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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I Hope They Call Me On a Mission

Dear Brother,

Well, I'm already on a mission.  Today I spoke with a priesthood leader who confirmed that this is supposed to be an all day, every day job.  I was concerned that I didn't have a life outside of serving in the Spanish Branch, but I guess I'm not supposed to have one.  Now I know.  At least I don't feel bad about it now.  Time to put my nose back to the grindstone and keep workin' away to strengthen this Branch.

The Branch is doing splendidly by the way.  Last night I had the opportunity to attend the temple with other Branch members as a new missionary received his endowment.  This will be the first missionary to serve from the Branch.  It is a very exciting time.  There were 30 people in the session to support this young man.  Twenty of them were current members of the Branch and others were friends/ previous members of the Branch and our full-time missionaries who received permission to attend.  It was a very special Spirit as I've never been at the temple with so many Branch members at once.  I love going to the temple, but I especially love it when I am there with people that I know and love.  That is not even all of the people who are endowed!!!  As I sat there looking around the room I thought of all the baptisms that have happened in the past few months and of the families looking forward to be sealed.  In one year's time the Branch will have exploded even more than it is now.  Why do I have to be moving away?  I look forward to coming back and seeing all of the positions filled that I am training for right now.  I look forward to coming back for these sealings and special events.

I am so grateful for missionary work.

Daughter is extremely excited as well.  This week we have a teaching appointment with the Hermanas.  This is due to a scheduling conflict between Husband and I, otherwise I probably wouldn't truck her along for 3 hours in the car round-trip for this.  She is beside herself with excitement and requested a missionary name tag and outfit.  Since we are the dress-up experts around here this is what we came up with:

Missionary work is great.  I love having this opportunity.  It really is the opportunity of a lifetime.  I love having the full-time missionaries around my family to inspire and teach Daughter.  They are great examples for her.

Good luck to you.

Te amo.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Face of Christmas

RE-EDIT: Something happened and I am missing a paragraph or two in the middle of my post.  I have filled in a brief explanation so that it makes sense.  Sorry!

(Dated December 18th, 2011)

Dear Sister,

I am losing courage.  I must say your positive reaction helped me the other day, but I've never had Christmas without Santa before.  I want to go Santa-free, but like I say, I'm starting to wimp out.  This of course bothers me, because you know that I hate to do anything because I am forced to.  I don't want to go through the Santa motions just to be like everyone else, especially after I've decided that he's not welcome here this year.

Everyday that gets closer to Christmas, I keep thinking of all of the Santa songs that I love and what about reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas"?  On the one hand I didn't think this all through, though on the other, I know it's completely what I want to do.  Husband is completely on-board with everything, so that's not part of the problem at all.  When you do something the same way all your life, it's tough to know how to make a new tradition (especially when you know it's not a popular idea).  I don't know anyone who is Santa-free, so I can't ask for help or for support.

I also need some new ideas.  When we last talked, I was still okay with Santa, just not this year, for the reasons that we've already discussed.  Well, it all changed for me and now I am looking at a more permanent ban.  One day I was just walking around my house (mulling this over I guess) and it came to me:

"Who is the face of Christmas?"

The first face that popped into my mind was that of Santa, and not of Jesus Christ, I am sad to say.  Later I asked Husband the same question:

"Who is the face of Christmas?"

He said that the first thing that came to his mind also was Santa first.

I'm not mad at Santa.  I'm mad at the world for creating an alternative holiday to the celebration of our Savior and Redeemer.  It is CHRISTmas after all.


Let's recap.

Daughter thinks Santa is a fun character similar to Mickey Mouse.  She sat on his lap twice already this year, but only talked to him briefly.  She knows nothing of "asking for presents", or that he brings things (presents, fills your stockings, etc.) in the middle of night and you get to wake up to these surprises.

