Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear!

So, it's Christmas time. It's usually one of my favorite times of the year! This year though, I have been hard pressed to find my Christmas Spirit. I don't know where it went! And I hate when I can't find it - it totally ruins everything. Sure, life has been a little hectic and/or stressful, but that doesn't usually stop me. But I had come to terms with it. I quit trying. All of my favorite holiday movies are packed up in boxes somewhere, so I can't watch them. It's has not been particularly cold this year, so it doesn't feel or smell like Christmas. There aren't as many lights out this year, and when we went to Stone Mountain to see the lights there (like I have done MANY years in the past) it all of the sudden costs an extra $20 bucks to walk around the village! Bah-humbug! I'm to cheap for that! So, these are a few of the reasons why I haven't found my Christmas cheer.

Until last night.

I was going about it all wrong. I was focusing on me, and that's not what Christmas is all about. I went and delivered some packages to some friends. I love giving people gifts, and putting the thought and effort into picking out that perfect thing that they will really love or use. Some years I'm better at it than others, but it doesn't matter, I love trying! I love being around family and getting to see people who I haven't seen in a while, and hearing stories and sharing memories of those who aren't with us anymore. I love feeling the love and joy Christmas brings out in people. So, as I was driving home from delivering those packages and doing some late night shopping at Kohl's (thank goodness they were open until midnight!) a song came on the radio. It was a song that I loved as a kid and used to sing with my mom and brother all of the time. It's called "Do You Hear What I Hear." I wasn't really paying much attention, because I was so exhausted, but all of the sudden I started listening as this verse started playing:

Said the Shepard boy to the mighty king
Do you know what I know
In your palace wall mighty king
Do you know what I know
A child, a child
Shivers in the cold
Let us bring him silver and gold
Let us bring him silver and gold

This is when I got goosebumps. Then, the last verse played:

Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people everywhere
Listen to what I say
The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

And that might be when I started to tear up (I will neither confirm or deny that I actually started crying...) The realization that I had been so selfish and almost Scrooge-like hit me - hard. I had forgotten why Christmas is so beautiful, and how I have been given the best gift of all - the Savior in my life. And this is the time of year we get to celebrate Him, His wonderful life, and the people who had the faith to allow this wonderful miracle to come to pass! I had it all wrong. I'm not perfect - I let all the things in my life pile up and block out what really matters most - Jesus Christ.

I'm so grateful for this time of year, and the reminders we have all around us about what the holiday season is really about. They are there, we just have to look for them. I'm excited to celebrate with my mom's family later on today. I don't get to see them often enough, but it's always a blast when we get together! I know we will have a gift exchange, but we will also talk about the story of Christmas, and sing Christmas songs that allow us to focus on the Lord. I'm so grateful for that, and for what the Christmas Spirit really is all about.

I will leave you with a quote from the article The Best Christmas Ever, where President Thomas S. Monson, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, says (and quotes):

President David O. McKay (1873–1970) declared: “True happiness comes only by making others happy—the practical application of the Savior’s doctrine of losing one’s life to gain it. 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. Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered, and God obeyed. The spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than things. To catch the real meaning of the “spirit of Christmas,” we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the “Spirit of Christ.”


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Catching Up

I keep checking the blog to see if Ashley has posted something, but I realized today that she won't be able to post anything for a while, so it falls to me. You see, we moved Ashley out of her condo on Saturday and she's now staying at her mom's house, which has some type of internet deal I've never heard of where only one person can be on the internet at a time and they have to login or some such nonsense, so she can't use her laptop to get on the internet. At work it's board meeting week which means she's busy all day (plus she has to stay late Wednesday and Thursday, conveniently allowing her to skip out on being my date to my work holiday party). So, yeah, if I want to read something new on this blog, I have to write it.

But, don't worry, I'll spare you from my self-indulgent writing and instead just post some pictures from the last few months. Those always seem to be popular.

My brother, Carter, built this bottle launcher to have some fun with his kids. It's pretty ingenious. Pressurized air is put into the system (see the air compressor hose connected to the right side) and obviously something wants to give. The bottle is held in place by little plastic nubs (see detail below) that are locked into place above the rim of the bottle by a piece of piping that can be yanked down. When you pull on the string, it pulls down the piping holding the plastic tabs, all that pressurized air finally has a place to go, and the bottle shoots into the air.

Detail of the plastic nubs and the bit of pipe that holds them in place.

Carter thought more weight would help it launch higher, so we added this boot. It didn't help.

I only post this picture because sadly, this is the last picture that I have of my brother's beautiful purebred boxer, Hazel. She died of cancer this past weekend. It's hard to tell in this picture, but she's got some pretty sizable lumps in her throat, part of what killed her. She wasn't in pain, though.

We went bowling a few weeks ago. I don't know if you've ever seen Ashley bowl, but her form is... interesting. I want to say awful, but she doesn't do so badly, really. I kept trying to capture the weirdest part, which is that she kicks her left leg out in front of her and to the left. You can see her arm way up in the air, though, and I think the leg kicking is to counterbalance the crazy release she does.

I know, you've seen a million pictures like this. Everyone takes them - they always seem impressive when you take it, but then later you're like, wow, that's a boring picture. Still, I'm always amazed at how it can look like another planet above the clouds. This was on my way to Chicago for a presentation that I was really nervous about. I actually hand wrote seven pages of presentation notes on the flight. Most writing I've done with a pen since college.

I love these two trees in front of my house. I changed the color in iPhoto to make the picture look more like the color looked in person, but I overdid it a bit. You can see that with a lot of the leaves yet to fall there's already a pretty thick carpet of them on the lawn. A few weeks later, when I still hadn't mowed or raked the lawn, my Dad (quite tactfully, actually) asked if I'd mind if he came over and cleaned up the leaves for me. He said he had a whole leaf-gathering operation running and wouldn't mind doing it. I accepted.

Ashley made a delicious apple crisp when we were at the cabin. So Martha Stewart! Except Ashley's a lot sexier.

This was on the mantel at the cabin. Kind of creepy, because it was always staring at you.


This was just after lugging three pretty heavy sections of an entertainment cabinet up a steep hill into Ashley's mom's house. All those boxes are Ashley's stuff. I'd say about 1/12th of it.

That's it for now. Maybe I'll do another one of these in a month or two. Blogger is a total pain to add pictures too, though. Hmmm... Maybe I'll let Ashley do the next one.