Monday, 27 February 2017

Our Family Advent Calendar 2016 - #LIGHTtheWORLD

[Please excuse the fact that this post is several months late.  Life happens.]

Merry Christmas!!

This year we received a homemade advent calendar - the first we've had for our little family. Each numbered ornament on the felt tree was a pocket for, well, some treat of the day. But these pockets were tiny and not that suitable for candies or chocolates.

But then I came across this: 25 Ways to #LightTheWorld This Christmas.  I printed off the advent calendar service idea cards and put each one in its pocket.  Perfect fit!

Christmas Advent Calendar
Our "new" advent calendar

I like how Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles introduced this initiative in the Ensign magazine:
"Many of our memorable and enduring Christmas traditions include different kinds of lights—lights on trees, lights in and on our homes, candles on our tables. Indeed, light has significant meaning as we commemorate the humble birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.  
. . . 
"May we increasingly learn and more fully understand that Jesus Christ is the “light which shineth in darkness.” In every season of our lives, in all of the circumstances we may encounter, and in each challenge we may face, the Savior is the light that dispels fear, provides assurance and direction, and engenders enduring peace and joy. May the beautiful lights of every Christmas season remind us of Him who is the source of all light."

"May the beautiful lights of every holiday season remind us of Him who is the source of all light." David A. Bednar

Now I want to share what we did each day to try to "light the world" during this Christmas season.  We definitely were not perfect, but we I think we all enjoyed the daily challenges.

[click the images to enlarge]

Dec 1: Jesus Lifted Others' Burdens and So Can You - Worldwide Day of Service
Sometimes we are only able to serve the world within the walls of our own homes.  That was the case for us since Tevia was sick with a cold.  I served her by taking care of her (like usual but with extra attention).  Lucas served us by washing the dishes, making sure we had dinner to eat, and bathing Tevia.  I asked Tevia how she could serve others (ie. make others happy) and she decided to serve us by smiling - her own idea!

Normally she doesn't smile like this but she insisted that this was her smile.  Poor, sick girl.

Dec 2: Jesus Honored His Parents and So Can You
I honored my parents by chatting with them through Skype.  (If I could have seen them in person, I would've hugged my dad and helped my mom with a chore.)  Lucas honored his parents by taking the time to do some family history work. (Tevia refused to participate and also doesn't agree that we are parents or that she is a daughter.)

Dec 3: Jesus Helped Others To See and So Can You
Lucas helped set up the lighting booth for the Nativity set so people will be able to "see" the pageant.  I tried to help Tevia "see" what it's like to "not see" by playing a game where she had to identify objects while being blindfolded (though she didn't like the blindfold and often took out objects before naming them).  Then we watched a short Bible video about Jesus healing a man born blind.

Dec 4: Jesus Worshipped His Father and So Can You
We served God by worshiping Him at church and later by watching the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional.

Dec 5: Jesus Healed the Sick and So Can You
The irony of this day's theme was that Tevia and I were sick with colds. Fortunately, this provided an opportunity for others to serve us and it taught me to be patient in that trial.  A friend took care of our errands and also brought me some wonderful pho (Vietnamese soup) to help with my cold!

I guess I served by continuing to take care of Tevia (to a small degree, since I wasn't feeling good either) and Lucas served by being there for us before and after work.

Dec 6: Jesus Read the Scriptures and So Can You
Jesus read the scriptures and so did we with family and individual scripture study.  I also watched some short videos for The Book of Mormon Reader on the iPad with Tevia of Christ's birth and visiting the Nephites.

I will detail my study for that day of Mosiah 4:19-27.
"For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind? 
"And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy. 
"And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another
"And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done. 
"I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world."
The rich have a responsibility to give to the poor and needy, mainly for the reason that God has given us so much and what we have actually belongs to Him.

"And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give
"And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received."
"I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give," is the mentality to have if you are in a position where you barely have sufficient for your needs.  If you are greedy or would still "deny the beggar" even if you had substance, that is a sin.  Perhaps also wishing to be the one receiving more is also a sin here...

"And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants. 
"And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order."
We are to serve our fellowmen temporally and spiritually - but to be sure we are not overdoing it.  Be wise: give where it is needed and wanted.

