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When the Holidays stink and so do you!

Elliott Christmas Day

Do you watch endless Hallmark Christmas movies and feel more people of Walmart? I do. Do you feel like everyone is in love but you? Do you wonder how everyone else does it as you sweep up more dog hair than the dog is wearing, and the cat knocks the tree over for the third time? Does your gingerbread house look like a gingerbread ghetto? Does everyone have their lights up before you? If so, you and I should be best friends!

Christmas, Bountiful Utah, the year is %$ AD or (Not telling because it will date me) After Divorce. My ex-husband had just bought all five children very loud musical instruments, toys that required batteries and assembly with no less than 1 million moving parts. My mother was taking video #nofilter and no way to disguise my sleepless life. I was dating someone new, but neither of us had a Christmas budget. All the packages were coming from my sweet mom and dad.

Imagine my kids’ joy when they opened their new coats, hats, gloves, and boots. Wrong! And we caught all the complaining on film. Even though it was one of the worst winters on record and snow was as high as my mother’s eaves, they were not thrilled. My 3 and 5-year-old sons had grown so much they couldn’t zip their leather bomber jackets, but still cried when I said it was time to give their old coats up.

We decided to put the new coats on, load the kids in our VW Van and go to see the lights on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. The kids were crying and I was the Queen of this particular pity party! I had been feeling sorry for myself all day.

As we drove to Temple square the radio reported that local homeless shelters were overflowing due to the extremely cold weather. There was a shortage of blankets and coats. Anyone having coats or blankets to donate should go to the shelter and drop them off as soon as possible. It was a crisis.

We just happened to be an exit away from one of the shelters. We pulled off the freeway through mountains of snow and chugged into an icy parking lot. The shelter looked like a refurbished grocery store with automatic sliding doors. People were in line behind the glass doors.

We parked and the kids began piling out of the van, while I gathered their old coats. My kids were crying and complaining. The boys were refusing to let go of their old jackets when the glass doors slid open and a man pushing a shopping cart came out.

The man’s clothes looked paper thin for the freezing winter weather. We all froze. Startled at the gaunt figure. The cart was full of layers of newspaper and I wondered if he was going to use them to pad his clothing.

“They’re full!” he called to us as he came closer. “But don’t worry, there is a Christmas dinner being served at the freeway underpass and I will find you a place to keep warm.” I was shocked. There he was with nothing in the world but a shopping cart full of paper and he was taking care of us!

“It’s ok.” I stammered. “We are just bringing coats to donate.”

He smiled and said, “Kids! Look! Coats!” The papers fell away and two small children in torn, dirty t-shirts emerged. My heart broke and all I could do was hold out the coat in my hand. Meanwhile, silently, my kids began throwing in the leather bomber jacket, all the other coats, their new gloves, and their new hats.

The kids in the cart will forever be burned into my memory and heart. Joyfully they celebrated as they put on the coats and hats. “Merry Christmas!” Their father called as he wheeled them over the icy ground towards the freeway. And suddenly I knew. I knew no matter how bad my life was, there was always something I could do for someone else.

There will always be someone in more need than me and some way for me to forget myself and see angels among us like this sweet man. This man, who had nothing, and yet was ready to take care of all of us.

I did stink! I had been indulging in self-pity when all around me were opportunities to love others. The Savior was born on Christmas day to a circumstance as humble as this man and yet we celebrate that birth and look to that small baby in a manger to save all of mankind.

Christmas. The first Christmas was never about getting. It was always about giving. The message that changed the world and caused the angels in Heaven to sing was one of love and hope for all mankind, even you and me. Even when we stink just a little.

Merry Christmas

Here is a Thanksgiving message from Elliott. He grew up to smile and can’t wait for Christmas Day.

 

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Love through my eyes

Yup! There it is! True love! After all the Disney princesses, the romance novels, vampires, and werewolves, I never expected to see true love demonstrated so clearly. On the left, my cousin (more sister) Jami and on the right her husband Joe in their natural habitat- the kitchen. But first, the back story.

