By Mary Z. Smith
You are excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever.
Snow continued its determined onslaught outside the assisted living facility windows. By late evening, I grew anxious about how the roads would be when I headed home. It was the week before Christmas. I should have been on my way home by now. The evening receptionist who was scheduled to relieve me had phoned to say she'd been unable to get her car started. Why was I the unlucky one stuck behind a receptionist's desk when I should have been home sipping hot cocoa and decorating the Christmas tree?
The telephone shrilled. Answering a little grouchily, I heard a man's voice. "Is this Avis rental car?"
I tried to remain calm. "No, I'm afraid our phone number here at the assisted living facility is one digit different than Avis. Let me give you that number so you don't have to look it up again." Sighing, I quickly glanced at the familiar number of the car rental company on the pad of paper in front of me. I finished giving the gentleman the number, wishing him a Merry Christmas. Just as I was about to hang up, I heard his voice in midair.
"Wait a minute please!"
"I know this must sound insane, but I have to ask: do you believe in miracles?"
I sat straighter in my chair, startled at such a question from a total stranger.
"Definitely; why do you ask?"
"I'll try to make a long story short. My parents recently passed away in a car accident. I have no one left in the world but a grandmother somewhere in Virginia who I haven't seen since I was little. An uncle placed my grandmother in an assisted living facility when he grew too ill to care for her any longer. He's gone on to heaven as well. I have to ask — do you happen to have a Grace Sheperd at your facility?"
My heart beat faster as I recognized the familiar name. I pictured the gentleman holding his breath on the other end while I listened to the pinging sound of the icy precipitation pelting the window to my right.
"Are you still there?" he asked finally.
"I understand your responsibility in protecting the residents." The young man sounded so sad. "Thank you for your time, and Merry Christmas!"
"Virginia is a beautiful state to visit at Christmas time! Let me give you our address in case you happen to be traveling through our area any time soon!"
Christmas Eve I arrived at work earlier than usual. Christmas lights twinkled on the decorated trees up and down the hallways. Carols drifted from beneath a resident's closed door as I delivered the morning papers.
I was passing Grace Sheperd's room when I suddenly froze in place. Grace sat in her usual rocking chair, her Bible open in her lap. Seated on the stool directly in front of her was a handsome young man with curly dark hair. His hand gently clasped Grace's as she read The Christmas Story.
Suddenly Grace spotted me. "Paul, here's the woman who helped you find me! Mary, please come and meet my grandson, Paul!"
I hurried inside as tears clouded my vision. The young man slowly rose to his feet, taking my hands in his.
"How can I ever thank you for leading me to my grandmother?" Shaking my head, I attempted to talk around the enormous lump in my throat.
"We both know it was a Christmas miracle!"
"Yes it was... Merry Christmas!"
"Merry Christmas, Paul. Merry Christmas, Grace!"
Making my way back to the reception area, I sent a silent prayer heavenward.
"Father, now I know why I was meant to stay late the other night. Thank you for the miracle of Christmas and for your abiding grace.... Paul's Grace too!"
I couldn't help smiling. It was going to be a glorious Christmas!