As a mother of two small children, and a worrier at heart, I began to wonder what the Christmas would look like for us this year a little early. In years past, I have done quite a bit of my shopping for the holiday several weeks in advance in an effort to space the cost out and also to satisfy my worrisome heart that so badly wants to have a gift to give to just about anyone or everyone I can think of! It really isn’t just about having a bunch of presents under the tree on Christmas morning, but it is also about the great amount of joy it gives me to be able to give gifts to others. I think I have determined that is one of my love languages, (if any of you are familiar with that book and concept), because I often show my love by giving gifts.
This year has been financially quite difficult, as it has for so many. My husband was laid-off from a well-paying job in July and has technically been unemployed since, although he just recently became “self-employed” and is working hard at being a successful entrepreneur. It was back in October that my family received an incredible anonymous gift of an envelope stuffed with several gift cards. I can recall, there were a few $15/$20 gift cards for fast food and pizza, a couple of gift certificates for gas, and also two gift cards to Wal-mart in an amount of $100 each. It was an amazing gift to receive and it came at a perfect time, when we really and truly needed the assistance. We were badly needing groceries and I used one of the Wal-mart gift cards to purchase food. I, of coarse, thanked God for this generous gift, and then I tucked one of the $100 gift cards back and away in a safe place. I thought to myself, “now, if we don’t have money for Christmas gifts, at least I will have enough to buy the children a couple of things”. I felt humbled and blessed by that gift and also a sense of security knowing that gift card was there.
Well, I had a conversation with a dear sweet friend of mine about this gift. And she kindly reminded me that I didn’t HAVE to put that card back, if we needed food, God had provided that for us, and shouldn’t I trust that God will provide for Christmas, too? The realization that me sticking the gift card away for future use was in a way saying that I was not putting all of my trust in the Lord. . . hit me hard, but not really quite hard enough! I couldn’t help my human self, and I left the card tucked away.
A couple of weeks later I had the privilege of walking in the Out of the Darkness Community Walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. An old and dear friend of mine, who I had not seen or really talked much to in 10 years was going to be in town and offered to do the walk with me. I was thrilled. It was a great opportunity to catch up and it also helped a situation that was a little uncomfortable, because I did not know anyone there, become a lot more enjoyable. As we walked on that beautiful, sunny, crisp fall day, we did a lot of talking. I shared a lot about our family’s challenges and what we were facing with the lack of income and the unpaid bills, etc. I also expressed my faith in the Lord and how He has taken such good care of us and that I was remaining faithful, no matter what! We talked a bit about how it is hard as a parent to want to give your children the gifts they desire for Christmas, but what do you do if you just simply can’t? And we talked even more about how it was all okay, because what mattered most to me was just that my family was okay, we had shelter, and most of all each other. Our visit was a great one, and I guess I spoke quite openly about our situation, considering we hadn’t talked in 10 years!
A few days later, I was in a precarious spot. Our family badly needed groceries. We were pretty much out of everything, you know, the staples that the kids need like milk, juice, cereal, etc. And there was not anything in the freezer or pantry that I was going to be able to make much a meal out of either. I recall specifically standing in the bathroom and looking the mirror. I had a sick feeling in my stomach, not knowing what to do. I said out loud, “Okay, Lord. I am going to trust you, I am going to use that gift card that you gave us for groceries, and I pray that if there is some way my children can have a couple of gifts under the tree for Christmas, that would be so amazing! I will let you handle that. I am letting go of it.”
So, I went and did some grocery shopping. I think I took my calculator and made sure that I did not go over the amount we had on the gift card and tried my very best to make wise decisions on my purchases. (This is especially difficult for me, I am no Betty Crocker, I am not a good cook, and a very poor meal planner, it’s just the truth! LOL!) And I brought my groceries home knowing that I had made the right decision. Hey, my family needed to eat!
I had to work that night. So, I went to work my night shift at the hospital I work at as an “Information Associate” (aka: unit secretary). It was not a busy night and somewhere around 11:00 or so I decided to sneak a peak at my email and see if there was anything of interest. What I found in my email was a miraculous gift from God. It was a direct answer to my prayer that I had made just hours before! There was no doubt about it, God heard me, He listened, He knew my hear’ts desires, and He answered!
My friend, Lori, who had gone on the walk with me, had sent me an email to tell me that she and her group of girlfriends from her neighborhood in Chicago had just come home from a girl’s night out. She explained in her email that she has been touched deeply by my honesty and openness with her about my family’s situation as well as my continued faith in spite of our circumstances. Lori told me that she knew, as she listened to me, that it could be any of us, any one of us, in the same situation that myself and my family are in right now. She also was frustrated with the limitations on the help our communities offer for people whose unemployment checks or paychecks prior to taking out health care expenses, etc., push them just barely over the line for qualifying for assistance. But most importantly, she saw that I had great faith and love in my heart and she and her friends wanted to help us!
Lori and her friends/neighbors decided to collect gift cards and purchase gifts for our children so that Charley and I would not have to worry about there being gifts under the tree. They had made a collective decision to use the money that they would normally spend on purchasing gifts for one another and use this money to help MY family. She wanted wish lists and she was bringing the gifts to us the next time she came to town! Not only that, but she stated that my willingness to share had inspired them all to make this an annual event for helping families. They are a blessed community and they wanted to help others. How beautiful is that?
I was completely humbled and grateful to Lori, but I could barely contain myself with excitement because of the miracle I knew I had witnessed that day. I felt like I had seen God! But what I did experience was His Great Love and His amazing faithfulness and generosity! We don’t deserve these gifts any more than any other family in need does. I don’t know how that all works out, only God does. But God truly blessed me because I chose to trust Him to meet my family’s needs!
And you know what? When God answers prayers, often times, He answers them in the most glorious of ways. He gives in ABUNDANCE! Wow! You would not believe the stash of toys we have hidden in our basement right now. And for my daughter, she is getting the one thing that she wanted most for Christmas, that I never would have been able to get her, an American Girl doll! I am humbled, ecstatic, joyous, and in awe. The abundance of blessings keep pouring in. We have been given gifts from faithful servants to help us bear the expense of holiday meals. Charley and I might actually exchange a small gift with one another. And, we are able to give a small amount to another family in great need this year! Yes, let’s talk about ABUNDANCE! Praise be to God, who loves us more than we can ever imagine. He wants to bless us and He wants us to trust in Him, for everything. I know that not every prayer will be answered in the way that I think it should, but “boy howdy”, God used my friend Lori and her friends as a vessel to deliver a Christmas blessing to my family, and an undeniable answer to my prayer!
You want to know something else that has come from this? Lori and her friends have established an account that they have titled, “In God’s Love”, that they will be donating to throughout the year, so that they continue to bless families in need. A beautiful gift and series of gifts that all seems to begin with my prayer to God on that October day, not even two months ago.
May My Christmas Story remind you of the miracles God is capable of, of His faithfulness to His beloved children, and of the gift we all have within us to give of ourselves to others. You never know whose prayer you might be answering when you help out someone in need!
I just can’t wait to “Pay It Forward” in the years to come!