Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas 2009

Christmas this year has been wonderful. I still have a couple days of the 60 degree San Diego winter and adventures with the family, but I wanted to share my favorite moments so far.

Ushering for the Grinch

Walking in the Canyon

Visiting with the Mitchell Kids

Sitting in the sunshine reading a book and listening to 8 kids in the backyard being kings, queens, knights, prisoners, and "establishers of justice"

Muggle Jammies

Waiting for Santa

James being sick on Christmas eve night (not really one of my favorite things but this picture cracks me up)

Getting a Snuggie from Santa!

My sister's silliness

Seeing my cousins

Martha Stewart Crafts

Shopping with my Mom

Living the cozy life

Hope you all had a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Home for Christmas

I've been home in San Diego since Saturday and oh how lovely it has been! I am so grateful that my family lives in Southern California where the winters are 60 degrees. It has been so fun to see all the wonderful people here that I love, to sing in the ward Christmas program, to laugh with my family, to do last minute Christmas shopping, to stay up late talking to my mom, to enjoy all of the things I love most in life and not have to worry about schoolwork!

I think one of my favorite things so far in the trip has been the hike we went on this afternoon with the Mitchell kids in the canyon. It was a beautiful windy, cloudy day and I got some pretty pictures.

Fun weather! I felt like I was in a Maynard Dixon painting.

What could be better for two little boys?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fall on Your Knees: Looking at Christmas Music

We had an amazing musical program at church on Sunday. We have several girls in Concert Choir, a classical guitar major, and other wonderful musicians. Our Relief Society President is in Concert Choir and is an English major, so she gave a powerful lesson on a literary analysis of Christmas music.

We first looked at a phrase from "What Child is This?" The phrase that had really struck her was "Good Christians fear; for sinners here the silent Word is pleading." The semicolon means that these are two different statements connected by an overarching theme. They could be two separate sentences. Why are the good Christians counseled to fear? I think it's out of humility, that if they are self-righteous, thinking themselves "good Christians" rather than sinners, they may not receive salvation. Christ came to save sinners.

I also love the phrase "silent Word." Word is capitalized, referring to Christ Himself (such as in John chapter 1). I also love that it is the "silent Word." What good is a word that is silent, not heard? And yet Christ is silent so many times, waiting for us to be humble enough to come unto Him. He does not compromise our agency or impose upon us. He is silent. He waits.

I also love the meaning of the word "pleading." It's heartfelt and sincere asking, similar to begging but without the connotation of inferiority. I think pleading represents asking with our whole hearts, doing all we can do to invite and persuade someone. That's what Christ does for us. He is continually pleading, asking us with all the energy and love He possesses, to come unto Him and find eternal life. If He is asking with His whole soul, should we not respond with the wholeness of our souls?

Another great phrase in "What Child is This?" is "Come Peasant Kings to own Him." I love the concept of the peasant kings; each of us, now matter how lowly in the eyes of the world, can become a king or queen through the Atonement of Jesus the Christ. But we need to "own Him." I believe that in coming to know Christ and forming our own relationship with Him, we, in a sense, own part of Him. He becomes real to us. We access His grace and are made perfect through His Atonement.

One of the phrases I love from Christmas music is from "O Holy Night." The admonition to "Fall on your knees" reminds me of how much I owe my Savior, how sometimes I need to stop everything I am doing and commune with Him. It reminds me that without His help, I cannot stand. It reminds me that I need to be more humble and make more room for Him in my life, to let go of the things of the world and surrender all to Him.

I think my favorite Christmas song, however, is "Silent Night." I love it because of the story of how it came about.

In 1818, a roving band of actors was performing in towns throughout the Austrian Alps. On December 23 they arrived at Oberndorf, a village near Salzburg where they were to perform the story of Christ's birth in the small Church of St. Nicholas.
Unfortunately, the St. Nicholas' church organ wasn't working and would not be repaired before Christmas. Because the church organ was out of commission, the actors presented their Christmas drama in a private home. Even so, that Christmas presentation put assistant pastor Josef Mohr in a meditative mood. Instead of walking straight to his house that night, Mohr took a longer way home. The longer path took him up over a hill overlooking the village.
From that hilltop, Mohr looked down on the peaceful snow-covered village. Reveling in majestic silence of the wintry night, Mohr gazed down at the glowing scene. His thoughts about the Christmas play suddenly made him to remember a poem he had written a couple of years before. It was a poem about the night when angels announced the birth of the long-awaited Messiah to shepherds on a hillside.
Mohr decided those words would make a good carol for his congregation the following evening at their Christmas eve service. However, he didn't have any music to which that poem could be sung. So, the next day Mohr went to see the church organist, Franz Xaver Gruber. Gruber only had a few hours to come up with a melody which could be sung with a guitar. However, by that evening, Gruber had managed to compose a musical setting for the poem. It no longer mattered that their church organ was broken. They now had a Christmas carol they could sing without it.
On Christmas Eve, the little Oberndorf congregation heard Gruber and Mohr sing their new composition to the accompaniment of Gruber's guitar.
Weeks later, well-known organ builder Karl Mauracher arrived to fix the St. Nicholas church organ. When he finished, Mauracher stepped back to let Gruber test the instrument. When Gruber sat down, his fingers began playing the simple melody he had written for Mohr's Christmas poem. Deeply impressed, Mauracher took the music and words of "Silent Night" back to his own Alpine village, Kapfing. There, two well-known families of singers -- the Rainers and the Strassers -- heard it. Captivated by "Silent Night," both groups put the new song into their Christmas season repertoire.

