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.”

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The Blizzard

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.

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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.

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The Rescue

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.

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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.”

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The Awakening

 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!

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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.

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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!”

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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…”

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The Romance

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.

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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!

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True Gifts

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!”

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Going Home

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

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