This is LONG and there is no way to shorten it. How Light ‘Em Up met Tim Tebow. It’s an AMAZING tale of God working in the details and I could not be more thrilled for how it turned out. I was not supposed to be on Good Morning America – Kara was. To God be the glory! You never know how one simple decision will turn out. – Courtney
When Light ‘Em Up met Tim Tebow
by Kara Pastis
I went to Walmart on a Thursday in mid-December to buy tweezers and eye makeup remover. I checked out, and headed towards my car when I felt a tug at my heart. It was quite clear (God moment #1). I had the immediate thought to go pay off someone’s Christmas layaway.
With our friends and neighbors, our family had been participating in Light ‘Em Up acts. We had made homeless packs, thanked our garbage collectors, and discussed other ways we could Light Up our community. One of hundreds of ideas on Courtney DeFeo’s blog is to pay off a layaway – anonymously. We’d never discussed this as a family, and honestly the idea never appealed to me at all. Until this particular Thursday when it was clear as day that my heart was telling me to do that. I was alone at Walmart that day (God moment #2 – just kidding), and made my way back to the Layaway Department. I had no idea how this worked, but was getting excited at the idea of making this my little secret! We often do things in community for others, but this was going to be MY thing. As I waited in line at the cluttered Layaway office, I was leaning on a cart full of toys.
I noticed a gentleman on the phone a bit away, and nodded in apology as I stepped away from what I thought was his cart. He quickly ended his phone call and approached me to tell me that it wasn’t his cart. He then follows with, “Are you here to pay off your layaway?” I replied simply, “No.” He continues to tell me that his name is Phil, and he is a reporter from Good Morning America. They are looking for folks who have items on layaway for a piece to air the following week about Holiday Shopping. I insisted I didn’t fit the requirement, thinking we were done. Phil then asks me why I was in line at the Layaway Department. I uncomfortably tell him that I am there to pay off someone else’s layaway. Dangit! This was going to be my secret! He asked me why I was doing this…and I go into this diatribe about Light Em Up acts and how he would REALLY have a great story there!
I give him her contact info, and we part ways. He said he would speak with his producer about Light Em Up! I got to the counter, and the sweet Customer Service woman helped me through the process to pay off an anonymous layaway. They actually have a system for this, and I was able to find a layaway with just under $50 consisting of toys and a stroller. Paid! It felt good. On my way out of the department, Phil approached me again. He said he’d just gotten off the phone with his producer. She wanted my contact information in case I had information that could be part of the story on Holiday Shopping. I was hesitant, but gave him my info. As I got in my car I immediately called Courtney to tell her that GMA was going to be calling her and to get her hair and makeup ready because I was SURE the Light Em ‘Up idea would trump ANY kind of Holiday Shopping piece!!!
Good Morning America calls…
Saturday approached, and nothing more had come from my conversation with Phil. I was at my son’s flag football game when I saw a call come in from New York, NY. I thought nothing of it and ignored the call. I check my messages and was shocked to hear that it was a producer calling from GMA and she had heard I was a “Layaway Angel.” She wanted to talk with me about a story they were doing on Holiday Shopping. I left the sidelines to call the producer back. I was a nervous wreck. My little secret just got out. I knew that God had spoken to me, and that now I was supposed tell someone about it – and I am NOT good at that (God moment #3).
I explained my story and what I had done, and the WHY and how as a family we try to be the hands and feet of Jesus, showing His light towards others. I figured NO WAY was Jesus going to make it onto GMA. So I just went for it. No way would she put me on national TV with all THAT. I tried to sell her Light ‘Em Up. Well, she didn’t go for that, but did say that my deed as a Layaway Angel was just what she needed for her piece to air on Monday morning. Even after all the Jesus talk! She asked me if I would be available Sunday evening for an interview at a local Walmart. It wasn’t like I even had a choice. It was happening.
I went over and over in my head what I was going to say about being a Layaway Angel. I prayed and prayed (and Courtney prayed) that I would have the right words, and I just couldn’t BELIEVE He was going to use me on national TV (God moment #4). It wasn’t Light Em Up acts as a whole, but it was MY Light Em Up act, and I was supposed to share it. On National TV. I texted a friend who I knew watched GMA. We went bonkers together, and she talked me off the ledge and gave me a fabulous pep talk. Then, at about 10pm on Saturday night, I get an urgent text from her:
She proceeds to tell me that she heard a teaser for GMA during that evening’s football game, and that Tim Tebow was going to be surprising people and paying for their layaways on Monday morning. She then continues to convince me that he is going to be at Walmart the following day for my interview. Pretty important piece of this puzzle: I’m a huge Gator. Went to Florida, never missed a game in the 5 years I was there (Grad School, thankyouverymuch), and we live and breathe Gator sports in our home. Tim Tebow is a legit hero in our home.
Needless to say, the thought of Tim Tebow being at Walmart the next day temporarily sidelined my mission. I stopped worrying about my words, and speaking about my act, and started worrying about being face to face with Tim Tebow. How could I NOT? After a couple hours of intense panicking, and a little research, I had determined that yes, my interview was going to be a part of Tim’s story on GMA. I was going to be interviewed about being a Layaway Angel, and then the story would go live to Tebow on Monday morning. I was sure of it. SO SURE he was NOT going to be there.
