That Whole Prayer Thing? Just Do It!

We just returned from a fast-and-furious trip to San Diego for Spring Break. We had to cram a week’s worth of activities into just three days because I have a huge work event next week so it was quite the whirlwind. When I get a moment to breathe, I’ll document all of the fun but for now here is something noteworthy.

On Friday, we went to SeaWorld. I have pretty magical Shamu memories from my youth and though they’ve done away with that show due to the recent trainer death, it’s still a special place. Jamie, Hadley and Bode and never been so it has been on my bucket list for them. We arrived at the park on Friday right after it opened and we pretty much had the run of the place (the crowds came later) so we had a blast riding their Manta roller-coaster (not too fast, not too slow, but juuuuust right). We were on a high as we explored the exhibits, pet stingrays and explored the Park.

Enter: Shipwreck Rapids.

We’ve done a similar ride several times at other theme parks with the winding river turns to rolling whitewater rapids. It’s a fun ride but not a favorite unless it’s hot because you get really wet. But Bode really wanted to do it and when you’re the younger brother of a bossy older sister, you rarely get your way. And easy-going Bode usually lets it slide so when he really wants to do something, we try to make it happen. The line said the wait time was 30 minutes but 60 minutes later, we finally boarded and the boys got drenched. During the ride, some nice passersby called out to us, waving. We excitedly waved back and that’s when they unleashed their supersoaker spray guns. For just 25 cents you can shoot the people on the ride.

Well, Bode was sold. After we got off to the ride, we were drying off near the lockers and he asked if he could have a quarter. I gave him my wallet, forgot about the interchange and a few minutes later, we went to get something to eat. As I went to pay, I reached into my backpack  and the wallet was gone.

“Bode, where is my wallet?”

“I gave it back to you!”

Turns out, he didn’t *exactly* return it…he left it on the ledge where I was sitting…and then we walked away.

Panicked, the two of us raced back to the lockers. As we were running, his first instinct was, “Mom, we need to say a prayer.”

We’ve taught the boy too well. I said a rushed prayer mid-run and as we returned to the final resting places of my wallet, we were dismayed that it was gone. The woman now sitting there said a couple of ladies were previously there and that she saw the wallet—she assumed it belonged to them. She got up to go to the restroom and when she returned, those ladies—and the wallet—were gone. AWK! I asked around to the area workers to see if it had been turned in and nothing.

Dismayed, we loped back to the lost-and-found to file a report. I didn’t have much hope but fortunately Bode did. He later told me he said two additional prayers that the person who had the wallet would feel bad and turn it in.

I told Bode I knew it was an accident but I was still in a MOOD. I told Jamie to take the kids to do some rides and I would meet them at the next show while I stayed behind to put a hold on our credit cards.

As I sat there, I felt I should go back to the scene of the crime one last time. Upon arrival, I saw a new worker at the gate—I had previously noticed him operating the Manta ride an hour earlier. Even though he wasn’t around when the wallet was taken, I asked him if he had heard anything.

“Yes,” he said. “A wallet got turned in and taken back up to the Manta ride.”

I raced up the ramp and sure enough, my wallet was there in one piece. How grateful I am for the honest people who found it and for the young boy whose first instinct was to turn to prayer.

That same week, my dad posted that he had misplaced my mom’s hearing aids. He had looked EVERYWHERE and couldn’t find them….but just before he was going to spend a few thousand dollars to replace them, he said a prayer. And he found them a few minutes later in her purse.

Takeaway: Prayer works and I need to slow down and remember that more.

My month of work in review

It has been just over a month since I started working at BYU and I’m overdue for an update. The first couple of weeks were rough trying to get into the new routine and there are still a lot of areas we need to tweak with the kids’ schedules but overall, I’m enjoying the new position and my co-workers.

Week 1. We thought we were going to die. No lie. Hadley got in her ski accident on Monday (Marin Luther King Jr. Day), she stayed home from school Tuesday and I started work Wednesday. She was unraveling in so many ways and we were emotionally and physically exhausted dealing with everything. We were supposed to start a personal finance class through the Church’s Self-reliance initiative but as we lay curled up in the fetal position on the couch, we decided the class would have to wait until spring (there was a lot of intensive homework and our camel’s back was already broken). Plus, I’m still running Mile High Mamas for the foreseeable future so I’m juggling two jobs while trying to keep everything else afloat.

Week 2. I came into this position at the worst possible time with the planning of our two biggest annual events + overseeing the editorial for our alumni magazine. Even though the position is only 3/4-time,  my commute is 1.5 hours and I’ve been working longer hours. Jamie has had to pick up a lot of my slack, driving Hadley to her many doctor’s appointments. I still felt overwhelmed with the position. My predecessor is my polar opposite: bookish, research-oriented and a Pulitzer Prize winner for spreadsheets. I seriously questioned my ability to fill her shoes and felt my creativity was being squashed. However, as I edited a 100-page donor report, there were so many stories of student internship experiences that directly correlated to our struggles. It was confirmed over and over again that landing this job was not a coincidence.

Week 3.  The awakening with our first big donor event. For three days, I hosted our guest lecturer from Vanderbilt, took his amazing wife on private tours of our art museums  and connected with them both in a meaningful way. The event was poignant and meaningful….and I started to catch a glimpse that maybe I could do this and bring my own flavor to the position.  Until I received my first paycheck. After taxes, tithing and 401K, I’m not making very much money but I guess every little bit helps, especially when we have a new car payment (Jamie bought me a Pilot for my birthday) and the mountain of medical debt we’ve accrued over the past year. And the backyard that needs to be landscaped. And the basement that needs to be finished.

