Dad's Best Christmas - Anchored In Him - Christmas 2004





A tear trickled down Abby's rosy cheek. It stung her chapped face "I don't understand, Mommy. Look at those people. Look at that old lady. She's so dirty. Why do they live in such a horrible place?"

"Well, they don't live there because they want to dear. They live there because they don't have anywhere else to go. They're homeless people. Sometimes they can find warmth and food in a special place called a shelter, but they can't stay there forever. They eventually have to leave again."

"But, they don't even have a bathroom or anything."

"Yes, I know. Now, aren't you thankful that you have a warm place to sleep and even a bathroom?"

"Yes, Mommy, I am." Abby's vision was still blurred by her tears as she and her mother walked on toward church."

"Abby was very quiet at dinner tonight. Isn't she feeling well?" As he spoke Joseph Turner stood and walked over to his chair by the old fireplace. He immediately buried his attention in the evening paper.

"I think she's still upset about seeing some homeless people today. She seemed confused and hurt for them. It kind of bothered me, too. I feel sorry for them."

Catherine began clearing the table anticipating some sort of response from her husband, but only heard the shuffle of his newspaper. Disappointment stung her inside and she knew it would be a waste of time to repeat anything. After she finished the dishes she went upstairs to see if Abby was feeling any better.

Abby always helped her through the sadness about Joseph. His coldness had only worsened since the death of their son last year. And she and Abby had felt it more and more since the holidays had begun again. How could they survive a Christmas without Shane?

"Abby?" Catherine knocked lightly on the door.

"Yes, Mommy?"

"May I come in?"

"Sure, come on in."

Abby was sitting at her little desk. It wouldn't be long before she would need a real desk. She was growing so fast. Catherine could hardly believe she was already in the first grade.

"Whatcha' doing?"

Abby held up a white piece of paper with crayon marks on it. The marks were actually pictures of stick men lying on the ground by what seemed to be a big wall.

"What are those, Abby?"

"They're those bums we saw today. But they're sleeping now or maybe they're even dead, Mommy."

"Abby, why would you think they were dead? Those people weren't dead." Catherine sat down beside Abby at her little red table.

"Well, they must be. If you stay outside, you die right? Daddy always said that if it weren't for him, I'd be on the street probably dead somewhere."

The cruelty of her husband's arrogance rang in Catherine's ears as she heard Abby utter those ridiculous words.

"As far as the 'bums', they may not get to live in a warm home like us, but Jesus still loves them, just as much as He loves us. And He wants them to come to heaven someday, too Abby, you're father doesn't mean that if you live on the street you'll die. Listen, sometimes your father says things he doesn't really mean. He just doesn't think about things before he says them. Please try to be patient with him. Christmas is going to be hard for him."

"I know. It's Shane isn't it? Every time Daddy is grouchy and says mean things, it's because he's sad about Shane. I don't understand why he gets mad at us, though. We didn't make him die."

"I know, sweetie. Your Dad is still very hurt over Shane dying. And now that it's almost Christmas again, it hurts more. Just try to be understanding. Do you know what that means?"

"Yeah, sure. It means I need to love him even when it feels like he doesn't love me? Right?"

"Yes, Abby. Just like Jesus loves us. He is understanding even when we make mistakes and act as though we don't love Him."

"I know, Mommy. Mrs. Partin taught us that in Sunday School. I wish he wouldn't be sad anymore. It hurts my feelings too much."

"Yes, you do understand, don't you? I love you Abby. We'll be okay, I promise."

Catherine kissed Abby goodnight and walked toward the door with heartache overwhelming her.

"Mommy, does Jesus understand Daddy?"

"I don't think your father knows who Jesus is, dear. I think that's why he is still hurting so much over Shane. Jesus would help if your Daddy would let Him. But he won't talk about God or church. Good night, Abby. I love you."

Abby stared at her picture for a second and then knelt on her little knees beside her bed.

