How to Gather Gifts from the Past

My bookcases. Crammed with books I have read, am reading, want to read. As 2017 began, I realized I hadn’t chosen a devotional book to guide me in encountering God through the 365 days of the year.

When I searched my bookcases, I found an unexpected treasure. A gift from the past. Tucked in a pile. Come Before Winter and … Share My Hope by Chuck Swindoll. Unopened. Unread. Unappreciated.

As I opened the front cover, I didn’t know whether to gasp or cry.

The inscription: “Laura, may God bless and keep you safe in His love forever! We love you. Congratulations again on your baptism. Gene, Beth, Scott, Will.”

A gift from the past. From Gene and his kids. Before he became my husband and they became my kids by marriage. Here to bless me in the present.

My guess is there are many gifts from the past that we haven’t discovered, appreciated, enjoyed. But how do we find them?

Let go of the pain and embrace the beauty.

At a moment’s notice, I can call up my “favorite” horrors from the pages of my life. Who wants to do that? Why would I want to torture myself with past nightmares? There is nothing helpful or productive about that. 

Photo by Mary Ann Dare. Display at Missouri History Museum, St. Louis.

Photo by Mary Ann Dare. Display at Missouri History Museum, St. Louis.

Instead, I want to remember the good stuff. The love and laughter. The milestones. The people who have added so much to my life.

It’s okay to dwell on the positive, the good, the beauty. And to trash the tragedies.

Abandon the messes and celebrate the victories.

Plenty of mistakes litter the pathway from then to now. That realization provides another opportunity to forgive myself, accept my humanness, and move forward. I can leave those messes behind. Forever.

Remember the awards, the thank yous, the diplomas, the classes taught and speeches made, the words written and photos taken, the relationships forged along the way? The moves, new jobs, new neighbors, new friends? The milestones and holidays? That’s the stuff celebrations are made of. So go ahead. Celebrate!

Get rid of the junk and save the treasures.

Sometimes I feel like parts of me are stored in the Rubbermaid containers in my basement. And I rarely open those containers. Why? Because when I do, a cloud of pain escapes and wafts around me. So why do I keep saving that stuff? Believe me, it’s tough to think about throwing away chunks of my past.

Display at Missouri History Museum, St. Louis.

Display at Missouri History Museum, St. Louis.

A healthier choice? Save the real treasures. Trash the encumbrances or idols. 

Release the shackles and acknowledge the precious.

All of us have a lot of have-tos and should-dos and who-else-will-dos and why-didn’t-Is and if-onlys and what-ifs in our lives. When is the right time to release the chains of those expectations? That’s the life-changing question!

Display at Missouri History Museum, St. Louis.

Display at Missouri History Museum, St. Louis.

I’ve learned that by eliminating those guilt-mongers, I make room for the truly important work of life. I can’t go back to yesterday and fix it. I don’t know what tomorrow is going to hold. But today? I can give myself permission to invest fully in now. The people, work, priorities of today.

Love your younger self and trust your older self.

The longer I live, the more I love the person God created me to be. Over the years, I’ve seen her flirt with disaster. Experiment with rebelliousness. Ignore the best. Get trapped in the worst. But I still love her. Laura Ellen.

Laura and Dad, 1972. I still miss my Dad's wisdom, love, and hugs.

Laura and Dad, 1972. I still miss my Dad's wisdom, love, and hugs.

I’ve gained more wisdom. Thank God. Some even refer to me as a Wiserpreneur! I’ve learned that disaster hurts. Rebelliousness is a dead end street. God wants the best for me, and so do I. No matter what mountains and valleys are in my path.

Not all of our gifts from the past will come from those who have passed away. Some will come from our former selves. Some will come from what we just weren’t aware of back then. However they come, be ready to receive. God has many blessings waiting for you!


Laura Warfel is a widow, writer, and follower of Jesus Christ. Her greatest joy is to bring others along with her on her faith journey. In 2015, because of the encouragement of the Launch Out Conference and Jon Acuff, she launched More Than A Widow on Facebook and Twitter. Today she blogs, tweets, and posts to help widows (and those who know them) find encouragement, hope, and resources for the journey. Her goal is to help all widows live beyond the label and live as more than a widow.
Copyright © 2017 by Laura Warfel