Seven Christmases have passed since Sonia Pettit last heard from her daughter Jody. Since Jody’s departure, Sonia’s world has been turned upside down. Her husband has died of a broken heart, and her son, bitter over his sister’s destructive actions, has become rebellious.
Her greatest desire is to have her family together at Christmas, but after what Jody has put them all through, can Sonia truly forgive her daughter?
Jody Pettit O’Dair ran away to experience a life of adventure and excitement, but since her
departure, her world has been turned upside down. She’s been abandoned by the man she met and married, lost her job, and is unable to care for her two children. With nowhere else to turn, this prodigal daughter begins the long journey home and prays she will be welcomed after walking away so long ago.
Will Jody find forgiveness in the arms of her family as easily as she received it from God?
Awards & Other Kudos
"50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading" Contest 2013
The Jerry Jenkins Group - Illumination Book Awards 2015 - Silver Medal for E-Book Fiction
Sonia Pettit pressed her hand against her chest in a vain attempt to ease the gnawing, endless ache in her heart. In a few short days, she’d mark the seventh Christmas since her daughter’s frightful disappearance. A sudden, unannounced, and, worst of all, voluntary disappearance with no explanation, no sense, and no forwarding address. A disappearance that had incinerated Sonia’s soul and left it a cold heap of ashes.
Outside the living room window, autumn had long since passed, leaving behind bare branches, scrawny bushes, and gray-white skies. A soft snow fell, dusting the yellowed lawn of the 1920s Victorian home she and Rick had purchased as newlyweds twenty-nine years earlier. The home in which they’d raised their children.
But those early happy times had turned into a nightmare.
She leaned her forehead against the windowpane, her eyes searching far into the distance. More times than she could count, she’d riveted her gaze on the sidewalk leading up to the house, hoping against hope her daughter would suddenly appear. But each time, Jody’s imaginary figure would evaporate into nothingness.
Sonia blinked back the stinging tears. Truth be told, some days worry clawed at her, tearing her heart to shreds. But there were other days, just as wrenching, when rage gripped her to the point she never wanted to see her daughter again. Like a scorching iron, raw pain seared the edges of her memory, leaving only blame to vent the hurt.
After all she’d done for her child. To have Jody leave without warning, without saying good-bye, without so much as an “I’ll be in touch, Mom.” Nothing. Just cold, heartless rejection fueled by arrogance and ingratitude that bordered on the cruel. A vicious slap in the face to a mother who’d given her life for her children.
Sonia turned at the hissing sound coming from the kitchen. She rushed to the stove where her soup had boiled over. She reached the pot just in time to remove a rattling lid from its precarious perch. A small puddle of homemade chicken soup covered the gas burner. She turned off the gas and moved the bubbling mixture to a back burner. Then she took the dishcloth hanging on the faucet and carefully wiped up the mess just as Ben walked into the kitchen.
“Good morning, Ben. I’m making your favorite homemade chicken soup for lunch later.”
“Morning, Mom.” Ben scratched his disheveled head in a valiant attempt to jerk himself to wakefulness. “Got any coffee?”
Sonia pushed down her anger and forced a smile at her lanky twenty-two-year-old son. The second-born of her womb. The son with the tender heart gone awry. “Just made a fresh pot. I’ll pour you some.”
“Thanks.” He yawned. “I’m not awake enough to pour it myself.”
She took a large blue mug from the cupboard and held it in her left hand while she poured coffee into it with her right. She handed the mug of steaming brew to Ben. In a few months, he’d be graduating from college and moving right into a job with a local accounting firm.
His father would have been proud of at least one of their two children.
She squelched the painful memories. Christmas was coming, and she needed to put on a smile for Ben, if not for herself.
“So how’s my favorite son this morning?”
Ben sat down at the kitchen table and stretched out his long legs. “Come on, Mom. You know I’m your only son. So why call me your favorite?”
She sat down in the chair next to him. “Because you are. You don’t have to be my only son to be my favorite one.”
He grinned. “But what if you had another son, would I still be your favorite?”
“Of course, you would. It has nothing to do with numbers. No matter how many children I had, each one would be my favorite—you and Jody hold an equal place in my heart.”
His eyes narrowed. “You can say that after what she did to our family?”
Sonia shifted in her chair, her thumb outlining the handle on her coffee mug. “Yes.” Her breath caught on a snag of hesitation. “Yes, Ben.” She looked him in the eye. “I can still say that.”
He slammed his coffee mug on the table, splattering the hot liquid all over the green vinyl tablecloth. “She ups and leaves without telling anyone where she’s going. Just a stupid note that says, ‘I’ve gone. Don’t come looking for me. I need my space.’ Her space? Sounds more like her own selfish way to me.” He raked his fingers through his hair. “Seven years! How many private investigators and how much money have you spent on finding her?” He stood. “You should have listened to Dad. Let her go. Don’t try to find her. He never forgave her, you know.”
