Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Best Is Yet To Be!

I hope you have all had a wonderful Christmas Season and have increased in your knowledge and appreciation of our Savior and the Gift of his birth.  And even more than that, the Gift of his life and his atonement and all that he has given us.  I also hope that you enjoyed many lovely times with your family and friends around the cultural traditions of this season and that you had a lot of fun together and made some wonderful memories.  In just a few hours it will be time to usher in the new year! 

For many 2012 has been a stellar year filled with lots of good things.  For some it has been very sorrowful and filled with trials and major challenges that we wondered if we could overcome.  For most of us it has been a real slice of life; with some of all of the above included. 

I am often glad that this life is marked by time.  New beginnings, new years and new days seem essential to mortals seeking change and progression.  I have often thought about how strange life would be if it was just one very long, long day.  Life always looks fresh and new in the morning and I love that.  So congratulations, we have all survived 2012!  I am sure we are all filled with the hope that 2013 will be a wonderful new year.  People are amazingly resilient and always hopeful...thank heavens.

Around the world a new year signals a natural time of reorganizing our priorities and setting goals; a time of change and improvement and for many the making of New Year's resolutions. 

 A few weeks go I was thinking..."I really don't think I even want to make new resolutions this year."  There are so many years that go by when we enthusiastically make resolutions and then they fizzle out by Valentine's Day.  I thought about that and started to ponder why that is.  Why do we fade out and give up so quickly? Some years I feel the fervor of making resolutions, but this year I just wasn't.  I should have known a talk in Sacrament meeting was in the offing.  I am thankful for it though, it did change my paradigms about New Year's resolutions quite a bit.   The person giving the talk in church always seems to benefit the most.

While preparing this week I have been studying some of the words of the prophets and apostles and the scriptures to seek an answer regarding the fizzle phenomenon that goes beyond our just being lazy.  It has got to be more than that.  

 In a talk by Jeffrey R. Holland entitled The Best Is Yet To Be~{Ensign January 2010} he said, " we all knew we would face challenges and trials when we came here and would have to overcome them....we signed up for them so we could progress eternally.  It is part of God's plan and he is with us and on our side."   This was a key for me in overcoming my desire to forego even thinking about making changes.  God is on our side he wants us to succeed.  This brought to my mind the scripture,"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13.  When we partner with the Savior and our Heavenly Father we can succeed! 

It made me think of a quote I had read from President Kimball years ago.  In The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball he said, "Now when a man has been created in the image of God and in his likeness, then limitations are, for man nonexistent except as a man limits himself." Can you even imagine the power in that?  "As a man thinketh in his heart so is he!" Proverbs 23:7 

While searching for that quote I also ran across some of President Kimball's teachings on worldly knowledge and wisdom and Godly knowledge and wisdom.  It made me realize that perhaps one of the failings of traditional goal setting is that one can find lots of worldly knowledge on how to to it, but perhaps our success rate would be higher it we applied the doctrine of eternal progression and the Godly purpose and wisdom in that to our efforts.

Elder Holland tells us that "the start of a new year is the traditional time to take stock in our lives, measured against the backdrop of where we have been.  He said he didn't want to talk about resolutions but about the past and the future with an eye towards any time of transition and change in our lives and, he said...those moments come virtually every day."  

To me this is saying that our lives are fluid and we cannot just make a resolution on January 1st and then not return to it often to make course corrections that enable us to keep going and succeed.  The desire to make a change has to take on a life of its own and cannot remain static.

Our Heavenly Father of course knew this when he gave us the gift of his Only Begotten Son.  The gift of Christ's atonement is the gift of change in our lives through our repentance and sincere desire to change coupled with his grace.  He is so very patient with us because he knows our potential.  He knew this could not happen once a year via a resolution.  

This is a daily process of growth and progression.  This is a partnership with Christ where we receive an endowment.  He gives us something huge that we cannot do on our own.  It is full of his love and grace and only requires the best effort we can give in return.  We need to have daily reminders of this and regular repentance is a part of that and the Sacrament once week to 'always remember him' is also in the equation.  That is required of us along with accountability, hard work and flexibility and time and commitment.
  That feels decidedly different to me than making resolution on paper and then forgetting where it is three weeks later. I am beginning to understand the difference at a deeper level. 

