Tuesday, December 12, 2017

"D" Day is FINALLY here!

Hey, friends!  It's been a while since I wrote something on the blog, just to write, so I'm seizing the opportunity tonight.  I'll not be offended if you don't stick around now that you see I'm not sharing a fun craft or recipe.  I know that's what most of you come here for and I'm more than thrilled about that.  I've just been having a few thoughts lately based on our current situation that I wanted to share.


I don't really like to share a ton of personal stuff here on the blog, but many of you know our situation.  It's not ideal and we find that we have to regroup and change things up from time to time just to make things work for us all.  We have to shift gears and back up and rewind often, but there have not been any major catastrophes so far and for that we are extremely grateful.  Needless to say, we struggle.  Some times more than others.  Sometimes just getting through the day is an accomplishment in and of itself.  Although, it's been quite a while, I'm talking months since a major meltdown.  So, 3 months was a hurdle....but six months!  That is glorified miracle!  Yes, you read that right.  Half a year, my friends, since a major meltdown from Kevin or I.  Trust me, I keep track of those ripped to shreds and left in a pile on the floor moments.  They are pretty hard to miss that's for sure.  Anyway, I have been thinking a lot about this, if you've been through something like this then you know, how can we not think about some of this??  Well, I've come to realize that I have a real hate/love relationship with our situation.  I say hate first because 90% of me absolutely hates everything about it, but I can't help but see many blessings in there as well.  

For instance, I HATE accepting help from people.  I hate being the "charity case".  I hate people giving us things.  I hate living off of the kindness of our friends and family.  But I LOVE seeing first hand all the good that people do, for which they want absolutely no recognition.  I think I always knew good things were happening behind the scenes in life, but you tend to forget until you are going through something like this.  Often -- at least often enough -- people will slip us a little money to "help hold us over" and in the same breath say, "PLEASE, please don't tell anyone about this."  I mean, who does that??!!  Good, good people.  People who live pretty humbly themselves of who have been in similar circumstances so they can feel our pain.  It makes me want desperately to use our extra money (when we have it) better to help others in the future.  These people inspire me.

I HATE that I will probably have to work well into my 80's to make it financially.  Barring some miracle, I don't likely see that changing anytime soon.  Selfishly, I would LOVE to be able to be home and be able to help around the house with the kids and with my husband.  If I'm being honest here, Kevin use to do more around the house and to motivate the kids on a regular basis that I could ever do.  He was always the "enforcer" as I jokingly use to call him and I really appreciated all his help, especially when we had things to be done around the house.  Now, I wish I would have stepped in and been able to be more of the "enforcement team" because now when I try to get my kids motivated it's more like herding wild cats and they just stand there starring at me as if I was speaking a foreign language.   I keep trying to remember that one day I will miss my kids and all of their messy ways as I try to remember President Monson's quote about the piles of dirty laundry.  I know he's right and I bite my tongue as I trip on shoes my kids have left out or step on their games all over my family room and dining room table covered in cards and figurines.   The part that is the hardest is when I beg and beg for chores to be done or the yard to be mowed and they ignore me and think that I'll forget over the weekend or if they stay busy enough they won't have to do it.  That's the part that I HATE the most because after all I'm only one person and I can't do it all.  Sure, everything falls on my shoulders (You know, it's always the woman's fault) but realistically I can't honestly be expected to do everything can I?  After all, I'm not Super Woman!  BUT, I LOVE that when I need help with gas money, food money, or even parking money (like tomorrow) these kids do not hesitate to help out.  In fact, they are awesome about pitching in like that when they can.  I LOVE that when I mentioned that my paychecks were going to be about $500 smaller each and every month for 4 months both of my boys stepped up and offered to help out a bit each paycheck at least until things get back to normal again.  Sure, they couldn't make up the entire $500 difference, but the amount they have been helping with has made it so we can get the bills paid. 

Even so,  I HATE not being able to give my kids every single thing in the whole wide world.  I hate that we haven't had a family vacation in over 10 years.  I hate that they are hesitant to tell me when their jeans are getting too tight or when they need new shoes and socks.  I hate that we couldn't go buy them all new school clothes every year.  I hate that they never told us about extracurricular activities at school that interested them because they just know we couldn't afford it.  I hate that when I ask my kids what they want for Christmas or their birthdays they say nothing because they don't want to burden me.  But I LOVE seeing how little it takes to make them truly happy.  They don't need extravagant vacations or nice clothes.  All they really want is time with us.  And sugar cereal.  {If you saw the way my children were carrying on, you would have thought I found a cure for cancer a couple weeks ago when I was able to get a few boxes with coupons for less than $10.  Oh my!}

I HATE the doubt that creeps in.  When well-meaning friends and family question all of your decisions and then you start to think that maybe you aren't really on the right track even though you were pretty sure you were.  Even though you KNOW that you are.  Even though you've prayed and prayed about it until you have bruises on your kneecaps from kneeling so long and then you've prayed about it again.  And you know -- YOU KNOW -- that this is where you belong and you're doing everything right and things will come together soon and you need to hang in there.   Still it causes you to doubt.  But I LOVE those moments when YOU DO KNOW.  They are fleeting, but they're real enough to hang onto even in the face of the doubters.  I have felt more love from my Heavenly Father on my darkest days than on my good ones -- because I needed it more then.  

I HATE not being in control.  I hate watching Kevin get excited about the possibility of becoming pain free, only to get more bad news or have to wait even longer to finally be pain free.  I'm tired of hearing about needing to go in a different direction.  Sooner of later won't all the different directions be taken and somehow they will have to go in our direction by default?  I mean, please, already.  I hate that we can do and do and do, and yet we can never do everything.  I hate the fear of losing....you know, losing everything.  But I LOVE that my husband and I were both raised with the understanding that God, our Heavenly Father, is intimately involved in the details of our lives.  Ultimately it's Him in control of the situation.  Not us, not our parents, not the employers, not anyone else.  He is the one who takes us by the hand and pulls us through these times, sometimes kicking and screaming.  He is the one who has inspired people to give what extra they have to help us out -- usually within a few short hours of me praying for His immediate help because I didn't have anywhere else to turn.  He is the one in whom we trust, who will never fail us.  Even if we lose our home eventually.  Even if we "lose everything" by worldly standards.  Through Him, and in Him, we have everything that is really important.  

I could go on and on.  Believe me, there are a bunch more things I hate about our situation.  We just have to keep telling ourselves, "This, too shall pass."  This has been a slow and painful refining process.  We are so grateful to everyone who has stood by us.  We can see clearly that our Heavenly Father has been putting people into our lives all along the way to support us now, at this time, and we feel blessed.  

So, thanks.  If you made it through the whole post to get to this point, you are one of those people {whether we know you personally or not}.  I know we are not the only people struggling in the world.  In fact, I know that we struggle a lot less than a lot of people.  To our fellow strugglers, I wish you the best.  Hang in there, my friends.  Because, really, this WILL pass.  It HAS to, right?!

