Christmas is indeed a time of miracles. Perhaps miracles happen so often at Christmas because our hearts are softened and our empathy and sympathy for others is so acute during this season. Or perhaps, by still another miracle, we are listening to the words of a carpenter born some 2,000 years ago.
Several years ago, as part of my annual Christmas writings for my children, I wrote a short story titled "Mrs Norman and The Water Biscuits". The story is true. Though this particular miracle did not occur at Christmas, it was certainly the miracle my family desperately needed at the time.
Though always poor, we were only truly destitute on one occasion, destitute meaning we didn't have a penny, and had no food left in the house. It was about three months after my dad had left and deserted us. My mother and sister and brother and I were living in an old house set back aways from the main road on Young Street. My mom couldn't work because she had no car, nor anyone to watch over us. And back then, unless you were willing to sign out an arrest warrant on the father, no welfare commodities would be provided. And so we were desperate for a "savior".
One afternoon my mom went into the kitchen and was the first to discover the only thing left in the house was a bit of Crisco in the bottom of a can and a few scoops of flour. Nothing else remained. Just as Jesus fed the multitudes on two fish and five loaves of barley bread, my mother prepared a meal of water biscuits (hard tack) and flour and water "gravy". She called us to the table to eat, then walked into the small living room, got down on her knees and began to pray.
We kids sat at the table, sobs in our own throats, and unable to eat as we sensed my mother's fear. We got up from the table and went into the living room and tried to comfort our mom. She put her arms around us and we all just sat in silence. As my mom looked through the window she saw an old lady coming up the dirt path toward our house. With a sharp intake of breath, my mom hustled us to the back of the house and into the bathroom. She closed the door and hissed "be quiet"….
As we all stood in the tiny bathroom we soon heard a knock on the door. The old lady knocked and knocked but we all stayed silent, wondering what fear had driven our mom to resort to hiding. The persistent door knocking continued; so long that my mother finally opened the bathroom door, whispered for us to stay there, then went to answer the door.
As we sat in the bathroom we could hear the distant murmurings of our mother and the old woman. After about half an hour my mom came and let us out of the bathroom. When we questioned her about having to hide she said she had been afraid that, if anyone had seen how we were living, that the Welfare Department would come and take us away.
And then my mother explained our senior visitor. Her name was Mrs. Norman and, ironically, she and her husband had once owned the house that we were then living in. To this day, I don't know how she knew we needed help but her mission that day was to make my mother an offer she couldn't refuse. Mrs Norman had lost her husband and was looking for some kind of nanny live in situation. She offered to help keep up the house and care for us so that my mom could go out and find work.
Perhaps an hour later a cab pulled up the driveway and Mrs Norman emerged with boxes of food. It seems she had been eligible for food commodity senior assistance at our local community co-op and was bringing boxes of food to share with us.
The next morning my mother called a local used car dealer we knew and arranged to buy an old car, making two dollar per week payments. That very week my mother got a job as a waitress in a restaurant 27 miles away from home. She had to work the swing shifts, often not getting home till one in the morning. But she knew we were safe and well cared for by a dear sweet lady who could be both firm and gentle, as needed.
Mrs Norman stayed with us for the next two years. She became a second grandma, only leaving us when her own granddaughter needed her care. For those two years Mrs Norman gave our family a measure of stability and another heart to love. We would remember her all of our life…and never so much as the day she came up the path to perform a miracle.
In this season of miracles may you all be blessed with one, once in awhile…and may you treasure them when they come along, always at the right time.