I need to keep in mind for myself that if I'm not in the position to give of myself, whether temporally or spiritually, that I must do what I can to stabilize my situation and work on gaining a surplus until I can go and help others - and to not feel guilty about it!

Dec 7: Jesus Fed the Hungry and So Can You
We helped to feed the hungry by putting a donation in a "Feed the Need" box in Lethbridge.  This is a cupboard of sorts next to the sidewalk of a busy street where food, toiletries, and hats/mittens are within easy access of anyone in need.  I heard about this a few months previous but hadn't had a chance to do anything about it, and I'm glad we did! There was hardly anything in the one we went to.  Our donation did contain food, but it was mostly hats and mittens, etc.  It was a very cold day (around -20 degrees Celsius)!

Dec 8: Jesus Prayed for Others and So Can You
Other than the typical meal time and family prayers, we tried to be more prayerful.  I tried to remember to pray for others' difficult situations and more faithfully for myself to get through my own trials.

Dec 9: Jesus Visited the Lonely and So Can You
Some more irony here: due to many circumstances, we weren't able to visit the lonely and I ended up feeling lonely myself.

Service is not necessarily meant to be convenient or comfortable. Mother nature made sure of that with the frigid temperatures and blowing snow. We intended to visit someone lonely but the weather combined with other circumstances made that impossible. My mom said we could count her as being lonely though when we Skyped my parents, so... check!

Dec 10: Jesus Helped People to Walk and So Can You
The irony doesn't stop there. Then, the morning of the day that we were to help others to walk, Tevia and I slipped outside and hurt ourselves - not too badly for her, but very painful for me.  I was helping Tevia to walk on ice and snow so she wouldn't slip... when I slipped.  So I had trouble walking for much of the day (and on and off since then because I keep re-injuring myself).

But on the spiritual side of things, I noticed a post on Facebook that said, "Jesus Christ healed those who could not walk and helped them rise physically and spiritually," which reminded me of the song, "I Will Rise" by Alex Boye. It talks of us being resurrected with Christ and of the removal of pain and sorrow when that day comes.

Dec 11: Jesus Ministered to Children and So Can You
As parents, ministering to children is an everyday thing. We try our best to be good parents for Tevia and to make sure she is heard and played with... and rescued from locking herself in her room!

That night we went to Handel's Messiah and two women sitting on either side of us commented afterwards about how well behaved Tevia was for her age, how we are so gentle with her and that it is so wonderful to have another one on the way since we are such good parents already. I felt honored to hear such words, especially since we considered leaving early because Tevia was getting fussy (in our opinion).

Dec 12: Jesus Taught Others and So Can You
No specific teaching or learning was undertaken that day, but I know we are Tevia's parents and primary teachers. With the increase of tantrums and interactions with other young children who are learning to share, we've had to teach her how to handle internal and external conflict.  Emotions are hard to deal with, even as an adult. And once again, it's not just a one day thing.

Dec 13: Jesus Showed Humility and So Can You
I couldn't think of anything specific to do to be humble (especially since that is a difficult trait to identify in oneself) but I did ponder the necessity of being humble in order to serve others.  I realized that all service requires humility or else it isn't service.  It lacks love otherwise, which is essential.  "Charity ... seeketh not her own," and, "if ye have not charity, ye are nothing" (Moroni 7:45-46).  After all, "are we not all beggars?" (Mosiah 4:19, above).  Aren't we all in need of something we can't give ourselves?  When you serve, do you have the mindset of: "I can't believe you can't provide that yourself, but here you go anyway -- and you better return the favor!" or: "I'll help you until you can do it yourself and not ask for anything in return"?

Dec 14: Jesus Taught Us to Clothe the Naked and So Can You
This day was about clothing the naked. We did part of this when donating to a "Feed the Need" box because we also included hats, mittens, etc.  We also dropped off a bag of clothing to Value Village.  Easy.

Dec 15: Jesus Worshipped Through Song and So Can You
We took the time to worship through song by singing some Christmas hymns as a family before Tevia went to bed.  She really enjoyed that.  Now "O Come, All Ye Faithful" must be her favorite Christmas song because she kept asking us to sing it everyday afterwards for a while.

