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.

Just Two Bananas

A couple of weeks ago in Relief Society, my friend Katie shared the story “Just Two Bananas” that has made me resolve to do better about befriending those who may have been overlooked or forgotten. You never know the difference a little bit of kindness can make in their lives. 

-Church News – week ending May 21, 1988:

Several years ago a volunteer worker at Welfare Square in Salt Lake City shared a true experience with her associates at a devotional meeting. It is a story worth re-telling in her own words:

“A few years ago while on a trip our family stopped in a small town to visit a friend we had not seen for a long time. As we drove up in front of her home, she was just going out of her gate.

The first thing we noticed about her was that she had two bananas in her hand. We got out of the car and chatted with her for a moment. When I asked her where she was going with two bananas she explained that she had made a fruit salad the day before and had borrowed two bananas from her neighbor and was now on her way to return them. She said she would wait and return them after we left so she could visit with us. At that point, my 6-year-old son said he would be glad to return the bananas. He said he ran errands all the time for me, and would be happy to explain who the bananas came from. My friend was impressed by his eagerness, so she gave him the bananas, pointed out the house, and off he went across the street.

We were in the house visiting when my son came bounding in, and with excitement said to my friend, ‘Hey, that guy said to tell you thanks a lot. He loves bananas.’

My friend looked puzzled, and said ‘He? My friend is a widow and has no husband.’ She thought for a moment and then said, ‘Oh, I’ll bet it was one of her sons. They come to see her often.’

I thought my little boy might have gone to the wrong house, so I asked him to come outside and point out the house where he had taken the bananas. He said he had taken them to the white house with a bush in front of the window.

My friend became rather upset, saying that of all the houses on her street that was the last one she would take anything to. The man who lived there was very repulsive. No one could stand him. His wife and family had left him, and he had lost his job. The only person who ever came to see him was his daughter, and she only came to see him because she felt sorry for him, not because she loved him.

As we walked back into the house, listening to her tell about the man, it seemed to me that he had no redeeming qualities at all. I wondered to myself what he must have thought about suddenly getting two bananas.

We continued to visit when my little boy looked out the window and said to my friend, ‘You know that guy I took the bananas to, well, he’s coming through your gate right now.’

My friend was uttering a few inaudible words when the knock came at the door. She opened the door, and her neighbor stood before her, tears in his eyes, finding it difficult to express himself. He finally was able to thank her for the two bananas, and said he was glad that someone cared enough to think of him. He thought no one even cared about him anymore. He handed her a sack of freshly picked vegetables from his garden and some plums from his tree. He told her that he had not been a good neighbor, but from now on he would try to be better.

About two years later we again dropped by to visit our friend. We told her we couldn’t stay long because it was late in the day and we wanted to set up camp before dark.

My friend begged us to stay and meet her home teacher who was coming by that evening. She said she had the greatest home teacher. ‘You remember that man your little boy took the bananas to? Well he’s my home teacher now and I have never had a better one. The whole direction of his life changed when he thought someone cared about him.

She went on to explain that he had gotten his job back, his wife and family had come back to him, and everyone in the neighborhood liked him. She said she wished he could always be her home teacher, but she was afraid he would be released because two weeks ago he had been sustained as a counselor in the bishopric of their ward.

This touching story reminds us as we keep the second great commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves that even small deeds can produce great results. Even two bananas!”

Off to the Races!

When Bode turns 11 in July, he will officially enter Boy Scouts which means one thing: he only has one more Pinewood Derby in Cub Scouts. Now to give you perspective, Bode comes from the Mercedes of Pinewood Derby families. Grandpa Duane was renowned throughout Colorado for helping Jamie and his brother Chris build the bestest and the fastest (they even won regionals!) so Jamie has been on the same quest.

For Bode’s first car they did a good job, frequently winning heats but did not come out on top. Last year, they upped their game and his car won every single heat and he somehow only placed second, a big disappointment because he actually beat the winning car in a head-to-head. C’est la vie. That was my attitude at least. I’m sure Jamie would have demanded a race-off it wasn’t a church event.