In other news....

Today I received some pretty shocking news.  I have been sworn to secrecy.  Well, at least from sharing publicly.  I can share with friends and family.  But, let's just say my day to day life will be changing drastically very very soon.  More to come on that.

Around 8PM I received a phone call from my dear friend, Bev, asking if she could stop by.  She is valiantly following through with the Light the World project and wanted to stop by with a little surprise for me.  She said today's scripture reference was, Matthew 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn."  Then the video message was about a Jon and Michelle Schmidt feeling comfort through the love of others.  Now, how appropriate what that?!  She thought of us because we are quite literally mourning the loss of Kevin the way he use to be.   She brought me a Christmas decoration.  It's the word J-O-Y and in the middle of the "O" is a nativity scene with Mary, Joseph, and the Christ child.  It's beautiful and I love it!  She also brought me a book by one of the speakers Lexi and I got to see and hear speak a couple of months back.  The book is called "Be Happy" but Hank Smith.  I need to find time to read more.  Smile Smile.  

Now, I know what you might be thinking.  Most people might be upset about receiving something a the day designated to the mourners, and maybe in years past I might have been....because quite frankly, I think I'm doing pretty darn well dealing with all I have to deal with and not completely losing my mind and running from our home screaming and waving my arms in the air.  A few years ago that quite possibly would have happened.  Trust me, I've thought about doing that.  BUT, as I mentioned before about the blessings that have come through our situation one of those blessings are being able to see the Lord's hand in my life in ways I never dreamed possible through all of this.  Another is knowing without a doubt that HE knows me, that's right He knows Sondra.  He has proven that to me time and time again in ways I can only describe as personal and amazing at the same time.  Each time as He has answered my pleadings for help and strength during those moments when I have felt so very much alone and needed Him to rescue me, He has done exactly that!!  EACH TIME!!!  And even a few times when I haven't pleaded and begged for it.  So, trust me, I know we are still mourning, but at the same time I also feel that we are enduring our trials well too, because we could be so much worse off and in a not so good place, and we are in a good place, and we are so very blessed.  So no, we do not get upset when someone tells us we are mourning.  We most certainly are and we will continue to be mourning,,.......BUT in happy ways.  {Smile, Smile}



Tomorrow is "D" day.  That's right folks.  Kevin and I will be prepped for "several hours" for our depositions the next day.  I'm still trying to come to grips with the words "Several hours"!!  That scares me.  Hours??!! Really??  Yikes!  BUT, as a co-worker of mine put it, "Don't be scared.  You and Kevin deserve this!  This is a good thing.  You shouldn't be afraid.  You should be confident that this is for your good."  So true.  I don't think I'm afraid of the conversations and the preparations or even the depositions.  I think what scares me is how well Kevin is going to be able to handle being up and about for that length of time.  He hasn't been up and about for more than about 1/2 an hour (At the most) at a time in his wheelchair or even sitting up in a chair.  He spends all of his time in bed.  All of it!  So, this is going to be a rough weekend for him I'm sure of it.  That's what scares me the most.  I think I'm going to call the temple and submit our names to the prayer rolls.  Is that crazy to put your own names in?  I just think with what is happening and a few other things I can't go into at this time, we just need the added help and support.  I've got to remember to call in the morning before we go.

Do you remember me talking about my post and how I clean my house a few months back?  Now, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that after about two months I fell off the wagon.  My laziness desire to NOT clean proved to be infinitely stronger than my satisfaction at having a clean-ish house.  {No, I'm not perfect...clean-ish is what I strive for here...do not judge}  And I have secretly hung my head in shame for the past month or two.  

Okay, if I'm being totally honest....not really.  Most of the time I didn't even think about it.  

But...I still believe in the system I shared.  This plan really worked for me when I was working it.  Recently I decided to revisit {and slightly revise} my housekeeping plan for the new year.  I got so tired of always "putting out fires" around the house -- quickly making my house appear to be clean from a distance -- and never getting on top of things and actually having a clean house.  I was fed up with having my master bedroom be the dumping ground for all the crap that we frantically moved out of the main living area as people walked up to our front door.

It was time to get serious.  And redesign my housekeeping chart.  Here it is in a nutshell....

DAILY
1) empty dishwasher
2) take out the trash
3) wipe down stove and counter
4) put away clutter
5) wipe bathroom sinks and mirrors
6) make beds
7) sweep (as needed)
8) laundry

KITCHEN & DINING ROOM
1) sweep and mop
2) clean oven and microwave
3) wipe down walls, doors, etc.
4) wipe down cabinet doors
5) organize cabinets
6) dust ledges
7) dust blinds
8) clear cobwebs
9) wash windows
10) clean baseboards
11) clean oven

LIVING ROOM/FAMILY ROOM
1) vacuum
2) dust
3) organize desk
4) clean out newspapers and magazine baskets
5) vacuum out furniture
6) clean ceiling fan
7) dust ceiling fan and shutters
8) vacuum curtains
9) clean baseboards
10) wipe down walls, doors, etc.
11) remove cobwebs
12) dust ledge
13) wash windows

MASTER BEDROOM & BATH 
1) vacuum
2) hang up clothes
3) change sheets and towels
4) dust furniture and moulding
5) clean toilet, shower, tub, and vanity
6) organize vanity
7) wipe down walls, doors, etc.
8) clean baseboards
9) dust ceiling fan
10) vacuum curtains

GROCERY SHOPPING
1) clean out and organize fridge
2) clean out and organize pantry

KIDS BATH/HALL BATH
gather laundry
remove junk
clean toilet, vanity, and tub
clean floor
wash rugs and towels
clean baseboards
wipe down walls, doors, etc.
organize medicine cabinet and drawers and cabinet below sink

The plan is basically the same as before -- spend 30 minutes {more or less} doing daily tasks and 30 minutes {more or less} working on the room of the day.  I tried to prioritize the tasks within each room from most urgent to least.  {Or needing to be done most often to least.}  Each day I survey the room I'm working in and decide what needs to be done that week and then I do as many of those things as possible in 30 minutes.  I usually do the first two or three jobs every week and add one or two of the less urgent jobs. 

Grocery shopping gets its own day because that obviously takes longer than 30 minutes. I clean out the fridge and pantry {throwing away old leftovers and empty packaging that my kids have left on the shelves and putting stray items back where they belong} as I put the groceries away.  

I may not make it through the entire list in a month.  Believe me, I'm not washing my windows 12 times a year.  And when I say "clean baseboards" I mean "put the little attachment on my vacuum hose and suck the dust off of them when I have the vacuum out to do the carpet anyway".  Yes, I am doing that in every room at least once a month.  We have white baseboards and a black dog who sheds. . . and we live in the desert . . . so they get really dusty and hairy.  Everything is always dusty here.

