Monday, December 25, 2006

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Last night I went with my mom and my sister to the traditional Christmas Eve pageant at church. Every year it's exactly the same--same songs, same narration, even usually the same people playing the same parts. Sure enough, last night we saw the same multicolored lights lining the pews along the walls and the same tinsel on the angels as they stood to sing "O Holy Night."

I think the most touching part this year was the very human experience. I have to say that I loved the little shepherd boy who totally winced when the spotlight came on, covering his face with his crook. And I loved that Mary came in on her solo early, right when the angels were supposed to sing. She sang beautifully, without error, other than the fact that it wasn't her turn. The angels patiently waited, and sang their song later. Then, after more narration and music, Mary's real cue came and she sang her lullaby again, not missing a beat. No embarrassment, no shame, no wrong note. It was great.

My favorite part, though, was the first wiseman. This is one of the strangest, crustiest old men in the ward. I couldn't figure out how they convinced him to dress up in a shiney gold paisley robe with a velvet turban on his head. But there he was, resolutely marching up the aisle with his pearls (I don't remember pearls in the original story, but they were pretty fancy). He didn't really keep time with the slow melody of "We Three Things" as the traditional script called. Instead, he glided along quite quickly, with his eye on Mary and her baby doll the whole time. I realized that for him, this little pageant was very real--I watched his eyes glistening in the light of the Christmas icicle lights hanging in the front of the chapel. He sincerely, genuinely wanted to bring something to the Christ child.

Suddenly the Christmas message is a very real one--it means everything that Christ was born in a manger, because then He understands the depths and depravity of life. He also understands and welcomes our sincere efforts to know and serve Him.

A dear friend of mine shared this Christmas message with me. It is beautiful art set to sacred music, illustrating the true and very real meaning of Christmas.

Merry Christmas. May you find peace and light and healing in the very human, real, genuine experiences of your life.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ah... relief! I love the feeling of relief! I just turned in my final project for the semester, and I'm done. I finished my first semester of my PhD...

Relief is also the feeling I experienced when I woke up and realized my dream of being back in the MTC to go on yet another mission was just a dream. I don't even know where I was going... I was just wandering around the MTC in a bathrobe, trying to find a shower before the first orientation meeting, and wondering how in the world I could get my hair highlighted before I left...

So many ways to find relief...

Monday, December 04, 2006

I am a believer in red onions. I think a good red onion takes food to a whole new level. It makes a normal ham or turkey sandwich for lunch into a divine repast (add avocado, cucumber, pepper, and a good cheese and it's quite grand). So yesterday I made my roommate's famous bowtie pasta salad for our Sunday dinner, and I had nearly mixed the whole dish when I realized I had forgotten the red onion. With my penchant for perfection, I had to remix with the necessary red onion. I chopped a few slices and dropped them into my overflowing bowl. The more I chopped, the more my eyes began to sting. Finally, I had reached Red Onion Trauma. I could no longer see anything, and I had only added a few thick slices of diced red onion. My sinuses became as clear as they have ever been, and the only escape from Red Onion Trauma I could manage was a hot shower. The salad was a success. Here's the recipe:

Poppy Seed Bow Tie Pasta Salad
1 16-oz. bow tie pasta cooked and cooled
1 red pepper sliced (it's fun to use yellow and orange, too)
red onion sliced or chopped (watch out!)
1 can black olives drained
1 can mandarin oranges drained
*sugared pecans (your desired amount)
**poppy seed dressing

Divide dressing in 1/2. Add peppers, onion, olives, oranges, and 1/2 the pecans. Mix with pasta. Add remainder of dressing and pecans on top. Garnish with a slice of pepper.

*To sugar pecans, heat a non-stick pan. When pan is hot sprinkle sugar in pan. Watch for the sugar to melt. When all melted, add pecans and mix. Let cool.

**Poppy seed dressing
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 T. minced onion (again, beware)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
1 tsp. mustard
1 T. poppy seed

Blend ingredients all together in blender/processor for 2 minutes. Sauce will be a little thick.