For Unto Some Is Given

There’s been something on my mind lately -I mean REALLY racking my brain. I’ve been try to answer the question: why?
Why do I do the things I do? What’s my motivation for doing them?

The reason I’ve been thinking about it is that for a few weeks there, I was terrified that perhaps the real reason I did most anything I did was to make myself look good. It was a haunting thought that plagued me -absolutely plagued me. I couldn’t lift a finger without wondering if what I was doing -whether it was my hair, cooking a meal, or calling a friend -was solely to satisfy my own vanity. I’ve told you before that my vanity is my own personal Everest. I don’t define vanity as “looking at myself in the mirror in complete awe of my awesomeness.”
I think vanity would definitely fit that bill, but I believe there’s more it. I’ve done extensive personal research on the subject, you know. Vanity, to me, is spending too much time dwelling on Number One. It’s spending thirty minutes picking out what to wear, just so others will look at it and see something admirable. It’s assuming that people ACTUALLY CARE what I’m wearing.
This is hard for me to write.
It’s revealing and embarrassing.
But I need to get my point across, so if you’ll just stay with me without hating me too much…

This vanity issue has sent me on a journey of self-discovery. I started analyzing my feelings, digging deep to find out why I did certain things.
I expressed my concern to Laurie over the phone, asking the question “I love to do acts of service, but why? Is it because I want people to notice and commend me?”
She replied with a question, “Would you still do it even if people didn’t notice?”
“Of course,” I said.
“Then you’re fine.”

A psychologist once spoke in a meeting I attended, and he stressed the importance of a third party when you’re in the midst of a problem. The answer seems hidden to us, but to someone with another perspective, it’s completely obvious.

The answer is OBVIOUS to us, but because they’re in the thick of it, they can’t think clearly.

Now, now. Laurie was my fresh perspective in this case. What she said made a lot of sense, and I carried it with me while I went on my way.

In the last week, I’ve had something really stand out to me: talents.
As I did my dishes one day, I started thinking about being God. I have a beautiful window to look out of while I warsh my dishes, and I insist -no matter where I live -on having a thinking window over my sink. I love to look out of the window while I warsh. Too bad my name isn’t Wanda.
Wanda warshes whilst wearily wishing by her window.

I digress.

I thought about being God. I thought how fulfilling it would be to create worlds and people, and what a puzzle it would be.
“All right, I’m going to need a hairdresser of some kind sent down with these people… a baker… someone who is good with mechanical thinking… an entertainer…hmmm…” I could see myself in my mind’s eye, positioning peoples all over my world.
“A builder… a musician… an organizer… and someone with a good head on their shoulders… a leader…”

As a God, I would pour these abilities into the little souls in front of me. Unto one I would give athletic abilities. Unto another I would give the ability to create beautiful things… and the list goes on.
In my mind, I sent my little souls into my world and I watched over them, wondering what they would do with what I had given them.

They all went to work.
Some worked with others, their abilities built up and strengthening one another.
Some worked with others, letting others use their abilities for them because they deserved to be served.
Some worked alone.
Some worked at not working at all, which -it must be admitted -really takes it outta ya.
Some worked with others, and abandoned their abilities because they weren’t given what they wanted. Those were my little Tinkerbells (“I don’t want to be a tinker!”).

And as I thought about this, I thought mostly about those that felt they deserved to be served on account of their awesomeness, and I laughed. From where I sat, in my hypothetical Heaven, my little people were making me laugh.
“Yes, YOU are amazing,” I chuckled at them from above, “YOU do it all and YOU are the best. YOU YOU YOU. The world owes you everything because YOUR abilities are amazing. Wait, where did you get those abilities? Oh, that’s right. I gave them to you. Remember me? Hey! Hello?!”

I believe I was given certain abilities to bless the lives of others. Period. I feel that. I KNOW that.
I am an instrument for the One who created me. He put into me certain abilities for a reason, and I want to make absolute certain that I use them for what they were intended.

Do I serve so others will notice? No.
Do I crochet for compliments? No.
Do I raise children so people will commend ME? No.
Do I write so others will notice me? No.

So why? Why do I do it?

