"I am the one holding the keys to the atmosphere in our home." ~ Terry Maxwell ~
Heavy drizzle hissed down on Susan's hood, as she hunched into the storm, hugging her books. She squinted up at the twiggy trees clutching their last seared leaves, and thought, "They look starved. Like us."
"Would he be home? she wondered, or out wining and dining some new business prospect? Someone who would eat his food and cheat him out of his investment. I wonder what you can make out of cabbage and milk? Maybe he doesn't know.."
But she remembered yesterday as she had opened her music on the piano, she had heard her mother quietly asking Dad if there would be grocery money soon. "Apples!" she had prayed, tasting the memory of tart crispness, "maybe we could have some apples."
"What do you want from me, woman?" Dad had bellowed, "All you care about is money!" He had slammed out of the house, as Susan had leaned into her scales to cover her shame and disappointment.
She paused at the front door, Christmas music seeped sweetly through. And something else. She pushed in. Gingerbread! The house was full of its rich brown aroma.
"Welcome home! How was your day?" smiled mother. "Gingerbread! How?" "It's amazing what you can find at the back of cupboards and the bottom of bins! We'll even be able to take some to little old Mrs Richards. With carols. Like always."
The tension began to drain out of Susan's shoulders, as mother massaged them.
"Don't worry, little one. It is in the darkest times that we will really be able to see God." Mother turned Susan to the gathering twilight out the window. Behind them the stereo pealed, "Jehovah, hallelujah, the Lord will provide..." The stark tree branches twinkled in the streetlights, luxuriously stretching their limbs richly robed in ice.
Headlights shimmered to a stop in front of the house. Mother and daughter braced for what Dad might bring in. The doorbell rang. Mystified, Susan went to the door. No one was there. The headlights moved on.
"Apples!" she crowed, "Help me with these bags! It's apples!"
A Paradise Tree is one that bears fruit where none is looked for, as in Paradise the Tree of Life bears fruit the year round. This is one of the traditions that Christians mine in decorating Christmas trees. Come back tomorrow for Redeeming the Time, to meditate on next week's Advent Scriptures and to exchange ideas for making our times speak to us of God's great Gift.