I've spent the last five years (with the exception of three months) serving a mission for the Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). It began in September 2010 in Jacksonville, NC (North Carolina Raleigh Mission) and ends January 2016, here at home in the Utah Salt Lake City West Mission. I've enjoyed almost every minute of it...except for those nagging moments thinking I could have done more. Then, just that quickly, I understand what I've been preaching...my efforts are acceptable to Him!
The other thing I've discovered is; I no longer desire to get sucked into the commercial side of Christmas. Does that mean I don't want to see my children and grandchildren with happy faces as they open presents? No! I just can't stop thinking of thousands of people, many children, who just want what I have; a warm bed at night and food in their bellies. The only thing I know I can do is donate in significant ways...and so that's what I did. A drop in the bucket but lots of drops turn into a river. So I'll continue to add to the river.
Now, for the heart of my message...my Christmas tree. Sara and Matt take the boys into the hills and cut them down. This years tree received the Charlie Brown award. I love my CB tree because there's room for all the ornaments to hang down without hitting a branch. Several weeks ago, it had lots and lots of ornaments on it. After just a couple of days I found more and more ornaments being tossed around by a rambunctious 2 1/2 year old. I was not going to win that battle. In fact, if I think about it, I'll include a picture of our one year old tv. Great story!
Anyway, I'm always looking for ways to teach about our Saviors birth and this year it was all about the tree. Using the scriptures I came across the following two; the first describes Him and the other His purpose. I know many, including my family, didn't understand what the intent was...but it didn't matter to me. I GOT IT! And it brought me peace in the middle of a lot of chaos!
I asked Sara a question the other day and I'll ask it here. Is it possible to have a "Little House On The Prairie" kind of Christmas? You know, the kind where Laura and Mary got a penny in a tin up which they shared...and were happy! Have we crossed the line so badly that we can NEVER go back? Have we become so entrenched in the stuff we have to have that our entire economy would collapse if we gave it up? I don't have an answer...neither did Sara.
This is WHAT IS possible! We get to choose how we want the coming year to be. For me? I choose happiness! Happy New Year! With love, Sister Z (aka, Mrs Z, Vicki, Grandma Vicki)
Daniel Allen "A Very Brave Soul"
Not too long ago in Heaven, there was a little soul who took wonder in observing the world. He especially enjoyed the love he saw there and often expressed this joy with God. One day, however, the little soul was sad, for on this day he saw suffering in the world. He approached God and sadly asked, "Why do bad things happen? Why is there suffering in the world?"
God paused for a moment and replied, "Little soul, do not be sad, for the suffering you see unlocks the love in people's hearts."
The little soul was confused. "What do you mean?" he asked.
God replied, "Have you noticed the goodness and love that is the offspring of that suffering? Look at how people come together, drop their differences and show their love and compassion for those who suffer. All their other motivations disappear and they become motivated by love alone." The little soul began to understand and listened attentively as God continued, "The suffering soul unlocks the love in people's hearts much like the sun and the rain unlock the flower within the seed. I created everyone with endless love in their heart, but unfortunately most people keep it locked up and hardly share it with anyone. They are afraid to let their love shine freely because they are afraid of being hurt. But a suffering soul unlocks that love. I tell you this −it is the greatest miracle of all. Many souls have bravely chosen to go into the world and suffer−to unlock this love−to create this miracle−for the good of all humanity."
Just then the little soul got a wonderful idea and could hardly contain himself. With its wings fluttering, bouncing up and down, the little soul excitedly replied, "I am brave; let me go! I would like to go into the world and suffer so that I can unlock the goodness and love in people's hearts! I want to create that miracle!"
God smiled and said, "You are a brave soul, I know, and thus I will grant your request. But even though you are very brave, you will not be able to do this alone. I have known since the beginning of time that you would ask for this and so I have carefully selected many souls to care for you on your journey. Those souls will help you create your miracle; however, they will also share in your suffering. Two of these souls are most special and will care for you, help you and suffer along with you, far beyond the others. These people are your parents" God and the brave little soul shared a smile and then embraced.
In parting God said, "Do not forget, little soul that I will be with you always. Although you have agreed to bear the pain, you will do so through my strength. And if the time should come when you feel that you have suffered enough, just say the word, think the thought, and you will be healed." Thus at that moment the brave little soul was born into the world, and through his love and suffering and God's strength, he unlocked the goodness and love in people's hearts. For so many people dropped their differences and came together to show their love. Priorities became properly aligned. People gave from their hearts. Those that were always too busy found time. Many began new spiritual journeys−some regained lost faith−many came back to God. Parents hugged their children tighter. Friends and family grew closer. Old friends got together and new friendships were made. Distant family reunited, and every family spent more time together. Everyone prayed. Peace and love reigned. Lives changed forever. It was good. The world was a better place. The miracle had happened and God was pleased.