Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflections on 2011

I really can't believe that we're already ringing in a new year.  It seems like it was just a few weeks ago that we were celebrating the arrival of 2011.  And yet, it also seems like it's been 2011 for a very long time.  Isn't that how it always is with time?

I've been thinking a lot about this past year and all that has happened.  It's been a pretty pivotal year for me.  Not because there have been any big events in my life---I haven't graduated from college (yet), I haven't gotten married, I haven't moved or made any other really big outward changes---but because I have changed.  I've learned a lot about myself, and I think I've grown a great deal.

My personal journey through the year 2011 has been long and winding and full of ups and downs.  I've laughed until I couldn't breathe and my stomach hurt; I've cried until I've wondered how I could have any tears left.  I've met and befriended some people, strengthened relationships with people I already knew, and rekindled friendships with people I thought I'd never see again.  I've developed my musical talents in ways I'd never expected.  I've said more goodbyes than I care to count, but I've also said a great deal of hellos I'd never dared to hope for.  I've shouldered burdens I never thought I'd be equal to.  I've written poems, arranged music, and experienced many other forms of personal revelation and inspiration.  I've studied and learned and progressed in my education, taking some classes that I've thoroughly enjoyed and others that have driven me absolutely insane.  I've made a number of big decisions concerning my future involving possibilities I'd never before considered.  I've made mistakes and done things I shouldn't have---and occasionally chosen not to do things that I should have done.  I've drawn closer to my Savior through scripture study, music, interactions with others, prayer, and personal revelation.  In the words of Souza, which are printed on the cover of my journal, I have danced as though no one was watching me, loved as though I had never been hurt before, sung as though no one could hear me, and tried to live as though heaven were on earth.  I've been blessed beyond my capacity to express or even to understand.

I'm so grateful for the incredible experiences I've had this year, and I'm grateful for this year ahead where I can continue to learn and grow, to try my strengths and become the best person I can be.  The year 2012 is likely to be even more pivotal for me than the year 2011 has been.  I'm looking forward to it, and I hope it will be a truly wonderful year.  Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011


I just realized that in the month of December, I have done baptisms for the dead eight times.  At four different temples.  And five of those eight times have been in the past two weeks.  With a break from school, family time, Christmas, New Years, and eight trips to a temple, it's no wonder I've been so happy this month!  :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I turned the page of the book, noting that I only had a few pages left.  I sat, quite literally, on the edge of my seat, completely captivated, not knowing how the rest of the story would pan out---desperate to know, and yet, at the same time, afraid to find out.  My eyes found the final phrase, the last word, and then I sat, my brain like a pinball machine, frantically trying to assimilate all of the new information I'd just received.

"To be continued."  How I have come to loathe that phrase.  It's every avid reader's nightmare.  It means months or, more typically, years of waiting to discover what will happen next.  And yet, it also means that the reader has something else to look forward to from the author he/she has come to admire and the characters he/she has come to love.

Sound familiar to anyone?  This concept is certainly familiar to me.  However, I never thought I'd see the day that it would happen as I read the work of someone I know well.  Come to think of it, I wonder if she did either.  Two weeks ago, after two years of providing encouragement and advice and receiving chapter-by-chapter installments, I finally received the thing I'd been waiting for---a full and complete draft of the first novel-in-the-making of my favorite budding author.  And can I just say that I'm absolutely flabbergasted!  I had been from day one, and yet the finished product is beyond anything I'd been expecting!  With all the craziness of the past two weeks, I hadn't been able to even touch it until yesterday, and once I did, I was completely hooked.  I had to force myself to stop reading it last night so I could go to bed at a decent hour, and it was the first thing I came back to this morning.  I've only just finished it, and my brain is definitely still reeling.

