Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

FLASH FICTION: Christmas at Ground Control


He tapped the steering wheel in frustration at the slowing traffic.

Astronaut Shelly Fender had been in space for 461 days, fifteen hours, seven minutes—he glanced at his watch—and thirty-four seconds.

They’d miss the window to get her back to earth for Christmas with her little boy if he didn’t get into mission control posthaste. He was the flight director, and today was the last window of opportunity before Christmas.

Just ahead, a cow was walking nonchalantly down the freeway. He screeched his tires to avoid it, swerving a bit before coming to a stop in the shoulder.

Not one cow. A herd.

Ah … an overturned cattle truck up ahead.

Traffic would be a mess for hours. He punched numbers into his phone.

Ten minutes later, he heard a helicopter approaching.

It would be an unconventional commute, but that kid would not miss another Christmas with his mama.

Merry Christmas Blessings,


Picture credit:

Review: Unfinished Gift by Dan Walsh

It started out with my thinking, boy did this author get himself in over his head writing from the point of view of a little boy. But that only lasted a moment. The heart-winning little boy has lost his mother to a car accident and is being sent to live with the grandfather he’d never met as he awaits his father’s return from his duty station in WWII Europe.

Why has he never met his grandfather?

Why does his grandfather hate the boy…and even his own son, the boy’s father?

Will his father even get the message to come home for his son? (I cheated and checked the ending to find out. I had to.)

What’s with the creepy cemetery? And the nosy neighbor?

What does the boy want for Christmas–besides his father’s return?

Will they survive the snowstorm of the century?

Never fear, all these questions are answered, and you will be left with a sense of satisfaction, a sense of a richly, well-woven tapestry. This is Dan Walsh’s writing, after all.

I highly recommend his book, Unfinished Gift for a Christmas read. I do not recommend checking the ending like I did. Instead, just take a sip of that hot chocolate you’re drinking. This is a warm read that will put you gently into the Christmas spirit without making you gag on syrupy sweetness.

The snowstorm of the century turned what should have been an easy fix into a heart-stopper. Taut and believably written. Well-done, Mr. Walsh!

I also immensely loved the black man. Who he was, as well as his actions. I want to meet him in person! I can’t tell you any more than that.

What I didn’t like about the book? Community service is what most policemen are all about, but I was left with the barest feeling that police are mercenary, not self-sacrificing. This is what caused me to award four, rather than five stars. (4-1/2 aren’t possible.)

The immense wealth of the grandfather irritated me, as well. Most people have to solve their problems without that benefit.

But I nitpick.

Blessings, Voni

GiftsGiven the time of year, my Word Nerd brain turned to thoughts of PRESENTS.

The word comes from the Latin root pre- (“before”) and –esse– (“to be”), taking short trip through the French before landing in our language.

Esse is where we get our word ESSENCE. Think of it. When you are honored with a gift, the giver is putting his (or her) self in front of you. It’s a uniquely vulnerable position, really.

I know how upset I feel when a gift-giving venture of mine misses its mark. I know the feeling of watching the face of the receiver intently, hoping to see a smile, hoping they’ll see the love I put into it.

I hate gift-giving. In our culture, it’s almost turned into a pattern of demand and fulfillment, demand and fulfillment. Yet, you want to give them something THEY want, so…well, I haven’t found the answer for our family yet.

Then, oh then, there is the word PRESENCE. Same root words. But think of it! The greatest present of all…the PRESENCE of Jesus. Born in a manger, putting before us the very essence of God.

 Oh yeah. It’s Christmas.

 WORD NERD CHALLENGE OF THE WEEK: As you open presents this Christmas, think of the honor you’re being given with each gift, whether it hits the mark or not. Honor the giver with your gratitude and love in return. Sing “The Little Drummer Boy.” Remember the presence of Jesus.



Word Nerd Thursday: Handel’s Messiah

The final bars of the "Hallelujah" c...

Image via Wikipedia

Since my breathtaking daughter, Leah, played violin last weekend in the Kodiak Arts Council’s presentation of Handel’s Messiah, I thought I would take a look at two words: MESSIAH, and HALLELUJAH. (We are fortunate to have so very many excellent musicians on this tiny island—thanks, everyone!)

