Monday, December 31, 2012

Mary Christ Mass

Last year when Christmas fell on Sunday I loved going to church to celebrate the birth of Christ. It just seemed like the right place to be on Christmas. Yet because the LDS church has no paid clergy (all positions are volunteered by members) church services aren't usually held on Christmas Day, unless it happens to fall on Sunday.

Jon and I really wanted to take our kids to church on Christmas and the Catholic church by our house had Mass at 5 AM, 9 AM, and 11:30 AM on Christmas Day. We went to the 11:30 AM mass and, even though we felt awkward and out of place most of the time, it was really a beautiful experience for our family.

I had been to Mass once before when I was in college, but I didn't remember much about it (except the part where you shake the hands of the people sitting next to you). Asher had lots of questions about why the church looked so different (LDS church's generally don't have crucifixes), why the Priest and the altar boys wore robes, why everyone in the congregation stood up and talked so much,  and why we couldn't go take the sacrament when it was offered. It was a good teaching opportunity, though some of the things were hard to explain to a five-year-old!  He was especially  concerned about why we couldn't take the Sacrament, and I told him we couldn't because we didn't belong to the Catholic church, but we could go up and cross our arms and receive a blessing from the Priest if we wanted. He saw some of the other children do that and I could tell he was thinking about it, but finally decided that next time he might do it.

As Mass progressed I was touched by many things, but something the Priest said really resonated with me. First he implored his congregation not to say "Happy Holidays" but to use the words "Merry Christmas", because he said the name was a reminder of what we were really to focus our worship and celebration on. The "Merry" was a reminder of Mary, the mother of Christ, the "Christ" a reminder of whose birthday it was, and the "mas" a reminder of "mass", in which the the holy Eucharist (the sacrament) was administered.  He then beckoned around the half empty chapel and asked where everyone was. Why, on this day when the Son of God was born into the world, the churches were so empty. Where were those gathered together to rejoice? Where were the multitudes gathered to worship him and partake of  the emblems of His holy sacrament, in celebration of His life?

It was his use of the words "celebrate" and "worship" interchangeably that really stuck me. And as I sat in that beautiful church on Christmas Day, singing "Hark the Herald Angels" at the top of my lungs, I felt my heart fill with gratitude and love for a Savior who would condescend to come dwell among men.

In that moment I fully understood what the Priest meant by worship being a celebration and I laughed at all the effort I had gone to trying to make our Christmas more "Christ-centered". None of the traditions, meals, decorations, music, or gifts that I had so carefully constructed really came close to the celebration-- the worship-- I experienced during those few hours of Mass.  In my heart I was truly worshipping Christ and I was celebrating the day of His birth in a meaningful way.

It was the highlight of my Christmas.

Afterward Jon and I decided that we will try to make attending Mass a Christmas tradition for our family. Though, I did find myself wishing that  Christmas could be on Sunday every year so that I could worship on Christmas day with my own congregation. Yet, after a little reflection I decided that feeling out of place, confused, and awkward at Mass once a year might be really good for me. Being out of my "comfort zone" pushed me and made me re-evaluate my own beliefs and practices in a significant way.

I saw plainly that too often my own Sunday worship becomes mundane and routine. I have gone through the motions of it every week for my entire life and  it is easy for me to go to Sacrament Meeting and treat the sacrament as a "snack" in the middle of church, rather than the sacred ordinance that it is.  I am sure that for some of the Catholics at the 11:30 AM Mass, it was the same mundane routine they had heard their whole life. Yet for me, who had only seen it once before, it was a moving reminder of Christ.

It reminded me that it is all to easy to become complacent in our worship of Christ that we forget to celebrate the miracle of what He has done for us. This Christmas God gave me a taste of what it feels like to have my heart worship-- to really celebrate Christ-- and that was by far the best Christmas gift I received.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Five Things For Friday, Halloween at Christmas? Edition

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Asher's birthday was last week and he got some strange presents... which was mostly my fault. Way back in October Asher was obsessed with Halloween decorations. Every time we saw a house that was decorated for Halloween he would start to hyperventilate with excitement. He asked me 1,000 times a day when we were going to get some "scary" decorations for our house.

