Jeanelle went ahead with all Christmas plans they had set. Hoping it would take all their minds away from the anxiety and worry over Sergeant Worth. The drive out to the Christmas tree farm was a fun time. The car was filled with Christmas music and the sound of children trying to sing along to with it. Cutting down the tree with a hand saw proved to be so awkward a task for a post pregnancy mother with four children under the age of twelve, that they had to ask someone for help, with the cutting, dragging and attaching of the tree to the car.
Hilarity reigned that night in the Worth house hold. Decorating themselves more than the tree, roasting marshmallows over the fire in the living room, and breaking at least four ornaments in the process of hanging them up, left them all utterly exhausted, but utterly happy. After saying their prayers with the girls and tucking them into bed, Jeanelle was able to finally sit down in the living room in front of the tree. Lit up with lights and filled with handmade and store bought ornaments the tree was a beautiful display that made Jeanelle fill with recollections at all of the wonderful tress from the family’s life. Looking around the room, Jeanelle felt all the more desolate over the realization that her husband was missing and possible even dead. What a horrible word! There was a mess in front of the fireplace of marshmallows, roasting sticks and empty plastic bags. Memories of the part her husband always took in these Christmas traditions filled her mind. The thought of him romping with her and the children made her put her head down onto the arm of the couch and weep. It was dark in the room except for the lights on the tree and the now smoldering fire. Jeanelle knew not how long she lay there when she was startled by someone calling her.
“Mama?” Jeanelle looked up and saw little Tessa in her red Christmas nightgown, holding the teddy bear which had been a gift from her father the day she was born. Jeanelle held out her arms to her little girl, who climbed into her lap and snuggled down under her arm. Reaching up a little pudgy hand, she patted her Mama’s cheek.
“Mama, don’t cry. Daddy will come home,” said the little comforter in a tiny voice. With a sob, Jeanelle buried her face in Tessa’s curls.
“I wish I could know that he would,” She moaned.
“He will Mama, I know he will,” Tessa said insistently. They cuddled together in silence for a few moments, watching the lights twinkle and listening to the fire crackling of the fire. Reveling in the comfort of the little warm body under her arm, she thanked God for the precious gift of this little one and prayed for the soldiers return.
Two more weeks went by with their own challenges and joys. The girls were getting excited and leaking some of the enthusiasm to their mother. One more week till Christmas. There were lots of secrets. Mysterious packages began appearing under the tree with enough tape to wrap a dozen presets for the girls all insisted on wrapping the presents themselves. They had all decided that they would get presents for Daddy when they found out when he was coming home. They all sat in the living room. The girls looking like little angels playing Uno in front of the Christmas tree, thought Jeanelle as she sat on the couch nursing little David. The phone rang.
“Lea, can you go get that please?” she asked her oldest daughter.
“Yes mama!” Lea answered, running into the kitchen. “Hello this is Lea Worth—–Yes sir, she is—-yes sir, just a moment please. . .” she said politely and ran into the living room with the phone in one hand and her other hand over the mouthpiece respectfully.
“It’s for you Mama,” she said handing her mother the phone.
“Hello, yes it is— yes—- What?!” she exclaimed in horror. ‘No! Oh, God, No! Please, I can’t talk now. Goodbye!” Raising her eyes she saw all of her daughters huddled together on the floor, looking at her frightened. “Oh girls!” she burst out. “Daddy’s gone!” straining little David to her chest. Lea turned pale and rigid, Brianna burst into tears and wept violently, prostrating herself on the floor. Little four years old Tessa stood up between them. Her little elfin features sharpened and her face pale.
“He is not!” Tessa said loudly but still sweetly in order to be heard over Brianna’s crying.
“Oh Tessa! You don’t understand!” said Jeanelle, choking back a sob. “Daddy’s gone to be with Jesus!”
Tessa never looked more angelic and yes, even prophetic. “Yes,” she said absently but clearly. Brianna and Lea quieted enough to look at her. “Yes, Daddy’s with Jesus. But he’s not- dead. He’s coming home. I know he is,” she said clearly and distinctly. Her family listened in awe. But the feeling passed, and they wept again. That is Brianna and Jeanelle did. Lea still stood as one in despair, which was a more pitiable sight than either of the other two’s weeping.
Tessa stood looking at them in confusion. “Why are you crying? I told you that Daddy’s coming home.”
“Tessa. He’s not coming home!” said Jeanelle almost angered by Tessa’s denial. Tessa shook her head in a slightly lofty way, and then walked out of the room with dignity.
When their grief had worn itself out some, Tessa came back into the room several hours later, and stood before her mother.
“Mama, I want to go to the store. But I have to go today,” she said.
“What on earth for Tess?” she asked incredulously.
“I forgot. There is a present I need to by,” she said, with the self-possession of one much older than she.
“I can’t tell you!” Tessa answered completely surprised that her mother should even attempt to ask such a question.
“Tessa, not today!” said Mama, her curiosity piqued.
“Mama Please!” she begged.
