Karlene Jacobsen has spent years dreaming of a fictional world with her husband and four children as her greatest cheerleaders. When not involved in her fictional world, she studies English/Communications at Grand Canyon University (distance/online), volunteers at church, reviews books and films, contributes to Jewels of Encouragement www.jewelsofencouragement.com (devotions), enjoys her membership with Faith Writers and ACFW and actively participates in her critique group, led by Literary Agent Linda Glaz while working on her first novel. In the midst of this, she makes her online home Dancin’ in the Rain… (www.anna-karlene-jeffrey.blogspot.com) a place where anyone can find encouragement.
Snowflakes chased one another to the ground, snatching for themselves parcels of earth as others lighted next to them, creating a brilliant white blanket speckled with diamonds and crystals that winked at the sky when the moon peeked through the clouds. I leaned against the window frame, gazing through the pane, awed by the peaceful invasion of these tiny visitors from the heavens above. The glass, cold against my forehead, contrasted the orange, red, and gold flickering of the flames in the fireplace across the room. By the reflection in the windowpane, I could see the fire embrace the logs as its tongues licked and lapped up the bark.
A twinge of guilt tried to cloud my euphoria. I pressed it down, determined not to allow my husband’s absence to bother me. For years, we had gotten caught up in the frenzy of shopping, baking, parties: all the trimmings that accompanied a happy holiday season. November and December we drove the credit cards to their limits, and then for the next ten months we worked feverishly to pay them off, just in time to begin shopping again.
Then one day I had a revelation about Christmas. It’s a pagan holiday, as my dad always told me. We shouldn’t be celebrating it; in fact, all Christians ought to boycott Christmas. My husband and I are united on one point: we don’t know exactly when Christ was born. The rest, he staunchly disagrees with me, ergo his absence when the cabin is cozy and inviting.
We’d argued again. He invited me along to take gifts to the homeless shelters. “There are thousands this year who have no home, let alone the ability to celebrate Christmas. We’ve been blessed beyond measure. Why don’t we do this for them?”
“Because, Jeremy, it’s wrong.” I slapped the back of one hand into the palm of the other. “Can’t you see . . . we shouldn’t be celebrating a pagan holiday; we need to dispense with them and celebrate the feasts.”
I turned my gaze from the flickering lights reflected in the window to the blaze wrapping its arms around the logs. Doesn’t it bother You that it’s not really Your Holy Day? Shouldn’t we be bothered as well? My fingers traced the squares of the quilt I draped around my shoulders, lingering on each of the pieces of fabric Grandma had pointed out. I could almost see her crooked fingers shake as she traced the patterns on the gingham, explaining, “You see, Dana, quilts we made when I was young told stories. They were stories of love and loss, celebrations and mournings. Every one of them is woven into this quilt.”
“Tell me the story, Grandma.” I sat with bated breath as she pointed to the blue denim squares explaining how Great-grandpa wore this shirt every day to work.
“It was his favorite, his lucky shirt, he said.” Grandma had laughed, gently stroking the pieces. “Of course, he thought it so.” Grandma’s eyes caught a wistful glow. “Mama used to laugh whenever she told me why he refused to throw it away, even when it grew more holes than it was designed to have. It was the shirt he wore the day he married her.” For hours, Grandma talked of the fabric, telling the stories. I learned about my mom’s first date, her first prom, and the time Uncle Henry broke his leg and had to have his Sunday best pants ripped open to fix him.
Oh how I wish I had stories like that to tell. I left my place at the window and settled into the red-and-gold striped sofa facing the fireplace. My face captured the warmth as the flames licked the opening that led to the chimney. Lost in memories that paraded themselves across my heart, I lost track of time and space.
The snap, crackle, pop of the logs startled me. Little did I realize my head bobbed and a snore escaped before I was fully wakened; yet, I was coherent enough to know the snort was me. How embarrassing. I glanced around the dimming room. So glad no one is here yet. My mind drifted back to the argument Jeremy and I had before he left with the kids. I scanned the walls, noting the pictures of lighthouses and oceans hung above Scripture verses. Then thinking about the quilt, I mused aloud: “If You had a quilt, what story would it tell?”
