Friday, December 4, 2009

Gifts for Christmas ... Love

I was a senior in college, assigned to student teach in a small country school. Yellow framed pictures of classes from decades past hung on brick walls and watched my first graders file into the hallway each Friday for the weekly math competition. She caught my attention by her quietness, reluctance to answer, looking like she wanted to disappear as she moved closer to the drill position. Her tender heart drew me to her. While other little girls came in coats edged with faux fur and mittens to match, she came in with a worn jacket and pressed her lips together in a nervous and hopeful smile. Her thin blond hair fell around pudgy cheeks, and when she spoke, a slight speech impediment softened her words. Misty didn't talk often; it was hard to insert herself in a group of busy, bubbly little girls.

On the playground she hovered around me, letting me hold her warm hand to walk around the field, soaking up her soft words and painting pictures of her heart and hopes. When the Midwest wind started to whip around half-way through student teaching, Misty noticed I didn’t swing or hop anymore. When she asked why I didn't play much, I told her the cold wind hurt my legs, and it did. My heating pad was plugged into my dorm wall, so I could sit and prep for the next day's classes.

When the first snow brought holidays, it was time for me to go. Children brought me gifts of bright red teacher mugs wrapped in ribbons and tissue paper. Misty waited until last to present her gift wrapped in a brown grocery bag. Little girls snickered.

I reached in and pulled out half of a striped afghan, the colors of old tubes of lipstick.“There’s only half,” she explained, “ because my mommy didn’t finish it in time. It’s enough to wrap around your legs, so they won’t hurt.”

Misty’s is the only gift I remember from that year. She gave out of love, the best she had, without regard to herself. She had noticed and remembered and cared about a need I had. I knew the yarn in the bag had been a sacrifice for the family who had emptied their brown bag. She gave for the blessing it brought to me, and I still have that half of a striped blanket.

As this season blows in, we are surrounded by ribbons and bright red paint. Who around you needs a warm wrap? What do you have to give? 1 Timothy 6 tells us our heavenly Father “gives us richly all things,” then challenges us to be “ready to give, willing share.”

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (New Living Translation)

Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.

Tomorrow morning the women of our church are meeting to wrap gifts to give to the women of two local shelters. The gifts? Scarves ... some shopped for carefully with daughters, some from sales worked into busy schedules, and many (so many ...) from the hands of girls and women and older women who crocheted, knitted, cut, and tied gifts to speak the warmth of the Christ's love to those in need. After our "Scarves for Romania" ministry in September, we have brought the idea home as "Scarves for Knoxville." We will wrap the gifts in beautiful paper and ribbons, take them to the shelters along with cookies and brownies, and then enjoy the pleasure of seeing women open gifts that say "Love." Not just love from women of God, but love from God Himself.

What will your gifts say this Christmas?

2 COMMENTS ~ Click here to leave a COMMENT:

Warren Baldwin said...

Powerful story. A genuine gift of love. When my sister was little she invited the girls from her class for a birthday part at our house. One very poor little girl came. She brought a partial bottle of (very cheap) perfume her mother gave her to bring. It was all the poor girl had. I still remember that today, almost 40 years later. The simplest gifts are often the most touching.

Anonymous said...

Julie, That was such a baeutiful story. I know that little girl was blessed to have you in her life and be her friend during that time. I wasn't too unlike that little girl growing up. We didn't have much money and I was chubby and my barrettes didn't match...I would have loved to have a teacher let me hold her hand and talk to her. Thanks for being that for that precious child.