Sunday, November 2, 2014

Stolen Christmas Anthology

What happens when you're so poor you have to steal your Christmas presents?

Or have you ever taken a punch in the face as your Christmas gift to the girl you love?

Or saved Christmas while hunting were-weevils?

These award-winning Christmas stories are the best of the best from the 2007–2009 LDS Publisher Christmas Story Contests. From Christmases past, to present to future; from sweet and inspirational to zany and delightful—there's a story for everyone in this eclectic collection. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Stolen Christmas by Sarah M Eden

Excerpt from Stolen Christmas

Everyone has a favorite Christmas. Mine, without a doubt, was the year I stole each and every one of my family’s Christmas presents.

We were fairly newly married, though at the time I felt like a very seasoned and wise wife. We had a one-year-old son whom I had never forgotten at the grocery store, therefore, I considered myself a very successful mother, as well.

Our adorable little family had earlier that year packed up our meager belongings, donated our non-operating car, and moved from the mountains of Utah to the arid deserts of Arizona. My husband was in his first year of graduate school with what felt like decades stretching out ahead of him. He was gainfully employed, if one could consider paychecks in the double digits “gainful.” We lived in a tiny apartment just below a heavy metal enthusiast whose enormous set of speakers were, apparently, only capable of playing extremely loud music, and only between the hours of midnight and five o’clock in the morning.

These things could be overlooked, though. Christmas was coming. I had always loved Christmas, but being a wife and mother had taken my devotion to a whole new level. I desperately wanted it to be perfect.

At the beginning of December that year, I packed up the little sweetie-pie and the two dozen diapers that a one-year-old requires for an hour long expedition into the vast world of retail shopping and made a trip to my own personal Mecca: the craft store. I bought a spool of discounted ribbon that I argued was close enough to green to be considered festive and the largest undecorated wreath I could afford, one that could, after the holidays, double as a very earthy-type bracelet. Several diaper changes and a short car ride later, I unpacked my purchases and set to work.

Glue guns and I have never truly understood one another. I cannot for the life of me manage to keep my fingers safe when using one. Tears were shed, but I soldiered on. Christmas required a wreath. I hung the final product on the front door with a short piece of silver duct tape and prayed that when the bass began thumping upstairs, the vibrations would not shake my little creation loose.

With that promising beginning, I set about decorating. We had no Christmas lights to hang and probably could not have afforded the electricity, anyway. I pulled the decorations out of storage, meaning, of course, I crawled under our bed and grabbed a tiny box. Inside sat the greatest Christmas-decorating invention since tinsel: an inflatable Christmas tree. After only thirty minutes of hyperventilation, I had an entirely portable, child-proof Christmas tree complete with ornaments painted onto its plastic exterior. Things couldn’t have been better.

At least, that’s what I told myself. In my heart I knew the entire thing was pathetic. There was no smell of gingerbread in the air or gentle, falling snow. We did not even have an electronic, animated Santa figurine in the front yard. I wanted the perfect Christmas. Years down the road when I pulled out pictures of that holiday season, there would be no sighs of blissful remembering.

Christmas was a complete flop!

Purchase the book to find out what happens next...    

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Shepherds and Kings by Angie Lofthouse

Excerpt from Shepherds and Kings

Leila was dying, and she knew it. Death tasted bitter in her throat. She’d really blown it big this time, and now there was no way out. I’m a failure, just like everyone said I would be. Leila shut the blinds in her tiny one room apartment to keep out the lights and general good will of the world around her, the cheer of the stupid holiday she would probably never celebrate again. Some neighbor’s Christmas music floated through the walls, and the memories sprang unbidden into Leila’s mind.

She could see herself as a little girl again, healthy, happy and hopeful—before everything started to go wrong. She’d always set up the little Nativity scene near the Christmas tree. She pictured the shepherds and the wise men gathered around Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus, offering the Christ Child their gifts. All shining softly in the glow from the tree and surrounded by the scent of pine.

Now it was gone, all of it. She couldn’t go back to the past and she had no future to speak of. Now there was no way out.


Purchase the book to find out what happens next...    

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Arrows to Heaven by Tristi Pinkston

Excerpt from Arrows to Heaven

I’ve been the owner of the O Tannenbaum, a Christmas tree lot, for twenty years. It's the only lot in the valley that doesn’t cut their trees weeks in advance, expecting them to last through the holiday season without losing their needles. We take pride in the fact that our trees are cut the week before the lot opens, and that we cut fresh, as needed. In fact, the majority of our trees come in buckets, so the environmentally conscious can plant the tree after they’re done with it.

 Ironic. People can be so worried about the environment, but pay so little attention to why they’re buying the tree in the first place. I guess it's trendy to take care of the earth, and maybe not so trendy to talk about Who created it in the first place.

A lot of things struck me as ironic a year ago. I had reached the age where I was expected to turn into a grumpy old coot, and rather than disappoint, I'd gone with the flow. There were few men grumpier, or cootier, than myself. I was turning into a cynic, barely able to stand the holiday. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a Christian to the core. But as I get older, my tolerance for certain things has been reduced to a mere shadow of its former self. Situations that used to merely make me shake my head now caused me great consternation. I've always loved that word—consternation. It sounds exactly like the kind of word a grumpy old coot would use on special occasions.

Take, for instance, the woman who came to the lot and stood for twenty minutes debating whether or not a certain blue spruce was taller than the one Nancy Englebrecht had in her foyer (she pronounced it “foy-yay”—I guess no one ever told her we don’t have those in Utah), as if I should have known who Nancy Englebrecht was.

