The Role of a Lifetime

 

On March 9th I will be accepting the role of a lifetime, a role that will play a part in defining my legacy on this planet: on March 9th, I will become a husband and father (step-father).

No pressure right?

This is a role I accept gladly, and a challenge that I look forward to. This was not my mindset a year before the time of this writing. Last January I was in a relationship that was heading for a crash and a burn, and both parties were at fault for various reasons. We wanted fundamentally different things, and I feel we were both attempting to force ourselves into becoming things and people we really weren’t. When it ended in an especially painful way, I came to a horrifying realization – I had spent a large majority of that relationship lying to myself.

At a point during that relationship I convinced myself that I never wanted to be a father. There are various reasons why I came to this conclusion, but the most fundamental reason was simple: I was selfish. I saw children as an inconvenience to what I wanted and fatherhood as a sort of resignation from a life of adventure and new experiences. In retrospect, it’s easy to see that attitude for what it really was, and to see me for what I was back then: a selfish coward who didn’t know what he really wanted.

After that relationship ended I took some time and intensely examined myself, and I didn’t like what I found. I found that I was more concerned with being “nice” than truly being a man of real principle. I stayed in my relationship because I was afraid I would never find better, and what I thought was great about that relationship was based on what I imagined it was and could be, not for the reality of it. I discovered that I had lied to myself for a large part of it and should have ended it sooner than I did. All in all, I discovered I was weak, selfish, and self-decieving. The deception was the most concerning one of all. I saw a quote from Dostoyevsky that really struck me on this issue:

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”

 Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

I decided to never deceive myself again and deal with myself with complete transparency. It was a painful process, one that took me to places that I didn’t want to mentally or emotionally journey to, and it broke me in many places. But, through it all, I was able to rebuild through God’s grace. When I emerged on the other side, I promised myself that I would never be that man again. Less than a month after I made that promise, I met the woman who will soon be my wife.

In the past I would have brushed over her because she had a child from a previous marriage, but I promised myself that I wouldn’t be selfish or afraid, and I made that leap of faith. Now, I cannot wait to be a father to her child and the best possible husband to her. I cannot help but put them before myself. And I firmly believe that God helped bring us together, partially because I took that leap and trusted that promise.

The promise that I made to myself came out of a place of prayer and pain. The thing that solidified it in my mind was a line from Hillsong’s song So Will I (One Billion X). In the song, after singing of God’s power over the universe and galaxies and every single thing in existence that He created, it ends on an intensely personal line that simultaneously devastated and strengthened me: “You’re the One who never leaves the one behind.” God would never leave me behind, yet in my selfishness and weakness in my past, I would have left some behind. It was in that moment that I promised God and myself that I would strive to never leave one behind.

Soon, I will be responsible for leading and loving two of those that God wouldn’t leave behind. How could I love that same God with all my heart and not do the same? How could I be a good husband and a good father if I didn’t strive to do what God does daily for me?

The point behind all this is that you cannot deceive yourself and be selfish and trust God fully at the same time. Because I trusted, because I allowed truth to change me through meditation, introspection, and prayer, God brought me to place and to people who change my life as much as I hope I change theirs.

Trust in truth. It may burn, but it also refines.

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I May Have Just Written the Perfect Hallmark Christmas Movie

There are certain things in life that are as reliable as the sun: death, taxes, and cheesy Hallmark Christmas Movies being on 24 hours a day all through the holiday season.

From what my research can tell, Hallmark has been making original Christmas movies since the year 2000, and everyone’s mother has been enamored since. It’s hard for me to really nail down the first time I actually sat through an entire Hallmark Christmas movie, because well, they tend to run together. And by “run together” I mean they are almost all interchangeable in terms of plot, characters, and story devices. They work in the same way that cotton candy works: all fluff, all sweet, no heavy substance.

A friend of mine tweeted out a bunch of made-up movie plots, and this got me thinking: Could I write a Hallmark Christmas Movie?

