Lessons From A Tic Tac Box

A couple of weeks ago while eating breakfast, my mom and I wandered through a vast maze of topics and somehow ended up on a gift that was given to me by a Sunday School student a couple years ago. The gift came packaged neatly in a Tic Tac box. Inside the clear container were several stones, gathered painstakingly as this child’s family visited a sapphire mine. The stones were not sapphires, but to a five year old they were. Not only did the box contain stones from a sapphire mine but it also contained—four pennies.

2016-01-31 23.22.55

I still have that gift. Not because of its enormous financial value. Not because it was so beautiful. But because it was put together with love and given in sincerity, the kind of sincerity that is rare these days.

As Mom and I were talking about this gift, my mind drifted a little. I thought of the “art wall” in my bedroom. It has shrunk in recent days because my nieces and nephews have gotten a little older and aren’t handing me brilliant pieces of artwork every quarter hour when they come for a visit. At one point, however, an entire wall and the back of both my bedroom doors were completely covered with priceless art. Do you want to know a secret? I didn’t trash their art when I took it down. I put it in a folder and filed it away.

Why? Well, I can tell you it’s not because I hope to make a fortune off of it some day. It’s not because I’m a hoarder. It’s not because I think I’ll need new wallpaper down the line either. It’s because those gifts were given to me by children who put their all into them. Children who were seeking to express their love through those gifts.

As I thought of all those precious gifts, I thought of our Heavenly Father—our King. I’ve never pictured myself as a child handing God an out-of-the-lines, crayon-doused, coloring book picture with a look of hope and expectation on my face, but I think sometimes that’s just what I do. I think we all do. And I think sometimes when we hand it to Him, we know exactly how it looks, and we’re afraid it isn’t good enough.

A few months ago, I was on a business call, waiting for a young mother to find and provide some information. This young woman had three toddlers and was expecting their fourth child any day. She was in the midst of moving. Her husband had been out of town. I could hear children crying in the background. In the midst of the understandable chaos surrounding her, she said, “I’m sorry. I am totally failing right. I’m failing.”

Her words broke my heart. She wasn’t failing. She was doing an amazing job—but she was expecting perfection.

That moment has haunted me for months because I realize so many of us expect perfection, and we allow one little moment to define us as much, much less than what we are aiming for. This pattern only leads to discouragement, to a sense of worthlessness, and to a misconception of Who God is and how He relates to us.

We live in an OCD world. Everyone wants everything to be perfect NOW! But that isn’t life. Life is messy. Life is dirty dishes in the sink because you had to choose between washing dishes and buying groceries in the 30 minutes you had between two of your three jobs. Life is hoping the hanger you just reshaped is long enough to retrieve the shirt your 3 year old just flushed down your neighbor’s toilet. Life is being called names for doing your job. Life is dropping your phone in the dishwater. It’s broken relationships, broken promises, and even broken hearts.

We often look at our service to God and say, “It’s all out of the lines. Why would He ever want this? I’ve made such a mess of things.” We don’t want to be defined by our brokenness, so when we see it, it tends to glare like a bright neon sign: FAILURE!

But that is a lie.

It is a lie based upon a lie. What we have done for Christ may not look the way we had hoped it would look. It may not look like what someone else did, but God is not about appearances. In fact, Jesus had some choice words for men who did things because of the way it made them look. He called them hypocrites. He also said that they had received their reward. But the man who knelt humbly, the woman who prayed so fervently that those around her thought she was drunk—those are the hearts, the gifts, that God accepted. The sacrifices of God are a broken and a contrite heart: gifts, which He will not despise.

The lie upon which these lies are built is a simple one, but dangerous. It is the thought that I must be perfect to please Him. It is true that God is holy, that He is just, that He is without sin, and that sin is what separates us from His presence—that’s why He sent Jesus. It has never been the Christian’s job to perfect themselves. It has been the job of the Christian to give themselves wholly to God to do the perfecting through the sacrifice of Christ and the sanctifying of the Spirit.

That morning at the breakfast table, I realized that when I stand at the throne of an evening and lift up my day to my Father, my gift may appear to be a simple Tic Tac box with a few stones and four pennies, but in God’s hands it is much more than that. It is cherished because it was carried out with sincerity and love for my Redeemer. It is treasured because this is the gift of His own child. He receives it with as much love as any father receives the gift of his child. But unlike earthly fathers, God is able to fix the rough edges, to improve the places where I still struggle, to forgive where I have sinned, to lift up where I have fallen, to strengthen where I have been weak. He is able to take that small, insignificant gift and use it to change a life—or even the world at large.

