This past Wednesday I was speaking with a friend, her church was giving away Christmas Trees and she wanted me to go with her to get one. Now, I had already decided not to get a tree this year and the last thing I needed was a tree to cart around. But my friend persisted, saying, "Cari maybe it's not for you, Maybe it's for someone else," with hesitation I said yes.
Just after I got off the phone with her another friend called to see if we could fit in a short walk before our full schedule of the evening's events. This was quite out of character for our work out routine as well as our schedules, but we just needed a short release and made plans. We set our meeting place and I set off to meet her. I waited for a bit and then decided to meet her at her building instead of our scheduled meeting place. Changing meeting locations doesn't usually work out and this night there was no exception - but I had no idea what was to come.
Because I changed corners I ended up being available to a family walking down the street. A young girl stopped me and asked, "excuse me, do you know where we can find the army where they give away food?" I asked, "the Salvation Army?" "Yes that's it," she responded. I didn't know. I asked if they could wait and I'd find out. I knew I was supposed to help in some way, but I didn't have my phone and all of my resources were in my building. I ran upstairs to try to find my friend, but could not find her.
I came back to the family, who by now had been given the address of the Salvation Army. I asked, "do you have a place to live?" "yes," she replied. I asked her name, it was Valerie. She was the only one who could speak english. I learned her dad was at work and she, along with her three sisters and mom were out looking for food as things have been very tight for them financially.
Valerie and I chatted, I wanted to get her connected to resources in the area. Then I remembered --I had a Christmas tree! I asked Valerie a last series of questions, "Do you have food?" "no" "Do you have a Christmas Tree?" I felt a little odd asking that question, but I knew it was a question I needed to ask. She replied, "no, we don't get to have Christmas this year, things are just too tough." "I would love to bring you a Christmas tree, would you like that?" Valerie asked her mom, her mom looked up at me and said something to Valerie to pass on to me. "Oh yes! that would be wonderful!" By this time, my friend was no where to be found and i was immersed in the moment, knowing that God had been involved with this divine appointment.
Valerie and I exchanged information and I said I'd come over sometime during the weekend to bring the tree. I was so excited and knew that God had set up our meeting. I had a friend call the family who speaks spanish. She confirmed all the information given to me by Valerie and found out their situation. David, the father, worked several jobs and made simply enough to cover rent, everything else was a luxury. Reyna, the mom, took care of the four girls, Valerie 10, Jennifer 5, Hemily 3, and Elizabeth 2, and had a job as well. Reyna communicated that things had just been very tough this year and that she knew their family would not have Christmas and they would be fortunate to simply have food on the table. My friend asked what the girls needed and if Reyna and David needed anything. She responded with only ideas for the children for she and her husband knew that taking care of their girls was of greatest importance and value. They set a time, Saturday at 6:00 and the miracle continued.
I called several friends and told the story of Reyna and her family, people jumped at the chance to give with such generosity. Before the day's end we had clothes for the girls, toys for the girls, stockings, tree lights and decorations, stocking stuffers for everyone in the family, gifts for David and Reyna, food for the family and gift cards galore! Oh and of course, the Christmas tree that I didn't want! It was amazing and so beautiful to see it all come together. The beauty was found in so many unexpected places and I could see how God had orchestrated the entire event. I could see how people had grown in their own understanding of the generosity found in Jesus as people gave not only out of their abundance, but out of their need.
Evening came and it was time to make the delivery! We needed two cars to carry it all! Two friends joined me as we traveled to their home. We pulled up to their home. It was a modest two bedroom apartment that was enclosed by a large black metal gate. The four girls stood at the doorway, waiting with such expectancy for the delivery of what they thought was just a Christmas Tree. We unloaded the tree and brought it to them. Their apartment was small but very clean and I could tell that they took much pride in the very little they owned. Soon after the tree was set up, boxes full of lights and ornaments were brought in. The girls were so excited and Reyna had a hard time soaking it all in. She smiled and watched as the girls, my two friends and I decorated the tree together. We stayed for a few hours, singing, decorating, dancing, laughing and taking pictures. We took some time to pray for the family and Reyna told the girls they could each open one gift. The girls opened a children's picture Bible that was in spanish and a game. Reyna opened one of her gift cards along with a poppy seed cake that had been made for her by a woman in my church. She cried. We hugged each of the girls and then I hugged Reyna, she held so tight and kept saying thank you over and over and over again as we both cried. A miracle had taken place and we each were witness to it. It overwhelmed me... it overwhelmed my friends and it overwhelmed Reyna and her family.
We drove away that evening in wonder. It was a gift to us to be a part of what God was doing! I am amazed by His generosity. I am so glad I missed my friend that night.
This is the beauty of how we get to live as men and women who follow after the way of Jesus. We get to be a part of His miraculous plan. We get to taste and know that He is good. We get to be the aroma of Christ among those who are saved and those who are perishing.
I wonder how many opportunities we miss because we are not willing to mess up our plans? I wonder how many opportunities I meet cause I'm not willing to mess up my plans? I am thankful that I was attentive and I pray that this kind of story will not be one that comes around every once in a while in our lives, but that it becomes the norm. My prayer is that we will be attentive to God, seeing with His eyes, hearing with His ears and responding with His heart! Cause you and I never know when we will get to bring the light and hope and joy of Christ into the lives of others... maybe just by walking down the street!
Pray today that God will make you attentive to those around you and look for ways to be a blessing!