This is a story I wrote for, but did not sell to, Chicken Soup for the Soul. It’s a bit longer than my usual 400 or so words, but it fits the season. I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m puffing myself up. Anyway here goes . . .
Angel Near My Chair
By Susan Sundwall
I was so happy to see the bulging envelope from my sister in California. I hurried inside to open it and found, to my delight, a family newsletter. She’d done it up from a template on a new computer program, and several members of our very large family had contributed. I sat down to enjoy the read and noticed her invitation for anyone to send their stories, pictures, and memories.
I wanted to write something for the kids and in time to go into the Christmas issue. This was back before everyone was emailing everything so I had to get busy. I worked and re-worked a story about a little sparrow and her visit to the manger where Jesus was born. I snail mailed it to my sister and a few months later I got another envelope. This one contained the Christmas newsletter with my story included. Then I began to receive comments on how much everyone enjoyed the story and it made me wonder – could this be the beginning of my long held dream to write?
It’s the tradition in our church for the pastor to read a Christmas story to the Sunday School children on the Sunday after Christmas. I knew he usually chose a story book with beautiful illustrations, written by someone famous, and with the perfect message. But something was nagging at me about my own special story. It had such positive reviews, albeit from family members, that I thought Pastor Jim might consider it. But it made me very nervous to think about. Who was I anyway? Just a mom who wrote a little bird story. I put the brakes on the idea for several weeks.
One chilly evening my husband and I sat all comfy in our recliners thinking of the upcoming holiday season. The television was on low and we each had something to read in case the networks were failing us. Soon, he was snoring and I wasn’t far behind. I began to doze. I cannot remember what broke into my cozy nap, but in that foggy little place we occupy just before we come fully awake, I saw, at the foot of my recliner, something that looked like a robe. It seemed to be made of linen and was white. There was also a peculiar feeling of being hovered over. Still a bit foggy, I wondered why my husband had risen from his chair to stand over me like that. But as I came fully awake, I looked over and he was sound asleep in his chair. Whatever had been near me was gone.
What had just happened? I shook myself and sat up. I had the strangest sensation that we weren’t in the room alone – that another presence was or had been there.
The next day I had the unshakable feeling that I should give my sparrow story to our pastor. I printed it out and decided to drop it off to him while running errands just before going to work. He smiled when he saw me and graciously accepted my story thanking me as I left. I shook a little as I got back into the car and prayed he wouldn’t think me too bold and full of myself. Then I gave it to God and tried not to think about it.
A few days later I was coming out of the coffee room at the small computer business my husband and I ran when I heard the pastor’s voice. “Is Sue here?” He stood at the service counter speaking with my husband.
“Sure,” John said as he looked over and gestured towards me. I wondered if the church’s printer was on the fritz again.
I greeted him as he said, “I’ve come to ask your permission to read your story for the children on the Sunday after Christmas.”
I almost fell over. And I probably blushed. Up to that point the things I'd written were private and the thought of having something of mine read in public was a bit daunting. But what could I say? Of course he could read it. And I’d be there to hear him do it.
When that morning came an attack of nerves struck again. But I remembered that feeling of being hovered over and became convinced that this must be a step I was supposed to take. So I squelched the naysayer inside and went to listen to my pastor tell the story.
Then . . .
When the service ended several people came over to tell me how much they enjoyed my tale of a sparrow in Bethlehem. One woman even said she cried at the ending. I was beyond pleased and more than a little humbled. I tried to still my hammering heart.
It’s been many years now since that happened. But I’ll never forget the feeling of having something I’d written touch a chord in someone else. I’ll also never forget the quiet moment and gentle prodding of an angel near my chair.
Image: Free Digital Photos