Today I finally finished the laundry, dusted around the fireplace, went through the stack of papers that have been piling up for months and I thought to myself, why is it that I am still trying to recover from the holidays?  

There was so much good wrapped up in those endless days of celebration…but there was also so much of the unexpected.

It left me a little off balance.

And that imbalance has haunted me this past few weeks, following me around, dragging at my enthusiasm for greeting each day.

I will be honest, it worried me a little until I remembered a favorite quote, from a favorite author, of a favorite book.  A brilliant woman whose influence molded my life as a young mother, her whispers still carry me through…

She said, “I have this theory that everybody is born with a whole set of ‘blocks’ in their personalities ––all different colors and shapes––but they each have their own individual set, and it’s theirs for a lifetime.  Then, as we live, we shape those blocks into a certain pattern, and for a time that pattern is fairly stable.  Then something comes along, like adolescence, or graduation, or a mission ––some big change–– and it’s as if all of our blocks get knocked down, and we have to build up our ‘personhood’ again.  In a sense, I guess we change, because we usually build a new pattern ––and maybe a new block comes out on top.  But we are still building with the same basic blocks.  So, in answer to you question, I don’t think you’ve basically changed.  I just think someone has knocked down your blocks.”  (Jaroldeen Edwards)

That is exactly what happened to me this month.

somebody knocked down my blocks

You know, somehow just knowing that made me feel better.
Because I don’t mind building.  I love to create.  To see something begin to take shape.

But this time I am going to do things a little differently.

I am going to turn the process over to the Lord.  
I’m going to let Him architect the design.

I’m going to begin each day with the whisper of a prayer, “Work in me according to thy will.”
“Perform your good work in me…”
I am going to trust Him to design a new pattern.

I am going to trust Him.

I woke up today to the sun and I knew right away…
it was going to be a good day for building.

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Just after Christmas I took down the tree, carefully packed up each of the nativities, and vacuumed up the pine needles.

Then I settled into the soft yellow chair next to the fireplace and reflected.

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As always, it had been a whirlwind of a holiday…some expected adventures, and some unexpected.  Amidst the traditions of sledding at Soldier’s Hollow, visiting the lights downtown, and cousin gifts at grandma’s house we had made two visits to the ER with my daughter Meg, experienced emergency surgery, and sat next to her bedside as she received two blood transfusions.

Now, after New year’s I sat there at the fireplace, sorting through the adventures…both expected and unexpected…and there, in the memories, one experience stood out that helped to make sense of them all.

It was a conversation that took place on Christmas day.

You remember Ian, who last Christmas loved to sit next to the fire and entertain us on late evenings by sharing his thoughts on life.

IANspirations, we called them.

His soft, slow voice matching it’s rhythm to the flickering flames.

Now he is living across the United States in Indiana ––he gave up two years of his life to share the good news.  To preach of Jesus Christ.

It has been hard.

That’s what he told us on Christmas day.  How hard it was.  But also how much he loved the work.  God’s work.

“What’s been the hardest?”  I asked.

And he began to describe the worst week.  The week when a woman in their apartment building had a seizure.  She was walking to her apartment…they were walking down the stairs.  And then she fell, hitting her head on the brick wall, blood pouring out everywhere.  The calling 911.  The mopping up of the blood on the floor.  The sitting by her bedside and watching her…  Praying for her kidneys to start functioning.  Praying for the fluid to leave her lungs.  Praying for her to breathe again on her own.

It’s hard to find understanding, in those moments.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

“I had been working so hard.”  He said, “Really working, doing my best, trying to live close to the Spirit.  But everything that was happening around me was bad.”

So he opened God’s word for understanding.  A book of ancient scripture.  There, in one of the chapters, he read the story of a man who was in need of light.   So the man climbed a very high mountain, and moltened 16 stones out of rock, and laid them in a pile, and prayed to the Lord.  He asked the Lord if He would touch the stones.

If He would give them light.

And then the prophet saw the finger of the Lord as it touched each of the 16 stones one by one and filled them with light.

It made Ian mad.  He closed the book and walked away.

Why did that man get to see the hand of the Lord at work?  What was he doing that was any different than what Ian was doing?

He was working diligently, praying with faith, focused on the Lord.  Why couldn’t he see the hand?

It was some time later when he opened the book again.  (I love that he opened the book again…) He opened the book to see what it was, exactly, that had allowed the prophet to see the finger of God.

One phrase stood out to him, “and the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord.”  (Ether 3:6)

the veil was taken from off his eyes

And Ian wondered…why can’t the veil be taken from off my eyes?  why can’t I see the hand of the Lord at work in my life?

