Just last week my family had the opportunity to take a family vacation to the beach. It was just what our family needed during this endless Indiana winter. All but one of my children spent the better part of a day working together to dig a massive hole into the soft sand. Every so often they would invite their brother to join them. He politely declined and returned to building his sand castle. The repetitive motion of filling buckets, adding water, and then turning the buckets over to allow the sand to slip free did not fail to delight him. His concentration did not waver.
I enjoyed the peace immensely and spent the day wandering up and down the beach at the edge of the water. Every so often I stopped and sifted through the shells gathering at the place where the waves crashed onto the shore. I chose the most beautiful shells and slipped them into my pocket as I returned to where my son’s sand castle grew steadily. I emptied my pockets over and over, placing each tiny shell on top of the creation, adorning it with my gifts. My son barely looked up but nodded his appreciation. I wasn’t sure he noticed I was there, but I found joy in bringing pretty objects to him nonetheless.
Finally, we ran out of sunscreen and bottled water and agreed that it was time to head back to our rental house for lunch. As we packed our shovels, buckets, blankets, hats, and flip-flops that had lost their matches, I stood back and took in the beauty of the scene before me. The soft sand on my feet, the sound of waves lapping at the shore, the cry of seagulls. Most of all the love for my children, so great that my heart felt like it might burst. Just then my son ran up to me with a grin. Clutched in his little hand was half a shell. Not beautiful. Not whole. I paused to put the beach bucket down, and then took the shell in my hand, turning it over to inspect it. My son bounced up and down. “I picked this one just for you, Mommy.”
I tucked the shell carefully into my pocket and patted his head. “I love it. It’s perfect. Thank you.” I did love it. That’s the thing about gifts from our children. The expression of love from a child to a parent is so sweet and simple. Children don’t overthink it. They present us with a dandelion, a fistful of weeds, a stick figure drawing in crayon, or a broken seashell, fully confident that we will understand their love through the presentation of their gift.
Somewhere along the journey of growing up, we lose this simplicity. We believe that the only gifts our heavenly Father will be delighted in are the gifts given in extravagance and perfection. This just isn’t true. We are our Father’s children. He showers us with good things and delights in the gift of our love for him. There is a story in Scripture of a woman who gives what she has in offering. What she gives is minimal, broken, and to onlookers might not seem generous or worthy, but to Jesus who is looking on, her gift is the most genuine. She has given from her heart and without concern for herself.
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything— all she had to live on” (Mark 12:41-44).
Our lives are a gift. Our families are a gift. Don’t wait to give these gifts back to God with abandon. Do not hold them close while waiting for perfection. Give each aspect of your life freely to the God who sees beauty in the mundane, broken, seemingly insignificant things.