Saturday, 22 December 2012

21 Days of Random Acts of Kindness - AFTER Christmas

I was reading a blog post recently in which the readers were invited to participate in the 12 Days of Christmas challenge...

Service is something our family does, but not in the same way every year. We have participated in this, as well as in The 25 Days of Christmas, and various Random Acts of Kindness project;, but we haven't made a consistent "tradition" of any specific one of these. :o What's up with that? How can one NOT adopt a specific tradition of serving  each Christmas Season??? OK, so maybe it doesn't matter WHICH one you do, or even if you alternate, as long as you're serving what you call it really doesn't matter...

Actually, I TRY to do random acts of kindness all year round and was inspired to by the book "The 17 Second Miracle" (which I have read every Christmas since it was written in 2010). But I think it a good idea to make random acts of kindness a family event as well.

I do wish I had remembered to do this with my family this year! Boo-hoo... WAIT - Who says it has to be the 12 days BEFORE Christmas? Why not do it the 12 days AFTER - to remind us to carry the Spirit of Christ into our hearts and lives - AFTER Christmas, not just at Christmas time - but ALL YEAR LONG! :) I feel quite good and happy about this thought! :D  In fact, since it takes 21 days to create a habit, why not do it for 21 days  - being certain that the 21st day arrives after Christmas?

Intermission - (I'm going to go talk to my family about this...)

I have spoken to my husband about this, and he likes the idea, so we decided to make it a tradition and invite our family and friends to do it with us... :)  Therefore,

We would like to invite you to join us in our celebration of Jesus and the life He inspires us to live.

I am excited to announce that our family is starting a new tradition - the tradition of making it a major focus to serve and perform random acts of kindness as much as possible for 21 days in a row, so as to help kindness and service to become a solid habit. We may start it before Christmas, or on the Day of Christmas - the important thing is that we continue on AFTER Christmas...

We will call this new tradition...

The first annual 21 Days of Random Acts of Kindness - AFTER Christmas - Project...

Let this tradition be a reminder to us - to carry with us the spirit of Christmas, not just at Christmas time, but after the Christmas Season as well - in fact, all year long...

Please help to spread the word - Think of the good we can do if many people go about making it a habit to selflessly go about doing random acts of kindness to others... :) 

I may leave this post up without re-posting for a short time to be sure it is seen by as many people as possible coming to my blog. Please invite your friends and family to participate as well. This is a great and fun way to stretch out and lengthen the wonderful feeling we have during the Christmas Season and to help us make Chris-like kindness a greater part of our everyday lives.

PS. Our family will also be listening to Christmas music - or at least music about Christ - all year long...

What other Christmas traditions do you think would be fun to carry on into our lives AFTER the Christmas season is over?

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Yup. Santa Claus Does Exist... :)

Santa Claus is coming to town! :D

I just need to take a moment to rejoice! :) 

Thanks, Santa! I'm glad you exist! ;) More importantly, I'm thankful that you remind us that Christ exists, and that the spirit of kindness  selflessness, service, giving, generosity, forgiveness, love... well, they exist too - in the spirit of Christmas...

I am very excited to celebrate Christmas with my family! :) And this year I have a constant prayer in my heart that the spirit of Christmas will grow in the hearts of my family and reside there, all year round...

Merry Christmas!
Corine :D

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Christmas Season - Pre-peak... :)

Merry Christmas, friends!

I have written several times in past years about our family's Christmas traditions on my other blog, but never here. So I decided to write a very brief one here. We are about to start the 12 days of Christmas as a family and I'm really excited about that! :D Perhaps I will write more about what we do after we do it; but for now here is a quick post about some of the things we typically do at Christmas time...

Our family has the same tradition a lot of other families have of giving a gift to Christ for Christmas (it is, after all, His birthday we are celebrating! :) This gift is one of setting a goal to repent or improve in some way - and I LOVE it!  (Setting goals excites me! :D)
I just read about one family placing their gifts to Christ in a large white stocking. They enjoy looking through the stocking to reminisce over what they have done and the progress they have made. I think that is a pretty neat idea. :)

