Monday, December 24, 2012

An Unconventional Christmas Story

On Thursday, December 13, 2012 our Christmas was almost taken from us – literally. It was about 4:15pm, and I was wrapping up some last minute work at the office when I got the call from Jeff. He was supposed to be getting ready to take the girls to his mom’s so he could join me at my office Christmas party with Mercy Ministries.

“Hey,” I said.

“We got robbed,” he said.

I was so shocked by his words that I really couldn’t figure out what he meant.

“What?” I asked, confused.

“We just got home and the TV is gone and everything’s a mess,” he explained.

“Did you call the police?” I asked.

“Not yet, I called you first,” he answered.

“Call the police and then call me back,” I said and hung up the phone.

It was about a second before I realized I hadn’t been breathing and suddenly I gasped. Dazedly, I walked out into the common area of our office and said it out loud, making it real. “We got robbed.” As my coworkers came out of their offices, I said it again. “I just got off the phone with Jeff and someone broke into our house. We were robbed.” And then I burst into tears. They immediately came around me and began to pray, and when I was finally calm enough, I headed home with my good friend Kay following in her car. I wasn’t sure what I was going to find when I got there, and I needed someone separate from the situation to keep us all clear-headed.

When I arrived at the little country house I loved so much, the police were in the driveway and the girls were across the street with friends eating chicken nuggets and watching Brave – and being brave. The back window had been broken and the thieves slipped in and opened the door from the inside. TV’s, video game consoles, and jewelry were gone, the mattress turned over, and every drawer emptied onto the floor. They must have gotten spooked because the TV in our bedroom was unplugged and moved, but was still there. Smash and grab. Probably in and out and down the road in five minutes flat.

The police left, and with Kay’s help we cleaned up broken glass and put things back in order as best we could before bringing the girls home. It was disturbing for sure - I washed every item of clothing that had been scooped out of drawers and onto the floor, unable to bear the thought of wearing something the thieves had touched. In my lowest moment that night I said, “I knew things had been going too well. I knew something bad was bound to happen.” My friend Kay very wisely and very firmly said, “That. Is. A. Lie. The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10). You’ve already been robbed literally, don’t let him rob you spiritually too.”

And we began to see… there were some miracles.

This is where my Christmas story really begins.

The presents under the tree were left untouched, and I had shipped all the girls’ presents to my office – where they safely remained. Only one gift, a TV for Jeff’s mom, was taken.

Our rent money was in Jeff’s wallet instead of tucked away in a drawer where we used to keep it. The thieves had opened every drawer in the house and found nothing.

We have renter’s insurance, and a couple of months ago I photographed every serial number in the house to have a record. We were able to give a detailed list to the police.

While cleaning up that night, our neighbor and friend came to help us board up the window and told us of another family that had also been robbed that day. Luis and his wife speak broken English and have two little girls. We knew Luis because he works for a friend of ours and painted the interior of our little house before we moved in. I knew this violation had a much more devastating impact on them than it would on us. When I finally texted my concerned coworkers at the Christmas party to let them know we were okay, I asked them to pray for Luis and his family especially. We knew we could replace our stuff – we weren’t sure Luis could.

The next day, while a terrible tragedy was unfolding in Newtown, Connecticut, a life-changing miracle was unfolding in Brentwood, TN. Before I left work that Friday, I was handed a check for $1000 from Mercy Ministries, made out to Luis. I would have the privilege of delivering the gift to Luis and his family, but I don’t really know him and didn’t want to make him uncomfortable, so I passed the check to my friends who employ Luis and asked them to deliver the good news.

I felt the prayers of our loved ones over the weekend and miraculously we were at peace. We slept well and weren’t afraid, and that was unbelievable to me. On Monday morning as I drove to work, my friend called to let me know she had given the check to Luis. He hadn’t understood at first and kept asking what he needed to do – he thought there must be a job attached. They explained that there were some people at a Christian ministry who cared about him and his family and wanted to help. No strings attached. It was a gift. He wanted to wait for his wife before opening so they left him grinning from ear to ear and shaking his head. On Monday, when he came to work he reported, “I just cry when I open. I cannot believe it.”

“Well,” they told him, “there are some good Christian people out there who care.”

“These people…they are Christian?” said Luis.

“Yes, definitely, they are Christian.”

“Maybe I be Christian too,” he said.

And that, my friends, is what it’s all about.

I’ve never seen a more obvious, personal example of Genesis 50:20 - You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

I would gladly give that stuff, and a little bit of my feeling of security, for Luis and his family to know the Savior we celebrate this season. I don’t know the end of Luis’ story yet. And I certainly don’t offer any of this as an explanation for what happened in Newtown. But I know that in the end, the thief doesn’t win.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, did not understand all of what God had planned. She put her trust in God based on her relationship with him. Her faith was not in what God would do, but in God…whatever He did. (Thanks Carter Crenshaw for that word)

I’m not totally there all the time. But I know the God I serve. And He is good. All the time. Don’t let the enemy rob you this Christmas. Or ever.

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. – Luke 2:11