone before, but it seemed almost easy. He kept thinking about his father’s surprise. His father would come in and call him, saying that he would get things started while Rob was getting dressed. He’d go to the barn, open the door, and then he’d go to get the two big empty milk cans. But they wouldn’t be waiting or empty; they’d be standing in the milk house, filled.
The task went more easily than he had ever known it to before. Milking for once was not a chore. It was something else, a gift to his father who loved him. He finished, the two milk cans were full, and he covered them and closed the milk-house door carefully, making sure of the latch. He put the stool in its place by the door and hung up the clean milk pail. Then he went out of the barn and barred the door behind him.
Back in his room, he had only a minute to pull off his clothes in the darkness and jump into bed, for he heard his father up. He put the covers over his head to silence his quick breathing. The door opened.
“Rob!” his father called. “We have to get up, son, even if it is Christmas.”
“Aw-right,” he said sleepily.
“I’ll go on out,” his father said. “I’ll get things started.”
The door closed and he lay still, laughing to himself. In just a few minutes his father would know. His dancing heart was ready to jump from his body.
The minutes were endless – ten, fifteen, he did not know how many – and he heard his father’s footsteps again. The door opened and he lay still.
“Yes, Dad–”
His father was laughing, a queer sobbing sort of a laugh. “Thought you’d fool me, did you?” His father was standing beside his bed, feeling for him, pulling away the covers.
“It’s Christmas, Dad!”
He found his father and clutched him in a great hug. He felt his father’s arms go around him. It was dark, and they could not see each other’s faces.
“Son, I thank you. Nobody ever did a nicer thing–”
“Oh, Dad, I want you to know — I do want to be good!” The words broke from him of their own will. He did not know what to say. His heart was bursting with love.
“Well, I reckon I can go back to bed and sleep,” his father said after a moment. “No, hark– The little ones are waked up. Come to think of it, son, I’ve never seen you children when you first saw the Christmas tree. I was always in the barn.”
He got up and pulled on his clothes again, and they went down to the Christmas tree, and soon the sun was creeping up to where the star had been.
Oh, what a Christmas, and how his heart had nearly burst again with shyness and pride as his father told his mother and made the younger children listen about how he, Rob, had got up all by himself.
“The best Christmas gift I ever had, and I’ll remember it, son, every year on Christmas morning, so long as I live.”
They had both remembered it, and now that his father was dead he remembered it alone, that blessed Christmas dawn when, alone with the cows in the barn, he had made his first gift of true love.
I hope you enjoy a wonderful Christmas this year! 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A rather large update

I have been feeling too sick to care about updating the blog lately, and a lot of big activities have happened since then. We had a lovely Thanksgiving, and a beautiful baptism for my daughter.

We were blessed with the previously unknown luxury of having family visit for the Thanksgiving holiday. It was so delightful to have everyone near us for the weekend. I had been quite worried about hosting our traditionally large guest list of 30 people since I couldn't handle even being in the kitchen. I was so blessed to have a wonderful friend from Relief Society come clean my home before company arrived. I'm so thankful for the Church and the way everyone looks after each other. I haven't been able to attend church in several weeks since I've been too sick to sit through the three hour meeting. It's really hard for me to miss church that long. This past Sunday I tried going and was overwhelmed by the abundant love poured out on me. There were so many kind sisters who offered to bring meals to lighten Nathan's burden, and some of the young women ran out of their classes to catch me in the hall with offers for free babysitting while I'm sick. I'm so thankful for their kind concern and unfeigned love, and I'm so thankful for truly good people that follow the Savior's example in lifting the burdens of others. I have felt so deeply blessed by them.

Speaking of blessings, I was also wonderfully blessed by my angelic mother-in-law, Cindy. She took over the house chores and was a whirlwind of cheerful work to clean the kitchen every day and provide meals for all the family members while I stayed in bed. She was truly an angel and I don't know how I would have accomplished anything this weekend without her. In reality, I didn't accomplish anything- she did it all. I'm so truly grateful for the way she eased my burdens.

She did all the work to make Sarah's baptism luncheon possible, and even purchased the meal and a celebration cake. Sarah was so delighted with the cake, and it was so lovely.

I was feeling so sick on the morning of Sarah's baptism that I almost had to stay home from the event. I prayed so hard that morning, asking the Lord to just let me witness her special day. I discovered that after-dinner mints were helping calm my nausea, so I carried a bowl of them into the church with me and ate them the entire time. The children sitting near me were happy to share in the candy throughout the program.

I was so thankful that I could be there. Her grandparents gave such wonderful talks about the Holy Ghost and baptism. I'm so thankful they were here to share their thoughts and testimonies with her. All the relatives helped with the program in wonderful ways, and Daniel was comical the way he directed the music. One of Sarah's Primary teachers gave her a beautiful white towel embroidered with her baptism date, and she was so ecstatic to use it after she exited the baptismal font. It was so special for her.

I had been feeling a bit low and depressed with my illness lately, so I've tried to remind myself of all the blessings there are in my life.

I'm SO thankful that this sickness has a purpose and there will be a priceless reward at the end.

I'm so thankful that I'm able to eat anything at all, even if I hate it. In the past pregnancies, my sickness was so severe that I literally starved for days at a time and required IV fluids. I'm so thankful I haven't encountered that again.

I'm thankful for Charles Dickens, and the way his books help me escape the sickness for a moment.

I'm thankful that my brother decided to stay with us for a couple weeks and drive the children to home school activities while I'm sick.

I'm overwhelmingly thankful for my husband. He's been so compassionate and helpful with this pregnancy. He's my hero. I can't even say enough all the kind services he's rendered me.

I'm thankful for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the peace it gives me. I'm thankful for the eternal perspective it gives me, and how it reminds me that this trial will be just a short while.

I'm thankful for the priesthood that my sweet husband holds, and the direct channel for personal revelation that I receive in priesthood blessings. It has done so much to buoy my spirits and help me feel God's love for me and this unborn child.

I am thankful for my physical body, even though I feel trapped within it for now. I'm thankful that I can be an instrument in the Lord's hands to bring a beautiful child to life. It's such a miracle, and I feel so humbled to assist the Lord in creating life. I am truly blessed indeed.