Sarah sat at her desk staring at the gift catalog that lay open in front of her. In the background, Herbie the Elf proudly proclaimed he was “I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T” while Rudolph eagerly added his assent.
Slamming the catalog closed and tossing it aside, Sarah shook her head in despair and frustration. She could stare at that blasted catalog from now ’til kingdom come and there would still be no money for Christmas gifts.
It had been almost a year since they lost Michael. Why didn’t she have things more together?! If not for herself, for the kids. This year especially – the first year without their dad – she needed it to be…GOOD. Santa needed to be so…. giving that maybe what was there would help distract them from who wasn’t.
“Ok, guys, TV off and time for bed!”
Groans x’s 3 echoed through the room. “One more special. Just one more! Heat Meiser is on next.” Alexa’s big blue eyes pleaded under layer after layer of rebellious blonde curls.
“Alexa! Shhhhh! Don’t argue! Just go to bed! It’s almost Christmas and Santa might hear.” Amanda’s voice of reason quickly cut off Alexa’s whining. “Besides, Heat Meiser is a dumb one!”
“Enough ladies! Get your brother, brush your teeth and I’ll be up in a few moments to say prayers with you.”
“Yes, mom!” Two resigned little voices responded in unison.
Sarah smiled as she watched her two little blonde “angels”, curls bouncing behind them, still arguing the merits of the Heat Meiser, march off, baby brother in tow, and begin their nightly bedtime ritual. They were growing up so fast! The girls had done such a great job of stepping up and helping out, often playing little “mothers” to each other and to their 17 mo. old brother, Joshua. Michael would be so proud of them.
Sarah couldn’t hold back the tears that swelled in her eyes at the thought of her late husband. How could he be gone? She stared out the window watching the falling crystalline flakes, mesmerized by a world covered in snow and ice. It seemed almost surreal to her that something as benign as a patch of unseen frozen water on a night much like tonight, was the reason she stood here alone now, the reason those three little cherubs went to bed without a daddy. She looked back at the desk piled with bills and the opened gift catalog… the reason her kids might not have a Christmas.
After tucking the kids in bed, distributing kisses and saying prayers, Sarah finally crawled into her own bed for the night. Wrapped in a beautiful, but tattered, quilt that had been her grandmother’s, a cup of hot peppermint tea in her hand, she opened her Bible to read and pray – the only true source of rest and comfort she’d had in the last year. “Father,” she prayed. “These kids have been through so much this year. Losing their dad…well, he was everything to them. To me, too. But, I’m not asking for me. You have been so good and gracious to me this year and I have all that I need. I thank you and praise you for all your blessings! But, the kids, Father…Christmas is a big deal to them. For them, Lord, I’m asking that in your gracious mercy that you supply Christmas for them. I’m trusting and believing that you will do this for them because I know you can do exceeding abundantly above all that I ask or think. In Jesus name. Amen.” Sarah picked up her Bible which lay open to Philippians chapter 4. Sarah saw she already had a verse highlighted, verse 19, so she read, “…my God will liberally supply (fill until full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Sarah smiled to herself. “I don’t know how, Lord, but I believe you WILL supply these kids with Christmas according to your riches in Christ Jesus. And I thank you for it!”
A week and a half until Christmas and bills continued to pile up. The car needed new brakes, Alexa lost her sneakers which now had to be replaced, Amanda made yet another trip to the emergency room, and there went what little money Sarah had in her tiny savings account. Still she believed, “…my God…will supply your need…”
Sunday morning, a week before Christmas… “Let’s go guys! We’re going to be late for church!”
“I can’t find my other shoe!”
“Amanda, help Alexa find her shoe, please!”
“Do I have to?! If she wasn’t such a slob she’d be able to find her own stuff!”
“Yes, you have to! Jesus says to do all things without complaining. So, help her and do it with a smile, please.”
A typical Sunday morning, everyone was finally in the car and they were only 15 minutes late! Sarah popped the kids favorite Veggie Tales CD in the stereo, Joshua immediately started singing at the top of his little lungs and Sarah prayed for an incident free drive the rest of the way to church. And then Amanda spoke up, “Uh, mommy, Alexa doesn’t have any underwear on!” Sarah’s sigh was so heavy you could almost feel the weight of the car shift…
Sarah was always thankful for the time she had at church. After working and taking care of the kids by herself all week, the 3 hrs. of “grown-up” time and hearing God’s Word – it was a much-needed refreshing.