I also want to share a song I love (though a slightly different arrangement) called, "He Is Born" by BYU Vocal Point.  Lucas and I have been working on a duet arrangement to sing at church hopefully next Christmas.  (We would have tried for this Christmas if circumstances had been different.)

Dec 16: Jesus Showed Compassion and So Can You
I talked to Tevia about compassion being a form of love where we help others to feel better.  So I asked her what she could do to help someone else "feel better"; she listed: lay down in bed, go to sleep, and sing "Twinkle, Twinkle."  I didn't realize until the next day that we showed compassion the previous night by getting to know a young couple (new in our area) with a girl Tevia's age.

Dec 17: Jesus Cared For His Mother and So Can You
"What You Did For Me As A Mother & Why It Matters" PostcardAlthough the day was about loving our mothers, Tevia kept talking about our entire family being together forever and that we can love each other by singing "Ring Around the Rosie."  I printed off and mailed a postcard to my mom of three things she did for me and why it matters.  And Lucas... I don't know what he did for his mom.

Dec 18: Jesus Honored the Sabbath and So Can You
We honored the Sabbath Day by going to church, focusing on fulfilling our callings, kept ourselves from watching TV and playing computer games, spent time with Tevia, and then I went to a special women's Christmas devotional that evening.

Dec 19: Jesus Calmed the Storm and So Can You
Lucas "calmed the storm" by being an on-call volunteer for CASARA (Civil Air Search And Rescue Association), although he wasn't needed for anything that day.  I think he is also the main peacemaker of the home, sometimes trying to put out two fires at once (when Tevia and I have simultaneous meltdowns).

I wanted to work on putting together emergency 72-hour kits, but that didn't work out.  I think I help to calm storms by being aware of others around me, especially of their social, emotional and mental states, to see how I might be of help to them.

Dec 20: Jesus Saw Potential in Others and So Can You
I made a card for a friend, expressing the blessing of having such a person in our lives.  I also always encourage Tevia to do many good things and praise her good work and effort.

Dec 21: Jesus Forgave Others and So Can You
I tried to be forgiving by holding my tongue when interacting with Lucas (sometimes I just say more than needs to be said or get too picky about something).  It was an eye-opener for me to see where I stand in our relationship.  Lucas didn't notice the difference, but loves me more for it.  This is definitely something I need to continue working on.

Dec 22: Jesus Showed Gratitude and So Can You
Showing gratitude is an everyday thing for our family as part of our Family Devotional: the Thank You Jar... except we didn't actually follow the routine that day!  But we often talk and pray about the things we are grateful for throughout the day, so I wasn't so concerned about missing just one day.

Dec 23: Jesus Was a Peacemaker and You Can Be One
I think overall we all did a good job of being peacemakers by reducing contention in our home that day.  Tevia didn't even have a tantrum (though she did do some things to spite Lucas).

Dec 24: Jesus Cared For His Loved Ones and So Can You
Lucas and I cared for our loved ones by taking care of Tevia (as usual).  We arrived in Calgary that day to be with my family for Christmas, so we also showed love for them.  Lucas helped my family with a snow shoveling route and I folded some laundry while they were out.

Dec 25: Jesus's Disciples Followed Him and So Can We
I think this advent calendar helped me commit to reading the scriptures and writing in my journal on an almost daily basis.  I noticed the Spirit throughout the day as I pondered how I could serve others.  I really liked having a goal each day to try to serve someone else.  That's why I'd like to do this (or a very similar thing) next Christmas (at the very least).

What a fun Christmas season we had!  Tevia is still telling us, "We forgot about the advent calendar!"  She really enjoyed the routine of reading each day's assignment at breakfast time.  I suppose we'll have to figure out another "advent calendar" to do outside of the holiday season...

Ogrins Family Christmas
Merry Christmas from the Ogrins Family!
Bumpity, bump, bump, bumpity, bump, bump...

Do you have any ideas of other "advent calendars" to do during the year?  What kind of advent calendar do you have for Christmas?

Next topic: [TBD]