And the Spirit whispered…just because you can’t see the hand doesn’t mean the hand is not working.  Whether or not the veil had been removed the hand of the Lord would have still been at work.  The stones would still have been filled with light.

Look for the fingerprint.

It was a profound thought.

Because sometimes we long to see the hand of the Lord at work.  We pray.  We have faith.  We wait for the manifestation in our life.

But, perhaps, what we need to look for is the fingerprint.

On that afternoon after the new year, I sat there in my yellow chair, and I remembered Ian’s story from Christmas day.

I will be honest, my heart had wondered if the Lord had remembered us over Christmas…if His hand had been at work in our lives.  I questioned it when Meg stood in the garage, bent over coughing, with bright red blood puddling at her feet.  I questioned it during our second visit to the ER, with Dr. Hamilton giving orders to the nurses in preparation for the unexpected surgery that was about to take place.  I questioned it as the nurse hooked up the first of two blood transfusions that would be needed to restore her health.

I had prayed from the very first moment that her tonsil surgery would go as planned.  That she would be well.  That she would heal quickly.

And there, sitting next to her bed late in the afternoon and watching her sleep as blood dripped through her IV and into her frail white arm, I wondered if God had heard those prayers.

I wondered why I couldn’t see His hand.

And then, I started looking for the fingerprints.

They were there in the conversations Meg and I had had during the late nights when neither of us slept, and I rubbed her feet with soft vanilla lotion, and we discussed her dreams, and her struggles, and her faith.

They were there in the actions of a very dear friend who stood by her side through every minute of those 23 days, bringing strength, and peace, and even joy.

They were there in the wisdom of a doctor.

They were in the prayers.

In the blessings.

In the eventual healing.

Fingerprints scattered everywhere.

And I learned an important truth.

When you can’t see God’s hand, trust His heart.

And then,

look for His fingerprint.

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Last year my daughter Meg really wanted to go somewhere in the world over Christmas and build an orphanage, or a water system, or a schoolhouse.  But it wasn’t a year where we could afford something like that.  Loving that her heart felt that pull and not wanting to ignore her prompting to give in a way that requires sacrifice and love, I asked her what she thought about doing something for someone in need right here.

In our community.

No one was building an orphanage, or a water system, and the schools that were currently being built hadn’t asked for her assistance, but there were places she could give…time she could sacrifice…love she could offer.

So we started trying to think of some of the simple ways we could give right here in our community.  The conversation went something like this…

“I want to take donuts to the fire station.”

“We should put a happy note on someone’s car.”

“Can we give an anonymous gift to someone in need?  Because a boy in my class is in need of a new pair of shoes.”

“Ya, I saw that boy…he really does need a new pair of shoes.”

“Should we seek an errand from the Lord?”

“Give a compliment.”

It wasn’t long before we had 24 days worth of giving our hearts, hand written in ink on a white piece of paper…

…one act of service for every day through December 24.

It was an amazing experience. In fact, we loved this project so much last year we are doing it again!! And we want you to join us.

There are a couple ways you can participate.

First, we are putting the 24 Days of Giving on Instagram. (#24DaysofGiving) Each day we will post a new invitation. It will pop up first thing in the morning. If you want to join that day’s challenge we are going to invite you to “click to commit.” Fun! Once you have double clicked the invitation for that day you have 24 hours to follow through. When you’ve completed your invitation, we’d also love for you to come back to the post on Instagram and share a little bit about your experience.

In order to make the challenge easier to accomplish, in our home we have hung a garland of numbered bags…1 through 24. This week we are filling the bags with the invitation cards (the ones that will pop up on Instagram each morning) and also with the supplies we will need for each of the 24 days.

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So that you can prepare along with us, we’ve made the 24 invitations available for you to print at home right now. For a printable link to the 24 Days of Giving invitations click here.

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Each day’s invitation will be simple ––not meant to overwhelm.  We don’t want to add more to an already crowded holiday…but sometimes the most simple of gifts can be the means of lifting a heart, bringing a smile, filling a soul with joy.

In our family, each morning beginning on December 1, we will check Instagram and then open a bag.  Each bag will contain whatever might be needed to accomplish that task for that day.

Each day will be filled with giving.

Perhaps you would like to join us?

Here is what you will need to do:

Follow us on Instagram: @multiplygoodness (Multiply Goodness is our sister blog, and it is another place where we will be hosting 24 days.)

Make a garland with 24 bags.  You might consider using small manilla envelopes hooked on with clothespins, or you could use a line of jute with different sizes and colors of children’s Christmas socks clipped on with clothespins.  Really any type of container will work…you just need 24 of them.

Click here to find a printable link to the 24 invitation cards.

