The final part of this year’s story is presented today. Instead of a “happily ever after” story this year, there was an unexpected twist. Life is so much like this, isn’t it? It’s so unpredictable. And when you least expect it, tragedy strikes. And, yet, God takes those tragedies and trials and weaves them together for His glory and our good. And then–when we least expect it–He gives us wonderful and unexpected gifts. I hope that you like how this year’s story ends–
Christmas dawned bright and clear. The kids were jumping on the bed by 7am, excited about their gifts. John and Abby groaned playfully as the kids begged to open presents. After a wonderful, chaotic, and loud morning, they got ready to go to Abby’s parents’ house for Christmas dinner.
It was around noon when they pulled out of their driveway. Abby’s mind went yet again, as it so often had over the past few weeks, to the disappointment of Uncle Charlie not being there this Christmas. Grandma had taken it pretty well, overall. She had been pretty shaken up by the whole thing but was somewhat comforted by the fact that he had been actively walking with the Lord, which meant she would see him again one day.
Abby was not so comforted. She had felt a real connection with him upon their phone conversation and her disappointment was profound. She knew he would have fit into their family so perfectly. Why had God allowed him to die at such a horrible time??
She gave an imperceptible shake of her head, as if to rid it of unwanted thoughts. Today was no day to be having these maudlin thoughts. And she certainly knew she shouldn’t be questioning God’s sovereignty. Sometimes that was hard, though.
The kids started singing Jingle Bells in the back seat and John soon joined it. Abby left her depressing thoughts behind on this lovely Christmas Day and joined in, as well.
Soon they were all piling into Grandpa and Grandma’s house with joyous shouts of “Merry Christmas!” and lots of hugs. Grandma Belinda sat smiling in the recliner, hugging anyone who came over to wish her a Merry Christmas.
Tom and Janet smiled joyfully as the house began to fill up with Abby’s family and the families of her two brothers.
The delicious smell of baked ham wafted through the air and pies, cakes, and cookies sat on the counter. Abby laughed to herself. Mom always did cook for an army. She knew they’d put away containers and containers of leftovers, just like they did every year.
Tom thanked the Lord for the meal and the family began to eat. Suddenly, the doorbell rang.
“Now who could that be?” said Janet, wonderingly.
Tom glanced her way as he spooned a large portion of mashed potatoes on to his plate, “I have no idea.”
Janet got up from her place at the table to go answer the door.
When she opened the door there stood three strangers, smiling.
“Merry Christmas!” They exclaimed.
“I am Shelly…” said the woman with the short, blond hair.
When Abby heard the familiar voice she hurried to join her mother.
“Shelly! What in the world are you doing here?” She said with a huge smile.
Janet looked questioningly at Abby.
“Mom, I’d like to officially introduce you to your niece, Shelly.”
“Oh, my goodness! How wonderful to meet you!”
“This is my husband, Shawn,” she pointed to the tall, thin man that stood smiling by her side and then, pointing to the woman with long brown hair who looked very much like herself, “this is my sister, Lori.”
“Oh, come in, come in. Please!”
Grandma Belinda sat quietly eating at the table, not realizing that two of her granddaughters had stopped by for a visit.
Janet brought the two women over to the table and said, “Mom, I’d like you to meet Shelly and Lori. These are two of Charlie’s children.”
Belinda’s eyes grew wide and she was speechless in her delight.
They quickly added an extra leaf to the table and retrieved some extra folding chairs from the closet. Cooking for an army had served Janet well on this occasion and they enjoyed a wonderful Christmas dinner together.
After everyone was filled to the brim with the delicious holiday home-cooked meal, they went into the large family room. Sending the kids down to the basement to play for a bit, the adults sat and talked. Shelly explained how they had happened to come there on Christmas day.
“After Abby called dad, it became his dearest held plan to come and see you after the holidays. I had never seen him so excited. A few weeks after he died, us kids talked about perhaps continuing his plan. We knew it would never be the same as meeting your own son,” she directed this to Grandma Belinda, “but we wanted to fill in this missing piece to our family puzzle. A few weeks before Christmas Lori and I realized that neither of us had anything special planned over the holidays. Shawn and I don’t have any kids…yet,” she added the yet with a glimmer of hope in her eyes, “and Lori’s two boys are with their father this weekend. Instead of staying home and mourning dad over the holidays, we thought, why not go meet our grandmother at Christmastime? We were going to call in advance, but then started thinking how fun it would be to surprise you. Abby had given every indication that you would welcome us and so we decided to take a chance and here we are!” she laughed.
Grandma’s heart was full, “Oh, how I would have loved to meet your father. It would have been my greatest gift ever!” but then she continued on, smiling broadly at her two granddaughters, “but having you girls here today– why, it’s just so very wonderful!”
“Jessie and Kevin want to meet you sometime, too,” said Lori, referring to their other two siblings, “But they have families and so much going on over the holidays so they just could not come along today,” and then she told Grandma Belinda a little bit about her other two grandchildren that she had yet to meet.
Abby watched them all talk and laugh and thought about how comfortable it all felt. The cousins she had never met already felt like family within a few short hours. She sighed with contentment.
No, this Christmas had certainly not turned out how she had dreamed. In what felt far too early, Charlie had left this old earth for his permanent home in heaven. A home that is only for those who recognize their lost and sinful state before God and their utter helplessness in being right with Him and, in that helplessness, turn to Christ alone for salvation (John 3:16; John 14:6).
All at once, Abby realized just how much hope and comfort this really did give. How kind of God to assure Grandma that, even if not in this life, she would see Charlie in the next.
And then Abby thought of God’s goodness in bringing her two cousins to their door today. Oh, how wonderful for them to surprise Grandma. Amazingly, there was no awkwardness between them and the girls and Shelly’s husband, too, all fit in like they had always been a part of the family.
Janet came and sat next to Abby and touched her arm, “Thank you,” she said, her eyes bright with unshed tears.
Abby smiled and hugged her mom. No, this Christmas wasn’t anything like she expected but it was a wonderful Christmas, nonetheless.