I’m already thinking about celebrating Christmas and how it will go this year. I saw on Friday that someone on Facebook had posted a picture that “The List” had created showing how many Fridays “until.” Christmas is close – almost nine weeks away. At our family dinner last Sunday, we drew names. This is a first in our family. Generally, we each buy something for each other. Not now. There are simply too many of us. We also discussed the when of celebrating – with one out-of town and two who have somewhere else they need to be at some point, it may get tricky. I also hope that each couple will spend time making their own Christmas traditions and take time to celebrate with each other. This expanding family stuff is strange.
I remember when my husband and I would celebrate each holiday three times. My parents were divorced, so we would be out-of-town for part, then at my mom’s and, finally, at my husband’s family gathering. They were each special, but we sure ate a lot! By the night-time, we could barely move some years. My favorite part was he and I would have time for ourselves to talk and to exchange gifts. It was quiet and personal and we were building traditions that would last until now. Now, we’ll have a transition into new traditions and I know they will be just as special.
I love the whole idea of Christmas, of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. We know He wasn’t born in the winter months because of the lambs being born while the shepherds were in the fields, so it was sometime in the spring, but the winter just feels more reverent. There is a stillness that comes over the earth – whether it be because of snow or just the sun going down earlier – it feels different. We tried one year to have a birthday cake for Him, but it didn’t stick and felt a bit too ordinary for us. We’ve tried to give Him one gift each year, but that didn’t stick either. Now, it’s nativities everywhere. I have a few of them. Oh, and Santas. You know, I love the idea of Santa Claus. To me, He represents the Savior and all of the gifts He provides to us. So, I have a Santa for every year we’ve lived in Arizona. Unfortunately, we now have someone in the house who is pretty uncomfortable around them, so I’ll be enjoying them in my office this year. That means I’m going to need to put up a shelf or two. Did I mention I have fourteen of them? Well, it will be fifteen because that is what my sweet husband buys me every year for my gift. He has great taste in Santas and I love each one of them.
There is so much in my head this morning from my studies and there wasn’t a clear pattern to the messages, so hopefully I’ll find something as I write. I love that I can read and study, take notes, write about it on here, and then, as I do, spend so much time pondering what I’m reading. It is certainly sticking with me longer.
The OA message was about maintaining friendships. I have a hard time with this one. I am pretty solitary and I don’t mind being alone. In fact, I need time to be alone – frequently. All of the energy that comes from a large group is overwhelming. Now, don’t think I’m crazy, like I would have thought. I have had three doctors tell me that this is a real thing and that people with bipolar disorder are much more sensitive to energy around them. It’s a strange thing to have happen to a brain. I used to not mind big groups, but now, it’s like torture. Unfortunately, the rest of the OA message was that we also need to reach out to those who may be new and to welcome them into the fold. Yikes! I’m really not good at that. I know I don’t need to do it in a group setting, that it can be quiet and calm, but I’m still not good at it. There seems to be a limit in my heart for how many individuals I can let in and I feel like if I am welcoming, then that needs to lead to friendship, but I guess that’s not necessarily true, yes? Hmm. I’m going to need to ponder that one some more.
The AA message spoke to being humble and that we must first be open to a new way of thinking. That word humble seems to have a negative connotation these days. I like to remember that it means to be teachable and to realize that I don’t know it all, know how to do it all, or am able do it all on my own. Those sound reasonable, but I sure try to take it all on myself. I don’t like to rely on others to take care of things. Mostly because the things I think are important may not be important to them.
The General Conference talk was based on two scriptures – James 1:5 (“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”) and Moroni 10:5 in the Book of Mormon, which states, “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” The talk, “A Choice Seer Will I Raise Up” by Elder Craig C. Christensen, discussed prophets and apostles. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (yes, we think it’s a mouthful too, but God chose it, not us) we believe that God restored His church upon the earth in the 1800’s, that the time was right to bring back prophets and apostles, just like in the ancient church. No different. The man who that message came through was Joseph Smith, Jr. Now, before you stop reading (I sure hope you are still hanging on), I want you to know that I have prayed many, many times about this and I believe that it is true. We have gained so much information that backs up and is a second witness to the New Testament. We believe that only through Jesus Christ can we be saved – we use the word redeemed. Through Adam and Eve’s choice in the Garden of Eden the world became fallen and sin was let loose, but through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and His triumphant resurrection, we can all be resurrected. What great news! Back to the scriptures. Elder Christensen makes it clear that each of us can know of any truth – science, a reading, scripture – just by asking God about it and really wanting to know. He has blessed us with the Holy Ghost for a purpose and that is to testify of God, our Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. What a miraculous thing He has done for us. We don’t have to guess, we can know.
There are a few things that have to happen (oohh, I see the link now!), we have to be humble and realize we don’t know everything and we have to not be full of anger (the Book of Mormon message this morning in the last chapter of Ether) or we will drive out the spirit. That’s it. No anger. Be teachable. Easy. Or not. The last part is prayer, maybe a lot of it. It took me a long time to gain a testimony of the different aspects of my beliefs. They didn’t come all at once like a lightening bolt out of the sky. It is a process and, even now, as I read these books I am reviewing, I pray about the words on the pages. I am continually learning and growing and adding the truths I find to my testimony of this great grand plan of our God’s to bring His children home and to live happily in this life. Whew! I’m so glad it all fit together. I like that.
Now, on to prayer. That leads me right to Kelly O’Dell Stanley and Designed to Pray. What a tremendous book. Not only is the book broken up into eight sections, to be done over the course of eight weeks, but each section is broken down into seven days worth of reading and activities. I am astounded at the detail and thought she has put into this book and, I’m sure a lot of prayer! Seriously, go get this book. I’m not joking. Oh, how I wish we could discuss it together, but I don’t want to give anything away. I spent this morning going through the first week and I have learned some very powerful things for myself. I realized that most of what I pray about is very long-term, things that I may experience an outcome for twenty or thirty years. That means I’ll be in my sixties or later. That is a long time to wait, but these are the most important things to me and they will take time and patience (ick). I also discovered that there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of blessings I experience that I am grateful for. Wow. God has been gracious and good and kind to me. The words Kelly is using are powerful and even brought me to tears this morning as I considered what prayer means to me and how I to reach out to God. She says on Week 1 | Day 1,
Simply by praying, simply by trying, you will meet God. You will be changed.
That is so very powerful to me. Just by trying. We don’t have to be perfect at in, in fact she had previously said that “God doesn’t expect perfection, and when we do, we’re setting ourselves up for failure.” I have seen that side of myself, that perfection need, rip parts of my life apart. I know it’s hard to give up, but her words are true. In a prayer she offers in the book, she goes on to say,
But here’s the miracle: You are still there. You still want to hear from us. You still care. And if we ask for help in turning to You, in finding You, You will give it.
Can it get any better than knowing this? Knowing that God wants to pour out His spirit on us so that we can know of Him and draw closer to Him? What could we want more from God and His Son? I testify that it’s true. We just have to have the thought, the simple desire, and He will meet us where we are. Always.