Week 4. Things started to click at work. My proposal to overhaul our alumni magazine was approved and my student writers were excited about the new direction we were going with less in-depth research and more features. I celebrated my birthday with fresh snow (FINALLY), cross-country skiing after school with Bode, dinner at a delicious new restaurant, Midway Mercantile, and a live video chat with the authors of “Mustaches for Maddie” (a must-read) for our bookclub. A low-key but great day thanks to my awesome family and many sweet messages from friends.

Week 5.  We’re still surviving. Life is hard in so many ways–wading through Hadley’s struggles, Jamie’s chronic pain and my mom’s hospitalization. During those rough couple of weeks when I went back to work, Jamie was being overly accommodating and I felt badly because I knew he didn’t feel well and yet was going above-and-beyond for me. His response made me chuckle: “I just don’t like tears.”

At one of my low points, he reminded me of one of my favorite scriptures.

“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.

“And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.

“And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:13–15).

We may not be in bondage to some tyrannical leader (President Trump notwithstanding :-)   but life has been overwhelming since our move. I miss the comforts of friends and our wonderful life in Colorado as we still struggle every day to find our way here. But slowly and undeniably, God’s otherworldly strength is falling upon us and through all of this messiness, I know He is guiding our way.

Delmont King Smith

Jamie’s 90-year-old Grandpa Smith passed away on New Year’s Eve and the following week, we had such a special weekend commemorating his life. Jamie and my kids were never able to meet my grandparents–my hardworking Tom and Anne Borowski with their crazy-thick Ukrainian accents (my dad didn’t even learn to speak English until he went to kindergarten). They were hardworking, poor farmers and when I came to know them, they had moved from their farm in Fork River, Manitoba to Dauphin…and had the most beautiful garden I’d ever seen.

My mom’s parents, Wallace and Virginia Wilde, lived only a couple of hours away in Raymond, Alberta and many weekends and holidays were spent with them. They were farmers but the polar opposites of my dad’s parents and very wealthy (my grandpa always had to have the latest model boat or fancy motorhome, which we often vacationed in). My grandma was an amazing cook, sweet, spiritual, and kind but a quiet force; my grandpa was the life of the party, worked hard, loved reading Western novels and could fall asleep in his recliner in 2 seconds flat.

I feel honored to have gotten to know Jamie’s wonderful grandpa even a little bit. The first time we brought our kids to him, he showed Bode his iPad (the kid was hooked) and Bode, in turn, introduced him to the marvelous world that is Angry Birds. Even up until Grandpa’s death, he sent each of his grandkids $5 and a card for their birthdays. He was a brilliant man–he had his PhD in Chemistry and was a global expert in the non-woven products industry. But his true legacy was his 8 children (3 of whom he took in following his brother’s untimely death and later adopted 1 other), 35 grandchildren and 83 great grandchildren.

Last summer at Grandpa’s 90th birthday

His legacy was confirmed at his funeral as each of his children spoke about some of their favorite memories. Jamie’s mom, Linda, shared a story of when they were living in New Jersey and a swarm of bees attacked them on a hill in their backyard. Without hesitating, her dad threw off his coat, wrapped it around a neighbor boy who was paralyzed in terror and raced him away. “That was my dad,” she said. “He made us feel safe and protected.” Another daughter shared how he always walked on the curbside of his dear wife to protect her from traffic and slept closest to the door to protect her from intruders.

Aunt Connie shared some sacred moments of his final days on earth when the veil was very thin between this life and the next. There were spirits in the room that he talked to and at one point, he authoritatively instructed, “Make it five feet taller!” likely referring to his mansions in heaven. -) When Linda and Connie asked if he was excited to see his beloved wife who passed away 25 years earlier, his drawn-out response of  “maybe,” made them chuckle…perhaps in response that he was quick to remarry after her passing.

There were so many sweet, sacred moments at the viewing the night before and then as the family gathered for a family prayer the next morning before the funeral. As Linda tenderly held her father’s hand and kissed him good-bye before the coffin was closed for the final time, Hadley’s eyes welled up with tears as we felt the depth of love in the room. The weather was blustery at the graveside, somehow so befitting of the day. 

We were running a bit late as we arrived for the viewing at Jenkins-Soffe mortuary on Friday night. We quickly passed by a life-sized statue prominently on display in the lobby, what I assumed to be Christ with Mary at the tomb after he was resurrected.

 I was wrong. As we left the mortuary later that evening, my kids asked me if I’d noticed the statue and I nodded my affirmation. “But have you really seen it in its entirety?”

I didn’t know what they were talking about and Bode guided me to the back of the room to where I got the full view of this stunning work. It was not Jesus with Mary as I had assumed but rather, an old woman passing through the veil, only to be greeted by her Savior. What a powerful image that this life is only one part of our eternal progression. 

Mormon. 7: 5: “Know ye that ye must come to the knowledge of your fathers, and repent of all your sins and iniquities, and believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, and that he was slain by the Jews, and by the power of the Father he hath risen again, whereby he hath gained the victory over the grave; and also in him is the sting of death swallowed up.”

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Delmont King Smith, 1927 ~ 2017

Delmont King Smith, 90, passed away peacefully on December 31, 2017 of causes incident to age. Dee was born on June 9, 1927 in Pocatello, Idaho, the third son of Henry Leslie Smith and Adelia Ada Loveland. When he was about 2 years old the family moved to Dillon, Montana where his father had purchased a dry cleaning business. His younger sister Peggy was born there. Dee enjoyed an idyllic childhood in Dillon in a neighborhood with lots of kids and outdoor activities. His parents taught their children the value of hard work and responsibility that laid the foundation for his life.

