Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Angels From the Realms of Glory

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I'm a Kershisnik fan. You may have guessed that by now. I love his work. Mostly for the deep emotion it portrays.

Can you feel the excitement, the anticipation? Of watching precious baby Jesus be born? Not to king and queen in Herod's palace. But to Nazarenes, tax payers who could find no place to stay. Only a dirty manger among animals. 

I can almost hear the hush, the whispers, the awe. As they watched a God, divine and omnipotent, Creator of this very earth, come down to dwell with us, heal us, know us. As only one with a human mother could.

I heard an interesting comment yesterday that I can't stop thinking about. If you've read the account of Christ's birth in the Book of Mormon, you know that on the other side of the world, the sign of Christ's birth was not just a new star in the sky, but first, a night with no darkness. 

On that evening, the sun set but darkness did not come. It was "as if it was noonday." 

A woman I love mentioned that there was no darkness because Christ himself, the Light of the World - the force that fuels all stars, worlds, and galaxies - had come. But also because angels - multitudes of them - literally covered the earth and filled it with light. As they celebrated, sang, and rejoiced. 

That thought makes me weep. 

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Three of my angels, in their own realm of glory. 
First snow of the season. First snowman. Snowflakes amid sunshine. 

So if you haven't seen this glorious live Nativity yet, you must. Paired with the song, "Angels From the Realms of Glory" written by James Montgomery in 1816, it is performed by the Piano Guys, David Archuletta, Peter Hollens, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

It is the largest live Nativity ever accomplished, breaking a Guiness World Record this fall when 1039 participants met in Provo, Utah to pull it together. It happened in just a few short weeks, with lots of miracles, and the collaboration of some very talented people and incredible sponsors.

My heart leaps when the angels come walking down from the hills. 

I can't stop singing the words. As I drive about town, wash the dishes from lunch, and pick up my girls from school today.

Angels from the realms of glory

Wing your flight over all the earth

Ye, who sang creations story

Now proclaim Messiah's birth

Come and worship, come and worship

Worship Christ the newborn King

Would that I were one of those angels, come to celebrate Jesus with us. The babe of infant, infinite light. Born to comfort, even me. He is my mentor, my King. 

All the best answers I find in Him.

Joyous Christmas! Hope your last days of preparation are truly happy.

p.s. Meredith, you won the copy of Candy Canes and Christmastime! I'll bring it by. xoxo

Friday, December 12, 2014

Candy Canes and Christmastime - One More Giveaway!

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Looking for a Christmas read that will make your soul feel merry and bright? 

Let me introduce you to Candy Canes and Christmastime. Compiled by the lovely Linda Hoffman Kimball. This is her newest book, out just in time for the holidays. Full of insightful, uplifting essays, that remind us how to live. How to navigate all the hustle, bustle, grabbing and giving, of Christmas in the modern world. 

I am honored to have my name tucked into her list of authors. A short essay I wrote on spiritual poverty and our need for a Savior. Other more notable contributors you might know: Kel George, Kristine Haglund, Claudia Bushman, Louise Plummer, Shelah Mastny Miner, and Jessie Christensen.

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Linda's book offers healing, comfort, traditions, wisdom, and even a few recipes. A chorus of voices sharing different Christmas experiences. All in the name of loving and living for Jesus. 

I'd like to give away a copy here (yes, one more giveaway!). Just leave a comment at the end of this post. I'll choose a winner Tuesday morning and send your book out right away. So you can enjoy a few chapters before the big day.

Now. Speaking of Candy Canes...

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One of our #24DaysofGiving was to pass out candy canes. So that's exactly what we did after school on Wednesday. We live on a main thoroughfare to/from the elementary school. 100+ kids walk home past our house each day. So we thought it would be the perfect place to share candy canes. And a little bit of love.

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We tore open the boxes and poured peppermint sticks into bowls...

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Recruited our neighbors, the Sorensens, to join us. Then waited for the troops to come.

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Cute Cole gave me some of the best smiles. He was so excited to be a part of the magic.

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I mean who wouldn't want one of his floppy candy canes? Already loved and ready to go.

