Sunday, December 11, 2011

Day 22 - Home

A year ago today my family made a heart-wrenching move from the family home to a new home several miles east.  Both my wife and my oldest daughter have posted about their feelings about this move.  (Dulcinea's blog can be read here.)

The experience of getting here was intense.  In fact, it was like going through a fine strainer at high speed.  When we got to the other side of the strainer there was just us left.  And so we picked up and moved on.

I cannot express enough how much we love our new home, the ward we are in and our new neighbors.  We have felt like honored guests here from day one.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be here, however long that may be.

Day 21 - Trains

If we are talking about Christmas gifts, the quintessential gift is an electric train.  I remember getting one for Christmas and thinking it was the best thing since sliced bread.  Yesterday I took my four youngest children to Dennis Sirrine's house (on 24th St. just south of McKellips in Mesa).  He has 4 acres of yard filled with over 2500 feet of garden scale train track.  The landscaping is phenomenal and the train setup is beyond belief.  Tailgunner's jaw dropped.  I could not believe the attention to detail that went into this guy's hobby.  There was a roundhouse, bridges, a lake, observation platforms, several train stations,a hobo sleeping underneath one of the miniature bridges and even a derailed train.  He will be opening it up again this coming weekend (Friday and Saturday) from 5:30pm - 8:30pm.  You gotta see this.

Day 20 - Noel

My sweet Dulcinea is a member of a phenomenal choir.  How that all came about is a story for another time (told by her) but, suffice it to say, it is a tremendous blessing for us.

Friday night the choir visited the home of a sweet lady who is dealing with a debilitating illness, and is not able to leave her house very often.  I got to tag along, and was overwhelmed by the beauty of the music they sang.  To my ears their pitch was perfect, their timing impeccable and their harmony divine.  Their music filled that home with a beautiful spirit that complimented and amplified the sweetness of their sound.

I felt the Christmas Spirit touch me in a way I haven't felt for years.  It wasn't an excitement for Christmas and seeing the kids open their presents.  Rather, it was a calm assurance that He lives.  That He really did come to earth.  Angels did announce His birth.  And His promises are sure.

During their opening number, "The First Noel", I couldn't help but watch their audience - this wonderful lady and her husband who were facing a grim future over the weeks and months ahead.  Their hope and faith in the Savior was radiating from their faces as they listened.

The Christmas Spirit was in that home - because the choir was giving service and because their audience was echoing their song with faith in the Savior.

My heart sang.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Day 19 - Decorating the Home

The Christmas season is replete with creativity.  People go to incredible lengths to sell their products or to proclaim their enthusiasm for the holidays, and we get to see some pretty cool things as a result.  
At home we are not extravagant but we get into the spirit as well.  This morning I took time to notice some of the decorations my wife has been putting up.  She filled a glass bowl with pine cones from the tree outside with several of the burned out Christmas lights mixed in for a little color.  A new wreath hangs on our door (mostly red - my favorite color), and a poinsettia plant is peaking out of a large vase in the entryway.  Mistletoe hangs from the entryway light, and pine boughs cover the edges of bookshelves and music cabinets.  A small village of Christmas themed objects grace the top of the bookshelf, and a Santa Clause figure joins a menorah and a glass jar of Christmas ornaments on one of the decorative shelves in the living room.  I am sure I will see more things set up as the season progresses.  Why do we do these things?  Well, it seems to me that decorating our homes with Christmas paraphernalia is one of the ways we express the

this season brings to our hearts.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Catch-Up Post

The busyness of the season has hit our household with full force and I am now a week behind in my posts.  (Which my wife pointed out with a subtle - "You need to get back to posting." this morning)

Without further ado -

Day 12 - Christmas Lights
Christmas would not be Christmas without the lights that ring the house.  My wife pulled out and sorted the various strings of lights into "working" and "not working" piles.  We decided on what we were going to do and then I dutifully climbed the ladder and began stringing lights.  My wife handed them to me and gave me great encouragement like: "You look cute while you string Christmas lights."

Day 13 - Mesa Temple Lights
Going to the Temple to see the lights is an annual family tradition.  We went this past Sunday and thoroughly enjoyed it.  This year we had some really cool 3D glasses that acted like prisms with each point of light.  It made tens of thousands of lights look like hundreds of thousands of lights.  Way cool.

Day 14 - Ward Party
This is our second Christmas in our ward (we celebrate our first year here on Sunday) but we moved the weekend after the ward party last year and so we missed it.  We thoroughly enjoyed it this year.  The theme was "Christmas Around the World".  Centerpieces were made out of different artifacts from countries around the world and the cultural hall was festooned with flags (my kind of decorations).  Members of the ward who had lived or who were from other countries told stories about their Christmas experiences in those countries.  I told the legend of the Poinsettia from Mexico.  Dulcinea played a flute solo, Teeney Bopper and Sweet G sang in a youth Choir, Dulcinea, Sweet G and I sang in the choir and Dr. D was Joseph in the nativity.  We made centerpieces with stuff from Mexico and Chile and Dulcinea and her friend Naunee made empanadas.  Yum!

Day 15 - December's Testimony Meeting
Our monthly Fast and Testimony meetings are generally inspiring and uplifting, but there is always something special about the one in December.  We come to Church with tender hearts, reviewing the year and remembering the true meaning of Christmas.  Fast and Testimony meeting this past Sunday was a feast.  Each person who stood up bore their simple witness that Jesus is the Christ.  The diversity of experiences and stages of life that were represented during the meeting added to the spirit that was there.  We heard from two members of our ward who have recently lost their spouses, a sister missionary who had just completed her mission three days earlier and a mother who had just sent her only child off on a mission to her home country of Japan.  Each person gave their witness and their perspective on the Atonement of Christ and the great gift of his life.  I was grateful for the testimonies that were shared.

Day 16 - Christmas Concerts
Friday we attended Sweet G's dance recital, Monday night we went to Blondie's orchestra concert and tomorrow we go to Teeney Bopper's ballroom dance recital.  Seeing our children perform is one of the things that warms our hearts in December.  We have fun trying to find parking, then seats and then cheering for our favorite performers (who share our last name and DNA, of course).

Day 17 - Jacket Weather
Although I bragged earlier about the lovely AZ weather in the winter time, we have been going through a cold spell lately that has required jackets to be worn when outside.  I actually had to brush dust off my coat before I put it on.  We even had snow in some parts of the valley this week that stayed on the ground until around noon.  (For those of you who routinely have to shovel the stuff I realize that this is no biggie, but for us it is almost the event of the year.)

Day 18 - Freedom
70 years ago today the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor Hawaii.  In the years that followed, a generation of men and women stood up and faced a determined enemy, ultimately winning the war.  I realize that war is the antithesis of Christmas, but the themes of loving something more than oneself, sacrifice and preserving freedom run through both topics.  And, of course, there is the promise that when He comes again war will end and we will live with real peace on Earth.
I am grateful for the men and women who have stood up against tyranny to defend freedom.  And I am most grateful that, because of their sacrifice, I have the freedom to worship according to the dictates of my own conscience.  Above all I am a grateful for the ultimate freedom that the Savior provides to all of us - freedom from death and sin.