The response to my last post has been so positive, I thought I’d share at least one more Christmas story and devotion from my book, Scripture to Live By.
This is a great story by the well-known author, Kim Vogel Sawyer. She is a gifted story-teller and I’m still so grateful she agreed to submit a story for my book.
By Kim Vogel Sawyer
“Mommy, what is that talking about?”
I looked over the edge of the kitchen counter to my daughter, who pointed at the television. A commercial played, advertising the 1993 Toys for Tots campaign.
Coming around the counter to stand beside her, I explained. “Those soldiers are asking for people to give toys to them. Then, on Christmas Eve, they’ll give the toys to boys and girls who otherwise wouldn’t get any presents for Christmas.”
Kaitlyn’s blue eyes widened as she peered up at me in dismay. “Some kids don’t get presents?”
I shook my head, smoothing her wispy blonde hair from her face. “That’s right, punkin. Some kids aren’t as lucky as you.”
I watched Kaitlyn process this information. Small for her age, having come into the world a bit ahead of schedule, Kaitlyn had nonetheless always had a big heart. I could see she was troubled at the thought of children not receiving Christmas presents. To reassure her, I said, “Don’t worry about it, sweetheart. That’s why they have Toys for Tots—to make sure nobody gets left out at Christmastime.”
That night, as Kaitlyn said her bedtime prayers, she added a postscript: “And God, about those kids who don’t get presents…, could you make sure people give a whole bunch of toys so every kid will get a Christmas present?”
Every night for the next two weeks Kaitlyn made that same prayer. My heart thrilled at the tenderness being expressed through her innocent prayer, and I found myself sending up the same petition when I went to bed at night.
December 10th, a week before Kaitlyn’s seventh birthday, she hopped through the door after school and pulled herself onto the breakfast barstool for her snack. Her mouth full of peanut butter cookies, she asked, “Mommy, can I invite my whole class to my birthday party?”
“Everybody? Not just the girls?”
“No. I want the girls and the boys, too.”
I sent her a teasing wink. “Oh, I know why you want lots of kids at your party.”
She sat up straight, her expression expectant. “You do?”
“Mm-hm. You just want lots of birthday presents.”
Immediately her little face clouded. She climbed down from the stool and disappeared into her bedroom. Assuming I had hurt her feelings in some way, I followed her. She sat on the edge of her bed, her head down.
I sat down beside her and put my around her small shoulders. “What’s the matter, punkin?”
Kaitlyn looked up at me. Tears glistened in the corners of her eyes, making her sky blue eyes appear even brighter. “I don’t want any more presents for me. I have lots of toys already. But can I ask my friends to bring a present for that Toys for Tots thing?” For a moment, she seemed uncertain. “I prayed for God to give those kids toys. Do you think it’s okay if I help?”
Tears stung my eyes as I gave Kaitlyn a hug. “Honey, I think God would be delighted for you to help.” I knew the Toys for Tots campaign was nearing its end. I wasn’t sure if they would still collect toys after Kaitlyn’s birthday. “Do you want me to call and find out if the soldiers need some more toys?”
She nodded with enthusiasm. “Yes!”
Kaitlyn was at school the next day. I called the Army Reserves Armory in nearby McPherson, the nearest collection point.
“We generally don’t receive toys after December 16th, ma’am,” the voice on the other end told me.
My heart sank. Kaitlyn’s birthday was the 17th, and if we had her party on her birthday as we’d planned, we wouldn’t be able to deliver the toys until the 18th of December. I couldn’t bear facing my daughter’s disappointment. Breathing a silent prayer, I asked, “Could you possibly make an exception?” I explained what Kaitlyn wanted to do. The voice asked if I could hold, and it seemed I waited an interminable amount of time until someone returned to the telephone.
“Ma’am? What time could you be here on the 18th?”
“Not until after five, probably,” I said, almost holding my breath.
There was another pause as I prayed inwardly—Please, God, please, please. Kaitlyn will be so crushed—and finally the person said, “I tell you what. I’ll stick around that afternoon so I can let you in.”
“Oh, thank you.” My breath whooshed out with the words. “And bless you!”
