When I stop to reflect upon my favorite Christmases, they have very little to do with the gifts that I have received though the years. For me, it is not the presents that I have received that stand out; it is the messages of love and the trips that I have taken during Christmas.

When I was sixteen my mother and father said that we could have a choice. We could either have a Christmas of presents or we could go to Southern California where we would visit Disneyland and go to the Rose Parade.

The vote was made, and it was unanimous for us to go to California . We left on the afternoon of December 24, 1962. We drove and made it as far as St George. It was dark when we passed through the town. Being a camping family, we were going to camp as much as possible. My father pulled off a side road just outside of Santa Clara , and we pitched our tents for the night.

I will never forget waking up and finding that we had camped right next to the graveyard. That Christmas morning we spent walking though the grave yard thinking about all the family that had loved ones buried there. We went on to California and fell in love with Disneyland . Camping out on Colorado Blvd waiting for the Rose Parade was also a high light of the trip.

The next Christmas that has a special place is the year that I went to the Holy Land . Christmas Eve was spent with friends at the Shepard’s Fields near Bethlehem where we sat and watched the star come out as we sang “Silent Night.” In the distance we could hear shepherds tending their flocks. A cry from a baby lamb brought back all the memories of Bible stories we had heard all our lives on Christmas eve.

I will never forget the Christmas I spent in Egypt visiting all the incredible ruins. Christmas morning was spent visiting Queen Hatshepsut’s tomb and lunch was two hard boiled eggs with a roll in the hot desert.

Homemade Christmas gift from the kids are a favorite of mine. My niece Rebekah knit me a hat that I love to wear when I clean the walks of snow. Another Christmas my niece Mary made me a book of coupons. It was so much fun to have Mary come over and do special jobs around the house like iron my clothes and do my dishes. Robyn always makes me a homemade card and special homemade gift to go along with it.

One of my sisters-in-law takes photo at the family parties and each year she gives me a collection of framed photos. I now have a gallery of family photos in my hall. One of my favorites is of my 93-year-old mother sitting on Santa’s lap. I loved the year that my family called my friends and asked them to write up a memory of me that they put into a treasured book. Another year each of my brothers and their wives wrote their memories of me in a short biography. The title was, “Isn’t Your Sister the One on Television?”

Yes, I have received many wonderful presents that I am very grateful for, but it is the gifts from the heart and the travel experiences that have created memories that stand out in my mind. If you can not afford gifts this year, take a few minutes and create a gift from the heart. Money can not buy what the heart can create and share.