When we put out our Christmas paraphernalia the only things that had Santa on them were the stockings.  Like I said, I only hung them for about 10 minutes because I felt like they were chasing away the special spirit in our home.  When I took them off the wall, Daughter yells out, "Put back those socks!!!" (She seriously knows nothing about Santa for real, they're called "Stockings" honey).  I had no idea it would be so easy to eliminate Santa, because I guess he never really came.  We do own a Santa hat which is ridiculously cute on Daughter, but I'll let it pass for caroling purposes.  Who wears biblical clothing while caroling?  Yeah, still working this all out.

I cannot in good conscience introduce Santa to Daughter this year.  We've done it every year that she's been alive, but I can tell that this is the first year that will leave a serious impression on her.  I know we've taught her about Jesus Christ and His gospel as well, but how can I be the one to defile her little pure spirit?

When she sees a cross she'll say "Look Mom and Dad, a cross, that's for Jesus.  He died for me."

We attended a live nativity this year put on by another church.  To depict the angels appearing to the shepherds they have people dressed in white clothing hiding in a tree house.  At an appointed moment, they flood them with light and they sing "Gloria".  The next day when I was playing "Angels We Have Heard on High" on the piano, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Daughter was holding up the angels out of her nativity set like the live nativity and was singing along.  It is now her favorite song.

Daughter loves all of the Christmas hymns, especially "Joy to the World", "Away in a Manger",  and "The First Noel".  It is true that she also says "Jingle Bell Rock" is one of her favorites (but did you know that it doesn't mention Santa anywhere in it?!)  We are practicing to go caroling.  I am SO excited to make it a reality, because we've been hyping it up for awhile to her and she's been practicing a ton!

At our church's nativity exhibit, we spent hours looking at the nativities and in the children's room.  She also enjoyed the cantata performance.  She begged for some "Mary clothes" and is now the proud owner of them.  We also bought her a plastic nativity set for her to play with this year.  We got it back in November even, because I knew it was the first thing that I wanted to present to her about Christmas.  I had told her that it was Christmastime after Thanksgiving, so I wanted to be prepared with the right kind of Christmas stuff.  I didn't want her to break my little nativity from mom.  I think it's resin, but it's irresistible to little hands (including my own).

She loves the symbols of Christmas.  We have done them near daily since the Family Home Evening lesson where we originally presented them to her.  After hearing it once she was repeating them back to us.  My favorite is when she'll take a candy cane pretending to be the shepherd's staff and then try to put it around the little sheep's neck saying "Come back, come back" to represent the Good Shepherd going after His sheep.

[Lost Portion: I had a paragraph explaining that I was going to make a countdown for my Daughter.  The idea was to make 24 ornaments that each had a name of Christ written on them.  I think I also said that I was behind and didn't do it as a countdown, but just as a single activity.  I was also lamenting that the ornaments were very plain and not as fancy as the original examples that I had seen on the internet.]

As I wrote each one we talked about them.  Then we listened to the Messiah and pointed out when we heard His names (Wonderful, Counselor, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, etc).  I already loved the Messiah, but enjoying it with a 3 year old was just awesome!  The new missionary didn't believe that she would actually like it (obviously he doesn't know us very well yet).  Husband and I had made our list in advance.  It was really hard to choose only 24 and since Daughter was LOVING it, we went back and bought another box, so now we have 36.  I didn't want to decorate our tree until we had done the names of Christ ornaments, so our tree was empty for a week.  I loved the simplicity of our Christmas decorations.  Then after Daughter and I made them I told her that she could put them up when Dad got home.  Well, she wasted no time and put them on while we made dinner without hooks or anything.  It was really cute.  Then a few more days went by before I pulled out the rest of the ornaments and we finished decorating the tree.

This has been my Christmas worship thus far, and I have loved it!!!  It has been so calm and peaceful and focused on the "real reason of the season".  I know I'm in a unique situation in that Daughter hasn't attended school yet, so I have had the opportunity to shape her without outside influences, but isn't that my job?  To teach her?  Isn't it my job to teach her that Jesus Christ is the "face of Christmas"?  Or am I really "robbing her of her childhood" as some would say?

