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Christmas Divinity – A Short Story Of Hope

This is a special Christmas gift from us to you. It’s a story about Hope, and candy, but most of all Divinity. It’s our prayer it will warm your heart, and remind you of the season’s recipe for Hope.

I grew up with Divinity. My Grandmother loved it at Christmas. It was the only time of year that I had it. So I wanted to include it in a Christmas story this year.

June Murphy was a candy maker, a professional one. Her shop on the island of Lansbury, Maine was legendary. All through the year, she sold turtles, bon bons, and truffles, but at Christmas, only then, there was Divinity.

June could make a fortune selling Divinity, if she sold it. Clients would have left the store with canisters overflowing, if they could have. The one rule was, it could not be bought.

She made just enough Divinity, to serve one day’s crowd. For the first 25 days of December, there was Divinity, two per customer in a little box with a card. Each platter had a sign, with a suggestion, take one and give one.

June knew there were some, like Doc Tupper Murphy, her husband, sometimes ate both out of weakness, yet he tried to make up for it some way. Doc had a huge sweet tooth. Most followed June’s wishes and gave one piece away.

The card, like the platter, had take one give one, on one side. On the other side of the card, was a verse of scripture, and a message. The verse was Matthew 1:23. The note read, “He shared His Love with us, so we could share it with others.

Over the years, Doc’s tummy got bigger, and June’s hair turned from brown to gray, to white. Doc’s was white since college, but he never lost the youthful look in his eyes. Or the smile that June brought to those blue eyes, but the Divinity and message never changed.

Every few years, people tried to get her to market her famous Christmas candy. People said it was the best Divinity they ever had. Many suspected she had a secret ingredient no one knew about.

Now in her eighties, a young candy maker named Mark, determined he would get the secret from her. Sadly, his methods were far from those June would have approved of, had she known. Mark strongly intended for that not to happen, at least until it was too late to stop him.

Mark Simon had spent his high school years in Lansbury, but moved away to go to college, then culinary school. He had made a small name for himself in Chicago, but was struggling of late. If he didn’t come up with something soon, his career was over.

Mark had recently been fired, again for his crazy lifestyle, and spiraling lack of promptness. His last boss gave him a speech he had heard far too often. “You’re talented, but troubled. Get it together Mark, you could be great, or a train wreck. It’s up to you.”

When you hear something long enough, you don’t just begin to believe it. You begin to make it happen. Mark had heard similar things since High School and since his Stepfather showed up. Try as he might, he was becoming more of the negative things he was told, not less.

This led him to a desperate decision, to go back to Lansbury. He would see his Mom, which would make her happy. He would avoid his Stepfather, which would make him happy. An he would get June’s recipe, which would make his career, and maybe make him happy.

The way he planned to make it happen, was far from okay. Mark took a job as a part time Sous Chef in a local restaurant. This meant minimal work, maximum free time. He would need the money to woo the local girl, June’s granddaughter Carol.

Mark and Carol had dated briefly in school, and he had heard she was still single. He would spend a few weeks dating her, get the recipe, break it off, and leave town. Mark worried a little, about hurting her, but pushed it out of his mind.

He reasoned everyone gets hurt, he had been plenty, and she’d get over it. Mark tried to tell himself she may not even realize he was using her. Either way, he was going to try.

Usually in stories like this, you read next about the boy falling in love with the girl, and his life changing. That wasn’t the case in this story. Mark hadn’t counted on her being so repelled by him, that she left town soon after a couple of try’s.

It was not that he was horrible. Mark was nice looking, charming, all smiles, and pleasant on the outside. Carol, who had her own issues, recognized another broken spirit. She had no time for someone as damaged as she was.

Before leaving town to start her own new career away from another broken heart, and her ex fiancé, she warned her grandmother. “Gran, there’s something not right about Mark. He asked a lot of questions about you, the shop, and the Divinity. Stay clear of him.”

June hugged her granddaughter, encouraged her to go and get her heart settled, and she would deal with any trouble. “Don’t you worry honey, I’ve dealt with people like him before.” Carol felt better, but only Doc knew what June really meant.

