Tuesday, December 30, 2014

just some pinterest words of wisdom

Because sometimes it's surprisingly right on:

It's kind of hard to read, so here is what it says:

"Please hear me, Girl: The world has enough women who know how to do their hair. It needs women who know how to do hard and holy things."

I think that is beautiful. And although I think it's possible for women to know how to do their hair and do hard and holy things, doing hard and holy things needs to come first.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Share the Gift, Receive the Gift

I would be remiss if I did not post this lovely video.

It is a beautiful reminder of why we celebrate Christmas.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16

But we can only share this gift if we receive Him into our lives.

С Рождеством христовым.

Merry Christmas!

From our home to yours.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas wishlist

I'm not a picky person when it comes to presents. I'm usually happy--or will act happy--with anything that someone gets me.

But. If Santa's watching/listening, I found this gorgeous dress from Anthro:

Um, it's perfect. Stunning.

Ah well. A girl can dream, can't she?

Curse you, refined sense of style. Making me want things I can't have.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Finals Week, part 2

So, I only have one more final left (yayyyyyyyy). It's my American Religious History final . . . which has been an incredible class, by the way. Life-changing. Paradigm-shifting. Intellectually challenging. The professor--he's just phenomenal and I want to be like him when I grow up.

Anyway, I've been cracking up as I've been reading my marginal comments for the class--my observations about my classmates, random Russian phrases, and the non sequitur comments from my professor. Because sometimes, professors are hilarious.

Just take a look:

(Talking about how he hates the phrase that Mormons like to attribute to Jesus): "I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it." Who came up with this? Where did it come from? First of all, Jesus never said this. And second of all, He did say it would be easy! He said, "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." I want to change it. "I never said it would be easy . . . except I did."

(Talking about the differences in American religious culture during the Enlightenment vs. the 2nd Great Awakening): There's a reason Moroni didn't appear to Jefferson. Jefferson would have hanged himself.

(Talking about a historian whose book we read): Isn't she fabulous? She is so bright. She has a JD from Yale and PhD from Penn. I hate her. And she lives in a mansion outside Philly. And to top it all off, she runs marathons. Yep. Hate her.

-"If you can't have love, go for academic excellence."

(Impersonating Brigham Young): Brigham's in heaven going, "Why am I the only one people take it out on? No one ever takes it out on Spencer W. Kimball! --too short, too lovable--but me?! Just level with me, people, is it the beard or the 52 wives?"

(Talking about macaroons after coming back from a conference in Paris): Why did no one tell me about these? They are so light, refined, and delicious!"

"Ain't no one just tells it like it was."

American Religious History. History and politics. Faith, belief, and bloodshed. Good times, people, good times.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


. . . is a beast. 

That's all there is to it. 

And this semester has been a beast, too. 

Do you realize that I have written over 20 papers this semester? TWENTY. 

My brain is fried. Gone. Checked out forever.

I feel like I don't have an original thought left in my head. 

Hopefully some come back before my last final this Thursday. Because I'll have to impress. 

Sooooo, since my brain is dead, I've resorted to watching dumb YouTube videos. Because, hellllloooooo, that's what you do during Finals Week so that you don't go completely crazy. 

Laughing is always better than crying. 

This is probably the best thing I've found this week: 

I. can.not.stop.laughing. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

And in His name all oppression shall cease

Nativity, Brian Kershisnik 
(love this painting. so, so much.) 

I love Christmas. Sometimes it's in a "Buddy the Elf" kind of way, where I just want to deck the halls and make snow angels for two hours, go ice skating, eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookie Dough as fast as I can, and spread Christmas cheer by singing loud for all to hear.

It's fun. Christmas is--and should be--really fun. And I love spending time with family, making Christmas treats, going to (and hosting) parties, caroling, seeing Christmas lights, and singing Christmas music.

Oh, how I love the music.

It's hard to think of Christmas without music.

The music reminds me of the reason why we celebrate. Why we rejoice. Why we sing.

