Wednesday, January 17, 2018

President Thomas S. Monson

It was difficult to lose President Monson this past month.  He's been a constant spiritual figure for as long as I can remember.  A stalwart of my youth.  I loved his gentle soul, his reminder to watch over the widows, to seek out the afflicted and lonely.  

President Monson's daughter moved to my home ward when I was a senior in high school.  I was nearly on my way to college, so I had very little interaction with her.  But I do remember Elder Monson coming to speak at our ward chapel.  And I was shocked at how tall he was!  Seriously.  Being tall myself, a person's height - especially if they're tall - is something I notice automatically.  And I actually had to look UP to meet President Monson.  

When the meeting was over and he walked out of the chapel, my Aunt Sharon (who is also tall and awesome) was standing beside me.  Elder Monson paused to shake our hands and took a moment to smile and exclaim, "I didn't know there were so many tall women in this ward.  This is wonderful!  What a blessing!"  

Of course, he had no idea that most of my life I had struggled with being so tall.  I am gangly, awkward and tend to slump if I'm not careful.  And up until that point, I had a closet full of flats.  President Monson's comment was not the pivotal moment, but it was a contributor to THE moment a few years later when I ditched all my flats and finally stepped out in heels for the first time.  A LOT of heels followed.  And indeed, the acceptance of myself brought blessings around me.  

This past year, the kids and I have been using his book, A Future as Bright As Your Faith for our morning devotionals and it has been delightful to have a bit of President Monson with us throughout the day.  There were so many excellent gems in that book - many of which seemed to come right when we needed it most. 

With President Monson, my spiritual needs have been replenished time and time again.  I have felt a better understanding of Jesus Christ.  And I have felt more forgiveness, love and mercy towards the people around me.  

A few of my favorite statements from President Monson -

"He softens the winters of our lives, but He also brightens our summers.  Whether it is the best of times or the worst, He is with us."

"Sometimes you feel inadequate and ineffective because you can't do all that you feel you should.  Rather than continually dwelling on what still needs to be done, pause occasionally and reflect on all that you do and have done.  The good you have done, the kind words you have spoken, the love you have shown to others, can never be fully measured."

"Let us not demean or belittle.  Rather, let us be compassionate and encouraging.  We must be careful that we do not destroy another person's confidence through careless words or actions."  

"But the battle must be fought. Victory cannot come by default. So it is in the battles of life. Life will never spread itself in an unobstructed view before us. We must anticipate the approaching forks and turnings in the road. We cannot hope to reach our desired journey’s end if we think aimlessly about whether to go east or west. We must make our decisions purposefully. Our most significant opportunities will be found in times of greatest difficulty." 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Christmas 2017

Christmas this year really came down to two parts.  Part 1 in California and Part 2 in Utah.

Part 1 -

Because the school year ended so closely to Christmas itself, we decided to stay in California and celebrate with our family.  It was our first Christmas in 70 degree weather, and we definitely took advantage of it.  Trips to the beach, playing catch outside and Mom sneaked in a looong bike ride after the house was cleaned up and dinner was in the oven.  She felt slightly blasphemous.  Biking on Christmas day!  Crazy. 

I loved having Christmas Eve on Sunday this year.  It brought a wonderful spirit to our celebrations, especially watching Andrew sing in the choir (picture below is him at practice).  He's inspired me to join this coming year.  

The big gifts this year were Sea World passes, Fitbits that ended up being returned for watches, luggage for the little man, an end table for Pretty Girl and neck pillows for our upcoming adventure in April.  

Just 3 more months, just 3 more months, just 3 more months...

Part 2 -

Part 2 was going to Utah to be with family.  And while we meant to make it relaxing and easy, it was rushed.  I haven't figured out yet how to visit Utah and NOT see all the people we love - the people my children love - plus get in some family time with just us.  It's juggling too many pieces.  So until we figure out a better system, our trips to Utah will be non-stop movement.

Highlights were the Nutcracker with the Carvers, the McKinnon Christmas party, the BYU exhibit on M.C. Escher, the BYU basketball game, cousins, aunts, the Astin family, John Shaw, Beckham, Shelby, Gannon, Alice & Elle, mom & dad visiting former work colleagues, spotting John Schmidt, watching Jedi (again!) and especially - New Year's Eve at the Nelsons.  We miss and love all these people so much!  

A quick side note here about how much I love my sister, Laurel.  We went over to see her on Sunday afternoon and she showed us this beautiful wood plaque she got for Christmas with a Shakespeare quote.  And what's the first thing that comes out of my mouth??  

"That's not Shakespeare".  

I should have stayed quiet.  Because after verification, we found out, of course that I was right, and then I felt even worse.  She still loves it, and thankfully, she still loves me, but me and my big mouth.  Sheesh!  Ignorance is not necessarily always the wrong choice

And then we had the crazy McKinnon dance moves...