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Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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Wednesday 18th December 2013

#TellHisStory: When Jesus Shows Up on Your Doorstep

He showed up unexpectedly on our front doorstep, while fat flakes fluttered down from the heavens, in moonlight.

My husband, Scott, opened the door. And a man stepped in, stamping his snowy feet on the rug. Winter exhaled this frosty cloud into our house.

I couldn’t see him. But the man’s voice was familiar, and he sounded urgent.

“I need to give this to Jennifer,” he told my husband.

Was everything OK? I stepped around the corner, and moved fast to the front door. He unfolded a yellow slip of paper and handed it to me.

On the paper were 28 names. He pointed with a gloved finger. My name was among the 28.

He handed me a gift card and then, he read detailed instructions from the yellow paper. He said I needed to take that gift card to the college where I taught journalism. Still reading, he added: “You’re supposed to give this to someone and tell the person, ‘God cares for you, and so do I.’”

He looked up from his paper, and I stumbled over confused words, lodged in my throat.

“I’m supposed to, … um … what? Who do I give it to? Who do I tell them it’s from?”

He answered and shook his head: “I don’t know who. I just know that you’re supposed to give it to someone at the college.”

And, just like that, the name came, in that Spirit voice that can’t be heard audibly but whispers in the soul. 

“I will do that,” I answered. “I know who the person is.”

And he nodded. He’d heard names, too — including mine. That’s why he had come to this country door, stepping over high snow-drifts to ring the doorbell.

He knew that it was more blessed to give than to receive, but he didn’t want those who received his gift to know who the giver was. So he was stopping at the doorsteps of 28 people, on a blustery December night, to recruit his army of Christmas helpers.

I asked if I could look at his list. At the top were dollar amounts, scratched out.

$550

$575

$600

$675

And then finally: $700.

God kept giving him names, he said, so the number grew and grew and grew.

“I finally put my hands over my ears like this,” the man said, laughing and demonstrating. “And I went: ‘La-la-la-la-la! I’m not listening any more, or I’m going to go broke, God!’”

This is not a rich man. This is a middle-class Iowa guy who works at a factory. He drives a used car. He wears second-hand jeans and Walmart shirts. He’s a dad and a husband, and he and his wife are putting a kid through college.

He won’t let me tell you his name. 

“Maybe we could have gotten a new TV with the money. But this is what I’m supposed to do,” he shrugged. “It’s a gift from God. You can’t tell anyone who did it, because this is from God — not me.”

He knows it’s from God, because at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, God put name … after name … after name on his heart. And he transcribed. He wrote names on a yellow slip of paper.

And now, he needed elves to spread Jesus’ love at Christmas. Each person on his list — 28 in all — would receive a $25 gift card to Applebee’s. Each one would be instructed to give the gift to someone else.

I was supposed to give mine to someone at the college.

A neighbor-boy down the road was supposed to give a card to someone at the elementary school.

Another neighbor, in her 60s, would find someone in need in a nearby town.

A beer-truck driver on the list would give his card to someone on his route.

A man who sells cigarettes and Doritos at area convenience stores had a card to give, too. So did a stay-at-home mom, a teenage girl, a schoolteacher, a coach, a farmer, a nurse, a grandpa, a local business owner.

I read down the list and just shook my head and began to cry. This is the multiplication of giving: One + one + one + one.

And we — this little army of deliverers — we got to take part in this wild act of giving, this extravagant generosity of an anonymous man who won’t give his name.

Who won’t even get to witness the blessing.

* * *

So what does Christmas generosity look like?

Some might say generosity looks like the “Tips for Jesus” guy, who leaves extravagant tips anonymously on restaurant tables. Or maybe the guy who paid the layaway bills for everyone at a Walmart in Florida.

Maybe generosity looks like Westjet. Maybe it looks like that friend of mine with 28 gift cards at our front door.

Or maybe? Maybe generosity looks a little bit like YOU.

In fact, I know it does, because yesterday, on my Facebook page, I asked you to share Random Acts of Kindness that you’ve participated in. I’ve included a few of those stories below, and have shared a few more ideas to inspire the rest of us.

