Story by Kristi Powers (Author)
I wish that I could tell you that I am a big Christmas fan. The fact is, most often I have to fight with myself to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Year after year, I see the commercialism, the “have to get, have to buy” mentality and I struggle to truly enjoy the day. Every year, however, there is always that moment when I sit down to remember my favorite Christmas present I have ever received. A moment when the memory makes its way out of the dark recesses of my heart to find its way into the light. The moment seventeen years ago when, on a stormy winter night, I received a gift from the heart that helped me to remember the true meaning of Christmas.
A week before Thanksgiving I had buried my father… my pops. My life was forever changed the day the man who loved me first left my world. I was left reeling and on my knees as Christmas approached. The only way I can describe that kind of grief to someone who has never experienced it, would be to imagine 10,000 rusty needles sticking into your skin. The pain is acute. It cuts to the very core of who you are. But the needles don’t stop there.
While there are 10,000 needles sticking in your skin, there are also 10,000 needles sticking out. You have inward pain, yet you are super-sensitive to everything around you. You are in a crowded room with people whom you call friends, loved ones and yet, you feel alone. You look out the window at the cars passing by and you stare out dully, wondering “How can the world keep going?” The world, as you knew it, died the minute your loved one took their last breath. That was the world of grief that I was facing seventeen years ago.
I had walked away from a well-paying job at General Motors the year before to stay home with my then, one and a half year old child. We were struggling to survive on an almost $40,000 pay cut amidst the pain of grief. It was two days before Christmas and I had not yet bought any Christmas presents. Grandma had graciously offered to watch our active baby. With a numb heart I was going through the motions of Christmas. I hadn’t put up any Christmas decorations, not even a tree. To throw more salt on an already sore wound, BOTH of our cars had broken down and were in the shop. So with a borrowed car and an even heavier heart I bought what meager gifts we could afford and went home.
The snow was falling heavily; equal to the heaviness in my heart. My mother came and brought a tree and a few decorations. Here was my mother; her heart broken in two, but trying to cheer me up. I remember sitting in the rocking chair in my living room, watching the snow fall as I rocked back and forth… back and forth.
As I stared numbly out the window there was a knock at my door. We all looked at each other and asked the same thing “Who could possibly be coming in the middle of this stormy, cold night?” As I forced my legs out of the chair and opened the door, I was surprised to tears to see who was standing at my door. You see, a LONG time ago, when I first started in youth ministry as a teen myself; my first Sunday school kids were my life. I loved doing life with these youth. We would laugh, we would have the best talks, and they were so very precious to my heart.
I believe there will always be something special about those who first help you understand who God created you to be. It had been about 10 years since I had even seen Sarah. She had graduated from high school and gone off into her life and I had lost track of her. But I remembered. I remembered how much she loved her parents and I remembered when I had seen in the paper that her Mom had died. I made sure to seek her out and let her know that I was thinking of her and that I knew how sharp the pain must be for her to lose someone who was her heart and soul.
And here Sarah was, all those years later, standing at my door. I didn’t even know she knew where I lived. She had a tear in her eye and a card in her hand. She looked at me, choking back tears and said, “Kristi, I just came. I know how it feels. I know how hard this time of year is when your heart is torn in two. And I just wanted you to know that I care.”
She put the card in my hand and gave me a hug. I sobbed. The grief that I had been holding in for weeks came pouring out of me, choking me, overwhelming me. As I watched Sarah walk away that night I was so touched that someone who had not seen me in almost 10 years would take the time to let me know what I needed more than anything else that night: that I was not alone.
As I walked back in the house and opened the card she gave me, I knew that her visit meant even more than that. I believe there are moments in life that can only be orchestrated by the hand of God. As soon as I opened the card the tears flowed freely from my face again.
You see, my father was a proud man. Most of my Dad’s life could be summed up with one song that described it: “My Way” by Frank Sinatra. But as most people, when they are faced with death, they start reevaluating and looking back on their life. My father would spend hours sitting outside on his patio thinking about life, God and his family. The last few months of his life were when I saw the most remarkable change in my Dad. He started talking to me about God. And the look on his face when he did, was something that I will never forget. It was a precious time to me. Seeing my Dad come to peace with the God who created him. The card and letter I received from Sarah that night helped me to remember what Christmas was truly about. Tucked in the card was this:
My First Christmas in Heaven
by Wanda Bencke
I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below,
with tiny lights like heaven’s stars reflecting on the snow.
The sight is so spectacular, please wipe away that tear
for I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year
I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear,
but the sounds of music can’t compare with the Christmas choir up here.
I have no words to tell you the joy their voices bring,
for it is beyond description to hear the angels sing.
I know how much you miss me, I see the pain inside your heart,
for I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.
I can’t tell you of the splendor or the peace here in this place.
Can you just imagine Christmas with our Savior face to face?
I’ll ask Him to lift your spirit as I tell Him of your love,
so then pray for one another as you lift your eyes above.
Please let your hearts be joyful and let your spirit sing,
for I am spending Christmas in heaven and I’m walking with the King.
Used By Permission
When people ask me what is the best Christmas gift I have ever received, this is what I think of. It came one wintery night by the hand of Sarah and it was not an expensive item. It was a gift from the heart from someone who remembered. A gift so touching that I knew it came from my heavenly Father’s hand directly to my heart.
It was the night I knew heavenly things still happened on earth. The night that God let a hurting heart know that angels were still at work on earth, doing God’s bidding.
One cold, stormy, wintery night when heaven sent Sarah.