Last week, I had the opportunity to go to a Christmas concert at BYU. It was absolutely stunning. All of the arrangements were just beautiful. The last song they sang was "Carol of Joy," by Dan Forrest. I was introduced to this song while on my mission, and the lyrics combined with the haunting music are transcendent:

Listen to it. No, really. I promise that your life will be better because of it.

Here are the lyrics:

Green leaves are fallen, withered and dry;
Brief sunset fading, dim winter sky. 
Lengthening shadows, Dark closing in . . . 
Then, through the stillness, carols begin! 

Oh fallen world, to you is the song--
Death holds you fast and night tarries long. 
Jesus is born, your curse to destroy! 
Sweet to your ears, a carol of Joy! 

Pale moon ascending, solemn and slow; 
Cold barren hillside, shrouded in snow; 
Deep, empty valley veiled by the night; 
Hear angel music--hopeful and bright! 

Oh fearful world, to you is the song--
Peace with your God, and pardon for wrong! 
Tidings for sinners, burdened and bound--
A carol of joy! A Saviour is found! 

Earth wrapped in sorrow, lift up your eyes! 
Thrill to the chorus filling the skies!
Look up sad hearted--witness God's love!
Join in the carol swelling above!

Oh friendless world, to you is the song!
All Heaven's joy to you may belong!
You who are lonely, laden, forlorn--
Oh fallen world! Oh friendless world!
To you, a Saviour is born!

Isn't that beautiful? I love the juxtaposition of light and dark, sorrow and joy. The tapestry that makes up life. And I love that Christ came to heal. We live in a fallen world. We are all broken. But He was "bruised, broken, torn for us." And He knows how to heal us and save our souls, because He's been there. I believe that. He is the God who weeps. He left glory, comfort, and praise--His own kind of Eden--to overcome the effects of the Fall and to heal our broken world. "Ris'n with healing in His wings."

He did not come to a world or to a people who had everything going well for them. He came to the "lonely, laden, forlorn." He came to the friendless. He came to a world that is bent on self-destruction. A world that so desperately needs the peace He offers. He entered this world of blood, death, and loneliness so that He could be "filled with mercy" and know perfectly how to heal our broken hearts. 

We live in a fallen world. The more I live, the more I realize how often there is no answer, or at least no answers I can understand. There are moments when I despair because "there is no peace on earth. [. . .] For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men." No one gets out of this world without breaking in some way or another. But He offers the way for "the healing of nations" (Revelation 22:2). He is the healer of nations, and the lover of our souls. 

One song which I feel captures the essence of the beauty of the Savior's role and the wonder of His grace is "What Child is This?" This song has meant so much to me since Ukraine, for many, many reasons. One of these reasons is because there is something absolutely beautiful about singing hymns in Russian. I don't know what it is, but there is something haunting and rich in the words that, combined with the melodies, makes the experience more meaningful. "Russian is a very rich language," as people would always say to me on the streets. There are some Russian words that just mean more. And there are some Russian hymns which just touch your soul in ways that English cannot. 

I always enjoyed the fact that the Russian hymnbook includes "What Child is This?" in its Christmas hymns. Maybe I like it just because it's different. But there is something deeper. The song in Russian becomes a plaintive plea; a holy, hushed hallelujah: 

"But why does he lie in a manger 
Where lambs are given their feed? 
So that every one of us 
Can lay down our sorrows at his feet." 

Call me elitist, but I just cannot find an English rendition which matches the feeling of the Russian translation. It is the one song that is missing from my personal Christmas playlist because I cannot find one which captures the feeling I want. For me, that song is a perfect memory. I remember as my companion and I sang Christmas carols in a dirty red bedroom in a dilapidated apartment in eastern Ukraine. I sang in a clear soprano, and she sang in her rich alto--we sang in blissful harmony. We sang about the condescension of God--about the beauty and necessity of His Atonement. We sang about love in a lonely, forsaken place. A place where the darkness could be suffocating--both literally and figuratively. But my companion and I found peace as we sang about the perfect love which "veiled the Lord in flesh." And about the love which allowed us to lay down our sorrows at His feet. Fall on our knees at the feet of the manger King. 

