Here’s an Advent exercise I enjoy practicing to keep me tethered to tranquility during the rush of Christmastime. We’re in the thick of Advent right now, but there’s still time to jump into this, and it’s a great family activity.
There are three assignments, each of which should be accomplished before Christmas day. I never do them in any particular order, but if you prefer a little more structure, go for it.
Each assignment involves giving a gift or doing a service of some kind. Here are the challenges: Continue reading
Kristie is a proud graduate of Utah State University (GO AGGIES!) who also holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Utah. Her passion for finding the perfect recipe for chile verde is matched only by her intense dislike of folding laundry; nevertheless, she remains determined to perfect the art of properly folding a fitted sheet. She is happily married to her high school sweetheart (who, through all of this, cheers for the BYU Cougars) and blogs about the adventures of parenting her spunky three-and-a-half-year-old redheaded daughter and one-year-old son with the most delicious chubby cheeks at www.paddyandkris.blogspot.com.
“Unsettled!” I announced, and I felt that sense of relief wash over me that comes when I finally catch that elusive word that has been dancing on the tip of my tongue, just out of reach. “I am feeling unsettled.” My ever patient and long-suffering husband nodded appropriately, good-naturedly enduring yet another soliloquy from me as I struggled to articulate how frustrated and helpless I felt.
He had heard this tearful rant in one form or another countless times in the 5 months since our first baby had reached that inevitable 12-week-old milestone that sent me reluctantly back to working full time. I was sour, irritable, and generally unpleasant about the whole situation; even though I had known throughout my pregnancy that my returning to work was just part of our family’s economic reality, I continued to harbor some sort of vague resentment that the stars of the universe had failed to magically realign themselves in a way that left me, well, independently wealthy, I guess. Continue reading
Just a few weeks ago, we pulled heavy frames from our hives, sliced away the wax and harvested fifteen bottles of liquid gold. It’s a modest harvest, but miraculous for first-year bee keepers. We’ve been enjoying the fruits of our bees’ labors on our toast, oatmeal and in a few batches of baklava, ever marveling that this sweet delicacy was produced by bugs in our backyard.
Raising bees requires a certain amount of faith– will they really produce? is our water source adequate? are they protected? will our neighbors hate us? are we crazy people?– and to glimpse success gave us joy.
Beekeeping Magazine quoted a beekeeper with one hundred hives, “From the honey we are getting every day, you would think our bees were gathering up all the nectar in the world, when really it is not a drop in the bucket compared with the amount of nectar there is provided. Nature is surely a lavish housekeeper! She spreads out tons and tons of nectar in her flowers for all creation to enjoy.” Mary, 1917
Sometimes my Heavenly Father’s affection seems elusive. My prayers bump against the ceiling and my heart aches. But in truth, God’s love is always there, abundant in every flower, every hymn, every sunset, every person. Like nectar, it has to be searched for and recognized, but it is always, always there.
How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Psalm 119:103 A harsh winter can make it arduous to find or taste nectar, but summer always comes again.
Our Heavenly Father is indeed, a lavish house keeper.
My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste. Proverbs 24:13
It was a simple place, this provincial Cambodian town near the border of Vietnam—a collection of stilted houses, animals, and some small businesses. No grocery stores or anything like that, just a market consisting of wooden stalls and stands and piles of food spread out on tarps. Fish flopped in metal tubs; slabs of meat sat out on tables for inspection, amongst generous mounds of lychee, dragonfruit, and green bananas. People sold frogs, snakes, crickets, and all sorts of dietary oddities, things we would only think of as survival food. We joked after about thirty minutes in the small town of Svay Rieng that we had seen all there was to do there.
There, life is just simple, the necessities of sleep and food being dictated by what is available. The bus driver slept under the bus, in the luggage compartment; the gas station attendant slept outside by the pump; the guesthouse attendant slept on the wooden bench in the lobby. If you were hungry your food was generally something that had been caught, gathered, or picked—and maybe cooked. If you were thirsty you found a cart on the street. If you needed to wash something, you found a puddle of water left over from the monsoons. Continue reading
I must confess that I’m not crazy about chocolate. I am a fresh berry addict. I endure the pepper steak with mango chutney at the Tree Room, just so I can order the most divine dessert in the gastronomic galaxy: sweet and juicy strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries floating in a sea of crème anglaise. Why would any sane person order the warm chocolate truffle cake with rocky road ice cream and almond caramel sauce? So when my adult daughter complained that her job was agonizingly dull, it wasn’t surprising that my nurturing muse inspired me while I nibbled on a fresh strawberry. I created a list of all my fresh strawberry moments during the previous 24 hours and e-mailed them to my daughter:
1. I had an unexpected fresh strawberry moment while watching Oprah on Earth Day. Oprah’s guests included Julia Roberts and Julia’s super green friend. Julia’s friend brought the large container she keeps in her kitchen filled with dirt and a battalion of worms, so that the worms can devour leftover food. Their poop creates great fertilizer for our gardens! When Earth Mother lifted the lid, the entire squirm of worms had oozed to the top and began crawling out of the container, invading Oprah’s pristine set. Oprah FREAKED out and Julia Roberts began laughing hysterically because her friend had no idea why her usually well-behaved worms were having a mutinous moment on national television. I’m not sure I made a connection with my inner Earth Mother, but I did enjoy laughing with Julia Roberts. It was definitely a fresh strawberry moment.
2. I had a fresh strawberry moment during the family prayer when my son shared something so sincere and sweet with his Heavenly Father that I wanted to weep for joy.
3. My voice lesson provided a fresh strawberry moment. As I sang the lyrics about my spirit flying back to a place of peace, I felt a poignant longing for my REAL home. I think my spirit was thinking, “YES! Let’s get out of here….this is NOT heaven. What are we doing in this telestial dump anyway?”
4. I felt joy during my LIVING WATER lesson for activity day. I got the idea when a sealer taught that “everything in the temple is symbolic. Even the fountains in front of the temple are symbolic.” My eleven-year-old primary class sat on a bench near the temple fountain and the girls amazed me with their ability to think metaphorically as we pondered the possibilities. We felt peace flowing through us like liquid light. The girls begged to stay longer on the temple grounds. It was better than the most divine dessert in the gastronomic galaxy.
The rest of my 24 hours may have been monotonous, but it didn’t matter. I feasted on my fresh strawberry moments and I felt happy. Fresh strawberry moments offer serenity and help me embrace the soggy oatmeal rhythm of life…
What are your sources of fresh strawberry moments? Or even warm chocolate truffle cake moments?