In the November 2004 issue of The Family Room, we asked our readers to send us stories of their most meaningful Christmas gifts. Many readers responded and shared personal moments of tender love and thoughtfulness. We have selected some of their stories to share. May your hearts be blessed and inspired as you read these touching stories. Merry Christmas!

A Christmas engagement

Sonya Stooksbury, Knoxville, Tennessee

My most meaningful Christmas gift was given to me in 1981 by my future husband. I was given a huge box and I found upon opening it that it contained bricks to weigh it down and a smaller box, which contained another smaller box. When I finally got to the last one, it contained a diamond engagement ring.

The ring itself was simply beautiful, but that is not what made it the most meaningful gift. This gift began a marriage that has lasted 22 years and has produced a wonderful 18-year-old son. My husband is now a bi-vocational pastor, and we are still as in love today as we were all those many years ago. That is what makes the ring the most meaningful Christmas gift I have ever received.

The ring was more than the ring itself, but a lifetime of sharing my life with a most wonderful man and the joy of raising our son. I must confess that we are definitely more mature than when I received the gift, and by the grace of God we have grown stronger in our marriage. As my son grows up and gets ready to leave home, we are looking forward to a new phase in our lives. But it all began with that special Christmas gift in 1981.

A daughter’s expression

Brenda Moore, Cherry Valley, Illinois

My most meaningful gift came last year when my then 10-year-old daughter wrote a letter on her own, and stashed it behind the Christmas tree. She surprised us with it after all the gifts had been opened. She expressed gratitude to my husband and me for being her parents, and told us how much she loved us. It brought many tears of joy. I have since framed this simple, handwritten letter, and hung it on the wall of my bedroom. It will forever be the most meaningful gift I’ll ever receive.

A gift given now received

Wendy Charles, Paw Paw, Michigan

One year I wrote a poem for my sister that included moments from our childhood, which included both meaningful moments and just plain funny ones. She cried when she read it and I knew I had scored high on the Christmas gift meter! The next year she topped it by cross-stitching the entire poem, circling the words with a floral design, and having it framed to give to me. Then it was my turn to cry!

A Jesus stocking

Kelly Jonas, Livermore, California

My most meaningful Christmas gift was when I received my Jesus stocking. My mother-in-love gave my family a stocking with the name “JESUS” written across the length of it. Each year on Christmas morning my family writes a letter to Jesus and puts it into the stocking. This is a tradition my husband and his family have been doing since he was a little guy. They have yet to open and read any of these letters, but they are a constant reminder each year as we begin to decorate our tree and wrap our presents that the greatest gift we have is Jesus. This gift has guaranteed my family will take time to focus on the Lord during the holiday season.

A lantern of love

Melissa Carl, Harrod, Ohio

My most meaningful gift was from an elderly couple in the church that doesn’t have any children of their own but are the grandparents of all. They gave my husband and me a lantern made from a mason jar with some wood that he had shaped himself. The lantern has a little light in the jar so it can be plugged in. It’s nothing fancy, but it means the world to us to think they took their time to make us a gift. Something so simple made us realize that money can’t buy something so special. My nephew was getting married shortly afterwards and when his fiancé saw it, she requested two for her wedding. We both would say that gift is our most treasured.

A little something from the grandparents

Karen Blankenship, Tallahassee, Florida

My parents have always (and I mean always) gone out of their way to make our Christmases special and memorable. The one that comes to my memory the quickest was 25 years ago. As a newly married couple—young, naïve, and poor—my husband and I found ourselves pregnant. My parents were so excited, even though they knew we weren’t prepared (financially or emotionally) to be parents.

On Christmas morning, the whole family gathered and we began the chaotic tradition of everyone opening their presents at the same time. As we began to open one small box from my parents, everyone stopped what they were doing to watch us. Out of the box, between mounds of tissue, came dollhouse-sized furniture: a crib, a playpen, and a highchair. It was accompanied by a note letting us know the real baby furniture would arrive before the baby!

I still have those small pieces of furniture and when I see them, I smile and sometimes cry all over again as I remember the love and generosity showered on us by first-time grandparents!

