The Most Important Gift
    Footnotes

    “The Most Important Gift,” Ensign, Dec. 1990, 16–17

    The Most Important Gift

    The first year after my divorce was the most difficult time of my life. Each day seemed to bring new challenges and a greater awareness of being alone.

    Holidays were especially trying that year, and each one left me more depressed than the last. There was a recurring shadow that seemed to echo, “You’re not a family anymore! Holidays are for whole families, with husbands, wives, and children.”

    By the time the Christmas season came, I found myself depressed almost every day. I simply didn’t want to have to deal with Christmas, but I was forced to because of my two small boys.

    In years past, Christmas had meant buying a large tree and gifts for friends and family members. This first Christmas alone, buying the smallest tree on the lot was almost more than my budget could handle. And buying gifts, or even making them, seemed impossible.

    But as each day came, I seemed to find a way to get something for everyone I needed to. As for myself, all I wanted was never to face another Christmas.

    On Christmas Eve, our small tree stood in the living room with a few packages under it for my boys. One of my home teachers called to see if my children and I would like to come to his house for Christmas Eve dinner with his family. My first instinct was to say no, but then I decided that maybe we should go.

    His family’s excitement about Christmas showed in their laughter and in the light in their eyes. The children, all on their best behavior, helped their mother set the table. After dinner they sat down to hear their mother tell them the story of Christ’s birth. They asked me to participate by reading from Luke.

    It was a nice evening. All around me were people caught up in the spirit of Christmas. But I couldn’t help feeling as though I were an outsider looking in.

    When I got home that night, I tucked my sons into bed and went into the living room to carefully lay out a few more small presents under the tree. I didn’t notice it at first, but then I realized that there was something different about the tree. There was something different about the whole house.

    As I got closer to the tree, I noticed presents I had not put there. I picked one up and saw that it had my name on it. And there were other presents, for me and my boys. There was also a beautiful, handmade Christmas stocking for me.

    As I touched the presents one by one, I felt the Spirit speaking to me so powerfully that it seemed as if someone were standing in the room, telling me that my Father in Heaven loved me, that I was still a part of his family. The presents themselves were small, but each one seemed to bear witness that my life had meaning, and that I had a purpose for being on this earth.

    One present was a picture frame, and I was reminded that I had been blessed with a talent for painting and should continue to use that talent in my life.

    One gift was a beautiful sweater. It was so delicate and feminine. I was impressed with a feeling that I should try to remember that I am a daughter of our Father in Heaven, that I had been chosen to be a mother, and that my boys needed me on this earth.

    In the Christmas stocking were mascara, makeup, and a small bottle of perfume—things I could hardly afford to buy any longer. But there was also an underlying message: that my body was a temple, and I should take care of it both physically and spiritually.

    But the most important gift I received that Christmas was the knowledge that my Father in Heaven knows my needs and desires, and that he loves me so much that he sent his Son to earth to die that I might have eternal life. I learned that night that, married or single, my stay here on earth has a purpose, and I need to do everything I can to make my life worth the price that Jesus paid for it.

    I don’t know who put those presents under my Christmas tree, but I know the Lord has blessed them because they were in tune with the Spirit. And now, as each holiday approaches, I look to see what I may do for others, and I gratefully thank my Father in Heaven for that most important of all gifts: the life of his Son.

    • Jill Dastrup, mother of two, works in the French name extraction program in the Winder West Stake in Salt Lake City.