Don't ostracize me.  You can think I'm weird, but after typing all of this, I'm remembering why I started thinking about eliminating him.  I guess my bottom line is: Every minute spent on Santa is a minute away from Jesus Christ. I'll live without Santa and Rudolph, though I have no problem with anyone else choosing to make him a part of their celebrations.

Much love and appreciation of your listening ear,

Altering History

Dear Mother,

Before I scatterbrained these days........

I want to use this article from the Friend for next Christmas.  I was referred to it by a friend, but I didn't see it until it was too late.  Good thing I have all year to decide how I want to use it.  Do I use it exactly as written and read a piece of the story every night?  Do I just cut out the beautiful nativity pieces?  They would make a great flannel board.....hmmmm.

I am happy to announce that we found this guy last week.

This little guy has been known as "Myrrh" for the entire Christmas season.  I bought this set for Daughter, new THIS year.  When he went missing in early December, it was a major tragedy.  Everyone was upset.  I was upset because it my NEW nativity and now it was incomplete.  Husband was upset, because I was upset.  No man likes to see his wife upset over a plastic figurine.  Daughter was upset because all of a sudden now the Christmas story was incomplete.

Every time we played with the set and acted out the nativity, she would not allow us to say that the wise men brought "gold, frankincense, and myrrh".   They were only allowed to bring "gold and frankincense" because "myrrh was missing".  We tried to explain over and over every way that we could, but she was adamant.  For most of December, I was heartbroken that we were altering history and that poor baby Jesus was never going to get His "myrrh".

Luckily, we found him.  Hallelujah.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2011 Hangover

Dear Readers,

My Name is Lindsay and I'm a Mormon.  I have never had an alcoholic beverage in all of my life, but using the word "hangover" is the only way I can think of to describe how I am feeling.  I know "hangover" is a funny word to use on a Mormon blog.  Like I say, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints abstain from coffee, tea, tobacco products, alcohol, and drugs.  This is part of the Word of Wisdom, which is a guide for healthful living.

To my understanding, a hangover is when someone is still feeling the effects of alcohol to their body, though the period of drinking has past.  They just have to wait for it to flush out of their system, and then their body will feel normal again.

Well, I am still feeling the effects of 2011 though it is gone and past.  All I can do is wait for it to slowly filter out of my system and then one day I'll wake up and be ready for 2012, because mentally I'm just not there yet.  I have all sorts of things to wrap up for 2011.

This was the Year of Reaching Out.  I want to tell you about it.  I reached out to others and appreciated when others reached out to me.

I had a fantastic Christmas.  There is so much to say about our family's experience.  We took the plunge and celebrated Santa-free.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I was scared to death to go through with it and the judgement that I'd receive from others, but it was amazing.  No stockings.  No cookies and milk.  No asking for presents.  I'd love to finish my drafts that I've started about this, because now that we've done it once, I don't think we can ever go back.  It was awesome and Christ-centered and very rich and fulfilling.

December was such a whirlwind because of my "real life".  December 1st-3rd is the only 3 day period where we had nothing going on in the Spanish Branch.  We've been really busy.  With all of the normal (and not normal) Christmas events going on we also had our Young Women Evening of Excellence and a baptism for 6 people (2 YW aged).  That would be cool to share about as well.

See....I'm stuck in 2011 and I'm just getting started.

When I woke up on January 1, 2011 I was still in a Primary Presidency in a different ward.  I had a toddler with a limited vocabulary and limited needs.  I was a teacher to 4 piano students.  I was almost, dare I say it, bored with my life.  I had a lot of free time.  I had no idea what the year would bring to me and the growth that I see in myself.

