Wrapped in My Mother’s Love
When I was about three or four years old, my mother was the ward Relief Society president. Part of her responsibility, it seemed, was always to have a quilt in progress in our home. At any given time, sisters would filter in and out of our basement to quilt for a while. Often my mother would thread a needle for me and let me “quilt” with the sisters. (My clumsy stitches were patiently removed when I was not around.) I relished these moments and learned at a young age to love quilting and Relief Society.
My mother died suddenly when I was only five. It wasn’t until years later that I found out she had left me a great gift of love. The Christmas of my 19th year is one I will always remember, for that was when I received this most precious gift from my mother, although she had passed away 14 years earlier.
I hadn’t known it, but before my mother died she had pieced together two special quilt tops, one for my older brother and one for me. She had used little pieces of fabric from our dresses and shirts. But she had passed away before she could put the quilts together and do the quilting.
When I turned 19, my older sister felt it was time to complete the quilts for my brother and me, and she asked the ward Relief Society to finish them. The sisters sewed the intricate stitches without knowing how much it would have pleased my mother.
On Christmas Day when I received the quilt, I loved the gift with all my heart. But I had no idea how much more it would yet come to mean to me.
Years went by, and I married and started a family of my own. I kept my quilt wrapped in a plastic bag in a drawer to protect it from damage and wear. One day I took it out and was carefully admiring it when one of my little boys came into the room and asked me where I got the quilt. I explained to him that his Grandma Brown had made the quilt for me before she died.
“Who is Grandma Brown?” my young son asked.
How it pained me that my children had never known the mother I cherished. It hurt that she could not put her arms around them and tell them she loved them in her tender, gentle way. I explained to my son once again that Grandma Brown, my mother, was someone special in heaven who loved him.
“Why do you have that quilt, Mommy?” he asked.
Suddenly it came to me. I knew exactly why I had the quilt. I unfolded it and wrapped it around his little body. “I have this quilt so Grandma Brown can give you hugs even though she is in heaven,” I said.
A big smile spread across his face, and I could see that this was the best answer I could have given him.
Since then the quilt has made its way out of the drawer much more often. Whenever a family member is hurt, sad, or in need of extra love, the quilt is a great source of comfort. I love touching the quilt, knowing my mother’s hands have touched it also.
Many years have passed, and I can now quilt correctly. My sisters and I have spent many hours around quilting frames, talking about our mother. Since I am the youngest, my sisters tell me stories about her to help me know her better. Yet no matter how many stories I hear, nothing has helped me or my children turn our hearts to my mother more than the quilt I got for Christmas the year I turned 19.
A few days before Christmas, I went to a busy shopping area in Buenos Aires to do some errands. Like everyone else, I stopped to look at the Christmas decorations that seemed to be everywhere. “If only I had those decorations to get my house ready for Christmas,” I thought.
On the way home, my bus stopped at a small square. On a bench sat a well-groomed young man with nice clothes and shoes. He was smiling, talking to, and most of all, listening to an old man with long hair and a beard. The old man’s clothes were dirty and torn, and he had no shoes. The bench seemed to be his home.
I thought about the stark contrasts between the two men—in appearance, age, and walk of life. What a pleasure it was to see them talking together, especially because the old man had a lot to say and really seemed to be enjoying the conversation. At that moment I felt that Christmas had arrived. There were no twinkling lights, no ornaments, no wreaths, no Christmas trees—just someone giving the gift of his time, just listening to another with respect. There was no disdain, no prejudice, no selfishness, no discrimination, no arrogance.
It was then that I realized we can give such gifts of love all through the year. We can kindle little lights of hope for those who need them.
I vowed never again to allow getting ready for Christmas to keep me from living Christmas.
A White Christmas in Ecuador
As a new full-time missionary I was anxious to see what Christmas would be like in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where I was serving.
I knew we would not be having a snowy white Christmas like those I was accustomed to. As other thoughts of turkey dinners, gifts, lights, and caroling flashed through my mind, I began to long for the Christmas traditions I was familiar with.
My companion and I felt a renewed urgency and greater responsibility to spread the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to make the Christmas season more meaningful.
One December day we stopped at the humble home of Señor Torres and were given a warm welcome. He told us he had been waiting and praying for the truth for eight years. For two months my companion and I had passed by his house daily without stopping. Señor Torres said, “I always wanted to stop you to ask about your church, but you were always walking so fast that I thought you were too busy for me.” Prayers had been answered. We began teaching Señor Torres and his family with great joy.
Christmas day drew nearer, and we could hardly wait to see the Torres family as we quietly approached their home for our fourth visit. Before we knocked on the door, we saw through the window a scene that touched our hearts.
Beauty emanated from the whole family, their loving eyes, rosy cheeks, and gentle faces glowing in the dimly lit room. Beneath a tree on a table in the corner stood miniature Nativity figures, telling the story of a small family in a stable. Two young girls leaned eagerly over their mother’s shoulder as she read from a book we had given her, Gospel Principles. The oldest child, eight-year-old Victor, was watching attentively as his father played “Silent Night” on a xylophone.
Victor saw us and ran to greet us. We joined in singing “Silent Night” in Spanish. Next they asked us to sing it in English, and then we all sang it together again in Spanish.
Sister Torres told us that before we had shared the gospel with her family she had not felt like celebrating Christmas. But now pictures of Christ, Christmas music, and the Nativity scene had been brought from their place in the cupboards, where they had been collecting dust for the past three years. The true Christmas spirit had been restored as we had presented the gospel message. As servants of the Lord, testifying in His name, we had helped to bring Jesus Christ back into the family’s Christmas.
