The eighteen-hundred-mile trip from Ohio to Idaho would have been OK if only my little sister Michelle hadn’t been poking me all the way. Every so often, Mom would look back at us and say, “Now, Michelle, please don’t bother your big brother. We want everyone in a good mood when we get to Grandma’s house.”
But I was so excited about going to Grandma’s that I really didn’t care much what Michelle did to me. You see, Grandma’s farm has lots of hills and, best of all, lots of snow. I could hardly wait to put on a pair of skis and try the slopes. Even the heavy snow falling on the road now only added to my excitement. I could tell, however, that my dad was more worried than excited about it. He had turned off a ball game just to listen to the weather report.
Suddenly the car skidded wildly across the road. Dad pumped the brakes, but the car was out of control. We spun around and around until the car slowly stopped. It was unreal—we ended up turned completely around. Dad let out a sigh and quickly looked back at Michelle and me. “Are you two OK? I’m glad that you had your seat belts on.”
After we had all assured him that we weren’t hurt, and Dad had turned the car around, Michelle began crying. “I’m scared. I don’t like this weather.”
To tell the truth, I kind of wanted to cry too. I had a sick, awful feeling deep inside.
Mom lifted Michelle into the front seat and buckled my frightened sister in beside her. It was silent except for Michelle’s soft crying. “I think we’d better spend the night in the next town,” Mom said quietly.
“But if we do that,” I argued, “we won’t get to Grandma’s for Christmas. We’re so close that we could be there in another couple of hours.”
“I’m sorry, Jon,” Dad said, “but the roads are really bad. I’d rather get to Grandma’s a day late than not get there at all.”
“But, Dad,” I protested. Then before I knew what I was saying, the words slipped out of my mouth: “We could pray about it.” I knew that I’d said the wrong thing, because Dad doesn’t go to church. It’s Mom who always takes Michelle and me to church. Dad stays home and watches ball games. As we had prepared for this trip, Mom had asked Dad to join us in prayer for a safe journey to Idaho, but he had shook his head and left the room to finish packing the car.
“It’s OK if you say a prayer in your heart, Jon,” my mother said. Dad only grunted a reply. Swallowing my disappointment, I closed my eyes and thanked Heavenly Father for our safety and my blessings, especially for the chance to go to Grandma’s. Then I prayed that we would be able to have a great Christmas—one of the best ever.
As we pulled into a small town several miles down the road, the wind had really picked up and was blowing the snow furiously. A highway patrolman was stopping everyone and telling them that the road was closed. Whether I liked it or not, we were not going to make it to Grandma’s that Christmas Eve.
The only motel that had a vacancy was a small, rundown place at the edge of town. Michelle didn’t seem to care. The second the car stopped in front of our unit, she was out the door. The wind pulled at her small body, thrusting her away from the motel and the car. “Dad! Help!” she cried. Dad hurried after her and helped her into the motel. And even though I’m big for my eleven years, the wind made it almost impossible for me to walk.
What a gloomy, yucky place to spend Christmas Eve, I thought as I looked around. It was a dreadful contrast to Grandma’s roomy house with its cheery fireplace blazing with a yule log. Dad sat on the edge of the bed and turned on the TV. It didn’t work. It was going to be a long night.
We had to eat cold sandwiches and cookies for supper. The town had completely closed down. Not more than sixty miles away lay Grandma’s house, yet we couldn’t get there. This looked like it was going to be the worst Christmas ever, instead of the best. I began to wonder if maybe Dad was right. Maybe Heavenly Father really didn’t listen to prayers.
To pass the time, I told Michelle every story I could remember, played every game I could think of, and made up a few after that. At least one person in our family can be happy, I thought. As for Dad, he just sat and stared out the window, watching the wind-whipped snow. Mom stood quietly beside him, rubbing his shoulders. Even though they didn’t say anything, I knew that Dad was upset about something besides the weather.
Suddenly Dad turned to Michelle and me. I could see tears on his face. “Kids,” he said, “I think I learned something very important tonight out on that road. Remember when our car went spinning out of control?”
“Well,” he continued, “on one side of that road was a drop of several hundred feet. If our car had come any closer, we would have fallen down that mountain and been killed. I see now that I’ve been neglecting the most important things in my life—my wife and you two children. I didn’t realize how much you mean to me and—“ He paused for a few moments. “Well, I want you to know that I realized tonight that the Lord did answer your mother’s plea for protection on our trip.”
And with those words, he gathered the three of us in his arms, and we all cried together. Then Dad kneeled down with us on the floor of that motel room and offered a prayer of thanks to Heavenly Father.
And I realized that my prayer had been answered too. This was going to be the best Christmas ever!