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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

From the Inside Out

Dear Readers,

We also finished putting up the Christmas tree yesterday. It was a multi-day process this year. We just worked on it as we had time and energy.  I used to be the person that loved to get everything out the day after Thanksgiving.  We paid proper homage to the holiday and then just moved on with full speed.  I found that by doing this, I found I was tired of Christmas sometimes with a full week to go before it's arrival.

This year I didn't want to be in a hurry.  I didn't want to force upon myself Christmas-time.  I wanted to feel it from the inside out.  Let me explain by putting up the decorations and everything right away (listening to Christmas music, etc in full force) I was experiencing Christmas from the outside in.  I was dependent on my outer experiences to somehow shape my heart and spirit.  Some years it worked, some years it didn't and I still felt kind of empty at Christmastime.

I also didn't feel the need to rush, because my daughter asked if we could keep out our "Blessings" decoration from Thanksgiving.  She told me that Christmas was about blessings too.  I wasn't going to argue, so we've had a gradual transition so that we could continue to recognize all of our blessings and our greatest blessing, the birth and life of Jesus Christ.

Yesterday I walked into a mega-mart type of store.  Until yesterday I had only been in the grocery store or other small specialty shops.  It was dizzying with all of the displays of "buy this, only x amount of dollars".  The aisles were full of shoppers and "must have" products.  It brought a feeling of stress over me as I realized that this is what many people experience over finding "perfect" gifts.  It was influencing me from the outside in, rather than the inside out.  I didn't like it.

It made me think of President Monson's quote from the First Presidency Christmas Devotional that said "Let us make Christmas real. It isn’t just tinsel and ribbon, unless we have made it so in our lives. (source)"  Christmas is exactly what we have made of it.  This year I chose to feel it from the inside out.  I have done less (decorating, eating, cooking, delivering, music listening, reading, partying, etc.) than any other year, but I have probably felt more joy than any other year so far.  I can get into specifics another time about exactly what it is that I am doing/ not doing.

Are you feeling Christmas-y on the inside?  I know it's all around us on the outside, but are you truly feeling the joy of the season?

Hope so,


Friday, December 7, 2012

Let Earth Receive Her King

Dear Readers,

So posting everyday didn't last very long :).  The past few days I've been crying in bed, feeling wronged by the world.  Not my best self for sure, but I do strive for complete transparancy.  Now, granted there were legitimate things that happened to me this week that were wrong and upsetting, I slipped right into all Grinch-dom....Christmas angel, my foot (no, that was real and legit).  Oh what a roller-coaster it's been this week.

I tried to bring myself to post something the past couple of days, because I'm not happy and rosy all the time nor is my life glamorous and perfect and I don't want to portray myself as that way.  Honestly, I couldn't bring myself to talk about the gospel so down in the dumps without being really hypocritical.  "Really, let the atonement help you..." when I had no intention of letting it help me.  Thankfully the moment has passed and I am feeling more positive and ready to resume normal, rational life.  Today I opened the blinds in my living room.  I haven't done that all week.  Read here about opening the blinds in my house as an analogy to letting Christ in your life.

Yeah, not perfect I know.  I chose to have 2 days of despair this week.  I have been thinking about that post though and how it has tied in with messages that I heard this weekend.  When I mentioned in my post about the funeral that the Bishop had a nice Christmas message, well no joke, it was some of the same things that President Monson said the very next day at the First Presidency Christmas Devotional.  My bishop had read the same verse of O Little Town of Bethlehem that President Monson read.

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heav’n.
No ear may hear his coming;
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.

My bishop spoke of the word "receive", that it was our choice to receive Christ in our lives.  I have since found out that no one at the funeral was LDS (besides the Bishop, myself, and 2 Elders) which made his talk all the more powerful to me.  When we choose the act of letting Him in, Christ will come in.  I like how the hymn says "In this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him, still".  So basically saying, Christ really, really wants to come, He's just looking for anyone left in the sinful world to do so.  God has already given us this "wondrous gift", we just have to choose to receive it.