The elements needed to create a magical Christmas formula are simple. I have arranged these elements into what I call the Cameron Bure Christmas Matrix, named after former Full House star and current “Hallmark Darling” Candace Cameron Bure. Feel free to zoom in on it’s glory.

The Cameron Bure Christmas Matrix provides every possible ingredient that can be put into a Hallmark Christmas Movie. Pick elements from each category and throw them together. What do you get? A Christmas movie that everyone (or at least your conservative grandmother) can enjoy.

Let’s test this out, shall we? I randomly selected the following elements from the CBCM:

  • The Widower
  • The Scrooge
  • The Little Matchmaker
  • The Christmas Eve Business Deal
  • Evil Corporation vs Family Business/Charity
  • Rediscovering the First Love
  • I’m Falling for You!
  • The Instant Pot
  • The Small Town
  • Christmas Character Names
  • The Star You Forgot About
  • The Montage
  • The Kiss

Now, with some storytelling work, I will combine all of these elements into an original Hallmark Christmas Movie. Enjoy.

********************

PROJECT: NATIVITY

We open on a car driving through a picturesque snowy landscape. Upbeat Mall Christmas music is playing over the opening credits. We see our driver, Kristine Snow (played by the 1990’s Pink Power Ranger Amy Jo Johnson) heading toward the small town of Nativity, Tennessee with a concerned look on her face. Kris is a workaholic on a special business mission. Her job? To shut down and bulldoze the Nativity Nativity Museum to make way for the ShallowProfits Corporation’s new fashion iPhone case factory. Her boss, Mr. Blackheart, has promised her a Cabo vacation over New Years and a bonus if she’s able to deliver the contracts by Christmas Eve.

But why the concerned face Kristine Snow? Well for one, she HATES Christmas. Her super-successful lawyer fiance tragically died a few years before when a Christmas tree flew off a truck and stabbed him through the face on the highway. Needless to say, he died the next day. Ever since then, the holidays have been nothing but work, a helpless attempt to fill the void, refusing to let the spirit of murderous Christmas back into her life.

Another reason for her trepidation is the town of Nativity itself. Kristine was born in Nativity and lived most of her life there before moving away to New York to pursue her dreams of being a performance artist. This lasted around a month, until she was hired (somehow with zero qualifications) to ShallowProfits. For 10 years she has worked her way up the ladder, convinced that she will find fulfillment at the top. She has avoided the town for a decade, at first ashamed to return because of the failure of her dream, more now out of “big city” pride.

But, the most discouraging complication to this task is the owner/operator of the Nativity Nativity Museum: Jason Holliday (played by the Little Rascals Alfalfa himself, Bug Hall) is her high school ex-boyfriend. She hasn’t spoken to him since that night… that awful night their senior year during Christmas break.

When Kristine arrives in Nativity, she is resistant to the almost magical charm the town seems to give off. Everyone is happy. People are walking the streets, saying “Merry Christmas!” to one another without the slightest hint of shame. It makes her almost sick to see it. As the credits end, she ducks into a coffee shop to escape the smothering Christmas spirit that seems to be squeezing around her like a candy cane colored anaconda, and who does she run into? Why her old best friend Joy Noelle! She runs the coffee shop and she shocked to see Kristine.

“Kris? Is that you?”

“I’m very busy right now.”

“It is you! Oh my God!! How are you!” Joy squealed as she firmly embraced Kris, much to her chagrin.

“Hey Joy, it’s good to see you too I guess.”

“Girl come have a seat! Coffee is on me. I mean, I can do that. I own the place. We have Christmas specials! Do you want a candy cane in your coffee? A Santa cookie? Mistletoe garnish? Winter landscape whipped cream?”

“… Black is fine.”

“Oh… well bah humbug to you to then!” Joy laughed as she handed her a coffee with a candy cane, winter landscape whipped cream, a mistletoe garnish, and a Santa cookie on the side. Kristine looked at it as though it were the head of her dead fiance.

