I love books - and I love to read them, I love the way they look on the shelf and I love to hold a book and read what's written inside. My love of books came from my dear, little mother. She was a librarian for a few years before she traveled from California to Seattle, Washington to attend a tiny Bible Institute where she met my father! Her love for books has always been obvious. Even when she went to Heaven her home was still filled with books - gorgeous, old vintage books with exquisite covers, rare vintage books that are falling apart from much use, complete sets of books by her favorite old authors and newer books that inspire and bless the soul. She read to me from the time I was too young to remember and trips to the local library were a regular event as I grew older. I began to collect books - and I still love books! I love to snoop through the book section of thrift stores and I'm always drawn to books at garage sales. Once in a while I find a book that calls to me and I know I need to add it to my list of books to read. That happened recently in the back corner of a Goodwill near Palm Springs, California! I found a book - just one - that had to come home with me. And I'm enjoying every word!
One of my current favorite fiction authors is Debbie Macomber. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, as do I, and her stories are often set in cities I know. It seems to add something special when I can visualize the setting. While Debbie usually writes fiction, she has written a few non-fiction books that are a great read - and very soul-stirring. I picked up one of those books at the Goodwill when we were traveling through California recently. The opening pages spoke deeply to my soul. She shared a parable that made me think. And search my heart. I'd like to share it with you. She wrote:
"There's a story that goes something like this:
"A woman arrived at the gates of Heaven to be met by St. Peter.
"'You may first want to join the others at the throne,' he said to her, 'and then greet those you loved on earth. But when you are ready, I'll take you on a tour of Heaven.'
"When the time came for her tour, she could hardly take it all in. It reminded her a little of her earthly home, but she could see that earth had only been a pale shadow of what she was seeing now. They explored every nook and cranny of Heaven - waterfalls, fields of flowers, exquisite buildings, and streets of gold.
"As the tour drew to an end, she noticed one massive door they had not yet explored. A gold padlock secured it. 'What's in that room?' she asked.
"You don't want to see that room,' St. Peter said, steering her away from it. 'It's only a storeroom.'
"But I do. May I see inside? I want to see every bit of Heaven.'
"St. Peter didn't answer. Instead he took a large key out of his pocket, put it in the lock, and turned it. The tumblers clicked and the padlock opened. He took the lock off and opened the door. The woman had to blink several times to take it all in. Inside the cavernous room were stacks and stacks of gifts, wrapped in all the colors of the rainbow and tied with all the colors of Heaven.
"She clapped her hands with delight. 'Is this where you store presents for everyone in Heaven?'
"'No. These gifts are not for Heaven, they were meant for earth.'
"What do you mean were?' She walked through the stacks and came to a pile marked with her name.
'Look, these gifts are for me.' She fingered the paper and ribbons. 'May I open them?'
"No. You don't need them now.' St. Peter put a hand on her shoulder, guiding her toward the door.
"'But if I don't need them now, does that mean I needed them on earth?' She couldn't take her eyes off the pile. To think she would never get to enjoy all those beautifully wrapped gifts.
"He nodded his head. 'Yes, you needed them on earth.'
"She looked around the room, realizing that there must have been millions of gifts. Maybe more, since she couldn't see an end to the room. 'Why weren't my gifts sent to me on earth?' As she looked closer, she could read names on all the gifts. 'Not just my gifts, why haven't any of these gifts around the room been sent?'
"St. Peter sighed. 'You don't understand. Every one of them was sent.' Moving his arm in an arc that encompassed the whole room, he said, 'All of these and more. These are the ones that were returned unopened.' He moved her toward the door. 'Many people on earth don't recognize God's gifts and fail to open them.'"
Debbie goes on to say:
"I love gifts - both giving and receiving. When I first heard this story, I wondered if there was any truth to the parable. Had God sent gifts to me that I hadn't opened? When I get to Heaven, I don't want to discover that I failed to recognize the gifts God sent into my life. I don't want to miss a single one.
"Unfortunately, in real life God's presents don't always come gaily gift-wrapped, and they are not always easily recognized. Some even initially come looking like challenges. And often these gifts are people shaped."
(From 'God's Guest List: Welcoming Those Who Influence Our Lives' written by Debbie Macomber)
Perhaps the reason this parable touches me so deeply is because I watched my dear, little mother embrace the gifts - the people - God sent her way. She was good at that. Very good. Her life made a difference in the lives of many people along her journey here on earth. Perhaps it's because she is so newly arrived in Heaven and, looking back, when all is said and done, I want my life to make a difference. The way she did! I don't want to miss the gifts God sends to me.