Dee was an excellent student. He skipped the sixth grade, graduating high school when he was 17 years old. He was awarded the outstanding senior cup at his graduation from Beaverhead High School, an award voted by the high school faculty. After graduation, Dee chose to attend Utah State Agricultural College (now USU). At a freshman gathering, he met a lovely girl from Burley, Idaho, Velva Lee Stokes. They dated regularly that year. In June 1945, Dee enlisted in the Navy and was assigned to the San Diego US Naval Training Station on the USS Erben. The most significant part of his naval experience was the light duty as a cook that allowed him to read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover for the first time. After his discharge in 1946, Dee returned home to marry his sweetheart from Idaho, Velva Lee, in the Salt Lake Temple on September 18, 1946.

Dee graduated from USAC (USU) in 1949 with a Bachelor of Science degree. That fall he began work on a master’s degree which he completed in 1955. In 1954 he graduated from Purdue University with a PhD in chemistry.

In February 1957, Dee’s oldest brother Don, his wife Anna Lou, and their infant daughter Deborah were killed in an airplane accident. The surviving children, Don, Sherryl, and Kathy came to live with Dee and Velva Lee and their four children, Linda, Connie, Dennis, and Shawna. Another son, David, was adopted in 1965, rounding out the family to 8 children. Dee has 35 grandchildren, and 83 great grandchildren with 3 more expected this year.

Music was always a major part of Dee’s life. He played in school bands from grade school through high school, and played drums in a dance band his older brother Don organized called Smitty’s Rhythm Rascals. He enjoyed playing the harmonica, ukulele, sweet potato, trumpet, tympani, anything with which he could make music.

His professional career included working for Rayonier Inc. in Shelton, Washington, and Johnson & Johnson in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts and Whippany, New Jersey.

While working at J&J, he was the primary contributor to the development of Handi Wipes, disposable diapers and many other nonwoven products. After his retirement, he started his own consulting company, Smith Consulting.

In 1993 Dee lost his beloved Velva Lee. He later married Loretta Maynes Gillie. They had 10 years together traveling the world.

Dee was a dedicated member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served in many callings including Sunday School teacher, Branch President, District President, Stake High Council, Counselor in Stake Presidency, and family history consultant.

Dee is preceded in death by his parents, his wife Velva Lee Smith and his wife Loretta Smith, his brothers Leslie and Don. He is survived by his children, Don (Brenda), Linda (Duane), Sherryl (Robert), Connie (Jim), Kathleen (Barry), Dennis (Joanne), Shawna (Mark), and David (Anna), and his sister Peggy (Burt).

The family wishes to thank the caregivers at Beehive House Draper, Pheasant Run in South Jordan and Silverado Hospice for their kindness and care during his final months.

Funeral services will be held on Saturday, January 6, 2018 at 11:00 am at the Glenmoor 4th Ward, 9455 South 4800 West, South Jordan, Utah. Viewings will be Friday,

January 5, 2018 at Jenkins-Soffe South Valley, 1007 W. South Jordan Parkway (10600 S), South Jordan, Utah and on Saturday from 10:00-10:45 am at the church. Interment at Wasatch Lawn Cemetery.

Lost and Found

I came to know Jon Schmidt from the popular musical group, The Piano Guys, many years ago when he was in the Bishopric of my single’s ward. He was a struggling musician with a large family and was a kind, humble man (and I’m so happy he has remained that way even in fame).

Last year, there was a story in the media that deeply touched me when his daughter, Annie, went missing during a hike in Oregon. There was an extensive search and her body was eventually found. The mainstream media reported the basics of the search and rescue but I felt like there was more to the story so I continued digging into it even after the case wrapped and I found an article in the Standard-Examiner about her miraculous recovery.

I’ll include that story below but I was reminded of it when I saw a beautiful video The Piano Guys recently posted. The holidays are about joy but for so many who have lost loved ones or who are dealing with loneliness, it’s a sorrowful time. This music speaks to having peace.

Finding Annie Schmidt: One woman’s calling to find Piano Guys lost daughter

By Mark Saal

Millions of people followed the heartbreaking story of Annie Schmidt, the 21-year-old who disappeared last month in the rugged mountains of the Columbia River Gorge. But for one Oregon woman, finding Annie Schmidt became something of a calling.

Schmidt, daughter of a member of the Utah-based musical group The Piano Guys, was last seen Oct. 16, when she went hiking in the gorge. Her vehicle was found near the trailheads to several backcountry hikes.

Lydia McGranahan, 40, lives in the small town of Keizer, Ore., just north of Salem. Like so many others, McGranahan saw the news of a missing hiker.

“It happens to be about an hour and a half from where I live,” McGranahan said by telephone Thursday. “I’m an avid hiker and know the area quite well.”

She decided to help look for Annie.

On Oct. 23, McGranahan joined the massive volunteer effort to search for Schmidt. But when the group finished for the day around noon, McGranahan wasn’t ready to leave.

This pair of undated photos was released by the Portland, Ore., Police Bureau during the search for the young woman.This pair of undated photos was released by the Portland, Ore., Police Bureau during the search for the young woman.

“I didn’t want to go home, it wasn’t dark yet,” she said. “So I thought, ‘I’m going to stand where Annie’s car was, and try to think like her.’ ”

There are any number of trails — covering quite a bit of ground — in the area, so McGranahan just began hiking, all the while trying to imagine where Annie might have gone.

“I started walking down one trail, and then onto another trail,” she said.

McGranahan ended at Munra Point, which OregonHikers.org describes as “an exposed basalt knob at the junction of three spiny ridges … (offering) a spectacular and exposed 360-degree view up and down the Columbia River Gorge.” The website describes it as a “non-maintained trail,” with steep scrambles, and is “safest in dry weather.” It had rained the morning Schmidt had gone hiking.

When McGranahan got to Munra Point, she says, “It seemed like the place Annie would want to go; I felt like we should search there.”