“So girlfriend,” began Joy with an amount of Christmas small-town friendliness that made Kristine scream internally, “What brings you back to Nativity? Visiting your folks?”

“My parents died when I was high school Joy. You remember the funeral. You were there.”

“Oh, my bad. I guess Christmas makes me forget about sad things! Oh, are you coming back to see Jason??”

“Why would I be coming back to see him? We broke up 10 years ago.”

“You know he’s single again. Wife died of cancer. Real shame. His daughter is a cutie though. Her name is Holly. Holly Holliday. Doesn’t that name just make you smile?”

“Yeah, neat. I’m actually here to do some business stuff. But, I can’t really talk about it. Legal contracts and all. Wouldn’t want to bore you with all of that,” said Kristine as she got up from the table. “Thanks for the coffee.”

“But you didn’t even try it! Try it!”

With a barely concealed groan Kristine stomached down a sip. It was cheerfully delicious, as if love itself was the special ingredient, and it made her want to hurl. “Woah, really good… (cough, slight dry-heaving). Do you know the way to the Nativity Museum?”


We cut to the Nativity Museum, designed to look exactly like a classic Nativity display, except much larger. Statues of the Magi and Mary and Joseph 20 feet high surround a large stone baby Jesus in the manger, with the entrance to the museum underneath the manger itself. It’s a gigantic display, and Kristine struggled to hide her repulsion with the whole facade. I bet all of these people are Republicans, she thought.

As she walks to the entrance, she hits a patch of ice, suspiciously under one of the statues of the sheep, slipping and falling backward with a spinal-adjusting thud. Dazed, she stares up at the sky, and into her view (and ours) emerges Jason Holliday, smirking with small-town hunky charm.

“Kris? Kris Snow?”

“Who are you?”

“You don’t recognize me? It’s me, Jason Holliday.”

Of course she recognized him. His adorable face had haunted her dreams ever since their breakup 10 years ago, even as she almost married another man, even at that man’s closed casket funeral. Though she would never admit that to anyone.

“Daddy? Who’s the angel? Did she fall from heaven?” an adorable voice asked.

“Oh Holly,” Jason laughed, “Not every beautiful woman is an angel!”

“But she must have fallen from heaven Daddy!”

“Trust me sweetheart, I’m no angel,” said Kristine.

Jason reached down a hand to help her up. “Oh believe me, I know. That mouth of yours can make sailors weep.”

“Shut up,” she said with a smirk she quickly tried to hide.

“Holly, this is Kris Snow. We knew each other a long time ago. We are… old friends.” Holly reached out an adorably red-mittened hand and shook her hand. “Why don’t you go play for a while so Ms. Kristine and I can catch up.”

“Ok!” Holly disappears until she is vital for the plot again.

“What are you doing here Kris?”

“I’m here for ShallowProfits. They are wanting to buy the land the museum is on to build a new factory and I’m here to broker the deal.”

Jason looked back at the baby Jesus. “You want to tear down a museum dedicated to art surrounding the birth of the baby Jesus?”

“Well, when you put it that way…”

“Is there another way to put it? What about, ‘I’m here to destroy Christmas and baby Jesus?'”

“I’m just here doing a job. Let’s not get personal.”

“Well, it’s personal to me. And I’m not selling,” he said as he turned to walk away. He stopped and looked back at Kristine. “You know, I had always hoped I’d see you again. Just not like this.”

Kristine stared at Jason as he walked away, deep in thought. I bet he works out, cause he looks GOOD, she thought. Probably from carrying all those baby Jesus’s around. She huffed in frustration and made her way back to the hotel, with only three days to complete her task.


Kristine awoke the next morning at the Holiday Inn (not the chain, an actual holiday-themed hotel) with a savage headache. The four real Christmas trees in her hotel room gave off an overpowering scent of pine and peppermint that made it difficult to breathe. She stared grimly at the snow-covered landscape and rolled her eyes when she heard the sounds of caroling.