I said we weren't, but he didn't give up.

The day after Halloween I happened to be at Target looking for a wedding gift for my sister-in-law and Asher noticed that they had all of their Halloween decorations 50% off. The kid was in heaven (or hell?) and told me that we should get my sister-in-law Halloween decorations for her wedding. He was insistent and somehow I got sucked in.

Who can resist 50% off? That is just pure temptation.

So...I bought a movement activated ghost whose face lights up and says "I've been waiting for yooooooou" and a grim reaper that pops up and cackles when you walk past it.

Yeah, I know.

When I got home I realized that, even though my sister-in-law has an awesome sense of humor, I didn't really want to give her emblems of death for her wedding. I rationalized that since Asher was so excited about them I would just give them to him for his birthday.

Which is what I did.

It seemed like a good idea  in October, but it turns out that having a grim reaper and ghost sitting beside your nativity set and Christmas tree is just weird... really weird.


But, at  least I was right about one thing, Asher does love them. Jon said that we should just embrace them for a few more days and think of them as the ghost of Christmas past and the ghost of Christmas future... but mostly I can't wait till they go back in the box.

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I want to put in a plug for a new Christmas book. One of my best friends' mother wrote this sweet book. My friend sent me a copy of it and my kids loved it. The words are sweet and the pictures are beautiful. I am so proud to know the author!



"C is for Christmas" by Tonya Skousen Arenaz is available at Deseret Book and online.  If you need a last minute gift or want to add to your Christmas book collection this is a good one! 

-3-

We got a piano!

 

A few weeks ago I found this piano at the DI (thrift store) for $60.

It is in rough shape. I am pretty sure whoever owned it before must have had some piano abuse issues. One of the keys (middle "D') is  broken, the music stand is missing, the pedals don't work, and the cover you pull over the keys is gone, meaning you can see all the hammers and strings inside.

 

It really needs love.

It will take around $200 dollars to get it all tuned up and the pedals fixed, which is still much cheaper than buying a new piano. We figure we are just going for the "stressed antiqued" look... people may lots of money for furniture that looks like this, right?

Jon is excited about making it a new music stand and key cover and actually, he spent several nights working on a new "D" key for it. So, while it isn't really very pretty it works.


And hey, it is a piano! And it is in tune... mostly! And it was only $60!

Now I just need to learn how to play it. 


-4-

Abe is walking! He took his first steps about a month ago. Our home teacher was visiting and he was talking about how he taught his nephew to walk while his brother and sister-in-law were away on a trip.  They were upset with him because they missed his first steps. Well, Abe must have known what we were talking about because right in the middle of our conversation he pulled himself up on the couch, let go, and started to walk across the room to me. All the adults started to squeal with excitement and he started to laugh... and then fell down. After that he decided that walking was better than crawling and just took off.

video

I don't know what it is about this kid but everything he does seems to be three times cuter than I remember it being with my other kids. I am sure it isn't, but it seems like it. Maybe that is the upside to being a third child (see, Hilary there are perks ;).

Sometimes toddlers need to be contained and entertained

-5-

With Asher's birthday being so close to Christmas we usually get burnt out by all the "stuff" that accumulates in our house this time of year. In years past it has made us really "grinchy" and has killed the spirit of Christmas... present, past, and future. Two years ago, after having an especially frustrating birthday/Christmas season Jon and I decided that we had to do something different or Christmas was not going to be magical at our house... to say the least. We decided to drastically scale back the present giving (only one store bought gift for each person) and to give homemade presents to family, grandparents, and to each other. So far, it has helped.

Last year I thought that the idea of homemade gifts would be "keeping it simple" but quickly found out that doing homemade gifts is ten times more consuming than buying something from the store. Even so, last year we really enjoyed it because we felt it changed our focus from "what we would get" to what "we could create for someone else".