As I go along I may refine my lists further.  For instance, I've already decided I need to add "wash slipcovers" to the Living Room list.  I forgot that when I typed it all up.  I'm sure there will be other revisions as I go on. 

I can't tell you how great it has been feeling like I have my housekeeping under control rather than having a messy house controlling me.  One of the keys for me to be successful with this plan has been my daily prayer and scripture study.  I know housekeeping and daily devotions seem completely unrelated, but I feel really strongly that when my spiritual life is in order all the other aspects of life begin to fall into place, too.  However you worship, meditate, or find inner peace, I highly recommend making that a part of your housekeeping routine.  Hey, maybe I should add that to my daily task list when I make my edits!

Happy Housekeeping, friends!  I made the most delicious brownies the other day that were super thick.  I basically put 4 boxes of the store bought brownie mixes in a rectangular cake pan and baked them that way.  They turned out super thick but oh so yummy!   I hope you'll come back!

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Spirit of Christmas and a Christmas Activity

I'm getting nervous about our visit from our attorney's (Legal Team, WOW!  That's a little weird to say.)  I just hope everything for Kevin goes okay and he is able to endure all the time up and about.  I think that makes me the most nervous.  I know this to shall pass, eventually.  

Saturday I had an orthodontist appointment.  When the dentist came over to check on me he asked me if I was ready for Christmas.  I told him I wasn't.  Then I asked him if he was ready.  He said no.  He said he didn't like all the rush, rush, rush around Christmas time.  His comment got me thinking.  What is it about the spirit of Christmas that makes it so hard to hold on to?  Every year, we hear talks in church about remembering the reason for the season.  We see TV shows about recaptivating the spirit of the holiday.  Movies depict the lives of people caught up in the tragedy of Christmas forgotten.  We have almost convinced ourselves that it's impossible not to forget...but we still do.   

For me, Christmas is irony.  I don't particularly like Christmas and at the same time, I love it.  I love Christ and I welcome the chance to worship Him and celebrate His coming to the earth, but, I don't like that the world has hijacked the Holy Day.  I love the peace it brings, but not the pressure of buying gifts, decking the halls and hosting holiday hoopla's.  I love the magic of children's anxious faces, not the anxiety of shortened fuses.  We say Christmas, but, spend more time on Pinterest than pondering the life of Him of whom it is named.  

Perhaps others have found themselves experiencing Christmas without celebrating Christ.  The reminders we hear to remember the real meaning of Christmas seem like an obvious message.  We instantly recognize the truth of it.  We say to ourselves, "Oh, yeah, that's right.  This year, I'm not going to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays."  And then, a day or two later, we find ourselves frustrated with holiday traffic or crowds in the stores.  While Christmas does bring out the very best in people, it sometimes seems that people are less patient, less forgiving and less kind than usual.  The bug that can get under our skin during the holiday season can seem like the holiday itself.  It should not surprise us that the enemy of all that is good would want us to forget the Christ in Christmas.  He wants bah-humbugging to replace the Savior.  We could lose hope. 

Or we can see this season as an opportunity.  The humble followers of Christ have a chance this season to demonstrate not only what Christmas means to us, but how living Christmas as Christians changes us.  It gives us a chance to testify in word and in deed of the One who loosed the bands of death, the One who broke the chains of hell, the One who's coming was prophesied from the beginning.  The coming of Christ was anticipated from the time the earth first spun around and was illuminated by the sun's rays.  It is now our opportunity to turn to Christ to be illuminated by His light, to be healed by His hand, to be saved by His grace.  And if we do, there won't be a thing left to bah-humbug about at all.  

I pray that as we celebrate Christmas, we not only remember the meaning of our celebrations, but that we find ways to leave behind the Christmas of the world and instead embrace the Christmas of Christ. 

Image result for amazing snow photos with light shining


With Christmas and the real reason for the season, here is an activity that will help you and yours find a little bit more of the Christ in Christmas.

Here's a fun #LighttheWorld Activity....

It's Marvelous!  Kind of a service scavenger hunt.

First, you divide up in cars.  And open the envelope given to each group.  (In each envelope the group will find, the letter of instructions, tape, sticky note pad, pen, popcorn, money, 

This is what the page inside says:

 #LighttheWorld 2017

You have 45 minutes to complete these tasks.  It is not a race, but try to do as many as you can while making sure your acts are meaningful!  Use the hash tag #lighttheworld on any notes you write or leave!  Have fun!!  
·       Return 5 shopping carts

·       Tape this popcorn and a sticky note on a Redbox machine (If there is already one there you cannot leave a second one)

·       Buy a candy bar and when going through the checkout ask the cashier and/or bagger their favorite candy and buy them one and give it to them after you purchase it.  Take the second candy bar to a pharmacist or bank or drive up window and shoot it up the tower or give it to a random stranger.

·       Hold the door open for 10 people and give them a warm, holiday greeting.

·       Have each member of your group write a thank you note to someone (a grandparent, coach, teacher, leader, parent, friend, neighbor, Bishop, etc.)

·       Take your $5.00 and buy a treat or item to go into (the person of your choice) Stocking

·       Take $2.OO and buy as many candy canes as you can, candy cane bomb a parking lot (attach to windshields)

·       Put $1.00 in a salvation army bucket

·       Wash 3 windows at a gas station while people are pumping their gas (ask for permission first)

***************************************

When you get back to the house, church, or place you start from, each group can share pictures from your cell phones and funny stories that happen along the way.  

(Note:  we put 5 $1 bills in each teams envelope and each team had to have $5 to contribute (for someones gift.)  Those bills are what you'll used for all the activities.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Late for Church -- The HORROR!

Now, understand as I say this that I usually leave our house by 8:45AM for the 9:00AM Sacrament Meeting.  And it takes me all of two minutes to drive to the church.  (Shut up.  Promptness is just my "thing".)  So, you'll understandably take it with a grain of salt when I tell you that I wasn't ready to leave until 9:05 this lovely morning, which put an inordinate amount of stress on me.  BUT I COULDN'T HELP IT!  I don't know what it is about the winter time.  I can force myself to get out of bed during the week when I have to work, but then on the weekends I sleep A LOT!  And I don't mean like just one hour.  I mean hours extra!  No joke.  Yesterday I woke up at 9:00 (which is 4 hours later than I normally wake up), granted I went to bed later than normal too, went to my Orthodontist appointment and then came home and went back to bed.  I didn't wake up until 2:30.  What the heck??!!  I don't know if it's the added work during the winter months that I do, the traffic, or that there is finally a chill in the air making it much easier to sleep or what?!  But, I'm totally taking full advantage of this right now without even trying.  Sundays are the same as Saturdays lately and I either sleep right through church or wake up with about 1/2 hour to get ready and then fall back to sleep because there's no way I can get ready in that amount of time.  Needless to say, I missed church today and I'm not happy about that.  I always plan to go and have the best intentions when I go to bed at night then something happens every time.  I knew I was going to be in trouble this morning when my boys kept me up until 1AM last night, but I couldn't do anything about that.  I'm sure I could have made it late to the meeting and even would have been able to sit in the pews in the chapel, not the overflow.  Our ward keeps shrinking and it looks pretty sparse on Sunday mornings so the coveted pew seats (not the overflow hard chairs) are easy to get.  The one good thing is that the start time for church changes in January and that should give me the extra time I need when the new year starts.  See, there's the silver lining.  

