Last Week

Last week was a wrestle. I wrestled with church dilemmas, the clock, illnesses, and expectations. But there was a three-tiered cake one night, and clean surfaces everywhere, evidence that when I am doing mental work, physical work goes right along with it.

Last week,  there was so much calling me to stay home with the family. They needed my skills, my advice, my health, my early mornings, late nights, afternoon errands, and my touch.

Last week’s lessons:

  • Don’t bury concerns. Express them.
  • BYU application essay editing is a good way to spend a LOT of time with your senior. BYU requires six, people. Six!
  • You can’t wash your hands too often during flu season.
  • The boost in morale will come.
  • It’s ok to choose the less time-consuming option.
  • Conversations happen away from screens.
  • I experienced a miracle.
  • Everyone’s faith is a little different, even within the same church, and that is ok.
  • God knows ahead of time when I will fail to act, whether from laziness or pulls from different directions. He prepared a contingency plan or two last week so people were still cared for.
  • Life is long. I don’t have to do it all at once.
  • To write is to be vulnerable.
  • The sacrament is so precious to me.

Angel’s Landing

Light and shadow, cool and bright, we experienced Angel’s Landing last weekend at Zion National Park. Scrolling through the pictures makes my fingers and toes go numb as I look at the narrow fin of rock on which we hiked. I didn’t watch the kids do this. I stayed ahead or behind, and didn’t make the last few hundred feet of the journey with them. As I walked down the mountain, I thought of our Father in Heaven, who doesn’t shrink from watching over each of us when we are in peril, and felt gratitude for a Parent like that.

There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch, cherish, and lift

After Apple Picking

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch, 
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all 
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

-Robert Frost


I have mentioned this before, but since I was called to be a R.S. president I write down the names of the sisters I visit or interact with each day on my calendar. It is my reminder that the work is about individuals, not activities, lessons, and cookbooks. It reminds me that I didn’t fail *these* sisters today, even if I am concerned about so many. Most of the time, it is incredibly helpful to me to keep this record.

In December, I gave up writing down the names. I was looking at life through a distorted lens, as through ice over water. Despite my efforts, the problems multiplied in my mind. There are a lot of reasons for my discouragement, some obvious, some subtle, some avoidable, and others unavoidable. I am not beating myself up about this. It is OK to be tired sometimes, and I don’t resent or regret anything I did for others.

I played a musical number with Daniel on Christmas Eve for the ward and hurried away from church because with this last service of giving music, I had given my all. Everything. I was dry. I couldn’t even face compliments. When Richard came home ready to tell me all the positive things people had to say about our music, I simply told him, “I don’t want to talk about it,” and made my way out the door for one last visit to a sister before Christmas.

Instead of coming home after the visit, I drove to the temple and sat in my car in the parking lot for a long time. I remembered the impression from the Spirit that I had during the sacrament a few hours before. It was simply, “I love you. Don’t worry about working on anything else for now,” and I drove home with that thought.

How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is giv’n,

Still God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heav’n.

-O Little Town of Bethlehem

I have rested, I have rededicated myself to habits that bring me strength, and I am being gentle with myself. I know it IS enough to simply love someone through their problems, for this is the pattern that Heavenly Father showed me on Christmas Eve. I took some needed and worthy time for rest, and this included not keeping a catalog of my efforts. I take comfort that “all things are written by the Father” (3 Nephi 27:26) and no detail of my silent and private service is lost to Him.

On January 2, I started writing down the names again. When I awoke to the news on January 3 that President Monson had passed away, I couldn’t think of a better way to honor President Thomas S. Monson on his last day on earth than to make those visits and keep a record of their precious names, even though I know that angels are doing the same on the other side. This day, writing the names didn’t deplete any energy, it invigorated me.

You are, of course, surrounded by opportunities for service. No doubt at times you recognize so many such opportunities that you may feel somewhat overwhelmed. Where do you begin? How can you do it all? How do you choose, from all the needs you observe, where and how to serve? 

Often small acts of service are all that is required to lift and bless another: a question concerning a person’s family, quick words of encouragement, a sincere compliment, a small note of thanks, a brief telephone call.

