Christmas Series: Book Review of Candy Canes and Christmastime

Guest post by Amanda in France


“Christmas is not only, and maybe not even especially, for the happy, the cheerful, or the lucky. Christmas is most of all for those who know, deeply, that we dwell in darkness and still look for the light we hope will come. We dress our children up, coax smiles out of reluctant teens (well, we try), and we tell the happiest possible story of our lives, not because we are naïve or blind to the truth of our lives in the lone and dreary world, but because we choose, sometimes with great effort, to believe the promise that our blighted world can yet be redeemed, that the far-off glimpses of beauty that pierce us with longing are truer and more powerful than the despair and cynicism that tempt us on every side.

“It is impossible, really, what God asks of us at Christmas. The weight of evidence is so abundantly on the side of darkness and ugliness and ruin. We see, with prophets and poets, that we cannot change the world, that our work is likely to come to naught, that “the glory of man [is] as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away (1 Peter 1:24).

“God knows this. He knows that we know it. And yet He asks, commands us to believe the impossible –virgin birth, new stars, nights bright as day, angels talking to shepherds, heaven touching earth. And not just to believe it, but to enact over and over, to tell each other the story  again and again…year after year, despite everything. He asks us to learn the desperate patience of hope.”

-Kristine Haglund, “Cards, Weltschmerz, and Heimweh” from Candy Canes and Christmastime by Linda Hoffman Kimball, 2014

Can I just fangirl for a second?

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Space to Fill

Warning: what you are about to read is not clever. It has not been edited for treacle, banality or minutia. I am pretty sure I am over-telling and under-showing. It is Thanksgiving morning 2014 and I need a dose of raw, unfiltered gratitude. Stat.

I am thankful that my husband is healthy. Eight months ago he was having major surgery. Last night, he was trying to make brussel sprouts tastes less like cabbage.  

I am thankful for our two sons who are kind, confident and passionate. Do you want me to tell you more about them? I have time. Do you want to see pictures of them? I downloaded several hundred off of facebook just last night. I love being their mom.

I am thankful I am safe, have a dry place to live, enough food, and warm clothes. I never take these things for granted.  

Today I am waking up with just two people in the house, one is still sleeping and one is typing. This is the first time my husband and I have been alone for a big holiday since . . . ever. It just happened. One of our boys is staying home and attending a “Friendsgiving.” The other is studying abroad. Friends and family can’t make the trip or are coming for Christmas instead. Several plans shifted at the last minute, and subsequently, my husband and I are here and everyone we typically host is somewhere else. We do have an invite for dinner, but we will not have the usual tumult of out-of-town guests, board games and traditional recipes. There is no turkey brining in a black garbage bag on our stoop. No stack of pies. No anticipation of someone squirting soda through their nose in response to mass hilarity.

I am thankful for all the extended family who do not necessarily get us, but love us anyway.

I am thankful for all my friends who listen to me and assure me that I am great, guiding me back to some version of great when I am being ridiculous.

I am thankful that I have interesting work that keeps my busy brain busy.  

I enjoy our empty nest, but I have been dreading the quiet today.

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Christmas Series: Give the Gift of Exponent II

Gift of EXII logoAre you looking for that special gift for your favorite Mormon woman? Consider getting a subscription to Exponent II, and your gift recipient’s first issue will be a double issue packed with so much of the best stuff of Exponent II over the past 40 years.

Our editor-in-chief, Aimee Hickman, has been working on this issue for over a year, and it will be such a treasure, including past editors’ favorite essays published during their tenure with a few paragraphs describing the events surrounding the choosing, editing, and publishing of their chosen essay.

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Christmas Series: For those without a gift for giving gifts

big present IMG_3432I do not have a gift for gift-giving.  I am overwhelmed as the holiday season approaches and I ponder gifts for my kids, who are already bored of the gifts I gave them for their birthdays; my parents, who already own nicer things than I could afford to buy them; and my husband, who only ever wants specialized hobby equipment that I am not even knowledgeable enough to buy.  It seems that anything I can afford to buy en masse for my neighbors and coworkers is junk.