The past few months our house has been a buzz with gift making (secret and not so secret) and it has really been fun to work together on things as a family. I would tell you what we are making, but then I might be spoiling Christmas surprises for some people. But I can't wait to show you next week. In the meantime I want to show you the gift I made for the kids last year... 


A tepee! Made out of PVC pipe and bed sheets.

The kids love it and it was super easy to make. I used this tutorial. (Oh, and just a tip if you try this,  the black print on the PVC comes off with acetone.)

What traditions do you have that keep Christmas focused on Christ and keep you from getting "grinchy"?

If you want to link to your own "Five Things for Friday" post you can use the tool below to add your link. 1) Please link to the URL of your blog post and not your main blog and 2) Please include a link back here.



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Phebe


"Here Bring your Wounded Hearts" by Elspeth Young 
Romans 16:1-2

Background:

Even though Paul never personally ministered to the saints in Rome he sent them instruction and encouragement in the form of a letter, which is now the book of Romans in the New Testament. His letter to them was written towards the end of his time in Corinth ( Acts 20:3), Paul hoped that after his visit to Jerusalem he would then be able to visit Rome. At the conclusion of his letter (Romans 16) he gave a long list of greetings to friends and fellow saints who were then living or ministering in Rome. Romans 16 is unique because  it gives us an intimate glimpse into the members of the early Christian church, it is also unique because 10 of the 29 people mentioned by Paul in his letter are women-- including his letter carrier Phebe.

Facts About Her:
  • Paul sent his letter to the church in Rome via Phebe (Rom. 16:1); 
  • She was a "servant of the church" from Cenchrea (a port in Corinth) and Paul wrote to the Romans that she was "our sister" and asked that they, "... receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you.." (Rom. 16:1-2)
  • Paul also tells them that she "...hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also."(Rom. 16:2)
Speculations About Her:
  • It appears by Paul's introduction of her that Phebe was unknown to the Roman saints and that her main purpose in traveling from Corinth  to Rome was to join with the saints there and complete the "business" she had in Rome. Paul may have chosen her as his letter carrier because she was already planning on the trip, though it is possible that she may have gone for the main purpose of delivering Paul's letter and message to the Roman saints.
  •  The Greek word that is used to describe Phebe as "servant" of the church is the word
    "diakonos" and literally translated it means:

    "1)One who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant, minister
    the servant of a king; 2)  a deacon, one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use." (source)

    In the King James Version of the bible  the word "diakonos" is used 31 times and is translated twenty times as "minister", 8 times as "servant", and 3 times as "deacon". Whenever it is used it has reference to those who serve and minister in an official office in the church. (source) The word "diakonos" being used to describe Phebe has been the center of much controversy among scholars. In her article " A Study of Romans 16 for LDS and Evangelical Conversations" Bridgette Jack Jeffries says: 

    "The word is used elsewhere in the New Testament to refer to the office of deacon, an office that many Christian traditions have barred women from for centuries... Those who resist seeing Phoebe as a deacon usually point out that the literal translation for διάκονος was “servant,” and Paul uses the term to mean “servant” in numerous places (Rom.13:4, 15:8; 1 Cor. 3:5). However, nowhere else in the New Testament does Paul (or any other author) connect one's status as a διάκονος to service with a specific local congregation, as is the case with Phoebe and the church at Cenchreae. The phrase “διάκονον τῆς ἐκκλησίας” (diakonon tes ekklesias – of the church) is unique to Romans 16:1. Because Paul is listing Phoebe's credentials to Roman Christians who would be unfamiliar with her, because she is probably on official church business on his behalf in delivering his letter, because he connects her διάκονος-ship with a specific local congregation, and because his designation of her as a προστάτις indicates that she was a woman who advocated for and supported others in the Gospel, the textual argument for reading διάκονος as a specific office or leadership position becomes very strong."
  • The other word that is hotly debated among scholars in the word that is translated in the KJV as "succorer". In Greek the word is "prostatis"  and literally means, "a woman set over others; a female guardian, protectress, patroness, caring for the affairs of others and aiding them with her resources."  The word "prostatis" is used only once in the KJV bible and this is to refer to Phebe in Romans 16. It is a word that indicates female leadership and as Jeffries said, "The Greek verb from which this noun derives, προΐστημι (proïstēmi), literally means “to preside over”. The masculine equivalent was well-known for carrying the possible meaning of one's legal guardian, and it is now known that a woman could be a legal προστάτις as well. The word has a stronger connotation than that of a meek and submissive helper and is best translated into modern English as “benefactor” or “patron.”
My Thoughts

