We don’t have a single picture of Santa with all of our kids, because Max was “too cool” at first. He didn’t say as much but told us he didn’t feel like talking to Santa. And Harvey was too scared, but right before we were about to leave, Max decided he didn’t want to miss the chance to talk to Santa and since big brother (Harvey’s favorite) decided to do it, Harvey decided it was safe for him as well. It was the perfect Santa to go see. We were five minutes late getting there, but so was Santa and we were still the first in line. He took a good while to talk to our kids and they got a chance to tell him what they wanted. And as my friend said, he didn’t have to paint his eyebrows white like the Santa they saw. It was so easy. It was also the first time I’ve taken my kids to see Santa. Big crowds have never been Andy and my things, so we generally avoid it, but we’ve also been in survival mode for so long. This year was different and I expected a crowd and still went, but we lucked out.
Thursday evening I got to sneak away to book club for a couple of hours. It is the first book club I’ve been a part of since before Max! This is a group of ladies in the area that are members of my church, but not in my ward so it was really nice to get to know some more people. We read “When Breath Becomes Air.” It was quite a beautiful book. It’s an autobiography about a man who is a neurosurgeon who is in his final years of residency and discovers he has terminal cancer. He shares the losses he feels, but mostly how he learns to accept the life he has and what he has left. He learns how to put what really matters first while not just “living in the moment” since his life was coming to an end. He and his wife decide to have a baby. When making that decision, she asks him, “Wouldn’t it make it harder to die?” And his reply was, “Wouldn’t it be great if it did?” It’s such a powerful sentiment. That death without sacrifice, without having much to lose wouldn’t be tragic at all. But to live a full life and have to leave it would be so painful, but so rich. In essence, we shouldn’t live life to avoid pain, but live a life that matters. The book was so optimistic and spiritual, that I didn’t feel the loss of this man until I read the epilogue-which his wife wrote. He didn’t get to finish his book, though it ended as you would suspect, his premature death. But she explained, that in a way, it was perfect that the book was incomplete, because so was her husband’s life. Part of me was sobbing because of the poor 8 month old baby that no longer had a father, part of me cried for her loss, and part of me felt the bitterness of completing a seven year residency only to have your life come to its close months later. Since Andy recently completed his residency and life has been so full and finally balanced, I morn for their loss of never truly feeling that moment when life gets a little easier, a little more complete. He was raised in a dual religion home- Christianity and Hinduism (if I remember correctly). He said he didn’t really claim a religion until college when his study of literature and then medicine showed him proof that there was a higher being. That it was impossible for the coincidence of such marvels to exist without a creator. I know that intellects can go either way, but for me, the more I study and learn about scientific marvels and read scriptural historical texts, the more I too know and see the evidence of a God, and a loving, nurturing God at that.
I had a few spiritual moments this week. The first was with our friends, the Woods. Their son was super sick and was struggling to breath. They texted us asking if Andy could come give him a blessing. Andy was at work, but told them he’d come by on his way home from work. She said, “I told Matthew that Andy waltzed in with his stethoscope and cowboy boots like an absolute godsend. I’d never been happier to see someone… No offense, Matthew.” Andy gave him a blessing and called in a prescription to help him get better. Before they were even able to fill the prescription he felt drastically better by the morning and by Saturday with the blessing and the medicine he was back to his normal hyper self. I know that God gives us medicine and I too know that his abilities are beyond our understanding and truly he is capable of miraculous things.
The second spiritual moment was a conversation with a gym friend. She was explaining some struggles with her younger kids. She was kind of explaining the difficulty of balancing when to let them figure things out on their own and using discipline and love. They’re adopted kids from pretty traumatic homes. I mentioned that it may be hard to know when to show love versus discipline, but she has much more experience in parenting and said something that I knew to be true but guess I didn’t view it that way. She said, “Oh, they’re the same thing, discipline is love!” Then we talked about the Old Testament vs how God chooses to parent us now. I told her I thought it was a progression of mankind, that just like we have to parent our younger kids with a lot more direction (as God did in the Old Testament) and a little more trust in their teen years (as he is doing now as seen through the adjustments to For the Strength of Youth, home church, Come Follow Me, etc.). I see a progression in mankind as a whole and how the Lord has built upon each generation to be able for us to use personal autonomy to choose the Lord. We can use our agency best these days by choosing how we use our time to put Him first. She agreed, but added that the Lord may have used a firmer hand with the children of Israel, because they needed that kind of love after the trauma they faced with the enslavements, draughts, etc. It is quite amazing that the Lord trusts us that much, that he knows that through His love for us and ours for him, that we can be directed to follow him without a step by step guide, though that still exists in its fundamentals. We can follow God by putting him first in our life. I’ve been thinking a lot about how the time we use during the day leads to what our future looks like and that it is those “atomic” habits that create a larger outcome. This can bring us to adjust our atomic habits to include our Savior. By doing so, we will become more like him and draw nearer to him.
Saturday evening, Andy and I got to go to our neighbor’s house for a holiday party. It was a lot of fun with a lot of laughs, but you could tell we were all pretty exhausted from life. My neighbor said it was a good thing Andy was there to keep us on our toes, or it would’ve been a snooze fest. She’s not wrong. I’m grateful for the laughs that man gives me.
Finally, I’ll end on this highlight. I don’t normally post about my extended family. Not because I don’t love them and miss them terribly, but because my mom does a good job covering their life on her blog and I know the same people that read my blog read hers. Anyway, below is a video of my sister ice skating. She’s amazing! I am so impressed with her grace and bravery. I could never do what she does. My mom has always been an inspiration to me in this way too. She performed as well, and I’m sure she’ll post her video so I didn’t include it below, but go watch it! It’s so fun. Every time I get wrapped up with life and taking care of four little kids, and worrying that I didn’t get my career goals fulfilled, I think about my mom and how she didn’t start figure skating until she was forty-five! I am seriously so impressed with her! I know that there is so much more life ahead, even if it ends shortly. That is the beauty of the knowledge we possess as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints– this isn’t the end. There is so much more life, and so much more hope for all of us. Our faith is truly the only one that offers peace and glory for even those who reject the Savior. Every one who chose to follow Jesus Christ in the pre-earth life will be given a resurrected and immortal body. Every one will receive a degree of glory to their comfort and desire. If they desire to become like God and are willing to abide by the eternal principals that that entails, then through the power of Jesus Christ’s atonement, they too will be given all that he has. If we don’t desire to change who we are, clinging to the identifiers that our society is so defined by, then we will be allowed to stay in that state as well. There is a lot of tension in our society of religious followers versus the world. Those who want to resist change and follow their “unique identities” and live a personal truth opposed to the Almighty’s get angry with those of us who are striving to turn and repent towards our creator. They are angry that we have differing philosophies of life and the life after and sometimes take personal offense that they don’t allow their personal agendas to fit into our beliefs, but ultimately, God’s law is the law of happiness. If they allowed him to work in them, maybe even changing their very core, then they could experience everlasting happiness and eternal peace. This is God’s promise. And I have felt it so very much. It doesn’t take away the pains of immortality, but instead is a remedy of Hope for the times when I struggle with the trials of this moral life. Why be angry with God for providing a way that will bless us with so much more, while still loving us for who we are and allowing us to be who we are if that is what we choose.