“WHO CAROLS AT 8 IN THE MORNING ON A THURSDAY?!” she screamed at the ceiling. The ceiling didn’t answer back, but the Christmas tree mural on the ceiling taunted her.

She had two days to get Jason to sell the museum and land to ShallowProfits, and though he had already refused to sell, she had some surprises up her sleeve. She quickly put on her bright red overcoat and white toboggan hat (though she swore she had packed her black coat and hat) and headed towards the Nativity Museum.

As she walked through the doors under the baby Jesus she was greeted by Holly.

“Ms Angel Kris!” she screamed as she ran up and gave Kris a hug.

“Umm, hey kiddo.” Why are you hugging me? she wondered.

“Have you come to look at Daddy’s museum?”

“Yeah, I want to see what all the fuss is about.”

“NEATO! Let me show you around!”

**BRING ON THE MONTAGE!**

Over the course of a three minute and thirty-five second Christmas cover, we see Kristine morph from someone who literally wants to tear down baby Jesus statues to a perfect mother candidate for adorable Holly, a person who will soon love Christmas again, and someone who will most definitely give Jason Holliday another child within the next year. Holly excitedly shows Kristine Nativity scenes made from materials such as pencils, popsicle sticks, toothpicks, Italian marble, redwood, and human bones (always a crowd favorite). Around halfway through the song we see her begin to loosen up and smile. At one point Holly and Kristine go to the Nativity photo booth and laugh as they put on fake beards and Kristine tries to fit into the manger for baby Jesus. The song fades as they reach one of the last exhibits, and right when the music has died, Kristine sees it.

What does she see? HER PERFORMANCE ART NATIVITY SCENE SHE DID FOR HIGH SCHOOL! She gasps at the sight and at the flood of memories that come rushing in.

“Daddy says you did this a long time ago,” said Holly with a smile.

“That’s true sweetie, I did. I loved art. I wanted to be an artist,” Kristine said with a wisp in her eye.

“What is the Nativity made out of Ms. Kris?”

“Bras. I was very rebellious back then.”

“Why bras?”

“Because she felt it was a statement on the patriarchal overtones of how commercialized Christmas had become in modern society. It’s a critique on the ills of mass consumerism over religion, greed, and sexism. If I remember correctly,” said a voice from behind.

Kristine turned to see Jason smiling.

“Jason… how did you get this? I tore it down that night… that night on Christmas break when I showed it to you. You didn’t like it remember?”

“I know… that’s why you never spoke to me again, all those years ago. I remade it. I found your instructions under the pile. I spent four years trying to recreate it, just as you had done it. I hope I got it right.” said Jason as he looked over the strange display, a sense of pride oozing out.

“It’s… it’s perfect.”

“No it’s not Kristine. Because you didn’t make it.”

“I… I…”

Kristine’s phone began to ring. It was Mr. Blackheart and he wanted an update on the deal.

“I have to take this. Excuse me,” said Kristine before slipping outside.

She stood outside by one of the Magi statues and listened as Mr. Blackheart droned on and on about the importance of the fashion iPhone case market in China and the need to complete the deal, but she was distracted by the snow, thoughts of Jason and Holly, and the passion she used to feel as she poured her heart into her feminist art projects.

“Kristine, are you listening?”

“Oh yes, sorry Mr. Blackheart. He said he wasn’t going to sell.”

“Yeah… you told me that yesterday. Did you show him the papers I sent with you?”

“Papers?”

“The potential lawsuit against the Nativity Museum! If he wants to play hardball we can play hardball right back. A lawsuit against a religious museum for ‘cultural insensitivity’ would ruin them in legal fees. He’d have to sell. Show him that he’ll cave. The term ‘baby Jesus’ is the 27th most offensive term of the year you know.”