That night, McGranahan had an intense dream. She felt herself falling, and as she fell, she saw Schmidt’s face — as if she were somehow inside her.

“I felt strongly, when I woke up from that, that Annie had fallen,” McGranahan says. “And that she was at Munra Point.”

McGranahan would spend seven days, daylight to dark, helping search for Schmidt.

On Oct. 26, McGranahan’s 40th birthday, she again joined the search. She’d originally planned on going to McKenzie River and hiking 40 miles on her 40th birthday.

“That’s what I set out to do, but then the night before, I found out the family was spending one more day searching for Annie,” she said. “And I thought, ‘I can’t do my own thing, not as long as she is missing.’ ”

That day, at the staging area, McGranahan told the search team about her dream and shared a few other clues that led her to believe Schmidt was near Munra Point. But the group had already searched that area, and had made plans for searching elsewhere. McGranahan decided to be a team player and go along with the group.

But midway through that search, one of the men in the group confided to McGranahan: “She’s not here,” he said.

So he, McGranahan and one other man decided to leave the group and search at Munra Point. They scoured potential areas where Schmidt could have fallen, even rappelling off a cliff edge that turned out to be not far from where Schmidt was found.

“After that, I felt such a strong pull,” McGranahan admits. “I’d come home, I couldn’t sleep. People were posting ‘It’s like finding a needle in a haystack,’ and I’m, like, ‘No it’s not.’ It’s not. I had this serious drive and intuition to find her.”

At one point, McGranahan’s 12-year-old daughter emerged from Sunday services at the nondenominational Christian church they attend with a premonition. “She came out to the car and said, ‘Mom, we were singing a song, and I felt like God was talking to me. He told me you’re going to find Annie.’ … I’d prepared myself that I would be the one to find her.”

On the day before McGranahan found Annie, the Schmidt family brought in eight search and rescue dog teams, led by Eden resident Joe Jennings, president of Great Basin K9 Search & Rescue. The plan was to search several high-probability areas, but when McGranahan was assigned to help in an area away from Munra Point, she asked to be reassigned.

“They’d asked me to go to a different place and I was, like, ‘No, I want to go to Munra.’ ” McGranahan recalls.

So she was teamed with Jennings and his golden retriever, Gunny, to search the area below the point.

“There was one large area I felt strongly about, knowing Annie liked to take shortcuts,” she said. “Joe was assigned that part, so I led him up there.”

The going was slow — steep, thick vegetation, a lot of bushwhacking — difficult terrain to walk on once you get off-trail. Then, it happened.

“Joe’s dog popped up his head,” McGranahan said. “I saw it immediately in Gunny — the attitude, nose up, whole body changed, faced uphill. I knew we were onto something.”

Gunny, a 9-year-old golden retriever, barks to alert searchers he's picked up a scent in this Nov. 10 photo. He and his owner, Joe Jennings, of Eden, were instrumental in finding the remains of Annie Schmidt, the Oregon hiker who went missing in mid-October.Gunny, a 9-year-old golden retriever, barks to alert searchers he’s picked up a scent in this Nov. 10 photo. He and his owner, Joe Jennings, of Eden, were instrumental in finding the remains of Annie Schmidt, the Oregon hiker who went missing in mid-October.

They worked their way up under the cliff, then Gunny seemed to lose the scent.

“The wind was swirling; Joe said Gunny was trying to figure it out,” McGranahan said.

Eventually, unable to pinpoint the scent, the team needed to head back down to the trailhead.

“Joe’s dog sat at the cliff edge, head up, barking,” McGranahan recalls. “Gunny was frustrated. He did not want to go — he knew Annie was close.”

McGranahan led a second team up that afternoon, but again, they were unsuccessful.

The next morning, McGranahan headed back to the same area with a fresh search team — Wyoming-based Liz Hall and her dog, Reu.

Reu led Hall and McGranahan to a spot not far from where Gunny had taken them. It was there they found Schmidt’s remains and belongings.

Annie Schmidt was found.

Officials determined the death to be accidental; they believe she slipped and fell from the cliffs above and died on impact.

McGranahan feels fortunate she was able to help with Schmidt’s recovery — and marvels they were able to find her so quickly with the dogs.

“Fall was happening,” McGranahan said. “When Annie went missing, the leaves were still on the trees. By the time we found her, all the leaves were off the trees. The trails, the evidence on the ground, even some of Annie’s stuff — they were covered with leaves.”

This highlights the need for trained search dogs like Gunny and Reu, according to Jennings.

“A lot of the human searchers didn’t — or couldn’t — get off the trails, he said. “In that terrain, you could walk a few feet from her and never know she was there.”

Jennings said when they abandoned the search the day before Schmidt was found, they’d assumed she’d landed on one of the many ledges and overhangs on the cliffs above.

“If we’d just gone around the corner, we would have run into her,” he said.

McGranahan has had a difficult time dealing with the memories of finding Annie Schmidt’s remains — although she knows that, with time, things will get better. And she’s been invited to Monday’s funeral, and to stay with the family of one of the two other searchers she worked with on her birthday.

McGranahan has been so affected by the experience that she wants to pursue search and rescue, eventually getting a dog to train.

“I’ve been astounded at how so many people have come together in this search, in so many different ways, and how everybody’s part was valuable,” she said. “I’d come back from a day of searching — exhausted, discouraged that we hadn’t found her — and see on Facebook that hundreds and hundreds of people were encouraging you, praying for you.

“To me, when people are still praying, I cannot stop searching.”

Light the World this December!

My best Christmas ever was when I was 21 and serving an 18-month LDS Mission in Switzerland. We were given the challenge by our president to cancel all of our appointments and spend the entire week leading up to Christmas doing nothing but service. Our miraculous week culminated by serving Christmas Eve dinner at a homeless shelter where we were so enveloped in the love and gratitude by those around us who had nothing.

