Happiness is living a holiday song.

1.  Oh, the weather outside is


But the fire is so


2.  Silent Night, Holy Night

All is calm, All is bright

Round yon virgin, mother and child, holy infant so tender and mild.

3.  Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more

4.  I’m gettin’ nuttin’ for Christmas
Mommy and Daddy are mad.

I’m gettin’ nuttin’ for Christmas
‘Cause I ain’t been nuttin’ but bad.

5.  Oh, there’s no place like
home for the holidays
‘Cause no matter how far away you roam
When you pine for the sunshine
Of a friendly face
For the holidays, you can’t beat
Home, sweet home

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.  Here’s wishing you a blessed and very happy New Year!!

General Conference Book Club Week 13: Elder Cook

As the new year approaches, my wheels have been turning. I feel a natural pull to “organize every needful thing,” and set responsible goals.  I’m not talking about exercise and diet and cleaning out my closets (though they admittedly maybe should be high on my list), but to see if the way I live my life matches up with the things I really believe are most important.

I chose for this week a talk by Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve because it helps remind me where my greatest responsibilities (a.k.a. “stewardships”) lie.  I’m hoping that as I study it this week, it will help me to focus on what matters most as I set my goals and try to create places for righteous patterns in my life.  The talk is called “Stewardship — A Sacred Trust.,” and was delivered during the Sunday Afternoon session of conference.

“We try to do what is right because we love and want to please our Father in Heaven, not because someone is forcing us to obey.”

“I would suggest that if we think about giving an accounting of our actions to the Savior, our rationalizations will be seen in their true light.”

“My hope is that each of us will review individually and as families the stewardships for which we have responsibility and accountability.”

You can read it here, or watch it here, or listen here.  It’s also on page 91 in the November 2009 Ensign.  (Go here if you’re new to the General Conference Book Club and would like to learn more about it.)
I’d love to hear your thoughts about how this instruction can help us shape our goals.

Christmas, Mary, and motherhood

By Jeffrey R. Holland:

I’ve thought of Mary, too, this most favored mortal woman in the history of the world, who as a mere child received an angel who uttered to her those words that would change the course not only of her own life but also that of all human history: “Hail, thou virgin, who art highly favoured of the Lord. The Lord is with thee; for thou art chosen and blessed among women.” (JST, Luke 1:28.) The nature of her spirit and the depth of her preparation were revealed in a response that shows both innocence and maturity: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38.)

It is here I stumble, here that I grasp for the feelings a mother has when she knows she has conceived a living soul, feels life quicken and grow within her womb, and carries a child to delivery. At such times fathers stand aside and watch, but mothers feel and never forget. Again, I’ve thought of Luke’s careful phrasing about that holy night in Bethlehem:

The days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and [she] wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and [she] laid him in a manger.” (Luke 2:6–7; italics added.) Those brief pronouns trumpet in our ears that, second only to the child himself, Mary is the chiefest figure, the regal queen, mother of mothers—holding center stage in this grandest of all dramatic moments. And those same pronouns also trumpet that, save for her beloved husband, she was very much alone.

I have wondered if this young woman, something of a child herself, here bearing her first baby, might have wished her mother, or an aunt, or her sister, or a friend, to be near her through the labor. Surely the birth of such a son as this should command the aid and attention of every midwife in Judea! We all might wish that someone could have held her hand, cooled her brow, and when the ordeal was over, given her rest in crisp, cool linen.

But it was not to be so. With only Joseph’s inexperienced assistance, she herself brought forth her firstborn son, wrapped him in the little clothes she had knowingly brought on her journey, and perhaps laid him on a pillow of hay.

Then on both sides of the veil a heavenly host broke into song. “Glory to God in the highest,” they sang, “and on earth, peace among men of good will.” (Luke 2:14, Phillips Translation.) But except for heavenly witnesses, these three were alone: Joseph, Mary, the baby to be named Jesus.