So I have scoured the Exponent archive for tips for remedial gift-givers like me. Exponent blogger Whoa-man, who is a natural at gift-giving, shares tips for choosing the perfect gift in The Art Of Gift Giving. I marvel at the thoughtfulness of the gift highlighted in Jessawhy’s Birthday Gift From My Pro-Feminist Husband. Here are some great thoughts about children’s gifts by Emily U: What Kinds Of Toys Did You Buy For Christmas. A guest poster resolves the neighbor gift dilemma with Simple Gift Suggestions For Friends Who Are Not LDS and these ideas for a Mothers Day Gift From Bishopric To Women would also work well as neighbors’ Christmas gifts. Emily CC reminds us that sometimes we don’t need to pull off the perfect gift, A Good Enough Christmas is good enough!

And this video is a great one to get in the giving mood:

My Song in the Night by BYU TV

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Christmas Series: The Parable of the Nativity

Guest post by Quimby


“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us – That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness; that through him all might be saved.” (D&C Section 76)

nativityMy son was born on Christmas Eve. His birth came the year after our family’s most disastrous Christmas ever – a fairly remarkable statement, considering my extended family includes evangelical Christians, fundamental Muslims, and militant Atheists. My heart was still heavy with the events of 12 months prior when I cradled him in my arms and thanked a loving Heavenly Father for giving me this child, at exactly this moment, to soothe my troubled soul and let me find, once more, the beauty of Christmas. I looked into those slate-blue eyes and saw he already had all of the wisdom of the world, and he was anxious to share it with me. I kissed that soft spot on his head and cooed, “It’s alright, little one; we don’t have to worry about that just yet.”

Of course I couldn’t help but think of another mother, who had also cradled her newborn son one Christmas long ago. I marvelled at her courage and wondered if she did not rail at the injustice of it, that her child – so perfect – would have to carry such a heavy burden for us all.

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Christmas Series: God Loves Us More At Christmas

Guest Post by Erin Belanger 

Christmas aloneTwo years ago I was anticipating my first Christmas after my divorce. My finances were scant as I came home from a much needed Thanksgiving trip with my kids to Las Vegas where most of my siblings had gathered. The kids, ages 13, 11, 8 and 6, were excited about making wishlists and there was a slightly manic buzz about the idea of having two Christmases. I was not going to have them until the afternoon on Christmas day and my heart hurt a little bit at not spending Christmas Eve enjoying our rituals: fondue dinner, the annual nativity pageant put on with remnant fabric costumes and baby dolls, singing Christmas hymns, reading the goals we had set last year from the stocking for Jesus, putting cookies and milk by the fireplace, watching It’s a Wonderful Life with a cup of cocoa in hand. I was already tired trying to think how I was going to stretch the little bit of money I had to spend on Christmas to make this year not seem quite so different from all the others. I usually tried and failed to keep Christmas simple, but I was mourning the excess of year’s past. There was just no way I could see that Christmas would have quite the same magic when I had to do it on my own with limited means.

What I failed to remember is that God loves us more at Christmas. He softens hearts and inspires the whole of humanity to look around for someone in need or in pain to bless. At that time I was in both pain and need and heaven’s blessings were poured out upon my little home that Christmas season.

When I left Las Vegas I told my mom I was going to put a trampoline on layaway and that would be their only gift besides a few small things in their stockings. I wanted to do things on my own and I knew I would have a small paycheck from my new job subbing at the elementary school later that month that would cover the rest. I went the next day and put my $20 down and looked forward to buying it with my first earnings. I knew I was going to have to wait until the last minute for a tree, because they always marked them down the last week, but that was better than nothing. I usually had a small present that was opened by the child that found the *pickle ornament on the tree. Obviously, the trampoline couldn’t be wrapped, so I tried to think of something else I could give them that wouldn’t set me back. Stockings would be fruit and nuts and chocolate. They would be okay without the trinkets, that usually filled the leg of the stocking, right?

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