Tuesday, December 21, 2010

By Their Fruits (or Gifts) Ye Shall Know Him

For the past year, I have prayed like never before. It has been the hardest year of my life.

Since I was 20, I have felt very secure in my choice of religion, but during the past year I have found myself questioning. I guess most people would if given my circumstances. I felt faithless and I have been ashamed of myself.

Nonetheless, I have persevered in prayer. I have remained obedient, even when I felt like my prayer wasn't being answered. I kept asking God to reaffirm my faith. I love God with all my heart and I would never want to dishonor Him by following an untrue path. But, for months I felt like He wouldn't answer my prayer. I wasn't sure why.

The other night Sophia kept ringing a jingle bell and we asked her to stop because she was driving us crazy. She said ever so nonchalantly while ringing the bell to her own ear instead of ours, "What? I don't hear anything. Remember, we don't believe in Santa. This should not be annoying you." Thank you Polar Express.

Well, lately, I have felt like a non-believer. No matter how much I wanted to hear the bell jingle, it just wasn't working. Others will say that it's not true because I have always believed, but really, I wasn't hearing what I felt like I should be.

Well, tonight I wouldn't be more convinced of an answer to prayer if God himself arrived on my doorstep.

It has been said that God does his mighty works through other people.
It has also been said that "by their fruits, ye shall know them."

Well, this Christmas, the works have come. And they keep coming. I can't make them stop.

We have had so many anonymous gifts left at our door, that I have completely lost track. We have also had friends who have tried to pretend that their kids just wanted to get our kids something for Christmas. We have had other friends bring stockings fully stuffed for every one of our children. Every gift has been equally thoughtful and equally appreciated. It has been totally humbling, yet wondrous to behold.

The climax of the giving came the other night when while one friend was making a delivery, another friend doorbell ditched with more gifts and a gift-card.

Tonight, was the clincher for me. Someone left us a bag of multiple gift cards and some treats. They left us $40 in Chuck E Cheese bucks, a $50 movie card, and $50 to our favorite local used book store. My kids were going absolutely nuts. It's been a hard year for them too, and this was just too much at once. It was like Christmas wasn't even big enough to contain their excitement.

I had to walk back out to the van to cry. I didn't want my family to see me lose it.
And lose it, I did. I poured my heart out to God and thanked Him with all my might.

I thanked Him for His love, and for watching over us. I thanked Him to be surrounded by such wonderful friends. And I mostly thanked Him for finally giving me my answer.
If my church wasn't true, why would the people I surround myself with have such wonderful works?

Now, I also know that I have some wonderful Non-Mormon friends who may have been part of this Gold Christmas miracle, and for them I am also grateful. But, tonight, while I read the card with the aforementioned gift, I knew God was telling me that He has let me struggle, so that He could show forth His power, which lies in the people's hearts...His love is a living force for good.

And let me tell you something. That love and power is described as light because there is no other way to describe it. It's warm. It's invigorating. It's mighty. It's the giver of life. It's all-encompassing. The only way to receive it, is to let it consume you.

And after the crappiest year ever, and the months and months of prayers of mighty supplication, I all of the sudden found myself surrounded by the light. In fact, I was the light. In every direction I looked, all I could see was good. All I could see was love. And all I could see was the face of God. With a smile. It seemed to say, "I'm so proud of you for sticking in there Alice. Now go to Chuck E Cheese and enjoy some downtime."

Oh, and, "Be still and know that I am God."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What a year.

Posted by Picasa

So, here is your Christmas card.
If you are a diehard,
you can print us out and put us up on your wall
so you can prove to all incomers
that you really do have friends.

This year was the kind
that we didn't have a professional photo.
We also didn't want to spend for the
cost of printing and mailing.

To put it lightly,
our family has been tried tremendously.
To put it honestly,
we have walked through hell
and we are hoping that we are on our way back.

It was the kind of year that made me grateful
for a simple family snapshot.
Even if it was
as an afterthought,
and we ended up with a crappy backdrop,
and the sun was in our eyes.