The Strasser sisters spread the carol throughout northern Europe. In 1834, after they had performed "Silent Night" for King Frederick William IV of Prussia, that king ordered his cathedral choir to sing it every Christmas eve.
The Rainers brought the song to the United States in 1839, singing it (in German) at the Alexander Hamilton Monument located outside New York City's Trinity Church.
In 1863, nearly fifty years after being first sung in German, "Silent Night" was translated into English (by either Jane Campbell or John Young). In 1871 the English version was published in an American hymnal: Charles Hutchins' Sunday School Hymnal.

I love this story because Mohr and Gruber were just trying to have a nice Christmas service for their congregation. They wrote the song to truly testify of Christ, and had no idea that their humble project would become one of the most beloved Christmas carols of all time. It reminds me that my humble works can be great in the eyes of God. I love the song itself because it is slow, peaceful, and simple. It brings the Spirit and helps Christ to make my soul still. It helps me to trust Him and find peace in Him.

I love this time of year and the opportunity to testify of Christ and become more like Him. I love being able to listen to these songs and learn a little more about Him every year. I am grateful for His Atonement that helps me become a little better every day. I am grateful for His patience with me. I am grateful for the fullness of His gospel. I am grateful for every single thing He has put into my life and what I learn from them. I am grateful that I can have a relationship with Him. I am so grateful that He is my best friend who walks with me every step of the way.

Fall on your knees.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Eternal Family

My little brother had an assignment which consisted of finishing sentences. They were pretty awesome, such as:

I wish I could change...the end of Harry Potter.
When I'm alone, I...sing songs of Michael Jackson.
When I'm going to bed I think about...Harry Potter.
The worst thing that has ever happened to me was...all my friends and family moved away. But not on the same day.
Three things people describe me as awesome dude, rad, and Christlike.

But here's the best one.
The best day of my life was...when I learned that my family is eternal.

Not going to Disneyland or Christmas or a birthday, but when he learned that his family can be together forever. He is the most amazing little boy that I know. He teaches me so much. I love him with all my heart.

But this is the part that made me cry.

After this assignment, my mom asked my brother where he learned this beautiful truth. And he said that he learned it from me. One day he was crying because he didn't want me go away to school. To help him feel better, I told him that because Mom and Dad were sealed in the temple, our family can be together forever. If we try our very best to be good, we can someday all be together and never have to miss anyone. We can have a fullness of joy.

I didn't know if he understood that abstract concept, or if it would be able to comfort him. But know I know that it has.

Some days it gets really hard, and I want to run home to be encircled by the arms that always love me, to see this sweet little face.

But I know that my place is here in snowy Utah, to learn "big girl things" and to grow up.

But I also know that my family can be together forever.
Oh, how grateful I am for that!

And this is what we'll be doing for eternity.

Compliments from Strangers

I've gotten a couple odd compliments this weekend.

Customer at Jamba Juice: You have a great wrist motion there. (I was pouring the smoothie into the cup and tapping the heel of my hand on the blender to get it all out)

Guy in my ward: You look very nice from the back. And from the front too.

Not the most desired or impressive compliments, but hey, I'll take it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Just Blessed.

Today wasn't extraordinary, but it was happy. I was able to get things done and prepare for my finals. (Another tender mercy - I survived my big projects last week and feel that I did well on them! yay!) But the best was at an open house that my Stake President hosted.

As I stood around the piano singing Christmas carols, I felt full of happiness and gratitude. I am grateful for my wonderful family and the love we share, even though we are far apart. I am grateful for my best friend who is faithfully serving the Lord. I am grateful for my sweet roommates who always stand by my side and help me through my struggles. I am grateful for the new friends I made that night. I am grateful for my Savior and the opportunities I have to serve Him. I am grateful for every single thing God has placed in my life, and especially how He has helped me to find joy in my journey.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

First Snow

Though some people complain about the snow, I truly believe that it is a tender mercy from the Lord. Maybe it's just because I'm from So Cal and I don't have to go tracting in it all day, but I think snow is beautiful and magical. It seems to make this dirty, dusty, ordinary world beautiful and majestic. It kinda makes the earth more like a temple, covering everything in white. Also, people feel sorry for missionaries when they are out in the cold and are more willing to let them in the door! Most of all, it finally feels like Christmas. And no time of the year is better than Christmas.