This morning, however, Sarah just wasn’t able to get into the “zone”. Everyone in her Bible class was talking Christmas…what they were getting their kids, what they thought they might get from their husbands… It was hard to keep it together. And it was hard to keep the faith. She believed God’s Word. She knew He was faithful. She trusted Him. But, Christmas was only a week away now and she had to admit that sometimes she got a little nervous. Her faith would begin to waiver. As she headed down the hall to the main service, she sent up a quick silent prayer, “Lord, that was really difficult to take. I could really use a booster shot of hope right now. Thanks. Amen.”
She knew as the service ended that God had heard her little prayer. The Pastor’s message was so perfect it was as if he had just reached into her heart and life and just copied down each thought and emotion and molded his message to meet every need. After the service ended, one of her favorite older couples in the church invited her and the kids over for dinner that evening. They apologized for the short notice. Sarah giggled to herself. Haha! Like she was organized enough to have had anything else planned already! Great ADULT company and not having to cook… of course, she gladly accepted. Then, as she passed the church “mail” boxes, she discovered she had two notes of encouragement from ladies in the church, one whom she hadn’t even met.
By the time she reached the nursery to pick up Joshua before gathering the girls, Sarah’s heart was full, practically bursting, with joy. “Thank you, God! Thank you for reminding me that you love me and haven’t forgotten us. Thank you for my hope booster shot. I know that somehow you will still provide for these kids and I thank you for it now!”
When she reached the nursery window it was abundantly clear that Joshua was more than ready to be picked up! And Sarah was pretty sure the nursery workers felt exactly the same way! His face, bright red, was soaked with tears that equally drenched the top of his shirt and strongly suggested that this had been a long and arduous crying spree. The poor nursery worker in the back, gripping her head while popping several, what was assumed to be aspirin, indicated that Joshua’s infamous Tarzan-shaming, ear-splitting, migraine-inducing scream was also most likely involved. Sarah immediately went into guilt-ridden-mom-apology mode, grabbed Joshua, all his paraphernalia and high-tailed it out of there as quickly as possible!
“Sarah, Sarah, Wait!” Janice, one of the nursery workers was jogging down the hall, calling out behind her. Oh no! What else did he do? Were they banishing him from the nursery?
“Janice, is there a problem?” Sarah stopped so Janice could catch up.
“Oh no, no problem. You just forgot Joshua’s diaper bag. You wouldn’t want to be without that!” She gave Sarah her usual sweet smile, as if Joshua hadn’t spent the entire morning terrorizing her.
“Wow! I can’t believe I walked off without that! You’re a lifesaver! Thank you so much!” Sarah gave Janice a hug, they wished one another Merry Christmas and off she went to gather the girls.
Picking up the girls proved no less eventful. Because they were so close in age, Amanda and Alexa shared the same Sunday school class. Usually this worked out fine. Apparently, this was not a “usually” kind of day. When Sarah arrived Amanda was in the corner – arms crossed, a defiant look on her tiny face – obviously being punished. Alexa sat at a back table, head down, crying profusely while a class helper tried in vain to console her. Looking around, Sarah spotted another child, Abby, sitting next to the teacher’s desk, holding an ice pack to her eye. She wasn’t sure what happened here, but, Sarah knew it wasn’t good and, of course, her kids were in the middle of it!
Upon spotting her, Mrs. Henderson, the class teacher rushed to the door. “Sarah! I’m so glad I caught you! I’m afraid there’s been a bit of an…incident. I’ve not been able to gather the complete story, but by the time I arrived on the scene Amanda had apparently punched Abby Parker in the eye, and Alexa was crying profusely and has yet to stop! Well, of course, I was shocked! Amanda is always one of our most well-behaved children. But, when I tried to question the children as to what provoked the situation, no one would speak and they still refuse to speak. Obviously, I had to punish Amanda by putting her in the corner and she missed snack time. I leave it in your hands to deal with this further. You may have to deal with the Parker family, Amanda’s parents.” Mrs. Henderson’s voice turned to a whisper, “God help you! You know how they can be!”
Sarah swallowed a sigh and tossed up a quick prayer for strength, patience and peace. “Well, thank you so much, Mrs. Henderson for dealing with all this so graciously and keeping me informed. I’ll do my best to deal with it from here.”
Sarah gathered Amanda and Alexa as quickly as she could, wished all the class workers a Merry Christmas and headed straight for the car, praying she didn’t run into anyone else!
After everyone was strapped into their seats, Sarah turned to the girls. “Ok, spill it! What happened in class? Amanda, that is not like you at all! Why on earth would you hit that little girl? And Alexa, what were you so upset about? Did it bother you that Amanda hit her? Was she your friend? I want to know the truth and I want to know now. We’re not leaving this parking lot until I hear it.”
Even Joshua was quiet as the world seemed to wait in anticipation of Amanda’s answer.
