Day 9: God Loves A Cheerful Giver

•December 13, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Today, I had the privilege of ringing bells outside of Walmart for Salvation Army. This was my first official service opportunity as a new member of the National Honor Society to which I was inducted this past October. As an academically inclined student who is also heavily involved in extracurriculars, it is often hard for me to find the time to serve in my community. I’ve lived in this town for fifteen years next month, pretty much my entire remembering life, and aside from the occasional requirements, I seldom do anything for the betterment of my community or the benefit of its citizens. But even with all of the hours I need to complete my two years in this society, I could still easily meet the stipulations of the program without batting an eye to what service is all about.

As I stood outside in the cold this afternoon with a silver bell in my hand, I thought it was just going to be a miserable and boring couple hours. And yes, to an extent, it was rather uneventful, but I also saw a glimpse of that sense of community that I’ve been sorely missing from my life for quite some time. Several encounters with these strangers who were just doing their mundane shopping routines stood out to me today. An elderly woman with a big black purse slipped in a rather generous amount of money into the bucket. She simply smiled and waved as she walked away, as if she’d only contributed a penny. A middle-aged man in dirty overalls dropped a couple of quarters into the red metal can. He apologized and said it was all he had to give right now. Two joyous little boys had dollar bills given to them by their grandpa wadded up in their hands. They ran up to me with such jubilation as they comically attempted to shove the crumpled cash into the small opening of the container. Several others searched their pockets for loose change and folded up money, and those that managed to find some made their way over to contribute to the cause. Through it all, I greeted the givers with a smile, a ring of my bell, a thanks for their graciousness, and a send-off of a very Merry Christmas. Even on a chilly afternoon in mid-December, I still felt so much warmth.

Why does this warmth I felt have anything to do with Momma? Maybe it’s just because everything I do nowadays makes me think of her. But as I smiled at all these strangers at one specific and seemingly insignificant moment in time, I was reminded of Momma’s huge heart for serving others. I’ll admit, when I’m out and about, all I want to do is slip in and out of the place, never once smiling or giving any indication that I want to be there. But Momma on the other hand? She saw almost every outing, every trek to the supermarket, every trip to the library, every time she was ever out in public, as an opportunity to make new friends and to spread the love of Jesus that seemed to exude from her very being. It’s amazing how much one smile, one friendly encounter, or one moment in time can brighten up someone’s whole day, and, in special cases, change that person’s life.

I’m not saying that today was a life-changer or a huge revelation for me or anything like that. But I do think it is a good reminder for me and for all of us that serving others with the heart of Jesus isn’t always found in huge gestures or big mission trips or radical actions. It can be found in the little things, in the everyday things, too, right here in my community. God’s people are everywhere. The opportunities to show God’s love for them are everywhere. I don’t need to go out of my way to find them right now. So as I go about my boring days at school, or as I begin to rack up service points for NHS this next semester, I won’t do it with an unwilling attitude. Instead, I’ll remember that God loves a cheerful giver, and I’ll serve others with a joyful heart, keeping my Momma’s giving spirit in mind 💜

-Sara Joy

Day 8: She Didn’t Like Santa

•December 10, 2019 • Leave a Comment

To the little girl who I made cry in third grade during the first semester of my public school experience? I am deeply sorry that I told you that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. But hey, my Momma said so…

To be fair, my grandma told Momma when she was very young that Santa Claus wasn’t real and that she didn’t approve of the claim that he was responsible for any presents under the Christmas tree. And to my knowledge, Santa Claus wasn’t a big deal in the Philippines, so my dad never really grew up with that sentiment either.

Grandma’s choices for raising her children were passed down to Momma. All of the gifts under my Christmas tree were labeled with To-From tags from my sisters, parents, and other relatives. None of my gifts have ever had the words: “From Santa” in its inscription (except for that one time I got sequined converse high tops from “Santa Claus,” Christina Espiritu Barnett 😉).

There are probably a large number of people reading this who, at one point or another, believed in Santa Claus. Oooooor maybe you still do…Honestly, sometimes I can’t tell if y’all are joking or if you just want to keep the magic alive, or if you actually, truly believe that to some degree, Santa Claus exists. I do, however, believe that there might be some people out there who follow in the footsteps of Saint Nicolas, and who, in their own right, are Santa Claus’s. But no, I have never believed that a man in a red suit who lives in the North Pole with elvish slaves and a reindeer sleigh somehow visits every home on Christmas Eve Night.

