Twelve Days of Christmas Novel

The Twelve Days of Christmas Novel (Part 14)

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Chapter 24:

The resolve to live a life of faith transformed by selfless love, continued to kindle, Grant’s heart as he awoke on New Year’s Day.   He felt a peace beyond understanding, a peace from trust in God’s providence in the future.

            Residents were invited to a blessing ceremony conducted by Father Mark, a priest from Saint Jude’s partner parish, Saint Bartholomew’s Church.

            The service included prayers, hymns and a blessing of holy water and oil. 

            “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

The service concluded with a recitation of the eight beatitudes and a prayer.

            “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the land.  Blessed are those you hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.  Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  

            “Happy New Year.” The Labre residents, broke bread together during a hearty brunch. The meal included and eclectic feast of ‘good luck’ foods to bring in the New Year, included black-eyed peas and collard greens, cornmeal cakes, organic pork sausages and buttered raisin bread.  Together they shared stories of the festive evening, stories of hope, love and kindness.  It empowered them to know that even in their destitute wayward state they had been part of something to help the community.  It gave each resident confidence to move forward on their journey, an inner strength to step out of the paralyzing darkness into the light.

            “My family traces its roots back to Ireland.  My great-grandparents emigrated from Cork in the early 1900s.  They lost everything during the potato famine and hoped to find a new life of prosperity and peace in America.  They eventually settled in Seattle, my grandfather working as a tradesman and my grandmother as a teacher.  They never forgot the hardship they faced, still they accepted it as a blessing, a perspective in which though they suffered they maintained happiness in love and could empathize with the broken and oppressed.  Great-Grandmother Maureen helped found Saint Jude’s.  I know she is looking down on each of us today, with blessings of hope and peace even in adversity.  Last night, thanks to your efforts, Saint Jude’s can continue our services through The Labre Residential Program.” Marissa expressed her gratitude. 

            “Thank you for taking a chance on me.”

“In Ireland, they celebrate New Year’s Day by placing a loaf of buttered bread outside their door as a symbol of the absence of hunger.  Traditionally this bread is not to be eaten.  Grandmother thought that tradition needed an update. She believed that loaf of bread should be shared with one who did hunger, so that they would receive the gift of nourishment. Every New Year’s Day Saint Jude’s bakes over fifty loaves of Irish Butter Bread and distributes the slices to those who hunger, along with an Irish Prayer Blessing.”

“What a wonderful tradition.”

“This afternoon, we will divide up into three groups, I will lead a group to Pioneer Square to donate the bread and food packs, while Noelle will escort the Capital Hill unit and Benny will go to Pike’s Place.  This a fun and rewarding activity, that I hope will cap off the New Year festivities.  The next two days we will focus entirely on job and housing placements.”

            The teams left at one o’clock, armed with buttered bread and food sacks. Grant requested to go to Pioneer Square, where he first faced the obstacle of homelessness, a fear of uncertainty that still tested his nerves. It was there that he Wilson had shown such kindness to him.  Grant hoped that in the small act of distributing butter bread, he could give back to those who even in their lost state, showed him active love and compassion.

            A rare blue, cloudless sky defined the Seattle skyline with majestic Mount Rainier outlined in the distance.  The sun warmed the air to an invigorating fifty-two degrees. 

            “My man Grant, good to see you back in the neighborhood.” Wilson embraced his friend. “How has life been treating you?”

            “I’m doing well, great actually.” Grant brought Wilson up to speed on the past week. “I am so grateful for your kindness.”

            “Love’s symphony is kindness in perfect harmony.  I received friendship in getting to know you, Grant.  I am grateful I could be there for you, spreading light, as those that lifted me out of darkness, when I was alone and afraid.” Wilson humble.

            “I’ve been thinking about Jepson, Cassie and their daughters.  I spoke with Marissa, and she has a contact in human resources at The Seattle Toy Company that might be able to help.  I don’t know the details.  I do have the contact information.  It might not be an ideal job, still hopefully it can tide Jepson over until he can land construction work.

            “I’ll pass the message along,” Wilson promised.

            In the next hour, the group distributed fifty slices of buttered bread and ham sandwiches.  Marissa counseled transients on resources available to them in the community. 

