Gratitude – Grateful in Any Circumstance

Rob and I were asked to talk in church the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Here’s my talk (which isn’t necessarily applicable when dealing with deep anguish or mental illness, per President Uchtdorf). 

Gratitude – Grateful in Any Circumstance

“There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious. We can be grateful!” So said President Uchtdorf.

Our Blessing List

For some forgotten reason exactly 14 years ago, Rob and I sat down together in our little downtown apartment and counted our blessings. Our goal was to write down 100 of them. Naming  them one-by-one, that number came quickly and we realized we had many, many more blessings to document. So we kept going! We finally topped out the list at our 400th blessing (which was goat cheese, by the way).

While thinking about my talk this week, I remembered this list that we had made. I knew I kept it so I searched bins and boxes and finally found it stashed inside a book.

As I reviewed these 6 ½ pages, I came across blessings that range from the predictable (family, priesthood, music, peace, ice cream) to the more philosophical (such as sentiments, interaction, concentration, intonation) and even to the downright peculiar (bituminous materials, stripes, edges, texture, twist ties, the color green, and nail clippers, which we wrote down twice…so they must’ve been very important to us that day).

As amusing as it was to read over this list from our newlywed selves, our older and a bit more life-experienced selves feel that, perhaps, focusing on what we are grateful for isn’t the best approach, since doing so may cause us to develop a spirit of gratitude only in proportion to the number of blessings we can count. Preparing for this talk has taught me that having a spirit of gratitude should be our disposition or way of life. One that stands independent of the length of our “blessings list”.

Grateful for the Hard Things

President Uchtdorf suggests this grateful “way of life” is the way to greater happiness. He knows we can choose to be grateful no matter what we have or don’t have. Instead of being thankful for things, He believes we should focus on being thankful in our circumstances – even the hard ones.

Now, gratitude in the hard things does not translate to mean we ignore our problems or are joyful in them. Nor is it a quick fix for anguish and true sorrow. However, this type of gratitude does transcend whatever is happening around us. “It allows us, through the eyes of faith, to look beyond our present-day challenges. It surpasses disappointment, discouragement, and despair. This type of gratitude heals the heart and expands the mind.”

How can gratitude do all of this? The answer is in Christ. When we look to Him in Whom we trust, having faith that He can make beautiful things grow from our most difficult experiences, He will give us the enabling power we need to endure our trials in a more Christlike way.

Here are some examples. Through our harder life situations and setbacks, we can be grateful for: 

  • The way our own sorrow can help us comfort others

  • The personal growth that comes through deepening trials.

  • The ways we can see God’s hand in the details

  • Continual refining influences

  • New or redefined relationships

  • Reminders to slow down and take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually

President Uchtdorf teaches, “True gratitude is an expression of hope and testimony. It comes from acknowledging that we do not always understand the trials of life, but trusting that one day we will. When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace.”

3 Suggestions for Being Happier

If we are having difficulty being grateful during a particularly trying time, here are three suggestions.

  1. President Monson tells us that “We often take for granted the very people who most deserve our gratitude.” Take the time to thank those who have blessed your life: your family who love you no matter what, your friends who are always willing to listen and comfort, the teachers and leaders who serve and bless your children, your neighbors who did a good deed, and the strangers who unknowingly cheered up your day.

  1. Intentionally remember God and His goodness. To do this, President Uchtdorf suggests that instead of looking forward to a time when all our problems will be over, we look back. Ponder and try to bring to remembrance all the tender mercies and evidences of love God has shown you through your trials.

  1. Practice the command given in Doctrine and Covenants 123:17 “Let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for His arm to be revealed.”

Gratitude Unlocks the Doors of Heaven

When it comes to the blessings we can expect to receive by being grateful, they are significant in both number and value.

President Monson promises us that “Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love.”

President Uchtdorf said, “Gratitude to our Father in Heaven broadens our perception and clears our vision. It inspires humility and fosters empathy toward our fellowmen and all of God’s creation. Gratitude is the catalyst to all Christlike attributes!”

According to these inspired men, gratitude blesses us with:

  • A wider perception

  • A clearer vision

  • Humility

  • Empathy

  • Charity

  • Drawing us nearer to those we love

  • Strength in our trials

  • Hope in Christ

  • A greater feeling of God’s love

President Uchtdorf encourages us to “allow our souls to expand in thankfulness toward our merciful Heavenly Father. May we ever and constantly raise our voices and show by word and deed our gratitude to our Father in Heaven and to His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.”