Anyway, this is turning into a heated debate about the existence of Santa Claus rather than a reflection about Momma haha. The reason this memory came to mind was that as I was performing songs about Santa on my clarinet at my band concert, I thought of Momma and smiled. Whatever my mother’s reasoning for not instilling in me the love of Santa, all I know is that she never had to go through the trouble and trauma of trying to explain to six young girls that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. And honestly, who could blame her? Through it all, though, she kept Jesus at the center of all the holiday festivities. So, whatever your Christmas traditions, whether they include Santa Claus and other secular elements or not, remember that Jesus should always be the reason for the season 🙂

Happy Holidays!

Sara Joy

P.S. Shout out to my boyfriend, Tyler, for making me believe for thirty straight minutes that he actually still believes in the whole North-Pole-reindeer-sleigh-one-night-Santa- Claus Shabang. It took ALL my willpower to not judge him. He’s never gonna let me live that one down 😂


Day 7: Stomach Cancer

•December 9, 2019 • Leave a Comment

“Melissa has been diagnosed with an unusual form of stomach cancer: a rare type of gastric adenocarcinoma with Litinus Plastica….We have been informed that there is no conventional cure currently known for this condition….Please pray for Melissa, my beloved wife and mother of and along with our six children, Christina (19), Hannah (17), [Lydia] Grace (15), Tabitha (12), Priscilla (9), and Sara (6), as well as her husband, their father…”

[Read the full article from my dad, Rex Espiritu using the link above.]

During the week of December 8th, 2009, Momma was officially diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer. Shortly thereafter, following a concert in which all six of the Espiritu sisters were in attendance, she and my dad broke the news to their young daughters.

I don’t remember the exact moment I found out that my Momma was sick and dying. I doubt I fully understood what it meant at the time. In another life, the term, “gastric adenocarcinoma with Litinus Plastica” might mean little more to me than another thing to memorize for a spelling contest, and it might soon make its way to the recesses of my memory. But this deadly disease, this terminal form of cancer, is responsible for taking my mother away. I don’t think I’ll be forgetting it any time soon.

What I do know is that this news was the start of a long yet short three-month journey for my whole family. A jam-packed Christmas season would be ahead even as Momma’s health would decline before our eyes. An inflow of relatives and friends, many of whom were strangers to me, would begin to make their way to pray with and for their dear friend. Hospice helpers would make frequent visits. Anonymous care packages and gifts would be delivered to our door every other day. The body of Christ would be seen every step of the way, and even now, as I open up about what a certain little girl remembers about the whole ordeal, I can still feel the love of Christ’s people surrounding me. May it be a healing process for all of us.

God Bless,

Sara Joy

Days 5 and 6

•December 8, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Day 5: Memorizing the Bible

I have a picture in my head of my sisters and I standing on the bricks in the living room singing various tunes. I’m standing at the end, clapping slightly offbeat, unsure of all the words as the rest of my sisters enthusiastically proclaim the song their mom made them memorize….

Love is Patient, Love is Kind! 👏👏 👏 👏 👏
It does not envy, it does not boast!👏👏 👏 👏
It is not proud, it is not rude!👏👏 👏 👏 👏
It is not self seeking!👏👏 👏 👏 👏
It is not easily 👏 angered!
It keeps no record of wrongs! 👏 👏
Love does not delight in evil! 👏
But rejoices with the truth! 👏👏 👏 👏 👏

👏👏 👏 👏 👏

It always protects! 👏 👏
Always trusts! 👏 👏
Always hopes! 👏 👏
Always perseveres!

(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Day 6: “WOO!”

I sat in the stands by the swimming pool and watched as my older sister, Hannah, entered the water with the others. The race was about to begin! As the man with the microphone counted them off, the whole room went silent with anticipation. “Get Ready.” The swimmers grabbed hold of both sides of the pole. “Get Set.” Their bodies exited the water as they went into their ‘ready stance.’ BEEEEEEEEP. The buzzer blared, the swimmers splashed, and one previously calm and collected woman sitting next to me suddenly stood up and erupted into a cheer. Her shouts echoed off the walls of the arena. Her rambunctious cries could probably be heard by all the competitors. She raised her hand to her mouth to interrupt her constant, “WOOOOOOOOOO”‘s, almost like a culturally inaccurate American Indian. I’m sure she got stares, but honestly, I don’t think she cared. And that’s what I loved about her. This crazy woman in the stands was my Momma, who was incredibly proud of her race-winning, medal-receiving, record-breaking daughter, Hannah. And she chose to show that in the most unashamed, unabashed fashion possible…

This past weekend, I attended the annual St. Louis District All-Star Bible Quiz. As I was on and off the seats, these two memories came to mind. It occurred to me that Momma never knew what bible quizzing was; Tabitha discovered it in early 2011. Yet she still had the spirit of what it’s all about in her, and she instilled that love of studying the Bible in me long before I ever became a national level Bible quizzer. She made sure my sisters and I memorized the scripture, whether it be through songs she/we wrote ourselves, tunes taught at VBS, verses learned at BSF, or even dramatic interpretations of the Sermon on the Mount.