            “Teresa Martin, volunteer coordinator at Saint Nicholas Abbey has invited us over for the parish’s New Year, Fresh Start seminar about rising above homelessness, following the interactive class, the church is hosting a soup dinner.” Marissa informed.

            “Teresa saved my life on Christmas Day.  Her compassion gave me a will to embrace selfless love and let go of my anger.” Grant told Marissa as they walked to the church.

            “The Martin family is active in outreach.  Teresa mans a lot of programs in Pioneer Square to aide and address the homeless population.  Dr. Walker, our volunteer physician at Saint Jude’s is her daughter.”

            “The world’s smaller than you think.”

            “’One act of kindness goes beyond six degrees in measures of love,’ My mom used to say.”

            “How is Zeke doing?” Grant’s concern genuine.

            “We had a long discussion; things are on the mend.  On Sunday, I’ve arranged for our family to enjoy a day touring Seattle, everything from the Experience Music Project and Space Needle to a cruise of the bay, dinner on the waterfront.”

            “Sounds like a blast.  I know the kids will have fun.”

            “I owe a lot of that to you.”

            “I owe everything to people like you.  If it weren’t for Saint Jude’s I’d still be on the street…” Grant remembered his promise to find his family. “The other day you told me the parable of The Prodigal Son.  It got me to thinking about my family and how I forsook them in my quest for greed.  I think it is time to rectify that wrong.  I don’t deserve their forgiveness, but they deserve my apology.  Problem is I don’t know where they live now that they sold their farm.  I did an internet search and it yielded little in terms of results.”

            “I will do what I can to help,” Marissa promised.


            “That seminar gave me a lot to think about,” Jairus mentioned to Grant as they waited in line for hot pumpkin spice soup, focaccia bread and salad. “Recreating the definition of home and going boldly in the direction of finding a home, instead of living in the fear that comes with the loss of one’s home.  I know this year is going to be a good year.  Obstacles await, still I’m staying positive.  I’ve got to fight darkness with light and get back to my kids.  I hope I get a job placement tomorrow.”

            “You deserve a fresh start, a new beginning.”

            “A reawakening, a repurposing of my soul to trust in love and not allow my pain to lead me astray.  I was a good man before this trial, I hope to be better man after this fire.  Still my main concern is for my ex-wife and my kids.  I know needed me and I have been absent.  I am determined to remedy that.”

            After the meal, Grant took time to thank Teresa for her kindness. 

            “You saved my life on Christmas, an angel on earth.”

            “I’m glad things are looking up Grant.  I’m here as a friend and advisor whenever you need me.  As for being an angel, I think you overestimate me.”

            “You were an angel to me in your acts of kindness.”

            “Just remember to help others in need and to continue in bold hope even in desperate circumstances and we’ll call it even.”


            Back at Saint Jude’s, Marissa assisted Grant in locating information about his parents.  They spent the better part of an hour searching online databases, phone records, social media, and newspapers for any leads. 

            “There is the article about the farm sale…then nothing. I’m hitting a dead end…” Marissa confounded.

            “Thank you for trying,” Grant visibly disappointed.  He desperately wanted to mend things with his family. 

            “Don’t give up hope yet.” Marissa optimistic. “Persistence goes a long way.  It will workout.”

            “Only one more day until our assignments.  Even if I don’t get a job…or extended housing, I want to thank you for all your help.”

            “The center has been blessed to have you as a resident.  Your initiative and energy sparked the Desperate Hope campaign.  I know it is selfish to say this, still I regret you’re leaving.  Of course, I am excited for the next opportunity in store for you…it has been wonderful getting to know you.  I hope you stay in touch.”

            “I can’t forget you.” It took every ounce of Grant’s self-control to restrain his urge to lean in and kiss Marissa.  He genuinely cared about her.  She was the girl he imagined spending a life with. It would be presumptuous to assume she felt the same way about him. Even if Marissa cared for Grant, he wasn’t good enough for her.

            “I’m due to pick Joel up from basketball practice.” Marissa checked her watch.

            “He is a hoopster?”

            “Trevor had a basketball scholarship in college.  I guess the kids inherited his genes.”

            “I played basketball in high school for a year, all-state in my division.  I’d love to run drills with him sometime.”

