Am I the only one who looks out the window on the 7th of December and asks, “where is Christmas”?

Remember the magic when you were a kid? When bright packages, festive treats, new dresses and magical parties filled the air with the signs of Christmas? Do you recall when it seemed like there was a blanket of fluffy white snow covering this filthy, faulty and scary world for the entire month of December, temporarily offering a false sense that all was well in the world… yet another sign that soon Santa would be coming? Do you recall the fun and excitement in shopping for friends and family, wracking your brain to think of that perfect gift? Where did all of this go? Somehow it got lost in life. It got lost in adulthood, in parenting, in jobs, bills, health problems, marital strife, addictions, conflict, wars, catastrophes, and cancer.

Somehow, the colorful paper and bows, the sparkling ornaments, the festive plates of goodies, and the familiar Christmas carols have lost their luster, they just don’t quite jump start my heart like they used to.

When December rolled around I tried to ignore it. I refused to tear November off my calendar. Paul carried our tree up, fixed the lights and plugged it in. It sat there. I contemplated embracing a new look… one that didn’t involve ornaments or tinsel. I tried to convince myself that no one would care if I didn’t pull the red and green totes out of the basement to unveil the symbols of Christmas that usually adorn our home for the month of December.

While teaching a group fitness class to some participants I’ve worked out with, and have grown to love over the past 13 years, I said, “I need to have a party or I’m not going to decorate for Christmas. I need you guys to bring some Christmas cheer into my home and my heart.” They all cheerfully stood like pillars of strength and said, “we will be there, let’s do it”. We scheduled the party for the following week. I went home that night and forced myself to put something colorful on our tree. I made a plan to cook a salmon filet… it felt do-able. Moments before the party, when all I had out was a jug of ice water, some paper plates and some fish on the counter, I thought, “what am I doing… I used to love parties, I used to enjoy decorating and cooking and felt I was good at entertaining… what was I thinking… I cannot do this”.

The doorbell rang, in came Susan with a bowl of fruit and a hug. One by one, my dear friends entered my home and as promised, brought with them real Christmas cheer. It wasn’t the delicious food that filled the counter or the simple gifts for the gift exchange game that warmed my heart, it was the deep gratitude that filled my heart to overflowing to know that I was loved. The food was delicious and the game was simple and fun, the laughter was healing, but it was the love I felt from each person present that helped me to find Christmas.

In Christmas’s past I have donated here or there to contribute and do my part in supporting Sub for Santa’s or Toys for Tots but I fear my heart was not in it. Life gets busy and hectic and there is so much to be done, especially at Christmas time. I’ve heard people speak of the joy that is found in serving others and while I’ve desperately wanted to feel of this, honestly, I don’t know that I ever really have. It was more an act of checking of a good deed done on my list of things to do.

This year I have been extremely blessed to have been guided to a family that I really connected with. I cannot explain, nor deny the feelings I have had as I was lead to this family and have been inspired about how to bless their life. It is the most incredible feeling to see things fall into place as those around me have donated and been excited in wanting to help me make this family’s Christmas just a little bit merrier at a very rough time for them. I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of giving; it is extremely hard to accept and very humbling. I will tell you, in all honesty, it is far more rewarding to be on the giving end and to know that you asked to be guided to someone you can serve, and then to watch and feel the miracles happen to make it possible. THIS is where Christmas is. To see the excitement of each member of my family in knowing that we are coming together to lift another family and bring them smiles and good memories is a gift that cannot be purchased. It is a treasure. Really, what it is, is feeling the pure love of Christ. Love is the gift the Savior so freely gave and is the place where Christmas is found.

As I continue down this path called life, staying present, continually reminding myself to let go of the past and to have the faith and courage to move into each moment knowing that the Savior is with me, without having fear of the future, I am becoming more and more grateful for the many lessons I am learning as I strive to embrace adversity.