Here’s my answer: I do it because Heavenly Father wants me to, and I do it the way that He wants me to. We talk about it, you know. I tremble at the idea of standing before my Maker and having him peer into my soul and ask the question, “Do you know what you COULD have been if you had just USED what I gave you?” And then I’d cast my eyes down and hand him my muddy talent… the one I had buried so as to keep it safe.

I don’t clean well. I try. You know I do. Instead of working harder, I decided to work smarter. I went to a Cleaner.
My aunt. She’s not a professional cleaner, but she has that ability. My cleaning has improved drastically.
My husband is one happy camper.

And guess what? If you don’t crochet, I do!
Guess what else? I’m awful at hair and make-up, but there are a million beautiful women out there who WANT to help me!

We are given talents to use them to bless others. THAT is what life is about. THAT is what Christmas is about.

Please stay with me as I give you a few examples of what I’m talking about… I love to write. You know that. I have a deep, burning desire to use it to bless others. If I can help one person with what I write, I will write it. I want people to read what I’ve written and feel inspired.
I want them to feel something inside of them when they read. I want them to see God through my words. Go ahead, laugh if you want. I know it sounds cliche and Jesus-loving.
But it is the honest-to-goodness truth.

I recently read an article a man wrote about love. While I read it, I thought about the goodness of mankind, the potential of mankind… I was inspired, uplifted, and I wanted to be better. I thought about Heavenly Father’s love for us, and I thought about the Savior. Then… at the very end of the article, I thought ‘The author is a great writer.’
But that wasn’t my first thought, and that wasn’t my last thought because DAYS after reading the article, I’m still affected my it.
THAT is what I want.
THAT is where it’s at.

While browsing youtube looking for a rousing version of “O Holy Night” I stumbled on something different. Anyway, there’s some really irritating renditions of “O Holy Night” out there. O Holy Vibrato.
This is what I found. Please, please listen to the entire thing. It starts off slowly and builds and builds and builds, and IF you will close your eyes after a minute or two and JUST LISTEN, there’s a good chance your very soul will be stirred.
I cried, but that’s just the woman in me.

The song reaches you… touches you. You see God through it, and THEN you think about what a great voice Andrea Bocelli has. He sings so humbly, almost as if he’s doing his best to direct his attention OFF of him and ONTO Heavenly Father.
Well, success!

On the other hand…
Here’s an entertaining (and fictional) example of the flip side of this. All pay homage to Carlotta and her glorious voice!

As I watched The First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional last night, I felt the theme of giving of ourselves… giving of our individual abilities and letting go of commercialization. Of course we’ve heard that song sung before, but last night it meant so much more to me because I understood it better.
I thought of my little imaginary world with my imaginary hairdressers and bakers, and I just understood. It was illuminating.
You probably already understood it.
You probably chuckled your way through this post, thinking about how much time I waste figuring out the obvious.
But such is life.
We all find ourselves stranded on the escalator at some point on another. But this I promise: when you call out “HELLLLLPPPP!” I’ll be nearby to guide you to the stairs if I can. If I can’t, I’ll find someone who can. And if they can’t, together we’ll all find SOMEONE who can.

What better time to enjoy it than the Christmas season?
What better way to enjoy the season than a Christmas devotional? click HERE to watch what I watched last night.

Come What May

Pay Off

Guess what?  My cleaning idea worked miracles.

My husband came home, we made chocolate and butterscotch chip cookies, balanced our checkbooks and per HIS idea trekked over to Wal-Mart to buy the original classic Rudolph and Frosty Christmas movies.  He is the sweetest father, really.  REALLY. He also insisted on buying the kids snow boots (thank goodness because it is STILL snowing) and buying me my very own copy of the classic animated “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” I’ll tell you honestly right now: I’ve never seen the rudolph OR frosty movie. But the grinch? I have it memorized. My dad used to come home from work when I was young and read Dr. Seuss to us. Maybe Dad’s the reason I spend pieces of my free time writing rhythmic, humorous poetry that makes me giggle. And for that, I say: THANK YOU, DAD!!!!!
Every girl should be so lucky.

I was busy wrangling kids when my husband stepped next to me in the Wal-Mart entertainment section and handed me my grinch movie.
“Merry Christmas,” he winked. And I smiled so big my eyes teared up a little. Is it ridiculous how THRILLED I am to own this movie? Why haven’t I bought it sooner? Heaven only knows.

