"I hope that will leave you more time to get involved at church?" His eyebrow quirked up, as if I'd been somehow delinquent over the past twenty-five years. I was mentally doing the math, summing up just how many years in a row I'd taught Sunday school, when he added, "Would you consider taking on the role of hospitality chairperson?"

"Hey, Mom!" Kevin appeared beside me. "Can I head over to Coach's for lunch? A bunch of guys are getting together to talk about the game."

I glanced at him, back to the pastor. "Sure."

"Perfect," Kevin said, disappearing out the door.

"Wonderful," Pastor Backlund said, reaching for his next parishioner.

Mike, now spotting me, leaned on his horn.

I'd have to call the pastor later and politely decline his offer to let me take command of the weekly coffee break, the quarterly potluck, and most importantly, the annual Christmas Tea. The hospitality position came staffed with women decades older than I, who could teach even Martha Stewart a few things about stretching a budget and creating centerpieces. I'd rather lead a camping trip for two hundred toddlers through a mosquito-infested jungle.

"Be back by supper!" I hollered to Kevin as he slid into his friend's sedan. He didn't even look back.

I climbed into our SUV next to Mike. His thoughts had already moved on, probably to the training he would attend next weekend. Or maybe just to lunch. We rode home in silence. I noticed how the brilliant greens of the poplar trees had turned brown, the maples to red, the oaks to orange. The wind had already stripped some of the trees naked.

I could admit that my leaves had started to turn. But I wasn't ready to shed them yet.

I pressed my lips together and silently begged the winter winds to tarry.

From The Great Christmas Bowl. Copyright © 2009 by Susan May Warren.  Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.