I felt like I stood at the edge of a cliff looking out over the next month or so, seeing Christmas and all the wonderful and hard it would be. It was quite overwhelming, facing another year without Lizy. I told myself it should and would be easier, but I couldn’t deny the ache growing in my heart that something would be missing from our Christmas this year, just as it was last year. Then I felt as though someone gave me a great shove off that precipice and Christmas was rushing up to meet me head on, much faster than I wanted it to.
But a few things happened this year, that made Christmas miraculous. Honestly, I believe Christmas is miraculous every year because for our family it is a time to Celebrate the miracle of Christ, but this year became special in it’s own way.
I would love to say that our Christmas was miraculous because the kids got along and there was less fighting. Or that I held myself together with grace and accomplishment and didn’t get upset or frustrated at all with kids. But, that was not the case. Our kids still fought, and I was a sobbing mess on a number of occasions.
One of the first miracles came early in December. I was working on making gifts when I discovered I needed some key rings to finish them off. I knew we had a bunch somewhere and started to dig through boxes that had been stowed away and almost forgotten. One such box was marked “Mom-Office/kids gifts.” I had forgotten that when we had moved from Oregon, I had packed away the odds and ends the kids had bestowed upon me in a box with some office stuff (mainly old negatives). Curious as to what I would find I opened the box eagerly.
Tears sprung to my eyes as my gaze landed on a miniature stuffed black cat. To any typical observer, this little cat would have looked worn, and maybe a little rag-tag. Some would call it worn out or ratty, others well-loved. To me, it was a special love note from heaven. It had been a cherished treasure of our precious Lizy. To me it was a note from Heaven, telling me that Heavenly Father was ever aware of my aching heart and my needs. It was a special gift from my Lizy at a special time of year. It’s name is *Oreo, and he kept me company through the rest of the month, sitting on my desk, watching over the gifts I made for my family.
I carried the box upstairs and continued to go through it, I found cards and bookmarks she had made for me, and nick-knacks she and her sisters had given me through their early years. My heart swelled and I burst out laughing with love and delight as my gaze fell upon a piece of paper with a lizard sticker on it with the words, in Elizabeth’s writing, “Your pet Lizard (Me)!” I was overwhelmed, not only had I been blessed with little Oreo, but so many wonderful treasures that I hadn’t set eyes on in years. It felt like special gifts from Lizy all over again, even more cherished the second time.
Our next miracle came in disguise. At first I thought I was providing someone else with a miracle, but I think it was more for me than for the receiver. I have noticed numerous times when I headed to the fabric store (located in a large shopping center with a Walmart and numerous other stores) a homeless woman standing with a sign in the median in the entrance to the parking lot. A few times I had the thought to give her some food, but I was always stuck in moving traffic and a quick scan of the car never yielded anything of sustenance or warmth. This particular day as I began to pass the woman, I thought, when are you going to quit thinking of helping her, and actually do something about it? Immediately I felt small and I knew that Heavenly Father wanted me to help this woman. No more excuses about not having anything in the car, or being in too much of a hurry to go into the store to get something.
At first I thought I could buy her a hamburger meal or something, but then I felt something more sustaining was needed. I maneuvered our van into the neighboring lane that turned right and pulled back into the parking lot further down. Excitement thrilled inside me as I unloaded the two little boys and started on my shopping trip. I knew it couldn’t be too much, she had to carry it, after all, and I didn’t want it too heavy. Into the cart went some bread, peanut butter and jam, fruits and vegetables, milk, and a special Christmas treat. The boys were excited and happy to make suggestions.
I paid and carted the bags to the car, carrying them by hand across the parking lot to test their heaviness. I condensed the items into as few bags as possible and set them on the passenger seat for easy access. Knowing that I had been inspired to do this thing, I hopped into the car and pulled into the first left turning lane so I could hand the bags out the window to the woman. My heart thumped and I grinned from ear to ear as I pulled forward.
She wasn’t there.
I frowned, trying to decide what this meant. Perhaps I had been mistaken in my thought this was a prompting. Perhaps I should just take the food home, goodness knows we would make fast use of the groceries. But no, I had the though to try again. Just as I turned left onto the highway, I saw the woman cutting across the parking lot. I drove off, looking for a place to turn around. There wasn’t a place to turn quickly, so it took me a while to get back and into that left turning lane. This time it would work out.
She wasn’t there.
I frowned again, having many of the same thoughts and once more receiving the feeling to try again. So, I made that same left turn, and again saw her crossing the parking lot just as I turned. I drove off to make my turn around. This time though, I was going to drive about the parking lot to see if I could find her, and I wouldn’t get into the left turn only lane.