We all have so much to give and I love the #lighttheworld initiative that kicked off today. Essentially, it’s 25 days of celebrating the birth of Jesus by serving others. Each day has a short video and then a few suggestions for easy ways to serve.  You don’t have to be Mormon to do this…imagine what a wonderful December this would be if everyone took just a few minutes to lift someone’s burden and make the world a kinder place. 

Solar Eclipse Touched My Heart

I’ll admit I didn’t buy into all the hype surrounding the solar eclipse.  When Jamie casually mentioned the possibility of driving a few hours to Wyoming, we both agreed to just stay here. We’ve been gone so much this summer, the kids started school the next day and we could see a partial eclipse (91 percent) off our back porch. If I’d really paid attention and done my research about what it would be like to see it in the path of totality, I would have battled the traffic a few hours north and had the experience of a lifetime.

We watched the sky for 45 minutes leading up to the solar eclipse and as I marveled at what we saw, I regretted our decision to stay behind. My sister-in-law Tammy was in Idaho with her family and they captured a few spectacular images. She also sent me this awesome account of the eclipse and analogy by Rob Eaton, who lives in Rexburg, ID.

I had read all the hype, and I had a hard time imagining there was any way a total solar eclipse could live up to so much promotion and praise. One account was so effusive that even my young nephew dismissed it by saying, “It had too many superlatives.” Surely nothing could be that good.

If I had not lived plop in the middle of the zone of totality in Rexburg, Idaho, I don’t know that I would have traveled far to see it. When I mentioned it to my brother a month ago, remarkably enough, he hadn’t even heard about it yet. But before I could even say anything about it, he said, “It seems like every eclipse that comes along is supposed to be the only time in the next 57 years you’ll be able to see something like it.” He hadn’t been that impressed with what he’d seen in the past, so he wasn’t interested in driving a couple of hours north to reach the zone of totality for this eclipse.

I don’t fault him. If I were him, I might well have looked at a map and figured, “I’ll just stay here and see 75% of the eclipse and get 75% of the benefits. Why go all that way just to see the sun all the way covered?”

But with solar eclipses, I learned vividly and personally today, there is a world of difference between even 98% of an eclipse and 100%. We watched with interest and amusement during the partial phases of the eclipse, but right up until a few moments before we witnessed the total eclipse, it seemed like not much more than a pleasant astronomical quirk visible only with special protective glasses.

But as the moon began to totally cover the sun and we witnessed the diamond ring and the corona visible only with a total solar eclipse, I was absolutely blown away. I thought I would remain calm, but I couldn’t keep the emotions I felt inside. And neither could most of the people around me. As one writer had predicted, it was as if it touched something deeply primal within us. No photograph or video I’ve seen of this spectacular phenomenon does justice to it. It is simply the most amazing thing I have ever seen.

Afterwards, my nephew volunteered to his mother: “Now I know why they used so many superlatives.”Despite all the hype, we discovered a total solar eclipse had not been overrated.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, this experience has reminded me of three important lessons. First, heaven is not overhyped; eternal life will be worth every sacrifice we could possible make to partake of it.

In one of my otherwise favorite songs by Train, the singer asks of a friend returning from some kind of cosmic journey, “Did you make it to the Milky Way to see the lights all faded and that heaven is overrated?” Just as my brother assumed a total eclipse had been oversold, much of the world today has come to believe heaven is not real or that it can’t be all that. They doubt the reality of an eternal existence with God so exquisite that Peter described it as becoming “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). I believe that one day, everyone will be as convinced of the desirability of eternal life with God as those who witnessed the total eclipse today were of its stunning glory.

Second, I was reminded that there is a dramatic difference between the blessings that come from sort of following the gospel of Jesus Christ—being in the zone of partiality—and striving to following Him and His teachings with all our hearts—the zone of totality. One of the reasons my brother and I underestimated how rewarding the total eclipse would be is that we based our estimates on what we’d witnessed in prior partial eclipses. But a total eclipse isn’t just twice as beautiful as an eclipse where the moon covers half the son; it is exponentially better.

And so are the blessings that come from living in the zone of spiritual totality. I’m not talking about a place where we are perfect, and I’m certainly not talking about a condition we achieve through our own efforts alone. But I am referring to a state of mind and heart where we jump in with our whole souls, holding nothing back but relying on Christ to realize our divine potential. The blessings of spiritual coronas and diamond rings come not to those who merely go through the motions and occasional effort it takes to reach the zone of partiality; they come to those who yield their hearts and souls to God in the zone of spiritual totality.

Finally, now that I know what a rare and exquisite experience a total solar eclipse is, I regret terribly the fact that I didn’t try to persuade my brother and his family and all my siblings and children who lived elsewhere to join us. What a terrible waste it was to have a home located in the heart of the zone of totality with only 5 guests. I wish I’d been more like some of our neighbors, who had family members and friends stuffed into every bed and couch and spilling over onto their lawns.

For those of us who have lived the gospel of Jesus Christ enough to know just how exquisite its blessings are, there is a special responsibility to find ways to help others come to understand or even consider the possibility that it will be eternally worth the sacrifice to come to the zone of spiritual totality.