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Emma did. 

Yes, they came. All our favorite neighbor friends. 

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Ones we know well, and ones we don't. Familiar or not, the smiles spread, backpacks jostled and jangled, and the kids came running.

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Our darling neighbor (and babysitter) Abby, put her arms around all three of the girls and gave them a big squeeze.

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"Can we take two?" the older boys asked. But of course. 

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It was a warm, glittery afternoon. So unusual for December.

By 3:30 PM, the sun was already low, slanting across the street, leaving circles of light in my lens.

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And sweet, sweet Lucy, who usually brings up the rear, couldn't believe her luck. One of each flavor!

"Whenever we are neighborly and welcoming, whenever we learn to overlook differences and decide that love is better than judgement,we celebrate Him." - Libby Boss, Candy Canes and Christmastime

If you're doing the #24DaysofGiving, we'd love to hear about it. And don't forget to leave a comment if you'd like a chance to win a copy of Linda's book. I'll even include a candy cane! 

Christmas love,

P.S. Elissa! You won the copy of Good Pictures Bad Pictures. Send an email with your full name and address to and I'll send it out! And if you entered the drawing at Power of Moms, check the thread. Winners were posted Wednesday!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Willkommen Weihnachten!

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Or in English, Welcome Christmas! 

I am sitting her typing all by myself (wondrous quiet), listening to Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella, and looking out at cool sunlight as it drenches the dry grass of our yard. Not a flake of snow and unusually warm, but it sill feels like Christmas to me.

Saturday evening we enjoyed Christkindlmarkt, Salt Lake's German market, set up in Deseret Village, next to the This is the Place monument. 

Can you see the monument in the background? It marks the canyon from which Brigham Young sat up in his wagon, looked down into the valley and said, "This is the right place. Drive on." 

Two other men stand next to Brigham on the monument. One is my great-great-great grandfather, Heber C. Kimball. The kids love to find Grandpa Heber on the north side whenever we visit. And this night was no exception. They happily gave Heber a wave.

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All four grandparents joined us. Making for a happy group. (Sorry we missed you, Jim. I think you were browsing. And Liza, I love those bunny ears!)

Spencer and Gordon wore their new basketball jerseys. They are extremely excited that Doug is coaching their team. (First organized sport experience for them.) Forget a Christmas countdown. These two are counting down until their next game. Truly. Straight out of Spencer's mouth yesterday.

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Eliza performed in the Tannenbaum parade with her school. So we went early to eat german food and check out the shops.

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Blitzen was there. And Donder. Cute furry fellas. 
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It was so nice to be with my parents. Both of them speak German. My dad served and LDS mission in Austria and my mother majored in German. So it was especially fun to have them along. 

We ate Bruges waffles while they ate weinershnitzel, rotkohl, and spaetzle. Wish I'd stood in line for Siegried's schnitzel. It smelled heavenly.

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The girls kept warm by the fires. 

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Then this guy took the stage. Amazing. He could play anything on both accordion and cowbells. And sometimes (as pictured here) at the same time! If we hadn't already been standing, I would have given him a standing ovation. He was fabulous.

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At one point we were standing right behind President Dieter Uchtdorf and his wife Harriet. President Uchtdorf is part of the First Presidency of the LDS Church. Second counselor to our prophet, President Monson. He's a favorite among church members for his endearing German accent, ability to identify with all people on matters of the heart, and well, let's face it, for his handsome looks.

We were too shy to tap him on the shoulder, didn't want to keep him from enjoying the show. (He had lots of "fans" asking him for photos.) So I took this shot from the tables where we were eating. With his arm around Harriet, the two sang along to a cello performance of  "Stille Nacht."

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It was a sparkling, magical evening. 

The sunset was magnificent. 

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And I couldn't get enough of the city lights. 

On a crisp, clear night, there's nothing like the view of this wide valley with its expanding, winking lights.

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It was so dark I missed Eliza as she came singing down the parade route with her green ribbon from the Tannenbaum pole. But I did catch the Snow Angel.

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Then we enjoyed their performance of christmas songs and dances on the stage.