The "how" has been less traditional for us. The first few years we did this, we actually wrapped our gifts in small boxes, then opened them the following year to see if we remembered and followed through. But it made more sense to store our gift in a way that we could see, remember, and be sure to follow through; so we switched to writing our gift on a 3X5 card with a small bow and a couple Christmas symbols stamped on it; that way the gift could be placed in a journal or book or anywhere a person wanted to keep it for quick reference. I thought of scrap booking the notes, but wanted everyone to be free to set personal goals if they want to, so we ended up keeping them individually and privately.
Other favorite Christmas traditions of mine include caroling and visiting in nursing homes. We also bake a variety of cookies together to spread a little more holiday cheer as we carol. The goal is to keep our traditions and activities Christ centered by doing services Christ would have us do. And of course, we also read a lot about the birth, life, and teachings of Jesus during this time. I love to read the Sermon on the Mount around Christmas time each year as well as reading about his birth and resurrection. Having a family gospel study about the Atonement of Jesus Christ is also a must...

Fun traditions that build family ties and memories are also a must, and Christmas break is a great time for a little more family fun than usual. These include things like sledding on Cherry Hill, watching Christmas movies, driving together to look at Christmas lights then coming home and sipping hot chocolate while reading a good Christmas story. We also enjoy walking the docks together and seeing the lights on the lake. When the kids were young we once took a night cruise to see the "North Pole" (lighted up Santa's workshop on a lake). Another favorite of mine is writing letters to family and friends; those bonds are important too!

The important thing to me is to focus on loving and serving as Christ does and strengthening family bonds of love. :) Now that we have a working vehicle and our family is all together again (a son is returning home from visiting friends) - I'm so excited about Christmas time! :D
I hope this Christmas season finds you filled with love, service, family and the Joy of Christ!
Corine :D

Sunday, 9 December 2012

I Was Asked to Give a Talk... Because I'm "Spunky" - Imagine That... :o

Hi. :) Today I gave a talk at church about celebrating Christmas through service. It was fun. :D (I know, I'm a strange duck ;) I was a little nervous about it because I hadn't given a talk at church for a long time, and since I am so uplifted and inspired at church it was really important to me that uplift and inspire others. I was also nervous because I am so different than most women. I used to wish I were more refined, like the other women at church - more calm... I actually prayed that while giving my talk I would be calm and reverent, rather than excitable. Honestly, I love talking in front of people and when I speak of things I am passionate about I can sometimes be quite animated and loud. So I really prayed to be calm and reverent.

Later on at church the wife of the man who asked me to speak came to me. She told me that when she asked her husband who he would call to give the talk, he told her he would call me, "because I am spunky and energetic..." :) LOL - I hope I didn't disappoint him, because my prayer was answered and I felt really calm!

PS. She also told me that she told her husband that she could think of a second great reason to ask me to speak. She said she knew I would say yes - and that if she needs someone she can depend upon she knows she can call me. That also made me happy. :D 

Isn't it great when people tell others the good things they see in them? I think I'll go out and tell a few people the things I like about them now... :)

PS. If you want to read my talk you can go here to read it.

Have an awesome Christmas season!
Corine :D

Update: The said wife talked to her husband again to remember his exact words then came and told me about it; he said I am"energetic" and "enthusiastic." I'm so glad people appreciate the way I am more than I do! :)

Christmas and Service

Just before Thanksgiving this year, it snowed. Just as snow does with small children, my youth got excited. :) "It's snowing! It feels like Christmas!" OK. So, maybe they weren't the only ones exclaiming with excitement. ;) The next thing I knew, we were all sitting down together to watch a Christmas movie! :D

Thanksgiving Day came and went, and so did the snow. And we temporarily stopped watching Christmas movies. It stopped feeling like Christmas. I didn't like it. We hadn't gotten that Christmas spirit feeling back into our home. We hadn't found time to decorate yet either. How does one get that Christmas feeling back – without snow, decorations, or celebrations? ;o

In the story of The Grinch who Stole Christmas - Betty Lue saw Christmas being "celebrated" all around her – which, for Betty, only made it feel less like Christmas. “There has to be more to Christmas than this!" She exclaimed. And upon seeing people purchase piles upon piles of gifts, she asked, "Isn't this a bit much?  It all seems so Su-per-fi-lis?” As you already know, in her search for Christmas, Betty Lue extended a hand of friendship to "the one who needed it most"...

I saw a Christmas video on recently. 

It was the goings on of a family. In the kitchen, the parents did the dishes together as they discussed finances and how they would purchase gifts for Christmas.  In the living room a couple of teens were seen looking through magazines and telling each other what they wanted. And wondering all around the house gathering things and taking them to her own bedroom - was a little girl who had created and decorated a manger scene.