You see
we were on our way to church,

And together
It's more than anyone can ask for.

This morning
I realized that I wanted a living record
of the end of this year,
as I looked at my daughters
and the love of my life.
We were all in the colors,
black, white, and red.

And I saw that as a great representation
of a very hard year.

We are all
still trying to do the right things.
And that pretty much sums it up.
God has held us together
in the palm of His hand.

And I am extremely
And happy.

I look forward in faith.
Even if the sun has been blinding.
And what better Christmas message is there?

My daughters would not be any more beautiful
with a professional photo to prove it.
My marriage would not be as strong
without the trials and intense work.
My friends would not have reached out to us
in such love
without our pain.
Our gratitude for loving parents
would not be as deep
without the struggle.
And our testimony of a loving God
would not be as intimate.

I think we have every reason

Jesus Christ makes all things possible.
He is love and light.
He will blind you
if that is what it takes
to heal you,
to love you,
to know you.

And when you get through it,
you will be grateful for a sun so bright.
Even if it hurt temporarily.

Merry Christmas to you.
Especially if the sun is blinding your eyes.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy Birthday Jesus Christ

Thanks to my bloggy friend Sheila for this share.
It brought tears to my eyes and greater love to my heart.
There is something special about
this child's narration to the greatest story of all mankind.

I love MY Jesus.
He is all mine.
And He is yours.
He is the Savior of all mankind.
Whether they accept it individually or not.

He condescended from the realms on high,
to be born in a stable.
And this year,
His lowly beginnings
have been a fervant reminder
that God wants me to know
that things don't matter.

Only one thing is needful,
and that is Jesus Christ.
He is the way, the truth, and the life.

And I love the time of year when
people treat each other with greater kindness.
It's the kind of birthday present we all can enjoy.
And that is so like Jesus.
He never asks something of us
that won't make us happier.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Pageants

Every Christmas I try to read
with my children.
It is one of my all time favorite books.
Of course it consists of two of my most favorite things:
laughter and the Savior of the world.
I have the book that my Aunt Shirley
gifted to my family one year.
I treasure it.
My Aunt Shirley loves literature like I do.
I want to grow up to be like her one day.
She writes better than me.

I am of the opinion that Christmas Pageants
should only be given by children or professionals.
A few years ago they had LG dress up like a wise man
and I just thought it was pure mockery.
Especially since they had him dressed in the costume
that was obviously meant for an African.
He was one big white African King.

Well, anyhow, somebody forwarded me an e-mail
with a funny little Christmas pageant tale.
It showcases WHY exactly children are the ones to give any pageant.

My husband and I had been happily
married (most of the time)
for five years
but hadn't been blessed with a baby.

I decided to do some serious
praying and promised God
that if he would give us a
I would be a perfect mother,
love it with all my heart
and raise it with His word
as my guide.

God answered my prayer s
and blessed us with a son.

The next year God blessed us
with another son.

The following year,
He blessed us with
yet another son.

The year after that we
were blessed with a daughter.

My husband thought we'd
been blessed right into poverty.
We now had four children,
and the oldest was only
four years old.

I learned never to ask God
for anything unless I meant it
As a minister once told me,
"If you pray for rain,
make sure you carry an umbrella."

I began reading a few verses
of the Bible to the children
each day as they lay in their cribs.

I was off to a good start.
God had entrusted me
with four children a nd
I didn't want to disappoint Him.

I tried to be patient the day
the children smashed
two dozen eggs on
the kitchen floor searching
for baby chicks.

I tried to be understanding...
when they started a hotel for
homeless frogs in the spare bedroom,
although it took me nearly two hours
to catch all twenty-three frogs

When my daughter poured
ketchup all over herself and
rolled up in a blanket to see
how it felt to be a hot dog,
I tried to see the humor
rather than the mess.

In spite of changing over
twenty-five thousand diapers,
never eating a hot meal
and never sleeping for more
than thirty minutes at a time,
I still thank God daily for my children.