A simple nativity

Laura Walters, Mackinaw, Illinois

The first year my husband and I were married, my parents gave us a nativity set. It even included a baggie filled with straw to lay in the bottom of the stable for the full effect. It wasn’t an expensive nativity, probably around $20. However, it has become the most important part of decorating our home at Christmas time. It was a very simple gift, yet it is something that we have put out all nine years of our marriage. We even involve our children in getting it out. We talk as a family about what each piece means and why we choose a very prominent place to put the nativity in our home. It is a very special item to us because it came from my parents our first Christmas, but even more because it is a strong reminder to us of the very first Christmas.

Last year I was given a much nicer, more expensive nativity, and my mom asked if she could have the one she had given me nine years earlier for her home. I thought about it, but just couldn’t let go of the very special nativity we’ve had these nine years … it has too many memories attached and is such a special part of Christmas tradition in our family. Instead, I bought my parents a new nativity with prayers that it will become a special part of their Christmas just as our nativity is for ours.

We really are married

Jeanne K. Morris, Toms River, New Jersey

Neither my husband nor I had ever seen our marriage license. I had just turned 18 years of age when we married. With all the excitement surrounding the wedding, who could remember anything about a marriage license? We always joked that we might not actually be married at all. After 20 years of joking, I thought a great gift for Christmas would be to locate our license. After obtaining a copy of our license, I had it set in a frame along with two Norman Rockwell paintings. (The one with the two children on a bench with his arm around her and the one with two elderly people sipping tea.) It would have been the most thoughtful and memorable gift I could ever think of getting, so I gave.

A stamp of approval

Cindy Frederick, Alexandria, Minnesota

Since my kids are getting older and more independent, I have been able to find time for hobbies again. Rubber stamping has been my hobby of choice for the past few years. When I receive a catalogue of stamping supplies, I often go through and create a wish list for myself.

Last Christmas, my husband found the wish list I had made, contacted the supplier, ordered the items, picked them up, and wrapped them. When I opened that gift, it was the most amazing surprise. He had taken the time to truly think about what I enjoy, and then went way out of his way to purchase the items I had wished for. The amount of thought he had put into that purchase truly showed me that he does pay attention to the details. I have always known that I am truly blessed to have such a great husband.

Enjoying Christ’s bounty

Kelly, Helena, Ohio

My husband was on temporary disability due to sickness for a long period of time extending over Christmas, 2001. It was a very difficult time for our family in many ways, including financially. We just had a new baby, closely following the birth of another 17 months before. We also have two pre-teen children. Just prior to Christmas, our church office called and said they were aware of our situation. They asked me to make up a list of things that each family member (including my husband and me) would like for Christmas. This was very humbling. We sat down and made the list, and I gave it to the church. A couple of weeks later, we received a phone call from the office telling us that there were many presents to be picked up for the children at the office. They also had a check for my husband and me, which included enough money to pay for some bills and buy each other something.

In addition, another family at the church brought in a large gift basket and bags of presents for everyone. There was even a disposable camera included for us to capture some great family memories. This ended up being the most bountiful Christmas ever! Tears fill my eyes now as I think of it. Our children learned firsthand that Jesus loves us and does not forget us in times of trouble.

He Is my gift

Elaine Arent

My most meaningful Christmas gift was actually a gift given to my mother-in-law. My husband, Don, was born on December 24,1959. She always referred to him as her Christmas gift. So without that gift I would not be married to such an outstanding husband and father. Thank you, Lord.

Knitting for Barbie

Candy Feathers, Bell Buckle, Tennessee

It has been almost 42 years, but I have never forgotten my most meaningful Christmas gift. My parents gave me my first Barbie doll that Christmas. When we gathered for Christmas dinner and gifts at my grandparents’ home, they handed me my gift. Inside the wrapping was a Barbie doll case full of clothes that my grandmother had hand-knit for my new doll. It was the most beautiful gift of love that I’ve ever received! I am now 52 years old and have never forgotten the hours that Grandma must have spent lovingly knitting each and every stitch just for me!

