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    Puppy Love

    Alone at Christmas, Stella's heart was heavy. Could anything lift her spirits? December 20, 2019 by Phil Callaway
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    Feature
    A Labrador retriever makes for a lovely Christmas gift
    A Labrador retriever makes for a lovely Christmas gift
    If ever I’m standing by an evergreen tree, even in the summer, I close my eyes and I can smell Christmas. Ah, pine needles. I liked the smell of them so much I once ate a handful. Or, at least, I started to. I only did that once.

    Around the Christmas tree, my family would tell jokes.

    My brother would say, “What do you get when you cross a duck with Santa? A Christmas quacker.” Everyone would laugh uproariously. I would, too. But who was I fooling? I was the youngest, so I was always last to get them.

    “What did Adam say to his wife on Christmas? It’s finally Christmas, Eve!” I got that one in about Grade 9.

    Ah, the jokes we’d tell. And the strangers we’d welcome. Around that tree, we gathered with family and friends and people I didn’t really know. I’m not sure if Mom invited them or they just showed up. I didn’t know until years later that Christmas is a lonely time for many. And Mom did what she could to help. We all should, too.

    A Puppy Present
    It was Stella’s first Christmas alone. Her husband had died just a few months before through a slow-developing cancer.

    With Christmas just days away, her heart was heavy. The brutal weather didn’t help. It was too cold to go out and snow was piled high. She’d never felt so terribly alone and this year she decided not to decorate for Christmas.

    Suddenly, the doorbell rang. There stood a delivery boy with a box.

    “Stella Thornhope?” She nodded. “Would you sign here?” She invited him inside and closed the door against the cold.

    Scrawling her name on the paper, she asked, “What’s in the box?”

    The young man laughed and opened up the flap. Out poked a wet nose. Followed by a little puppy, a golden Labrador retriever.

    “It’s for you, ma’am.” He pulled out the squirming pup and said, “He’s six weeks old, completely housebroken.” Released from captivity, the puppy wiggled and wagged its tail.

    “Who sent it?” Stella asked.

    The young man set the pup down, handed her an envelope and said, “It’s all explained in here, ma’am. The dog was bought in July while its mother was still pregnant. It was meant to be a Christmas gift for you.” The young man then handed her a book, How to Care for Your Labrador Retriever.

    “But who sent me the puppy?”

    The young man turned to leave and said, “Your husband, ma’am. Merry Christmas.”

    The Gift of Grace
    Stella opened up the letter. Her husband had written it three weeks before he died and left it with the kennel owners to be delivered with the puppy as his last Christmas gift to her. The letter was full of love and encouragement and admonishments to be strong. He vowed that he was waiting for the day she would join him in heaven.

    “Until then,” he concluded, “here’s something to keep you company.”

    Stella wiped the tears, put the letter down and picked up that golden furball. The puppy snuggled against her. She looked through the frost on her window at the lights outlining the neighbour’s house. From the radio in the kitchen she heard, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” And suddenly Stella felt the most amazing sensation of peace washing over her. Her heart felt a joy and a wonder greater than the grief and loneliness.

    She looked at the dog. “It’s just you and me,” Stella smiled. “But you know what? There’s a box down in the basement I bet you’ll like. It’s got a little Christmas tree in it and some decorations and some lights that are gonna impress you. And there’s a manger scene down there. Let’s go get it.”

    If you’re lonely or struggling this Christmas, please know that God has offered you the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, the gift of grace. Life is stronger than death. Receive His gift by faith. Trust Him.

    Joy to the world. The Lord is come.

    Photo: Marko Novkov/stock.Adobe.com

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