At this focal point of all human history, a point illuminated by a new star in the heavens revealed for just such a purpose, probably no other mortal watched—none but a poor young carpenter, a beautiful virgin mother, and silent stabled animals who had not the power to utter the sacredness they had seen.

How true it is that many of the greatest moments of motherhood are quiet and sacred.  Since most of ours are not accompanied by stars and angels, they are often unnoticed by the rest of the world, but not by God.  Mary’s most admirable quality to me is her trust in God, and her willingness to do what he asked of her even when it seemed nearly impossible.  Christmas is certainly about our Savior, Jesus Christ, but like most things worth honoring, it began with a righteous mother.

Merry Christmas!  Have a peaceful, happy and blessed celebration.  May you feel the Spirit of Christ and also, like Mary, a desire to be a woman who puts her life in God’s hands.  What better gift can we offer?

General Conference Book Club Week 12: Elder Hales

Maybe I should have taken a break this week from GCBC, but I figure: What better time than Christmas to focus on the Savior?  or what other week of the year needs more extra effort for quiet, peaceful reflection?

So, please join me this week in studying the talk by Elder Robert D. Hales, of the Quorum of Twelve apostles.  The talk is called “Seeking to Know God, Our Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ,” and is from the Saturday afternoon session of conference.  I like how this talk lays out the basic doctrines about the nature of God and His son that we often take for granted, not realizing how powerful and rarely-understood they are.  And mostly I loved his closing testimony as I felt the depth of his love for Jesus Christ, and remembered my own.

“The light of belief is within you, waiting to be awakened and intensified by the Spirit of God.”

“I testify that the way to know the truth about God is through the Holy Ghost.”

“With your own testimony of God, you will be able to bless your family, your posterity, your friends, your own life—all those you love.”
You can read it here, or watch it here, or listen here.  It’s also on page 29 in the November Ensign.  Please share some of your thoughts in the comments after reading the talk.
(Go here if you’d like more information about this General Conference Book Club.)

Christmas wake-up call

I cried.  I love Christmas.

You can still jump in to our 12 days of Christmas challenge (better late than never, right?).  And if you’ve been participating, please share some of your experiences there.  Good things happen when we spread some kindness in one-woman-at-a-time bulk.  🙂

And here are a couple Post-its to show off a few blog posts that have inspired me lately.

1.   Mommy J, who usually blogs over at Mommy Snark wrote this fantastic post as a feature over at MMB:  “I am mother.  That is enough.,”  which echoes so nicely what “Diapers and Divinity” really means to me.

2.  Heather of the EO wrote a post called “Ours” this week, and wow.  Just wow.  She captures so beautifully the shock and awe we feel when we become new mothers.

3.   My friend Molly, shared with me this post that her sister-in-law wrote for national adoption month.  I think it does a lovely job of highlighting the triumphs, challenges, and divine role of adoption.  I’ve often thought about how the Lord uses adoption into the Tribes of Israel in order to make his covenants and blessings available to all his children everywhere.  Parent-child adoption is a beautiful symbol of how this works and is recognized in God’s great plan of salvation.

4.   Another friend, Shantel, wrote this post recently, “Come Let Us Adore Him,”  about how she was able to overcome the Christmas blues and grasp the meaning of the season.  And when I say meaning, I mean some really cool insight into the symbols of the nativity and their relationship to doctrines of Christ.  It is awesome stuff.  A little long (like I’m one to talk), but if you stick it out, I promise you’ll feel enlightened.

Do you have any favorite posts you’ve read (or even written) lately?  Share them in the comments.

The parable of the Ranch dressing

I had a meltdown yesterday.  A put-my-head-down-on-the-desk-and-cry kind of meltdown.  I also cried in the kitchen and again in my bathroom, and up and down some stairs and halls.

I’ll tell you why.  (This may sound a little bit like complaining or self-pity.  That’s because it is, but I’ll get over it by the end of the story.)

