Dear Friends and Family,
We hope this Christmas season finds you blessed and well. Unfortunately for our family, this year has been a real struggle.
Budget cutbacks at Tom’s work have resulted in him doing the job of three people. His only day off is Wednesday, and even then he’s typically on the phone with one crisis or another. The hours and stress are beginning to take its toll. Twice this year we have rushed him to the emergency room because of chest pains. We thank God that it wasn’t his heart either time, but we were told if he doesn’t slow down, one day soon it will be. I begged him to take a vacation, but so far that has not happened.
Our son, Don and his wife Marie are having marital difficulties. Marie had a miscarriage in March, and neither she nor Don is able to cope with the loss. Tom and I encouraged them to get counseling, but Don told us he was fine, and Marie told Don to tell us to stay out of their personal lives.
I continue to babysit Dorie, our precious only grandchild, two days a week. The tension between her mom and dad is making our bubbly Dorie withdraw from most interaction. I heard her tell her imaginary friends at a tea party that it was her fault that her baby sister died. When I asked her why, she said because she told her mommy that she didn’t want to share her room or toys with a baby.
Please keep Don, Marie and Dorie in your prayers.
We are officially empty-nesters as Cara started State University this fall. We don’t know how she’s doing because the school won’t give any information to the parents, even though we’re the ones sending them a check each quarter. We think she might be living with her boyfriend because she’s never in her dorm room when we call, and her roommate will only say that she’s “out.” She communicates with us mostly by text messaging, which is something I had to learn how to do when she moved away.
Tom promises that we’ll be able to visit her at college once the hectic holiday season is done. As you can imagine, he is even busier than usual during this time of year.
My brother, Richard, is not doing well, and we expect to lose him at any time. The years of alcohol and drug abuse have completely fried his brain. Any lucid days he has, he spends cursing at his wife and son. His son joined a punk band and is threatening to drop out of high school and go on the road. I try to be an encouragement to Richard’s wife, but being so far away, all I can really do is pray.
As we celebrate the birth of our Redeeming Savior, please keep our family in your prayers, and know that we’ll be praying for your family as well.
“Are you kidding? You can’t send this.” I hand the sheets of paper back to my wife. It’s Wednesday afternoon and I’m preparing to leave for an emergency budget committee meeting. Grace asked me to read her annual Christmas letter before leaving the house.
Shrugging into my coat, I start searching for my keys. “Just go buy some Christmas cards at the Christian bookstore and forget about a letter this year. Get some with a nativity scene, but not with the wise men in it. You know how much I dislike that misrepresentation of the birth of Jesus—the wise men weren’t even there that night.”
“No, Tom, I’m going to send a Christmas letter. It’s the only way I can let everyone know what’s going on in our family.” Grace crosses her arms and lifts her chin defiantly. Oh boy, I’m in for a long fight on this one.
“Grace, I don’t have time right now, but why in God’s name would you want to send that depressing letter to everyone?” I discover my keys under the Christianity Today magazine.
“Because it’s the truth, Tom. I’m tired of sending the perfectly posed family picture accompanied by the carefully crafted Christmas letter. Jesus said he came not for the healthy, but for the sick.” (Matthew 9:12.)
I have no retort to Grace’s argument.
“I’m just not sure how to sign it now that it’s just the two of us,” she continues. “Do I sign ‘The Harkins,’ or ‘Reverend Tom and Grace Harkin’?
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