Momma also supported her daughters in everything they did. She was not only present, but she made herself known as the proud mother of her performing or competing girls. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like for her to attend all of my activities. Would she cheer in the chilly weather as my band marched out onto the football field, or watch intently and smile lovingly at me during my musicals, or be familiar with the countless chants my quiz teams create, or “WOO” me on when I got questions right? I can only imagine that she would do all these things with no inhibition and not a care in the world about how loud and boisterous and completely undignified she appeared to be.

-Sara Joy

Day 4: Bops

•December 5, 2019 • Leave a Comment

She told me to hold still. It would only be a little while longer. But I couldn’t take the pain a second more. I squealed and ran out of the bathroom down the hallway. But her long legs caught up to me in no time. She scolded me, took my arm, and half dragged me back to the bathroom to finish what she’d started. She unsheathed her hairbrush from the drawer like a weapon and proceeded to pull my baby hair back into a hairstyle we called a “bop.” I sat there in silence while reflex tears streamed down my face. 

Maybe this telling is a bit dramatic, but that’s really how I remember it. I don’t know why it hurt so much, but trust me, it did. And every time Momma did my hair like this, little tender-headed three-year-old me was NOT a happy camper. Honestly, I’ve never been much of a hair wiz, but then again, I don’t think my mom was either. But every once in a while, especially now that my sisters are moved out for a majority of the year, I wish I had an extra pair of eyes in the morning to assist me with outfits and hair and makeup or someone to help curl or straighten my hair on special occasions. Sometimes it’s the little things about not having a mom that get to me. But on the rare occasion that someone is doing my hair and pulls a little too hard, I can sometimes hear Momma telling me to put on a brave face and sit still like a big girl.

-Sara Joy

“happy camper”

Day 3: Teatime

•December 4, 2019 • Leave a Comment

In the schoolroom of my house, where my sisters and I used to do our work, six teacups sit all in a row on a shelf. Nowadays, they’re seldom used, but there was a time when the opposite was true. If my recollections are correct, Momma often had tea dates with each of her daughters. Every once in a while, when I’m dusting the smooth surfaces of the glass and brushing away the gathered particles, I’ll reminisce about the memory.

I remember that my cup was pink and floral and that it was the last in the row of dishes. I remember the brown, square table that was set up in the middle of the living room. I remember my wooden rocking chair that I dragged over to the table where my mother was waiting patiently for my arrival. Every date would start like this. One on one. Mother to daughter. We would sit and sip our tea, which in my eyes was much too bitter and was in desperate need of some sugar. We would talk about whatever came to mind. Being six and all, I doubt I said anything profound, but I imagine that she still listened wholeheartedly to my silly stories and childish adventures anyway. Beyond that, I don’t remember much else.

Maybe the setup was a bit silly, but the sentiment represented much more than that. It was a time for just the two of us, a periodic checkup that showed the intentionality of a loving parent who truly tried to connect with her children, and a simple gesture that signified a mother’s love for her daughters.

-Sara Joy

Day 2: This Is the Day

•December 2, 2019 • Leave a Comment




















Almost every morning at 6am she would wake us up like this. The door would swing open, the switch would snap on, and the light would flood the room. No matter how groggy or crabby we were, she would shake us awake with such vigor and enthusiasm that by the end of her good morning songs we would be singing along with her. It’s one of the few memories I have of Momma where she is distinctly not as weak, pale, or frail as she was in the days leading up to her death, and for that reason, I cherish it dearly.

This morning I woke up pretty much expecting it to be a bad day. It’s the Monday after a five day break, the beginning of the final stretch of the semester, a time for last-minute cramming for quizzing, desperately attempting to raise grades, and feverishly studying for final exams. I could easily go throughout the whole day with a permanent frown on my face. But as I slumped around at the start of the day, Momma’s words rang in my ear, her radiant face to bright for me to ignore. I’ve forgotten the importance of starting my day right, with the joy of Jesus in my heart. The difference it makes in how I treat the rest of my day is immensely evident. So, for the next three weeks of school, I’ll start my morning with a song that reminds me of my crazy, singing, dancing, way-too-energized, morning-person mother. I’ll wake up, smell the coffee, choose joy, rise, shine, give God the glory, rejoice, and be glad because this is the day that the Lord has made.

-Sara Joy