Use Whatcha Got Weeks 9-11: Change the World Party Follow Up

“Completely on her own, she dedicated her 11th birthday to helping others. Rather than amassing more stuff, she directed all her birthday gifts to help the less fortunate. It sure would be nice if You would work it out for us to win the lottery to get orchestra seats for $25 for the Wicked musical. It’s something she would LOVE, it’s something over the top we normally wouldn’t be able to afford. I would see it as a gift from You. A “well done, atta-girl”–a perfect way to top off her birthday celebration.”

I prayed silently, without sharing my thoughts with her, with Darrin, with anyone. I didn’t tweet or post on Facebook asking others to pray with me. I just prayed and held my breath.

She finished homework in record time, got dressed, packed her purse with treats and we stopped off at Cold Stone and used a gift card I rediscovered in one of my many, many, MANY piles….probably a great trove of other untold treasures still yet to be unearthed await me!

We drove into the parking structure and found perfect parking. Stood in line. Only 20 others in front of us. Twenty orchestra seats would be given out to the winners of the lottery. We were accustomed to waiting and standing in line. Our hope level was high. We made friends with the person in front of us and the ladies behind us. They had all tried for the lottery several times, but had never won. We reconnected with a mom and her daughter we recognized from a baseball team Michael was on when he was in elementary school. When the half hour was up and everyone gathered for the announcement of the winners, my heart sank as I looked around us. Easily 250 people stood waiting and hoping for the same outcome. Ten names were called. We were not among the ten.

We ventured down to the box office to see if any seats were still available. Only one seat remained.

I stroked her thick, blackish-brownish silky hair,

“I’m sorry it didn’t work out. It’s such a bummer we didn’t win. Since we are out, would you be interested in seeing “Les Mis?” It’s showing not too far from here.”


She smiled and nodded.

She had asked to see the movie when it first came out Christmas day after I shared with her it was my favorite musical. I waited and polled several of my mom friends after they saw the movie to find out if the subject matter surrounding Fantine was too mature. We both knew there was one scene where she would need to cover her eyes.

Back in the car, on the way to the movie theatre, Julia asked me to share the story of “Les Miserable.” My words spilled out with increasing fervor as I shared the story of how grace can transform a person’s life; of the parallels of the Gospel when Jesus lays down His life for those He loves and how the same theme is played out with Jean Valjean, Fantine, and Eponine. The choices they make in the story came out of the selfless place of genuine love. I contrasted how Javert could not allow himself to receive the gift of grace, which, just like the Law, led to death. I shared about the silver candlesticks and what little I knew about the French Revolution.

We settled into a nice table for a quick bite to eat at the Nordstrom Cafe. Julia looked around with a sincere and grateful attitude and smiled,

“Mom, this place is really nice. The food is really delicious. I’m glad for this time with you.”

We finished up our dinner and walked to the movie theatre. Like everything else at the Fashion Island mall in Newport Beach, the movie theatre looked posh and expensive. Our hearts sank again when we learned they served wine in the movie theatre so no one under 21 could be admitted. We had no way of knowing. The gentleman behind the counter apologized and pulled out a list of other nearby movie theaters.

I quickly scanned the sheet and saw the movie was playing at the UC Irvine campus. We had just enough time to make it.

When we arrived in the theatre, every single seat was empty. We had the whole theatre to ourselves. Eventually three others joined us. We watched. We wept a bit. When the movie ended she leaned backed and sighed,

“Wow. That was an amazing story.”

I shared with her in the car,

“Julia, this side of heaven you won’t know exactly how your gifts helped others, but I trust that the projects you selected are going to help families and will keep some in real life from having to be like Fantine in the movie. I am so proud of you.”

Through the generosity of Julia’s family and friends she was able to donate nearly $400 to the Hope Venture. One of her friends even gave five weeks of her allowance to the Hope Venture. Julia’s birthday helped provide:

  • 17 blankets for those in Northern India where the cold weather has been the cause of death
  • 6 goats for widows or families in Narok, Kenya, who have been ravished by drought in recent years
  • 16 sari’s for widows living in the slums of India
  • 3 “mama’s kits” for mothers in Uganda. Thousands of children become orphans because women die during childbirth. The mama kit contains everything needed to help provide a clean and safe delivery.

I think the story of Les Mis, more than the story of Wicked, fits with what Julia intended for her birthday. God has used Julia to challenge and teach me what it means to live out a life of compassion and generosity. I’m inspired by her life and her choices. Sometimes in life, our prayers seem to go unanswered. But I trust that God’s bigger purposes are being accomplished even when we don’t understand.

P.S. For those of you following Use Whatcha Got, there’s not much to report. I’m holding strong these past three weeks. Enjoying what I have, and gaining increasing gratitude for the sheer abundance of our blessings. How about you?