“For it is You who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.” Psalm 18:28
It occurred to me recently that I am really fortunate to see the beautiful light that is in our world. Now, being in Michigan, it is especially nice to see the sun during the winter months as it is a bit of a gamble. We usually have a lot of cloudiness. Maybe that is why FBF’s Easter Basket Collection comes with such anticipation. Bright and warm light that radiates not from the orange glow in the sky that creates day and reflects on the moon at night; rather the light that comes from kindness, generosity, steadfastness, faithfulness, diligence, creativity, courage, and hope. Those things, my friends, we see often during this outreach.
So I thought, maybe this year, I would try harder to share those stories with you. The ones I have been given the opportunity to see and hear. May you, in turn, be inspired and strengthened by the radiance of those who have brightened our winter days…
After Valentine’s, we–thanks be to God for bringing the funds–go out and buy discounted Valentine’s candy that goes on clearance at various stores. We are usually looking for deals at or better than 70% off. By doing this, we save a bunch of money and do not have to store it long term as it generally goes right into the system and out into the baskets.
Quite a few years back, a gal came. She loves to organize and is very efficient at it. One year, she was able to set up a collection of candy at her sons’ school. Because she was picking it up there, she offered to sort any of our incoming candy. Now my sister works at a bakery and had access to food-safe buckets that she cleaned and brought to us as it was a shame they were being tossed out. The buckets ended up working well for holding our extra candy until we need it.
This year, as I came across a great deal and a great deal of candy, I posted the photos of the find on our Facebook page. Within short order, there was a comment from our “candy organizer” asking if she could come help sort it. The ironic part was she had crossed my mind in a passing thought as I finished unloading the candy into the garage. I had to laugh when I saw her comment less than fifteen minutes later. Clearly, God had brought the need for it to be processed to both of minds at almost the same time!
So less than 24 hours later, as the stars shown bright above, we stood together looking into my garage. Inside were all these nicely sorted candy buckets gleaming in the bright light coming down from the ceiling, and she said, with an emphasis on commitment, “That’s my job! I wanted to make sure I got to do this.” I chuckled as I had received other offers to help, but I suspected she wouldn’t need any assistance. Her methods and joy for doing this volunteer job radiates brightly. Before we knew it, all of the packaged candy was sorted and ready to go! That, indeed, lightens our load and makes the system move more efficiently when we refill the candy bins.
Longing to come
It is a theme I have heard for quite some time. “Theme” as I hear it, from young and old alike, over and over again. I am not only hearing what they say but also how they say. A deep, heart felt conveyance of how much joy they find in being a part of FBF’s Easter outreach.
Thrilled to return. A young lady who started coming in her teens was able to participate a few Fridays ago. She now lives in a different town as she is in college. Having just moved recently, she shared how excited she was that it worked out for her to come back. In her voice and on her face, I could trace the sincerity of her statements back to her heartfelt excitement to be here. The light of her love for this outreach exuded from her inner being, and encouraged my heart to remember that God is doing so much more than just having us build baskets!
Growing up but not away. We around surrounded by neighbors, most of whom have children. Over the years, as they have grown, this outreach has become a fun event that many of them participate in. Sometimes they build; lots of times they carry down donations and up baskets. A couple of them have taken part so much that I actually have them help me in supervising or training new builders. And sometimes, they just like to come and talk…to in the midst of the action and excitement.
As this season began to build steam, one of our neighbor boys came in. I hadn’t seen him in a bit, but as I was taking pictures of basket, I caught a glimpse of someone waiting for me. I turned, and there he stood with a big smile on his face. I told him how glad I was to see him, and he said, ever so sweetly, “I am so happy it has started! It is so good to be here.” Now, my friends, that is coming out of a teen’s mouth and it was music to my ears. I gave him a quick hug and said, “I know. Me too.”
Walking the dog. With this nice weather, my husband and I ventured out for a walk. As we strolled along the sidewalk, a family was approaching. One of their children was quite ahead of them on the walk way. He was on his bicycle when I saw him stop and wait. I thought he was just being polite and waiting for us to pass, but as we got closer, he called out, “I am coming to your house on Friday night!!” A big smile on his face.
I said, “You are?! How great! We can’t wait to see you.” My husband and I both smiled as we stopped to chat with him. His mom and him have been coming to help with Christmas and Easter for the last couple of seasons. It was funny to see just how delighted he was to tell us he was coming back to help! I could tell he could hardly wait. A little confirmation of the warm light that stays in hearts long after they leave…
Staying true to commitment in the face of adversity
A family was set to come one Saturday morning. The mom had signed up to bring cookies for the volunteers. On Thursday night before that day, an email arrived from that mom. Her family had come down sick with the flu, their dog was in the emergency room, and she just couldn’t find time to bake cookies. She had taken them off of the Saturday signup so as to not pass on what some of them were getting.
But…she didn’t want to let us down. So she drove to a local grocery store and bought cookies so that we would still have some, but not run the risk of infection. Her note finished by letting me know they were hanging on our front door. I emailed her back thanking her for being so kind when she had all the reasons to back out of baking.
It is amazing to me to think on all the different things light can do. It can help us see. It can brighten our days and hearts. It helps us take in nutrients we absolutely need. It can refresh what seems to be darkened. t can make life easier in general as being able to see makes life move with greater ease. It can act like in a way that zeros in on something, much like a spot light, that may need to be corrected or adjusted or identified. But it can also be warm and endearing, and that was what her faithfulness was–so very heart warming.
Giving what she could
A grandmother and granddaughter started coming last Easter to help make baskets. If I remember correctly, it was towards the end of the outreach. Their eyes were so huge when they stepped into the basement, and their faces twinkled with joy during building. They came back again at Christmas and helped build our Christmas baskets. Then again, when we began prepping for Easter.
This time, when the granddaughter came in the front door, she held several Easter buckets in her hands. Inside of them were coloring books and a puzzle. She tentatively waited for me to stop greeting them when her grandmother encouraged her to tell me what she did. Her face lit up as she told me how she used her own money and went to the Dollar store to buy some of the things we needed. I smiled and thanked her for her willingness and kindness for others.
As we went downstairs, I asked her if she would like to help put them into the system. She eagerly nodded her and then took the baskets over to be grassed. She added in the coloring books to their shelves. I was able to speak with her a bit, before others arrived, about how when we all do what we can, it is amazing what can happen! If you could see how incredibly kind most kids are when given the chance, you would be so very encouraged. How eager they are to help, even at the youngest ages.
It is in these stories that I find nourishment, strength and hope for our world. It is, in fact, where you can see the light that brightens our world the best…
“Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in Him! Let all the upright in heart exult!” Psalm 64:10