This week I'm focusing on a little "modern day scripture" in my scripture post.
I missed watching the First Presidency Christmas Devotional last Sunday. We thought it was recording but somehow it didn't get recorded. But I loved reading this report with the highlights of the addresses given.
I felt inspired by President Monson's talk to make extra efforts to do acts of personal service this Christmas. I loved his story of how he'd been a bit of troublemaker in primary as a boy and how the primary president had so lovingly asked his help in getting all the older boys to be more reverent. Many years later, when the primary president was in a nursing home, he decided to visit her at Christmastime to thank her for the positive influence she was in his life. When he arrived, she was just sitting there, despondent, staring at the plate of food in front of her. He decided to feed her. As he fed her, he told her how much she'd influenced him, even though he was told that she hadn't spoken in ages and didn't even know her own family these days. As he left, she very surprisingly said, "
But even if she hadn't recognized President Monson or seemed to care at all that he visited, the visit still would have been worthwhile. She might have felt that love inside and it might have brightened her dreary life. And the visit would have made a difference to President Monson. The effect on the server or giver is just as important as the effect on the receiver, isn't it?
So next week when the kids are out of school, we're going to visit my Grandma. It's been a couple months since we've gone to visit her and my parents have told me she's really declined. She's had dementia for a few years now and when we've visited her lately, she hasn't had a clue who we are and has asked us the same questions about 100 times and then has promptly forgotten that we visited as soon as we left. But my kids have felt her sweetness and love and have learned patience and kindness as they've answered her questions again and again with bright smiles on their faces and given her lots of hugs. She's clearly been happy when we're there and her happiness in the moment is a worthwhile thing - even if she doesn't remember the visit a few minutes later.
But since our last visit, I've heard that she's declined quite a bit further. She's only waking up for a couple hours every 24 hours and is always asking "am I alive?" when she does wake up. She used to be able to carry on conversations (repetitive ones, but conversations just the same). Now she can't really talk much and keeps falling asleep after a few minutes of talking. She has a lady that comes in and helps her bathe and my uncle lives there and gets her all her meals. So she's fine. And I've thought maybe it would be best not to take the kids to see her - that way they'd get to keep the positive memories they have of her from a few months back.
But I think the kids will bring out a more active response in my grandma than my parents and other adults have. And whether she really cares that we visit or not, WE will care. And the effect on the server is just as important as the effect on the receiver, isn't it?
President Uchdorf's talk inspired me to be a much better receiver this Christmas. My love language is not gifts. I really don't care much about receiving gifts (unless they're really super thoughtful and sentimental and I don't expect such things very often at all). In fact, gifts mostly stress me out. I want so much to give meaningful gifts that I have a super hard time ever settling on a gift for anyone. And when it comes to receiving gifts, I guess it often feels like an exhausting game of tag to me - someone "tags" me by giving me a gift and then I have to set off running to "tag" them back with an equal or greater gift - and that adds to my to-do list and make me stressed out.
According to President Uchdorf:
“Isn’t one of the great joys of Christmas seeing the excited faces of little children as they take in their hands a wrapped gift that is just for them?” asked Preisdent Uchtdorf. “As we get older, however, our ability to receive gifts with the same enthusiasm and grace seems to diminish. Sometimes people even get to the point where they can’t receive a gift or, for that matter, even a compliment without embarrassment or feelings of indebtedness. They mistakenly think that the only acceptable way to respond to receiving a gift is by giving back something of even greater value. Others simply fail to see the significance of a gift — focusing only on its outward appearance or its value and ignoring the deep meaning it has to the sincere giver.”
“My brothers and sisters, what kind of receivers are we? Do we, like the Savior, recognize gifts as expressions of love? … I hope that this Christmas and every day of the year we will consider, in particular, the many gifts we have been given by our loving Heavenly Father. I hope we will receive these gifts with the wonder, thankfulness and excitement of a child.”
So this year, I'm going to be a much better receiver. I'm going to receive gifts with love and joy and give gifts with love and joy and lay the stress aside as much as I possibly can. I'm going to focus on giving gifts of service since I'm better at that than material gifts. And I'm going to be positively thrilled by anything I do receive!