I'm not going to do a separate post on the Devotional, so let me just share one great quote from Pres. Monson.

"Let us make Christmas real. It isn’t just tinsel and ribbon, unless we have made it so in our lives. Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values. It is peace because we have found peace in the Savior’s teachings. It is the time we realize most deeply that the more love is expended, the more there is of it for others." (emphasis added)
Then of course Pres. Uchtdorf spoke about being a good and grateful receiver.  When he started to speak I honestly thought in my head "Go Bishop, Go Bishop".  How inspired he must have been to have been thinking the same topics as the First Presidency.  And then I felt how grateful that I was able to hear all of the inspired thoughts that were shared on both days.

"I hope that this Christmas and every day of the year we will consider, in particular, the many gifts we have been given by our loving Heavenly Father. I hope we will receive these gifts with the wonder, thankfulness, and excitement of a child. 
My heart grows tender and warm as I think of the gifts our loving, gracious, and generous Father in Heaven has given us: the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, the miracle of forgiveness, personal revelation and guidance, the Savior’s peace, the certainty and comfort that death is conquered—and many, many more. 
Above all, God has given us the gift of His Only Begotten Son, who sacrificed His life “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”(John 3:16)
Have we received these gifts with humble gratitude, with joy? Or do we reject them out of pride or a false sense of independence? Do we feel our Father’s love expressed in these gifts? Do we receive them in a way that deepens our relationship with this wonderful, divine Giver? Or are we too distracted to even notice what God gives us each and every day? 
We know that “God loveth a cheerful giver,” (2 Corinthians 9:7) but does He not also love a good, grateful, and cheerful receiver?" (Pres. Uchtdorf)
So as "Joy to the World" (Hymn 201) so joyfully states, "Let earth receive her King, let every heart prepare him room."  Are you making room for Christ this time of year?  Does He need an invite? or is He already "received" cheerfully (see reference above)?  I find I need to cheerfully receive Him daily otherwise I find myself in the state of the past few days :(

Sorry I was grumpy and unable to post.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pray for the President

Dear Husband,

I think you were disappointed that I didn't post this right away, but I am now, just in case someone didn't see it.  It was displayed very prominently on the newsroom page for weeks, but now it is not.

Can you believe a month has passed since the election?  I do agree that it is a very well written and tasteful statement and that it was nice that it was posted as soon as the winner was evident.  Is the Church ever not classy?

It is time to pray for the president and all the people who work in our government as there are many decisions that are imminent.

Pray with me.

I love you.


Monday, December 3, 2012

A Christmas Angel

Dear Friend S,

My daughter keeps asking about you, and we do talk and think about you often.  I'm mentally counting down the days until the 12th.  We definitely miss you.

Tonight I felt like a Christmas angel.  One tradition in my family growing up was to read Christmas Stories every night after scriptures.  My parents had several books and collections of heartwarming stories that really embody the spirit of the season.  One of my absolute favorites was always "Aaron's Christmas Tree".  Each story that was in my parent's collection seemed to speak of people who were such examples of self-less love and charity - really the pure love of Christ.

Now, I'm no one special, but tonight I felt like a Christmas angel.  I felt like I had been an instrument in the Lord's hand to minister to specific people on the Lord's behalf.  I almost felt like it could be a story from my parent's collection, except that it was just me and so simple, but that's probably part of the beauty of it.  Simple, not complicated and over thought.

My tale starts a few weeks ago.  I was at the grocery store and saw sprinkles on sale.  They had red and green, so I picked some up thinking that Daughter would like them..she likes sprinkles.  As I was putting them in my cart I thought that they would make a great care package for the (*_____ ) Family.  With their dad deployed I have tried to take them something once a month to let them know that they are thought of and loved.  The idea was born that for December I'd take them cookie decorating supplies.  As the weeks continued on I looked for other items to go along with the original sprinkles.  Well, then I thought of the (*_______ name of different) Family and how their dad was also deployed right now.  I decided to give Daughter's red and green sprinkles to them and make them an identical care package.

