My favorite Christmas picks from Deseret Book (+a giveaway!)

Here are a few books that I’m using around here to a) celebrate Christmas or b) give as Christmas gifts or c) keep for myself. I wanted to share what they’re about and give you a chance to win some Christmas music too!

If you have someone on your list who likes inspiration with a no-nonsense approach, I recommend this new book by President Packer:

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This book includes some of President Packer’s most significant messages, delivered over a span of twenty-five years, on such topics as the plan of salvation, listening to the voice of the Spirit, spiritual growth, and marriage and family. Typical of his unwavering style, he tackles some of the challenges the world faces in the 21st century, such as the disease of profanity and the need for personal responsibility. He thoughtfully and powerfully address many major doctrinal, moral, and social issues of our day. At a time when the adversary has succeeded in “confusing the choices of man,” President Packer shares timely insights gained from many decades of serving as a special witness of Jesus Christ in the highest councils of the Church.

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If you enjoy biographies or books with a journal-style, this new book about President Henry B. Eyring’s book is really charming. I love the drawings he did and the sweet way he talks about his family and the hand of God in his life.

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Years of his journals form the backbone of this intimate biography, a candid look at his walk through life with his beloved companion, Kathy. “The journal shows how a good-but-imperfect man works each day to win divine approval,” write the authors, and this window into his past provides unforgettable insights about the man the Lord has shaped him to become. Henry B. Eyring’s professional, academic, and personal experiences all combined to make him uniquely qualified for the responsibilities that would become his. And Kathy, always at his side, matching his intellect and spirituality, has influenced him profoundly and contributed to his life mission in unmatchable ways. Their story, told largely in his own words, vividly demonstrates the power of the Lord and the example set by one who strives to follow His commands.

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If you spend any time online, you have probably seen some buzz about the place of women in the Church. Some of the confusion comes from voices claiming that women should hold the priesthood. I happen to think that women already have a lot of power–both within themselves and within the Church–and already have access to all the power and blessings available through the priesthood. (I’ve written my own thoughts here and here about some of that.) Well it turns out that someone else has already written about the real doctrine behind this issue, and done it well. I’ve long been a Sheri Dew fan because I think she’s a great example of a powerful woman–even by the world’s definition of power, but most especially in the spiritual sense–who uses her gifts and stewardship to truly influence the world in righteous ways. I have to admit I have not completely finished this book yet, but I have found myself spending all my time in it so far by nodding, saying, “Yes. Yes.,” and highlighting and underlining things. So I feel safe in giving it a hearty recommendation. Definitely ask for it or buy it for yourself for Christmas.

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For those who seek greater understanding about women and their relationship to the priesthood, Sheri states that the place to start is with the core doctrine of the Church. In this book she discusses the eternal truths that women are vital to the success of the Lord’s Church, that God expects women to receive revelation, and that both men and women have access to God’s highest spiritual blessings. Sheri writes that studying the doctrine of the priesthood will help people find the answers they seek about women and the priesthood, about women in the Church, and about the vital influence righteous women can have in the world.

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I love to collect Christmas picture books. This year I got Christmas from Heaven, which tells the very cool true story of a WWII bomber who dropped candy down from the skies to suffering children below. It’s heartwarming and has cool vintage-style artwork. The book makes for a great read-aloud along with good discussion about kindness, giving, and sacrifice–all appropriate Christmas themes. It also comes with DVD (info below)!

Christmas-from-Heaven_Berlin Candy Bomber

Christmas from Heaven is the story of the humble beginnings of what became a beacon of hope to a war-torn land, the story of Gail Halvorsen, a young pilot in the US Army Air Corps who was assigned as a cargo pilot to the Berlin Airlift, in which US forces flew much-needed supplies into a Soviet-blockaded Berlin. Fashioning small parachutes, he and his crew sent them floating down as they approached the Berlin airport, wiggling the wings of their C-54 as a signal to the children that their anticipated cargo would soon arrive. Word soon spread, and donations of candy and other supplies poured in to the “Candy Bomber” from sympathetic Americans. Lt. Halvorsen’s small idea became a great symbol of hope not only to German children in a bombed-out city but to all those who yearned for freedom.

Famed broadcast journalist and author Tom Brokaw brings this remarkable true story to life in a stunning live performance with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, captured on the accompanying DVD. Also included in the book is a template and directions for creating your own “Candy Bomber” parachutes.

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And finally, what is Christmas without good–really good–music? Nothing is more classic that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir belting out Christmas favorites. The only thing that makes it better is when they team up with amazing individual talent: in this case, Alfie Boe of Les Miserables fame. I could listen to the “Bring Him Home” track on repeat for hours.  Deseret Book has offered to do a giveaway for my readers. Yay!!

