Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Reflections

Every December I strive to have a Christmas that is organized and low stress, just sitting back eating bonbons on the last few days before Christmas.  Every year I am running around crazy needing every last minute to accomplish what I want done before the big day.  This year I decided that is not remotely feasible for me to do a low stress holiday.  It is just not in the genes or something.  Though I did feel a different focus on Christmas this year.  I'm usually excited about some spectacular gift we are giving to the kids or to Jeff, but this time gifts were not in my thoughts.  My gifts I had chosen to give were nice but practical instead of fun.  I knew that they would be appreciated but would not bring oohs and ahhs.  This year I wanted to spend time with dear friends and family members.  I planned extended family get togethers (some worked some didn't), dinners with couple friends, and lunch with my friends.  It became a joke with Jeff that the first question he would ask me in the morning was "Who are you having lunch with today?"  After gaining I'm sure several pounds, (I haven't stepped on the scales yet) I was quite successful in this feat and it made for a wonderful December.  My house wasn't clean for the big day, not all the extras were done, not many Christmas movies were watched or Christmas books read, but overall I believe it was very successful.  We had some great times and we ate great food.  Isn't that really what it is all about --Food and Family.

One of our 12 Days of Christmas has traditionally been to have a Donut Party at our house, complete with dinner and homemade donuts.  This year I decided we needed to go together and see the Layton City Lights also.  They are incredible for children because they have a myriad of lit animals.  It was cold but the kids loved it.  So did the Grandma.

                                            Lucy and Blake standing near this ferocious dinosaur!!

Our entire group for the evening

                                                                    Donuts in the making!!

                      Blake helping me make sugar cookies on Christmas Eve morning.  What's the rush?

 It was our off year for Christmas Eve so Kevin, Jessi, Jeff and I were on our own.  We went to Taggart's Grill for dinner and then to the movie.  We saw "We Bought A Zoo"  and loved it.

                                                                     Christmas Morning

About 9:30 a.m. everyone showed up for scones.  (If you feed them they will come)  We had a wonderful rest of the day, exchanging presents, attending church together, and eating, eating, eating.  Ben and Carrie were in Oklahoma so we Skyped them and had them join us for a few minutes.  If they would of been with us the day would of been entirely complete.

                          Grandma LaRae spent the day with us, which was a pleasant surprise.

The kids surprised us with this beautiful picture collage.  It is matted ready to hang on our wall.  It is amazing to me the many fun items that can be made digitally.  Unfortunately the cellophane was still on it when I took the picture but you can get the idea.  It is so fun to really spend some time examining each photo.  It is priceless.  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pinocchio, Jingle, Frosty, and Dobby

A couple of years ago I started a Christmas Tradition that is maybe more work than it is worth, but all the families seem to enjoy it so I continue each year.  We do the 12 Days of Christmas for each of the kids and their families and also one for the kids still living at home.  I decide on a theme and all the gifts and messages tie into the theme.  The first year our theme was "Family", last year it was "The Magic of Christmas is not in the Presents but in His Presence", and this year I really changed direction and did "Imagination".  I always give them their 12 Days all at once with the instruction to open one each day.  Of course, I have to mail Ben and Carrie's and then usually have to tweak the  one for Kevin and Jessi because they are single and live at home.  Not to complain, but it is a great deal of work, but even as I write this I have to smile because it really has been so fun.  This year I introduced an elf with Day #1.  They were to decide the elf's name as a family.  Then each evening before they go to bed they sprinkle the elf with magic snowflakes and he comes alive at night.  Sometimes he can be a real nuisance and some nights he is very kind.  (Yes this is a lot like the Elf on the Shelf that you can buy at the store, but of course, I didn't think that elf was very cute so I had to spend days searching for the perfect elf.  I will never understand why I make my life so difficult.)  Pinocchio, Jingle, Frosty and Dobby are the names that have been bestowed upon these elves.  It has been reported that in each house they have each been incredibly busy turning the milk green, decorating the kitchen with snowflakes, building towers, bringing paper to write notes to Santa and the list goes on and on.  Unfortunately Kevin and Jessi have gotten a lazy elf.  Dobby has not moved from his original perch and yesterday they requested to switch elves with Tyler or Amy because their elves seem to be much more fun.  Obviously I am really being a slacker.  I seem to be enjoying hearing the stories from the grandkids on the escapades of their elves much more that I am being original to help poor Dobby out.  Maybe tonight he will surface with a surprise!!

Dobby sitting where he was first placed.  That Lazy Elf!!
Just had to throw this picture in.  Jessi on her way to the Christmas Dance. Notice - Dobby is making sure she is all right.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Let Us Help Them Learn For Themselves

I finished reading the Oct 2011 Conference talks this morning and I just feel like I need to share a bit from one of them.  They are all filled with incredible wisdom and insights but occasionally something really moves me because it is what I personally need to learn.  I'm sure that is what this is, just for me, but here it is for you to read and ponder.  Matthew O. Richardson, who is Second Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency said  "The Spirit leads, guides and shows us what to do. He will not, however do for us what only we can do for ourselves.  You see, the Holy Ghost cannot learn for us, feel for us, or act for us because this would be contrary to the doctrine of agency.  He can facilitate opportunities and invite us to learn, feel, and act.  Those who teach after this manner of the Spirit help others by inventing, encouraging, and providing them opportunities to use their agency.  Parents...realize they cannot feel for, learn for, or even repent for the family.  Rather than asking, "What can I do for my children...?' they ask, 'How do I invite and help those around me to learn for themselves?'.  Parents who mirror the workings of the Holy Ghost create homes where families learn to value rather than just learn about values."  

