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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

A Burden Not For You

As I drove home one evening a few years ago, I was praying. My prayer went something like this, “Lord, I know You have given me the ability to write. I want that writing to count for you. I want it to honor you. Please, do whatever it takes to use it for your glory.”

Three days later…

My hard drive crashed.

I don’t mean a little crash. I mean the kind of crash we all dread. I cannot begin to tell you the heart- and gut-wrenching feeling when I realized that computer was not going to restart. When I learned that because I had tried to restart it there was less chance the data would be retrievable, my heart sank even deeper. In addition to hundreds of pictures, that hard drive contained Bible studies, books (my own and others’), outlines, and ministry DVD files. In short, it contained LIFE.

Lightning over Lake

I had been preparing to start out on the road to share my ministry with as many churches as possible, hoping to gain some support both in co-laborers and finances. With no computer, I had no presentation and no display materials. So, the money I had saved for the trip was instead set aside to try to fix the computer. My plans were set aside with it.

All this time, I was trying to figure out how this fit into anything in life. How did it fit into growing the ministry? How did it fit into finding the support the ministry needed? How did it fit into my writing bringing glory to God? None of it made sense.

The time to leave on the trip came and went while my hard drive sat in a lab somewhere in Georgia. Finally, one afternoon, I received a call from a very friendly man.

“Miss Miller,” he said in a southern drawl, “I am so sorry to tell you this. We tried everything, but we just couldn’t get anything off of your hard drive. I saw from your paperwork that this is a ministry computer. We were going to give a discount, but we just couldn’t get anything off of it. Of course, the deposit is non-refundable, but you owe us nothing else. I’m very sorry.”

I told him I understood. I thanked him, but my heart was broken and my stomach was churning. So much lost. So many hours of work—months and years worth of work! Lost.

As I once again began to pull together pictures and text to recreate my presentation and display materials, I still wondered about the purpose in all of this. Was God displeased with me, with my writing, with my presentation? Had I gone about something in the wrong way? Why such a huge delay in everything?

One day during my quiet time, I came across Ephesians 3:13,

 

“Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulation for you, which is your glory.”

 

Paul’s tribulation wasn’t something he was undergoing for his own sake. He didn’t even identify it as suffering for the sake of Christ or of the Gospel, which he did in other places. No, this time his suffering was for the sake of the Ephesians.

As I read that, it occurred to me for the first time that maybe, just maybe, my trial had nothing to do with me at all. Maybe God had allowed this in my life for the sake of someone else. Maybe I was being too nearsighted.

The next verse says, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I realized that I could do nothing else. I had asked God to use my writing, to use the ministry, to use me. Somehow, this fit the plan, even if the loss was the only part of the good and the glory that I experienced. The right choice for me was to bow the knee and trust that God would bring glory to Himself through it.

This fit the plan

Two months later, I got on a plane bound for Kenya. The trip I had originally planned to visit churches had not happened. The writing on that hard drive, much of it, was lost. Most of it has never been rewritten. But God used the funds that had been set aside when the computer crashed to buy the tickets for a trip I had hardly dared to dream could happen. In the month that followed, we saw God do amazing things. God had a blessing He wanted to impart on the missionaries there as well as on the orphans, women, students, and churches with whom they were working. The loss of all that writing was required on my part, so that they (and I) might receive the blessing. Furthermore, just over a year after I returned, my first book The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption was published, due in great part to that trip to Kenya.

The burdens we bear and the losses we incur are not always for our sake, nor for our chastisement. I was reminded of this again this week. Circumstances, which I did not understand, overwhelmed me. A bit like when my computer crashed, except now there are so many more of those confusing situations.

At a critical moment, my mom handed me a print out of an email, which a friend had sent to her. I had received the same email, but hadn’t had a chance to read it yet. The email told the story of a woman who had gone rock climbing for the first time. In the process, she lost a contact lens. She searched for it, but could not find it. She was disappointed that when she reached the top she could not see the view clearly. As she and her friends hiked back down the mountain, they heard another climber yell to his buddies, “Hey, did anyone lose a contact?” The contact had been found—carried on the back of an ant!

The young woman’s father was a cartoonist. He heard the story and later drew a cartoon of an ant carrying a contact lens. The caption on the picture read,

 

“Lord, I do not know why you want me to carry this thing. I can’t eat it, and it’s awfully heavy. But, if this is what you want me to do, I’ll carry it for You.”

 

That little ant had a heavy load to bear, but he wasn’t bearing it for his own sake. He was bearing it for the sake of the woman who needed the lens. Likewise, sometimes God gives us burdens to bear that aren’t for our own sake. Yes, we can always learn from any situation, any trial, any burden; but the overall need may not always be our own. Whatever burden weighs us down, may be for someone else, someone who needs what we are bearing.

Consider Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21. None of it was for himself. Instead he endured tribulations so that the Ephesians might:

  • Be strengthened with might in their inner man by God’s Spirit,
  • Have Christ dwelling in their hearts by faith,
  • Be rooted and grounded in love,
  • Be able to comprehend and experientially know the breadth, length, depth and height of the love of Christ,
  • Be filled with all the fullness of God.

What an amazing purpose! What a gift he desired to give!

Sorrow, loss, sacrifice, difficulty, poverty, illness, persecution, rejection, and misunderstandings—none of these are pleasant. But what if your endurance of these things will bring about the above gifts in the life of your child, your church, your coworker, your spouse, or your friend? What if your burden has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them?

“Great!” you might say. “That gives my trial meaning, but it is still so heavy!”

To this the Lord says, “Come …

 

“Come unto me, all ye who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Perhaps, God has given you a burden not for you—A burden, which must be borne for the sake of those around you. Let Him bear you up and carry the load. All that remains for you then is to be faithful.

Come unto me -bench~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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ABOUT RACHEL MILLER

I am the author of three books, including the Walking in His Promises Devotional Journal. 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.