Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Bookish Recap Tag

Hey all! *gasps* 2017 is only two days away!! Can you believe it?!?!
I'll *hopefully* have my year-in-review post up on Sunday, but for now here's my "Reading year in Review" post!


I was tagged by Faith @ Stories by Firefly and Micaiah @ Adventures Beyond the Horizon to do the "Bookish Recap Post", so . . . here goes! ;)

>> Rules. 
-- Include the above button in your post. 
-- Answer the 11 questions. 
-- Use as many book covers as you like. (The correct answer to this question would be ALOT. B-)) 
-- Tag 5-10 people and notify them that they have been tagged. 

>> Questions. 

// How many books did you read in 2016? (Exact if you know, or approximate if not.) 
Ummm . . . so far I've read 180 books. And hopefully by the time the year ends I'll have read 185. We'll see if I get that far. ;) 

// Did you set a reading challenge for yourself and, if so, did you meet it?  
I did! My challenge was to read 150 books, and I finished that and then some! I wasn't sure I'd make it once we got to November . . . and then December came and reading exploded. *nods* This was a good thing. xD

// What was your most read genre this year? Least read? 
Umm, historical fiction. This year I read 102 Historical fiction books. *nods* Least? Fantasy. I think I read . . .6 or 7 fantasy books. 

// What's five of your favorite books from 2016? 
This isn't gonna work, folks. We're doing series not books. xD And . . . we may go a bit over. *whispers* Don't tell anyone.

1.) The Blades of Acktar series by Tricia Mingerink 
2.) The Waves of Freedom series by Sarah Sundin 
3.)  The Lamb and the Fuhrer by Ravi Zacharias 
4.) Brothers in Arms by Jack Lewis Bailott
5.) Dear Enemy by Jack Cavanough 
6.) Resist by Emily Ann Putzke
7.) The Methuselah Project by Rick Barry  
8.) Chasing Jupiter by Rachel Coker
9.) The Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias 
10.) Wings of a Dream by Anne Mateer

   Dare (The Blades of Acktar #1)  Through Waters Deep (Waves of Freedom, #1)  The Lamb and the Fuhrer by Ravi Zacharias Brothers-in-Arms by Jack Lewis Baillot Dear Enemy by Jack  Cavanaugh  Resist by Emily Ann Putzke The Methuselah Project by Rick  Barry Chasing Jupiter by Rachel Coker The Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias Wings of a Dream by Anne Mateer


Now we'll do 5 unpublished favorite books . . . *grins*

1.) War Tears, Love Needs no Words and Dandelion Dust by Faith Potts
2.) Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Emily Ann Putzke and Emily Chapman. 
3.) Katie's War by Kaitlyn K. 
4.) Left to Die  by Ivy Rose (To be published in January! Keep an eye out! :D)
5.) Ocean Mist by Rebekah Eddy 
6.) Ivan by Emily McConnell

Yes, that was eight. Hush.


// What's five of your least favorite books from 2016? 
Umm, least favorite . . this should be easy. xD

1.) A Log Cabin Christmas by Various Authors. I hated all the romances. xD
2.) The Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert. SO excited for this one, but... the romance got really awkward and weird.
3.) Touching the Clouds by Bodie Leon. Romance was iffy. As was the story line.
4.) Sweet Liberty by Various Authors. Ehh. Romance was too much far too soon. xD
5.) In Perfect Time by Sarah Sundin. I LOVE all her other books, this just . . didn't work for me for some reason. 

// What new favorite author did you discover? (Not necessarily that the author is 'new', but that they became new to you this year.) 
EMILY ANN PUTZKE! *screams* And Rachel Coker. And Jack Lewis Bailott. ;) 

// What's five of your favorite book covers from the year? 

Through the Tunnel by Rebekah A. Morris  Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin  Resist by Emily Ann Putzke    Dear Enemy by Jack  Cavanaugh  The Old River Road by Ivy  Rose Befriending the Beast by Amanda Tero

Don't count. That was totally five.

// How many books did you purchase for yourself in 2016? (Exact if you know, approximate if not.) 
Umm, let's go with too many. xD IDK. Maybe 65? *nods* yeah. I buy a lot of books.;) 

// What's the longest book you read in 2016? 
Resistance by Jaye L. Knight. 524 pages. 

// What's the shortest book you read in 2016? 
Maggie's Hope Chest by Amanda Tero. 11 pages. 

// What's your reading goal for 2017? 
Somewhere between 100-175 books. I'm not sure yet. ;) 


And . . . I'm gonna tag . . .

 Julia @ The Barefoot Gal
Sarah @ The Introverted Extrovert
Emily @ The Creative Scribbles of a History Detective
Rebekah @ Rebekah's Remarks 
Blessing Counter @ Counting your Blessings One by One
Deborah @ Reading in June

 Yep, that was only six. xD I hope you all have a wonderful rest of 2016 and an amazing 2017! Happy New Year!!!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas///As in Olden Days Conclusion.