Time Out For Women (TOFW) is a long-standing L.D.S. tradition hosted by Deseret Book. Thousands of woman meet for a weekend to listen to best selling authors and musicians while taking time out from our crazy lives. Sounds like a weekend at the spa, right?! Wrong!

It is a weekend for us girls to meet at some poor unsuspecting friends house, talk non-stop, eat all their goodies, and laugh until the sun rises. We spend hundreds of dollars our favorite books, art, clothes, and music (Oh, that old book?) and eat mounds of ice-cream and drink diet coke. That’s right. Mormons drink coke.

Friday night we started by driving hours, waiting for parking, running for good seats and ended by talking over ice-cream until well past 1 AM. At that point, we decided to be grown-ups. So, we talked for another half hour and promptly went to bed. Joe, being amazing, sat up and waited for us to get home, made sure the house was clean and took care of the family left behind.

Early Saturday, before the sun even rose, we got up to get ready to do it all again. While we chatted non-stop over cold cereal I watched Jami lay a towel over the burners on her stove. Without missing a beat in the conversation she plugged in an iron. She got me more cereal and while chatting away ironed the front of the shirt she was wearing. No lie! Without taking it off! It was amazing! If circuses didn’t involve creepy clowns, she could have joined as a contortionist.

Where does the love come in? Somewhere between telling me about babysitting and her son’s new school she called Joe. Magically, he was there. The chatter continued. She handed Joe the iron and with three words, “Iron the back.” Without missing a beat he started ironing the back of the shirt she was wearing. True love, right there in the kitchen.

What is true love? I don’t know what the rest of the world thinks it is, but I learned a lot about it at TOFW. In this case, true love was as much unspoken as spoken. True love was a connection between people who dance through life gracefully as a team. It is a dance this author only knows how to observe, and one I wish for everyone on earth.

I want to share with you some of the great things I learned at TOFW about true love and more. Later this week, I will share my favorite quotes. But for now, here is a personal lesson I learned about love.

 

Here is a group shot we had taken in 2014 at TOFW Portland. Little did I know, it would be one of the last few TOFW’s we would be able to spend with our beloved Aunt Joann. This year, while we took new photos, I relished every second, no complaints. Life is short. Time with friends, family, and loved ones has become more precious to me with every passing year, and loss.

True love, to this author, is making time, spending time and giving time to the ones we love. Connections are created in long lines, great music, late night laughter, and in the simple moments like ironing a shirt.

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Broken

Have you ever felt broken?  As an Advocate, I have heard survivors use the term over and over.

 

 Beautiful Broken Heart 

What you didn’t know

When you shattered me

Is you left my heart wide open,

Making space for hope to get in,

Letting passion burst through the cracks,

Blinding sun

Lighting the way to a better life.

 

I choose to keep the myriad fractures,

Places to look out from within,

Space to see other broken.

Let them in.

Patterns mapping the way,

Beautiful broken symbols revealing my power,

The power of survival.

 

Shattered designs,

Only visible to the broken,

Survivors carrying the gift of seeing out,

A glance,

A nod,

Connection,

Support.

 

You didn’t know when you shattered us

You improved our view,

And now,

Clearly,

We all see you.

There is no place to hide from the broken.

All of our pieces bring us together.

And when the mosaic is complete,

We will be more beautiful,

More powerful,

Than ever before.

By Shannon Symonds

After a particularly difficult day, I once again said to a family member, “I feel broken,” while driving to Washington to hear Jeffrey R. Holland speak.

Holland began his talk, and then stopped midsentence. He said he felt inspired to talk about something else, and then he said the words that will forever be written on my heart. Frantically I typed them on my cell phone, so I would never forget.

He said, “God loves broken things.” Those words struck members of the congregation, silencing the room. He went on to explain, “He loves a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” A contrite spirit is someone who feels guilt and remorse.

Shortly after Hollands talk I wrote this article for FamilyShare: Why God loves broken things

Embrace your unique heart.

Photographic art by Haley Miller Captures Photography may be copied, shared, printed and used for the benefit of survivors and personal use. FaceBook link hereInstagram here. More about Haley Miller and Captures Photography here. More about Shannon Symonds novel “Safe House” here.

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