SHE’S MET THE ONE

Molly Hanson knows that the Lord has sent her a good, loving man and that marriage is the next step. But her fiancé won’t set a date until he’s landed a steady job, and that’s not easy in today’s economy.


HE’S MADE A PROMISE

Raised by his grandmother, Jack Stewart can’t imagine abandoning her. He not only loves his grandmother, he feels responsible for her care now that her health is failing. But if he doesn’t find a good-paying job soon, he may be forced to choose between life with Molly and life as a dutiful grandson.


THREE GIFTS

On Christmas Eve, Jack receives three precious gifts of the heart, three gifts that open his eyes to the tender grace of true love.


Molly took the folder from Jack and opened it. “Oh, Dr. Wheaton’s letter of recommendation. I never did go by his office to pick it up.”

“Why not?”

“It’s for a job in the state capital. That’s too far away.”

“Dr. Wheaton said it was in a pediatric clinic.”

“That’s right. At University Medical Center.”

“Would you like to work there?”

“Sure, but like I said, it’s too far away.” Molly filled the plates with ravioli and spooned meat sauce over the pasta. Jack didn’t sit down and say
the blessing as he always did. What was wrong with him tonight?

“You’ve always dreamed of working with children.” Jack’s voice had an accusatory tone. “I remember when you did your internship in pediatrics. You glowed like nobody’s business.”

Molly returned the pot to the stove in order to give Jack her full attention. The level of upset he projected didn’t match a simple letter of recommendation. “Dr. Wheaton told me he’d let me know as soon as the pediatric clinic at Westside Memorial starts hiring. I’m fine until then.”

Jack leaned against the cabinets. “He told me that might be years in the future.”

“Then I’ll wait.”

“I don’t think that’s fair.”

Molly had seldom seen Jack so troubled. Although his voice was normal, his shoulders were hunched, his hands clenched into fists, and the muscles in his jaw flexed ominously. “What’s upset you so much, Jack?”

A deep line formed in the center of Jack’s forehead as his eyebrows drew together. “You shouldn’t have to give up on your dream just because of me.”

Molly moved in front of him and placed her hands on his arms. “You’re my dream, Jack. I want to marry you, have babies, and live with you until we’re older than Miss Julia. Where I work is not nearly as important as being with you.”

He crossed his arms over his chest, as though shielding his heart. “I can’t leave Nana.”

“I know. I wouldn’t want you to.”

“But you don’t have the same responsibilities I do. You have a big family, but I’m all Nana has.”

Molly made her voice as gentle and patient as she could. “I know that, Jack. I don’t want to leave Miss Julia alone either.”

He shook his head. “It’s not right, Molly. You should be free to pursue your hopes. I…I’m holding you back.”

Why wasn’t he hearing her? “The job is nothing compared to our lives together.”

“I won’t let you sacrifice your aspirations for me, Molly.”

“Sacrifice? I’m not sacrificing anything.” A dull ache formed behind her eyes. She took a deep breath, intent on not losing her temper. Jack wasn’t listening, but shouting wouldn’t help.

Jack blinked several times, as though fighting back tears. “The thing is…I know I’ve let you down.”

Nothing could be farther from the truth. “Jack—”

“First, I asked you to wait until we graduated. Then I asked you to wait until I got a good job. When I finally acknowledged I wasn’t going to get a job with a dependable salary, I agreed to set the date for our wedding in May. But…”

Perhaps she should simply listen, Molly thought. He wasn’t paying attention to her anyway. She looked into his eyes, but Jack didn’t meet her gaze.

“If you marry me,” he continued, “we’ll be struggling for years to come.”

“Do you think that matters?”

“It matters to me, Molly. I can’t let you throw everything away on a guy you can’t depend on to support you.”

Molly bowed her head, resting her forehead on Jack’s forearm. Her throat ached as much as her heart. How could she convince him? “Please, don’t do this, Jack. Let’s talk about it later, when you’ve calmed down.”

He pushed away from the cabinet and walked toward the back door. “I haven’t even been able to buy you an engagement ring. I wanted to give you the best of everything—the best house, the best car—yet I can’t find a job.”

“I have faith in you, Jack. If you want to put off our wedding, that’s okay with me.”

He retrieved his jacket from the hook and turned his back to her. “It’s better this way, Molly. You’ll be free to find someone who can provide for you. You’ll be free—”

Jack’s voice broke and Molly’s heart lurched. She moved toward him, intent on wrapping her arms around him and not letting go. But Jack hurried through the door before she reached him.

Molly’s knees trembled and her hand flew to her mouth. What just happened?