BELIEVE


Iler Woods believes in the spirit of the holidays.

Do you believe? Do you not believe? These are questions that circulate around the classroom about Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle, and other names every year. It is a hot topic, a controversial topic, and for many people they don’t even want to discuss it.


So, I thought I would pursue this. . .

I have had a series of different encounters in my life that have had no explanation. It defied logic, it didn’t make sense in my very practical brain, and there was not a solution.


When I was 16 years old, I was driving home from the beach with a friend of mine. She had just gotten her driver’s license and we were so excited to be free! We decided to get off the freeway to get a bite to eat. When my friend made a left hand turn, out of nowhere the passenger side was hit. It felt like we had been hit by a bulldozer. The car spun, and I had no idea if we were okay. A kind man came and knocked on our window. He told us to quickly get out of the car and walked us over to the side of the road to see if we were okay. My friend was in tears and worried what her parents would think of a car that had been totaled. He told us “Cars can be replaced, but lives can’t.” The police arrived, people came out to see if we were okay, and before we could say thank you, he was gone. When we looked back at the scene of the crash, we were facing oncoming traffic. I am not sure if we would have known to get out of the car. I have often wondered who that person was.


Decades later, we were standing on the Florida shores while our girls were playing in the sand. Another young girl was watching our children make sand castles. Hannah asked her if she wanted to play. The girls were giggling and played all afternoon together. I found out that was the first time this little girl had a vacation. She had undergone numerous surgeries throughout her young life and she was promised a trip to Florida if she made it through one of her more recent procedures. Her mom told me, “Thank you for treating my daughter as a regular kid. She has struggled so much with making friends because of her illnesses.” As I glanced at the girls laughing, I thought how each person is purposely placed in your life. This child was from upstate New York, we are from Southern California, both families vacationing in Clearwater, Florida. What were the chances we would ever meet this family? One small act of kindness, sharing a sand pail and shovel, changed someone’s day or even someone's entire outlook.


A year later, I was sitting at CHLA taking a break from my daughter’s hospital room. It had been a long three days to say the least and I had to take a moment to get fresh air. It was a moment in my life when I didn’t know if I had the strength to carry on and help my child. As I was waiting to get some coffee, the customer behind me asked “How is your daughter doing?” I was a bit taken back. This man and his wife had a child who had endured a series of cranial surgeries. Our daughters’ hospital rooms were next to each other. I felt badly that I had even complained about our hardship after I heard what their family had gone through. He said, “You will get through this. You just take one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time. You are stronger than you think.”


Who is St. Nicholas? St. Nicholas, the 4th-century bishop of Myra. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of Russia and Greece, of a number of cities, and of sailors and children, and was noted for his generosity. Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker.


Believe. . . do you believe in human kindness, do you believe in miracles, do you believe that sometimes good things happen to people? Then you are a believer of St. Nicholas.


I can’t explain all of the interactions that I have had in my life, but I can explain that I have witnessed St. Nicholas in action. It might not have been a new toy but it was a gift I was needing in my heart. . . believe there is a reason why you encounter each person in your life. Each one of us have been a recipient of this wonderworker.


Day 8 Recipe:

Caramel & Chocolate Cookie Bar


60 light caramels

½ cups of evaporated milk

1 pkg german chocolate cake

¾ cups of butter melted

⅓ cup evaporated milk

1 cup of semi sweet chocolate pieces


Combine caramels and ½ a cup of evaporated milk over low heat, stirring constantly until caramels are melted. Set aside.

Grease and flour 9x13 baking pan. Combine cake mix, melted butter and ⅓ of evaporated milk. Press ½ of the dough into the pan. Reserve the rest for topping.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Sprinkle chocolate pieces over baked crust, then spread carmel over chocolate pieces.

Crumble the remaining dough over the caramel layer. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Cool slightly then refrigerate for 30 minutes to set caramel.

Cut into bars, makes 15-18 servings (depending on how hungry you are!)


Family Challenge: Childhood fun. . . Sing along to your favorite holiday music.

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