He waited til she was gone, and joined June in the kitchen. “You’re going to give the boy the treatment aren’t you? I know it’s no good to say it, but why don’t you leave it alone.”

June smiled. “Every scoundrel needs a chance Tup, especially the ones up to no good. Just maybe we can help the boy. You did once before.”

Doc had helped Mark, when he was in high school. The school nurse was sick, and Doc was covering for the day. The boy reported to the office for a stomach ache, but Doc recognized a hangover when he saw one.

He helped the sick boy get it together, promised not to tell his Mom or Stepdad, and gave him an excuse for the rest of the day. He personally drove the boy home and helped got him to his room while his Mom was working a double shift.

The boy had probably forgotten, but Doc hadn’t. It hit too close to home. It had not been the first time he had to deal with a hangover.

With Carol gone, Mark went to plan b. He tried to get a job at June’s shop, not really expecting it to work. “I’m so glad you stopped in. Your resume is impressive, we can use the help.”

For two weeks, June put him through his paces. He made every candy in the store, except one. The one he came to learn, the Divinity. It was getting close to Christmas Eve, and Mark was getting desperate.

He even had taken to searching the shop for a hidden recipe. June knew it was about time for “the treatment” as Doc had put it. She made a special batch of candy, not Divinity, but some orange chocolates.

“Mark, you’ve been so helpful this season. I would like to give you a very special gift. This is a box of chocolate orange candy. The recipe is in the lid. It’s my way of saying thank you.”

He didn’t really know what to say. Mark had enjoyed his time there, even if he felt guilty about his motives. It wasn’t like you see in movies, there was no magical change. June and Doc were special people, but Mark was still determined to see it through.

When he got to the basement apartment of his Mom and Stepdad’s house, he tried to bypass seeing anyone. His Stepdad Kyle was sitting on the porch, and stopped him. Kyle was different this trip, and had been a lot nicer.

“Mark, can I talk to you for a minute please? We need to have a conversation. There’s some things to talk about.” It was the first time he had said please, but Mark had heard the other two sentences before.

They were usually followed up by berating the young man for his actions, and how dissatisfied they were with him. Now Mark was a man, it would be different. He would not take it with tears like he had before.

“Mark, I don’t know how to say this, but to just say it. The first years of your Mom and my marriage, I was going through some things. I was messed up, alcohol, family problems, and money issues. I took it out on you both, and I was wrong.”

This time, Kyle had the tears. “She didn’t deserve it. You didn’t deserve it. I don’t deserve forgiveness, but I am sorry.”

Mark had not expected this. Kyle was braced for an explosion, he had it coming. Mark planned one, until he saw the man’s face. “Kyle, we all make mistakes. I’ve made my own. Mom says your different, I believe her. We’re okay.”

The two men felt too awkward to hug, or even shake hands, so they fist bumped. AS he headed to his apartment, all kinds of emotions ran through Mark’s mind. Memories of hurtful images, now had a little light shed on them.

He absentmindedly popped one of the candies in his mouth. His eyes lit up, and he looked at the box. Next to the Divinity, it was the best candy he had ever had. Mark looked at the recipe.

It seemed simple, except for one ingredient, and the technique. Mark could make a fortune with this recipe. Like the Divinity, June didn’t sell it in her shop. He wondered why not, but then every candy maker has a secret or two.

All that night, Mark struggled with what to do. He didn’t have to steal anything, it had been a gift. This wasn’t the Divinity, but it was extra special. He could go back to the city, without saying a word. Or he could stay, and try to get the other recipe too.

Mark’s life had been so crazy, he could use a backup plan. “No”, he thought, “I’m no Angel, but I want to sleep at night. I’ll quit while I’m ahead.” Though he went back and forth for hours, Mark decided to do the right thing.

He went into the shop that morning, and gave his notice first thing. June seemed sad at the prospect of losing him, but didn’t say much. At the end of the day, he asked her a question. Doc was there by then, Mark still didn’t remember their high school meeting. He had been still a little drunk after all.