GUYS IT'S CHRISTMAS! Merry Christmas to all of you!



Wow, can you believe it's actually Christmas? A day for gathering with family. A day for smiles and laughter, and cooking and opening gifts.
Yet, it's so, SO much more. As we celebrate CHRISTmas, let's remember the true reason we celebrate. And let's keep the baby in a manger, our rising King, foremost in our minds.
This is one of my very favorite Christmas songs. Hope being born for a sin cursed world is what we celebrate today, guys. Can we just take a moment to think of just how significant that is?


So. Did you listen to the song? Well then now I'll give you the conclusion of the story. ;)

By the time David, Rafe, and Gil made their way to the Sullivan house, everyone else was awake, and Janie ran to meet them at the door.
A crown creased her forehead as she pulled on David’s arm. “Come on, you’ve got to hurry. We’ve waited soooo long!”
David cocked an eyebrow as he hung his jacket, and then turned to her.  “So long? How long?”
“Many, many hours!” Janie exclaimed. “You should learn to get up earlier.”
David chuckled as he followed her into the living room. The fact that the clock had only just chimed 7am seemed to be of no concern to her.
“Good morning, boys.” Mrs. Sullivan greeted with a smile as they stepped into the kitchen. “Would you like a cup of coffee before heading into the living room?”
Rafe snatched the cup she was holding before she finished speaking. With a grin, he took a sip. “Thanks, mom. You’re swell.”
She shook her head at him. “Be patient, Rafe.”
Taking another swallow of the coffee, he sighed. “How can I be patient when looking forward to your coffee is the only thing that makes me get up in the morning?”
At that, Mrs. Sullivan chuckled. “Oh, you are a sly one, aren’t you? Go on into the living room before Janie decides to hijack your presents from beneath the tree.” As she was talking, she poured two more mugs of coffee and handed them to David and Gil.
Finally, everyone made their way into the living room. Mr. Sullivan sat on the sofa, a smile on his face as he watched all the excitement.  
Elaine, who had been softly playing the piano, came to stand beside David. Lily and Anne had been poring over a book on the couch, but Lily’s face met up when she saw Gil, and and she stood and hurried to greet him.
Elaine whispered to David, “you think he’s as in love with her as she is with him?”
Remembering last night's conversation, David grinned and nodded. “You bet he is.”
As Mrs. Sullivan sat at the couch, Mr. Sullivan cleared his throat. “Well, if we’re all here, let’s begin.”
Janie, who sat at her father’s feet, suddenly stilled as he took the Bible and turned to the book of Luke.
Mr. Sullivan’s voice broke the silence, as the familiar story once again filled the room.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

