Friday, December 13, 2013

Feelin' Lucky

I am not sure if I will even be able to post this.  As I have been thinking about writing it- it is getting too mushy and sappy for me to even stomach it, let alone post it!  But here goes...

Lately I have been feeling lucky.  Not the "let's go to Vegas and put it all on 7" lucky.  Or the kind of "feeling lucky" that JT feels after he has done the dishes and vacumed the house.  This is a different kind of lucky.

A few years ago I read the book The Power by Rhonda Byrne. (A must read.) It was a life changing book.  (Which is what lead me to The Magic, which may have been an even more life changing book!  Crazy how many times my life has changed in the last few years... pretty soon you may not even be able to recognize me!) The main concept of the book is how the law of attraction works.  Feeling love for things will bring those things to you. This is a hard thing to master when you have struggles, because you are even suppose to love those struggles. (crazy)

Recently I had the chance to teach Riley about this "power".  We were bowling with some cousins and Riley was getting frustrated that she was bowling poorly and others were doing better than her.  (Man, she is the mini-me!) I felt so sad as I watched her missing out on the fun with her family because she was too consumed by her own sadness.  (I remember doing this exact same thing as a child.  I remember my parents being frustrated that I wouldn't "just be happy" and that I was missing out.  I remember feeling even more frustrated that for some reason I couldn't "just be happy" which made me even more miserable!)  My heart broke as I watched her.  I knew she would go home and regret missing out on the fun, but I knew that she had no idea how to stop being disappointed.  We had a minute to go to the bathroom (in a bowling alley-- soooooo grosse!) where I decided to take a risk and try to help.

In the bathroom I told her that I knew the trick for her to be able to bowl better and start having fun.  I am sure she thought that I was going to teach her some new technique (or how to cheat) but instead I told her about The Power.  I promised Riley if she would be happy for her cousins and siblings when they bowled well, that she would start to bowl better also.  I told her she would have to cheer for them, and give them High-Fives whenever they took a turn.  I promised that by being happy for other's good fortune it would come to her as well.  Then I prayed like crazy that the law of attraction was real and would work! I was pretty nervous, since I had made a promise.  But I really believe in the power of love and that in giving love you will receive it. (Mostly because I have applied it and been benefited by it so much in my own life.)

We headed back down to our lane where her cousins bowled.  I reminded her to High Five and cheer, which she did somewhat begrudgingly, when they did well.  Finally it was her turn, and she pushed the ball down the ramp (thank goodness for ramps and bumpers!) and guess what happened next?  The first Strike of the night!!  Riley ran and buried her head in my lap like she does when she is embarrassed and wanting to hide her giant smile.  She was amazed.  I was relieved.  She continued to energetically cheer for her cousin and for Macie and give High Fives after every turn, and she continued to bowl well.  There are probably a ton of explanations for this.  Most likely that being selfless makes you feel good, and when you feel good you do good.  And when you are genuinely happy for others, you feel happier for yourself.  This worked even when she guttered the ball (amazing to still be able to gutter ball with bumpers) she was still able to be happy.

Riley bowling with cousins!

I seriously couldn't get a good shot of Blake.

I am not just feeling lucky that Riley bowled so well.  Or that I didn't have a promise backfire on me.  I am feeling lucky because I have really seen this law of attraction working in my own life lately.

I noticed it at the beginning of summer, when I saw a friend post on facebook about how she wanted her children to learn to do more service this summer.  She wasn't just passively thinking about it either.  She had already arranged to take her kids to a nursing home to cheer up the elderly.  She also had plans for a fun, and academic summer as well.  I was in awe of her motivation.  Summer wasn't just a time for her to read a book while her kids fought over the T.V.  It was a time to learn, serve, and play.  As soon as I was done being impressed by her, I began to be jealous that I am not her!  Why am I not that cool? And then I remembered the Power.  It's OK that I am not her, because I am friends with her!  How lucky am I to be friends with an amazing woman??  I must be doing something right to attract a person like that into my life.  The happier I am for her, and grateful for her example, the more I may become like her.

Once I noticed this it became very easy for me to recognize all of the beautiful, amazing women that I am surrounded by!  I have a friend whose life has been turned upside down the last few years.  By the loss of a still born baby, the change of faith in her family, the change of direction in many ways, but through it all she has been an example of unconditional love.  She has reminded me how to love everything about someone, how to survive grief, how to stay calm and carry on.  She loves and serves and teaches everyone around her.  And she is my friend!  I don't have to be her, (although there are moments that I have wanted to) but I can be blessed that I am around her.

I have another friend who seems to always have the right thing to say.  Our talks started at the gym, of all places, while we were stretching after work outs.  There have been many tears shed on those nasty gym mats as we have had a chance to share some of our most difficult trials.  She is a beautiful, strong woman and it would be so easy to be jealous of her strength and her intelligence, but instead I just feel lucky to have her insights and her advice.

