As I write this, it’s Christmas Eve, not yet 5:pm. With so much reflecting which naturally takes place this season, this time of year, plus what has been happening around these parts anyway, I feel bursting with things to say, while also cautious and hesitant, so I hope whatever comes out is accurate and well-taken.
When there are so many things to say, where can I even begin?
I think the thing I’m feeling most right now is gratitude. Overwhelming gratitude. In a time and place in life with the potential to feel alienation, I feel surrounded, even when I’m lonely. Even in a time in my life when I know I face losing friends for one reason or another, I feel supported.
Friends have reached out with words-- messages of encouragement, of concern, of love. There have been so many questions (asked and, I’m certain, unasked), and I’m glad to have had them directed my way, even though sometimes I don’t have answers.
Friends have also reached out with strength-- their efforts have provided sustenance in every way. They have fed my mind and body and spirit, reminding me of my value and capacity when I am unsteady.
And I haven’t even mentioned what they’ve done for my kids. When friends have stepped in to help my kids, especially in ways I haven’t been able to? That’s when my heart has been the most full.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about what Christmas means, this holiday we celebrate. The birth of Jesus Christ. I don’t talk about this a lot, as my feelings are very strong and I tend to hold them close, but as I write this out, I hope what I say is accurate and well-taken.
When it comes to stories of Jesus, I usually find myself thinking of Mary, his mother. In many moments I’ve felt an affinity with Mary, a kinship of reverence and adoration that quickly overcomes me. In works of art, in study of scripture, and in reenacting for film, my esteem for her continues to grow.
Just a few days ago in church I was in a class where we talked about Jesus’ life, about Mary (and even a little about Jesus’ siblings, a likelihood…I mean, right? He was Mary’s firstborn, so…). My mind was taken back to a day of filming for Young Jesus Teaches in the Temple. I will never forget thinking about Mary that day, looking for her lost son in a busy marketplace and finding him in the women’s court of the temple. The mixture of relief at having found him (and is there a better place to have found your child than at the temple?), and frustration (probably?) of having to have looked for him for so long: a conglomeration of feelings with which any mother is well-acquainted. I think of Mary’s life a lot.
Right now, though, I’m moved with the impression to talk about Jesus, about my relationship with my Savior. It’s Christmas. Even though these are ideas to which some of my friends might not subscribe, I feel strongly I should share.
I love my Savior. This year I have learned to lean on Him more than ever before. In ways mostly private, I have felt an unspeakable support and love. When I’ve had questions, it’s through Him I’ve received direction.
By living the way He taught, by living His gospel, I’ve come to know more about myself, and about my life, been strengthened and reminded of my value and capacity. Any time in my life, but perhaps this year more than ever, when I’ve found myself afraid and confused, I am and have been steadied by my Savior.
At the core of everything I do is my children. I have felt the influence of the Savior as I’ve worked at being the best mom I can be for my children as individuals and as an ever-developing dynamic. When I see my kids come to know their Savior in their own personal ways, it fills my heart to overflowing.
Maybe when you think of Jesus you think of an adult on a cross, or a 12-year old boy, or an 8 lb. 6 oz. baby. Maybe you think of a carpenter, or a prophet, or a really nice guy with good ideas on how to live and treat people. Tonight, I want you to know that I love Jesus Christ. I know that when I live His gospel I’m happier and more at-peace, and more myself. I love Him. Through Him, I become better—over and over and over again, it’s a gift I don’t know what I’d do without.
In a very real way I’ve felt my Savior’s love through the acts of service I’ve witnessed in the past weeks. There are some who I’ve thanked, some who I have yet to thank, and some who I cannot thank because I don’t know who they are. The kindness of friends, even in the form of strangers, has brought to me the peace of the Christmas season because it’s brought me closer to my Savior. Whether or not that was the intention, it was the result.
Thank you to my friends, known and unknown, for what you’ve done this season and beyond. It will not be forgotten, and gratitude fills my heart. It reminds me of what the Savior does for me regularly, in ways I’m recognizing more and more as time goes on.