This blog is not an official website of
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nor is Lindsay their official spokesperson.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

My Real Life

Dear Readers,


Merry Christmas eve!

When I don't write for a long time it is because I am living my "real" life.  I don't talk about it much here, because I am trying to respect the privacy and anonymity of those involved.

I am an unofficial missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Husband and I are not full-time missionaries called and set apart (No Black Name Tags or Sunday Dress 24/7), but we have been asked to serve a stake service mission but they don't really use that term anymore.  We were not "called" to this position and told we had the opportunity to say "No".  It was an opportunity that was extended to us (like a mission call) that we were instructed to pray about and then inform  them of whether or not this was something that our family could do (without great strain).

We are laboring in a Spanish Branch in our city.  Husband (speaks Spanish) is the branch clerk.  He is training a man to be the new branch clerk when we move in.......6 months.  It's coming fast!  Before my husband could teach him how to be a clerk, he first had to teach him basic computer skills.  "This button is the backspace.  You press it if you make a mistake and need to go back."  No joke.  I am the Young Women's President.  I am training 3 sweet ladies about what the program is and how to be a leader.  It is no small job.  We work closely with the full-time missionaries and stake leaders to coordinate our efforts to meet the needs for the branch.

I
am
exhausted.

I am also extremely happy to feel such joy in the service of the Lord.  I did not serve a full-time mission and I think this is very similar.  I also look forward to serving a couples mission with my husband.  It'll be a piece of cake after serving one with a 3 year old!

We don't get a Preparation Day and no one feeds us dinner.  We also don't have to tract or go to a lot of meetings.  We have our computers, music, and can talk to our families whenever we have time (ha!).  I am grateful to have "amenities" though when you are this busy, it cuts down on the time that you have for amenities.

Like I say, there are not many people in the branch and so if I talk about them it might be easy for some to figure out who I am talking about.  Even when I say good things about them, I hesitate to post about them.  I am having the most amazing experiences for sure.  I'll have to think about how to tactfully share them, but I haven't had a lot of time to think.

In addition to the church duties that we have we home and visit teach those on our routes.  This brings many unique experiences as well.  "Lindsay?  Can Husband go to court with me today?  It is at 1pm.  My neighbor said she'd go with me (to translate), but now she says she can't go."  This a real conversation that I had 3 weeks ago at about 10:30 in the morning.

I have eaten weird foods that after taking a few bites, hid the rest in my napkin (don't tell).  I have also sat through several meetings/ conversations/ lessons where I don't understand anything until someone translates for me.

We are having a delightful Christmas season.  I have 2 posts that I wrote about it, and maybe I'll post them, but I woke up feeling like I should revise them before I post them.  So I wrote about this, because it more accurately reflects my December.  It has been probably 70-80% focused on the branch and some serious needs that they are having right now, and not very much Christmas after the special Nativity exhibit.  I do love missionary work.  The Church has need of many other service missionaries and full-time senior couples.


“We need thousands of more couples serving in the missions of the Church.  Every mission president pleads for them. Everywhere they serve, our couples bring a maturity to the work that no number of 19-year-olds,
however good they are, can provide.”  Elder Jeffrey R. Holland General Conference, October 2011 (found here)


I like to think that this statement means me though I am sure he was referring to the senior couples because there aren't too many people that get to be in my position.  I know I am truly blessed to have this opportunity.  It is true what Elder Holland said.  These full-time missionaries aren't married, have no children, and have little frame of reference about many things in life.  They eat cereal for any meal that they don't have provided, but they are a lot of fun.

This blog doesn't reflect anything "fake" about my life.  It just shows the 20% of other experiences that I am having right now.

Merry Christmas.  I will share what our family has been up to soon (I never knew a simple cookie plate could bring so much joy!).

Celebratory,
Lindsay

Friday, December 16, 2011

Surrounded by Him

Dear Friend E,

I figured that by today after all of the excitement of coming home and catching up on rest that you might start to miss the people and places that you've seen for the past 18 months.