"Dear Jesus in Heaven, please forgive me for not being a good girl sometimes. I will do better. Thank you for helping me. Jesus please help those 'homeless' people. And please help my Mommy not be sad over Shane and Daddy. And I hope you keep being understanding for Daddy. I'm sorry he doesn't know who You are. Can you please help him find out who You are? I love You Jesus. Thank you for Daddy and Mommy and me and our warm house. In Jesus name, Amen."

Catherine cried softly in her pillow, her heart aching for Shane, and for her husband, but more for Abby who seemed to get the brunt of everyone's pain - including her own.

"Wake up, Mommy! Wake up Daddy! It's Christmas morning! Wake up you guys!"

"Merry Christmas, Abby."

Abby's mom forced her tired body out of bed and crept slowly down the cold steps. Why won't he put carpet on these steps Catherine grumbled to herself? As she stepped off the bottom step, she looked on in awe at Abby and three empty stockings and a very bare Christmas tree. Abby's eyes were full of tears and her little tummy shook with tender sobs.

"Mommy, where are my presents? I was a good girl this year? Where are my presents, Mommy?" Abby ran to her mother and wrapped her trembling arms around her.

Catherine knew immediately where Abby's presents were? They were still in the attic. She had taken special care this year - weeks of shopping and choosing that extra special something just for Abby. And now Joseph had ruined everything. He had ruined the special surprises that should have been waiting on Abby when she woke on Christmas morning? How could he do this?

"Mommy, doesn't Santa love me anymore?"

"Abby, you know that all gifts come from Jesus not Santa. He's just the one who brings them to you."

Abby looked at her mom with weepy eyes. "Then does that mean Jesus doesn't love me?"

"No, Abby! Now you know that Jesus would never stop loving you. Don't worry, Abby, I'm sure your presents will be here very soon. Okay? Now run up to your room and get dressed. I bet they'll be here before you get finished. Go on. Don't you worry."

Abby ran upstairs followed by her very angry mother.

"JOSEPH TURNER!"

Abby's father nearly fell out of bed, startled by the scream at the bedroom door.

"What, what's the matter? Why are you yelling, Catherine? What's wrong?" Joseph grabbed his robe and went hastily to see what was happening.

"Joseph, you forgot Abby's presents! You put the presents under the tree every year. Remember? I always go to bed and you always bring everything down and play "Santa". Abby just ran down those stairs anticipating a room of Christmas splendor. What do you think she found this morning?"

Joseph dropped his head, he knew he had messed up bad this time. He had forgotten Catherine and Abby's birthday just two months ago. And now he had forgotten Christmas, he knew they would never forgive him. But somehow, he didn't feel the guilt he should have. Anger was working into his heart more quickly than ever these days.

"Catherine, do you expect me to do everything? You could do your part around here, too, you know? You should've reminded me last night or done it yourself! Why is everything my fault? I'm just so sick of you blaming everything wrong in this house on me! Nothing would be wrong in this house if you had taken better care of Shane!" Joseph knew instantly that he had said the wrong thing. The chill of Catherine's expression covered him like a winter breeze.

"That's it, Joseph! I've lived for a year now with the pain of Shane's death and even more with the guilt you've forced on me. I know if Shane had been with me he would still be here, but he isn't! And I can't change that! And neither can your cold and insensitive heart! You can't bring Shane back by treating us this way; by shutting us out. Well that is, until you're ready to shower us with your cruelty. He's gone Joseph, he's gone!" Catherine dressed quickly as she cried out loud this time. She couldn't hide her pain any longer. He would just have to go on. This time he would have to hear her pain!

Abby was standing outside her parents door when her mother came out. "I'm sorry, Mommy. I'm sorry Shane is in heaven."

Catherine cradled Abby in her arms, "Abby, don't ever be sorry that Shane is in heaven. He is so happy there. We miss him, but I'm sure that he is so happy to be with Jesus." Catherine's tears flowed into Abby's soft curls. "Abby, get your coat. We're going to walk down to the church."

"So we can talk to Jesus, Mom? Will Jesus bring me my presents?"

"Sure, honey, we can talk to Jesus. And we'll talk about the presents later. Okay?" Catherine turned and gave a long hard look at her husband. "I think it's time you made a decision. You've already lost a son, do you want to lose you're whole family? Or even more, you're soul?"

