Saturday, December 07, 2013

A perfect evening

Last night we continued our tradition of having our Christ-Centered Christmas Dinner (that is a mouthful).  This year we invited two families because we felt that both had been particularly good examples to us of Christ-like service and so we wanted to honor them both.

It has been so cold here the last week that we decided to have some nice warm soups with fancy bread and a delicious salad.  For dessert we had Peppermint Cheesecakes.  For the soups I made a Basil Tomato soup, Creamy White Chili, and Sausage Tortellini.

After dinner we sat around our Laila tree and read the book Papa Panov's Special Day about a shoemaker who discovers that in serving others he is serving Christ.  Then we gave our friends their presents and explained that each year we honor a family that has displayed Christ-like service to us and others and to say thank you for the example they have been in our lives of trying to be more Christ-like.  We also hung up the ornaments we had made with their names on them.

Then we ate our dessert and chatted until bedtime.  It was a perfect night.
The boys helped wash the chairs off before our guests came.  They also helped wrap the gifts and clean the house

Eli helped take care of Piper while I finished dinner (cutting her bananas)

We don't have enough China for that many guests so we had the kids use plastic

I put our cheesecakes and candy outside to harden but within five minutes they were completely frozen.  Mike saved the day with a blow dyer so we could get the candy to stand up on the cheesecake.

I can't post about our special dinner without talking about each family.  So in keeping with tradition, I want to share why we chose these two families.

The Hinksons:
Michelle and I were making a connection before we even moved to Colorado Springs.  She was teaching in the Nursery when we lived in Ohio and Eli was going to be in her class once we moved. (she actually ended up teaching all three boys at one time or another so she has had a real influence in each of their lives) Mike and I wanted to make the transition to Colorado as smooth as possible so we contacted the bishop and asked for the Primary President's information.  We requested the names and contact info for the boy's new teachers and were given Michelle's name.  Michelle gave me her blog address and introduced herself to me and to Eli.  I checked out her blog and instantly knew I'd like her.  He home seemed happy and she seemed like such a fun person and wonderful mother.

When we finally moved and got to meet in person and I got to see that my initial feelings were correct but also that she was so much more than I had anticipated.  Michelle is the most positive person I have ever come to know.  She has a naturally happy disposition and is an optimist.  Some might think it is impossible to be as happy as Michelle but I've learned that she is genuinely happy.  She is sensitive to the spirit and unashamed to show her emotions when she is feeling the spirit.

But also, Michelle is not one of those to only see life through rose colored glasses.  She sees life as it really is, hard and often times filled with sadness.  She knows that trials can make us feel the depths of despair and she is not one to pretend otherwise.  I really like that about her.  I learned this about Michelle when I was assigned to be her Visiting Teacher.  It was right when everything happened with Laila and I found an instant connection with her because her father had died not too long before and we were able to share our feelings about our mutual loss.  She shared with me precious experiences she had had since her father passed away and I found comfort and peace in her words.  And she helped me see that I could lead such a happy life even while missing Laila.

Since moving to Colorado Michelle has consistently stood out in my mind as someone who has developed the ability to be faithful and happy even while enduring some difficult challenges in life.  She has been an enormous example to me of Christ-like behavior and I regularly think of her when a trial come in my life for guidance as to how to respond to difficulties.

Of course, you can't have such a great wife without an equally amazing husband.  Chris is a genuinely sincere, nice guy.  He has spiritual depth and is a wonderful husband and father for his family.  When I hurt my knee over the summer I immediately knew that I could trust Chris to give me a blessing.  I had no doubts whatsoever that he was worthy to give me that blessing and I appreciated that he could step in and help in Mike's absence.  When Piper received her baby blessing we wanted it to be intimate and personal in our own home but we also knew that we would ask Chris to participate in the prayer circle.  It was just Mike and the bishopric and Chris.  Chris also gave Mike a blessing before his GRE--so he is our go to blessing guy I guess!

