More Than Enough
Helga’s white-blonde hair hung like pure threads gold of against her red sweater.
“I bet you’ve had some unique Christmases,” I hinted.
“Oh my dear … yes … ”
“I’d love to hear one … about when you were a little girl?” I eagerly leaned across the table as encouragement.
“Well … everything seemed so dark in those days. Thankfully, though, small children have vision that penetrates darkness.”
Her eyes glimmered.
“Go on,” I urged.
Helga’s voice grew soft-and-strong, all at the same time.
“One day my mother sat on the edge of her quilt-covered bed and pulled my sister and me close. She sang hymns for a little while; her mood was solemn but also surprisingly calm. ‘I have something to tell you,’ she began.
“We dug deep into her eyes with our own and snuggled closer. ‘What, mother?’ We already knew.
“’Your father won’t be coming home - ever. The war …’ Her voice cracked. ‘… He was killed in the war. Now we could be captured as well.’ She squeezed her precious blonde bundles. ‘We’re not safe here and must go somewhere else. But remember, we will always continue to rest under the protection of God’s wings.’ That wasn’t hard for us to imagine as we nestled close, beneath her arms.
“It didn’t take long for us to leave. We gathered a few necessities and left the East Zone in Germany the next day.
“We found temporary shelter in very austere, abandoned barracks previously occupied by American soldiers. It was December, and bitterly cold, and we had nothing – only each other and the roof over our heads.
“On the way to the barracks though, some kind person gave me two dolls. I treasured those dolls as precious playmates in the kinds of fantasies that lurk deep in the hearts and souls of little six-year-old girls.
“Although I’m not sure of the details, somehow my fourteen-year-old sister moved in with a family in the nearest larger town called Hanau. After she left, I searched and searched for my dolls but couldn’t find them anywhere. I’d never known such sadness.
“My sister rejoined us in the barracks for Christmas eve and day. She couldn’t stay long, but still, we were together again.
“On Christmas eve at 7:00 p.m. all the young children in the area were invited to attend church. I remember those Lutheran church bells ringing so loud and clear, calling me to ‘Come-come, come-come, come-come.’
“The church was packed with standing room only. A man in a flowing black robe shared the Christmas story, and our angelic voices sang carols and hymns until it seemed the sound surely must have reached the gates of heaven!
“After the service we walked back to our homes or barracks or wherever we were living; I had the farthest distance to go and so walked alone for a short distance. It was a clear, starry night full of shadows that might have frightened an adult, but I found solace by muttering carols beneath my breath. The cold air prickled my cheeks and bare fingers as I half-skipped through the last minutes of my walk.
“When I opened the door of the barracks everything was very dark. An emptiness hung heavy over the whole place; I might as well have been stepping into a bleak, damp cave. But as I looked more carefully, I thought I must be dreaming …
“A small Christmas tree stood in one corner, blinking with real candles clamped to its boughs. I knew mother couldn’t have bought a tree even if we had money (which we didn’t). And she couldn’t have cut one in the woods either – you needed a special permit to do that. The tree had been given to my sister in Hanau, and she brought it to share with us.
“I squealed with delight when I saw my two missing dolls underneath the tree, both wearing newly knitted clothes! My sister smuggled them to Hanau and returned them to me this Christmas Eve with brand new outfits.
“We praised God for each other, a real Christmas tree, and the timely return of the dolls. We praised Him that we weren’t going hungry; that we had shelter.”
I sighed, clasping my warm coffee mug in both hands. “Not a hint of extravagance … not a trace of eggnog or pie.”
“Nope, no glimmer or glitz, just gratitude for Jesus … His love and hope. We had more than enough reason to celebrate.”
Author’s note: This story is a mostly-true re-telling of a friend’s experience during World War II. Helga’s testimony to this day remains: Jesus is always more than enough.
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