Enough about that.  Let's talk Christmas.  

Tradition:  A blogger friend has a favorite Christmas tradition that we actually tried last year.  Here is what you do....
"Each December we have twelve candles on the dinner table.  I used to use a wooden candle holder, which I'd made, but it got tired and had to go.  Now I use 12 star-shaped individual candle holders (from Pier One) that I place on a round tray in a circle (I use a large silver pizza pan).  Beginning on the 13th of December, we light one candle at dinner time.  Each night after that, we light the original candle and one more and keep adding another candle each night until Christmas Eve, when we have our formal dinner, and all twelve candles are lit.  (was that clear as mud?  So, on the third night, three candles are lit, the seventh night, seven candles are lit, and so on.)  The candles stay lit during dinner time.  It's not very bright to eat by on the first few nights, but as the twelve days progress, it gets brighter and brighter.  During dinner, as we light the candles, we discuss Christmas, the life of Christ, His teachings, why we have this special season, what Christmas means to us and we really try to focus for at least a few moments on what Christmas is really all about.  Then on Christmas Eve, with all twelve candles lit, it is actually warm and glowing.  We discuss how His life brightens outs.  It's been an important part of our Christmas for almost three decades now and I hope that one day, my own children will carry on the tradition."  If you'd like to try it, pick up twelve candles and holders, and a silver platter, pizza pan, or something to fit your decor today.  It's a tradition worth remembering and it brings the Spirit of Christmas into your home each night.  



I absolutely LOVED this idea, so we gave it a try last year.  To be honest, it didn't last very long.  We only lit candles a couple nights in a row, but one thing I did notice was that on the nights that we did light a candle and we did discuss Christmas, Christ, and the reason for the season the Spirit was so strong in our home.  It changed the mood and the way we treated one another immediately!  So, for that reason, we will try this again this year.  After all, I think we need to take those moments to remember the Savior a little more in our daily lives and this will kick start us for sure. LOVE IT!! 
Image result for charlie brown nativity

Friday, December 8, 2017

Deck the Halls

I wanted to share how I freshened up our guest bathroom today, but I haven't quite got that all done yet so it's going to have to wait until sometime this weekend.  After all, I can't do everything all at once, can I?  More to come on that....(I have some cute things I can't wait to share.  

Since right after Thanksgiving I've been doing double duty making stars while doing my normal job at work, which has been a little challenging to type and take or make calls with glue all over my fingers but we did it.  We've had crazy volumes of all kinds of work lately.  I decided we needed these 3D stars spread throughout our team area to kind of brighten up the place for the holidays and we had plans for the stars too.  I ended up making 53 of those stars and now they are all hanging throughout our team area and we also included our Senior Vice President's secretary too.  Needless to say, the credenza and my desk (desk not in the photos) were covered with stars.  Each star has two pieces and we added a string and glued both sides together.  Here are some of the stacks piled up at my desk.  My desk is a mess in these photos with my purse and sweater pushed to the side instead of locked away in my drawer.  I didn't even take the time to put my things away.  I just came in and went to work I guess.  The "star police" (that was our SVP's nickname) wouldn't let us hang the stars from the ceiling over our team area so we hung them outside our offices on the side walls instead.  The bottom photos are the stars throughout our team area.  I tried to get a photo of our entire team area so you could see all (well most, at least) the stars, but there was no way to get it all in one photo.  Here is what I did get though....










This is the Youtube video I watched for instructions....


Once you make your first star they're pretty easy to make from there on.  We just did all the folding assembly line style.  I had a co-worker help me fold and with the cutting.  Then I glued all the strings in and all the pieces together, it didn't take long to get them all done. AND the best part, we spent less than $10 on supplies to decorate our entire team area, and then some, and everyone LOVES the stars and we've had several people (included our SVP, other VP's, and other teams) stop by to tell us how much they like them.  We even made one for a co-worker on another team because they requested one.  I had one person request that I make her a some and she would pay me to do that.  I told her just to get me the supplies and I would make them for free.  They are paper stars for crying out loud.  Why on earth would I charge someone to make a few for them?  That just seems silly to me.

Kyle hung our Christmas lights on the house the other afternoon.  We still need something to put up on the pitch of our roof.  The year before last, we made an ASU pitchfork and hung that.  I'm not sure what we are going to do this year.  A neighbor down the street has this really cool "Merry Christmas" sign that is perfect for the pitch of their roof (just like ours) above their garage.  I wish I knew where they got that.  I went on-line shopping for a bit and found one, but I'm not ready to spend $55 for one just yet.  We have something else up our sleeves.  It's nothing as ingenious as the pitchfork we made out of cardboard (that's right, we made it out of cardboard, added lights, and painted it gold!).  Anyway, I picked up several snowflakes a few years back that we have just never used.  I've decided to make one big snowflake out of them and hang that in the arch of our roof.  I've got some E6000 and I've glued them all together.  (It's drying now) Once it's all together we'll see how well it all holds together and then tomorrow I'll have Kyle climb back up on the roof and hang this up.  All of our outdoor lights this year are white.  Well, most of them at least.  Here is the snowflake wreath thing I put together.  I ended up at the store buying silver spray paint at 10PM last night which is never good on a day you had to wake up at 4:00am to start the day nice and early.  Anyway, with a combination of silver and the bright blue spray paint that I have here at the house. I ended up spraying the snowflakes a few times.  The color we ended up with is this pretty frosty blue color.  It's pretty, but you can't really see the color except for during the day.  Maybe if we spray painted the snowflake a darker color you'd see the color??  Who knows. This is the snowflake at night, all lit up. 



I was going to change out the little light in our porch light to white again but I'm thinking we are going to stick with the blue.  The porch gets bright enough with the white Christmas lights on the rest of the house and I like it just the way it is.  

 Our Christmas tree has white lights on it too.  I'm not sure I am okay with that yet, especially when we open up the shutters and you can see it from the front window.  It seems like too many white lights to me.  I've also got lights I could put around all of our windows, but I'm still trying to decide if I should do the windows or not.  Decisions.

I did manage to bring out my old wreath from a while ago.  It's pretty cool, if I do say so myself...

A long time ago I bought a strand of these lights from Ikea.



Here are a couple of photos that show you what they look like all lit up.  They're pretty cool, aren't they?





Well, I strung them through a Christmas wreath I picked up many years ago.  You could say I repurposed my old Christmas wreath and this is what it looks like today....



