Today, we begin posting stories submitted for our Christmas contest. True stories will be posted on Fridays, fiction will be posted on Mondays and Wednesdays. I was thrilled at the quality of submissions this year - and hope all our Pixels will show support for the authors selected. I'll post details about our book, A Pixel-Perfect Christmas 2009, next week.
Today, we welcome Kristine Lowder, with her touching, true story.
“Where the Lovelight Gleams”
I paused and winced. The velvet voice of Johnny Mathis pierced the frosty night air:
I'll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me . . .
Did Johnny know he was singing to a homeless person? Newcomers to a new state in search of work and a more family-friendly locale, Christmas 2002 found us over 1,000 miles away from close family and good friends--unemployed, flat broke, and without our own home.
Two cross-country moves in three months wiped out our bank account and wreaked havoc with job search efforts. Invited to move in with relatives in another state, we gingerly resettled in a shared housing arrangement until we could get on our feet and get our own place. Promising leads didn’t pan out. Unexpected plant closures and lay-offs made jobs scarce to nonexistent.
With Christmas just around the corner money was tight; bills piled high, and hope a snickering stranger. My four sons eagerly anticipated the holiday, but I dreaded the approach of December. There may have been “snow and mistletoe,” but “presents on the tree”?
Not a chance.
Sniffling, I mumbled to the Lord of Christmas, “What about Christmas? We can do without, but what about our kids? If anything or anyone is going to light up Christmas this year, it’s all up to You.”
My oldest son hid his disappointment behind a painful grimace as I explained, “Dad and I can’t buy anything for Christmas this year. There’s no money” I sighed, trying to gently lower his 11 year-old expectations. I don’t know who was more frustrated or dejected--Daniel or me.
Sniffles and wet eyes erupted from Nathan, then-age 10, as he grappled with the grim reality of too much month at the end of the money--even at Christmas. Sammy, age 7, blinked back tears as Josiah, age three, was perhaps too young to fully understand.
It was more than I could bear. I comforted my boys as best I could, then dashed outside and poured out my heart to the King of Christmas.
“Lord Jesus, You’ve always provided for our needs. I know that Christmas gifts aren’t exactly a `need,’ but I’m not asking for myself. Could You please, please find some way to supply Christmas for my boys? You’re all we have.”
The doorbell rang on December 21. Decked out in red Santa caps, seasonal sweaters and jingle bells, four elderly ladies stood on the porch, wreathed in smiles.
“Kristine?” a silver-haired grandma type inquired. I nodded tentatively, not recognizing anyone.
“We’re from TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly)” Pat began, indicating her grinning companions. “JoAnne is one of our members. She played her guitar at your church last week. She met you in the kitchen and heard your story. We planned on adopting just one family this Christmas, but our members gave so generously that we had enough gifts for two families. We didn’t know who else to choose until JoAnne mentioned you,” Pat explained, amethyst eyes twinkling. “We brought over a few things for you and your family. Hope you don’t mind.”
I opened the door, speechless.
“A few things” turned out to be enough gift-wrapped presents to outfit the entire Third Army. Ditto the new clothes, Wal-Mart gift cards, school supplies, and winter gear. Not to mention enough groceries to feed a small country--or four growing boys. The TOPS ladies also brought four felt stockings bulging with age-appropriate gifts and fresh fruit for each boy.
Peals of delight rang in Christmas morning. “Can we fix it? Yes we can!” Josiah pranced around the house with his new Bob the Builder toys. Daniel dashed outside to dribble his new basketball. Nathan tossed his new football to Sammy, who was deeply engrossed in his latest Lite Brite magnum opus. Amid the joyous hubbub, the last stanza of the Mathis classic swelled:
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the lovelight gleams . . .
Knee-deep in Christmas wrapping paper, ribbon, tinsel, gifts and food, I sank to my knees in wordless thanks. I may have been home "If only in my dreams,” but God’s “lovelight” gleamed beacon-bright through the kindness and generosity of total strangers.
I now know that “The Homeless" occupy a special place in the heart of the King of Christmas. Homeless once Himself, the light of His fathomless, faithful love may blaze especially bright for those whose only home and hope are in Him.
Read Wednesday's story, "Thank You, Amen" by Elizabeth M. Harbuck with Marley Gibson.