We did indeed attend the Nativity Display.  I am so sorry that you missed it.  You would have loved to see all of the nativities beautifully displayed.  They were spread throughout all of the rooms in the church.  One room was devoted to nativities from other countries.  Many in the Spanish branch displayed theirs from their homelands (Peru, Panama, Guatemala, Mexico, Columbia, etc.) while there were others from Japan, Kenya, Germany, and other countries all around the world.

They also had a live nativity.  The babies were always so cute.  I know that they knew they were depicting little baby Jesus.  They were gurgling and making such cute little noises, "talking" to angels probably :).

Daughter personally loved the Children's room.  There they had crafts for the children to make, nativity coloring sheets, and biblical clothing for the children to be able to dress as Mary, Joseph, Shepherds, Wisemen, and angels.  We took Daughter 3 different times and she never tired of it.  The last night we had to drag her kicking and screaming from the building.  I know she loved it.  She would dress as Mary and sit quietly by the manger.  I approached her once and she turned and said to me, "I'm having a good time with baby Jesus."  I just smiled and backed away, because what is there to say to that?  I am grateful that Daughter was able to have such a sweet experience.  We promised her that we could get her some "Mary clothes" at the fabric store, and so everyday she would wake up and ask for them.  It took a few days to make it there, but now she loves to wear them at home and sit by our shoebox manger with either Bear or her baby wrapped in white paper (her idea for swaddling clothes).

At the Nativity display, I signed up to play the piano for a half hour time slot.  As I practiced and selected the songs that I wanted to play, I thought about choosing songs that spoke of the Savior.  I played favorites like Away in a Manger, and The First Noel.  I decided that I wanted to end my program with the hymn "I Believe in Christ."  I knew that it wouldn't be recognized by visitors to the display, but I really wanted to express my testimony that I DO believe in Christ.  There's been a lot of media in the past few months about if Mormon are Christians (you might have to ask your Mom), and so I just wanted to publicly take the opportunity to share that yes, I, Lindsay, believe in Jesus Christ, that He is my Savior and Redeemer and I am a Mormon.

When I arrived at the Church, there were actually zero people that were listening to the music.  I felt bad for the previous time slot as they were faithfully playing and completing their responsibility.  I have no idea how many people came through as I was playing because they had the piano arranged so that I was facing a wall with my back to everyone.  I did hear some voices, so I do know that there were a few (including Husband and Daughter), but it felt good to know that I was giving of my time and talents.  I played my program (which I thought was quite delightful, meaning I loved all of the songs), and before I knew it my half an hour came to a close.  So, I took a deep breath and started to play "I Believe in Christ."

It was amazing.

I've played this song many other times, but this time was different.  As I played and focused on each note conveying my testimony about Him, I realized that I was surrounded by Him.  There were hundreds of nativities (657 to be exact) surrounding me that all depicted our Savior's birth.  They were big.  They were small.  They were ornate.  They were profoundly simple.  They were carved into coconut shells, and painted on grains of rice.  They were made out of paper, plastic, crystal, and porcelain.  They were all so unique and beautiful and celebrated Jesus Christ.  They all testified that He is our Lord who came to humble circumstances, and is the Savior of all mankind.  I will never forget having the opportunity to make it 658 testimonies as I added mine about Him.

I believe in Christ.  He is my King.
Good works were His, His name be praised. (Hymn 134)

Merry Christmas!

Miss you,
Lindsay

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gift to the World - Bible Videos

Dear Readers,

Did you see the First Presidency Christmas Devotional?!?!??!?!  If you missed it, watch here.  If you want to read some of my thoughts, read here.

A BIG announcement that was made was about a gift from the First Presidency to the WHOLE WORLD.  Yes, that is BIG!

Pres. Eyring revealed that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was going to share 50 videos about the life of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

THIS IS THE INTRODUCTION VIDEO. (could not embed here, sorry)

Notice that these videos are for everyone, not just members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Tell all of your friends.  Email the links, post it on your social media (biblevideos.lds.org).  These are FREE and they are hands down the best depictions that I have seen.  Every time the Church makes videos about the life of Jesus Christ, the quality is unmatched.

These are going to be great for Family Home Evening, my Young Women lessons, and a great tool to share with my friends.  Who is going to turn down a movie about the Savior, especially with no strings attached?

