Monday, December 24, 2012


by Laurie Lewis, 2001

It was a blustery day in mid-December when the last stubborn shafts of autumn warmth retreated, paving the way for winter's arrival, and with winter, Christmas. Marta, the dark-eyed and equally talented daughter of a gifted Tailor, sat in her bed observing the changing of nature's guard through worried eyes. Her previously nimble hands lay weakly folded in her lap, their deftness stolen from her, along with her vitality by the same fevered thief that had taken her good husband, leaving her widowed with five, young children.

Pushing back the layers of fluffy comforters, she wrapped her thick robe around her and shuffled down the hall to examine what was once her workroom, a room locked against the inquisitive and sticky fingers of children. Limbless forms stood guard in the corners, keeping watch over shelves laden with fabric and trim. Bolts of satin and velvet, and piles of brightly colored gingham and silks were heaped on every shelf. Stacks of leather and a few furs lay bound, awaiting their transformation into jackets and purses and hats. Brightly painted tins held buttons and notions while spools of threads and trims sat on tabletops, waiting to adorn her creations.

Since it appeared that her hands would never have the strength or dexterity needed to sew the intricate, lovely designs of her past, she accepted that her career was over and had considered selling off the goods. Still, something in her had resisted. She knew that the bolts and notions were more than mere goods. They were the envisioned, but as yet unsewn and unseen clothes of her children's future years. Within each fold lay hats for winters she may never see, and and dresses for weddings she may never attend. Saddened, she sighed, recognizing that there were so many gifts she longed to give to her children . . . gifts her hands would never create. It would be Christmas with no gifts at all.

A thought crossed her mind. Her oldest daughter, Janie, was fourteen, and Conner, her only son, was barely five. Between these children, three other daughters had been born--Katie, Jenna and Lily--each of whom had learned basic simple stitches from watching their mother mend by the fire. Marta knew that with some practice, they could become her hands! And she quickly set about to prepare a surprise.

After calling to the children, she gathered them into her workroom and opened the door. The wonder-filled eyes spied the brightly colored cloths and their fingers wriggled with the desire to touch and sample everything. Marta smiled at their reaction, wondering now if she had been wrong to deny their rambunctious hands the pleasure of touching and handling the beautiful fabrics.

From the pocket of her robe she withdrew five slips of paper, each bearing the name of one of the children. After each child drew a name, they were told to gather fabric, notions and trim and set about to create a gift to present to their selected recipient. They squealed with delight as they dashed about the room, touching and feeling every bolt and button. One by one they spirited their selections away to their rooms to set about their tasks. Janie, already a fine seamstress for her age, was making Lily a ruffled frock. Katie, not quite as certain of her talents, settled in to sew a furry muff for Jenna. Each child in turn considered their talents and fashioned their best gift to give.

On Christmas morning, each of the children exchanged their gifts. Marta watched through tearful eyes as their precious offerings were given and received. When all the hugs were given and the thank yous said, the girls each scampered off to their rooms, returning with other boxes tied in brightly colored ribbons for Marta. Tears wet her face and pride filled her heart. She drew them close and whispered "I love yous" to each giver until the fatigue swept upon her again and the children left to allow her to rest. Just as sleep fell upon her, a tiny knock sounded at the door.

Connor entered his mother's room, sullen and sad. In his hands was a small leather bag he had made for her. The stitches were uneven and the seams were puckered, but it had been fashioned by his own hands. He had been about to wrap it in bright green paper when he saw the tufted pillow Katie had made. Worried, he compared his gift to the satin robe Janie had sewn, and had found his own offering wanting. When he had determined that every gift was superior to his, he had decided not to give his own.

Marta patted the cover beside her and Connor jumped up and into the bed. After asking to see the little bag, Connor reluctantly handed it to his mother. Turning it over and over, she commented on its workmanship and beauty. Tenderly touching a crimson stain she recognized as a drop of blood when a needle pricked her son's finger. Her eyes began to sting as she asked Conner questions about his design and craftsmanship. In reply, Connor pointed out each error, unfolding the story of his distractions and sewing disasters until they both laughed and cried. Soon, his once burdened heart was filled with pride as he began to see his masterpiece through the eyes of his adoring mother.

"I didn't think it was good enough," he confessed through watery eyes now sparkling with relief. "My hands are like yours. They don't work as well as my sisters'. But the bag looks a lot better since I gave it to you."

As Marta drew him in close and hugged him firmly, her heart stung at the thought that he had almost forsaken his gift because in comparison to others' work, it had appeared less. Her finger tenderly touched the crimson spot again. "It's a magic bag, Connor. It seems to become more beautiful with every passing minute."

