A Breath of Fresh Air
A Merry Heart
A Woman's World
A Word in Season
Acting Up
Cyber Walk
Faith Seekers
Golden Apples
Heaven Bound
Just Between Men
Take it to Heart
Teen Truth
The Parents'
Survival Guide

The Treehouse
'Tis the Season
The Joy of Family
The Rhythm of Life
We Are the Church

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The Dawn of Redeeming Grace
By Diane Exner

'How will I ever get through this day?' Annie thought to herself as she wandered aimlessly through the park. Suddenly feeling overwhelmed, she crumpled onto the bench at the edge of the path.

Seeing a grandmother and young girl walking toward her, Annie tried to look away. The young child reminded her too much of her own daughter, who had lost her life because of a drunk driver. Closing her eyes, she recalled the scene. It was Christmas Eve, they were coming to play in this very park, but before they could cross the street, it happened.

Annie had pushed the button for the crosswalk lights and started across. Charity was only two steps ahead of her. Annie was still holding her hand, when the car came from nowhere. The front corner of the car threw her daughter back to the sidewalk as if she were a rag doll. The car kept on driving as if nothing had happened. She was stunned; frozen in her tracks. Repeatedly this scene replayed in her mind, and again she would see the lifeless body lying on the snow-covered sidewalk.

She had found out later that it was a drunk driver. The police had found the car and driver crashed into a dumpster only a couple blocks away. The driver passed out at the wheel.

She fought hard to hold back the tears that filled her eyes, ready to drop at any instant. She looked back to the approaching duo just in time to see the little girl break away from her grandmother. Running to Annie, she stopped in front of her and waited, not saying a word, just looking.

Annie tried to look away to alleviate the pain. This little girl reminded her too much of her own daughter. Just then, the grandmother made it to the bench, claiming to need a rest.

Annie continued to look into the little girl's eyes. They were soft, sensitive. Compelled by some unknown force, she slowly reached for the little girl's hand.

As their hands connected, a sense of warmth pulsed through Annie's hand to her heart. She fought the urge to scoop this little one into her arms and hold her close. She wanted to cuddle her on her knee as she once did her own daughter, Charity.

Her mind slipped away again as she recalled a beautiful, fall day when she and Charity had come to this very park. They had found a mound of crunchy, fall leaves and played in them all afternoon. They rolled in them and laughed. Throwing them up in the air, they ran under them as if under a gentle snow.

A snowflake landing on Annie's nose brought her back to reality. The little girl was now tugging at her hand to get up.

"I think she wants you to come with us," the grandmother urged.

"Where are you headed?" asked Annie as she reluctantly willed herself off the bench.

"Every Christmas Eve we go to a service at the Cornerstone Church at the other edge of the park. Would you like to join us?"

The little girl looked up in anticipation for Annie's answer, a smile forming on her cute lips.

'Those eyes,' Annie thought, 'what is it about them?' She knelt down to be face to face with the little girl. Annie's insides were at war as she looked into that little, shining face. Part of her wanted to go back home, crawl into bed and cry, but there was something urging her to go.

"Would you really like me to come with you?" Annie could hardly believe the words that came out of her mouth.

The little girl nodded vigorously and looked at her grandmother with a huge smile.

Annie followed the little girl's eyes. "I think you should come dear." The old woman smiled with the same softness.

In the church, with the little girl in the lead, the trio found seats near the middle of the full house. They sat down as the choir sang, 'Silent Night.' This was Charity's favorite Christmas song, Annie recalled. Oh how she missed her daughter.

As if on cue, the little girl put her head in Annie's lap. Annie automatically reached down to run her fingers through her fine hair, just as if it was Charity herself. The little girl started to hum with the choir.

Annie could no longer fight the tears. As the choir sang, "Round yon virgin, mother and child, Holy infant so tender and mild," the tears came like a raging river. Annie closed her eyes.

Two years of pain, anger and grieving suddenly boiled over, no longer to be stifled. Her hardened heart began to crack. "Oh God," she breathed, "I need Your help. I can't do this alone."

Just then, a hand from behind squeezed her shoulder. "Annie?" It was her Grade seven math teacher, Mr. Hart. "It's been a long time."

Annie forced a smile, nodded, and gathered herself together.

"Did you come alone?" He asked.

"No, this little girl and her grandmother brought me." Annie replied coming back to reality.

"What little girl?" Mr. Hart inquired.

Annie looked around. The seat next to her now empty, her hand resting on her lap. She continued to search to see where they might have gone. As she looked to the back of the building, she saw the little girl. With a huge smile on her face, she gave a knowing wave as she disappeared into the night.

"That little girl," Annie pointed to the door. Mr. Hart quickly turned his head but didn't see anyone. Annie started to get up from her pew, but Mr. Hart gently put his hand on hers and encouraged her, with a warm, knowing smile, to sit back down.

"You won't catch them Annie," he started. Annie looked puzzled. "I think I need to share something with you." Annie reluctantly obeyed, still looking at the door.

"Through the years we've heard many stories at Christmas time, of how a grandmother and little girl escort hurting souls here." He smiled gently. "Itís as if God has given us, at Cornerstone Church, our own personal messengers at this time of year to remind us of how much He loves and is always on watch.

"Actually I remember a story of another woman, just about your age that was brought to this church, as you have been tonight," Mr. Hart paused briefly. "This woman had just lost her daughter that summer. The family had been playing at the beach and their eight-year-old daughter had been pulled under the surface by a current. Before anyone could save her, she was gone."

"What was the little girlís name?" Annie needed to know.

"Hope." He replied as his eyes caught hers. They were soft eyes, much like the little angel-girlís were before.

"Where's her mom now?" Annie needed to know.

Mr. Hart slid back in his pew and put his arm around the middle-aged woman next to him. "I think there is someone you should meet dear", he spoke softly into his wife's ear, "I think you two have something in common."

Her hand instantly reached for Annie's. "Nice to meet you my dear, my name is Faith." As she touched Annie's hand, a warm feeling shot like electricity through her veins. Annie's head automatically fell onto Faith's hand and she wept uncontrollably.

Faith reached over and began running her fingers through Annie's hair. Without even realizing it, Annie started to hum the words of the song that played, 'With the dawn of redeeming grace. Jesus Lord at thy birth, Jesus Lord at thy birth.'

"Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." (Hebrews 13:2 KJV)
Diane Exner is a published freelance Canadian writer, who takes every opportunity to use her talents to glorify God and to encourage other women. You can contact Diane through her website, Creatively Yours http://www.dianeexner.com.
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