I close with my testimony of Christ and gratitude to my Father in Heaven for the things I learn every day that help me be a better woman, wife, and mother. I’m thankful for the blessings that come from exercising faith, hope, and charity and I’m also thankful that my Heavenly Father loves me and forgives me even when I don’t practice those perfect Christlike attributes.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Kid Bathroom Redo with Herringbone Tile

Post Precursor: I’ve ALWAYS wanted herringbone floors, but now that I finally do, EVERYONE has them! Whatever…

After we did the master bathroom a year ago I got the itch to redo the kids’ bathroom. It was super dark and they didn’t take very good care of it. K, that’s a lie. They took terrible care of it. Half of my intent on redoing it now was to give them incentive to keep it cleaner. I’m happy to report that it’s working! Granted, it’s only been a few weeks, but I’m (foolishly) optimistic that this will be a long-term change for the better.

Rob convinced me to let him install a light above the shower (I was unnecessarily unsure of his electrical abilities). It’s always been really dark in their tub so Cara always insisted on bathing in ours because she was too scared of hers. Now her fear is gone and so are the piles of toys in our bathroom!

Back to the floors. Pretty, huh?! I can’t say enough about how great a job Rob did installing these beauties. Sometimes I love being married to a perfectionist.

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Okay, so let me explain the cat situation we’ve got going on here. Obviously, the last thing I wanted was a cat-themed bathroom. However, my kids insisted so I went to work and made it as presentable as possible. Trust me, this is quite toned down from their ideas! I do have to admit that it turned out pretty cute. They helped to choose this picture of their very own beloved.

For extra credit points, I surprised the kids with this super silly little decal. They were thrilled of course. Man, are we cool over here or what?

Is it weird that, other than the floor, my favorite things in here are the wooden hooks? Hence the two pictures of them. Natural minimalism at its finest.

For the hardware, we went with a curved shower rod, paw hooks, and curved cabinet pulls.

Whenever I redo a bathroom I insist on a new toilet flusher. You have to admit that it makes a huge difference in the look and feel of the entire room. Another insistent…a toilet paper roll holder that is open on one side. I hate the hassle of squeezing that annoying plastic springy thing which just asks for the toilet paper roll to inevitably get set on top of it instead, which then falls and unrolls all over the floor. What…this just happens at my house?  

I even like how the room looks with just the one light on at night.

My only BEFORE picture from when we moved in:

Thanks to Rob for both the hard labor and the encouraging words whenever I got stuck down the rabbit hole of decor decisions.

September Escapings

Provo River Falls

It’s somewhat of a tradition of ours to drive up to Provo River Falls on Labor Day each year. It’s beautiful and so much fun to play on all the different levels of water. I think this will be a tradition we’ll all always cherish.

Snow Canyon State Park

We got away for a weekend in September and drove to our namesake canyon for a little nature r&r. We love the quiet beauty of this area and are always happy to come partake of it.

During the morning and evening hours we:

  • Played in the dunes
  • Hiked a small slot canyon
  • Explored the lava fields and climbed down into a lava tube
  • Found an arch
  • Climbed to the top of the rocks

We escaped the heat of the day by:

One story…Rob and Nate brought their bikes but during a campsite move, Rob leaned his disconnected bike wheel up against the front bumper of the car. We drove to the trail to drop off the boys but when Rob went to get his bike down, he realized he left his wheel back at camp. When we got back there, his wheel was still there laying on the ground but, without realizing it, we had run over it and bent it too far out of shape for repair. 

Snow Canyon, we love you. Never change and please always be there waiting for our return, because we shall.

Keeping You Posted on the Kidlings

It’s about that time…time to post an update on what the kidlings are up to these days. I tell ya, they’re fun. These ages (11, 9, 7) are super easy and Rob and I are revelling in it while it lasts.

NATE

 

He is almost 12 so we bought him a suit. Snazzy! I feel like I should win the Best Mom Award when he puts that thing on. Today was wear #2 and he came home from church covered in dirt and ketchup. Boys.

He is hilarious. He is so witty can rightly pull off sarcasm, puns, inside jokes, body language, sophisticated humor, and anything else in order to gain a laugh. He’s more of an introvert though, so it’s mostly us who gets to see this side of him but we relish it. Here is a fake movie trailer he made this morning. Rob and I laughed out loud so many times while watching it. Here is the link.


 He is doing well in school. He is still off the charts in reading and science. His handwriting has vastly improved. He has learned how to better handle his frustration when he doesn’t “get” something and is getting better at staying focused rather than letting his mind wander so much.