As I studied Phoebe I was amazed by the amount of debate there is among scholars and theologians over who she was and what type of authority she held in the early church. It is obvious from the words Paul used to describe her-- mainly the word "diakonos" (meaning servant or deacon) and "prostatis" (meaning a woman set over others)-- that Phebe held some type of leadership and authority position in the early Christian church.  Just exactly what that position was has become the center of a heated debate as to whether or not women were ordained to the priesthood in the early Christian church and whether they should (or could) be now.

From an LDS perspective the words "diakonos" (servant or deacon) and "prostatis" (a woman set over others) present no theological problem. The idea of a woman disciple being set apart and having authority to preside and minister to a specific congregation or to the church as a whole fits right into what Latter-day Saints believe is the responsibility of women in the church.

In the LDS church men are organized into quorums according to their priesthood responsibilities while the women are organized into a sisterhood, called the Relief Society. The purpose of the Relief Society is to help to increase faith and personal righteousness in the church, strengthen families and homes, and seek out and provide relief for those who are in need. While it was not called "Relief Society" back then, we know that a similar organization for women existed in the church Christ established when He was alive. The first chapter of "Daughters in My Kingdom" paints a beautiful picture of what this ancient "Relief Society" did and who was involved in it. It says:
"The Prophet Joseph Smith declared, “The Church was never perfectly organized until the women were thus organized.” Sister Eliza R. Snow, the second Relief Society general president, reiterated this teaching. She said: “Although the name may be of modern date, the institution is of ancient origin. We were told by our martyred prophet that the same organization existed in the church anciently.”
In ancient times Christ invited women not only to be his disciples, but to be actively engaged in the work of saving souls. We don't know all the details about how this ancient sisterhood functioned, but since the rest of the LDS church has been patterned after the ancient church we can also we can guess that the basic framework of our modern day Relief Society is the same as it was 2,000 years ago.

 For example, in the modern Relief Society women from each ward (congregation) are called and set apart by a laying on of hands to preside over and receive revelation about the families within her ward. In addition, within in a Stake ( a group of wards) a Relief Society president is also called who presides over all the Relief Society presidents within that stake. There is also a General Relief Society President who presides over all the Stake and Ward Relief Societies within the Church. These women not only lead and  receive revelation about the women and families in their stewardship, but they also work in concert with male leaders to make sure the needs of their members are met. So, as I studied the story of Phebe I saw woman who was fulfilling her "Relief Society" duties in the ancient church.

I feel that understanding the meaning of the word "prostatis" (translated as "succorer") lends beautiful depth and insight into who Phebe was and what her contributions were to the early church. As I mentioned above the word "prostatis" means " a woman set over others; a female guardian, protectress, patroness, caring for the affairs of others and aiding them with her resources." 

The idea of a woman being "set apart" to care for the affairs of others and aiding them with resources fits perfectly the description of a modern day Relief Society president. It is not hard for Latter-day Saints to envision a role for Phebe in which she was leading and ministering-- with authority-- to the members of the church, including men like Paul. Just insert the full definition into the scripture instead of the word "succorer" and see how it illuminates the verse, 

"..for she hath been a woman set [apart] over many, and of myself also" 

or 

"...for she hath been a female patroness caring for the affairs of others and aiding many, and of myself also."