As soon as the reading was done, Janie jumped to her feet. “Presents now, right?”
Mr. Sullivan smiled, his blue eyes crinkling. “No, we’re going to pray first.”
Janie settled back down, her eyes glued to the stack of presents underneath the tree, until he tapped her head. “You need to close your eyes, Janie.”
David watched as a sheepish look spread across her face, and her hands were folded and placed on her lap.
“Dear Father in heaven. We thank you for this day that you’ve given us. We thank you for sending your son to this earth as a baby, to live a sinless life, and to ultimately die on Calvary, paying the price for our sins. In your name we pray, amen."
As he looked up, he nodded at Janie. “Yes, now you may go and get a gift.”
With a squeal she rushed toward the tree, her eyes shining.
David watched it all with only a bit of interest. Gifts were nice, but they didn’t mean near as much to him as did the people who gave them. He looked around the room. Mom and Anne were assisting Janie in passing out the gifts. Rafe was watching it all, still enjoying his coffee. Lily and Gil were absorbed in a conversation.
Elaine had returned to the piano as soon as reading was done, and soft carols played in the background.
David smiled softly as he watched the scene, his heart full. A sudden movement caused him to turn, and he saw his father walk up beside him, and place a hand on his shoulder. “You seem quiet this morning. What are you thinking of?”
Shrugging, David shook his head. “I’m not quite sure. It’s just that, on days like today, on Christmas, everything seems so--” he paused as though searching for the right word.
“Perfect?” Dad suggested. “Or about as close to perfect as you can get on this earth.”
David nodded. “Yeah.”
With a smile, dad said, “Remember, David. Family is one of the most important gifts God's given us. No matter where you may be a year from now, or two years from now, you can always look forward this. Things change, and perhaps  life will never be quite as perfect as it does today, but we’ll all still be here. And no matter where life may take you, you can always look forward to next year, where we’ll be together again.”
For a moment, David was quiet as he pondered Dad’s words. His thoughts always seemed to tumble around themselves in his head, and for some reason, Dad always seemed to know exactly what he struggling to put into words. At last he turned. “Thanks, Dad.”
Mr. Sullivan nodded, his normally twinkling eyes sober. “Family is always there, David. Always. And no matter where life leads, we’ll be here waiting. Waiting till we can be together again.”
“Hey, Dave.” 
David turned as Gil walked up beside him. 
“You want to head out to the barn with me? I told Rafe I’d make sure the animals were fed and the ice broken in the trough.”
“Shouldn’t he be the one doing it, seeing as how he was up late to help at your house?” David asked, cocking his head.
“Well, yes.” Gil grinned. “But I wanted to talk to you.:
“Don’t be out too long, boys. You’ll miss Mother’s delicious breakfast,” Mr. Sullivan said, his eyes twinkling.
David grinned. “No, sir. We’ll be back in here before you can Rafe can eat it all.” He stepped into the kitchen and threw his jacket on, and pulled the mittens from the pockets and put them on his hands.
As he followed Gil out into the bitter cold world, David closed the door behind him and stopped. “What is it?”
Gil turned, and David noticed the excitement evident on his face. “I asked her, David. I asked her to marry me, and she said yes!”
“Wait, you asked her this morning?” David couldn’t believe he’d missed it all.
Nodding, Gil said, “I couldn’t wait any longer. And so I asked her.”
David shook his head, as a smile spread across his face. “Gil, congratulations!” He slapped Gil’s shoulder, and went to shake his hand, but Gil pulled him into a hug instead. “You’ve been a good friend to me, David. I thank you for that.”
“You’ve been the same for me.” David said, as he stepped back.
The resumed walking to the barn, each man quiet with his own thoughts. Suddenly, Gil turned.
“Dave, what were you going to ask me earlier? In the barn at my house?”
In the barn? David thought back,recalling their conversation. “Oh, that..” He chuckled. “When I thought I’d have to get government permission. I was just going to ask . . .” He met Gil’s gaze.  “Where do you see us next year?”
Gil’s eyes turned sober. “Honestly? I don’t know. If things in Europe keep on as they are, if we end up in the war . . ..” he let his voice trail off.
David nodded. “Yeah.”
Once again silence fell, and then Gil spoke. “Promise me something, David.”
Wondering at the strange request, David nodded slowly,. “Anything”
“No matter what happens this next year, we won’t let anything take away our friendship.”
His eyebrows furrowing in the middle, David frowned. “Why--”
“Just promise me, David,” Gil’s eyes didn’t leave his face. “Promise me we’ll always be brothers.”
He didn't know why it meant to much to Gil, but it did. “Yes, I promise. We’ll be friends till the sun quits shining and the stars meet the sea.”
Gil chuckled. “That’s a long time.”
“Yeah, that’s the point.” David grinned. “We’ll be friends till God calls us home, and even then, we’ll still be friends--brothers--waiting to be reunited on the other side of the pearly gates.”
A smile spread it’s way across Gil’s face. “Sounds like a plan. Well, what do you say we get these animals fed?”
With that, both men turned and made their way through the snow to the barn. The sun shone down on the little farm, causing it to glisten. Smoke drifted from the chimney, till is vanished in the icy air.
And yet another Christmas passed, leaving the small town unchanged as they celebrated the birth of the Saviour.
No one knew what the new year would bring, but everyone was content to live one day at a time, trusting that the One who held the future would know what was best for them.


MERRY CHRISTMAS, Y'ALL!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

As in Olden Days--Part Three

GUYS IT'S CHRISTMAS EVE! And the 11th day of "The 12 Days of Christmas"! 
I got chosen to go shopping with dad today . . and we're apparently getting up at 6am. Soooo . . . that'll be fun! Though tiring. ;)


And . . . here's part three of As in Olden Days! You can find the previous two parts here

