God told me to become a professional writer back in 1984, and that year I wrote my first novel between June and the end of the year. That novel was published by Heartsong Presents in 1992.
In 1984, God also told me to use the writing gift He had given me to bless other people at Christmas. So all but maybe two or three years since then, when life got in the way, I’ve written a Christmas story and shared it with as many people as I could.
Here is this year’s story for you:
Just Between You and Me
“Mom! ... Are you home?” Carolyn Barnes slammed the door against the strong wind blowing from the north. This cold front caught her unawares. She only wore a light sweater to school today.
“I’m in the kitchen.”
Her mother glanced up from cutting out cookies when Carolyn dropped her backpack on one of the kitchen chairs.
“Oh, goody. Cookies. I’m about frozen.” She grabbed two of the warm Christmas wreaths and bit into the sugar cookie. “Ummm. These are my favorites.”
Her mother started putting the Christmas bells on the cookie sheet. “You always say that.” She glanced at her daughter and frowned. “Why didn’t you wear your coat? I left it out for you.”
“I didn’t notice, and it was warm when I left for school.” Carolyn dropped into one of the empty chairs. “Mom, remember when we were having a hard time after Dad died?”
“Yes.” Her mother put the cookie sheet into the oven, then turned to lean against the counter. “Why?”
“People at the church helped us a lot, didn’t they?” Carolyn shoved the last bite into her mouth and chewed as she mulled over her dilemma. “There’s a new girl who started in seventh grade about a month ago. She’s kind of a loner. I’ve made friends with her, but she won’t talk about her family ... or where she lives ... or anything personal. And she looks sad all the time. I wish there was some way we could help her.”
“How does she get home from school?” Mom started rolling out another ball of cookie dough.
“That’s just it. She fools around in her last classroom until only the teacher is left. Then she walks outside really slow, making sure she’s the last student leaving the building. I don’t know what she’s hiding, but I want to help her ... somehow.” Carolyn clutched her fist against her chest. “I hurt right here for her.”
Mom came around the table and pulled Carolyn into her arms. “My sweet, sweet girl. I know you have a soft heart for people.” She stared out the kitchen window as if something interesting was out there ... which there wasn’t. “I have an idea.”
They both sat down in adjoining chairs. Carolyn got spiral notebook out of her backpack. She knew if Mom had an idea, she’d want to write it down so she could remember what Mom said.
“Why don’t I come to the school to pick you up tomorrow? I’ll be getting off by two o’clock. We can park a little way from the school and follow her far enough back so she doesn’t know that’s what we’re doing. Maybe we can find out where she lives.”
Carolyn jumped up. “Mom, you’re a genius.”
“If we know where she lives, maybe we can figure out what’s bothering her.”
Carolyn’s heart felt lighter somehow. Maybe they could help
Geneva ... and her family.
After school the next day, Mom was parked right where she told Carolyn she would be. After she got in the car, Mom drove around the block and parked on the side of the school building so they could watch the front door.
Sure enough, after all the other students had gone home,
Geneva came out, looked
around, then headed down one of the streets. Mom drove, making sure they weren’t
close enough to the girl for her to know they were following. Carolyn almost
missed it when Geneva
quickly turned down a street heading toward a poorer part of town ... but Mom
After walking about a dozen blocks in the cold,
Geneva went through a
door at a rundown motel.
“So that’s where she’s going.” Mom sounded like she knew something Carolyn didn’t.
“Why’d you say that?”
“I’d heard a group had bought that motel to turn it into a homeless shelter for women with children. I didn’t know they were already taking families in. I thought they would remodel it first.”
“Wow. I didn’t know we had any homeless people in a town as small ours.” Carolyn frowned. “Do you think
Geneva’s mom and siblings, if she has any,
are living here because they’re homeless?”
“Could be.” Mom started driving. “You don’t see the homeless standing around on street corners or huddled in doorways here, but I’ve seen some around.”
“Where are we going?” Now Carolyn’s heart hurt again. No wonder
“We’re going home. Tomorrow, I’ll see what I can find out about the motel and
family. Then we can decide what can be done to help them.” A smile filled Mom’s
face as she headed toward home.
Carolyn power-walked all the way home the next day. She could hardly wait to hear what her mother found out. Her mother was pulling into the driveway when Carolyn reached their block. She started jogging to get to the house sooner ... and to get into the warmth there.
Mom opened the door, then followed her in. They both dropped down onto the sofa.
“So did you find out what we wanted to know?” Carolyn slid her heavy backpack to the floor. She wished they used ebooks for their subjects, like some of the schools in larger cities. Here in their small town, it wasn’t even an option.
Her mother pulled her own notebook out of her purse and opened it. “Yes. The remodeling has taken place in some of the rooms.
Geneva, her mother, and
her two younger siblings are in room with a kitchenette, so they can cook their
own food. Her mother has trouble finding work, because of the two small
children. As a waitress, she can’t afford to pay for babysitting for the two
preschoolers. She only goes to work after Geneva
gets home from school to take care of them.”
“I wonder why
wouldn’t tell me.”
“Carolyn, many people have a lot of pride. They don’t want other people to know how bad things are for them. Her mother can afford to get food for them ... and clothes by shopping in thrift stores.”
How could they help
family if she didn’t want anyone to know where she lived ... and how bad things
are for her family?
“I talked confidentially with the director of the program. Told her we wanted to adopt that family for Christmas, but we didn’t want them to know who was helping them. We’ve worked out a way to get it done.”
Mom read out a list of needs and clothes sizes. “We can go shopping tomorrow, since it’s Saturday.”
“I really want to do this, but I don’t want to embarrass
“I know you don’t. Neither do I. Here’s what we’ve planned.”
After Mom finished telling her the plan, Carolyn grinned from ear to ear.
“There’s something more I want you to think about.” Mom’s comment really caught Carolyn’s attention. “You know how that the Bible tells us to give without letting our right hand know what our left hand is doing.”
“Yeah. I really never understood how that worked.”
“It’s just symbolic. It means that when we do a good work, it’s only for God to know, because we’re doing it for Him. The director of the ministry was glad to help us with it.” Mom headed toward the kitchen. “Want me to call for a pizza?”
“Yeah, with lots of cheese and pineapple.” Carolyn ran up the stairs to put on her sweats. They’d warm her up fast.
Late Christmas Eve, Carolyn and her mother took a small, pre-lit Christmas tree, a box of food, including a ham, candied sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and pecan pie, along with several sacks of groceries, four wrapped packages for each person in the family, and a Christmas card. It was signed, from Jesus, and contained money Mom had collected from some of her regular customers. They quietly arranged the things outside the door to the room where
family lived. Then they scurried across the street where their car was parked,
mostly hidden behind a trash dumpster.
After they left, the director of the ministry crept to the door. She gave it three quick knocks, then scooted around the corner out of sight.
It took about five minutes for someone to open the door. A woman in a ratty robe stared out into the night. She looked all around before she turned her attention down where the things were sitting. One hand went to her throat, then she pulled a tissue from her pocket and started wiping her eyes. She turned around and called someone.
As Mom drove home, Carolyn turned toward her. “I can’t wait until school starts again. Maybe
will share with me, but if she doesn’t, it’s okay. God knows, and He’s the only
one who needs to. I just want to see a smile on her face.”
Lena Nelson Dooley