I have not found an English rendition to match our Ukrainian duet. The closest I have found is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's version from the 2012 Christmas Devotional. 

The dips. It is the dips in the music which make it rich. Which make it full of life, meaning, and longing. 

Longing for healing.  

How can we understand the meaning of all things? How can we understand the hurt, the anguish, and the condition of the soul in this fallen world? How can healing take place? 

There is no clean, shiny answer. Life isn't a bedtime story. Life doesn't allow itself for clean answers, and even miracles can turn into nightmares. Still, we are commanded to have hope. Without hope, faith withers and dies, and without hope, we cannot have charity. 

We trust in the hope of His light and love. And believe in Christ. Christ overcame death and hell. He "marched into hell for a heavenly cause," but not so that we don't have to. Rather so that we would know where to turn for help and healing when we do enter our own Gethsemanes and carry our crosses. 

"For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." 

We rejoice because a Savior was born to heal us. 
To heal our broken hearts. 
To comfort our wounded souls. 
To strengthen our weary shoulders and lift our sad heads. 
To wipe away all tears from our eyes. 
To mend the rift between death and life. 
To heal the split. 

O fallen, fearful, friendless world, to you a Savior is born. I think that is absolutely beautiful. We fall to our knees because we are overwhelmed with love. We are not only overwhelmed with love for Him, but we are overwhelmed by His love for us. All hearts, nations, and people can find peace in Him. And that is beautiful and wonderful to me. A miracle. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

so comes love.

I've been on an e.e. cummings kick recently. There's not really an explanation--there are just times when different poets and different poems touch you your life in ways they hadn't before.

Because poetry is life.

The spontaneous overflow of emotion. Of life.

let it go - the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise - let it go it
was sworn to

let them go - the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers - you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go - the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things - let all go

so comes love.

Just something in the way he writes. Those breaths in between the words and the echoes of stillness.

"the boths and the neithers - you must let them go they
were born
to go"

Letting go. And learning to breathe again.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The middle of the novel

Just a laundry list of thoughts and feelings. I don't have a lot to say. I just need to write.

-Shakes from JCW's are preeettttty good. Just one of those facts of life.

-Spell check wants me to change "JCW's" to "Jaw's." Not gonna happen, spell check.

-It's really warm for December. 50 degrees? Crazy.

-Sara Barellies knows my life. It's a little scary.

-If you're looking to buy me a Christmas gift, I need a new notebook. Mine's almost full and I'll certainly need a new one by New Year's. Just fyi. Because I know you were wondering.

-Someday, there will be room to breathe again. Just not during finals week. But someday. I hope so, anyway.

-Russian literature is good for the soul.

-I mean, just look at this beautiful line:

It's Dostoevsky. From the Brothers Karamazov. Beautiful. Someday, I'll need to write more about this concept. About the rise and fall of breaking, healing, and coming home. It's a process. A process of life.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

i come with a dream in my eyes tonight

It's that time of year again when final papers and exams hit you with the force of a semi.

Sometimes, you just need to breathe.

And then, then you find a beautiful poem, and for a moment, everything else is forgotten in the magic of the words.

You are tired, 
(I think) 
Of the always puzzle of living and doing;
And so am I. 

Come with me, then, 
And we'll leave it far and far away--
(Only you and I, understand!)

You have played, 
(I think) 
And broke the toys you were fondest of, 
And are a little tired now; 
Tired of things that break, and--
Just tired. 
So am I. 

But I come with a dream in my eyes tonight, 
And I knock with a rose at the hopeless gate of your heart--
Open to me!
For I will show you the places Nobody knows, 
And, if you like, 
The perfect places of Sleep. 

Thank you, e.e. cummings for that much-needed literary escape.