Wednesday night I was rounding up the children to head home from church when 6-year-old Olivia caught my eye. Her face brightened, and she hopped up from the pew where she was sitting to hurry toward me.
“I made this for you,” she announced proudly, a twinkle in her eye as she extended her hand to reveal a bulging manila envelope.
“For me?” I asked with surprise as she placed the envelope in my hands. Olivia came to our house for Emma’s fourth birthday party, but that was three years ago. I speak to Olivia when I see her at church, but I don’t recall teaching her Bible class or having extended interaction with her since the party.
She nodded emphatically, blond curls bouncing as her lips curved into a little smile.
I turned the envelope over to read the inscription. In her neatest little-girl handwriting, Olivia had printed “Mom Dad Kids” across the back of the envelope.
I could tell from the look of pride on her face that this envelope held something of great value – perhaps some of her best work to date. “Are you sure you don’t want to give this to your parents?” I asked, uncertain that I was really the intended recipient of such a special gift.
“Yes,” she insisted. “It’s for you.”
I opened the envelope slowly, careful not to spill its contents. Inside I found several sketches drawn on notebook paper and folded kindergarten-origami style into interesting shapes. I admired the pictures, then pulled out the real masterpiece: a book fashioned from folded note cards, fastened with a row of staples to create a neat little spine. I flipped through the book, admiring Olivia’s colorful illustrations and noting how much work she had put into this project. Captions below the drawings shared some of Olivia’s favorite things like “grape’s,” “choklit” and “the oshin.”
When Olivia assured me once more that she really wanted to share these special treasures with me, I said thank you and gave her a big hug before we said goodnight.
The next morning, I was still thinking about Olivia’s gift. I marveled that she chose to give it to me, smiling as I remembered the look of joy on her face as I opened it. But then I realized with a start that I didn’t know where I had put it. In the flurry of getting home from church and ushering the children into the house and to bed, I wasn’t sure if I had brought the envelope inside or left it in the car.
I rushed to the kitchen counter, but couldn’t find the envelope with our other church papers. I headed outside and discovered Olivia’s treasure in the van. Somehow the envelope had slipped between the console and passenger seat on the way home, and I found it on the floor peeking out from beneath the seat.
As I picked up the envelope, I thought of the other treasures shared with me at church the night before. Those treasures weren’t presented in manila envelopes, but they were gifts from the heart just the same. Several treasures were shared in our ladies Bible class – frantic news from a daughter keeping vigil at the bedside of her father in a nearby hospital; tearful revelations from a mother concerned for the future of her child; concerns from a woman living too far away to assist a friend in a legal crisis.
“Please pray,” she asked softly, a tear in her eye as she extended herself to reveal a bulging heart.
As I clutched little Olivia’s manila envelope to my chest, I considered how easy it is to collect treasures at church – prayer requests from friends who are facing sickness, uncertainty and angst – but let them slip from our minds on the ride home.
In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul told his fellow Christians about the hardships suffered in Asia and confessed in verse 8 that he and his comrades were “so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” Paul urged his brethren to pray, insisting, “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many” (verse 11).
Romans 12:12 urges us to “be constant in prayer.” As well as being continual in prayer, we must also be steadfast. When a friend reaches out to share the concerns of her heart, we need to prove ourselves faithful in carrying that treasure to the throne of God.
Olivia’s little book of favorite things now sits among my most-used references in a special spot on my bookshelf – a reminder that gifts of the heart are treasures to be handled with care.
"When you pray, rather let your heart be without words than your words without heart." ~ John Bunyan