One Cookie at a Time

Thank you for reading, my dear friends. I pray this year’s fictional Christmas story blesses you. And I pray you have a blessed and very Merry Christmas as you remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who came to save us all.

One Cookie at a Time

I nibbled on stale candy corn while my fingers hovered over my laptop. I hesitated to send the email, knowing it would make everything so final. But the truth was, the numbers were bad, and I’d already lost hope in my bakery. There was no point in dragging out the inevitable. I had to tell my faithful client list I would be closing at the end of the year. And I had to tell my daughter, Jenna, there would be no business to return to after graduating from college. I just couldn’t hold on anymore.

It was Christmas Eve, and it took everything I had not to close my doors permanently tonight, to hold out and wait for a miracle. But I knew that stuff only happened in Christmas movies to happy people with happy lives. Not the kind of life I’d lived—an ugly divorce, bankruptcy, and struggling to make a fresh start with only a dream and a box of my own recipes.

“It’s freezing out!” Jenna said, the bakery door jingling as she came in blowing on her hands.

I closed my laptop.

“Are you ready to go? The snow is really coming down.”

I sighed. “I’m ready. I just need to grab these last few boxes.”

“Deliveries?”

“No. Cookies that didn’t sell. No one will want to buy stale Christmas cookies after Christmas.”

“Mom, what have you always told me? ‘Pray and trust.’”

I couldn’t tell her I was too tired to pray, and I didn’t know how to hold onto trust when it seemed like grasping at sugar in a sandstorm. So instead, I put on a smile for my daughter, knowing when the time came to tell her the truth, maybe then she’d understand.

We loaded the white boxes onto the backseat of Jenna’s pickup and climbed into the cab. With my laptop and unwanted cookies in tow, I turned to see my bakery, dark and shrouded in a heavy snowfall. I was thankful the wind was bitter—it could explain the tears in my eyes.

Jenna steered away from the curb and whispered something.

“What was that?”

“I was praying.”

At least I’d done something right. Train up a child…

As we headed across town, the snow stopped falling, leaving the sidewalk as a satin ribbon of white. Evergreen wreaths dangled from the streetlights as their timid colored lights cast a glow into the night.

“Look over there,” Jenna said, motioning to a church parking lot with people spilling out of the building.

She pulled the truck over, reached around to the backseat, and lifted two boxes. She hopped out and handed one to a man and woman with three small children—all with scarves covering most of their faces. The other box she handed to an elderly couple. Their words of gratitude floated in the night air in a puff of white as Jenna returned to the truck.

“Come on, Mom. We’ve got more deliveries.”

“What are you talking about? It’s Christmas Eve.”

“Exactly.”

I tried not to laugh as my twenty-year-old daughter bent over the steering wheel with fierce determination like she’d done when she’d first learned to ride a bike.

“Over there.” Jenna gave a nod before parking at the community center. A man had just stepped out, silver keys shining in his hand.

She grabbed more boxes, jumped from the cab, and hurried to the man who chuckled at her offer while rubbing the back of his neck. She followed him inside and moments later, returned without the boxes. She hoisted herself into the truck, giggling.

“What in the world are you up to?”

“The community Christmas dinner is tomorrow. He told me donations were low this year, and they need cookies.”

My mouth slipped open. “Really?”

“Uh huh.”

Moments later, Jenna steered onto a dimly lit street. The stretch of houses, lonely without Christmas lights hanging from the porches or inflatable snowmen waving in the yards.

“I need your help, Mom. Take a box and leave it.”

I turned to inspect the backseat. “But we only have a few left. And leave it where?”

“At each house. Until we run out.”

I did just that, feeling a surge of adrenaline each time I bent to leave a box of cookies and hurrying away before anyone spotted me. As I was about to leave my last box on a dark porch, a light came on and the door creaked opened. I stepped back when a woman glared from her screen door. A little girl in pigtails ran to her side, but after spotting me, hid behind the woman’s leg.

“I’m sorry to bother you. I was leaving a box of Christmas cookies. I own the bakery down the street, and, well, I have enough to share.”

The woman reached out to take it, the hard lines of her face softening. “Thank you.”

I smiled, and as I turned for the truck, the woman gasped.

“Is something wrong?”

The little girl ran off to another part of the house, her feet thumping on the floor, while the woman gently held the opened box to her chest.

“It’s been a rough year,” she whispered. “A really rough year. My husband lost his job. Two weeks later, my sister passed away. I prayed God would help. Just give me a word to hold onto to get through everything, you know? Just a word. I wanted to believe He was going to help us, but it’s hard to believe when things seem so dark.” She paused to stare into the box. “But then you brought me this.”