I think it's pretty cool and no one else on the block or entire neighborhood has anything like this and that's the best part!  I like that my flower wreath doesn't look like everyone Else's or fit some kind of stereotypical decorating mold that every Tom, Dick, and Harry deem to be "in-style" right now.  Don't get me wrong, I like trendy, but with a personal twist.  


In other news, we are counting down the days until our attorney's come in from Maryland.  I received an email today from one of them giving me their schedule so we know where and when to meet with them.  They said they planned to meet with us for several hours.  Yikes.  Hours!!!????!!!!  Really???  We had no idea it would be that long?  Wow!  I'm still trying to wrap my head around it all.  I wasn't nervous before, but I sure am now.  I think I'm going to need my Mommy to come along and hold my hand on this one.  LOL!  

As it turns out my team at work planned an outing next week to go to one of those Escape Rooms.  How cool is that?!!  I so wanted to go, but with the attorney's coming into to town I'll have to miss it.  Bummer!  I've never been to one yet, but everyone else on my team has.  So, while I'm out of the office my team will be off having fun without me.  I'm sad I'll miss that, but I've gotta do what I've gotta do.  Oh well.  The reason we (they) are going???  One of our co-workers celebrated her 20th year with the company and the company gives her so much money to spend to celebrate, and the way she choose to celebrate was to go on a team outing.  She's getting ready to leave our team and move to another team and she said she just wanted to give us something that would give us some time to have some fun together and get away from the phones.  For that, we are all very grateful for, even if I can't go.  

I received some awesome news today at work, along with some wonderful feedback from two very large firms that we deal with on a daily basis.  High visible and highly respected too.  They had nothing but good things to say about me and that made my day.  Both firms were temporarily assigned to me while a couple of people have been out of our office for one reason or another.  I cannot tell you how much their kind works and encouragement mean to me.  Talk about an amazing Friday!  It was so great.

Tomorrow I have another dentist appointment...or should I say Orthodontist appointment.  Time to get my braces tightened again.  Speaking of dentists.  Over the past couple of months I've received countless emails, calls, and text messages from our regular dentist pretty much begging me, and the rest of the family to come in for one last cleaning before the end of the year.  The girl leaving the messages keeps saying you have benefits that you are entitled to that will not roll over to the next calendar year.  Bottom line, there are monies their office can get and they are wanting to get their hands on that money but they can't get it if we don't come in.  I get at least 4 calls, 4 text messages, and 4 emails every single week begging us to call the schedule an appointment.  My problem with this???  I do not appreciate being hounded to do anything.  Especially after I've already told you to stop calling, texting, and emailing and you refuse to honor my request.  Second, I can't get to their office before a certain time and that is when they close.  ANYWAY, now that they have become a pain in my side, so-to-speak, I'm seriously looking for a new dentist that has extended hours, does not bother you constantly, and is gentle.  I'll let you know how that goes.

Well, I'm off to get a few things done around this house.  I need to get going.  Take care and we will talk again soon.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Mary

I was looking through an old Christmas album I had put together when the kids were small and found a poem tucked in there that I thought I'd share.  It's simple but shows a mother's heart.


Mary,
When Jesus was a boy did he
Swing on the gates of Galilee,
Bring home foundling pups and kittens,
scuff his sandals, lose his mittens, 
Weight his pockets with a treasure
Adult eyes can never measure.
Scratch his hands and stub his toes
On rocky hills where cactus grows.
Set stones and quills and bits of thread
On the windowsill beside his bed
So that on waking he could see
All yesterday's bright prophecy?
Did he play tag with the boys next door,
Tease for sweets in the grocery store,
Whittle and smooth a spinning top
In his father's carpenter shop.
Run like wind to sail his kite,
Smile and sigh in his sleep at night.
Laugh with you in long-lost springs
About a thousand small, endearing things.
Is he the one who said that you
Should always dye your dresses blue?
With eyes bright as cinnamon silk,
red lips ringed with a mist of milk.
Did he...lifting his earthen cup
Say: "Just wait until I grow up?"

    Mary O'Neill

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Monday, December 4, 2017

Holy Christmas Spirit, Batman!!

I've been feeling uncharacteristically "jolly" all weekend.  Not that I'm ordinarily a Grinch this time of year, it's just that I don't ooze holiday merriment like some folks do.  (I'm picturing that scene from The Santa Clause 2 where "what's her name" from SNL sings a stirring rendition of "Man, It Feels Like Christmas" on her blind date with that one guy.  If you've seen it you know what I'm talking about.)  Maybe it has something to do with the cool temperatures lately.  That's a real treat around these parts.  Perhaps it was due to spending the better part of my Saturday getting a few things done around the house, working on a few projects, and resting a lot.  OK, let's be honest....We spent the longer part of my Saturday resting. (I'm telling you, I've never slept so much on one day, without being sick, in a very long time.)  We wanted to spend the better part of our Saturday wandering around the Mesa Mormon Temple grounds sipping cups of Hot Chocolate while oohing and aahing over the lights and the various groups performing their rendition of all the Christmas music.  I love that.  It may be due to the fact that, after 30 years, my dear husband and I have finally hammered out the "Official K & S Schmidt Christmas Tradition Treaty of 2017".  See, we both come from fantastic families with rich histories of seasonal celebrations.  Neither of us really wanted to relinquish the opportunity to share our fond childhood memories with our progeny.  Not that we fought about it.  Ever.  We have just kind of walked on eggshells this time of year, neither of us wanted to offend the other by taking control, really doing nothing consistently enough for our children to get those butterflies of anticipation in their stomach about doing this or that just like the year before.  Henceforth there will be complete unity in the revelry at our home.  I gave up my fancy dinner with all the trimmings on Christmas Day to make room for a Schmidt family Christmas morning breakfast of all breakfasts!!  (I kid you not.  My FIL use to start grilling steaks first thing in the morning on Christmas for all of us.  We had steak and eggs and every other breakfast food.) BUT, I refused to first, serve juice mixed with Sprite (I'm kidding about the juice and Sprite. Cran-Apple juice with Sprite and crushed ice is my ALL TIME favorite drink!!  I love it!!) or give up our Zimmerman Christmas Eve festivities with finger foods/cold cuts, crackers and cheese and homemade cinnamon rolls for later in the afternoon on Christmas day.  I will have juice on hand, and I promise to turn a blind eye to whatever happens with the left over ginger ale we used for Shirley Temples.  I'm thinking we will make Linzer Schnitten and Swedish Creme Wafers (oh, how I love those cookies even though I don't make them quite right....yet.) but I refuse to even try to make divinity like Kevin's Mom makes every year.  Not that I wouldn't make it if my husband asked, but he's the only one in the family that eats it and he really doesn't eat that much of it.  A piece or two and he's good for another year.  I want to make cinnamon rolls in the shape of a wreath, but I refuse to make them for everyone we know because my SIL, KeriAnne does that and I think she makes them quite well and we don't want to duplicate efforts.  Kevin always makes or has to have little Smokey's warmed and in BBQ sauce, but I HAVE to have a my favorite pie the next day.  That was a deal breaker for me.  We even made up a few of our own on the fly.  Like our star idea that all my kids turned their noses up at.  I bet they'd like my advent calendar idea filled with fun family activities and a few surprises  (like,....$20 bills and the opportunity to open a gift early)  instead of candy.  That one would go over quite well I'm sure!  BUT, I like the other one better....you know...."turning outward instead of inward".  