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Eliza couldn't keep from smiling.

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We love her sweet friend Ellie.

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After the performance, as we were hustling back to the car to warm up and head home, we noticed the full moon, rising bold over the mountain. 

The kind of moon that stops you in your tracks.

Brightest light of the evening.

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Except maybe for this girl. Light splintering from her face. I can feel her love for simply being alive in this photo. Every day she wraps her arms around this glorious world and the new experiences it is handing her. She is brave, good, and optimistic. Being with her makes me happy.

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November was a difficult month, riddled with unexpected challenges, one very exciting joy, but also great sorrow for others. Already this new season feels brighter and kinder.

I have bought zero presents. The tree is soaking up water in the corner, unlit and undressed. But secret pals are at work in our family, ouadvent pockets are filled so that each day we can read from scripture, discuss a symbol of Christ. And...  #24DaysofGiving is broadening our hearts, changing our focus, and surprising us with an incredible amount of love. I will share stories sometime during the month.

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So wir begrüßen Weihnachten. In allen Lichts und der Schönheit. Und denken Sie daran Christus. Er ist das Geschenk.

So we welcome Christmas. In all its light and beauty. And remember Christ. He is the gift.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Giving Away a Book You Need!

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Have you seen this book yet? Good Pictures Bad Pictures? 

It's an amazing read-aloud tool for parents. On how to porn-proof their kids. A book I feel so strongly about I reviewed it for both Meridian Magazine and Power of Moms. Please read my review at Power of Moms today. 

I want to tell every parent I know: You NEED this book! For all the reasons why, including how I've used it recently with my children, click over to my review. 

Power of Moms is giving away five free copies. Just leave comment at the end of my review there. I will choose 5 winners a week from today. 

I'm also giving away a copy here. Read the review and leave a comment here, on my personal blog, as to why you think this book would be helpful. Or tell me what you learned. I will choose a winner next Tuesday. Comments open until then.

For an LDS Church slant on the topic, you can read my review at Meridian. Link to new Family Home Evening lessons on the topic at the end of the review.

Oh! And don't miss Kristen Jenson's offer for $5 off the book. Promo code in the POMs review.

All this is the nitty-gritty of where to go and how to win/buy. But what really matters is that you get a copy of the book. Never before have I had concrete tools to give my children when it comes to battling pornography. This book revolutionized how I approach the topic with them. I no longer feel discouraged or fearful. I feel empowered. And so do they.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Gratitude - It's How Happy People Live

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All weekend long I thought I'd find time to write this post. But the week and weekend were full. With children all around, and the house in messy transition from one season to the next.

The girls were out of school all week. I know they weren't feeling the love when I went berserk over a large amount of spilled nail polish on the carpet downstairs. But I really was glad they were home. 

You know, it's interesting, the more I read and learn about parenting, the more I realize the most effective skills aren't intuitive. They aren't things that come naturally. In fact it takes an incredible amount of discipline to develop them enough that they are natural.

I'm trying hard to bite my tongue when angry, turn a blind eye to much, correct only when necessary, reroute my language into the positive - into terms of ownership and choices. And at the end of most days, after all that effort, I still see the trail of mess-ups. 

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So before bed, I kneel. I pray for forgiveness. And next to the mess-ups I count blessings. The bigger than we deserve blessings, as well as the little. And they always outweigh the mess-ups.

I say thank you for our beautiful life and commit to tomorrow. To getting enough rest, reading scripture as soon as I can in the morning, and to love. I pray for charity. God's love. Love beyond my own. Because I can't do the day without it.

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We made a thankful turkey this year instead of tree. And look. Our feathers runneth over!

So before we move on to December, I wanted to list some of our blessings. Gifts I've been considering the last week. Things I can't imagine living without.

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I know I mentioned this above. But it's at the top of my list this year. I need it desperately. Every day. I had no idea motherhood would stretch me into things I both loved and despised. Some days my behavior is so immature, I feel I've regressed into my own childhood. Other days, I feel I've transcended to a place of joy and knowing I never could have discovered without children.

Forgiveness, of course, is only made possible by a loving God. A Father who gave his Son. And a Son who gave his life. A Son who is my Savior.

