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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Cards (11/06/08)

TITLE: And The Physician Came
By Sheri Gordon


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’?

The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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This article has been read 780 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Marita Vandertogt11/14/08
We should be free to be this honest...
Joanne Sher 11/16/08
VERY though-provoking, and I was also surprised by the end. Moving.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge11/16/08
This is art imitating life more often than most parishioners would like to know. Very honest, candid, and moving.
Lynda Schultz 11/17/08
I suspected. This entry would provide an interesting introduction to a discussion on honest communication: why and how it should be done, and when it is, or isn't, appropriate. I also felt an underlying tension between the couple—sounds like they could use some open and honest communication between themselves. Lots of food for thought here. Great story.
Sharlyn Guthrie11/18/08
I bet that letter sent the preacher back to the emergency room! I agree that the discord between the couple is the most concerning issue. But that's certainly realistic, considering all the problems. Clever approach to the topic.
Celeste Ammirata11/18/08
To be honest, I would not send out a Christmas letter like this. And if I got one, I certainly would pray, but I would wonder why the wife felt the need to air the family pain. I agree with the husband. She could send out a card and ask people to pray for their family. With this letter, she's only going to bring pain to those mentioned in the letter. That pain is best left between the individuals and God.
This is very well written, with an easy flow. You had my attention from word one.
Leigh MacKelvey11/18/08
Finally I found yours!
I loved it. It was a creative way to approach to the topic and well written. I liked that it really told about how lots of people feel when they have to send out cards and they're not really feeling so joyous.
Leigh MacKelvey11/18/08
Finally I found yours!
I loved it. It was a creative way to approach to the topic and well written. I liked that it really told about how lots of people feel when they have to send out cards and they're not really feeling so joyous.
Leigh MacKelvey11/18/08
oops, sorry. I seem to be having a problem with my computer tonight.
Dianne Janak11/19/08
I LOVED this one. I really wish more Christmas letters had some balance in them and truth. I got it from the start and appreciate your take on this. Great idea and writing with a surprise at the end! Bueno..
Jan Ackerson 11/20/08
Ouch, this one has a real bite! My heart went out to your narrator and her very real family, and I definitely wanted the conversation between her and her husband to go on. Excellent change of pace story with a cynicism that appeals to the cynic in me.