My "jolliness" could be any number of those things or a combination of all of them.  Probably it's the fact that in a few short weeks the kids will all be home, we'll all have a day or two off of work and then we can enter full-on "vacay at home" mode.  {sigh!!}  

BUT....

I really think it has to do with some of the ideas I've come up with to spruce up a few areas in my home, our "new to us" fridge", some developments on the work front that have explained a few things and helped with a few of the puzzle pieces, and the fact that I've decided to emphasize the positive and stay far away from the negative.  It's just easier that way.  The other day a Facebook friend shared this little quote and I love it.  I'm sure you've heard it before...

We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.  

I think that needs to be our 2018 family theme.  It's perfect!!  

Life is good.  
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Sunday, December 3, 2017

FINALLY Feelin' It!!

{sigh!}  I'm back, people!!  Didn't know I was missing, you say??!!  Hmmmmph.  I really wasn't missing.  It's more like I was missing SOMETHING, but now it FINALLY feels like Christmas to me.  


I don't know what the deal has been this year.  Maybe it's because the weather was too warm (at least in these parts of the country) or maybe I've just been in a funk.  Who knows?!  It really doesn't matter because yesterday evening was GLORIOUS!!  

The weather was cold{ish}.  This weekend I finally got a few very small things for stockings and I've figured out a few other things.  Yesterday evening was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Christmas Devotional and it was awesome!!  I needed to hear the words spoken.  Then after the devotional my younger son, Curtis, shared a talk by Elder David A. Bednar that he said, "I really needed to listen to..." and he pointed me to the YouTube link.  This weekend and all week I haven't been feeling well.  It's a sinus infection and I'm trying to just get past it.  Frankly, I'm exhausted.  I slept more than I ever have in my life this past two weekends.  I'm not complaining.  Just stating facts.  It's been a little crazy, but I am so grateful that I've been able to keep whatever this is away enough to be able to get a few things done, even if it isn't everything I wanted to accomplish.  {I'm learning to focus on the things I HAVE done and not the things I haven't been able to do.}  It's been a long week.  {deeper sigh!}  Anyway, I was excited to be able to take the time to watch and listen to the Christmas devotional and to also that Curtis shared the talk by Elder Bednar.  I ended up shedding a few tears as I listened to the stories Elder Bednar shared, but they were good tears.  I needed this little "bucket filling" experience so very much today.  It's always interesting to me and I am humbled every single time as I realize how answers to prayers come through others.  I love it!  Today I received so much in the way of answers through the talks given at the devotional and through the talk Curtis shared.  My cup is full! What a blessing.  Now that's what Christmas is supposed to feel like!  Boo yah!! 

{PS:  Just in case you wanted to watch/listen to the talk given by Elder Bednar, here is the YouTube version and the written copy below too, so you can follow along.  Enjoy!  I know I sure did.}




"THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST"
Brigham Young University-Idaho Religion Symposium
January 25, 2003
Elder David A. Bednar
Good morning, brothers and sisters. I am delighted to be here with you. I pray for and invite the Holy Ghost to be with me and with you as together we discuss an important aspect of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Last September I participated in an area training meeting in Twin Falls, Idaho. Elder Neal A. Maxwell presided at the training session, and on a Friday night and a Saturday morning he, the Idaho Area Presidency, and other general church officers instructed a group of approximately one hundred stake presidents. It was a meaningful and memorable time of spiritual enrichment, learning, and edification.
During the course of his teaching and testifying, Elder Maxwell made a statement that impressed me deeply and has been the recent focus for much of my studying, reflecting, and pondering. He said, "There would have been no Atonement except for the character of Christ." Since hearing this straightforward and penetrating statement, I have tried to learn more about and better understand the word "character." I have also pondered the relationship between Christ's character and the Atonement--and the implications of that relationship for each of us as disciples. This morning I hope to share with you just a few of the learnings that have come to my mind and heart as I have attempted to more fully appreciate this teaching by Elder Maxwell.

What is Character?
After returning home from the area training meeting in Twin Falls, the first question I attempted to answer was "What is character?" The Oxford English Dictionary indicates that many of the uses of the word character relate to graphic symbols, printing, engraving, and writing. The usages I found most relevant, however, relate to ". . . the sum of the moral and mental qualities which distinguish an individual or a race; mental or moral constitution; moral qualities strongly developed or strikingly displayed" (Oxford English Dictionary Online, University Press 2003, Second Edition, 1989). Interestingly, when we look up the word "character" in the topical guide of our scriptures, we discover that it is cross-referenced to the topics of honesty, honor, and integrity.
Brigham Young emphasized the significance of the Savior's character as he taught and testified about the truthfulness of the Holy Bible:
. . . the Bible is true. It may not all have been translated aright, and many precious things may have been rejected in the compilation and translation of the Bible; but we understand, from the writings of one of the Apostles, that if all the sayings and doings of the Savior had been written, the world could not contain them. I will say that the world could not understand them. They do not understand what we have on record, nor the character of the Savior, as delineated in the Scriptures; and yet it is one of the simplest things in the world, and the Bible, when it is understood, is one of the simplest books in the world, for, as far as it is translated correctly, it is nothing but truth, and in truth there is no mystery save to the ignorant. The revelations of the Lord to his creatures are adapted to the lowest capacity, and they bring life and salvation to all who are willing to receive them. (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 124, emphasis added)
Brigham Young further taught that faith must be focused upon Jesus' character, in His Atonement, and in the Father's plan of salvation:
. . . I will take the liberty of saying to every man and woman who wishes to obtain salvation through him (the Savior) that looking to him, only, is not enough: they must have faith in his name, character and atonement; and they must have faith in his father and in the plan of salvation devised and wrought out by the Father and the Son. What will this faith lead to? It will lead to obedience to the requirements of the Gospel; and the few words that I may deliver to my brethren and sisters and friends this afternoon will be with the direct view of leading them to God. (Journal of Discourses, Vol.13, p. 56, Brigham Young, July 18, 1869, emphasis added)
The Character of the Lord Jesus Christ
In a message entitled "O How Great the Plan of Our God" delivered to CES religious educators in February of 1995 (p. 5), Elder Maxwell specifically linked Christ's character to the infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice:
Jesus' character necessarily underwrote His remarkable atonement. Without Jesus' sublime character there could have been no sublime atonement! His character is such that He "[suffered] temptations of every kind" (Alma 7:11), yet He gave temptations "no heed" (Doctrine and Covenants 20:22).
Someone has said only those who resist temptation really understand the power of temptation. Because Jesus resisted it perfectly, He understood temptation perfectly, hence He can help us. The fact that He was dismissive of temptation and gave it "no heed," reveals His marvelous character, which we are to emulate (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:22; 3 Nephi 12:48; 27:27).
Perhaps the greatest indicator of character is the capacity to recognize and appropriately respond to other people who are experiencing the very challenge or adversity that is most immediately and forcefully pressing upon us. Character is revealed, for example, in the power to discern the suffering of other people when we ourselves are suffering; in the ability to detect the hunger of others when we are hungry; and in the power to reach out and extend compassion for the spiritual agony of others when we are in the midst of our own spiritual distress. Thus, character is demonstrated by looking and reaching outward when the natural and instinctive response is to be self-absorbed and turn inward. If such a capacity is indeed the ultimate criterion of moral character, then the Savior of the world is the perfect example of such a consistent and charitable character.

