Monday, December 31, 2012

Things I'm Gonna Do This Year

Today, I was tempted to write about regrets.  But I'm not going to.

Instead, here's a quote by C.S. Lewis:

"The most intense joy lies not in the having, but in the desiring."

There are many threads that weave us together as members of this great human family.  One is our ability to dream.  Like climbing a great mountain, we feel each dream waiting for us at the next summit.  So we embark, all the while knowing that destination will only lead us to the beginning of another climb.  But that is our divinity.

Lasting joy cannot live on a plateau.  To desire that which is out of reach is our great hope for eternity.

And what of satisfaction?  What about disappointment?  They visit.  And they go.  But the thread remains strong, and along with it, our most intense joy.

So dream on.  And bring on 2013.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sweet Potato Pie

The following is an excerpt from a journal I kept while serving as an LDS missionary in Texas.  It contains, among other things, my first encounter with Sweet Potato Pie.  Please keep in mind this was written by a kid who was very young and very white... thank you.

"While knocking doors and meeting folks on California St, we walked up a ramp to a dark screen door.  We knocked and were greeted by a cheerful African-American woman who, to my surprise, seemed to recognize us.  She invited us in the house, turned off the Price Is Right, and left us in the living room with her much older and very withered husband.  I soon realized the man was blind.

He introduced himself as Reverend Smith, of Big Lake's Bethlehem Baptist Church.  His tone was cautious, yet defiant.  He challenged our motives as missionaries, and quizzed us about the gospel of Christ.  I'll admit to feeling a little perplexed, having just been invited into the home and then interrogated all in the space of a few minutes, but after our sincere answers, he accepted us as servants of the Lord and ordered his wife to plate us up some leftover "soul food."  We were even given our own piece of sweet potato pie.  Completely awed by the kindness and generosity, my companion Elder Wilcox voiced a desire to help with the daily cleaning of their church.

"Can we do that?" I thought. "Wouldn't our time be better spent cleaning OUR church?"  But trusting my new companion, I went with him, Reverend Smith, and the good Rev's wife to their chapel next door.  We spent the next 30 minutes or so vacuuming up and down the pews.  Kind words and thanks were exchanged, and I witnessed the first change of attitude in Big Lake.  My own."

Reverend Smith passed away not long after that.  I felt so grateful we had met him.  Our meeting was brief, but I felt a true connection to him and his congregation.  We cleaned their church, and he gave us his sweet potato pie.

In honor of building bridges and changing attitudes, here's a recipe for Sweet Potato Pie, dedicated to Revered Smith and that little town of Big Lake.  This pie is sweeter than pumpkin, but also brighter in color.  Give it a try, and give it away.  You won't regret it.

Sweet Potato Pie
(Paula Deen)


2 cups peeled, cooked sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
1/2 stick melted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1 cup milk
9 inch unbaked pie crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Using an electric hand mixer, combine the potatoes, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, salt, and spices.  Mix thoroughly. Add the milk and continue to mix. Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  (For me, an additional 20 minutes.)  Place the pie on a rack and cool to serve.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Presents: A Holiday Greeting

Presents: A Holiday Greeting
by You-Know-Who


If I didn't shout it out loud then I certainly did on the inside.

How could I not when the presents bearing my name at our annual family Christmas Eve party were just sitting under the tree waiting to be opened?  I tried desperately to distract myself, but the tree kept winking and blinking at me in mockery, as though it knew what was sitting beneath its branches.  Thank goodness my choreographed holiday piece had been performed earlier in the evening, or all that waiting could have turned ugly.

It was only because opening presents made me feel special.  In fact, my whole demeanor was surprisingly non materialistic.  I didn't understand how much the presents cost, but I did know every one of them reminded me that I was remembered.  And that, I suppose, is what always made the wait worthwhile.


If I don't shout it out loud then I certainly do on the inside.

Whether I'm focusing on what I didn't do in an audition, or replaying what I just said to a Target cashier, somehow snapping myself back into the present always saves me from drowning in my own thoughts.

But why would I need to bring myself back to where I already am?  Is it somehow more comfortable to dwell on the past than live in the present?  Maybe so.  The past has already happened, which can make it easier to focus on, less daunting even.  But the gift of the present is that it IS a present, which means I'll never know what's in store until I open it.


I rarely shout it out loud, but I certainly do on the inside.

When I long to connect with that which is greater than myself, I raise my eyes or bow my head and desire nothing more than Presence.  A reminder of who I am and where I come from, it's a Presence whose love is infinite, gratitude eternal, and peace divine.  It's why my family's tree was twinkiling in the first place, and how I can continually unwrap each new moment I'm given.

It's a Presence that's the best Present any Present can give.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Jeffrey Scott Parsons