David bit his lip to keep from laughing. The usually eloquent, full of himself Gil actually seemed intimidated.
Lily shook her head and gave a short laugh. “Gil, I’m befuddled. What are you talking about?”
Gil didn’t rely on words, instead he simply pointed up at the door-frame with his finger.  
Leaning forward to see what he was pointing at, Lily’s face blossomed into a red rose. “Why, David Sullivan! How dare you--”
She was silenced as Gil suddenly and impulsively reached down, cupped her face in his hands, and placed a kiss on the tip of her nose, amid whistles from Rafe and David. 
When he was finished, he stepped back, his eyes on Lily. She clasped her hands in front of her, and looked down at the floor. The girls, who had stepped to the door to see what all the ruckus was about, grinned, though Elaine sent a scathing look David’s way. He winked back at her, and she shook her head, though a smile titled her lips. 
Mrs. Sullivan stepped forward and put an arm around Lily. “How would you like to help serve the cider, dear?”
Lily nodded, as though not trusting herself to speak, and retreated into the kitchen. 
Gil still stood where he was, and David lightly cuffed him on the shoulder. “You gonna thank me now?”
“No, I’m gonna kill you.” The look in Gil's eyes hardly convinced David of that fact. 
Mr Sullivan, who had been watching the scene with a smile, shook his head. “David, Rafe, someday someone's gonna do that to you and you won’t find it quite so funny.”
Rafe crossed his arms. “As long as it’s not Anne standing in the doorway, I’ll be good with it.” 
Before anyone could reply, the girls stepped into the doorway, each one of them except Elaine carrying two cups of cider. 
For a moment David was a bit confused, but then Janie walked up to him and handed him the second cup she was carrying. “This is for you, David.” 
He smiled and took the cup from her. “Thanks, Sugar.” 
She grinned and carefully took her own cup and curled up in the floor by the couch. 
Elaine walked over to stand next to David. She smiled, and took a sip of her own cider.  “I was going to bring you a cup, but Janie asked it she could bring one to “her Dave”, so I let her.”
“Well,thank you.” David smiled at Janie’s name for him, and blew on the top of his cider, watching the steam as it vanished. “I know she loves to help with everything and anything.”
“Yes, she does.” Elaine’s eyes strayed to Janie with a  tender look in them that didn’t escape David’s notice. “She’s the sweetest thing.” 
David opened his mouth to reply, but was cut short by Mr. Sullivan standing. “Well, if you can all find your seats and get comfortable, we’ll begin reading from the book of Matthew, about the account of our Saviour’s birth.
The room hushed, and David and Elaine sat where they had been standing, their backs against the wall. Gil and Lily took the easy chair, with Lily perched on Gil’s lap. Rafe and Anne sat on the floor, and Mrs. Sullivan sat next to her husband on the sofa. 
The fire crackling in the background was the only other sound that could be heard as Mr. Sullivan opened the Bible to the first chapter of Matthew and began to read. He would read through the end of the 2nd chapter, and as he listened, David’s mind began to drift. What would it be like to be Joseph? To be visited by an angel in  dream, and then to have to trust that what the angel--and your betrothed--said was true. 
it made him stop and think. Would he have the faith to believe something like that? For the first time, a new respect for Joseph rose in him. So often you heard about Mary’s faith, and while she did have great faith, Joseph’s was hardly ever mentioned. Yet, this man had still taken her and cared for her, and been willing to accept the responsibility that God had given him. 
A gentle hand on his arm shook him from his thoughts, and Elaine smiled softly. “We’re finished with the reading,” she whispered. 
David nodded his thanks, and turned his attention to Dad. “As most of you know, we sing carols next. Normally, Anne plays the piano for us.” He smiled across the room at Anne. “But this year, I’d like Elaine to play for us, if you’re willing?” His eyes asked Elaine the question.
She looked a bit surprised, and turned to David. When he nodded, she stood. “I’d love to!” She made her way over to the piano and sat down, and soon they were singing carol after carol. Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Away in a Manger, I heard the bells on Christmas day, and Joy to the world.
As the piano died away on the final stanza of the last song, a hush descended over the room. Everyone seemed to be pondering the words of the last song. One day the baby in a manger would return to rule and reign Oh, how David longed for that day! 
At last the quiet was broken by Janie jumping up. “Time for presents now, yes?”
Mrs. Sullivan’s face softened with a smile. “Yes, but only one for each person.” 
“Okay!” The little girl rushed over to the tree and set to work distributing a package to each person in the room. When everyone had one, she looked up expectantly at her father. “May we open them now?”