Finally it all came rushing out…
“She made Alexa cry! Abby did! She said she was glad! She told Alexa she was glad our Daddy was dead and that we’d never ever see him again and that we’d never have another one! Then she kept saying how great her daddy is and how he’s getting her all these presents for Christmas and how much he loves her and how our daddy probably left and died because he didn’t really love us!”
It all came out in one giant breathe. By the time she finished, Amanda was exhausted. She collapsed in a pile of tears, just as Alexa had earlier. This time it was Alexa who leaned over, hugging her big sister, consoling her as only sisters can.
Sarah’s eyes were so filled with tears she couldn’t even see her children in the back seat. Her throat so choked and raw, she couldn’t speak. At that moment, she wanted to go punch Abby Parker in the eye herself! Instead she took a moment and gathered herself together. She said a silent prayer. “Father, give me calm. Give me wisdom.”
She crawled in the back seat with the girls, unbuckled them and pulled them onto her lap. “You know that nothing Abby said is true, right? Your daddy was the best daddy in the world. He loved you more than anything. When you were each born he cried when he first held you because he was so happy and thankful to have you. We don’t know exactly why he died. We only know that his work on earth was done for now and God had something very important for him to do in Heaven. BUT, someday, we will see him again when we’re in Heaven. I don’t know why Abby said the mean things she said, but sometimes people hurt other people because they have a lot of hurt in their own hearts and they don’t know what to do with it, so they throw it at other people. Abby must have a lot of hurt in her heart. And, you know Amanda, you can’t fight hate with hate. That only makes more hate. The only way to fight hate is to throw love at it. So, instead of hitting Abby, why don’t we pray for her that God takes that hurt out of her heart so she stops hurting other people?”
So, Sarah, the girls and little Joshua sat there in the mini-van and prayed for Abby Parker that God would help her and take the hurt out of her heart. They also thanked God for having given them such a great daddy who had loved them so much, even if they only got to have him for a little while. They asked God to take really good care of him until they got to see him again. Finally, they thanked God for taking such wonderful care of them while daddy’s been gone.
By the time they got home, Sarah was exhausted. So much for a restful Sunday! Boy, was she glad she had a couple of frozen pizzas stashed away for lunch. The thought of having to prepare a whole meal was just more than she could handle right now. After the morning they’d had, Sarah couldn’t help asking God for just one more little “hope booster shot”.
A giant wave of relief came over her when she realized it was Joshua’s nap time! Even one less child to chase after made a huge difference. She just needed to grab Nibbles, his favorite stuffy, and he’d be all ready to tuck in for a few hours. But, where was Nibbles? Sarah searched high and low, but no sign of Nibbles.
“Amanda! Alexa! Have you seen Nibbles? Joshie needs him for his nap, but I can’t find him anywhere.”
Amanda, always the one on top of things, spoke up, “Did you ever take him out of the diaper bag from church this morning?”
“The diaper bag! Where is the diaper bag? Oh no, I think I left it in the car.
Amanda! I think I left the diaper bag in the car. Would you please go get it for mommy while I finish getting Josh ready for his nap?”
“Sure mommy. I’ll be right back” Amanda took off across the room and out the side door.
While she waited Amanda sang a short song with Joshua. He loved to do “Deep and Wide” before his naps…well, anytime really!
Amanda came charging back in at top speed. “Slow down Amanda or you’ll…”
Amanda went bottoms up when she didn’t see one of Joshie’s toys in the middle of the floor. The diaper bag went flying and all its contents with it.
“…trip. I was going to say trip. Are you okay, sweetie?”
Amanda giggled as she rubbed her bottom. “Yeah, I’m fine, mommy, but I think I bruised my austerior.”
Sarah laughed. “I think you mean “posterior.” But, I’m glad you’re ok. Why don’t you help me clean up the stuff from this bag and then you can sing one last song with me and Josh before he goes to sleep.”
Sarah and Amanda began gathering diapers, wipe containers, sippy cups…
Suddenly Amanda broke in. “Mommy, what’s this?”
Amanda held a red envelope in her hand. On the front in simple black block letters it said “Sarah.”
“I don’t know, sweetheart. Let me see it.”
Amanda handed the envelope to Sarah. She turned it over a few times to see if there were any other markings. Nothing. Finally she opened it up.
Something white fell out onto her lap. She left it as she read the card.
It was blank except for these words, “…my God will liberally supply (fill until full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” – Merry Christmas! Love God.
With tear filled eyes Sarah reached down for what fell onto her lap. It was a white envelope. She reached inside and pulled out five crisp 100 dollar bills!
Sarah grabbed Amanda and hugged her, laughter and tears mingling together.
Amanda sensed the joy filling the room and grew excited, “What?! What is it mommy?!”
“It’s a miracle, baby! OUR miracle! A miracle in a diaper bag!”