It’s called Five Minute Friday. Each week, we write freely on a one-word prompt. Then we link up at the amazing Kate Motaung’s site. It’s a flash mob of writers- having fun and sharing their take on one word. This week’s prompt is:  PRESENT


The best present I ever got was a used pencil with a broken tip.

It was my first year teaching and the last day of the semester. My second graders and I had learned a lot together since August and we were all ready for a break.

“You have five minutes to pack up your backpacks,” I warned, and walked to the bus list on my desk.

I turned back at a tug on my sweater. That red hair. Messy, dirty, wild, angry. It perfectly matched her learning style. She was one of the main reasons I was so tired …

I looked down and saw her unwashed fingers wrapped around a stick covered with crumpled paper. She held it up to me.

“It’s for you, Mrs. Brown. Happy Christmas.”  She was smiling, excited, hopeful.

“Thank you!” I reached for it and started to place it on my desk with the other gifts, but something told me to open it.

So I unpeeled poinsettia paper and pulled out a used green pencil. Our eyes met briefly, and I saw a hint of doubt just before she looked away. It was clearly a struggle for her family to buy clothes, shampoo, and school supplies. I wondered what she would eat for dinner or if anyone would tuck her into bed. Did her mom ever show her how to fix her hair? I imagined her searching a chaotic home for a gift, wrapping paper, tape …and I could no longer see through my tears.

It was a moment of clarity; of new vision. A gift for both of us.

I wrapped my arms around her, buried my face in her tangles, and inhaled deep. That day, I didn’t smell cigarette smoke or musty clothes. It was something different, but familiar…

It was a whiff of Abel’s offering, the widow’s coins, and an alabaster jar from long ago. It was the fragrance of Christ;  of selflessness, humility, and love.

That pencil helped me see beyond her grubby appearance and messy work.

It filled my heart, mind, and classroom with the aroma of the cross… and changed everything.

And all I could say was, “Thank you so much. I’ll keep it forever.”

“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” 2 Corinthians 2:15




15 thoughts on “Present

  1. Colline January 22, 2016 / 6:52 am

    Such a beautiful story – it brought tears to my eyes. I am sure your students love you. (visiting from FMF)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown January 22, 2016 / 8:26 am

      Colline- Thank you so much for stopping by! Happy Friday!


  2. khatting January 22, 2016 / 7:11 am

    That is beautiful. Sometimes I feel that is the only thing I can give to Jesus – a used, broken instrument – and how amazing it is that he receives it with the same acceptance and love? (visiting from FMF)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown January 22, 2016 / 8:28 am

      Amen! What a great thought! I’m so glad you stopped by. Happy Friday!


  3. Rachel Quigley January 22, 2016 / 9:37 am

    How often we miss those moments because of our busyness, judgments and distractions. Thank you for this beautiful story and reminder to give unselfishly and to love those God places in our lives! Thank you! (Stopping by from FMF #42)


  4. Martha G. Brady January 22, 2016 / 1:15 pm

    i love this story! how sweet:) what a wonderful way to be present in her life!


  5. Rosemary Oliver January 22, 2016 / 2:51 pm

    FABULOUS!!!!thanks xoxoxoxorosemary


  6. betsydecruz January 22, 2016 / 2:54 pm

    This is a beautiful story, Karen. Thank you so much. From the bottom of my heart. 🙂


  7. Tara January 22, 2016 / 4:01 pm

    What a sweet story! Love it! I’m over in the #60 spot this week.


  8. Anita Ojeda January 22, 2016 / 8:51 pm

    How beautiful! I love those teachable moments (wait, if one is the teacher and one is learning, does that make it a learnable moment?).


  9. daffodilsandcoffee January 23, 2016 / 12:16 pm

    You brought a tear to my eye, Karen. This is absolutely the greatest picture of love.

    ~#9 on link-up


  10. Michele Morin January 30, 2016 / 12:18 pm

    The world needs more teachers who see through the gift (or lack of same) and into the heart of the child.


  11. lynndmorrissey March 17, 2016 / 5:33 pm

    This is so lovely, Karen, and it reminds me of a beautiful story I heard on Focus on the Family once–about a teacher and a little boy. The boy had lost his mother, and the teacher hadn’t realized it. Oh, the students in your class were so fortunate. And I am thinking that we, at church, are very fortunate as well to have one working there who is so gifted and sensitive. Keep sharing your words–they are truly life-changing!


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