Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Of Camels and Needles

Recently I have been thinking about some things said in a talk by Elder Maxwell — feeling that there was something important I was supposed to learn, yet frustrated at my lack of understanding. Yesterday when I was reading in the New Testament (thank you Lindsay for the great talk that encouraged me to be more careful about having scripture study time!) I read some verses that have stayed on my mind. I think I have just realized that my reading these verses at this time is a tender mercy, because they can help me begin to learn what I need to know.

Mark 10 contains the story of the rich young man who came and asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to keep the commandments, and the young man said that he was already doing that.

21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

As I read this yesterday I had a couple of different thoughts. First, I'm sure that this scripture passage that we be willing to "sell all that we have" relates to more than money or even possessions. Jesus taught that we should love the Lord more with all of our heart, mind, and soul. That means that we should not love anything more than we love the Lord. Not money or possessions or activities or even people.

But the other thought that I had was that I'm sure that the Lord expects us to be fully engaged in our lives--nurturing and caring for our families, having meaningful relationships, developing talents, finding joy in the journey.

The question that came to my mind was this--where, in the process of living these mortal lives, do we cross over the line to the place where the rich young man was? At what point does something else become more important to us than God? And how on earth do we know when it does?

I found a quote from Joseph F. Smith which is helpful to me in understanding better what Jesus asked the young man to do, and why, but I'm still wondering about the rest. How do I keep the proper perspective? How do I know if I have let something get more important to me than the Lord? Is there anything that I would not "sell, and give to the poor"? (Would he ask for my sewing machine???)

Is this because the rich man is rich? No. May not the rich man, who has the light of God in his heart, who possesses the principle and spirit of truth, and who understands the principle of God's government and law in the world, enter into the kingdom of heaven as easily, and be as acceptable there as the poor man may? Precisely. God is not a respecter of persons. The rich man may enter into the kingdom of heaven as freely as the poor, if he will bring his heart and affections into subjection to the law of God and to the principle of truth; if he will place his affections upon God, his heart upon the truth, and his soul upon the accomplishment of God's purposes, and not fix his affections and his hopes upon the things of the world. Here is the difficulty, and this was the difficulty with the young man. He had great possessions, and he preferred to rely upon his wealth rather than forsake all and follow Christ. If he had possessed the spirit of truth in his heart to have known the will of God, and to have loved the Lord with all his heart and his neighbor as himself, he would have said to the Lord—“Yea, Lord, I will do as you require, I will go and sell all that I have and give it to the poor.” If he had had it in his heart to do this, that alone might have been sufficient, and the demand would probably have stopped there, for undoubtedly the Lord did not deem it essential for him to go and give his riches away, or to sell his possessions and give the proceeds away, in order that he might be perfect, for that, in a measure, would have been improvident. Yet, if it had required all this to test him and to prove him, to see whether he loved the Lord with all his heart, mind, and strength, and his neighbor as himself, then he ought to have been willing to do it, and if he had been he would have lacked nothing, and would have received the gift of eternal life, which is the greatest gift of God, and which can be received on no other principle than the one mentioned by Jesus to the young man. (Journal of Discourses, Volume 18, Joseph F. Smith)

Gingerbread Memories

In the beginning there was a gingerbread house, made with homemade gingerbread and cut carefully from a paper pattern.

For many years this was the manner in which this tradition was carried out. Until the year when the gingerbread baker thought that it would be much nicer to undercook the gingerbread so that it would be soft and tasty instead of nice and hard. Learning the hard way that soft and tasty gingerbread is also fat and heavy. Leading to the (unfortunately not photographed) collapse of said house.

And to the substitution of graham crackers for gingerbread.


Several years later (after these pictures) a bad batch of frosting led to the innovative idea of building the graham cracker structure using hot glue, and then covering all traces of the hot glue with frosting.

We had arrived at gingerbread nirvana. No longer bound by the success or failure of either the gingerbread or the frosting, our houses were able to reach their truest potential as we expressed our architectural vision.

Making gingerbread houses has become one of our family's dearest Christmas traditions. Each year we gather together our family, friends, graham crackers of all brands, as many glue guns as possible, and more candy than you can imagine.

We make gingerbread houses, and we make memories...





Jared & Jason's army camp

How NOT to Blog

I had an incident with my computer the other night that I thought I'd share, so that hopefully any other blogger that's reading this can avoid this problem.