Paul's use of the word "hath" here is also particularly insightful because it indicates that she had been a "succourer" or a "prostatis" for others and for him, but that now she was not. This too fits in with LDS belief and practices, because in the LDS church members are called and "set apart" for a certain office or task. With this setting apart comes a blessing and an infusion of authority to lead and receive revelation specific to their office. Members usually serve in a position for several years, after which they are "released" and the office and authority are then transfered to someone else. 

It is intriguing to think about Phebe being the ancient equivalent of a Relief Society president, the "prostatis" of Paul's congregation in Corinth. In that responsibility she would have embodied Christ-like service in caring for and ministering to the women and families in her stewardship, which makes me think that perhaps the translation of the word as "succorer" isn't far from the truth. For as Alma described, Christ himself would, " ... take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities." (Alma 7:12)

****

The other thing I found as I studied Phebe was that many people got hung up on the word " diakonos" which can be translated as "deacon". They were confused about how Phebe could be called that if she didn't have priesthood authority. Yet when I went and looked up what the original Greek word "deacon" meant it was this, "one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use." (source)

That word, regardless of how we use it today, described someone who had authority from the church to administer  spiritual and physical relief to the poor. To me that description beautifully fits the calling of the Relief Society.

Lets read the verse of scripture again, this time inserting the original meaning of the word:
"I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is one who, by virtue of the office assigned to [her] by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use which is in Cenchrea."
When it is read this way it is easy for me to see how the word "deacon" or "deaconess" could apply to Phebe. She was one who had been set apart, given authority to preside, and to administer to the needs of the poor.

Perhaps the confusion is because the way in which we now use the word "deacon" may not have been the way the word was used anciently. For example take the word "ordination". In the Doctrine and Covenants there are scriptures in which both men and women are "ordained" to offices within the church.  For example men were "ordained" as bishops and high councilors (D&C  20:67) and women were "ordained" to preside over the Relief Society (D&C 25:7). In both instances these "ordinations" would be what is now considered a "setting apart" in our modern church vernacular.

In the 1828 version of the Webster's Dictionary the word "ordained"  is defined as "to set apart",  and so for early Latter-day saints the meaning was probably clear. Yet, in recent decades the word "ordain" has come to be associated with priesthood ordination and so the language we use has changed to make the difference clear. Today a person can only be ordained to a priesthood office, like an elder, a deacon, an apostle, etc. While they are set apart to a certain calling like, a bishop, a stake president, Relief Society president, member of the First Presidency, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,  a temple president, etc..

So using the word "deacon" or "deaconess" to describe Phebe's role in the church doesn't necessarily indicate that she had been ordained with priesthood authority. Yet as an ancient member (and perhaps leader) of the Relief Society she would have been organized, as the Prophet Joseph Smith said,  "after the pattern of the priesthood" and her work would have been a priesthood purpose.

 In speaking of the role of the modern Relief Society Julie B. Beck stated, 

"We operate in the manner of the priesthood—which means that we seek, receive, and act on revelation; make decisions in councils; and concern ourselves with caring for individuals one by one. Ours is the priesthood purpose to prepare ourselves for the blessings of eternal life by making and keeping covenants. Therefore, like our brethren who hold the priesthood, ours is a work of salvation, service, and becoming a holy people.” ("Relief Society: A Sacred Work", Ensign, Oct. 2009)

Personally, I love think of Phebe as being called a "deaconess". To me it is a reminder that the work she was doing, the work of Relief Society, is part of the great priesthood mission of the earth. Phebe's story is just more evidence that, from the very start, women have played an important role in God's church and that we are every bit as involved in God's great work of bringing " to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39).