Back to the praying for the right words and how to tell others about doing things for Jesus. Game on. In a move only I could pull off, I showed up BARELY on time to the WRONG Walmart for my 4:45 call time. THE WRONG WALMART. That’s it. I’m done. I’m a good 17 minutes away according to Google Maps, and I’m sure they’ll just skip me. I text the producer and she says not to worry, they are running late. Then, in perfect timing (God moment #5), I get a text:
I read this to myself about 3 times (safely) during the drive to the CORRECT Walmart. As I’m taking deep breaths and turning in to the parking lot, my most favorite Christmas song of all times comes on: Go Tell It On the Mountain. Not joking. I AM ABOUT TO GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN!!! (God moment #6) As silly as it sounds now, I knew at that moment that I was right where I was supposed to be. Going into Walmart to tell others about that one little thing I did. It was all so simple and clear to me finally. No more panicking.I contacted the producer and was told to wait at the front of the store.
After about an hour, someone comes to bring me to the back of the store where the interview would be taking place. I walked behind the assistant to the back of the store, where I was met by the producer. She introduced me to a group of folks who had also paid off a layaway. It was a family who owned a business from outside of Tampa and they had paid off 55 layaways! 55! There were 6 there from the family (mom, dad, uncle, 2 kids, and grandmother). The producer pulled aside a gentleman from the group and said we would both be interviewed to show the range in what can be done. I’d say! $48 vs. $11,000! She then tells us that the correspondent would be asking questions similar to those we were asked over the phone, and to just answer simply them. Then she throws in that the correspondent would be Tim Tebow. TIM TEBOW.
I about fell over. At one point, she touches my arm and says, “Are you going to be okay?” I must have lost all color in my face and looked a little stunned… The other folks were from Syracuse, and didn’t exactly take the Tim Tebow news quite like I did.Moments later Tim Tebow heads our way and introduces himself to the family from Tampa. I was just feeling out the situation and trying to figure out if it was really REAL or not. Then there he was. Shaking my hand and looking into my eyes.
Time with Tim Tebow
The small talk began and I tried to fit in all I needed to tell him in those moments. It was weak. So weak. I think all I said was, “You have no idea what a big deal this is for me….” then quickly we were all ushered to a toy aisle for our interviews. I remember every bit of the conversation around choosing the location for the interview, though. I say, “You look good with Barbie in the background. He says, “It’s not just any Barbie, it’s Elsa and Ana Barbie.” I say, “Wow, that’s impressive.” He says, “I have two nieces, I know my stuff…” Next thing I know, I’m being ushered towards Tim and the camera men.There we were. Tim and I (and two cameramen just inches away). Me and Tim. I can’t tell if the interview is about to start or what, and since it’s obviously not live, it doesn’t matter, but it’s all a little awkward. I look up at Tim and notice he has food in his teeth. I don’t even flinch, “Oh, hey! You got something right there…” as I point to his tooth. “You know, food or something.” He was clearly not expecting THAT. But he is still smiling, never stopped actually. He laughs, then looks at cameraman as if to say, “Do I?” He’s all, “Yep, but I wouldn’t have had that angle on it.” I’m all, “Hey, just wanted to let you know. Am I clear?” And I flash my pearly whites right at him. He checks me and says we are good to go. Then we move right into the interview as if nothing had happened. “So, tell me about the time you were a Layaway Angel,” he says.
All that praying and worrying about all the right words, and it was like I had no time to even THINK about the words. I don’t even know what I said (which I suppose is what the praying was for…). VIDEO LINK HERE. They took everything they needed in one 45 second take. He leans in for a hug (that’s on National TV, I think), and the cameramen sneak away. Boom. Done. “But wait! I don’t want to be done! Let’s talk some more!!!” Thankfully I didn’t really say those things.We walk over to the rest of the group and the daughter from the Tampa family asks Tim if he would do a video for her teacher who had fallen ill. She said through tears that her teacher was a huge Gator fan and this would mean the world to her. Tim says of course he will do the video. (God moment #7 – more on this later) His video to the teacher is precious. The girl is standing by his side and crying throughout his sweet message. I was a mess, and thinking the entire time, “HOW AM I GOING TO BE SURE I GET A MESSAGE FOR BLAINE? BLAINE NEEDS A MESSAGE! HOW DID I NOT THINK OF THIS MYSELF!!!?!” I’m trying to stay calm.
Gracious with his time
This is huge. SO huge. Thank you so much for doing this. Blaine’s daddy, and he loved the Gators. And he loved YOU. Very much. This will mean so much to his girls. Thank you.”
I was a combination of snotty and giddy and anxious and Tim was gracious and patient and kind and gentle and all the good things you imagine him to be. All of them. I wanted to invite him to dinner. (I didn’t.) His agent/manager person tells me it’s time to go, and I notice the GMA folks are long gone. It was clear it was time to walk away. Like out of Walmart. Alone. So I did. The walk to my car was strange! No one in that store knew what had just happened, and no one cared. Kind of like what paying off that layaway was supposed to be. Anonymous. And it still was. That family will never know what I did, but will hopefully always know that God is good. All the time.
Connecting the dots
I got in my car and immediately texted Vanessa, Blaine’s mom, to see if they were (a) together and (b) sitting down. She says she’d had a sad day because – get this – today is Lance’s birthday. (GOD MOMENT #9 ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!? Lance is Blaine’s dad who passed away.) I send her the video to Blaine, which is clearly a birthday gift to Lance in Heaven. I call Vanessa and we cry together on the phone. We are a mess. I mean of course Kara met Tim Tebow and did a video for Blaine on Lance’s birthday!(Back to God moment #7. The gentleman from Tampa who was interview didn’t make the final edit to the show that aired on GMA the next morning. My clip was edited a bunch also, but his was eliminated completely. This shows how important God moment #7 was. He sent that family there so that sweet girl could get her video so that I would be reminded to do mine. I know that.)So that’s the story. The day God showed up for me 9 times. The more I tell the story, the more I love the little pieces He threw in for me to find. More than once, folks have said, “What a gift that was to you!”