The Greeks took the Hebrew mashiah “anointed” and turned it into messias. The Latins, as usual, just copied the word messias. Then the Geneva translators in 1560, translated it as MESSIAH. Definition? I don’t even have to look it up. Jesus. Pure and simple. Check out how many, many prophecies in Isaiah alone that Jesus fulfilled. But, really and truly, “You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.” And that’s what makes Jesus the Messiah.

The word HALLELUJAH took a similar path. Hallelu is Hebrew for “praise,” or a loud shout. and yah is the Hebrew for Jehovah. The Greeks turned it into hallelouia, and the Latins took that and turned it into alleluja. It is an interjection meaning, quite literally, “Praise God.”

(Funny enough, Noah Webster’s 1829 spells the word halleluiah. Some day I’m going to get to the bottom of the whole letter-i vs. letter j thing. And in case you’re wondering, HALLOWED doesn’t come from the same root at all. Check out my Halloween Word Nerd blog.)

But the upshot of it all is this:

Three major Western cultures. Two special words. One true God.

WORD NERD CHALLENGE OF THE WEEK: Research why it is tradition to stand up for the Hallelujah Chorus in performances of Handel’s Messiah. Nothing to do with words, I know.

Short Story Tuesday: The Christmas Letter

christmas 2007

Image by paparutzi via Flickr

The Christmas Letter

Flash Fiction by Voni Harris


She found the decorative red and green card among the branches on the Christmas tree. She hadn’t put it there. She looked over at her son in question. He just grinned and shrugged his shoulders. She broke the seal on the envelope and pulled out a letter…

Dear Mom,

Yes, it’s your daughter, writing to say Merry Christmas. It has been a crazy year, full of pain, shocks, and surprises.

The pain of our inability to get along, the constant fighting that finally pushed me to move out. I remember when I was a little girl, and our home was full of laughing, silliness, bedtime talks and prayers. When did that go away? When dad was sent to prison, I guess. Well, that’s his problem. He made his choices. I just wish it hadn’t affected our relationship the way it did. And I have to say, I had my part in it. I went into my room and closed the door more times than I can count. I did my share of yelling. I left home, instead of being there for you. I selfishly forgot the pain Dad caused you.

I’m sorry, Mom.

The shock of finding a lump in my breast. Without you there to talk it out over a cup of hot chocolate. The surprise of finding out it was just a cyst. Without you there to cry tears of joy with me.

The surprise of where that cancer scare led me: straight to the arms of Jesus. How could a loving God give me a Dad like that? It was a surprise to find, all along, that He was the way out, the way past all the pent-up fear and anger in my heart. That bedtime prayer habit of yours became my own habit. Yes, Mom. I asked Jesus into my heart. I’m a Jesus-Freak like you. I can’t believe, now, that those words led to the fight that made me move out last Christmas. I was so stubborn.

I’m sorry, Mom.

Then there was the surprise of finding love. He’s a very handsome Christian man who wants to be a journalist. He has such a heart for truth. I love him so much.

And speaking of surprises, Mom: If you open up your front door, Kelvin and I are here for Christmas.

Let us in, wouldya? Please?

Love, Larissa




Word Nerd Wednesday (On a Thursday): Tradition!


Remind you of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof?

Well, ‘tis the holiday season, so the word Tradition naturally popped into my brain. Let’s open up this word and take a look at what’s inside, shall we?

Wow. I opened up my Webster’s New World College Dictionary to the T’s and got a big Word Nerd surprise. Didn’t see this coming in any way, shape, or form. Believe me, I had to rub my eyes and re-read several times to make sure I hadn’t made a mistake.

Tradition came to use through Middle English, and Middle French, from the Latin traditio, meaning, “a surrender, delivery, tradition,” from tradere, “to deliver.” The first, obsolete, definition of Tradition is “a surrender or betrayal.”

Then you read the words, “see TREASON.”

What? Tradition and Treason come from the same root?

