I almost didn't put up a Christmas tree, our little collection of nativities, or any other Christmas decorations again. I'm definitely not anti-Christmas just practical, and putting up all the decorations didn't seem practical if we weren't going to be here for Christmas.
Calvin and I put up a little, free sagebrush for our first Christmas because it was our first house and we wanted it to feel like a home. For the next 28 years it was easy to put up and decorate a tree for the kids' sakes. But the last few years my enthusiasm has waned and finally last year it seemed like too much work to do just for me -- no kids or grandkids would be here in the month of December and we were going to Seattle for Christmas anyway -- so I didn't bother decorating. It felt a bit empty all month, but it was certainly more convenient and cleaner.
Last Sunday, Calvin said, "Let's put up a tree this year or we're going to get in a bad habit and never put one up again." While "let's" is supposed to mean "let us", we both knew he really meant let'u. And so I did. When I put the Christmas decorations up for Calvin, it made all the difference. It put all the fun right back into Advent and every evening when I turn the lights on before he comes home for supper, the magic returns. Duh. Christmas is about serving others.
I sat in the dentist chair this week for two hours and couldn't help but think about Jesus. Somewhere, sometime when I was a teenager I heard a man say that the nerves leading to our teeth are about the diameter of a pin while the nerves leading to and in our hands are about as thick as pencils. (I have no idea if this is true, all I know is that he said it and I remember it.) He reminded us of how it feels when a nerve to the tooth is hit and then said, "When they nailed the Savior to the cross and they put the nails through his hands and wrists, can you imagine what it felt like when they hit those nerves?" This week as I sat staring up at the ceiling and wincing in the dentist's chair, I asked myself over and over, "How did He do it?" Christmas carols played the entire time and it was really very comforting. Much more so than if songs about cheaters, broken-hearts, and hatin' your mamma had been playing. From now on, I'm making my dentist appointments for December so when the nerves the size of a pin get hit, there is perspective and solid songs to get me through it.
In seminary the kids and I made Christmas countdown chains with acts of service written on the links. Each day it's been fun to hear what the kids are doing, especially those who have taken it to heart. It's also been fun to specifically plan and look for opportunities to serve. I have hesitated to share my list for it could easily be interpreted to appear as the pharisees gloating to the public as they dropped their alms into the treasury. I really don't want to be a pharisee, not even for Halloween, but I'll risk appearing that because of a blogger named Jenny. A few years ago Jenny set the goal to do an act of service every day for the whole year. She wrote in the smallest letters possible, and even without complete sentences, at the end of each post the thing that she had done for the day. That was often my favorite part of Jenny's posts and I learned much reading what she did. Day after day, she wrote and it soon became apparent that it was many things that lifted others, not just big, significant acts. I admired Jenny's courage to post the service she gave even if it could be wrongly interpreted and was grateful she shared her ideas. Here I am, not-so-bravely sharing mine [and, in parenthesis, some of the things I'm learning] in hopes that they might help someone like Jenny's helped me.
~Warmed up two paper plates of leftover mashed potatoes and hamburger gravy and took it to a friend who was working. We ate lunch together.
~Said every kind thought that popped into my head for a whole afternoon
~Did family history and found three children in the 1920 census that hadn't been accounted for in my great-aunt's family.
~Made a big crockpot of ham and beans for a family with four children who live in a house trailer and no running water. With the windchill, it's been below 0 much of the week. Our friend had never seen a crockpot so I told her to keep it. She was so happy that she would now be able to make hot soup for her kids to wake up to for breakfast.
~Sent a note and a candy bar to a girl at the high school who is scared and lonely. Sent it with another girl so that the lonely girl would have contact from two people.
~Put up the Christmas tree for Calvin
(I learned this week that a well-timed gift is often more important than a new one. Had I waited to make a fresh meal or buy a new crock-pot I would have missed opportunities.)
He did it! He finally did it! Calvin and Abe made bacon last weekend and it came out of its brine-smoking-sitting this week. It's perfect. Calvin has finally created a recipe that can be duplicated and every. batch. taste. good.
I made a batch of cinnamon suckers for seminary this week. Cough. Sputter. Spit. Though they were cute (bright red with cake decorations in the shapes of wreaths, Santas, and trees on the front of them), they were hot. Too hot. One student took a lick and said, "Ohhhhh, spicy!" Another said, "Hey, I'm Mexican. I do hot." Then he took another lick and said, "But this is hot. Even for me." None of them could keep them in their mouths. I had them dip them in cups of water as they ate them just like I used to when I was a kid and our kids did when they were kids and a batch was too hot. While it's fun to eat suckers dipped in water, I need to make more so as to remember exactly how much cinnamon oil is too much.
The week ended on a perfect note. These two couples went to the temple for the first time last night and had their marriages solemnized. Several of us from the Spanish Branch went to celebrate and be with them. It was an incredible event. Really incredible.
And then, per Spanish Branch tradition, we went to a Chinese buffet afterwards. Which reminds me of a story: Cali was five years old and we had moved to a new school district in the middle of the year. Her new best friend was a little boy named Transito. One day Cali was telling Abe, who was three, about Transito. Abe asked, "What do Mexicans eat?" Cali said, "I don't know." She thought for a minute and then said, "Chinese food I think."