He worked hard over the summer, earning enough money to buy a used xBox. He’s learned how fun it is to have his own purchasing power.

He and his sisters have “Sunday Fort Day” every week. They first come up with a concept and a name for it. Past examples include animal sanctuary, haunted house, no giants allowed, carnival, etc.  After they do this they draw up plans and execute. It’s a giant mess. Furniture gets moved, toys come out, and pillows and blankets from the entire house are gathered. But…it keeps them busy for a couple of hours and it’s amazing sibling bonding time. I’ll take it.

MADELEINE

She is a solid 9 now and what a little lady she is becoming. She’s pretty mature and just seems to “get” whatever there is to get. She’s beyond the age of letting me buy her clothes without some serious input because this girl has her own taste and I can never seem to capture it.

She is observant and a very quick thinker. Her reasoning skills are unmatched. She will try her darnedest to win any disagreement and confidently makes the twists and turns required to succeed. Behind her pretty freckled face is a brain that is pretty unstoppable. Her memorization skills are one of her spiritual gifts. I’m not sure how that gift will be used in the future, but I’m positive it will somehow be a great blessing to her and others.

She has been exploring her feelings and emotions lately. Her natural tendency is to bury anything negative deep down and pretend they don’t exist. We are working on making her feel comfortable and confident enough to acknowledge them, feel them, and work through them. She doesn’t love it, but it’s brought her closer to me and Rob.

 

She is participating in Ballroom dance class at school twice a week. She is game for anything in the performing and creative arts. She has never been into playing with toys, even when she was little. All she ever wants is art or craft supplies. She keeps herself busy on different projects just about every day.

CAROLINE

She just turned 7 and lost her first top tooth tonight. She buried it under her four pillows and made a sign pointing the tooth fairy in the right direction. We tried to get her cavities filled this week but fought off the laughing gas like a champ and screamed and flailed her way out of it.

She is a good little student. Her teacher told me how quiet and obedient she is at school. They aren’t working too much on math yet but she loves it and has gone way ahead in her book. It’s pretty cute seeing her sit at the table all studiously and working through it quickly and surely. It reminds me of how her dad looked when working through his math problems in school. Good for her.

She has started dance lessons at a little neighborhood studio and just loves spending the time with her friends and doing something on her own. She is naturally so strong and flexible that it all comes incredibly easy for her. She is still a strong singer. I only wish she’d sing in public the way she does at home.

She is a giggly girl. Whenever she is with her bestie cousins or bestie friend she turns into a crazy person, laughing so hard she can barely stand. She just thinks they are all so hilarious and she can’t physically handle it.

 

SCOUTS

My kids now read this blog every so often and they’ll be so happy if I take a moment to write about their beloved cat sibling. So here it is…

He’s super aggravating with his excessive meowing every morning at 6 am. I’m guessing daylight means nothing to this animal. He also hates this time of year when it’s getting cold outside and he doesn’t want to go out when it’s offered. Then he meows to go out. Then he doesn’t go out. Then he meows to go out. Then he doesn’t go out. On and on every morning from 7-9am and every evening from 9:30-11:30pm. It drives the adults in the house absolutely crazy.

He still lets the kids snuggle right up with him, carry him around all over, dress him up, play with him, and any other whim they come up with for him. He’s gracious and selfless and couldn’t be more sweet.

THE END

Warm Spring Sun in Troyes

There are few places I enjoyed on our trip more than the medieval town of Troyes. We didn’t spent a lot of time there but we really enjoyed getting out of Paris and into a smaller town. The old town of Troyes is home to many half-timbered structures which are a joy to take in, photograph, walk in, and drive through. We found a place to sit down and eat both savory and sweet crepes and these were probably the best crepes we had on the whole trip.
This day and the prior day were important as they marked the huge transition from city (NYC and Paris) to the countryside and small towns. This transition, along with the warm spring sun, felt like stripping the stress of the large cities off like an oppressive winter coat at the advent of spring.
We scrambled to get our clothes dried (see the story about our stay in Troyes here) while eating and exploring the city. I was walking back through the Place Marechal Foch on rue Urbain IV to pickup our car when I took this photo in front of this restaurant.
What struck me at this moment was the light on the facade of the buildings, the people waiting to eat, and that dude in the tan leather suit.