January - mid February
I was released from the Primary after 2 1/2 years.  That was hard.  I love children.  I loved teaching them.  I loved seeing the growth of these particular children over the years.  They helped fill the void in our home (because we could use 10 more kids kicking around here).  I picked up 8 more piano students rather quickly bringing the total to 12.  This winter a MASSIVE snowstorm shut down the city for 2 weeks.  It was cold.  Really cold.  Records were set around the state.  Things were still pretty quiet.  Little did I know...

end of February - Spring Break
We were called to labor in the Spanish Branch for the duration of our time in this area.  The first few Sundays I cried during the hymns, because I was so overwhelmed by not speaking the language that sitting through the whole hour of Sacrament Meeting was really traumatic in the beginning.  I've really come a long ways.  My assignment was to be the Young Women Camp leader.  I smiled and nodded a lot (okay, still do).

Spring Break - April
Six more piano students started with me bringing my total to 18!!!  They started just in time for recital season.  Recital season goes from Spring Break to the end of May.  We had planned a fun trip for Spring Break this year, but then stayed home at the last minute due to a major breakdown that I had.  Breakdown isn't really the right term, but I can't think of anything better.  I had a series of realizations about myself that really concerned me.  I spoke with some trusted friends who put me in touch with other trusted and respected people and I started making some major transformations over the next few months.  I wanted help to overcome ingrained thought patterns that I had.  I did not have good self-worth.  I did not value myself or think of myself as a daughter of God.  I didn't like how I always was comparing myself to others.  Sometimes I was better than them.  Sometimes they were better than me.  We couldn't all be children of God that were loved equally.  There's more to this story of course, but Husband told me just last week that he thinks that I've finally overcome everything that I sought out to.  Somehow in March and April I was able to carve out hours upon hours to ponder and pray and journal.  I wanted to break vicious cycles.  I was concerned for my Daughter.  I did not want to pass on such un-Christlike attributes.  I never spoke about it on this blog at the time, but it was a major thing that happened to me and our family this year and I am very grateful.

We were asked to demonstrate a dance to the youth.  Really, it was just a small assignment, which is why we said yes, when I was already in the midst of Recital Season and gearing up for the recital in May and also the Young Women camp.  I've already discussed this here, but it blossomed into a HUGE responsibility.  We became the teachers instead of just the demonstrators and saw to completion the teaching of a German Polka to hundreds of kids that lived in 2 stakes all over the state.  This was performed at a regional pageant in July.  You know, even though things were starting to heat up, in hindsight, April still seems quite calm.  Maybe all of the changes I was making brought a lot of peace.  Our family took a a few vacations and celebrated some milestones/ progress and it was a great month for us.

May - June
I don't know how, but somehow I pulled off a piano recital and then scooted off to Girl's Camp.  We were going to dance rehearsals now almost every Saturday.  Girl's Camp was amazing.  It was the first time that the Spanish Branch had a leader attend.  They had always been lumped together with another ward at the last minute which always made them feel like leftovers that no one cared about.  All of the girls banded together and decided that they wanted to be married in the temple.  I promised them that I'd attend each of their sealings no matter where I lived at the time.  I'd find a way to be there.  It was the start of a spark of change in the branch.  Those girls came home on fire.  Somehow I became the branch liaison for the upcoming Youth Conference/ Pageant.  In a very short amount of time I had a lot of paperwork that had to be filled out for the youth, but I really wanted them all to attend the Youth Conference, especially after the positive reaction to the Young Women Camp.  There was a severe weather scare.  More weather records around the state.

