My family and I have been involved with Tejas since 2005. I fell in love with the atmosphere and so did my children, Andrew, Gabi and Ayanna. We have been to retreats, service projects, camps, and have come many weekends just to volunteer. Tejas has always been special to us, and every year we have been blessed with moments where God allows us to share His love with others. However, our Christmas blessing of 2014 will always stand out to us as one of the best.
First, I have to take you back to our first year at Lights of Tejas in 2010. I needed a place to celebrate Christmas and decided to ask our friends at Tejas if we could have a room and volunteer over the school break. We were accommodated in the Tejas Inn and had a wonderfully, busy weekend volunteering and enjoying everything Lights of Tejas has to offer. I bought a tiny three-foot tree with ornaments and hung stockings so it would feel more festive at the Inn. Finances were tight so I shopped for the right number of gifts to match the length of our stay–each day the kids would open a gift every morning and every night. I raided the dollar store and got silly things for the stockings just so they would have more to open. I didn’t know it at the time but that year we began a tradition of celebrating Christmas at Tejas.
The next three years we were able to stay in the December room in the Four Seasons; which always has a large tree and a mantle for stockings. I packed the little tree away and we enjoyed staying in the new room. However, in 2014 the December room was already booked, so I unpacked the tree to use in a different room. I’ll admit: I was a little sad to not have the December room; after all, it had become a tradition. But we set up the little tree and celebrated as usual. I had all the silly gifts and, even though they are now teens, the kids still enjoyed the comical addition to our annual celebration.
It was our fifth night. We were volunteering in the craft room and a group walked in. I greeted them as I had hundreds of other guests. After explaining that we had four different types of ornaments to decorate, a little boy looked up at me and said, “Will you help me make one?” My heart melted. I told him I’d love to help.
“Go find a seat, and I’ll be right there.” I went to find an ornament and was distracted by someone asking a question. I turned around and the boy was standing there, waiting.
“When will you be able to help me?” he asked. I realized he had been following me the entire time. I looked around. The room was crowded but my three kids where there, and I knew they could take care of the guests.
“I can help you right now,” I said. I sat at the table with the boy and asked him what his name was.
“Taven,” he said. We made small talk and started the craft.
Suddenly, Taven said, “Someone died in my house today.”
My heart dropped. “I’m so sorry,” I said. Taven continued to tell me his grandma was visiting his house and had a heart attack. He wasn’t crying but just kept making the ornament. I carefully asked if he would tell me about his grandma; he said yes. He told me she would make him Pickle Pops. Describing the whole process, he told me how good they used to be.
“Pickle Pops will always remind me of her,” he said.
At this point, we had already made two ornaments. Taven told me his family was sad, people were crying, and he was sad too. He told me, “My grandma is in Heaven now, with God and people she knows.”
Taven never cried while he talked. He stayed by my side for the whole night, except for when my son took him to the bathroom for a few minutes. Quickly, I looked around for the people who drove Taven to Tejas and found Tracy, a good friend of Taven’s mom. She was here with her husband and two daughters. Tracy told me she took Taven out that night to help the family and that she heard us talking at the table. She said he hadn’t been able to talk about what had happened and she was grateful he was opening up to me. Before they left, I asked Tracy if I could pray with Taven and she said that would be wonderful. God gave me the words to say when we prayed that night, and I was so honored that God chose this moment to be mine.
We hugged, and I realized my daughters were now helping Tracy’s daughters while my son was talking to Tracy. After a few minutes, Andrew came over to me and said, “That was so sad.” I responded assuming he was talking about Taven, but Andrew said, “Yes, that, but I mean about Tracy’s house that just burned down. And she was telling me how these will be the only ornaments they have this year.”
I was shocked. She didn’t tell me anything about this, and I was shocked again when my kids told me they wanted to give our little tree and ornaments to this family as a gift. “That is such a good idea,” I said. I found Tracy and told her my kids and I wanted to give her family our tree. She started crying and accepted. She said they had a tree someone had donated but her daughter had always had a small tree in her room and was really missing it. I was thrilled to be able to help and went back to tell my kids.
“Let’s give them all those silly toys you got from the dollar tree too!” Gabi said excitedly. Andrew and Ayanna went to pack up everything and came back a few minutes later, the gifts in tow. We gave Tracy the bags and exchanged hugs.
Later that night, back in our room, we talked about how everything that had happened over the years had made this night possible. How the tradition of those dollar tree toys helped us bless Tracy’s kids, how if we had stayed in our normal room we wouldn’t have brought the tiny tree with us to Tejas. How if we hadn’t have been in the craft room at that exact moment we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to bless those people. How God used each of us individually to discover the needs of the family. We all agreed it felt so much better giving than keeping the gifts. That night was a beautiful reminder of God’s sovereignty. His wisdom, and his plans are far greater than ours, and God is able to work all things for good and his glory. A small inconvenience proved to be one of our favorite Christmases, and an amazing opportunity to be a blessing.