Amy Barton had nothing to say in her Christmas letter until she asked her family what they remembered best.

Lucy Parr writes from Los Angeles, California.


Dear Shepherdess: Christmas! What a glow of happiness and anticipation comes with the word. There are so many special things about Christmas—the sparkling lights, the smell of the ever green, the secrecy, the good smells from the kitchen, the making of new friend ships and the rekindling of old ones, the carols. Ah, the carols. It seems this happy season, when we hear and sing the lovely songs of Christmas, is much too short.

Others must share my feeling, for a concert of Christmas music was given here in Washington in August! Why not have Christmas in August—and in July and October? Why not let the warm glow of Christmas happen all year long to those about us? And while we love and hug and give, why not share the good news of the lovely Christ child, who came to earth to bless and save us all?

Ellen White reminds us that "it is pleasant to receive a gift, however small, from those we love. It is an assurance that we are not forgotten, and seems to bind us to them a little closer. . . . It is right to bestow upon one another tokens of love and remembrance if we do not in this forget God, our best friend."—The Adventist Home, pp. 478, 479.

She also advises parents, "When you have a holiday, make it a pleasant and happy day for your children, and make it also a pleasant day for the poor and the afflicted. "—Ibid., p. 476.

This prayer written by Robert Louis Stevenson is my prayer for each of you at this Christmas season: "Help us rightly to remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the Wise Men. Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting. Deliver us from evil by the blessing that Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts. May the Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, for giving and forgiven, 'for Jesus' sake. Amen." With love, Kay.

As she passed the table, Amy Barton ran her hand across the top box of Christmas cards, as she had a number of times in the past few days.

"I must get those-letters started," she thought. She went on to other tasks that must be completed in the too short time that remained before Christmas, but her mind stayed with the letters. What was there to write about? Nothing earthshaking had happened to the Bartons. The year was old and tired, made up of bits and scraps and snippets. How did one weave an interesting account from that?

Amy hurried dinner preparations. The idea bloomed when the family was gathered around the table. "We'll start with Daddy," she said. "Then from Betsy down to Kendall."

She laughed self-consciously as all eyes turned to her. "It's sort of a game. I want each of you to tell the one thing you remember best from this year. Happy or sad, good or bad. Just what you think was outstanding."

It was a slightly sneaky way of getting help in jogging her memory, but perhaps she had forgotten some newsworthy items.

Don tipped his head a little as he always did when thinking deeply. And when he spoke, it was with surprising seriousness. "The best memory? It's been having you get breakfast for me at 6:15 every workday morning this entire year. Even when you were miserable with the flu, you'd not listen to sleeping in. And not once did you indicate that to do so was a 'duty.' I've heard the other men at work. Breakfast—at home—for a husband has gone out of style."

Amy smiled shakily. This wasn't quite what she had expected when she made her request. But nice. She had thought of it as such a small contribution, when Don worked so hard for all of them.

The children had already turned toward Betsy, waiting for her one best thing. Without hesitation, she said, "My dress—for graduation. It was only for junior high, yet you spent all of that time making it. It made me feel almost like a—a princess, the way I used to when I was little.

"But even more important," Betsy added, "was that all of you were there to see me graduate. A lot of the parents didn't think it was important enough for changing plans. Debbie's mother wouldn't even give up a bridge game, when she plays bridge twice every week."

Betsy's words brought the memory back to Amy. Betsy had looked like a princess beside many of the girls who tried to look mature beyond their years.

Ryan began to speak hesitantly, in starts and stops, as if finding his way through unfamiliar emotions. "The thing that stays sharpest—for me . . . It's funny, I guess ..." He took a swallow of milk. "Well—you know—you re member in August. When that bunch of guys went to Hank Jamison's station that night ..."

Amy glanced quickly at Don.

"Well—you know—the way the guys broke into the station and messed the place up with all that oil and grease. Because Hank was a straight talker when they tried hanging around the station and goofing off and all—"

Ryan paused for another gulp of milk. And Amy's heart turned over as it had when she first heard of the vandalism, knowing that Ryan had requested to go out with the fellows that evening.