Of course, there was no answer. What did I expect? Booming voices...? Thunder...? Lightning...? Yeah, right. God doesn’t speak like He did in the Old Testament. I pulled my feet into the quilt and scooted myself down so that I could lay my head on the armrest while I watched the fire. Before long, the drugging effects of sleep overtook me as my body melted into the cushions of the sofa. My eyes closed. I could still see the flickering light of the fire glowing bright hues of red behind my lids. Then it faded.
For how long it was dark, I cannot tell. However, the lights reappeared, brighter and more magnificent than before. I found myself standing in the midst of a large room, shadows were nonexistent. The furniture, ornately carved, lined in gold, silver, and jewels I’ve never seen or heard of, glimmered in the light pouring in through the windows, which were clear as crystal. How they had the clarity they did while shimmering with lights found in diamonds I’ll never understand, but they were. I tiptoed across the marble floor and peered out into the lush gardens surrounding the place. The intricately designed images etched in the glass acted as prisms, casting rainbows both inside and out.
A rustle from behind caught my attention, and I turned to see what, or who, approached. Before me stood a Man, more magnificent than any I’d ever seen. His height, immeasurable; his hair, like snow; his eyes blazing as with fire.
I wobbled in his presence, sensing that I should be on my knees—probably on my face. I couldn’t speak, but wanted to ask, Who are you?
“You want to know about My quilt?” He was across the room with imperceptible movements. Opening a chest near the diamond-crystal windows, He lifted a large quilt from within and then stood beside me, an arm around my shoulder compelling me to move with Him. “Sit and I will show you.” He lowered me onto a bench built to the side of a large hall where I spotted a throne at the end. He began to caress the fabric and tell the stories. Just like Grandma did. I marveled at His gentleness, both with me and with the obvious antique in His lap.
“This,” His fingers smoothed a piece of cloth that appeared to be cut from royal garments, “is the fabric worn by the King before the promised gift appeared to man.” His eyes moistened as He told me of the day the King walked away from His throne. “He and His Father spoke often of that day. Then one day He rose from His throne, slipped out of His sandals, laid His crown on the throne, and shrugged out of His royal robes. Knowing that many wouldn’t recognize Him, some would reject Him, and others abuse Him, He chose to go. ‘It is important that I go. Without My gift, they will forever be searching and rarely finding freedom.’”
He then traced the torn shreds of another fabric, scarlet in color, as tears soaked into the quilt. “This is the robe they put on His back the day He finished His work.”
From beginning to end, the Man shared the story of the King’s passionate love for His kingdom. It being so powerful that He gave His life for them, fully aware many would reject His offer. Mesmerized by the story of how the Master of the Universe stripped Himself of glory and napped in a bed of hay, I began to weep. “It’s so beautiful. I almost forgot.”
He pulled me into His embrace, lavishing kisses on my cheek. “It’s all right. Many do. What is important is that you remember why the King appeared to mankind.”
I closed my eyes and snuggled into His chest, embracing the warmth that radiated from His being. When I opened them again to look into his face, I found myself looking into the dying embers of the fire. I rubbed my eyes in wonder, a bit confused. Had I fallen asleep? I couldn’t remember.
To the right of the fireplace, sat a package left by my husband. Unwinding my legs from the quilt, I made my way to the package and untied the bow immaculately arranged and affixed on top. Inside the flap was a card, my husband’s bold handwriting smiling up at me. I opened it and read: IT MATTERS LITTLE WHEN, BUT HOW WE REMEMBER THE GREATEST GIFT EVER GIVEN.
The box was filled with tissue , which I tossed into the dying fire, giving it life again. At the bottom sat a doll, swaddled in a blanket and its thumb in its mouth. A note attached read: THE GREATEST GIFTS COME IN TINY PACKAGES. WE MAY NEVER REALIZE HOW THEY IMPACT US UNTIL WE NURTURE THEM AND WATCH THEM GROW.
I glanced at my quilt again and wondered whether the blanket Jesus was swaddled in found its way into the quilt I saw when dreaming.