 Is it any wonder that even a Prophet of the Lord, Spencer W. Kimball, cited his favorite hymn as, I Need Thee Every Hour?"

Elder Holland goes on to use Luke 17:32 as his scriptural theme for his talk where the Savior cautions "Remember Lot's wife."  He then takes us back to Genesis 19 and that story of Sodom and Gomorrah when the Lord having had as much as he could stand of the worst that men and women could do, told Lot and his family to flee because those cities were about to be destroyed.  The Lord said, "Escape for thy life and look not behind thee." 

When they reached the outskirts of city and escaped to the mountains, fire and brimstone rained down from the Lord and destroyed those cities and the surrounding plains.  Quoting Elder Holland, "Surely with the Lord's council-"Look Not Behind Thee" ringing clearly in her ears,  Lot's wife the record says, 'looked back' and she was turned to a pillar of salt."

Google images

"Just what did she do that was so bad?  As a student of history Elder Holland said, I have thought about this and offer a partial answer.  Apparently what was wrong with Lot's wife was that she wasn't just looking back, in her heart she wanted to go back.  It would appear that even before she was past the city limits, she was already missing what Sodom and Gomorrah had to offer her.  As Elder Neal A. Maxwell so aptly put it, "Such people know they should a have their primary residence in Zion, but they hope to keep a summer cottage in Babylon."

When we are having problems keeping up with our goals could it be that we really just don't want to do them?  We know we should want to, it is expected of us, the right thing to do no doubt, but in our heart of hearts are we resistant to giving up our problem or establishing new behavior?  We love our comfort zones and do not want to change, not really.  This really inspired me because I know this is one of the variables for me at times and I suspect for others also. 

Are we like Lot's wife -not having the faith to recognize that what the Lord wants for us is better than we we have settled for ourselves? This is key to achieving our goals.  Ya Gotta Wanna!  It has to be a 100% desire to step away from the mistakes of the past, live fully-focused in the present and look to the future with faith.

Elder Holland tells us "not to dwell in the past, but to learn from it.  We are to forgive ourselves and others for mistakes and move forward in faith."  He tell us, "we are to look ahead and remember that faith is always pointed toward the future.  Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives."

We are to forgive ourselves for past failures at achieving goals and begin again with faith.  We are to forgive and forget the past mistakes of others and allow them to repent and change.  It appears we have enough to worry about on our own without holding another's progress hostage.  They are entitled to the same things we are.  

I feel this is especially true with people we are close to like family and good friends.  We have to stop unrighteously judging people with thoughts like, that is just the way so and so is.  She will never change.  What more can we expect from him?  He is not capable of that accomplishment, the record speaks for itself.  These types of expectations from important people in our lives can literally cripple us as we try to move forward and change and benefit from the atonement of Jesus Christ.  How heartbreaking it would be to know that we had held a person back from reaching their full potential by our thoughtless, self-righteous attitudes. 

Satan knows that this earth life is given to us to make changes and growth towards becoming like our Heavenly Father.  He uses his mighty tool of Discouragement with tremendous success among many of us.  We have to remember he can only bruise our heel but we can crush his head.   We have Christ's power to fortify us while he does not.

It is time for us to believe Christ when he tells us we can become like him by following him and keeping God's commandments.  It is time for us to stop the negative self-talking and wallowing in our failures that continue to hold us back.  What we can do to another with our unrighteous and non-productive judgements we can do to ourselves as well.  In the words of President Dieter Uchtdorf we need to just "Stop It!" 

It is time to focus daily on the things we want to improve upon and having faith to move forward, planning, working hard and trusting in our God.

Maybe it is time to set aside what we call New Year's resolutions and to commit to doing it with a combination of Worldly Wisdom and Godly Wisdom. 

If we really want something and we follow Christ's prescribed way to achieve it,  and if we realize we can do anything with his help it could make all the difference in 2013 and throughout our journey back into the presence of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ which is our target.  Jim always tells me that when biking you always end up going in the direction you are looking.  That principle applies to living as well.   Where we are looking and focusing is exactly where we will end up. 