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16 Ways to Offer Random Acts of Kindness

Fill the tank. Surprise someone at the gas station, but paying the bill. One reader shared with us on the Facebook page that she paid for a mama’s gas bill. “I noticed the worried look on her face on whether to use her credit card or cash. When she went in to pay, I filled her tank.”

Sing, even if you’re off key. Organize a group of carolers to head out sometime this week. You’ll make someone’s night. Guaranteed.

Give away your parking spot. That rock-star spot next to the front door of the big-box store? Let someone else have it.

Pray. Pray for the people on your Christmas-card list when you are sealing the envelopes. Pray again, when you find their cards in your mailbox.

Keep a seat open. If you’re at a restaurant, and see a stranger eating alone, invite him or her to the table. And then, pay for your new friend’s meal.

Go on a Giving Spree. Rachelle — inspired by Ann Voskamp —  shares this story with us: “For my last birthday, I wanted to try Ann Voskamp’s suggestion of “Be the Gift”… so my friends & I put together some random gifts & we spent the afternoon giving them away. We taped some cash to a pop machine with a note. Handed out a Subway gift card to a random woman in the parking lot. Gave chocolate covered pretzels to a man raking leaves. Muffins to someone walking their dog. Sweets to some men working on fixing the streets. … We took pictures with everyone, and WE WERE BLESSED! We can’t wait to do it again, on our next friend’s birthday!

Be the answer to someone’s prayer. That need you know about? Follow the nudge.

Spread Virtual Love. Leave a kind comment on someone’s blog post or Facebook status.

Movie Night. Tape a package of microwave popcorn to a Redbox. (Idea found here on Pinterest.)

Leave Happy Little Notes. Under the windshield, on the mirror of a department store dressing room, in your husband’s briefcase.

Regard the Aged. Visit a nursing home before Christmas, and watch the sweet miracles unfold.

Start Over. What friendship has suffered lately? How could you, with one word, clear the elephant in the room? Saying sorry might make the biggest difference.

Pay for the Weary Mama’s Lunch. There is a special place in heaven for you. 🙂

Make Pies. Another inspiring tale of kindness! A mysterious elf swooped onto the front porches of our farming community a while back, leaving strawberry pies at doorsteps and then disappearing faster than you can say “graham-cracker crust.” Inspiring!

Pick Up the Phone. Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a long while.

Be Good To You. Offer your own sweet self a Random Act of Kindness, by Quieting your inner critic this Christmas.

So, what’s your Story? A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God.

You’re invited to tell that story right here, in community with us.

Share your narratives, your poems, your Instagrams tagged with #TellHisStory, … your beautiful hearts. You are the chroniclers, the people who help others make sense of the world with your words and your art.

Story is how we know that, no matter what happens, we can get back up again.

Visit someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment. Then, Tweet about your posts, and the posts you visit, with the #TellHisStory hashtag. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.

A final note: This is a safe place to tell your stories. You don’t have to be a professional writer or a grammarian to join us. Story is built into every single one of us. Your story matters, because it’s part of God’s story down through history, not because you punctuated everything correctly. Deal?

#TellHisStory

For more details on the #TellHisStory linkup, click here.

  • Your post brought tears to my eyes! So glad I stopped by here just now for the link-up and read your sweet blog. It inspired me to reach out more and was such a gentle reminder of how important it is to mind God. We never know who needs our kindness…but God does! Thank you so much. Love, Cheryl

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  • JViola79

    This post brought me to tears! I have noticed that so many are stressed & short tempered or irritable. I am thinking it might get worse with snow storms that have put everyone behind in their Christmas preparations too. May each of us do our part to bless others during this season of GIVING. May we be like our Savior – who came to earth to give to each of us. Thank you for this wonderful inspiration. Now to pray & see what God would have my part to be in the next few days! Have a blessed Christmas!

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  • Guest

    This is an amazing story, Jennifer. What a blessing we would all be to one another if we listened so well and acted so obediently. Thanks for encouraging us to be givers.

