The first Christmas card of the season arrived in my mailbox way back in August. How could anyone be that organized? Then I noticed my friend, Nita, had sent me a card I had written to her more than 20 years ago!
Memories rushed back as I read the words penned in my familiar handwriting. It was Christmas, 1991, and my world had unraveled. I could almost pretend everything was all right at this most wonderful time of the year—but not that year.
My husband Randy’s drinking problem had escalated to the point where his job and career were on the line. He had already been through two alcohol treatment programs and managed to stay sober for short periods of time. Then he slipped back into old, familiar patterns. His ongoing relapses were a crushing disappointment for our family.
I had looked forward to Christmas Eve and our family traditions; making homemade lasagna, singing carols around the piano, attending the candlelight service at church, and then coming home to open one token Christmas Eve present.
“Randy, are you ready to crank out the pasta?” I called to him over the Christmas music I was playing to lift my spirits. I peered into the living room to see what was keeping him. My heart froze. Randy sat on the couch, trance-like, watching a basketball game while sipping a drink. No, not on Christmas Eve, I screamed inwardly. I felt like I was suffocating. Usually Randy pulled himself together but it didn’t happen that night. He drank vodka all evening while I finished holiday preparations on autopilot. None of us felt like eating lasagna or celebrating.
Only a few days earlier, I had written these words on the Christmas card to my friend, Nita. I don’t know God’s plans, his timing or his ways in accomplishing his purposes, but I am learning to trust him. He is faithful!
I suspect Nita kept my card all those years because she saw a small seed of faith and it encouraged her heart. I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be eight more Christmas seasons before Randy experienced the miraculous breakthrough of finding freedom from alcoholism. As I read the card I had written so long ago, I felt awed by God’s faithfulness to us—even when our situation looked completely hopeless.
A twenty year-old Christmas card came on a summer day as an unexpected gift and gentle reminder of God’s presence—especially in the worst of times.