Grace rose from her knees and grimaced when her left knee protested the change of position. “It’s all in Your hands, God,” she whispered. She walked slowly to the living room of the trailer, her lips curved in a smile, a praise of thanks to God in her heart. Just moments later, her 9-year-old son David asked her again, “When are we going to buy our Christmas tree? Christmas is six days away, mom!” This was the tenth time in two days that the boy had inquired about the tree. Grace’s reply was the same, “David, I asked God for the tree, and He will provide it this year,” and then, “Soon, David, soon,” she assured the boy. “I wish God would hurry up!” the boy grumbled. David’s eyes were downcast; his thin shoulders drooped. His mother knew that this was another test in faith for her, and yes, even for her son, who often displayed a marked intolerance to patience, mostly due to ADHD- Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Inwardly smiling, Grace thought of David’s dilemma. Soon, to a nine-year-old, is Now! David did not understand that there was not even enough money for food, nor was he aware that the electricity might be turned off any day. He only knew that every year at this time, they had a Christmas tree in the house to decorate! Grace patted the top of David’s head with her palm and smiled bravely, “Now, off you go. it’s time for you to leave for school.“ They exchanged a kiss and a hug and the boy was out the door, his dog Spot trying to squeeze his 95-pound Dalmatian body through the opening in the door before it closed. After the third slam, the flimsy door latch caught and Spot could not push it open to chase David down the street this morning. Grace heard David’s laugh of triumph on the porch. “See you after school Spot,” then, “Bye mom,” he shouted from the driveway. Spot scratched the door and whined despondently, listening to the boy’s footsteps move away from the house.
Grace stood up and began to do as many chores as she could before the joint pain associated with lupus would force her to rest. Morning was her best time of the day. Around ten o’clock, the phone rang! It was her friend, Suzanne, David’s adopted grandma since his actual grandma had passed away. The ladies met at a career worship seminar at the local community college two years earlier. “Umm, Grace, I hope you won’t feel offended with what I am going to say, Suzanne breathed hurriedly, but I want to buy you an early Christmas gift this year. Last night I had a sudden urge to buy you a Christmas tree. Do you mind?” Grace raised a fist up into the air, and mouthed a silent “Yeah! You are the answer to my prayer, Suzanne,” Grace replied. Then, she closed her eyes and whispered, “Thank you, Lord.” The women arranged to go shopping the next day for the tree while David was in school. “I want to surprise David with the most beautiful tree that God can supply,” Grace explained. “In fact, I told the Lord that I only want the tree that He chooses for me this year,” she said with a confident smile.
The following day Suzanne picked Grace up at 9:00 am, sporting a list of chores to accomplish while they were out on the road. They went to a dollar store to purchase Christmas gifts that would fill a shoebox for the elderly residents of a retirement home their church sponsored. Then, at 11:00 am, they attended an orientation meeting at Vocational Rehabilitation, obtained the name of their personal counselor to assist in their new job potentials and a date for their next appointment. They both needed to find employment, however, neither one could work in the capacity of their former days because of physical disabilities.
By 1:30 pm, at last, they were ready to go to the store they had chosen to purchase an artificial tree. They drove for a long time up and down the street where they had seen the store the year before but they could not find the warehouse outlet. Finally, they stopped at a gas station to look up the number in the telephone directory; however, the directory binder was empty. They went into the gas station food store and asked to see a telephone directory, but the owner could not find it. Grace stated, “I am hungry Suzanne.” It was then 2:30 pm, way past lunchtime. Suzanne nodded. She was hungry also. They decided to buy a sandwich and drink at the service station food counter, sit down and eat, and then discuss where to go next to find God’s perfect tree for David. Grace was also concerned that David might be home alone! She was also feeling a bit ill, and her back was beginning to pain her. Suzanne was determined that they find a tree before they returned home, so she suggested that Grace call home to reassure herself that David was all right. Grace made the call. David was not home yet. They finished the meal and walked out to the car a little dejected.
Grace suggested they go back to the Wal-Mart store where the artificial Christmas trees had been on sale the previous week. Suzanne nodded in agreement. Traffic was congested and the traffic lights further slowed their progress, causing the trip back west towards home to be terribly slow. The women were quiet; Grace concerned about David, and Suzanne intent on finding the perfect tree for Grace and David. Both women were praying. The sun was low in the western sky when they finally parked in a handicapped parking spot in front of the garden shop at Wal-Mart. Suzanne groaned audibly and laid her hand on the top of the door to help pull her stiff body upright. Grace stood up with a somber look on her face. The women walked into the Christmas tree section and stopped in shock! One week earlier, the aisles overflowed with boxes of artificial trees. Now, a mere remnant remained, and each box contained the same assortment of three small Christmas trees, ‘runts of the litter,’ the store’s final offerings of the season: Straggly, dwarf-sized artificial bushes! The tired women exchanged a glance of horror! Grace rolled her large blue eyes upward and uttered, “No way can anyone in their wildest imagination call these ‘things’ Christmas trees!” Suzanne leaned painfully over a nearby cart, her tear-filled eyes betraying her frustration.
The ladies got back into the car slowly, neither one noticing the glorious sunset God offered for their enjoyment that night. Suzanne dug the car keys out of her purse and leaned over the steering wheel in prayer, “God, has it been presumptuous of us to believe that You would show us where to buy a tree for David? Did I miss Your voice today, dear Lord?” Suzanne was beyond tired. Every joint ached. Yet, even with all the exhaustion and the pain, she did not want to give up on the dream of purchasing a Christmas tree that would bring the light of joy to her adopted grandson’s eyes. “Drive across the street to K-Mart, Suzanne,” Grace suggested. “Well, that has to be our last stop,” Suzanne replied. “I cannot walk any more today, Grace.” They found a parking spot in front of K-Mart’s Garden Shop. They walked to the entrance. Against the building, like old soldiers in a lineup, stood neatly stacked rows of fresh fir trees, snuggled tight in plastic netting. A small breeze picked up the scent of evergreen, and the ladies inhaled with delight. The weather had been very warm that season in South Florida, and the cut trees, without soil or water to nourish their life’s blood, were literally sapping and bleeding their essence into the air. Grace and Suzanne read the sign on the post at the same time: All Trees $10. They exchanged a glance and a smile. Grace pulled a tree out and exclaimed, “This one is great!” Suzanne pointed at the trunk, shook her head, said, “No! “The tree is truly beautiful Grace, but that bent trunk will not sit right in the tree stand.” Together they yanked yet another tree out of its confines, and gasped. Perfect trunk! Perfect height! And, it was a Blue Spruce! They unwrapped the bluish-green tree from its net cocoon, rolled it around on its base in circles. It was the most magnificent, perfectly full tree! The needles were still soft. They both inhaled, smiled, and exchanged a knowing look and giggled. “This is it!” Suzanne went in to pay for the tree and Grace re-wrapped it into the shape of a teardrop once again.
Driving home, both ladies thanked God for the lovely day and the perfect tree, the one He had picked out way before they ever discovered it. The tree for David!
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