It is interesting that in our family and I'm certain in other families as well that most of our children developed our values.  They became their values also.  They were internalized by them and they would defend them as readily or more so that I would.  Then another who definitely knows about values, has no question in his mind what I value, but has not internalized all of those himself.  I have to ask, did he not experience the same opportunities to develop those? Did he purposely choose not to embrace them?  I'm not sure what the answer is to that, but I know my prayers have changed for him as I read this article.  Now I pray 'that the Holy Ghost will facilitate those opportunities in his life that he can learn for himself to value those principles that will bring true happiness to his life'.  I need to be more aware so that I can provide opportunities in our home that those values can be reinforced and learned and relearned by all of our family members often.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Magic Is In The Air

To experience true magic at Christmas time I believe you just need to visit Temple Square in Salt Lake.  Last evening we went to the Tabernacle Choir's Christmas Concert with Jane Seymour and Nathan Gunn.  It was my favorite Christmas Concert that I have seen.  The pomp and pageantry of the entire evening was exquisite.  It was so touching as Jane Seymour, dressed in a beautiful golden gown, read the Christmas Story from Luke 2.  Nathan Gunn sang many classical as well as familiar carols.    What a beautiful production.  As we walked back to our car we strolled through the plaza and the tiny lights became ethereal.  To me it seems almost unreal as the bright red, deep purple and green lights fill the air around you.  The Nativity floating in the reflection pool was amazing.  What an incredibly romantic atmosphere, no wonder so many people go there to propose.  I love the magic of Christmas!!

The floating bubbles add so much to the pond.

                                                     The red lights are definitely my favorite.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Its Beginning To Look....

A lot like Christmas.  Our first snow storm arrived today which is good and bad news.  The good news is it finally looks and feels like Christmas!!  The bad news is that our roof is still not repaired from the wind storm so I'm hoping there is no seepage in our attic.

The interior of our home has been decorated for a couple of weeks.  Honestly, decorating for Christmas is not my favorite activity, but I do it because I love it when it is finished.  Walking into the room and seeing the sparkle of the lights on the tree and feeling the spirit of having my many nativities surrounding us is incredibly uplifting to me.  These are a couple of nativities that I bought in Peru, showing different cultures of the country.  One is Incan and the other represents the peasant population.  

Several years ago we received some very disturbing news on Christmas Eve which has truly put a damper on my feelings surrounding Christmas for sometime.  This year with my heightened understanding of the Atonement and Agency I have been able to put it behind me.  I have been so excited to celebrate the season this year.  Today was spent wrapping presents which was a delightful experience instead of a chore.  My hope is that my outlook towards all that needs be accomplished during this time can be enjoyed rather than dreaded.  My greatest desire is that we can have a peaceful holiday with memories to be cherished.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

No Middle Ground

After each General Conference when we get the Ensign issue of conference I read a talk or two each morning before I get up.  They are easily read in bed which is my favorite place to read.  I have found it is difficult to study the scriptures for me in bed so I postpone the inevitable of getting up by still doing something productive and inspiring before I start my day.  (A disclaimer:  I do study my scriptures later after I am up)  Occasionally I do something good but it is usually borrowed from someone else and so is this-----my cousin once told me that in her family growing up they all were expected to read an article in the New Era or Ensign each day and then they initialed the article they finished reading.  Their dad, my uncle, would then know who had been reading them and if he didn't see initials of one of the children for a while he would know they needed an interview.  Now unfortunately I did not initiate this with my children, but I do it myself with my conference talks.  I initial each talk after I finish it and it does give a sense of accomplishment as I refer to the conference issue often I can see my initials on each talk of the conference. OK I'm thrilled by small things, but whatever works.
Now to the point of this entry.  I was reading the other morning the talk given in October Conference by Elder Tad R. Callister, and he quoted CS Lewis from Mere Christianity.  This thought has resonated in my mind many times throughout the next few days.  I will share it with you.

C. S. Lewis spoke of a similar dilemma faced by someone who must choose whether to accept or reject the Savior’s divinity—where there is likewise no middle ground: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. … You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. … But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”2 

I associate with dear friends who don't believe in the Divinity of God and my heart breaks for them and the comfort they are missing in their lives.  One friend told me that growing up  Jesus was never even mentioned with the Christmas Season.  She had no idea it was even remotely a religious holiday until she moved away from home and noticed what others were saying about Christmas and that Nativities were being displayed.  How thankful I am, especially during this Christmas Season, that I do know that Jesus is the Son of God.  I love the magic of the season, but it is magical because of Whom it represents.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Virtue Candy!!