Questions to Think About:
  • What does Paul's use of the words "diakonos" (servant, minister or deacon) and "prostatis" ( a woman set above others) to describe Phebe tell you about the role of women in the early Christian church? How does this better help you understand the purpose of the Relief Society in the modern church and the way in which women should work with men in ministering to the church?
  • Why would Paul have sent Phebe to Rome and entrusted his letter with her? What business do you think she could she have had to do among the Saints in Rome?
  • How could you use Phebe's story as a way to help young women and young men better understand the way in which God would like men and women  to work together in the Gospel?
  • How does the story of "the elect lady" mentioned in 2 John shed light on the story of Phebe and give insight into how women were organized in the ancient church? 
  • Brigham Young once described Eliza R. Snow, the second president of the Relief Society, as " a Priestess, Prophetess, and Presidentess." Why do you think we don't use those words more commonly in our modern day vernacular, what benefits or downsides do you see to using those words to describe Relief Society sisters today? 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I'll be Wearing a Skirt on Sunday, but it is Okay with Me if you Wear Pants.

I haven't been on the Internet much the last few days and so yesterday was the first I heard about the "Wear Pants to Church" event that Mormon feminists are planning as a show of solidarity. I don't consider myself to be a "Mormon feminist", as I've mentioned before none of the brands of feminism I've ever encountered meld well with my soul. Yet I do very much understand the pain of struggling with feminist questions in the gospel.

The high school and college "me" would have worn pants on Sunday.  I have always had a big suffragette streak in my heart and this would have been just the type of thing that would have appealed to me. When I told this to Jon he just laughed and said, "
Yeah you would have, but you have changed a lot since then." 

I really have.

Once in seminary I had a question about D&C 93 (where it talks about light, truth, and intelligence) and after class I went up and asked my teacher to explain it to me. He smiled big and said,
"Heather, that is a big question and I could explain it to you but I am not going to. If I did that I would rob you of the experience of finding it out for yourself."  I was frustrated by his answer because I felt he had belittled my request.

Yet over the next several years I found myself coming back, and back, and back to D&C 93. Until one day, about 4 years later, I was sitting in my college room studying D&C 93 for probably the 1,000th time when I had a huge spiritual epiphany. I studied until four in the morning. What the Lord taught me blew me away. I have tried to explain it to others since but I can't. It was something that the Lord taught me in my soul... way deep down and it changed the way I looked at the world. After that I was grateful that my seminary teacher hadn't answered my question the way I wanted, because what I learned from struggling and questioning taught me so much more.

I feel that same way about many of the questions I have about women in the gospel. For a long time I tried to put them on my "shelf" of unanswerable questions, but that shelf got too heavy. So instead I started to putting them on  "stairs" and started to climb towards understanding them.

 In my mind a "shelf" indicates passive waiting for an answer (that may or may not exist), while putting a question on a "stair" means having faith there is an answer and then actively searching, questioning, and struggling towards understanding. There is much I don't understand, but I feel like the raw fact of struggling for understanding has taught me much more than I would have gained if it had been handed to me on silver platter.

That doesn't mean I still wouldn't like the silver platter one day, but I feel my soul has grown so much because I have had to struggle.

It is like the Brother of Jared in Ether 1, who had questions he wanted answers to and so he cried to the Lord, over and over and over again  (probably for hundreds of years considering how old people lived back then),  until finally the Lord gave him the knowledge he sought and says,
"And thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me." 
Like the Brother of Jared I have questions that I want answers to so bad it hurts.  I don't want women to be ordained to priesthood (in fact I think if that happened it would shake my testimony more than anything) but what I do want is more light and knowledge about who women really are and how we fit into the Lord's plan. I loved what Kels said in her post, "Remove this Cloud of Darkness":

"I believe the Lord wants us to be like the brother of Jared-- to be proactive in understanding our stewardships as women, and to collaborate with him in understanding and creating our life journeys. I believe that he has great truths in store for us, and that we need to prepare ourselves and ask for insights before we will receive them as a churchwide whole. I believe that as we "cry unto the Lord" (Ether 1:35,37,39), the clouds of darkness will be removed from overshadowing us, and we can come to truly understand our past, present, and future as daughters of Heavenly Parents. God expects us to engage him, to seek answers, to propose answers, and to come to be like our Savior. In return, he promises to remove the darkness in our lives and reward us with peace and light."
 