            “They would like that.” Marissa cut herself off.  She couldn’t get attached to Grant. “I’ll chase down possible leads, see if I can drum up any information on your family.”

            “That means the world to me.”

Chapter 25:

            “Congratulations St. Jude’s class for completing the Labre Transition Program,” Noelle applauded the residents at breakfast. “Shortly, you will receive your next housing and job assignments.  You will continue to check in with Marissa weekly via telephone for six months to ensure a smooth transition.  Each of the employers and housing situations provide a wealth of services to help support you on this journey home.”

            “Our core mission this week has been to build a foundation, easing your transition from homelessness into a stable environment.  The road again will be met with difficulties, remember the lessons of trial, and grow in resilient trust.  Wisdom is a powerful gift.  Listen to advice and accept instruction that you may continue to grow in knowledge.  Wisdom is more than facts and figures, of course education is important, and I recommend you always work to improve your skill sets and pursue academic opportunities, still the wisdom I refer to is the gift of insight.  I hope that we have provided you with wisdom this week, wisdom to know your personal value and wisdom to help others, wisdom to endure and wisdom to persevere.  Your hard work and courage has taught each of the staff countless lessons this week and we are grateful to be part of your journey home.”

            “This afternoon, following your assignments, we will hold a graduation ceremony in the sanctuary, followed by a banquet.  Tomorrow morning you will help service a new class of residents a meal before departing for your next stage on the journey home.” Benny followed.

            After breakfast, the residents waited in the community room, talking about their experiences at Saint Jude’s.

            “This desperate hope, it awakened my focus, it pulled me out of my distress, to a new hope and faith in the future.” Jemima spoke. “I know the road ahead won’t be easy, but praise God, he is there beside me as I take these first steps.”

            “I am determined to stay sober and get my life back in order, not only for myself, but my kids.” Jairus spoke with bold determination.

            One by one, each of the participants nervously entered Marissa’s office, eager to learn about their job and housing placement. 

Grant pondered his future with a peaceful resignation.  This journey isn’t by his design.  He is an active participant in the soul’s trek, yet he alone could not control fate, this was after all an existence formed by Christmas magic. 

In this journey, Grant recognized that wisdom is more than acquired knowledge.  His reflection of the world, based on his own ego, instead of ethics, morality, virtues, and the knowledge of God’s grace. 

Wisdom is the ability to comprehend the depths of love, to embrace peace and to weigh the scientific and mystery of faith, through the spirit of both reason and the universal truths, which science claims are hidden, but is love not a truth, known in the soul, is kindness not an active expression of love.  Wisdom is humble and grows in knowledge.  In this glimpse of wisdom’s breadth, Grant couldn’t help but be humbled and thirsty for true wisdom from the spirit.

            “The anonymous donor who contributed $11,000 is a man named Patrick Dismas.  He runs a multi-million-dollar tech and marketing firm.  He was so impressed with your grant proposal that he offered you a job helming the newly formed Dismas Second Chances Foundation.  There are some formalities to take care of, still it is a wonderful opportunity, and your skill set will go to excellent use.”

            “I’m honored for the opportunity.” Grant expressed gratitude; all the while conflicted about working in a corporate atmosphere again.  He worried he might become tempted to return to his old manipulative ways.  Still the opportunity to work on organizing a foundation that would help countless people in need was exciting and humbling.

            “You’ll start work on January 6th.  Until then you can continue to stay on at Saint Jude’s.”

            “I’m overwhelmed.” Grant genuinely at a loss for words.

            “I have some additional news.  I reached out to a private investigator friend of mine, who was able to locate your sister Elsie.  As fortune would have it, she lives in Seattle.  Here is her contact information.” Marissa bit her lip. “I called Elsie this morning and she wants to meet with you tomorrow.”

            “I don’t know what to say.” Grant quarreled with himself as he internalized the news of seeing Elsie.  He wanted to meet with her, to apologize for his past actions, yet fear kicked in, fear of rejection.

            “You told me that your family deserves an apology, even if they don’t offer you forgiveness.  I spoke with Elsie, and she is sympathetic and wants to see you.  I understand the fear of confronting this dark part of your past – but it is worth the risk. Repentence is a step forward into the light.”

