A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Year in Review

Remember the good old days of 2013? Neither do I. It's been a whirlwind year, as witnessed by the fact that I still haven't posted any pictures of my Ireland trip. Maybe I'll finally be able to get up a post about that in 2014. However, I wanted to end the year by reporting on my New Year's resolution from January. My one resolution for the year was to Be Happy.

Yesterday while cleaning out my room I found my list of "What Makes Me Happy?" and "What Makes Me Unhappy?" I've been successful in increasing some of the stuff from the happy list, but haven't made much headway in removing or mitigating some of the unhappy influences. On the list, I wrote the following at the bottom (I was so wise in January, what happened?): "Overarching question: What does God want me to do?"

In May, I got a new calling* in church. It's something that I would never have volunteered for, and I remain convinced that I'm pretty terrible at it, even after more than half a year of practice. But as I think about it (and pray about it), I realize it's what God wants me to do. That seems really simplistic, but it doesn't make the calling any easier, or does it help me on a practical level know what to do with the calling.

Sometimes we know the "big picture" of what God wants us to do, but he doesn't give us every stepping stone along the way. Like "being happy" we may get a broad theme but the daily decisions are left up to us. This can be incredibly frustrating or incredibly liberating. I tend to find it the former, but the decisions we make hopefully help us grow into better, kinder people. I keep waiting for the "Calling Fairy" to come tap me on the shoulder and fill me with knowledge of how to serve. It hasn't happened yet, so I keep "muddling through." As I think about goals for 2014, I'm stumped. I still want to be happy, of course, but I feel like that goal was too broad and vague for a full year.

Reading this post at the Mormon blog "By Common Consent" really touched me, especially #2 of the five goals. I think the author is right about home and visiting teaching.** I think it's key to ministering and loving others. So maybe my goal for 2014 will be to be a good visiting teacher. It's a simple, somewhat measurable goal, and I think serving others really does bring me joy. So, I'll give it a shot. More to come on some other 2014 goals in future posts.

In the meantime, what are you doing tonight to celebrate the New Year?

"What are you doing New Year's Eve?" Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Leavitt

*"Calling" is Mormonspeak for a church responsibility - teaching, administering, or serving in any church capacity, because the Mormon church is run by volunteers at the local and regional level
**Home and visiting teaching are programs of the Mormon church whereby you are assigned to visit people who you may or may not know on a monthly basis. Your job is to serve and love them.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Most WonderFULL Time of the Year

Last night after wrapping what I thought was my final present (whoops...missed one), I realized I hadn't set out my full manger scene. At that point, it was past midnight so it was technically Christmas Eve. "What a perfect metaphor for my life," I thought, "I've forgotten the true meaning of Christmas amidst all the trappings of the season." I got out the pieces, and assembled them on my dresser. I like this particular manger set only because I've had it for a long time (15 years at least). The figures are all children, which is cute. It's a cheap ceramic set but I love it.

This Christmas has been a busy one for a lot of reasons, and I've felt a lot of guilt about forgetting the most important things. December has been FULL to the brim and I have felt pretty sleep deprived. I lurch from one thing to the next and haven't really been good about prioritizing. However, this month I've also had some really wonderful experiences. Because most of these revolve around music, I can share some of these experiences with you.

Of the 107,000 videos of this Mormon message on YouTube, I think I've caused half of them.  It's been my sanity check to remind me to give my heart to service - to NOTICE others who need help and to actually act on it. FYI, at the end of the song there's an opportunity to download a free copy.

"What Shall We Give?" Mormon Tabernacle Choir

My church Christmas program featured this lovely "Poverty Carol," which has beautiful lyrics you can read here. The phrase "come all men who stumble" really struck me.

"Poverty Carol," Palos Verdes High School Chamber Choir

My dad also sang this peppy carol in a quartet in church, I loved it:

"Glad Noel," Lorna Linda Jr. High Choir

I discovered Francesca Battistelli's Christmas album, which I like.

"Heaven Everywhere," Francesca Battistelli

"Christmas Is," Francesca Battistelli

Ballet at Christmastime means the Nutcracker, and thanks to work, I got to see a fantastic version this year (not the one linked below, but still great).

"Russian Dance" from the Nutcracker, Performed by the Mariinsky Ballet

The capstone experience was going to a Messiah sing-a-long and being surrounded by people singing those beautiful words.  I don't think I had ever focused so much on the words when I listened to Handel's Messiah, but there are some beautiful scriptures which make up the text of that piece. I especially loved singing the names of Christ: "Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father."

"Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah, Sung by the Harlem Gospel Choir

As I was rushing around today on last errands, I saw a beautiful sunset. It reminded me of the lyrics to a non-Christmas song, Amazing Grace.  "Oh it is wonderful, that he should care for me, enough to die for me, O it is wonderful, wonderful to me." It is indeed a wonderful time of year to remember the Saviour, and all he has done for us. It's a time that can remind us of our inadequacies (we can never quite do EVERYTHING we plan to do), but can also fill us with wonder at the glory and mercy of God.

"Amazing Grace," Soweto Gospel Choir