Warm Spring Sun in Troyes
Warm Spring Sun in Troyes

Warm Spring Sun was taken handheld on May 9th 2017 near the Place Marechal Foch in Troyes, France using the Fuji X-T10 and the Fuji 18–55mm lens at 26mm, 1/400s, f/9, and ISO 200. Editing was performed in Lightroom to square the architecture and make the light a little more uniform.

Walking Among Trees

Among my favorite things are the many trees in Paris. After grabbing a few pastries from an eclectic pastry shop, we walked into the gardens from the Rue Auguste Comte (from the south) through these large rows of squared Horse Chestnut Trees (at least that is what I think they are). These trees are so full and green. It is wonderful to walk along them. It was pretty rainy during our visit so this little glimpse of blue sky was welcome.

Walking Among Trees
Walking Among Trees

Walking Among Trees was taken handheld on May 5th 2017 at the South Entrance to Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, France using the Fuji X-T10 and the Fuji 18–55mm lens at 18mm, 1/420s, f/5.6, and ISO 200. Editing was performed in Lightroom to darken the sky slightly and lighten the shadows of the tress just a little.

Summer Summary

Here’s just a quick(ish) roundup of all our summer antics.

Caroline got married to Scouts. Luckily the officiator was able to squeeze in his speech just before the runaway groom took off.

Nate got an exciting summer haircut. It’s not supposed to be a heart…but there was a miscommunication.

 

We went to the OKGO concert in Ogden and it was rad. Our kids are huge fans of their music videos. The confetti cannons that shot off regularly were much enjoyed and we all sang at the top of our lungs.

Umm…when did we get a teenager??

Bear Lake camping and wave running with the Snow family is always a lot of fun. Our kids are speed demons.

For my birthday we went mini-golfing, walked around the International Peace Gardens, got pastries from Gourmandise Bakery, explored Gilgal Sculpture Garden, and bought flowers.

I took the kids to BYU campus to visit a few of the museums there that don’t  necessitate a trip all on their own. Then we got super creamy ice cream, of course.

As far as my kids know, this is the famous liger from Napoleon Dynamite.

Eclipse-alypse 2017

Rob and Nate decided to hightail it up to Idaho to spend a couple of days camping in the path of totality. They loved it, even though it took them 7 hours to drive home + getting rear-ended (no auto damage to us).

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The girls and I had fun mini-golfing and watching the semi-eclipse with neighbors.

Other antics:

Cousin Twins. They look, sound, and act like they were grown in the same womb.

Rob is super excited about his new sun shade. I, however, get in the car and take it down as fast as I can before anyone else sees that it belongs to my car.

No explanation needed.

Foam Day!

Caroline’s favorite new accessory.

Nate’s gotten into fishing and wishes he had more chances to do it.


That’s our nutshell!

A Drowning Duckling Dies: How We Deal with Sadness

One beautiful summer evening our family walked around a park full of trees, flowers, and a pond. In the pond lived some fish, turtles, and ducks. The children love prancing around the perimeter of the fenced-in pond, interacting with the little creatures as much as humans can.

Rob and I wandered off and left the kids to play. I returned a short time later and all three children ran up to me, frantic and full of feelings. They told me of tragedy, taken place right before their innocent eyes.

One of the little baby ducklings was missing patches of down (probably the result of bullying, the kids concluded). This little guy had caught their eye and they’d been keeping a close watch on him all evening. Suddenly, the duckling found himself too far from the shore and unable to catch his footing on the rocks. Stuck in deep water, he tried, helplessly, to swim. Still new to this sport and being further impeded by his missing built-in flotation device, his bitty head slowly dipped lower and lower into the water.

With big eyes and the inability to save the duckling through the fence, Nate, Madeleine, and Caroline looked on in helpless horror as the dear little duckling drowned to death.

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Now, a few different morals to this story could be had here, but I’m not here to talk about morals. Instead, I want to focus on the dissimilarities in emotional response encountered by each member of my family. For an event that was experienced together, it’s interesting how they individually coped with it.

Once the retelling of the event took place and the initial shock wore off, each child was left with the horrible (yet completely natural in nature) scene stuck in their brains. I found myself empathetic to their plight and immediately initialized my comforting-mom mode.

When Rob arrived at the scene, the children frantically retold the happenings once again. Caught off guard and unprepared to respond appropriately, Rob laughed. I chided him with “the look” and he composed himself, then offered due comfort. Once the children’s trauma was acknowledged by both parents, each of their true distinctive emotions became evident and began to show and seep.

