Read The Christmas Portrait Online

Authors: Phyllis Clark Nichols

The Christmas Portrait

Christmas in heaven: what an image of the best Christmas ever! Only a little child—and Phyllis Clark Nichols—could lead us there.

—D
IANE
K
OMP
, MD P
ROFESSOR OF
P
EDIATRICS
E
MERITUS
Y
ALE
S
CHOOL OF
M
EDICINE
A
UTHOR OF THE BEST-SELLING
A W
INDOW TO
H
EAVEN
AND
T
HE
H
EALER
'
S
H
EART

This uplifting tale by my dear friend Phyllis Clark Nichols will, I hope, warm hearts and give faith at Christmastime.

—A
BRAHAM
V
ERGHESE
, MD V
ICE CHAIR FOR THE
T
HEORY AND
P
RACTICE OF
M
EDICINE
, S
TANFORD
U
NIVERSITY
B
EST-SELLING AUTHOR OF
C
UTTING FOR
S
TONE THE
T
ENNIS
P
ARTNER
,
AND
M
Y
O
WN
C
OUNTRY

One of life's greatest tragedies is when a young person is forced to endure the loss of a parent. In
The Christmas Portrait
Phyllis Clark Nichols gives us a heartwarming glimpse into the mind and life of a young girl who must make this painful transition. The story of how she manages to find her way through the sorrow and emerge with a strengthened faith in God and family is both fulfilling and emotional. This really is a remarkable book, one that challenges the reader to make each moment in life count and to work each day to bring a smile to someone's face

Life is complicated, filled with distractions that compete for our time and attention. In
The Christmas Portrait
Phyllis Clark Nichols gives us a chance to pause and consider what really matters in life: family, friends, faith, and yes, contentment. I can't say enough about how powerful this story is and how well written. I highly recommend it. Read it. And then read it again.

—B
ILL
A
IRY
C
HIEF STRATEGY OFFICER
L
E
SEA B
ROADCASTING
C
ORPORATION

A story of family, love, loss, and faith through the eyes of a child. It's a good read for any season of the year, not just Christmas. The author has developed her characters well, which helps us “feel” the time, place, and depth of the story.

—D
ONALD
L. A
NDERSON
, P
H
D M
INISTER AND PSYCHOLOGIST
E
XECUTIVE DIRECTOR EMERITUS
, E
CUMENICAL
C
ENTER FOR
R
ELIGION AND
H
EALTH

The Christmas Portrait
is a masterful work of storytelling that artfully blends the hues of realism and hope. In this artfully poignant story of emotional healing, Phyllis Clark Nichols opens our spirits to comprehend how mysteriously God speaks through a bird, a portrait, a profound loss, and a desperate act of love. This story has real lift, a buoyant hope that begins in Christmas and ends wherever the reader will let it take them.

For all those who find unwanted loss and grief under their Christmas tree, here is a story of hope rising through the tenacious love of a heartbroken child and the mysterious relationships she opens herself up to.

—B
RAD
R
USSELL
, DM
IN
F
OUNDER AND SENIOR EDITOR
F
AITH
V
ILLAGE.COM

Written in the register of love and longing
The Christmas Portrait
invites the reader to enter the story of a grieving family through the eyes of a ten-year-old girl, Kate. The carefully wrought narrative portrays the power of faith, thick family bonds, and a sense of place in the wooded hills of northern Kentucky. With sensitivity to the holy revealed through nature and a mysterious visitor—an angel perhaps?—the author weaves a story of renewal as Kate and her family find ways to celebrate their love of her mother while becoming open to the ever-moving stream that is life. I commend the book for its shimmering beauty, its perceptive wisdom about human brokenness, and its unyielding faith in the promise of the future.

—D
R
. M
OLLY
M
ARSHALL
P
RESIDENT
, C
ENTRAL
B
APTIST
T
HEOLOGICAL
S
EMINARY

The Christmas Portrait
is a gift well timed for today's restless readership. I loved it and celebrated the reasonableness of Christmas joy applied to the everyday of its timeless adventure. The accuracy of its storytelling allows the reader to participate in the reality of a joyous Christmas and to claim comforting kinship with its fellowship of joy.

—J
EANNETTE
C
LIFT
G
EORGE
A
CTRESS KNOWN FOR HER PORTRAYAL OF
C
ORRIE TEN
B
OOM IN
T
HE
H
IDING
P
LACE

M
OST
C
HARISMA
H
OUSE
B
OOK
G
ROUP
products are available at special quantity discounts for bulk purchase for sales promotions, premiums, fund-raising, and educational needs. For details, write Charisma House Book Group, 600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, Florida 32746, or telephone (407) 333-0600.