            “Where does she want to meet?” Grant daunted.

            “I invited her to lunch at the center, one o’clock.” The gentleness of Marissa’s voice calmed Grant’s nerves. “Elsie loves you and wants to make amends.”

            “You keep showing me compassion and understanding.  I wish I could say more than thank you.”

            “Thank you is more than enough.  Gratitude after all is the gift that keeps giving.”


            For all his accolades from top-tier universities, Grant never felt more pride than receiving his graduation certificate from the Labre Program. The sense of achievement in being part of something bigger than himself, the selfless lessons he learned offered a bold humility.  He hoped to use these lessons in humility and love to move forward in a positive direction, not bound by the selfish greed of his past.

            He applauded the accomplishment of his fellow participants, who he had come to accept as friends and equals.  The experience offering a window into the struggles others face, and an understanding that each creature has worth, beyond temporal materialism.

Grant vowed that he would never act with such disregard for humanity, the earth, and its creatures again. 

Following the graduation ceremony, the residents feasted on a celebratory banquet of sautéed pork chops and onions, red rice, and cornbread.  Marissa baked a three-layer chocolate cake for dessert.

“A toast to our graduating class,” Marissa handed out fortune cookies with Bible verses inside. Grant read his verse

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:17

“St. Nick, I appreciate this gift…and I pray God gives me wisdom in this life and well…my alternate reality.” Grant knew he needed to constantly seek out wisdom from others, leaning on the Holy Spirit to guide him with each rocky step.

Chapter 26:

            Grant paced nervously as he anticipated Elsie’s visit, agonizing over what he should say.

            “Sorry, it is such a simple word, it takes a human will to complicate it.” Grant facing down his regrets. 

            Lost in remorse, he wrestled with the petty feuds of his realized past, a past in which he forsook his family, rejecting their love, in his quest for greed.  He did not care who he hurt.  Grant set his sights on ascending Babel, even if it cost him love in the process.

            He thought about his brother George.  Growing up they were best friends, spending hours exploring the surrounding forests, hiking the backcountry, active in 4-H and teammates on the basketball team.  Somewhere done the line, Grant began to resent rural life in Shuskan, a life his brother loved.  George’s heart rooted in the land, the soil entrenched in his soul, the mountains his shield. Grant and George feuded, breaking the bond of friendship, slowly decaying into distrust.  Grant instigated the antagonism, gloating about his desire to get ‘the hell out of Shuskan, a living prison,’ cursing it to the ground.’ 

            The brothers maintained a tedious relationship, civil conversations, veiled their animosity.  The rift became a bridge too far, after Grant selfishly betrayed his brother’s trust, over something as trivial as a small piece of land inherited from their grandfather.  The land left to the two brothers.  Grandpa Elmer Spaulding wanted the land to stay in the family, a continuation of the farming legacy. 

Grant uninterested in cultivating his inheritance, investing his energy, tending the soil to bear the fruit of future harvests, insisted on selling his share of the land.  George opposed this.  Dividing the land would make the plots too small for agricultural use and disturb grazing rights the family possessed. George offered to purchase the land from his brother for slightly less than the appraised value.  Grant, selfishly refused, because he wanted supremacy over his brother.  He wanted to win, even if the division inflicted suffering and misery on his family. He forced the sale of the land to a company testing GMO crops and bioengineered pesticides on corn, which made George’s dreams of expanding the family’s organic farm business impossible.  Grant dissolved his relationship with his brother for a paltry profit, while George remained cheated out of his legacy by his brother’s avarice ways.

            “Elsie and my parents might offer leniency, pardoning my transgressions, but George?” Grant awakening to the wrongs he committed against his brother. “I burned that bridge to ash.  I fear my actions did irreparable harm.  The profit of selling the ‘Promised Land,’ our legacy, cost me dearly.  It poisoned the blood between my brother and me.  How often I have chased down material profit, with no regard for the other.  My focus so myopic, that I failed to see the forest for the trees, the galaxy for the stars.  I have cultivated a life of shortsighted consumption, a life bearing fruits of anger, hate, lust, greed, malevolence and pride.  It would take a thousand years of acts of contrition, and that soil still toxic.  How can George forgive me?  I struggle to forgive myself, resting not on my own merits, but in God’s grace alone.”

