For as long as she can remember, Keri Jackson has despised the hype and commercialism around Christmas so much she seldom enjoys the holiday. Will she get her wish and be free of the angst to truly enjoy Christmas this year?
A devout Christian at heart, Jeremy Hinton, a Psychotherapist, Life Coach, Spiritual Mentor and Energy Medicine Practitioner has studied all of the world’s religions and homeopathic healing modalities. But when a rare bacterial infection threatens the life of the woman he loves, will all of his faith and training be for naught?
Find out in Keri’s Christmas Wish
Bah humbug! Keri frowned as she scrolled the news feeds on her social media sites. The madness has started already. Christmas in July. Before long it’d be Christmas decorations up alongside Halloween costumes and Christmas stockings next to turkey stuffing.
The entire world went bug-eyed crazy when it came to Christmas.
“What are you grumbling about?” Jeremy looked up from his tablet. Oops. The crease in his forehead indicated his confusion, and no wonder. In the six weeks they’d dated, not once had Keri given any indication to her aversion to the holiday season.
Oh, well, he’s bound to find out soon enough.
Irritation crawled up her spine and leapt through her lips. “We’ve barely gotten past Independence Day and now everyone is jumping on the ‘Christmas in July’ bandwagon. Aggravates the fire out of me.”
“What have you got against Christmas?”
“Nothing, except it’s a false holiday.”
Was that curiosity or dismay in his expression? Probably both, poor guy.
“Yeah. I mean, according to every theologian I’ve read, studied under or debated with, Jesus was not born on December 25th. He wasn’t even born in December. And, even if he were, this holiday has become anything but a celebration of His birth.
“It’s an over-inflated season, hyped up to rip off the public with ridiculous schemes and price gouging in order to get more money for something of little or no value. Then, when it’s all over, the retail industry moans and complains about how much money they ‘lost’ until I want to puke up tinsel, lights and icicles.”
Jeremy ogled her as though she’d lost her mind. “Wow, not sure if I want to know what made you so cynical.”
She took a deep breath and tried to find an answer—as much for herself as for Jeremy. She couldn’t recall any particular incident that turned her against Christmas, but her aversion for the holiday went way back in her psyche. Had she ever not been a bit of a Christmas scrooge?
Keri shut down the computer and stretched a kink out of her shoulders. Crossing the room to where he sat reading, she slipped her arms around Jeremy and gave him as cheerful a smile as she could muster. “I’ll get over it. Maybe this will be the year of my Christmas miracle and I won’t feel this way anymore.”
He eyed her, one eyebrow arched in question.
“I’ve prayed for years to understand these intense feelings I have about the commercialism of Christmas, but so far, no such luck. I don’t know when it all started or why but it’s been my wish for years that I could just chill and enjoy the festivities.”
He squeezed her in a tight hug and kissed the tip of her nose. “Then that’s my Christmas wish for you also. I’ll add it to my prayer list and we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, I’d suggest you stay away from sites that promote the ‘Christmas in July’ propaganda and find ways to start looking forward to the real celebrations.”
She smiled up at him, this time for real. “Will do. Now what are we doing for dinner?”
Jeremy glanced at their attire and suggested a familiar, classy-but-casual diner. Keri ran a brush through her sable hair, and they were out the door. Conversation remained sweet and lightly romantic while they ate, and Christmas wasn’t mentioned again until they were almost home.
“What kind of things have you done besides prayer to uncover the root of your Christmas malady?” Jeremy shot her a quick smile before returning his attention to the road.
Keri shrugged. “I’ve read every cute, funny, serious and spiritual story around the holiday, watched sweet and humorous movies, sat for long moments of silence in front of nativity scenes and brightly decorated trees and tried to figure it out. I just can’t seem to get past the commercialization into the heart of the issue.”
Jeremy pulled into a spot next to her car, put his in park and turned to face her. “Well, I’d be willing to help you. If you don’t think that would be too weird or anything.”
She pressed a kiss to his cheek and opened her car door. “I don’t think it’d be weird. I’m just afraid you might run as fast and far as you can away from me when you find out how truly crazy I am.” She tried to laugh as she scrambled from the car, but the sound lacked even the tiniest trace of humor.
Jeremy hurried to catch up and walked with her to the door of her apartment. He turned her in his arms and pressed a kiss to her lips, then took her key and opened the door. He didn’t walk away until she closed and locked it.
