GCBC Week 13: The Transforming Power of Faith and Character

The Transforming Power of Faith and Character
Elder Richard G. Scott
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I’m still in Christmas vacation mode, so the GCBC posts’ content has been a little lean, but Elder Scott’s is the talk for this week.  Please find a few minutes sometime this week to study the talk and share what you learn from it.  And enjoy your family time.  🙂

Why I’m glad I believe in Jesus more than Santa

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a big fan of Santa.  He was a very magical part of my childhood, and his name is a very effective motivator around here during the holidays.  Today my children got a message from Santa reminding them to be good.  They nodded wide-eyed and recomitted themselves to a life of polite obedience. 

I started thinking about the difference between Santa and Jesus.  Here’s the thing.  On Santa’s plan, if I mess up, I run the risk of not getting what I wish for.  He’s kind of jolly about it and all, and come next year, he’ll give me another chance, but when it comes right down to it… it’s a completely saved-by-works-alone kind of plan.

Jesus, on the other hand, isn’t so winking and ho-ho-ho jolly, but he’s just so much more . . . well, real.  He expects the best from us, but understands our human foibles.  And even when we make mistakes, even when we’re downright stupid, he still kind of blesses us.  He extends mercy without judgment and love without condition.  I mean, sure, he’s a “judge,” but not in measuring out love or assistance.  He will help us any time we let him, even when we’ve been naughty.  When we don’t qualify for a single gift, he still offers us the greatest gifts that can ever be given:  grace, mercy, forgiveness.  Santa’s a toy maker; Jesus is a joy maker.

So Santa Claus is cool and all, but I love Jesus best.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

The season where dreams (almost) come true

A week or so ago, we were on our way home from a family outing and decided to eat out because it would be too late by the time I got dinner ready at home.  We stopped at a Chinese buffet.  Is it weird that except for when I actually lived in China, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Chinese buffet before?

Anyway, I wasn’t very impressed, but my children pigged out to an embarrassing level (Matt gave them free reign of the dessert buffet.).  Then they each got a fortune cookie as we were finishing up.  Grant opened his and started jumping up and down for joy.  He started yelling, “Yes!  I’m going to Disneyland!”  He was SO excited.  Matt and I looked at each other quizzically and I asked him for his fortune paper.  A close look revealed the following fortune:

“You will soon be traveling to a distant land.”

His hasty reading had an unfortunately over-abundant translation.

I tried to comfort him by reminding him that he had just consumed more desserts than children in most third-world countries get in a year.  Somehow that wasn’t quite as magical to him.

Personally, I think it was a nice introduction to the season where Santa politely says no to most of the things on his Christmas list anyway.  🙂

(For those of you who missed it, please join us in the  12 days of Christmas challenge! Random acts of kindness daily until Christmas. Today’s the “2nd day of Christmas.”  Click here or on the button on the sidebar for more information.)

GCBC Week 11: Temple Mirrors of Eternity

(Announcement: 12 days of Christmas challenge starts today! Random acts of kindness daily until Christmas. Click here or on the button on the sidebar for more information.)

“Temple Mirrors of Eternity: A Testimony of Family”
Elder Gerrit W. Gong
Of the Seventy

“An eternal perspective of gospel conversion and temple covenants can help us see rich blessings in each generation of our forever families.”

I haven’t read this one yet, so I’ll save my thoughts for the comment thread, but I did go to the temple last week and have to confirm that the temple actually does solidify our love for our family:  current, past and future family.

What are your favorite principles or quotes from this talk?  Is there anything you learned here that you had not considered before?  What stood out to you as you studied it?  And, most importantly, what did it make you feel or want to do?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.  (If this is your first time to General Conference Book Club, click here to learn more about it.)

12 Days of Christmas: the Sequel

I keep wanting to do lots of fun and real-meaning-of-Christmas-y things, but haven’t been able to lock myself into any kind of formal plan.  I found this in my archives from last year and I want to try it gain.  You’re all invited to participate.

So here’s the basic idea: Random acts of kindness every day for the Twelve Days of Christmas. It can be anything. (Hence, “random.”)

Here are a few ideas I threw around in my head: mailing a Christmas package to someone, paying for the next person’s order in the drive-thru window or swiping my card to pay for a particular someone’s purchase behind me in the checkout line at the grocery store, write a letter or make a phone call to someone who might need it, show up at another tired mom’s house and help her fold laundry or wrap presents, drop off goodies at the house of a grumpy or lonely neighbor, . . . You get the idea. No need to spend– just look for an opportunity for kindness and jump on it, whether for a loved one or a stranger.

So I’m going to start on December 13th (this coming Monday) and spread some Christmas kindness every day through Christmas Eve. And I’ll involve my children as much as possible– coming up with ideas, or making something together, or delivering or whatever– so that we can feel the spirit of it as a family. Anybody want to join me in the challenge?

Here’s a button if you want one. You can blog about it and invite others, or put it on your sidebar as a reminder, or do whatever works for you.

html code for the button:

This post right here can be the gathering place for sharing the joy. Come back and report each day what you did, if you want to, or if you have a great story to share. (I’ll keep a link on my sidebar here for easy access.) And unless you’re in it for the glory, comment your “reports” anonymously or with initials or a pseudonym or something. I just think it would be fun to hear about each other’s experiences and rejoice (anonymously) in the whole business of joyful service together. Plus, we can read and then steal each other’s ideas.

