Thursday, December 23, 2010

Simplified

This year, we're doing Christmas streamlined.  Partly from economics, partly due to the demands of a tiny new family member, and partly from a suffocating clutter surfeit.  Mostly, though, it's the latter.

So, friends and family receive simple things . . . instead of goodie plates, friends and neighbors receive the joy of looking at this tiny face . . .



And, in the spirit of enough, I'd like you to go read a short post by one of my favorite writers.

A Loving, Blessed, and Merry Christmas, everyone . . .

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A story for our grandchildren.

Last Friday morning, a building which holds more than 130 years of history and spiritual significance for my church burned.  The Provo Tabernacle stood next to the temple in significance for the early Saints in Provo . . . it was their meetinghouse, a place to gather often to share praise in song, and it went on serving that purpose, as well as housing graduation and interfaith and community gatherings throughout its life.  I've had several beautiful experiences there (and a couple of funny ones).  I'm so, so sad that I'll never be able to walk with my children through that building, pointing out to them where I stood with their dad, singing as part of the congregation-cum-choir for the Messiah Sing-in, the Christmas after we first met; or the very spot where I stood when I had the honor of leading an excellent BYU student ward choir (with a fantastic accompanist) in singing the new Pioneer Hymn Faith in Every Footstep as part of the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Saint's arrival in the Salt Lake Valley.  Or where I sat, expecting MrC, with my husband on one side, and my best friend from college on the other, one sweltering summer Sunday when it was our turn to hold stake conference there.  So much beauty, so much history, all around. The city of Provo is rocked . . . memorial services have even been held where, true to culture and nature, memories were shared and music was sent soaring out to help comfort the mourning.

As I've thought about this loss, I've been reminded yet again that physical things are simply tools the Lord uses to work good in the world, in our lives.  All these things will pass away, if not in the natural course of time, then in the great cleansing at the end of the world when the elements will melt with fervent heat, and the earth will be renewed . . . erasing the many years of destruction and pollution wreaked by men.  That which endures fire is what really matters; the relationships we have, the allegiances and loves and memories.  Which makes this image all the more powerful:


This is the only piece of artwork which survived the fire . . . and the surviving portion of the image is the Savior himself.  Not only is He the Only Way, but He is the only one who could survive the fire of the atonement, who could experience the incredible furnace of the spiritual and emotional consequences of every  evil every committed by man, and emerge on the other side, shining as a beacon and beckoning for us to follow him.

Better late than never . . .

I posted this at the Passionate Mind, but since this blog's birth date is after HJ's, his birth announcement didn't make it here until now.  Without further ado, here 'tis:


He's quite a bit bigger, now, but I'll post more photos soon. :o)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

How's your oil?

From Michael Boldea's blog:


I am not scared of what is coming upon the world, but I am apprehensive, and I fear many, even many believers, still possess a romanticized view of what is about to unfold on a global scale. God will be our only refuge, God will be our only protection, and God will be our only comfort, thus the reason it is paramount for us to have cemented our relationships with Him, to know Him fully and love Him deeply before the onset of these things that will make men’s hearts fail them for fear.


The time truly is far spent for us to prepare.  I'm reminded of the parable of the ten virgins.  If the oil of the wise virgins is likened to spiritual strength, there's one huge reason why they could not share with the five foolish.  The wise virgins carried with them the fruit of a full growing season . . . of pruning and fertilizing and weeding and caring for a vineyard.  In their cruses, they carried the sunlight, the rain, the warmth of nature's God and the labor of the harvest.  Bringing the vineyard and the oil press along to the wedding just wasn't an option.  Because of their preparation, they had a smooth ride when the bridegroom came.  We cannot transfer the hours spent in study, the thoughtful and fervent prayers, or the sweet moments when God reaches down and touches our minds and hearts.  We can bear testimony, witness of truth so the Spirit can touch hearts and others can be changed and influenced by the power lent to us because of our faithfulness and preparation . . . but they must pay for their own oil in the end.


Now, it's true that the foolish virgins were able to go and buy additional oil.  It was a costly, time-consuming trip . . . which ended in missing the bridegroom's arrival and wedding feast.  For some, who realize their shortage earlier and go for oil sooner, making the trip and paying the price could result in enough oil to see them through . . . just as experiencing dramatic hardship and trial can soften hearts as well as harden them.  The peril lies in the race condition that exists when preparation goes undone.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sleepy

Finally, all the children (even HJ!) are sleeping.  I've been doing a little reading, and listening to one of my new favorite Christmas albums.  Far, Far Away is playing right now (from The Gift--you should go listen to it).  A perfect end to a pretty good day.  It had its crazy-making and desperate moments . . . life with a small horde of children to tend and teach usually has plenty of those.  But it's rare to have a quiet, peaceful moment to myself at the end of it.

Life is good.

What's this all for, anyway?

In studying the last General Conference today while feeding HJ, I was reading through Elder Costa's talk, and a very pertinent insight distilled in my mind . . . and yet it differed in that it bore little relation to what I was reading.  I think I had read about midway through the second page of the talk, when a question popped into my mind.

When we serve, whether it's at home or at church or elsewhere, are we inadvertently serving the thing or task (just "getting it done"), or are we consciously consecrating our efforts to those we love, to our fellowmen, and to the Lord of Hosts?

I've often heard "Treasure the 'doing' more than the 'getting it done'," but even that falls short.  Mindfulness holds great value and deep lessons, but it misses entirely the joy and peace and richness of consecration.  On Sunday, I stayed home with a runny-nosed, coughing toddler (poor little Bear), and HJ (who I still feel is a little too small for the high stimulation level of three hours at church).  I got them both down for naps, and really wanted to go tackle the chaos that had completely swallowed the bonus room.  I hesitated, because it was work . . . and that's not something I usually include in my Sabbath observance.  But I felt very clearly that I was to do it, and to consecrate it as service to my family.  If I had gone to visit an elderly neighbor (on the schedule for a Sunday very soon) and saw that they needed some help in their home, I wouldn't hesitate to do it while I was there.  The same principle held true here.  The ox was in the mire, and had been floundering there for quite some time while I've been wholly occupied with more urgent matters.  (This mired ox has been sinking slowly, so it was still save-able.)

So, I spent the bulk of the three hours my husband and older children were gone in reclaiming the space . . . and in consecrated service to my family.  Such a different feeling than I had ever had before, cleaning that room.  Before it was either a struggle with the children to get them to help reverse the progress of child-fueled entropy, or a great deal of frustration and resentment on my part because I was doing it myself (or Vern was tackling it himself).  Night and day.

So, when you're clearing the table, sorting & folding laundry, or vacuuming, what object claims your service?  The task at hand (serving the dishes or laundry just isn't all that exciting to me), or those who depend on your help for their success?  Even the Lord himself is bound by the law of agency, and has no hands but ours . . .