Each year, as we are picking out our Christmas tree and decorating it, I can't help but flash back to one particular Christmas.
Ben and I were in school, Mary was almost 2, and I was 7 months pregnant with Sam. We had absolutely no money at all. We had exhausted our student loans on books, tuition, classes and living. Ben was working part time, but that money went toward our car and living expenses. We were getting our food from the Church food bank, and we were purchasing whatever things we absolutely had to get at the DI, or just going without.
We were both about to graduate, and move in with my parents as Ben was looking for a job. We knew our situation was not permanent, but it was still very hard, and there wasn't an official end in sight, just a hope for a better future.
It was Christmas time. My absolute favorite time of year. I love everything about the season. The softening of hearts, the desire to give, the love, the magic, the decorations, the music, and so on.
My all time favorite thing about Christmas is the Christmas tree. The smell of the tree, the lights glowing in the darkness of the night, spreading magic and cheer into the home, and just the beauty of it. I have fond memories of sneaking down the stairs at night, and snuggling up into a chair that was across from the Christmas tree. I would just sit there looking at the beautiful tree, with the lights and ornaments glowing, and let my heat feel the joy and the excitement of the holiday. I would get lost in the joy of the season and the magic of the tree.
I was really struggling this particular year. We could not afford gifts, which I was ok with. Mary was getting a little toy from Walmart, and then whatever family gave her. Ben and I were just going to enjoy the holiday being together, without gifts. We were going to make the most of it.
We also could not afford a Christmas tree. Even if we did find a tree, we would have no money to purchase decorations or lights to put on it. It just wasn't going to happen this year. It was way down of the list of "needs." In fact, it wasn't even on it.
I was trying so hard to count our blessings, and to be grateful for what we did have. Becasue we really were blessed, and we wanted to recognize it. I knew that my parents had a tree in their house, and we would be there for Christmas, so that would be the way I could enjoy a tree.
Then finally, one day, it all just hit me. It was a very cold evening, we were studying for finals, we were stressed, and I was yearning for some sort of excitement or break from the hard stuff. I looked out the window just as our neighbors were bringing home their Christmas tree.
I finally let go, and just cried. I had a little melt down, and I let myself be sad for a little while. I remember looking up at Ben, who was holding me, and saying, "all I want is a Christmas tree. I don't care about the gifts, or the decorations, or anything else. I just really miss having a Christmas tree. I just need something to remind me of the magic of the season. The carefree feelings of my childhood. A reminder that life has wonder and amazement. A symbol of hope."
Just a few short minutes later there was a knock at our door. I wiped my eyes as Ben answered the door. There stood a member of our ward with a big, huge, real, wonderfully smelling Christmas tree! We absolutely could not believe it.
Our friend said that his family had been chopping down a tree, and they had the feeling that they should get one for us as well. They asked if we would like a tree.
My eyes welled up with tears all over again, and I just smiled. Ben told them they were an answer to a prayer, hugged them, and let them in.
The husband brought the tree in, and then his wife followed him in with boxes of lights and decorations for the tree. I could not believe it!
The tree alone had seemed like more than enough. I thought my heart would burst with joy and thankfulness.
This family that brought the tree had just had twins and were in a similar situation as ours. They were our age, in school, and struggling to get by as well. They sacrificed for us and obeyed a feeling in their hearts to help a family they didn't even know was in need.
I will never forget them.
Later that evening, in the dark of night, I sat crying once again. I was looking at our beautiful Christmas tree, smelling the evergreen smell that took me back to my childhood memories and the magical moments, and shedding tears of absolute gratitude and humility for a Father in Heaven who heard the plea of his hurting daughter and sent angels her way to make a magical season alive in her heart once more, to remind her that even the simple things matter to God, and to bring her a symbol of hope in a time of need.
The remainder of that month was full of angels coming our way. Envelopes of money were left on our doorsterp more than once, anonymous gifts were sent our way, people stepped in when we needed them most, family surrounded us and helped where they could, and everything ended up ok.
I am so grateful for God's angels, especially this time of year. And each year, I hope to pay it forward and be and angel to someone else. Because heaven knows, we all need them.