There’s nothing sweeter than receiving a handmade gift. The thought of someone taking the effort to choose materials, and invest their time and energy to personally share their talent is touching. In our busy modern world, it’s become rare, which makes this gift all the more special.
I’ve been trying to remember the last time I gave a handmade craft as a gift. When I was in High School, our family invited a foreign exchange student from Finland to live with us for the school year. Matti’s passion was ice hockey, and he was good, leading a local team to victory. From the beginning he and I were competitive with each other. I suppose we were jockeying for position in the family hierarchy. We didn’t always see eye-to-eye about the world either and had several lengthy “debates”. But, like any “sibling rivalry”, underneath it all there was respect and love. When Christmas time approached, I wanted to get Matti something really special that would help him always remember his year in Utah with our family. I looked for the perfect gift but nothing ever seemed right. Clothes, gadgets and souvenir mementos didn’t seem unique enough. One day, I noticed a block of wood at a craft store that had been carved into the outline of a hockey figure. It was a very rough object, nearly impossible to see where the face or hands belonged, and it didn’t even come with instructions. Yet, somehow I saw its potential to become the truly “unique” gift I hoped for. I added the find to my shopping basket along with sandpaper, glue, a carving tool, and carefully chosen paint to match the colors of Matti’s hockey uniform. When he was away one evening with his friends, I snuck into Matti’s closet to draw his jersey design. I wanted to be sure the figure would be an accurate representation. Then I set to work. As I recall, I spent about an hour each day after school for over a week working on the little block of wood. It involved sanding, smoothing, outlining, painting, drying, painting the second coat, drying, painting the finishing coat, drying…and so forth. Eventually, the block of wood started taking shape and began to look more like a hocky player than a block of wood. My final touch was to attach a miniature USA flag in one hand, and a miniature Finnish flag in the other. Then, I carefully wrapped the small statue in a box with paper and a bow I thought he would like. With great anticipation, I placed it under the tree on Christmas Eve. That night, I got worried. What if he didn’t like it? What if he thought it was kind of dumb? What if he is expecting something else and is disappointed? I could see all of the imperfections of the finished product and I wondered if he would notice them, too. I imagined him opening up the box, smiling just a little too politely, and then moving on to the next package. The thought made me cringe. There was nothing I could do now, it was too late to run out and buy something else.
On Christmas morning I nervously watched Matti open my present. As he pulled out the statue I held my breath. After all of my worry, Matti’s reaction came as a surprise. He flashed his genuine winning smile and suddenly I was being embraced by two big arms. Although I would never have pointed it out, I noticed his eyes were extra shiny, even watery. Matti proudly displayed that little statue in his room for the rest of the school year, and I watched him carefully pack it into his suitcase when it was time to return home. I don’t remember anything else about that Christmas. It was the gift created with my own hands and given with my loving heart which allows that Christmas to remain a special memory.
Today, I am a recipient much more often than the giver of personalized presents. For example, each Christmas my elderly neighbor gives our family a set of personally crocheted pot-holders. They are always the same size and shape, and made from the same red yarn. These pot-holders are so well made and durable that the previous year’s set is always still in mint condition when the new set arrives. In fact, I’m still using the set she gave me 6 years ago! Consequently, I have a lot of beautiful red pot-holders in my kitchen drawer! I don’t have the heart to give them away, since she made them just for me, so the collection continues to grow. [ironically, my oven is broken, so they aren't seeing much use - but, it's the thought that counts]
In my closet is a shoebox filled with little handmade trinkets, cards and letters given to me over the past 20 years by my husband and children. From an artists perspective, they aren’t much to look at. But they are masterpieces to me. I always get emotional when I open that shoe box. I gingerly remove each item and reflect on the time and place it was given. I know that these little treasures were made with much more than paper, glue, crayons or macaroni – they were made by little hands, with great big love, just for me.
I freely admit, I am not much of a “crafty” person. I never could get into scrapbook-ing, stamping, wall art, quilting or canning jam [all favorite pastimes of many Mormon women in my neck of the woods]. I enjoy drawing and painting and I love photography. But, whenever I find some spare time, the thing I always choose to craft is words.
I’ve considered myself “a writer” since I was 11 years old. That was the year I bought my first journal and started recording all of my important life events, thoughts and feelings – penning early literary masterpieces such as: “Today I ate Raisen Bran. I love Raisen Bran. My sister does not love Raisen Bran. I don’t understand her.”
There are now over 40 volumes of journals on my shelf telling the first-hand account of my life story - a testament to my obsession with writing [heaven only knows who will actually read them!]. Like all writers, I dream of publishing a best-selling novel someday. However, I suspect the journals on my shelf will have to suffice as my Magnum Opus.
This past weekend, I got a little boost to my self-esteem, a “validation” of sorts that my kind of craft “counts”, from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, first counsellor to the prophet, President Thomas S. Monson:
“With so many social media resources and a multitude of more or less useful gadgets at our disposal, sharing the Good News of the Gospel is easier, and the effects far more reaching, than ever before! . . . my dear young friends, perhaps the Lord’s encouragement to ‘Open our Mouths’ [D&C 33: 8, 10] might today include using your hands to blog and text message the Gospel to all the world.” – President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
I might not be able to crochet a pot-holder, stitch a quilt, sew a Prom Dress for my daughter or paint a Hawaiian mural on our family room wall…but, I can still use my hands for creating something for others – I blog! Although I love blogcrafting, it doesn’t come without a price. I still experience similar anxiety to that long-ago Christmas Eve. Right after I click the “Publish” button and send my creation into cyberspace, my doubts surface. Is it good enough? Will it be useful? Was it worth all my time and effort? Will there be disappointment I didn’t give something else? What if it’s dumb? Creating ‘MoSop’ didn’t come with an instruction manual. I have to make it up as I go, using raw materials. I know my gift has a lot of imperfections – I see them staring back at me [making me cringe] as I debate re-writing. I also know that the best gifts I’ve ever received are personal and come from the heart. So, my hope is that you will look past the flaws and find something here you can treasure.
Most of all, my hope is that reading this blog will help you discover The Greatest Gift Of All Time - handmade especially for you by Our Savior, Jesus Christ. It was His mighty hands who created all things in the Heaven and Earth. Those same hands would also carve wood, hold a child, wipe away tears, calm a raging storm, give sight to the blind, heal infirmities, and raise the dead.
He would allow his magnificent hands to be pierced and nailed to a tree in order to die and live again – part of a heavenly Plan to create the One Gift that will never age, break or expire. This is the Gift of Christmas and the Easter Miracle. It is a gift with a promise that death is only temporary, and life is Eternal. All will have the opportunity to learn and partake of this great gift. There are also lot of “free bonuses” in the Gospel gift bag - much more than I can list in one post. It is free to all who choose to take and protect it.
You can find out more about the gift of Jesus Christ here, and here. Watch videos here, or read Another Testament about Him. The Gospel of Jesus Christ makes life joyful. It gives us a reason for living, and something to look forward to after death. No matter what happens to us in this life or how hard things may become, there’s hope, and there’s help. You are not going through this experience alone. The bottom line is that I don’t want anyone to have to live without this joy and hope! My hands have typed the message and the invitation. The rest is up to you toseek out the greatest Gift!
Then you, too, will have your very own priceless handmade treasure. - MoSop