“Deep in thought?”

“Marissa?” Grant caught off guard by her presence.  “I thought you were in the office, preparing for the next class of residents?”

“I wanted to see how you’re holding up.  Jairus said you barely slept a wink, tossing and turning, muttering about regrets and unforgiveable offenses.  I suspect you’re anxious about with meeting your sister.”

“I am scared.  I want to apologize, I need to apologize; still I dread digging up pain, a past buried so deep.  Bringing it to the surface is hard, like a dormant volcano that suddenly erupts.”

“Trust me, I understand family feuds and reunions can be explosive.  Still, you don’t have to turn this into Mount Saint Helen’s.” Marissa’s smile cut through the tension. “Humbly approach this with a sincere apology.”

 “I hate the man I was; I understand the wrongs I’ve committed.  I fear Elsie won’t accept my apology.  Forgiveness is her choice.   Is it even my right to ask for forgiveness?  I am afraid of looking her in the eyes, seeing the residue of pain left from my sins.  She shouldn’t have to face that.  Part of me wonders if it is better to keep my mouth shut, cancel the meeting, because I don’t want to upset her.”

“The intent of the apology much be sincere and honest.  It shouldn’t be riddled with excuses and explanations.  Otherwise, the apology is useless, becoming an expression of your ego and self-pity rather than contrition. The truth hurts.  You lived your life as a mercenary, selfish and cruel.  You drifted in dark places, profaning the ground beneath your feet.  You have turned to the light of love and are filled with the volition to change.  You have to acknowledge the mistakes of your past and be willing to accept accountability for the wrongs committed.  That doesn’t mean you should suffer revenge, rather a willingness to submit in love and in that love taking up the consequences, with a hope of a peaceful and loving future.” Marissa put forth. “Is this apology for your ego or is it driven by true repentance, remorse for the transgressions you committed?”

“Remorse,” Grant adamant. “I do not deserve pity, nor do I expect it.  My sole desire is to apologize for my past hate. I understand an apology only begins to heal past wounds.”

“Letting go of the anger, even if you were wronged, can free the soul from the dark burden of revenge and bitterness.  Forgiveness is as much for the victim as it is for the transgressor.  Be honest and be patient with your family.  They might not enact instant grace, let your apology open a door to the process of healing.  They deserve your heartfelt confession, even if your humble apology falls on death ears, be at peace that you acted to amend the wrongs committed and move forward in the wisdom of this experience.”

“Thanks Marissa, you always know what to say.” Grant squeezed her hand.

“Far from it.” Her light laugh calmed his nerves. “In fact, your advice penetrated Zeke’s psyche so much, he insists that we invite you along for our day on the town tomorrow.  We’re going to The Space Needle, EMP and the Pacific Science Center.”

“I don’t want to impose.”

“Zeke will be disappointed if you can’t come.” Marissa careful with her words.  She knew you shouldn’t get too close with a client, every day she is more drawn to Grant.  With Zeke viewing the former transient as a mentor, a father figure of sorts, it complicated things.

“I’d love to spend a day with you and the kids.” Grant wished he could spend the rest of his life with Marissa.  In his former life he screwed up every chance at love.  His impatience with children, caused him to swear off fatherhood.  Being with Zeke, Joel and Sarah, Grant could only think about becoming a father, loving a child with selfless care.

“I’ll pick you up tomorrow at nine o’clock.” Marissa’s heart skipped a beat.  Her defenses tumble down every time she looks into Grant’s eyes.


  A final breakfast with fellow residents, further quelled Grant’s anxiety.  The friends discussed the week’s experiences, including personal struggles to overcome their shadows and goals for the future.  The perspectives reminded Grant on the necessity of apologizing to Elsie and making inroads towards reconciliation. 

Following the meal, residents cleared out their rooms.  Grant assisted the housekeeping service in vacuuming and scrubbing dorms for the better part of two hours.  The work served as an outlet to occupy his troubled mind. 

