Some years ago, my life changed drastically within a few short months. Divorced after 13 years of marriage, I was suddenly a single parent, our beautiful home was gone, and no source of regular income was in sight. I was devastated. My four children and I moved into my loving parents’ home, where we stayed for eight months until I could feel strong enough to face life again.
Holidays had always been a wonderful time in my life. When I was a child, our family celebrations were rich in traditions. As a mother, I tried to carry on some of my family’s traditions as well as to create new ones. This helped bring continuity and joy to the holidays.
That year, however, as my mother brought out all the decorations of years gone by, I felt only heartache as I thought back on the innocence of my youth and my childhood dreams of a happy future. All those dreams were now gone, and a nightmare had taken their place. The life I had anticipated, so full of possibilities, seemed utterly hopeless.
Pain came as I hung each ornament on the tree. I had collected ornaments since the first year of my marriage, and each reminded me of meaningful events through the years: babies born, swimming lessons, tee-ball, vacations with the family, second honeymoons my husband and I had taken annually. I had thought the ornaments would comfort my children and me with memories of happy past Christmases. Instead, they brought me inconsolable sadness.
Not even the Christmas stories and scriptures recounting the life of the Savior could bring me comfort. Why had the Lord abandoned my children and me? I thought He promised peace if we followed Him. Why did I now have only despair? So many questions, so much hurt. My hope in the future, in an eternal family, in a joyful existence, had turned to a hope that the holidays would quickly go by and I would be able to survive my broken heart.
Eventually the holidays did pass, and in the months ahead I was fortunate to find a job and small home in the wonderful town of Moroni, Utah. The ward and neighborhood welcomed my family. My associates at work were kind and helpful. The pain of the past, however, seemed to hang on unmercifully. I would pray, begging for relief from the gripping sadness. Yet its intensity never seemed to diminish. I would read the scriptures, searching desperately for some comfort. While occasional comfort did come, so did frustration and even anger at times as I tried so hard to cope with life’s challenges, only to feel that they were overcoming us. Where is the Savior’s peace? I would wonder. Why can’t I feel the yoke becoming lighter?
The year rolled slowly by, and once again the holidays were upon us. Again, all I could hope for was that they would quickly pass.
We received many acts of kindness. Friends and family tried to be sensitive to our situation by inviting us to activities. Ward members thoughtfully dropped off little plates of cookies or food. I was grateful for the help, but I wondered why we had to be in this situation at all. Again came the questions and the feelings of being abandoned.
One evening a member of our bishopric, Brother Nielson, and his wife came to visit. They brought a large, festively wrapped box. Inside the box was a beautiful quilt made by an anonymous donor. Tears came to my eyes as I thought of the work that had gone into it, only to be given to us.
It was uncanny how so many people had given us things we had needed that year. But we had plenty of blankets, and I felt guilty accepting something we didn’t absolutely need. I protested to Brother Nielson, telling him that while I was grateful for the gift, I was sure there were others more in need of the quilt’s warmth than my family. But he refused to take it back, saying the giver had intended it for us.
I went upstairs later that evening to tuck my children into bed. My eight-year-old, Danielle, was fast asleep, snuggled warmly under our new quilt. Again I felt a twinge of guilt, thinking that perhaps I should have been more adamant about having Brother Nielson give it to a more needy family. Then the thought came to me: The quilt was indeed right where it should be. While we didn’t absolutely need it in a physical sense, it was a gift given to us by an earthly angel, and it represented the Savior’s love for our family. Just like the quilt wrapped securely and comfortingly around my daughter, the Savior’s arms were also around us all. I began to realize that while many devastating things had happened to us recently, so had many wonderful things. I could look back and see that even though life hadn’t gone as I had planned, there were many blessings that had come to my life which, while not absolutely necessary, had been gifts from a loving Father in Heaven and Savior—just like that quilt.
While pain is allowed by our Father in Heaven, I am reminded each time I see that quilt that we are never abandoned. God is there. Following Jesus does bring peace, if we know where to look for it. As I went through the final days of that Christmas season, some sadness still continued, but I knew I could endure it because the loving arms of the one whose birth we celebrated were around me.
This article may furnish material for a family home evening discussion or for personal consideration. You might consider questions such as:
How can we draw strength from the Lord while we are experiencing challenges?
How can we learn to focus more on our blessings than on what we lack?
What are some ways we can help others feel the Savior’s love in the midst of adversity?