One last cruise

Solomon Gee, Fairfield, California

I am in the process of making this gift. It will be a DVD slide-show collection of my parents’ many pictures from cruise vacations since 1990. The memories from these pictures will be scanned into a digital format and the slide shows will have music in the background.

Why is this important? My dad has terminal cancer and time is extremely short. They just returned from what could possibly be their last cruise together. My mom liked our gift to my dad on Father’s Day that had some pictures of their grandkids in a photo story. She wanted me to do the same for them so that they can have this as a memory of their retirement together. It will be presented to them sooner than Christmas, as I do not know how much time he has left.

Parental pillow

Ron and Linda Levitan

One of the most meaningful gifts I have received is a pillow with my parents’ picture printed in the middle and old buttons sewn around the quilted patchwork edges with beautiful matching fabric on the back. It was a gift from my 36-year-old daughter who loves to create art in fabrics as her medium. I love to look at my parents often since they are no longer living, and I miss them so!

Pictures are worth a thousand words

Oneida Holloman, Liberty Township, Ohio

The most significant gift I received for Christmas was a photo album from my husband. I have always enjoyed taking pictures but have a bad habit of not developing the film. I had been a childcare provider in my home for four years and had accumulated tons of non-developed film of my children and the children that had become mine through my business. My husband took the film and got it all developed and made a photo album for me that consisted of four years of photos. He presented this to me on Christmas.

This was the best gift I ever received. I still can’t figure out how he found the time to put each picture in this photo album between work and home, but somehow and some way he did it. I know it took dedication and love for him to do this for me. Unlike most Christmas gifts that end up in garage sales or given to Good Will, this one I still have, and will have for many years to come.

Prettier things

Karen Tarpley, Houston, Texas

As a tweenie tomboy, moving into the adult world was a dicey proposition. I badly wanted a pair of riding boots one Christmas. However, one of the first presents under the tree that year was a beautifully wrapped, tiny box from my father to his only daughter—me. I thought it was perfume, the first one I’d own. I saved that present to open last to increase the anticipation. The unveiling revealed a crystal prism about three inches long. I still have the prism some 35-plus years later as a loving reminder that things are not always what they seem. Sometimes God makes even prettier things than man, and that fathers are the best!

Remembering the Weekend to Remember

Eric and Dolores Nedrow, Jones Mills, Pennsylvania

It was 1997, the worst year of our marriage. We had been married for nine years and had three children. I finally graduated from college and asked Eric for a divorce. Never had either one of us felt so trapped, constantly doing things to hurt each other before the other could cause the hurt. What we didn’t realize was that even though we were hurting each other, we loved each other to a depth that only God could understand.

The night I asked for the divorce, Eric left the house and returned about an hour later, proclaiming that he loved me and was willing to fight for our marriage. That October, we went to the Weekend to Remember marriage conference with Bill and Pam Mutz as the speakers. It was amazing! Everything came out that weekend, and we had the tools to make the journey to a biblical marriage.

That year for Christmas, Eric made a special gift for me. In 1987, he had proposed to me in a gazebo in a nearby town the week before Christmas. The gift Eric made for me included a small ceramic gazebo, in which he had put a glittery tree, hung miniature working lights and placed a man and woman holding hands. This gift represents to me the hope of renewed love and promises yet to come of what marriage and family are. Every time I look at it and turn on the lights, I am reminded that I am loved by my wonderful husband and by a God who is full of grace.

Sheri’s wings

Shani Lee

The most meaningful Christmas gift I have received is angel wings for my baby sister. You see, Sheri was born with Spina Bifida, a neural tube defect that results in paralysis. She died when she was 24.

The 24 years that my family had with Sheri were filled with lessons of love, triumph, hope, despair, and joy. Through it all, Sheri was a fighter. She had such a will to live. During her final days, when she was so ill and tired, she would still smile as I walked into her room. She was never down. Despite her situation, she brought joy and laughter to our family. She also brought restoration to our parents. Unfortunately, they divorced after 28 years of marriage. But Sheri made it her mission to create and leave a legacy for her sisters, nieces, and nephews. Despite circumstances, families can come together and still be one. The day Sheri died, she received her angel wings. Wings that stretch beneath me on my low days and pick me up when I’m feeling down. Wings that carry my family during the hardships and daily cares of life.

