By Lauren Madsen
As we enter this holiday season, I have been thinking about the gifts God has given me and the kind of receiver I have been. The gifts of God are many--from moments of peace and reassurance to pure inspiration, from the companionship of the Holy Ghost to the endowment of Priesthood power through temple covenants. Add to those things (and countless others) the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the spiritual gifts God blesses us with and we truly have much to receive.
The scene from Mary Poppins comes to mind, when she keeps reaching into her bag and pulls out the most amazing items. Items that shouldn’t even be able to fit in the bag in the first place. The looks on the children’s faces are priceless, as they can’t see any logical explanation as to what is happening, and yet Mary continues to amaze them, over and over. Do we see the gifts of God with that kind of wonder and awe? Do we know the miracle it is to witness His hand in our lives in so many different ways?
Allow me to share a few observations I have made about what makes a good gift receiver.
GOOD GIFT RECEIVERS DON’T COMPARE
One of my most vivid childhood memories happened at my grandparents’ house on Christmas day. My grandparents had graciously passed out their gifts to all their grandchildren and in all the chaos I remember watching my twin cousins, who were just days older than me, open two frilly and fancy porcelain dolls with curly hair and beautiful dresses. As I opened my own present, I don’t think I even tried to hide the frown on my face when I held up my new cassette tape player. The rest of the afternoon I remember stealing glances toward my cousins and their dolls. I wanted what they had (though up to that moment I had never even considered asking for a porcelain doll before!) and I had received something else. What I find so interesting as I think about it all is that the tape player really was a great gift! I would be able to listen to our beloved Disney story tapes in my own bedroom! But when I compared it with someone else’s gift, I couldn’t see it that way. It wasn’t just that I didn’t see it that way, it was that I truly couldn’t. Comparison blinded me to the wonderful, hand-picked gift that was chosen just for me.
Whether it is spiritual gifts or temporal blessings or any other good gift, do we appreciate that the Giver, who knows each of us, gives us each the perfect gifts? The gifts that are tailor-made for us? Elaine L. Jack gently warned about comparisons, “I can see that these comparisons may keep you from achieving your potential and basking in associations that will enrich your lives and the lives of others.” Rather than looking around us as we receive gifts from God, let us commit to looking up!
GOOD GIFT RECEIVERS EXPRESS THANKS
When our youngest child turned five last month, he opened one of his presents and we asked him the question every parent seems to ask at a birthday party: “What do you say?...” He looked up at us with the biggest of grins and answered, “I love my birthday!” (I guess we will keep working on that one!). My son’s declaration made me think that maybe it is possible to be so focused on the gift itself that we forget there was a Giver. My son loves his birthday because we, as the givers, make it enjoyable for him. I wonder if there are times in my life when I am feeling content that I forget the gifts that led to the contentment came from a loving Father. James 1:17 teaches us that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” And I love what it says in D&C 78:19 about gratitude: “He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious.”
GOOD GIFT RECEIVERS USE THE GIFTS THEY ARE GIVEN
I cannot tell you how many games are in our closet that we have never played, simply because we have never taken the time to read the instructions to learn how. They are family gifts that have gone unused for years. Could this be what hinders us from using spiritual gifts as well? We simply haven’t learned how yet? Just as games come with instructions, so do our spiritual gifts. How blessed we are to live in a time when we have so much readily available to give us instruction! We have scripture, prayer, fasting, and personal revelation. We have patriarchal blessings and the words of our inspired leaders. We have every bit of instruction we need if we are willing to put in the effort to learn.
In the Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women, it explains the times when gifts of the Spirit are needed: “There are many times when we need gifts of the Spirit. When we are ill, confused, or mourning, we need healing, guidance, and comfort. We need knowledge, understanding, insight, and increased ability when we are seeking answers to major questions or guidance in how to deal with difficult situations. It is comforting to realize that we can benefit from gifts of the Spirit at these times.”
For all the reasons mentioned above and more, we are given gifts from God to help us navigate this life and to lift others up. Good gift receivers do not stick God’s gifts on a shelf to gather dust in the basement closet. They learn, they use, they bless.
GOOD GIFT RECEIVERS REMEMBER
In reading The Book of Mormon this year, it has struck me yet again how often the people are commanded to record their experiences. In 3rd Nephi 23 the Savior asks them to bring him the record they have kept. When he sees they have not written about Samuel the Lamanite’s teachings on the resurrection, Jesus asks: “How be it that ye have not written this thing. . .?” That question has been on my mind as I have thought about the many times I have seen God’s hand in my own life. How have I not written this down?
Kathleen Hughes encouraged, “I recognize how true it is that life often feels like a great pile of obligations, frustrations, and disappointments. But the Lord is there, always the same, His arms still outstretched. When we feel overwhelmed, we have to remember the peace He has spoken to us on pre-vious occasions. His peace brings comfort and strength; the world cannot give that to us.” The older I get, the more I recognize that I cannot rely on my memory alone to bring back those experiences.
As we celebrate the birth of our Savior this month, I invite you to reflect as I have on the gifts of God and how you receive them in your life. You may wish to ponder the following questions:
How have you received God’s gifts to you in the past?
Do you recognize them for what they are?
Do you acknowledge the Giver?
Have you expressed gratitude?
How would you like to receive gifts in the future?
May we all continue on the path of discipleship and more fully receive the bounteous gifts available to each of us as children of God!
Lauren Madsen is a photo-taking, scrapbook-making, kindergarten teacher turned stay-at-home mom of four. She loves reading, writing, family history work, spending time outside with her kids, and Friday night dates with her husband. Lauren currently works as a member of the SALT Gathering team. You can connect with Lauren on Instagram @a.lingering.light