Thanksgiving was approaching and as a member of the Relief Society Presidency, I felt
special gratitude as my calling offered me an intimate look into the lives of those who
needed help. This was the year that I came to know, first hand, that challenges for
some give others the opportunity to serve - and thereby come to know Christ. The more
I helped, the happier I became and the more peace I felt in my heart. What I wasn't
prepared for was to be a recipient.
When my husband came home, emotionally worn from trying to figure out how to tell me
he had been laid off, I was absolutely shocked. This was a new type of trial for us and
my lack of experience in this frightened me a bit. Our children were no longer small -
everyone was old enough to understand as we held family council and discussed our
immediate future. The next couple of years would be a time of sacrifice, developing
faith and humility, and seeing humanity at its best. Our two grown children, with families
of their own, often paid the power bill or stashed a little cash in my wallet. The three
kids at home pooled their income from babysitting and yard work to help pay the
mortgage. We all learned the difference between wants and needs. It was a time of
We lived in a ward that was so inclusive, it seemed impossible to feel neglected. On the
outside, word spread quickly that we had joined the growing ranks of unemployed.
Inside our home, we found that there is so much to be grateful for. We stopped thinking
about "things" and thought a whole lot more about "being". We decided that this
Christmas would be one of gifting service to each other.
I let the Relief Society President know that we were opting out of being listed on the
Angel Wreath around the Bishop's door. The ward could focus on purchasing toys for
the younger children in the ward whose parents needed help. I looked at the "wish lists"
on our fridge that included everything from blue nail polish to a trip around the world.
Starred were the items that the kids really wanted: books for Bryan; a curling iron for
Sierra; a blow dryer for Azure. Through the year I had already purchased a few
Christmas gifts, so although they weren't the hoped for items, I knew it would still be a
Thanksgiving we sat around the bountiful table and each expressed gratitude for things
that really mattered. We've always been big on Christmas, so it took most of the day to
decorate. We blasted Christmas music, played games, and enjoyed being together.
And that was how we expected our holidays to continue ... Christmas cheer from just
being together. We planned to make it our best Christmas ever. And it was. But in
ways that we hadn't expected.
The first anonymous Christ-like act of Christmas joy came when my daughter was
checking the mail. She came in with the usual handful of envelopes in one hand, and a
single envelope with no writing on it in the other. "A guy walked up to me and asked me
if I'm a Chapman. Then he handed me this envelope." We opened it up and found it
empty inside except for 3 crisp $100 bills. We were all overcome. We wanted to thank
him - we wanted to do something for him. But he was gone and our daughter had no
idea who he was. What this did for me, personally, was cause a warmth in my chest to
build and spread so fast that my entire body was filled with love. And hope. And joy.
Like most people, I really enjoy being on the "giving" end. To some $300 could be
temporal. And I'm sure we used it for bills or gifts ... I honestly don't remember. But
what I do remember is that the gift was so much deeper than what $300 could buy. It
was the gift of a really good feeling - feeling Christ in Christmas.
That was the beginning of the best Christmas ever. One day I opened a letter from my
parents and inside was money to spend on Christmas. Another day a card from my
brother arrived with money to order in pizza. We had friends drop off gift cards and
treats. Other anonymous gifts of money arrived and with each gift, our hearts swelled
bigger and the tears seemed to hang out at the surface ready to burst forth whenever
there was a knock on the door. One night the Bishop showed up with a Christmas card.
He said he was just the delivery boy - that someone had given him the card to deliver to
us. Inside were 3 American Express gift cards. We felt so loved and so known. We
came to know that Heavenly Father was completely aware of us and that the good
people in our lives were so in tune and functioning on a high spiritual plane.
A couple of days before Christmas our Relief Society president showed up at the door
with gift bags in hand. This was a surprise to all of us - especially since our kids did not
have tags on the Angel Wreath ... "Merry Christmas," she said. "There are some people
in the ward who specifically asked to buy for your children even though you weren't on
the Angel Wreath."
When the gifts were opened we could hardly believe our eyes. Bryan got a gift card to
Barnes & Nobel; Sierra got a Taylor Swift CD and two curling irons; and Azure opened
up a darling pink blow dryer! I called the Relief Society president - so choked up I
could hardly speak I asked her, "How did these people know what to give the kids?
These were their most hoped-for items. The ones I didn't get for them. How did they
know?" Her answer: "They told me that they had been praying for your family. We
have a ward family who recognizes promptings." The kids were excited about their
presents, but the real gift went way beyond curling irons and books.
We all felt Christ in Christmas.
Denalee Blogs over at Silver Strands . When Denalee's Mother was diagnosed with Cancer, Denalee cut off all of her beautiful Silver hair, and a wig was made out of it for her mother.
Please make sure to visit Denalee!