In the spirit of this holiday season, when gifts are on our minds with every e-mail alert, frantic countdown, panicked to-do list, and last-minute letters to Santa, I thought it would be sweet to press pause for a moment and reflect. So I asked a few lovelies to finish the following sentence: The most wonderful gift I’ve ever received has to be…

Kimberly of Mimi Charmante: …my most recent trip to Paris with my husband. We went to celebrate my birthday in November, and he went all out this time — from business class tickets to the most incredible hotel room that we have ever stayed in. When we threw open our windows each morning (Even though it was November, I simply had to do it. I mean, we were in Paris!), we were greeted with the most beautiful slate rooftops and the belle of the ball, La Tour Eiffel. It was absolutely divine. Spending time with my best friend in my favorite city to celebrate another wonderful year really was such a gift, and one that I shall treasure thanks to the copious amount of photos I took as well as the memories we made.

Megan of Pink O’Clock: …a fresh start. Last year, after a challenging 2010, I lost my full-time job on the last day of December. And while initially I was scared out of my mind and wasn’t sure what on earth I was going to do next, once the shock wore off, I realized how unhappy I’d been in my former position and what a gift it was to be able to step away from that toxicity, get back to myself, and figure out what it was I really wanted to do. Somehow there’s always something positive to be gained from loss, isn’t there?

That loss was the gift that keeps on giving, too. To fill its void, I worked hard to find a job that I love and am passionate about. I’ve met new friends, and I’ve reconnected with old ones. I learned that the only way to get anything you want is to ask for it. I’ve sustained a feeling of forward momentum throughout most of this year. And it’s been amazing. So thanks, Universe, for the best gift I’ve ever gotten, and for reinforcing the old adage that you work in mysterious ways.

Stephanie of Adventures in Babywearing: …after an incredibly difficult year of my son’s illness and treatment, my husband and mom gave me the entire Willow Tree nativity collection that I had been wanting for a long time. It was before Christmas, so it was absolutely unexpected and such a surprise. And their reason was to acknowledge all that I’d been through and what I’d done to get my son better. It meant so much. He’s all better now, thankfully, many years later!

Anne-Maree of The House That A-M Built: …my education. My Mum had three children to educate on her own. She couldn’t afford to send us to private school, so she encouraged us to interview for a selective state school. The school gave us a wonderful education and entry into university…for all three of us. To be able to live at home and be loved, nurtured, and supported while studying at university for five years has to be one of the greatest gifts I have received in my life – besides my two beautiful boys, but that’s a given. And I am passing that gift down to them.

Estelle of Under a Pink Moon: …the gift of patience. When I was eight years old, I noticed a tiny box, wrapped in shiny purple paper resting on a branch of our tree, days before Christmas. I spent a great deal of time examining that box, imagining what treasure could be inside. I found a way to carefully open each corner of wrap and slide the box out so as not to disturb any of the precise folds. Inside was a delicate gold-colored ornament — a birdcage with five tiny birds and a single bell hanging by a red string.

The moment I opened that box and caught a glimpse at its precious contents, my heart broke. I had stolen my own chance for childlike delight on Christmas morning and betrayed my mother’s trust. My mom had been giving me a special ornament every Christmas since I was a baby with the idea that someday I would have my own tree, my own family, and my own box full of heirlooms. Money was usually pretty scarce and holidays were rarely lavish, but there was always an ornament for my collection.

Since then, I have never felt the urge to shake a package, peak in a closet, or even open a shopping bag tucked away by my husband. Indeed, I learned that lesson the hard way. Each year, I make a point of carefully unwrapping that birdcage and finding a special spot on the tree for it to hang. It remains one of my most cherished gifts, both the ornament and the life lesson. Patience will always have its own reward.

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These answers warm my heart, and I’m grateful to each of the gifted ladies who shared her story. And now it’s your turn. Will you finish the sentence, please? The most wonderful gift I’ve ever received has to be…

I can’t wait to hear your answers!