Oh, have I not yet revealed the identity of this budding author of whom I speak?  Her name is Allie; she was my roommate of two years and is my good friend for life.  And the reading world had better hold its breath---I sense a pretty big fantasy name in the making.  :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Aftermath

Well, it's the day after Christmas, and I think we're all probably experiencing a little let-down.  I just thought I'd share one more spiritual thought related to Christmas.  It's a song I heard in my family's ward's Christmas program yesterday.  The song is called "Shine for Me Again, Star of Bethlehem," and it really touched me when I heard it.  I thought it would be appropriate to share the day after Christmas, because the lyrics are tender and powerful and remind us that it's important to celebrate Christ all year round, not just at Christmas time:

The night was long, we traveled far,
At times I looked but could not see the star.
Yet still it shone, unveiling then
The way to Bethlehem.
My heart held fear 'mid puzzled joy,
For I was only a small shepherd boy.
And on a hillside soft and green,
I heard an angel sing.

I saw the midnight sky aflame with
Radiant angels bathed in light, holy light.
Bringing word that Christ was born and
Beckoning to find him, go and find him.
A sweeter face I ne'er will see
Than of those loving eyes smiling up at me.
I found a King; I found a friend
That night in Bethlehem.

But life goes on, years beyond one brief night of my youth.
Time clouds my vision of truth.
And tho' I stumble and fall I can hear someone call,
"Do not despair, your star is still there."

That Christmas night so long ago
Has filled my life with light because I know
That he lives now as he did then,
A King in Bethlehem.
Whose love never ends.
Shine for me again, star of Bethlehem.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Today has been a wonderful day full of love, laughter, and light.  Of course we've had the presents and the treats, and I'm definitely super excited about the gifts I received this year.  But more importantly, we were also able to spend time in worship and wonder.  As occurred in most wards today, my family's ward's Sacrament Meeting consisted of several musical numbers devoted to the birth of the Babe who has been called the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.  All the numbers were beautiful, and I felt the Spirit so strongly that I wasn't able to sing the closing hymn, "Joy to the World," because I was overcome by tears of joy.

Amidst all the trimmings and trappings, I thought I'd give a little spiritual thought from someone who can say it much better than I.  In the words of President Uchtdorf, as spoken during the First Presidency Christmas devotional, "May each Christmas season remind us to lift up our voices and fill our hearts with joy and gratitude that Christ the King has come! Christ lives! He is real. He is our Redeemer at Christmas and always."

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Saturday, December 24, 2011


I can hardly believe it's Christmas Eve!  I've been singing Christmas songs and enjoying Christmas decorations all month, and yet it just doesn't seem like it's time for the actual day.  But I'm so excited!  I'm especially excited for all the traditions surrounding Christmas Day.  I was just thinking about my family's Christmas traditions; some of them have changed over the years as we've changed, but some of them have remained constant throughout the years:

  • Decorating: I've always loved helping decorate our house for Christmas, especially the tree.  We always do it the day after Thanksgiving; that used to be because we just couldn't wait another day to decorate.  :)  Nowadays, we choose that day more because that's when I'm home to help!  :)

  • Christmas music: Who doesn't love Christmas music?  I may be one of the "scrooges" who waits until after Thanksgiving to start playing Christmas music, but after Thanksgiving, I'm basically listening to or singing Christmas music all the time!  My favorite kinds of songs have changed over the years (I used to favor the children's songs like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"; now I prefer songs that focus on Christ), but my love for Christmas music hasn't.  :)

  • Acting out the Christmas story: Every Christmas Eve when I was growing up, we used to get dressed up and act out the different characters of the Christmas story while my dad read the story from the Bible; we don't usually do that anymore, but it created a lot of fond memories.

  • "The Littlest Shepherd": The last thing we always do on Christmas Eve is read "The Littlest Shepherd," our favorite fictional Christmas story, together as a family.  Either my mom or my dad (they alternate years) will read it out loud to the rest of us.  It always makes me cry.  This is one tradition that has persisted throughout the years.  My mother's family used to read it when she was growing up, and my family has done so every year for as long as I can remember.  The only thing that has changed is that my appreciation for the story has deepened over the years.

  • Food: We always have homemade pizza for dinner on Christmas Eve, homemade cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate for Christmas Day breakfast, and ham cooked with carrots and potatoes for Christmas dinner.  Yum!

  • Christmas morning: We weren't allowed to wake up our parents until 7:00 a.m., which drove us crazy when we were little!  Now I like my sleep as much as my parents.  :)  Once we get up, we have to wait to go downstairs until everyone's ready, and we can't go into the family room to investigate the presents until after we've all eaten breakfast.  Then we take turn opening presents, which draws the present-opening out for several hours.  :)

I love my family's Christmas traditions!  What are your favorite Christmas traditions?


