Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Perfect Christmas Eve!

It is Christmas Eve and so this is going to be a short post with lots of pictures!  Today was AMAZING!  It was focused on spending time with family, serving, and thinking about the true meaning of Christmas!  Oh, and I can't forget, it was also spent celebrating Brooke's birthday!  Yeah, she was born on Christmas Eve 28 years ago and she is one special girl!  Brooke, I love you so much!

Here is the run down of the events that took place today:

  • Annual Christmas breakfast at Mimi's Cafe.  This is my Dad's little treat for the whole family.  When he sends out the invitations he includes something "Christmasy" that we have to wear.  This year it was funky hats.  Check these pictures out!  It was a hoot!

Lincoln, Brooke, Carter, Derek

Heidi, Jet, Mark

Grandpa, Grandma, Grandpa made the hats...SWEET!

Taylor, Jet, Maria

Landon, Kelly, Trevor, Zach, Ryan, Brandt

Zach, Mom


Brad, Melesah

Taylor, Lance, Mark, Brad, Jet, Maria, Heidi, LaRae, Melesah

Kristin, Ella, Hannah, Jordan, Crew

Rhett, Ryan

Kate, Marianne

Mom, Crew

Zach, Dad

  • After breakfast, we came home and finished our food preparations for tomorrow.  It was so fun to spend time in the kitchen with my Mom making Christmas food and treats.
  • We went to visit a widow in the ward.  It was so special to spend some time with her!
  • We went to my grandparents house and visited.  We also watched the classic "Return to Snowy River" with them.  
  • We went out to dinner for Brooke's birthday to the best restaurant EVER:  Asian Star!

  •  We  all opened one present tonight...Christmas jammies!

  • We had a gingerbread decorating contest!  It was so much fun!  It really didn't end up being a competition...just a great time!

  • Now we are all in bed waiting for Santa's arrival!

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Heart Breaks

Meet my Grandma and Grandpa Buchanan.  They are seriously some of the MOST amazing people in the whole world.  Maybe I am a little biased because they are my grandparents, but honestly, they are fabulous!  If you ever get the opportunity to meet them, take it!  Here is a little background:  When I was born they lived in Roosevelt.  We would frequently make trips there to visit them and I just loved that!  When I was almost five and my Mom was pregnant with the twins, my grand parents decided to move to the Salt Lake area to be closer to all of their children and grandchildren.  They actually ended up moving here the day my Mom gave birth to my little brother and sister.  They couldn't move into their new house immediately so they moved in with us.  My Mom and Dad say that was the biggest blessing ever!  With 5 kids and 2 new babies they needed all of the help that they could get.  My Grandma and Grandpa were the best help ever and during the course of them living with us we really became best friends.  After them living with us for a few months, they moved into their own home only a few miles away.  It was quite devastating to me when they were not living with us anymore.  I remember one day when I was 5 I was really bored and I wanted a friend to play with.  My Mom named off 5 or more friends that I could invite over but I didn't really want to play with any of them.  I then turned to my Mom and explained why:  "I want to play with someone Grandpa!"  My Grandpa is so much fun, always laughing and teasing and always busy doing good.  He can fix anything and he is the hardest worker I know.  My Grandma is so kind.  I have never heard anything negative or crude come out of her mouth or show through in her actions.  She can create the most beautiful things with her hands.  I try everyday to be more like them.  They would be the first ones to say that they have been blessed, but I have also seen how they have endured many hardships.  My Grandpa has gone through four open heart surgeries.  Those were always scary times.  But he is a fighter and his will to live is so strong.  Somehow he has bounced back with each one.  My Grandma has macular degeneration and has lost most of her eyesight and hearing.  It is just heartbreaking for me to see her lose the ability to sew and crochet and knit and bake and cook because of her physical impairments.  I wish that they both could be made all better again.  However, I know that Heavenly Father is aware of them and that they will one day be made whole when they are resurrected.  What an assurance!  
Tonight we went to visit them and drop off some groceries.  Once again, my heart was filled with sorrow as I see them suffering and struggling...I just want to take it all away!  I was reminded that it is not in my power to do that; however, it is my duty to care for them and love them and stay by them.  That is what is going to help them most.  At Christmas time I often get wrapped up in wanting to do some major service for others but I think I often miss the people who need it the most, the people already in my family or sphere of influence.  My grandparents need it most.  I think that we all have people that we know and love that we can serve and help, especially during this beautiful holiday season.  I couldn't help but reflect on this quote given by President Monson in the October 2009 General Conference:
My brothers and sisters, we are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness—be they family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers. We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us.
What a wonderful charge.  What a wonderful responsibility.  My heart may break but it is healed again by the Lord as I try to be His hands.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Little Angels

Today was a great one.  It seemed to all be focused on my nieces and nephews.  Man, I love them!  This morning we were able to go to the elementary school just up the street and watch Ella, Jack and Rhett perform in their Christmas program.  It was absolutely adorable!
Jack-He is the one in the green plaid pajamas
Ella-She is the one in the pink shirt with the letter "a"
Rhett-He is the one on the right.  The whole 2nd Grade did a little hip-hop version of Deck the Halls and he was chosen to be one of the 8 hip-hop dancers.  It was soooo cute!  He did an awesome job!
After the program and a little shopping with my mom I made sugar cookies.  Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without sugar cookies!  I got all of my Christmas shopping and gifts done before I came home from Logan last week so that I could spend this time helping my mom and dad out in any way that I can...this was something that my mom needed done, and since I love baking, I was more than happy to do it!  I made 6 times the batch equalling a whopping total of 211 sugar cookies.  YUM!  About halfway through I had some little helpers show up:)  Linc and Carter rolled and cut and rolled and cut being the best helpers ever!  I couldn't bring myself to actually tell them that the dough that they used got thrown away when they were't looking.  Didn't really know if it was sanitary to eat after all of that handling.  And Brooke was the biggest help ever!  Thank you!

