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The Unexpected Gift 

Sometimes there are people who inspire you, even though they may live far away or not really interact in your daily life at all.  Shala and Ryley are two such individuals, encouraging me and offering hope to countless others around them.  This year they adopted their third child, devoting themselves wholeheartedly to little ones who might never have had the chance to be nurtured in a loving environment like the one this couple is providing. 

I think their story touches me even more during this season as we prepare to celebrate Christmas.  You see, it’s because of Jesus that you and I are given the opportunity to be adopted into God’s family.  We’re welcomed into the loving environment only He can provide, forever changing our destiny—now and always. 

Years ago, a friend shared an adoption story upon which the following tale is based.  I’d like to dedicate it to Shala, Ryley, and so many others who reflect the gift of love that Jesus offers everyone. 


The fragrant aroma of fresh pine enveloped Sandy as she stepped through the shiny glass doors of Marstan’s Department Store.  Stunned by the colorful decorations, Sandy stood frozen in the doorway staring at the glistening Christmas trees that adorned the entrance.  Suddenly, a man behind her cleared his throat expressing his desire to move past her.

“I’m sorry,” Sandy mumbled as she stepped aside.  She then followed a bustling group of shoppers into the festive store.

Despite the cheery atmosphere and the melodious holiday tunes descending from a piano on the second level, Sandy felt depressed.  In fact, she was miserable.  She and her husband, Kyle, had moved to San Diego six months earlier from their hometown in Ohio after he had been transferred to a high tech firm.  She missed her family, especially her sister Marie, her brother-in-law, Nick, and their children.  The holidays would not be the same without them.

But Sandy’s misery went much deeper.  She and Kyle longed for children.  After fifteen years of marriage, no baby had ever arrived.  At forty-two, Sandy realized her chances of conceiving were slim to none.  Indeed, the hot flashes she had been experiencing lately were a sign that none was more like it.  She and Kyle talked about adopting, but then the transfer and move happened suddenly, so they put all other plans on hold.  Kyle had been so patient and loving, especially when her tears erupted at the most unusual times.

‘Oh Lord, why can’t we have a child?’ Sandy had prayed over and over.  She claimed James 1:17 “Every good thing bestowed, and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.” Oh, how she longed for this gift from the Lord, but the answer back had always seemed to have been, ‘Wait, just wait.  I have great plans for you.’

Sandy tried to show some of Kyle’s patience, but hers faltered.  She had been a Christian since childhood and tried to live faithfully for the Lord.  She didn’t understand why He wouldn’t answer her prayer.  Lately, she had stopped asking.

“Well,” Sandy said to herself as she continued to wander down the sparkling aisles of the department store,  “at least I have my nieces and nephews to shop for.”

Her sister and brother-in-law had five children ranging in age from four to sixteen.   Sandy was especially close to Sue, the oldest, since she had been the first little one to come into her life.  The children kept Sandy quite busy when she lived in Ohio, what with babysitting, piano recitals, and school activities.

‘Ohio,’ Sandy mused. ‘How I miss it!  There’s probably snow blanketing the ground right now.  Instead, here Kyle and I are in this tropical wonderland where it’s 75 degrees.  In Ohio we have summer days colder than this!  How can they truly enjoy the holidays here?  Why, they even wrap Christmas lights around their palm trees!’

“Sandy, oh SANDY!” a loud, cheerful voice interrupted her thoughts.  Sandy looked around and spotted Jenny Williams waving enthusiastically at her from the boy’s section.  Sandy feigned a smile and gave a mild wave in return.  Jenny Williams was a greeter at The Chapel in the Valley where she and Kyle attended church.  She always had a kind, positive word for everyone.  Sandy liked Jenny, but because she felt so low in spirit, she had been avoiding her.  Somehow Jenny’s happy nature exacerbated Sandy’s depression.

Jenny quickly crossed the aisle, heading right for Sandy.

“Hi,” Jenny grabbed Sandy’s hand and shook it eagerly.   “We missed you at the women’s Bible study last week.  How are you doing?”

“Fine,” Sandy replied, trying to give a pleasant smile.  She felt bad for lying, but her Midwest roots and pride kept her from sharing her problems with Jenny.  Actually, aside from Kyle and her sister, Sandy didn’t really share her feelings with anyone.

