Thursday, March 22, 2018

HONORABLE MENTION: Change of Heart by Victoria Carnell

December 22, 2015 by  
Filed under 2015 Christmas, Contests, HGIM, Monthly Articles

Place-HMMarigold smiled as she surveyed her creation. Her gingerbread house was identical to the picture in the magazine. She wiped her sticky fingers on her apron. The phone jangled in the background, and she heard her husband Phil’s muffled voice.

His heavy footfall loomed. She held her breath. He poked his head around the door: his face flushed and his eyes wide.

“Brother, wouldn’t you know it? Bob called; wants a bed for the night. It’s Christmas Eve for crying out loud. We’ve already got a houseful, with Sally and those bratty kids.”

“Oh, go on, you dote on them.”

Phil snorted.

“Said, Meg’s been flown to the hospital, something about an accident. Why couldn’t he have stayed with David, he’s only an hour out of the city.”

“Whoa!” Marigold held up her hands. “Phil. An accident? That’s awful. How bad?”

“I didn’t ask.”

“He’d help you, if you were in a fix. We can clean out a corner of the garage.”

“Don’t preach your goody-two-shoes stuff at me. It’s bad enough I have to be civil to your friends tomorrow at the church service, without also sacrificing time and effort setting up a bed for that no good brother of mine. Call him back and say we haven’t room.”

Marigold’s mouth dropped open. Phil swiveled, snatched his coat, and slammed the door. Marigold heard the squeal of car tires. Her stomach churned.

“Lord help. Please give me wisdom concerning Phil and Bob. Thank you, Jesus, for interceding for me.”

Marigold gathered a bundle of bedding and dumped it on the rollaway bed.

“Hi Mother, we’re home.”

Sally, laden with parcels, had stepped under the remote-controlled door.

“We got lots of things, Grandma,” Jo said.

The girls pushed passed her and she ran into the house.

“Why the bed?”

Marigold recounted the details regarding Bob’s call, and added, “I’ve since phoned the hospital and learned Aunt Meg is in intensive care.”

“Oh, that’s shocking. Well then, Uncle Bob can have the room the girls and I are in. Pass me the linen; I’ll get it ready for him. We’ll sleep out here; it’ll be like camping.”

Marigold popped the “instant-up” tent and set three inflatable mattresses side by side.

“Mummy’s going to read a bedtime story. Grandma, you and Uncle Bob are invited, and Grandpa too, if he comes home,” Jo said.

Marigold followed Bob as he crawled into the cubby.

“Near me, Uncle Bob,” Suzie said, and she patted the mattress next to her.

Bob wrapped his enormous arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze.

“Thank you Suzie.”

“Before we begin, let’s pray for Aunt Meg,” Sally said.

The girls folded their hands while Marigold entrusted Meg to the Lord’s care.

Sally opened the book.

“Look, the angel moves,” Suzie pulled a tab, and made the figure disappear and reappear.

“Pay attention,” Sally said.

Sally skillfully dramatized the Christmas account.

When she said, “No, I don’t have a room, but there’s a stable out back,” the words struck Marigold like a sledgehammer.

“Sorry, Lord”

“This tent’s our stable, Suzie said.

“Shush, mummy’s got to finish the story,” Jo said.

The excited tone of Sally’s voice, at the climax of the story, the angel’s proclamation, “A Savior has been born”, made Marigold’s heart soar, and she whispered, “Amen.”

“ ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Glory to the New Born King.’ “ Bob’s rich baritone voice reverberated.

They all joined in the refrain, and without warning another voice merged with the choristers. Phil’s melodic tenor permeated the space.

“Grandpa,” Jo scrambled to the tent door.

She lifted the flap. “Come in Grandpa, you’re welcome to our stable.”

Phil entered and bowed low, “ Thank you. And just like the wise men, I bring a gift. But first I have a story of my own.”

Phil glanced at Marigold in intimate acquiescence, and confessed he had paused at the door during the reading.

He told how he went to the lake, sat on a bench, and watched a middle-aged couple walk along the path, while a young lad rode a shiny scooter ahead of them. They stopped, and sat beside him, and the boy tore a crust of bread from a loaf the lady held, and raced toward the edge of the water to feed the geese. The geese had a tug-of-war over the piece, and saw that the lad had more. They chased him, but he fell. The man sprinted toward him and scooped him up. It was then that Phil noticed the boy had a prosthetic leg.

He learned the boy was their grandchild. His lower leg had been amputated as a result of a bone infection, and because his single mother could not manage, he lived with his grandparents. The grandfather called him his angel, and said, it was only by God’s power, he was able to be a good role model, and make the sacrifices necessary for the child’s maturity.

“The Spirit convicted me of my self-centeredness, and after the family left, I prayed for forgiveness and told the Lord, I would make room for him, so he could transform my life.”

Tears sprang to the surface, and Marigold swiped her eyes with the corner of her apron. She scurried to the kitchen and retrieved the gingerbread house, a knife and some paper plates.

“This calls for a celebration”, she said.

“And what gift did you bring Dad,” Sally asked.

“Here, open the parcel.”

Suzie jumped on her mother’s lap, and Jo cuddled up beside her, while she unwrapped the box.

“It’s an angel for the tree.” Jo squealed.

“God’s angels are watching over Meg in hospital tonight. I went to check on her. You’ll be pleased to know Bob, the nurse said she had improved considerably.”

“Thank you.” Bob reached over and shook Phil’s hand. Phil responded by pulling Bob into a bear hug.

“You’re welcome brother.”


Victoria Carnell has served in Christian ministry in Australia, alongside her husband, raised two children and nurtured four grandchildren. She also worked in management and education within the wider community. Due to these opportunities, she has garnered an abundance of subject material to inform her writing. Her aim is to encourage her readers to develop a relationship with God, by identifying with her characters, as they wrestle with the issues of life and faith.


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