“In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit, that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service. ‘It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, obedience to which will bring ‘peace on earth,’ because it means—good will toward all men.’ Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Then each Christmas will be the best Christmas ever.”Thomas S. Monson

I feel more Christmasy already.

p.s. The reporting back is not necessary, but just helps with three things: 1) accountability/slacker prevention, 2) letting you “tell” someone about something you did that you’re so excited about, but you can still remain anonymous, and 3) sharing service ideas. There’s no rule about reporting daily, just update us as often as you can or want to.

Note:  When you comment anonymously or under a pseudonym, and the computer doesn’t recognize you, it will send your comment to me for moderation.  It may seem like it “disappeared,” but I’ll get it posted soon.  🙂

Whoever said “Life is what you make it” didn’t have children.

Moms try so hard to create happy, magical family moments.  We run ourselves ragged trying to get all the little things done that will somehow set the stage for an enchanted family co-existence.  The problem is, children don’t make magic.  They make messes.  They make noise.  They make unusual smells.  They make conflict. And, honestly, some days they make me crazy.

For example, the last couple of weeks, I have dreamed up a cozy, lovely Family Home Evenings where we would go together as a family to these inspirational spots where we could look at an art exhibit about Jesus Christ or the lights on Temple Square, talk about what they mean, and of course all have our testimonies grow exponentially while we relished our time together.  (I admit I’m being a little dramatic for effect, but I really did think it would be great.)  On both occasions, Matt and I were considering putting up our children for adoption before we were even halfway to our destinations.  There was so much squawking and bickering and nonsensical noise that we were quite sure that, once again, Satan had crashed our FHE party.  Results:

Week one:  After breathing fire and other threats, we made it to the museum.  Late, of course.  They said they would still honor our tickets, but then all the children had to go to the bathroom.  Fifteen minutes later, and now really late, we made our way into the exhibit.  Repeat the following phrases 46 times and that will be represent the next 30 minutes:  “You can’t run.  Don’t touch the paintings! Stand back.  Use your quiet voices. You can’t just step in front of people.  Please stay by mom and dad.”  Even if you say them in your most calm clenched-teeth whisper, it gets old after a while and you wonder why you even came.

Week two:  The children were being SO loud in the car that we couldn’t stand it any more.  I turned on the Christmas radio station and cranked it up loud enough that it drowned out their noise.  They were only rallied by the competition and started screeching and hollering and making alien noises at the top of their lungs.  Matt turned up the volume even higher and then sang “O Holy Night” in the loudest, most bizarre soprano I’ve ever heard in my life.  I laughed so hard I cried, but when it was over, I think we all had a headache.  At Temple Square, everyone ran in different directions constantly.  I spent 75% of my time “herding sheep.” They fought about who got to throw a coin into the fountain and cried if the results weren’t “fair.” They have no sense of proper crowd navigation and walked right into the path of on-comers over and over again.  That makes me nuts, and I had to apologize on their behalf dozens of times.  Some sister missionaries tried to talk to us in the tabernacle, but half the time our children were running in and out of the benches.  Clark and Natalie kept opening and closing my umbrella.  I think I managed to get out one sentence at a time between barking out child-control commands.   Grant pulled M&Ms out of my purse and spilled them all over the bench.  We moved on.

Does any of this sound familiar?  Please tell me it does.  I know the logical response would be “Don’t go in public with your children.”  But any one who is a stay-at-home mom of young children knows that you simply HAVE to venture out occasionally in hopes that the change of scenery will improve your sanity.  I said “in hopes.”

Now.  You know the purpose of my blog is to seek for the divinity in motherhood, so as I write/purge/dump, I try to pay attention for the “meat” of my experiences, and you know what?  It’s almost always there.  I can see it when I look for it.

Week one:  At some of the paintings, the children sat quietly and stared.  They asked some questions and we got to retell many of the stories from Christ’s life.  They each had a favorite painting, and they will probably remember it.  At one point, I pulled Grant aside and showed him a sketch of Christ and the adulterous woman.  As I retold the story and quoted the Savior saying “Woman, where are these thine accusers? …. “Go thy way and sin no more,” I felt overcome with love from the Savior and tears came to my eyes.  I told Grant it was one of my favorite Bible stories.

Week two:  During the conversation with the sister missionaries, we were able to share some of our life stories and testimonies.  At the missionaries’ request for contacts, the children suggested that we send videos about Christmas to their grandparents.  One sister was from Uruguay and I got to have a conversation with her in Spanish.  She said my spanish was “perfect,” which I know wasn’t true, but it made me feel good anyway.  We walked over to the visitor’s center and climbed the ramp to the Christus statue.  The children all sat next to each other on the floor and stared up at Him.  Grant had his arm around Natalie and I saw him point out to her the nail-marks on the hands and feet.  Clark stood close and craned his neck up to gaze at Him for a brief, quiet pause.  The room was very crowded and not very quiet, so I suggested to Matt that we leave and come back another time.  We called the children and started to leave, but Grant was flustered and said he wasn’t done yet.  Matt told him go back and finish.  As we looked back, we saw him kneeling down in prayer about 10 feet in front of the statue.  His eyes were closed, his head was bowed, his arms folded.  As he got up and ran back to join us, I saw tears in his eyes.  Clark wanted to copy his brother and later sat quietly on a bench and prayed.  When he finished, he smiled and hugged me.  I asked if he could feel how much Heavenly Father loves him and he nodded yes.

I guess the magic happens after all.  It’s just totally different than what we imagine when we try to wave our wands.  And frankly, my life is hardly ever what I try to make it be.  Sometimes it’s better.