The things I have studied and learned from our trusted leaders and the scriptures have helped me see more clearly why more is needed than the worldly wisdom of achieving my goals.  I feel inspired to work harder and increase my faith in God and also in myself.  May I be among the first to wish you all A Very Happy New Year and may we all reach our full potential using Godly wisdom!

pinterest images except where noted

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

It's A Wrap~Christmas 2012 is a Memory

But the meaning of Christmas 
should wrap us 
in a warm blanket for 
the coming year.

This is such a lovely way to say Merry Christmas to all of you that we love so dearly.  May you have received every good gift this year and may you have given them as well.  May your hearts be filled with wonder and love and gratitude as you ponder the things and people that matter most in your lives.

At the same time we  hope you enjoyed the wonderful and fun traditions that make the Christmas Season memorable as you spent time with your families and friends.  And if circumstance didn't permit that, we know that keeping them in your heart works too. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing keep the spirit of Christmas alive in you as you enjoy the New Year with all its blessings.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Simple Woman's Christmas Daybook 2012

Just for today~Monday, December 24-25, 2012
Our lives pass swiftly by! I want to do something to remember
the everyday moments and my thoughts about them.  
That is what this daybook is all about.
Focusing on the little things that become my life.
One week at a time.


Outside my window...It is bright and sunny and cold.  The trees look bare that are not evergreens and the shake roof has brilliant, apple green moss and grass growing on it.  It is so pretty.  I love it when the moss comes out and then little blades of grass grow right on the roof of the cottage. It is kind of funny as it is the only place we have any grass actually.   I love this cottage we call home.  I could easily become a recluse for love of it.  I am happiest and most comfortable here.  Being a homebody is my thing.

I am thankful for...Christmas for the JOY of it, the fun of it, the traditions and the memories.  The endless memories of family gone before, of friends loved and lost, and loved that remain here with us still.  Christmas conjures up the best of times and the worst of times.  It brings life and love and longings and hope and faith to the surface for me.  I picked up a fancy dish to prepare for a dinner yesterday and I was flooded with thoughts of my Mom.  Saw a tiny girl and thought of our grandkids so far away and our own children once tiny and now grown.  As I set the table for our family dinner and looked at the Christmas plates I thought of all the loved ones that have eaten here with us in celebration of the Christ Child.  I gazed upon Jim's mom at the table and thought of his Dad who died the day after Christmas many years ago.  Looked at Scott, our nephew, who came here as an infant  and is a grown man with a beard now.  And my sweet cousin, Bob, who has known me my whole life and is the only person I know to be able to claim that.  And I looked at the empty chairs.  So many empty chairs with only ten here yesterday.  There have been years when we numbered well into the twenties nearing thirty.  The years our little home was bulging at the seams with love and laughter and little ones and a visits from Santa.  I am thankful for all the memories, and just a little blue.  Christmas without your children and grandchildren and parents is bittersweet.

From the learning room...You get to choose how you view things.  I think that all the above is good.  The happy thoughts, the missing of great people and their love adds so much to the richness of living.  Being with my Husband is enough.  Knowing we share the memories of 48 Christmases and we and we alone know what we miss because we both miss it...that is a special bond like no other.  To have been with him all these years on this special day is my joy.  The melancholy that is unspoken and shared equally is my comfort. Waking up with him on Christmas morning is my Christmas gift.  In all my missing of loved ones, my cup is very full.  Time and distance and circumstance are all peripheral to the love that sustains him and me as a family.

I am reading...scriptures, and family history things and some sweet Christmas blogs and stories.

From the kitchen...tons of left-overs from a great dinner last night.  Hallelujah!  And on our way shortly to Jim's cousins home so just making a big salad for today.  Yehaw!

I am missing...Everyone I love or have loved that is not here this moment.  I am emotionally driven, had you not noticed.  Hehehe.

