by Kari Pike
I feel like a small child the week before Christmas. I stand in awe of the colorful pile of wrapped packages and wonder which one I will open first. Sometimes I pick one up and examine its shape, size, and weight. I poke it here and there and give it a gentle shake. I’m pretty certain of the contents of a few of the gifts because I made special requests for them. Many of the gifts before me, however, are a complete mystery. Some are quite large, others small, and every one of these gifts is uniquely wrapped.
Christmas is still a few months away, and my birthday came and went like any other day. The gifts before me now are the daily opportunities I have been given to learn and grow. In order to recognize these gifts, I have to rip through the wrapping of challenges that hide them from my view.
A number of years ago I learned the importance of preparing myself to receive the many gifts waiting for me. I was standing in the carport of our small home, switching loads of laundry and folding clothes. Several boxes stood stacked beside the washer and dryer. The thought came to me that it had been a long time since I had gone through those boxes and that I needed to sort and organize these items in order to be prepared. Prepared for what!? We had just gone through the experience of a premature birth of our ninth child and then nearly losing that baby to illness a few weeks later. We finally had everyone healthy and my husband had a new and better paying job that didn’t require him to be away from home several days a week. Maybe that was it. I had used up my allotment of blessings and now needed to be tested again. (Sheesh…Satan is sooooo good a putting false beliefs in our heads!) My heart pounded and beads of sweat formed on my forehead. What was going to happen this time? As panic set in, I began an earnest conversation with Father in Heaven. Almost immediately, I felt my heart slow down and fill with warmth. I felt, rather than heard, “Hush, child.” Then I felt these words form in my head: “It is as important to prepare to receive blessings as it is to go through trials.”
The experiences that came over the next several years have been glorious gifts. Sometimes the layers of wrapping have been really tough to remove, but those turned out to be the most precious gifts. Now, I stand in front of a suspiciously large gift. I have unwrapped and opened the box and discovered it full of manure. I am climbing in with shovel in hand. I am excited about digging into this challenge. I know there is a pony in there somewhere!