Friday, December 24, 2010

O Come All Ye Faithful

Christmastime has been a little different for me since I've started college. The joy and excitement of Christmas is too often swallowed up in the drudgery of finals. Not only that, but as I've grown older, it's easier for me to understand why Christmas is a hard time of the year for some people. Through tragedies in my own life and in the lives of those close to me, I have learned that truly, "hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men."

But, like in Longfellow's poem, I have also realized that "God is not dead nor doth He sleep." God is aware of our needs; our days are known, and our "years shall not be numbered less."  

One of the things that has brought me to this realization is the spirit of Christmas carols. 

Christmas carols bring me closer to Christ. This year, when I haven't been feeling as "Christmas-y" as I would like, I go to the piano and sing Christmas hymns. Almost instantly, my focus shifted from the hustle and confusion of this world to the stillness of the manger, the faith of the wise men, or the glory of the night sky in Bethlehem, ablaze with angels. Singing Christmas carols enables me to focus on the wonder of God's love, and how it has changed me . . . it is incredible to me how His love has the supernal power to change mankind for the better.  

It is hard for me to choose a favorite Christmas carol . . . every year it changes based on my experiences of the year. I have perennial favorites, such as Silent Night (especially in the original German), and O Come, All Ye Faithful. But this year I have been drawn to more obscure Christmas carols. One less-sung Christmas carol that I've loved for a while is Once in Royal David's City. I get chills every time I sing the last verse: 
"And our eyes at last shall see him, 
Through His own redeeming love; 
For that child, so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heav'n above.
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone." 
Ah. Love it. 

I've also been re-introduced to the last verse of the First Noel. I forgot how beautiful and powerful it is: 

"Now let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made heaven and earth of naught
And with His blood mankind has bought.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel--
Born is the King of Israel!" 

Another hymn I've discovered this year is Angels From the Realms of Glory. It was written by James Montgomery, a British poet and editor. Montgomery also penned A Poor, Wayfaring Man of Grief and Prayer is the Soul's Sincere Desire. It impresses me how faithful Montgomery was, despite all the trials and heartache he went through, including imprisonment. 

Here are some verses of his Christmas hymn that really touched my heart: 
"Angels from the realms of glory, 
Wing your flight o'er all the earth; 
Ye who sang creation's story, 
Now proclaim Messiah's birth . . . 

Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar; 
Seek the great desire of nations, 
Ye have seen His natal star . . . .

Saints before the altar bending, 
Watching long in hope and fear, 
Suddenly the Lord descending, 
In His temple shall appear:
Come and worship, come and worship, 
Worship Christ, the newborn King!" 

I especially love that last verse.

One last song: One of my absolute favorite Christmas songs is a German Christmas carol called O Du Froehliche, or, in English, "O How Joyfully." It's a beautiful song that exudes the light and joy that we should be feeling at Christmastime. I found an English poetry translation that does a pretty good job of capturing the German meaning (and it makes a lot more sense than the literal translation): 

"Oh how joyfully, oh how blessedly, 
Comes the glory of Christmastime!
To a world so lost in sin, 
Christ the Saviour enters in:
Praise Him, praise Him Christians, evermore!

Oh how joyfully, oh how blessedly, 
Comes the glory of Christmastime!
Jesus, born in a lowly stall, 
With His grace redeems us all:
Praise Him, praise Him Christians, evermore!

Oh how joyfully, oh how blessedly, 
Comes the glory of Christmastime!
Hosts of angels from on high, 
Sing, rejoicing in the sky: 
Praise him, praise Him Christians, evermore!" 

Singing Christmas carols gives me a way to express my testimony in a way that mere words alone cannot possibly do. No language in the world is perfect; each has its corruptions and we nobody can express themselves in the way they'd like to. I feel like music is often the closest thing we have to expressing ourselves the way we were meant to; the way we yearn to. 

Music is certainly a way that God has shown His love for me. And I'm grateful for Christmas hymns that lift my spirit, allow me to refocus, and teach me the true meaning of Christmas: 

"Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all people. 
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."  (Luke 2:10-14)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cookie Palooza(s)

Our apartment likes cookies.

As one of my roommates says, some people have 72-hour kits. We have 72-cookies kits. 

You'd be surprised by the amount of comfort and sanity a cookie can bring. 

The past few weeks before Christmas break, our apartment literally went on a baking spree. We made real gingerbread to make gingerbread houses during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional. We also made sugar cookies while watching Elf, and there were cake balls and candy to boot, making Finals Week a lot more bearable (and tastier). 

Here are some pictures from our Cookie Paloozas: 

Making Gingerbread Houses: 

Cute roommate shot

Silly roommate shot

Did you know that you can create stained-glass windows for your gingerbread houses? First, cut out a "window" in your gingerbread. Then, crush some Jolly Ranchers. 

Next, fill your "window" with the crushed Jolly Ranchers. Melt the Jolly Ranchers by baking the gingerbread. 

Ta-da! The finished product!

It's a Gingerbread Tanner Building! 

Close-up of the Tanner Building. Pretty good, eh? 

Making my gingerbread house

Making a Gingerbread Guggenheim

The finished product! Isn't it lovely? 

A fallen gingerbread teepee, and two gingerbread houses. 

The Gingerbread Teepee

What kind of insurance should these gingerbread structures have?
Fire? No. Flood? Nein. Earthquake? Nope.
Answer: Cookie Monster Insurance!

No, not this one. 

                      THIS one. So innocent looking. Those poor cookies never knew what hit them. 