“Oh… those papers. Right. I’ll talk to him again and see what I can come up with.”

“Ok, you have two more days to get this done. I’m counting on you Kristine. Deliver for me, and remember, if you don’t that Cabo cruise and raise are going bye-bye.”

“I understand. I’ll do my best.”

Kristine ended the call and watched Holly play in the falling snow around the playground shaped like a manger, her heart confused and heavy with indigestion from the Denver omelet she had at the hotel that morning.


That night a knock on her door stirred her away from her confused sadness and post-heartburn snow watching. She opened it to see a familiar face.

“Jason? What are you doing here?”

“Hello to you too. Can I come in?”

“Sure… I mean, I just have my non-religious winter themed pajamas on. You could come back at a later time when I’m more decent.”

“I think you look great. I just needed to talk to you.”

They sat down on the couch between two giant Christmas trees. The smell was overwhelming.

Jason timidly tapped his fingers on his knees. “You know,” he began, “they bring in fresh Christmas trees each morning for the rooms.”

“That’s quality service,” she replied, suddenly nervous too. She felt as though she was back in high school again.

“Kris, I saw you today with Holly at the museum.”

“Oh, I mean, if that made you uncomfortable I’m very sor-”

“Don’t apologize. You were wonderful. I saw all of it on the security cameras.”

“You were watching me?”

“From the moment you walked in this morning.”

“That’s really sweet Jason,” she giggled.

“I think you would make a good mother,” he said suddenly.

Strangely, Kristine was not unnerved by this. Maybe it was the smell of the trees that put her at ease.

“You really think so?”

“Definitely.”

They smiled at each other with an awkward nervousness before Jason spoke.

“The reason I’m here is to ask you, because Holly has been begging me, and the people who have been coming into the museum have been begging me, could you make another nativity?”

“What?”

“Our bra nativity is the biggest attraction, and people have been asking me for years if the original artist is ever going to make a new one. I’d really like for you to make a new one. Holly would love it… I would love it.”

“Jason, I’ve been sent here to close down your museum. That’s a conflict of interest… but if Holly really wants it I’ll do it. I usually am much more professional than this, but I feel it’s the right thing to do.”

He smiled and rose from the couch.

“I need to go check on Holly down in the lobby and make sure she hasn’t destroyed anything. Thank you, Kris. You’re gonna make her really happy. Don’t worry about your boss. I have a feeling all of this is gonna work out just fine,” he said with a wink before closing the door behind him.

Kristine couldn’t help but believe him, and she shook her head at where her mind was at. What was it about this place?


The next day Kristine began work on her new Nativity scene. She found an old pair of overalls that she had stashed in Jason’s Chevy Nova from high school that he had never cleaned out. A quick run through the laundry and they were good as new. She stood in the back space of the museum, looking at the blank area where she would build her scene. This one wouldn’t be made out bras, no. Jason had somehow wiped all thoughts of patriarchal oppression out of her mind. This Nativity would be made out of Christmas trees. She felt it was honoring her ex fiance while still pointing to the future. Holly hit the town with her to gather materials for this new project.

“Your ex really was killed by a Christmas tree?” Holly asked as she tried to stealthily pull a discarded tree out of homeless shelter’s dumpster.

“Yes sweetie. But, I feel that wasn’t a bad way to go. Christmas trees can’t ever really bring pain, even if they hit you in the face at 90 miles per hour. They are too special. I think he went out smiling,” she said, shaking her head at the words coming out of her mouth. They sounded so strange, yet felt so right.

“My mom was killed by a disease. Daddy says it’s because the liberals are tainting the water.”

“I heard. I’m really sorry about that sweetheart,” Kristine said as she ripped a wreath off a house that was probably abandoned. “I’m sure she was lovely.”

“She was! But I like you too!”

“I like you too Holly. Let’s run on down to the next house. I think someone is home.”