He nodded, and she tore into hers, squealing when she pulled out a small, knitted doll. David knew mother had spend many hours making the play thing, and it made him happy to see how much Janie loved it. The others all opened their gifts slowly, not seeming near as excited as Janie. 
David opened his to find a pair of dark, wool gloves. He fingered them softly, thinking about the warmth they would bring. He looked up, and met Mother's eyes across the room and smiled. “Thank you.”
She nodded. “You always are complaining about cold hands when you come back from the planes or the barn. I thought they might be put to good use.” 
Rafe had the same thing as he did, while Lily, Anne, and Elaine had a scarf, and Gil and Mr. Sullivan had a pair or socks. 
David chuckled as he looked around the room. Apparently, mother had instructed Janie to give everyone the homemade presents tonight. He didn’t mind. The fact that someone spent long hours making the gift made it more special than anything store-bought. 
Mother recieved a bar of soap from Lily, and she beamed as she sniffed it, her greyish-green eyes lighting up with a smile. “Oh, it’s just divine! Thank you so much, dear.” 
Lily ducked her head and rested it on Gil’s shoulder, murmuring that she was welcome. 
As the paper was cleared away, Rafe stood and stretched. “All right, I’m ready to head over to the house and call it a night.” 
Gil, looking rather reluctant, pushed Lily off his lap and got to his feet. “I agree; we’ve still got to check on the animals, so we need to get started on our way over there.”
Both of them stepped into the kitchen to bundle up, and David pulled himself to his feet. Slipping the gloves onto his hands, he followed them. 
“Hey.” Rafe’s voice was muffled behind the scarf around his mouth. “Aren’t you two going to tell your girls goodnight?”
David rolled his eyes. “Of course, little bro. Aren’t you sad you don’t have any to bid farewell to?”
Grinning, Rafe shook his head. “Just wait, I’ll have mine one year soon!” 
As soon as they were ready to head outdoors, the threesome stepped back into the living room.
“We’re leaving now, dad. ‘Night all.” Rafe gave a quick goodbye, waved, and made a beeline for the backdoor. 
David shook his head, and turned toward Elaine, who had stepped beside him. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Merry Christmas eve, and don’t let Anne bully you.”
At those words, Elaine cocked an eyebrow. “Now that sounds more like something you would do, David Sullivan.” 
David ducked his head. “Guilty as charged.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “See you tomorrow.”
Suddenly, two arms went around his legs, and David looked down to see Janie standing there. 
"Good bye, David. See you tomorrow!” 
He reached down and hugged her shoulders. “And I’ll see you tomorrow, Sugar.”
“Dave, I’m leaving!” Gil called from the backdoor.
Surprised Gil had already finished telling Lily goodnight, David turned. “‘Night Dad and Mom. Anne, Lily. See you all tomorrow.”
Apparently tired of waiting, Gil had already left, and David stepped out into the cold, closing  the door behind him. He had only taken a few steps away from the house, when suddenly an icy cold slammed into his face and left him sputtering. Before he could gather his wits, he was knocked to the ground, and the person on him was washing his face in the snow. He fought against the hands that held him, but to no avail. 
“And this is what you get for playing that prank!” Gil’s triumphant voice sounded above his head, that was now swimming. 
Then, all at once, the weight lifted off his back, and a hand grasped his and pulled him to his feet. 
David shook his head to clear the snow and glared at Gil, who stood with a smug smile on his face and his arms crossed. 
“Where’s Rafe?” David was going to kill him for allowing that to happen.
“Oh, I sent him ahead to do the chores.” Gil replied, a smirk on his face. “That was his punishment. But you, you I needed to do more to.” 
“Yeah, so you decided that my face needed a bath.”
Gil shrugged. “I said I’d kill you.” 
David glared, trying hard to keep a grin off his face. “The one time I decide to play a prank, and what do you do? I never did anything for all the ones you played done me!”
“Ahh, that was different.” Gil raised a finger. “I never played any on you and a pretty girl.” 
David considered it a moment. Gil had a point. At last he nodded and put out his hand. “Okay, truce?”
Gil didn’t hesitate. “Truce.” 
As the two men started walking towards the Wilson’s house, David couldn’t help but ask the question he had been wondering all evening. “So, was having to kiss her--not even on the lips, I'll add--worth all that?"
Gil’s chuckle was low. “Wouldn't you like to know.” 
They walked on in silence for a moment, and then Gil spoke again. “All I know is that when my days on this earth are over and I die, she’s going to be there, holding my hand.” Gil turned, and David met his gaze. 
Never before had he seen Gil so serious, so determined. 
“Because I’m going to ask her to marry her, and I’m not leaving her till God calls me home.”

