I was at the local thrift store recently, and the manager lady told me about a program through her church where they collect toys & things for children whose parents are in prison. I'm in a continual search for ways to donate things I've been "collecting" for so long, so I went home and rounded up some jewelry for the teenaged girls on the list...considering that I only ever wear like 4 pairs of the many I own, it's really doing ME a favor...but this story reminded me of that. There are so many ways to GIVE, and the less common ones are usually my favorite. How about you?
For the Tangles In Your Story
As a young girl, a friend taught me to cross stitch. I loved seeing her beautiful creations and I quickly learned it takes a lot of little x’s to make a picture. I didn’t love the tedious sewing work, but I was eager to create something. I would count the rows and put one X after another. My work wasn’t neat, my knots were bumpy and my stitches imperfect and when I turned my fabric over, the backside looked like a tangled mess.
Sort of like the story of my life.
When I was in the 8th grade, I was in a peer program in my public school. The peer program matched older students with younger ones. I was paired with a high risk 5th grader.
Her name was Tiffany. And she changed my life. Or at least the way I viewed my life.
I grew up in a sheltered home. I had loving parents and a great church. My biggest concern was complexion outbreaks.
I’ll never forget the day I met Tiffany. The school counselor introduced us. I knew she came from a tough environment, but I don’t think I even knew what that meant. When she walked through the door, my first impression was, “this is what poor looks like.” Her clothes were dirty and threadbare. She wore a mismatched headband in her tangled hair. She looked sad. And so much older than she should. She also was tall for her age, and appeared to be just a size under me.
Our first meeting was awkward. The second time, we talked. I will never forget what she told me. “My mom ran off last year. She left me with her ex-boyfriend. It’s just me and him and he’s mean to me.”
I didn’t know what to say, so I hugged her.
I still remember what I felt in that tiny room. I wanted to help Tiffany. I had never met a desperate child before. It was the first time my heart broke for someone other than myself.
Through tears, I told my mom and sister Tiffany’s story at home that night. They agreed that we had to do something. My sister and I filled 3 huge bags with clothes and shoes. I remember going through my costume jewelry and picking out some of my favorite things for her.
I had never given anyone something of mine before. And it felt good. Handing my used things to a flabbergasted, grateful girl was a defining moment for me. We both cried and hugged. I saw the hope in her eyes.
I couldn’t wait to see her in new clothes.
But I never did. The next time we were supposed to meet, she was gone. The counselor explained that her stepfather withdrew her from school. No contact information. No forwarding address. I tried to explain what she told me. The counselor patted me on the shoulder and gave me the name of a new student to meet with.
I never heard another word about her, but I never forgot Tiffany.
My life went on much the same, but I was different. I also struggled to make sense of why I couldn’t have helped Tiffany more. Every time I thought of her, I said a quick prayer.
Five years later, I was a freshman in college 200 miles from home. I had just landed a coveted job as a tutor for The Texas Baptist Home for Children. It paid $12.00 an hour, a fortune for a new college student.
I got into the swing of tutoring these troubled kids after my classes. The State of Texas had removed them from their homes for various reasons. I mainly tutored elementary kids.
I came in one day, feeling down. I was dealing with the normal anxieties of young adult life. And I felt alone, away from home for the first time and questioning my purpose.
A new student had been assigned to me. Her name was Tiffany.
It took a few minutes of us staring across the table at each other, getting acquainted. And then we jumped up and hugged.
A hundred questions tumbled out of my mouth. She filled in the years since we’d last seen each other. The State had removed her two years before. She was safe. Happy. And she still carried a piece of the jewelry I had given her. There was hope in her eyes.
Our reunion was brief because Tiffany was permanently placed into a home. A real home.
His eye in on the sparrow….He knew I would meet Tiffany again one day. He had woven the tapestry of our lives together.
Thirty years later, the back of my tapestry still looks a little messy and tangled. I fret and question and worry myself into knots.
But I’m reminded He sees each of us and He is weaving a beautiful story with our lives. We don’t always understand the mess, the trials, the mundane, but He is there. Sometimes He is quiet like the gentle love of a friend, other times, He is loud, like the earthquake of an unexpected miracle.
He is always working in us and through us and in the end, it doesn’t matter how we get there, it’s that we get there.
If you are holding pieces today, or trying to unwind tangles in your life, offer it to Him. God fits the broken pieces together and is the ultimate recycler of our tangled story. For his glory.
Written by Kristen Welch, We are THAT family