I went to bed too late and my children woke up (as usual) too early.   I lay in bed listening to them crack each other up with jokes you have to be in kindergarten to appreciate.  Grant came to my bedside to tattle that Clark was playing the game downstairs that they’d been grounded from yesterday.  I sent him back to deliver a warning, and a few minutes later I could hear them both playing that same game.  I heard (and felt) bumping, laughing, wrestling, fighting.  They finally progressed to breakfast and scavenged around in the kitchen because I was so out of groceries.  The noise, scuffling, and lame jokes continued.  I tried in vain to hush the boys so that they wouldn’t wake up Natalie.  They did.  It was one of those mornings where I dreaded getting out of bed and starting the day.  (This happens occasionally when the day begins out of control before I’m even awake enough to face it.  It usually fades once I get up and start moving. This time it didn’t.)

Dishes in the sink. Cottage cheese on the floor, table, wall, door.  Grant couldn’t find his library book.  Hurry, you’re going to miss the bus and I’m not taking you. It’s so cold outside and I’m in a constant state of chill, even in my house.  No food, no milk, can’t put off grocery shopping any longer.  If I’m going out to the store, I should go to the Post Office too (dread, dread, dreaded task) to mail Christmas cards and a package that I’ve been meaning to send for at least a week.  “Matt, is the printer working yet?  I need to print the address labels for my cards?”  He’s been studying for finals and couldn’t get it to work since our Internet went down last week.  On his way out the door, he handed me a network code on a post-it note and claimed it would be easy for me to punch it in somewhere and make the computer recognize our printer.  I was bathing Natalie and told him to put it on the desk.

As I walked downstairs, I passed the waist-high reminder of laundry that needs to be done.  Sigh.  And, oh great, look what the boys did to the playroom this morning.  Where’s that blasted post-it note?  Not on the desk.  Called Matt.  Finally found it on my bed.  Tried, tried, tried to get printer to work.  No clue.  Frustration.  Called Matt again.  He can’t really help me over the phone.  Frustration again.  I tried a few more things and somehow managed to disconnect the Internet all together.  Huh?  Tried again to fix it.  Nope.  No Internet.  No printer.  No labels.  No Christmas cards.  Too late, will never get mailed on time.  I spent too much money on them.  No internet?  Now I can’t even transfer money to my account to go grocery shopping either.  That’s it.

I hit a wall, dropped my head on the desk and cried.  Pretty  hard.  Clark wanted to ask me some questions and I answered the best I could, but I wanted to get away.

The phone rang, and I composed myself.  It was my neighbor who wanted to borrow some Ranch dressing for her boys’ lunch.  A wave of frustration set over me because I remembered I had NO GROCERIES.  I told her I didn’t know if I had anything, but I’d check.  She assured me it was fine if I didn’t.  I opened the fridge and found some.  I told her I had less than a quarter bottle.  And it wasn’t even regular traditional Ranch, it was the three-cheese kind.  I sort of apologized I didn’t have more or the right kind, and she said it sounded totally fine.  We agreed Clark would drop it off when he got on the bus for kindergarten.  Then Matt called and asked about the printer.  I started to cry again and he (wisely) decided he’d just call back a little later and promised he’d help when he got home.  I managed to keep my tears to a minimum while I fed Clark and Natalie a piece-meal lunch and got him out the door for school.  I put Natalie in her room for quiet time, and the flood gates opened again.

There was no place to hide.  Every room had some glaring pile or reminder of something else I needed to clean or do or wrap or fix or fold or put away.  More crying.  I thought about my grandma who had a nervous breakdown once, but she had nine children and lived in an old drafty home and had no money to buy groceries.  My life is so much easier than hers was.  What is wrong with me?  All my thoughts started with “I can’t . . . I can’t . . . I can’t . . .  I  just can’t.”

I was melting down.  I stood at my window and stared out across the street.  I saw into my neighbor’s house where she was feeding her children lunch at the table.  With my ranch dressing.  This is what my brain said (and I know it’s dumb, but this is really what I thought):  You know, Stephanie, maybe you’re like that ranch dressing.  It didn’t seem like enough, and it wasn’t the “traditonal” kind, and you assumed it wasn’t what was wanted or needed.  But it was.  It accomplished exactly what it was needed for, and everything’s fine.  It was enough.

