Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Hurting, Hopeful Hearts

My heart is hurting for the people of Houston.
We were fortunate enough to call Houston home for 5 years,
and through that time we learned to love that corner of Texas.
We left pieces of our hearts there when we left.
Maybe that's why they're hurting so much now when we see countless images
of sunken cars, babies sleeping in floating plastic bins, homes buried almost to the tops of the garage doors, people kayaking down roads, and aerial shots of what now appears to be one giant, muddy lake.

I wish I could join forces with my friends,
don a yellow "Mormon Helping Hands" shirt,
and muck out houses.
I was checking social media a bit obsessively throughout the hurricane
to see how our loved ones there were faring.
And through the sadness, the devastation, the turmoil,
there was also a distinct underlying tone of hope and gratitude.

There was the lady on the news who said she just kept praising God as the floodwaters continued to rise around her and how she was so grateful when she was rescued.
There was "Mattress Mack," and his kindness in bringing hundreds of stranded people in to his furniture stores, allowing them to sleep on high-end beds and couches in his store. He said, "To (heck) with profits, let's take care of the people."
There is the cajun navy, composed of those good souls from Louisiana who came with their boats to drive around and rescue people from roofs and attics.
There are countless churches working to provide relief to suffering people.
There is the famous gas station chain Buc-ees, who opened their facilities to rescue workers to provide them with a place to eat and rest.
There is the man with a huge smile on his face, walking with his 6-year old son, not knowing where they will go, explaining to a news reporter that they lost everything they owned, including their car, but insisting that "We thank God. We thank God."
There are so many who, the moment the water drained enough, sprang into action to start mucking out houses, working with smiles to clear out ruined belongings, cut sheetrock, and rip up carpet.
And there is a feeling of unity throughout the city.

We love the good souls of Houston
and the ways they have taken care of their own have stood as a shining example to the rest of the world during this time of great challenge.
It may take years to get the city back on its feet,
but it WILL get back.
Because Texans don't give in, and they don't give up.
They face the future with faith and acknowledge God's Hand in their lives.

And it's a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Life from the Phone's Camera Lens

Here we are,
raw and unedited,
on those occasions that the camera didn't make it to.

From being superheroes at the park
to hiking Neff's Canyon and Cecret Lake with Sam's East and West Coast family,
from the Aerospace Museum
to the blissful bike rides we enjoyed about every weekday morning before we moved,
from the everyday moments at home
to our more uncommon adventures,
I wouldn't trade this life for anything.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

First Day 2017

These two had such a fantastic day today.
Lincoln was rather despondent at first
("I'm going to MISS MY BROTHERS!!!")
but cheered up when we made snickerdoodles together while his brothers were away.
Wesley was SO excited and asked me all morning,
"How many more minutes 'til school?"
Talmage came home with the news that his first day was great, so I'm very relieved that everything was okay with the trauma of changing schools. I went to four different elementary schools and I like to think I turned out okay in spite of it. ;)
The boys both have very sweet teachers and I'm looking forward to seeing them THRIVE this year!

The end of Summer always brings a big mixture of emotions for me.
I always feel a sense of regret--like I wish I could have made better use of the time with the kids--
but then I feel grateful for the experiences we did have together.
And I feel cranky because I'm going to miss having them around--
but then I feel relieved because school helps create a more defined routine and I crave routine.
I feel concerned about exposure to negative peer influences--
but then I feel appreciation for the growing opportunities they have away from me.

And so on and so forth.
But in the end, I feel that this is the right place for them to be,
so as hard as it is to let go,
I watch them fly away and feel a profound sense of awe as I watch them soar successfully.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Fires of Faith

This weekend we had our traditional Back to School dinner
with the kids' favorite foods
and a campfire and s'mores.
We gave the kids new books and introduced our new theme:
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
We reassured the kids that this year, as they attend a new school, and throughout their lives,
loving others will bring success.

It was a lovely night, but Talmage has really been dreading school starting.
Change has always been really difficult for him and that has been manifested in different ways over the years.
I found myself holding back tears as I walked down the hall at Back to School night because my heart was hurting in a totally new way.
It has been hard for me to see my boy, who has always been one of the most social kids on the entire planet and who also LOVES school, become withdrawn and reluctant to speak to anyone, staring at the ground and mumbling answers to questions. This change had persisted despite many efforts on our part to help him through his emotions. The brief interaction with his teacher highlighted that change that has taken place with this move.

As I felt that flood of emotions wash over me, I heard a familiar voice say, "Are you guys here now??"
I turned and found myself face to face with Talmage's first-grade teacher from last year!
I was baffled.
Not only were we at a different school, but she retired at the end of last year!
She explained that she just couldn't stay away and had come to work as a reading tutor at this school.
Talmage absolutely lit up to see her and gave her a big hug.
They chatted for a while about his summer and about the move and she told him a few things about his new school and I watched a change come over him.

That withdrawn little boy disappeared and his social personality emerged again.
As we drove home, I was holding back tears again, but for a completely different reason--
because my heart was overflowing with gratitude toward a loving Heavenly Father who loves a 7-year-old boy so much that He would send a familiar, encouraging face to him in a moment of distress.
"Now I can't wait to start school!" he said as he played with Maxwell's fingers and made him laugh.