***

“Hey, did you hear what Gil said?” David asked as he stepped into the warmth of the Wilson barn.
Rafe looked up from the ice he was breaking on the water trough and shook his head. “No, what?”
David couldn’t keep the grin off his face. “He’s going to ask Lily to marry him.” 
“All right!” Rafe returned the grin, and their hands met in a clasp. “Score one for the Sullivan brothers!”
David shook his head and smiled. Whatever would he do without his brother and best friend? 
Life would be different, that was for sure. 

 ***

Christmas morning dawned bright and cold. David and Gil headed out to the barn first thing, leaving Rafe sleeping.
"You know he'd gonna kill us when he realizes we let him sleep in, right?" Gil asked as they walked toward the barn.
David shrugged. "He's almost twenty; plenty old enough to get himself up when the rooster crows. Besides," he grinned, "It'll make a fun story to tell. The youngest person at the Wilson house slept in on Christmas day." He took a deep breath and watched as his breath made a cloud in the frozen air, evaporating into the cloudless sky. It was a perfect Christmas day.
It took the two men no time to get two cows fed and tied, and soon the only sound on the barn was the warm, frothy milk streaming into the pails.
"Hey, Gil." David broke the silence. "Can I ask you a question?"
Gil chuckled, and directed a stream of milk at David, who ducked. The cow stomped her back hoof, but Gil didn't seem to take any notice. "You just did ask."
"Yeah, well, can I ask another question?"
"You just did."
David picked up a clod of dirt that lay at his feet, and tossed it at Gil.
It was Gil's turn to duck. "Okay, truce. Yes, you can ask me a question."
"Gee, thanks. I was wondering if I'd have to get permission from the government."
"Ya know." Gil took the pail of milk he had just filled and dumped it in the large bucket that would be carried to the separator in the kitchen. "If anyone heard our conversations, they'd think we were insane."
"We are." David stood from the milking stood, grabbed his own pail, and poured it into the bucket along with Gil's.
"Oh, now we just openly admit it." Gil spread his arms wide. "Look out, world. David Sullivan and Gil Wilson are crazy together. Beware."
David cuffed him on the shoulder. "Settle down, you're gonna spook the cows."
"That cows?" Gil shook his head. "I just think you want to keep our secret from everyone else. Including a certain Elaine."
Shaking his head, David settled back down on the milking stool and returned to his job. "Believe me, as soon as she met you and found out you were my best friend, Elaine knew I was a bit insane."
Gil didn't reply until he had let the first cow out to pasture, and brought the third one into milk. "Did you realize we're having an insane conversation about being insane?"
David chuckled, his shoulders shaking against the firm side of the cow. "Maybe we should just shut up."
"Yeah, you should."
Both Gil and David turned as Rafe entered the barn, a frown on his face. "What's up with you two leaving me inside?"
David turned his face to hide a smile, and assumed the most serious voice he could manage. "Rafe, we pondered awaking you. But you see, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to tell about how the youngest person in the Wilson house was the last to wake up on Christmas morn."
"Oh, I bet you just think you're smart, don't you?" Rafe grabbed the halter on one of the cows still waiting to be milked, secured it to a rail, and dumped feed in the feed-box.
Shrugging his shoulders, David let his cow out to pasture. "I'd like to think so."
Rafe growled, but apparently it was too early in the morning for him to think of a suitable comeback. David snickered and tucked the moment away. It wasn't often that he got the last word in their teasing.
The remaining five cows were milked quickly in silence, which was broken only by the occasional moo of one of the cows, who decided it should get a break from being milked on Christmas.
David didn't agree. Everyone else got the day off, except farmers and their animals, and that was fine with him. It was the way the Good Lord planned it.
When at last they finished and stepped back out into the white world, David took a deep breath. The silence of the morning seemed perfect for such a holy day.
"It makes you wonder, doesn't it?"
David turned at Gil's voice. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, this kind of stillness on a day like this. It makes you think about how perfect heaven is. Ten times more lovely than this. And yet, the King of creation chose to come to this world to save us filthy sinners from our sin and the hell-bound course we were intent on taking."
It wasn't often that Gil's words turned serious, but when they did, they never failed to give David something to ponder.
The three men stood there for a moment, together in the stillness. 
Life was perfect on that cold, wintery morning, with the sun shining, and the world still asleep.
Not a one of them pondered where they would be the next year, and that was well and good. For had they known, it would have cast a dark shadow over the holy day, and tainted the priceless memories that were being made.


The Conclusion is coming your way tomorrow! Merry Christmas eve!!

Friday, December 23, 2016

As in Olden Days--Part Two


And . . .here's part two of the Sullivan's (and Gil's!) Christmas! If you missed the first part, you can find it here.