"Things don't have to be fancy to be beautiful?"

"No they don't, Connor. Love makes them perfect."

"Maybe love will help you, Mommy."

Marta smiled, envisioning the simple garments her hands could yet fashion. "I believe it already has, Connor."

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Who doesn't love and even need a few good Christmas stories to warm their heart and remind us how small and simple acts of Christmas magic can renew souls and change lives? This is one of my favorites. Enjoy!


by Anonymous (But I'd love to find out!)

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her world-famous cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. "No Santa Claus!" she snorted. "Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad. Now, put on your coat, and let's go."

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second world-famous, cinnamon bun. "Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in thosedays. "Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for. I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, and the people who went to my church. I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class.

Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out for recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough, and he didn't have a coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat!

I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that. "Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down. "Yes,"I replied shyly. "It's ... for Bobby." The nice lady smiled at me. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and ribbons (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) and wrote, "To Bobby, >From Santa Claus" on it -- Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker's house,explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially one of Santa's helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going." I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his doorbell and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes.

That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: ridiculous.

Santa was alive and well and we were on his team.

I still have the Bible, with the tag tucked inside: $19.95.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Story: "ONCE IS NEVER ENOUGH"


Christmas Story 2007
by Laurie LC Lewis

John laid the Bible carefully on the end table and ruffled his young son’s head. He smiled as Ann bent low to place their toddler daughter near enough to receive a good night kiss.

“How about we say prayers with Mommy and Sarah tonight, Jacob?” John suggested as he tenderly showed Jacob how to fold his arms. With eyes misting and his heart stirred by the too frequently neglected expression, the man found it hard to begin, finding his voice more easily as his son snuggled closer.

After the amen was uttered, Ann rose and guided the children to bed, leaving John to marvel at the simple turn of events that had precipitated the change in their family that night. He scanned the table where the critical shopping lists now lay, tossed inconsequentially upon the return home, their errands left incomplete. Odd, since just a few hours earlier he and his wife had sat there with their carefully balanced checkbook, newspaper ads and their list spread between them, strategically making the decisions about whom and what to shop for.

They had divided the errands between them— his wife and Sarah setting off in one direction while he and Jacob headed in another, beneath dangling snowflakes the size of garbage can lids, past inflatable snow people and their revolving, musical village. Twice, his rambunctious five year-old had dashed off to explore the colorful display, each time earning a stern rebuke from his father. His father’s reproach only unsettled the child further until the man finally relented, allowing his son a few moments to survey the dazzling display that showcased the gems of the season—the must-have toys which were set upon blocks of rotating, plastic “ice”, beneath which the names of stores and price tags were displayed.

With hands clenching his carefully-crafted list of errands, he stared at the scene, taking in the sounds of three dozen children, each one pointing out desired items while voicing their requests aloud. Soon he heard his own son’s voice joining in the cacophony, crying out request after request for each and every item on display, and for a moment . . . for just a regrettable moment, as the crowds jostled him and the music and voices raised all around, he voiced his thoughts. “I hate Christmas. . .”

The bitterness of the words chilled his heart as soon as they passed his lips. Hungry to find Ann, to have her reset his anchor, he lifted Jacob into his arms and whispered, “Let’s hurry and find Mommy.”

Clutching his son close, he dashed off to the first store on his wife’s list. As he approached the location he saw a crowd gathered around the store’s window and he marveled at the attitudes of the people coming away from the area, speaking in soft tones, their faces as bright and soft as their smiles. Curious, he drew near and to his amazement, little Sarah was the cause of all the excitement.

On tiny toddler knees with her nose pressed to the glass, she knelt before a Nativity scene, babbling as she pointed from one character to another. “Beebee!” she cried out with excitement. “Nicey beebee!”

“Yes,” her mother whispered hoarsely. “He is a very nicy baby, Sarah. He’s a very special baby too. His name is Jesus.”

“Jesus. . .” replied Sarah with reverence equal to her mother’s. “Nicey Jesus. . .”

With a trembling finger, Ann pointed to Mary. “And this is his mommy. Her name is Mary. She didn’t have a nice crib or a soft blankie for her baby, so she had to wrap him with pieces of cloth and lay him in this soft hay. The animals kept him warm and,” she pointed out various figurines, “angels sang to him . . . and shepherds and Wise Men came to visit him.”

Sarah slid her finger along the glass until it too pointed to Mary. “Pretty mommy. . . pretty beebee.”