For me, in some small way, glimpsing the silvery brilliance of the corona today felt like a symbolic foreshadowing of what it might be like to dwell eternally in the presence of God—in a place with “no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof” (Rev. 21:23). Even more than I will strive to persuade my loved ones and friends to go witness the next total solar eclipse visible in the United States in 2024, I feel inspired to do all I can to help others know that heaven is real and that moving to the zone of spiritual totality is eternally worth it. We cannot use enough superlatives to describe it.

sfsafafs

More little miracles

I briefly wrote about some of our financial woes this summer…but with the perspective that there are a lot worse things going on in the world and this is (hopefully) a temporary bump in the road. For the time being, we’ve scaled way back on everything. No back-to-school clothes shopping for the kids. We’re only driving one car. We’re delaying putting grass in the backyard and I canceled my knee appointment for X-rays after the endless back-and-forth between our insurance company and the doctor’s office, neither of whom could give me a cost estimate. It’s best to wait until we’re in a better place financially to move forward.

Jamie and I were discussing our financial situation this week. This move has cost us thousands of dollars and both of our businesses are doing fine…it’s just the unexpected hits this summer like Hadley’s broken arm and our car problems that have landed us in the hole.

Back in December, I was doing the laundry and heard some clunking in the dryer, only to find Jamie’s iPhone 5s…NOT waterproof. Even though we didn’t really have the money, we sprung for an iPhone 7 and he has made some great use out of it for work.

Fast-forward to last weekend. Jamie has really wanted to see the war movie, Dunkirk. It’s not my choice for a memorable date night but when my friend Steph mentioned she and her husband were going as well, we decided to make a double-date out of it. We ate at Bam Bam’s BBQ prior, enjoyed the movie (well, at least Jamie did) and grabbed some ice cream after. We talked late into the night and one item we discussed were our cell phones. Steph and I had the exact same case, and we all chuckled at the various ways we’d cracked or damaged our phones. Except for Jamie. He was boastful that he doesn’t even have a case and his phones had survived unscathed all these years (he somehow didn’t count the drowning).

As we drove home later, I mentioned an upcoming event and asked for his phone to add it to his calendar. He couldn’t find it and the last time he’d handled it was in the theater when he turned it off. The theater was a half-hour away from our house but thankfully, we were only at the mouth of the canyon so turned around and began our search. Even though it had been less than an hour, the phone was gone. He left my number with the staff and we started praying for its recovery. Since replacing it is not an option, his plan was to replace the cracked screen on a REALLLLY old phone and call it good. 

The next day, Bode brought Jamie’s old iPhone 5s out of my office.

“Hey, Dad. What’s this?”

“That’s my old iPhone that went through the washing machine.”

“Really? It looks like it’s working.”

We never turned on the phone after its full wash, spin and dryer but somehow over the past several months, it somehow resurrected itself. A miracle!!!

We’re still hoping his iPhone 7 turns up but we’re thrilled to have a phone that works…an answer to prayers, just not the one we expected.

 

 

Miracles for Days

Since our return from Canada almost two weeks ago, we’ve delved back into life at warp speed. While my brother was on his honeymoon, his two boys stayed with us for the week, Hadley went to BYU Volleyball Camp, we’ve toured Temple Square, tubed Wasatch Canal (twice), went to the Demolition Derby for Wasatch County Fair Days, registered both kids for middle school (and had a full-blown panic attack) and hosted one of my best friends/mission companions at our house for a couple of days. I have made a vain attempt to get caught back up with work, something I’ve resigned myself isn’t going to truly happen until school starts.

I have lots of updates on Canada (a wonderful trip by most accounts) with the exception of our repeated car problems and our lack of funds to facilitate buying a new car. So, for now we’re trying to live as a one-car family until things calm down. The funny things is we were fasting and praying for more $work$ opportunities a few months ago and then Hadley broke her arm (lots of nice medical bills) and it cost us $2,000 to patch up our car in Canada that we’re not even sure is irrevocably damaged.

Being broke is one thing but so many people close to us are dealing with such major, life-altering trials that I recognize how blessed we are and that we’ll be just fine. Trials like divorce after betrayal. Gang rape. Terminal illness. Hospitalization for Schizophrenia.

I follow a really inspirational gal, Natalie Norton, on Instagram and their family has been through so much but continue to be a force for good. She lost her brother and then her baby. They fostered a few children they were going to adopt but then that fell through and they had to wade through the sorrow of another loss. She is still recovering from a stroke last year…and then her 10-year-old son was hit by an SUV last week and they are enduring multiple surgeries. Oh, and while they were in the hospital, their house got robbed.  I mean, how much can one family endure? But through it all, her faith and hope reigns strong:

On Monday evening, our ten year old son, Lincoln, was hit by a compact SUV and has been in a medically induced coma in the ICU ever since. The internal injuries are too many to list here in their totality, but the pooling blood around his heart, “cracked” liver and a punctured lung are currently the most significant to report. He will require reconstructive surgery to his face, including a skin graft (currently scheduled for Friday morning), and his entire body is covered in road rash, bruises and lacerations. This has been every parent’s worst nightmare from start to finish. At this point, the biggest miracle is that there doesn’t seem to be any neurological damage. I’m sobbing writing those words. My sweet, courageous, brilliant baby’s brain seems to have miraculously suffered little more than a moderate concussion. GOD IS SO GOOD.

My Facebook memory from three years ago today is a reminder of of the goodness of life:

My boy’s baptism was a day of miracles…with one grandparent hospitalized mere hours before flying here and another having eye surgery, I’m eternally grateful for their sacrifices and the many dear friends who came to support Bode today. xOXo

Then there was yesterday. The kids and I were touring the newly expanded Missionary Training Center with Jamie’s sister and were enveloped in feelings of love and peace with the beautiful artwork and inspiring messages like this life-sized mural of the Sons on Mosiah from Alma 17:3 in the Book of Mormon that literally knocked my socks off.

Then my phone started blowing up with urgent texts from neighbors and concerned friends that several violent home invasions in our little town had culminated into an armed robbery at the nearby bank …and the cops were apprehending some (but not all) of the suspects in front of our neighbor’s house.

