Sadly, Southernfrau is no longer with us. Her stories are archived here for her friends to remember her by. Enjoy her legacy to Lancer.
Word Count 1,230
Disclaimer: I don’t own them but they own my heart, memories and girlish fantasies.
Author’s Note: This is dedicated to the memory of Faith “Ma” Brayden. Her faith never waned even in the most difficult of times. She was a true lady and an impressive ambassador for Christ. A woman of faith that always lived up to her name. Schlaf im himmlischen Frieden, Ma Brayden.
Many thanks to my cyber sister Cheryl P. for the beta read and for the most excellent editing suggestions for improvement.
Faith in yourself and faith in God are the key to mastery of fear. Harold Sherman
The fire was slowly dying in the massive stone fireplace. The formerly large brown log was now just an over-sized, glowing ember, spot-coated in white ash. Every once in a while, a hiss and pop would be followed by a flickering red tongue with yellow tip bursting from the wood to dance merrily about the log before shrinking back again.
The house was quiet and still, and a peaceful feeling of serenity wrapped around Murdoch like a comforting blanket. The contented father sat on the sofa in the great room dimly lit by the meek radiance of two oil lamps, their wicks burning low. He cast his eyes about the room. The remnants of Christmas still decorated home—and heart.
The tree stood sentry in the corner, its branches stripped of all the edible goodies, now bedecked only in bows, glass balls and childhood toys. Many of the family’s presents were still displayed under the evergreen. The Lancer collie, Lady SF, was curled up on the rug in front of the hearth. From time to time, she lifted her head, alert eyes searching for more chipmunks. Teresa had already retired for the night, so fatigued she had left her needlework basket sitting in her chair.
Scott sat in the tall, blue velvet chair. His new illustrated book of European architecture lay open in his lap, his head thrown back in restful repose. His chest rose and fell in the gentle rhythm of sleep. The soft illumination from the lamp caught the paler strands of honey gold the strong winter sun had bleached into the ash blond hair. His first-born son was a man whose achievements had shown him to be strong, responsible, and calmly practical. Scott was the diplomat of the recently united family, always striving to see both sides of an issue.
Murdoch’s eyes shifted to the face of his younger son . . . his baby. He snorted at that thought. When Maria had stolen him away, Johnny had been so small; a beguiling toddler with recognizable signs of stubbornness, even then . . . . A slow smile lifted the corners of his mouth as he remembered. He would have recognized that independent streak anywhere, he thought. At two or twenty-two, some things never changed. As a baby, it had been something to behold; as a grown man, Johnny’s inherent capability—to handle any situation alone—was formidable. Murdoch shook his head. He ought to know. He’d come up against it often enough during the time Johnny had been here. Been home. Murdoch’s eyes sparkled with unshed moisture as he drank in the sight of his sons.
Leaning forward, he drained his coffee and set the cup on the end table. He looked down at his youngest. Right now, he bore no resemblance to a deadly gunfighter. The young man lay stretched out the length of the sofa. His dark head rested on his father’s thigh. He had plopped down here earlier to draw in his new sketchpad. He had chosen this position because the table he usually propped his feet on had been broken beyond repair by the wild and frantic dance atop it by Jerusha Harper, the Reverend’s sister-in-law.
His youngest son had truly surprised and delighted him after dinner when he had nonchalantly strolled into the room and announced that he couldn’t draw without a place to prop his feet. He had then sat down on the couch, swung his white-socked feet up and made himself comfortable against his father’s leg. Johnny had begun to sketch an incredible life-like rendering of Scott reading. He’d fallen asleep, the pencil still in his hand.
Murdoch’s work-hardened hands carded through the wealth of silky strands as his mind began to wander. The last time he had run his fingers through Johnny’s hair this way was back in August when his son had come down with chicken pox . . . of all things! Following a heated argument, Johnny had been sent to repair a line shack and had succumbed to the illness while alone. When he had found his son, Johnny’s body was ravaged by fever, and he was talking out of his head.
Out of his own mind with fear, Murdoch had rushed Johnny home and spent two days at his bedside battling the fever with nothing but water and his hands; as the sores erupted all over his son’s body. Johnny had been too weak and miserable to fight his ministrations. Moments like that were the only time he could ever take such liberties with his son, who held so fiercely to his independence, even when he was badly wounded or just plain sick.
But tonight was different. Tonight was Christmas; Johnny was well and unhurt, just tired, and this was a gift, in itself. Murdoch had often dreamed of family moments like this. There had been many times when he was ready to give up and accept that it would never be . . . that he could never make up for those lost years. There were other things that needed his attention, he told himself . . . but every time his outlook was grim, something magical had happened that kept him going. Faith had always seemed to whisper in his ear, “Sorrow looks back, Worry looks around for excuses, Faith looks up.”
And Faith had brought him here to this moment . . . when his fears were at their greatest, his heartaches at their worst, Faith held them back. Faith was the point of light when all seemed dark and hopeless…Faith in himself that he could do more—and Faith in God, that He would sustain him.
The stoic patriarch felt the sting of tears threatening to flow from his eyes, his breath hitched as he fought to control his emotions. Johnny stirred, mumbling something in his dreams, then resettled at his father’s touch. Murdoch watched him sleep, watched the complete erasure of any trace of the Madrid persona in his son’s face. Madrid was departing, gradually, leaving Johnny Lancer more at peace than he had ever been. Each day with his sons, Murdoch felt the bond of family strengthen, connecting them. Faith had kept them in his heart and mind even when they were far apart, and Faith had brought them home.
They would continue to celebrate Christmas for years to come, Murdoch thought, with all the trappings that made the season bright . . . the gifts; the decorations, the food and parties—and they would do it as a family. For Christmas, he knew, was truly about home, family—and especially Faith. Murdoch’s gaze wandered to the window, to the brightest star in the cloudless night, one much like the Wise Men followed—out of Faith. It was a promise, he thought—one that had been kept a hundredfold. Not just the promise given to mankind when Jesus was born into the family of Mary and Joseph . . . but the personal redemption he had come to know through the forgiveness of his boys. They were all feeling their way in this new and wonderful family they had created. No one had ever said it would be easy. His eyes rested on Johnny once more and he smiled, unafraid. He had his Christmas wish—finally. He had never lost Faith that it would happen . . . someday.
Merry Christmas 2006