John stooped down, gently placing Jacob beside Sarah and sliding an arm around his wife’s shoulder. Other children were now drawing close to the scene. Gazing at them, Ann wiped a tear from her eye and smiled as she explained the moment to John. “I was standing in line at the kiosk over there, struggling with Sarah who was crying and squirming. I was at my wits end when she suddenly became still and quiet. When I checked to see why, I noticed that she was staring at this store window whispering, ‘Beebee . . . beebee. . .’ After I paid the vendor, I put her down and she ran right over here. This is what she’s been doing ever since. It’s like she gets it, you know?” she sniffed. “It’s as if this little child understands what’s most important about Christmas.”

“I know this story, don’t I, Daddy?” asked Jacob with a furrowed brow. “Didn’t you tell it to me once?”

Sliding his list into his pocket, John squeezed his wife’s hand and raised her to her feet. Each bent down and picked up one of their children, placing kisses on their cheeks. “Once is not enough for the telling of the Christmas story, Jacob. Let’s go home and read it again, tonight, because once is never enough.”

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


My favorite Christmas Eve movie is The Nativity Story, a magnificent telling of the Christmsas Story that somehow remains under the radar despite a stellar cast and production team.

From Moviefone: Australian-born Whale Rider sensation and Oscar nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes stars opposite Oscar Isaac in Lords of Dogtown director Catherine Hardwicke's dramatic account of the Annunciation, and the arduous journey of Mary and Joseph to give birth to baby Jesus. House of Sand and Fog's Shohreh Aghdashloo co-stars in a film with a screenplay by The Rookie and Finding Forrester scribe Mike Rich. Filmed in the village of Matera, Italy (a locale that has remained virtually untouched by modern progress and also served as the backdrop for Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ), and Quarzazate, Morocco, former production designer Hardwicke's film strives for authenticity in telling the Bible's most treasured tale.

I had just completed teaching the OT in Seminary when I first saw it, and I was dazzled by the historical accuracy depicted in the period and the characters. This movie is absolutely beautiful, melding cultural elements into the story that add depth to Mary's singular position, and to Joseph's spiritual dilemma. We witness the pain of Mary's parents as the town that loves thenm reacts to her pregnancy, and the fear that motivates Caesar Augustus to go to great lengths to destroy this new king. We rejoice with the three Wise Men who read the signs in the heavens marvel as they set off in search of the prophesied king.

Sometimes, the story of the birth of Christ can be too great, too marvelous to wrap our minds around, but The Nativity Story displays the miraculous in very human terms, and it leaves us changed. Christian devotees will be spellbound, and history lovers will be too. Spectacular way to personally experience the birth of Jesus Christ.

Youtube has a link to view the movie in it's entirety, but here's the purchase link. This film and its cast deserve to be viewed on your big screen. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Easy Christmas Morning Menu that Pleases

Christmas morning can be a daunting time for a mom, especially if you want to get something hearty and nutritious into your family before they tear into pies and cookies. It's especially difficult if you are also cooking a Christmas dinner the same day.

Years ago I found this delicious breakfast casserole recipe. The family loves it, and because it's assembled the day before, you can pop it in the oven before opening gifts and it's ready just as you finish up. We top the nutritious egg casserole off with some less nutritious but splendid and easy sweet rolls also made the evening before. These are staples of a Lewis-family holiday, and they have become as traditional as our tree.

I hope they make your Christmas morning special and peaceful!

Breakfast Casserole
This is the most delicious Put-It-Together-The-Night-Before recipe I've ever found. Perfect for a busy but special morning event.

1 pound spicy pork sausage 1/4 cup onion 2 1/2 cup hash brown 5 large eggs 2 cups shredded cheese 1 3/4 cups milk 1 cup Bisquick 1/4 t. salt 1/4 t. pepper

Cook and crumble sausage and onion together until sausage crumbles. Stir in the hash browns and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the sausage is no longer pink. Drain on paper towels, then place in a 9X13 baking dish. Mix together the eggs, cheese, and the next four ingredients. Pour over the pork mixture. Chill overnight or at least 8 hours. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes in 350 degree oven, then remove foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes
Category: Breakfast
Servings: 8

Sweet Rolls

Yummy and evil!!!

