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

Monday, December 30, 2019

19 Neat Things From 2019

It's time for me to dust off the blog for my "Year in Review" post where I recap my year. As usual, the items aren't in any particular order until the top five. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wouldn't it be loverly...to see a great show in NYC?
19) 2019 started off right, with a trip to NYC with my parents to see one of the best musicals ever, My Fair Lady, at Lincoln Center. We also managed to fit in some museum time, chocolate cake french toast, and my favorite scallion pancakes.
Smiling because I only paid $100 to see this show the second time, and it was fantastic!
 18) Teaching training in Chicago in January is not my favorite, but I did find a cheap ticket to Hamilton and so I got to enjoy that show again.
Atlanta Temple

Halifax, Nova Scotia Temple

Philadelphia Temple - hate the traffic, love the temple itself!
17) Sadly for me, the DC temple remained closed during all of 2019. But I did get a chance to visit several temples while traveling - including Halifax, NYC, Philadelphia, Memphis, Atlanta, and Chicago. Excited that the Church announced the DC temple open house will be in fall 2020, hopefully the DC temple reopens by the end of the 2020 year.
16) The Nats won the World Series! I may have to stop complaining about how bad DC sports teams are (we'll always have our football team...). Baby Shark, Do Doo Do Doo...
West Wing Weekly Taping with my partner in crime, April, who loves West Wing almost as much as me
15) Went to my last taping of "The West Wing Weekly," my favorite podcast, which is about my favorite TV show, "The West Wing." The podcast is wrapping up in 2020, saddest of days! The TV series is also leaving Netflix in 2020, which makes me glad I have my full DVD set.
14) Attended "Diner En Blanc" for the third year, this time with my friend Hannah.
Our Diner En Blanc place setting this year
13) Taught the 11 year-olds at church (for 8 months of the year). We had about 10 of them, and there was A LOT of personality in that room. I always enjoy hearing the perspective of kids on the gospel, because they will tell you what they are thinking.
12) Plenty of baking/cooking adventures - I still like trying new recipes and enjoyed a few meetings of "Cookbook Club" this year. For 2020, my goal is to expand my repertoire of bread baking skills - I know how to make my mom's/grandma's rolls super well, but I want to expand my knowledge of bread in 2020.
Cambodian Pineapple Soup for Cookbook Club

Holiday Roll Baking for friends and neighbors

Peach Strawberry Gallette for a roommate reunion feast
11) Lots of doggie snuggles. Reviewing the pictures I took during 2019: 80% dog pictures, 10% food pictures, and 10% everything else. I hate taking pictures of myself, so maybe I can work on that in 2020? Probably not, Daisy is much cuter than me.
She's so fluffy I want to die!
10) Traveled internationally for work. I didn't really get to see much of India, but my Indian co-workers were unbelievably kind and gracious, and it was great to meet them and teach training in Bangalore and Kochi. It was NOT great to spend over 12 hours in the Kochi airport due to flight delays on our way home.
View from the Hotel Rooftop Pool in Kochi, India
9) Last December training in Orlando! My work has had a work training event every year in December for many years, but this year was the last hurrah - my team will be switching to training in Orlando in May for 2020 and future years. Unfortunately that means I won't get to see one of my favorite co-workers, who transferred to Atlanta and is in a different group. Luckily we were able to do one last hurrah at Downtown Disney together this year.
8) Because I neglected to paint or carve my pumpkins for Halloween, I ended up using them to write things I was grateful for during the month of November. It was a fun idea and I may do it again next year, because it really helped me maintain a spirit of gratitude during the month.
Gratitude Pumpkins
7) A new Church calling: teaching Sunday lessons and planning weekday activities for the 12-13 year old girls at Church. It is a time-intensive calling but the girls are sweet and it is good to get to know them.
6) Attended the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing presentation on DC's National Mall. I have been to some cool things in DC, but this was one of the best - they used the Washington Monument as a projector screen to show some of the footage. It was truly EPIC, as the kids (used to?) say.
Moon Landing presentation on Washington Monument in DC