I am so grateful for forgiveness. Not just for me, but for my children. That they can mend hurts, forgive each other, forgive me.

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I caught this moment Wednesday. Watched it play out from the living room with my camera. Notice the ever-present laundry, a crib-bed dismantled, new furniture waiting to go into the boys' room, boxes and piles everywhere.

And three girls. Two of them bickering over something. Eliza hurt Sami's feelings and you can see it in Sam's face. She's not quite ready to accept an apology.

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But she did accept it. And to my surprise, she quickly walked over to Eliza, knelt down, and gave her a hug.

Forgiveness. God's gift to us. Our gift to others.

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It isn't the newest or prettiest. In fact, it's the one on the street that needs the most work. But it is warm and safe. And many days I remind myself, it's not the home that matters but the life lived there.

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I'm so grateful these children have somewhere to sleep. Somewhere to eat. And most weeks (if I made it to the grocery store) a refrigerator full of food. I'm thankful that here, they know they belong. They contribute. They feel significant.

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No matter what it looks like, there's no place like home.

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This good daddy spent all day Wednesday putting together bunk beds for the boys. Twice. (The first time he did it backwards. Such a bummer.) I am grateful he does so much without being asked. Dishes, vacuuming, stories, brushing tiny teeth, pruning rose bushes, replacing light bulbs. He follows behind, taking care of the things I can't find time for.

He is kind to me, to our children. Never wants praise or attention. And works so hard to provide for all we have. A supportive spouse, fully-commited, is a true gift. I couldn't live this life without him.

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A week ago we went ice-skating with Doug's work. The Arvy Ice Capades are quite the spectacle. Our debut, a few months ago, was especially spectacular. So don't blink. We're all vertical in this photo, and mostly smiling.

This was actually very fun. We laughed. Doug and I skated together for a bit. And all together we downed 30+ donuts and 14 cups of hot chocolate.

What would life be without our five? Without the joy? The unspeakable joy children bring. Honestly, sometimes I can't speak what I'm feeling. The swelling inside my heart. The way I want to fold them into my arms and never let go. It's a feeling only parents know. Parents who want children, care for them, and love them more than life itself.

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My spirit would wither without nature. I need to be out in it. To feel the wind against my face, the sun on my skin. Every day I need to see the way the light and clouds combine on the mountain. It's why I run the canyon alone. It's why I love to be out in blustery weather. It's why I love having a yard, and leaves to rake, and plants to tend. I find God there. I connect with my children there.

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In October we pressed dozens and dozens of leaves. Wednesday we brought them out to make leaf cards. To pen love notes into or give as gifts. 

I always see God's love for us in nature.

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Every week I take these two friends to sewing class and I think how grateful I am that they have each other. Katherine belongs to my Kara. You know Kara by now, yes? Dearest friend of my soul for years. Her daughter Katherine is Eliza's best friend. They are comfortably themselves with each other. Happy. Their best them.

Good friends like this are unusual, divine. 

Bosom friends, as Anne would say.

And our life is blessed with devoted friends. Many who live near us, many who don't. Many who will read this. You have formed us, cultivated parts of us, made us who we are.

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And as my girls get older, it delights me to see them becoming real friends.

This was their impromptu performance of "Frozen" on Thanksgiving Eve. It was darling. Performed with lights off and flashlights as spotlights. Each of them did a solo piece. Ali was Ana, Eliza was Elsa, and Sami was Olaf. 

I loved Ali's pink high tops, Eliza's mini-mini crown, and Sami's carrot nose.

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And this was our Thanksgiving dinner. With the Arveseth Family. First time sharing this meal with Doug's parents since their mission in New Zealand. I felt so grateful for all of them as we sat around the table, shared feelings and stories. 

Families are God's way of caring for us, keeping us strong, and reminding us that we matter to someone.

All week long I thought about gratitude and how it is the only way to live. It's the way happy people live. And I can honestly say, we are happy. 

You'll love this tender message on giving thanks.

Hope you and yours had a lovely holiday. That gratitude is keeping you happy too.

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