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The Gift

It sat beautifully wrapped in the middle of the room. A perfect bow sparkled around each edge, folded, bent, crossed over and around into huge loops with tails swagging across the corners. Twinkling, shimmering paper cast a glow around the room. Under the bow a large tag read “TO ALL”. Many in the room walked around the gift as if not to disturb it. Some bent low to see whose name was on it and some just wanted to look at its beauty and not disturb the perfectness of it.

It wasn’t only out of curiosity of what was inside, although to be honest that was part of it, but there was almost a magnetism to it. Excitement flowed as the bow was untied and paper torn off. There wasn’t the usual tape that had to be cut though to make it a frustrating job. No it was with ease the lid was lifted and the wrapping inside set aside. Amazement, surprise and disappointment were exclaimed as another beautifully wrapped box a bit smaller was revealed. As this process continued some became bored, some only wanted to keep the beautiful wrapping or bows but many wanted to continue.

My first memory of the gift was around 12 or 13 although I was raised with my mother and grandparents gifts till then. But this time it seemed only my name was on the tag. We attended a beautiful church that I loved. I was excited to finally be of age to join youth choir. We had to rehearse on Saturday mornings with only the choir and the leader in the large building. On a bathroom break I snuck into the main sanctuary and crept all the way down the long isle to the altar. I was drawn to where I had seen only the pastor stand. I was looking to see if God was there. He had to be close by because this is where we came to know more about Him. Turning I saw a huge dark curtain and I knew He must be there but was far too scared to look. Satisfied that at least I knew now where He was I went back to rehearsal. A few months later at Christmas the youth choir had to change places for another song and we were instructed to walk behind the curtain to the other side. With sweaty hands and knees shaking at the possibility of finally meeting God I followed the choir only to find nothing but another door. Disappointment was short lived because I figured He moved.

At 16 I attended midnight mass with my best friend. I was amazed by all the formality and structure. Stand, sit, kneel, whew- it was a lot of work but all the smoke created a mystery for me and when the priest held up a plate and cup and proclaimed, “This is the body and blood of Christ”, I knew I found the end of my search. I started going to Sunday mass with her regularly and studied as the priest worked at the altar to see how the transformation came about. I decided a few months later I wanted to become a catholic and went to talk with the priest who told me to come back when I was 18 and he would give me lessons. I did and I received my first confession at my sister’s wedding rehearsal. After confessing my 18 years of sins the priest told me to go and pray the Hail Mary, Our Father and Rosary 10 times each. But I told God while kneeling to pray if I had to repeat something 10 times me and Him weren’t going to talk much!

The next day I received my first communion and was shocked to taste the dry bread and the sharp bitter wine to actually believe this was the body and blood of Christ. It was only a few years later when my best friend once again shared with me she met others who were getting together to sing and pray and talk about Jesus and many she heard really met Him! I WAS GOING NO MATTER WHAT! My quest would be over……I remember nothing much about that night except after the first song the leader asked if anyone wanted to met Jesus as their savior. I jumped out of my seat with shaking knees as he led me in a short prayer. Later he explained I needed to find a believing church, read my bible and pray. OK, I could do all that…..but that night something happened…..I believe I opened my gift that had MY name on it.

Over the next 38 years I began opening deeper into my gift each box. Each one brought me to a deeper relationship with my God. Some years I stopped and enjoyed the box I had opened that year. Sometimes I just liked looking at the beauty of the perfectly wrapped gift I held and placed it on a mantle for all to behold. I shared my gift over the years and helped many open their gift with their name on it. However, as some gave the gift back to me and expressed doubt that it was for them I became doubtful too. I didn’t want others to know about my doubt that I had so I placed my beautiful gift out for others to see but only allowed its beauty to be observed. The bow wilted and the paper faded but I paraded my gift around like it was only me that had one or I judged others gifts that they weren’t as perfect as mine.

Dust collected on the bow and paper and finally I stored it away during a period of years. Even though I had a perfect life living on an island, a loving husband, great health and a wonderful family I knew something was missing. I tried to go to church, to read my bible but my heart was empty. It was a hard, dry time for me and I didn’t know how to find my God again. But as I learned and believed over the past years- He never leaves us nor abandons us….it was I who had moved not Him. He sent many angels into my life, good friends who shared with me over a period of years and some I only spent a short time with. Each of them poured into my life a hunger and thirst to go collect my gift, dust it off and begin to peel back the faded paper to once again know that I know that I know that my name is on it and it is mine to have.

There is joy inside the gift along with a peace that passes all understanding but the gift must be unwrapped and received not just adorned. There are many boxes to unwrap as the gift of a relationship with someone who came from heaven to become a man so that we would know He knows what we are going through. He left a perfect place with His loving father to live among us and He died for no reason except to give us ever lasting life. THAT is the most amazing gift I have ever known and each box I unwrap brings me closer to knowing Him more and more. However I have learned not to just observe and admire the gift but to use it, live it, share it and relish in the truth of it being real!!!

-Penny Novak


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