Thanksgiving had been no problem. It involved a four-day weekend. But Christmas…oh, how awful! I would only get Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off from work and, unfortunately, Christmas came in the middle of a workweek this year. There was no way we would be able to make a fourteen-hour drive one way to be home with our families.
My husband and I had just begun our adventure at seminary. Jim was working on a Masters in Religious Education and a Diploma in Church Music. I was getting what was lovingly known in seminary circles as a “PHT” – “Putting Hubby Through”, even though he was working as Minister of Music and Youth at a small community church, a ninety minute drive from the seminary.
Christmas was an important time to “gather” for both our families. Neither of us had ever missed sharing the celebration of Christ’s birth with our parents – until now. The tears welled, glistening in my eyes, as I parked our small car in front of our seminary issued apartment. I tried to keep back the tears – I didn’t want to add any additional hurt to the bad news I was going to have to share with my husband. We had only been married a year and a half. We were living far from home for the first time in our lives and longed to see our families and to share our experiences as a family unit. This was going to be rough.
“Hi, hon.” Jim called from his desk surrounded by texts. “Did you have a good day?”
I gulped repeatedly trying to stave off the torrent welling within me. As I turned to him I feigned a smile. It was obviously a failure since he rushed to me, saying, “Honey, what’s wrong?” and pulled me close, as if trying to protect me in his embrace.
“We were told today that we would be given Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as holidays, but we must be at work on the 23rd and the 26th or face losing our jobs. I’m so sorry.” Jim held me as my tears soaked his shirt. Sobbing I added, “We’ll have to tell our parents that we won’t be able to come home.” I tore from his comforting arms, hurling my wretchedness into the dark bedroom.
After allowing sufficient time for shedding tears, and to gather his own composure, he came and set beside me on the bed. Wrapping my free hand in both of his, he stoically spoke. “It‘ll be all right, Markie, you’ll see. God has brought us here for a purpose. Our parents understand our calling, and are aware of our finances. I’ll promise you this – we will mail the presents to them and arrange a time to be on the phone with them while they open their gifts. Okay?”
“Oh, honey, that’s a great idea – at least we’ll get to hear their voices.” Choking back a new wave of sobs, I thanked God for this gentle man who shared all my hurts and prayed for wisdom to be able to do the same for him.
Once we were able to discuss it with a little less disappointment in our voices, we each called our parents to let them know the situation that had come up regarding Christmas. Both sets of parents were very understanding. We could detect the sorrow as we talked with them, but they agreed that a prearranged time to be on the phone while opening gifts would help.
Time dragged by. Packages got wrapped and mailed. My gloom increased as Christmas Day crawled nearer. I had just finished washing lunch dishes and cleaning the small counter and tabletop when Jim walked in with the mail. He commented on the usual junk mail and catalogues, praised God that there were no bills, then studying an envelope quietly, he carefully slit it open with the letter opener on his desk. Sensing his abnormal stillness, I queried, “Jim, is there anything wrong?”
He waved two multi-sheeted items in my direction. “Our parents have sent us an early Christmas present. My folks have purchased airline tickets for me and your parents have bought yours. We’re going to be able to go home for Christmas!”
Our jubilation rivaled our release from disappointment. Tears were swallowed up by kisses as we hugged and danced circles of joy over the worn linoleum floor.
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