I went up into the attic a couple of weeks ago to bring down the Christmas decorations. My attic is never very well organized, but this year things were in an unusual state of disarray because of some air-conditioning work done last spring. Before the AC technicians came they asked me to empty my attic. After they left I hurriedly put things back in no particular order and the Christmas decorations wound up behind everything else. As I began the task of moving aside our accumulation of family treasures, I started losing interest in the decorations and I found myself being transported back in time. So many familiar things from the past. Military uniforms, letters I wrote to Linda from Vietnam, bell bottomed jeans, baby clothes, favorite record albums, worn out toys too precious to discard, little league trophies, jerseys, footballs and baseball gloves. Everything I touched changed my age. I was 35 again. Then 20. Then 44. Then 28. Wearing my peace necklace, Marine Corps hat and booster club vest I felt like Chevy Chase in the attic scene from “Christmas Vacation.”
And then I saw those two Styrofoam pictures. Wow! I couldn’t believe we still had them. Linda put them away and kept them all these years. When was it? Must have been Christmas of ’79. God had called Linda and me into the ministry out of a career in the corporate world. We liquidated our assets, paid off all our debts and moved to Ft. Worth. We got a couple of hourly jobs for minimum wage, rented a small house and enrolled in the seminary. When Christmas rolled around, we had almost no money and agreed to spend every spare dime on our two small sons. But the boys wanted to get something for Linda. “Something BIG!” they said. I had an idea. That Saturday I took them to an expensive gift shop. After looking around at several costly gifts, I began to carry on over two small refrigerator magnets on a rack by the cash register. “Wow! Mom’s been looking for some of these, but hasn’t been able to find any. And these are really nice!” One had a drawing of a little boy with his arms outstretched; the caption read, “I love you THIS much.” The other was a drawing of a smaller boy playing; the caption read, “Be patient! God’s not finished with me yet.” Anyway, it worked. And we bought them. They cost less than a dollar each. But when we got home my plan began to crumble. The boys said, “We want to give Mom something BIG, Dad. These are too little!” In desperation, I came up with another idea. I found two pieces of Styrofoam about 18 inches tall, 12 inches wide and half an inch thick. I got a magic marker and sat down at the kitchen table with the boys on either side of me and began to draw the pictures off the refrigerator magnets onto the sheets of styrofoam. My idea was a hit! “Boy! Mom’s going to love this!” they said. “This is really BIG! Is that my leg you’re drawing now? Hurry Dad! Do mine next.” We had a ball that afternoon, laughing and squealing and making the little pictures big. Each printed his name on the back of his gift. We wrapped the BIG gifts along with their matching refrigerator magnets and put them under the tree. On Christmas morning the boys wanted Linda to open their BIG gifts first. As she opened them she carried on about how beautiful they were, and how BIG they were. The boys were so proud. She hung those things on our bedroom wall and they stayed there until we graduated from seminary and moved. I haven’t seen them since. Until now.
Well, my sons are both grown men now. One is 27 and the other is 32. They’re both married. The oldest has given me two little grandsons. When it comes to buying Christmas gifts for their mom, they’ve been on their own for some time. Over the years, they’ve certainly given Linda nicer, more expensive, and BIGGER gifts. But to tell you the truth, I don’t know where any of them are. Certainly none have been as treasured as these two signed styrofoam pictures.
I took off my necklace and hat and vest and brought only the two styrofoam pictures down from the attic. Linda’s eyes filled with tears when she saw them. She took them, held them close and walked away. Isn’t Christmas a wonderful time of year?
You know what? God’s gift to us wasn’t very big either. But, oh, what a Treasure! Have you forgotten? After all these years, He’s still there. Maybe this would be a good time for you to hold Him close and appreciate Him all over again.
Have a Merry Christmas.
?Steve Washburn is pastor of FBC Pflugerville