Last week, I hosted an essay contest where people entered by writing 75-word essays about the best gift they ever received. I loved reading each essay because of the way that true hope came through in every tale – memories and new life and hope in each. Thank you all for entering.

Our illustrious winner is Bill Stauffer. His openings lines just blew me away, and the simplicity of his final word captured it all.

A boy would rather lose his arm than lose his dog. I lost my dog. One soft summer night, I got off the couch, kissed my pooch on the head, and went to bed. By morning she was in the ground. Dad buried her after the car hit her – I didn’t need to see her body. Six months later, under the tree: a leash, a dog bed, and a note from my new puppy. Yes!

Bill lives in New Jersey, where he works as a pastor. He is married to Dee, and they have twins – Liam and Kate. He recommends you visit Living Water International, a group that digs freshwater wells in Central America, Haiti, and other places; The Resurgence, a clearinghouse for some really great Christian leadership and life resources, and my dear friend Caleb Wilde’s great blog Confessions of a Funeral Director. Thanks for the recommendations and congratulations, Bill.

Our second place winner is Victoria; she blogs regularly at Penny Jar. In her essay, these lines took my breath: “But what put me over the moon that year came free of charge and rolled like thunder across my belly. She’s our baby, baby. Ours.”

Our third place winners are Krista and Becca. Krista blogs regularly at Word Girl, and Becca blogs regularly at Becca’s Byline.

You can read all the incredible essays here, as the comments to this post. Please, I’d love to hear about your best gifts. Write your own story here in the comments if you will.