Enter by leaving me a comment below telling me what is your very favorite Christmas song and you will be entered in a drawing. Two individuals will be chosen to win the DVD or CD of Home for the Holidays. Drawing will close Sunday night at 11:59 pm.

Home for the Holidays DVD Home for the Holidays CD

As seen and heard by more than 80,000 people in the LDS Conference Center, Home for the Holidays is the live recording of The Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s 2012 Christmas concert. This year’s release features internationally acclaimed TV personality Tom Brokaw and Tony Award–winning Les Miserables tenor Alfie Boe.

The Choir also welcomed surprise-guest Gail “Hal” Halvorsen, the renowned Candy Bomber of World War II. Together with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, these three special guests delivered an unprecedented excitement to the stage that brought all in attendance to their feet more than once during the night.

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Good stuff available from Deseret Book for Christmas, folks. Make a comment below to win Home for the Holidays, and all these items are available at your local Deseret Book or at their website.

Especially for Who? (and a giveaway, too)

Some of you may be familiar with the Especially for Youth program. It’s a week-long LDS youth conference where teens can socialize, learn, interact, and set goals, all in a “For the Strength of Youth”-focused setting. I’m kind of a fan (except I wish it were free). I was a youth counselor for 5 years in the 90s (shut up), and I’ve been teaching at EFY sessions since 2006.  Each year the program theme focuses on the theme scripture that the young men and young women’s programs have selected.  So for 2012, the theme is:

“Verily I say unto you all: Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations” –Doctrine and Covenants 115:5

I have a confession to make. I was kind of a super-cheesy Mormon teen. Every day after school, I would drop my backpack on my bed, pop in my Janice Kapp Perry (or similar goopy inspirational) cassette tape into my boom box (again, shut up), and study to lyrics like, “Walk Tall, You’re a Daughter of God.” Once I grew into adulthood, I found that my appetite for that kind of music had been pretty much saturated.  Even now, I can’t really listen to it without feeling a tad bit nauseous.  BUT. The new music, like what they put on the EFY CDs nowadays, is much more modern and palatable. I actually quite like it, and it’s not just for Sabbath music. Some tracks are upbeat, and different songs have different vibes. Did you know you can buy the EFY CDs at your local LDS bookstore?  They’re not just for youth, and I’m suggesting you might like them. I’m all for playing music in the car that my kids can like and it’s totally SAFE.

You can listen to samples of all the tracks here. So, Do you WANT ONE? I have two, yes TWO copies to give away . . . if you don’t mind that my curious children actually opened up one of them.

I will tell you that I particularly like to put on track one, “Arise and Shine,” to wake my kids up in the morning.  They just love it when I belt out the words ARISE AND SHINE while lifting them out of their beds and shaking their sleepy selves. Truly.

How to win a copy? Just tell me you want to. And I’d love to hear confessions of the cheesy LDS music you used to listen to.  I promise this newer stuff is SO much better. I’ll announce winners next Monday.

(small print: These copies were given to me by myldsradio.com for a giveaway promotion that I volunteered to do. CDs can be purchased at http://www.yourldsmusicstore.com/)

Mothers: Symbols of the Savior (+CD giveaway)

What has motherhood taught you about Jesus Christ?

That’s the question I asked Whitney Permann of MERCY RIVER because it’s the central theme of my blog– finding the divine among the daily details of motherhood.  MERCY RIVER is a musical trio of LDS women (Brooke, Whitney, and Soni).  With thirteen kids between them, they understand how busy a mother’s life can be, and they also juggle being recording artists and inspirational speakers.  Check out this video for a peek of them rehearsing and entertaining seven kids at the same time.

Here is Whitney’s answer:

What has motherhood taught me about Jesus Christ?

Motherhood has taught me many things. I’ve learned that patterned shirts hide snot and spit up better than plain shirts. I’ve learned that cell phones don’t work correctly after they’ve been sucked on too many times. And I’ve learned that I should always check for stray pull ups before I throw a load of laundry in.

I’ve also learned about polar bear habitats, all five signs of strep throat, and the name of every member of the BYU football team.

But most importantly, motherhood has taught me a lot about Jesus Christ. As a mother, I’ve learned about justice and mercy, faith and prayer, joy and sorrow, and deep, intense love. Each of these things connects me to Him.

We are taught that as mothers, we are “partners” with Christ. We offer ourselves as vehicles through which spirits can come to earth. But perhaps we are more than just “partners” with Him.  Take a look at Moses 6:58:

“As ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit…even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten.”