Some spiritual thoughts I have been having...Thinking of Christ, his gifts, his life, his atonement in more detail than usual this lovely Christmas season has brought me great joy and peace.  Something new each day this month of December has been inspiring, like videos, music, stories and scriptures and good lessons in church yesterday have lifted me up.  The little book called, "Jesus Calling."  It has been so elevating and comforting.  Thank you sweet, Nellie!  I would never want to live any other way than with Christ as a focal point from which all good things radiate. 

I am hearing...beautiful instrumental Christmas music on my Bose docking station.  It sounds like the instruments are right here in the room with me.  So peaceful and cheerful at the same time.

One of my guilty pleasures...Christmas shopping.  I kind of love it.  Not all the time but when I am in the mood it feels very festive.

Pet Peeves...that all the good stores are in Utah when I want to do it!

I am going...on a secret date with Jim tonight.  It will just be the two of us...a rare thing lately.  I will tell you about it tomorrow.

I am quoting...Pinterest:

For you...

If I could change one thing it would be...that one moment can change your whole life.  If we could ease into our burdens and challenges it would be better.  Being blind-sided by something makes it so much harder.

An enjoyable movie we have watched lately...Larkrise To Candleford with Jim.  He has loved this series.  It has been fun to watch him watching it.  He has a mini-crush on Minnie, it is cute.

I am curious many things it makes me tired.

Plans for the rest of the week...taking it down a notch.  It has been a busy, social three weeks.  I need some solitude and recharging of my batteries because I have 4 classes to teach in January and a talk to give at church this coming Sunday.  Sheesh.  Calgon...take me away.

One of my favorite things...mornings when I wake up full of enthusiasm and zest for the day ahead and nap time when I can recharge again.  So I guess one of my favorite things is sleep.

Some photos I am sharing this week...Our fun evening with our family last night.  Merry Christmas one and all. 

Our Candle Light Dinner

Christmas Eve, Eve

My brother Steve and nephew Scott
Leading the caroling and my brother's
 famous rendition of El Paso that he
 sings every single Christmas, rain or shine.
It has not one thing to do with Christmas...
except at this house!

We love it!
❤♡♥♡❤♡♥♡❤♡♥s, Bon


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Children Say the Cutest Things

I have finally gotten our Family Christmas Blog posts and you can see them by clicking on the first picture on the side bar of going to this link:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Very Merry Christmas

Dear Family and Friends,

I have finally gotten our Family Christmas Blog posts and you can see them by clicking on the first picture on the side bar of going to this link:

We hope you enjoy it. 
 Read it all or just a little.  
It is all your choice!

Much Love, Bonnie & Jim

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Long Time Bethlehem of Judea

A long time ago a little babe was born of humble birth in a stable in Bethlehem.  Luke 2 retells the story in the Apostle's own words.  The Son of God had been born upon the earth.  Not every detail is known...but then not every detail needs to be.

 People dispute when it actually occurred in the calender year, they argue whether it happened in the fall, winter or spring.  We can be pretty sure it was not actually on December 25th.  They dispute how many wise men there were and when they came.  We hope for as many wise men as possible and we know they did not come at his birth but rather when he was a small child.  But still they have become iconic to the nativity scenes prevalent throughout the Christian world.  In this case I feel the spirit of the law is more important than the letter of it, as we ponder and remember that beautiful night.  It makes for a bigger birthday party with exotic gifts for the King of Kings...I am OK with the spirit of it.

We know that there were shepherds abiding in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night.  "And lo, an angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about  them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger."  The star shone brightly, the heavenly host of angels rejoiced in song.  The Shepherds quickly followed the light of that star to the baby Jesus' birthplace where, indeed,  they did find him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

What we can be pretty sure of is that riding on a donkey in Mary's most urgent and delicate condition was not a comfortable journey and that Joseph walked beside her every step of the way.  We can imagine that both Mary and Joseph felt uneasy when her time drew nigh.  They were a long ways away from their home and family and there was no room for them in the Inn.   I might imagine there were some scary moments during that time when her time was accomplished that she should be delivered.  Joseph must have felt helpless and been praying fervently to know how to help her.