This was Bode’s last chance for redemption so he and Jamie worked hard building his car. It was a busy evening. Bode had a soccer game (which he missed due to all our conflicts) and while Jamie took the car for the weigh-in, I had the privilege of accompanying Bode to “Maturation Night” at the school. He was only slightly mortified to have his mom attend a talk on puberty and I was slightly more mortified (definitely a lot of testosterone and father-son bonding in the room). Thankfully, the talk ended on a high note when each boy received his very own deodorant because one of the biggest takeaways was BOYS STINK. Literally.

We then raced over to the church for the Pinewood Derby. Check-in and weigh-off was chaotic but our ward did a fantastic job with the actual event with a high-tech computer program that recorded, tabulated and displayed each time on a big screen. Each boy received a “Pit Pass” lanyard where they were granted special access to the race area. Each car would race off against two others with six races total. The winner would have the lowest accumulative time.

Pre-race jitters

It’s tough to know just how fast your car is going to be. “I just hope the wheels stay on,” Jamie muttered but they did more than that. Bode’s black beauty easily won his first heat…and every subsequent one after that.

The Top 3

There was no doubt he had the fastest car in the Pack.  Of course, we thought that last year and he placed second overall but we were relived when he took home the title of Fastest Car. I think I may have seen tears in Jamie’s eyes that the family legacy would continue through Bode. His buddy won “Best in Show for his hilarious Banana-shaped car. When Jamie posted about the victory on Facebook our friend and former Bishop asked “Should the congratulations go to Jamie or Bode?” Jamie’s funny response: “I can honestly say that he did more on this car than in past years. But as a good video on building pinewood derby cards once said. ‘Scout, if you feel like this car isn’t really yours, take comfort that someday you’ll have a son of your own.’” The future pressure is on, Bode.

Ward Christmas Party Extraordinaire

A highly anticipated event for many LDS Congregations is the annual Christmas party. Food, fun, friends and lots more food–what’s not to love?

Well, except for when you are put in charge of your new ward’s Christmas decorations. AWK!

I have thrown plenty of large-scale, even city-wide events but here’s the caveat–I always hired out on matters like these. So, I did what any non-decorating person would do: I ensured I had the best darn committee brimming with domestic goddesses and I contacted my sister-in-law Tammy a.k.a. the lead domestic goddess.

To let you know her level of commitment, for her ward party a few years ago, she spent THREE MONTHS making these glitter trees. I spent three hours re-glittering them all and it almost sent me over the edge. Truly, I bow down to her. But not in a goddess-worshipping-kind-of-way because that would be worshiping false gods and she’s as true as they come.

Generally ward parties are held at the meeting house but this year, they rented out the Midway Community Center and the outdoor skating rink in town square. The only challenge was the gym (where we served the food) was small, only seating a fraction of our 500+ ward members. The upside is there was less to decorate. My committee met the morning of the party and within a few hours, we had the community center looking beautiful!

Enter: Murphy’s Law.

I was given a special key for the Community City that was only programmed to work from 10 a.m.-noon and then again at 5 p.m. As my friend Tanya and I were leaving at 1 p.m., we tested the door to see if it was locked. Huh. It was still open. We tried a few times but still, the same result.

And this is where my brain damage came into play. I stepped outside with Tanya to test the door and voila, it finally locked!

The problem? My car keys, purse and cell phone were still inside.

And so we made the journey to the city hall offices, only to find out the one person who could open the door was still at lunch,

Eventually, I got back inside to retrieve my items and had to return again at 5 p.m. to open the doors for the party but you’d better believe the first chance I got, I handed that key off to someone else.

As for the party, we had a blast with a video, great performances, delicious food and wonderful company. The Community Center was bursting at the seams so it was a relief to walk next door to the Midway Ice Skating Rink. Located in the middle of Town Square, this rink is the focal point of so many activities in the winter and I’m ashamed to say this was our first time there.

I immediately came to life the moment I hit the ice, channeling all my wonderful memories of growing up in Canada skating at the Willow Park Community Center and for miles along the Bow River. I had a blast teaching the youth how to spin, forming trains and racing around the rink. Bode has never liked skating but had fun with friends while Hadley had a great time with her tween minions. Jamie was en route back to Colorado for his company party.