 At 6:30 our Christmas Pajama Party began!  My mom, dad, Carli and I invited the grandkids over for the night so that their parents could have one free night to finish all of their Christmas preparations.  The 11 oldest came...the two youngest went along with their parents.  It was so much fun!  We started the night off with pizza and then decorated cookies, did a kids craft, played with toys, and watched a Christmas movie.  They really are my little angels and they brought the Christmas spirit!
Hannah and Kate

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Preparations

75 Christmas cards addressed and mailed
10 coffee cakes baked and delivered
1 house cleaned
10 games of hide-and-seek played
6 hours of shopping completed
1 tired girl

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pure Goodness

Seriously, today was pure goodness.  This morning I went with my cousin Heidi and her neighbor to the elementary school in their area.  Heidi's neighbor's daughter (wow, that's a mouthful) was doing a little presentation about Christmas in the Netherlands in her 3rd Grade class and asked if I would come and share a few things.  It was so much fun to be able to share a little bit of the Dutch culture and to be able to reflect on my last two Christmas seasons in the Netherlands...those were such good times.  Anyway, I just want to say thank you to Heidi for providing that opportunity for me!  It was so good to see you and Jet and Mark today.  

Afterwards, I did a little planning with my Mom and then we headed out shopping.  Shopping, shopping never ends!  We did most of our grocery shopping for the next week and we had a lot of fun doing it.  With my Mom, you just can't go wrong!  Our main focus of the shopping was for this evening.  A while back we decided that we wanted to invite a few widows from our ward to come to our house for an evening to share the Christmas spirit with them.  We wanted to make it a special night for them so we pulled out the Christmas china and made a delicious ham dinner.  Tonight was probably one of the highlights of this Christmas season so far.  For a second, time just stood still and we were just able to enjoy the moment together.  After dinner we gathered around the piano and sang Christmas carols.  It was just beautiful!  I love these three women, Addie, Idonna, and Joy, so much and it was a blessing for me and my family to have them over.  It truly was pure goodness.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Joy and Pain

It is amazing to me how closely the words joy and pain are related.  I don't think that I realized how often they compliment each other until my mission.  I remember that so often I would feel so much joy whenever we would find someone to teach or when an investigator would keep a commitment and then, seconds later, I could feel so much pain as someone would reject the message of the restored gospel.  It was really an emotional roller coaster!  It always made me think of the 36th chapter of Alma where he talks about his conversion.  Some of the words and phrases that he uses to describe how he felt before he was converted include: fear, racked with eternal torment, harrowed up to the greatest degree, pains of hell, inexpressible horror, encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.  Those are some pretty descriptive words and phrases and they explain pain really well.  And then Alma goes on to explain how he felt as his thoughts turned to the Savior and His infinite atonement: joy, marvelous light, exquisite and sweet.  Now that is how I want to feel all of the time!  However, because I am mortal and because I have agency I know that I will experience both joy and pain; sometimes because of my own choices, sometimes because of my circumstances, and sometimes because of the choices of others.  There have been times that I have wished the pain would be gone, but then I realized that the joy wouldn't be so sweet without the pain.  So, as much as I may not love feeling the pain, I am thankful for both joy and pain.

Today I felt both of those emotions.  I feel them everyday.  But today I felt them both very definitely.  When I got home from dinner at my aunt's home, I saw a message on my Facebook that Joanne was called to serve in the Manchester England mission and that she will be reporting to the MTC on March 1.  YAY! I was automatically filled with that sweet and wonderful joy!  Joanne is someone that I met in my second area on my mission.  She is my age and she was investigating the church.  While I was serving in her area, she was baptized!  The day she was baptized was one of the most special and memorable days of my mission!  Her happiness and joy and light radiated from her.  It was apparent at that time that she loved her Heavenly Father and Savior and that she was committed to following them.  She has continued to do that and now she is going to serve a full-time mission!  That news definitely brought me a lot of joy.  
Moments later, as I was talking to my Mom and Dad and Brooke, we started to talk about those people who are less fortunate than we are, especially young children.  We talked about their circumstances and the things that they struggle with.  I started to feel so overwhelmed and helpless as I thought of the many children around the world who are mistreated, abused, starving, sick, or lacking love and care.  I started to feel pain, a lot of pain.  It was almost unbearable until my thoughts turned to the Savior.  He is aware of them.  He has felt what they have felt or are feeling.  He is there for them to help them.  Although things may not be fair now, they will be made right in the future.  My pain was lessened as I remembered  these truths.  I then realized that I have a part to play in bringing the Savior's love to these children.  Of course I can't reach all of them but even helping one is better than none.  I suddenly felt that the number of opportunities that I would have to influence or bless the lives of these struggling young children increases by becoming a teacher.  My world or influence expands immensely.  My worries of whether or not I would be a good teacher started to fade away because I realized that as long as I love and care for the children and have a sincere desire to do my best as well as work at improving, I could be a tool in the Savior's hands.  I once again began to feel that joy.

I think it is when I feel that joy that I am the most open to inspiration.  So, here is my little bit of inspiration.  I am thinking about doing a preschool summer camp this coming summer.  I would do it for kids ages 4-5.  It would probably be twice a week for about three hours.  It scares me a little to try and organize something this big so I need to know what you think.  I know that some of you have kids.  Would you be interested?  Please let me know.  This is a way random thoughts are all over the place...I hope you kind of can understand what i am thinking and feeling.  Mostly I hope that whenever you feel that pain, it will be quickly changed to joy, the joy that comes from the Savior.