The night of Christmas Eve was going to magical. Kristine could feel it deep down inside of her. Or it was that second Denver omlete. Her Nativity scene had come together perfectly, with one final piece to go: her live performance within it. The Christmas butterflies were fluttering in her stomach as she got her equipment together and began to head out to the museum.

Around 8 that evening, the entire town had gathered for the return of their original performance artist. At the front of the museum, they has set up her Christmas-tree Nativity in front of the giant statues, and at 8 on the dot, Kristine emerged onto the scene. The crowd roared and then quickly went silent, confused at what they were seeing.

Kristine was dressed in a giant puffy bodysuit, looking like a giant marshmallow with an attractive tiny face in the middle. She smiled and nodded to Holly off to the side, and she hit the music. The Christmas song that had been in the earlier montage began to play, and Kristine began to spin, and as she spun, parts of bodysuit began to fly off of her.

Colors of white, red, green, gold, and silver began to fly off of her onto the trees making up the Nativity scene, a blur of activity that put the crowd into a stunned silence. Suddenly, the lights cut off, yet the spinning and the music continued. Kristine spun with her all heart, a single happy tear flowing down her cheek. She was finally doing what she loved again. The music built to its climax and the lights snapped back on to reveal Kristine standing in the middle of the Nativity in a beautiful red evening gown and the entire scene decorated with ribbons, bows, lights, and ornaments, all creating a clear picture of the people inside the Nativity. It was a masterpiece of performance art, and Kristine raised her arms in triumph.

The crowd exploded into cheers.

As she waved to the crowd, she saw the face of Mr. Blackheart, his eyes full of tears. The crowd began to flow into the museum for the Christmas party, and Kristine approached Mr. Blackheart.

“Kristine… that was… an almost spiritual experience,” he said as he wiped his eyes.

“Thank you… It was for me too. Why are you here?”

“You stopped answering my calls, emails, and texts. I was wondering what happened. Now I know.”

“I’m really sorry Mr. Blackheart. I don’t know what happened. I came back here and I jus-”

He raised his hand to stop her. “You don’t have to say anything. I see now why you didn’t return my phone calls. This place… this place is special. It should be saved. My backup plan was another town, Santa Claus, Indiana. We’re gonna bulldoze some Christmas cookie factory or something. I got someone there now trying to get the deal squared away by midnight tonight. Strange I haven’t heard from her yet…” he said, almost wistfully, looking at the snow and then down to his phone.

“Mr. Blackheart. I just wanted to say that I’m resigning.”

“You too?” he asked looking up from his phone. “My contact in Santa Claus just texted me to say she was resigning.”

“Must be something in the air I guess,” she replied.

“Yes… it’s certainly something.” he said with a smile as he walked away through the snow, whistling Jingle Bells.

Kristine turned to see Jason and Holly walking towards her, holding hands and smiling.

“You were wonderful Kris,” he said.

Holly jumped into her arms. “THE BEST EVER!”

“You guys are the best ever,” she said with a sigh. “Thank you for showing me what I had forgotten, and who I had forgotten.”

“Are you going to stay Ms. Kristine?” Holly asked, a look of genuine concern on her face.

“I think she’s gonna stay sweetie. Why don’t you go play?”

Holly gave Kristine a big hug and ran off into the snow and Kristine watched her leave, smiling contentedly.

“Kris… I have something to ask you.”

She turned to see Jason on one knee in the snow, engagement ring held out in front of him.

“Kris… marry me.”

“Jason, we’ve barely reconnected. I literally just met your daughter. I just quit my job. I’ve only been here for three days!”

“You’ve been in my heart longer.”

“Oh. Well then yes! This feels so right! I love you!”

“I love you too! I think Kristine Snow Holliday has a good ring to it don’t you?”

As the music swells and the snow continues to fall, they kiss for the first time and immediately after Holly runs over and hugs both of them. They all share a hearty laugh.

The End.

ROLL CREDITS.


MASTERPIECE