Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Tree - Condensed

Since we extricated ourselves from my parent's basement, we've been trying to fit into a new space. One of the first things we knew would have to go is our old Christmas tree. It was over 7 feet tall and wouldn't fit in our new living room with its much shorter ceiling. So we got a new and, as it turns out, much tinier tree. There's a serious difference between a 7+ foot tree and a 4 foot tree.

We had to get a new angel anyway and it gave me the chance to try the "full" ornament style rather than the typical spacey style I've used in years past. Speaking of years past, my previous trees can be seen as follows: 2012, 2011, 2010. Before those years, I had a non-themed decorated tree, which I didn't typically take pictures of. A glimpse of my 2008 tree.

So, here is our condensed tree. This will be our tree for at least the next couple of Christmases. We'll get another big one once we have a taller ceiling. :) Then, this one will become the "kid" tree, filled with child-crafted decorations that can be handled without fear of resulting broken glass.

My normal-sized ornaments seem huge on this tree!

My theme this year is keys.

I got all the keys in a vintage-style key lot on Ebay. There were 150 of them all together, though I only used about 50 for the tree.

This angel ornament is, by far, one of the oldest on the tree. I got it about 20 years ago.

This mouse is Ben's oldest. It must be more than 20 years old, now.

Some year in the future, the keys will be painted white and rehung for another themed tree. After that, they'll go on presents for decorations. I'm also thinking some jewelry might be in order.

We're gearing up for a Christmas that reflects our tree: simple, full and meaningful.

I love the holidays!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Passing on Traditions

I had a vague memory recently that lead to warm remembrances and a desire to share that experience with my children. I never knew what they were called when I was a kid, but I found them on Pinterest or some such just a couple of months ago.


Pomanders can be made in a lot of ways, but at Christmas-time, they're made of oranges and cloves.

Ben and I made things easy for the kids, pre-stringing the ribbon and poking holes for the cloves.

Henry's face... hahah!

Ben's baseball pomander. 
Just behind, you can see my overly-enthusiastic Paperwhites that decided they didn't want to wait for Christmas to bloom!

Audrey was completely focused and finished her pomander all on her own.

Audrey's whispered "ouch... ouch.. ow.. ouch" at every thorny clove brought out my sympathy as well as amusement.

Henry ended up needing help from me, but he was a trooper, anyway.

Patches wanted to know what we were engaged in that could possibly take the attention off of her!

We've strung them up throughout the house. Let's see how long it takes for the aroma to infuse our little abode!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

School Portrait 2013

Life's been a little out of control since we moved, so I have a ton of catching up to do. Now that I've finally sent all the grandparents their copies of Audrey's school picture, I figured it was safe to put it up on the blog. :)

My pretty six-year-old.

She is having a blast in first grade! The first month or so was a bit hairy once she realized she was at school all day, unlike her half days in Kindergarten. It took weeks of talking and comforting, but we finally got her going to school happy and she is learning a lot!

Next year will be strange with both kids gone away to school for part of the day...

More coming soon.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Are you a Valuable Woman - Part 3

This post is long in coming and I apologize for that. If you have not read Part 1 and Part 2, please do and then come back here to continue the discussion.

Before I dive headlong into the Priesthood for women portion, I'd like to talk a little bit about the differences between having questions about your faith/church, blindly following, and outright public opposition to the doctrine of the church. I believe there is a discernible difference here.

Having questions about why things are the way they are is natural. It's simply the way our minds work. To understand things, we have to question them, test them, wrestle with them.

My mother told me several times that I was her "why?" child. While I'm sure this was obnoxious and tiresome to my family at times, I took it as a compliment. I want to understand things. I want to understand more than just things. I want to understand everything! In order to do that, I need to question. Sometimes that question is why... sometimes how... sometimes when.

When I say that I have questions about my faith and church, I don't mean that I am questioning my faith. I don't have doubts about my faith, but doubts about my understanding of it. I was recently struggling with a few doctrinal questions that were deep, eternal and would take another whole blog to tackle. I was distressed enough about them that I wondered if my mortal efforts would be "worth it" if I couldn't attain my prospective eternal goal. I was able to talk my feelings out with my dear sister and was temporarily satisfied with expressing myself to her and venting my worries.