————–

IMAG0475

King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption

ABOUT RACHEL MILLER

I am the author of three books, including The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption. You can check them all out here.

 

Advertisements

The Gift Beneath the Wrapping

Yesterday morning as the children in our church and I were all walking out of the auditorium to go to Junior Church, our pastor stopped us and asked the children an interesting question.

“Do you like surprises—gifts—to be wrapped and done up all fancy, or would you rather just have them handed to you?” he said.

The children were a little surprised at first, and, to be honest, I was wondering if they would now be expecting a surprise when we got to class. I held my breath, waiting to see how this would all unfold. Eventually, most of the children said they would like to have their surprises wrapped up because it’s fun to unwrap the gift.

Pastor seemed satisfied with their answer, and I was relieved when he said, “I don’t think there are any surprises downstairs. I was just curious to see if kids still feel the same way I did as a kid.”

With that said, we all went downstairs and had our lesson, giving the conversation no further thought…until last night.

After Sunday night’s Christmas program, Pastor preached on seven gifts. As he began his message, he talked about wrapping gifts and how, in just a matter of moments, the hours spent on wrapping would be in a heap under the tree. This caught my attention because I love wrapping presents in a way that makes them special for each person. I love putting that little extra touch on it that makes it just perfect. But, as pastor said, the paper all gets ripped away because what we’re really interested in is the gift, not the wrapping.

That got me to thinking. Often in life, we’re handed gifts that come in packages that just really aren’t that appealing. Instead of the wrapping of success, joy, peace, comfort, and love we find ourselves being handed a gift wrapped in failure, loss, persecution, hate, or sorrow. No one wants a package like that. We did not expect or plan those things for our lives, but suddenly there they are. In that moment we have a choice. We can choose to stare at the wrapping and despise what has been handed to us, or we can tear back the paper and look inside to find the gift.

As I look back on 2015, I see some amazingly beautiful gifts, but I also see some very ugly packages. If I were walking through a store choosing packages to place under my tree, I would choose none of those ugly ones. They are wrapped in hurt, tied together with accusation, and ornamented with bows of betrayal, rejection, and failure. But if I walked by them, I would be missing gifts of grace, mercy, comfort, strength, and even hope.

Earlier this year, one of those packages left me feeling worthless. I felt that my whole life had been brought to ruins because of one devastating moment. As I drove down the road a day or two later, tears slipped down my cheeks, and I poured out my heart to the Lord. In those moments, that still small voice whispered into my pain, “You are still my daughter.”

Think of that! What a precious thought! Still His. Not worthless. Not rejected. Not forsaken. —LOVED!

Without the pain of loss, rejection, and false accusation, I would not have experienced God’s amazing love to the extent that I saw it along the road that day. Without the hurt of betrayal, I would not have discovered new depths of the peace of acceptance in the Beloved.

We easily forget that beneath the ugly wrapping is a pearl of great price. We forget that the greatest gift ever given was wrapped in a crown of thorns. So let me challenge you, before the year is out, take the time to look back, find the ugly packages, tear the wrapping aside, and find the gift within.

Remember that you are still the King’s daughter (or son). He has purchased you, adopted you, and given you a second birth. You are His three times over, and He will not let you go. He will run after you as no father ever pursued his child because God loves you more than any earthly parent has ever loved. He knows how to give us good gifts, so, go on—find the gift beneath the wrapping.

————————————

King's Daughter: A Story of Redemption

King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption

ABOUT RACHEL MILLER

I am the author of three books, including The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption. You can check them all out here. I also run a Christian editing and writing service. I hope you’ll stop by and let me know how I can help you.

Looking For Stories

I am (very slowly) working on an outline for a follow-up book to the King’s Daughter. It isn’t the one I originally planned as a follow-up, but I believe it will touch on some very important needs and difficulties, which all of us face. As part of my research (and maybe even part of the book), I am looking for stories that show how God taught specific lessons in an individual’s life. Below is a list of the topics. I am also looking for stories for another project dealing with chivalry, courage, and the relevant life. If God has taught you lessons in any of these areas, I would love to hear your story. Please, type it up (doesn’t have to be long, detailed, or perfect) and send it to “rmiller  at gracewritingservice dot com” I’m looking forward to reading about what God has done in your life!
 ———————
King’s Daughter Topics:
Value vs. Worthlessness
Acceptance vs. Rejection
Carried vs. Forsaken
Joy vs. Emptiness
Peace, Restoration, and Gratitude vs. Anger, Resentment, and Frustration
Hope vs. Hopelessness
Purpose vs. Pointless Living
Companionship (with God) vs. Loneliness
Comfort/Healing vs. Pain
Security, Patience, Peace, vs. Insecurity
Confidence in God vs. Self-doubt
———————–
Project 2:
1. Stories of how someone behaved courageously or chivalrously on behalf of someone else.
2. Stories of how someone benefited from the courageous or chivalrous actions of another.
Looking forward to hearing from you! (rmiller at gracewritingservice dot com)
———————-
King's Daughter: A Story of Redemption