Gil rubbed his chin and met David’s gaze. “How we gonna do this?”
They six stood on the top of a hill, each of the guys dragging a sled.
“How about we give the girls a ride first?” Rafe suggested. “We can push them down, and then,” he raised an eyebrow and his lips tilted into a crooked grin,  “We’ll make them push us down.”
“Oh, yes, swell idea!” Gil agreed, setting the sled at the top of the hill. “All right, girls. Get on and we’ll send ya flying!”
“No, sending us flying would be taking us up in the plane,” Lily said, her eyes crinkling in a smile from beneath her scarf.
Gil suddenly turned serious. “No. Not when it’s icy like this. I won’t risk a crash on the runway.”
David nodded in agreement. “Tell you what, Lily. We’ll take you up when it warms out a bit, though I’m not sure how much longer that crop duster’s gonna survive going for a spin.”
“Are we gonna sled already?” Anne asked impatiently, taking a seat on one of the sleds.
Rafe looked down at her, and bent over as if to give her a shove. Instead, in one quick movement, he grabbed a handful of snow, and he threw it at her face.
For a quick second Anne gasped, speechless, and then she rolled off the side of the sled, and grabbed a fistful of snow. She threw it hard, and Rafe ducked out of the way just in time, causing the snowball to hit David square in the face.
He sputtered as the ich flakes fell down his scarf, and the cold hit his neck. Well, Anne had done it now. David rushed forward, and she squealed and ran.
Smack into Rafe.
Rafe held her while David pelted her with snow balls. He had only thrown two, however, when yet another one hit him in the face.
Sputtering, he looked up and saw Elaine standing off to the side, eyeing him as she dusted the snow off her hands.
Oh, she was in for it now. Leaving Anne to Rafe, he sprinted toward her, intent on returning the favor.
With a squeal she ran away from him, and ducked behind a pine tree.
Ah, so she was gonna make it difficult. Well, let it never be said that a Sullivan shirked from a  challenge. As he neared the tree she ran around it, and David put an extra burst of speed into his steps. How could she run that fast with so many layers on?
Not that it mattered. In a matter of seconds David reached her, and he lifted her from the ground. Her cheeks were red and her eyes dancing with laughter as he spun her around; all the while she fought to get away.
At last David set her down next to the tree. He leaned forward till his hands were on either side of her shoulders, pinning her so she couldn’t move. “Promise you won’t throw any more snow at me?”
He could see the mischief in her eyes as she contemplated. “What happens if I don’t agree?”
David wracked his brain to think of what to do. He couldn’t very well threaten to wash her face in the snow. An idea hit him, and he grinned down at her, his eyes sparkling with fun. “Then I’ll kiss you.”
Elaine gasped and covered her face with her hands. “David, you wouldn't!”
He leaned closer. “Promise?” he could see the flush that spread across her face, heightening the color in her already red cheeks.
He pressed a kiss to her nose. “You don’t have much time, Elaine.”
“Oh, David, you’re terrible!” 
The look  in her eyes told him he was anything but.
He pried one of her hands off her mouth, and she gasped with a smile, “Okay, I promise!”
David couldn’t hold back a chuckle as he stepped back and let her free. “Glad you decided. I was getting a bit worried.”
Elaine reached up and shoved him back, and then linked her arm with his and they started walking back toward the others, who were making their way down the hill in the sleds.  “David, you’re terrible!”
“Naw,” He grinned down at her. “I’m wonderful and I know it.”
She shook her head in exasperation. “You’ve been spending too much time with Rafe and Gil. They’re not good for your ego.”
David stopped and feigned shock. “Not good for my ego? On the contrary, I think they work wonders for it.”
“Oh, David!”
“Hey, Elaine, want a ride?” Rafe asked as he came puffing up the hill, pulling Anne on the sled behind him. Gil and Lily were on the other two sleds, almost at the bottom of the hill.
“Sure!” Elaine bounced on her toes in excitement.
Anne got off, and Elaine took her seat. Rafe made sure her coat was tucked up out of the way of the runners. “You ready?”
“Yes!”
“All right, here goes.” Rafe gave the sled a shove, and it raced down the hill toward Gil and Lily, picking up speed as it went.
Watching the sled, he stepped back and stood next to David. “You looked like you were having fun.”
David tried unsuccessfully to keep the smile off his face. “I was.”
Rafe leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially,  “Did you kiss her?”
“I threatened to.”
A sudden jab to the ribs made David chuckle. “What?”
Before Rafe could reply, Anne stepped up beside them. “I have a question for both of you.”
Immediately, Rafe crossed his arms and assumed a defiant stance. “Whatever it was, I didn’t do it.”
David rolled his eyes. Rafe always had something to do with it.
“What I want to know is . . . why did I see you two hanging mistletoe in every nook and cranny of the house?”
David frowned. “Oh, you saw?” It must have been when she came down the stairs. He glanced to Rafe, who gave a slight nod.
Anne stomped her foot impatiently. “Well, what are you doing?”
“We’re trying to get Gil to propose to Lily,” David said. “It was Rafe’s great idea to hang the mistletoe. He thought it would, you know, provide some, ahh, opportune moments.”
After listening to David, Anne raised an eyebrow. “You two are impossible. Will you ever grow up?”
“Aw, come on, Anny-anne.” Rafe used his pet name for her. “You gotta admit it’s a swell idea.”
She shook her head. “I’ll admit to no such thing. But.” She grinned. “I won’t say a word to Gil, though I bet that once he sees your handiwork he’ll know it was you two who did it.”
Rafe shrugged. “Maybe so. Hey, Anne,” he grabbed her shoulders, seized with a sudden idea. “Can you tell Elaine about it, and tell her to stay away? We want to be able to catch only Lily standing beneath it, so it'll be more fun. And it’ll be only her and Gil.”
With a roll of her eyes, Anne nodded. “I’ll tell her. I’ll also tell her my brothers are crazy.”
David grinned. “I think she already knows that. All right, come on you two. I motion we get down there and grab the sleds.”
“Yeah, I second that motion,” Rafe said. “Gil’s had enough turns on the sled for the day.”
With a whoop, he led the way down the hill, while David and Anne slipped their way down through the piles of powdery snow.

