Sunday Psalms: Fictional Narratives Inspired by the Psalms, Proverbs, & Other Biblical Works
“I think I love you.” Natalie leaned over and whispered to Carson as the wheels of the plane made contact with the steaming tarmac.
“I should hope so,” Carson said and kissed his wife. As their lips touched he could feel her tension, and come to think of it, she’d been fidgeting ever since they boarded the plane. Biting her fingernails, twisting her hair, flipping through the Sky Mall magazine a dozen times. “Are you nervous or something?” Carson asked.
“A little,” Natalie said and seemed to relax just by admitting it.
“Honey, why are you nervous? You love your parents.”
“I know, but you’ve only met them a few times. And we haven’t seen them since the wedding, and you’ve never stayed at their house before.”
“Is it haunted?”
“No. The house isn’t haunted. I just want you to have a good time is all.”
“Relax, sweetheart,” Carson said, and she gave him a weak smile as they merged into the line of passengers inching their way to the terminal.
“I’ll be fine once I get out of these clothes,” Natalie said. “The plane smell is nasty. It feels like it’s all over me.”
“I’m rather fond of the portable toilet-stale peanut-sick airbag smell myself. Very attractive.” Carson reached out for her hand and gave it a shake.
“Your parents do have AC, don’t they?” Carson hated being hot, and all week long he’d been dreading the heat wave that the news channels were chirping about.
“No.” Natalie wrinkled her nose and watched the color drain from Carson’s face.
“What!? You told me they had AC. I can’t do this, Nat. We’ve got to get a hotel room.”
“Oh my word. You are so easy.” Natalie punched him in the arm and laughed. “Of course they have AC. This is Georgia.”
“Okay, very funny. You got me.”
After retrieving their luggage, they wheeled out to the sidewalk where they were instantly greeted by a blast of humidity. Within seconds Carson was sweating and wishing for a cool drink. He sighed from the pressure of the heat on his lungs. It was only June but it already felt like late August.
“What’s your dad’s car look like?”
“I’m not sure. He gets a new one every year,” Natalie said and closed her eyes in delight. Unlike her husband she relished in the hot weather. She loved the way the vapors rose up from the cement and how the beads of condensation formed on the side of cold glasses. “Oh, there he is!” Natalie ferociously waved at a white-haired man in a large red Buick. She ran on ahead while Carson heaved and sweated down the pavement with his suitcase.
“Looking more handsome than ever, young man.” Natalie’s father boomed his greeting as Carson slid into the back seat.
“How are you sir?” Carson said and patted his father-in-law’s shoulder over the seat.
“Sir? None of that, now. Makes me feel old. Call me Hank like everybody else does.”
From the airport in Atlanta, it was an hour drive to his in-law’s. Carson put on his sunglasses and dozed while Natalie chattered with her father. He didn’t wake up until they pulled into a cookie cutter neighborhood and drove past cookie cutter houses. American flags hung from front porches, and holiday paraphernalia decorated the different front doors.
“People sure go all out with the decorating around here,” Carson muttered.
“Not a Fourth of July fan?” Hank asked.
“Carson doesn’t like holidays,” Natalie piped up.
“I never said I didn’t like them,” Carson corrected. “My family never really celebrated them. That’s all. We’re not very traditional.”
“How do you feel about Christmas?” Hank asked. There was a hint of amusement in his voice as he glanced at him in the rear view mirror.
“Christmas? It’s alright I guess.”
“Are you barbecuing tonight, Daddy?” Natalie abruptly changed the subject as they eased into the driveway of a house that looked like all the others except for a massive mailbox in the shape of a gingerbread house.
“Got a new grill. Ready to fire her up,” Hank said and got out of the car.
“That’s quite the mailbox,” Carson remarked to Natalie.
“Carson, I know I should have mentioned it before, but there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you,” Natalie said, biting her lip. She was about to say something else when the front door burst open and her mother came tumbling out.
“How was the flight? Are you hungry? Who’s taking care of the cat?” Natalie’s mother was pulling them out of the car and overwhelming them with hugs and kisses and an endless flurry of inquiries that came faster than they could answer.
“Barbara, let the children come into the house before Carson roasts out here.” Natalie’s father stood in the doorway with their suitcases, waving his wife in, and Carson felt a fresh surge of gratitude for his father-in-law. Manufactured breeze from the air conditioner met his sweating body as he entered the house, just as Barbara gave him another exuberant hug. He loved his mother-in-law, but he was glad when she released him.
“Could I get some water?” he asked. He was exhausted from the heat. All he wanted was to savor the cool air.
