The Family Ornament

It’s that time of year, friends. I hope you enjoy this year’s short Christmas story. If you prefer listening to me read it while you finish your gift wrapping, or you just want to sit back with a cup of hot cocoa and curl up under a cozy blanket, you can click on the video below the story. Merry Christmas!


The Family Ornament

The warmth of the coffee shop greeted me at the door like an old friend in a thick sweater while the scent of peppermint mocha kissed my cheek. The Christmas tree in the corner, all decked out in twinkling lights and shiny ornaments, slouched as if it felt the weight I carried. As my glasses fogged up, I peered over the rims to find my sister Sylvia sitting in the back.

“Hey, Noel. What’s with the grumpy face?” she asked, her blonde tips a festive red.

“I don’t feel like celebrating Christmas.”

Sylvia’s expression softened. “Sorry. I know it’s been a rough year. Is there anything I can do?”

I slumped into the chair. “You can make our family ornament this year.”

“No can do. Grandpa passed that torch to you. You’re the one who inherited his woodworking skills, not to mention all of his tools.” She chuckled. “I’ve only got pipe cleaners and stick glue in my toolbox.”

“That could work,” I said.

She touched my hand. “Look, everyone will understand if you can’t do it this year.”

“But I won’t, Sylvia. This is more than a family tradition. It’s between God and me. I’m supposed to be an encourager and use the gifts He’s given me, but if I don’t have faith strong enough to withstand a few storms—”

“A few storms? Getting a divorce, losing your job, and battling cancer are not your ordinary storms. It’s like you’ve been battered in a hurricane this entire year. No one will blame you if you don’t feel like being creative.”

“A very dark hurricane,” I whispered.

“I know. But some good came out of it. You’re in remission, and I thank God for that every day.” She squeezed my hand. “That’s worth celebrating and remembering for years to come.”

I nodded, but the heaviness in my heart remained.  

While lying in bed that night, I stared through the darkness at the ceiling, hoping to see a burst from my imagination spring to life like a painting or hear a whisper revealing something from the Lord. Of course, I was thankful to be in remission. Yet, I’d struggled for months to create or design anything.

Please help me, God. You know my heart and why I need to create for you. Something I can look back on as a reminder of how you brought me through this painful year. Something to help my family do the same. I just can’t see it. Everything is so dark.       

As I closed my eyes, an image suddenly appeared behind my closed lids, slicing through the darkness. I gasped and slid out of bed, falling to my knees in prayer. After God made it clear, I grabbed my glasses and hurried to the garage in my robe and boots to get to work.

Hours later, the snowflakes splattered a thick coating on my windshield as I drove through a snowstorm to Sylvia’s house. I parked in her driveway, grabbed the gift bag from the passenger seat, and stomped through the snow to knock on her front door.

“Noel! What are you doing here?” Sylvia wore flannel pajamas and held three-year-old Jackson on her hip.

“Good morning to you too. Can I come in?”

“Get in here,” she said, pulling me inside. “What in the world are you doing out in this weather?” She stared at me while I slipped off my boots. “You look exhausted. Did you get any sleep last night?”

“Not really.”

“Well, at least your smiling,” she said, lowering a squirmy Jackson to the floor, who raced toward the sound of cartoons and giggles in the living room.

Sylvia motioned that I follow her to the kitchen. “Coffee?”

I shook my head.

“Now you’re scaring me. What’s going on?”

I placed the gift bag on the counter. “I have this year’s ornament. It’s for you.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Ever since we were kids, the family ornament has been a big deal, watching Grandpa hang it on the tree and tell the story behind it and what it meant for our family. Well, this year is different.” I paused, my voice trembling. “As you know, this has been the darkest year of my life. One thing after another kept coming. There were days I didn’t think I was going to make it, days I didn’t know if I wanted to keep going.”

“I know,” Sylvia whispered.

My tears welled up. “Yes. You do. You were there for me through it all. Open it.”

Sylvia pulled out the tissue paper stuffed in the bag and peered inside. Carefully, she lifted out the hollow wooden star with darkened edges.   

“Oh, it’s lovely, Noel. But why are you giving it to me?”

“You brought light into my darkness, Sylvia, like a bright star in the night sky. Whenever I wanted to quit, you kept encouraging me. Every time something else came against me, you stood by me. You prayed for me.” I wiped my wet cheeks with the palms of my hands. “Don’t you see? You let Jesus shine through you.”

“I don’t know about that.”

“I do. That’s why I hollowed out the star.”

“But Mom and Dad—”

“Yes.” I nodded, knocking a few tears onto the counter. “I’m making one for them and a few others. And I want to give one to a dear friend I met during chemo.”

“Really?”

“Absolutely. She reminded me when we were both getting our treatments that even the darkness of cancer can’t hide the Light of the world. She encouraged me to trust God. She kept repeating the word ‘trust.’ And then she prayed with me.”

“She sounds amazing.”          

“Oh, she is. She’ll always be a bright light in my life.” I paused, touching the star I’d given Sylvia. “She’s my sister in Christ.”

Sylvia smiled. “So, this really is a family ornament.”

“Yes. An ornament to remind us all that even when darkness comes, it can never hide the Light of the world, especially when we let Him shine through us.”

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