Shoeboxes and VeggieTales – a great combination for learning a wonderful lesson

shoebox picture

WNZR hosted the premiere of VeggieTales “Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas” on Saturday.
Thanks to the many families that attended. We collected 53 shoeboxes and $42 (in extra donations) for Operation Christmas Child.
We wanted to share the story of one of those families. Thank you for taking a moment to read these thoughts from Kassandra Miller.

Tonight we went to WNZR’s VeggieTales premiere of Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas with our kids. It was hilarious and heartwarming. Si Robertson voiced an okra who was the narrator of the story. Admission to these premieres usually entails purchasing cheap tickets to get in. The videos are family friendly and faith-based so I love going because it is an inexpensive, good event for me and my kiddos.

However, tonight, admission was donating a shoebox full of gifts for Operation Christmas Child. The shoe boxes are filled, donated to Samaritan’s Purse, and then shipped to children all over the world for Christmas. You can choose the age group and gender of the child for which you would like to fill the box. Since my mom chose to do a boy aged 5-9, I thought we would do a girl 10-14, figuring lots of people probably pick the younger kids for their boxes.

Surely, I could have just gone to Wal-Mart and picked out some girly things quickly and filled the box in no time with no hassles, fighting or even re-directing. In fact, I have to be honest that I would have preferred to do so. With young children, it is an understatement of the century to say that trips to the store turn into whining sessions, where one (or all) of my children beg for items, grab things off of shelves and put them in the cart at some point, and generally make life frustrating in the aisles. This reason and others (conserving time, money, etc) were tempting for me to just leave all kids at home. However, my spirit wouldn’t allow that to happen.

Let me back up a couple of years…or decades. You see when I was very young – in fact, as far back as I am able to remember – we were quite poor. My mom was a single mother and she worked as hard as she could to provide as much as she could, but money was super tight. (Living now in a home with two of us caring and providing, I can say I have no idea how she did it and she just might be a superhero in disguise!) There were many things we had to do without over my childhood, but I believe I am now stronger for it.

My mom always tried to make Christmas special, though. Knowing we may not get much on birthdays, other holidays, or really any other time for that fact, she tried to make Christmas something in which we could look forward to in great anticipation. (She still made it center around Jesus’ birth even in the midst of presents and all, though, and for that I am grateful and most happy about).

The earliest Christmas I can remember was going to be a bleak one. I was about 5 years old and we lived in the Villas of Geneva apartments. Mom worked as a teacher at Head Start, but back then (and perhaps even still today), it didn’t pay more than minimum wage. To say that we struggled those years would have been an understatement. But by God’s grace and a great church family, our immediate needs were pretty much always covered…albeit barely at times, but God sustained us! Nevertheless, that Christmas we woke up, and with wonder and amazement, found gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. It was a blessing – a true Christmas miracle for our family. Mom was still mom, though, and we weren’t allowed to listen to Non-Christian music so my heart sank when I had to give back my NKOTB cassette tape I had received (haha). I was confused at 5, thinking “Sandy Claus” (how my mom signed her Christmas gifts) had gotten it for me, so why would she take it back?

Well, fast forward 13 years. I am a senior in high school and in charge of my Spanish 5 class’ adopted family for Christmas. Teens brought in some canned foods, gently used clothing, and a handful of $1s to donate. My job was to take the less than $15 and purchase a gift card at a grocery store for the family to buy the perishable items needed for the Christmas dinner. Duly noted…I can handle that! I was a high schooler so it never crossed my mind that $15 wouldn’t buy a decent turkey let alone the fixin’s. I just thought, go and do it and bring it back.

So I set out to do just that. However, when I told my mom that I was going to the store, she looked at me like my head was screwed on wrong when I answered her that I had about $15. “Fifteen bucks?! That’s not near enough! Here.” And she handed me a wad of cash. Huh? This was supposed to be my class doing it, and we aren’t poor anymore, but we aren’t exactly rolling in the dough, either (I mean, after all, I babysat so I could pay for my own toiletries, clothes, events, etc because mom couldn’t always do that). And I think secretly (as generous as I was taught to be and usually was) I wondered how much of this money would then be deducted from my Christmas that year. Selfish, right?! I mean mom always got me at least some presents so why was I worried? And Christmas isn’t about presents anyway, right? I mean it is CHRIST-MAS…the celebration of Christ’s birth.

My mom sensed my hesitation and (probably) the weird look on my face gave it away, too. So instead of just brushing me off and telling me to quit being a dumb teenager (which she most certainly would have been justified in doing), she explained to me something I never knew. The reason that the Christmas 13 years earlier happened and that the initials CSM (or something like that) were on some of the gifts (like the water bottles, shirts, etc) was because a company adopted our family for Christmas that year. Suddenly it all made sense. That cassette tape was bought by someone else who, out of their generosity, just aimed to give something to a little girl that she would like…not knowing that the little girl’s mama would be strict enough to say “no teenage stuff for my 5 year old” (and good for her to stick to her convictions!).

Through tears, mom expressed what I imagine many who are blessed to be adopted for Christmas would: gratitude. She was thankful to God for using people to be generous, thankful that people were obedient and generous, and thankful for the system that was in place to help a struggling single mom who just wanted to have a good Christmas for her 5 year old and 16 year old daughters. I am sure my brother was there as well (on college break), but forgive me because I only remember Jolanda being there.

I got it. I understood. And I was immediately convicted. But that conviction seeped through to my spirit and allowed me to find so much more joy in going to Giant Eagle and purchasing that gift card. When I took the gift card back to class the next day, Senora King called me to her desk. This usually was not a good sign. I figured I screwed it up and got the wrong thing, or, completely unrelated to that, I was in trouble for talking or not doing an assignment correctly. She looked quite serious, but to my surprise asked how I could have gotten such a large amount on a gift card. She said she knew there wasn’t much in that envelope that I could have gotten that much on the gift card and purchased all the grocery items that I brought in that day. She was shocked that a parent would give that much, but told me to make sure and thank my mom for her generosity.

It was in those moments that I realized what true generosity was, not just at Christmas, but all year long. You see, my mom would give the shirt off of her own back if it would help you. She is the most compassionate, generous, helpful soul I know. Scripture says you reap what you sow. My mom has sown generosity like it is going out of style. And she has reaped it. When we have been most in need, our needs were always met. Just like the woman in the parable, many times my mom has given all that she had in her possession, and God has blessed it and multiplied it in miraculous ways.

Back, FINALLY, to today. Like I said MANY paragraphs earlier (sorry so long), I could have been free from stress and went to the store kid-free today. But the Spirit would not let me. He prodded for me to take my eldest son with me. So at the last moment, I urged him to get his clothes and shoes on so we could get to the store and back on time for the premiere. On the way to Wal-Mart, Dallas (almost 5 years old) and I had a heart to heart. We discussed the many reasons why we give. I wondered if he even got it or understood it at all, but felt like something on the topic would stick. We got inside, and much to my surprise and sheer delight, he excitedly took the lead. He picked out the pretty hair things for our OCC girl. He chose the sunglasses and the journal. He took delight in helping me to find matching pens to the journal cover. And it hit me when we got back in the van that not once during the whole visit did he whine, grumble, ask for anything for himself, or complain. He got it. He understood. His tender heart to know and live Truth sees the True Light that is Christmas…JESUS! And that’s a fact, Jack!

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