Having given birth myself, I can guess she was greatly relieved when he laid her baby in her arms.   And she shivered as her body temperature dropped as it always does after birth.  And she was cold, no matter what season.   I'd guarantee that!   She also no doubt shed some tears of joy, relief, exhaustion and at finally meeting her son with sheer amazement.   Like every new mother her first thoughts after her relief were probably in wonderment...I am a mother..... and now what?  For one thing, my heart will now live outside of my own body for the rest of my life.

As Mary held her new born child and nursed him she fell in the deepest love ever and it has not left her to this day.  And if Joseph had not been her best friend before the birth of her little baby Jesus, he most surely was from that moment on.  What a man of kindness, deep faith and unconditional love.  The sacredness of those few hours lasted and changed them both.  And the rest of us.  Forever.

They showed us all how to go forward in faith when they did not know all the details either.   They just trusted in God and went forward in complete obedience.  On that special night God The Father and Mary and Joseph bore a child.  Although Jesus was God's only begotten son in the flesh, is He not a part of every sacred triangle when a child is born?  I felt that and knew that when I bore our first child. God was most definitely a part of what happened that day.  As it changed changed me in like manner.

Not such a long time ago, by Biblical standards, I was a young mother myself trying to create some symbols of that scared night in Bethlehem for our little family.  I took a ceramics class and made this nativity set for our family. It was all we could afford at the time.   It is not fancy or professionally done but it was done with my time and love which was all that I had.  It was around as the kids were growing up every single Christmas.

Since then we have gotten another very elegant Nativity set but most years it remains collecting dust in the box.  Every year the father of those beautiful little babes of ours says how much he loves that nativity set I made and how he hopes I will put it out this year.  So every year I do it for him.  It is the very least I can do for this wonderful, humble, obedient follower of Christ who has been a husband every bit as wonderful and kind as Mary's Joseph.

If you are like Mary I hope you praise your good "Joseph" for his faith and helpfulness and kindness and obedience to God.  If you are like Joseph  may you treat your "Mary" with loving respect and tenderness always. What you do will have a long lasting affect on those that emulate you and admire you and want to be like you someday.  We are never released from our stewardship as loving mothers or fathers.  And the most beneficial thing we can ever do for our children is to treat their other parent with all the love and respect they deserve. We as spouses and parents and children of God must keep all these things and ponder them in our hearts.  What we do and how we treat each other is significant every single day.  There are  sweet lessons to learn in this simple telling of the birth of the Savior of the World.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Real Gifts of Christmas

The droplets of water on this Poinsettia 
reminded me this morning that he will wash away all our tears.
They glistened like little diamonds when the sun came out.

Who is this Christ of whom they speak? Who is this child born in a lowly stable in the hills of Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago of whom the world celebrates each day, not just at Christmas?

He is the Son of the Living God, our Savior, our Friend, our Brother, our Exemplar, our Healer, our Hope, our Redeemer, the Great I AM, the Prince of Peace. Do we have any idea really of His Greatness and Magnificence, His Power or His Glory? I wonder, do we know?

Mary Did You Know?

I really don't think she did know. She learned line upon line, precept upon precept just as we all must do. Learning to know of Jesus Christ is a life long pursuit, but learning to know Christ is really who He proclaimed to be takes but a moment, when the Holy Ghost testifies of Him to our hearts. When our testimony of that is born our life is changed forever.

                                                 His Promises and His Peace

He promises us that we can live forever, which gives us undying hope that one day we will rest from all our labors and cares of this world and live with Him again. There will be a better tomorrow.

He has left us His promise that He has gone to prepare a mansion for us and that He will return again to rule and reign.

He has promised us that the home we long for, where things are perfect and just and good and right can be ours again. That longing that we experience here will be gone, we will be home and whole again. That emptiness we sometimes feel inside will be gone. Our rejoicing will be effortless, we will just BE joyful. The searching for it will be over.

He promises us we will be restored to our perfect frame, not a hair of our heads will be lost. We will be healed each and every one of us, and we will be perfect and our very best selves and we will be that way forever. We will never again be stricken with degeneration, illness or disease or infirmities or death. There will be no more sorrow, no more pain or loneliness. Can you even imagine such a thing?

He has promised us His Unconditional Love. We have it, it is ours now and will be forever. We should never feel unloved or unaccepted or isolated again. Why is this hard to remember and realize in our darkest hours?

