Archive for November, 2010
It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and you know what that means:Â Let Christmas begin!
We kicked off our Christmas celebration with one of our usual traditions: a visit to see Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, known ’round these here parts as The Big Guy.
We braved the traffic on Black Friday to go see him.Â Hoping that everyone would be busy shopping or napping from their early morning escapades, we wound our way through the parking lot to Santa’s special cottage.Â I dropped Matt off to scout the lines and when he indicated we were good to go, the kids hopped out and I set off to park the car.
As I entered his “workshop”, I was instantly greeted by his cheerful laugh and warm hello.Â At the moment I entered, Santa was busy engaging both of my children in a great big bear hug, which was captured on camera by one of his elves.Â “You made it just in time!” his cheerful voice called out to me.Â He smiled, gave the children their coloring books and motioned for me to come over to him.Â Next thing I knew, he was wrapping ME up in a great big bear hug, as if we were old friends reunited after a long absence.
I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how he felt.
Because, you see, we’ve been coming to this same Santa since Trey was just a baby.Â This was his first – and only – Santa, the only one we’ve had our “official” Santa pictures taken with each year.Â We have chronicled our children’s growth by the pictures we’ve had with The Big Guy.Â And each year, we’ve had the wonderful privilege to visit with him, to say hello, to exchange pleasantries and have a short conversation.
But still, it overwhelms me to think: He remembered ME.Â Out of all the thousands of families he sees each year, he remembers US.
And in the midst of what had been an emotionally draining, difficult and stressful week, that one little bit of encouragement pierced through my weariness and energized my tired soul.Â He couldn’t possibly have known the emotional baggage I was carrying with me that day.Â He couldn’t possibly have understood the tremendous need I had for encouragement.Â He couldn’t possibly have fathomed the depths of disappointment, discouragement, and fear I was feeling.Â Regardless, he reached out to me and in a moment, with one simple act, reassured me that there is hope.Â There is a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.Â That even the dreariest of days comes to an end, and that even the darkest of nights eventually burst into the glory of morning.
And it was in that moment I felt the touch of my Father carrying me.Â Reassuring me that He is there.Â He hears.Â He knows.Â He understands.Â After all, He is the *original* BIG GUY and there’s nothing He loves more than giving good gifts to His children.
We had the coolest experience today.Â I don’t know if you realize this, but God shops at TARGET!Â I know, because He met us in the checkout line this afternoon.
It was one of those typical Saturdays…dance classes, haircuts, errands, housework.Â All the exciting stuff that grown-up people get to spend their weekends doing.Â And knowing that our shoeboxes for Regalos de Amor are due at church tomorrow, I had taken the kids to do our shoebox-shopping at my new bff, Target’s Dollar Spot.
As a family, we have been doing this since Trey was a baby.Â In the past, Mom and Dad usually make the decisions, but in recent years, we’ve been handing over more and more control of the decisions to Trey & Crisana.Â This year, they practically did it all.Â I couldn’t have been prouder as they scoured the bins in the Dollar Spot, looking for toys, games, school supplies, and personal items to stock for those less fortunate.Â We filled out our boxes with a visit to the travel-size hygiene items aisle and a quick stop by the register’s candy stash before checking out.
To be sure everything fit, we had already stocked our plastic shoeboxes as we shopped.Â At the checkout line, I told the cashier not to bag anything; we would repack it in the shoeboxes after it had been scanned.Â Although he seemed a bit confused, he obliged and began the process of piling up all our items as he pulled them out, one at a time, from their neatly nested places in the shoebox.
As we waited, a group of women, obviously from the same family, came behind us at the checkout.Â The matriarch of the clan, recognizing what we were doing, kindly asked Trey and Crisana if they were making shoeboxes.Â They eagerly shared what we were doing – how we had picked toys, school supplies, soap and shampoo and brushes and toothpaste for children in Mexico to have gifts at Christmas.Â The kind woman became so excited and shared her own involvement with Samaritan’s Purse.Â She ooh’ed and aah’ed over every item that came out of our shoeboxes, telling Trey & Crisana over and over what a great job they did, what a wonderful mix of useful and fun items they had selected, how the children would be so happy to receive those boxes.
