Each December, I take a break from my normal style of writing and write a Christmas story. Today you will find the second installment of this year’s story. If you missed part one, you can find it here. If you’d like to read the Christmas stories from previous years, you can find them all here. And now, here is Part 2–
The following December found Julie at a much different place. Oh, she was still in the old brownstone struggling to make ends meet, but life had sure changed in other ways. It really all began with the tiny snow globe from the anonymous sender. As Julie pulled it out of its careful wrapping, she reflected on this.
A couple of weeks after she had met Ted and Maggie at the restaurant, she had been true to her word and she had gone to their church. They had greeted her kindly and invited her to sit with them. Their genuine kindness met a need deep inside her. But the pastor’s message met a spiritual need that she didn’t even know she had. As she had listened to the pastor speak about sin and how no human can do anything to merit salvation on their own, she grew slightly uncomfortable. This was unlike any other message she had ever heard.
She thought back to her own childhood, where she attended a church that taught that the only way to be saved was to be morally good. And, while she did try to be a good person, she grew tired of the hopelessness and eternal striving to be perfect. She walked away from that church and never looked back.
But now here was this preacher telling her that it wasn’t even about works. This lit a fire in Julie’s heart and the Lord was surely drawing her to Himself. She went home and started reading her Bible—something she had never done before. She asked questions to Ted and Maggie, who patiently answered and never made her feel foolish. Within a few months, she had come to the understanding that Christ alone was her salvation. He had died for her sins and covered them with His blood. A newfound peace filled her heart and a deep love for her Savior grew.
Over the course of that winter, Ted and Maggie “adopted” Julie into their family. She became Auntie Julie to their two girls, three-year-old Lucy and one-year-old Ava. She started spending each Tuesday evening with them, eating and talking and helping with the girls. As Julie’s only remaining family lived a thousand miles away in another state, she grew to consider them as her family.
When springtime arrived, it was with a newfound enthusiasm for life. With a spring in her step and a brighter smile on her face, she had served the customers at Gunderson’s Diner. Suddenly her life, which had seemed so hopeless a few months before, was full of hope and joy.
Of course, her money troubles didn’t go away just because she was now saved and, sometime in the summer, she started thinking about changing jobs. Mrs. Gunderson had started talking about selling the Diner and Julie finally felt like she could leave. But to where? To do what?
She thought about the money she had tucked away in savings last Christmas. Quite suddenly, a thought came to her: Perhaps she could start taking classes? The thought grew like a flower within her and soon it was fully blossomed. Yes! That is exactly what she would do.
She had poured over the catalog of the local community college and finally settled on nursing. Perhaps she could get her degree in nursing, one class at a time. She met with an advisor and was soon scheduled for two classes during the fall semester—both paid for by the generous Christmas benefactor.
Sometime in October, Jack had entered her life. Thinking of Jack made Julie pause in her reflection temporarily as she glanced down at her watch. He was picking her up for a Christmas concert in a few minutes and she wanted to be ready. The watch indicated she had ten more minutes, so she let her mind wander back to when she first met him.
Jack was the younger brother of Ted. He had grown tired of city life and longed to be closer to his family. And so he had found a job in their town, packed his bags, and moved into a condo a short distance from Ted and Maggie’s neighborhood.
With Jack came fun and laughter and yet he had a serious side, too. When Ted and Maggie had introduced them, they quickly realized they were kindred spirits. They became good friends immediately and, within a few weeks, they started dating. Julie lingered on her thoughts of Jack. She never dreamed that she would meet someone like him. He was kind and generous and, most important of all, he loved the Lord. God had been so good to bring Jack into her life. It was hard to imagine life without him already, although it had only been two short months.
Suddenly, she heard a knock at her door. She opened it to Jack’s smiling face.
“Look what I found in your mailbox,” he enthusiastically tossed a package to her. Julie had enjoyed a long, lazy Saturday in her apartment decorating for Christmas and had asked Jack to get her mail on his way up.
“This looks very similar to the one from last year,” she mused as she began to open it.
A few moments later she was pulling out a beautiful hand-made wooden cross ornament along with a thick wad of cash.
Jack’s eyes widened as he whistled long and low, “well, look at that.”
Julie carefully hung the beautiful little cross on her tree and then counted out exactly one thousand dollars. A little note accompanied it: Merry Christmas! I continue to pray for you.
After the concert, as Jack and Julie lingered over coffee, they talked about who could have sent the package. Not just once–but two years in a row. But not even one of their ideas seemed plausible.
“Maybe it’s a rich relative,” said Jack.
Julie furled her brow. She remembered that she did have a great aunt in Boston. And she thought there may be a couple of great uncles down south somewhere. But she couldn’t imagine them sending money or –even more strangely–praying for a girl they hadn’t seen since she was five. But she supposed stranger things had happened.
Julie discussed it with Ted and Maggie, her adoptive family, Mrs. Gunderson, her boss, and Mrs. Bailey, her favorite customer. They all offered helpful suggestions but to no avail.
The sender remained a mystery.