I got back to the parking lot and began driving around. The longer I drove and looked the more discouraged I became. I wondered if I had imagined the feeling, or if perhaps the food was meant for someone else. I wondered how long I should search, it wasn’t too long before the girls would be coming home from school. I got the distinct impression to look until I found her.
My search turned up nothing. I crossed over the highway and looked in the parking lot of another large store and a fas tfood restaurant, praying all the while. Finally I was sitting back at the light, only on the opposite side of the street. I had a decision to make. To turn and go home or to go straight and look some more. A considerable amount of time had passed and I doubted I would find her. Then, as I waited to pull up to the light, I spotted her on the opposite side of the road. I watched, fascinated as she crossed the first half of the highway. Then I mentally urged her to hurry as the light turned green and cars ahead of me began to go. I drove as slow as I could and breathed a sigh of relief when the light turned yellow as the car in front of me went through.
I stopped and watched as she crossed the rest of the way to my side of the highway. I rolled down the passenger window and began waving my arms, trying to capture her attention. She glanced my way, and then, as I motioned her towards me, stepped between cars. I pointed to the bags as she looked in my van. “I’ve been looking for you,” I said, “these groceries are for you.”
Her face sprung into an astonished and grateful smile as she uttered thanks. Gathering the bags she hurried out of the street and back to the sidewalk. My heart swelled and my eyes filled as I watched her walk down the sidewalk in my rear-view mirror, bags in hand. And I was immediately grateful for the miracle of being able to bless someone’s life. That experience has blessed me and taught me much, and I am so glad I didn’t give up when I couldn’t find her the first, second, or even the third time.
The next miracle came in the form of generosity from others towards our family. Beautiful, wonderful and special – these people who brought us these wonderful group of miracles will never know how much they blessed our family, in so many more ways than they could ever imagine.
Then came a miracle on Christmas Eve. It was so wonderful and so very hard. We had Christmas dinner and Robert’s elbow wound out being pulled out – a wonderful member of the ward and friend who is a pediatrician took the time to come put it back in so we could avoid the ER on Christmas Eve and we were able to continue with our acting out the Nativity with a happy little boy.
The day and evening finally wound to a close. Santa Daddy had come and bestowed his gifts to the family, the stocking were filled, and the presents placed beneath the tree. Everything was done, except for the cinnamon buns that would raise all night for breakfast the next morning. I quickly put them together while Paul washed up some final dishes from the day. It was late and I was tired. I heated the syrup on high and, turning the stove off, poured it over the cinnamon buns. I went to cover them with plastic, but realized they would rise better on the stove, a warmer spot in the kitchen. I glanced at the stove. It was a mess. I grabbed a clorox cleaning wipe and, forgetting that I had moments ago turned the burner from high heat to off, placed my hand right down on the burner.
Oh, how I howled. The pain was excruciating and I dove for the cold water. Tears streamed down my face and my hand just burned in pain. Paul grabbed some burn cream and we slathered it over my hand. I sat, crying, hoping that it wouldn’t be to bad, hoping to avoid the hospital, and wondering what I would do on Christmas if I couldn’t play the piano for the family or play with the kids. I tearfully asked Paul for a priesthood blessing. By morning the pain had diminished to almost nothing. My hand still ached a little and felt slightly swollen, but there was no sign of a burn other than slightly red skin and two tiny little blisters on the pads of my first and second fingers.
By lunchtime my hand felt totally normal and I was playing the piano without any trouble. What a wonderful miracle for our family. What a wonderful moment to share with the children. It was another love note from Heavenly Father telling me that he cared.
Our final miracle came Christmas night. A marvelous miracle brought to us by so many. We had invited people to join us in filling Lizy’s stocking with acts of service. We gathered on Christmas evening around the tree and emptied out the full stocking and began taking turns reading the wonderful acts of service that not only our family had put in her stocking, but that so many had done and told to us so we could put them in her stocking. I am sure Lizy was with us, grinning from ear to ear over her Christmas gift. And, not only did it help us all feel closer to Lizy, but it helped us feel closer to our Savior Jesus Christ.
So, our Christmas was full of miracles both big and small. We saw the hand of God in our lives time and time again. I know Heavenly Father is aware of us. He is aware of our struggles and trials, our heart aches and sorrows. He knows exactly what we need. I shudder to think that I could have so easily overlooked some of these miracles. Sometimes they can be hard to see and go unnoticed. Sometimes we can be so caught up in our troubles that we forget to look up and see the light. He is there and He loves us. He will never ever leave us. Sometimes He is easily seen, and sometimes we have to look for Him.
I am in awe of our wonderful miraculous Christmas, and so very, very grateful.
*a long time ago I wrote this post about Lizy and her Oreo – complete with a picture of the little stuffed kitten.