Catherine's words stung. He knew she was right. He had spent the last year blaming everyone, especially her for Shane's death. And he'd been letting the rest of his family die as well.

Their pace was much slower than normal today. Mommy always walks by these places very fast. Abby thought. We're going so slow. She must be really mad at Daddy.

"It's okay I didn't get any presents, Mommy? Jesus wouldn't do that on purpose. He must have forgotten. I can't be mad at Him. I forget to say my prayers a lot and He doesn't get mad. Really, Mommy, it's okay."

"Abby, your Daddy was supposed to bring your presents, not Santa or even Jesus. Yes, Jesus is the reason we have presents and a Christmas, but it is your Daddy who brings them. Okay? And he just forgot this time. I'm sorry, I didn't want you to find out about Santa this way. I'm sorry your feelings are hurt. Your presents are in the attic, sweetie. We'll get them when we get back from service. Okay?" Catherine stopped walking and knelt down and looked at Abby's sweet little eyes. "Listen, I am sorry I told you about Santa like that. Are you very disappointed?"

Abby hugged her mother and kissed her on the cheek. "Mommy, I know Santa isn't real ... Shane told me before he .......... he made me promise not to tell. I was afraid you and Daddy were mad at me and didn't get me a present. Daddy is always mad at me for Shane. Is that why he didn't get my stuff? 'Cause he's mad?"

"No, Abby, he's not mad at you, neither am I. We'll get your gifts when we get home. Is that alright? And I'm glad you didn't break your promise to Shane. He would be very proud of you."

They started walking again and in minutes were walking by the 'homeless' people again Abby tugged on her mom's coat to stop. "What is it, Abby?"

Catherine looked down to see Abby running toward a dirty looking lady who was rummaging through a bag in her lap. She was startled at Abby's insistence and went running after her. "Abby, come here! Please, Abby, don't go over there!"

"Just a minute, Mommy." Abby ran up to the lady and hugged her as tightly as she could. Her mother stood still in shock. What is she doing? She walked up slowly to her daughter who still had not let go of the surprised woman.

"I just wanted to tell you, Maam, that Jesus loves you even if you don't have a house; and if Jesus loves you, so do I!" The lady looked in disbelief at this strange little girl and then at the woman standing behind her. Catherine could not believe her eyes. This little girl had hugged a woman that hardly anyone else would even take time to look at, let alone hug.

"Abby, it's time to go. Okay?" As Abby let go, Catherine's heart melted when she heard the whimpering of the woman sitting on the concrete. Her dirty face was stained by tears. "Thank you," she uttered through a hoarse voice. "Thank you."

Abby and her mother walked away - smiling and crying together.

"I'm so very proud of you, Abby. Jesus is too, I'm sure."

"I wish we could help her, Mommy."

Catherine stopped, "We can! We can, Abby."

They turned around and ran back toward the "bag lady". But .... she was gone!

"Where is the lady that was sitting here?" They asked a man leaning against the wall.

"What lady?" He rudely answered. "There's no one here but me and George. This is our spot, no one else's. Now get lost!"

Abby looked at her mother, and Catherine looked at her daughter. And not another word was said.

Joseph stood and stared blankly out the front window. He couldn't decide who he was more angry at, himself or Catherine. Catherine was the only one who could have helped Shane, and she wasn't even there to do it. She was his mother for God's sake. Joseph found himself screaming at her in his thoughts. How could things turn out so wrong for them? How could she turn out so wrong for him? She was supposed to take care of their children, and she had failed. Now Shane was gone, gone forever. Of course, I'm mad. He would still be here! Joseph pushed the angry thoughts from his mind and started back upstairs to return to bed.

As he turned the corner on the landing, he thought he heard a knock on the door. He wasn't sure, but that had to be what he heard, no one else was home. He peeked through the side window and saw an old lady dressed in the typical "bum" fashions.

Good God he thought. Why can't these people go somewhere else?

When he opened the door, he heard something that sounded like Shane calling. An eerie feeling ran over him. "What do you want? I don't have any money to give you."

