Today is filled with a loving spirit as we rejoice in the birth of Jesus, Christmas . Today’s profound purpose and meaning make it almost magical. However, that magic often gets lost in the days leading up to Christmas. Our time and thoughts have been consumed with Eddie the Elf’s next crazy set-up and the picture-perfect Christmas card complete with matching outfits. But most of all, Christmas has become about the presents under the tree. We spend endless hours on Amazon searching for this year’s hottest gift items. We worry about getting enough gifts for our children and if we left someone off our list. Our world gets easily distracted from the true meaning of Christmas and we find ourselves focusing more on presents when presence is more important.

Don’t get me wrong, the act of giving a gift can be a joyful thing. Putting thought into something that you want to freely give to a friend or family member in order to bring them happiness — there is good in that. Personally, I most enjoy giving a perfect, meaningful gift rather than receiving something myself. I am blessed to live in a community (Owensboro, Ky) that graciously gives and supports its own. Our churches, nonprofits, schools, veterans, law enforcement agencies and so many more groups all strive to support their neighbors.

This year, the year when nonprofits across our community are struggling because of the pandemic, Puzzle Pieces (the nonprofit I founded in 2012) has received so many generous gifts. I know that each donation, no matter the amount, was a selfless, joyfully-given gift. I have been humbled, even moved to tears, by people’s generosity to give to a mission that might not impact them directly, but impacts the community in which they live. Doesn’t that embody the true spirit of Christmas?

What gift can you give? I’m not talking about something you can buy online or run to the store and pick up. Let’s dig a little deeper within ourselves this Christmas morning and unwrap our own personal gift. 

We are each equipped with gifts, God-given abilities or strengths that can benefit others. Some of us have been given the gift of leadership, hospitality, service, knowledge — the list is endless.  Oftentimes, we find ourselves searching for more in life, but I believe that is because we haven’t acknowledged the gift that is within us. Today, you will watch your family gather around the Christmas tree to unwrap gifts. I challenge you to ask yourself what gift do you wish you could unwrap for others to see within you.  

I have spent the last several years discovering my purpose — my gift. It has been a long journey, and definitely not easy at times. It started with growing up with my brother, who has a chromosomal disability. His challenges and the struggles that my parents faced led me to become a special education teacher. Wanting to do more, be more for people in my community like my brother, I opened Puzzle Pieces. My gift is serving the disability community and leading my community toward inclusion and opportunities for all. It has been God’s plan for me all along. I would be lying if I told you that I haven’t doubted myself and discredited my God-given talents more times than I can count. However, with time, centering my life around purpose and meaningful relationships, I am starting to embrace those gifts in order to share them with you.  

This season, identify your gift. Give your time and talents, dollars if you are able, advocate for what you believe in, use your voice, give kindness. When the Christmas spirit starts to settle and you start placing the decorations back into the attic, don’t pack away your gift. Incorporate your gift into your New Year’s resolution, build it into your gratitude journals, pray about it in your morning meditation, and then when you are ready, share your gift with others.  

Merry Christmas, friend. Can’t wait to see you unwrap your gift within.

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