Every Perfect Gift

Karen Gempel  // Tales From the Trenches


December 27  

 “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (Js 1:17).

Now Christmas day has passed: fresh toys already scattered, the new sweater worn and tossed on a chair, and we are past the anxiety of preparation, the stress of acquiring the right thing, and we feel free to enjoy our families. And we are probably promising to do less next year, so the season will mean more. But as years pass, we wonder what our children have remembered most in the years of accumulation. Was it enough? What did we really give them?

This year I received the most beautiful Christmas gift from a daughter who almost did not get to know me. Twenty-four Christmases ago, she was just 18 months old, newly weaned because I learned that I had both a brain tumor and an aneurysm and faced two serious surgeries. The youngest by six years, she had no understanding of why I disappeared from her life for so long (two months). We prayed incessantly, and the ordeal came to a happy end.

As our children grew, we tried to give them every good gift a parent hopes to give: our time, our faith, a good education, the true and beautiful within our means.

But were these things enough to offset the epic ordeal they had endured? I worried especially about our youngest, who was frequently melancholy when I left her, and often cried when I dropped her off at first grade.

I bought a little locket which I gave to her one day, saying, “There’s something very special inside.” She opened the locket—“But it’s empty!

I told her, “You can’t see it, but I put a kiss inside of it. If you feel sad and worried, you can open it, and hold it to your heart, and know that I always love you.

Later, during the school’s Open House, her teacher told me she often saw our daughter open that locket and hold it to her heart.

This Christmas, our family decided to only give gifts to our grandchildren, and so I was surprised when Natalie handed me a little box. She’s now a college grad growing a successful career, but I still worry if she’s too busy to call or answer my frequent texts: “Hi, it’s mom! Haven’t heard from you in a while.” “Are you okay?

I opened the box and there shone a tiny gold locket. “It reminded me of the locket you gave me when I was a little girl in first grade,” my daughter said.

Is there a kiss inside?” I asked, tears starting. She nodded.

And though the shadows may shift and our situations here on earth change, this perfect gift, given and inspired by the God of Love, pierced my heart with the most beautiful arrow of hope and proof of his Life within us.



Proclaim the Genius & Share!
  • You’re not the only one with tears in her eyes, Karen! What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing. And wow, I’m so thankful you made it through those tremendous health challenges!

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