These little girls both found Christmas... It may be helpful to contemplate what we can learn from them...

The church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is doing a Christmas campaign in New York. On billboards, taxi's and buses there are big signs and pictures stating what Christmas is. Some of them tell just one word, others 3, and the messages that are electronic, giving room for more explanations of what Christmas is have four words for Christmas. First they say "Christmas is"... then they give the definitions of Christmas: "Christmas is, LOVE, FAMILY, SERVICE, JESUS CHRIST"

Last December (2011) President Thomas S. Monson gave a talk now known as The Spirit we feel at Christmas Time. In that talk Monson said the following...

"My brothers and sisters, finding the real joy of the season comes not in the hurrying and the scurrying to get more done or in the purchasing of obligatory gifts. Really, joy comes as we show the love and compassion inspired by the Savior of the world."

Monson  continued... 

"The Savior gave freely to all. And His gifts were of value beyond measure. Throughout His ministry, He blessed the sick, restored sight to the blind, made the deaf to hear, and the halt and the lame to walk. He gave cleanliness to the unclean. He restored breath to the lifeless. He gave hope to the despairing, and He sowed light in the darkness. He gave us His love, His service, and His life.

"What is the spirit we feel at Christmastime? It is His spirit—the spirit of Christ."

"The Christmases we remember best generally have little to do with worldly goods, but a lot to do with families, with love, and with compassion and caring."

President Monson has given so many talks about service and Christmas and says things so beautifully I'm going to quote him again. In our last Christmas devotional President Monson had this to say... 

“Christmas is not just about tinsel and ribbon – unless we make it so. Christmas is the spirit of giving with no thought of getting. We feel happy at Christmas time because we see joy in people. We forget ourselves and find time for others.”

This definition of how to find that happy Christmas feeling is much like the definition David O. McKay once gave … 

True happiness comes only by making others happy. The spirit of Christmas makes our heart glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service. It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

And isn't this why we are all either members or investigators of His church? I'm guessing that we all felt the spirit of Christ as we learned about His gospel and watched others live the gospel by doing the things the Savior would have them do. The gospel of Jesus Christ fills our hearts with happiness as we do the things he asks of us – most of which involve sacrifice and SERVICE...

At our last General Conference Elder Daniel L Johnson of the seventy gave a wonderful talk about becoming a true disciple.  I quote, “Those of us who have entered into the waters of baptism and received the gift of the Holy Ghost have covenanted that we are willing to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, or in other words, we declare ourselves to be disciples of the Lord.  We renew that covenant each week as we partake of the sacrament, and we demonstrate that discipleship by the way that we live.”

My favorite Christmas traditions - are the ones that make Christmas FEEL like Christmas; these are traditions of service…

Each and every time my family and I experience these traditions, an overwhelming and inexpressible joy comes over me - and I again find myself thinking,

THIS is what Christmas feels like!” I am experiencing Christmas right now…

Thinking of these things reminds me of a couple of my favorite lines in a Christmas song...
It's the hap-happiest season of all (wonderful time)
It's the most wonderful time of the year (most
wonderful time)
I believe the Christmas season is a wonderful, happy time because people, everywhere, whether they realize it or not, are striving to be more like Jesus. They are forgetting about themselves and sacrificing for others

I love the story of the Magi, about a sweet couple who are so materially poor. Each has but one thing of earthly or monetary value. For her, it is her hair. For him, a watch. On Christmas Eve each is desperate to do something kind for the other. Neither has money. She cuts and sells her hair to purchase a chain for his watch. He sells his watch to buy combs for her hair. I laugh at the irony of it while crying over the sweet sacrifice every time I hear that story! This is the spirit of Christmas.

I think we need to train ourselves to think outside the box when it comes to celebrating Christmas – and let the spirit of Christ change us – so we can have that kind of happiness all year long…

To accomplish this, we must stop thinking that the things we do to celebrate Christmas must carry a traditional stamp of Christmas. So often we do only traditional acts of service which carry the “Christmas “stamp of approval – and once the “Christmas season” is over we never do that particular service or activity again – at least, not until next Christmas…

As was mentioned before, the spirit of Christmas is the spirit of Christ... To become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ is an ongoing process that never really ends. As Elder Johnson mentioned in Gen. Con... to become a true disciple of Jesus Christ takes continual work and consistent living of gospel principles… Having the spirit of Christmas/Christ helps us with the conversion process, because it helps us to follow Christ’s example to love and serve...