Together, Kaitlyn and I designed birthday invitations. In crayon, Kaitlyn painstakingly wrote on the bottom of each invitation, “Bring one unwrapped gift for a boy or girl for Toys for Tots (not for Kaitlyn).” She followed the line of instruction with a smiley face.
She handed the invitations to every classmate during recess at school the next day. At suppertime, I asked if her friends were excited about her party.
“They all want to come, Mommy! That means seventeen presents.” Then she paused, her brow furrowed. “But it will be eighteen if I buy a present, too.”
I laughed. “Okay, we’ll buy you a present, too, to give away.”
She grinned her thanks.
The day of her party, Kaitlyn squealed with delight at every toy that was carried through the door. She deposited the cars, dolls, coloring books, games, and stuffed animals in big boxes, which we had decorated with Christmas wrapping paper and bows. With each delivery, she announced, her eyes shining, “Won’t those kids be surprised?”
The morning after her birthday, she and I loaded the boxes into the back of our van and drove to the Armory. Three volunteers greeted us.
“Hello!” Kaitlyn chirped, beaming her toothless smile as she bounced through the doors with her arms full. “Look! These are my birthday presents, but you can have them. They’re for those kids for Christmas.” She hummed as she helped the volunteers arrange her gifts on tabletops scattered with every variety of toy.
Kaitlyn walked between the rows of tables, pointing to the piles of unwrapped toys, her blue eyes wide with wonder. “Look at all these presents, Mommy. I bet every kid gets a present now.”
“I’ll bet you’re right, punkin.” How it lifted my heart to see Kaitlyn in action, her joy so obvious at the opportunity to give.
Before we left, Kaitlyn gave each of the volunteers a hug and wished them a merry Christmas. All the way home, she jabbered about what she’d seen—the abundance of toys awaiting delivery to boys and girls. She seemed awed by the number of presents. “Where did they all come from?” she asked.
“Well, just like you gave presents, other people gave presents, too. Lots of people brought in toys for those boys and girls.”
She nodded, satisfied with my answer. That night, when she knelt for her prayers, she said, “God, thank you for the people who gave all those toys. Give them a hug for me, would you, please? And thank you that all the boys and girls will have a good Christmas now.”
When I went to bed that night, I gave God thanks, too—for the others who had generously given so a needy child might enjoy a gift on Christmas morning, but mostly for Kaitlyn, my precious little girl who could see beyond selfishness to the joy of giving. “God, bless Kaitlyn….”
On Doing “I Love You”…For Your Consideration
by Arron Chambers
I John 3:16-18
16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “That’s easier said than done.”
So many things in life are easier said than done:
“Dad, I want to learn how to ride my bike.”
“When I grow up I want to be a doctor.”
“Let’s get married.”
“Let’s have a baby.”
“Of course, I can handle watching all four kids on Saturday while you’re at the “Women’s Retreat.”
“I’m going to start exercising tomorrow morning.”
“I’m going to have daily devotions for the next thirty days.”
“I think it’s time for us to start going to church, again.”
“Yes, your parents can stay with us for a month this summer.”
Mother of fourteen-year-old girl: “Honey, can you go in there and find out why your daughter is crying?” Father of aforementioned fourteen-year-old girl: “No problem.”
“I love you.”
Love is easier said than done. Twenty-four years ago, I stood at the altar, looked at my lovely bride, and said, “I love you.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was the easy part—saying, “I love you.”
Doing, “I love you,” is hard work and sometimes not that fun. Doing, “I love you,” requires sacrifice, patience, compromise, communication, selflessness, serving, commitment, in-laws, “I’m sorry,” and changing diapers when it’s your turn!
Knowing this, the Apostle John, points to Jesus as the perfect example of doing, “I love you.” John says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” Jesus spoke a message of love each day of his life, but never was his love as clearly communicated as it was on the cross. Christ’s words about love—his stories, his sermons, his prayers—describe love clearly, but his death defined true love once and for all time.
Saying, “I love you,” is easy—it doesn’t require sacrifice, effort, time, commitment, a marriage license, a cross, or a birthday party for needy kids.
But, doing, “I love you,” makes us more like Jesus . . . and Kaitlyn.
©2014 Arron Chambers