Kids with wings, shepherd’s robes, and animal faces were running all over the fellowship hall after the Christmas play. “Sugar high,” Caleb surmised. I was thanking Jessa for her help. “What a sweet way to start the candle lighting service. I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out.” “We were lucky that Evelyn didn’t toss all those costumes from ten years ago. I hope you stay in shape—you know everyone is going to expect this every year now,” she said laughing. I think Jessa had a point but it was so much fun, I didn’t even mind. “Merry Christmas, God,” I whispered in my heart.
Christmas Eve. Time had slipped by so quickly and I only had one more gift for Caleb—and I’d just finished my twelfth gift for God. My 12 Days of Christmas giving had done something amazing—amazing and totally unexpected. My heart had become more passionate about my husband. I’d focused on his gifts and desires for over a month and it had been so much fun! I’d also learned a lot about him. He told me, “Merry, you’ve made this the best Christmas ever!” I think it changed Caleb, too. It’s like he couldn’t help himself by doing little things for me along the way—like bringing my favorite chocolate donuts from the Donut Stop when he went to the city. But out of the socks, handkerchiefs, a gift card to A Lotta Latte, a new study Bible, tickets to the Trans-Siberian orchestra, a soldering iron, and, among other things, a trip for two to Oregon to see his sister (thanks to the pay raise and bonus from A Lotta Latte!), I think his favorite gift was the print with his names and the letter with the prayer. I still caught him reading it often.
As for God? I loved the way we’d laughed and talked for the past month. I know “everything is from him, through him, and to him,” and that’s kind of what I’d experienced in giving to him. I could never keep a secret from him. And I think several, and well...maybe all, of my ideas came from him. But the thing is...I know he delighted in ALL of them! But what amazed me is that so many of the gifts I gave him involved the people in our church—things like taking several containers of soup for Miss Shirley who’d been sick and lived alone, a night of babysitting for Mark and Sandra, taking Opal to the doctor, and vacuuming the church for our janitor who had knee surgery. All of these things had developed a relationship between me and our church. I’d found my place.
Christmas Eve night, Caleb and I sat in front of our Christmas tree relaxing and enjoying the lights. I was admiring the James Avery birthstone ring Caleb had given me for my birthday when he asked me, “Do you want to open your Christmas gift now? I could almost sense him vibrating with excitement. “If you’ll open yours first,” I said. I handed him a shirt box and he shook it and said, “A red shirt!” I rolled my eyes and inwardly cringed because he was half right. He tore into it and pulled out the red shirt and faded red cap. They both had a masculine logo design I’d created which said “Steadman Farms.” He sat there holding the shirt out looking kind of stunned. I quickly interjected, “Caleb, I hope you like the logo. I created it in faith—believing that some day God is going to enlarge your territory and give you your heart’s desire.” He didn’t say a word...and I was worried. He just picked up a large flat manila envelope with a big red bow on it and handed it to me. I nervously began pulling the flap open and pulled out some official looking documents. I honestly had no clue what I was holding. Caleb took the papers and layed them down and took my hands in his. “Merry, the most incredible thing has happened and I hope you don’t mind that I did all of this without your knowledge. But it all happened so quickly—and I wanted to surprise you, too! You know Mr. Troyer who fell and broke his hip?” I nodded ‘yes’ but nothing was making sense. “His family put him in assisted living this week. And I heard they were going to put his farm—including the farmhouse, barn, everything—up for sale. I went to them and asked if they’d consider a lease purchase of it all—including all of the farm machinery. And they said YES! Not only was the machinery included, but Mr. Troyer had already purchased the seed to plant next spring. The price they quoted was way undervalue—they were just happy to sell to someone they trusted who would take care of it. Plus they didn’t want to have to make more trips down here to try to sell it. Of course nothing is official until you sign the papers, too.” Big ol’ tears were sliding down my face. How could something this wonderful be real? And then Caleb told me, “Of course, I’ll still pastor, but I’ve already told Jake Leathers that I’ll only continue working for him until April and then I’ll go to work on my own farm—and hopefully make money from crops next fall. Jake told me I’d done such a good job for him that he wanted to give me a bonus. We now have our first calf!” I was sobbing by this point. This was infinitely above all I could ask or imagine! How could I contain it all? God had heard and answered our prayer—in an incredible way. He had definitely enlarged our territory and fulfilled Caleb’s name and dreams.
That’s when I heard God whisper in my heart, “Happy Birthday & Merry Christmas, Merry Noelle!” My name had never fit better.