President Henry B. Eyring gave a wonderful talk this past October titled The Caregiver. In this talk he quoted Joseph Smith's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, as she spoke to the sisters about what the Relief Society should accomplish - something that we would all do well to accomplish... "We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another and gain instruction, that we may all sit down in heaven together..."

Perhaps the greatest gifts we can give are given spontaneously as our hearts are changed...

One day the lord will return again upon the earth. And I believe that one of the things which will help the earth to prepare for His coming is faithful followers of Christ living the spirit of Christ, of Christmas – all year long…

As I imagine what the righteous will be like on the day that Christ returns, I envision a people who are close to the spirit. I believe the changes in the way missionaries and youth leaders teach -  by the spirit - is the beginning of a people who are closer to the spirit and therefore more capable of serving the lord and preparing the world for His coming. We can all be a part of this as we make simple choices each day to have the spirit of Christ in our hearts and minds and follow the promptings we receive to serve others.

Christmas is a great time to make such changes in ourselves...   Don't wait to be prompted to serve...  Look around to notice people who are suffering and continually ask the lord, “What would you have me do?”  Listen to the promptings of the spirit. The answers will most likely include many things which are not typical of “Christmas” activities. There will sometimes be no packages or bows in your Christmas activities. But with the unleashing of expectations for how to celebrate Christmas – you will find yourself doing wonderful things you may never have thought to do for Christmas. J I have felt prompted to serve the lord - (as well as family members who have passed on before me) - by doing temple work. I feel prompted to also encourage you to celebrate Christmas by attending the temple.

There is not limit to the number of ways we can celebrate Christ all year long... Visit an elderly person in a nursing home, and keep visiting, not just for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day…  

Ask the Lord what He desires of you. This will constantly change. At some time in your life the Lord may ask you to perform much service outside the home… Other times His desire for you may be as simple as playing with your children more; buoying up your husband or wife; fixing better meals for your family and eating with them all together… The Holy Spirit will speak into your heart and mind and help you to know how and where to serve if you will but ask with a true and sincere heart – Strive to live the true spirit of Christmas and to do what Christ would have you do - rather than just going through the motions.  I have felt a steady prompting to celebrate Christ by going to the temple more and encourage others to do so as well…

Now, I would like to share a few very brief stories of Prophets celebrating Christmas – Notice how untraditional yet wonderful these are – and yet – notice they do services for the sole purpose of bringing laughter, fun, and joy as well as to meet needs…

As a boy, President Thomas S. Monson was celebrating Christmas when his friend asked a startling question, “What does turkey taste like?” He responded that it tasted like chicken, but then he realized that his unfortunate friend had never tasted either. Not only that, but there was nothing in his friend’s house with which to prepare a Christmas dinner. “I pondered a solution,” said President Monson. “I had no turkeys, no chickens, no money. Then I remembered I did have two pet rabbits. Immediately I took my friend by the hand and rushed to the rabbit hutch, placed the rabbits in a box, and handed the box to him with the comment, ‘Here, take these two rabbits. They’re good to eat—just like chicken.’ … Tears came easily to me as I closed the door to the empty rabbit hutch. But I was not sad. A warmth, a feeling of indescribable joy, filled my heart. It was a memorable Christmas.”

In 1876 the St. George Utah Temple was nearing completion. The dedication ceremony for the basement, main room, and sealing room was scheduled for January 1, 1877.8 With Christmas just seven days before the dedication, many in St. George worked frantically to help ensure the temple was completed in time.

President Wilford Woodruff, who served as the first president of the temple, recorded in his journal that on Christmas day the men were busy at work with buzz saws and that 40 women spent the whole day in the temple sewing carpets. They laid carpet and put up curtains.

I believe the most important people we will ever serve will be the ones who call us family... 

