Presents and Presence

"Presents and presence" by Susan Anderson (

Copyright 2018 Susan Anderson. All rights reserved.

It makes me happy that my publication date for falls on the first Friday of each month. So far, my articles time out well with liturgical feast days, and devotions which I hold dear.

Every month, I panic a little about the image I’ll need to upload. Barb always has my back, and for her, I am grateful.

But at the beginning of this month, this new year, I’m still basking in the glow of the Christmas season, so my image of the thrift store Nativity creche, topped on a shelf I painted in what Dixie Belle paints calls “pine cone,” and the white starfish guiding the wise men from above, is perfect! God numbers the hairs on our heads, right?!

All mothers will appreciate the following.

I’m a thrift-store junkie. Clever play on words, wouldn’t you say? It’s the truth. My husband says I need help. I stand at a podium. “My name is Susan, and I’ve been digging and hoarding junk for about three years now.”

And you in the audience reply with, “Hello, Susan.”

It all started with caring for my dear blind mother in law, (as she now rests in peace) and living in an area where all we have are thrift and antique stores. Aside from the ‘shop local’ boutiques, which I patron as well, and the Wal-Mart, we are coined “Two Hours From Anywhere” in this little knoll of the Smokey Mountains, NC. I needed a hobby. I can’t remember; maybe it was Pinterest? I picked up a jewelry box and decided to paint it to give as a gift, and I was hooked. The jewelry box was about $3. The paint costs more, but I figure I am saving money by not supplying the jewelry that goes in it.

"Presents and presence" by Susan Anderson (

Copyright 2018 Susan Anderson. All rights reserved.

Back to the glass-like Nativity creche. (This is the part you moms will appreciate).

I bought two Nativities at the same thrift store at different times. I stop in about once a week, because it’s also next to the Mexican restaurant where our son works as a dishwasher, and we nosh our weekly beans and rice. Each set cost about $2. I got home from the thrift store, and riffled through the bag where each piece was wrapped in tissue paper, and I couldn’t find the Baby Jesus. I found the manger, but not the Baby Jesus. I ran upstairs to check on the first creche scene, and noticed the Baby Jesus was missing from that manger too! What was going on?! I whispered, “St. Anthony, please come around. Something is lost, and can’t be found.”

I could have sworn that the Baby Jesus was intact! This is a common problem: the Baby Jesus missing in action at Christmas time. With Advent being carefully observed, some families think it is most reverent to hide Him in a drawer until Christmas Eve. I get that. The thing is, little ones often want to play with Him, and He goes missing. Or Mommy forgets where she put Him. So, since our kids are all grown, we just keep Baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph from the get-go.

I went back to the thrift store and asked Amanda, my sweet thrift-store clerk, if somehow, she’d found the Baby Jesus? Maybe I’d left him on the counter? Amanda replied, “I thought I put him in the bottom of the bag.”

I answered, “You probably did. It was me, I’m sure. Well, it’s not the first time Baby Jesus has gone missing. Merry Christmas!” And I left, as the bells on the door jingled on my way out.

I think it was my guardian angel. His or her name is “Ecclesiastes.” I say his or her, because depending on the situation, determines whether I need a male or female perspective.  I know that some think that we aren’t supposed to name our angel, but, Jesus and his Mom are first fiddle in my heart, so humbly, I don’t think it hurts to name my friend who sits, stands, walks, catches, and cleans up after my fumbles and bumbles. Sometimes she even slaps a hand over my mouth, lest I say something I shouldn’t. It was a thought, a whisper, that told me to look at each manger again. “Turn it over,” Ecclesiastes said. What I thought was an empty plexi-glass feeding trough was just the underside of a one-piece Baby Jesus lying in a manger! Ha, Ha! He was never missing! Just unseen!

"Presents and presence" by Susan Anderson (

Copyright 2018 Susan Anderson. All rights reserved.

Always with us,


All of this is tied up in a gift that keeps on giving, as I ponder the beauty of Jesus as He was hiding within the womb of Our Beloved Mother, revealed upon His birthday, exposed by the angels to the humble shepherds, and lead by the star to wise men, the three kings, who symbolize us; disciples commissioned to preach, and teach, and share to every corner of our worlds, the Good News of Christ and salvation. How we follow, how we obey, how we love, comes down to each detail of our lives. My jewelry boxes are a humble offering to Jesus. I give each one to a friend, a family member, with as much love as I can muster. I even summon the person’s guardian angel. I’ll ask, “So-and-so’s angel, how should I paint this? What would she like?”

"Presents and presence" by Susan Anderson (

Copyright 2018 Susan Anderson. All rights reserved.

I think of the three kings. They brought gifts. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Even though they appeared wealthy, I suspect that what they brought, they knew was trifle, only symbolic of what this newborn king would offer back to them. What do any one of us offer God? He doesn’t need what we have. He wants what we have. And what do I have to give Him, but the very thing He created in the first place; my heart, somewhat stony, mostly flesh, dark, light, beating imperfectly, all the same. But it’s mine, which He placed within the center of my being. It is one place He resides.

Sometimes it seems that He’s missing. But He never is.

Only unseen.




And Ever Shall Be.

"Presents and presence" by Susan Anderson (

Copyright 2018 Susan Anderson. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2018 Susan Anderson


About Author

Susan Anderson is a wife and mother of six. Becoming Catholic at age 33, she is an avid fan of Mary and keeps her sanity through rosary prayer. She helps Rob, her husband, at Cactus Game Design, provider of Bible based games and toys. Her book, Paul’s Prayers, is about her oldest autistic son, which will be published March 6, 2018. To pre-order: Her website:


  1. What a great message! Jesus is never missing, only unseen. And what He wants is to reside in our hearts. How wonderful!

Leave A Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.