Keri smiled as his footsteps faded into the night. As always, Jeremy made her feel safe and protected. Not too common in men these days, but she liked it a lot.
Jeremy made his way back to his vehicle, the echo of fear in Keri’s words striking a nerve deep in his heart.
Keri Jackson was highly intelligent, deeply emotional, and intensely complex. He’d known that the first time he saw her. As a psychotherapist, he’d dealt with personalities as diverse and varied as the different species of plants and animals which inhabited the earth. The fact that he encouraged the use of spiritual practices with his patients made his treatment unique, if a bit unorthodox from a medical standpoint.
Jeremy believed God was much bigger than man could even comprehend. The study of religious modalities and how they played into the human psyche fascinated him. That’s why, when a patient shared their personal beliefs with him, he was able to incorporate those beliefs into a highly specific, individual program, along with modern techniques and methods of accessing the deepest level of consciousness in that patient.
At home, Jeremy changed into sweat pants and a T-shirt and settled in for his nightly devotions. With a Bible, prayer journal and pen in hand, he added Keri’s Christmas wish to his prayer list, and then had a conversation with God.
* * * * *
Keri lay awake for long hours after Jeremy dropped her off. “Oh, Lord, what would You have me do? I love you with my whole heart. Why can’t I get past this issue with Your birth?”
The musical tinkle of wind chimes filled the air. Keri closed her eyes and listened as the sweet melody soothed her troubled spirit. Soon she drifted into a dreamless slumber. When she awoke, sunlight streamed through her bedroom windows.
She pushed the covers back and swung her legs over the edge of the bed while her mind went through the litany of things she had to be grateful for. She’d implemented this practice years ago. It stirred up enough positive energy to get her through the snarl of morning traffic and safely to her office across town where she immersed herself in the demands of her accounting job.
During her lunch break, she thought about the previous evening, and Jeremy’s discovery of her sour outlook on Christmas. Only then did she remember hearing wind chimes as she drifted off to sleep. Where had the sound come from? She didn’t have much time to ponder the question.
Noontime aerobics and a quick shower before hurrying through her usual fare of sandwich, yogurt and fruit took up most of her concentration. She made a quick mental note to check the neighboring apartment decks and balconies to see if she could find the source of the heavenly strain.
Later that evening, Keri sat in her apartment bewildered and confused. Her search around the apartment complex after work had uncovered not a single string of wind chimes. Not one. She’d found nothing to explain the music she’d heard while drifting off after her evening prayer the night before.
Goose bumps rose on her flesh in response to the shiver that shook her soul. Could it be God used the music to acknowledge her prayer? Would this be the year she finally let go of all the angst she felt around Christmas and just enjoyed one of the holiest seasons? Would her Christmas wish finally be granted?
The ring of her cell phone startled her so much she nearly jumped out of the chair. She picked it up, noted the caller and pushed the button to answer. “Hello.”
Jeremy’s voice came through the speaker. “Hey, how was your day?”
“Fine. Busy as usual. We’re getting our mid-year tax clients so that keeps things interesting.”
“Yeah, you know, those who file extensions in April in order to buy more time to get their records caught up? They usually start bringing in what we need to get organized so that we can file for them in October. All quarterly reports are due by the end of this month too.”
“Oh. Ugh, I don’t see how you do it. Numbers drive me crazy.”
She laughed. “Ditto on what you do. I doubt I could listen to other people’s problems without taking them upon myself. I’d go bonkers right along with them.”
“It’s a balancing act, for sure,” Jeremy replied. “But when in a healing profession, you learn to take exceptional care of yourself–mentally, physically, emotionally, even spiritually. Those of us who believe, that is.”
“Yeah, it’s amazing how many more doctors are using their faith while practicing and are not afraid or ashamed to admit it.”
A buzzing whine in the background made her grin. She pictured him in his kitchen, opening a can of something while they chatted.
“Medicine has come a long way in the last several years. Even psychology has changed.”
He hesitated, popped the top on a can, drank, and swallowed. “Sorry, I know eating or drinking while on the phone is rude, but I guess I didn’t get enough fluids in me after my run.”
Keri laughed. “No problem. What do you mean, psychology has changed? In what way?”
She heard him pull a chair out from the table, then another, and sigh. From the sounds of movement, she imagined he’d stretched out and propped his feet up.
“What I mean is, with the discovery, or should I say rediscovery of energy medicine, and the mind, body connection—which is becoming more and more scientifically proven, as well as the body’s natural means of healing itself, the whole scope of healthcare has changed. Even psychologists and psychotherapists are picking up on some of these energy-related techniques and are finding great progress with some of their most difficult patients.”
