“Yes, we know!” Hope’s twin sister Faith said, while frosting some of the cookies she had baked earlier in the day with their mom.
Hope picked up the cookie as soon as Faith put it aside to let the frosting set.
“You didn’t burn these did you?”
“I haven’t burned anything in a long time!” Faith said.
“Yeah, it’s been at least a week!” Hope said sarcastically, taking a bite out of the cookie.
“We’d get more done if you helped a little more besides eating everything,” the girls’ mom, Karin, said to Hope without looking up from what she was doing.
“I’m taste-testing,” Hope said with her mouth full. “And taking pictures.” She held up her other hand, which contained a camera. It was an older camera that used film, but she found taking pictures enjoyable and she was good at it. She used her talent and became the photo editor of their school newspaper. She would often get right up in people’s faces to get a close-up shot. Karin and Faith hated that, which made Hope do it all the more.
Hope and Faith were identical twins who would turn sixteen the next July. While they looked alike, they made every effort to look different. They had the same honey colored hair and green eyes as their mom. The three of them looked so much alike that their father often called them his triplets.
Karin wore her hair long, down to her waist. Faith had hair that came down past her shoulder blades, but more often than not, she had it up in a ponytail to keep it out of her way. Hope kept her hair only to her shoulders and she would straighten hers since she didn’t particularly like the waves that her mom and sister kept.
As far as their personalities were concerned, the twins could not have been more different. Faith was the no fuss twin. Hope was the one who was more concerned about her appearance. She always took the time to do her hair and put on trendy clothes and make-up before she took out the garbage.
Faith liked to cook alongside of her mother. Although she used to burn a lot of meals, after the last couple years of practice she had become a much better cook. Faith liked to play sports and hated shopping. Hope liked shopping and hated sports. Hope was more popular at school and had a lot of friends. Faith was well-liked, but she was much quieter than Hope and was loyal to her small group of close friends. Hope was much more talkative and more interested in the latest everything.
Hope talked incessantly, while Faith was a listener. Faith saw and heard things that Hope had no idea were there. Hope’s personality was more like her dad’s and Faith’s was more like Karin’s.
Faith was baking and frosting cookies while Karin was preparing Christmas dinner. When she pulled the ham from the oven she said as much to herself as to the girls. “I don’t know why I’m getting all this food ready now.” She had pretty much cooked everything so that on Christmas Day it would just have to be reheated.
“Well, now we can enjoy more time together as a family this year,” Faith said. “We always get up early, open presents, spend a few hours cooking, an hour eating, and the rest of the day sitting around doing nothing.”
“Yeah,” Hope agreed. “We can sleep in. We aren’t little kids anymore who are so anxious to open presents that we can’t wait until daylight.”
“We can sleep in as long as Dad doesn’t wake us up,” Faith laughed.
It was true, their dad, Rob, was always the first one up on Christmas Day. He often got up and unsatisfied to be alone and to wait patiently, he would go and wake up the entire household. It didn’t matter that it was only four o’clock in the morning, it was Christmas and it was time to open all the presents that waited under the tree. If only he would leave everyone alone they could sleep in a little longer and still have plenty of time to enjoy the day and eat all the delicious food they were preparing.
Just then the front door opened. All three of them looked to see who had entered. A little boy shyly stood there with a big smile. “Are you baking cookies?” he asked.
“We sure are.” Karin was always amazed at how Matt could show up at exactly the right time. “You’re a little late, Matt. I cracked the eggs a while ago!” Karin smiled.
One time when he came over while Karin was baking cookies, he told her he had heard her cracking the eggs. That was their own little joke now. He also heard her cracking the ice cube trays in the summer when he was hopeful of getting Karin’s famous lemonade.
Karin felt sorry for Matt. He was often at home alone. Matt was only ten years old. He had a single mom who worked extra hard just to make ends meet. Karin knew Matt’s mom’s schedule and they had an agreement that Karin would keep her eye out for their young next-door neighbor when he wasn’t in school.