Examples of Christ's Character in the New Testament
The New Testament is replete with "strikingly displayed" examples of the Savior's character. We are all well aware that following His baptism by John the Baptist and as a preparation for His public ministry, the Savior fasted for forty days. He also was tempted by the adversary to inappropriately use His supernal power to satisfy physical desires by commanding that stones be made bread, to gain recognition by casting Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, and to obtain wealth and power and prestige in exchange for falling down and worshiping the tempter (see Matthew 4:1-9). It is interesting to note that the overarching and fundamental challenge to the Savior in each of these three temptations is contained in the taunting statement, "If thou be the Son of God." Satan's strategy, in essence, was to dare the Son of God to improperly demonstrate His God-given powers, to sacrifice meekness and modesty, and, thereby, betray who He was. Thus, Satan attempted repeatedly to attack Jesus' understanding of who He was and of His relationship with His Father. Jesus was victorious in meeting and overcoming the strategy of Satan.

I suspect the Savior may have been at least partially spent physically after forty days of fasting--and somewhat spiritually drained after His encounter with the adversary. With this background information in mind, please turn with me now to Matthew 4, and together we will read verse 11: "Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him."
This verse in the King James version of the New Testament clearly indicates that angels came and ministered to the Savior after the devil had departed. And, undoubtedly, Jesus would have benefitted from and been blessed by such a heavenly ministration in a time of physical and spiritual need.
However, the Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew 4:11 provides a remarkable insight into the character of Christ. Please note the important differences in verse 11 between the King James version and the Joseph Smith Translation: "Then the devil leaveth him, and, now Jesus knew that John was cast into prison, and he sent angels, and, behold, they came and ministered unto him (John)."
Interestingly, the additions found in the JST completely change our understanding of this event. Angels did not come and minister to the Savior; rather, the Savior, in His own state of spiritual, mental, and physical distress, sent angels to minister to John. Brothers and sisters, it is important for us to recognize that Jesus in the midst of His own challenge recognized and appropriately responded to John--who was experiencing a similar but lesser challenge than that of the Savior's. Thus, the character of Christ is manifested as He reached outward and ministered to one who was suffering--even as He himself was experiencing anguish and torment.
In the upper room on the night of the last supper, the very night during which He would experience the greatest suffering that ever took place in all of the worlds created by Him, Christ spoke about the Comforter and peace:
These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:25-27)
Once again the fundamental character of Christ is revealed magnificently in this tender incident. Recognizing that He himself was about to intensely and personally experience the absence of both comfort and peace, and in a moment when His heart was perhaps troubled and afraid, the Master reached outward and offered to others the very blessings that could and would have strengthened Him.
In the great intercessory prayer, offered immediately before Jesus went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron to the Garden of Gethsemane, the Master prayed for His disciples and for all:
. . . which shall believe on me through their word;
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me . . .
. . . that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:20, 21, 23, 26)
I find myself repeatedly asking the following questions as I ponder this and other events that took place so close to the Savior's suffering in the garden and His betrayal: How could He pray for the well-being and unity of others immediately before His own anguish? What enabled Him to seek comfort and peace for those whose need was so much less than His? As the fallen nature of the world He created pressed in upon Him, how could He focus so totally and so exclusively upon the conditions and concerns of others? How was the Master able to reach outward when a lesser being would have turned inward? The statement I quoted earlier from Elder Maxwell provides the answer to each of these powerful questions:
Jesus' character necessarily underwrote His remarkable atonement. Without Jesus' sublime character there could have been no sublime atonement! His character is such that He "[suffered] temptations of every kind" (Alma 7:11), yet He gave temptations "no heed" (Doctrine and Covenants 20:22). ("O How Great the Plan of Our God," message delivered to CES religious educators in February of 1995, p. 5)
Jesus, who suffered the most, has the most compassion for all of us who suffer so much less. Indeed, the depth of suffering and compassion is intimately linked to the depth of love felt by the ministering one. Consider the scene as Jesus emerged from His awful suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. Having just sweat great drops of blood from every pore as part of the infinite and eternal Atonement, the Redeemer encountered a multitude:
And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew unto Jesus to kiss him.
But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?
When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword?
And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. (Luke 22:47-50)
Given the magnitude and intensity of Jesus' agony, it perhaps would have been understandable if He had not noticed and attended to the guard's severed ear. But the Savior's character activated a compassion that was perfect. Note His response to the guard as described in verse 51: "And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him (Luke 22:51).
As individually impressive as is each of the preceding events, I believe it is the consistency of the Lord's character across multiple episodes that is ultimately the most instructive and inspiring. In addition to the incidents we have thus far reviewed, recall how the Savior, while suffering such agony on the cross, instructed the Apostle John about caring for Jesus' mother, Mary (John 19:26-27). Consider how, as the Lord was taken to Calvary and the awful agony of the crucifixion was commenced, He pleaded with the Father in behalf of the soldiers to ". . . forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Remember also that in the midst of excruciating spiritual and physical pain, the Savior offered hope and reassurance to one of the thieves on the cross, "To day shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). Throughout His mortal ministry, and especially during the events leading up to and including the atoning sacrifice, the Savior of the world turned outward--when the natural man or woman in any of us would have been self-centered and focused inward.