“I’ve never heard of energy medicine,” Keri remarked.
“It’s fascinating. Might be a bit boring for someone who deals in numbers though.” He chuckled.
Keri laughed. “Maybe, but I’d love to hear more about it.”
“Well, we will have to get together over the weekend. I can show you a couple of books about it. So, what’s new since I saw you last night? Which, by the way, I truly enjoyed.”
His voice had softened a bit. Her heart did a slow swirl into her stomach. “So did I. Not much has changed, but something a little strange happened as I drifted off to sleep last night.”
Keri bit her lip, hesitant to tell him about the wind chimes.
“You can tell me anything, Keri. I promise not to make light of what you say.”
I can’t be any nuttier than some of his patients, she reasoned. “I said my normal evening prayers, and then, just as I dozed off, I heard the sound of wind chimes. At least, that’s what it sounded like. This afternoon, I drove around the apartment complex to see if I could spot any on someone’s porch or balcony, but I didn’t see a single chime of any kind. Kinda freaky.”
The same fear in her voice that tugged at his heart the night before, touched him again. Jeremy sent a silent prayer for guidance in helping her. He tuned in to his intuition. “I don’t think it’s freaky at all. Seems to me God had the angels hum you a lullaby.”
“You know, I thought the exact same thing.”
A warm, toasty feeling enveloped Jeremy at the excitement in her voice. “One thing I’ve learned while walking with the Lord is that He will answer us in the most unusual and amazing ways.”
“You really do have faith in Him, don’t you?” she asked.
Jeremy nodded, then realized she couldn’t see him or hear his brains rattle. The thought brought a smile to his lips that echoed in his voice. “Yes, in ways most people find strange or radical. I believe God is much bigger than the boxes we put him in, especially those outlined in traditional religion.”
Her soft sigh filled him with a joy he’d not experienced with any other woman.
“I believe that too. So much so that I usually feel out of place in church.”
“That’s because we tend to fear what other people think or might say about us if we let go and truly worship Him. But the Bible does state that God is a spirit and we should worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
“But whose truth?” The question had haunted Keri for a long time. “Every religion has something different. Every preacher you listen to teaches their own interpretation of the Bible. It can be so confusing.”
“That’s why it’s important to spend time with God in prayer and meditation and to let Him show you the truth, His truth, as it applies to your life. We get so caught up in what one pastor preaches and another one teaches that we fail to go straight to the Source. Go to God, listen to Him.
“I’m not saying preachers and teachers aren’t valuable. Just the opposite, but they should point us to a personal relationship with Him. And those are as unique as each individual human being.”
His phone clicked. Jeremy glanced at the caller ID. “Hey sweetheart, I have to take this call. We’ll talk again soon. OK?”
Keri agreed, and he switched over to accept the incoming call.
* * * * *
Keri put her phone down, enlightened and encouraged by her conversation with Jeremy. In all of her adult, and, if truth be known, her young adult years, she’d never met anyone who so easily expressed what he or she believed. Nor had she met anyone who appeared to be on a similar path as she—though she was sure Jeremy far surpassed her on the spiritual plane.
Many times in her searching for truth, she’d heard faith teachers tout the value of meditation, but she’d yet to give the practice a try. Tonight she wanted to, but had no clue on how or where to begin.
In a sudden burst of memory, she recalled a book she’d read, and the author’s definition of ‘practicing the presence of God.’ She’d try it.
As she set about her nightly rituals of dinner, dishes and bath, she kept God uppermost in her thoughts instead of allowing her mind to wander aimlessly as it usually did, circling on one worry after another. She began a dialogue with Him in her mind, then transitioned to speaking aloud words of praise, worship and prayer.
“I don’t really know what I’m doing, Lord, but I desire a more intimate relationship with You. I want to know You better, to hear Your voice, to recognize when You are speaking to me or showing me Your will, Your plan and Your ways.
“I’m no longer happy relying completely on the experiences and teachings of others. I need to feel You myself, to experience Your fullness in my life. In all I think, in all I do, and in all I believe. I’ve been so caught up in learning about You, and I’m grateful for all I’ve learned and the many teachers who’ve taught me, but now, from the deepest parts of my heart and soul, I want to honestly know You.”
As the evening wore on, her words became song and she once again drifted to sleep with the lovely melody of the night before ringing through her dreams.