Karin knew that if she offered to watch Matt his mom would feel obligated to pay her. Karin wasn’t looking for payment; she just wanted to be a good neighbor. Karin also knew that money was tight for Matt and his mom, so she often sent a plate of food home for her after Matt had eaten dinner with them. This arrangement worked well and kept them all happy.
Matt fit right in with the family, filling the role of little brother. Faith took him under her wing and nurtured him. Hope took him under hers and conspired with him. Right now Hope and Matt sat on bar stools on the opposite side of the counter from where Karin and Faith were working. Hope was picking up two cookies; one more for herself and one for Matt.
None of them could resist Matt’s bright, blue eyes, blonde hair and the fattest cheeks anyone could ever imagine on a skinny, little kid. He was cute, of that there was no doubt. This was one reason Karin found it hard to resist his smile when he showed up on her doorstep hoping for a cookie. He happily chewed on his treat as the three girls talked and sang Christmas songs as they played on the radio.
The four continued their baking, decorating, and eating. When Hope’s favorite Christmas song came on the radio, she ordered everyone to be quiet so she could listen and sing, when actually her singing ruined the song for everyone else. She grabbed a wooden spoon out of the crock on the counter and used it as a microphone as she sang and danced around the kitchen. Neither her singing nor her dancing was pleasant entertainment, but she ignored anyone who told her so.
Fortunately, the phone ringing interrupted her performance. Since her mom and Faith were both busy, Hope answered the phone without turning down the music.
“Hello? Merry Christmas!” She just about shouted into the phone. “Just a minute, please.” She handed the phone to her mom. “It’s Mrs. Carter, from church.”
Karin took the phone from her daughter. “Hello?” It only took about two seconds for her whole demeanor to change. Hope was still singing, stealing cookies, and sharing them with Matt who had by now acquired a cup of hot cocoa, too.
Hope may not have noticed the change in her mom, but Faith, the one who saw everything, did see it. She also saw her mom walk into another room to avoid the noise. Faith turned down the volume on the radio not only so her mom could hear better, but also so that she could hear what her mom was saying.
“Hey!” Hope said as Faith turned the music down.
“Shhh!” Faith responded.
“I’ll take a meal over to them tonight,” Karin was saying. “I’ll also go ahead and set up meals for at least the rest of the week.”
When she hung up Faith asked what was wrong.
Karin put her hands on her hips like she was thinking. “Mrs. Lloyd broke her leg this morning,” she said.
“How did she do that?” Faith asked.
“She slipped on some ice and fell,” Karin answered.
Faith already knew exactly what was going through her mom’s mind. When Karin heard of a need she automatically went into high gear. During the next few moments Karin spoke, but only to herself. The girls, and even Matt, knew not to interrupt.
“They are going to need food. There is no way Lisa is going to feel like cooking anything let alone a fancy Christmas dinner. I wish I had time to bake some cupcakes. I can do that later, instead of today. I don’t know how many people will be able to fix meals the week of Christmas. Hmmm. She’s going to need more help than that, too. She has five small children.”
When she looked up, the girls knew that they were now included in any further discussion. The funny part is that there wasn’t any actual conversation. The three of them looked at each other for a few moments. They broke eye contact long enough to scan over all the food that was spread out on the counter and the tables. There was ham, sweet potatoes, apple and pumpkin pies, herbed corn, and homemade rolls. When their eyes met again the decision had been made, all without saying one word. Hope grabbed one more cookie before the deal was sealed.
“Your dad doesn’t particularly care for ham anyway. He’s always saying he wants pizza for Christmas dinner; that we should go against tradition. How about we give him what he wants this year?” Karin asked the girls without expecting an answer. “Now I know why God had me prepare Christmas dinner early. See, girls, everything happens for a reason,” she commented. “Isn’t God amazing?” Karin just beamed.
Faith smiled. Hope acted a little disappointed. Both of the girls knew that their own Christmas dinner would be a little bit less than what was originally planned, but they both also knew that Mom would make it special, even if it was just pizza.
