Saturday, December 14, 2019

"Momma, can I please go to my friend's birthday party tomorrow? Please?!? Jack is what we call him at school. He is from China, and will be leaving to go back next month. He is my best friend!" These were very first words I heard as I was unloading all my many bags walking in the door from a long day. The list of things on my Saturday "To Do" list were already enough to take up a full day. A birthday party? Really? My first response was there is no way we can fit this into our day - besides, we don't even have a gift! However, something in my heart stirred when I read the little hand written birthday invitation. "Welcome Zixuan's good friend". How in the world could I possibly say no to this precious invitation?

The morning came in a blur as expected. The house was a bustle of busy - fudge to bake, gifts to wrap, clean, laundry - a visit with a dear neighbor. Before I could blink, I looked up and it was already noon! I sent a text to the phone number on the invitation sharing that we would do our very best to make it to the party, but would not be able to stay long. Within moments, I received a message back that said, "Great! Excited to see Garyn- Thanks for his coming." :) My heart smiled.

We jumped in the car, running late. I was planning to run by and grab a gift card, but Garyn insisted..."Momma, Jack likes legos best. Can we please not just get a gift card?" Again, my plans were altered by a little boy who wanted to make Jack's Birthday very special. So we set out to find a lego set with only a few moments to spare. About 20 minutes later, we pulled into a small apartment complex that matched the address on the hand-written invitation. I parked the car, and we made our way through a maze to try to find the right apartment. We were side-tracked by the sound of boys playing. Since I had no idea who we were even looking for, I had to depend on Garyn to let me know we had found the right group of boys. Garyn played, and we started to leave. However, Jack invited Garyn to please come to his home for a snack. I was very confused at the whole gifts were presented, and really I was just feeling like we were very out of place in the courtyard of this apartment complex. However, the look on Jack's face when I shared we needed to be heading home changed my plans immediately. I told him Garyn could certainly join him for a snack and I would too.

Jack led us to a small apartment. We walked inside the humble home and something I will never forget took place. I was greeted by a small woman with the biggest hug I've ever received. "Thank you..Thank you for coming to our party!", she said, as she began pulling out folding chairs from a make-shift pantry. She was eagerly placing small paper plates on a folding table filling them with chips and chocolates. "Will you please sit down and have a snack?", she asked. I hesitated..for there were so many things waiting for me to do, however, something inside me could not say no. I sat down at the folding table and began unwrapping a piece of chocolate (Dove Chocolates to be exact..Oh how God only knows how much I love Dove Chocolates!) She apologized for her very small home, but in that moment I did not even notice. Her tiny kitchen was buzzing with dinner preparation. She had a variety of veggies sliced and ready to prepare along with an abundance of other ingredients. She shared with me how much she loved cooking and sharing it with others and hoped I could come back in time for dinner to try her food. She shared how they would be returning to their home in China next month but would love for us to come visit her. She would show us all the beautiful places around her home and share the delicious food of her hometown. I glanced around her sweet decorations. There was no furniture..only blankets placed neatly on her floor where her boys were playing. I could not shake the feeling..I could stay in this moment forever. A simple home filled to the fullest with the most wonderful feeling of love and hospitality for a stranger she had never met. When it came time for me to leave, she again gave me the biggest hug and called "Jack" over to do the same. She followed us out the door thanking us for coming. My heart left filled to the brim. God ministered to my heart through the simplest of birthday invitations.

I was reminded again what this season is truly about. Not only this Christmas Season, but all year long. Jesus invites us to share his Birthday, just sweet and simple. I believe, His unlikely birthday guests of long ago, who arrived at the humble stable also left that party with the fullest of hearts. He invites us to share life with Him every day. I believe He also delights in calling us his "good friends" and is always so thankful when we pause from the busy to spend time with Him and then open our hearts and homes to fill another with love and joy. I am so thankful for the invitation of today and for the invitation that came to us in the form of a tiny baby born in a manger. My heart cannot help but say... "Thanks for His coming."