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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Tree (10/09/08)

TITLE: Out of the Box
By Nancy Jo Wilson


Derek sat as still as he could, which wasn’t very. His foot wiggled, his leg swayed, and his fingers drummed a rather rockin’ beat on the table. This didn’t mean he wasn’t paying attention as his fourth-grade Sunday school teacher assumed. He heard everything she was saying.

It was military mailing time. Their Sunday school class helped pack candies and other treats into boxes, sealed them with tape, and labeled them for shipping to soldiers overseas. “For this term’s mailing, I want you all to make a Christmas card for your soldier. Then we’ll put them in the boxes with the other things.”

Derek knew exactly what he would send. He jumped up and ran to gather his supplies: multiple colors of construction paper, glitter-glue, scissors, and stickers. One look at the size of the construction paper and he knew he had a problem. “Is there any bigger paper?” he asked his teacher.

“Bigger paper? We’re just making cards, Derek. You don’t need bigger paper.”

“But it’s not big enough for what I’m making.”

She smiled in that irritating way that all teachers did when he talked to them and said, “I’m sure that what you’re making is great, but today we’re only making cards. Please try to keep your mind on your soldier and making a nice card for him.”

“She’s a girl.”

“Well, making a nice card for her then.”

Derek slumped into his chair. He was thinking of her. He looked at the paper again. Tape, that’ll solve my problem, he thought. He got his tape and went back to work. He didn’t have enough green, but figured that adding red would still be okay because it was also a Christmas color.

His mind so focused on his project that he didn’t realize Tom was talking to him. “I said, what’s taking you so long Derek. I’ve been done forever.”

Derek didn’t even look up. “I’m almost done now.”

“That’s what you’re making! Why do you always have to be so weird Derek? Besides it doesn’t even look like one.”

Derek looked at his creation. It is stupid, he thought. Why did I do this? He grabbed another sheet of paper and started to draw. He’d barely added a crayon line when the teacher announced that it was time to put the boxes together.

“Can I have a little more time? I’m not done.”

“No, I’m sorry; I gave y’all extra time already. Just sign what you’ve got and come on.”

Derek sighed, scrawled his name and a quick note across the bottom of his original work, and stuffed it into the box.


“I don’t know, Ann. I just can’t get into Christmas. I know that it’s all about Jesus and I’m certainly glad about that, but,” she paused, fumbling for the words, “you know, it’s supposed to be snowing. And my family has a big party to decorate the tree each year. Cookies, hot chocolate, everyone has their special ornaments that they hang. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas without a tree,” Donna lamented with her friend on the way to mail call.

She walked back to her tent with a white box under her arm. This was her third one this year and she always enjoyed getting them. Her cousin submitted Donna’s address to her church so Donna could receive care packages. She appreciated the gesture. The box reminded her that people at home did care. There were candies and sometimes homemade cookies. They even sent lotions and razors, a priceless commodity out here.

She settled onto her bunk and put the box in her lap. She waited a bit, relishing the moment, then cut the packing tape. On top was a haphazardly folded stack of paper. She pulled it out, unfolded it, and started to cry. “Your heavenly father already knows all your needs,” she quoted softly.

In her hands, she held a cut-out construction paper Christmas tree. It hung like a cock-eyed accordion due to the folding. From star point to base, it was maybe three feet long. The tree part was an alternating green and red. Balls of various colors, cut out raggedly, and stickers of cartoon characters and animals simulated ornaments. Lines of glitter crisscrossed the tree like garland.

“It’s kind of a Charlie Brown tree.” she muttered, “Beautiful.”

She noticed a note in childish writing at the bottom: “I bet you don’t have a tree out there, so I made you one. Derek.”

Scripture is Matthew 6:32 NLT

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Member Comments
Member Date
Hannah Hunter10/17/08
This is such a sweet story. I love it.
Laury Hubrich 10/18/08
What a sweet story. The little boy thought out of the box and you did too:) Great job!
Cori Mann10/20/08
This is truly a cute story of the spirit of giving through the tender heart of a boy.

Keep writing I enjoyed this read! Well written.
Laury Hubrich 10/23/08
Sheri Gordon10/23/08
Congratulations on your EC. This brought tears to my eyes. We so often forget everything our soldiers are sacrificing for us. Great job with the topic.
Sharon Kane10/24/08
I loved this. It was very moving throughout. How often do we miss out on blessing or deprive others by stifling children's creativity? Congratulations!
Sharlyn Guthrie10/24/08
I enjoyed this story. Great job, and congrats on your EC!