At noon, Grant, and his fellow residents, capped off the week, by prepping and serving a welcome lunch for the new class of Labre Participants.  The lunch, a bittersweet occasion, marked by the joy of serving the desperate with hope, and the receiving the gift of a step forward in their own journey home.  Though filled with a spirit of gratitude and faith in the future, Labre graduates, regretted leaving the peace of the center, which had strengthened them in love, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, and bonds of friendship and resolve to move forward out of their personal darkness into the light of life. 

With each passing second, the clock wound down to Grant’s confrontation with Elsie.  He prayed for guidance and strength.

“God grant me the will to apologize for the wrongs I have committed against my family.  I also ask for the resolve to let go of my anger and to forgive.”

Grant set aside his own worry as he served the destitute as they humbly came to the table, hungry and weak, finding hope and gratitude for the warm food and company of strangers.  Grant saw a reflection of his own strife in these men, broken and alone, full of fear, regret, anger and desperate desire for grace and mercy.  A conflict of paradoxes rages in everyone.  If this experience taught him one thing it is that every man is broken and in need of love and compassion.  He thought about a quote Jairus resigned to active memory.

“One must see God in everyone; for God is love and gives mercy to the lowly and strengthens the spirit of the weak, he guides the lost and kindles the souls of the selfish for his purpose, transforming them with the cure of selfless love.”

Caught up in service, interacting with the incoming residents, Grant found worthwhile distraction in conversation, learning the backstories and trials and joys of another once nameless group of transients.  He saw humanity in their eyes, and it forced him to reconcile his own need for humility and grace.

Grant froze in place, as he spotted Elsie enter the mess hall.  Petrified by fear and invigorated by hope, he struggled to breathe.  His heart racing, overwhelmed by joy to see his sister again after years apart. 

“I don’t deserve her forgiveness, but she does deserve my apology,” Grant reminded himself, as he pulled every ounce of his strength, ready to face this crisis head on.  

“Grant…” Elsie cautiously approached, gauging her long lost brother’s appearance, from the slight lines on his forehead to the fire in his eyes. 

She desired reconciliation, a ready hope to trust her brother again, still she treaded over the matter with restraint, holding close to her reservations. 

Can a person really change?  Elsie desperately hoped that her brother had turned his life around, all the while skeptical that someone like Grant, consumed by greed and seeking out for his own self-interest, could embrace humility and selfless love. 

As they struggled for words, Grant noticed the radiance in his sister’s blue eyes, full compassion. 

“I don’t deserve your forgiveness.  You do deserve my apology.  I am sorry for all the wrongs I’ve committed against you and our family.  I acted recklessly and hurt you all in the process.” Grant shattered the silence.

“I want to believe you Grant, but after seventeen years of not hearing a word, whether you were alive or dead, rotting in a sty somewhere, or at the bottom of a lake, it is hard to reconcile your apology with truth.  Do you realize the pain you put our family through?  Mom weeps every night.  Dad, he lost the farm because of the loan he took out to cover your college expenses.”

“Sorry is a word of action, and it only has meaning if there is active remorse, atonement and good faith in the gesture.  I can assure you that I am no longer the self-centered man, of my past.  I have had an awakening, a true understanding of the wrongs I committed and their consequences.  I cannot change the past, still I can move forward in the future towards a life of service to others, selfless love and compassion.”

“I don’t know if I can forgive you.” Elsie conflicted. “I do believe you are sincere, but…I carry the scars of the past you left behind.  It hurts

“You don’t have to forgive me.  I ask that you accept my apology as a path forward out of the burden of hate I sowed in the family.  I don’t want you to carry the load of my betrayal anymore.  You don’t deserve to dwell in that darkness because of my error.  Judge my actions as wretched, don’t allow my actions to guide your steps.  The hardest lesson in life, is apologizing when we’ve hurt others…we are prideful creatures by habit…perhaps it is even harder to forgive, not for the benefit of the other as much as for yourself.  We cling to that hate and revenge, allowing the betrayal to define us, instead of rising above those chains.  You don’t deserve that.  Take my apology as a release, let it be a path towards peace.”