Daughter and I ended up with sugar cookie mix, peppermint frosting, red, green, and white writing gels, the red and green sprinkles, and assorted cookie cutters.  I wanted to make sure that they had everything that they needed so that it would be a true delight for the kids, and not a huge hassle for the mom (remember, the dads are on the other side of the world).  The last thing I wanted was to give a half complete project that the mom had to scramble so the kids could finish.  We lovingly wrapped up the items and put them in gift bags for the two families.

This picture shows the assortment of items on the right and how we wrapped them on the left.  Then we just put them in the gift bags.  Daughter helped me with the tissue paper so some of it was pretty ripped before it made it in the bag :), but she was so earnest in helping me pick out the specific tissue papers and loved the curling ribbon.  I love doing service with my daughter.

For Family Home Evening tonight we went to deliver our love.  We went to Family #2 first.  I knew it'd be nice to get to both families in one night, but my goal was just to get one delivered.  We practiced caroling at home much to Daughter's delight, but of course when we got to the door she ran away and hid leaving husband and I to sing a duet.  The kids were excited to see us and informed us that they were getting out their Christmas decorations.  Their mom came down from the attic and I quickly sent Husband up to help haul down the biggest boxes.  What are the odds that we arrived right when they needed man power? (feel good moment #1)  One child exclaimed, "Look 4 presents!!!" as he pulled everything out of the gift bag.  I informed him they were to opened right away and that there were 4 presents because there were 4 kids in their family.  They all opened them to find the cookie decorating supplies and were super excited.

The kids continued to play with loud exclamations (Daughter joining right in) and the mom said she didn't know where the "crazies" were coming from.  I smiled at her and said, "I do.  You must not have people over very often."  She laughed and said, "You're right, we don't." (feel good moment #2)  She kept asking if we had other houses to get to baffled that we would have singled them out (I didn't advertise that it was because her husband was deployed), and I kept saying "No, my goal was one house tonight.  This is it."

We stayed for an hour the moms visiting together, the girls playing dolls, and the boys enjoying showing Husband 3 levels of their favorite video game (they don't get a lot of man-time right now... :) ).  When it was getting late I said we better go.  The kids were all disappointed to have their audience leave.  One thing they showed to me was their advent calendar.  It was a mini-muffin pan with magnets covering each hole.  Each day they took the appropriate number off to reveal the hole which had a typed activity on a piece of paper in it.  I asked if I could peek ahead to see what kinds of activities they were going to do.  Imagine my shock when I saw that the activity for tomorrow was "Bake Cookies".  I felt tingles and heard a choir of angels in my head. (feel good moment #3)  The mom had been explaining to me how they needed to move for financial reasons and that she had a realtor coming to inspect their house in a few days.  She was responsible for all of this without her husband.  She hadn't been looking ahead to the activities in the tin, so I'm sure tomorrow morning as the kids awoke and read the advent activity, she would have had a surprise and had to scramble to complete the cookie baking.  (She had previously told me that she didn't bake very often, so I honestly was surprised to see that was an activity in their advent.)

It felt really good to know that a such a teeny tiny act of service could make her life easier.  I am always so grateful when someone does that for me.  I couldn't imagine my husband being gone for a full 6 months.  Husband's orders were hard enough a few months ago.  I am also amazed by the experience as I hadn't originally planned on taking anything to this family.  Yet, Heavenly Father did prompt me, and put it in my heart that we should go tonight and then we arrived right as they were getting things out of the attic.  Small things I know, but the hand of the Lord, nonetheless.

And that is why I felt like a Christmas angel, a character in one of the many stories that I love.

Miss you.  I have so much to tell you, but we know you're doing good things.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Worlds Without Number

Dear Friend M,

A few months ago I was driving in the car with my daughter.  She had picked up a flyer while we were out and was proceeding to read it.

"Mom, what's a world?"

I then proceeded to explain what a world was to her for a few minutes.  Not wanting to miss an opportunity for a spiritual conversation, I then said, "Heavenly Father created the world.  There's a scripture that says Heavenly Father created worlds without number (Moses 1:33)."  I told her to think of the biggest number that she could and that there were even more worlds than that.  I give an example of something like a million, billion, gazillion, trillion (because that was the biggest number that I could think of on the spot).

