The Promise Of Christmas

The Promise Of Christmas

The more I think about it, the extra time and work that went into rewriting “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens” was an absolute gift to me. It allowed me to hop, skip, and stumble into a realization that I call “The Promise Of Christmas.”

Events and people come together in the most amazing patterns to influence us in unexpected ways. Almost two decades ago (after teaching for two decades before), I was working for a mobile phone company in technical support for a year and then in customer service for another year. There was a group that was formed called “customer retention,” and their task was to hold onto customers who wanted to drop their contracted service.

One of their retention specialists was an elderly woman named Miss Geraldine. She loved God and she loved her church and she prayed. It was an everyday occurrence to look across our big office suite and see her standing in her cubicle with her hands in the air. Often you could hear her saying, “Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus!” Even if you couldn’t hear her out loud, you knew exactly what she was saying.

Now this was not my tradition, but it was hers and no one ever complained about it because she was the best the company had for customer retention. You could just tell she loved everybody.

Miss Geraldine had lived her whole life in our little city of Portsmouth surrounded by other bigger and more prosperous cities. She had lived through Jim Crow laws and segregation, and then she had lived through desegregation and the strife of the 1960’s. Through it all, she kept smiling and loving everybody no matter what.

I asked her about all of this once, and she told me, “God gave me his best in Jesus, so I’ve got to give everybody my best too.”

And that was the start of how The Promise Of Christmas began to come together in my heart and eventually into my writing. God is Love. Love gives. For God so loved, He gave. We are most like God when we give from our hearts.

As Miss Geraldine would say to you if she were alive today, “One Christmas, God gave us His best gift ever. All He had. All He treasured most. The least I can do is to give my best too.”

I have to agree with Miss Geraldine. I’d almost bet she had chickens in her backyard.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you will have a good holiday season no matter what your tradition and even if you don’t have any tradition at all. Giving does not require a tradition, just a heart filled with love.

 

The Terrifying Chicken Freak Show

On the back cover where reviewer’s comments belong, I didn’t have any reviews from people, so my chickens provided their own reviews for “The Bottle Cap Lady” and “How to Explain Christmas To Chickens.”

Emily had this to say: “I enjoyed the whole book. Pearl’s Comedy Coop was the funniest, but The Chicken Freak Show was the scariest. I always had to hide my head under a wing when we got to those parts.”

This chapter was one that almost did not make it into the final story because what happened in Pearl’s dream can be scary, at least to chickens, but I believe it has a lot to say about a special kind of love that gives everything it has to give.

I just wanted everyone to know in case they have sensitive young readers or story listeners (like my Emily).

The Terrifying Chicken Freak Show 

Sorry, but“The Terrifying Chicken Freak Show” proved to be a little too terrifying and a little too jarringly inconsistent with the rest of the book. Rewriting is a must!

 

Here is a huge “THANK YOU!” to everyone who read Saturday’s posted chapter and commented. Sunday I reread all of the way back from the beginning and when I got to that chapter, it truly felt out of place and very jarring. It was a bit as if someone else had inserted a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, and so I worked on a rewrite which you will find below. It keeps the good parts, cuts out the scary parts and also helps to make some connections to things which happened earlier in the book and prepares for action to happen later. There was also nothing in the original version to help anyone who has bad dreams, so I’ve tried to include advice there too.

Happy 2nd Anniversary, “My Life With Gracie!”

Today, August 1, marks the 2nd Anniversary of “My Life With Gracie,” and so I thought it might be good to do a little reflection. (I have even switched back to our original online theme.) Below is our very first post ever. It started with an illustration. (Because who would want to read a story if it didn’t have an illustration?) It had exactly 121 words. (Because who would want to read much more than than that?) It ended with an illustration. (Because who would want to read all of the way to the end otherwise?)

I was as unsure and uncertain as you see Gracie in the illustration. She was drawn as just one little newly hatched chick in a huge world, and I had no idea we would find friends all over this huge world.

It’s funny how things can change in two years. We have now just published a pair novels (see yesterday’s post), each with 40,000 words, one with illustrations and one without. Imagine that! 40,000 words and not an illustration in sight except for on the cover!

More importantly, we have met so many wonderful readers these past two years who have shared our joys and our sorrows with us. Our readers have shaped “My Life With Gracie” in more ways than I will probably ever know, and so I have a huge amount of gratitude in my heart as a result.

This original post also reminds me of how short life can be for chickens and for people. And I still have a few more books to write before I will feel as if I’ve really said all that needs to be said.

Blanche and Pearl have been at the center of the book pair “The Bottle Cap Lady” and “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.” I do like the idea of having a pair of books, one illustrated and the other not, and so I am likely to continue the pattern unless I find one version is extremely more popular than the other.

I think the next novel will be about Emily and Amelia and how Amelia was the first chicken ever to fly to the moon and back. (And she was. Emily painted a sign and we posted it in the front yard so everyone would know. Amelia would have never been able to make the trip there and back if it hadn’t been for Emily.)

The third and perhaps final novel will be about Gracie and Bessie and the ballet titled “The Rose Garden Princess.” As I have told Gracie many times, it will be the best book ever and it will be for just the two of us. It is likely to be our last novel because I can’t make up stories. I can’t imagine things that haven’t happened. It’s like now that Blanche has left us, I can’t write an imaginary story that begins “One day Blanche and Pearl…” I just can’t make up stories. So I write what I know and love, but sometimes I do let my imagination get the best of me when filling in the small details.

Although I jokingly write about how the world is clamoring for another great chicken novel, I know we are a very small exceptionality in a huge world. It’s likely most of our huge world is looking for something other than stories about an old man and his backyard chickens, even phenomenally talented chickens who dance ballet and dream the biggest of dreams. But the world is also filled with grace if only you look for it.

An Introduction

People say to be a good writer you should write about what you know and love. For me, that has to be my chickens, and most particularly my Gracie.

She and my other chickens have taught me more about life and about myself than I will ever have time to write. Still I want to put some of it down and share what I can while I still remember most of it.

No story is complete without pictures, and so I will draw those as well. The style is rather simple with a childlike innocence, but hopefully the message will not be.

My Life With Gracie taught me how life itself is filled with grace if you only look for it.

My Life With Gracie...An Introduction