“I don’t even want to put up the tree, “ Richard lamented.
“Why ever not?” I enquired. After all, Christmas was his favourite season, when his whole family normally got together, the one time his parents were guaranteed to arrive bearing van-loads of gifts. They might forget birthdays, and anniversaries, but at Yule Time they shone as brightly as the Christmas lights at the local mall.
“Honey. We have no money, or have you not noticed? He asked sarcastically. “We’ll have a delightful twinkling tree and no gifts.”
“That shouldn’t stop us from stringing lights ands putting out decorations.”
He sighed and dragged out one of the boxes. “I guess you’re right. But we owe rent this month. We’re behind on the electric bill, the water bill, the phone bill…”
Instinctively I reached out to hug him, “Hey, we serve a great God don’t we?”
He shrugged. “Yeah I guess, but if I don’t find a job soon…”
“Trust me, I know.” And I did. The burden for providing for the family had fallen on me, and I had lost a client three months earlier. His finances were tight so he cut all his contractors. It was nothing personal, but heartfelt regrets didn’t put food on the table, or gifts under the tree. I felt like I was a horrible provider, making barely enough to pay the minimum on the everyday expenses. November through January are hard for freelancers – most companies mentally shut down and the work dwindles – the time we need the most income is the season it trickles to a halt.
“Let’s pray,” I said. There was nothing more we could do. All our resources were tapped, the only Person left was our best friend.
We held hands and while one agreed, the other prayed. There was no clap of thunder, no resounding voice emanating from heaven, no tingles or goose bumps; nevertheless, when we lifted our heads we couldn’t contain our smiles. “It will be all right,” I said, hugging Richard. As the eternal optimist I knew it would be ok. I didn’t know how – perhaps he’d be offered a job, perhaps a writing project would magically appear, it didn’t matter. I knew the Father had heard us.
“Kids!” I called out the back door. “Time to trim the tree.” With shouts of glee, they came bounding in. Thus began one more year of what has become a time-honoured tradition. The Christmas music played softly, I made hot cocoa, and the family gently hung ornaments and decorations around the house, some of them family heirlooms more than 50 years old. The kids chattered about their lists; they didn’t want much. One wanted dress-up stuff, another wanted Barbies, and another trains. In the grand scheme of things, their gifts would cost little, but to us, it was a pipe dream.
It was late afternoon when we finished trimming the tree and hanging the garland. “Did you get the mail?” I asked.
“No.” Richard said. “I thought you did.”
“I’ll get it.”
With some trepidation I walked to the mailbox – lately all we’d received were the wonderful yellow slips that started with “Pay This Bill Immediately…” Bills don’t take a break in December, even if contract companies do.
There were several Christmas cards, a couple of bills, and a letter from the landlady kindly reminding us we still owed $500. I opened the Christmas cards as I strolled back into the house. Several were from good friends, but there was one from a lady in the Bible Study I used to attend. We weren’t that close – we’d chatted a couple of times, but since we’d moved, we had lost contact. Well, it was nice of her to send us a card.
“Anything good?” Richard asked.
“Nah. Just a couple of cards to put over the fireplace.” I gave him the opened cards and he flicked through them. I chatted about the people who’d sent the cards while I opened the last one. Something fluttered to the floor. “What’s that?” Richard reached down to get it. He turned it over and gasped. Soundlessly he handed it to me. It was a check for $1,000!
We stood stunned. The answer had been on its way before we’d even prayed! Richard whispered, “We can pay the rent, and still put presents under the tree! Thank you Jesus!”
To the person who sent the check that December 2003, we say, “Thank you.”
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