Have a Happy Winter, everyone!

Saturday, December 5, 2009


I have learned a lot this last semester. I have really been struggling with a certain person and felt a lot of anger towards them. (Well, a lot of anger for me. You probably know that I'm a lot like my father and Giselle in Enchanted, and therefore anger is a relatively new concept for me. haha.)I usually keep my mouth shut and leave the situation so people can see of little of my anger as possible. But a few weeks ago I was listening to a BYU forum by Arun Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi's grandson. He said that the method I use is not the best way to handle anger, because it does not solve the problem; when the issue resurfaces there is even more anger and hurt because it has not been dealt with. This was a new revelation for me! I am not great at it yet, but I have been working on trying to handle my anger in a positive.

Then this morning I was reading Elder Kent D. Watson's talk "Being Temperate in All Things" which was even more of a revelation to me! (Such perfect timing too- definitely a tender mercy.) Here is what Elder Watson said:

"When others are unkind, Jesus taught that 'my kindness shall not depart from thee.' When we are confronted with affliction, He said: 'Be patient in afflictions, revile not against those that revile. Govern your house in meekness, and be steadfast.'When we are oppressed, we can be comforted in knowing 'he was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth.' 'Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.'

"When Jesus Christ, the greatest of all, suffered for us to the extent that He bled from every pore, He did not express anger or revile in suffering. With unsurpassed self-restraint, or temperance, His thoughts were not of Himself but of you and of me. And then, in humility and full of love, He said, 'Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.'"

Did you catch that? Christ did not EXPRESS his anger, but I'm sure He felt it, since He felt all of the pain and hurt that each of us has experienced. And this means that it is not a sin to feel angry! It is ok for us to feel our feelings, and as I've learned to accept that, it has brought so much peace and confidence into my life. But anyway, Christ did not express His anger in this situationHe did express anger earlier when people were defiling the temple, because it was constructive. In that situation He had the power to stand up for what is right, to teach, to make a change. But in the situation of His crucifixion, He knew that He was surrounded by deaf ears and His words would do no good, so He remained silent. He is the perfect example to us - sometimes it is good to express our anger in a positive way, but sometimes it is best to say nothing.

As one who needs to stand up for myself more, I think it's time to express my anger in a positive way that will bring the needed change and address the issues I face so this hurt and pain will stop building up. It's time to say what I need to say.

Friday, December 4, 2009


This morning I was freaking out with the ridiculous amount of things I need to do in a ridiculously short amount of time. Fortunately, God is kind to me. I got two missionary letters (one from Bry and one from another sweet friend) which helped me get my peace back. I made myself some cocoa and put on my favorite comfy, ugly man moccasins from Wal Mart. And as if that wasn't enough, then I saw an eccentric guy dancing to his iPod's music with reckless abandon. Thank you, crazy iPod guy, for being yourself. It made my day.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Peace is such a beautiful, mysterious tender mercy. I am so at peace in my life right now, surprisingly right in the midst of finals! I have finally learned to love the person I have been struggling with the most without letting them pull me down. This has been my greatest challenge this semester, but I finally feel that I am mastering this. Recognizing this person's weaknesses and trials has helped me to understand why they have done the things that have hurt me and to forgive them. My anger has been replaced with love and peace. This has come through the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. How grateful I am for my Savior and how He transforms me!

"Then sing, beloved ones, reach o're the summer sea.
Pour forth thy boundless love for us living!
Sweep into every soul, make music of our tears,
turn all our songs to joy and thanksgiving!
And when we silent pass, from far across the sea
let praises ring for life's wondrous blessing."
-David Warner, "Let Peace then Still the Strife"

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Lady

"You laugh at me when I say I want to be a lady, but I mean a true gentlewoman in mind and manners, and I try to do it as far as I know how. I can't explain exactly, but I want to be above the little meannesses and follies and faults that spoil so many women. I'm far from it now, but I do my best, and hope in time to be what Mother is." -Amy, Little Women

Don't Blame it on the sunshine

Today when I was walking home from school, "Blame it on the Boogie" came on my iPod. I couldn't stop smiling.


Today I got 2 letters from my sweet missionary! He is so loving and encouraging.

"Now if you asked me if I would rather marry a top women's chorus professional folk dancer or a woman who has the natural ability to humbly and selflessly love her fellow man I would choose the latter. Why? Because those qualities are more eternal....Your ability to make people feel loved and happy is a trait you inherited from your Father in Heaven and is is the trait that has always attracted me to you."

"Sometimes I worry that my words do more harm than good but then I remember that you are my best friend in the whole worlds and so of course you understand me."

I don't know what I did to deserve this blessing.