Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Home for Christmas (11/20/08)
TITLE: Where Jesus Is
By Margaret Gass
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“Yep! I just need to put my bag in your car. Thanks so much for taking me home, Elizabeth. My parents can’t believe that you’re willing to drive five and a half hours out of your way at this time of year, especially in all the snow. And what about your mom?”
“Do you really think I’d leave you alone for three days in the dorm until your dad fixes his car? What if he didn’t make it all the way here? You can’t spend Christmas break alone. And don’t worry about my mom--she once drove to Seattle on bald tires in a blizzard to help a friend, remember? She drove past a police barricade when they were closing down the freeway! Since I don’t plan on doing anything quite so adventurous, she’ll only worry until we call. Let’s get going!”
Three days later, Elizabeth had driven home to her Mom’s house, singing along with the carols on the radio as she thought about her unexpected adventure. She had gone with the Stephenson family into the mountains to get their Christmas tree. The tree had been so large that there had been no room for the girls in the truck bed, so they had lain with the tree on top of them all the way home. When the truck slid off the road, snow from the hillside had covered the tree! Though Marie’s younger brother helped his dad get out of the ditch, Marie and Elizabeth were pinned, causing Marie’s sister Mary to wail from inside the cab. How glad they’d all been for dry clothes, hot chocolate, and a warm fire!
Elizabeth stirred her hot cocoa and smiled at the memory of that trip. Had it really been twenty-five years ago? She hadn’t heard from Marie in almost fifteen years, when Marie had sent a present to Tommy, Elizabeth’s son, for his fourth birthday. That was the year that Elizabeth, her husband Eric, and Tommy had ventured into the woods in search of the perfect Christmas tree. What a delightful Christmas that was! Tommy had spent Christmas Eve riding his birthday bike in circles around the kitchen, too busy to eat any more cake and too excited to sleep. Mom and Papa came for his party, and were going to stay all Christmas day--something they had never done, and as it turned out, never did again.
Time passes so quickly, mused Elizabeth as she drained the last of her cocoa. Papa’s death two years later had affected them all, but her Mom had, understandably, taken it the hardest. The following year, Elizabeth’s sister, Lynn, and her husband Greg moved home from Europe, but settled in another state. Soon all of Lynn’s holiday traditions were those of her in-laws, a fact which hurt Mom more than Lynn seemed to know. Even when they moved “home,” they kept a measure of distance, though they lived just minutes from Mom and her new husband, Brett. That distance didn’t apply to their girls, however. Elizabeth’s nieces loved Grandpa Brett, so together, they made new traditions.
At first, it bothered Elizabeth that those traditions did not include her family, especially after Elizabeth’s painful divorce eight years ago. Her husband Eric’s battle with mental illness had caused tension, but she also knew that her family was uncomfortable with how she and Tom celebrated Christmas. Jesus came first, which meant that Elizabeth wasn't willing to skip church when her mother moved up the time for Christmas dinner by almost three hours a few years ago. She and Tom would be about thirty minutes late, and it was fine if the others started without them.
It wasn’t fine with Mom, or with Lynn, for that matter. Elizabeth’s throat tightened as she remembered the vitriolic words her mother had spoken against her, Tom, her church, and her Lord over the phone. Lynn’s subsequent phone call lacked the colorful vocabulary, but not the condemnation. Elizabeth hung up, called the church for prayer, and told Tom that they would be home for Christmas. He wasn’t disappointed. It was a defining moment for Elizabeth. Never again would she feel guilty for not feeling at home when she visited. She wasn’t home.
Home is where Jesus is. “As long as I have you, Jesus, I will always be home for Christmas.”
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