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Lessons in Love

By Virginia Smith
Guest Writer --

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds ... Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19, NIV)

After a long day of Christmas shopping, my adult daughter and I found a table in the food court to rest our aching feet and sip hot cocoa. With sighs of relief, we piled our packages around us and sat back to watch the parade of mall shoppers. Our talk turned to past Christmases.

“Do you remember the year we did Christmas for that poor family?” my daughter asked.

I certainly did! I had become concerned that my 10- and 13-year-old children were too self-centered, so we ‘adopted’ a needy family. Our commitment was to provide everything – toys, clothes, even food for Christmas dinner. The kids helped with shopping and wrapping the gifts, and when they participated enthusiastically I thought my plan was succeeding.

Then came delivery day - Christmas Eve. We drove to a not-so-nice part of town and parked in front of a run-down trailer. I saw my son’s eyes widen as he glimpsed a rust-eaten car with no doors, propped up on cement blocks in the front yard. Rust speckled the tin roof of the trailer as well, and one of the windows had been replaced by cardboard and criss-crossed with duct tape.

The mother of this family had taken the younger kids out, leaving a grandmother and a girl my daughter’s age to receive our gifts. Stepping into their tiny living room, I fought to hide my tears at the sight of the smallest Christmas tree I had ever seen, one even Charlie Brown would have rejected. Childish handmade paper ornaments decorated the drooping branches, hung there as beacons of hope that this season of God’s abiding love would bring something special to even this humble home. We unloaded bag after bag, and soon we had filled up the single room and covered the kitchen counters. The girl and her grandmother were so grateful we were embarrassed by their constant thanks.

Both of my kids were silent in the car as we drove home, and I was mentally congratulating myself on teaching them a valuable lesson in Christian charity. But then my daughter burst out in an angry voice, “Well thank you very much for ruining my Christmas! I can’t believe you took me to that terrible place.” Devastated, I realized my lesson in love had failed.

As I recounted this to my adult daughter, she listened quietly. Then she shook her head. “I don’t remember being upset. But I do remember how happy that girl was to get our gifts, and how good it felt to give them. It’s one of my best Christmas memories.”

As parents, our responsibility is to model God’s love for our children. We can’t always tell what effect our efforts will have, and sometimes the lesson isn’t fully learned until time has done its part in seasoning the message. But when we’re obedient, we can trust God to teach the lessons in His own time.

PRAYER: Generous Father, let my life be dedicated to serving You today, so others will see the lessons You want to teach through me.

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Virginia Smith is a freelance writer, a Christian speaker and the contemporary worship leader for Voice of Joy Ministries. When she isn’t writing, she and her husband enjoy exploring the extremes of nature – snow skiing in the Wasatch Mountains near Salt Lake City, motorcycle riding on the curvy roads in central Kentucky, and scuba diving in the warm waters of Mexico and the Caribbean. Her first novel, Just As I Am, will be released from Kregel Publications in Winter 05/06.

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