From her concerned facial expression, Jenny hadn’t bought the reply.  But she didn’t pry any further.

“I’m glad you found our best department store,” Jenny continued.  “There will be lots of wonderful Christmas gifts for your family here.  I’m sure they will miss you this year.”

Sandy felt a knot form in her throat.  The fact that Jenny remembered her situation out of all the people in their large church touched her.  Sandy nodded and briefly replied, “Yes, I’ll miss them too.”

“Well,” Jenny quickly continued as if to allow Sandy time to swallow her emotions, “I’m sure you have lots to do.  Say, can I call you next week?  Maybe we could go out for coffee or something?”

“Sure,” Sandy answered quickly, relieved that Jenny hadn’t asked any further questions. “I’d like that.”

As Jenny moved away, Sandy maneuvered to the escalators.  Despite her sadness, meeting Jenny had offered a ray of hope.  Maybe she would find a new friend in San Diego after all.

Several weeks passed.  Sandy and Jenny enjoyed coffee together.  Sandy even returned to the women’s Bible study and discovered that others had missed her presence.  With Christmas quickly approaching, she mailed off several large boxes filled with gifts for her family with a little less emotion than she had expected.  She even began praying again for a miracle from the Lord.  “Maybe for Christmas, Lord?  Could Kyle and I just have one precious child to raise?”

The busy rush of holiday activities filled Sandy’s spare moments, but Christmas Day arrived, and there was still no answer to her prayers.  Kyle gave her a beautiful heart pendant, expressing how he loved her now more than ever.  She cried, wishing she had the gift she had longed to offer him.  Kyle, hugging her gently, mistook her tears for those of happiness.

The chime of the phone startled both of them.

“It’s for you, honey,” Kyle grinned as she dabbed her eyes with some tissue. “Marie is on the phone.”

“Hi, Sis!”  Marie chirped, “Merry Christmas!”

“Hi, Marie,” Sandy replied, her spirit lifting at the sound of her sister’s voice.  “How are you all?  Did you get the packages okay?”

“Yes, we got all of the gifts.  The kids are crazy about everything—you always know exactly what to get them,” Marie responded.

“Well, let me talk to the little darlings,” Sandy replied.

“Okay, but Sue wants to talk to you first,” Marie said somewhat hesitantly.  Sandy noted the change in her sister’s tone.

“Is everything okay Marie?”  Sandy asked.

“Uh,”  Marie paused. “We have some good news and bad news to tell you.  But I want Sue to talk to you about the situation first.”

Sandy detected a tremor in her sister’s voice.  What could be wrong?  And on Christmas of all days!

“Aunt Sandy,” Sue’s gentle voice was unmistakable.

“Yes, sweetie.  Is everything okay?  Your mom sounds worried.”

“Well, Aunt Sandy.  I have a big—a big dilemma, and, well, I need your help.  You see—I’m pregnant.”

Sandy gasped.  Kyle glanced up from the football game with a concerned look.  She signaled for him to stay quiet.

“Mom, Dad and I have been talking about this since I found out a month ago.  I can’t raise a baby, Aunt Sandy, and they can’t afford another one.  We wondered—what would you and Uncle Kyle think—I mean, would you both consider adopting the baby?”

Sandy’s hand clenched the phone.  Her heart pounded, and tears began welling up in her eyes.  Could this be true?  Her niece was pregnant, and her family wanted them to have this baby.  ‘Oh, Lord,’ Sandy’s thoughts raced, ‘Could this be what you had us wait for?’

“Aunt Sandy,”  Sue finally broke the silence, “I know you can’t be too proud of me, but the Lord is teaching me a lot of lessons through this.  I know it’s a lot to ask, but . . .”

Sandy quickly interrupted her niece.  “Sue, oh Sue, just wait a moment.  I want to put your uncle on the phone.  I’d like him to hear what you have to say.”

Kyle silently listened to their niece’s story.  He reached for Sandy’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.  As their eyes met, he nodded in response to her questioning expression.  ‘Every good thing bestowed, and every perfect gift is from above’ echoed in her mind.

Sandy knew they were in agreement.  The years of waiting had come to an end.  The Lord had provided a wonderful, unexpected gift.

Thought of the Season

See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are!

I John 3:1