It was such a juxtaposition to the MTC and Bode soberly observed, “This is a really dark world.”

It sure is, Kid, but yesterday I was grateful to also see the light.

A Poor Wayfaring Woman of Grief

My Facebook memories have been focused on the nightmare that was selling our house last summer. You would think that trying to sell in one of Denver’s hottest housing market ever would be a slam-dunk but if God doesn’t want you to sell your house yet, you will not sell your house. It took three buyers to finally close the deal.

I wrote but never published this story last year of when life downright sucked. Our house sale had just fallen through [for the first time], financial stress (hello, $2,000 we dumped into my car) and just really feeling knocked down at every turn. I never really doubted that we were supposed to leave a home and life that we loved–from the get-go, God made that pretty clear– but I felt like we had been left to flounder in the process. Where was He during our hardest times?

On a particularly crummy 95-degrees-with-broken-air-conditioning-day, I was venting on the phone to my friend Lisa and a few minutes later, the doorbell rang. I glimpsed through the peephole and could only make out of the shape of a woman so I figured it was her coming to bring me a tub full of ice in which to soak my sorrows. When I opened the door, there was an African-American gal, early 20s, looking hot and uncomfortable. She started her spiel selling some magazines and really, it was the last thing in the world I wanted to deal with. But I was an LDS missionary once and know what it feels like to be pouring your guts out to a complete stranger on the doorstep and learned that even when you have zero interest, there is always an opportunity to be kind. Jamie, in particular is always so considerate to door-to-door salesmen and cold calls.

So I listened to her and my frustrations left me as I saw that she looked as miserable as I felt. I nicely declined her magazine subscription, pointing to our multiple fans blowing in the house and the missing For Sale sign that had gotten swiped that week. “We’re not really in a position to pick up a magazine subscription but I’ll tell you what. You look hot. May I offer you some ice water?”

She melted. Literally. I thought she would start crying as she gratefully accepted, briefly stating that Colorado had been tough, she was ready to quit but they were moving on to Kansas the next day. And on that doorstep, two strangers on the verge of their own breaking point connected in a way I can’t explain as we both unloaded our trials and frustrations.

We only spent a few minutes together but it was a cut of eternity. I wished her luck and she turned to leave but came back to shake my hand. “Thank you,” she said with great emotion.

A wash of peace came over me. This…she…was my answer. God had not forsaken us. This was all happening in His time and from that moment forward, I never doubted we were in His hands.  The encounter was so powerful and transformative that I felt God himself had been at my doorstep.

I love love love the words to one of my favorite hymns, A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief, and cried as I relayed the experience to my kids that evening.

Lyrics

  1. 1. A poor, wayfaring Man of grief
    Hath often crossed me on my way,
    Who sued so humbly for relief
    That I could never answer nay.
    I had not pow’r to ask his name,
    Whereto he went, or whence he came;
    Yet there was something in his eye
    That won my love; I knew not why.
  2. 2. Once, when my scanty meal was spread,
    He entered; not a word he spake,
    Just perishing for want of bread.
    I gave him all; he blessed it, brake,
    And ate, but gave me part again.
    Mine was an angel’s portion then,
    For while I fed with eager haste,
    The crust was manna to my taste.
  3. 3. I spied him where a fountain burst
    Clear from the rock; his strength was gone.
    The heedless water mocked his thirst;
    He heard it, saw it hurrying on.
    I ran and raised the suff’rer up;
    Thrice from the stream he drained my cup,
    Dipped and returned it running o’er;
    I drank and never thirsted more.
  4. 4. ‘Twas night; the floods were out; it blew
    A winter hurricane aloof.
    I heard his voice abroad and flew
    To bid him welcome to my roof.
    I warmed and clothed and cheered my guest
    And laid him on my couch to rest,
    Then made the earth my bed and seemed
    In Eden’s garden while I dreamed.
  5. 5. Stript, wounded, beaten nigh to death,
    I found him by the highway side.
    I roused his pulse, brought back his breath,
    Revived his spirit, and supplied
    Wine, oil, refreshment–he was healed.
    I had myself a wound concealed,
    But from that hour forgot the smart,
    And peace bound up my broken heart.
  6. 6. In pris’n I saw him next, condemned
    To meet a traitor’s doom at morn.
    The tide of lying tongues I stemmed,
    And honored him ‘mid shame and scorn.
    My friendship’s utmost zeal to try,
    He asked if I for him would die.
    The flesh was weak; my blood ran chill,
    But my free spirit cried, “I will!”
  7. 7. Then in a moment to my view
    The stranger started from disguise.
    The tokens in his hands I knew;
    The Savior stood before mine eyes.
    He spake, and my poor name he named,
    “Of me thou hast not been ashamed.
    These deeds shall thy memorial be;
    Fear not, thou didst them unto me.”

That Sunday in church, I commented to Jamie how this hymn had not been sung for several years and lo-and-behold, THAT would be the Sunday that a man performed it. Another confirmation.

It would take another couple of months and floundering for everything to come together. We were at the do-or-die point. We HAD to sell the house, otherwise we would not make it to Utah for the beginning of school. Jamie had asked our home teacher for a Priesthood Blessing and in that blessing, he was told the house sale would happen and that there were reasons for the delay, some of which we knew (the construction of our new house was behind) and some of which would be later revealed.

Two days later, I was walking into Sprouts Farmer’s Market when I received a call from our Stake Public Affairs Director. My calling was as the media specialist for several years and I worked with community leaders on several campaigns. I had been released the previous year to work in Cub Scouts so I was curious about the call. He first requested I write an article for them about Teacher Appreciation Night (a special evening where our graduating seniors celebrate the teacher that has most impacted their education).