Do you see where I am going with this?  I feel like I am surrounded.  I even have a friend (who has been mistaken a few times for my sister, which is absolutely a compliment!) that loves to think the same ridiculous thoughts as me.  We have fun laughing at the same things, while bonding over very similar struggles.  Our lives have flowed on a parellel line for so long that I feel like we understand each other's paths as well as our own.  She is well loved, and extremely talented.  She is smart in many ways that I am not.  But I don't feel jealousy, I just feel love.

I could even go back 20 years to the beginning of one of my most meaningful friendships of all.  A friend that I could not have lived without during high school and my young adult years.  A friend who is extremely talented and the type that most of us are jealous of!  She has always been able to ground me, while reading my mind, and cracking me up.  While reading The Magic recently, one chapter challenged me to think of someone who had a huge impact on my life and to Thank them in my mind throughout the day.  Of course she was the first person who came to my mind.  She has always had a powerful and positive affect on me, and I have always felt blessed to call her my best friend.

I could go on and on and on.  The close friend that I visit teach that serves me way more than I could serve her!  Whose talents and creativity are boundless!  Every time I am in her home I feel total peace, which is a priceless gift to share with a friend.  (Did you see what I did with that play on words? Priceless?  Ok, that is the only hint I am giving!)  Or another friend who puts her children and family first.  Filling her backyard with amazing toys, a beautiful garden, and tons of opportunities for adventures.  She does this because she loves her children.  Not for anyone else to see, or for any other purpose than to be a wonderful mom.  She does all of this while working part time to take care of women in labor.  She can be exhausted from her hard work, and still have a fun day planned for her family.  I love being inspired whenever I am around her.  And another friend who seems to be the most talented person I have ever met.  I can't think of talent or virtue that she doesn't possess.  She juggles her church service, her family, her friends, her musical pursuits, her dreams, her creativity, her faith, and her many other talents before I even get out of bed.  If she wasn't so absolutely lovable I am sure all women would be insanely jealous of her.  But I am just deeply grateful that someone so amazing would also love me.  Her goodness seems to rub off on everyone around her, which makes it easy to be grateful for her and to feel lucky to have her as a friend.

So you see why I can hardly post this?

It is so sappy, so mushy, so gushy it is almost nauseating   And yet, I have a million more girl friends I want to mention!  (Did you notice how I slipped in how I have a million more friends? So that you would all be jealous of my popularity and how many friends I have?  Don't be jealous, be happy for me  and you will be popular too! ((That's the law of attraction!)) "Just not quite as pop-u-lar as meeeeeeeee!" If you don't know what song that is from, we are not friends.)

I have really struggled to post this because I hate for anyone to feel left out.  I would be devastated if one of my close friends was not mentioned and feels undervalued.  That is not the case at all.  And I sincerely hope that no one feels like that.  I just have too many friends. (just kidding) So I am posting this (at the risk of unintentionally hurting someone) because I know how lucky we all are.  And how blessed we all are to have each other.  Uh oh, time to go, it is getting really mushy and it is almost "that time of the month" so some crazy sappy stuff may start coming out of my mouth!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Having A Christ Centered Holiday

Last month I was asked to give a quick little talk at a Thanksgiving Dinner with the topic of having a Christ Centered Holiday.  I thought I would share that talk here for those of you that are heartbroken to have missed it.... 

When I was a child my Mom’s best friend, our next door neighbor was Donna Semonelli.  Donna is Jewish.  And for Christmas one year she thought it would be appropriate to give my mother the Barbara Streissand Christmas Album (Because she liked the irony of a Jewish friend giving her Christian friend a record of a Jewish singer singing Christmas music.)  That album became our symbol of the beginning of Christmas.  Every year, as soon as my mom played that record, and we heard Barbara’s fast paced version of Jingle Bells we knew it was time for Christmas.

My children and I have a similar tradition; only their favorite song is Josh Groban’s Little Drummer Boy.  It has become a family favorite.  And every time we sing it, I think about the words. (Don’t worry, I will not sing them) 

Come they told me, pa rum pa pum pum, A new born king to see, Our finest gifts we bring, To lay before the King, So to Honor Him, When we come.”

The next verse continues as this young drummer boy explains his gift:
“Little Baby, I am a poor boy too, I have no gift to bring, That’s fit to give our King, Shall I play for you, On my drum?”

According to the song, Mary agreed and he played his drum as a gift for the King of Kings.  And it is reiterated that He is playing to Honor the Baby.  And then he even says “I played my best for him”.

I think my kids love all of the “pa rum pa pum pums” in the song, but I love that little part.  That the poor boy played his best to Honor the Baby Jesus.

