Grace squinted through the melted porthole in the crystal-frosted window.
Waves of drifting snow obscured the frozen pond. The stamp of Jims
fresh footprints rose and fell between the frozen peaks of the invisible
path to the barn. A blustery Christmas Eve descended on her tiny corner
Scratching the edges of the disappearing circle, she could see the
next farm peeking between gusts of swirling snow. The unruled flakes
distorted the image. It was blurry, like the memories of her childhood.
To an 8-year-old, crossing the Atlantic was a strange and chilling experience.
The steamer was loaded with hundreds of parentless children who would
be resettled in the New World. Everyone said it was for the best. Britain
didnt have the resources to care for so many orphans, and the
vast, young country of Canada eagerly opened its doors. During the long
journey, Grace clung to 12-year-old Ted, believing he would make everything
turn out right. Instead, arrival in Canada brought painful separation
from her wise, responsible brother. Many homes were anxious to take
a strong, sturdy boy on the brink of manhood. The sting of Teds
loss still lingered when a placement opened with a farm family in northern
Ontario. The journey from Toronto seemed to take the lost child to the
ends of the earth, farther away from Ted.
At the train station, the receiving family stood cold and silent as
their critical eyes surveyed the wisp of a girl. How could this frail
creature clean house, haul water and milk cows? She would need more
care than she was worth. Many dreary nights Grace cried in desperation
and loneliness begging God to send Ted. He would rescue her from the
harsh demands of this cheerless family. She could make herself believe
that when morning came Ted would be at her side. Together they would
plan a happy life, maybe even return to England.
The heavens remained silent until she was 16, and it wasnt Ted
who came but Jim. Loving Jim, with his optimistic outlook and
zest for life, became a long-lost sanctuary where the pain subsided.
In the glow of youth they married and chose a small but well-kept farm
set on a flat stretch of fertile land. The house wasnt beautiful,
but it was functional for a growing family. Finally she belonged
first to Jim, and then to their four girls who trooped into the world
one after another.
Jims assets also included a crowd of in-laws. Tomorrow they would
make the big old farmhouse vibrate with laughter and Christmas fun.
In preparation for the celebration Jim had selected and slain the choicest
turkey. The unlucky bird was already plucked and singed, patiently waiting
for a hot oven.
Darkness was settling when Jim stomped the sticky snow from his barn
boots and entered the back door. He hurried to warm his hands over the
faithful wood stove while the children giggled and squirmed at the dinner
table. Food was not important tonight. After all, "Santa will soon
come," declared 7-year-old Evelyn, "and the earlier we get
to bed, the earlier hell come." At bedtime, Mildred thought
she heard sleigh bells. The other girls assured their naïve sister
that Santa could not, indeed would not, come until they were asleep.
Grace rescued four handcrafted dolls from their hiding place on the
top shelf of the pantry and gave them a prominent place under the pine
tree in the parlor. There they sat like princesses awaiting their doting
A firm knock on the sturdy front door broke the tender stillness. Jims
jolly voice greeted nearby farmer Fred Long. "Just helping this
fella find your place, Jim," Fred replied. Then a third voice spoke
soft and low with a hint of urgency. A strangers voice. Moving
quickly to Jims side, Grace looked inquisitively into the strangers
eyes. A smile spread across his broad face. Taking a step forward, the
kind gentleman affectionately touched her arm. "Hello, Grace. Ive
been searching for you for a long time. Im Ted, your brother."
While her hazel eyes sparkled with fresh tears, many unspoken questions
crowded her scrambled thoughts. "Where did they send you? Were
you treated well? Can you help me remember our parents?" With Teds
renewed friendship and stronger memories, Graces cloudy past emerged
from the shapeless shadows.
Grace is my grandmother. She almost forgot her desperate little-girl
prayer for Teds return. But God did not forget. Answers to prayer
often come in their own "due season" (Galatians 6:9). This
one came at Christmas.