Gather your supplies at the grocery store…and set aside some dollar bills.

Then fill your containers, pockets, envelopes, socks, or whatever you decided to use with everything you will need for each day.  You can put the cards in any order you want…according to your calendar and your needs, or you can put the cards in the order they printed out, which is how they will show up on Instagram.

You have this whole week to prepare.  We will leave this blog post up through Thanksgiving weekend so that the instructions will be easily accessible.

Brother Butler and I and some of our friends will be completing the 24 Days of Giving right along with you. Follow along with us as we begin blogging about 24 Days of Giving on December 1 and continue each day through the whole month of December.

Consider this your invitation!!

And maybe you could pass this post along to anyone you think would want to join us in Multiplying Goodness through the whole month of December.

Let the 24 Days of Giving begin!

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They called it Banana Friday.

The third Friday of every month, well every summer month, the months when the weather was warm enough for neighborhood night games.

Banana Friday was different than the other Friday nights:  To play the night games on that Friday you had to bring a piece of fruit.

Two fifteen-year-old boys organized the whole thing.  Two ninth graders.  Joe, and Nate.

And that probably makes you feel a tad bit worried.  Ya, I know you are wondering what they were going to do with all that fruit.  It could be a scary thought.

They gathered it up.  They put it in a huge basket.  And then they dropped it off on the porch of someone in their neighborhood who they thought needed it most.

This huge group of kids, sneaking through the neighborhood with a big basket of fruit.  Quietly approaching the front porch, ringing the doorbell, and running away like the wind leaving their simple offering there on the welcome mat.

And then, after the offering was gifted, the night games began.

It’s crazy, but the kids came out in droves on the third Friday.  Oh sure, they tried to come every Friday…but no one missed Banana Friday.  It was the most well attended night of games of the whole month.

The backyard was crammed to bursting with all of them there…filling up that basket with fruit.

Now Nate and Joe are serving as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The gift they are offering is different.

But still they approach the front porch, ring the doorbell, and offer fruit.

Now, it’s the fruit of the Spirit.

On Wednesday I attended Bible Study.  It’s one of my most favorite things to do.

We always begin with prayer.

This week one line of that prayer stood out to me, “Let the fruits of the Spirit live loudly in our lives.”

The words left a deep impression on my heart.

It’s because I associate the Spirit with quietness, speaking softly, a whisper.

And yet, this is a week when I am in particular need of that blessing

…for the fruits of the Spirit to live loudly in my life.

Louder than the voice of the world, the voices of doubt, the cacophony of my life.

I need the sweetness of the Spirit to overtake all of that commotion.

I have pondered since then on what my life would look like if the fruits of the Spirit lived loudly within me.

Today I am going to try it.

It’s the third Friday.  Banana Friday.

And I am gathering fruit.

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Christmas is around the corner!

The tree is decorated.  Holiday music fills the speakers.  A chill is in the air.

And day after day I have been working on a project.

Just a little something to help start this season right.  And make sure it ends right, too.

You see, I believe that within Christmas, Christ can be found.

But it requires preparing our hearts and preparing our homes.

And sometimes it requires us to embrace new traditions that will remind us of the real reason for the season.

Traditions that will help us to focus on Him.

That’s why I wrote this book…lots and lots of years ago…to remind me.

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In our family we study one of the figures in the nativity every week for seven weeks leading up to Christmas.  We learn about the part they played in the birth of Jesus Christ.  We focus on the lesson we can learn from their story.  Then we celebrate a tradition that helps us to learn from and remember that lesson.

Mary reminds us to ponder.

Joseph reminds us to perform secrets acts of Christmas kindness.

The shepherds remind us to testify of Jesus Christ.

The wisemen remind us that coming to know Jesus will influence us to journey another way.

The angel reminds us to share the great joy this season brings.

The lamb reminds us to recognize the hand of the Lord in our life, and in that instant, give thanks.

The Christ child reminds us to focus on Jesus all year long.

Every year we use a favorite nativity set to help us count down the weeks until Christmas.

But this year I thought we might do something different.

So I began creating this to hang in my house…

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We could hang the banner up just like this all season long.

But I don’t think we will.

I think we will use it as a nativity advent calendar.

Each week after we study one figure and learn about the part they played in the birth of Jesus Christ,  we will place their banner piece on the banner to remind us of their lesson all week long.

…the Christ Child will be last.  We will place His figure on the banner on Christmas morning.

Oh, I am so excited about this.

 

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And Brother Butler wanted one like this to hang in his house…

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Maybe this year you would like to add something different to your holiday.

If so, you can find the book here.

And you can find the banner here.

Here’s hoping that this Christmas will be one of your fondest!

 

 

 

 

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