10 Gifts I Can’t Live Without

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Luke 6:38

Donna Messerly-Brown

by Donna Messerly-Brown

There is something very empowering about surviving the unthinkable (over and over), then learning you really can laugh again — and that’s okay.  This year I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the gifts I’ve already received (and it’s not even Christmas yet). You know, they’re the kind you can’t take back (and wouldn’t even if you could). My favorite gifts fit perfectly because those who gave them to me know my size, my style, my potential and are in tune with my needs and desires.  Who says it’s better to give than to receive?  Today I’d like to tell you about 10 of my favorite gifts — gifts that I, frankly, could not live without.

1. The atonement. Every day for the past month I have pondered this gift from Heavenly Father and His beloved son.  I came to understand the power of the atonement (I mean really understand it) about five years ago.  I was struggling with forgiveness, forgiveness for myself and for some individuals who had hurt me.  I found blame for my experience laying right at my own feet.  I knew how important it was for me to forgive others and so I scooped up all of the responsibility and swallowed it down until I was so full of guilt and sorrow that I could not move.  I prayed for help.  It occurred to me suddenly that I no longer had to take the sins of the world upon myself because that was Christ’s job.  Was I presuming to be more powerful than Christ?  Would I really deny the glory of his gift by trying to take over his job?  Christ suffered for the sins of man so I didn’t have too.  I really loved unwrapping that gift.  Trust Jesus.

2. One last year with my father.  Everyone receives the gift of parents.  Some of us would occasionally like to return them for a nicer set (you know who you are).  The gift of my parents really was the gift that kept on giving.  It’s still giving today.  My father was a funny, sensitive caring man with a curiosity that could not be stifled.  He loved nature, animals, adventure and most importantly he love me!  My father made mistakes — who doesn’t?  But in the end he had the foresight to share his thoughts with me and candidly shared the life lessons he had learned.  About one year before my father succumbed to pancreatic cancer I moved to the valley in which he lived.  My home was about seven miles from his and for the first time in my life I got to explore my personal relationship with him.  I remember the first time he called me on the telephone that year.  The moment I heard his voice I was sure there was something wrong.  I was the one who called him.  He never called me.  Yet, that day our relationship had progressed.  He simply wanted to talk.  My youngest daughter spent hours at his house riding horses and teasing with Grandpa.  Oh how grateful I am that the Lord led me to my childhood home to spend quality time with Daddy.  The night before he left us Dad and I talked for a couple of hours about his pending departure.  We laughed and discussed and did our best to accept his fate.  I held his hand until the spirit left his body less than 48 hours later.  He knew I loved him and I knew he loved me.  What an amazing gift.

3. Time well spent with Mom.  About six months ago I helped move my mom from her home in Phoenix, Ariz. to my home in Utah under extremely difficult circumstances.  She had become ill and (I thought) frail.  We could not leave her alone any longer.  Mamma hated leaving her life and did not ask to exchange it for a life with me.  It was the only thing we could do.  Every day we meet in the hall and greet each other with a hug and a kiss.  Occasionally we dream of ripping each others’ throats out.  How lucky I am to have an opportunity to hear her life story, to ask her important questions, to tap her vast knowledge and to return a lifetime of favors by taking care of her for a change.

4. My children. I have four amazing children (all of them are lucky they lived to adulthood).  They are beautiful — that goes without saying.  The lessons I have learned from them are the true gifts I received when each one came into my life.  They are all strong, independent, passionate people who have taught me to be patient with myself and others.  From them I have learned humility.  I have developed survival skills that would make the battle front in a major war seem like a walk in the park.  I have experienced the deepest love imaginable and the deepest pain that helped shape the caverns of my heart.  Two of them have blessed me with perfect little grandchildren and the satisfaction of knowing my children come to know me better with every passing day.

5. My friends. I know, I know, this is getting to be a little like a cliche; but it’s true. Without my lifelong friends I would be missing huge chunks of my personality.  The gift of friendship can last a lifetime.  My friends have given me laughter, perspective, joy and often times a good, swift kick in the proverbial butt when I needed it.  Come to think of it, that might have been the most beneficial of all the perks that come with the gift of friendship.