God is so, so good.
And He loves us each individually.
I know it.

"Suppose I am writing a novel. I write 'Mary laid down her work; next moment came a knock at the door!' For Mary who has to live in the imaginary time of my story there is no interval between putting down the work and hearing the knock. But I, who am Mary's maker, do not live in that imaginary time at all. Between writing the first half of that sentence and the second, I might sit down for three house and think steadily about Mary. I could think about Mary as if she were the only character in the book and for as long as I pleased, and the hours I spent in doing so would not appear in Mary's time (the time inside the story) at all. This is not a perfect illustration, of course. But it may give just a glimpse of what I believe to be the truth. God is not hurried along in the Time-stream of this universe any more than an author is hurried along in the imaginary time of his own novel. He has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. He does not have to deal with us in the mass. You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being He had ever created. When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you had been the only man in the world."
-C.S. Lewis

Friday, August 18, 2017

County Fair

There's just something about a fair that fills me with patriotic pride and gratitude for this amazing country.
The exhibits and displays seem to take me back to the past
as I look at hand-stitched quilts,
beautiful artwork,
and livestock snuffling in their pens.
Somehow seeing ribbons dangling from bottled fruit and baked goods appeals to my farm-girl dreams and roots. 
My mom was raised on a farm in Idaho and my dad was raised with plenty of land, plants, animals, and chores. I have so many fond memories from my childhood of swinging in the tire swing that hung from the massive willow tree, climbing hay bales, pretending to drive old tractors, riding the three-wheeler around, climbing trees, and playing in the real pioneer log cabin that sat on my grandparents' property.
Maybe it's because of those fond memories that I have such a deep yearning to get our kids involved in work in a similar environment--even if it's on a very small scale.

We got together with my sister and her kids and had a ball petting a python, riding ponies, visiting the petting zoo, watching an adorable sea lion show, playing on a pirate ship, and wandering around the exhibits.
It may be a while before we have our own mini-farm,
but in the meantime I'm glad we can have little tastes.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Supporting My Spouse

Last week I had the opportunity to present at the Wives' Workshop, which was co-hosted by a good friend of mine. I was asked to present about supporting my husband, and I was really grateful for the opportunity it gave me to reflect on principles that have helped our relationship along the road of Sam's education and career.

I decided to share 5 keys to supporting a spouse that I've discovered over the years, and today I'd like to share a small portion of my presentation because this shift in mindset has helped me SO much over the years when Sam has had a lot of demands on his time.


Key #1: Remember--Same Goals, Different Roles

I think the number one lesson I have learned is that I need to not just support my husband in HIS goals—they actually need to become MY goals as well. One day I sat thinking about some of the challenges we faced through grad school and I suddenly realized that I had been thinking about it all wrong. I had been thinking about grad school as my husband’s goal and something I wanted to support him in, which was requiring a lot of sacrifice on my part. Although this had helped me become more selfless, I realized that a slight shift in my mindset would help me become more united with my husband through life’s ups and downs. I began to look at my husband’s schooling as something we were working on together. It was no longer the idea that “My husband has goals and I need to support him in those goals.” It became “WE have goals together and we both make sacrifices necessary to achieve them.” This may seem like a minor thing, but it was huge to me. I no longer felt such an overwhelming sense of loneliness during the long hours he was away. I was no longer frustrated when his work demands were constant and I attended activities alone or just missed out because I didn’t want to go without him. These sacrifices and challenges became stepping stones toward OUR goal. With this mindset, my husband and I grew more united and our relationship was greatly strengthened because we were working TOGETHER to achieve something instead of me struggling to support my husband while he pursued HIS goal.


If you're interested in reading about the other keys I've discovered, feel free to let me know through a comment or the contact form linked above. I'd be glad to e-mail you a copy of my presentation!
Thanks to Amberly for giving me the opportunity to reflect on this subject and become more purposeful about supporting my husband as a result!

Monday, August 14, 2017

MTC Open House

This weekend we went to the MTC (Missionary Training Center) open house.
What an amazing, beautiful facility!
The artwork lining the halls is absolutely stunning.
I was filled with awe as I saw so many devoted missionaries and so excited as I watched our little boys fist-bumping will be so amazing to watch them serve as missionaries!

Afterwards we went to the Creamery for ice cream.
Because Graham Canyon.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Aviary Wonder

On Maxwell's birthday, we went to the aviary.
Sam had just left town, so we weren't really going to do a full celebration until he got back,
but we have a pass that gets us into the aviary once a month,
so I thought Maxwell (and his brothers)
would enjoy the outing.

They started out with a fun scientific exploration at a stream where, among other fun water activities, they got to capture water in magnifying cases and then check for bugs.
Then we circled around the aviary
and I delighted in Maxwell's wonder of it all.
One of my favorite parts of taking little ones to new places
is seeing their fascination, wonder, and concentration as they try to make sense of it all.
Kids help me take fewer things for granted!

They loved pumping water into the fun sand/water course,
visiting the Owl Forest,
watching the flamingos frolic (while standing on one leg),
feeding the ducks,
and--perhaps most of all--discovering a swallow nest in the bathroom!

Don't you just want to squish that little face??
I'm glad he loves being squished, because I do it all through the day.
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