Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Spirit of Christ is All We Need

This holiday/Christmas season sure has been a different one for me.

Different tone.  Different adventures.  Different thoughts.

We are even living in a different house than we were last year.

And all of that brought with it...different lessons.

Since our major efforts went to hosting our family for Thanksgiving and Guy's baptism this year...the three weeks following were my time to decompress.  As a result, we weren't able to do all the fun crafting that we normally do during Christmas.  That wasn't a problem, exactly, it was just different.

One thing that I thought about this year, is how awesome it is to be a kid at Christmastime.  Adults lose so much of the joy of Christmas.  And as "the adult" this year, I found myself letting the worries of the type of world my kids are facing trouble me.

Quite frequently, my heart felt heavy and burdened...and I had to actively seek out the joy and peace that is the promise of following Christ.

I had to struggle in my mind and heart to figure out what I should do as a follower for Christ, to honor the Christmas Spirit, which as President Monson has taught IS the Spirit of Christ.

"When we keep the spirit of Christmas, we keep the Spirit of Christ, for the Christmas spirit is the Christ Spirit.  It will block out all the distractions around us which can diminish Christmas and swallow up its true meaning.

"There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus Christ." - President Thomas S. Monson

Time and again this month, as I have navigated life, I have been reminded of the truth of President Monson's message.  When we follow the principles taught by the Savior, we are happy, and we serve under his watchful care.  

How easy it is, as mortals, to be tempted to step outside of that safe zone, even as we are striving to do what is right.  But we must follow in his footsteps...and tread there only, and remember that his grace is sufficient for the meek.

One of the moments where I really felt peace came while I was watching Autumn perform as one of the angels in her preschool Christmas pageant.  (She's on the far left.)  She sang so loud and was absolutely confident as she sang "Hark, the Herald Angles Sing!"  This is a side of Autumn that is newly emerging, and it's exciting to watch.

Just listening to these sweet children sing about Christ's birth, so proud to be playing a part in the retelling of this beautiful story, filled my heart with hope for the future.

On the Sunday before Christmas, our Bishop and his wife gave really beautiful talks in Sacrament meeting.  They spoke about how the story of Christ's birth is prophetic and a type of things to come...and how we can learn lessons from the various "characters" in the story.

He pointed to the Book of Mormon account of Christ's birth, and said that we can expect to see similar conditions before Christ comes again.  I feel that we are already starting to see obvious manifestations of this promise.

Never before have I stopped to consider the comfort in the angel Gabriel's words to "Fear not." And I am glad that his words echo through the generations.

The Christmas hymn's lyrics ring true to me this year, "The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight."  And I identify with the early saints of the Book of Mormon who waited and watched for the sign to be given that the Savior of us all had been born into the world.  I too wait and watch for His return.  Until then, we walk by faith.

As I passed through the halls of church that Sunday, I could hear the other ward's Christmas presentation, further down the hall, I could hear the laughter (and the smell of cinnamon rolls) spilling out of the YW room, and children singing Christmas carols in the Primary room.  This all made me happy and feel light again.

In the end, despite my personal, internal meanderings this Christmas, I learned so much about walking in the spirit.  I learned most especially about the resilience of the Christmas Spirit...which is the Christ Spirit.  

I learned that just as Christmas "doesn't come from a store," it also cannot be kept from coming by administrators of the world...because Christmas lives in the hearts of those who keep it.

I learned that every time we follow the Savior, we keep Christmas.

I learned that every time we are kind to our (perceived) enemies and walk a mile (or a few minutes) in their shoes, we are keeping Christmas.

I learned that Jesus loves ALL of his children, and that through us, he can touch even the most "untouchable" and love the seemingly "unlovable," if only we will practice what HE preaches.

It sometimes feels like an overwhelming task for mere mortals like myself, but I know that the Lord gives no commandment unless he prepares a way.  And it is often our job to work hard to find that way.

So, yes, looking back, this Christmas was full of gifts...of the most unexpected, but genuinely valuable variety.

One special gift was that our home was filled, once again, with friends and many of our new neighbors!