5) Helped to plan "Activity Days Camp" - a three day camp for the 8-11 year old girls at Church. I blogged about it earlier in the year, but it was very fun, and a good excuse to use my party planning traits inherited from my mom.
4) Surprised my family on Christmas Eve by picking up my brother Kevin and sister-in-law Saba at the airport and having them join us for a few days. My parents had no idea, and it was so fun to surprise them!
Me, Kevin, and Saba in DC
3) As the Church transitioned to a 2-hour block of meetings (instead of 3 hours of Sunday meetings!), they also implemented the "Come Follow Me" home study program, encouraging families to study together. Rather than mope about how I don't live with my family and couldn't participate in the home study curriculum, I organized some friends for a monthly discussion group and it has been wonderful to discuss the gospel with friends, something I don't often do.
2) Organized Mormon-themed suffrage tours of Washington, D.C. (to co-opt a popular 2019 song, I am 100% THAT history nerd). It was fun to study up on the subject and concoct a tour of suffrage history that intersects with my Church. There were some tough, smart, and civically-minded women in the Mormon church and we should all know more about them. Someone who is a better writer than me should write a book/articles about it.
Cookies, part of my suffrage tour
1) Visited Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, basically fulfilling a life-long dream to travel to the Land of Anne of Green Gables. My book club celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2019 and several members decided to travel to PEI to celebrate. It was a magically delightful and beautiful place. After PEI, I journeyed on alone to Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, and it was just amazing as well. The world really is so beautiful and, as Anne says "Dear old world, you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you."
The Beautiful Lupine Flowers of Prince Edward Island
Here's to more memories and fun (and a new President? Please?) in 2020!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Christmas Quotes

This year I am serving in the Church's Young Women organization, working as a class adviser to the young women ages 11-13. They are a fun bunch, and it has been a good (if at times exhausting) calling. For Christmas this year, I convinced the Young Women's Presidency and other advisers to do a craft I have done before (albeit I've never made 25 of them!). We made Christmas advent calendars for each young woman, and included a quote and a piece of chocolate for each day of December before Christmas.
Finished Advent Calendar
In the past I have made these for a friend or two, inspired by a similar thing that someone once did for me (maybe it was a YW leader? Honestly can't remember). Recently I've really felt it was important for the young women to see their women leaders as LEADERS and to recognize that women can be spiritual examples. So, I wanted to make sure that half of the quotes were from women. It was unfortunately really hard to find quotes by LDS women about Christmas (if you know of any sources I missed, please let me know!). Towards the end, I was Googling "Christmas +" the names of all LDS Relief Society presents and General Young Womens Presidents. So, I'm posting below the quotes we used, along with links to most of the sources.

This year, hopefully we add another few great talks via the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional, scheduled for a week from today. Merry Christmas, everyone!

"Each year at Christmas we add our witness to that of the shepherds that Jesus Christ, the literal Son of the living God, came to a corner of the earth in what we call the Holy Land. The shepherds reverently approached the stable to worship the King of kings. How will we worship Him this season? Endlessly shopping? Hustling about and adorning our homes? Will that be our tribute to our Savior? Or will we bring peace to troubled hearts, good will to those in need of higher purpose, glory to God in our willingness to do His bidding? Jesus put it simply: ‘Come, [and] follow me.’” (Ronald A. Rasband, “Glory to God,” 2013 Christmas Devotional)

“The wonder and awe of Christmas is just a beginning. Christmas reminds us that the babe born in Bethlehem has given us purpose for living, and what happens next to us largely depends on how we embrace our Savior, Jesus Christ, and follow Him. Every day we invite His Spirit into our lives….We look for reasons to gather, to include, to serve, and to lift, while we learn what it really means to know our Savior, Jesus Christ….Through Christlike and childlike faith we seek Him and we feel His influence.” (Rosemary M. Wixom, “What Happened Next?,” 2013 Christmas Devotional)

"As the Christmas season envelops us with all its glory, may we, as did the Wise Men, seek a bright, particular star to guide us in our celebration of the Savior’s birth. May we all make the journey to Bethlehem in spirit, taking with us a tender, caring heart as our gift to the Savior.” (Thomas S. Monson, “The Real Joy of Christmas,” 2013 Christmas Devotional)

"How happy I am for this Christmas season to sing songs that have a special message from the Savior of the world for those with aching hearts. I promise you…if you think about the words you sing this season, you will find a divine message tailored especially for you that will lift and comfort you.” (Sharon Eubank,“Silent Night, Loves Pure Light,” 2018 Christmas Devotional)

"The Christmas season seems like an ideal time for us to thoughtfully evaluate the status of our own heart. For example, you might ask yourself, “Is my heart prepared to receive the Savior?” At Christmastime we often sing, “Let every heart prepare him room.” How can you prepare room in your heart for Christ, especially during this busy yet wonderful season?... This requires more than just pleasant Christmas greetings that fall from our lips….During this Christmas and throughout the year, our kind deeds and good works are the best indication of our love for the Savior, written in our hearts.” (Gary E.Stevenson, “Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room,” 2018 Christmas Devotional)