With tears in her eyes, she shared how she and her husband have supported this project for years, but have never experienced the joy of seeing the children receive their boxes first hand.Â They live in California, but have never been able to make any trips to deliver the boxes.Â When I told her that our boxes would be hand-delivered by the high schoolers at our church on a weekend in December, she could hardly contain herself.Â And soon her whole family had gathered around to see what we were doing and share in the joy.
The checkout clerk didn’t quite know what to make of all this, but I knew a seed was being planted.Â He dutifully did his job, and as he did, I prayed that God would do His and make a mark on that young man’s heart.
Our order was finally completed, and as we fit the last few items into their proper places in the shoeboxes and gathered our receipt, I finally had the chance to thank this woman who had taken such an interest in us and our project.Â As I looked up, I was greeted with the shining, smiling faces of her daughters and granddaughters as well, all thoroughly engaged in our conversation.Â From teenager to senior citizen, those women had all been a part of connecting with us in that brief moment.Â I wished them all a happy thanksgiving and a wonderful visit together.
“God bless you!” the woman called out after me as we left.
I looked back at her kind, sweet face before we turned the corner.
“Thank you – and you, too!” I called back.Â But then I realized…He already has.
I do believe pigs have flown.Â Hell has frozen over.Â And, unfortunately for the Rangers, the fat lady has sung her final notes.
For you see, for the first time in franchise history, the Rangers have made it to the WORLD SERIES!Â And in a proud moment for the Edwards family, I was the first family member to ever attend a World Series game, thanks to my awesome friend Christin.
We arrived early and excited, tickets in hand.
Inside the Ballpark, the feeling was electric.Â It was surreal to see this:
Brooks took it all in, mesmerized by the sights, the sounds, and the intensity of the atmosphere.
The ceremonial first pitch was a special thrill for the true Rangers fan as Fergie Jenkins threw to former battery-mate Jim “Sunny” Sundberg.Â Thank goodness they weren’t wearing those powder-blue uniforms of their era.Â (Though as a UNC Tarheel, I’m sure Christin wouldn’t have minded.Â In fact, she might have even thought they were beautiful.)
It’s always a thrill to see the presentation of the colors, but watching the Marines gives me goosebumps.
And then it was game time!Â Cliff Lee threw out the “real” first pitch…a strike, right down the heart of the plate.
Unfortunately, the game did not turn in the Rangers favor.Â With the Giants holding a secure lead through most of the game, we turned our attention to some of the more interesting things around us…like unusually colored fans:
Alas, it was not to be.Â The Rangers were felled by the mighty Giants, who celebrated with their fans following a well-deserved, well-played world series.Â I couldn’t let those nice gentlemen behind us return to San Francisco without a special souvenir of their experience here, so I gave them a rally towel and made them promise to hang it with pride on their wall, framed.Â I’m pretty sure they did just that.
And in return, I got a San Francisco Giants scarf, which I wore – not necessarily with pride – back to the car.Â It’s now found a permanent home tucked away in the back of some closet somewhere in my house, sharing space with the dust bunnies.
(on a side note…people can say what they want about Rangers fans, how we need to be “spurred on” or “choreographed” to cheer or make noise.Â But at the end of the game, when the Giants had won and clinched the series, I was never more proud to be a Rangers fan.Â Because all around us, the Rangers faithful stood in honor of the Giants’ win and applauded their accomplishment.Â The Giants fans that sat behind us cheered wildly…and received congratulations, handshakes, pats on the back and high-fives from several wearing Ranger red around them.Â You don’t find that kind of sportsmanship in professional sports very often.Â Well-played, Rangers fans.Â I’m proud to be part of Rangers Nation.)