"You mean like 100?"

"Is that the biggest number you can think of?"


"Yeah, Heavenly Father created 100 worlds and even more than that."  :)


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Each Life That Touches Ours

Dear Mother,

I went to a funeral this morning.  Last night the Bishop called while we were out and asked if Husband or I would play for a funeral this morning.  It was for someone he didn't know and wasn't affiliated with our church, but somehow we were asked to officiate and provide the music for it.

I've played piano for a lot of funerals (way more than I've attended because I knew the person that died), and it was similar to a lot of them.  I usually show up with no personal attachment, but am interested in what their life was like.  The family usually finds me and thanks me for the music and then proceeds to talk to me for some period of time.  I guess the piano player seems safe?  Not sure, but someone always talks to me and I just have to smile and nod, because I have no connection to them before that day and I most likely will never see them again  I only can piece together what is said during the services to get a feel for the situation.  Then during the services I get bored and look around the room at the people attending the funeral.  Since most of them usually aren't LDS they don't look comfortable at a "religious" meeting.  Their dress and actions are different than how Church members would act at a funeral.  I try to figure out who is family, co-workers, friends, war buddies, etc.  and how they might be feeling.  I especially like to watch them as the Bishop gives his remarks that teach LDS doctrines.  For some this may be the first time they have ever heard the Plan of Salvation or of the atonement of Jesus Christ.  I always wonder if they'll remember the Spirit that they felt

Today, the funeral was for a man who led a rogue life.  He was promiscuous and his sister said they knew of 12 of his children (but that there might be more.)  It didn't sound as if he ever married any of their mothers or spent any time with his children or grandchildren until 4 years ago.  Perhaps he knew he was dying?  He came and went whenever he pleased only contacting his family if he needed something.  The sister said she just had to accept him how he was, and spent most of her "life sketch" apologizing to his children and grandchildren that were present for her brother's weaknesses.

The Bishop then focused his remarks on the atonement and what Jesus Christ could do for the man who died, and each person in that room.  I also thought he did a nice job of mentioning Christ and Christmastime as the world was hustling and bustling while we were all paused.

We did not sing "Each Life That Touches Ours For Good" as no one would have recognized it.  It's one of my favorites, but at 90% of the funerals I attend we sing "How Great Thou Art," as we did today :)  Then later on in the program I played a special musical number.  Well I did not find out about this special musical number until a couple of hours before the funeral and I was not at home.  I whipped out a Lindsay special and played "Nearer, My God, to Thee" (a hymn I knew that would be recognized by non-members and also sung at most of the funerals that I've been to).  I just did broken chords on the first verse, up an octave on the second verse, and full chords on the third verse, repeating the final line for finality.  I felt kind of guilty that I hadn't a chance to practice anything, but also grateful that I had the ability to just whip it out on the spot.

I could tell as I was playing that those in attendance could feel the Spirit.  I heard sniffles and crying and as I completed the song I found that I had tears in my eyes as well.  I genuinely found myself hoping that the family members could feel peace with the situation as it clearly wasn't ideal.  I hoped that they would remember the words spoken about the Atonement and somehow be led to missionaries so that they could learn more.  As they Bishop said the closing prayer, these thoughts continued to overwhelm me.

We didn't sing "Each Life That Touches Ours For Good," but I can honestly say that this unknown man to me, touched my life for good.  I am grateful that I was able to be at the funeral and think and reflect about my blessings and my testimony of the Savior.  Today was the first day of December.  A midst parades, lights, Christmas tree lightings, etc. I think I had the perfect Christmas Kickoff.  I am so grateful for the atonement in my life.  I am grateful that we just celebrated Thanksgiving.  I wasn't ready to move on yet.  I am so blessed that my attendance at the funeral of this rogue man could provide me the opportunity to serve others, to help them feel the Spirit, maybe for the first time.  I am looking forward to a season of love, peace, joy, blessings, and devotion to the Savior.

With love,