“Mrs Murphy, that orange candy you gave me, with the recipe. Would you mind, would it be okay if I used that recipe professionally? I can give you credit, but the truth is, it would really help my career right now.”

Doc smiled, but June spoke. “Of course Mark, and with my blessing. Also, this may help too. I’ve only given it to one other person, but I think it may do you some good.”

She handed him the recipe for Divinity. Mark couldn’t believe it. The thing that led him back to Lansbury. The thing that he had been willing to lie, cheat, and steal for, had been given him.

It was Doc’s turn. Doc asked him if he remembered the trip to the high school nurse, and the trip home. Mark’s eyes got big. He had remembered the event, but not The Who. Guilt washed over him about what he was going to do.

Making an excuse he tried to escape the shop, but Doc called out to him. “Just a minute Mark, please. Before you go, I’d like to tell you something. You’re not the first one who’s made a few mistakes.”

“I made a lot. Fighting, drugs, anger, but someone helped me. I’ve had a very different life since they did.”

Mark’s anger flared above his guilt. “That’s not my main problem. I may have issues, but I’m not a drunk anymore.”

June spoke up. “That’s wonderful, neither am I. Doc had a lot of experience dealing with alcohol, not from his drinking, but mine. The first years we dated, and the first year of our marriage, I stayed that way.”

“You would think his support would have helped, but it only made me angry. I was determined to get so bad, that I pushed him away. I thought to myself, who could love a scoundrel? So I worked hard to become an even worse one.”

Mark couldn’t believe this sweet couple ever had any issues. It disarmed him, and gave him a speck of hope at the same time. He looked at them both. “What changed?”

“Doc sat me down one day. He told me, I could put a bullet in his heart, but I could never break out of his love. He said I might break his heart, but not his love. That’s what started the change. It took awhile, but I got there.”

Mark looked at Doc. “What changed for you before that? I’m guessing you got your act together before helping her.”

June spoke. “He had, the same way that eventually helped me. Doc found his Faith, and a God that didn’t come for perfect people. He came to save scoundrels like Doc and me.”

Doc nodded. “I didn’t get better because I was good. I didn’t have patience with June because I was great. I got help because God is good. I was able to let His love shine great enough through me, to lighten her darkness.”

June smiled. “The reason I don’t sell the Divinity candy, isn’t some marketing gimmick. I used to be all about money. It’s my small way of reaching people.”

“Many will ignore messages about Christmas, but everyone likes a little sweetness. The candy Divinity isn’t about the candy, it’s about the card. The Message shared, hasn’t changed for over 2,000 years. God came to save, not good people, but all people. He came to help us find both the Salvation and Peace that we could never ever find on our own.”

Mark was confused. “Then why did you give me the recipes for the two candies? You didn’t know I’d come back, or admit anything. Did Carol pick up on something?”

Doc laughed. “Son, a woman always knows more than you think, but that wasn’t it. We go to Church with Kyle and Nancy. He didn’t say anything, but your Mom said there was something off about your suddenly coming back.” She didn’t know what, but she knew something.”

June took his hand. “Even if she hadn’t, I would have picked up on it. From one old scoundrel to another, Christmas is a time to change. Either way, take the recipes with my blessing, but take something more than a box of candy, okay?”

Mark thanked them and left, getting as far as his car, tears in his eyes. He was a wreck, had been ever since his Dad was gone. At the time, he thought he was simply broken. Mark didn’t realize, until that day, that all of us are broken, that’s why we come to The Christ of Christmas. He makes the new the broken, from sinner to Saint.

He got back out and went inside. He looked at June and asked. “What do I do?”

That night, another broken soul found The Savior. The recipe for Divinity wasn’t what Mark needed. It was Divinity’s recipe for man that made the difference. Jesus + fallen man = A changed life. As a former scoundrel, I’m so thankful God found me.

As for Carol, she found herself back home when things didn’t work. Later, she became infatuated with the man who took over her Grandmother’s shop. There first date, wasn’t a burger, or steak, but a couple pieces of Divinity , and a conversation about Hope.

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