"Well, sir, I don't want your money. I was wondering if you might have a few table scraps you were going to throw away, sir?"

"You've got to be kidding, lady? Can't you go to the shelter down the road? They feed you, don't they?"

"They don't have any room today. Are you sure you can't spare something?

"No can do. Good day, lady."

Joseph stepped backward to close the door, and again he heard a voice that sounded just like Shane. He was getting nervous now and wished the lady would just leave and let him go back to sleep.

"Sir, if you please?"

"Yes, what is it?" He opened the door again.

"Could I take just a minute to get warm? Only a minute?"

"Listen, lady, no you can't. Good luck and good day."

Joseph slammed the door and headed toward his bedroom; annoyed at the interruption. Can't take a hint, even when you say no! What's wrong with these people?.

"Please help me! !" He heard the lady scream from outside. A chill came over him when he heard the lady crying. He ran down the stairs and looked through the front window. The lady and her funny bag were lying face down in the snow.

"Good Lord!" Joseph ran out into the snow in his bare feet toward her.

"Are you alright? Are you hurt? Say something! Are you okay?"

"Yes, I think so." She groaned as Joseph helped her to her feet.

All this nonsense was really getting on his nerves. "Can you make it back home?" Knowing quite well she didn't have one.

"Yes, sir, I think I can. Thank you for helping me. You are very kind to come out in the cold and offer your assistance. Your son IS very proud of you."

The words made him cringe. "What did you say?"

"I said your son is proud of you for helping me."

Joseph's heart ached with pain and embarrassment ... Suddenly he realized his arrogance, his lack of compassion - not only for this lady, but for the world, and more importantly, for his own family. No, Shane would not be proud of his Dad. He would be quite ashamed.

"Listen, do you think you might have time to come in for a minute? I could find something for you to eat. I know my wife keeps leftovers in the refrigerator."

"I'm sure Catherine is a wonderful cook." She spoke slowly with what seemed like much effort.

Joseph was in amazement. He could feel his stomach quivering. (Abby always said it was like frogs jumping rope in your tummy.) What am I so excited about? Or am I afraid, or is it both? What is wrong with me?

"Do we know you? Do you know my wife? Maybe from church or something?" Joseph filled her plate with more leftover chicken and biscuits.

"No, I came here just yesterday. My husband died and I had to leave home."

"Why did you come here? Why this house? There are twenty, why this one?"

"Well, I met a young man in town yesterday. I believe his name was Shon. No, actually it was Shane. Well, he told me if I came here that you and your wife would not turn me away. He said that he knew you would help me and feed me."

Joseph stared in disbelief. How could this be possible? Had she really talked to their son? No, it was impossible! Things like this just didn't happen ..... Or did they?

"And he said to tell he was very proud of you."

Joseph's heart leapt with joy!

"Thank you, oh thank you! You don't know what you've given me. What a wonderful Christmas gift you've brought to me and this home!" Joseph showed the woman to the front door and helped her with her coat. As she left, he gave her a kiss on her round, weathered cheek.

"No, sir, you've helped me. Thank you, sir. And I know that if your son were still alive, he would be very proud. I just know it." And she shut the door.

"Wait a minute! How did you know ? ? ? ?"

Joseph jerked the door open to find an empty stoop. He ran out the door and couldn't find the bag lady anywhere.
WHERE DID SHE GO ? ? ?

He couldn't explain any of it. Maybe it was a dream, maybe it wasn't. No, it wasn't a dream, was it? He was so confused, but it felt great!

Joseph Turner was filled with so much excitement that he could hardly contain himself. He knew he had much to do to redeem himself. How could Catherine or Abby ever forgive him for the way he had treated them for so long? He had to do something special. He had to say he was sorry.

Joseph's eyes began to sparkle and the "frogs began to jump rope" again in his tummy as his mind started working on the needed apology. He would make this a Christmas to remember.

As they walked through the iron gate at the end of their yard, they both knew that the other didn't want to go in. Abby was afraid her Daddy would be mad at them for going to church and Catherine dreaded the consequences of the harsh, but truthful, words she had spoken before they had left that morning. Who knew what kind of mood he'd be in now?