Chris has been a great friend to Mike.  I love it because Chris will take Mike on "man-dates" and I love the idea of Mike having guy friends.  Mike insists that he really doesn't like people and that he doesn't like to hang out with people but he feels totally comfortable around Chris and I feel totally comfortable having Mike be friends with Chris.

Chris and Michelle have three wonderful children--two girls and a boy.  They are happy, obedient, sweet kids.  I love Hallie and Claire and especially love to see how much like their parents they are.  Hallie is expressive and bears a beautiful testimony at church and you can see how she is learning about the gospel from her parents.  Both Hallie and Claire have been wonderful friends to our boys and Grant is becoming a fast fan of Piper, which I love.

The Tuslers:
Camille and I didn't become immediate friends but only because Laila died and then Camille had major complications after having a baby, putting her on bed rest for the first few months after having her baby.  So neither of us were in a position to really be hanging out.  But I heard about Camille from everyone.  Everyone constantly talked about Camille and how wonderful she was and I knew I needed to get to know her.

I don't even know how we started to become friends, to be honest.  It just happened.  Probably, Camille offered to make us a meal or watch my kids or something equally nice.  Because that is the way Camille is.  I have never in my life met anyone as service oriented as Camille.  If there is one person I have learned to serve from, it is her.  Camille has this innate ability to know when someone needs someone.  It seems that she is the first friend anyone in the ward makes because inevitably she has already extended herself in some way--a smile, a play date, a goodie, etc.

Camille has been a solid friend for me.  When she says she will do something, she will do it.  I never worry about counting on her.  She has a happy, structured home.  With Camille, I always feel in debt to her.  One time they were sick and I thought, "This is my time to do something nice for her" so I made taco soup and took it to their house only to discover that she had a bag of goodies to give us.  That is just the way she is.

Camille has always been a listening ear.  Mike and I joke sometimes that I am like her husband Dave and Mike is like Camille and I think that is probably partly why I like her so much.  I just feel so comfortable around her.  Besides being an example of service to me Camille has taught me how to shoulder burdens.  Camille has had some major trials the last few years and she never complains about them.  She might from time to time admit that something is hard but she doesn't have to go on about it.  She just shrugs and admits it and moves on. I have learned so much about not complaining from being friends with Camille.

Like Chris, Dave is a really good father and husband.  Camille is always volunteering Dave to do things and Dave never complains about it (at least not to us).  He is always serving right along with Camille.  He has helped Mike give blessings, helped move things for us (a couch among other things) and when Mike was gone he helped me change out the propane tank on the grill.  And he always acts cheerful and happy to help.  I know that if I need something when Mike is deployed I can easily count on Dave.  And Dave does all this while having a busy calling at church and while finishing up his Masters, along with being a very involved dad and husband.  Dave and Camille are foster parents and it is amazing to watch how they have opened their hearts and home to children that have come from extremely difficult circumstances and bring with them a lot of emotional problems. They are both amazing parents who have wonderful children.

Also like Chris, Mike feels totally comfortable around Dave.  He enjoys Dave's company and enjoys being around him, which is saying a lot!

Dave's background is not necessarily something you would expect from someone who is so devoted to the church.  His devotion is an example to our family of the importance of personal strength and conviction.

And I can't finish without mentioning their beautiful children, Carly, Camden, Shayla, and soon to be baby Tusler.  Carly has been an excellent friend to Eli.  They live just down the road so Carly is close enough to have regular play dates with Eli.  She is girly but so good about going along with Eli's antics.  Camden and Shayla are little but both wonderful children and you can see how their parents are shaping them and helping them become such good little kids.

We are so lucky to meet such wonderful people everywhere we move.  The Lord always places people in our path to teach us and help us become better through our interactions with them.  I am thankful for Heavenly Father for helping us to make friends with such wonderful people.  Our lives are forever changed by the examples of goodness we see in those around us and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to become friends with both of these families.

1 comment:

Ian and Bonnie Gutzman said...

As I started reading this post, and you mentioned two families you invited over that show Christ Like love and service, I immediately thought "The Hinksons and the Tuslers" without reading who it was yet. And, lo and behold...I was spot on! Good, good people:) I love our ward.