Lila laughed delightedly and picking up the cat, flew into the kitchen where her two sisters were bustling busily around, no doubt preparing some sort of spectacular delicacy for the special evening. She stood on her tiptoes and peered around Lydia's elbow.
"What're you makin', Lydi?" She questioned eagerly.
Lydia jumped in surprise at finding the little golden haired girl suddenly at her elbow, Pumpkin purring contentedly in her arms.
"Oh, Lila," the 15 year old remonstrated with a little laugh, "you scared me! And I don't think you should be carrying Pumpkin around."
"Why not?" Wondered Lila, looking concerned. Pumpkin, hearing her name, woke up and wriggled down out of Lila arms, and Lynne, Lila's other older sister, bent down to give the orange cat a little tidbit of the summer sausage she was slicing.
"Because she's going to have kittens!" Lydia laughed, giving Lila a piece of apple from the apple crisp she was making.
Lila laughed with her, "I guess I forget pretty easy!"
"That's okay," Lynne assured her with a smile, "Now do you want to set the table or go get the boys?"
"I'll get the boys," decided Lila, "and then they can help me set the table!"
She ran off again, her golden ringlets streaming out behind her.
"Bo-oys! It's time for dinner!" She called, opening the door of their room. Silence. She frowned in consternation at the empty and dark room. "They must be somewhere else." Walking now, she went into Mama's room. "Mama? Where're the boys?" She inquired, and in the same breath, "is the baby kickin’ in your tummy anymore?" Ellen smiled down at her little 5 year old daughter. "Nope, it's not kicking right now. And I don't know where the boys are, sweetheart. Maybe they're with Papa."
"Maybe so!" Exclaimed Lila, and sped off down the hallway before realizing that she didn't know where Papa was either. Nevertheless, she searched in the closet and pantry, then ran to the front door, wriggled her feet into her boots, and ran out into the snowy yard.
"Papa! Len! Laurie! Lewis! Time for dinner!"
In response to her shrill summons came not the boys as she hoped, but Pippin, Laurie's dog.
"Hi, Pippin! Where're the boys?" asked Lila, scratching him behind his ears. Pippin barked and wagged his tail, then started running toward Papa's shed.
"Of course!" Laughed Lila as she slogged through the snow after him.
"Papa! Len! Laurie! Lewis! It's time to--oof!" She slipped and fell back in the soft powdery snow then lay contentedly, momentarily forgetting her mission.
She looked up at her oldest brother with a grin.
"Time for dinner, Len!"
"I see. And what are you doing laying in the snow with no jacket on?" Nineteen year old Len, Lynne's twin brother, grinned back as he picked Lila up and brushed her off before putting her on his back.
"Sometimes I don't like jackets," Lila said thoughtfully, "and-oh good! Papa and Laurie and Lewis are coming too."
Paul and Lewis were already following close behind them, and seventeen year old Laurie locked up the shed door before sprinting after them with Pippin loping beside him.
They blew inside just as Ellen was finishing setting the table for dinner.
"Oh," said Lila, a look of disappointment clouding her face, "I was gonna have the boys help me set the table."
Ellen smiled, "Next time I suppose. My! Your dress is soaking! I think you should go change and get washed up for dinner, okay?"
"Okay!" Lila bounced cheerfully off down the hall while the boys went to the bathroom to wash their hands and faces.
Soon the whole family was sitting down to eat and after Paul prayed, conversation centered around plans for the evening.
"Let's play monop'ly!" Lila said excitedly.
"Maybe not... Let's play UNO. You can play more games that way," eleven year old Lewis decided.
"I think our UNO deck is lost still," Lynne stated, "or did someone find it?"
"Oh! I know! Let's play Dutch Blitz!" exclaimed Lydia.
"Well, you and Lynne seem to always win that one. I think we should play Game of Life if we want to play a board game," Lewis declared.
"Oh, no! Not Game of Life!"
"I think we should play 'Go to Bed Early,'" Ellen said with a twinkle in her eye.
There was a chorus of dismay and she promptly relented, but said that she thought that they should get started on cleaning up the kitchen if they wanted to do something fun. Soon the kitchen was cleaned up, they had done Bible time and were all cozily in the living room in their pajamas while Laurie, Lydia and Lewis were searching in the game cabinet for Ticket to Ride, which had been the game they had finally decided on.
"When're we gonna have the snacks that Lynne and Lydi were workin' on?" inquired Lila.
"Are you hungry?" asked Len, pulling her up onto his lap.
"No," admitted Lila, "but I'd just like to know."
"We'll have them a little later," Paul assured her.
There was a sudden shout of victory as Laurie finally found the game and pulled it out of the dark recesses of the cabinet. "I guess we haven't played this one for a little while," he noted.
They spent the next few hours playing games, eating snacks, and generally having a good time.
The time sped by, and soon it was 11:30 and they picked up the game, put away the extra food, cleaned up the dishes, brushed their teeth, and gathered eagerly around Len, who had been designated to count down to the new year.
"Where are you going to count from?" Asked Lewis, bouncing on his toes in excitement.
"Ten," Len answered, watching his watch intently.
There was a breathless silence. Then there was a little whisper:
"When's he going to start?"
"Soon, Lila. Shhh."
There was another breathless silence. Longer this time. And then:
"Okay, here we go! 10, 9, 8, 7, 6,"
Everyone had joined Len by now.