The Youth Conference came!  The pageant happened.  We met with Sis. Dibb of the General Young Women Presidency.  It was all worth it.  We did not get very much sleep.  There was stress and loose ends until the very end.  My daughter is amazing.  In hindsight I have no idea what she was doing from Spring Break-Youth Conference.  My attention was turned to so many other projects and she had a lot of babysitters during all of that dance practice/ piano lessons/ Girl's Camp/ counseling.  I am so grateful that she is so easy going like that.  We almost didn't go because we were SO exhausted, but our family took some personal time to go to Nauvoo, Illinois.  As if we hadn't already had enough life changing experiences in the first half of was awesome.  We all came home so uplifted and edified.  It was exactly what we needed after giving so much to others.  We were filled.  The senior missionaries were awesome.  The Young Performing missionaries were great.  We saw every single show TWICE!  We watched the pageant.  We loved every second.  I am getting emotional thinking about how wonderful that trip was for our family, which really is saying something considering that we had just completed 3 months of awesome.  We all came home obsessed with pioneers.  We love them.  We love their sacrifices.  We are so grateful for them.  My daughter is still singing the songs from the shows and talking about Nauvoo and pioneers 6 months later.  We all want to go back ASAP and feel of the special spirit that exists in Nauvoo.  I still have like 6 unfinished drafts about that as well.  The early Saints had such humble circumstances and such trials, but were so faithful.  They are examples to us.  Daughter requested a pioneer outfit and Grandma made it happen!

August - mid September
Heat records around the state.  Unbearable!!!  We lived at the pool.  We must have rested and recovered during this time.  We needed it!  We definitely enjoyed our "Spiritual high".  After living on such a spiritual high for so long, it set a new standard for our family and in our home.  I love it.  My life is awesome at this time.  After being told that once a week wasn't often enough, we start to feed the missionaries 3 times a week.  This brings another change in me about my attitude towards missionary work.  I used to be deathly afraid of it and always just figured that everyone else could just do my share.  Being so close to the missionaries has taught me a ton.  Now I wish I had served a mission, though I never would have said that before.  It is a great blessing to have them in our home all of the time and around my Daughter.  In our new found bliss we start attending the temple every week taking turns who gets to go.  The one who stayed at home had some quality one-on-one with Daughter.  It was a great arrangement and brought a lot of peace and blessings into our home!!!!  Oh, hmmm I taught a few piano lessons in the summer, but started up again in August though only 14 take the fall semester (which is why I agree to take on 2 more?!?!??! - total 16).  I love to teach, though I was apprehensive about starting again.  I was ready for a calm life.  With the start of school we really start to settle into a routine.  I am enjoying my special time with my Daughter making sure to make up for previous months of the year.  She is so smart and wonderful.  A true blessing in my life.  The weather starts to cool.  Life starts to get comfortable.

mid September - December
Young Women's President?!?!  Me?  Train women?!?!?!  I don't speak Spanish.  My life was flipped upside down as I took a new and bigger challenge.  Though with all of the events of the first 9 months of the year I can see how I was being prepared.  Slowly we organized a Young Women's program that was fully functioning and fully staffed.  We put on a New Beginning's in October.  Yes, unconventional and a lot of work, but I didn't know how to have an Excellence Night if no one knew what Personal Progress was.  I did already know and love the girls from working with them at camp.  That part was easy.  I did find great counselors even if our communications were limited and we've just been working away.  That makes it sound like it's easy.  It's not, but it's worth it.  It is really satisfying to see these women grow in the gospel knowing that they are learning leadership skills to put into practice after I move.  Somewhere in here, I stopped cleaning my house.  It's a good thing the missionaries come so much, because on days they don't, we didn't always eat dinner.  I started waking up in the middle of the night A LOT with promptings about my calling.  Being a branch and all, the girls don't come from the strongest families, so there are a lot of girls "on the edge".  Putting our whole selves into the branch required me to re-evaluate my priorities.  I decide to retire my piano teaching early.  Missing out on a recital we did a service project where we played our Christmas music at a retirement home.  I am sad to be done, but it's nice to not feel stretched so thin.  We help with the big Stake Nativity exhibit.  We have the Excellence Night!  We have baptisms and all sorts of good events in the branch.  My family celebrates Christmas.  December was insane.  End of story.

And this is why I have a 2011 hangover.

I love my life, but aren't you exhausted reading all of this?

Serving the Lord has brought my family many blessings, and more growth than I knew was possible.

I am excited for 2012, but I have nothing left to give right now.  I am in need of some serious recharging before I move on.  So 2012, you can wait for me.  I'm finishing my 2011 hangover and I don't know how long it'll take.