I Gave a Talk on Christmas Day

Last year we did a lot of fun Christmas activities…Christmas is my favorite time of year! We went to light parades and visited a lot of big Christmas trees in the Bay Area. I made homemade hot chocolate pretty much every night in December. We drove around the neighborhood looking for the best Christmas displays – most were just around the corner from our house! And, I got asked to speak at church on Christmas Day. After my talk, I came home and crashed on the couch and pretty much didn’t move for two weeks. Stupid germs. We opened presents and stockings in the New Year!

Here is my Christmas Day Talk:

Carter was born a month early via an emergency c-section. He was breech, and during surgery the doctor realized the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. He spent twelve days in the hospital. During a period that should have felt incredibly stressful, Andy and I were so blessed. Those twelve days were some of the happiest of our lives. We went on adventures around the hospital – one night he wheeled me out to see the Super Moon at midnight. We got locked out of the hospital and had to call security to let us back in! Another day, a security guard looked the other way so we could take a wheelchair out of the hospital and Andy pushed me all the way to Stanford Shopping Center.

And of course, there was Carter. To this day, the smell of the soap at the Children’s Hospital brings me feelings of great joy.

The birth of this child changed my world.

It changed my perspective of my purpose in life, my vision of the world, myself, and those around me. It helped me to appreciate, notice, and love things I’d never seen, though they were always before my face.

Since Carter’s birth, I have come to love airplanes. Carter loves planes and is constantly pointing to the sky. He can spot them from what seems like hundreds of miles away.

Because of Carter, our family has developed new Christmas past times. We spent a lot of time this season driving around the neighborhood looking for the best Christmas lights. Carter loves Christmas lights. There is a house down the street with trees covered in blue lights, and every night, we have to drive around the block so he can see them.

Because of Carter, I have reorganized my life and my priorities: I have a new profession, a new lifestyle, new dreams and goals.

In a small way, his birth cast a veil from my mind “and the light which did light up [my] mind, which light was of the glory of God…infused such joy into [my] soul” (Alma 19:6).

In this life we walk through a fog. Nephi describes it as a mist of darkness designed to test and prove us. In a way, we see the world through a straw. We see a sliver of the picture, a portion of the truth, but not the whole thing. Without the whole picture, we miss things that are before our eyes, or we are unable to comprehend even the smallest things we see and experience.

But, on this Christmas day, we celebrate the birth of our Savior, the babe in a manger. Paul Alan Cox, the Dean of General and Honors Education at BYU said, Christ is, “One who is able to see things in a pure and perfect way. He can see the truth of all things because he knows things as they are and as they were, and as they are to come (D&C 93:24). The Lord has a perfect vision of the universe, for all things are present with Him and he knows them all.”

Christ came to open the eyes of our faith, to give us hope and lead us through the fog. He came because He is a more excellent way.

Really, He is the only way.

We are blind, but through Him, we see.

Carter reminds me daily that we can draw closer to Christ by rearranging – through the tiny daily choices and large, life-changing decisions – our priorities and life for Him. Through Carter’s love of planes, he reminds me we can draw closer to Christ by looking up and noticing the million small ways He is present in our lives and remembering Him always.

Carter reminds me we can draw closer to Christ by looking for light, by following light, by driving, what seems to be out of the way, to have it in our lives.

President Uchtdorf said, “Christmas is a time for remembering the Son of God and renewing our determination to take upon us His name. It is a time to reassess our lives and examine our thoughts, feelings and actions. Let this be a time of remembrance, of gratitude, and a time of forgiveness. Let it be a time to ponder the Atonement of Jesus Christ and its meaning for each of us personally. Let it especially be a time of renewal, and recommitment to live by the word of God and to obey His commandments.

…while the Christmas season is typically a time for looking back and celebrating the birth of our Lord, it seems to me that it should also be a time of looking to the future. Let us look forward. Let us prepare for that blessed day when He will come again.”

We can do this by looking up and looking for light. Praying, studying the Word, following the Spirit, going to church, attending the temple – things we all know to do, yet can do a little bit better.

When Christ was resurrected, he joined two of His disciples on the way to Emmaus. He seemed to them but a stranger. As he expounded the scriptures, sat with them at meat, and blessed and broke the bread, the disciples’ eyes were opened and they knew Him.

In this life, we walk our own paths of Emmaus and the Savior walks beside us whether we recognize Him or not. He is always with us.

When we listen to Him and follow His Spirit He will open our eyes and give us visions in the mist. He will guide us down paths of deepest love and joy.

It is my testimony that the joy of this season lies not in the presents under the tree, the cookies by the fireplace, or the Christmas music that has – in my home, much to Andy’s dismay – been playing non-stop since the day after Thanksgiving.

The joy of this season is in the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, whose birth, life and sacrifice are our source of light, hope and love.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his essay, “Nature,” “If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown.”