Sugar Cookie Night: 

We also made and frosted sugar cookies one night. I love sugar cookies . . . although I think I like the dough more than the actual cookies! Still, making and frosting sugar cookies brings back fond memories of listening to Mannheim Steamroller, watching the Christmas tree lights dance on the ceiling, and preparing a plate of homemade, frosting-sticky cookies for Santa. 

You know it's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas when you have gingerbread and sugar cookies baking in the oven. :) 

Playing Dress-Up

Last night my mom asked me to put together Christmas goodie plates for our neighbors. I got cocoa powder on my face, and, since I was feeling a bit silly, I smeared the cocoa powder from my fingers onto my face.

And, since I'm the oldest and my siblings follow my example, two of my siblings smeared cocoa powder on their faces, too.

Needless to say, frivolity, laughter, and many, many pictures followed as we became warriors, waifs, and were just plain silly. I also dressed up as a rather-convincing Eponine (but my sister has those pictures . . . I don't have them at the moment).

We knew that since it is Christmas time, someone would most likely come to the door bearing gifts. So, being in the silly mood that we were, my sister, brother and I decided we wanted to greet whoever came to the door. When the doorbell finally rang we rushed upstairs . . .

And were greeted by the bishop.

I think that's the last time my mom will have me prepare the Christmas plates.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Last Fifteen Minutes

. . . before I left for the library epitomized the wonderful spontaneity that is my apartment this year.

TRISH*: Do you think that we could talk to each other through the vents?
BLYTHE: Let's try it. I'll be inside the bathroom and you try to hear my voice in the living room.

(Various NOISES** ensue as they try to hear each other.)

CLARA: I had a weird dream last night. I think I had a baby.
CHRISTINE: Oh really? Who was the father?
CLARA: I don't remember. I think  . . . (screams as BLYTHE hits her from behind with a SNOWBALL)

(Laughter. BLYTHE, CLARA, and CHRISTINE start hitting each other with SNOWBALLS with SNOW that BLYTHE brought in from OUTSIDE.)

TRISH: Hit my computer and you will die.

(SNOWBALL FIGHT in the KITCHEN. SNOW flies around the KITCHEN until it's all melted.)

BLYTHE (to TRISH): You know that was fun.

General chit-chat as I prepare to go to the library. As I leave the apartment one of my roommates says, as she's laying on the living room floor in front of her computer:

"Sometimes I feel like a beached whale . . ."

That, my friends, is the spontaneity of our apartment. But part of the wonder of it all is, that it doesn't feel spontaneous. It feels normal, like home. My apartment has literally been a home away from home this semester. And I love it.

You have no idea how wonderful this semester has been with all of my roommates. They are all such fun, sweet, independent, wonderful women and I've enjoyed sharing an apartment with them, having deep discussions late into the night, baking cookies, singing songs, and laughing. I am truly blessed to have lived, grown, and learned along with them this semester.

There are more posts to come about the fun times with roommates this semester . . . I just have to get through finals. Two more to go!

*Names have been changed . . . :)
** I don't know what I decided to capitalize and block all of the nouns. You'd think I was studying for my German final or something.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Maeser Building . . .

There are many odd and funny things about BYU--the Police Beat, BYU culture, BYU 100-Hour Board . . . perhaps later I'll write a real post about things about BYU that I think are funny. 

But for the moment, here's something that my roommate and I found in the Widtsoe Building. We thought it was pretty funny. 

The plaque says, "John A. Widtsoe: 1872-1952." 

I don't know where the bust is. Or maybe there's supposed to be a plant there. It is the Life Sciences Building, after all. 

Brag Post

Just because I'm super excited . . .

I've been working on a paper for my Literary Criticism class, and I had my writing conference with my professor this morning. 

I got an A! This is from the professor who told me at my first writing conference with him that he "doesn't believe in giving out As." 

Sweet, sweet success. 

He also told me today that I will do well in the rest of my English career and that my future professors will enjoy reading my papers. 


Megan = very, very happy. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Run Like the Wind

Don't you love it when you wake up five minutes before you have a German oral exam on campus?

Yeah. I love that, too.

I didn't even hear my alarm go off this morning, so when my roommate woke me up, asking when my exam was, my heart sunk. It was 8:58 and my test was at 9:05. I've never jumped out of bed so quickly in my life.

I didn't even put on a new shirt. I just kept my pajama shirt on, pulled on some jeans, threw on my coat, tied my shoes, and then flew out the door.

Oh boy, did I run. Sometimes if I'm late to an appointment I'll run in spurts/speedwalk so that I don't attract too much attention to myself. But I didn't care this morning. I just ran. I ran until I was halfway up the hill and was panting so much that I had to stop and catch my breath. And then, when I got to the crosswalk at the top of the hill, I started running again.

My appointment was on the 3rd floor of the JFSB, but I did not want to take the stairs--I was pretty sure I would collapse. So, I waited for the elevator, standing next to a girl who looked at me with a mixture of pity and amusement. I thought about asking her for the time, but then the elevator opened and I was too concerned with pressing the "3" button.

We rode the elevator in relative silence, except for the sounds of my panting. Wheeze, out. Wheeze, out.

The girl got off at level 2. As she left she said, "Have a nice day." Yup. Pretty sure she was pitying me.

I ran through the carpeted halls of the JFSB to my professor's office. I made it there at 9:07--just two minutes after my assigned time. I felt really proud of myself. And really exhausted.

There are many things that I'm grateful for from this experience:

1. Roommates who look out for me.
2. That the crosswalks were free of cars or bikes when I ran across them.
3. Elevators.
4. Kind Professors.
5. That I have a healthy body--healthy enough that I can run from my apartment to the JFSB in about five minutes.

I think I'll do it in heels next time.