It was the holiday season of 1984 and I was unemployed as a practical nurse. Instead of shopping and getting ready for the holidays, I found myself on the unemployment line, signing up for a cycle of checks that I would not receive until after the New Year. I racked my brain for a way to catch up on bills and provide my 10-year-old son and myself with Christmas dinner. Recently divorced, I sold my wedding rings to pay for food, car insurance, and an overdue phone bill. Now I had nothing left to sell and there were no job prospects on the horizon.

Spiraling into a deep depression, my very soul ached with despair. I felt empty from the loss of my job and the failure of my marriage. My son, Shawn, was the only reason I had for living. The love that I felt for my child surpassed everything else.

One day, after a long wait at the employment office, I decided to go to a nearby nature trail where I could walk in the brisk winter air and receive inspiration. During my walk it became clear to me that I needed divine intervention. I desperately needed a miracle and it had to happen very soon.

That night, as I was getting ready for bed, I thought about how I had done everything possible to remedy the situation and I knew that my worries would have to rest in God’s hands. I fell down on my knees beside the bed and sobbed. Suddenly, I heard a small voice speak to me.

“You have not because you ask not,” the voice said.

I sat down on my bed, shaken by the intensity of this message.

“Okay God,” I said. “I’m asking you to help me. Please just help me," I said, again breaking down in tears.

“Be specific.” The voice replied firmly.

I closed my eyes for a moment. My electric bill was $58 dollars and my rent was $150. I needed at least $208 to get caught up on my bills, but I also needed to buy groceries.

“Please send $250,” I whispered, knowing the additional $42 dollars would put food on the table until my first check arrived after the holidays.

For a fleeting moment there seemed to be a perfect stillness in the air and the world seemed totally quiet, as though some divine entity had caught my prayer and flung it higher into the heavens for consideration. I felt a warm and wonderful peace descend upon my heart and the worry lifted. Exhausted, I placed my head on the pillow and immediately fell sleep.

The following morning, Shawn and I decorated the Christmas tree and I placed brightly wrapped gifts under the branches. One of the presents was a wrist watch with a second-hand timer while another present was a lovely volume of "The Chronicles of Narnia." I had purchased these things in late July, tucking them away for Christmas.

Although Shawn was only 10 years old, he was very wise and understood the true meaning of Christmas. There had never been any selfishness in his heart and he was always grateful for whatever we had, making him a true and wonderful blessing in my life. For the remainder of the day we sang Christmas carols and baked cookies, and I felt a total sense of peace and expectation. The atmosphere itself seemed to hum and sparkle as though we stood in the center of an invigorating celestial storm.

“Do you feel that sparkle in the air?” I asked.

Shawn smiled happily.

“It’s the spirit of Christmas,” he said. “God sends sparkle dust to us during the holidays. You know, the Ghost of Christmas Present,” he added, loosely quoting from Charles Dickens’ "Christmas Carol." Then he jokingly picked up one of the presents and shook it, saying, “Are you in there Mr. Ghost of the Christmas present?”

We both laughed hysterically and then, after clearing away the supper dishes, I sank into the over-stuffed chair in the living room and put my feet up. Suddenly, I had the overwhelming urge to check my mail at the post office. I immediately shrugged it off because I had already been to the post office to find lots of bills waiting for me. After a few minutes though I gave in to the urge and decided to make the 10-mile drive to the post office. Shawn was watching a Christmas program on television and I knew he would be all right until I returned.

The streets were dark, and there were no signs of life on that cold winter evening. A few snowflakes fell against my windshield as I turned into the post office parking lot. Getting out of the car, I wrapped my coat against the howling wind and hurried into the brightly lit building. As I grew closer to my box a thrill of excitement surged through my veins and my hand trembled as I unlocked the little metal door.

A white business-sized envelope waited for me. I pulled it out carefully, my eyes quickly scanning the return address. It was from a bank in a neighboring town and I fleetingly wondered why I was receiving mail from an establishment with which I had never done business. My hands were shaking as I tore open the envelope and pulled out an official bank check for the amount of $300. I looked at the check closely beneath the fluorescent lights of the post office. Yes, the check was clearly made out in my name and signed by a bank official. Trembling at my good fortune I carefully tucked the check back into its envelope and fled to the car with my heart racing madly.

“God has answered my prayer,” I said, over and over. It was my mantra as I drove back home that night. But who was the check from? It was all I could do to keep the news from Shawn, but I wanted to be certain that the money was truly ours before making an announcement.

The following day was Christmas Eve and on that morning, as the clock struck nine, I called the bank. The manager reassured me that the check was authentic and could be immediately cashed. Overwhelmed by joy and curiosity I asked for the name of my benefactor. “The sender wishes to remain anonymous,” she said.

I thanked her with a quivering voice and quickly hung up the phone. Then, I told Shawn about the check and showed it to him. His eyes grew as big as saucers. We both praised God and jumped up and down with joy.
Grabbing our coats, we hurried out the door to cash the check and pay for the overdue bills. On our way back home we stopped at the grocery store to buy a turkey and other goodies for Christmas.

“You have not because you ask not,” the voice had said.

I had asked God for $250 and he sent $300 to tide us over until my first check arrived. Although this happened more than 20 years ago, even now a shiver runs down my spine as I remember that the voice was not my imagination. I was clearly instructed to ask for what I needed and to be specific!

The benefactor of the check was never revealed to me and I did not pursue the matter. I knew then, as I know now, that our special Christmas gift was from God’s own hand and that is ultimately all that matters.

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