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Authors: Pam Andrews Hanson

The Gift of Hope

BOOK: The Gift of Hope
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The Gift of Hope
Pam Andrews Hanson
(2011)

Children's librarian Hope Randall has her hands full during the holiday season. She's directing the Christmas pageant, supervising the decorating of her small-town Iowa church, and hiding her growing feelings for widowed minister Noah Langdon.

Noah, who's struggling to be both mother and father to his young daughter, is afraid to love again. Will Hope be able to give him the gift of hope this Christmas?

This is a new Christmas novella by the authors of "Faith, Fireworks and Fir."

The Gift of Hope

By Pam Andrews Hanson

Copyright © 2011 by Pamela S. Hanson

 

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction of this work in whole or in part in any form is forbidden without the written permission of the author.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

CHAPTER 1

 

“Who was on the phone?” Granny Doe asked from her spot on the living room couch where she was trying to get comfortable in spite of the brace on her broken leg.

“Reverend Langdon,” her granddaughter Hope Randall said as she came into the room. “He’s going to drop by to see how you’re doing.”

“Oh, goodness, I can’t let him see me in my nightclothes at seven in the evening.”

“You look adorable in your fleece robe. The pink brings out the color in your cheeks. Anyway, he visits people in the hospital when they’re wearing those wretched gowns.” Hope smiled reassuringly at her grandmother.

“When is he coming? Maybe I have time to change and do something with my hair.” She made a coil with her long white hair and tried to sweep it up into her usual French twist. “I need my combs.”

Hope was amused by her grandmother’s unusual concern for her appearance but a bit puzzled.

“He’s on his way. Why are you so worried?” she asked.

“I don’t want him to think I’m too badly injured to be in charge of decorating the church for Christmas. Harriet Llewellyn has been trying to get the job for herself for years. She’ll see this as her big chance. I’m afraid she’ll bring in enormous inflatables like the ones in her yard. Can you believe she has one playing ‘Jingle Bells’ over and over and over? It drives her neighbors crazy.”

Delores, or Doe as her friends called her, tried to reach her crutches, but Hope moved them away.

“Stay right where you are,” Hope said with mock severity, still getting used to being Granny Doe’s caregiver.

She’d given up her efficiency apartment in Blairton to move in with her paternal grandmother after her father and his new wife moved to Florida. A widower since Hope was a little girl, he deserved a second chance at happiness, but he’d been reluctant to leave his mother on her own in the small Iowa town.

Hope was happy beyond words when he met and married Gloria after so many years of mourning for her mother. She prayed his new marriage would bring joy and contentment after so many years without a spouse.

Hope adored Granny Doe who had helped raise her after her mother’s premature death from a congenital heart defect. She gladly embraced the role of companion, but this was the first time her grandparent had really needed her. She’d fallen down the front porch steps and fractured her leg because she hadn’t seen a thin coating of ice on the wooden risers.

“I guess there’s no time to change,” Doe reluctantly admitted. “Anyway, you’re the one who should get dolled up for Reverend Langdon’s visit.”

“Grandmother!” This wasn’t the first time the older woman had alluded to the new minister’s single status. He’d lost his wife to a rare blood disease nearly five years ago, before he was called to serve at the Blairton Bible Church. “Please, please, please, don’t try to play matchmaker. He hasn’t had nearly enough time to get over his wife’s death, if he ever will. It’s possible he’ll never love anyone he way he did his wife. I don’t want to be the one to find out.”

“Well, fortunately you look lovely, no matter what you’re wearing,” Granny Doe said, ignoring Hope’s protest and frowning at her faded jeans and oversized blue sweatshirt. “Though I wish you hadn’t changed out that nice sage green pantsuit you wore to work today. Sometimes I look at you and see myself in my late twenties when I was stylish and attractive. You’re taller than me by a few inches, but my hair used to be that same shade of honey blond. And, of course, you have my brown eyes and cute little nose. Not that my nose is as small as it was then. Did you know a person’s nose and ears never stop growing?”

“Yes, you mentioned it at your second 69
th
birthday party, or maybe it was the third,” Hope teased.

“No lady should ever be compelled to mention her age or weight,” Granny Doe said with a small sniff just as the doorbell sounded. “Oh, dear, there he is, and neither of us had time for a dash of lipstick.”