King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption

ABOUT RACHEL MILLER

I am the author of three books, including The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption. You can check them all out here. I also run a Christian editing and writing service. Check it out and let me know how I can help you.

Book Birthday Giveaway

King's Daughter: A Story of Redemption

King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption

Hey! The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption is turning two this weekend! Thank you so much to each of you who have encouraged me along the way and shared it with others. Without you this wonderful story of love and redemption would have little opportunity to touch the lives of others. So, to celebrate this birthday and to say thank you:

I’m giving away five signed copies!

Since we’re celebrating, I’d love to hear what the King’s Daughter has meant to you OR what special blessings God has given you this past week to remind you of His love! Please share in the comments section at the end of this post.

Follow the link below for a chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Cherries, Sprint Cars, and Geysers

I woke up this morning feeling exhausted and a deep need to know God’s love in a very tender and personal way. As I lay in bed praying, I told Him of my weariness and asked Him to somehow help me to feel His embrace. When I finally got up, I went to the kitchen to put on the teapot and my dad, who was in the living room, said, “Look at your place at the table.”

This is what I saw:

Beautiful Rainier Cherries!

Beautiful Rainier Cherries!

Monday night a friend called, and, as is my habit, I wandered out to the front room to check out the sunset while I was talking to her. It was beautiful. So I grabbed my camera and went outside to snap a few pics while we were talking.

Beautiful Montana Sky

Beautiful Montana Sky

In the process I noticed that, once again, our neighbor’s irrigation system had a problem. Since nightfall was coming quickly, my friend and I agreed that I should get off the phone and give him a call, which I did. The conversation wasn’t long, it was just enough for me to tell him that Old Faithful had moved into his field. A few minutes later I saw the headlights of his pickup lighting up the geyser. The system went off, and then it was back on again and all was well.

The new Old Faithful

The new Old Faithful

But this morning when my dad went outside to check on something, he found that our neighbor had left a bag of cherries sitting on the car.

No one knew what I had prayed, but God had answered. I knew the cherries were from the Lord just as much as they were from our neighbor.

I finished making my tea and went to the porch swing for my quiet time. I opened my Bible to Psalm 28 and began to read:

“Unto thee will I cry, O Lord my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pits.”

I had to laugh when I read that verse. First of all, it summed up exactly what I had done this morning. Secondly, I spent a large amount of time yesterday working on a blog post, which I may never post, about a sprint car driver who had to pit before the race even started! Even though I know these pits are two very different kinds, I couldn’t help but see the connection. You see if a driver goes to the pits and stays there, he is done. The race is over for him. Here David is asking the Lord to speak to him, lest he end up in the same state as that driver. He’s asking for the strength to keep running the race.

Verse two says:

“Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift my hands toward thy holy oracle.”

Again I smiled. I knew the Lord had done for me exactly what David had requested for himself, but the Lord went on to confirm it further in verses 6-8.

IMG_3713

I have been trying to create and post a new meme for “The King’s Daughter” each week over the past couple of weeks. They are composed of pictures that I have taken and quotes from the book. Last week, I found the quote that I wanted to use, but didn’t have a chance to look for a picture. I was a little disappointed, but now I see that maybe it was because God wanted all of this to happen first. So here it is:

His Presence

This morning I awoke knowing that I was safe in my King, but needing the comfort of His presence. As I stepped into that presence through prayer and His Word, I was blessed with joy such as only He can give. The songwriter said, “Are you weary, are you heavy-hearted? Tell it to Jesus.” Jesus is waiting. Walk in His presence, you will never regret it!

How has God been showing you His presence in your life?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

King's Daughter: A Story of Redemption

King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption

 

ABOUT RACHEL MILLER

I am the author of three books, including The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption. You can check them all out here. I also run a Christian editing and writing service. Check it out and let me know how I can help you.