"5, 4, 3, 2, 1! Happy New Year!" Everyone yelled.
After a moment of tumultuous shouting and congratulations, such as: "You've survived another whole year, Laurie!" "Yeah!" "Is it Laurie's birthday?!" "No! I was just telling him that he's made it to another New Year." "Oh! Have I?" "Of course!"; there was suddenly silence and Paul spoke.
"'The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.' Lord," he prayed aloud, "thank you for this New Year. Please watch over us and bless us and keep us in the way you want us to go. Help us to always glorify you in our actions and decisions. Amen."
"Amen." The whole family said solemnly.
- - -
Lila awoke the next morning feeling more tired than normal, and for a moment she wondered why. Then she remembered! It was the New Year! She jumped eagerly out of bed to see what this year looked like. She climbed in the window seat to look out, and her face clouded with sudden disappointment. The New Year looked just the same as when she had looked outside yesterday morning. Tears blurring her vision, she got down slowly and started to get dressed, dully noticing that Lynne and Lydia's beds were empty and unmade. Not bothering to brush her hair, she went into the kitchen. To her surprise, Len was in the kitchen, whistling merrily as he fried bacon and flipped pancakes.
"Good morning, Lila! Why the sad face?"
"The New Year isn't very excitin', Len," she replied sadly as she crawled up onto a chair to watch him.
"It's not? Isn't bacon exciting?" He took a deep breath of the delightful sent and then exhaled with a laugh. Lila copied him, looking a bit more cheerful.
"I thought it would look different outside," she explained.
"Why, it does!" He exclaimed, "at least out of the entry way window! Did you look?"
Lila slid down and ran to the front window. She laughed delightedly when she saw the snowman outside, holding a sign that said just as plainly as his crooked smiling mouth: "Happy New Year!"
Lila went back into the kitchen smiling again.
"Did you make him, Len?" She asked.
"Nope, I think Laurie and Lewis did," Len answered with a smile.
"Len? What are New Year resolutions?"
"New Year's resolutions are something that people say that they will do in the New Year," He paused thoughtfully and slid the plate of covered bacon into the oven to keep warm. Then he added, "I think that there's really only one New Year's resolution that's worth making, because it covers everything you could ever think of."
"What is it?"
"Every New Year's morning, and every morning for that matter, I pray, 'Jesus, thank you for living in my heart. Please help me to become more like you by acting like you would act, speaking how you would speak and loving like you love me.'" He looked at Lila seriously, "Really, no one can keep a New Year's resolution by themselves, you need Jesus' strength to be able to do anything. Just like it says in Ephesians 3:14-21, where it talks about Jesus' love and the strength we receive through Him," Len began to recite, and Lila noticed again the light that sparkled into his eyes, as he joyfully recited the scripture.
"'For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.'"
After another minute he added, "Isaiah also talks about the LORD being our strength in Isaiah 12. Or you probably know this one: 'Philippians 4:13--I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.' And you know what, Lila? The New Year will never look any different, but you can make it different by asking Jesus to help you act more like Him and then do it through His strength."
Len turned back to flipping his pancakes and Lila thoughtfully got up and went back to her room. She stood uncertainly for a moment, then went to the bathroom and started to brush the tangles out of her hair.
When the troublesome hair was finally brushed out, Lila went back to her room and knelt down by her rumpled bed. She tried to remember what Len had said, then she prayed it for her own.
"Jesus, thank you for livin' in my heart. Please help me to become more like you by actin' like you would act, speakin' how you would speak and lovin' like you love me. Amen!"
She jumped up and looked around the room. She looked at the unmade beds and got to work. First she made Lynne's bed, then Lydia's, and finally her own, placing her stuffed elephant carefully up by her pillow. She stepped back to survey her work, then picked up and folded her nightgown. With a satisfied smile at the clean room, she ran back to the kitchen, singing blithely.
Lynne and Lydia were there now as well, and they all smiled as their songbird, happy now, skipped in with her usual, "Can I help?"
"I don't think there's much left to do, but you can either set the table or go tell Papa that it's time to eat," offered Lynne as Laurie and Lewis came in to the kitchen sniffing appreciatively.
"Papa and Mama, right?" Lila asked, looking a little confused.
"Well, Mama might eat in her room."
"Go and see!" Laughed Lydia.
Lila skipped back out of the kitchen, stopping to call over her shoulder, "I like your snowman, Laurie and Lewis!"
"Thanks! Glad you liked it!" They called back.
Lila went down the hall and knocked on her parents bedroom door.
"Come in," came Papa's voice.
Lila entered and found her Mama was still in bed.
"Lynne said to tell you it's time for breakfast, Papa," she began uncertainly.
"Great!" He responded, "Do you want to see your new little sister?"
"New little sister?" Lila echoed, "was the baby born?!"
When Mama nodded and smiled, she got up onto the bed to look at the baby.
"She's pretty!" She exclaimed, "when was she born?"
"About 3 o'clock this morning."
"What is her name?" Wondered Lila.
"Laylie Ellen," Ellen answered, "how do you like that?"
"That's a good name! I'm glad Jesus blessed us with a New Year baby!"
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.”
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day:
“Give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the peoples, proclaim that His name is exalted.
“Sing praises to the Lord, for He has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”