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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: It’s Christmas Day (in the present or living memory) (11/27/08)

TITLE: Accidentally on Purpose
By Jan Ackerson


Christmas, 2005

I love it that Christmas falls on Sunday this year. I awoke this morning with an urgency about getting to church, even though eleven o’clock is hours away. This year, Christmas will be different—this year, I finally understand it. That baby in the feed trough is God—but his tears are salty, just like mine.

It has taken me most of the year to get to this place of communion with God. It’s been a rough year, ever since…well, since the end of January, when I not only stumbled, but fell into a deep, dark hole. At the end of the fall, I brushed myself off and staggered away from Troy—I don’t deserve him, and he should have a wife who can keep her promises.

But today has felt holy from the moment I awoke, as gently as if someone had whispered in my ear. So I put on my black wool slacks and a soft red sweater and head for church. I plan to arrive just a few heartbeats late and to sit in the last pew. Although the good people of my congregation have drawn me to their collective bosom, today I hope that no one will talk to me. I want to close my eyes and listen to the Baby cry.

I want to forget, for just a minute or two, the small gift on my dining room table. It’s from Troy—it arrived ten days ago—and it scares me so much that my muscles weaken when I walk by it.

Alone in my seat in the shadows, I drink in the words of the carol:

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing:
O rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

I long for those glad and golden hours, and I believe that in this newfound peace with my Savior, I will have them. Well, golden hours, anyway. Glad hours—they’re not for me, not any more.

And yet—and yet—there is that gift on the table.

After church, I heat a mug of apple cider and stir it with a bark-y cinnamon stick. Three packages have arrived this week that don’t make me tremble, two from friends in my home town and one from a distant cousin. I peel back the wrappings and feel a warm glimmer of gladness: they know me well. A literary British novel…a tin of peppermint chocolates…a framed impressionist postcard. Merry Christmas to me!

For the next few hours, I find small and lovely tasks to distract me from Troy’s gift. I read the second chapter of Luke aloud from my Bible, enunciating each word like a Shakespearean actor. I rifle through my basket of Christmas cards. I savor a piece of candy, and then another. I listen to a CD of madrigal Christmas music, and sing the alto part.

When I walk past the table to turn off the stereo, I brush my hand along its surface and accidentally-on-purpose touch the gift. Troy’s gift. I know, as surely as I know that Mary kissed her Baby, that Troy has been praying for me every day since I left. Your prayers worked, Troy. I’m doing fine, and I’ve come to faith. But I can’t come back to you, I can’t. Every time I saw you, I’d be reminded of how I betrayed you. And I don’t deserve the kind of happiness we could have…

And now the small package is in my hands and I’m turning it over to find the tape and I’m pulling at the paper and I’m crying and crying and crying because it’s us, it’s Troy and me on our honeymoon, and Troy’s eyes are saying I will always love you and I’m stumbling through the living room to the closet to find my coat and I’m laughing because I know that my nose will be red and swollen when Troy opens the door to find me on his porch holding this picture, this picture of love that I’ll never deserve but I’ll take it, I’ll take it, I’ll take it.

Merry Christmas to me.

“It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”, vs. 3, public domain

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This article has been read 993 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 12/04/08
Oh, so very good!
Leigh MacKelvey12/04/08
This was something very special! I was totally involved and the MC is one I could really, really like. The characterization in this story is oh,so good!
Laura Anne Harrison12/04/08
This is a beautiful Christmas memory - one to treasure for a lifetime to come. Well done!
Sharon Kane12/05/08
Stunning! Redemption, grace, love. We don't deserve any of God's gifts, but he chases after us with them till we stop running. A modern-day Hosea. I loved it from start to finish.
Sheri Gordon12/05/08
This is really, really good. I have goosebumps and tears, and I'm not even sure why. Beautiful writing. And a great message without being overly sappy.
Betty Castleberry12/06/08
What to say? I want to read more...I want to know this couple's history. This is good!
Dianne Janak12/07/08
ahh yes, I want to know more also. Very good writing. I love authenticity without too much self blame and deprecation. The balance was excellent and I loved the happy ending! Good writing.
Catrina Bradley 12/07/08
So much I like about this story - the character is so authentic - but the last paragraph is the BEST!
Debbie Roome 12/08/08
This is a beautiful, heartfelt story.
Sally Hanan12/08/08
Leah Nichols 12/09/08
Definitely gathered momentum as it headed toward the ending, and the last paragraphs were awesome! A winner for sure.
Sharlyn Guthrie12/09/08
A contemporary Hosea! Excellent story that brillianty underscores the true message of Christmas grace and deliverance.
Karlene Jacobsen12/09/08
This brought tears to my eyes. I love it when reconciliation is in the air.
Pamela Kliewer12/09/08
I'm crying... this is so beautiful. Grace upon grace... in all its glory...
Joanne Sher 12/09/08
Just wonderfully done. Perfect ending. I hope to "meet" these characters again. You kept me yearning for more.
Beth LaBuff 12/09/08
I like your use of this little-known verse from the carol and how it speaks to your MC. A poignant story and the word that comes to my mind concerning Troy's love is "agape." Beautiful!
Dee Yoder 12/10/08
This character is so like all of us in that we can't always find the way to forgive ourselves...others may have moved on and still love us in spite of our faults, but we can't get over our mistakes. What a beautiful redemption story!
Carol Slider 12/10/08
What a beautiful story! I liked the way you built the suspense, so that we couldn't wait for her to open the package.
Loren T. Lowery12/10/08
Oh my goodness, this is so, so good! At first reading, I was going to cite this as my favorite passage as it seemed to speak of the heart of the MC "I want to close my eyes and listen to the Baby cry" But then as I read, I found even greater treasures, buried deeper than most writers could ever expose. Wonderful job - just wonderful!
Teresa Lee Rainey12/10/08
This is really beautiful.

Have you ever read Kay Arthur's "Isreal, My Beloved"? For some reason this got me to thinking about that book. . . How God loved Isreal so much, despite how wicked she was, he was always there, waiting for her to come back to Him.
Chely Roach12/11/08
This was tender and emotional without the ooze of sweetness. Loved it.