He promises us, forgiveness if we repent, no matter how grave our transgressions. He promises us we can forgive also and he will heal our broken hearts through His atonement. He has promised us that we have the potential to change and grow and learn and become more like Him. He promises us that if we lay down our burdens, He will take them up for us.

He has promised us that He will never leave us alone or comfortless. He will help us with all we need. He will bless us through the countless kind acts of others, as well as, and through His Miracles.

He promises us that Satan can never win the war, that Heavenly Father's way will prevail and overcome all evil! We can find peace in knowing that although the battle rages, we can bet on the winning team and be a part of it.

We are promised that one day every knee will bend and confess that Jesus is the Christ. We are promised that wickedness never was happiness and that righteousness is God's plan for our happiness and joy. We are blessed to know that plan, the choices are ours through His gift of agency.

We have been promised that through prayer we can call upon God the Father at any time of the day or night, in any circumstance and He will intercede for us because He not only loves us but understands us perfectly.

We have been promised eternal life with all our family sealed together forever in His Love. There are no words to describe the joy of that.

We have been promised that our trials and tribulations are but for a moment and if we endure it well we shall be lifted up unto Him forever.

We have been promised that if we follow His plan of happiness and joy we will inherit all that He has.

And if all of that could be summed up in a phrase...He has given us His Peace for Christmas, which passeth all understanding.

And I think that is exactly what everyone really wants for Christmas. These are the things that the people (that were telling us what they wanted for Christmas on that street corner) were really seeking. Promises, Peace, and Joy like we have known and loved before ~ in our first perfect home.

As we long to experience that again both in this life and the next, may we be an instrument in His hands by remembering Him and bringing thoughts of His gifts to others, in our very human way,with our love and acts of service and with our traditions and symbols that serve to remind us of all these beautiful and eternal gifts of the Savior. In that way it truly can be a very Merry Christmas for us all.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Santa and Hazie Chat

This just simply made my day!  Five years old and I think this is the first winter she has been well enough to get out in a crowd during the winter season!  It is definitely her first photo with old St. Nick.  This is 100% beauty wrapped up in a tiny package.  She sent me a text yesterday.  She cannot read yet but she can type.  She knows where all the letters are on the keyboard.  She is a blessing that brings continual joy.  She's an extraordinarily merry gift!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Precepe Vivente ~ A Christmas Past

 I enjoy remembering Christmases Past.  One of the things that makes Christmas such a great time for most of us is the cultural traditions that unify us as believers in Christ.  Although some of the traditions vary from home to home, there is a common thread that runs through out.  I like that.  Our traditions are the times in our lives that are marked by special days.  Life would be pretty monotonous without these special times with family and friends.  We have spent two Christmases out of the country.  Once in Scotland and once in Italy.  Both of them were precious highlights, never to be forgotten in our lives.   Here is an edited and updated post from my Italian Blog that I am reposting here to give you the flavor of Christmas in Italy 2010.  It was a joyful, enriching and inspiring time.  This experience really stands out vividly.

The hills and valleys of Italy are filled with The Nativity. It is such a beautiful sight and it has made me realize that here in America, with all of our 'political correctness,' we are doing our citizens a terrible disservice. Not to be able to display the symbols of Christ at Christmas would never fly in Italy. For this alone, I love their country.

People need visual reminders and not a soul in Italy can miss the Christ in Christmas. No matter what their religious beliefs, the degree of activity in their church or the lives they are living~at Christmas time they are reminded over and over again what their compass should be. 

We need this here in America. I like the term 'political correctness' because that is exactly what it is. Political! It isn't ethical, or spiritual correctness and it has nothing to do with what is right or true or good for us, most of the time. In denying the public displaying of the Nativity, we as Americans are shooting ourselves in the foot.  Big time!

That being said and climbing down off my soapbox, I want to share the experience we had on the day after Christmas. In Italy they savor Christmas. They start early and end late with their celebrations. (Whoops, back on the box for a minute.) Often times I have noticed the day after Christmas, all evidence of the money we have $pent during the holidays is removed visually from the malls and market places. Poof, it is gone, and that way it is hoped we will continue to $pend, $pend, $pend some more.  And someone is working Christmas night to make it happened by opening time the next morning. It is all about the retail over here. Not so in Italy. The world should take a lesson.