“What makes you think Dad didn’t forgive her?”
“How could he? Look at the hole she left in his heart—a hole that devoured him and sent him to an early grave.” He looked beyond her, peering out the window. “A hole that would swallow me up if I let it.” He shook his head. “But I won’t. My anger against her is all I have to keep me from falling in.”
“Withholding forgiveness is never the answer, Ben.”
He towered over her, fire in his eyes. “Who are you to talk? You haven’t forgiven her either. You just pretend you have.”
She lowered her voice, tamping down the anger threatening to spew forth. “Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling.”
Ben’s glare cut deep. “Spiritual platitudes. That’s all you’re handing me. I’ll never forgive her for what she’s done.”
The sword of truth pierced Sonia’s heart as she watched Ben storm out of the room. If she were honest with herself, he was right. She hadn’t truly forgiven Jody either. As much as she loved her daughter, Sonia wanted Jody to suffer as much as she herself had suffered. As much as Rick and Ben had suffered. She wanted Jody to pay for all the pain she’d caused. By walking out on her family, Jody had left a wake of anger, confusion, and shame that had rocked their world, leaving them bruised, shaken, and shattered. Worst of all, Rick had taken his daughter’s disappearance so hard that Sonia was sure it had caused his death. How could she ever forgive Jody for that?
She rose and turned her attention back to the soup pot. She lifted it from the back burner and replaced it on the front one, then turned the gas to low heat. Chicken soup made a good lunch on a cold day.
But on this cold day, she no longer had an appetite.
Have you struggled with unforgiveness? If so, what has kept you from forgiving and why?
ANSWER 1: (Open-ended)
Deception is a major reason for unforgiveness. Most of us, at one time or another, have struggled with unforgiveness. We fall into Satanâ€™s trap and do not recognize the lies he whispers in order to keep us in the bondage of unforgiveness.
Many wrong notions about forgiveness can keep us from forgiving those who have hurt us. Some of these wrong notions include the following:
â€¢ To forgive is to condone wrongdoing.
â€¢ To forgive is to allow a guilty person to get away with sin.
â€¢ To forgive is to be irresponsible and to tolerate injustice.
What wrong notions about forgiveness have you believed?
ANSWER 2: (Open-ended)
Other wrong notions include:
â€¢ To forgive is a sign of weakness.
â€¢ To forgive is to be a doormat.
â€¢ To forgive is to allow the one who hurt me to take advantage of me again.
Often people have trouble forgiving because, as mentioned above, they think that forgiving means condoning wrongdoing when, in truth, it does not. Sonia in our story had this problem. Have you looked upon forgiving as condoning wrongdoing? If so, are you willing to change your perception of forgiveness?
ANSWER 3: (Open-ended)
To forgive is not to condone wrongdoing. On the contrary, to forgive is to let God be the judge of the person who hurt you. When we truly forgive, we will pray that the person who hurt us comes to repentance.
Is forgiveness a feeling or a choice?
Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. When we choose to forgive, we may not feel like forgiving. But the choice to forgive leads to healing, and healing leads to the disappearance of bitter feelings. In order to forgive, we must walk by faith, not feelings.
It has been said that forgiving someone who hurt you means setting yourself free. What do you think about this concept?
When we refuse to forgive, we remain a prisoner of the one who hurt us. More often than not, the person who hurt us has no clue about the anger and bitterness we may be experiencing over the hurt. To refuse to forgive is to allow the wrongdoer to exert power and control over our lives.
Does forgiving mean you must continue to trust the person who hurt you?
No. Forgiveness and trust are two different things. Forgiveness is freely given. Trust must be earned.
Does forgiving mean forgetting?
Forgiving does not mean forgetting. We can forgive without forgetting. In fact, because of the way our memories are designed, we may never forget the hurtful incident, but it will no longer carry the sting of pain once attached to it.
What is the chief reason for forgiving?
The chief reason for forgiving is obedience to Godâ€™s command to forgive.
What do you learn about forgiveness from the following Scripture verses?
â€¢ Luke 6:37
â€¢ Matthew 6:14
â€¢ Mark 11:25
ANSWER 9: (Open-ended)
â€¢ Luke 6:37: We will get back what we give. If we do not forgive, we should not expect to be forgiven.
â€¢ Matthew 6:14: If we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us. A most sobering thought.
â€¢ Mark 11:25: Unforgiveness hinders Godâ€™s response to our prayers.
How will you know if you have truly forgiven?
When we have truly forgiven, we will remember the hurtful incident without emotional pain. If Satan should try to tempt us again with hurtful feelings, we must resist him in the Name of Jesus.