Jeff always likes to do a little something special for tithing settlement.  This year I ordered Utah Truffles (If you've never tried them, they are sinfully delicious) in gold paper without their Logo on them.  We did little labels on them that just simply say "Virtue".   The kids in the ward have now named them "Virtue Candy"

He also did this beautiful handout that he gives them with the candy with quotes on "Return to Virtue" and also a schedule for a Book of Mormon reading blitz.  The Virtue Value Project in the Personal Progress for Young Women's is to read the entire Book of Mormon.  Jeff came up with a reading schedule of reading 5 pages a day and you can finish the Book of Mormon in 3 months.  We have done this in our previous wards and there have been miracles taken place with those who take the challenge seriously.  This time the reading starts on Jan 1.  What a great way to start the year.  I wanted to copy the handout on the blog but I guess I'm not smart enough to do it.  If I ever figure it out I will include it later because it is quite impressive.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sunday Service

Remember the story of Brigham Young telling the early members of the church one Sunday to go home and get ready to go and rescue the Martin and Willey Handcart Companies.  It was more important to serve at that time than it was to attend their meetings on the Sabbath.  I felt a little like that as we were asked to cancel church and go and help those who needed the remnants of the windstorm cut, gathered and removed before another predicted storm came.  How amazing it was to drive down the streets and see them lined with vehicles and trailers surrounded with men, women and children as the community came together to help each other.   How thankful I am I got to witness it and be a small part of it.  Our singles ward met and divided into groups to go to those whose families in our ward needed extra assistance.   An awesome turnout and incredible workers were on hand.  It was cold and miserable but nothing daunted these amazing kids as they went forward to serve.  Mid afternoon we met for sweet rolls and soup at the church and off they were once again.  Laughing and enjoying every minute of it.  How impressive.  At 8:00 that evening we met in the chapel dressed for church this time and we were able to partake of the sacrament and have a short testimony meeting.  The spirit was so strong as members spoke of the day, of the blessings they received and as we sang Christmas Hymns.  It couldn't of been a more appropriate December Sabbath Day.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Peterson Pie Party

 On Saturday we had a Peterson Pie Party at our home.  I decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to have a family party.  We do not see our extended family often and I think that is wrong is so many ways.  We have good friends who have parties and activities with their siblings and sometimes with their entire families all the time.  I'm always feeling a little bit gypped when it comes to family ties so I decided to be proactive and plan something.  How glad I am that I did it.  We had a great turn out.  How sad that we had to do introductions because I do not know all of my nieces and nephews children.  We were cozy in our home, but that makes it even better because then there's lots more interaction between each other.  My darling niece Niki gave us a copy of my sisters journal who passed away several years ago.  It is haunting to read.  She wrote for many years and I had no idea she even kept a journal.  She had a stroke many years before she passed away.  She wrote on the month of her stroke.  "I had a stroke"  that was all -- just one sentence.  Then the rest of her entries were written with child like hand writing and her spelling was completely phonetic which in the English language is usually not how it is actually spelled.  Her last entry was seven years before she died.  It was about our father and his passing.  She wrote "Dad dide 5:30 am  he rilly fot for life.  he had a wodeful funeil."  She never wrote again.  The haunting thing about this is that strokes run in my family.  That could very well be me in a few years.  A very humbling thought.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

And The Wind Did Blow

This morning we awoke to howling winds.  Honestly, I guess Jeff was up all night listening to the winds but I slept through it.  Back to my story, about 6:30 a.m. I heard the most terrible noise and our entire bedroom shook, I grabbed Jeff to ask him what what was happening.  We opened our bedroom door to see our awning over our deck had blown up over our house.  

Then a few hours later I was sitting in our family room right beside the window, and I heard that terrible rumbling noise and felt the shaking once again and the awning came back down.  You can see several of the pieces smooshed against the window.  I can't believe it didn't come right through.

          Here Jeff and Kevin are finally able to dismantle it so that it cannot continue to move back and forth.

When the awning left, the poles supporting it were ripped up with the wood planks from the deck.

Here is the disaster in our front yard.  Notice the tramp in the far right corner.  It was our neighbors tramp.  Since it was on top of ours, ours did not move.  We also have no idea who the red chair belongs to.

Here is the side of our house.  Unfortunately that tree limb also took out the front passenger side corner of Jeff's new truck as it was emptying our garbage cans.

The miracle about the entire day was that in the spring I insisted on having 6 trees removed that had huge limbs overhanging our home right behind that shed.  Jeff thought I was being a little extreme having them removed because in the fall I had insisted on having 5 other trees removed that were close to our house.  In the past year we had 11 trees taken out.  With the severity of the winds and damage that was done, I have NO doubt that having those trees gone literally saved our house.  Thank heavens I listened to those promptings when I didn't even know I was being prompted.  Obviously we have a Heavenly Father who knew that in December we would have Hurricane 2 winds hit our little neighborhood and the damage could of been severe to our house if those low lying branches would of still been overhanging the roof of our home.  The home on the left did have a tree go through its roof.  Tonight I am feeling incredible grateful and have a renewed desire to live so that I can always be worthy to receive promptings through the Holy Ghost and wise enough to follow them.