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I came across a Christmas list I wrote when I was seven years old.

At the top of a list was a little sister and “more time” (I was an odd seven-year-old).

I don’t remember if I got anything on that list. I know for sure that I did not get a little sister and I believe time has marched forward at the same rate ever since.

But I do remember one Christmas when I got exactly what I wanted.

I was four and there was nothing I wanted more than a stuffed Elmo.

I thought about nothing else. I asked for nothing else. I talked about nothing else.

I woke up hours before my parents (who wisely put a chair in front of their door, barring me from getting them up at 5a). I went back to my room and waited for them to wake up so I could open presents.

I tore through every gift searching for the one I’d been waiting for all year.

Then, there he was. Elmo. I thought my little heart would burst with joy.

I know, I know. Children often dream of the perfect gift only to relegate it to a closet shelf a couple days later.

Not I.

I loved that Elmo. He was my constant companion. He went with me everywhere. He went to school with me. He joined us at dinner. I snuggled him every night.

That was more than thirty years ago.

I still have him.

His red fur is matted and worn and he's missing an eye.

Here’s the point.

Gifts are meant to be enjoyed. They’re not meant to be put up on a shelf unused and unhandled.

But we do that, don’t we?

We recognize – and even appreciate – a precious gift. But we don’t want to break it. We don’t want to ruin it. We want to preserve its pristine condition.

That Elmo is more precious to me today than it was the Christmas morning I got him – not despite his wear and tear but because of it. He carries the marks of a little girl that loved him.

I don’t know the gifts you’ve received. I don’t know the relationships God has provided you. I don’t know the talents and abilities He has given you. I know don’t the resources, the opportunities, the dreams you have.

I do know they don’t belong on a shelf.

Don’t waste a single gift. Love every one. Enjoy every one. Use every one until the fur is matted down and it’s missing an eye.

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