On the third week of December, Christmas became complete for me as I watched Brother and Sister Torres and Victor, all dressed in white, enter the waters of baptism and become members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My companion turned to me and whispered, “Looks like it’s a white Christmas after all.” I couldn’t have asked for a more meaningful Christmas.
The Gift My Father Gave Me
I am now a great-grandmother, but I shall never forget a Christmas I experienced as a young child.
I was one of 14 children in my family, and we lived in a farming town. We were very poor as far as worldly goods are concerned, though I didn’t know it then. A family in our town was even poorer than we were. The mother had died, and the father was working away from home, leaving the older children to care for the younger ones.
After we had opened our Christmas gifts, my father spoke to us about this motherless family and how they might not receive gifts. He suggested that each of us choose one of our new gifts to be placed in a box, along with food and other goodies, for this family.
I had three presents—a doll, a necklace, and an article of clothing. What a hard decision it was for me! I needed the clothing, and I wanted the doll badly, but the necklace was so pretty and sparkly. After a time, I reluctantly dropped the necklace into the box.
It was dark on Christmas night when Dad buttoned our coats and placed all of us in our horse-drawn sleigh. We left the box on this family’s doorstep, with no indication of the giver.
The next Sunday, I saw the necklace around the neck of a girl my age. She excitedly told me that Santa had left a box of gifts for them on Christmas night. Of course, my parents had sworn us to secrecy. Dad had told us that being anonymous was the best part of giving. But I can’t say it felt that good to see what had been my necklace on someone else’s neck.
Though it wasn’t an easy lesson then, I now realize the great impact this experience has had on my life. As a child I thought my father was asking me to give up a gift, but later I understood that he was actually giving me one of the most precious gifts I have ever received. How much he must have loved me, to teach me that loving someone is far more important than having something! My father’s example of love has helped me understand the love of Heavenly Father, who presented us the greatest gift of all when He gave His Only Begotten Son.
She Brought Light
Many years ago my husband, Ken, and I moved to Provo, Utah, so he could attend Brigham Young University. Before our move, Ken had traveled there, bought a mobile home, and arranged for water, gas, and electricity to be turned on when we moved in.
We arrived in Provo on a cold December night. All our belongings were packed in the back of a rental truck. We were tired and tense from the long trip. Six months pregnant, I was feeling the effects of cleaning, packing, and traveling. Shawna, our 15-month-old daughter, was tired and crying.
As we opened the door to our home, a blast of cold air greeted us. The electricity and water had been turned on, but for some reason the gas had not. Too exhausted to do anything else, we put a mattress on the floor and plugged in an electric blanket to keep us warm. We tried to sleep with our daughter between us, but she cried most of the night. When morning came we were almost as tired as when we had gone to bed.
After we unloaded the truck, Ken left to return it, check with the gas company, and arrange for a phone to be installed. I dressed Shawna in her snowsuit. Then I placed her in her highchair to play with a few toys while I started to unpack the boxes.
When I unpacked our electric frying pan, I decided to heat water in it to wash out the cupboards. As I turned on the kitchen sink, the faucet came off and water shot up into the air. I tried to turn off the water valve under the sink but could not get it to turn. Frantically, I searched for the water shutoff valve for the house. By the time I found it, the kitchen and living room were flooded.
As I desperately started moving boxes out of the water, Shawna sensed panic and began to scream. Carrying her with one of my arms, I continued trying to lift boxes with the other arm.
At that moment I started into premature labor. Now I was truly panicked. I didn’t know anyone in the neighborhood, and I didn’t have a phone to call for help. Desperately I prayed, “Heavenly Father, please help me!”
I’ll never forget the knock that came at the door minutes later. The woman standing there was shivering, with soapsuds up to her elbows. She introduced herself as Amalia Van Tassel, the branch Relief Society president, and told me the Spirit had sent her.
I would later learn that Amalia had been standing at her sink washing dishes when she felt prompted to check on the new family who had just moved in. Sensing that it was urgent, she called to her oldest daughter to watch her other children and, without even stopping to dry her hands or grab her coat, ran to my door.
Amalia had me lie down, comforted Shawna, cleaned up all she could, and invited our family to dinner. She brought light, safety, and comfort into that dark December day. Rest stopped my premature labor, Ken fixed the sink, the gas man turned the gas on, and portable electric heaters dried the soaked carpet.
I have always been grateful to Heavenly Father for answering my prayer that day and for the loving Relief Society president who quickly followed the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
The Little Christmas Miracle
At Christmastime in 1996, I was serving a mission in southern Spain. My companion, Sister Noel, * was filled with enthusiasm and had a gift for loving everyone. Many times I saw the love of Christ reflected in her countenance.
Sister Noel and I were working with all our hearts in a little Andalusian town where the members loved us and seemed happy to have missionaries in their midst. It was a special time, and we could feel the spirit of Christmas in the streets and from the people of the ward. Sister Noel and I had both received little Christmas gifts from our families, friends, and home wards, so we had lots of goodies.
Almost everyone we knew seemed happy, except the Fernández family. The father was out of work and had no money to buy gifts for the children. When my companion learned about their situation, she felt we needed to help them in some way. Together we started talking about how we could help.
With the assistance of a member of the ward, we gathered together the goodies our families had sent. With the money we had received, we bought toys for the children.
The Fernández family was thrilled and astonished. But the little miracle did not end there. Thanks to this small act of service, my companion and I were also blessed with greater feelings of love for all the members.
Because of my companion, I learned that it is better to give than to receive. It gave me great joy to give something to a family who needed it more than I did. I’ll always be thankful for Sister Noel, who taught me that every day can be Christmas when we share the love of the Savior with others.
Names have been changed.