Gifts — who doesn’t love gifts? As a child, I loved receiving gifts for my birthday or Christmas. As an adult, I love gifts that bring me memories of the giver. I got thinking about that today, as I lay on the couch, recovering from the flu, watching the football playoffs, wrapped in a quilt my cousin randomly sent me recently. Yeah, how often does that happen?
One day I received a text message from her to be watching for a package to be delivered. A package from the suburbs of Chicago sent to the suburbs of Phoenix! I was curious, and had no idea what this package was. This is what she said, “Expect a package from me on Tuesday for a belated house warming, early birthday wish and a Merry Christmas! I shipped it express mail from the post office and have a tracking number if it doesn’t get there. Hope you like it!” My reply was, “Oh okay. What a surprise. Are you coming in the box? That would be super nice! I’ll let you know when it arrives.” When it arrived, I was so surprised to see this handmade quilt from one of my favorite quilter cousins.
What I don’t think givers of gifts realize (at least, to me), is that the gift is not the only thing, but the gift brings memories of the giver each time I look at it or use it. So, here I am wrapped in this quilt that lays on my living room couch, and I think of Peggy, our years growing up, her kids and grandkids, our times together as adults, and it just makes me happy.
I came to this reality years ago, when out of the blue, Peggy’s mom, my aunt, called me and gave me a similar message that Peggy sent. “Be expecting a delivery.” My Aunt Mary told me that she found the complete nativity set to the three original pieces I had, and she bought them for me. It was 2000, and I had recently moved into my new home in St. Charles, Missouri. I told my aunt that the gift for no reason was too extravagant, and she said it was a house warming gift of something she knew I would like. Every single year I put out this Coleport by Wedgewood nativity set, and I think of Aunt Mary. Many times when I would be setting it out for the holidays, I would stop, call her, and make a trip to visit. The last time I did this, I realized she was slipping. I told her I came to see her because when I set out this set, it reminds me to visit. I pulled out my iPad and showed her a photo of the set sitting in my living room. Twice through this visit, she would look at me and ask if I still had the nativity set. Shortly after that, she passed.
I have informed my children that of all the nativity sets I own, this one is financially valuable, and emotionally valuable to me. Do not just donate to some charity. Someone of my kids or grandkids who might cherish this gift I got from Aunt Mary should be the one to take it. If none of them or interested, maybe they will contact someone of Aunt Mary’s grandchildren and see if they would like it. Once again, this past Christmas, as I set up this nativity, which each piece is individually boxed in molded styrofoam in a cardboard box labeled by the manufacturer the name of each character, I think of Aunt Mary. I think of all the times I went to her home as a child to play with my cousins. Aunt Mary had seven children, so there were lots of cousins, but two were near my age who I played with the most. Then over the years, I became friends will all of them, older and younger. When my mom died, Aunt Mary (my mom’s youngest sibling) and I spent much time together, having dinner, watching movies, and spending late nights talking. I always thought she was taking me under wing with the loss of my mom, but today, I believe I also filled void for her of the sister she was so close to over the years.
I have a ton of little gifts from my friend, Susan Durbin. She was my sponsor in my 12-step group for codependency, and we became fast friends for years following that. Most of her gifts were Christmas decor, since my birthday is in December, and she is the great giver of gifts, mostly of giving herself. I also have little things around the house that are not Christmas gifts. Whenever I see these items, my thoughts go to Susan, to her sponsorship of helping me to learn to “let go and let God,” to fun times we had doing lunches and dinners, attending my son’s and my granddaughter’s school events, hosting us every summer at her swimming pool where all my grandkids learned to swim. Her little gifts remind me of the wonderful love we had as friends. She has been gone for over five years, but these little items bring her spirit back to me. They bring a smile to my face, that I have been blessed to have her as a friend for so many years.
Even gifts like the multitude of oranges, lemons, and grapefruit we received from cousins who generously shared from their trees here in Arizona — every time we ate the fruit or something cooked or baked with those fruits, my thoughts would go to cousins, Joani, Richard, and Janine, for their generosity, but it also brought back memories of times with them in the past, and now enjoying their friendships currently in Arizona. All these gifts are bigger because of the givers.
And, then there is the gift that was given to me, that I also did not ask for, did not expect, and definitely did not deserve. The gift of God’s love and redemption for me through Jesus Christ. Whenever I am in the presence of the gift, in worship, prayer, in fellowship with other Christians, I am reminded of so many memories, of how God has redeemed me. How through the death of Jesus, he freely took my sins on himself so I could be in fellowship with God. I didn’t do any thing to deserve this gift, God gave it freely, lovingly. It wasn’t an easy gift. Jesus, being man and God, struggled before his death. Matthew 26:9 states,
“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’” Jesus prayed if this “cup” (what was his coming death) could be removed, but then he knew it was His will to give his life for each of us. It was a gift. It is free! No strings attached! We just have to take it, just like I accepted the nativity set, the quilt, and all other gifts I did nothing to earn. I took the gift. I accepted Jesus’ death as the punishment for my sins, and accepting that gift, I am a child of the God Most High. I am a daughter of the King! Wow! What a gift! What memories I have and future memories I will have in His eternal presence.
Thank you, friends and family, for gifting me and helping to remember you as dear friends and family. And, thank you, Lord, for gifting me, so that I am in your family for eternity. It is the best gift I will ever receive.