Happy New Year, Friends! I haven’t talked with you all in almost two weeks! I have been traveling and enjoying the holidays and to be perfectly honest, didn’t really have a whole heck of a lot to say. When I started this blog, I made two rules:
1. I would post once a week minimum
2. I would not post “just to post”. Each entry had to be educational, informative, inspirational, etc. If I didn’t have anything to say, I wouldn’t.
Being the rule follower that I am and since I wasn’t feeling the writing flow over the holidays, I nestled in with friends and family and put writing aside for a bit.
Oh. And I went curling at the Utah Olympic Oval. It was awesome and so were our pants. And sweaters. Seriously, I couldn’t look at Husband in that cardigan.
I did want to share with you all some new friends that have come into my life. For those of you that don’t know the story, I’ll give you a quick synopsis.
About a year and a half ago, I started to see a woman standing on the side of the road everyday on my way home from work. Her sign said “If you can’t give, please pray.” So I did. As the weather turned colder, I could not get her off of my mind. I’d laid down to sleep in my warm, comfortable, NEW bed and think, “Is she warm? Is she safe? Does she have kids?”
Finally I worked up the courage to pull over. I asked her name and how I could pray for her. She was kind and soft spoken, told me her name was Jhaven and she was a single mom of four kids under the age of 8. FOUR.
The months wore on and I kept chatting with her. I put a sticky note on my dash that said “Pray for Jhaven” so I’d remember to pray for her while I sat in traffic. Then she disappeared. For the entire summer. I was worried and prayed I’d see her every day that I headed home. Finally I did in October, and I jumped out of my car. Turns out she had found a job for the summer and that’s why she wasn’t standing on the corner anymore. Unfortunately, her car (that was donated to her by a local organization) had gotten stolen and she was having to take the bus to work. She was late to work twice and had just gotten fired. That day.
Before I knew what I was saying, the words spilled out of my mouth, “I want to help you. My Husband and I are going to get some stuff together and reach out to friends. Can we come over to your house sometime and talk about what you need?”
I drove home shaking. What have I just done? Did I promise this woman something I couldn’t deliver? Is Husband going to think I am CRAZY? Is she really in need, or is she scamming?
Husband and I decided if we were going to help this woman, we needed to get to know her and meet her kids. We wanted to make sure she was truly in need and had a good heart. We met at her mother’s house because we were just as much a stranger to her as she was to us. She was protective of her kids and her home – something I loved about her right away. And rightfully so – her kids are amazing.
Jhaven told us that Terry and Joyce share one pair of socks. Samiya desperately needs a training bra. Asia, the two year old, is a fashionista but has to share clothes with her brother. Jhaven didn’t ask for toys or money – she asked for basic, every day things like toilet paper, a toothbrush and underwear. And nothing for her – “I’m just worried about my kids,” she said.
We had no idea what we were doing but we called friends, emailed family and talked to coworkers. We prayed and took a leap of faith – we believed in this woman. Before we knew it, our house looked like this:
Husband and I were overwhelmed by the response we received. We are still receiving gift cards and checks in the mail, and our entire dining room was FILLED with clothes, toys, books and gifts from family, friends and total strangers. Boxes showed up on our doorstep and at work from all over the country, and poor Leona from our church emailed me twice a week telling me her office was filled with bags! You all are amazing, and we thank you for your quick and selfless response. We are lucky, lucky, lucky to have you in our lives.
The day before we left for Christmas vacation, we arrived at Jhaven’s mothers with both of our cars filled to the ceiling with boxes and bags. Before we headed in, we sat in the car and prayed. “Lord, please open their hearts to these donations. Don’t overwhelm them or frighten them. Show them your love through us, through our friends and family.” We were nervous – we were bringing them a LOT of stuff. Do they really need it? Would they like it? Would they think we are two “naive rich kids” wanting to “feel good” at Christmas?