“It just doesn’t matter!” Hope said as she went to the door.

He wasn’t alone, and Hope immediately welcomed his nine-year-old daughter, Anna, hoping to put the shy young girl at ease.

“How is your grandmother doing?” Noah Langdon asked after they’d exchanged pleasantries.

“She’s going to be hard to keep down,” Hope said shaking her head. “I’ve asked a neighbor to look in on her while I’m at work so she doesn’t start doing wheelies on her crutches.”

“I imagine she’s not one to sit around. The congregation is really going to miss her this Christmas season.”

“I’m not sure they’ll have to,” Hope said without elaborating. “Let me hang up your coats. She’s in the front room.”

“I brought Anna with me because her sitter couldn’t come this evening,” he said.

“I’m delighted you did. Anna, you look so nice in your blue sweater.”

She smiled broadly at the nine-year-year-old, hoping to put her at ease. In the months since Anna had arrived in Blairton, Hope had never seen her smile or heard her laugh. On Sunday morning, she sometimes sat in a pew alone while her father conducted the service, but lately she seemed to have made one friend at the Bible Church. Hope sincerely hoped she was fitting in at school.

As she hung their coats in the front closet, she couldn’t help but compare their appearances. Anna was as pretty as her father was handsome, but they had more than that in common. Both were slender with dark chestnut hair and striking blue eyes, but they were most alike in their serious expressions.

“Reverend Langdon,” Granny Doe said when he stepped from the foyer of her Victorian home into the front room furnished with family heirlooms and long, heavy green velvet drapes. “It’s so nice of you to come.”

She smiled broadly and looked happier than she had since coming home from the emergency room with the cumbersome brace and crutches.

“I was so sorry to hear about your accident,” he said.

“Oh, it’s only a small fracture. I’ll still be able to decorate the church for Christmas. I’ve been flying around on crutches like a kid on a pogo stick.”

Hope wanted to ask how she could tell such a big fib to the minister, but instead she wondered whether she should fix some refreshments.

“Would you like coffee and maybe some cookies, Reverend Langdon?”

“None for me, thank you, and please call me Noah.”

“Noah,” Granny Doe said, trying it out. “It will be hard to remember to use your given name. No one ever called Reverend Green by his first name, Bill, but I think most church members are more than ready for less formal leadership. It will help in working with younger people.”

“What about you, Anna? I could make some hot chocolate,” Hope offered when her grandmother paused for a moment.

“No, thank you,” she said in a hushed voice, standing until Hope suggested she sit in the gold velvet wing chair that matched the couch.

Granny Doe enjoyed talking about her fall and went into detail with the minister.

“A neighbor saw me fall and took me to the hospital,” she said. “It happened while Hope was at the library. She’s the children’s librarian, you know. She loves children even more than books, and that’s saying a lot.”

“I found out about your fall when Anna and I went to the library to pick up a book on reserve,” the minister said. “I’m glad you were able to come home.”

“I’m doing just fine,” Granny Doe assured him. “Crutches may slow me down, but they won’t stop me. You can be sure I’ll still be able to decorate the church for Christmas.”

“You don’t need to feel obligated to do it,” Noah said, obviously intending to be kind.

“I wouldn’t dream of missing it!” Granny Doe said. “I’ve already drawn some sketches, and I’m sure my helpers will do everything I can’t.”

“If you feel able, it would be great to have you supervising. I’ve heard you do an outstanding job.”

When Noah smiled, his face was transformed. Hope said a silent prayer to thank the Lord for sending such a kind man to be their minister. Reverend Green was never a warm, fuzzy person, and poor health had made him rather cross in later years. As a Sunday school teacher and the person in charge of the annual Christmas pageant, Hope knew how important it was to have loving and concerned leadership from a minister. She didn’t want the children under her care to be wary and uncomfortable with their spiritual leader.

“I brought you this pamphlet,” Noah said after they’d visited for a few minutes. “It gives some thoughts on why good people suffer and how to deal with pain and adversity. I thought it might be helpful in your daily devotions.”

“Thank you. I’ll be happy to read it,” Granny Doe said. “I do have a bit of extra time on my hands, but I’m sure I’ll be up and about soon.”