I was on the verge of telling her I had been to Nancy’s house with a tape measure, and the blue spruce in question topped Nancy’s by a whopping six inches, when the lady in question turned, sighed, and told her husband that they had better keep looking. It just wouldn’t do.

It was a tree, for crying out loud, and a right pretty one, too. I had cut that one myself and felt a sense of pride whenever I looked at it. But for some reason, if it couldn’t compete with Nancy What’s-Her-Name’s tree, it wasn’t good enough. After all that, I’m not sure I would have sold it to her anyway. Sure enough, that woman caused me a great deal of consternation.

I had given myself up as a lost cause, resigned to my fate of scuffing around in bedroom slippers, shaking my cane at the newspaper boy and grunting "Bah, humbug" at the season. But one particularly bright and clear night midway through December, my cynicism vanished.

Purchase the book to find out what happens next...    

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Those Darn Shepherds! by Christine Thackeray

Excerpt from Those Darn Shepherds!

They’re at it again.” Brother Fortner, one of the three wisemen in the pageant, adjusted his royal robes and rolled his eyes.

 I huffed, putting down my clipboard. “Those darn shepherds. What is it this time?”

 The entire cast of almost one hundred people was shivering under their sewn up sheets at the dress rehearsal of our live Nativity. This event had become a wonderful tradition for over twenty years running, and the entire town looked forward to coming on the Saturday before Christmas to watch the Mormon pageant. It was a great missionary tool, using the talents and resources from all three wards in our building. The angels sang in perfect harmony, and the three kings wore lavish costumes with gifts of real myrrh and frankincense. We even had a live donkey that behaved beautifully—if only I could say the same thing about the shepherds.

 In the past it had always been an ‘adults only’ experience, but for some reason this year the bishop had gotten the idea to use the sixteen-year-old priests as shepherds. It was a huge mistake. Everyone else took their parts seriously, but the shepherds had spent most of their time joking around or pulling pranks. They had sort of devolved into their own shepherd gang with my son as the ringleader.

As I rounded the corner where the boys were supposed to be waiting for their cue, I nearly fell on my face. Josh had been holding his crook out to intentionally trip me. I barely caught myself and turned to face him, “What are you thinking? This isn’t funny.”

The three other boys held in their snickers while Josh shook his head. “It wasn’t supposed to be for you. Ty said Bro. Fortner was coming over…”

“Listen, you guys, I am serious.” I shook my finger at them in desperation. “This play is important, and I want to see you change your attitudes.”

“Mom, we don’t even want to be here. You can fire us. We won’t mind.” The other boys nodded their heads in agreement.

I looked at them and took a deep breath. “The pageant is tomorrow. Please, I beg of you, just behave for one more day.”

Ty shook his head. “This is stupid.”

 “It is so sad you can’t see what we are doing here,” I said to him and then turned to all the boys. “If you try to feel the spirit of this event and remember what we are celebrating, you might get something out of this.”

I walked away feeling hopeless. Later when the shepherds started poking the ugly doll in the manger, I let them go home early and we finished the dress rehearsal without them.

Purchase the book to find out what happens next...    

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Choir by Sandra Sorenson

Excerpt from The Choir

Hannah hurried to the stage. It was time for the choir to warm up. Her new white dress, long and flowing, made quiet whispers as her silver slippered feet took her down the hall. Her long red hair was a beautiful contrast to the white silk. Her hair and the twinkle of happiness in her deep blue eyes were the first thing others noticed about her.

There was a buzz in the air. Everyone was busy rushing here and there, getting into their places. Sopranos to the right; altos to the left; tenors and basses along the back. Hannah was one of the last to take her place with the other singers.

White robed orchestra members, their silver trumpets nearly glowing with recent polishing, scurried to their spots behind the singers. The gold of the french horns gleamed in the light. Timpani and cymbals also made their way to the gathering place. Excited chattering filled the hall as the orchestra hastened to their assigned places. This would be the best performance ever.

Purchase the book to find out what happens next...    

Friday, October 19, 2012

Christmas Joy Ride by Gussie Fick

Excerpt from Christmas Joy Ride

Tyler sat on his grandfather’s golf cart, sucking on a peppermint candy cane. He looked out the open carport at miles of desert rimmed by jagged, treeless mountains. Tomorrow was Christmas Eve, big deal. He could hardly wait for it to be over so he could go back home. His snowbird grandparents lived in Idaho six months of the year and flew south as soon as the weather cooled in October.

“It’ll be fun!” Tyler’s mom said, when his parents decided to spend Christmas in Arizona with Grandma and Grandpa. “You can bring your skateboard.” Bad idea. Every time he rode his skateboard, the old fogies in his grandparents’ trailer park complained. There was nothing for a twelve-year-old boy to do here. He had no friends, no video games, and since his iPod had lost its charge, no tunes either. Tyler was bored.

“Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” The merry jingle came through the open kitchen window. Grandma and his older sister were baking Christmas cookies, singing along. Tyler frowned. He wished it would snow. It wasn’t Christmas without snow. He needed only a sweatshirt to keep warm in Arizona. If he were home in Utah, he’d be snowboarding right now. Dang. Winter wasn’t even winter in Arizona.

Tyler grabbed the steering wheel of the golf cart and pretended he was on his four-wheeler at home. That’s when he noticed the key in the ignition. Without a second thought, Tyler started the engine and drove out of the carport. Grandpa wouldn’t mind; he was watching the afternoon news. Mom and Dad wouldn’t be back for hours. They’d gone to Phoenix to do some last-minute Christmas shopping. The golf cart was quiet. No one heard him drive down the street, not even the old fogies next door.

Purchase the book to find out what happens next...