While I couldn't keep my promise
to be a perfect mother -
I didn't even come close...
I did keep my promise
to raise them in the Word of God.

I knew I was missing the mark
just a little when I told
my daughter we were going
to church to worship God,
and she wanted to bring
a bar of soap along to
"wash up" Jesus, too.

Something was lost
in the translation when
I explained that
God gave us everlasting life,
and my son thought it was
generous of God to give
us his "last wife."

My proudest moment came
during the children's
Christmas pageant.

My daughter was playing Mary,
two of my sons were shepherds
and my youngest son was a wise man.
This was their moment to shine.

My five-year-old shepherd
had practiced his line,
"We found the babe wrapped
in swaddling clothes."

But he was nervous and said,
"The baby was wrapped
in wrinkled clothes."

My four-year-old "Mary" said,
"That's not 'wrinkled clothes,' silly.
That's dirty, rotten clothes."

A wrestling match broke out
between Mary and the shepherd
and was stopped by an angel,
who bent her halo and lost
her left wing.

I slouched a little lower
in my seat when Mary
dropped the doll representing
Baby Jesus, and it bounced
down the aisle crying,

Mary grabbed the doll,
wrapped it back up
and held it tightly as
the wise men arrived.

My other son stepped forward
wearing a bathrobe
and a paper crown,
knelt at the manger
and announced,
"We are the three wise men,
and we are bringing gifts
of gold,
common sense
and fur."

The congregation
dissolved into laughter,
and the pageant
got a standing ovation.

"I've never enjoyed a Christmas
program as much as this one,"
laughed the pastor ,
wiping tears from his eyes

"For the rest of my life,
I'll never hear the
Christmas story without
thinking of
gold, common sense
and fur."

"My children are my pride
and my joy and my greatest
blessing," I said as I dug
through my purse for an aspirin..

Yesterday at church
It was also a heartwarming tale.
which supports my idea of
children being the best actors for a pageant.

I cried as Wally the innkeeper
felt compassion and interceded with
"Wait, you can have my room."

This made me ponder on what I am willing to give.
Sometimes I don't even think I am smart enough
to give up my own room;
even when I have promised to give everything.

I will end this Christmas post with
my favorite
Christmas poem.

In the Bleak Midwinter - Christina Rosetti 1872.

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:

In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels

Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,

But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshiped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

I hope that I can give Him my heart.
My whole heart.
Every day.
And be like Him.
More selfless.

I know
just how I enjoy
unexpected outcomes from
funny Christmas pageants,
He accepts
my best attempts at worship.
No matter how
Or how
far from
they are.

Because the imperfect kind
are often the best
and most meaningful.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Better Blogs and Christmas Cheer

I am not in a blogging mood.

I am more occupied with negotiating Christmas with my husband,
who apparently doesn't want to buy our kids any sort of magical Christmas gift.
Can I say the man is imagination challenged
without spurring on my haters
to call me to repentance?
Do you know that the father of my children
let Santa's cat out of the bag
three years ago?
Oh, Yes he did!!!
Our kids were 8,5, and 4.
And they now think the world of their daddy.
Because he is Santa and the tooth fairy.
But I am still struggling to forgive.
Because I believe in magic.
And Harry Potter.

But because of all the things I have been learning lately,
I will not Christmas shop until LG and I are on the same page.
Because that is what Dave Ramsey says.
And that is what the Bible says.
And who can argue with the Bible or Dave Ramsey?
And I have to say after reading the Bible just now
and hearing God's admonition to reverence my husband,
I am feeling guilty about this whole post.
I guess I will have to repent.

Once I do I am sure that
our marriage will prevail.
One challenge at a time.

Even if everything seems to be a challenge lately.
I think Christmas should not be a challenge.
Who knew two people could be married
for 13 years
and never be on the same page?

This year if anything,
we will be on the same page.
And both of us will be happy with what is under the tree.
Even if it is only due to the generosity of others.
And hours of negotiation.

I've said it a million times before
is gonna be our year.