"Well, I guess Joe Elton would have known where to look for the guys who were responsible—even if he hadn't gone by in his patrol car just as they were sneaking out the back door." Ryan looked at his father and swallowed convulsively before he went on.

"The guys hadn't planned anything like that, Mike Weeks told me. Only to tear open the cases of oil and put the cans in crazy places all over the station. Not to open the cans—or anything like that. But you know how something like that can grow, if one guy starts daring another ..."

"I know, son, I know," Don said. "I've been in that spot."

"Sure—sure you have. And I guess that's why you wouldn't let me go with the guys. I guess you know I was mad when you wouldn't let me go. I didn't have a good answer, about where the guys were going—didn't know what they had in mind."

The words rushed on. "Most of all, I remember now that you cared enough not to let me go. Even when I acted like a sorehead and said some hard things. But now I haven't been in trouble with the law, the way the other guys have. That isn't going to follow me wherever I go. And it doesn't hang over you and Mom."

Ryan's best memory ... a non-happening, but so fine.

"My best memory—" It was ten-year-old Lisa. "My best memory was last summer, when we went camping at Twin Lakes. That was the very best vacation we ever did have. The whole time. Even if there hadn't been that last day, when I almost beat Daddy and the big kids swimming across the lake."

It had been a good vacation, Amy remembered. And to think Don had been upset because there hadn't been money for a real vacation this year. He'd been disappointed that they'd had to settle for a few days of tenting in the mountains only 25 miles from home.

Kendall was only four. What could he remember of the year? He glanced around the table, enjoying his moment of being the center of attention.

"The best thing of all—the very best thing—"

The little "ham" paused for effect. Then the words whistled out. ' 'The very best thing is that we have love at our house. Even when someone little [some one little always meant himself]. . . does something naughty and has to be scolded and spanked. Like even when someone little broke Mama's pretty vase—even after Mama told him to stop roughing in the house—even when she cried, she didn't get all mean and shouty the way some mothers get over teeny little things."

Amy smiled. She was thinking how near she had come to shrieking about the vase. She was glad that she held back. That they had preserved love at their house, so that a four-year-old would notice.

She hadn't expected the responses she had received to her game. Perhaps—if one wove together all of the bright bits and scraps and snippets——

"You didn't say yet, Mama," Kendall broke into her thoughts. "You didn't say what was best."

"Sure, Mom," Ryan insisted. "You say, too."

Amy's voice came out with a breath less sound. "Why—for me, it's been the entire year ... a good year."

Later, when she sat down to begin the letters, that was what she said:

"Dear Aunt Ruth, This has been a good year for the Bartons. One to cherish . . ."




Prayers from the parsonage

by Cherry B. Habenicht

It's all up to You now, Lord. Rita is too nauseated to keep our appointment. She promised to call again when she needs to talk to someone, but she still wouldn't reveal her phone number or address.

She is 17 and has just confirmed her suspicions that she is pregnant. Away from home and afraid to confide in the aunt with whom she stays, she needs someone to help her face reality. If only I knew her! How frightening to share such an intimate secret with a girl I can not trace.

Please make her realize she cannot hide from everyone. At least she has reached out to us. May we be able to help her determine who must know the

"God loves you, Rita," I said. She cried while we prayed over the phone. "Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all
them that call" (Ps. 86:5). Let her cling to that promise when panic mounts.

Her boyfriend's response was to offer her money for an' abortion. To her that seems a dreadful yet simple solution. Oh, it's so unfair that Rita alone should bear the discomfort and face the complications that deciding to have a baby would bring. Please open all the possibilities so she can reach a decision that is morally right.

"I wish I could just end it all!" she sobbed. She's desperate, Lord, but don't let her consider suicide as an escape. Impress her with the significance of life through You. One of my sisters is weak and sick, alone and afraid. Don't let her slip away.

Taken from the December, 1974, issue of Sunshine Magazine.

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Lucy Parr writes from Los Angeles, California.

December 1979

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