Sheri’s gift was restoration, love, life, and hope. Hope for a future for my children and my sister’s children that they would know their grandparents, despite a divorce, and that they would love them as well as their grandparents’ mates. She gave me the greatest lesson of my life. She gave me the gift of calling her my sister!

Something blue

Laurel Lefebvre, Ontario, Canada

One of my most meaningful Christmas gifts was from my husband last year. At the end of our gift opening with our daughters on Christmas afternoon, he informed me that I had one more to open but that I had to find it first. Inside the Christmas stocking, which we had received as a wedding gift, was a tiny wrapped box with a ring that brought tears to my eyes for a moment. It is now a constant reminder of his love for me.

To understand the significance of this gift, we have to back up in time to 1985, three days before our wedding. For Christmas that year he gave me a blue star sapphire ring because it was my favorite gem for a ring, even though it would not have been his choice for me. This was the “something blue” which I wore as we were wed.

Over the years, the two tiny side diamonds had fallen out, and yet I still wore the ring. Then in 2000, while on vacation, the star sapphire fell out and was lost. The cost to repair the ring seemed too much to me, so the ring sat in my jewelry box for three years. Until … secretly he took my ring to a jeweler and had the stones replaced and then hid it from me.

What was my greatest gift? Really, it was his love!

Surprise doll from the Salvation Army

Carol Irvin

I was the youngest child in a family with five children. My father left my mother when I was 5 years old. Mother gave us the best she could. Christmas was a real family time for us. We had no money, but we had each other. My older brothers would go into the woods and cut down a cedar tree. One Christmas when I was 6, Mother said we had no money for gifts, but she bought us some oranges and candy. This was okay with me, but about 8:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve we heard a knock on the door and some people from the Salvation Army brought me a doll, a few other goodies, and food our the family. I was so excited. Today, Christmas still has a very special meaning to me. I am 64 now, but Christmas is His birthday and although now we are blessed to be able to afford a few gifts, Jesus was, is, and will always be my reason to celebrate Christmas.

Teacup exchange

Shauna Moon, Beaverton, Oregon

Finding the perfect gift for that treasured family member or friend is always a challenge. Over the years my success has been hit and miss. However, last year I experienced success! I found the perfect gift for my friend.

On impulse, listening to that small voice in my heart, I offered her one teacup from my great grandmother’s china set. She was overwhelmed at my generosity in being willing to offer her one of my family treasures. In response, she gave to me a teacup from her grandmother’s china set. A gift I treasure with my heart. With each dusting, I am reminded to pray for my friend and relish the memories of our friendship. Her gift of a teacup is my treasure of our friendship. We didn’t buy each other anything, but we gave from our hearts. And that is a perfect Christmas gift.

The Aqua Angora sweater

Naomi Reynolds, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania

I remember a very special sweater. It was a gift from my big brother and his family who was a pastor of a church far away in New York State. It snowed so much there, they measured the snow with a yardstick. I lived in Delaware where we had very little snow. Near Christmas when I was in eighth grade, a large package arrived. In it was the most beautiful aqua angora sweater. It was so bright and cheerful, and so soft. It matched my pleated wool skirt that I treasured so. Every time I wore it, I felt warm and loved. Perhaps this is why aqua is still one of my favorite colors—it always makes me feel special and loved!

Village of love

Jenelle Jonkman, Grand Rapids, Michigan

My father was ill for much of my life, and was a bit rough around the edges. He didn’t know anything else. He was who he was. He passed away several years ago now, but it’s his gift that I will always treasure.

As a teenager I was somehow attracted to a lighted house from a Christmas village set, so I bought it. It was a pretty lonely village, but it was mine. The next Christmas I found several presents under the tree from my father. I was taken back at the tags because my mom always did the Christmas shopping.

My father had gone out and bought several new buildings so that I could have a fuller village. He continued the tradition of adding to my village for a few more years, until his health deteriorated too drastically to shop.

So when I set out the Christmas village again this year, I will smile, pause, and remember my father’s unexpected gifts and how much I love and miss him.