I knew that I had not received a solution that would satisfy me for the long run, but I knew I could revisit it. I was reading an article about the "Ordain Women" movement and found a simple line that hit me like a ton of bricks. Light-filled, inspirational, happiness bricks. Truth Bricks. It was exactly what I needed and I was relieved.

"Never lose faith in the things you know, because of the things you don't know."

There is a lot that I have experienced over the years and the result is that there are things that I know. No one can tell me those things are not true or that they have no value because I know that they are true and they have value to me.

Here are a few blogs I liked on being a Questioning Mormon: here and here.

While knowing is ultimately my goal and, in my opinion, should be everyone's goal, the step before knowing is having faith. There are so many things I didn't know as a child, but I had faith in them. I also had faith that I would one day have the desired knowledge. There are things that I know now, that I could only have faith in before. I know that there are things that I will never know during my time in mortality and now I feel I can be okay with that.

However, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is not a church that promotes blind faith. We are encouraged to "experiment" upon the teachings of the prophets and the scriptures. We are encouraged to find out for ourselves, and not just accept because someone at the pulpit said so. The caveat is that we need to ask a reputable source. And what more reputable source than God, Himself? Can we really receive answers to our questions from Him, the highest source? Yes. We can. I have.

I had my questions in the back of my mind when I attended General Conference in October. I was okay with not having a direct answer, but I went to Conference full of Hope that I would find satisfaction and comfort from the words of those inspired by God. The entire session I attended was amazing (as were all the others, but there is nothing like being there in person). If you have not watched them, watch them.. if you cannot watch them, read them. You can find all of it on

One of the widespread favorite Conference talks from this last October was President Uchtdorf's talk entitled Come, Join With Us. His wonderful, sweet invitation to everyone to find their place in the church was precious to me, but there was one line that seemed, in my mind, to be just for me. (I am sure many others felt the same.)
When he spoke about those people who have doubts, which includes every mortal that has existed on this world... EVER, he said, "Please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith." Truth Bricks. All over again. I was smashed into the ground at his words and I was happy to be there. He continued by saying, "We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner..."

It's okay to have questions and wonder about things, but those questions, whether they are answered in this life or the next, should not make you question your faith and beliefs.

Having faith is not the same thing as unquestioningly following. I was about to say that I am not a sheep, but I feel that needs to be explained. I am a sheep in that I am a member of God's fold and that I hearken to the voice of my Shepherd and follow Him, knowing from experience that He will not lead me into dangerous and dark places. As long as I follow my trusted friend, He will lead me home.

I am NOT a sheep in the more euphemistic sense of someone who would follow someone (or the rest of the herd) off a cliff, too dumb to know any better. I think it was Robert Kirby who once said in his usual flippant way that a sheep is just a potato with wool stuck on it. I'm not that kind of sheep. I am not a blind follower.

That being said, I am not the one who is going to shout at God's ordained simply because I don't 100% agree with every solitary word that comes out of their mouths. I understand that they are men and will make mistakes, but I also know that it is not up to me to decide what is a mistake and what is not.

I have to have faith that my leaders will be inspired to do what needs to be done, say what needs to be said and lead my church where God has planned. I may not always understand the why, how or when, but that's where faith comes in to fill in my gaps in understanding. Heavenly Father has a plan and he reveals as much as is needed at any given time and, though that fact may not satisfy my hunger for knowing everything, I know that in His time he will reveal everything.

I remember my mother quoting the Prophet Joseph Smith regarding those who oppose the church doctrinally or otherwise and, though I didn't understand it much at the time, it has stuck with me. President Smith said that those who condemn or question church leadership and the direction they are going, are "in the high road to apostasy." It makes sense to me now. If you think you know more than those ordained by God to lead the Church and you believe them to be in the wrong, how could you possibly continue on in harmony with the Church? Those feelings tend to fester in people and lead them down truly dark paths.

So... have questions. It's okay. The more you question things and apply your mind to trying to understand them, the more you will learn and grow as a person. The more you learn and grow, you'll find you can give more to those around you, building them up and imparting what you've learned to help them grow. Don't get bogged down with thinking about all the things you don't understand. Understanding will come with time, patience and faithful study. You may not get the answers you want today, tomorrow, next year or even in this life, but if you turn to Heavenly Father in faith, believing He will answer you, He will give you exactly what you need. Sometimes all you will need is an assurance that He knows what He is doing and that He loves you.

Because He does.

Coming up: Women and the Priesthood


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