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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Countdown to Christmas/Advent (10/23/08)

TITLE: Love Lessons
By Shirley McClay


“Mom, why do we get presents on Christmas when it’s supposed to be Jesus’ birthday?” Janelle slid into a chair at the table and opened her Science textbook.

I continued loading the dishwasher as I considered how to answer my twelve-year-old daughter. “Would you rather not get presents?”

She grinned and her chocolate eyes avoided mine. “No, but maybe we can do something for Him.”

“I think that’s a great idea. What were you thinking?” I joined her with a cup of green tea for me and a mug of hot chocolate for her.

“Maybe we can do something everyday that would make him happy.” Janelle opened her assignment notebook and picked up her pencil.

“I’m liking this so far.” I opened my laptop to work on an article that was due by the end of the day. The younger boys would be up soon and I would need to help them with their homeschool work.

“Maybe we could make a list of ideas.” She ran her fingers through brown curls and reached for her mug.

“I’ll tell you what… you finish your schoolwork and we will set up a schedule for the whole month of December.” I knew she would get her work done in record time.

“Cool.” She wrinkled her nose at the math problems in front of her and began writing.

Later that evening Dan and I sat in front of the fire as I showed him the list.
“It sounds like a big undertaking.”

“I figure even if we don’t accomplish all of it... well, it’s more than we would have done otherwise.”

“True. I’ll help however I can.” He wrapped an arm around my shoulders and pulled me close.

Twenty-three days into December and we had done very well. Sweets were baked and delivered to elderly care homes, our entire apartment building, and neighbors as well. Flowers were taken to children at the hospital; groceries were secretly delivered. Toys were collected from friends and fixed up for a local Children’s hospital; an elderly family’s home was spic and span; snow had been shoveled from a neighbors walk and driveway…. and so much more.

So much more, indeed. Janelle and I had never had such a close relationship. We spent most of the time together… hard work, giggles, tears. I knew that this would be a Christmas that I would always cherish.

Christmas was almost here. Janelle worked on something in her room that I wasn’t allowed to see... not uncommon at this time of year. One of the things I loved about Christmas was the anticipation of the surprises Christmas morning. It was Sunday though, and we were running behind… like usual.

“Janelle, hurry or you won’t have time for breakfast.” I poured syrup over my own pancakes and sat down with my coffee.

“Not hungry, Mom.” Her voice was muffled through the closed door.

“Ok, but no complaining during the meeting.” I took a sip of my coffee and burned my mouth.

“Oh, I wont.” Her voice held a hint of mystery that piqued my curiosity.

A couple of hours later, the pastor stood to close the meeting. He wasn’t closing it quite yet, however.

“A young lady approached me last week and asked to share something this morning. Janelle. Please come up here.” Janelle shot me a wobbly grin and joined the pastor.

I watched my little girl as she walked away from me and marveled at her poise and gracefulness. When had she changed from a child into this young beauty?

Janelle took the mike that was offered to her and I saw her hands tremble. Yet she lifted her chin and looked out at the faces before her.

“This is the best Christmas ever and it hasn’t even happened yet. My Mom and I have spent a whole month doing special things for Jesus ‘cause of it’s His birthday and not just a day for gifts for me. I realized something. Christmas is just a day to remind me of what it really should be all year long. I mean… why wait for Christmas day to do good things for Him. This month has been the coolest ever and Mom and I have loved Jesus by loving other people. And I’ve learned how much I love my mom by loving Jesus with her. Ummm... that’s coming out kinda confusing. But, anyway…” She shrugged and handed back the mike.

Yeah. Definitely my best Christmas ever.

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This article has been read 1286 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Laury Hubrich 10/30/08
This is an awesome story. This is a great idea to do as a family. Wonderful lessons learned. Very good entry.
Melanie Kerr 11/01/08
I loved the last couple of parargraphs - about loving others by loving Jesus and not just at Christmas time. The relationship between mother and daughter was beautifully described.
Seema Bagai 11/01/08
This is a sweet story and is well-written.

Since you asked for red ink: I thought the story was a bit predictable. I also thought the third section was not needed. Maybe you could expand the part about them helping rather than just listing what they did.
Leah Nichols 11/02/08
Nice story! I think it just had too many scenes for 750 words....maybe narrow down to one scene - two at the most. That gives you more room to expand the story rather than rushing through. Great job, though - you write very well!
Angela M. Baker-Bridge11/02/08
Great concept, though I was disappointed it only included the mom and daughter. The husband said he'd help but we're never told how...it might be better not to even bring any other family members into the story unless their contributions are included. Thank you for writing a positive story about a 12-year old that's very mature and sensitive to the things of God.
Joanne Sher 11/02/08
I love the idea of this, and the message. I would love to see this expanded--felt like we were missing some of the "good stuff." The beginning, especially, is quite strong.
Karlene Jacobsen11/02/08
So much to cover in so little time. I enjoyed this story very much.
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/03/08
I thought this was a wonderful snapshot of a mother and daughter who learned "love lessons" for Jesus together. It put a lump in my throat when the daughter gave her "gift" to her mom in the service. The dialogue was just right.
Marijo Phelps11/05/08
A great love story - what a wonderful insight for the idea coming from the 12 y/o and what followed after. You wrote something that all of us would love for a gift. More family time!
LauraLee Shaw11/06/08
Great characterization through the use of dialogue, and the daughter's heart warmed my own. Beautiful.
Sharon Kane11/06/08
Congratulations on your EC. A lovely positive portrait of a teenager using her energy to bless others in an age when the images are so often negative. But a reminder to us all that kids don't turn out like that by chance! What a hero of a Mum to expend her energy in that way when so many other more 'urgent' tasks would have been clamouring for her attention!
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/06/08
Congratulations on your well deserved EC!