If we are observant and aware, and if we act on the promptings which come to us, we can accomplish much good.

-President Thomas S. Monson

December photo drop

We attended the ward Christmas breakfast without children, much to everyone’s dismay at the party. We left early when we got tired of explaining why our kids couldn’t make it. 😉 photo by Susan
Daniel’s new melodica, photo by Heather
Tim’s candy house
Mark’s candy house
My parents gave us gift certificates for Pioneer Book and we went on a shopping spree together.
We loved our trips to Temple Square.
Timothy turned 15! To celebrate, we went to the premier of The Last Jedi and ate doughnuts.
The holiday feels longer because we have a birthday boy around Christmas time.
One dozen for Timothy, and another dozen for the rest of us.
Our newest nephew was a very accommodating baby Jesus for the Christmas pageant.
Notice the little guy giving a kiss to the baby Jesus.
Playing Angels We Have Heard on High, photo by Richard J
Cantina Band duet, photo by Richard J
For goodness sake, Mark made this rendition of Artist’s Point in Yellowstone for me.

Senior Christmas Performances

We have heard a lot of beautiful music at Temple Square and the high school in the past seven days. Here is a sample of Daniel playing piano at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building today.

I love these concerts because they give us time to sit and reflect at Christmas time.

We stopped at the vending machines where you can donate livestock, food, water, and first aid supplies last week. Today my mom came, too. The vending machine had to be restocked as we stood in line. Chickens and goats are very popular items.


Inspired Hospitality

Dear Grandma Stewart,

I used your Spode Christmas dishes last night to host a beautiful dinner for friends. We stayed around the table and talked for a long time. I made some of the food you used to serve to us, and we drank from your ruby red goblets. After dinner, everyone decorated candy houses, even the adults. I am sure you would have liked that. When the evening was over, as I hand washed each dish and stacked them gently with foam between each plate, I felt such gratitude for your example of gracious entertaining. I am taking good care of your dishes, and find that they make people feel special when I use them. You were so good at making people feel like they were important. I miss you. Your picture sits on one of the shelves in my kitchen, and your inspired hospitality lives on.




Thanksgiving guests

The line from scripture that stays in my head lately is, “learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires.” (D&C 88:123)

To impart is to “make known or communicate.”

I don’t think I have much to impart lately. Perhaps the lessons I need in order to be effective are still making their way into my heart. I hope that it is enough to post a scripture on social media or to reach out gently to someone.

I hope the extra hours pouring my heart and energy into our home and celebrations instead of my usual hours of study and writing will impart love, or whatever God wants someone to understand.

I am only beginning to trust that there are many ways to impart gospel principles. Many don’t require the knowledge I am continually chasing, but they always require a healthy portion of self.

An adoption, a wedding, and a dance

From my parents’ patio today, the smell of leaves decaying on the ground and a wood burning stove was enough to make me stop and breathe deeply. The garden was covered in leaves, ready for a covering of snow and a tiller in the spring. Something about autumn forces us to look forward, in preparation for winter and holidays. I feel the tug of holiday expectations early this year, and grateful for the smells of autumn that initiated some minutes to reflect.

On Thursday, I drove to the now-familiar courthouse in Ogden to see my sister and her husband adopt their third baby. Grace was sleepy as I held her during my sister’s sweet, tearful testimony to the judge. To keep the children safe, I don’t post photos of their faces, just their feet. Can you spot the tiniest feet? Those are Grace’s.

In St George this weekend, Richard’s parents’ house seemed more empty during our visit, as Rebecca’s family didn’t stop by. Cancer shows us the gap one person leaves when she is unable to attend. The family rallied for a big wedding celebration for Andrea, twinkle lights and green boughs everywhere. All hands were needed, and this brought out the best in many who sometimes stay in the corners.

When I look at my own wedding photos, it is the faces of grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles that I study, not friends nor countless pictures of the couple. I wish wedding photographers realized this, and took a few more pictures of the extended family.

Speaking of memories of grandparents, Daniel wore his great-grandfather’s cowboy boots to a dance this weekend. I think that would make Grandpa smile.