The doorbell rang rather late that day during Christmas week—the first Christmas without my dad, who had died five months earlier—and my sisters and I hurried to the door. We opened it and stared at the two policemen who stood on the porch. “Is your mom home?” one of them asked.
My sisters sent me to get our mother, while they chatted with the officers. Once my mom was with us, the policemen picked up two large bushel baskets topped with festive bows. One basket was filled with food; the other filled with toys. Jackpot! “We give these to the poor and needy,” the police explained. “To make sure you have a nice holiday.”
If my mother was anything, it was courteous. She thanked the police for the baskets, but she was sure there were other families in town who needed these baskets more than we did. “They’ll get baskets,” the officers said. “These are yours.” Again, my mother refused. By this time, her daughters were about to stage a mini-revolt. Passing up all those toys and free food?
“We don’t really need anything. We have enough,” my mom was trying hard to convince the policemen that we were neither poor nor needy. “God takes care of us.” As soon as my mom said that, our hearts sank. We knew: the men in blue were going to walk off the porch taking those two bushel baskets.
Make no mistake—it wasn’t pride that kept her from accepting those baskets. It was her confidence in God, and the city’s charity fund was no match for his care or the generosity of his people at our church, especially that first year after my father died.
I remember one morning when my mom opened the refrigerator—milk, a few eggs and a partial loaf of bread. That was it. “Well, girls,” she said in her plain way, “We’ll just have to wait and see what God does.” The wait ended with the delivery of the morning mail.
A small white envelope, without a return address, arrived in the mail. My mother opened the envelope and out fell a check. I don’t remember the amount, but I do remember the short note attached to it: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 in the King James Version, of course)
That continued for that first year after my father died; then five years, even twenty years later—a check would come in the mail for my mother with the same verse, always in the King James version. To this day, some seven years after my mom’s death, my sisters and I still have no idea the identity of this generous person.
We learned a lot about trust in God’s provision those lean years, but we also learned another lesson from my mother about giving—just do it. Every Sunday, my mother gave to the work of the church. In retrospect, I suspect it was a true widow’s mite that she gave, but she just did it.
She even gave to College Church when she would visit us. “Mom, it’s okay if you don’t give to College Church,” my husband and I told her. (And all of you reading this right now forget what I just wrote.) We might as well have been talking a foreign language. What? Go to church and not give?
I haven't always followed my mother's lesson about giving. Why? There's the uncomplicated reason that I simply want to spend my money on other things. Even in my more spiritual moments, I suspect it's because I make it more complicated than it really is and talk about wise stewardship of my investments. I'm not against discernment, but church is church. Christmas isn't about investments. It's about celebrating God giving his only Son.
My husband says he can still see my mom's hand, a slight tremor with age, wrinkled and worn after decades of hard work and sacrifice, determinedly releasing the dollars into the offering plate as it was passed when she visited College Church. A poor widow. A blessed church made truly wealthy by that kind of sacrificial giving from the heart.
As Advent begins, we plan to keep giving simple, and just give that special gift—a Christmas gift—to College Church. I know my mother would be proud.