To prepare for and celebrate the release of Mistletoe Melody, I have invited several authors to speak on the themes of the novel. Today, I have the privilege to introduce you to author, Jerusha Agen. Welcome, Jerusha.
Christmastime is here. It’s the season of joy, love, hope, and peace. Yet, the tough things in life don’t always seem to get the holiday memo.
Trials and suffering don’t often take Christmas vacation. And neither does the fear of such hardships. We see them on the horizon, or we fear our already ongoing trouble getting worse.
Something about the holidays makes such situations seem even harder, more tragic and painful to endure during a time when we should just get to be happy and enjoy life.
So our difficulties and the fears that go along with them rob us of the joy we would otherwise experience during the Christmas season. If we have trials during the holidays, it seems unfair that we can’t get to savor this most special time of year like others can.
Or if we see a difficult circumstance coming at us, we worry it will strike during Christmas and be all the harder to take because of the timing.
Yet, we know Who is in charge of the timing of things. We know the One Who gives and takes away the trials we face. But how could God allow problems to come our way at the worst possible time? Why would He do that? After all, the Christmas season is all about Him—the celebration of His birth and salvation for the world. Shouldn’t we be able to celebrate that without simultaneously dealing with fear and trouble?
Those are good questions, and I found a great answer to them in Stacey Weeks’ Christmas novella, Mistletoe Melody. Just like in real life, the characters in this story don’t get a vacation from their problems during the holidays.
The heroine, Melody, still has to deal with her recent diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, even with Christmas only days away. Quentin, the hero, still has to navigate how to protect his preteen daughter, Janie, who has physical challenges thanks to her stroke at a young age.
Melody, Quentin, and Janie each have an additional problem beyond the obvious ones. They’re plagued by fear.
Melody has perhaps the most severe and understandable fears. Only in her twenties, she’s received the dreaded M.S. diagnosis. Her life will be changed in difficult and even catastrophic ways by this disease, and the number of her years—as miserable physically as they may become—will likely be reduced. Already, she experiences flare-ups that cause tremendous pain and may leave her with more limited mobility and worse symptoms.
She lives in fear of these flare-ups and when they come, she waits with trepidation to see what the result will be when they fade.
But even worse than her health concerns is a fear that’s more surprising. It reveals itself in her great effort to hide the truth of her health condition from Quentin. Her family respects her wishes and no one tells Quentin the reason for her family’s peculiar behavior around her and the mild physical symptoms she can’t completely hide.
When Quentin comes up with his own, negative explanation for these curiosities, she still delays telling him the truth as long as she can. The reason? She’s afraid of his reaction. She doesn’t want him to pity her in the way she feels everyone does once they learn of her M.S.
Quentin is no more fearless than Melody. He lives in the clutch of anxiety surrounding his role as the widowed single parent to Janie. Fears for Janie’s physical and emotional health plague him, driving him to assume the worst about others in his zeal to protect his daughter.
Though she is a bright spot of cheer throughout much of the story, Janie also suffers from fear that keeps her from performing musically and enjoying the sharing of her gifts as she once did.
Do you see yourself in any of those characters and their fears? I fall prey to the same people-pleasing fears, which hide pride at their root. I don’t want the pity or negative opinion of others either.
Like Quentin, most of us have loved ones we care about so much that the idea of them getting hurt in any way sparks fear in our hearts. And the thought that we could lose them to death spawns abject terror.
Fears of not performing well, of letting others down, of not living up to our own expectations—all these are common anxieties that plague many of us.
So when Melody comes to a stunning, vital realization toward the end of the novella, I was waiting with her to hear the answer to her fears. I hoped it might be an answer to, and a victory over, my own.
But even here, God, you’re leading me. Even here, your hand guides me. You’ve said, “Here I am,” and I can no longer resist Your presence.
When I read these thoughts from Melody, which she has while lying on her bed in great pain, I knew I was reading her answer and mine.
Even here, in the midst of our pain, God is here.
That’s what Christmas is all about, isn’t it?
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). – Matthew 1:23
Jesus came to Earth as a baby to be among us, His chosen people. He came to Earth, lived the perfect life none of us could, and paid the penalty for our sins in His death on the cross. Then He rose again on the third day and ascended into heaven.
He did all of this so that those of us who love and adore Him could be with Him, and He with us, now and for all eternity to come.
And that truth is the answer to our questions, the balm for our pain, the joy in our Christmas, no matter how awful our circumstances are.
Because God is with us, we don’t face any of our trials alone. As Melody realizes, we have God leading us and guiding us. We have His love and mercy surrounding us and cradling us. We have His strength sustaining us. We have His peace available to us.
This is how we can have joy this Christmas and every day of the year, no matter how dark our circumstances. Because our Savior Who loves us more than we can imagine, Who still lives and conquered death, is with us through His Holy Spirit, right now, even here.
And as Stacey Weeks says it so beautifully through Melody’s thoughts in Mistletoe Melody, we have an additional stunning promise to cling to. She says of God, You allow hardship and tears – but you don’t waste a single drop on the ground.
He will use our pain, our trials for our good and His glory. We have a God Who promises us that all things will be used for good and Who promises to never leave us.
May our response to this amazing news be that of Melody: I choose praise.
Let’s choose praise and joy this Christmas, no matter what, because we’re in the presence of our God.
Jerusha Agen imagines danger around every corner but knows God is there, too. So naturally, she writes romantic suspense infused with the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ. With a B.A. in English and a background in screenwriting, Jerusha is the author of the Fear Warrior Blog, where she writes about fighting against fear in our everyday lives.
You’ll often find Jerusha sharing irresistibly adorable photos of her Furry Fear Warriors (three big dogs and two little cats) on social media.
Visit Jerusha at www.JerushaAgen.comand connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
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Mistletoe Melody can be found at:
Pelican Book Group