Next Christmas will bring no negotiation.
And that will be LG's best gift to me.
The fact that he cared enough to negotiate this one.
If that makes any sense.
From now on,
we will hopefully be on the same Christmas page.
Is that just wishful thinking?
The older I get, the more I think
that life is really just one negotiation after another.

T'was the night before Christmas
and all through our house,
no raised voice was heard,
because we're espoused.
We negotiated until our hearts
were content.
And now the wife will not overspend
and have need to repent.

But, I will have to repent about the reverencing the man.
How can I reverence Santa Claus?
Huh? Huh?
He's fictional.
I hope your kids don't read this blog.
Or maybe they should.
Because then my husband will have some more
little people to reverence him.
He needs that.
Since he isn't getting it from me.

Well anyhow.
I wanted to share some better blogs.
For my loyal readers
who I have just left totally confused.

But before I do.
Really, how do you married people
agree about Christmas?
Just curious.
Did you negotiate year 1
and never argue again?
Or do you still fight about it?

I love my husband.
A lot.
I want to be on the same page.
Even if his page is to pay the bills
and give the kids as little as possible.
And mine is to make Santa magical.
There has to be a good medium.
Do you ever even think about these things?
Are all other married couples like us.
I can remember my parents always fighting over Christmas.
Mom wanted to make it magical
and dad didn't want to go into debt.
I wonder if this is the same story in every household?

So, on with the real fun.
My friends all have it figured out.
They don't blog about their private business,
leaving their blogs actually entertaining.
Unlike mine.
There is good reason why I am not blogging right now.

Check out Cally's homemade gift tags.
And Lori's movie making skills.
And Erika's honesty.
Jeremy's love for an awesome father, who just passed on,
and made me have a greater desire not to fight over stupid stuff.
Gina's photography.
Jennifer's yummy food.
Rachel's consistent gratitude, maturity, and resilience in the midst of battling childhood cancer.

There are definitely a lot better blogs out there.
But at least many of them belong to my friends.

I am off to make a spreadsheet for my husband.
Maybe it will help if I speak his language.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Lesson With a Flair

Abigail has been making dinner on Sunday nights.
I got really stressed about her learning to cook before she goes to college.
I am not sure why since that is at least 7 years away,
but it's all good since it gets me out of dinner duty on Sunday.

Abigail loves to search the cookbooks for something.
She is completely opposite from me.
I like to cook the same thing over and over again
so I don't have to refer to a recipe.

Anyway, last Sunday, Abigail found a recipe for
Chicken Catchatore. Or however you spell that.
I have never made it before, how would I know.

We decided to tweak the recipe a bit
because we don't shop on Sunday
and we didn't have all the required ingredients.

However we did have ginger.
Abigail wanted to add it.
LG kept saying to add more.
I told him that ginger is really strong
but he wanted more.
We ended up chopping and sauteeing
what Abigail calls
a whole leg of ginger.
About an eighth of a cup.
We fried it up with garlic and onion
and the diced tomatoes
and added some spinach
and then added the leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

And Abigail declared proudly to her sisters
that we would be eating
turkey catchatore with a flair.
I said, "One big flair of ginger,"
as I secretly added some brown sugar and milk
to lighten up the overwhelming ginger.

Abigail and Bella then got into it
about what kind of noodles were being served.
Abigail assured Bella that they were linguine.
Bella argued back, like she had some kind of authority in the matter
knowing full well that Abigail was
the one to fetch the noodles from the box.

Before I knew it, Abigail and Bella were having it out
about noodles.

I then hollered,
"Fine, you are both right
the noodles are NOT linguine,
from now on in our house
they will be called:
'Love one Another, who gives a crap what kind of noodles they are' ".

End of story.

As we ate Bella says,
"So we are having
Turkey Ginger Catchatore over 'Love One Another, who gives a crap kind of noodles they are."

And Sophia in typical Sophia fashion.
Always with perfect timing
and always keeping the peace
says "with a flair."

So from now on, our noodles will remain nameless
(don't they all taste the same anyway)
and anything that has ginger in it
will be with a flair.

And I call that one productive Sabbath.