A page flip or two over to the word treason, and—yep. Treason comes from Latin tradere, to give or deliver over or up (trans = “across”, dare = to give). Don’t ask me how we got Treason from trans and dare. It is what it is, yes?

So, I will put on my Word Nerd thinking cap. (Just a second. I have to run to the closet for it…I didn’t think this word would be this surprising.)

 Trans means “across”

Dare means “give”

Which is exactly what you are doing when you hand down or share traditions…you are giving across to someone your values and beliefs, your sense of family and community.

 And see? Noah Webster’s 1823 Dictionary agrees with me:

 “1. Delivery; the act of delivering into the hands of another.

A deed takes effect only from the tradition or delivery.

The sale of a movable is completed by simple tradition.

2. The delivery of opinions, doctrines, practices, rites and customs from father to son, or from ancestors to posterity; the transmission of any opinions or practice from forefathers to descendants by oral communication, without written memorials. Thus children derive their vernacular language chiefly from tradition. Most of our early notions are received by tradition from our parents.

3. That which is handed down from age to age by oral communication. The Jews pay great regard to tradition in matters of religion, as do the Romanists. Protestants reject the authority of tradition in sacred things, and rely only on the written word. Traditions may be good or bad, true or false.

Stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle. 2 Thess. 2.

Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your traditions? Matt. 15.”

 Blessings as you share your values, beliefs, family, and community this holiday season!

 WORD NERD CHALLENGE OF THE WEEK: How many words can you come up with that also come from Latin dare, to give?

Merry CHRISTmas! Voni

Short Story Tuesday (on a Thursday): THE RINGER

Author’s disclaimer: The selfishness of the teenager in this story in no way reflects our daughter. (This is fiction, folks…enjoy!)


By Voni Harris


Megan forced a smile at the man who put a few quarters into the red bucket outside the toy store. It was a small town. No sense in having word get back to Mom and Dad that she was being sullen.

Her arm was sore from ringing the bell, her hat was not keeping her ears warm, and it was beginning to snow. But she had another hour.

A lady dropped in a couple dollars, and Megan forced another smile.

This was all because she was mad they wouldn’t replace her i-Pod. It wasn’t her fault she lost it! But they were still making her do this stupid bell-ringing thing. By herself. Volunteer, hah!

What was standing out in the snow ringing a bell supposed to teach her, anyway?

Nothing, she decided. It was just pay-back for when they told her no to a new i-Pod, and she screamed at them and ran off to her room and slammed the door. She’d already endured the standard you-should-know-better lecture about responsibility later that night. Wasn’t that enough?

She had the right to be mad, didn’t she? Who were they to tell her she couldn’t be mad? How was she supposed to keep up with Facebook and Twitter without her i-Pod? She was going to lose all her friends! Just because Mom and Dad wouldn’t replace the i-Pod. Of course, she was mad.

Megan realized she was ringing the bell way too hard, and she slowed her arm down.

Suddenly, a little girl came up and dropped in a dime. “Thank you for helping Jesus,” she said with a smile. “We’re going to buy a doll, we’re going to buy a doll,” she sang, dancing into the store as the girl’s mother walked up.

“Thanks,” the girl’s mom said, dropping in a couple of dollar bills. “Last year, we were about to be evicted at Christmastime. The Salvation Army Help Center not only helped us financially, but they helped me get a job. And, of course, they taught us about Jesus.” She laughed. “I better get in there before Shelly climbs the shelf getting to that doll we’re buying for her cousin. Thanks again!”

All that excitement over buying a doll for someone else? Megan couldn’t ignore the pinprick in her heart.

When was the last time you were that excited over anything? that still, small voice in her heart asked.

She couldn’t remember. Couldn’t remember even being excited over something for herself. She thought of her i-Pod left sitting on the school cafeteria table as she went off to chat with friends. Her heart pricked again, and she felt the shame creeping up to warm her face.

Mom walked up. “It’s getting chilly,” she said, and twisted her scarf snugly around her neck. “I thought I’d join you for your last hour of bell-ringing.” Her smile was warm and reminded Megan of Christmas by the fire, reading the Christmas story.

Megan smiled back. A real smile.

Maybe she’d buy her own i-Pod.