It is my testimony that a star did appear. One night, after thousands of years, a start for all eternity. And this star never stops shining. Its light lives in all of us, in everything around us. It is Christ, the Savior of the world.

We can marvel, believe and adore. We can preserve for generations this truth if we will but turn our hearts and lives to Him.

Our Picture Book Advent Calendar

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Christmas picture book advent calendar waiting under the tree. We wrap our gifts with repurposed grocery bags and decorate with whatever we can find around the house!

Two years ago, when Carter was just four months old, I started collecting Christmas books to create a picture book advent calendar. It was this search for Christmas books that inspired my journey into writing – at the time, I couldn’t find any Christmas books featuring children of color. This led to a strong impression to write books of my own. I have embraced the journey so far!

Our collection has grown and changed over the past two years as I add new books and put some on hold for later years. I’ve made an effort to include books with children of color, classics, religious themes, and humor. Each year, I wrap and number the books and put them under our tree.

Please forgive the Amazon links and if possible, support your local bookstore!  This year’s collection  includes:

An Angel Just like Me written by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu: A young African-American boy needs to find an angel for the family Christmas tree but can only find angels with blond hair. He goes on a mission to find an angel that looks like him and discovers that angels, like his friends, can come in many colors.

The Birds of Bethlehem written and illustrated by Tommie dePaola: The nativity story told from the perspective of the birds who witnessed it.

Carol of the Brown King: Nativity Poems written by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Ashley Bryan: Beautiful nativity poetry with stunning illustrations that portray people in all colors.

The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher written by Robert Kraus, illustrated by Vip: On Christmas Eve, the Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher steals all the sprinkles for Christmas sugar cookies! A story told in funny rhymes.

The Christmas Star written by Paloma Wensell, illustrated by Ulises Wensell: Two young children follow the brightest star and bring their favorite toys to baby Jesus. They receive the most beautiful gift in return.

Dream Snow written and illustrated by Eric Carle: A lift-the-flap book in which snowstorm covers an old farmer and his animals. When the farmer awakes, he remembers he has a Christmas surprise for everyone!

The First Christmas by Jan Pienkowski: Beautiful artwork with verses from the Gospels of Luke and Matthew.

Funny Faces Santa Claus by Roger Priddy: Christmas characters, rhymes and big moving googly eyes!

The Giver of Holy Gifts written by Krisanne Hastings Knudsen: A board book describing the gifts Christ gives us. What gift can we give the Savior in return?

How the Grinch Stole Christmas written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss: The Grinch is determined to ruin Christmas from the Whos down in Who-ville.

Jingle Jingle Little Reindeer: A small finger puppet book. Wiggle your finger to help the reindeer get to Santa’s sleigh on time!

Joy to the World written and illustrated by Tommie dePaola: Three beloved Christmas stories in one! This collection includes The Night of Las Posadas, The Story of the Three Wise Kings, and The Legend of the Poinsettia.

King Island Christmas written by Jean Rogers, illustrated by Rie Munoz: Eskimos help a stranded priest reach their village in time to celebrate Christmas.

Nativity Flap Book by Usborne: A lift-the-flap book with the nativity story.

The Night Before Christmas written by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Mary Engelbreit: Classic Christmas poem illustrated as only Mary Engelbreit can do it!

One Special Night: The Christmas Story Pop-Up Book written by Lori C. Froeb, illustrated by Claudine Gevry: The nativity story told in colorful, moving pop-ups.

The Polar Express written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg: A young boy takes a magical trip on a midnight train to the North Pole.

Room for a Little One written by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Jason Cockcroft: Animals welcome each other one by one into a warm stable. A donkey carrying a pregnant woman is welcomed in. That night, a little one is born.

Samurai Santa: A Very Ninja Christmas written and illustrated by Robin Pingk: A young ninja wants to have an epic snowball fight on Christmas but none of the good little ninjas will join him for fear of ending up on Santa’s naughty list. He concocts a plan to get rid of Santa, but will Samurai Santa get in the way?

The Snowman written and illustrated by Raymond Briggs: A snowman comes to life and shares an adventure with a young boy. A story told entirely in pictures.

Snowmen at Christmas written by Caralyn Buehner, illustrated by Mark Buehner: On Christmas Eve, the snowmen come to life and have festivities of their own!

Too Many Tamales written by Gary Soto, illustrated by Ed Martinez: Christmas Eve is going perfectly for Maria until she loses her mother’s diamond ring in the tamale mix. She and her cousins will have to eat all the tamales to find the ring or Christmas will be ruined!

Tree of Cranes written and illustrated by Alan Say: As a Japanese young boy recovers from a cold, his mother folds paper cranes to decorate a tree. She reminisces about her Christmases in California and introduces him to his first Christmas tree.

When Christmas Feels like Home written by Gretchen Griffith, illustrated by Carolina Farias: Eduardo is homesick after moving to the Unites States from Mexico. His family promises him that he will feel at home by Christmas.