Jeanelle sighed. Maybe going to the store would help take their mind off of the tragedy
“Alright, we’ll go after lunch,”
“Thank you Mama! You’ll see it soon, I promise.” She said blithely, kissing her mother enthusiastically on the cheek and running off, she did a little joy-dance. She seemed to have a secret that no one else knew what it was. And she was not going to tell. Nobody knew what Tess’s present was when she got it home, she carefully carried it to her room, tucked under her little shirt so that no one would see it. Then she wrapped it and stuffed it way back under the tree so no one would be curious enough to try to guess what was inside.
Christmas ever finally came around. They usually went to a special big party with family that night. But due to the fact that the family was mourning, Jeanelle decided not to go. When Jeanelle tucked Tessa’s sleepy body into bed, Tessa reached up and patted her mother’s cheek softly.
“Daddy’s comin’ soon,” she whispered sleepily. Jeanelle sighed and kissed Tessa’s forehead.
Christmas morning, a time of joy. A time of family, a time when we enjoy traditions, a time when we celebrated the birth of Christ. A time when we give gifts as a symbolization of How Christ was Father God’s gift to us, his beloved children.
The morning dawned with a beautiful fresh powdering of snow. No little feet pattered over the floors. No happy voices shouted “Merry Christmas!” to each other, and no one raced to the Christmas tree in the Worth family. They all lay in bed, contemplation and bemoaning the missing father. All, that is, except Tessa. She ran from bed to bed, trying to pull her mother and sisters out of bed to accompany her to the living room.
“Merry Christmas Lea! Come on! To the tree! To the tree! Brianna! Out of bed! It’s Christmas morning! Mama! Mama! Come open your presents!” she shouted, running from one to the other. She finally succeeded in rousing them all from their beds and melancholy thoughts and routing them all to the tree.
Presents were opened with excited haste. Paper and ribbons covered the floor. Gasps, ‘Thank you’s’ and joyful exclamations filled the air.
Jeanelle had just finished opening her present from the girls; a locket with pictures of Jeanelle and David on their wedding day.
“Grandma helped us get it,” said Brianna.
“We thought you would like those pictures best,” Said Lea.
“There’s still, one more GIANT present left!” said Tessa, gesticulating with her hands a present larger than she was and indeed ‘giant’.
Just then the front door opened and closed. Boots were shaken off and footsteps came down the hall. They sat as if turned to stone. A man stepped into the room, and, you guessed it. It was the supposedly dead. . . Sergeant Worth.
The ‘womenfolk’ all screamed in unison and there was a general rush for the man in camo. Lea screamed, flung her hands up to cover her face, and fainted dead away for the very first time in her young life. Brianna flew to her father, hugged his legs and wept over his feet in the most touching manner. Jeanelle ran into her husband’s arms and gave him just such impassioned kisses as only a loving wife can. Tessa danced around the little group, clapping her hands and singing joyously. . . “Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home!” David Jr. raised his voice to join in the chorus screaming lustily. It was a full half hour before the slightest assemblance of order was attained. Water was sprinkled on Lea’s face and she awoke, and started sobbing and fell into her father’s arms. He stood up, holding her close to him as she wept on his shoulder.
Later, as he held David Jr. in his arms, David Sr. explained. He had indeed been ‘missing in action’ lost, in a foreign country. He took a full two weeks to reach an army base, where for some reason unknown, they chose to send him home. He found out later, when he reached the states; that his body had been supposed to be found, mangled and burned beyond recognition. Turns out it was a young artillery operator who had no family and few friends to mourn him and had gone on to his reward in heaven. And thus he had arrived home.
A realization had just dawned on Jeanelle.
“Tessa? What present were you telling me that I still had yet to open?” she asked, looking down at her youngest daughter who sat on her father’s foot and hugged his leg. She looked up at her Daddy.
“You’re last GIANT present was Daddy,” she said in answer, resting her head on his knee. Jeanelle was even more confused.
“How did you know he was coming home?” Tessa looked up surprised.
“Why, I told you all along that I knew he was coming home,” she said.
“Yes, but how did you know?”
“God told me!” she answered, as if that explained it all.
“What?!” It was Jeanelle’s turn to be surprised.
“God told me that night when we prayed for Daddy that he would come home. Oh! I almost forgot! Daddy’s present!” she exclaimed, skipping to the tree and back again with her mysterious package in hand. She gave it to her father who opened it and held to light a framed painting of Jesus with all the little children gathered around Him.
“What does it say, Daddy?” I can’t read and I couldn’t show it to anyone because it was a surprise, but somehow I thought you would like it.”
With tears in his eyes, David read, “Out of the mouth of Babes hast thou established strength.” Little had Tessa known how true she proved that verse through her childlike faith. Jeanelle wiped tears from her eyes.
“Oh Lord, Give me the faith of a little child.” She whispered pulling Tessa into her lap and hugging her.
“Tessa,” said Sergeant Worth, chokily, “You can always trust the Lord to bring to pass what he said he will. I love you Tessa,” he said, kissing the halo of curls on the top of her head.
Let me know what you thought of my little story in the comments!
By His Grace,