DECEMBER 19, 2021
Our Christmas sacrament meeting consisted of one excellent speaker, no musical number, and no piano accompaniment. The Spirit was there, but I truly missed our Levan 2nd Ward choir numbers! As I think of Christmases past, highlights include the inspiring Christmas programs enjoyed in the warmth of Levan 2nd Ward’s tradition. I never imagined I would ever encounter a Christmas without it. In one sense I never will. In my memory and with the help of the Spirit, they will ever be a treasured part of the season for me. A big thanks to Cheryl Stephenson, Fern Wankier, Ann Stowell, the wonderful choir members, and the resplendent music of Christmas.
We’ve had another good week as we prepare for Christmas and serve at AOA. Each year Jameson School sponsors an “adopt a kid for Christmas” program. They contacted the sisters in late November reporting that there were three older students that had not been adopted by the deadline, and asked that we help. Two were brother and sister. We all hopped into mother/grandma mode! Ideas were discussed and the shopping began. We wrapped the gifts and delivered them to the school this last Monday. It was a moment of joy to drop them off, because these students are among those President Nelson asked us to seek out this Christmas. An abundance of light, prosperity, hope, and love are not readily available to them. We sent the anonymous gifts with a little prayer that they will know that Heaven has not forgotten them. He reached out to them through His servants this Christmas season to provide tangible evidence of His love.
We received a gift from the school in return—in the form of their elementary Christmas program. Darrel and I attended and were amazed at the excellence displayed. The director is a woman from Gallatin with a broad foundation in music. She had these children singing harmony and complex rounds, complete with precision actions. It was our pleasure to share their enthusiasm, energy, and smiles. The program’s theme was “The Joy of Christmas.” Having studied “joy” I was surprised and delighted that some elements of true joy were taught in their songs. Surely their finale of “Joy to the World” highlighted the Savior’s role in finding joy. It was a treat I had not expected from this under-privileged, small, rural school.
We had the Truman and Debbie Pratt family over for FHE this week. (Truman is a direct descendant of Parley P. Pratt and a nephew to our dear friend, Rebecca Tollefson.) They brought their boys, Samuel, and Spencer, for dinner and a Christmas activity. We played an original game called, “Trivia or Share.” Each person had the chance to choose a slip of paper from one of the two bowls with each turn. The result was a Christmas trivia question or a prompt to share something intended to invite introspection and the Spirit. It turned out to be a lovely evening and the feeling of “family” was especially heart-warming to us.
Wednesday we had high winds here at AOA. We were without power for about 12 hours. It was long enough to realize that we would not have been brave pioneers, nor would we fit into an Amish society very well because we are admittedly power dependent! The huge, 6-foot diameter, iconic hickory tree at the East Entrance came down in that storm. The tree has been dead for years, but its stately silhouette as quests enter—has been enjoyed and photographed more than any tree on the property. It was sad to see it reduced to a heap of shattered pieces. But…we believe in “beauty for ashes!”
Elder Bruce D. Hafen taught in his April 1997 conference address on the core doctrines of the Atonement. “In Luke 4:18, Jesus quotes part of a passage from Isaiah that describes the heart of his ministry. The Isaiah passage reads: “The Spirit of the Lord … hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; … to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, … to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion … beauty for ashes” (Isa. 61:1, 3)). The Savior’s Atonement is thus portrayed as healing power…”
Beauty for ashes” is the essence of His Atonement. It heals not only sin, but the consequences of carelessness, inadequacy, sorrow, unfulfilled dreams, and all mortal disappointments.
A few of us hope to gather, preserve, and mill some of the wood to create tokens from its once stately presence. Perhaps in some way they will be tokens of the Savior’s Atonement which was first taught in this holy place. In that way its beauty will live on through gifts of love shared far and wide.
This week has been my biggest struggle with twinges of longing for home and family in Utah. Friday was my dad’s 90th birthday. Of course, my sister and brothers planned wonderful events to honor him, but I couldn’t a part of most of them. My brothers, Kieth and Kent, sent pictures and Kent made a movie of the private concert Kevin Elmer provided the group following Dad’s birthday dinner. That day technology was a tender mercy! It also helped that we spent a good share of the morning in the Kansas City, Temple. We did a sealing session as well as an endowment session. Darrel actually went through for his 8th great grandfather. The spirit was extra generous and sweet!
Saturday, our granddaughter, Jessica, received her endowment in the Payson Temple. Her appointment was on Kent and Rebecca’s shift, so I knew they would take excellent care of her. Yet having Jason and Laura gathered with family in Utah for that ordinance was hard to watch from Missouri. We could easily picture where they were and we grateful they were there. After a visit to Tower Hill and the area where the saints lived for a short time, I was reminded where I am, and why I am here. I felt grateful that for as well. I was thrilled to discover that standing at the old “Mormon Well” the peak of our big garage is directly west and not far as the crow flies. The Wight Ferry Crossing is just yards from the well. I pictured the exiled, weary saints coming to Adam-ondi-Ahman through the little valley to the north of where we live, to avoid being discovered by their enemies in Gallatin. I could almost hear the creaking of the wheels and the excited whispers as Adam-ondi-Ahman came into view. Their conviction of and connection with this land’s sacred history and divine future gave them joy. They carried a part of its Spirit when they were forced to leave with the extermination order. They saw from “afar off” the Savior’s return to this place. It gave them strength and contentment even though they would not experience that event in this life. I have found that with a little effort, it does the same for me in the face of comparably miniscule disappointments.
The Elder’s focus has been a major road and erosion control project. They also had a day of clean up following the windstorm.
Christmas came early to AOA this month. AOA received a new 2 post hoist for the shop, a new engraver, a generator, and some new exercise equipment. We won’t have a white Christmas this year. We won’t gather with family. But the true Spirit of Christmas is available in any circumstance. We plan to make it a wonderful, memorable day and pray it will be the same for each of you! Merry Christmas! Our love! Darrel and Karen Kenison