I didn’t understand. They were just sugar cookies – frosted stockings, Christmas bulbs, and snowflakes with assorted sprinkles. That sort of thing. Nothing special.

The woman’s eyes filled as she carefully lifted one of the round bulbs from the box. It was frosted in red with white sugar crystals like a gentle dusting of snow. And written in the center in gold was one word: Believe.

I’d forgotten each Christmas bulb proclaimed that word like the angels announcing Jesus’ birth. Or maybe I’d forgotten the word altogether because I’d also found it hard to believe. It was hard to believe God hadn’t given up on me when everything seemed to be falling apart. I’d lost hope in so many things this year. I hadn’t realized until that moment that I’d even lost hope in Him.

“Are you ready, Mom?” Jenna asked from the sidewalk.

“Thank you,” the woman whispered. “Thank you for bringing me hope.”

The words I wanted to say lodged in my throat, so I simply nodded as my eyes began to fill.

I started for the truck, willing my tears to stop, as I peered down the street. We were able to leave a box of cookies at each house. It didn’t make sense. We didn’t have that many to share.

Later that night, Jenna curled up in the living room to watch a Christmas movie with a bowl of popcorn in her lap while I sat at the kitchen table. Reluctantly, I reached for my laptop to finish the email to my customers—those faithful clients who’d been so supportive but also struggled this year.

But when I opened my email, a message appeared in my inbox from the mayor, thanking us for sharing hope with so many—he was amazed the cookies had reached from one end of town to the other.

But we didn’t go that far.

Suddenly I remembered the One who multiplied a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread to feed thousands. And tonight, He’d multiplied hope and stretched it clear across town at a time when we all needed it. When I needed it. God wasn’t far away. He hadn’t given up on me or any of us. He was still the God of godly miracles and mighty rescues. Even if it meant using one cookie at a time.

I smiled and closed my laptop without finishing the email to my customers, knowing I needed to pray and trust. Even though things seemed dark, I found myself believing God still had a plan for us. And I couldn’t wait to see it light up the world.     

Thank you for reading! If you’d like to read another one of my Christmas stories, you can click on A Touch of Fiction at the top of the page, and you’ll find more of them there.

As I do every year, I’d like to bless someone through this Christmas story, but I’m doing something a little different this year. I’d like to give a shout-out to a local bakery owner, Amanda, at Ginger’s Bakery in Uhrichsville, Ohio. If you are blessed by this story, maybe you can give this wonderful bakery a shout-out of your own by ordering some of their delicious Christmas cookies – everything is made from scratch! To order, call (330) 691-7201. Thank you!

Merry Christmas!

          

A Broken Christmas Bulb

If you’d like to read more on the story behind my Christmas stories, please click here.  Merry Christmas and God bless!

broken-bulb

After my husband Ted passed away, I started waitressing downtown at a quaint and cheery place that always smelled like coffee and fried potatoes.  I was thankful for the income to support Nick, our little boy, and I was deeply grateful for the way serving others filled this unfamiliar, empty part of my life.  It even seemed to stop the void from getting deeper somehow.  At least for now.

“Order up!”

I scurried to the window to pick up a plate of biscuits slathered in sausage gravy.  The cook scowled at me, his mustache twitching as if to warn me.  Obviously he still had issues about the bowl of tomato soup I dropped last week.

Carefully I set the plate in front of a customer who reminded me of Jimmy Stewart; tall and lean with that old-fashioned dreamy quality.  I wondered if he heard that a lot.

“That tree is a real beauty,” he said motioning with his fork to the Christmas tree in the corner decorated in large red bulbs, slivers of tinsel, and all sorts of angels.

“I guess the owner loves Christmas,” I said.

“What about you?”

“Me?  I don’t know.”  I didn’t want to tell this stranger that it would be my first Christmas without Ted and that Nick, who was only four, couldn’t understand why his Dad wouldn’t be there.  I glanced around to make sure the cook wasn’t glaring at me from the kitchen before I finally answered, “Christmas is okay.”

“Just okay?”

“Look, I better get back to…”

“Don’t look now but the cook is staring at you,” he whispered.

“What?”  I turned around anyway.  The cook’s back was to us.

Jimmy, or whatever his name was, laughed. “You’re awfully jumpy.”

“You don’t understand.  I need this job.  And I’ve already screwed up enough as it is.”

“I’m sure you’re doing fine.”  He wiped his hand on his napkin before extending it to me.  “I’m Bob.”

“Nice to meet you,” I said shaking his hand.  “I’m Clara.”

“Order up!”

I raced back to see a lineup of plates.  Some were for me, others for Rose, the jolly waitress who continuously hummed.  She wore her own frilly apron and called everyone “dear.”  I liked her instantly.