Each child reacted to the same trauma in starkly unique ways. Nate became suddenly quiet. He was solemn. He worked hard to hide his tears, even after Rob and I assured him it was okay to cry. After some minutes of allowing himself to feel really sad, he was able to come back up for breath and refocus on moving forward.

Madeleine, through brute force, instantaneously allowed her spunkiness and goofiness to override any of her sorrow. She didn’t want to feel anything unpleasant so she ignored the fact that something bad even happened. She became hyper, silly, and tried so hard to get everyone else on board. She wanted to move on, pretending nothing was wrong. Even though her brother and sister were feeling deeply, she wouldn’t allow herself that opportunity.

Little Caroline openly bawled, unconsolably, for 30 solid minutes. No amount of hugs or listening ears or words of comfort had any effect. The terrifying image replayed itself over and over again in her head and she kept saying, “I just like the word death…I don’t actually like death in real life!”

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Don’t you find it fascinating how each child responded to the same event? Of course people cope with hardships differently, but to see these three contrasting emotional responses by three different children at the same time was an eye-opening glimpse into their hearts.

Nate needed reassurance that it was okay for him to not be a “brave” big boy, and that feeling sad isn’t something shameful. Madeleine, in addition to learning how to allow herself to feel a completely natural response, also needed to understand that others may have different emotional needs to be acknowledged instead of ignored. Caroline needed to feel the full extent of her grief and given enough time (and patience on our part) to do it.

As the father and mother of these sweet souls, Rob and I are working harder than ever to not only listen to them, but to feel with them. We are working harder than ever to not only be in their proximity, but to truly connect them to us through honesty and a sense of emotional safety.

Rob and I both used to believe that this type of parenting would raise weak personalities. However, we are slowly learning that the opposite is true. We are now beginning to see the differences between coddling and comforting, cajoling and communicating. We are now beginning to understand that the intentional act of consistently offering a feeling of emotional safety and emotional acceptance are, indeed, at the core of confidence.

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I’m really sorry that an innocent little creature had to perish and that our children had to witness it, but I’m also grateful for the glimpse it gave us into who our children really are and what they each really need. It is an understanding that we will need to tap into throughout many future occasions, I’m sure.

For the last 6 months, Rob and I have been working so hard at becoming emotionally whole human beings.  We have a long way to go, but these little moments of clarity are the fruits of our labors and the motivation that keeps us moving forward together.

Europe: Where We Walked and Walked and Walked

Rob and I love to walk on our vacations. Our kids don’t but they learned to do it anyway.

Rob tracked it and we walked a total of 85.6 miles over those 19 days (avg 4.5 miles per day). Not bad for little legs!

Walking is the best way to see and experience all the new sights. Plus, we had to work off all the dozens of pastries we devoured.

Other than a couple of cities, we really wanted this trip to highlight the natural landscapes of each country. Of course, those parts turned out to be some of our very favorite places. We just love the feeling of freedom and wholeness that comes from spending time in God’s incredible creation.

Caroline walked about half as much as everyone else. She really enjoyed the view from up top!

New York

 

France – It rained on us a lot here.

 

This area outside of Fontainebleau was such a nice respite after the craziness of NYC and Paris.




Luxembourg

We climbed a TON of stairs in each country. We climbed 214 flights of stairs total but one day alone was 48 flights (hiking in luxembourg).

We all LOVED our hiking day in the Echternach area of Luxembourg!

We found ourselves among trolls.

And a troll bridge.

This area is called Wolf Cove. The story goes that when people settled here, there were many wolves in the area that would eat the farm animals. To solve the problem, the people lured the wolves into this canyon, trapped them, and then stood on top and threw boulders down at them, killing every last one of them.

Caroline found this story fascinating and had me tell it to her over and over again while we were walking…Strange girl.

 

Germany

I’m not sure why this is a go-to pose for this man. It always has been and I have a sneaky suspicion he’ll be 85 years old one day doing the same thing.

We were dumped on for a few minutes in Germany while walking the hills above a hamlet.

 

Netherlands







 

Our kids loved this beach. They could just dip their hands in the edge of the water and pick up handfuls and handfuls of shells.

 

Belgium

 

Well, everyone…we did it! Not only did we get through Europe…but we got through posting about it. Ha!

Looking at these pictures is such motivation for me to keep writing and slowly, slowly saving up for  another trip someday.

When in Doubt, Do Disney

When in doubt, do Disney.

If you’re really ready to rock it, bring on BSB and the beach.

I’ve already posted about this Springtime trip, but now it can be enjoyed by my family via video.

So go ahead. Enjoy it. Enjoy it, I said!

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