So I guess that this is a long way of saying that if you wear pants to church on Sunday as a show of solidarity or protest, I understand.

It is okay to struggle.  It is okay to ache. It is okay to have unanswerable questions. Lets just keep showing up, and crying to the Lord, and climbing those stairs, and taking our answers to the right source like the Daughters of Zelophehad did.  I have faith that the answers are there... and sometimes the struggle is what will teach us the most.

That is why I won't be wearing pants to church on Sunday. 

My struggle isn't with any mortal edifice, organization, apostle or prophet. They can't give me what I really want. 

{To see. Like Abraham, Moses, and Enoch saw} 


My struggle is with God.  Only He has what I want, and I know that if I wrestle with Him long enough I will get it. 

And what I wear to church on Sunday won't change that. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Five Things for Friday, Favorite Christmas Decorations Edition

For my Five Things today I wanted to share with you my top five favorite Christmas decorations. I would love it if you joined in today and posted your own post about your favorite Christmas decorations!

My house is certainly not impressively or beautifully decorated for Christmas. It is really an eclectic mix of home-made, hand-me-down, child-made, and thrift-store-found decorations but I love the feel our house has when they are all up. Jon and I sure have come a long way from our  first two Christmas's when our decorations consisted of a Christmas tree with a cardboard and tin foil star, a garland I sewed from the material leftover from my bridesmaids dresses, and one box (containing 6) Christmas tree bulbs!
-1-

These Christmas stockings are the decorations I am most proud of.



Abe's still needs his name embroidered on it
My mom made me and all my siblings similar stockings when we were young and are treasures. I made all these stockings in my mom's style and I really love them. They all have jingle bells on the end because in our house we do a "stocking march" to put kids to bed on Christmas night. We march around the house shaking our Christmas stockings and singing Christmas carols as we make our way to each child's room and tuck them into bed. By the time it gets to the oldest child it is just them and mom and dad singing. The kids then leave their stockings at the end of their beds and Santa Claus sneaks into their room and leaves their filled stocking by the end of their bed. The rule is that they can't turn the light on to look at them until 6:00 AM (Santa needs his rest). This was the tradition my mom's family had when she was growing up and when she brought it to our family. When I was younger I loved (still do) this tradition because it was unique.


-2-
 This is a new addition to our Christmas decorations.

 

We didn't have a nativity set and so for Jon's birthday I had the kids make this nativity out of polymer clay for him. They had fun making it, even though Abe wanted to (and did) chew on all the pieces. It was my first time using polymer clay and I didn't know how long to bake it. When it started to smell like melting plastic I took it out and found that all the bottoms of the pieces were scorched. Luckily all of them have held together and still look good... even if they are black on the bottom!


I think my favorite part is Rose's sheep and the black widow spider she made (it is the black lump with two legs in the front of the picture). I don't really know if there were black widows in Bethlehem but I am sure that if there was they would have wanted to come see the baby Jesus too, right?

The orange thing is a "blower" that Asher made to keep baby Jesus warm :)

-3-


Jon and I bought these penguins as part of our wedding decorations. We put them up every year at Christmas and they remind us of the type of marriage we are striving to create.

They make me happy.

-4-

Growing up my family had the tradition of giving each child a white bear on their first Christmas. I don't really know how this started but pulling out the Christmas bears was always one of my favorite parts of Christmas. Jon and I have carried on this tradition in our family and each of our children has received a white bear on their frist Christmas.

Asher's, Abe's and Rose's Christmas bears
And in keeping with the original family tradition none of my kids bears have real names. Whenever I ask them what their bear's names are they always make up a new name. It makes me laugh because growing up the only one of us that could remember what name they gave their bear was my little sister.  Since they only came out once a year we always forgot what their names were...  most of them got new names every Christmas!

-5-

And my #1 favorite Christmas decoration is our 2/3rds decorated Christmas Tree.