“I believe that each of us can re-create that familiar scenario in Bethlehem in our own lives. We can have a star to follow just as the Wise Men did… The scriptures can light our way, and our testimonies can be a light from within. The voices of angels can be the voices of our beloved prophet and His servants. We can kneel at the feet of our Savior just as literally as the shepherds and the Wise Men, but we do it in prayer. The gifts we bring are our talents. We can shout “Hosanna” like that angelic choir and spread the good news by bearing our testimonies.” (Betty Jo Jepsen, “By Way of Invitation,” October 1992 General Conference)

“Success in giving joy at Christmas usually involves help from others. It is rarely found in solitary effort. Joining with others spreads the joy and makes it more lasting. And perhaps most important, invoking faith in the Savior, the Creator and source of all lasting happiness, invites the pure love of God, which is the greatest of all gifts and the sure source of enduring joy.” (Henry B. Eyring, “The Perfect Gift,” 2012 Christmas Devotional)

“…[W]ithout the risk of new experiences and challenging calls to serve, we fail to grow, and are not as useful in the work of building the Lord’s kingdom as we need to be. Just as the shepherds left familiar terrain in dark of night for a new experience, we are called to leave secure and comfortable settings to serve and to gain experience.” (Betty Jo Jepsen, “By Way of Invitation,” October 1992 General Conference)

“...[T]he gift that we celebrate at Christmas is a gift of love—God’s gift of His Son….Our mortal concept of love is a speck of sand on a vast seashore compared to the love God feels for us. His love is infinite and inexhaustible compassion. Divine love fills eternity. It overflows with eternal grace. It reaches out and lifts up. It forgives. It blesses. It redeems. Divine love transcends differences in personality, culture, or creed. It refuses to allow bias and prejudice to stand in the way of imparting comfort, compassion, and understanding. It is completely devoid of bullying, discrimination, or arrogance. Divine love inspires us to do as the Savior did: ‘succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.’” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Scatter Your Crumbs,” 2017 Christmas Devotional)

Christmas is the season to give forgiveness. Forgiving others brings peace and joy to our lives….In order to receive forgiveness for our sins, we need to forgive others. Forgiving others allows us to overcome feelings of anger, bitterness, or revenge. And who wants to feel those feelings at Christmas? Forgiveness can also heal spiritual wounds and bring the peace and love that only God can give. Our Father in Heaven wants us to repent and forgive everyone—including ourselves.” (Christina B. Franco, “Christmas-A Season to Love, Serve, and Forgive One Another,” 2017 Christmas Devotional)

“Focusing on the Lord and everlasting life can help us not only at Christmas, but through all the challenges of mortality….My message tonight pertains to the only source of true and lasting peace, Jesus the Christ—our Prince of Peace….Jesus taught us how to live, to love, and to learn. He taught us how to pray, to forgive, and endure to the end. He taught us how to care about others more than we care about ourselves. He taught us about mercy and kindness—making real changes in our lives through His power. He taught us how to find peace of heart and mind.” (Russell M. Nelson, “Jesus the Christ—Our Prince of Peace,” 2013 Christmas Devotional)

“As we contemplate and celebrate this [Christmas] season, perhaps we can keep several things in mind. One is a little Primary song that many of us memorized and sang as a child. The words are simple but applicable to each of us…. They begin like this: ‘Jesus was once a little child, A little child like me; And He was pure and meek and mild as a little child should be. So little children, Let’s you and I, Try to be like Him, Try, try, try.’” (Elaine S. Dalton, “Christmas Presence,” Church News, December 15, 2011)

“…I invite each one of us to find, during this Christmas season, a moment in the quiet of our souls to acknowledge and offer heartfelt gratitude to “the Generous One.” Let us consider the compassionate, beloved, and boundless mercy of our Father in Heaven. As we shop for gifts—as we give and receive them—may we also take time to quietly contemplate the bountiful gifts God has showered upon us, His children.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Generous One,” 2015 Christmas Devotional)

“As we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ this season, let us also celebrate all that His birth symbolizes, especially the love. When we see shepherds, may we remember to be humble. When we see wise men, may we remember to be generous. When we see the star, may we remember the Light of Christ, which gives life and light to all things. When we see a tiny baby, may we remember to love unconditionally, with tenderness and compassion. May we open the doors of our hearts and reach out to those around us who are lonely, forgotten, or poor in spirit.” (Bonnie L. Oscarson, “Christmas is Christlike Love,” 2014 Christmas Devotional)

