The Mystery Box and Resurfaced Wisdom

A little over two years ago as we prepared to move back to Texas, we were packing and purging stuff from a decade’s worth of our life in China. The task proved to be more overwhelming than I imagined, and by the last day we had major decision fatigue. Choosing what to pack and what to toss was tricky and we didn’t always choose well.

So many times, I’ve headed into my kitchen or closet in search of something only to realize I intentionally left it on the other side of the ocean. My hiking boots were one of those things. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve gone in search of them in my closet and came up empty handed, only to realize I left them in China. During the final cut, I simply couldn’t make room without adding an extra bag. I ended up handing them to my good friend and asked her to see if one day she could possibly get them across the ocean for me, but I seriously doubted I’d ever see them again.

The other day, I arrived home from work and found a mystery package on my doorstep. I had absolutely no idea what could be inside, and I didn’t recognize the sender at all. Maybe I ordered something during the Christmas shopping rush and completely forgot about it until now? Curiously slicing open the box, I couldn’t believe what I found inside: my long-lost hiking boots!!! What an amazing and timely surprise. Somehow, the boots were passed along until someone I don’t even know mailed them to me! I felt like God used a dear friend and a stranger to send me a big, giant hug in the mail!

Later that same day after the kids were tucked away in bed, my husband and I were enjoying our favorite TV show. Our quiet hour was interrupted, however, by one of our kids who needed to make a confession and talk some things through. What he did and what we discussed aren’t relevant here, but the fact that he was feeling convicted about breaking a “rule” we hadn’t even mentioned in a few years got me thinking about my hiking boots again. One really has nothing to do with the other, the confession was completely unrelated to the boots, but I couldn’t help but feel that the two were connected somehow.

It took me a few days to make a connection, and I won’t make you wait that long to figure out what a late-night confession and a surprise package containing a long-lost possession have to do with each other. So here it is: my older kids are getting to the age where we finally get to see that they’ve been paying attention! Two years ago, we had a conversation with our son about something important. I hadn’t thought about the conversation in a good long while, but then, seemingly out of nowhere, he confesses that he’s broken a guideline we set out for him during that conversation, and he’s feeling guilty about it!

This unexpected resurfacing of the wisdom we passed along to our son two years ago reminded me that our children are truly paying attention. The example I’m living out, the guidelines we’re discussing, the boundaries we’re setting as parents all matter. We may not see it today, but two years from now our kids could be making a decision based on a conversation we hardly remember having. That bit of wisdom we passed along to them years ago will resurface in their brains when they need it (or so I will continue to pray!)

This got me thinking: what are the things I need to be talking to them about now that might be of use in a few years? He’s on the brink of being a teenager, and I must take this opportunity to continue setting a good example and talking to him about the big stuff that may not necessarily be an issue now but will be sometime in the unknown future. It’s like an empty box that will be mailed to me, full of surprises! What do I put in the box? Prayers! Advice! Do’s and Don’ts! Boundaries! Maybe I’m stretching it, but somehow the timing of the mystery box and the unsolicited confession were such an encouragement to my mama-bear heart. He is listening and paying attention. We’re actually doing something right as parents!

The next time your kids give you a gift that shows they’ve been heeding your advice or paying attention to your example, take delight in the moment. They may be few and far between, surrounded by days that feel like “Sleep, eat, work, eat, repeat,” but the effort you’re putting in as a parent matters. Your kids are hearing you, even if you don’t know it yet!

Have you received a surprise lately? Related to parenting or not, I’d love to hear about it!

Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash


  1. Andrea Bolaños February 4, 2019

    Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts. I have two young children in addition to all the young adults we serve. I constantly question if what I am doing and how I parent is enough. So this article was very encouraging to me! Thank you again!

    1. M'Lynn February 9, 2019

      Andrea, I’m so glad my thoughts resonated with you. Keep up the good work! You’re planting seeds (some you may get to see growth from and others you may not, especially when planted in the hearts of non-family members) and all of those seeds matter!

  2. Monica F February 5, 2019

    I could totally resonate with the ‘looking’ for stuff and realizing I left it in China. I did that with a kitchen utensil I was looking for the other day, that I was SURE I brought back to the US with me, but then realized it was given to one of our friends in a village. Ha! Loved the resurfaced wisdom concept and the surprises that wait for us. Thank you!

    1. M'Lynn February 9, 2019

      Thanks, Monica! Which kitchen utensil? I’m dying to know! Lol. I currently can’t find my small heart cookie cutter (but I have all the other ones) and wondering where in the WORLD it could be! Thankfully I still have my all-time favorite cookie scooper!

