Before I can recall specific memories of time from my childhood, I learned this Shaker hymn written by Brother Joseph Brackett in 1848:
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.
Last night, I was pondering the blessings of simple gifts I have received in my life. Among the myriad, I will mention but a few:
1. The Gift of Time. Occasionally, I am aware of individuals, who, by living with intention, carve out a section of time for me. Sometimes, this time is given in the form of sending a message, answering a question, or acknowledging a comment. Other moments, I receive this gift when a dear soul calls on the phone or visits. Each morning, I wake with a sense of the gift I have been given of another day to spend time as I wish.
2. The Gift of Choice. I am acutely aware each day that I have the gift of choice. I choose what I want to wear, where I will go (or stay), and how I will use the gift of time. I choose the relationships I will develop each day, the words I will write and read, the music I will hear. I choose to live and love.
3. The Gift of Being Clean. After the birth of a new baby, I remember a moment where my mother was returning from a doctor appointment not far from my home. She and my father, who was her driver, stopped by for only a few minutes. She said, “We can hold the baby while you take a shower.” As a mother of a new baby, I had been covered in bodily fluids from leaky nursing pads and diapers. I was so grateful for the blessing of taking a shower and for the gift of being clean.
4. The Gift of Being Able to Change. Other times, I have felt covered in the hopelessness of doubt–doubt in myself and my ability to go on, to move forward, to change. I have allowed myself the laziness of wallowing, not unlike the Prodigal Son. But I, too, have looked up, and through prayer, scripture study, and through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I have been given the gift of being able to change.
5. The Gift of Love. As a teenager, I was hyper-judgemental. I didn’t like that every outfit I saw, every person with whom I spoke, and every hair-do and purse and action was seen through a critical lens. I even looked at myself that way. The gift of love was lacking in my life. As I grew into a high school and college student, I began to cultivate feelings of love for others (though I still struggled with self-love and acceptance). The newfound happiness of loving instead of judging others was a great gift. Eventually, I decided I wanted to give that gift not only to others, but to myself. I struggled over years of praying and building uplifting thought processes; I spent many an hour along this journey in conversation with supportive friends. Within the last several months, my heart has changed toward myself, as well. I have gained knowledge that God loves me as I was, as I am now, and as I will become–even with my imperfections. I still have negative days occasionally, but overall, I can say that I do–truly–love myself. This gift is perhaps the most precious of them all.