“Grant…” Elsie still not sure what to make of her curbside philosopher. “I will forgive your past actions…it will take time to process the emotions attached to that forgiveness.  I wish I had the grace to just blot it out of memory.  Forgiveness will be a process, it will be a hard process, because it means sifting through buried emotions and conflict, if I don’t face that in the spirit of forgiveness, then it remains buried, and continues to fester in hate.  I love you Grant, I always will.  We need to take this one step at a time.  I can forgive you that is the cornerstone.  To rebuild our relationship, I need to trust you again.  That is the hardest task of all.”

“Thank you for even opening the door to reconciliation.” Grant wept. “I will do whatever I can to earn your trust again.  Just say the word and I’ll do it.”

“Time is what we need, time to get to know one another again.  I expect you to apologize directly to mom and dad, they miss you and despite everything your return will be met like the feast of The Prodigal Son, a celebration that you were lost and now are found, desperation turned to hope…”

“I want to see them more than anything.  I scoured the internet for details about their address or phone number and came up short.”

“They moved to Walla Walla, living in a basement apartment.  It isn’t much, still they can afford the rent and have enough for food.  George got a job as a farm foreman at a vineyard in the vicinity.  His wife Tara works as a pastry chef for an artisan grocer, while the kids are nearly grown.  George Jr. is headed off to WSU next year.”

 “I don’t expect George to ever forgive me.”

“Forgiveness…it is twofold, grace in forgiving, God’s grace, I think as human’s that is the initial step of absolving someone who has wronged us, yet even in grace there is action.  You must earn forgiveness with a sincere and penitent, humble heart, and soul.  Yes, you may falter, it is the intent of your goal.  George paid the hardest for your former sins,.  He thinks you contacted me just to get an infusion of cash, probably for heroin or gambling.” Elsie paused to read her brother’s reaction.

“I don’t want your money,” Grant adamant. “If anything, I owe you countless debts that I promise I will work to pay back.  Mom and dad losing the farm…George…what are you doing in Seattle?”

“I manage a locally owned boutique bed and breakfast in town.  My goal is to save up and open my own inn in Shuskan.  It is a pipe dream now; I keep banging away at it.” Elsie’s eyes lit up as she talked about her goals.

“You deserve every happiness, Elsie.” Grant recalled Elsie requesting a loan a few months back about buying a historic house in Shuskan and fixing it up for an inn.  He dismissed her goals as fickle and poor business sense.  Bed and breakfasts are not known for high income potential, still is $15,000 out of his millions so much to ask?  After all, Elsie has an M.B.A from the University of Washington.  Grant’s decision not to help his sister had been based more on control and the desire to hurt his family rather than protecting her financial interests.  “Have you looked into small business loans?”

“I’m working on it.  My credit suffered when we were pulling all the stops to save the farm.” Elsie looked to the floor. “In our old farmhouse, above the ironing board in the laundry room was a needlepoint with a Bible verse, Philippians 3:13.  It is mom’s favorite verse, it reminds her that you learn from the past, while moving forward towards a brighter future.  It is a call to rely on God’s grace and mercy, and a reminder of the difficulty we will face as we move out of crisis…’I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.’

“Sound advice.”

“I forgive you, out of love and because I see the sincerity in your eyes and the will to move forward in a selfless, positive direction.  I pray God grants you strength to endure the tests and trials.  It is blinding to return to the light after wandering so long in the darkness.  Old habits die hard, let them die.  We can both resolve to let go of what lies behind and strain forward, inch by inch to what lies ahead, a cornerstone of grace and hope of building a bridge of love.  It will not be easy.  It will be worth the sacrifice.”

“I desire nothing more than pure reconciliation with my family, more importantly I hope that you can accept my apology.” Grant humbled by Elsie’s goodness and kindness.

“No time like the present to get started.”

For the next three hours, the siblings caught up on life, from Grant’s involvement with Saint Jude’s Desperate Hope fundraiser, and his new job, to the family’s Christmas in Walla Walla. They broached the murky waters of past wrongs, working to dissolve the hurt with love’s forgiveness. 

Elsie arranged for Grant to phone his parents.  Despite all the wrongs he has committed against them, years of injury and betrayal, they welcomed his voice with joy and gratitude.

“Our son has returned to us, praise God.” Marie shouted.  She knew the reunion would be met with difficulty as the pain of the past resurfaced, still she strained towards a future hope. “What was lost, is now found.”

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