Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Single Life

This season, almost my entire family was able to come together for Christmas.  My oldest brother and his wife and son weren't there, but everyone else was and it was the most people we've had together in about five years, so it was a rare treat.  There were big kids, little kids, and fun older siblings to make Christmas much more exciting and lively than it would be if it were just me and the 'rents, awesome as they are.

Anyway, all of my siblings are married and have been for a few years.  Now, even if I weren't the GMP, I'm still not old enough to be married, in my opinion, so I've never had a problem with being single.  I enjoy the freedom and ability to do whatever, whenever.  I like not having to ask permission (even though I think most of my brothers and sisters only ask permission out of politeness, not necessity), not having to go to bed when someone else gets tired, etc. Occasional loneliness aside, it's a decent life.

In any case, this family gathering was the first one where I felt the difference between me and them.  My mom always gives the married kids a book on a gospel topic so that they can build their libraries, and while I know she never means to leave me out, I kind of feel a little jealous when everyone else gets a book my mom enjoyed and found value in.  I know the justification is that I can just as easily read my mom's copy as anything else, but it still makes me feel ever-so-slightly like an outcast. 

It happened again when we all went skiing.  My brother and his wife were curled up in the lodge sipping chocolate, my sister and her husband were shredding down the slopes, and my other brother and his wife were enjoying some cross-country skiing, leaving me the choice to either do my own thing or third-wheel it with someone else.  And it happened again whilst playing Just Dance, when each of the couples did a dance together, again leaving me high and dry.

No one ever left me out or excluded me and we did plenty of things as a family throughout the week, including everyone in our adventures.  It was a great week.  But there were moments of loneliness and pining for a different life situation, one in which it'd be easier to find the perfect mate to add to our already-exciting family group.

That feeling has been coming on more and more recently.  The other noteworthy example was attending my friend's wedding, the same friend who I feel could have been the pretty girl to break this beast's spell.  All week leading up to the wedding, I hoped she'd "come to her senses" and jilt him, giving me a second chance at a normal life. And then I saw them at their wedding reception.  They danced, they kissed, they smiled that smile that says that they each had just made the best decision of their life.  I knew I wasn't the one for her, he was.  It was (and is) a hard truth to try and live with, that those rare enchanting girls were never meant to be mine. And so it is I wake up alone each day, listening to schmaltzy love songs that have me wishing I could "feel your heartbeat through my shirt," and "taste your lips and feel your skin." 

Life is great.  I love (almost) every minute of it.  Things are getting progressively easier and all is well. But as much as I love falling in love with myself, I certainly wouldn't say no if the right person came into my life.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

My Favorite Christmas Story

Merry Christmas to the blogosphere!

Last week, a girl I home teach and I sat down, shot the breeze for a little while, shared our holiday plans and current activities, and made our way to the lesson.  It was my turn to teach, so I decided to share a Christmas story.  I'll share it here as well.

Wallace Purling was in the second grade, but he should have been in the fourth.  He was big and clumsy, but was liked by all of the children in his class, who were much smaller than he was.  He had a kind heart, quick to come to the defense of anyone who he felt was being mistreated, and so gained the respect of everyone who knew him, even the boys who'd try their best to hide their frustration whenever slow, dim-witted Wally tried to play ball with them.

Christmas was getting close. The teacher had been preparing the class for the Christmas pageant since all the way back in October.  Wally wanted to be a shepherd so he could hear the angels bring their glad tidings and invite him to visit and bear testimony of the baby Jesus, but the teacher thought that having that many directions on stage would be difficult for Wally.  She reasoned that being the innkeeper would be a much better job for him.  After all, the innkeeper only had two lines to learn, and Wally's size would make him much more intimidating and convincing as a callous innkeeper than a meek shepherd. Wally was disappointed, but took his part with a willing heart and set about learning his lines immediately.

Well, the night of the pageant came.  The whole town showed up to see the children portray the night of our Savior's birth.  Little Joseph and Mary wandered about, searching for a place to rest for the night.  Tender Joseph walked up to the inn's door.  Wally flung open the door with a brusque gesture.  "What do you want?" he demanded.

"Please, sir," the little boy pleaded, "my wife Mary is with child and needs a place to sleep tonight."