Not all 50 videos are finished yet.  So far there are a total of 6 that are geared around the Savior's birth and early life events.  These are perfect for our Christmas worship.

When this was announced, my husband I just kind of looked at each other.  This was partially because we already had a heads up about the Jerusalem movie set.  We knew that it existed, but we had no idea that it was for THIS!!! - a free gift to the entire world!

In the Devotional they played "A Gift to the World" which contains clips of all of the completed videos so far.  In short that shows the birth of Christ more succinctly than the individual videos breaking down each part.

I have previewed a few of the other videos and I am just blown away.

WORD OF ADVICE - Because the whole world is now viewing these videos, I have had problems with choppiness on two different computers (so I'm assuming it's not just me).  However, if you click the "Download" link by the bottom right hand corner of the movie screen, it'll take you to a different web page where it plays with no problems.  On that page you can then save it to your computer, but clicking "Download" does NOT make you download it to your computer.

When I watch these little vignettes, my heart swells with the Holy Ghost.  Peace washes over my body and I have no doubt that Jesus Christ is MY Savior and Redeemer.  That He is indeed real, and performed every miracle/ action that the Bible says that He did.  He lived and died for me, and now lives once again.  I have no doubt as to the truthfulness of His doctrine and that through following it I will gain eternal life!!!  These videos are a great tool.  I am so thankful for them.  Everyone who is affiliated with them has been truly inspired.  Every detail is perfect from the textures in the clothing, to the dialogue used, to the musical score, to the lighting/ location, and the acting.

Christmas won't be the same anymore.  It will be so much better, and I assuming that these other vignettes will be rolling out over the coming months with the conclusion coming around Easter time.  Oh hope of hopes, I hope that is how it happens, because I have been thinking about Easter in conjunction with Christmas (it's all about Christ) and how to better focus on the Savior.

biblevideos.lds.org

His servant,
Lindsay

First Presidency Devotional

Dear Mother,


I always feel better after we talk.


With everything going on, I am just now getting to the First Presidency Christmas Devotional.  We took Daughter to the Church instead of watching it at home.  She was so excited.  She sat as still as could be while the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang.  I, of course, pointed out B.M. to Husband like I do every conference, because who doesn't think it's cool that he went and joined the choir.  We know someone in the choir!!!!!!!!!!!

At BYU when I was a janitor student custodian, I thought I was something pretty special when I realized that I cleaned the office of someone who sang in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.....yeah, that's a stretch at "coolness", which is why B.M.'s presence really adds some legitimate credibility to my "cool factor" now, because knowing someone who sings in the Tabernacle Choir is apparently really important to me!

Speaking of choir stories, I signed up to play the piano a couple of places this Christmas and one song that I practice has a specific part that highlights the "tenor" line, so I always think of R.G. and play it how I think he would sing it, since I was spoiled to sing in such a good choir for so many years, and that was partially due to his leading out in the tenor section.

How is that for one long gushy statement?!  Come up for air, lady.

Ok, so of course I enjoyed every bit of the First Presidency Christmas Devotional, but here are the things that meant a lot to me.  I was kind of purposely delaying the start of my Christmas celebrating, because I wanted to start out with the proper perspective.  I wasn't sure how I felt about certain "traditions".  I was thinking things like, "There's too much gift giving, we should cut back.  There is too much Santa/ Toy Workshop/ Elves, how do we handle that?, etc, etc, and so forth."  All of these thoughts were definitely weighing on me, so I was glad to come away with a lot of clarity and excitement for the season.

President Uchtdorf said something like, "that may be the most one-sided gift exchange ever given in the history of the universe" in reference to Jesus Christ's gifts that He gives to us.  That really started to get me thinking.  If the Savior is my perfect example, then I would like to give gifts like Him, meaning one-sided or lopsided (unequal) in result.

I personally hate the idea of a "gift exchange".  This always seems to imply that the involved parties all provide gifts that cost about the same in order to provide equality.  Sometimes a dollar amount is even set as a limit.  These gift exchanges are usually well-meaning, (i.e. don't want anyone to feel left out, reduce the number of gifts a person needs to buy therefore saving money, etc) but I hate that these gift exchanges take all of the heartfelt giving out of giving gifts.  When involved in these types of things, they always seem robotic as everyone sticks to the limitations and rules of the exchange.  Now I know that many people would jump all over this view and cite many examples of how they love this type of thing, and that's fine.  I don't.  I want to give gifts like the Savior and I can do that better a different way.