One of President David O. McKay’s annual family traditions was to take the grandchildren riding on a bobsleigh pulled by a fine team of horses, “bells a-jingle.” The ride was one of their favorite traditions. President McKay continued it into his 80s. To stay warm, President McKay wore his long, thick raccoon coat and big gloves. The smaller grandchildren rode in the sleigh, but the older ones “whizzed along behind on their own sleds” tied to the back of the bobsleigh. These long-to-be-remembered Christmas celebrations sometimes ended with carols around the piano and singing “Love at Home.”7

There are countless ways to serve, and I will leave it to you to open your eyes to see what needs done, and go to the lord and ask Him what He would have you do. 

I pray that when the spirit prompts us to do a kind deed for someone, especially if it is as simple as stopping by to visit someone – we will heed the call to serve.

We are his hands. As we heed the prompting to serve we become his faithful disciples.

I say these things humbly in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen...

Corine :D

(This was a talk I gave at church on Dec. 9, 2012)

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Half a Century YOUNG :)

Miles just turned 50. That's right. He is a half century old young. ;) 

I have wanted to throw a party for him for his 50th for a long time now. And yet, I did all the planning at the last second. :o But at least it happened. :) Yesterday Miles and the boys left the house to help someone move, so Mindy and I had the house to ourselves for preparing. We brainstormed and rummaged through old newspapers and photos.

As I went through Miles' belongs I thought of so many things Miles has done in his life. Some of them I would mention to Mindy and she would write them down. Though I considered postponing the party, my gut instinct told me I was preparing to throw the party that very day and I knew I was somehow preparing. I continued reminiscing and setting aside newspaper clippings and mementos of his life experiences. I also got a little teary eyed now and then as I would come across sweet memories of Miles or words he had written that pulled at my emotional heart strings. Miles is a very special man and I am so blessed to be with him... :)

Miles has done so much in his life that I considered calling off the party and scheduling it for another day - just so I could have more time to adequately highlight his life. I knew our highlight would not be nearly complete. Then I considered the fact that I recently cancelled a surprise party planned for my twins because a friend was out of town. We still haven't rescheduled. One of the things I have strove to do is to let go of procrastinating to have things perfect - and just DO things. It is a great way to live. One thing I've learned is that things have a way of working out when we ACT. :) So Mindy and I decided to do our best with the time we had and go ahead and celebrate.

I had already told Miles that I wanted to take him to the theater for his birthday, so I knew I would be leaving with him when he and our sons returned home from helping a friend. The display wasn't created. The time line wasn't created. There was a pile of newspaper clippings and photos and notes, and some food prepared but not enough...  I would think of people I still wanted to invite and things I needed for the party, but didn't have time to do anything about it. I really wanted Miles to have a good party. As the time approached to leave with Miles I would begin to stress over what needed to be done. Each time I began stressing a peaceful feeling would come over me along with the thought, "don't worry. It will all work out." And it did. :) I made some food. Had supplies for root beer floats and a half snickers bar for the half-century old man. ;) (I told him he could only have half of what he got that day and had to share the other half with me since he is only a half century old). I took Miles to see Breaking Dawn 2. And before we returned home Mindy had done this...  

While Miles and I we were at the show, Mindy made a time line and display table to highlight a few of Miles' accomplishments and achievements. She also made a slide show of photos of Miles from a photo file I compiled. She did awesome! :D

(Drawing of John Lennon on the wall: Miles drew that around the age of 19 or so. It went to Wa. DC.)
My dear friend Valerie offered to help us out with finger foods and invitation phone calls - which I gladly took her up on! Her son made delicious sushi (Not from raw fish. This stuff was GOOD... I am quite impressed!). Valerie made a darling snow man cheese ball and brought a few other finger foods as well. What an awesome friend! :) 

Between Valerie and Mindy, everything I couldn't do was done...

And friends came. :) We had some really great friends come.
I wish I got photos of them all..

People came at different times, so no group photo...
To all of you who did not know about the party - I'm sorry I didn't plan earlier and get invitations out. Please know we tried to invite you by phone. And thank you for being great friends! :D

And to those who miraculously made it to the party at the last minute ... Thank you so much for coming! It rally made Miles' day. :)

Last but not least - To Miles -  I LOVE YOU! - And I am so incredibly honored to celebrate your life with you! :D You are an amazing person! You have led a wonderful fifty years! I can hardly wait to see what you will do with the next 50 years of your life...

Forever and always,
Corine :D

PS. I don't usually post two writings in the same day, but today I posted a writing about our Thanksgiving celebration (must catch up! :o): 
This year's Odd Highlights of Thanksgiving Day 

TTFN! :)