And that helped bring the Christ Spirit, you can be sure!

As did my husband and the sweet angel faces of my children who fill our home every day of the year with light.

I hope that your Christmas season was filled with light and hope and joy and peace...and most of all the Spirit of Christ and whatever beautiful lessons the Lord had in store for you.

2013 was a very, very blessed and beautiful year in our family.  For that, we thank God.  Here's to 2014!!!  Oh what adventures await....!!!

Continue reading... »

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

Hope you are having a wonderful Christmas Day with family and friends!

I am playing with my gifts!!  

My kids are making rainbow loom bracelets and shooting hoops!

Feeling good!

Continue reading... »

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Killian & Snoopy

You guys remember Killian, right? The bookstore worker in VA who saved Autumn's Mousie from the lost and found and mailed it to us on her own dime? Well we mailed her a Snoopy to replace the one she lost as a kid and this is what she wrote. 

True meaning of CHRISTMAS...found! Giving to others selflessly, seeing a need and filling it...being one with our fellow men. By the way I have never met Killian, but I will love and remember her always.

And now you know...the rest of THE STORY.

Continue reading... »

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gingerbread Houses

Yes, the Thanksgiving story still has a few more installments!

After we watched Guy enter into the covenant of baptism, which was just the total highlight of the week/year (!!) we laid low for the afternoon.  My parents had to go home, unfortunately!  Some kids played at the park or in the yard doing all the normal shenanigans that cousins do when they get together.  Then we ate this delicious pasta bake that my Bro-in-law Eric baked up.  (He served a mission in Italy, so the man knows pasta!)

After our bellies were once again was time to decorate Gingerbread houses!!

I baked and assembled all of the gingerbread houses beforehand, and there were six of them total, so it was quite an undertaking.  But let me tell you...our house has smelled wonderful for weeks now, as these houses have been a major fixture!

We had tons of candy and lots of interesting varieties to work with.

The kids just went to town...and so did the adults.

Again, another activity that was easy for all to get excited about and that brought generations together.

Of course, there was a bit of nibbling going on.

Hansel and Gretel had nothing on us.

Some houses were neat and tidy....

...and some houses were, ahem...a bit more expressive!

Just lots of happiness and Christmas cheer to go around...and family bonding.

We were all feeling pretty proud of our creations, when we decided to call it good, take a group cousin photo with the houses and move on to watch a Charlie Brown Christmas or something...when the crash happened.

Yes, The Crash.  The Great Gingerbread Crash of 2013.

In the midst of sweeping up random candies from the floor, the table on which our houses rested had a leg give way...and all six of our gingerbread houses went on a swift, downhill trip to the floor.  

The kids, who were in the basement at the time, heard the crash and knew immediately that something had happened to their houses...They came scrambling upstairs screaming and gave a unified, horrified cry!  In the end, we all had a good laugh, and ate the pieces of candy which had come loose.

The interesting thing that my Mom and others pointed out was that NONE of the houses cracked or came apart, because they were so well-built.  They were built on a "firm foundation."  Our families, like our houses, can also be built that strong...hard times will come, unforeseen crashes will happen, but if we make sure to build a strong family unit, on a firm foundation, there is nothing that we can't withstand together.

This family gathering has been proof of that!

I have posted my gingerbread recipe on here before, but here it is as well as the icing recipe:

Gingerbread Recipe

8 cups of flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves

Set aside.

In another bowl beat:
2 1/4 cups shortening
2 cups sugar

Then add
2 eggs
1 cup molasses
2/3 cup light corn syrup

Finally add flour mixture to sugar mixture.
Add the last bit by hand if necessary.

Refrigerate for firmness or roll out the dough and cut-out immediately.

Bake on a greased cookie sheet at 375 for 10-20 minutes.


The Gingerbread House Icing Recipe is as follows:

Beat 2 egg whites until foamy.  Add 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar.  Gradually add one pound of 10X sugar.  As the icing become stiff, add water by the teaspoonful (about 5 tsps).  Icing should be soft but not runny.  (Add sugar or water if needed.) Beat icing for 5-10 minutes.

Continue reading... »