Love Lesson in a Box

photo by Ekaterina Shevchenko on

She had long, brunette hair, blue-green eyes looking off to the side, as if someone had called her name, and a sweet, inviting smile. She wore a cool purple outfit with silver accents and was decorated with jewelry and a purple flower in her hair. She was Rachel’s heart’s desire. She was also expensive.

It had been a big year for Rachel. She worked hard, combining two school years into one so that she could graduate early. I wanted to commemorate it in a special way. I knew, though, from prior conversations that I’ve had with Bob, that he would never go for spending so much on one single doll, collectible or not. I tucked away my own want to make that memory for her and concentrated on the party we were planning and the two gifts that I was personalizing for her.

Enter Miss Debbie: A slip of an energetic woman with the youthfulness and vitality of a 16 year old girl in a 60 year old body. What a woman! The girls and I commented numerous times on how Barbie-like her clothes, shoes, and jewelry are. She is one sharp dresser and sweet besides. The girls had her for a teacher at church and lasting friendships were born.

Miss Debbie has been a big blessing to us. I am tickled that she has accepted the girls as her own. Quite frankly, she has done things with them and given things to them that I cannot. She waves it all aside, saying there was a time when she was raising a family of her own, that she couldn’t do the things that she does now that she is retired. She is a giver, relishing in blessing people. She never brags on what she does for others but, boy do they brag on her!

It was inevitable, that text from Miss Debbie. “What does Rachel want for graduation?”

The collectible doll immediately came to mind . . . with a price to match. Torn, I secretly approached Rachel’s sisters. “What should I do? It is what Rachel wants but it seems exorbitant.”

“She asked, Mum, so tell her. Besides, the doll is around the same amount of cash that she gave us for our graduation. If Miss Debbie gives her cash she’ll probably save it, she won’t spend it on herself. If she gives her the doll then Rachel will have a memory and a lifelong gift from her. Let Miss Debbie decide.”

I took a deep breath and texted Miss Debbie. It felt presumptuous but the girls were right, Miss Debbie did ask so it was up to her. It wasn’t long before I got a reply back that she had ordered the doll.

The day of the party arrived. Miss Debbie was aglow, elated about the surprise gift she was about to give. When the time came, she presented a rather large box to Rachel. She was funny, oohing and aahing over the wrapping alone; it was pretty. She unwrapped the box, which opened to another box, and another and another. Excitement was mounting, just as our dear friend had hoped. At last, the great reveal, Rachel’s heart’s desire was in her hands. She stared, briefly seeming a little dazed, not quite comprehending that her beloved teacher/friend had given her so great a gift. Finally, as if coming to herself, there were smiles, thank yous, and hugs. It was a beautiful moment . . . and it came with a priceless lesson for my girl.

The truth is, although Rachel was thrilled with Opal, as she came to name her, she caused her grief. A week later, I found myself alone with my youngest, big crocodile tears swimming in her blue eyes. I couldn’t imagine what had caused her so much pain. I was shocked to discover that it was her newfound possession which had triggered these sorrowful emotions.

“I don’t deserve it,” she whimpered.

Like most parents, I’m biased, I prefer my children, so I wasn’t quite following her. I couldn’t imagine what she thought she had done that made her so undeserving.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“She doesn’t know how I am. She doesn’t know how I don’t do things that need to be done until you ask me to do them even when I see that they need done. She doesn’t know that I have a bad attitude sometimes and I don’t help like I should. I don’t notice when others are hurting. I’m selfish,” she cried.

Oh. Then I understood. And everything she said was true about herself. Let’s be honest, it’s also been true of me. And it’s been true of you. If we don’t consciously resist, we are all prone to fall into the abyss of preferring ourselves above all others. To salt the wound, the lavish gift was given, not by a close family member as one might expect, but by someone with no family ties.

I gathered my girl in my arms, tears filling my own eyes. I did not capitalize on her failures for that would have been cruel. Nor did I disagree with her for that would have been a disservice to her. She was on the precipice of a new level of maturity and I needed to let her experience the pain that came with it. She also needed to fully experience the joy that comes of realizing that we are deeply loved even when we don’t deserve it.

Rachel learned a lesson and lives differently. She has been more helpful, doing tasks and chores more often without having to be asked and, I might add, she has traded the complaint of a slave for the heart of a servant. Her attitude has softened. She is more aware of the feelings of those around her. She is maturing and walking the challenging road of selflessness. Of course I love her no matter, but I admit that this unfolding has been beautiful to watch and the change in her has been welcome.

I think we don’t fully grasp unconditional love because we haven’t fully achieved it ourselves, but God does love us, and He loves us immeasurably more than what Miss Debbie demonstrated to Rachel on that beautiful day. His love isn’t contingent upon what we do but upon what Jesus has done. I hope you will join me in searching out how deep, how wide, how high, is the Father’s love toward us. He is a good, good Father.

Before closing with a video, I want to remind you that the greatest compliment you can pay to those whose work is web-based is to please share if you like. Someone you know might need to know how much they are loved today. Thank you.

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My husband and I married over 20 years ago on a chilly, rainy, spring day. One year later caught me in a whirlwind as I was celebrating my first wedding anniversary, my first Mother's Day, and my first publication as a freelance writer. The birth of our third child followed a couple months after we celebrated our twins' 3rd birthday. Though a pen has been one of my constant companions, I have not pursued writing professionally due to the monumental task of homemaking and the raising of children. A shout out to my Robert who has been our sole provider while I have had the pleasure and privilege of remaining home with our children to homeschool them. Now, thanks to him, I have the liberty to once again pursue my passion to write and encourage others in written word as we journey with God through life experiences.

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