“Shall we pray?” the minister asked, leading them in a short prayer for Granny Doe’s quick recovery and continued spiritual growth.

“Bless those who live under this roof, Beloved Savior, and strengthen their faith in times of adversity,” he concluded. “Amen.”

Hope felt truly blessed to have the minister pray with them, and she could see it had raised her grandmother’s spirits too.

“Tell me, Reverend Langdon—Noah—are you enjoying our little town? Do you find things to do when you’re not doing the Lord’s work?” Granny Doe asked.

Hope knew her grandmother too well. She wanted to know whether the minister had found any female companionship. Was matchmaking a genetic trait? If so, she certainly hoped she hadn’t inherited it.

“So far, I’m just getting into the swing of serving the church. And, of course, Anna and I keep busy with her school activities, music lessons and such. She likes the water, so we’re looking into swimming lessons at the Y.”

“Have you signed up for any programs at the public library, Anna?” Granny Doe asked. “Hope is the librarian, and she comes up with nice activities for older children as well as the small ones.”

“Not this time of year,” Hope was quick to point out. “Young people are too busy with school and church activities during the Christmas season.”

“I understand you’re directing the Christmas pageant, Hope,” Noah said. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Not that I can think of right now, but I’m sure things will come up,” she said.

She tried to focus on his offer instead of the even planes of his face and the masculine jut of his chin. His hair must have natural curl because one lock fell over his forehead even though he unconsciously pushed it back several times. He was wearing jeans and a navy sweater with an inch or so of his clerical collar showing, and she liked seeing a man of God looking casual. Reverend Green wore the same black suit for every occasion even though it made him look painfully thin and sallow-faced. For a slender man, Noah had the broad shoulders and grace of movement she associated with athletes.

He was an unusually attractive man, which made her grandmother’s veiled question about his personal life even more embarrassing.

“Thank you so much for coming,” Granny Doe said when he and his daughter were leaving. “It was such a comfort. Do come back any time you like.”

“It was my pleasure,” he said.

“I’m sure I’ll be back on my feet and working on Christmas decorations much sooner than my doctor predicts,” her grandmother said.

“Take all the time you need to rest,” he said.

Hope knew he might as well be talking to the rubber plant in the foyer. Her grandmother was not going to let Harriet Llewellyn take over decorating the church, not if she had to be carried there on a stretcher.

After the two left, Hope asked Granny Doe whether she would like to watch television or read one of the books she’d brought home from the library to keep her entertained.

“I think I’ll just go to bed early,” the older woman said. “But tomorrow you and I can sit down and do some planning for the holiday season. I have some new ideas.”

“What are you thinking?” Hope was a bit wary of her grandmother’s ideas.

“We can talk tomorrow. Would you mind handing me my crutches? I’m glad I’ve hung onto this big old house. It’s such a help to have a temporary bedroom in your grandfather’s den. He loved to hole up in that room and play with his stamps.”

When Granny Doe started reminiscing about her beloved husband, gone nearly ten years now, Hope was relieved. The young handsome widowed minister had become one of her grandmother’s favorite topics. Much as Hope wanted a family someday, she didn’t need pressure from her grandmother to find a man.

She believed in the power of love, but after living with her single father for so any years, she would never want to be married to a man who was still mourning his deceased wife.

When the right man came into her life, it would be like a lightening strike. Her heart would know he was the soul mate the Lord intended for her.

 

CHAPTER 2

 

“She’s a nice lady, isn’t she?” Anna asked while she walked toward the church with her father Saturday morning.

“Yes, I hope her leg heals well,” Noah said.

They’d been talking about leg braces and crutches, so he assumed she was still remembering their visit the previous evening. It had worked well to take his daughter with him on a call, so perhaps he would include her in another visitation sometime.

“Not Mrs. Randall—well, she’s nice too. I meant Miss Hope, my Sunday school teacher.”

“Yes, she seems like a very kind person,” he said, not surprised by his daughter’s attachment to Hope Randall.

He could only imagine how hard it was on Anna to be without her mother. If admiration for her Sunday school teacher was a comfort, he could only thank the Lord. His biggest worry in taking the call to serve the Blairton Bible Church was how the move would affect his daughter. She’d been slow to make new friends but, hopefully, she was beginning to find positive things about the change.

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