“You have TWO cars?” Samiya cried as they came out to help with the boxes. In my head I thought, “Well, yea. One for each of….oh. Wow. Yep. We are pretty blessed.”
There were at least 2 large boxes of clothes for each family member and we didn’t want an explosion of clothes in the living room, so we only let them open a few things while we were there. The first were BRAND NEW WINTER COATS for each family member, donated by someone (was it you?) at our church. The kids didn’t take them off the entire time we were there, and the apartment was HOT! Jhaven also got a beautiful new black winter coat, and her eyes sparkled as she tried it on. Jhaven’s mother, Carolyn, was there and kept saying how pretty Jhaven looked in it while she smiled. It was a special moment.
Terry and Joyce asked us to take pictures of the tags on their coats – they weren’t used to anything NEW and wanted to “remember” the tag. Ugh.
Next were the shoes! Each child got a new pair of athletic shoes from a friend I work with, as well as a few pairs of gently used shoes. Terry (Junior) tried on a pair of “church shoes” as he called them – black hard soled shoes. He immediately ran over to the linoleum entry way and started tap dancing!! That boy has MOVES! Joyce likes to run and she told me her new shoes will make her faster. When I asked Samiya what she asked Santa for, she said not only had she written a letter to Santa asking for new shoes, but she’s been asking Jesus, too. Ah! What a blessing she is to us! Asia (the two year old) was so proud to be able to put on her new velcro shoes all by herself. She kept strapping and unstrapping them – no laces needed!
Terry’s most exciting moment was when he found a package of Thomas the Train underwear and some boxers in his box. He carried those packs around like it was a new puppy, asking us to take pictures of him and his new undies. When was the last time I got excited about underwear? Or even THOUGHT about it?
The girls couldn’t have been happier to receive new socks and outfits. Joyce, who is very soft spoken, just kept looking up at Husband and saying “Thank you. Thank you.”
Not everyone donated clothes. With some of the cash received, we purchased grocery gift cards and bus passes. We gave Jhaven a very special envelope filled with cards to WalMart, Target, JC Penney and more. She received clothes, pajamas, a beautiful blanket, a robe and books. Several packages of new socks, underwear and at least 4 bras were donated as well. We gave her a bag of unwrapped toys that she could give to the kids “from her”, as well as from Santa. We were also able to stock her freezer with multiple pounds of fresh ground beef and steak from a local cattle ranch.
Jhaven kept thanking us and asking us to thank YOU all for everything you’ve done. Due to the overwhelming amount of donations, we did not give Jhaven everything that night. We saved several of the bigger sized clothes and some toys, and will be giving them on birthdays and future holidays. I told her that this is not just a “feel good Christmas” giving, but that we will be in her life for months and years to come. We will also be providing bus passes and helping with bills here and there until Jhaven gets a job and can get back on her feet. We are helping with her job search and will continue to visit and get to know this funny, sweet and beautiful family. If you weren’t able to give over the holidays, but want to in the future – please know that it will be needed.
This was new territory for us – we’ve never implanted ourselves into the lives of total strangers, and there have been some learning and trying moments. There were moments of “Can we do this?” “WHY are we doing this?” “Is this safe for us?” and “Do they really need our help?” Through prayer, God has been supportive and clear. God put this woman on my heart and mind for a reason. I had something to learn, and this was how he was going to teach me.
I can’t speak for Husband, but I walked away with a new sense of needs versus wants in my life, and was humbly reminded that Christmas is NOT about presents or cookies or Santa, but about Christ, family and loving one another. Suddenly all of the shopping and decorating didn’t have to be done, and the gifts didn’t need to be so fancy. All I needed was my family and a few moments with the Lord to thank him for ALL that I have. Health, a home, a supportive family, great friends who impress me every day and a best friend who also happens to be my Husband.
Thanks, everyone, for making this a season to remember.
Have you ever done anything TOTALLY out of your comfort zone? How did it go?
What will you remember most about this Holiday season?