“Mom’s got to feed the world!” Hope said. Her tone was sarcastic, but she said it with all the love she had in her heart for her mother. Everyone who knew her knew that Karin Miller had an innate need to feed everyone she met. And everyone she met was more than willing to eat at Karin Miller’s table, for her food was a treat for all to thoroughly enjoy.
Hope grabbed a couple more cookies. Faith went and got out one of the pretty plates her mom kept for such occasions. Karin would buy these plates when she found them on sale or at second hand stores or yard sales. It was one of those extra touches that was purely Karin. The plate was a gift along with whatever food was placed on it and was not to be returned.
“Here, Matt,” Faith began to hand him another cookie, but changed her mind when she looked at him. “Can you cram anymore cookies in those cheeks of yours?”
Matt tried to smile, but had to cover his mouth with his hand to keep cookie crumbs from falling out.
Faith continued, “Which cookies do you think the Lloyds will like?”
While munching on his own cookies, Matt helped Faith choose some of the prettier looking cookies to give to a family who would be in need of Christmas treats.
Faith arranged the cookies on the plate so they looked attractive. Then she covered the whole thing tightly with plastic wrap so the cookies wouldn’t slide around. This would be dessert for the Lloyds to go along with the dinner her mom would soon be packing up.
Faith also grabbed a large plastic bag and filled it with cookies.
“What’s that for?” Matt wanted to know. Even though he didn’t live there, he knew Karin always put cookies on a nice plate and not in a plastic bag.
“These are for you and your mom,” Faith smiled.
“Oh, boy!” Matt said excitedly, rubbing his hands together.
“Yeah,” Hope interjected. “Make sure you save some for her. I heard she didn’t get any of the last batch,” she teased.
Matt just grinned. He knew he was guilty as charged. The last time Karin sent Matt home with some cranberry-ginger cookies, Matt ate them all. He paid for it the next day with a horrible stomach ache.
“Hope, since you aren’t doing anything but eating, grab me some of those foil pans that are in the pantry,” Karin said. “That way Mrs. Lloyd won’t need to worry about washing or returning any dishes.”
The Lloyds were a family at their church. They were relatively new members and Karin would do her best to make them feel like a part of the family.
When Hope came back with the foil pans in hand, Karin gave her another order, “Go get me that box of cards that is on the desk in my bedroom.”
That was another thing for which Karin had a talent. Whenever she gave anyone food she also sent a card with much needed encouragement written in it. Somehow she always found the right Bible verse for every occasion. Karin didn’t know it and she certainly wasn’t keeping track, but she had touched many hearts with her efforts. Karin was well-loved by everyone. A few people had even told her she should write greeting cards because the notes she wrote were so encouraging.
“There we go!” Karin said as she finished packing up the ham dinner she thought she had been preparing for her own family. She smiled from ear to ear. Where many people would have been upset to put all that work into a meal and not be able to eat it, Karin was the opposite. She was in her glory, or God’s glory as her husband had come to call it. He may have teased her about all the food she prepared for other people, but he was known to help by telling her about people he knew who were in need. And he had delivered more than one meal in their twenty years of marriage.
“Hope can start putting stuff in the van if she ever comes back.”
“I’ll help,” Matt offered.
Faith handed him the bag of cookies. Matt happily carried his bag of cookies outside.
Hope came into the room, “There aren’t really any cards that are appropriate.”
Karin quickly looked through them. “You’re right.”
“Want me to go to the store and pick one out for you?”
Karin just looked at her daughter. “You can’t drive.”
“Yeah, but in seven months I’ll be able to, so why don’t you let me start practicing now?”
“Because it isn’t legal. I’ll stop and get a card on the way. Let’s go.”
“Are we going to the dollar store?” Faith wondered.
“Yeah, probably. That way I can see if they have any more pretty plates. I’m running low.”
The dollar store was one of her favorite places to find those small treasures. Often she would also find small pieces to use on the table as decorations for all of her entertaining. She often said, “Entertaining doesn’t have to be expensive, but it can still be beautiful.” And her table was often very lovely.
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