Tonight, I have the opportunity to speak about having a Christ Centered Holiday.  In the First Presidency Christmas Devotional in 2011 President Uchtdorf  talks about this Spirit of Christmas.  He said   
“It is usually something small—we read a verse of scripture, we hear a sacred carol and really listen to its words, or we witness a sincere expression of love. In one way or another, the Spirit touches our hearts, and we see that Christmas, in its essence, is much more sturdy and enduring than the many minor things of life [that] we too often use to adorn it.
“We realize in these precious moments what we feel and know in our heart—that Christmas is about the Christ.”
I love that simple reminder, that we may feel in a song, in a verse, in a Family Home Evening that remind us that Christmas is about Christ.  But how do we continue to remember that throughout the Holiday season?  After all, Black Friday now starts on Thursday!  We have to get out there and start buying our gifts, and climbing our roofs to string the lights, and hunting and searching for the perfect Noble Fir to display in our living room.  It seems so easy to forget those beautiful words of a hymn, or verse about Christ when there are so many other distractions.  Even though some of those distractions are good as well.  (I want to make sure that JT knows he is not off the hook for putting up Christmas lights this year.)

But I think there is a lesson for me in the song my kids love, and also from the story of Christ’s birth. 

President Uchtdorf said that we, “like the Wise Men of old, should seek the Christ and lay before Him the most precious of gifts: a broken heart and a contrite spirit. We should offer Him our love.”

There is nothing I can buy for sale on Black Friday, to offer the Savior.  The only thing I have to offer Him is my heart, and my love.  We each have our own ways of offering this gift.  The Wise Men brought expensive gifts as a symbol and acknowledgement of His Royalty.  The little (and probably fictitious) drummer boy brought his talents.  A few years ago when our family was struggling financially, our friends secretly provided Christmas gifts for our family.  That tender offering was sacred in our home, and was an offering to Christ as much as it was to my children.  Because when we serve our fellow men we are only in the service of our God.  And when we bring tender, heart felt gifts to those in need, we are laying them at His feet as well.  As a missionary, my companion and I sang Christmas Carols at the homes of our investigators.  In a poverty stricken, third world country, I would have loved to have given the material gifts that they so desperately needed.  But the offering I had was simply the beautiful message of a Savior.

There are literally hundreds or thousands of ways that we can be like this Little Drummer Boy and give our best to the Savior this Holiday Season.  I love that the Holiday Season begins with Thanksgiving.  What better way to prepare to celebrate the Birth of the Savior than by giving Thanks? We can start right there, and carry that spirit of Gratitude for the rest of the season. 

As a parent, I feel like one of the ways I can “offer Him my heart and my love” (like President Uchtdorf suggested) is to teach my children.  After all, as the mother in the home, I am probably the biggest contributor to the Spirit in our home.  If I am frazzled by gift wrapping, and turkey, and holiday baking - that may become the center of our holiday.  And I, like the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas may teach them to misunderstand the meaning and purpose of Christmas.  I love when the Grinch hears the Who’s singing on Christmas morning.

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
"It came without packages, boxes or bags!"
And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
"Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"
I have tried, over the past few years, to combat some of that materialism by adding in some traditions that help us to focus a little more on the Savior every day and to teach my kids that Christmas does mean more.  The first couple years, I made one of those fun “countdown chains” that the kids could pull off one link each night.  And the link would have a scripture about Christ that we could read together as a family before bed.  I was amazed at how much a simple little scripture helped me to stay focused on the Savior.

Last year I decided I really wanted an advent calendar.  I always loved them growing up, especially the ones with candy behind the little doors!  And while I was scouring Pinterest and Costco for “the perfect advent calendar”, I realized I wanted it to be more than just a chocolate, I wanted it to some how countdown to the Birth of the Savior.  And since pinterest and Costco didn’t have “the perfect count down to the birth of the Savior advent calendar” I had to make my own. (I am not some super crafter or anything, so please don’t get any ideas to call me to Relief Society Enrichment or anything).  And every day, as we placed an ornament on the tree – with a scripture and symbol of Christ, we studied about the birth, life, and teachings of Christ.

This is just one simple way, that my little family has tried to have a Christ centered holiday.  I hope to continue to add more traditions that enable us to offer our best gifts this year. 

I’d like to suggest one last way that we can have a Christ centered holiday and offer a gift to the Savior.  President Uchtdorf suggested that this gift be a “broken and contrite heart”.  This is the offering that Christ commanded the Nephites to offer when He came to the promised land. This was to be there sacrifice.  We all have something we can sacrifice. A bad habit, a sin, even a sin of omission, or something that we have been reluctant to do for whatever reason.  What will your offering be?

 This Christmas, we can focus on giving the purest, and best offering of a pure, contrite, broken, and willing heart.  There may not be a better gift to give to the Christ Child than a willingness to repent and come closer unto Him.  After all, it is a season celebrating Birth- a new beginning.

I love this season.  I love the smell of trees, I love the shopping, I love the Christmas carols and Christmas decorations, I love the giving, and baking, and every other aspect of this season.  But above all of that, I love the Savior.  I am deeply grateful to be a member of His Church and to feel such a closeness to Him at this time.  I hope that our hearts grow like the Grinch’s heart, as we realize that Christmas means a little bit more this year.  And that we can all find an offering to give that brings us closer to Him and centers our lives around Him.

Here is a link to the post I did last year that shows the tree Felt Advent Tree that I made with the Scriptures.  
Merry Christmas!