The last thing my husband insisted on last night was a popcorn tin.

So the list of things I wanted… the movie and the cookies and the snuggling? I got it all. Yea, even more so: for I fell victim to a cold. While I was stretched out on the loveseat, hugging a blanket close to me, my husband disappeared for a minute and then reappeared with a second, heavier blanket.
“Want this?” He asked.
“Oh, no. I’m fine, I have a blanket.”
He just shook his head, threw the blanket over me and tucked me in. Three minutes into The Grinch, I was completely out.

This brought to mind a night when we were first dating. He had cooked dinner for me -I was totally impressed by his baked chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn until I realized it was about the ONLY thing he ever cooked and ate -and we were watching a golfing movie (The Legend of Bagger Vance). Halfway through the movie, he caught me shivering. Without a word, he got up and brought me a small blanket. I thanked him and was thoroughly embarrassed when the shivering DID NOT STOP. I was still cold.
I tried hard to hide it.
It did not work.
“You still cold?” He asked.
“No, I’m fine,” I replied, much like last night.
Without a word, he got up and brought me a heavier blanket.

He’s a mind reader of sorts.

He also found a hair in his popcorn last night. How gross is THAT?!

I Want to Wash My Hands, My Face and Hair With

I woke up early this morning -before the sun was up. I peeked out the window, and what did I see?
Snow. Lots and lots of snow. It isn’t unheard of in Arizona, but it isn’t exactly commonplace either. There’s something downright poetic about freshly fallen snow. The muddy aftermath is something different entirely, but we’re not here to talk about that.
Or how my carpets will suffer.

We’re here to talk about a blanket of snow. How is it that something SO cold can make you feel SO warm? It has the potential to take lives, yet it somehow makes us all feel safe. As I stepped into the snow this morning, the air around me was silent. No roosters -no dogs… just silence.
The snow was still gently falling, and I just took it all in. The smell -the feel… it’s really something, isn’t it? Early mornings and daybreak speak for themselves, but when you add in a few inches of snow, it’s breathtaking.
When the sun more-or-less came up, I took a few pictures.

It made me recite Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.”
Just hearing the words in my mind filled me with warmth -the poem’s meaning, like the muddy aftermath, is something utterly different. Again, we’ll just focus on what’s in front of us. It’s hard to feel the cold meaning behind words when they’re lumped together so comfortably.
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep…”
Ahhh, Bobby Frost. You lyrical genius.

I took pictures of cat tracks in the snow. A flock of black birds made a sudden, mass exodus from one of my trees and scared the growing filly next to my house.
I love that action shot. I looks more like a real, live medieval photograph taken during an attack… raining arrows!

My daughter woke up uncharacteristically early (in fact, she didn’t wake up until 10 am yesterday and that was only because I WOKE her up. She wasn’t happy and quickly informed me that in her dreams she had been flying on Santa’s sleigh with her Grammy. She stretched out her arms and wistfully said, “I wish I was still dreaming…”), so I told her to look out of her window.

Wonder of wonders!

Brother, GET UP!

He didn’t want anything to do with it, but I hoisted him up and forced him to look. He crumpled back into my arms.
“I want to go back to sleep,” he muttered.
“Do you want to snuggle up with Daddy in my bed?” I asked.
“No,” he groggily replied, “I just need my boots.”

These are the days I’m glad I picked up snow gloves for a $1 on the spring clearance rack. AND I actually remembered where they were in the house! Wonder of wonders, indeedy.
I tried to get my husband outside to build a snowman with the kids, but he gave me his gloves instead, insisting he had to be at work, or something. Nonsense, if ya ask me.

Our snowman was amazing, can I just say? Until he crumpled. We all headed inside. I was too tired to care. The girl was too cold to care.
But the boy? Man, oh man. Those TEARS can work a mother over.
“DADDY!” He wailed, tears streaming down his face, “My snowman just MELTED!”
What kind of mother would I be if I let defeat be the order of the day? In any case, when he’s 5 and 9 and 11 and 27, I’ll remind him of that snowman and how WE CONQUERED.
Put our shoulders to the wheel, so to speak.

