This is part of the Writing 101 Series. I am combing two days of assignments: Day 4 assignment which is to write about something lost but never found, and Day 13 assignment which is to write about something found. Enjoy.
Normally I love having five children.
Not so during Christmas shopping season. If there is one thing our family sacrifices by having a large number of children and only one working parent it is a typical American materialistic Christmas.
Fortunately, I am not a materialistic person in general, or else I might truly struggle with this far more than just during the holidays. I suppose the vast majority of lower middle class families must shop on a budget, but our regular budget is stretched even thinner during Christmas. And while in my heart I know there is far, far more to Christmas than presents under the tree, a part of me still struggles with not being able to give my children the same sorts of gifts their friends are receiving.
Jon and I were both relatively frugal prior to our marriage, including the way we approached Christmas and birthday gifts for our children. My children were used to the 3-present rule … if three gifts were enough for the Baby Jesus, then three presents are more then enough for you. Additionally, I’m a bargain shopper, on the hunt year-round, stockpiling gifts to go under our tree. Our kids have never gone without gifts, even if they aren’t expensive iPhones or iPads or other fancy high-end gadgets.
Still, imagine my delight last fall when Jon and I realized we had accrued enough points through our bank to receive two Amazon gift cards worth $100 each. My mind raced with happy delight over all I could purchase my children. Divide $200 by five and it was still only $40 per kid, but still it was $40 more than I would normally have spent. And when added to the rest of the money I had saved it nearly doubled my tiny Christmas budget.
For a couple of weeks, I carried those cards protectively in my purse. Late at night, when all the kids were in bed, I worked diligently to fill my Amazon cart with the perfect gifts, bargain shopping online. By early November, I was nearly ready to make the final purchase.
That’s when I realized the cards were gone.
Carefully, I looked through my purse a second time. No cards.
I dumped the entire thing out on my bed. Still no cards.
I sorted through papers on my desk and around my bedside table. Nothing.
I ripped open bags of trash, picking my way through dirty napkins, banana peels and empty milk cartons. The only thing of interest that I found was incomplete piece of homework a sneaky child decided to throw away. Definitely no gift cards accidentally tossed out with the garbage.
I asked the kids if they had seen my Amazon gift cards. They gave me long blank stares, slowly blinking their eyes at me as if I were speaking a foreign language. No one claimed to know anything about my lost cards. Using my mothering powers of detecting deceitful children, I concluded no one was lying. These children were without a doubt innocent, at least of the crime of stealing or misplacing my Amazon gift cards.
After a harrowing 48 hours, I came to the disappointing realization that a significant portion of my Christmas budget was completely missing. Gone. Vanished into thin air.
With trepidation, I approached Jon to confess that I had lost our Amazon gift cards. Jon is easy-going, as gentle as any man I’ve ever known, but to tell him how I had lost those cards felt like admitting to a federal crime. True to his nature, Jon listened, gave me a hug and offered to help look again for the cards. I felt intense relief that he wasn’t frustrated or angry over my careless mistake. I felt sure that together we would find the hidden cards.
But even with Jon’s help, the gift cards didn’t magically surface. A week’s worth of deep searching left us still empty-handed.
As a measure of last resort, I took a chance and called my bank to see if unspent, lost cards could be replaced. The unfortunate answer was no.
It was then I realized those Amazon gift cards were not going to be found or replaced, at least not in time for Christmas shopping to be done. They were gone … and with it $200 worth of Christmas surprises for my children.
I’ve lost a lot of things in my nearly 42 years on this planet. While some of my lost treasures are gone for eternity, I’m glad that most of them are eventually found again.
During my high school years, I lost close to $500 I had collected for a school fundraiser. Thankfully I found every last penny of that money, hidden in an manila envelope which was stashed inside a shoebox at the top of my closet. I had obviously taken precautions to keep the money safe. But the trauma of the desperate search was too much, and is the reason that to this day you will never ever find me volunteering to be the treasurer for any organization.
Another time I lost an important piece of jewelry. I searched high and low, emptied trash cans, moved furniture, cried and prayed. The beautiful ring was lost for nearly 6 months before it surfaced again, well-hidden between a large desk and a wall.
Sometimes I even lose things and I’m not aware of it. When these lost treasures surface, it always brings a delighted smile to my face.
For example, I recall the long overdue library book found years later stuffed back in a box of old purses and shoes. How it got there I will never know. Furthermore, why I never realized I lost it still remains a mystery. But I was glad to have found it, and still recall how thrilling it was to be able to return it to the small library I frequented as a child. (To add to my delight, all the years of accrued fines were forgiven! Certainly, this was a win-win situation all around!)
Another time I found a $5 bill stuck between the pages of a college textbook I was about to resell at the end of the semester. I couldn’t even recall where the money had come from or when I had placed it there. But to this day I remember being excited enough to grab a friend to celebrate my discovery with me. As I recall, we relished chocolate ice cream cones as we lounged in the warm spring sun and talked about the special sort of happiness that comes with an unexpected surprise such as finding money you never knew had been misplaced.
No matter what I’ve lost, once it has been found there is reason to celebrate. Sometimes with a high five or a fist bump or a jubilant shout for joy . Other times with a chocolate ice cream cone or an excited phone call to share the news with someone who will listen to my lost and found tale.
Almost always, finding what was lost ends with a prayer of thanks to the Lord.
Perhaps you are familiar with the parable Jesus told about the woman who lost a coin. It’s found in Luke chapter 15, verses 8-10.
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
As a child, I always imagined the woman to have lost a penny or nickel or a dime. These coins weren’t worth much to me, and so I couldn’t understand why this lady was so distraught over a little lost coin. Later on, I learned the coins were worth an entire day’s wages. Suddenly I understood why finding the coin was a really big deal. No wonder she wanted to celebrate with her friends!
What is the most valuable thing in the world? Is it money? Health? Family?
None of those. The most valuable thing each of us has is our life, the very fact that we exist.
It’s often said that there are only two certainties on this earth … taxes and death. I may not be able to do anything about having to pay taxes, but I don’t have to fear death. I don’t just have to hope there is something good on the other side, or pray I’ve done enough good during my time on earth to assure me a place in heaven.
Because of the love of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice of His perfect life in payment for all my sins, I have a deep, unshakable hope and a very real assurance of heaven, knowing that when I close my eyes in death I will open them in the glory of God’s presence. And the day I submitted to the authority of Christ over me and sought a relationship with the Creator of the world, the angels celebrated around the Throne of God … because what was lost had been found.
I may never find those lost Amazon gift cards. But if I do, rest assured there will be much celebrating in my home.
But even that will not compare to the celebration in heaven over a single lost life found again through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Have the angels in heaven celebrated over you?