Lindseys story- reach out
I have been living in Germany for 6 years now and a few years back, my husband Hans deployed to Iraq for the second time. This time it was for 15 months. Right before he left, we found out we were expecting a baby. It was a total surprise. When I was 15 weeks along, Hans left for his 15 month deployment. We had a little girl who was still very young. As my due date started approaching, I was getting a little nervous. These two little kids were only going to be 16 months apart and I was all alone in Germany. None of my family was able to fly out to help me out when our little guy arrived. He came on Feb. 28th, 2008. To say it was a stressful time in my life, would be a huge understatement. My husband wasn't able to come for the birth. He was going to be coming for R and R seven weeks after Gabriel (our little boy) was born. He could only stay for 15 days before heading back to Iraq. Those first seven weeks were the hardest times in my life. However, in the midst of the trial, I was shown some of the most amazing service you could imagine.
I had friends bring me meals for two weeks straight. One day, I was having a huge breakdown on the coach while Gabriel was crying his little heart out. I couldn't get him to stop and neither of us had had any sleep. I was feeling all alone and overwhelmed. All the sudden, I got a knock on the door. My friend just showed up and put her arms around me. She packed an overnight bag for the kids and me, and took us to her house. She had us stay the night. She slept on the the coach with Gabriel all night so I could get a full night's sleep. She got up with him when he needed to be fed. Then, two weeks later, my other friend did the same thing. Right before my husband was supposed to come home for R and R, I got the flu. I was so sick I couldn't move. I didn't call anyone though. Two other ladies just randomly showed up at my door, not knowing I was sick. When they saw my condition, they each took one of my children over night so I could get better.
These are just some of the examples of the service that was rendered to me and my little family. Even though I didn't have my immediate family here with me, I did feel like I had family. My friends became my family. They cared about me. They took care of me. They showed incredible love for me. I hope to one day render that same service to someone else.
Michelles story-Its the little things that count
I was pregnant with my fourth child and had 3 other children under 4 years old. My husband was in grad school and I went into labor at 30 weeks along (10 weeks early). I was put on bed rest in the hospital and wasn't able to help my husband take care of the 3 children all babies themselves at home. I ended up being in the hospital 4 weeks. People from church brought in meal almost every night for those 4 weeks and people watched our 3 children while Jason attended school all day and then worked at night. This took the stress off of me and Jason and I'll never forget all this service which helped us both greatly.
The Christmas Story- charity never faileth
Christmastime, with eleven children, and in the best of circumstances, has proven to always be a challenge but one we have tried to meet with creativity and joyful expectation. Some years have been harder than others – and some have been more rewarding than others. The years we have been able to involve our children in projects and “secrets” have been more meaningful and fun for all of us. We have always tried to teach our children that giving is far more in keeping with the Christmas spirit than getting something but occasionally we have definitely been on the receiving end far more than the giving end. Here is the story of one of those years.
We have a child who was born with spina bifida in 1995. The precarious nature of the disease plays itself out within the first two or three years. The prognosis cannot be determined at birth and with the medical advances being made every year, hope carries the family through. We entered Primary Children’s Medical Center, in Salt Lake City, Utah in August of 1997 to do a simple procedure that was supposed to keep us there only three or four days at the most. Due to some complications, that three day stay turned into five months. Our son ended up having eight surgeries in the following six weeks. I had ten other children, with seven still living home. One of them was pre-school age. Over those months, my children took turns missing school to stay home with their little sister while my husband worked. About a month after the initial procedure was done to our son, my husband had a mini-stroke which eventually led to his dismissal from the company due to his inability to do the job. We were devastated! What more could possibly go wrong – and all at once?! As the months wore on, Christmas approached. We were allowed to bring our little boy home for two days to have Thanksgiving together as a family and then he went back up until December 16 when we were finally able to bring him home to stay. Needless to say, shopping and planning for Christmas was never given a forward thought. I found myself worrying about it in the back of my mind, but could not do anything physically or financially about it and so hoped that my Christmas gift to my children would be my presence home where I could fix them breakfast, do their laundry and listen to their problems for a change.
I had become good friends with the social workers at PCMC and they had met all of my children at one time or another. They liked our family and they were pleased to see the tender way my children dealt with this sick little boy. One day one of the social workers approached me about the idea of the judges in the Third Circuit Court in SLC providing Christmas for us. I was reluctant because we had such a large family and I was embarrassed. She pressed me and eventually convinced me to let the rest of my children have a few gifts to help lighten their minds and give them some happiness. She asked me interests of each child and sizes and wants and needs. I gave her some very sketchy ideas that were all very cheap gifts.
Much to my amazement, two days before I was able to bring our son home, some gifts began to mysteriously appear on our doorstep. Someone had decided to do the 12 Days of Christmas for our family. Our kids were giddy with excitement! This was only the beginning of an entire town pouring out their love and goodness upon a family who needed, most of all, to have their spirits lifted. The thoughts were far more important than the gifts. We had Santa Claus visit our house twice! The obstetrician who had taken care of me during this difficult pregnancy came to our house loaded down with gifts from his own family. And then the gifts from the judges came down. I thought there would be one or two gifts for each child. I was wrong! They brought down two vans full of garbage bags full of wonderful gifts! We didn’t have enough space in our living room to hold everything. I was dumbfounded beyond belief! I knew my husband and I would NEVER be able to duplicate this kind of Christmas. But what a boost this was to my children. What a way to thank them for holding down the fort through all those long, long months of tears and fears!
I don’t remember many of the gifts – they have been absorbed into our lives, having been used, enjoyed and either discarded or given away since then. But there was one gift that appeared wrapped in a beautiful box that remains with me every day. It is the one that I treasure the most. I opened up the box to find a soft brown plaid quilt. It was so soft. When I pulled it out and opened it up for everyone to see, I gasped to see the quilt’s ties knotted around ten dollar bills completely covering the quilt. To this day I do not know who gave us this quilt. I have never let the kids use it. It remains in my cedar chest so I can bring it out every year and remind the kids of this remarkable Christmas.
After our lives settled down a little more and our son became healthier, I had time to reflect on the meaning of Christmas and determined that I needed to bring joy to someone outside of our own family. I thought about that wonderful quilt and have been able to give that same gift to other families in need for the past three years. I have convinced my co-workers to become involved in the project. If it ever ends at work, then my family – who are mostly grown and married now, can join me in that project.
The true gifts of Christmas are those of caring and love, not money. True, we were able to pay some bills with the money tied on that quilt, but more importantly, the love that came wrapped in that quilt propelled me to spread the same thing over and over and over.
The Savior said it best: “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25: 35-40)