The door creaked as they opened it. As they walked into the foyer, they looked at each other with two very large, beautiful smiles. Could it be? Was that the aroma of turkey and dressing and, yes, pumpkin pie? What in the world? They both ran to the kitchen and found Mr. Joseph Turner wearing an apron and mittens, carrying a deliciously basted turkey to the dining room. The table was donned with holly and candles and trimmings fit for a king. And in Catherine's mind, it was for the King.

"Merry Christmas, my love, Merry Christmas, my little princess!" He led them to the table where they enjoyed the most wonderful Christmas dinner ever. Catherine's praises poured toward Heaven the entire meal. Her husband seemed to be back to normal. But she also felt a little sadness, too. She knew that he didn't know Jesus Christ as his Savior and the reason for this joyous season. He just wouldn't believe "Such Nonsense!", he had said too many times. But she rejoiced and praised God for his change of heart. It was truly a blessing for them all.

"And now, for the big surprise!" Joseph took each of his ladies by their hands. "Close your eyes. Come on, do it. Close them and no peeking!" His hands were warm and kind. Both Catherine and Abby were glad to have him so near and so loving.

"SURPRISE!"

Abby jumped up and down, laughing and screaming with joy. They both found the stockings packed with a mixture of candy canes, ribbons, and lovely trinkets. The tree was lit with strings of glimmering lights and silver tinsel. The gold paper on the gifts sparkled with green, red and blue ribbons. They were all nestled snugly beneath the tree just waiting for Abby and Catherine.

What a surprise indeed!

The gifts unwrapped and the eggnog poured, it seemed like everything was as it should be. But somehow it wasn't and Abby knew that as much as Catherine did. She rose and hugged her mother and whispered softly in her ear, "Mommy, does this mean that Daddy knows who Jesus is now?"

Catherine's heart began to ache again, for she knew that Abby's Dad didn't know Jesus at all, even though he seemed to have found himself again.

"No, Abby, I don't think so." She whispered back.

"Have you ever asked him?" Abby wanted to know.

"Yes, but he never wants to talk about it."

"Maybe I should ask him?"

Catherine looked at her daughter and knew in her heart that Abby really loved her father. She was so happy that Abby loved him enough to want to share Jesus with him

"Why don't you do that, Abby? Ask your Daddy if he knows who Jesus is."

Abby scooted her slipper-covered feet across the hardwood floor as she moved close to her father. "Daddy, I need to talk to you."

"Yes, Abby, what is it?" He picked her up and set her in his lap and hugged her tightly.

"Daddy, do you know who Jesus is?"

"Well, yes, Abby, don't you? I thought you learned that stuff at church?"

"I do. I mean, Daddy, do you know who Jesus is?"

Abby's father held onto his daughter so tightly she seemed to wince with pain. He felt his heart would jump right out of his chest. Suddenly, Catherine and Abby saw something that they had never seen, not even when Shane had died. Joseph Turner began to weep. Abby hugged him, "Daddy, I love you and so does Mommy, and so does Jesus".

With tears and a humble cry in his throat, Joseph looked at his beautiful daughter and his loving wife and cried, "No, I don't know who Jesus is. Will you please tell me? I really want to know. I want to know Jesus."

Catherine practically jumped into his arms. The three sat together holding one another, crying, and praying. Praying with praise for deliverance from the pain of death and for deliverance of their souls, all three of them.

As they held each other, Abby whispered, "What made you change your mind, Daddy?"

Joseph grinned remembering his unusual visitor that morning. "Well, let's put it this way, she was a little birdy with a dirty face and a funny bag."

Catherine looked at Abby and Abby looked at her. Their eyes widened with surprise! They knew without a doubt what had happened - and a beautiful smile swept across each of their faces.

"What?" Joseph asked. "What's so funny?"

Catherine and Abby just kept smiling and hugged the most wonderful man in their lives.

It was truly a very, Merry Christmas this year.

Used With Permission © 1997 - Chanda L.Siler.
Thank you and God Bless for sharing this wonderful story.







God chooses what we go through; we choose how we go through it ! ! !

 









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