Christmas Memories

It was Christmas morning, and I lay impatiently in my bed awaiting the sound of my parents stirring downstairs. We’ve never been the kind of family that wakes up and rushes to the living room to tear into the gifts before we have properly washed the “eye boogers” out of our eyes (disgusting I know, but hey . . . the truth is ugly sometimes). We tend to be a little more reserved about the process. 

We sleep in, which for our family is until about 8:15. We shower and dress for the day, as we usually spend the afternoon with extended family, and we often debate about what we want Dad to make for breakfast. It’s usually his world famous omelets. If you think I’m exaggerating . . . well, I’m not. They’re insane. 

This one particular Christmas, though, held one very unique gift, wrapped in a beige envelope and delicately placed in between the branches of our tree. There were actually two envelopes; one had my brother’s name on it and the other had mine, written in my mother’s elegant penmanship. 

Curious as to what could possibly be in something the size of a letter and thin as paper, my brother and I opened them slowly, simultaneously. 

Please be a check.

A picture of a beautiful little girl from Indonesia, about my age, came to light as I slowly pulled the contents out. I looked at my parents, utterly confused.

“I don’t get it.” I said innocently.

christmas-memories-singingI really didn’t. Were they breaking the news that I would soon have a sister via adoption or that they were exchanging me for her entirely? My brother used to always joke that I was adopted, and I suddenly wondered if perhaps I was. Was I really related to this girl? 

As my parents explained to me who she was and what Compassion was doing for her, I can honestly say that I was moved. I was grateful for the knowledge and understanding of her and what she encompassed: life outside the blessed United States of America, literal need and not obsession with want.

Despite my age (10), it was sobering, thought provoking, and challenging. An unlikely gift, one that I certainly didn’t ask for, but something I was grateful to have received. 

Now I must continue to be honest, and, unfortunately, the rest of the story is not as neat and tidy as it began.

I remember being excited the first time I received her letter. Getting to see the words that she herself had written and the translation into English on the other side was fascinating to me. But where fascination with her began, intimidation and miscommunication soon followed.

Her letters were filled with praise and glory to the Lord, thanksgiving for her current health (because it wavered) and things of the like. And the degree and extent of her faith was beyond my comprehension. I couldn’t seem to follow along or understand the depth of it considering her circumstances.

“She sounds fine to me,” I thought. “Does she need me to be her pen-pal? Does she really need us to sponsor her?”

Such questions stemmed from naivety on my part in two ways.

  1. I didn’t fully understand poverty, nor did I fully understand the blessing of my personal upbringing.
  2. My little girl’s spiritual maturity was far above my own. We both had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The only difference was she was walking in faith because that was all she had. I didn’t even know how to walk in faith because I never had too.

The prideful part of me hates to admit to such a lack of knowledge and understanding, to such an ignorant and sheltered view of life and faith. But there’s something to it.

I was asked to write a blog post about the gift of sponsorship that I received because, given the season, we want you to consider the idea as well.

After I began writing, I remembered that my story was not like that of so many others who write vigilantly and faithfully, who send their children gifts and pictures, who remember — without fail — to pray for the little one every night.

I cannot attest to any of those things. 

But, what I can say is that so many years later, through the mysterious and divine intercession of the Lord, I am more aware than I ever thought I would be of who Compassion really is and what Compassion really does.

My little girl has since graduated, and I feel as though, perhaps in some small way, my journey to Compassion and my season here — however long that may be — is a tribute to her and the lessons that she taught me long ago. I remember her frequently as I walk the halls of the office, contemplating just how it is that I got here and just what it is that I am here to do. 

christmas-memories-prayerHonestly, some days I still don’t know. Other days it’s clear as day. But everyday, without fail, I feel the Lord is changing me, and I find myself feeding off of and borrowing from the richness of faith from the little faces I see on our walls. 

If you have a child I would ask that you prayerfully consider sponsoring a child in his or her name. Give the gift of insight, perspective, and fellowship to your child this Christmas. 

Like me, they may not fully grasp or understand the power that the gift holds. But the Lord’s timing is perfect.

“I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in [them], will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” –Philippians 1:6 ESV

Merry Christmas.

11 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Avatar
    Meredith December 19, 2008

    OH MY WORD! Praise the Lord! That is great news! Thank you SO much for sharing!
    God is good and faithful and perfect. He is above all, in all, and through all. What an awesome testimony to the power of His Holy Spirit!
    Thank you Jill! Blessings on you!

  2. Avatar
    Jill Foley December 18, 2008

    Meredith…just wanted to let you know that the post I wrote, inspired by this post you wrote, led to one little boy being sponsored in Mexico. My mom’s prayer partner was inspired by what I wrote and sponsored a little boy for her husband for Christmas. So thank YOU for your inspiration!!!

  3. Avatar
    Tina December 17, 2008

    Beautiful post, very well written. Giving the gift of sponsorship is a great idea, too.

  4. Avatar
    Jill Foley December 17, 2008

    I just wanted to add that I am hoping we can give our girls “birthday” buddies for their birthdays in the next couple years. We already sponsor several children so as our budget allows, I will add more. I have a birthday buddy I got 2 years ago for my birthday…best present I’ve ever gotten!

    My girls are still very young (2 and 4), but I’m trying to make them aware. We have pics of our kids in 3 different places around the house…one is a world map in their playroom. And on it I have pics of our Compassion children near the country they live in.

    I just blogged about your post, so come on over and visit.

  5. Avatar
    Jill Foley December 17, 2008

    Great story…I’m trying to share with others that sponsorship is one of the best gifts ever. To yourself…to the child…to God.

    As my friend and former Compassion AC said….”It’s Jesus’ birthday…give Him a gift and sponsor a child!”

  6. Avatar
    Sarah H. December 16, 2008

    What a wonderful gift idea!

  7. Avatar
    Vicki Small December 16, 2008

    Great story, Meredith! Don’t feel as though you’re alone in your challenges of sponsoring. By now, you probably know that not all sponsors write to their kids, and some write only when written to.

    You’re also not alone in the faith-walkin’ part. Probably not since the Great Depression have many Americans been forced to live by faith in God, but with the current economic crisis, more of us are facing that challenge. And, yet, we still have some nets under us: shelters for the homeless, at least in the winter; and soup kitchens, food stamps and the like help to provide some of the essentials for people. Not at the same level as they enjoyed before, and I don’t mean to make light–at all–of the circumstances. But it is a chance for our faith to grow.

  8. Avatar
    Gin December 16, 2008

    Thanks for sharing your story! I love your honesty and you are so right, we don’t know what it’s like to truly walk in the same faith that our children do, or do we? Sigh. Thank you for sharing! Merry Christmas! 🙂

  9. Avatar
    Brittany December 16, 2008

    “The only difference was she was walking in faith because that was all she had. I didn’t even know how to walk in faith because I never had too.”

    My husband and I were JUST talking about this last night. I was frustrated with myself for being so blind to poverty when I was younger. I was too caught up in my own life (having the right purse to go with those right jeans…). I do thank God that His timing is perfect!!!

  10. Avatar
    Sarah December 16, 2008

    That is such a great idea!!!

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