Christmas Day dawned cold, bright and full of promise. She awakened to a small white paw batting at her nose. Pulling the cat under the covers with her, she stroked the soft fur while she began to think about the day ahead. Suddenly her eyes shot open. "It's Christmas!" She pushed back the covers and reached for the warm plaid robe that she wore every winter.
Following the cat, who sensed breakfast was at hand, she made her way into the kitchen where the sound of crunching cat food was soon heard. While the cat dined enthusiastically, she began to heat some water for her morning tea. When the cat was momentarily sated, she opened the door to let her furry friend outside. A blast of cold air rushed in as the cat scurried out, so she drew the robe tighter around her. The sight was as beautiful as the previous day, even more so as another snowfall had covered the ground. It was truly the elusive White Christmas, she noted with a contented sigh, as she began to hum the song.
Plugging in the lights around the bookcase and the small, blinking tree, the living room was immediately awash in color. Although the day was growing brighter, she lit a couple of candles and then lay some wood in the fireplace to combat the chill in the air. After letting the cat back in, she poured her tea and carried it in with her, turning on the radio and the heater as she took her chair by the fireplace. She tucked her blanket around her while she blew on the steaming liquid.
The music of the season filled the air, and today the songs were a more traditional mix. Sipping her tea as the room slowly warmed, she reflected on Christmases past. Setting her tea on the small table, she pulled her photo album out and began to carefully turn the pages. There were the beloved faces of her parents interspersed with photos of herself as an infant, her chubby faced ringed by a halo of curls. Grandparents peered back at her in some shots along with aunts and uncles, all gone. Her eyes stung as she tried to hold back tears. "This won't do at all," she thought, angry with herself for becoming so quickly maudlin.
Putting the album back in its place, she decided to try to pray. Her prayer life had been erratic to say the least. A decade of praying for her parents' recovery had impacted her abilities in supplication, so she had resorted to her own rendition of "The Lord's Prayer." Closing her still damp eyes, she prayed, "Our father, in heaven, may your name be praised. May your church grow and flourish and may your will be done here on Earth like it is in heaven. Please help me with my finances and continue to provide for me, and forgive me for all the many ways I fall short. Forgive my sins, my selfishness, my depression, my lack of faith and trust in you. And help me to forgive those who have hurt me and sinned against me. Help me to forgive them like I want to be forgiven. Please help me to not give in to temptation and keep me away from evil. Deliver me from the seductions and temptations of the Evil One. Thank you for sending your Son to be born as a baby in Bethlehem and to die on the cross for us. For yours is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever. In Jesus name I pray. Amen."
The prayer made her feel somewhat better, although she fell far short of the passion she used to experience when she prayed. And she knew she wasn't addressing her real needs, the loneliness, the feelings of being out of place and out of step with time, the feelings of being forgotten and somewhat left by the wayside. Still, she felt a little closer to Holy One whose day mankind had named this day, and she once again found herself humming along to the Christmas music as she began to do a few household chores. Soon the kitchen was clean, a load of laundry had been done, and the odds and ends were dusted and put up.
The phone rang as she was fixing lunch. The voice of an old friend who had moved away greeted her. "I just called to wish you a Merry Christmas and to tell you I love you and miss you," her friend told her, keeping the call short and sweet to avoid long-distance charges. After reciprocating, she hung up the phone. Misty eyed, she realized she had teared up for a second time that day, but she felt no regret for these tears. Her friend's call was a reminder not just of her friendship, but in a small was assured her that she was not forgotten, not by her friend and not by God.
The call also reminded her that she had not checked the mail since the ice storm hit two nights before. She had mailed her small batch of Christmas cards early but had not received any yet other than a couple from businesses she dealt with. Donning a Christmas sweater over jeans, then her coat, scarf, boots and gloves, she proceeded carefully down the steep, curving drive to the mailbox below. To her delight she found the box full of mail. Hiking back up the drive, she sorted the Christmas cards into categories as she climbed: friends, work, other. By the time she reached the house, she had four small stacks of mail - the fourth stack was miscellaneous - anything that didn't look like a Christmas card. Hurrying back to the warmth of the fireplace, she barely took the time to kick off her boots and lay her coat, gloves and scarf aside before opening the envelopes in her hands.
She opened the mail in this order: first, the miscellaneous stack - bills and ads. Then the other stack - cards from her dentist and local merchants. Then the work stack - people she didn't know well, but looked forwards to seeing at business events. Last, like desert, was the small stack of cards from friends. Each of those cards carried the same basic sentiment: although we may be far apart, we are not separated in the heart. A few fond words and a signature graced each card, and the dear words warmed her heart as much or more than the fireplace warmed the room. "I miss you." "We think of you often." "You are in my prayers always."
"Not forgotten. NOT forgotten. NOT FORGOTTEN!" The words ran through her head in rapid, joyous sequence. "How wonderful to receive the cards on Christmas day!" she thought, smiling as she contemplated how special it made the day. It is true, she realized, sometimes the little things and the small kindnesses really do make all the difference.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:1
To be continued...
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