    • Holly Solomon Barrett

      This comment is from me…not sure why it’s showing up as Guest. But I also hit send too soon (comment fail!) and didn’t get to say I appreciate your suggestions on ways to give. We sometimes forget that a gift can be small and still be a huge blessing!

  • Well. this story brought tears, Jennifer. And you and that anonymous farmer have inspired me. Christmas love to you, my friend.

  • DeanneMoore

    Yesterday on a ministry site I put encouragement on, I encouraged others to give God-given words to people that will lift them. It is amazing the power of our words when they are intended to be a blessing. And it doesn’t cost anything! Thank you so much for the linking space and for being the person who lifts others with her words.

  • wow. Jennifer. What an amazing story. I am challenged and inspired to listen better and ask God who I can serve, how I can be him to someone else.

  • Wow. A beautiful story of generosity. I love your list of ways we can be generous as well. Maybe today at Walmart I’ll forego the rock star parking spot and park further back. Such an easy thing to do to help make someone’s day. Thanks, Jennifer.

    • SusieQ

      I agree – really great ideas, Jennifer! To keep in mind as we go about our lives, especially this time of year. Draw others into our “orbit” in a way that would be pleasing to Him.

  • sincerelyjenni

    This is amazing. I’m truly feeling inspired now. Thanks so much for sharing this story.

  • KristinHillTaylor

    I have chills. And I’m inspired. Thank you, friend.

  • Beth

    This just warmed my heart. What a beautiful story and love what so many others shared with you. Thanks for sharing here.

  • Sharita ~7DaysTime

    Love, love, LOVE this. Hubs and I do stuff like this year-round, and oftentimes we feel like the guy in this story. “Dude, God, we are going to go broke!” But the cool thing is… We give until it hurts but He has never let us down. 🙂 Blessings to you, sister!

  • A few months back, I met a friend for breakfast. When we went to pay for the meal, the waiter informed us that someone had picked up the tab. — Best breakfast ever!

    Thanks for sharing this story. It put a smile on my face to know that there are still people out there who aren’t too busy to spread a little sunshine around. Beautiful 🙂

  • Buy hot chocolate for a Salvation Army bell-ringer! 😉

    Yesterday I left a thank you note in the mailbox at the house with the very best decorations in town. I wanted them to know how much joy their Christmas lights bring me and my family every year. Kind of dorky, but hey, whatevs, right? Tis the season.

    Love this post, Jennifer – love all these ideas!

    • SusieQ

      GREAT IDEA! The bell ringers! I’m on this tomorrow! Too darn cold for some of them to be standing outside! THANKS, friend, for this idea!

  • soulstops

    Love this…this man’s obedience and love for God and others…and all the little random ways we can give….gifts or our time or a listening ear or cookies…the ideas are endless…Merry Christmas to you and yours 🙂

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  • Lynn D. Morrissey

    What a beauitfully inspiring story! I’ve just bought a Bible for Jewish man who attends our church, and who has been extremely ill. I can’t wait to give it to him, so that he meets Messiah on its pages. May God continue to give us ways, large and small, to share HIM this Christmas. God bless you, Jennifer, for how you share Him here!
    Merry Christmas!
    Lynn

  • Mia

    Dear Jennifer
    I know oe thing from experience and this is the fact that this guy and all those who’s left hands don’t know what their right hands are doing, are truly the blessed ones. What joy to serve another only because you see Jesus in that person! One of the greatest gifts we can give that changes your part of the world, is forgiveness.
    Blessings XX
    Mia

  • Nancy Ruegg

    SO inspiring! Thank you for the reminder that we can’t outgive God. ‘Love all the creative ideas for random acts of kindness, too. Just today it occurred to me, as I opened cards from old friends, that I should write “Thinking of You” cards starting in January. If I include everyone on our Christmas card list, that’ll be about 75 notes. Perhaps just a few each week–I’ll finish sometime in June! But it makes me smile to think of the pleasant surprise I can create!