Jill and I finished our puzzle last week!  It only took us, what, two months?  :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Life is Good!

Yesterday was one of those days where you just can't help but be happy!  I started out the day having breakfast with one of my favorite people.  Then I went to the chiropractor and got my back and arm adjusted; both had been sore ever since I slipped and fell on Monday, and they both felt so much better after they were adjusted.  Sweet relief!  Then I spent the afternoon arranging music.  :)  Finally, I got to go back to my high school alma mater and see the annual Candlelight performance; not only that, I actually brought my cello and played the traditional Hallelujah chorus finale with the Bingham Symphony!  It was so fun, and the whole evening brought back so many memories.

Oh, and the inversion finally started to clear out yesterday!  I saw the sun shining and beautiful blue skies for the first time in days!  Can life get any better than this?  I submit that it cannot!  :)

Monday, December 19, 2011


I just realized that today is the 19th of December.  That means that I will be graduating from BYU with my undergrad degree exactly 4 months from today!  Holy cow!  That concept definitely hasn't sunk in yet.  And it probably still won't have sunk in by the time I don the cap and gown.  :)  And yet I'm so close I can almost taste it!  Four months!

But who's counting?  :)


Today I visited the daycare where I've worked for the past two summers.  I had the chance to visit back in October when I came home for General Conference weekend but hadn't had a chance since.  Two months isn't generally considered a super long time, but when it comes to young children, it definitely is!  I was astounded to see that half of the toddler class now consists of children with whom I used to work in the infant room.  Now they're walking, and some are even talking!  Most of them didn't recognize me, but a few did.  The other half of the infants I used to work with are still in the baby room, but they're getting so much bigger!  They're sitting up, scooting, and even starting to stand!  I could hardly believe my eyes!

Among the children two and older, the changes weren't quite so drastic, though it was still apparent that they're growing and changing rapidly.  It was so fun to go into the twos', threes', and fours' classrooms, because the kids there recognized me and all ran to give me hugs.  Even the ones who didn't know me wanted to hug me!  :)  It was so fun to hear their chatter as they told me all about the goings on in their little lives.

And I loved being able to interact with my former coworkers.  I'd become good friends with many of them and have missed being able to chat with them on a regular basis.  It was great to hear about the goings on in their lives and catch them up on mine.  All of that rolled together made me really want to just go back and work at the daycare instead of going back to school!  :)  But that's not meant to be.  One more semester, and I'll be on my way to grad school, which will lead to my ultimate career, which will, hopefully, still give me the opportunity to work with children on a regular basis.  :)  And despite the nostalgia and longing, it was definitely worth the trip down memory lane to visit the daycare today.  :)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

December Highlights

So I hadn't realized how long I've been absent from the Blogosphere until I looked at the date on my last post.  Whoops!  Finals and such will do that to a person.  Not that eleven days is that long, but considering how many blog-worthy events have occurred in those eleven days, it might as well have been two months!  So I'll just give some highlights from the past week:

  • On Sunday, the 11th, I participated in Christmas programs on both the ward and the stake level.  As I believe I've mentioned before, I am the ward choir director in my ward, and I was directly involved in much of the ward program.  The ward choir sang two numbers, and both went beautifully!  I always say that the performances are what make being the ward choir director totally worth it.  There's just something so different---almost magical---about a performance, where everything just comes together liked you'd never expected or dreamed.  It's just...beautiful.  I was also able to accompany four wonderful girls singing "Away in a Manger."  Their number went beautifully, and I was glad to be a part of it, as well as to be able to listen to the other numbers.

  • The stake Christmas fireside was also wonderful!  As the stake music co-chair, I had been jointly in charge of putting the whole thing together and trying to make sure everything ran as smoothly as possible.  We had a few hitches and some other craziness that would take way too long to explain, but in the end, everything worked out, and my co-chair and I received many compliments on how everything had gone.  My favorite part was conducting the Hallelujah chorus!  For years, my family's stake has sung the Hallelujah chorus as the closing congregational number at their stake Christmas fireside, and I thought it might be fun to try it with my stake.  So I did, and it actually went really well.  Everyone seemed to really enjoy it.