As I dropped off two burgers and fries for a man and woman who each had a laptop and paperwork spread out across the table, the bell over the door began to jingle so much I thought someone was playing with it.  A large group of children filed into the restaurant as “Silent Night” played from the radio.  I felt the color drain from my face and plop somewhere beside the many coffee stains on my sneakers when I realized they were heading for my section.  Three adults and eleven kids.  I started to sweat on the top of my head.

“I can help you,” Rose whispered.  “If you’d like.”

“Please,” I whispered back.  Rose knew I was nervous with big crowds and so many opportunities to spill things.

We pushed the three empty tables together that were near the tree in the corner.

“We’re on a field trip to see where baby Jesus was born,” a little girl wearing long braids explained.

“Remember, they’re acting like it’s Bethlehem,” corrected a woman wearing a furry vest. “So you can understand what it was like.”  Suddenly she yelled, “Dylan!  Don’t touch that tree!”

Dylan, a boy about six or seven with curly blonde hair, sank in his chair like the weight of everything he’d ever done wrong was tugging at him.  The angel on the tree behind him swayed gently.

After handing out water in plastic cups with lids, chaperone’s orders, I went around the table and wrote down each child’s order; either grilled cheese sandwich or hamburger, again chaperone’s orders. As I finished scribbling down the final order, the little boy beside Dylan slid his arm across the table and knocked Dylan’s drink onto his lap.  Thankfully it still wore its lid, but Dylan instinctively shot back in his chair and right into the Christmas tree.  One of the red bulbs fell and crashed to the floor.

“Dylan!” yelled the woman in the vest.

My heart literally hurt for him, as if he were my own Nick who was also followed by that menacing and capable shadow called “trouble.”

“That was me.  My fault,” I said before I realized what was coming out of my mouth.  “Oops,” I said to Dylan who was dumfounded.

I carefully picked up the pieces, cradling them in a napkin.  It didn’t hit me until I was almost in the kitchen that the cook may try to get me fired over this.  My stomach twisted into a tight knot at the thought of losing the only income Nick and I had to survive on.

I avoided the cook, deposited the pieces in the trash, and washed my hands.  I started for the front of the restaurant when I realized Jimmy Stewart, no, Bob, was waiting on me at the counter with his cup.

“I’m sorry,” I said.  “I had a little mishap and I…”

“I saw.”

“More coffee?”

He nodded and waited.

When I reached out to take the coffee pot from its warmer, I realized my finger was bleeding.  I must have cut myself on the broken bulb.

“There’s a first-aid kit on the wall in the kitchen.  On the left,” Bob said.

Without questioning how he knew that, I hurried off.

After taking care of the cut, I made another attempt to give Bob, who’d returned to his booth, some more coffee.

“Sorry,” I said as I started to pour.  “Guess I’m having a bad day.  A bad year,” I whispered.  The stubborn tears began to spill out.  I leaned back, hoping they wouldn’t fall in his coffee.

“It can’t be that bad,” Bob said.

I smiled through the tears, feeling ridiculous that I was opening up to a stranger and added, “I don’t know.  I guess I’m just feeling a little like that bulb.  Broken.”

“You know whatever is broken in your life, Jesus can mend it.  You just have to give Him the pieces.”

I nodded.  It reminded me of something I’d heard at Ted’s funeral service. Something I needed to hear again.

“And if I might add, what you just did over there for that little boy, taking the blame like that…that was really something.  Reminds me of what Jesus did for us.”

I wiped the back of my hand across my wet cheeks.  “What do you mean?”

“Jesus was innocent and took the blame for all of our wrongdoings, all of our sins.  Although He paid a much bigger price than a cut on his finger.”

“But I still might lose my job.”  I couldn’t believe I was comparing Jesus’ crucifixion to something so minor.  “I’m sorry.” I sighed.  “I didn’t mean…”

“I know.  But I can assure you your job is safe.”

“Oh really?  How can you do that?”

Bob stuck his hand out for the second time and said, “Bob Tranter, owner of this establishment and that bulb you claim you broke.”

My mouth slid open but no words came out.  I shook his hand again feeling foolish.

“Now I can’t offer you wholeness like Jesus can, but I can offer you a promotion,” he said.

“Excuse me?” I slid down into the booth across from him.

“My wife and I are planning to expand this business in a new direction.  A food truck to reach the needy.  We need someone with a compassionate heart to oversee it, to manage it.  Are you interested?”

More tears came and Mr. Tranter handed me a napkin from the holder.

“So does that mean we have a deal?” he asked.

I nodded with the wet napkin pressed against my face.

“Good.”  His eyes softened.  “And if you’re going to compare yourself to a broken bulb, Clara, just keep in mind that over time, those broken pieces will be mended in such a way that only the reflection of the One who restored you and made you whole will be visible.”