Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Thoughts

It is always a struggle to put aside the fun, colorful, and thin decorations that wrap themselves around the reasons we celebrate Christmas. This year was no different but two back-to-back videos helped me.

The first was from the Church’s Christmas web site and it was a series of interviews of people who as adults discovered the gospel, repented and joined the church. They all expressed the incredible lows and depression felt by living worldly rules. They described their inability to find happiness or peace from a treadmill of a modeling career, or empty business transactions, or endless intoxication. Then when they prayed for help and received the Savior’s warm forgiving embrace they felt the true power of the gift of his life. He gave us the way to return to that safe harbor which is our heavenly home. I realized that is the reason we celebrate his birth.

The other video showed a professional choir disbursed among a large group of holiday shoppers at a busy mall’s food court. They were wearing everyday clothes and couldn’t be recognized. Suddenly the mall music system stopped playing the jangle of some dopey reindeer song and a powerful organ started into Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. A young lady stood up and in a beautiful voice started singing this inspiring piece of music. She was joined by others in the choir giving song to the ancient scripture of Isaiah’s adoration of the advent of the Savior’s life, majesty, and gift. Within a very short time the entire choir was standing and singing praises to God. What struck me was the setting. Here was a crowded shopping mall, the height of commercialism, taking pause as “ordinary” people raised their voices to honor the birth of the Savior and the promise of his perfect life. There is a vital place for the spiritual side of Christmas to shine and be remembered.

For Christmas weekend there was nearly 8 feet of snowfall in the mountains, but none here. It is so weird to have 50 degree weather in Denver this late in the year. We had Danica and Dave over for Christmas Eve and enjoyed one of the greatest meals ever prepared, with turkey, prime rib, fresh Chinese egg rolls, pear salad, and twice baked potatoes. It was a wonderful busy holiday kitchen and dining experience. We gave each other a moving dance party game and a soda pop maker. We must be at a very comfortable place in life to give such gifts.

At Danica’s on Christmas morning, it was a typical little kid gift opening frenzy. I received a special gift as my daughter’s had teamed up to digitize old family movies and I could watch 3 year old Austin praddle around the kitchen, stealing finger gouges of butter for a long time. Those old movies reflect a very blessed and happy group of lucky kids growing up with a big yard and big bedrooms, with a rabbit pen, a deer blind, a picnic table, woods to explore, and grass to run on with no TV. What a sweet treasure to watch those movies again and see our younger selves.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Congratulations to Don and Leslie

What a great experience I’ve enjoyed over the last couple of weeks. It has to be considered one of the highlights of my life to gather in Phoenix with Tracy, Don and Austin and go through the temple for Don and Leslie’s endowments. It was so powerful and sweet to be Don’s escort as he received his endowments and then join with Austin, Tracy and the Galan’s in the Celestial Room after the session. How lucky can one dad be?

The next morning was a kick as well because Don took us to the gym to workout. He said he would pair back his workout because we were there, but I encouraged him to challenge Austin, mom and I. So we started off with 3 sets of 10 pull-ups and did a ton of additional weight work on various machines. I’m delighted to say that I could keep up pretty well with Don and may have surprised Don and Austin. As long as I impress Tracy I’m good to go.

We went house shopping and picked out two houses to buy for Don to rent out as the start of a business. It was crazy to try and buy two houses, take the family’s Christmas picture, meet and party at the Galan’s, and pick up all the kids from the airport and get ready for the wedding and reception in only two days. It was fun busy and we even snuck in a couple of movies and a dancing contest.

The wedding was amazing because it became an early glimpse of heaven. Here were Tracy and I with all six of our kids in the sealing room at the temple. Don and Leslie were so striking and happy. It was strange to hear Bro. Barrand and it not refer to me. I looked out at our family and pictured us all in heaven together, all of us at the age of 24 and thought what a great promise for the future. With all the twists and turns of life to have us all arrive here and be able to participate in this glorious day for Don and Leslie was incredible. I will treasure that feeling always.

Half a day back in Denver and then we were getting up at 3 am for the plane flight to Orlando to kick around with Celeste’s family at as many amusement parks as Celeste could plan to attend. We spent Thanksgiving Day at airports but did squeeze in a wonderful turkey dinner at a local restaurant. It is a lot easier to eat out. We spent the next day shopping, getting discount (?) tickets, and playing at the pool with the grandkids. It was a good day.

We ended up hitting 5 parks in 5 days; Sea World, Disney Magic Kingdom, Disney Movie Studio, Universal Islands of Adventure, and Universal Studios. You could also throw in Disney Quest as well. We would pack a lunch each day and drag ourselves back home every night exhausted. Everyone including grand kids did great. Loved Sea World, although they have toned down the Shamu show and nobody gets in the water anymore. The Dolphin show was like a Hollywood production with cliff divers, trapeze artists, streamers, birds, and very colorful costumes. Somewhere in there the dolphins still brought tears to my eyes.

We liked Universal better than Disney: Newer attractions, colorful ideas, and far fewer crowds. The Harry Potter exhibit was incredible and Butter Beer is very good. I also like Toy Story Mania a ton. Everyone had their favorite ride and we got around to doing something for everyone. I got to be the designated runner to collect fast passes and move us to the front of the line. It helped to burn off excess energy while waiting in long lines.

I felt a little guilty spending a lot of money on amusement park rides and events but I got to be with and know much better my grandchildren who I don’t see enough of, as well as Celeste and Brad, but most of all, time away is good for Tracy and I.

It has been a great couple of weeks, now to survive Christmas.