Developing a Christlike Character
We can in mortality seek to be blessed with and develop essential elements of a Christlike character. Indeed, it is possible for us as mortals to strive in righteousness to receive the spiritual gifts associated with the capacity to reach outward and appropriately respond to other people who are experiencing the very challenge or adversity that is most immediately and forcefully pressing upon us. We cannot obtain such a capacity through sheer willpower or personal determination. Rather, we are dependent upon and in need of "the merits, mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah" (2 Nephi 2:8). But "line upon line, precept upon precept" (2 Nephi 28:30) and "in [the] process of time" (Moses 7:21), we are enabled to reach outward when the natural tendency is for us to turn inward.
It is interesting to me that one of the central elements of the word character is created by the letters A, C, and T. As we already have seen in the examples of Christ's character from the New Testament, the nature and consistency of how one acts reveals in a powerful way his or her true character. In the case of Christ, he is described as one ". . . who went about doing good" (Acts 10:38). Let me now briefly share with you two memorable experiences from my service as a stake president that highlight the relationship between our actions and a Christlike character.
Early one summer morning I was showering. My wife called to me in the middle of my shower and indicated that I was needed immediately on the telephone. (This was before the day of cell and cordless phones). I quickly put on my robe and hurried to the phone. I next heard the voice of a dear sister and friend informing me of a tragic automobile accident that had just occurred in a remote area involving three teenage young women from our stake. Our friend indicated one of the young women had already been pronounced dead at the scene of the accident and that the two other young women were badly injured and presently were being transported to the regional medical center in Fayetteville. She further reported that the identity of the deceased young woman was not yet known. There was urgency in her voice, but there was no panic or excessive alarm. She then asked if I could go to the hospital, meet the ambulance when it arrived, and assist in identifying the young women. I answered that I would leave immediately.
During the course of our telephone conversation and as I listened to both the information being conveyed and the voice of our friend, I gradually became aware of two important things. First, this friend's daughter was one of the young women involved in the accident. Our friend lived approximately 35 miles from the hospital and therefore needed the assistance of someone who lived closer to the city. Second, I detected that the mother simultaneously was using two telephone handsets--with one in each hand pressed to each of her ears. I became aware that as she was talking with me, she was also talking with a nurse at a small rural hospital who had initially attended to the three accident victims. Our friend was receiving updated information about the condition of the young women in the very moment she was informing me about the accident and requesting my help. I then heard one of the most remarkable things I have ever heard in my life.
I faintly heard the nurse telling this faithful mother and friend that the young woman pronounced dead at the scene of the accident had been positively identified as her daughter. I could not believe what I was hearing. I was listening to this good woman in the very moment that she learned of the death of her precious daughter. Without hesitation, and with a calm and most deliberate voice, our friend next said, "President Bednar, we must get in contact with the two other mothers. We must let them know as much as we can about the condition of their daughters and that they will soon be in the hospital in Fayetteville." There was no self-pity; there was no self-absorption; there was no turning inward. The Christlike character of this devoted woman was manifested in her immediate and almost instinctive turning outward to attend to the needs of other suffering mothers. It was a moment and a lesson that I have never forgotten. In a moment of ultimate grief, this dear friend reached outward when I likely would have turned inward.
I then drove to the hospital with a concern in my heart for the well-being of the two other beautiful young women who had been involved in the accident. Little did I realize that the lessons I would learn about Christlike character--lessons taught by seemingly ordinary disciples--were just beginning.
I arrived at the hospital and proceeded to the emergency room. After properly establishing who I was and my relationship to the victims, I was invited into two different treatment areas to identify the injured young women. It was obvious that their respective wounds were serious and life threatening. And the lovely countenances and physical features of these young women had been badly marred. Within a relatively short period of time, the two remaining young women died. All three of these virtuous, lovely, and engaging young women--who seemed to have so much of life in front of them--suddenly had gone home to their Eternal Father. My attention and the attention of the respective families now shifted to funeral arrangements and logistics.
A day or so later, in the midst of program planning and detail arranging for the three funerals, I received a phone call from the Relief Society president of my home ward. Her daughter had been one of the victims in the accident, and she and I had talked several times about her desires for the funeral program. This faithful woman was a single mother rearing her only child--her teenage daughter. I was especially close to this woman and her daughter having served as both their bishop and stake president. After reviewing and finalizing several details for the funeral of her daughter, this good sister said to me, "President, I am sure it was difficult for you to see my daughter in the emergency room the other day. She was severely injured and disfigured. As you know, we will have a closed casket at the funeral. I have just returned from the funeral home, and they have helped my daughter to look so lovely again. I was just wondering . . . why don't we arrange a time when we can meet at the mortuary and you can have one last look at her before she is buried. Then your final memories of my daughter will not be the images you saw in the emergency room the other day." I listened and marveled at the compassion and thoughtfulness this sister had for me. Her only daughter had just been tragically killed, but she was concerned about the potentially troublesome memories I might have given my experience in the emergency room. In this good woman I detected no self-pity and no turning inward. Sorrow, certainly. Sadness, absolutely. Nevertheless, she reached outward when many or perhaps most of us would have turned inward with sorrow and grief.
Let me describe one final episode related to these three tragic deaths. On the day of her daughter's funeral, this Relief Society president from my home ward received a phone call from an irritated sister in our ward. The complaining sister had a cold and did not feel well, and she basically chewed out the Relief Society president for not being thoughtful or compassionate enough to arrange for meals to be delivered to her home. Just hours before the funeral of her only child, this remarkable Relief Society president prepared and delivered a meal to the murmuring sister.
We appropriately and rightly speak with reverence and awe of young men who sacrificed their lives to rescue stranded handcart pioneers and of other mighty men and women who repeatedly gave their all to establish the Church in the early days of the Restoration. I speak with equal reverence and awe of these two women--women of faith and character and conversion--who taught me so much and instinctively reached outward when most of us would have turned inward. Oh how I appreciate their quiet and powerful examples.
I noted earlier in my remarks that the letters A, C, and T form a central component in the word character. Also noteworthy is the similarity between the words character and charity--as both words contain the letters C, H, A, and R. Etymologically there is no relationship between these two words. Nevertheless, I believe there are several conceptual connections that are important for us to consider and ponder.
Let me suggest that you and I must be praying and yearning and striving and working to cultivate a Christlike character if we hope to receive the spiritual gift of charity--the pure love of Christ. Charity is not a trait or characteristic we acquire exclusively through our own purposive persistence and determination. Indeed we must honor our covenants and live worthily and do all that we can do to qualify for the gift; but ultimately the gift of charity possesses us--we do not posses it (see Moroni 7:47). The Lord determines if and when we receive all spiritual gifts, but we must do all in our power to desire and yearn and invite and qualify for such gifts. As we increasingly act in a manner congruent with the character of Christ, then perhaps we are indicating to heaven in a most powerful manner our desire for the supernal spiritual gift of charity. And clearly we are being blessed with this marvelous gift as we increasingly reach outward when the natural man or woman in us would typically turn inward.
I conclude now by returning to where I began--the statement by Elder Maxwell in that special training session last September: "There would have been no Atonement except for the character of Christ." It was the Prophet Joseph Smith who stated that "it is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345). The New Testament is a rich resource for learning about and increasing our appreciation for the character and life and example of the Savior. My prayer for each of us is that through our study of this sacred volume of scripture we will more fully come unto Him; more completely become like Him; and more fervently worship, reverence, and adore Him.
As a witness, I declare my witness. I know and testify and witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Only Begotten Son of the Eternal Father. I know that He lives. And I testify that His character made possible for us the opportunities for both immortality and eternal life. May we reach outward when the natural tendency for us is to turn inward, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
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