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My name is Cheryl
One year, God surprised us at Christmas. It was just before Christmas, and we were two months behind in our mortgage payments. On January 1, our home would go into foreclosure. Hal and I had no money to buy Christmas gifts for each other or for our five-year-old daughter, Nicole.
When Nicole gave us her Christmas list, it contained only one item…a pair of blue jeans with pink flowers on the pocket.
I was praying fervently that we’d have money for Christmas and that we would not lose our home. Yet, I was starting to feel discouraged.
The next day, Nicole came home from school and handed me the school newsletter. The school was asking us to participate in the Christmas tradition of giving to those in need. I had a clear sense that we should try to do something for one of the three families the school wanted to help…even though we ourselves were in desperate need.
The newsletter listed specific needs for each family, simply labeled as families A, B, and C. I noted that Family B needed clothing for a five-year-old girl. Since I wanted to include Nicole in the shopping process, I decided we would adopt Family B, so that she could relate to giving to someone her own age.
The next afternoon, Nicole and I went shopping at K-Mart. As we pushed the basket along together, we looked for some item of clothing that would be right for a little girl her age. Soon we came to a rack of girls’ jeans, and Nicole spotted a pair with little pink flowers on the back pocket.
“Oh!” she said excitedly, “I just know the little girl will want these!” Into the cart went the jeans with pink flowers. My mind was already racing ahead. If the parents didn’t have money for jeans, then they wouldn’t have money to purchase a shirt to complete the outfit.
“Now, let’s find a blouse or something to go with these jeans,” I told Nicole. Soon we found just the right thing – a pink sweater with a black and white panda bear on the front and a matching pink shirt.
I was rejoicing at the blessing of giving this special gift. Yet a few minutes later as we stood in line, my excitement waned. There in the basket was the exact item my daughter wanted for Christmas…jeans with pink flowers on the pocket …in just her size. Now with my last $25, I was going to buy them for someone else’s little girl.
I thought of how I’d always believed in giving sacrificially. I believed in the biblical principle of “sowing and reaping.” Whether you have little or much, just like a farmer, it’s not wise to eat your seed but to plant it and watch it multiply.
I prayed, “Lord, I know the promises in Your word about giving. Yet right now I’m wavering. I need you to reaffirm this truth to me now.”
We checked out at the cash register and went home. But all throughout the day, I was still vacillating. I began contemplating wrapping up the gift and giving it to Nicole rather than to the little girl in Family B.
That night as I pulled out the wrapping paper, I still did not know what to do. Finally, I walked into Hal’s office where he was studying and told him what a struggle I was having. I reiterated what he already knew. Our own daughter had asked for jeans for Christmas just like the ones I had purchased to give away. How much sense did it make to give them to someone else’s little girl?
“I believe I know what we’re supposed to do,” Hal said. “But please pray and ask God what he wants you to do.”
I opened my Bible and the pages fell open to Ecclesiastes 11:1-6.
“Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days…He who observes the wind (and waits for all conditions to be favorable) will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap… In the morning sow your seed and in the evening withhold not your hand …”
It was evening, and I was considering withholding my gift. It was clear the Lord was telling me not to wait for conditions to be favorable…to cast my bread upon the waters.
I wrapped the jeans, pink blouse, and panda bear sweater in white tissue paper as the school had requested and wrote “Family B” on the outside of the package.
Later as I was wrapping some small items for the woman in Family B, Hal walked in. “What size is the man in that family we’re giving to?” Hal asked. I looked on the sheet and replied, “Medium.”
A few moments later, Hal entered carrying his new gray sweater vest. “I want you to wrap this up and give it to the man on the list,” he said.
“Oh, that is your favorite piece of clothing!” I said.
“We should always give God our best,” he said. And with that, I wrapped the gray sweater vest.
The next day Nicole took her gifts to the school. As was the tradition, the children brought their gifts forward during a school assembly and placed them at the foot of a manager cradling “baby Jesus.” These presents were first and foremost a gift of love to the Savior.