Wally stood in the door, silent.  The audience began to feel awkward as they watched him, thinking he'd forgotten his lines.  Tears filled his eyes.  Somewhere offstage, the teacher whispered, "No, be gone. There is no room for you here," hoping to prompt Wally on.

With a choking voice, Wally repeated the line.  Joseph hung his head and turned to walk back to Mary. Wally should have walked back into the inn and closed the door, but stood and watched the forlorn mother and her husband with concern, great big tears rolling down his cheeks and a horribly depressed look on his face.  And then this pageant became different from every other.

With tears still filling his eyes he called, "Joseph, wait!  Come back! Bring Mary!"  And then, with a bright smile he said, "You can have my room."

Some in the town thought that Wally had managed to ruin the show, but most think that it was the most Christmas of any pageant ever.

As I told this story, my eyes too filled with tears and my voice broke.  I realized how important and amazing all of my Christmas chores were.  In the challenge of finding the perfect gifts for my family, making time for those in my life whom I love, and completing those necessary tasks I had, I'd lost the spirit that Wally showed.  I had no room in my heart for loving those I was serving, and so had no room for the Savior.  I came away with a new hope for my Christmas.  I wanted to give and get good gifts and I wanted to find the perfect tree for my family and I wanted to party with my friends, but the motivation was much more people-based.  My friends and family were no longer items on my checklist, but people I genuinely loved and wanted to see happy. And, as awesome as the first half of December was, the second half has been much, much better for it.

Merry Christmas.  I love those of you I know and I want to know those of you I don't know, so I can start loving you too.  Because God loves you.  Jesus Christ loves you.  Our Savior lives.  He was born to show us the way back to our Heavenly Father and through the grace of His Atonement, we are saved.  

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Coat: A Story of Charity

Yep. It's definitely that time of year, when every Christmas story makes me tear up a little bit. Hope the message shows through the cute animation.

A Balance Between Responsible and Fun

Pardon the deviation, but I had kind of a micro-epiphany last night during my prayers.

Lately, I've been looking for a winter project.  A few years ago I drove a 1952 Ford Customline sedan and really enjoyed it, but as is my habit with such things, I dug in my heels, hemmed and hawed, and by the time I decided I'd buy it, it was gone.

I've discovered my fatal flaw in that plan (and many of the others I've hatched to buy cars).  I am, at my core, a responsible guy.  The Ford was a discretionary expenditure, a fun purchase with no practical reason to recommend it.

My current interest is in a contemporary of that old Ford.  1949-1952 Dodges and Plymouths are at their bottom dollar right now, the nexus of their depreciation.  They were functional cars of their time, but none too attractive or elegantly designed, unlike the Fords, Chevrolets, and Studebakers of the day.  Because they're not terribly desirable, those old Dodges and Plymouths are an affordable, easy way to get into vintage motoring.  Parts are plentiful, there are a total of, like, three moving pieces in the whole car so repairs are simple and cheap, and even though they aren't as pretty as some of their competitors, they still have loads of that vintage charm.

I found the one.  It's in good shape, a full-time Arizona car so it's very rust-free, and it runs well.  It has the bigger six-cylinder motor and a manual transmission, and all ancillaries work as they should.  The price is at the low end of the scale for its condition and the seller is motivated.  By all accounts, it's the perfect winter project, a cheap initial investment in an easy job requiring a little paint and some body work, but with a huge payoff in the end.

I was praying last night and I asked the Lord to help me with my decision.  I said that I wanted a cool old car and that I needed to know if it was a good choice to sink that kind of money into something like that. I reminded myself that men are that they might have joy, and while a car won't bring lasting, real joy, it still makes life a little more fun.  And I told the Lord that cars are a hobby I really enjoy. I justified the potential spending, saying that I'm young and making irrational purchases like this will be much harder if a family ever enters the picture, and so I should get one now while I can, and maybe sell it if I need the cash later.

Then, I made something of a discovery. I quickly changed my prayer to something that went like, "Help me buy a car if it's right, and if it's wrong, help me not want to buy a car."  I realized that, while I do love my vintage classics, perhaps my flaw isn't in hesitating to buy one, it's in wrapping myself up in wanting one in the first place.

Really, that's the core of almost every problem, isn't it?

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