T
HE
C
HRISTMAS
P
ORTRAIT
by Phyllis Clark Nichols

Published by Realms

Charisma Media/Charisma House Book Group

600 Rinehart Road

Lake Mary, Florida 32746

www.charismahouse.com

This book or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission of the publisher, except as provided by United States of America copyright law.

All Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible; Holy Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society; New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, (
www.Lockman.org
). All versions are used by permission.

Copyright © 2015 by Phyllis Clark Nichols

All rights reserved

Cover Design by Lisa Rae McClure

Design Director: Justin Evans

Visit the author's website at
www.phyllisclarknichols.com
.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:

Nichols, Phyllis Clark.

The Christmas portrait / by Phyllis Clark Nichols. -- First edition.

pages cm

ISBN 978-1-62998-216-8 (trade paper) -- ISBN 978-1-62998-217-5 (e-book)

1. Bereavement in children--Religious aspects--Christianity. 2. Children and death--Religious aspects--Christianity. 3. Harding, Katherine Joy. 4. Harding John Chesler--Family. 5. Mothers--Death. I. Title.

BV4596.P3N53 2015

248.8'66083--dc23

2015025279

For Mama, Aunt Marguerite, and Katy Piper

C
ONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER TWENTY

EPILOGUE

A
CKNOWLEDGMENTS

A
WRITER NEEDS A
reader. So thank you for reading my book. Just as printed music on a conductor's score becomes real music when played by the orchestra or intoned by the choir, this story comes to life as it is read. Thousands of words are only ink on pages until someone opens the cover and starts to read. It is then that characters speak and scenes take on color and dimension. Thank you for taking a few hours of your life to read this story. These are hours you cannot recapture. My prayer is that you will find an idea, a phrase, or a nugget of truth that you will remember when you need it.

A writer needs a story. I am deeply indebted to three women whom I have loved dearly and who have had tremendous influence on my life: my own mother, Betty Clark; my Aunt Marguerite Lewis; and my dear friend Katy Piper. These women all lost their mothers when they were very young, and yet they have mothered me in immeasurable ways and taught me important life lessons. Their lives gave me the story and the desire to write it. Then there were all the beautiful Christmases of my growing up years that made this story easy to write. Thank you, Mama and Daddy.

A writer needs good ideas. A few years ago while at a retreat at Laity Lodge out in the Texas Hill Country, I was challenged by Dr. Dave Peterson, a Presbyterian minister, to choose something tangible that would remind me of God's presence and activity in my life. I quickly identified that crimson flicker of life we call a cardinal as my “God-alert.” Since then I have grown plants and provided their favorite treats to entice them to my garden. I am indebted to Dr. Peterson for this concept, which has encouraged me to practice God's presence and for the idea it gave me for this story.

A writer needs encouragement. I offer deep gratitude to my dear friend, Dr. Abraham Verghese, a most gifted writer and physician, who said to me, “If there's a book in you, then write it.” He marked and stacked books from his own library to illustrate what he was teaching me and sent me to the bookstore with instructions not to leave until I had pulled forty books from the shelves and read the first paragraphs of each of them.

I am grateful to friends who endorsed this work and to others who have encouraged my creativity: Deb Cleveland held me accountable with her calls and conversations about the writing process; Letha Crouch and Camille Simmons inspired me with their own creativity; Blanche Armendariz, Jimmy and Shirley Elrod, Lottie Mitchell, Dr. David Shacklett, Susan Chastain, and Janie Jones read my words and told me to keep writing.

A writer needs a champion. I will never be able to thank my agent, Mary Beth Chappell Lyle, enough for believing in my work, for guiding me, and for pushing me to be better. She was my first editor. Her porcelain skin covers a tender heart, and she speaks with the gentility of a Southern woman, but she is tough-minded, tenacious, and committed to excellence. Without her, I'd still be wandering around wondering if I can write.

I would also like to thank my new friends at Charisma House. Thank you, Adrienne Gaines, for your belief in this book and for always being there with answers when I called. This book is immeasurably better because of the meticulous reads and the thoughtful suggestions of Lori Vandenbosh, my editor. Thank you for pushing me to see how committed I was, Lori.

A writer needs a hand to hold and solitude. My husband, Bill, holds my hand always—sometimes because we just like to hold hands; sometimes to pull me along; sometimes to lead me away from the safe, comfortable places to the edge of new ideas; and sometimes to take me on long walks through these hills where we enjoy each other and the beauty of God's creation. What a gift to have a husband who is a philosopher, theologian, and artist! My hours and days are rich with him. He also provided the solitude, protecting my time, manning the doorbell and the phone, and graciously declining invitations when needed. I wouldn't say he mastered laundry or meal preparation, but he knows what every button on the microwave does, and he was always willing. Without Bill's handholding and encouragement, this book would not be a reality.

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