I took a deep breath and thought, “What does Satan want me to do right now?”  (It seemed a little more concrete at the moment than “What would Jesus do?”)  He probably wants me to crawl into bed and never get out. I did get in bed, but I said a prayer.  I told Heavenly Father I can’t do this on my own– even stupid laundry and wiping cottage cheese off the door.  I needed help outside of myself to get this stuff done.  I sat up and the first thought that came to my mind was, “Start with the red coat.”  I looked at my coat on the floor by my closet for a minute and felt grateful that God gave me a place to start because I just felt too overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I needed to do.

And little by little, I made progress.  When the kids got home from school, I had some warm banana chocolate chip muffins waiting for them, and a long list of chores and three dice.  They rolled dice and did the chores with the matching numbers.  We all worked together for a couple of hours, and we got a lot done.  I felt lighter and lighter, and by the end of the day, I was myself again.  I felt silly about my meltdown.  It’s only happened two or three times since I got married a full decade ago, but it happened.  And it might again, but God helps me crawl out when I finally break down enough to admit how much I need Him.

And I don’t think I’ll ever see a bottle of Ranch dressing again without remembering that no matter how little I have to offer or how different I feel from what I think I should be, I am enough (with God’s help) to accomplish anything that really needs to be done.

Pride and Prejudice and preference

This post doesn’t have anything important to say.  You’ve been forewarned.

I checked out the two-videotape version of Pride and Prejudice from the library last week and decided to watch it today while I folded and sorted bottomless baskets of laundry.  I love the story and I’ve watched different versions of it many times.  The one I watched today was the 1980 BBC version and I’d never seen it before.  I liked it, but thought it lacked a certain spark, so I kept thinking about it today and tried to come to conclusions about what I like and dislike about each version.  (It was too cold to leave the house and thinking about laundry all day is depressing.)

1980 version:

It took me a good while at the beginning to be able to tell the characters of Jane and Lizzie apart, but at least they actually look they could really be sisters, unlike the other two versions.  I like this Mr. Darcy alright- his serious and arrogant side is very believable and well-acted, but the kinder side of him seemed less than genuine.  My biggest complaint with this version is that Elizabeth Bennett, though spunky, seemed to lack as much spirit and inner passion as I like to imagine her to have.  I guess she’s probably the most accurately Victorian of the the three Lizzie’s, but a little too cold for my taste.  Oh, and the Mrs. Bennett is great, but the father didn’t seem as warm as in other versions.  Cheesy montage of clips set to music, but the best I could find:

1995 version:

I actually haven’t seen this version for a while, but I like it a lot.  Who doesn’t love Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy?  I didn’t like the casting of Jane in this one, but Lizzie’s character is extremely likable and genuine.  I definitely prefer it as a whole over the 1980 version.  I can’t remember enough details about it to say anything very intelligent, but now I definitely want to watch it again.

2005 version:

I really love this version.  Maybe I’m not a purist because the characters are quite modernized in their expressions, rather than the fiercely traditional Victorian restraint.  I love Keira Knightley’s portrayal of Elizabeth Bennett– just the right blend of charm and passion and spunk.  I would totally love to hang out with her, if I could wear pants.  It still bugs me that Jane and Elizabeth don’t even look related, but they are both well-developed characters.  I love the dad in this movie, as well as Mr. Collins and Mr. Bingley– all well cast.  And I really like this Mr. Darcy’; he portrays all sides of his character  earnestly.  (Whenever I watch a period movie like this, I find myself talking Victorian vocabulary in my brain for the rest of the day.)  Except for the last 10 seconds of the movie, which are far too cheesy for my taste, I could watch this movie over and over again and still feel the suspense of it.

And while it’s true that I spent too long watching the movie and almost as long writing this post, I’m not to blame.  It’s totally Jane Austen’s fault.  Any other fans out there?