I took all of the ornament pictures, downloaded them to my computer, and immediately started blogging. As I was blogging I decided that I wanted to order the pictures I'd taken differently, so that the pictures of the tree were named differently than the individual ornament pictures. I decided this while I was in the process of uploading pics to my blog post. I selected a group of pictures, hit F2, and renamed them. Then I selected the other group of pictures, hit F2 again, and renamed those. Then I continued uploading pictures for the post.

After a while I realized that I needed a few more ornament pictures and so I stopped and took more pictures. I downloaded them to my computer again and immediately uploaded a couple, and then decided (while the uploader window was open) to change the names on the new pictures as well.

At some point I started getting frustrated at my carelessness, because I would think I had chosen one picture to upload and a different picture would end up on my screen. I immediately rebooted (the answer to all Windows problems) but it didn't make a difference. After this happened a couple of times I figured something else must be going on. Sure enough, which I clicked on the thumbnail of the flip-flop ornament (from our beach trip right before the 2004 elections) it brought up the picture of this Santa . In fact, in order to find that flip-flop picture just now I had to look through each picture separately. There is no flip-flop picture in the folder if I just look at the thumbnails.

Russ's theory is that having the blogger picture upload window open somehow interfered with the file renaming that I was doing. All I can say is that I'm really glad it only affected the tree, ornament, and gingerbread pictures. Because now I have gingerbread thumbnails that are actually tree pictures, tree thumbnails that are ornament pictures, and ornaments thumbnails that are entirely different ornaments. You should definitely not try this at home!

And if you do try it at home, you should definitely be married to the coolest guy in the world, who can figure out how to fix your pictures!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

I really love having a Christmas tree. One of the reasons that I love our tree this year is because we had a small Christmas Tree Miracle. We drove to get our tree together, having already had a discussion in which we established that due to the downturn in both the national and the Ray economies, it would be wise to buy the kind of tree Russ would buy (less expensive and scrawny) rather than the kind of tree I would buy. (More expensive and pretty.) When we arrived at the lot we were immediately greeted by a row of broken trees--trees that had accidentally had the tops broken off of them, and had been repaired using plastic cable ties.

Bingo. Pretty tree, scrawny price.
So this year I've loved our Christmas tree because The Price Was Right.

But I love our tree every year, pretty or scrawny, because of what it holds. Our tree is never going to win any kind of award for tree beauty. There is no color coordination and no theme. (Although I will confess that after the children decorate the tree, I spend an hour or so making sure that everything looks balanced.)

Our tree is a history of the last 15 years of our lives together. When Cindy Lynn was 5 and Jason was 1, we went to Colorado for the wedding of my best friend from high school. We visited a glass blowers shop in Estes Park and loved watching him make things. I wanted to buy a $70 pitcher, but that was (and still is!) out of our budget. So instead we bought an ornament. It seemed like an extravagant and slightly odd thing to do at the time. I think it cost $25, which was a small fortune to us then. And it just seemed like it would be strange to have one ornament from a vacation on our tree--at that point in time we weren't big vacation takers, and we couldn't see that that would ever change. But we bought it anyway. It was so beautiful that we hung it in our bright kitchen window to enjoy all of the time. In December we moved it onto our tree, and after the tree came down it went back into the window.

The next year (much to our surprise) we took another vacation. We traveled from Idaho to the east coast to spend time with my family and go to a family reunion at the beach. And we bought an ornament at the beach. We had no idea what kind of trend we were starting! That first beach ornament has fallen from the tree several times, but each time we have saved the sand and the small shells and put them in another glass ball. And a very cool cube the last time.

Our Christmas Tree contains the highlights of our life. It shows who we are.

It holds ornaments that remind us of the people we love,

places we've been,

and adventures we've had.

When we haven't been able to find the right ornament we have improvised.

We are, of course, a little heavy on the beach themed ornaments.

Each year we decorate the tree together. We take the ornaments out of the box, reminisce about where we got each one, and talk about the fun memories we have. Each year there is less and less room on the tree for what I would call "filler" ornaments.

Because our tree is filled with happiness.

Coolest Present Ever

In addition to the wonderful tripod Russ gave me (used to take the ornament pics in the next post), my awesome brother Val gave me...

A lifetime supply of post it notes!

Saturday, December 27, 2008