Frozen bread dough
2 sticks butter
Brown sugar
powdered sugar
few tablespoons milk

Thaw 3 loaves of frozen bread dough until it is easy to work. Roll into a rectangle 12 inches wide by ½” thick. Spread with butter, then sprinkle cinnamon all over. Next, sprinkle a layer of brown sugar over the top. Roll up jelly roll style. Cut into 1 to 1½ inch slices. Arrange in a greased pan or pns. Let rise 2-3 times. Bake in 350 degree oven for 18-22 minutes, (until no longer doughy in center.) Frost when cool. (Frosting- Melt on low 1 stick butter. Add +-1 lb powdered sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla and 1-2 tsp. milk. I double this.)

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes
Category: Breakfast Servings: 12

Saturday, December 8, 2012



Tanya Parker Mills


            Superb writing and complex, heartrending characters combine to make A Night on Moon Hill my pick read of 2012. Author Tanya Park Mills has built an award-winning career by pulling topics and characters out of obscure corners and into the light, and in this most recent book she educates her readers while daring them to leave the next page unturned.

            Dr. Daphne Lessing is an accomplished though prickly novelist and University professor. She loves writing while merely tolerating people. Some call her narcissistic. She’s not sure what she is. She knows there is something odd about her inability to connect with people, her obsession with order, and her unwillingness to be touched, but she’s knows narcissism does not sum it up.

            She had only ever connected with one person--an equally odd boy from her high school swim team who, like her, found solace and joy in the exhaustion of swimming, and in writing. Her parents are gone now, and Daphne is alone. She likes it that way. Discipline now holds her world together, but that’s about to change drastically.

From the back of the book:

            Swimming is Daphne's one refuge until the night she finds a body in her pool.

University professor and renowned author Daphne Lessing has never felt at ease in society. But a disturbing occurrence in her once calm and controlled existence suddenly unearths events from her past and thrusts an unusual child into her life.       

            Ten-year-old Eric has Asperger's syndrome and is obsessed with fishing and angels. Soon, Daphne finds herself attached to him and faced with a choice: Does she leave him and return to her solitary, ordered life, trusting others to do right by him, or does she allow this bright child to draw her into the world she has tried to shun? And what about the man that came into Daphne's life with Eric? Will she be able to shut him out as well?

             Mills opens the book with a wrenching first scene that comes out of nowhere, and the ride begins as an intricate tale of lives altered by invisible disabilities unfolds. The author draws upon personal experience to flesh out her complex, conflicted, but intensely human characters. Her personal understanding of Asperger’s takes the reader into the minds of those affected by the syndrome. Those touched by similar disabilities will find the book fascinating on that level alone, but all readers will appreciate the struggle of flawed characters attempting to rise above the past, to pierce self-imposed limits to be more, to do better, to live larger.

The catastrophic event that launches the story may pose a challenge to some readers. For that reason I’d advise parents to read the book first before handing it off to a teen, but Mills handles the circumstance with grace, and leaves the final judgment to the reader.

Mills commands language, crafting scenes with scalpel-like precision. Every page is delicious. This is great storytelling that will enlighten and intrigue. This is not a message book. A Night on Moon Hill is a tender drama wrapped around a satisfying mystery with the intensity of a spine-tingling suspense novel. In short, this book delivers.

Monday, December 3, 2012


A responsible, compassionate accountant wanted his clients to give his clients a true picture of how the looming fiscal cliff would affect them. This is what he explained to them.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Here's a fun gift opportunity either for yourself or for a reader on your Christmas list. I'm trying to advance a new Facebook author page and to encourage old and new friends to follow me over to my new digs, I'm holding a drawing open only to followers of that new page.

Yes, it's an overt bribe, but this package is worth over $100, so it's a pretty good one, right?

I'm giving away a complete 5-volume set of my highly praised "Free Men and Dreamers" series. Three of these books garnered national praise, and I believe the collection provides one of the most comprehensive glimpses of key moments in American history, all wrapped in a tender story about this first American-born generation.

The drawing opens today. Just be or become a follower of that page by "liking" it, then drop down and post a comment right there that says you "liked" the page. You can visit and post once a day. For each comment posted by December 15th you will earn one entry.

The winner will be chosen after midnight on the 16th. They can designate to whom they want the books personalized. I will autograph each volume and personally inscribe a message to the recipient to make these a truly personal gift. Then, as per the winner's request, I will gift wrap and ship the books within the continental U.S.

For old Facebook friends, follow me on both! I thank you for all the support you've given my work over the years, but I'll be posting books news primarily on this new page form now on. For new Facebook friends, welcome! I'm looking forward to chatting. I hope you'll enjoy reading about my progress on my new piece, "The Rabbits of Alsace Farm."

Visit my website for a glimpse.

Good luck in the drawing!  Merry Christmas!