I always feel better when I give something to someone knowing that they can't give something back "equally".  I believe another name for this is called service.  Being the "poor student family" has resulted in many generous gifts being given to my family these past few years.  We have received everything from clothing and toys, to housewares and tickets to concerts and plays.  When someone buys me a $60 dollar ticket (times 2 for Husband), there is no way that I can repay them with an "equal" gift.  All we can do is graciously accept the generosity of others and count our blessings to receive these items that relieve our financial strain and that we have such wonderful, thoughtful, and generous friends.  Plates of cookies, thank you cards, being a good friend in return, and heartfelt thanks are definitely not equal to what we have received in monetary terms, but they are all we have been able to do.  Then we've gone and looked for someone else to bless.

These past few months, we have been able to FINALLY! feel like we are the ones giving to others what they can't in return (monetarily speaking).  The thrill that comes from helping others is unmatched.  We have been able to share clothing and toys, meals, rides, housewares, and yes, even tickets to a play!!!  We knew when we gave these things that all we would receive back was heartfelt thanks, love, and appreciation and so that's all we expected.

The Savior's way of gift giving is a great example to me that I hope to employ this Christmas season.  I know that I won't be able to avoid some of those other situations, but I hope to steer others into the same way of thinking.

A gift should be given with the understanding that it so great that the return gift (should the recipient choose to give one) could never be matched.  I am not speaking of size or cost.  Babysit for someone when you do not have small children for them to watch in return.  Share a talent with someone when you know they do not have the same talent to share in return.

Of course a word must be said  about graciously accepting any gift, especially the feeble efforts of one to thank you for your generosity.  They know they cannot give you back something "equally" and so they don't need to be reminded or embarrassed by the original gift giver's refusal of their best efforts (when they know full well that it is "small" compared to what was given).

Like I said, we would look for others who weren't doing as well as we were.  This also keeps gift giving not as equal exchanges, but as a collection of service oriented people who are looking out for everyone, as each person looks for a new person to bring into the gift giving circle.

Ok, so maybe I didn't think ALL of these thoughts during the devotional.  I think fast, but not that fast ;).  I started mulling these ideas over and then combined with what I heard President Eyring say, I've come up with this over a few days.

Alright, what did President Eyring say (there is no written transcript of the talks, bytheway)?  I know you were wondering.  He began his talk and I noticed that he was using one word a lot.  That word was "gift(s)".  I found out later that his talk was actually entitled "The Gifts of Christmas".  Well between hearing President Uchtdorf talking about a "one-sided gift exchange" and President Eyring talking about "gifts", I was confused.  How could two-thirds of the First Presidency be talking about gifts when I was thinking that gift-giving was getting so out of control?  Did you hear about the Black Friday pepper spraying/ shooting/ robberies, etc all in the name of buying gifts?  I planned to give gifts, of course.  I just wasn't sure how many, or how much we should spend, etc.  I didn't want greed to find its way into my house.  Because of my turn-off to gift giving, I was really beginning to feel like Ebeneezer Scrooge.  I didn't want to hoard all my money, but I didn't want to be a part of thoughtless waste and fleeting happiness.  We were trying to focus Christmas on the Savior, but it still didn't feel right.

Then I realized  this:

In my mind I had been thinking about how to reduce my gift giving.  Aha!  Listening to my words again (in my head), I heard it again that I was really REDUCING MY gift GIVING (Reducing my giving).  In trying to find ways to cut back, I had cut out the best part, the selfless giving that comes with Christmas and all the service opportunities that I have mentioned above.

This is the Year of the Reach Out.  And while it may be the end of the year, it's not over yet.  I became really excited as I began to think of Christmas as a time of giving, and eliminate such thoughts of "gift exchanges" from my mind.  I have several ideas of things that I want to do personally or that my family can do together to join in with the Spirit of Giving (no gifts required)!

