With the Christmas holiday approaching, Ryan was even more determined to find work, even temporary work, to help take care of expenses. So far, out of all the resumes he had sent out, only one interview, but no offers. He had also applied for various temporary retail jobs, the seasonal jobs that last about ninety days, and now the Christmas season had already begun, but no offers. He had taken on more household chores and taking care of baby Ava so that Caitlin could work in her workshop, getting caught up on backorders for furniture. He was trying not to get discouraged. Again, he cried out to God for wisdom and direction.
Since his work experience had been small-scale manufacturing it seemed to him that he would have to transition to something else, since locally, very few manufacturing businesses existed. Was it any wonder, as he discovered while doing chores, household items, label after label, made in China or some other country, any country but his own. He became very frustrated with this discovery. Frustrated to the point that he began to think about going into business for himself, to make one of these common household items that so many people use every day. Why not? He began to contact other professionals, previous coworkers for their input and feedback. He developed a private web page, so they could communicate and collaborate with each other, post information, reports and research. Ryan was energized with this new direction, it seemed promising. He was hopeful again.
With each passing day, the kids became more and more excited in anticipation of the quickly approaching Christmas holiday. It was as if they shared a secret, something they were planning, which was a wonder to Caitlin and Ryan, because they had tried to discourage their expectations for numerous gifts. Instead they had tried to focus on celebrating the birth of the Lord Jesus. They had planned Sunday night soup dinners with the advent candle as the table centerpiece. And they had planned that each week, while having their candlelight meal, Ryan would read a portion of scriptures and prophecies leading up to the story of Jesus’ birth. The kids seemed to enjoy the first Sunday advent celebration, but had asked about a Christmas tree, because their friends at school and neighbors had Christmas trees with lights in their windows. Ryan and Caitlin had never put up a tree before, since previously they had had no children at home, but now, it seemed like a good idea. So they had had a family meeting to discuss the Christmas tree, should it be plastic, if so, what color? Should the tree be a real tree? What type of decorations? Handmade decorations, candy canes, bows, popcorn? And what type of lights, white or multi-colors, flashing or not? Everyone wanted a real tree, but settled for a plastic evergreen tree with pine-scented pinecones. They had decided they would rather eat popcorn while decorating the tree, than to hang it on the tree, but candy canes with red bows had won the vote. Denver had hinted that handmade ornaments were already in the works at school. So it had all been settled, they had planned to purchase the tree and other items, then assemble it the next Sunday night after advent celebration.
Ryan planned to use the gift card Jas had given him to purchase things for Christmas. His eyes moistened as he thought of his own parents, missing them, wishing they were still alive. Someday, he would have to tell the kids, the story about his parents, it was an exciting, adventurous tale of missionaries who gave their lives to tell others about Jesus. For now he was on a mission, an errand to purchase groceries including baby Ava’s things and the Christmas decorations, and all within time to pick up the kids from school.
He had been taking them to and from school the past week, since it had turned colder and snow was in the weather forecast. He choose the super store for the task, taking a shopping cart and armed with a small calculator in hand he proceeded to look for the items on his lists, starting with the decorations. Since the decorations took up the whole cart, he checked out with those first, then came back to get the groceries. Snowflakes were beginning to come down so he added hot chocolate mix to Caitlin’s list.
He visited briefly with neighbors and church members who were also shopping and who had warned him that the snow had started coming down heavier. He discovered it true after checking out and then with difficulty he pushed the cart through the snow to the car. He noticed the hatch was ajar and then upon raising the door, all the packages, all the decorations were gone. His heart sank. Someone had stolen the decorations and gifts out of the jeep while he had finished shopping. The kids would be so disappointed. There wasn’t enough money to buy more. He was angry at whoever took the decorations and gifts. Even though he knew he had to forgive, he would be angry for a while, angry for the kids. How could he tell them? He imagined their disappointed faces.
He proceeded to clean the windows off, fairly easy task with fluffy snow. Thankfully no ice. But then the jeep would not start. He sat for a moment, not sure what to do. What now, God? I should have stayed home.
Caitlin had sold her car, so now they had only one car. He pulled his phone out of his coat pocket and called Caitlin. “Caitlin, I’m at the store and ready to go pick up the kids, but the Jeep won’t start…okay, then call your Mom and have her pick up the kids…I’ll try to call that mobile car guy to see about getting the Jeep started…I’ll let you know…love you.”
Okay, so the kids are taken care of…please God, help me get this Jeep started. He tried again, turning the key in the ignition, but no start. He called the mobile car guy, no answer, so left a voicemail. With a rolling finger tap, he lightly tapped the steering wheel. What to do, God? What to do?
He watched the snow with big fluffy flakes still coming down so peaceful and beautiful. He wished he had never gone out, wished he were home looking at the snow falling from his living room window instead of sitting in a car that won’t start. An old song came to his heart, ♫Peace, Peace wonderful peace, coming down from the Father above, sweep over my spirit…in fathomless billows of love♫ He looked up toward heaven. Help me Jesus!
Ryan quietly waited, hoping perhaps the mobile car guy would call back but then he saw his neighbor coming out from the store. Ryan rolled down the window and shouted, asking his neighbor if he could pull his car over next to his, to jump start the battery. It worked. Ryan was on the road again, thankful to God, arriving home soon after the kids had already been dropped off by Junia. He would take the Jeep in later to have it checked out. Caitlin met Ryan at the door, the door from the kitchen to the garage. He whisked her off to their room to privately tell her about the theft from his car.
He held her closely in his arms quickly kissing her hello. “The good news is, I’m home…safe with my lovely wife and kids…the bad news is…” He stood back and with a grimaced look on his face, “all the decorations and gifts I bought were stolen out of the Jeep!” Screeching with disgust, he then fell backwards on top of the bed. “Ugh!”
“Oh no! What are we going to do? The kids will be so disappointed!” Caitlin heard baby Ava crying so she promised to continue the conversation later.
“Don’t tell the kids yet. Not until we figure out what to do.” Caitlin hurried off to check on baby Ava while Ryan finished unloading the groceries. Then he called the kids and the dogs to go out to play in the snow. Ryan, had to end the day laughing, having fun with the kids, building snow forts, having snowball fights, making a snowman and angels in the snow till dusk. His way of forgetting, forgiving, honoring God with joy, expressing his thankfulness for God’s loving-kindness.
(To continue reading: Return to Menu + Select Chapter Seven)
This story is a fictionalization. Any mention of historical events, people and places are used fictitiously and any likeness to actual events, places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.