  • Lisha Epperson

    Hi Jennifer! What a lovely gesture. As you might remember, I recently experienced the sweet gift of forgiveness from a friend. The beautifully simple words I’m sorry were my gift to her…starting over, her gift to me. I’m inspired by this list and can’t wait to act as a distribution center for blessings. Blessed Christmas to you and yours.

  • This is beautiful…it makes me want to tune my listening heart more closely to hear His heart… To hear His whisper …and wouldn’t it be wonderful for this way of thinking…living…be carried with us year round!!!

  • Dawn Paoletta

    Wow. THat is beautiful! One of the things on the list I also loved is the praying over the cards received and sent! Please forgive my mess up- I thought the top said share YOUR post by tweeting with hashtag! lol. Then when I read it again…I saw my mistake, time to slow down! But I did share a favourite!

  • SusieQ

    LOVE.THIS. Just love it. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. So uplifting and inspiring to those who don’t practice random acts of kindness. It’s sure is a fulfilling and easy “habit” to get into – and the rewards are immeasurable when you see the look of confusion followed by a smile! If we could all just slow down to look at each other – the angry drive, the woman in the grocery store barreling through the aisle – and realize they may have some really awful things going on in their lives (terminal illness, job security, etc.) and that maybe just a kind smile & hello will get them to decompress….just a little. Let Christ work through each and every one of us. Be Still. And listen. Amen.

  • this is AMAZING!!!!

    I do what I can to pay for the person behind me at McDonalds or Starbucks, but this…this is something on a whole ‘nother level.

    be blessed, my dear friend.

  • I love this! Last week my 16 year old daughter received a voice mail from a guy stating he was really sorry but his rent would be late this month as he couldn’t make ends meet. The guy had the wrong number. She text him back {because teenagers don’t place phone calls} explaining that he had the wrong phone number…oh, and by the way, how much are you short? He replied, $100. And thats when it got cool because we agreed that we could help this guy out. We asked if we could meet him at a nearby restaurant with a very well lit parking lot. He kept saying, I can’t believe this is happening. We met up, handed over $100, and told him that we believed God wanted to bless him tonight. I’m not sure who was more blessed! 😉 ‘Tis the season.

    • Wow. WOW! Sharing your comment on my Facebook page. This is what it’s all about.

  • Nannette Elkins

    I am joining in late Jennifer…hate I missed it on Facebook! What a wonderful post and a blessing your friend was to so many. I posted my #TellHisStory of my family, we have been Christmas caroling for 35 years together, never missed and it is always the highlight of the season for us. Sometimes it takes us four or five hours depending on “the list”. But I wanted to share what a random act of kindness that happened to me today. I chipped a front tooth while I was on the east coast over the weekend, teaching a seminar no less…attractive! Finally got in to my dentist today and he said I actually was going to lose a break in the other front tooth too, the enamel had been chipped in surgery by my anesthesiologist, I know, TMI…anyway, they evidently were fragile. So he actually had to do the procedure on both teeth. But when I went to pay I thought the charge seemed low and asked…she finally told me that she had been instructed to only charge me for one. I am grateful!

  • That man’s story needs to be shared. Thank you, for being his voice. And I am going to be sharing this story too, because this… a name comes to mind and I can’t think of a better analogy than that when the Father gave up His son to come to this broken earth.

    And Jennifer and Duane and Rachel and Shelly and Michelle and…. He counted us one by one, this Gift with our names on it.

  • Beautiful giving straight from the heart of the Greatest Giver of all. I pray that my heart will continue to break and crack open to seep out His love, drip after drip of His endless love.
    Because He Lives!

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  • SusanW.

    I just read a blog about Duke Ellington, the great jazz composer, and his custom of sending out Christmas cards all year long, to those he knew awhile or those he just met.

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This is what we are all after this Christmas, right? We are all after more light, more Jesus. 🕯🔦💡... So let’s make it happen. Let’s make it all about Jesus. (Latest blog post in the profile) ift.tt/2j8VIGC pic.twitter.com/f1MRQ692QC