Wednesday, December 23, 2009


2009's offering

Abby stirred the pot of lemon pie filling over the camp stove. It was intended to be a wonderful Christmas pie, but now it would simply be a pot of ordinary pudding. She heard the children’s voices drifting down the staircase, and she knew she wasn’t the only one measuring the storm’s impact on Christmas Eve.

“Do you think Christmas will still come, Katie? Do you think we’ll still get our Christmas wish?”

“Christmas always comes, Sam. Even if Santa doesn’t.”

Abby fled to the snow-covered window to avoid hearing any more of the painful conversation. Santa would come, but now it wouldn’t matter. She heard the muffled stomp of Jeff’s snow-covered boots on the porch, then the squeak of the door and the rush of the winter chill that nearly took her breath away. “How does it look out there?” she asked.

Jeff glanced in her direction before dropping his eyes to the floor. “The snow’s not letting up.”

“And the power?”

His head shook slowly, offering a grim reply. “No utility trucks will be getting back here before tomorrow morning. We won’t be baking pies and roasting a turkey, but we’re in better shape than some. At least we’re warm, and we’ve got the tubs filled so we have water. And we can still heat things on the camp stove.”

Abby turned away to hide her frustration. “The poor children. We banked the entire Christmas fund on that one electronic game system. It’s the only thing they’ll find under the tree tomorrow, and with the power out, it’s useless.”

Defeat lined Jeff’s face as Abby’s words sank in. “There’ll be other days to play the game and roast that turkey.”

“But tomorrow is Christmas. It’s been such a hard year. I just wanted this one day to be special . . . like before.”

Jeff stared at the tree with one large box wrapped beneath it. “We’ve never worked so hard just to stay afloat.” He quickly swept his hand across his moist eyes and then he began zipping up his coat as he turned back for the door.

Abby felt his pain . . . pain she had harrowed up. “Where are you going?” she asked worriedly.

“I can’t fix everything, but at least I can cut enough wood to be sure my family stays warm and comfortable.”

“Jeff. . .” Abby called as he reached for the door. “I didn’t mean . . . I know how hard you’ve worked. It’s just. . .”

“I know. . .” And then he exited through the door and into the cold night.

Abby pressed her eyes tightly shut, regretting her words, and when she opened them, through the flickering light of a kerosene lamp, she noticed a Christmas sign hanging over the front door that read, “Oh, Tidings of Comfort and Joy!” She hung that sign every year, but she’d never really thought about the words, or the sentiment they carried. “Comfort and Joy. . .” she mused as she glanced out the window and saw Jeff laboring to keep his family . . . how had he put it? Warm and comfortable? Guilt bit into her heart. “I’ve been waiting for happiness to come to me, and it’s been here all along, hasn’t it?”

In a few minutes, she was dressed in her warm coat and boots, heading outside through the snowfall to the woodpile where Jeff was splitting and stacking logs on a trailer behind the garden tractor. He looked up, surprised, but said nothing as Abby began adding wood to the stack. They working in tandem for nearly an hour, until Jeff said, “That should be plenty.”

With an exhausted sigh, Abby leaned against the woodpile. A large snowflake landed on her eyelash and Jeff moved near, removed his glove and brushed it off. “Thanks for coming out to help me.” A soft smile broke across Abby’s lips like an invitation, and Jeff answered it with a tentative kiss. Smiling, he said, “Climb on board. I’ll give you a ride to the house.”

Abby shot him a dubious look, then chuckled as she climbed aboard. Jeff started the tractor and slowly eased the gas pedal but the tractor lurched under the load, throwing Abby backwards into the snow.

“Are you all right?” Jeff asked as he rushed to her, finding her laughing hysterically in the snow. “What on earth. . .?”

A look of wonder filled her eyes as she began swinging her legs and arms, making angels in the snow. Jeff extended his hand to pull her up, but she kept up her rhythm, coyly eyeing the spot beside her. “Come on down.”

Jeff complained good-naturedly as he fell into the snow beside her and began swinging his limbs to clear the snow. After few moments his body stilled and he turned his head to face his wife. “I’d almost forgotten how to be happy.”

With her eyes moist, Abby nodded. “Me too.”

Rolling to his side, Jeff faced his wife, noting the contentment on her face. “Merry Christmas,” he whispered softly.

“Yes . . . I really think it will be now.”

Cheers resounded from the porch where Sam and Katie stood wrapped in blankets and holding flashlights. Jeff and Abby laughed as they hurried over to their beaming children. “What are you two doing out here when you should be in bed?”

Sam leapt into his father’s arms. “We heard you laughing, and we knew Christmas had come!”
“It’s still too early, Sam,” cautioned Jeff. “Santa hasn’t come yet.”

“We didn’t ask for anything from Santa. We prayed for something special, from God. We asked for one gift on Jesus’ birthday. And He gave us our wish!” Sam reached his hand out and touched the curve of his mother’s smile.

“My smile?” Abby’s lips began trembling, “That’s all you asked for this year? Not new toys.”

“And Dad’s.” Wise Katie explained. “New toys aren’t special for long. But old toys feel new when you two play with us. But you’ve been too sad and busy to play for so long. So we asked God for the one wish that would make us happiest too.”

“And our wishes came true!” Sam reminded. “Didn’t they?”

Jeff wrapped his arms protectively around his family as his eyes locked with Abby’s. “Yes, Sam. They certainly did.”

“Thank you both,” cried Abby. “That was the nicest, the best Christmas gift we’ve ever received.”

As the joyful family scrambled inside, Jeff caught Abby glancing at the sign. “Comfort and Joy. . . Is that new?”

Abby leaned into him and rested her head on his chest. “Nope. It’s been there every year since we were married. We just couldn’t see it . . . until tonight.”

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