Excerpt: 'Love Matters'

Except for the baby, we kids knew about the plan and were brokenhearted that we couldn't all stay together. But just when we thought all hope was gone, God sent us an angel. The day after my fifth birthday, my father married my mom's younger sister, and God gave us the best mother we could ever have had, outside of the one who gave birth to us.

Now that we're all adults, we've learned that our parents didn't marry for love of each other but for the love of us kids. There was no greater joy for us than to be able to stay with the family we knew and loved, without worrying about evil stepmothers or families where we would never feel like we truly belonged. And not only did we get a great mother out of the deal but an awesome sister as well!

This year my parents will be celebrating their 27th wedding anniversary and are more in love than they probably ever imagined they could be. My mother was only 24 when she took on the responsibility of raising five young children, and she sacrificed a lot. My dad worked full-time and was a pastor at our church. My mom gave up her job to be a stay-at-home mom. Not that she stayed at home much -- it was nonstop running between after-school activities, sports and Scouts with us five kids. I'm sure there were many days back then that Mom felt unappreciated, but that sure isn't the case now. There are no words for just how much we all love and appreciate her.

And she is so selfless, so giving, so empathetic. For example, this past Mother's Day we got together to celebrate her, and instead she showed up with permanent markers and Mylar balloons so we could write a message on the balloons to our late biological mother. Together we wrote the messages and released the balloons. It was a very special moment -- a gift from a very special mom.

Delilah, I just wanted to take the time to share my story of the love that I have for the woman I call Mom, whose love and support are constantly with me as I raise my own daughters. All best,
Tracie
Sidebar: Just when we thought all hope was gone, God sent us an angel.

5. David
"I'll Be Home for Christmas"

Greetings from the Mideast,
Delilah --
I've never written to you before, but I've listened to your show quite a bit back home. Currently I am stationed in Iraq and visit your Web site. I saw your appeal for holiday stories, and immediately began to reminisce about holidays past and what they meant to me. I share this not for recognition, but to reflect, as I write, about those times with family and friends that I hold dear to my heart.

We always had our Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings at my grandparents' home back in Louisiana. And what a gathering it was! Every family member would arrive with a traditional holiday dish and/or gift, and it was always interesting to see what new friend they brought with them to share our celebration.

My brothers and I would immediately head to the backyard to play football while the older folks sipped coffee or eggnog or stayed busy in the kitchen preparing a feast. Even outside, we boys could smell the wonderful bouquet of roasted turkey, cornbread dressing, sweet potato casserole and, of course, Grandma's homemade pies. Apple, pecan, pumpkin, cherry, chocolate and lemon -- I think everyone had a different favorite, and she never left one out. My favorite was the apple pie.

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