Two weeks ago, we came home from a visit to see the Washington DC Temple Festival of Lights,
and there was a small package on our doorstep. Inside was a small, ceramic lamb. No note. No explanation. Just a lamb. As my children wondered what it could mean, I felt the first flutterings of the Spirit I'd been missing.
That lamb looked like it must belong to a nativity set. Maybe someone who knew I collect nativities was giving us an extra-special "Twelve Days of Christmas." I immediately felt pangs of guilt for my selfishness in hoping that I would continue to get a new piece to the set each night. Because wishing for presents for yourself isn't what Christmas is all about. Still, I couldn't help hoping that the gifts would continue, and I found myself watching for the next piece each night.
Piece by piece, the nativity arrived from our anonymous givers.
And when a friend handed me a small package at church with the instruction that I should open it on Christmas morning, I was pretty sure I knew who my Secret Santa was. I quietly tucked the gift under the tree without saying anything to my children, to preserve the mystery for them. But for me, it meant so much more each night when I received the next piece of the nativity, because I was loved not by a faceless stranger, but by a family full of some of the most amazing people I know.
We kept the growing nativity in the middle of the dining room table, where I could see it several times a day. And each time I passed by, I thought of the hugs and smiles I receive each time I see these sweet children. The words of comfort and encouragement from my friend (their mother). I thought about the scrumptious Christmas cinnamon rolls they made for us.
I thought about how these children go out of their way nearly every day to make sure my kids know they have friends. And the way the father came rushing to our rescue with tools in hand two nights before Christmas, when the boys in my cub scout troop locked our cat in the basement room, for which we had no key. (We couldn't pick the lock, and I had to call an emergency locksmith in the end anyway, but the $250 emergency lockout fee was a little easier to swallow when we'd already exhausted everything we could do on our own.) Each piece of the nativity reminded me that I wasn't alone.
Sure enough, the final piece (the Christ child) was in the package we unwrapped Christmas morning. Along with a note and the story that inspired their gift.
I'll admit, I'm still struggling more than usual. This gift, as amazing as it was, didn't magically cure everything. (This isn't a Hallmark Channel movie, after all.) But I do know that I'm not alone.
No matter what happens, no matter how difficult things may be ... even if we can't get the loans we need and never do get back to our home ... I have friends by my side to help me through.
And somehow, I will be all right.