When a family cat goes missing, they pray for a Christmas miracle.
Black as coal, the tiny cat appeared suddenly at our back door.
"We're not taking in any strays," my husband, Gary, vowed. Three days later I caught Gary feeding the scrawny kitten from his own cereal bowl. We had a new family member, and we called him Kennedy.
The cat fit right in, but on his own terms. We held weekly prayer services in our parlor, and Kennedy greeted everyone like a church deacon. We always kept his bowl full, yet he insisted on cruising the neighborhood for handouts. Our kids started calling him Fat Boy. Christmas morning he'd investigate every package under the tree. He'd play all morning in the discarded wrapping paper until he found an empty box to snooze in.
But as unexpectedly as Kennedy arrived, he disappeared one September day. We checked all his usual haunts. No one had seen him.
That December I just couldn't get into the spirit of things. Christmas morning Gary started a big fire and I made the coffee before the kids got up. I couldn't bear looking at the spot beneath the tree where Kennedy used to frolic. "God," I prayed, "I've asked you for so much, but never anything like this. Please, could I have my sweet kitty, Kennedy, back?"
The children ran downstairs. Before long the living room was knee-deep in wrapping paper, bows and ribbons. But it wasn't the same without Kennedy.
That night after the children went upstairs to bed, Gary and I sat down in the kitchen for a last cup of coffee. I heard a scratching at the window. I got up and peered into the darkness. Gary threw open the door. Kennedy hit the porch deck on all fours and sashayed in as if he had only been gone for a few hours.
I raced upstairs to wake the children. God had saved the best present for last.