Well, other than baby Jesus…I’m gonna go way out on a limb and declare that this gift… that I’m about to tell you about…is absolutely the Best Christmas Gift Probably Ever. Yea…I’m pretty sure it’s the second best in the history of the world.
What to see it? OK…here ya go (keep reading because this story will shock your socks off!)
Now, you may be wondering why this present is so awesome. I’m gonna tell ya, but first I need to know if you believe in miracles. Well…do ya? If ya don’t you are about to…and if you do you are about to be blown slap away.
Just look at these two…don’t they look blown slap away to you?
This story began all the way back in 2001. Brad (aka Bull) and Greg went to Fire College together. They spent ten weeks learning the hard way how firefighters are supposed to operate. We were all much younger back then with a lot of life still ahead of us. We wouldn’t have ever believed that one day our families would be as close as they are now. We couldn’t image owning homes, having babies, working long hours together, playing in snowstorms, going on vacations, or hiding out during tornadoes in each others basements back then. Those were the days before “Shell Island” and “Life without Greg”. Look how young Bull and Greg were…
They were super cute…and so excited to be finishing school together. They had no idea how all of our lives would be so interwoven one day. Life sure is a twisting, winding journey sometimes!
Fast forward to Christmas 2015. Bull’s family always draws names for Christmas and a dollar limit is placed on the gifts to be bought. Well, this year Bull’s cousins Luke and Amanda drew Ella’s name (Bull and Jill’s oldest daughter). However, they found the fire truck picture framed in barn wood above in an Antique Store one day. When they saw the picture they knew that Bull had to have it, so they bought it for him. After they left the Antique Store, they called to see if someone would trade Bull’s name for Ella’s. With the deal now done, they wrapped it up and eagerly waited for the big Christmas Party.
When Bull opened the cool gift, he was excited. He knew it would go in his basement with all of his other fireman collectibles. He truly was happy to receive such a thoughtful gift. Luke and Amanda were excited that he liked it so much. Ella came out pretty good on her gift as well, so everyone was happy, happy, happy.
Bull brought the picture home and Jill hung it up on the wall where it was hanging tonight. Living in Alabama you get used to having crazy weather. We can literally go from shorts to snow parka’s in less than three hours…and most of the time we are prepared for all four seasons each week of the year. Today, our biggest problem was the threat of tornadoes. The girls and I decided that Bull and Jill’s basement was a fantastic place to seek shelter a few years ago…so every time it storms that’s where we run for cover. Normally, Greg and Bull are on duty at the Fire Department during these storms and it always made them feel better if all of their girls were together in one place. This basement was the only logical place to be so that’s where we stayed. Tonight was one of those nights…
After the storm had passed, Jill and I were sitting around talking when all of a sudden Jill said, “Hey, did I show you Brad’s Christmas present?” I said, “No!” and so she proceeded to tell me the backstory about it. After she told me the story about how Luke and Amanda had traded Ella’s name for Brad’s she looked over at the wall and pointed to the picture. I turned around and my whole body just kind of froze. I said, “Uh…Jill…you are not going to believe this…but um…that was Greg’s picture”.
The look she gave me totally said, “Yeah, right” so I walked over to the wall and took the picture down. My eyes had already found what I needed to know, but I had to touch it just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Right smack dab in the center of the top and bottom of the frame I saw that yes, indeed this was Greg’s picture. The two screw holes confirmed it. As I walked over to Jill still holding the frame in my hand, I touched the holes and said, “Yep…this was Greg’s. See the holes?” The look of complete shock washed over Jill’s face. (Scroll back up and look for the holes…see them? Yeah…it’s neat!)
She said, “There’s no way! Amanda said she bought this at an Antique Store. How could it have been Greg’s?” I told her it had to have come from either Vernon or Winfield…so she picked up her phone and immediately sent a text to Amanda. While she waited for Amanda’s reply she called Brad into the room. The whole time I just stood there holding the frame in my hands caught between smiling and crying my eyes out.
Well, as I stood there Jill told Brad that I had said this used to be Greg’s picture. I confirmed it by seeing the screw holes that nether one of them had even noticed before that moment. Seeing Bull’s shock and slow grin was almost my undoing…tears were gonna flow at some point I knew, but I was trying really hard to keep it together at that moment. Just then Amanda texted back…she had bought the picture in Vernon. I had been right…this was indeed Greg’s picture. Well, we all three just kind of stood there and teared up. I mean…it was crazy.
What are the odds that someone would go to another town…walk into an Antique Store no less…and buy a fireman picture in a homemade frame for someone who they didn’t even draw the name of…for a Christmas present…the same year that the guy they were buying it for lost one of his best friends…who, coincidentally also happened to graduate fire college with him all those years ago…whose family was hiding out in his basement during a tornado event on this very night without him…and who had owned the picture with the screw holes in the frame? Anybody? Come on…somebody has to have the odds on that happening…right? Someone…anyone? No? Well, OK then…I guess it’s just a fluke…right?
Uh…I don’t think so! As the three of us stood there in absolute shock it hit us all at the same moment…Greg was there. He was there the whole time. God knew when Greg stuck the screws into that frame and hung it on the wall at our old store that one day it would be the absolute best Christmas present ever. And, not only that…it would be discovered as the best Christmas present ever on a night when his family was hiding from a tornado in the home of his classmate, co-worker, and friend. He was there and he knew that we were going to be OK.
I don’t remember how that picture left us. I’m not sure if we sold it at a yard sale…or in the antique booth…or if Greg just gave it away. Who knows…but what I do know is that this picture made its way back into our lives for a reason. It wasn’t a mistake…or an accident…or dumb luck. It was placed there by God. There is no other explanation for it…NONE. If that doesn’t make you stop and think I don’t know what will.
It also proves that God cares about the little details in our lives. The ones that seem so insignificant and small. He cares because He knows what matters to His children. Seeing Bull’s face light up and the tears in his eyes as he looked at this picture tonight confirms it. He stood there looking at the picture and said, “I loved the picture and the story behind it when I got it for Christmas…but now I know it won’t ever leave me. It’s the Best Christmas Present Probably Ever!” Jill and I could not have agreed more!