6. Auntie. I am grateful for all of my aunts and uncles.  I have known from birth there is a place on earth where I belong and it is evident when I am with extended family (some extended family, heh, heh).  One auntie in particular has been my mentor, surrogate mother and friend all of my life.  She has rescued me from sure self-destruction, welcomed me into her home always and has never hesitated to point me to a better road than the road I am on.  She accepts me for who I am and simply shakes her head with a grin when I insist “I know what I’m doing here.”  Our relationship is one of my most treasured prizes.  That gift can never be replaced.

7. Ceramic figurine. On my dresser even as I write is a beautiful little ceramic figurine — a girl with a blue dress and auburn pony tail.  I often put it away for fear the treasure will be taken from me.  I always bring it out again so I can admire it and remember the love that brought her to me.  My paternal grandmother was an artist.  She made the little figurine in her ceramic shop on Adams Ave. in Ogden.  My paternal grandmother and maternal grandmother were friends.  The little figurine was a gift from one to the other.  I am my maternal grandmother’s namesake and am drawn inexplicably to her (even in death).  I loved to visit both grandmothers, but probably would have lived with my maternal grandma given the choice.  I had been visiting Grandma Morgan for days and when it came time for me to leave, I was being rushed into the car and began crying uncontrollably.  Grandma disappeared for a moment and returned carrying the figurine.  She explained its origin to me and then pressed it into my tiny palm.  I remember it as clear as day, “There now, don’t you cry. Take this little girl to keep you company.”  I must have realized its significance even then. How in the world did it survive 45 years and countless moves and come to be standing on my dresser today?  It is a constant gift of my grandmothers’ love for and connection to me.  Even if it were gone, its meaning would live forever (and that is the real gift).

8. Communication.  I am blessed with the gift of communication, a wordsmith if you will.  Each of us has a talent and the responsibility to develop it.  It truly is a gift and mine has brought me endless joy, money, friends and so much more.

9. Chicken quilt.  Throughout her short adult life my sister dragged the pieces of a chicken wall hanging to home after home.  She loved that fabric and knew I had an affinity for chicken decor (yeah, go figure).  Her life was a whirlwind of artistic expression and she threatened every time I saw her to finish that wall hanging one day.  It bore a significance to her I could not understand.   In the end of May 2007 she presented the beautiful little wall hanging to me.  She lived in Northern California and had carried it with her on a visit to Utah.  She created a fabric inset and on it she wrote a precious note of her love for me.  Our relationship was volatile at best, but I’m sure now that was because of the intense love we shared for one another.  One week later, at the age of 46, she died.  She had said to me what she needed to say and that gift is a treasure I will hold forever.  Not long after her sudden and unexpected passing I was sobbing on my bed.  I felt her say, “Go get the chicken quilt and wrap it around you.  You’ll feel me there.”  I walked into the kitchen and pulled it off the wall.  I slept with it for days and she was right (she always was).  Thank you, Krissy,  for the chicken quilt.

10. My desk.  On Dec. 29, 2011 my little brother took his life.  He was a brilliant, albeit troubled, man full of life and energy.  His mind was an amazing machine.  Not long after he died his family gave me the gift of an exquisite antique desk.  All of my life I had wanted a desk, a place of my own to pore over, work and reflect.  It was not the actual possession, but the representative statement about a commitment to explore the mind that I sought.  Even as I write at this desk, I feel my brother and a deep appreciation for the gifts he has given me — far too many to mention here.  Suffice it to say I have made a mental, heartfelt connection between the desk and my brother who also died at the age of 46 — far too soon.  This beautiful desk embodies his brilliance for me.

I could go on forever, you know, detailing the gifts of my life; but, I’ll stop here because now it’s your turn.  Why don’t you take a little time to ponder the perfect gifts you have received and those who bestowed them upon you.  Write them down and you will come to understand the true significance of those gifts in your life.


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