Today I wanted to share a guest blog post from my dear friend, Jennifer Woods. I hope you have a blessed Christmas!
As I was sitting in the quiet wee hours of the morning, looking at our Christmas tree, my eyes fell on one of the ornaments that holds great significance to me. It may not look like much to anyone else’s eyes…a little porcelain, a little paint…but the story, the reminder behind it all is something I will never forget.
It was about 5 years ago, around the beginning of December. It was a time in my life where I was busy and ‘on-the-go’ keeping up with the youthful energy and antics of a 3 year old boy and 5 year old girl. Being an avid reader and book lover, I took time each month to meet with a group of friends as part of a book club. It often became my saving grace as it was filled with ‘intellectual conversation’ and laughter. At our November gathering, it was announced that we would be doing an ornament gift exchange for December. Everyone was to bring one ornament to share.
The Saturday before the gift exchange, I left my two sweethearts at home with their daddy so that I could go search out an ornament. I saw it as an hour of bliss – the chance to wander around a store aimlessly without having to dole out gummy snacks or wipe runny noses. Ahhh….sweet freedom. Wanting to support local businesses when possible, I had heard that Hoopers was having their annual Christmas craft fair – lots of unique ornaments to choose from, right? Normally I would run to my favorite, quick and convenient “go-to-store” Target, but today was about LEISURE. So I left the house with a grateful heart and only $6 in my wallet. There was something inside of my heart that liked this challenge. To find what I needed within the budget that I set…nothing more, nothing less. I reminded myself that the trip wasn’t going to be about purchasing for me.
As I drove up to the store, I said a quick prayer of thanks and asked the Lord to help me find what I needed, and to help me stay faithful to my small budget. Walking up the sidewalk to the front of the store, I see a ‘fresh baked mini-donuts’ stand and was immediately captured by the smell of fresh donuts. Oh man! They smelled SO good. $3 a bag. Mmmm…the kids and Jamie would LOVE those… It could be a ‘thank you’ treat for letting me go out. I could use $3 on donuts and still find an ornament with the remainder, couldn’t I? Decided! That is what I would do. On the way out, I would go home with donuts!
Upon entering the store my senses were overloaded with Christmas festivity – holiday music playing, the heavy smell of pine and peppermint, and trees dripping with ornaments of every kind! So many things to look at. After browsing for a bit, I came across this little tree near the corner. It’s branches weren’t heavily flocked with ornaments like the rest. Maybe that’s what drew me to it. It had a quiet charm about it. A handful of about 15 ornaments rested upon it’s tiny branches. And then THE ornament caught my eye. A little porcelain shepherd boy with his sheep (which for some reason reminded me of my little guy at home), with the saying underneath, “It took the heart of a child to reach the soul of the world.” I took the ornament off of tree to look at the price…$2.99! Of course. A smile broke on my face, as I reveled in the Lord’s faithfulness. $3 for the donuts. $3 for the ornament. Can it get any better? Feeling grateful and satisfied with the ornament in hand, I got ready to leave the tree to make the purchase – until another one caught my eye! Equally as moving, a porcelain Mary holding a baby, with the saying, “What Mary knew by sight, we know by heart.”…also $2.99. Ugh. I couldn’t decide. I loved both of them. I WANTED both. …to keep…for myself. I begin to justify…I could get one ornament for the gift exchange and one for me. I’d still in my $6 budget. Victory, right? No one even knew about my donut idea yet – they wouldn’t know what they were missing. After all, donuts aren’t great for their health. I’d be a GOOD mom, by NOT giving them junky donuts. Ha!
This self-talk continued on for a few minutes as I walked around the store with both ornaments in my hand. And then a word struck me …”obedience”. Oooh. Not the word that I wanted to hear. I knew what I had to do. I chose one, put the other back on the tree with a longing sigh and left the store with my $6 purchase: one beloved ornament (that I had to give away) and one bag of donuts. Sigh. When I got home and presented the donuts, they were gobbled up without much thought or appreciation. A dark cloud of pity formed in my heart as I mentally stewed…What a waste! I should’ve bought both ornaments. “Obedience” – ha! It’s SO overrated.
As the week went on, my heart and perspective gradually softened and I was able to move on from my disappointment. I went to the book club gift exchange later that week. People arrived with their brightly colored wrapped presents. The hostess had an extra wrapped’ present – just in case someone forgot theirs.
The exchange began – white elephant style with numbers being picked, and the ‘trading up’ banter beginning. It came time for me to choose a present. I picked the small, shiny, red-foil papered box. Still being a kid at heart, with secret, hopeful excitement I quickly peeled off the wrapping paper. A little cardboard box. I lift the lid and peel away the tissue paper…..Mary. THE Mary ornament from Hoopers! Possibly the very ornament that I held in my hand, longing for. How could it be?? I hadn’t told ANYONE about the ornament. Out of all of the stores and ornaments in town that could’ve been chosen – and here she sat, cradled in my hand. Tears filled my eyes. I was absolutely speechless. No one at the party understood the significance of that gift. But I did. With tears in my eyes and a silent prayer of thanks, I had some quick explaining to do. Needless to say…at the gift exchange, my present didn’t get stolen. And the extra gift? Turned out that the person that received the ornament that I brought (the little shepherd boy), received the ‘extra’ in a game and gave me the other ornament. That day I went home with the shepherd boy and Mary…and a heart that will never forget the faithful, extravagant, detailed, love of a Savior.