“What? Are you hot or something?” Natalie teased. In Seattle she was always the cold one, wearing sweaters in the summer and turning the heat up past eighty.
“Cute,” he said and tossed an empty gum wrapper at her.
“Well, come in and sit down while I get you that water.” Barbara directed him to a plush leather armchair that eagerly sucked him in. His arms and legs were sticky against the material.
As his eyes adjusted from the bright sun, Carson began to look around the room and noticed a large Christmas tree in one corner. Strange. And now that he was really looking, he started to notice all the Christmas lights around the windows and stockings hanging along one wall.
“Here we are!” Barbara returned carrying a snowman-shaped tray and drinking glasses adorned with fat Santas.
“Thanks,” Carson said and looked past her to a trail of garland and red bows strung down the hallway. He could just make out a Christmas village on the dining room table and holiday wallpaper covering every wall in sight. A grand tour of the house revealed that every room was dedicated to the overwhelming Christmas milieu.
“This is my favorite thing in the whole house,” Barbara said. She concluded the tour by starting a little train that whistled as it chugged around the base of the artificial tree.
Dinner was served on plates decorated with singing angels and nativity scenes. Even the silverware came in the shape of various Christmas characters. Across the table Carson kept glancing at Natalie, hoping for some confirmation that she thought this was just as crazy as he did.
“What is with the Christmas explosion?” It wasn’t until the in-laws had retired for the evening and they were in the guest room that Carson expressed his bafflement.
“I know, I know.” Natalie held her hands up in surrender. “That’s what I was trying to tell you earlier. I know it’s a little much.”
“Much? Looks like Santa relocated his entire workshop to Georgia. I mean, I like Christmas too, but there’s got to be a psychological diagnosis here.”
“Are you upset? I know you’re not really a fan of the whole holiday extravaganza thing.”
“No. I’m not upset. I’m just amazed that anyone could grow up like this and not grow into an elf.” He playfully brushed Natalie’s hair aside to inspect her ears. “How, in all this time, have you not mentioned any of this to me?”
Natalie sank down onto the bed and traced the snowflake pattern of the comforter with her finger. “I don’t know. I hadn’t put much thought much into it until we were actually coming for a visit, and then I got nervous. I didn’t want you think you married some kind of a freak.”
“You are kind of weird,” Carson grinned and joined her on the bed.
“It’s not funny,” Natalie said and tossed a Christmas bear pillow at him.
“It’s a little funny,” he said and tossed a nutcracker pillow back at her. “You have to admit you’re a little cooky.”
“What do you mean? How am I weird?”
“Oh, sweetie, where do I begin?” One by one, Carson dramatically stretched his arms out and cracked his knuckles. “Now, let me see. You sleep with a stocking cap on, even in summer. You drink the juice out of canned asparagus. You actually like television commercials, and you keep a photo journal of every outfit you’ve ever worn.”
“Okay fine. Maybe I’m a little weird.”
“I can’t believe your dad doesn’t have a problem with the whole Christmas insanity.”
“I don’t think he has a choice,” Natalie said, slipping under the comforter. “Besides, he know she loves it. It’s who she is.”
“Just so you know, your mom is never giving us any decorating advice.”
“I know it’s nuts. But it’s kind of endearing too. She’s like a kid, so excited all time. It doesn’t matter to her if it’s a hundred degrees out or not. She genuinely loves Christmas.”
“Does your mom have any input with the big guy? I mean, I could really use a new car for Christmas. Maybe she could ask Santa for me.”
“I already checked. He said no. Maybe next year.”
Carson kissed his wife goodnight and quickly fell asleep on sheets adorned with flying reindeer. The next morning he eagerly ate cinnamon rolls from a platter shaped like Santa’s sleigh. He drank coffee from a Frosty mug and poured cream from a Rudolph pitcher. Without realizing it, he hummed the tune to Jingle Bells and began planning what he could get Natalie for Christmas.
“I really like your house, Barbara,” Carson told his mother-in-law, and she could tell by the warmth in his voice that he really did mean it.
And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all. Luke 18:15-17 NASB
Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord…But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 1 Peter 2:1-3 & 9 (NASB)
-Questions to Ponder: Where/How is God calling you to respond in childlike faith or delight? What gives you pure joy? What makes you unique?
-Song Recommendation: The Great Beyond by R.E.M.
Written by Heidi Sadler, Inspired by Luke 18 & 1 Peter 2. © 2016 Heidi Sadler, All Rights Reserved. “Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”