In a matter of minutes, we had our snowman… built more carefully this time.

The ground is entirely covered in snow, and we couldn’t find any rocks to use as eyes, lips, and buttons… so we improvised and busted out mom’s tiny scented pine cones.

My daughter had gone inside long before, citing the cold as the most vile of offenders.
We joined her after taking pictures. Our power was out, and the boy soon drifted back to sleep (he really did just want sleep), so after doing some cleaning, Lacy and I faced off for three grueling rounds of Candyland.

My husband called about that time and told me he was going to try and come home early from work. I cheered and started listing everything we could do together!
Hot cocoa!
Freshly baked cookies!
Cozy, cozy, cozy!

“We really just need to get some cleaning done,” he said, breaking my winter spirit. He wasn’t ENTIRELY wrong (though maybe just a little) since the house actually isn’t in bad shape so long as you stay away from the computer desk and out of the bathrooms.
I rolled up my sleeves and cleaned the computer desk off, hoping it would up my chances for those freshly baked cookies and Christmas movie.
While I was bustling around the house, I saw this:

She was sitting on the table, facing the window, munching on a pile of dried pineapple bits, and just WATCHING the snow. By this time, the power had come on. She had infinite entertaining options, and there she sat, the smartest of us all.
“Want to sit by me?” She asked, scooting over on the table top. I did sit by her (in a chair), we ate pineapple bits and watched the snow fall.
It was sublime.

So maybe we should clean.
Maybe we should watch movies.
Or maybe… just maybe… we should sit at the foot of life and enjoy what it gives us in the moment it gives it to us.

And maybe we should also take pictures of our children when they insist on wearing their Elmo Easter basket on their head when they can’t find a hat to wear outside.

One Lucky Boy

And yeah, that’s laundry they’re sitting on. Come on. Who hasn’t sat on clean laundry this week? I think it’s safe to say that everyone is in recovery mode -recovering from Thanksgiving, that is.

How’s your Christmas going? I have a few gifts bought, a few made. Our tree isn’t up because we’re getting a real tree this year (I almost said “real, live” but real Christmas trees are actually “real, dead” and I didn’t want to sound morbid. It isn’t festive). I’ve got the mistletoe hung (I bought it at family dollar), both Nativities up (one for us, one for the kids to mess around with), and I’ve got greenery to start making a few wreaths (dead greenery).
Yes, it’s that wonderful time of year where we all stress out, eat too much, and lie to our children about a fat man with a bag full of gifts he may or may NOT be leaving at our house. Wonderful, isn’t it? Well, yes. It is.

I vow every year to stress less and less, and it’s actually working. Two years ago, I should have liked to curse Christmas. We missed the whole meaning of the season because we were trying SO HARD to make it “good for our kids.” Whadda joke. Last year was a little better, but I was so wrapped up in crafting, teaching preschool, working as a pianist at the school… anyway, Christmas was a little better, but I still ended up vowing that this year it would be LESS STRESSFUL.
So far? So good.

Christmas isn’t about stress anyway. It’s not about a checklist of duties that HAVE to be done because it’s Crimeny Christmas for Crying out Loud. It’s about giving of yourself -whether it’s time or money or a smile… give.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is passing around plates full of junk to people I love. I LOVE feeding people. Two years ago, we weren’t able to get it done (bah humbug!) so last year we got it done the FIRST weekend in December. I thought about Christmas all year that year… how we had abandoned the true meaning of it, and I was determined to start a fresh last year.

Am I boring you yet? Yes, Alicia. You blew it two years ago. You did a little better last year. We get it.
I guess I’m just sitting down to write myself a letter and remind myself how this year is going to be. It’s going to be warm and giving and absolutely full of Christmas spirit.

Happy December, everyone. Please don’t stress yourself out this year with needing and wanting and getting and having and competing and and and…

Just sit down with a cuppa hot cocoa and watch your favorite Christmas movie with your favorite people.
Read “A Christmas Carol.”
Read Luke 2.
Make something for someone because you love them.
Give thanks for what you do have, and be content therein. Most people don’t have what you do, you know.

Take a lot of time this month to fully appreciate it all.
Just remember: keep it festive (read: no talk of the deadness of your trees).