“At Christmastime we talk a lot about giving, and we all know that “it is more blessed to give than to receive,” but I wonder if sometimes we disregard or even disparage the importance of being a good receiver…. Every gift that is offered to us—especially a gift that comes from the heart—is an opportunity to build or strengthen a bond of love. When we are good and grateful receivers, we open a door to deepen our relationship with the giver of the gift…. I hope that this Christmas and every day of the year we will consider, in particular, the many gifts we have been given by our loving Heavenly Father. I hope we will receive these gifts with the wonder, thankfulness, and excitement of a child.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Good and Grateful Receiver,” 2012 Christmas Devotional)

“…I absolutely love sacred Christmas music. If we were to make a list of our favorites, near the top would surely be “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful.” Its “joyful” and “triumphant” lyrics beckon us to “come,” “behold,” and “adore” our Savior, Jesus Christ—the “King of angels.” I feel certain that, as premortal spirits learning of the plan of salvation, we not only beheld and adored but also shouted for joy when He voluntarily and humbly offered Himself as the Savior of the world.” (Linda K. Burton, “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him—And the Plan!,” 2015 Christmas Devotional)

Finding the real joy of Christmas comes not in the hurrying and the scurrying to get more done, nor is it found in the purchasing of gifts. We find real joy when we make the Savior the focus of the season. We can keep Him in our thoughts and in our lives as we go about the work He would have us perform here on earth. At this time, particularly, let us follow His example as we love and serve our fellowman.” (Thomas S. Monson, “Christmas is Love,” 2012 Christmas Devotional)

“Come unto Christ. Was there ever a more glorious call to action? At this Christmas season, come adore Him, come worship Him, and come follow Him. Receive the blessings of His love. As faithful Saints of the Lord Jesus Christ, we may come unto Christ and feel His peace and know His perfecting power.” (Carol F. McConkie, “Come Unto Christ This Christmas Season,” Church News, December 27, 2013)

“True happiness comes only by making others happy—the practical application of the Savior’s doctrine of losing one’s life to gain it. In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit, that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service.” (David O. McKay)

“When we serve together, we are all blessed. Dear brothers and sisters, don’t focus on making your service ornate—simply reach out as the Savior would to lift the strangers in your midst. As you serve, you will feel of His love for you. May you be inspired by our Savior’s example as you seek to serve this Christmas season.” (Linda K. Burton, “Reach Out in ‘Small and Simple’ Ways This Christmas Season,” Church News, December 8, 2016)

“In every season of our lives, in all of the circumstances we may encounter, and in each challenge we may face, Jesus Christ is the light that dispels fear, provides assurance and direction, and engenders enduring peace and joy. Many of our memorable and enduring Christmas traditions include different kinds of lights—lights on trees, lights in and on our homes, candles on our tables. May the beautiful lights of every holiday season remind us of Him who is the source of all light.” (David A. Bednar, “The Light and Life of the World,” 2015 Christmas Devotional

“The spirit of Christmas is Christlike love. The way to increase the Christmas spirit is to reach out generously to those around us and give of ourselves. The best gifts are not material things but gifts of listening, of showing kindness, of remembering, of visiting, of forgiving, of giving time.” (Bonnie L. Oscarson, “Christmas is Christlike Love,” 2014 Christmas Devotional)

“The peace of Christmas is “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.”… At this blessed season of the year, we—more than ever—seek peace through the Giver of all gifts. I desire tonight to share just a few of the many ways we can increase the peace we experience this season, throughout the year to come, and throughout our lives. First, like the angels who sang on the night of His birth, we can feel peace as we celebrate our Savior, Jesus Christ….Second, like the shepherds who saw the Christ child and “made known abroad” the glad tidings of His birth, we can teach peace to our families and others whom we love. We do so best when we open the scriptures to their minds and hearts….Third, like the Wise Men, we can give gifts of love and peace as disciples of the risen Lord.” (Henry B. Eyring, “Gifts of Peace,” 2016 Christmas Devotional)

“The blessed Christmas season turns our hearts in wonder and joy to the steadfast love of the Savior for each one of us. We are also reminded of the love of our Heavenly Parents, who seek our eternal progression and who hold back nothing from the goal of increasing our opportunities to grow spiritually—no, nothing was withheld, not even the life of their cherished and beloved son, Jesus Christ.” (Chieko Okazaki, “Stars: Reflections on Christmas,” Page 1)

“Let us make Christmas real. It isn’t just tinsel and ribbon, unless we have made it so in our lives. Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values. It is peace because we have found peace in the Savior’s teachings. It is the time we realize most deeply that the more love is expended, the more there is of it for others.” (Thomas S. Monson, “Christmas is Love,” 2012 Christmas Devotional)