I told him I would do it and then he had another request. “Would you be able to help with the media tours for the Fort Collins Temple Open House?” That was where I hesitated. What he was requesting was a great honor. When a new temple is built, a block of time is scheduled for the general public to come through and learn about it. We were remiss to have to miss the open house because school in Utah started one week after the date he was requesting for me to help.

I explained my situation and he was totally understanding. We left our conversation, “I’ll let you know,” regarding helping with the media tour on that Tuesday in August.

I couldn’t get our conversation out of my head all day. Later that night, I shared with Jamie, “What if one of the reasons our house hasn’t sold for all these months is because I am supposed to be here to help with the Open House?”

The next morning, we had another showing. It was a short one–the buyer was in and out of the house in 15 minutes–and from experience, we knew that was a bad sign. I was in my office an hour later when Jamie came in. “I think you’re correct and you’re supposed to help with the Open House. No matter what happens, we need to be here so you can do that.”

We put our faith on the line.

Not even 30 seconds later as he was walking downstairs, our realtor friend Stan called to say that man who had the quick tour that morning was putting in a full offer on the house.

Jamie raced back upstairs, “You’re doing the open house, right?”  ”Yes, that’s what we discussed.” “Well, after we decided that, an offer finally came through.”

And it was the golden offer we needed.

So, we loaded up our moving PODs on a Monday night in August, I helped with the media tours at the temple on Tuesday, that night we finished loading a third POD because everything didn’t fit, Wednesday we were driving to Utah and the kids started school that following week.

I learned a lot of lessons from this move, the most important of which is when God tells you to do something and you delve right in, you also need to trust in His timing.

 

The End To Summer

Do you remember that epic summer I was talking about? We really haven’t done much since we moved to Utah due to lack of time and money but I’m all about FREE fun. The last couple of weeks were off to a roaring start with hikes to Stewart Falls and Timpanogos Cave, The Dirty Dash mud run, The Kids Adventure Games,  redneck canal tubing, biking Provo Canyon, Monday Midway Cruiser Cruise, a Sunday drive to Strawberry Reservoir and exploring the W.O.W. Trail.

I was feeling exhausted yesterday. Hadley’s good friend, Maeve, has been visiting us from Colorado and I resolved after I dropped her off at the airport to just chill out and catch up on life before our trip to Colorado.

And then the Aqua X Zone happened.

We’re always in Canada for Bode’s birthday so I told him he could invite a few friends to this awesome obstacle course located ON Jordanelle Reservoir. Hadley brought Maeve and besides her complaints about being required to wear a life jacket, everyone was in good spirits!

My friend Sarah brought all three of her boys  so we setup a picnic area on the beach and set them loose. About 45 minutes into their adventures, Maeve came over. “Hadley is hurt!” Jamie raced to meet her and she was in an excruciating amount of pain. She and Maeve had climbed up the white iceberg wall and just as Hadley was egging Maeve to jump, she slipped and crash-landed 12 feet, landing on her shoulder on the bottom step, Hard.

Hadley has a pretty high pain tolerance but we knew it was bad from the start. Jamie and I knowingly looked at each other. Summer is my slow season for work, money is tight and expenses are high. We’ve been praying for more business opportunities (one of the joys of being self-employed) and a major injury is not the answer we needed.

Sure enough, she fractured her humerus (upper arm). It occurred right beneath her growth plate so we need to take her to a pediatric orthopedic specialist…because apparently God doesn’t was us to ever afford grass on our lawn.

So, in addition to being in a lot of pain, we had a lot of rescheduling and cancellations to do. I’m working on a campaign with the renowned Keystone Science School (KSS) and Hadley was THRILLED to go to their Steamboat Voyagers next week with whitewater kayaking, rodeoing and backpacking while learning Aquatic Ecology, one of her passions. I withdrew her from that and also a volleyball clinic at the high school this week. Jamie and I were planning to take a second honeymoon in Colorado’s backcountry while the kids were in KSS so we didn’t know if we’d have to bring her, which would have been kind of a boring nightmare for her because she can’t do anything.

Thankfully, Jamie’s mom, Linda, offered to take her for the week and we found a $42 airline ticket for her to join us at the end of the trip when we hit The Broadmoor for a few days.

Still up in the air: Young Women’s Girl’s Camp mid-July, whether she’ll be able to surf at the lake in Canada and BYU volleyball camp late-July.

So, now we wait and hope and pray for healing, realizing other families are dealing with much more sobering prognosis with their children. I’m not really the type to ask “why” bad things happen because who can ever really know? Maybe she’s supposed to learn patience from this ordeal. Maybe something more serious might have happened to her at KSS and this is keeping her safe.

Several years ago, Jamie and I were assigned to lead the fourth year Girl’s Camp Young Women into the backcountry for a few days. I did a lot of training hikes with the girls, thoroughly scouted the area and had arranged for Linda to watch the kids. And then the night before the trip, I become sicker than I’ve ever been. There was no way I could lead the girls but fortunately there was another couple who were already planning to go. Linda ended up still taking Hadley and Bode because I was too sick to get out of bed and it lasted the duration of that trip.

I was upset and pretty heartbroken. Why was I called upon to lead the girls, only to have this happen at the last-minute? I asked Jamie for a priesthood blessing of healing and in that blessing, I was given the guidance that I would become better with time and that the Lord had his reasons for why it happened.

And that was my answer. Sometimes when bad things happen, we later look back and can see the wisdom in it. That never happened in this particular instance and it was such a minor thing–getting sick–but with a major lesson. Some things happen and we often never know why but it is within our power to have faith in knowing that sometimes we’re not supposed to know the “whys” and we just need to learn the “hows” to make it through.

Here’s to hoping Hadley is given the same directive this summer.