At one point, I was talking to some of the teenagers and a gal in a long skirt was numbered among them. I kindly asked if she was cold but she said “no,” only to realize she wasn’t with our group… and was with some other young women in old-fashioned long skirts. And I inwardly groaned at my social faux-pas as I wondered if I was having my first polygamist interaction since moving to Utah. I learned they were visiting from British Columbia and often skated on their pond, which begs the question are there polygamists in Canada? Or maybe they were Hutterites? We often visited their colonies in Southern Alberta to buy their delicious farmed goods. Or maybe they just like skating in frigid temperatures wearing long skirts?

Regardless of who they were, we had a lot of fun with them and one of the girls and I formed a spin circle that had me completely discombobulated. Just as I broke free,  Jamie’s home teaching companion Aaron asked if I was dizzy and proceeded to spin me around even more until I was ready to puke.

Ahhh, good times on the ice.

The next day, I woke up feeling like I was Cinderella after the ball (read: it wasn’t pretty) but I had such fun with these princes that night.

A family that speaks together, stresses together

Last Sunday, we were asked to speak in church on the talks of our choice from the 2016 General Conference. In my past congregations, children 12 and older give talks in Sacrament Meeting in front of the entire congregation so Hadley was expecting to give her first talk in our new ward. What surprised us is that younger children are also called upon to speak so our entire family shared our testimony on Sunday.

The crazy thing is Facebook’s timehop memory of the day was from six years ago when the kids participated in the Arvada 2nd Ward’s Primary Program. This is one of my all-time favorite pictures of them:

What a difference six years makes!

Bode based his talk on President Monson’s talk The Perfect Path to Happiness. Bode was so cute as he joked around while the microphone was being lowered lowered lowered and did an awesome job sharing our his personal path to happiness. My favorite lines from his talk:

I was baptized when I was 8 because I wanted to follow Jesus’ example. As I stepped into the font, I felt peaceful. When I was underneath the water, I felt like nothing could hurt me.

A few minutes later, my dad put his hands upon my head. When he said “Receive the Holy Ghost,” my head felt like it was lit up with fireworks. I felt the spirit charging through my head and body!

I’ve just started on this Perfect Path to Happiness but I know that no matter how old you are—if you’re 10 like me or 90 that you can feel the spirit. And that God knows who you are and that you are an important part of His plan.

I was really proud of Hadley because she wrote her own talk. She based her remarks on Elder Juan Useda’s harrowing experience at Machu Picchu in The Lord Jesus Christ Teaches Us to Pray. 

 Unfortunately, I realized that recently I have a very similar experience to Elder Useda. A few months ago my parents decided I should go to both this wards girls camp and my previous wards girls camp. I moved here from Denver and it happened to be high adventure week. We did a whole lot of really cool things but the big one that was really shaking every one up was the fourteener we had to climb. Colorado has 54 peaks higher than 14,000 feet—pretty amazing! To put this in perspective, Utah’s highest mountain is King’s Peak and is around 13,500 feet. The leaders did a very good job with making it high adventure!

 This was the second fourteener I had climbed and I was with the faster group so I summited fairly quickly, and was in the very first group to come down. At the steepest and most dangerous part of the trail it started to hail. A lot of the people with us were crying and really scared! I didn’t have the proper gear for hail so I used my friend’s bandana for protection—that didn’t work so well. After a few minutes of wondering if I was going to die my thoughts tuned to the slower group, and realized that they were at the very summit of the mountain. I said a prayer in my heart afraid that if I took my hands down from my head that I would get hurt, but after only a few minutes the hail lessened.

Once everyone got back to the car, their side of the story was that they were literally in the cloud getting pounded by the hail and electrocuted by the shocks. Screaming and crying someone suggested they say a prayer. Not too long after that a group of experienced hikers helped them get to a safe spot until the hail stopped. It makes me wonder what would have happened if no one prayed!?

I’d like to share my testimony that I know that prayer can help us through big and small things in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

I based my talk on Elder Schmutz’s General Conference talk “God shall wipe away your tears,” a super powerful talk for anyone who has ever wondered why bad things happen to good people and why we have to go through hardships in our lives. I spoke about some of the struggles we had the last 10 months during our move and some of the miracles along the way (which is another post for another day).

The kids and I wrote our talks shortly after receiving the assignment. The Master Procrastinator a.k.a. Jamie waited until the morning of church to start pulling his talk together. As he walked into the bedroom, I asked him how to pronounce “Schmutz,” to which he held up MY topic. 