  3. Spring February 6, 2019

    We did recently recieve 2 huge boxes of tastycakes. The surprise was in how much they wanted from us for “duty” 🙁 My husband does great culturally with talking people down. 40$ us still felt like they were robbing us, but we survived! (and ate too many tastycakes)

    I do agree kids are listening, especially when we dont expect it (or so it seems in my home) thanks for the encouragement to continue on the straight and narrow. What a growing process parenting is!

    1. M'Lynn February 9, 2019

      Spring, my reply was accidentally posted as a comment…see it below, after Ashley’s comment. Youlld know it’s for you because of the Tastycakes! Hehe

      1. Spring February 10, 2019

        I figured that was the case! I had sort of forgotten that Tastycakes are really a PA thing. We do also have little Debbie but in my opinion, they don’t hold a candle to tastycakes! We actually got a TON of them which we shared with church. My favorite are the mint tandy cakes. I have 4 left in the freezer 🙂

        I was so surprised that you had Bimbo donuts in China! I first had them in Mexico. It is rather intriguing to me sometimes how different items get shipped all over the world. Do you have access to them in Texas?

        1. M'Lynn February 10, 2019

          Hilarious that you know about Bimbo donuts. We never knew they were from Mexico when we found them in China. We figured that out when we found them in Texas… we’ve seen Bimbo bakery foods, but so far not the donuts. I think I’ll buy something Bimbo next time I see it! Any recommendations beyond the donuts?

          1. Spring February 10, 2019

            My favorite and probably the most unhealthy bimbo product are the bimbunelos (can’t get the correct n on this computer!) They are so yummy! Conchas are also so yummy, but much better fresh (which I imagine is possible in Texas) Enjoy your Bimbo products! 🙂

            My least favorite product is the “pan tostado” or pre toasted bread!

            Are you able to get any of the things you miss from China in Texas?

  4. Ashley Felder February 7, 2019

    I’m sure you already saw it on my social media, but we received a package this week from sweet friends who are at conference in Thailand right now. It was SO thoughtful and made us feel so loved in this time of missing dear friends. The tasty Thai snacks were wonderful, but the personal notes she gathered from some of our favorite people was extra special!

    Regarding parenting, on a recent interview of my boys (for a post going up next week) when asked what their future would look like, my oldest declared what he wanted to be, but then added that he wasn’t sure what God would tell him to do, so he’ll just have to wait and see. Yes! Love those moments!

    1. M'Lynn February 9, 2019

      Ashley, what a fun surprise! Like you, I especially love that the sender tracked down notes from all your special people! We miss attending that conference as well (and wouldn’t mind if someone out there would send us a care package of khao soi seasoning packets!) Ha! I’m thrilled that you are also seeing evidence that your kids are paying attention to your example!

  5. M'Lynn February 9, 2019

    So I must admit that I had to Google “Tastycakes” after reading your comment. Now I’m drooling on my phone. What kind did you get?!?!?! We have something like that in Texas called “Little Debbie’s” (or maybe those are available everywhere?) and I broke down and bought some cream filled cupcakes (just a two pack!) when we first moved back to Texas. I gave one cupcake to my daughter and I put the other on a nice plate. I brewed a fresh cup of coffee and ate that cream filled Little Debbie cupcakes with a fork like it was a delicacy. That was two years ago and I haven’t wanted one since. Weird! This also brings to mind “Bimbo” brand powdered sugar donuts. We’d find them in grocery stores in Beijing and buy as many as we could to take back home to our Chinese city that did not have “Bimbo” donuts! Now, I live in Texas and I’ve found “Bimbo” brand bakery products because they’re imported from Mexico. Who knew?!! Anyway, all that to say that the $40 duty you paid was totally worth it.

    1. Ashley Felder February 10, 2019

      BIMBO donuts!!! So many memories! They were everywhere our first few years! Michael actually emailed the company, asked why they stopped selling in China–haha! Boy lived on those donuts for a while. They said they’d make a comeback but that was several years ago….we finally let it go. 😉

      1. M'Lynn February 10, 2019

        And did you know when you found them in China that they’re from Mexico? I always assumed “Bimbo” was some sort of wacky Chinglish branding! Ha!

        1. Ashley Felder February 10, 2019

          Yep, we knew. 😉 But probably only because Michael spent 2 years in Mexico during college. We also buy Bimbo sliced wheat bread on Taobao. Before we left, it was getting harder and harder to find, though. We were paying $2 for half of an American loaf. Really hoping it’s still there when we go back! i can make a lot of things from scratch, but sliced bread isn’t one of them.

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