  • From Monday to Wednesday, I spent most of my time immersed to my eyeballs in studying for finals.  I just about died, but I made it through, and I already know (and am very happy with) the scores on three of my four finals.  I'll have to wait quite a while for the fourth, but that's okay.  I'm finally done!  :)  Only one more semester to go!

  • From Wednesday afternoon to today, I've basically done nothing but have fun with my friends (especially my roommate Jill and my friend Toni) and enjoy the company of my family.  It has been so wonderful on my frayed emotions and battered brain.  I haven't had to think about school or callings or anything like that, and it's been incredible!  And get this: I still have two weeks and two days left in my break!  Ha!  Absolute bliss!

So that's how things have been for me lately.  For those of you who actually like reading my random prattling, I'll try to be more consistent from now on, especially over this break while I actually have time.  :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Celebrate Galilee

Christmas is nearly upon us!  In the midst of Christmas shopping, listening to Christmas music, preparing for finals week, and doing all the other crazy things involved with the hectic side of this season, I thought I'd just pause a moment and reflect on the true purpose of Christmas, which I think we too often forget at this busy time of the year.  I remembered a poem I wrote three years ago at Christmas time and thought it would be fun to share it with you.  I've titled it "Celebrate Galilee."  I hope you enjoy it!

Celebrate Galilee

The lights are bright, the tree superb,
The gifts are wrapped and neat.
And hundreds all around the world
Think Christmas is complete.

But there are those who speculate
That gifts and shiny things
Do not convey the wondrous joy
This holiday should bring.

And even those who know the truth
Of the birth of Christ, our Lord,
Still wonder why a little Babe
Should be important to the world.

Why is it that we celebrate
The birthday of a Babe
Who was born two thousand years ago?
Why doesn’t the significance fade?

Yes, He performed many miracles
And served thousands in his day,
But what set Him apart from others
Who have followed in His way?

To know this answer, one must look
At the last days He lived,
When He gave us the greatest gifts
That anyone could give.

In a sacred grove of olive trees
Now called Gethsemane,
Christ suffered for every sin and pain
Ever borne by you or me.

He bled from every pore because
He loved us, every one.
And now all those who walk this earth
Can be saved because of the Son.

Then, on the hill called Calvary,
Christ was crucified;
And yet, He asked God to forgive
His killers before he died.

Such was the greatness of this Man,
That, despite the awful pain,
He’d show His love for each of us
By doing it again.

Yet Jesus’ work was not yet done:
And after three days’ time,
He rose from death and broke the bands
With which we’re all confined.

And so, because of that small Babe,
Born on that Christmas night,
Each of us can live again
And gain eternal life.

So understand the insightful words
Of one general authority:
“Before we can understand Bethlehem,
We must know Galilee.”

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My New Addiction

Because I don't already have enough potential temptations, distractions, and addictions to deal with, I have discovered another pastime that I find almost indecently enjoyable---puzzles!  I've always enjoyed puzzles to an extent, but I've always lost patience with them after a while.  What I've realized is that I've never given myself enough time to really get into them.  For the first few minutes (perhaps even as much as a half hour), all you get are a couple of pieces hooked together.  Then, suddenly, you find your rhythm and momentum, and then you're on fire!  We have a 1000-piece puzzle on my card table in the living room, and I'd say I completed about an eighth of it this evening!

Unfortunately, it took me several hours to get that far.  And I've realized that puzzles can be almost as dangerous to my grades as books.  If I get too engrossed in the puzzle, I won't want to do anything else!  Fortunately, unlike with reading, there is a limited amount of time during which I can tolerate working on a puzzle (whereas I could read all day long if I had the time!), and it's not quite as cliff-hanger-esque if I leave the puzzle to sit for days at a time (which explains why there has been next to no progress on the puzzle since my roommate and I started it weeks ago!).  So now I know what I can do when I have boatloads of free time on my hands and nothing to do!  (Like that's ever going to happen!)  :)