Gifts aren't obligations, but expressions of love.

Typing this, it sounds kind of obvious, but in my brain, it just was a little mixed up somehow.  Too many mixed messages, I guess.  Don't laugh, just be happy for me that I figured it out.  I think the confusion comes from knowing where "the line" is.  Everyone agrees that Christmas is over-commercialized every year, but it's agreeing on where "the line" is between over-commercialization and what is "okay" (meaning not over-commercialized).  See I told you it was confusing!

Then, I about fell off the pew, when President Eyring announced the videos about the Savior.  What a gift to the world!  I am so excited for them to be finished!

Lastly, our beloved prophet spoke.  My favorite quote that he said was "Christmas is what we make of it."  I had been complaining earlier in the weekend about this very thing to Husband.  Seriously, how do these men know what I needed to hear!  Amazing.  This kind of sums up all of the above thoughts.  I never realized how much effort it took to celebrate and enjoy Christmas.  I also liked how he said something about establishing Christmas traditions to capture and keep the Spirit of Christmas.  We're working on it.  We plan to visit a nursing home again like we did last year.

I love the First Presidency Christmas Devotional, always have, and always will.  It so great to have that be the "start" of the season for us.  The next day we were able to start putting lights on the house, and get out the tree, etc.  It really helped me feel like we had the proper mindset, and you know what they say, "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."

Ahhh, let the festivities begin!

Love,
Lindsay

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas Website

Dear Readers,

I would like to remind you about christmas.lds.org.  I found this website last year, but not until 3 days before Christmas.  I was disappointed that I had spent my whole season without it!

Read The Christmas Story.  It sounds like a pre-made Family Home Evening idea to me!  There are links to music, video and other articles to enhance the meaning for you and your family.

Watch 17 different Christmas videos.

Find a list of ideas to have a more meaningful Christmas.  I love that they remind us that Christ is the best gift of all.  Let's simplify!

Download free Christmas music.

Check out these coloring pages and games for kids!  Also are other ideas that look perfect for the other  Monday nights in December (Family Home Evening opportunities).

I actually love how this website is very simple.  Nothing glitzy or glamorous here.  It is an example to me to keep things simple during my Christmas worship!  At first glance I thought, "That's it?  With all of the resources that the Church has, they are only including this little amount?"  But you know what?  It's enough.  I'm still putting together the finishing touches on my Christmas season "plan", but I will keep it simple.

Christ is the real gift of Christmas.

Lovingly,
Lindsay

Want It All

Dear Readers,


This is a continuation of my last post.


Today let's talk about attitude.



The way to “have it all” is to want all that you have.  Because then, if you want all that you have, then you have all that you want.   Having all that you want brings great contentment.  Think that through for a minute.

Let’s break it down.

When I say “want all that you have” I am referring to wanting, accepting, and feeling gratitude for everything that has happened in your life.  I mean every little thing whether it was good or bad.  Situations that were devastating in the moment are some of the experiences that I treasure the most now.   They make me who I am.  They are what have molded me into who I am and helped to refine my rough edges.  Instead of being upset by things that happened to me and letting myself become a “victim” (“Why me?” or “Only me!” mentality) I have learned to embrace my past.  It doesn’t take away the fact that it was hard for me.   It was definitely hard at the time.  Being grateful for my past also doesn’t lessen the severity of choices that others made towards me.  Everyone has things happen to them that they can’t control.  We could all be “victims” if we wanted to choose to be miserable, but then the world would just be miserable.  And that sounds so sad.

I’m not going to lie.  Acceptance doesn’t come overnight.  It took me a few years.  Once you embrace all of your embarrassments and can laugh about them (Thanks Elder Wirthlin!), then you’ll really appreciate “All” that you have.  I do have tons of examples, but seeing how I barely have any time to post anymore, I’m trying to keep this short.

I have to say that I love being me.  Nobody can be me, but me.

 Next up is The Pots and Pans Theory.  This really explains how I “do it all”.  It’s already half written, but I really want to write some other things first, so don’t hold your breath waiting for The Pots and Pans Theory, though with such a catchy name, I could see how you might be intrigued :).

Very tiredly,
Lindsay