“Here, mama,” he said. “Leaves. And they’re red.”
I thank him and he so carefully deposits the dry, crumbly foliage into my purse.
Seconds later, he turns around and has two hands around a heaping mound of them, ready to add more to the others, broken and rickety at the bottom of my bag.
When he was a baby, Spencer would watch his siblings picking dandelions and other weeds as a gift for mom and somewhere along the way, he decided his signature gift would be pretty fall leaves.
It’s fitting – I love the bright foliage of fall and it’s the season I love most.
After a bit of redirection, I explained I loved his gift but I can’t put that many leaves in my purse because they can be a home for small creatures needing shelter if they stay right where they are (I was totally pushing it here but it’s what came to my mind first and I rolled with it.)
Later in the day after swimming with some friends, he finds another present.
“Here, mama,” he says running towards me, wearing a proud and excited grin, eager to share his treasure and bestow me with yet another gift.
It was a very old, very used hair elastic. It was dirty. It had a stray hair sticking out of it.
I didn’t want it. In fact, it completely grossed me out.
Yet there I stood, his favorite recipient, unsure of how to react. Have you been there as a parent? (Haven’t we all?)
I was reminded of parenting advice I was given when the three were very young (as in 2,3, and 5 years old).
Don’t ever refuse a gift they give you. It comes from their heart and they are showing you how much they love you. The gift doesn’t matter but the heart behind it does.
Suddenly, I remember my childhood cat, Mia, emerging from the creek behind our house with a badly-mangled mouse hanging from her jowls.
Her prideful canter ended with the deposit of said mouse at my six year old feet.
It wasn’t a gift I wanted. But she wanted to honor me and this is what she knew.
I take the hair elastic and exaggerate my gratitude. I tell him the one I keep in the car had been lost and I was so thankful to have a replacement.
He beamed and went on his merry way.
Then I wondered: how many times have I poo-pooed the gifts God has held out to me? How many times did I tell Him it wasn’t what I wanted? It wasn’t what I needed?
And it wasn’t from a place of shame because shame is not from God.
It was from a place of cobweb removal.
New eyes to see. The gifts He’s so freely given that, quite frankly, I don’t deserve. I know you have them, too.
I hear a whisper to cultivate generous hearts, regardless of the gift. I promise to accept even the ones I don’t want because, after all, it’s not about that.
A scraggly dandelion. Weeds that make me sneeze every other second (OK, those might be a bouquet for the back patio). A dirty hair elastic with the hair of a stranger left behind on its stretchy fibers.
I am reminded to more authentically accept the ultimate gift He gave with such wreckless abandon, a radical love that’s beyond my capabilities of comprehension.
The love of Jesus is in the softest whisper of the kindest of deeds. Deeds usually only seen by His Father.
And it starts with accepting a dirty hair elastic.
What about you – what gifts have you been blessed with as of late?