“You can’t steal my talk!” and I proceeded to go through his papers, crossing out everything I was planning to talk about.

Procrastinators never prosper…or do they? He ended doing an amazing job winging it, talking about some of his miracles in our move as well as giant pumpkins. because (in his words) is God not the Master Gardener?

At least there is full disclosure of our craziness in our new ward.

House Stress and Sacred Things

We’re still here. The house still isn’t sold but hope is not lost–we had a second showing today. How do we know that? Our scheduling service called as we were driving home from Stake Conference to tell us we had a showing in a half hour. What? We raced home and did a hack job on picking up the house. Thankfully it was still in good shape from a deeper cleaning we did yesterday but then the couple showed up 15 minutes early and rang the doorbell when they saw our car still in the driveway. We told them we needed a bit more time and they patiently waited on the porch and on the way out mentioned this was their second visit.

And then the scheduling service called us to follow-up and mentioned when the realtor opened the blinds in our bedroom, they fell down and she couldn’t get them back up. Somebody shoot me now.

We’re more than a month into selling the house in an insane, inflated Denver market where people are getting multiple offers within a day of listing their homes. Our main issue has been our neighbor’s lot behind us, which he kindly cleaned up about 10 days ago and it has made a world of difference. The only problem is we’ve had minimal showings since then and it’s painful because our yard is in bloom and looks gorgeous.

After several weeks of spiritual confirmations where we would open our scriptures to receive an outpouring of love and answers, this week has been full of frustration and walls. What are we doing wrong? Are we going on the right direction with this? We already dropped our price but should we doing more? 

We received our monthly copy of The Ensign and I turned immediately to the story Vienna Jaques: Woman of Faith and thought, boy do I need a spiritual boost and to read about a faithful woman.

Vienna Jaques had been in her new home in Jackson County, Missouri, USA, for only six weeks when violence erupted on July 20, 1833. Local residents had demanded that the Latter-day Saints leave the county, but Church leaders demurred to accept. Mobs in the area then attacked Church members and their property.

On that day, 46-year-old Vienna saw the mob tar and feather Edward Partridge, the bishop in Missouri, and Charles Allen. Meanwhile, others demolished the Church’s print shop and threw the printing press and papers out the window, including unbound and incomplete copies of the Book of Commandments. After the attack, Vienna knelt in the dirt road alone, furiously collecting scattered pages of the Book of Commandments. A mobber came over and hovered menacingly over her, declaring, “Madam, this is only a prelude to what you have to suffer.”

I chuckled and closed the magazine. This was my answer? I can guarantee you that was not what I needed to read.  A few days later I went back to read the rest of the article (life did suck for a while but got much better). Turns out, God has a sense of humor.

We fasted today and Stake Conference was full of spiritual feasting that I needed. This evening, we went for one of my favorite walks along the Clear Creek Trail in Golden. We fed the chickens at the Clear Creek History Park. We marveled at the idiots floating down the swollen waters on an inflatable mattress. We threw rocks in the river. We discovered a secret trail away from the crowds

I left feeling refreshed and grateful. This whole process of uprooting a life we love for reasons beyond me has been such a roller-coaster ride and test of faith. I really wouldn’t want to do this alone. Without that comfort. Scriptures. Prayer. Reverence. Guidance. I read a quote today by D. Todd Christofferson that really hit home.

If one does not appreciate holy things, he will lose them. Absent a feeling of reverence, he will grow increasingly casual in attitude and lax in conduct. He will drift from the moorings that his covenants with God could provide. His feeling of accountability to God will diminish and then be forgotten. Thereafter, he will care only about his own comfort and satisfying his uncontrolled appetites. Finally, he will come to despise sacred things, even God, and then he will despise himself.

With a sense of the sacred, one grows in understanding and truth. The Holy Spirit becomes his frequent and then constant companion. More and more he will stand in holy places and be entrusted with holy things. Just the opposite of cynicism and despair, his end is eternal life.

A sense of the sacred cannot really be passed from one person to another. It must grow from within. Think about things in a contemplative way; then the Spirit may work in you so that you will not need anyone to tell you what is sacred or how to respond—you will feel it for yourself. It will be part of your nature; indeed, much of it already is.

Stand in Holy Places. Now, that is the answer I needed.