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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Tree (10/09/08)

TITLE: From Iraq, With Love
By Celeste Ammirata



I hate winter. Cindy shivered, looking down at her new black Uggs, wet up to the ankles, thanks to the icy puddle she stepped in. Glad I didn’t go for the white ones.

She pulled on her gloves as she hurried past a Christmas tree stand. Carols, blaring out from small speakers, only worsened her mood. The proprietor smiled and waved her over. She forced a smile, “No thank you Sam, I won’t be getting a tree this year.” He frowned, and she picked up her pace to avoid any questions the older, white haired man might throw at her.

Jimmy—her husband of three years, serving his second tour in Iraq—was the one who made Christmas special. He turned the once dreaded season into something magical. Before him, she struggled to keep the holiday blues at bay. Since he left, God felt so far away and church had lost its appeal.

Christmas Eve day, her buzzer rang. She pushed the button on the intercom. “Yes?”

“Mrs. Connors, this is Sam, I have a package for you.” The elevator had been out of order for months, so she ran down the steps. The package was a beautiful, fragrant scotch pine; Jimmy’s favorite. She frowned. “Sam….”

“Before you argue, ma’am, this is from Jimmy. He paid for it before he left, and gave me this for you.” He held an envelope out to her.

“What’s this?”

Sam shrugged. “Looks like a letter to me.” He looked from the tree to her. “It’s getting late and the missus is expecting me for dinner. Would you mind letting me get this inside for you?”

“Oh, of course.” She held the door open for him. “I’m sorry, but the elevator hasn’t been working. I live on the third floor. I can get someone to help me with it. I know you have to get home.”

“Well, why don’t we just check on that elevator? After all… Christmas miracles happen all the time.”

I doubt that God would waste a miracle on an elevator. She sighed. “Okay, wait here while I go check.”

“Yes ma’am,” he said, giving her a mock salute.

Funny guy. She pressed the button, and to her surprise, the doors slid open. She grinned at Sam. “It looks like we got our miracle.

“Like I said… they happen all the time.”

A half hour later, Cindy sat cross legged in front of the tree. She studied the envelope. On the back, in bold letters Jimmy had written.

Before opening, you must do these things.

1. Put the Christmas CDs in the player.
2. Decorate the tree.
3. Make some hot chocolate…and don’t forget the marshmallows.

Because she loved him, she followed his demands. The pungent aroma of pine filled the room. Oh Holy Night wafted from the speakers as she set the nativity under the twinkling tree.

She settled into his favorite chair and picked up the letter. “Jimmy, I miss you so much, it hurts.”

My love,

I know that this is a hard time for you, and that you might doubt God right now. Just remember that as much as I love you, with all my heart and soul, He loves you even more. I wish I could be there with you. God knows how much I love you, how much I’m missing you now. But He’s with me, as He was during my first tour. I don’t know where I’ll be as you read this. I love you. Please, honey, don’t lock God out of your heart right now. Let Him in, embrace His love for us. Don’t forget the true meaning of the season, God’s love for us and the gift of His Son.
I can feel Him with me as I write this. With all my heart, I believe that I’ll be coming home to you when this long year is over. But no matter what happens, He’ll be with me, supporting me with His incomprehensible peace and love. I need you to keep your heart and mind set on Him while I’m away.
I can’t wait to hold you in my arms again. Till then, I’ll be holding you in my heart.
Merry Christmas honey, I love you with all my heart.
God Bless and Keep You,
P.S. Next Christmas, God willing, we’ll be enjoying the tree together.

“I love you so much, Jimmy,” she whispered, wiping the tears that spilled down her cheeks.

Maybe she would check out that Midnight Service.

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This article has been read 728 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shelley Ledfors 10/17/08
Absolutely lovely! This piece is well written and has a great message. I loved the thoughtful husband! And the ending is just right. Well done!
Ellen Dodson10/19/08
I love the faith-building message in this tender piece. The MC's cynicism is convincing. The elevator miracle confused me as I half expected Jimmy to be in it or hiding somewhere. The letter at the end was a nice touch, but a bit repetitive toward the end. I enjoyed it. Thanks!
Yvonne Blake 10/20/08
Ahhh...so touching. It must be so hard for the families with loved ones gone. Thank you for writing this.
Gregory Kane10/20/08
very believable characterisation. The instructions in the better were great, allowing the reader to feel, smell and enter into the redemptive atmosphere
Marijo Phelps10/20/08
Oh, my, this one is a "grabber" - took us there with your descriptions and to imagine the encouragement over those long miles. I wanted to read more - it ended too soon but that's also part of what makes it so good!
Scott Sheets10/20/08
Thanks for the reminder to remember those with loved ones overseas in the military this Christmas. You portrayed the emotions well. Nice Job!
T. F. Chezum10/21/08
Great title - Great story. A well written reminder about the troops and their families.
Valarie Sullivan10/21/08
Wait, I gotta grab a tissue! What a heartwarming piece! I love the way it started out so cold and warmed up all the way thru to the end!
LaNaye Perkins10/22/08
God bless you for writing this touching piece about our military and what they sacrifice for our freedoms. This was so touching and it brought tears to my eyes as well. Bravo, my FaithWriter friend.
Laury Hubrich 10/22/08
Very nice work.
Marlene Austin10/22/08
Beautifully written and expertly executed. Thanks for sharing your talent with us. :)
Chely Roach10/22/08
This was tender and lovely. Nicely done.
Leah Nichols 10/23/08
Nice job! I love that her husband helps her celebrate Christmas even from far away. Very sweet story!
Carole Robishaw 10/23/08
Nice! I liked it. You needed to spend a few more minutes on the wording of the letter, but very good.
Sheri Gordon10/23/08
Congratulations on your Highly Commended. This brought tears to my eyes.
Clyde Blakely11/01/08
Tears in my eyes, for joy. I was in Viet Nam for two birthdays, two Thanksgivings, a New Year, and a Christmas. I only remember one of those - nothing special. Thank you for making this one special and rememberable. God bless and keep writing.