“Don’t forget to put in the crayons!” my 5-year-old reminds me when we shop for items to pack this year’s shoebox gifts. Her excitement is contagious.

Getting to where we are as moms, we all go through a different journey. Now, as an adult, my heart warms that my kids delight in filling colorful boxes for other children around the world. But my story doesn’t start here. It started across the ocean.

I was born in the Philippines; a world away from my life now in Alaska. My family of seven lived in a tiny house where the bamboo floor served as both a bed and a table. Without a stove or running water, we used wood for cooking, ate bread in the morning before school, and often went to bed with empty stomachs. Every first day of school, my mom would buy school supplies. One pencil had to last the whole year and would be shared between me and my siblings. Our combined wages from my dad driving people on a pedal tricycle and my mom doing laundry for other households was about $5 a day.

I praise God that one day my mom’s boss encouraged her to go to church, and she soon became a follower of Christ. My mom started taking my younger sister and I to church where we learned more about God’s word. My favorite memory verse as a child was in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I remember praying in my heart for my own full box of crayons, but my parents could not afford something like that for me.

Through all our hardships, I am thankful for my parents – they raised me and my siblings to be good people and to have respect for others. Even though we were poor, I knew that God was providing for our daily needs, both physically and spiritually.

One day, our pastor invited us to a special event at the church. My little sister and I sat together on the floor as the Sunday school teacher started handing out bright red and green boxes to each of the kids. Everyone was excited, especially me! When I opened my shoebox, I was amazed when I saw all of the items inside: a washcloth, a stuffed bunny, more than three pencils – and a full box of crayons!

My heart leaped with joy. Holding my own crayons in my hand, I wondered: Is this really for me? Is this real? I didn’t know who packed the shoebox, or how they knew I had asked the Lord for crayons. But I knew that God had seen the desire of my heart, and He used the people who packed this specific shoebox to answer my prayer. In that moment, I prayed that God would bless them, and I wished that I could encourage them to keep packing shoeboxes like this.

A new desire formed in my heart that day. A desire I could never have expected God to use the way He did.

And now as a mom, I see God’s perfect timing in every chapter of my life.

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