So we planned to go to a tiny mountain town called Maranola, near Gaeta to see the Living Nativity the day after Christmas. While Christmas had already vanished in the US, this was their opening day. We arrived early so we could stroll around Gaeta a bit.

The harbor walkway of Gaeta

One of the ships Robert had been to sea on while living here.
When JIm and I stayed here for a few days, a window in our hotel room
pened to a full view straight on of the back of the ship.
(Bow, stern, port? I never do remember these!)

The kids arranged a tour for us through the military services to go to see the Presepe and we all bundled up, drove to Gaeta, jumped on a bus and off we went. We didn't have much of an idea of what to expect~except rain. Rain, rain, continual rain. We had pretty much acclimated to that, but had no idea what it would mean to have it raining on this particular night. Can I just say flat out, I didn't like it one bit? At least not when it was happening.

This is a (blue hour, it is actually dark out here) 
view from the head of the line, 
it goes down a few flight of stairs
 to the bottom of the hill.

When we arrived at the ancient little town we saw a big line of umbrellas trailing up to the entrance to the little village. They only allowed so many people up into the village at one time. Crowding under the mass of umbrellas, we waited and wondered what was ahead. Huddling under umbrellas that are overlapping and touching each other is a curious thing. I think you actually get wetter from the run off of the umbrellas around you. Arrrgh! Can we say... grumpy?

Then the music started playing and that soothed me somewhat, even though we were already getting drenched and pretty cold. A man was playing some bagpipes for all to enjoy. It was nice. We looked up and saw little children looking out of their upstairs windows at this phenomenal line of people snaking through their village.  Moving as a crowd we made our way through the tiny streets. In spite of the physical challenges of old, uneven, wet and slippery stairs and walkways, it was wonderful to see the little vignettes they had created to represent the life of the people of Bethlehem at the time of Christ's birth.  It seemed we climbed halfway to heaven peering into these little transformed shops, tasting little goodies they had made and listening to them chatter with arms flying everywhere, and singing and playing music.  Everyone in the village participated and it was really an amazing sight. The ruggedness of the venue made it seem so authentic.  It felt like we were truly in Bethlehem!

I had to laugh at the clothes hanging out to dry!
We were drenched to the bone! Seriously my hair
looked like I had just stepped out of the shower.
(No photos, thank you very much!)

The thought of staying in those wet clothes 
for a bus ride and then a 90 minute trip
 to Teverola was not very appealing.
So we tried to push those thoughts
 away and enjoy the evening.  

"It is what it is,"
 went through my mind several times.

We came across a little chapel
near the top of the mountain.

Jim was in his glory with this adventure 
 and even more so when he met some
bonified, Italian boys scouts!

We climbed some more and came across
another ancient place of worship.
Check out the carving behind
Jim on the walls and the 3-D
fresco wall/sculpture below.

Wet kidlets!
The boys look so little here!

At last...drumroll...

What we came for, at the very top of the mountain.
They had even brought a huge ox up here. 
 I don't remember ever seeing a real ox before.
Do you?

Precepe Vivente~The Living Nativity
with the youngest baby of the village
as the baby Jesus
and his parents as Mary and Joseph.

Once down we had our dinner while
waiting for our tour bus to pick us up.
If you haven't tried a picnic on a mountain,
at night, soaked to the gills,
in December, in should!
It is a relief to say, "Been there, done that,"
and then to move on!

Looking back from a nice, warm, dry perspective,
it was a great experience.  This love for Italy is forever!
They really know how to live life, 
enjoy everything and  honor their traditions.
We were so sad to even think about leaving.

La Dolce Vita...
Even when we were wet and cold and shivering.
This memory will bond us as a family for years to come.
We had four generation participating 
with Jim's mom there too.

Traditions, Bonding, Family
are all major components of  a 
Christ-Centered Christmas.

Hope you enjoyed this armchair visit to Italia!
Buon Natale!