I’ve been fighting an inner battle lately. Part of me says, “You should wax philosophical and write a blog post.” Another part of me says, “But time is so precious, and I’m exhausted.” Since I was a teenager, it’s been my tradition to go on late-night Christmas Eve walks. With no one but God, I look at the dark, sacred night, the stars, the icicles, the inflatable reindeer, and get sentimental as I question my place in the universe. Once, when I was going through my “bumming” phase, I even spent a Christmas even in a newspaper bin. But this Christmas, what with work, three jabbering little mouths to feed, my real work (the projects I’m passionate about but only have a few uninterrupted hours for each day), and every other familial, social, and ecclesiastical duty, I simply lacked the energy.
The first part of me (the young Stephen Gashler) said, “Aha! You’re getting old. You promised to never get old.” The second part of me (the current Stephen Gashler) replied, “I’m most certainly not getting old. It’s just that I’m in a phase in my life in which I’m living my dreams (or enough so for the present), which diminishes both my time and my motivation for planning out my life. I must put every possible minute of free time toward achieving my goals.” To which the young Stephen Gashler replied, “Oh bull. You’re just old.”
In the end, I ended up breaking tradition and sleeping on Christmas Eve. But on Christmas day, something happened that forced my conscience into gear, having since compelled me to wax philosophical after all and write a blog post, because anything less would be ungrateful. So with no further ado, I would like to say thank you to my family’s mysterious benefactor who generously endowed us with the gift of a Blendtec Blender. I know these wonderful devices don’t come cheap, and it’s already proven to be a great blessing to my family, as, being on a plant-based diet, we use blenders for practically everything, and Blendtecs are frankly amazing. This mysterious contribution was no doubt inspired by the social media post I made on December 23rd (mine and Teresa’s anniversary):
For those of you who were wondering, I have now, in fact, broken 9 blenders in 9 years of marriage. Happy anniversary, shmoopy pie.
I verified with Teresa that this number is correct (or nearly correct; we may have lost count). It’s hard to say just how I did it. The first one, I recall, I simply burned out, because it was a cheep product. The second one, I believe, I accidentally melted onto a stove. One I recall shattering by accidentally leaving a spoon inside of it before turning it on. Another I burned out while trying to make cookie dough. The latest, after who knows how many smoothies, nut butters, batters, and fondues, I simply murdered through exhaustion. Apparently the rest of my casualties have been blotted from my memory. Perhaps they were too painful to hold on to. But having caused many fires and explosions in my kitchen over the years, it doesn’t take much stretch of the imagination to recreate the trauma in my mind. For me, cooking is one of the purest forms of creation, and with unbridled power, disasters are inevitable.
Could our mysterious benefactor be the same person who gifted us with a basket full of candy bars earlier this year following another one of my social media posts? Regardless, the intrigue of these gifts has made our lives much more interesting, so, whoever you are (one or several people), thank you again.
I’d also feel ungrateful if I didn’t record how much my family has enjoyed this Christmas season, which has included the following: a gluttonous ward party, several extravagant company parties with fine dining, lavish gifts, and a very generous bonus, many delicious caramel apples, countless chocolates, fudge, banana bread, pumpkin bread, fine nut cheeses, and more delectable foods and goodies than I can possibly list, several tree-decorating ceremonies, many inspiring church services, devotionals, and concerts, including the Utah Valley Handbell Ringers and a spectacular performance in Salt Lake City by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the lovely Laura Osnes (she’a amazing), the lights at Temple Square, a wonderful drive-through light show that was gifted to us by the car in front of us, two extended family Christmas Eve gatherings, three Christmas day gatherings and feasts, sledding, hours of board games and family fun, countless Christmas carols, and, of course, a smorgasbord of presents. I’m fairly certain that Jesus of Nazareth, if he were to attend these festivities on his behalf, would be a fan.
Months ago, we asked our girls if they would consider a different kind of Christmas this year: instead of receiving the usual boon from Santa Claus, we would write Santa Claus a letter and inform him that we’d rather use the money he would otherwise spend on presents for helping the poor. The girls loved the idea. (Secretly we hoped to spare our house from another invasion of plastic, painfully pink ponies and princesses. Did you appreciate the alliteration?) So aside from some treats in their stockings, the only gifts from Santa Clause were a check to mommy and daddy, which they would in turn give to their chosen charity, and a letter in which Santa thanked the girls for their selfless decision.
Notwithstanding, thanks to grandmas, aunts, and uncles, there was anything but a relief from pink plastic this year :-).
The night before, the girls wanted to stay up and wait for Santa, but of course, they had to go to bed or he couldn’t come. Not longer after they retired, I got a ring of jingle bells and shook them as loudly as I could as I moved through the house. I got on my bed and jumped on and off several times, making as much noise as possible. I rang the bells right outside of the girls’ door. Following this, Teresa and I even barged into their room and exclaimed, “Did you hear that noise? And what’s that in the sky?” Notwithstanding all this effort, none of our sleeping kids so much as batted an eye, and the next morning, they had no recollection of these events. Oh well. I’m still telling them truth on a regular basis, that I’m the real Santa Claus, and the guy at the mall is a fake. The more I tell them this, the less they believe me, as if I were some award-winning liar …
And … that’s all I’ve got. Oh yeah, except for this interesting tidbit I learned in church today. During this season, we often hear the following quote from Luke 2:14:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
However, this is a mistranslation. A little research reveals that the more accurate translation is:
Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.
It’s a subtle distinction but a world of difference in meaning. The mission of Christ was not, in fact, to bring peace on earth and good will toward men. He could not possibly do this, nor can anyone, because it’s entirely up to the individual members of planet earth as to whether or not they’re going to contribute or detract from the general peace. Consider this new translation in light of John 14:27:
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
The peace that comes to the disciples of Jesus Christ is not something that can be indiscriminately dished out to the world. Good will is the prerequisite, not the end result. And I feel that this little principle wraps up the entire Christmas season. To those of good will (or who will to do good), it is truly a time of peace and joy, a peace that is not of this world, a peace, for which, I thank my Lord and Savior, of whom I truly believe in.