***

“So how was your day?” Mrs. Sullivan asked as she passed the salad to Lily. Her eyes traveled around the table before landing on David.
Taking it that he was to be the spokesperson, David quickly swallowed the bit of roast chicken that he had placed in his mouth a second before. “It was good. We picked up the house a bit, went sledding, and then decided to head into town for some lunch. We stayed in town for a little longer and walked around the shops. After that, we headed back home, and the girls made the wonderful supper.” He used a hand to sweep across the table. Roast chicken, rolls, salad, and mashed potatoes completed the Christmas eve meal. The dining room looked wonderful, too. The tall glass cabinet behind the table had bits of greenery stuck around it, and a red runner with a single candle. The table itself had a candle centerpiece, and the phone box on the wall behind the table hosted its own red candle.
Rafe nodded in agreement as he swallowed a bit of roll. “It is wonderful. You guys did great!”
Arching an eyebrow, Anne said. “We’re girls, not guys.”
Rafe dipped his head. “I’m sorry, you gals did a wonderful job.”
As everyone returned to eating, David turned his attention to Janie, who, at eight, was the youngest of the four Sullivan children. She was what mother called an “unexpected surprise”, having been born nearly ten years after Anne.
“And how was your time with mother and dad?”
She smiled at him excitedly. Her brown pigtails lay flat on her shoulders, and her dark, blue eyes shone. “We went to the store and got the rest of the gifts for everyone. But then we also went to the candy store, and daddy got me a peppermint stick.”
David grinned. “I bet that was just swell.”
She nodded as she placed another spoonful of potatoes in her mouth. “It was!”
Small talk was made as the meal was consumed, with the older people talking about the fun they’d had earlier, while Janie chimed in about the sights she had seen in town.
When the meal was over, the girls cleared the table, leaving the men to head into the living room.
David and Rafe took seats on the floor on either side of the doorway, much to the confusion of Dad, who sat on the couch. Gil glanced around the room for a moment as though wondering where to sit, and Mr. Sullivan patted the seat beside him. “Don’t be shy of sitting here, Gilbert. If my boys want to sit on the floor that’s fine, but there’s no need for you to do the same.”
As Gil took a seat on the cushion, David and Rafe exchanged a smug look. They were waiting for a certain someone to enter the doorway. And they were going to make sure she didn’t leave until Gil had joined her. David glanced up. Sure enough, the mistletoe was still in place at the corner of the doorway.
Leaning back against the wall to wait, David let his thought wander. He knew how the evening would go. As soon as the kitchen was clean, the girls would head into the living room with cups of steaming apple cider. Then Father would read the Christmas story according to Matthew, and everyone would be allowed to open one gift from beneath the tree.
After a round of carols, accompanied by Anne on the piano, everyone would head upstairs to bed. Lily and Elaine were staying with Anne over the weekend, instead of returning to the dorms at the college. Rafe and David would head over with Gil to spend the night and the Wilson’s house.
David's eyes wandered to the piles around the Christmas tree, and he chuckled to himself. He was looking forward to a gift , all right. But it wouldn't be anything that had been set under the tree. No, his gift  would be the look on Gil’s face when he realized they’d played a prank on him. And it would be priceless.
The sounds of pots and pans could be heard in the kitchen behind them, along with the occasional laughter and the hum of soft voices.
For a second David wanted to go in the kitchen and help, but he pushed the idea away. There were already five people there, and the kitchen wasn’t exactly the largest place ever. Besides, he had to stay here and make sure that Lily stayed put. He trusted Rafe with some things, but getting spirited Lily Stanford to stay in one place wasn’t one of them. If Lily knew they wanted her to stay, she’d do her best to move.
Just then, he heard her voice behind him. “What in the world are you two doing sitting on the floor?”
Lily stood in the doorway, one shoulder leaning against it, and the other hand on her hip.
David looked at Rafe, and as their eyes met, he gave a barely perceptible nod. Rafe stood and walked over to Gil, while David stood and faced Lily. “Well, after all that sledding we decided the floor was the best place for our backs.”
“Your backs?” She didn’t look convinced.
“Yeah.” David winked. “You don’t know just how hard it is to pull you ladies up that hill.” Ignoring the raised eyebrows Lily gave him, David turned to look behind him just in time to see a red flush creep its way up Gil’s face as his eyes landed on the plant above the doorway.
He grinned and stepped out of the way. “She’s ready, Gil.”
Rafe prodded Gil to a standing position, and Gil grudgingly took a step forward, sending David a heated glare. It was all David could do to keep a straight face.
Lily looked between the three of them, a bewildered look on her face.
Just as long as she stays standing where she is, David thought.
Gil stopped about a foot in front of her, and David stepped back. He could imagine what he was in for later on that night on the way to the Wilsons, but he pushed the thought from his mind.
Looking rather sheepish, Gil cleared his throat, and glanced down at Lily. “Seems we’ve been put in a rather delicate situation.”
David bit his lip to keep from laughing. The usually eloquent, full-of-himself Gil actually seemed intimidated.

And . . . the next part will be posted tomorrow! ;) Thanks for reading! 

The Tomb is . . . empty.

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