 

Someday there will come a day when we won't have a Christmas tree ornament destroying toddler running around and will be able to decorate the tree all the way to the bottom. But for right now I LOVE it that our tree decorations stop at Abraham arm reach height.

Have a wonderful weekend!

I would love to have you link up to your own posts about your favorite Christmas decorations, or just link up to your own Five Things for Friday posts! 








Monday, December 3, 2012

A Treasure Box with Two Keys

I loved the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional last night. Listening to it always puts me in the right frame of mind and heart for Christmas. If you missed it you can watch the broadcast here.


I was especially touched by Elder Eyring's talk and his recollections of a Christmas that he worked hard to create a very special "Family Treasure Box" for his wife.



Elder Erying got emotional about how he, along with the help of skilled friends, lovingly crafted this unique box for his wife. He carved one panel of the box with his wife's initial and the other panel with his initial. The box can only be opened by using two different keys, the one above his initial and the one above her initial.

He said that the box (which is now filled with family pictures and sheet music) is a reminder to them of their love for one another and for the Savior, whose sacrifice makes eternal marriages and families possible.

I was very touched by the evident love and feeling that Elder Eyring had for the gift he gave his wife and absolutely love the beautiful symbolism he wove into it.

I am not sure if this box was made before Elder Packer gave this amazing talk about the roles of men and women in 1993, but I couldn't help but see the parallels between Elder Eyring's "Family Treasure Chest" and the parable that Elder Packer gave at the end of his talk.

I am posting the parable here, in case you have never read it before. I think it is one of the best explanations of the different stewardships men and women have and how God expects us to work together-- in marriage and in His kingdom. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if this was the inspiration behind Elder Eyring's box!

"Once a man received as his inheritance two keys. The first key, he was told, would open a vault which he must protect at all cost. The second key was to a safe within the vault which contained a priceless treasure. He was to open this safe and freely use the precious things which were stored therein. He was warned that many would seek to rob him of his inheritance. He was promised that if he used the treasure worthily, it would be replenished and never be diminished, not in all eternity. He would be tested. If he used it to benefit others, his own blessings and joy would increase.

The man went alone to the vault. His first key opened the door. He tried to unlock the treasure with the other key, but he could not, for there were two locks on the safe. His key alone would not open it. No matter how he tried, he could not open it. He was puzzled. He had been given the keys. He knew the treasure was rightfully his. He had obeyed instructions, but he could not open the safe.

In due time, there came a woman into the vault. She, too, held a key. It was noticeably different from the key he held. Her key fit the other lock. It humbled him to learn that he could not obtain his rightful inheritance without her.

They made a covenant that together they would open the treasure and, as instructed, he would watch over the vault and protect it; she would watch over the treasure. She was not concerned that, as guardian of the vault, he held two keys, for his full purpose was to see that she was safe as she watched over that which was most precious to them both. Together they opened the safe and partook of their inheritance. They rejoiced for, as promised, it replenished itself.

With great joy they found that they could pass the treasure on to their children; each could receive a full measure, undiminished to the last generation.

Perhaps some few of their posterity would not find a companion who possessed the complementary key, or one worthy and willing to keep the covenants relating to the treasure. Nevertheless, if they kept the commandments, they would not be denied even the smallest blessing.

Because some tempted them to misuse their treasure, they were careful to teach their children about keys and covenants.

There came, in due time, among their posterity some few who were deceived or jealous or selfish because one was given two keys and another only one. “Why,” the selfish ones reasoned, “cannot the treasure be mine alone to use as I desire?”

Some tried to reshape the key they had been given to resemble the other key. Perhaps, they thought, it would then fit both locks. And so it was that the safe was closed to them. Their reshaped keys were useless, and their inheritance was lost.

Those who received the treasure with gratitude and obeyed the laws concerning it knew joy without bounds through time and all eternity." (Boyd K. Packer, "For Time and all Eternity", Ensign, 1993.)