As Nicole shared with me about presenting our family’s gifts to the Lord, I was reminded of how God demonstrated the principle of sowing and reaping through the life of His Son Jesus Christ.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will never die but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) .” God gave His only Son, His most precious possession, first ― then received many sons and daughters in return. Through the principle of “sowing,” God reaped the greatest harvest in the history of the world.
The next Sunday afternoon I was getting ready to go to the evening service at our church. I heard the doorbell ring and looked outside the window to see a white station wagon which I recognized as that of our friends Mario and Cathy Rossetti. They lived just around the corner and our kids attended the same school.
As I opened the front door, Mario began unloading boxes filled with gifts. The boxes kept coming and coming. There must have been fifteen boxes or more. I noticed they were all wrapped in white tissue paper.
“What is this?” I asked. But before Mario could answer, my eyes scanned several packages. Each one was marked “Family B”!
“Oh,” I grabbed my heart! “The jeans with the pink flowers and the panda bear sweater. They’re in one of these boxes! The gray sweater vest. It’s in there too!” God surprised us at Christmas– when we least expected it.
Then I remembered Hal saying, “We must always give God our best.”
I breathed an awe-filled prayer. “Lord, you knew this all along! When I was standing in line at K-Mart complaining, You knew. When You led me to read the verse in Ecclesiastes, ‘Cast your bread upon the waters and you will find it after many days,’ You knew!”
How had I ever doubted God’s Word?
A half-hour later Hal pulled into the driveway after running errands. “Hurry, we’re late for church!”
“Hal,” I said. “Could you come to the bedroom for just a moment? I have something to show you!”
“I’ll look at it later,” he said. “We’re going to be late.”
“You have to come now,” I said, and I took his arm and directed him into our bedroom.
There on the floor, the bed, and everywhere in between were boxes and boxes of gifts.
“What is all this?” he exclaimed.
“Do you know who Family B is?” I asked.
“No, who?” he said.
“WE are Family B! WE are Family B…you, Nicole, and me!”
On Christmas Day we opened our presents. Among the gifts were a man’s gray sweater vest size medium and size five girl’s jeans with pink flowers on the pocket and a matching panda bear sweater and pink shirt.
“But what about the poor little girl?” Nicole asked as she opened her gift. It would be years before she would learn the significance of how God surprised us at Christmas that year.
It had been only a few years before this that the Lord had called us to leave our secular jobs and start the Christian ministry which is now BridgeBuilders. We didn’t yet have many supporters and we often went without a salary. We were completely dependent on the Lord to provide for our needs.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s we received a call from a pastor in another town. He and his wife were coming to Phoenix and wanted to stop by and drop off a gift.
We were excited to see our friends and receive what I thought was to be the gift of a turkey. “We can definitely use it!” I said out loud.
We opened the door wide and greeted the couple. As they entered, the pastor pulled a check out of his pocket and handed it to Hal.
We learned that the pastor had challenged his congregation to give to the Christmas missions fund the same amount of money they were giving in gifts to their friends and family. The collection had been split between our family and an overseas missionary.
Hal and I looked at the check…it was made out for $1500! Fifteen hundred dollars! Exactly enough money to catch up on our home mortgage payments.
Through the years, when money is tight and pressures grow great, the Lord often reminds me of this story. I know He never wants me to forget that He and I are in a covenant relationship and that if we will act in obedience to plant seeds of kindness, love, and resources, He will be faithful to multiply them back to us.
God surprised us at Christmas, but he promises to keep surprising us.
“Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure — pressed down, shaken together, and running over — will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38
Cheryl Sacks is the best-selling author of The Prayer Saturated book series: The Prayer Saturated Church, Prayer-Saturated Kids, and The Prayer Saturated Family—How to Change the Atmosphere in Your Home through Prayer. Her newest book, Reclaim a Generation, 21 Days of Prayer for Schools, will be available soon at ReclaimAGeneration.com
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