Isn’t that stunning? Physical birth (from a mother) is symbolic of spiritual re-birth that will take place later in life (from Christ). So, as mothers, not only are we partners with Christ–

We are symbols of Christ.

We offer our physical bodies in pregnancy and childbirth to provide life for our children. Jesus Christ offered His physical body in death, to provide life for God’s children. And both involve water, blood, and the Spirit.

But it doesn’t stop there. A mother’s offering does not begin or end with her body. Yes, a mother offers her body through sleepless nights, weary arms, a well-worn lap, an aching back, and a listening ear. But what a mother offers most is her heart. Her entire soul. And isn’t that what Jesus Christ has offered us as well? Just as we see it symbolized in motherhood, He offers us His body, and His heart and soul.

So I ask, how does this knowledge–that we are symbols of Christ–change the way we view motherhood? Does it change the way I see myself or my children? Should it? And what is the meaning of it all? Why has He chosen to use mothers in this beautifully symbolic way?

I think it means He thinks we’re pretty special.

I think it means that mothering should be reverenced and protected.

I think it means that by daily nurturing, loving, teaching, and sacrificing for my children, not only am I coming to know more about Him, I am coming to be more like Him.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I love that, Whitney, and I absolutely agree.  Perhaps no other calling on earth can give more opportunity to become like Christ than the calling of a mother.  Thank you!

MERCY RIVER has just released a new album, “Higher,” and they are offering a free copy of their CD to one lucky reader.  There are some beautiful songs on this album.  I think my favorites are two songs I was already familiar with from the Christian radio station I like to listen to:  “Blessings” and “Better than a Hallelujah.”  This is great Sunday music, but it’s also upbeat enough for any day at home or in the car.

If you want to hear a song from this album, you can go to their Facebook page here and listen to “Beautiful Life.”  You’ll also find more information about their current blog tour and any upcoming performances.

So, you wanna be a winner?  It’s simple really.  In just one or two sentences, answer the same question Whitney did:  What has motherhood taught you about Jesus Christ? (Your answer doesn’t have to be original, just true to you.  It can be longer, too, but no pressure.)  Each person who comments before midnight on Friday will be entered in a drawing to win Mercy River’s new CD.

My anthem.

I listen to Christian radio in the car. You should try it some time. It really makes you feel better, especially if you crank it up really loud so you can’t hear your children.  Anyway, this is my new favorite song. Let it say what it will about my life.

Here’s a link if you can’t see the video.

(p.s.  Today is the last call for girls’ night out.  See here for more info.  If you said yes, you should have received and replied to an email from me so I know to buy you a ticket for sure.)

Music and dinner and contests. Oh my!

This is one of those random I’ve-got-several-things-on-my-mind-but-not-enough-time-to-do-them-real-justice posts.  Please forgive the mess as I simply spit it all out on my computer screen.

1.  Did you know that you can download mp3 files of all the songs from General Conference?  Well you can. I love loading up my iPod with this stuff and playing it in the kitchen on Sundays.

2.  I stumbled across this video today on another blog.  I LOVE this hymn.  It is a prayer, a plea for God to bind us to Him and keep us safe and bring us to Him.  It is SO beautiful.  I’ve seen this arrangment a few times on BYUTV and it moves me everytime.  Seriously, give it a listen and let the spirit of it just pour in, because it will.

3.  Later this week, I’ll be going to Women’s Conference at BYU.  Some of us bloggy-type-friends are going to try to get together for dinner on Thursday night in Orem.  If you’d like to join us, email me (dd.stephanie [at] gmail [dot] com) and I’ll send you the details.  I sent an email to the people that have expressed some interest already.  If you didn’t get one and wanted to, it was an ACCIDENT.  Tell me and I’ll send you one right away.

4.  Um, Spring started and I forgot to do a Spring poetry contest.  I don’t have to, of course, but I like to do one every season because they’re fun.  And I find out how creative and talented you are.  So here it is (oooh, look at the fancy prize):

Spring Poetry Contest

Write a limerick about laundry.

See how easy that is?  Just leave yours in the comments here.  You can write as many as you’d like.  Click here if you don’t remember how limericks work. Next week, I’ll put my favorites up for a vote, and someone (squeal, it could be you!) will get a coveted spot of honor on my sidebar and that bee-yutiful sparkly crown blog button.  Here, I’ll write one just to give an example.

I’m warning you, don’t go in there.
The piles will sure give you a scare.
The dungeon of doom?
Nope, it’s my laundry room.
I’m a hostage of kids’ underwear.

Um, yeah, you can definitely top that.  Have a great week!