After the rain…

It’s April, in Seattle.  And while I think we all know the saying April showers bring May flowers, up here it goes a little further.  September showers bring…well, October showers, and November showers, and December showers….and well here we are in April and it’s still raining, and while the flowers are indeed blooming, those showers have also brought moss in droves, and weeds that grow an inch a day, and lots and lots of people wondering if they will ever live to see the sunshine for more than an hour here and there.

I was thinking about this as I was walking my dog a few days ago, and while I haven’t loved the amount of rain we have been getting (we got our annual rainfall within the first two months….), I started to think about how there may be more to be gained from the weather than seasonal affective disorder and bucket after bucket of weeds.

One of the reasons I love this corner of the country is the green.  It’s just greener than the green other places, and it’s everywhere, not just where the sprinkler hits.  And in between apartment complexes and neighborhoods, there are forests because there are SO many trees.  Trees so straight and tall that they make you feel small and strong all at the same time.  They’re mostly pines and cedars, stretching their very top branches towards heaven.  The air is so clean that when I’m not home, visiting Colorado or California, I have a hard time breathing because of the dryness.  When I get home I feel like I can breath deeper and the air feels so fresh and clean and good.  Everything is cleaner.

It wouldn’t be clean, green or fresh and lush without the rain.  Just as we wouldn’t have the growth or introspection that we get from trials.  Trials that may seem to crash life’s party (just as the rain may do at our picnic), or make us wonder how much longer we will have to suffer.  The Lord knows us, knows what we need, and like a good Father, He knows that one of the best ways to prepare us to return to Him, refine us, and help us reach toward Him, is by allowing us to experience trials.

Since I’ve moved up here I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with walking in the rain.  It might help that it’s not the same rain they get in Pennsylvania or Ohio where you’re soaked in a few minutes…  But nonetheless it was something I had to get used to.  And when I do, and I think about the water raining down and how it really is good for the earth, and good for me, and start to feel almost grateful for it.  There is a peace, and a calm, and while I earnestly wait for sunshine and warmth, I can bear the rain because I know that there is growth and beauty that comes only through the washing of the earth.

This weekend was Easter, and while most Christians tend to reflect mostly on the crucifixion of Christ, Mormons take a step back to both acknowledge His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, through His trial and death, and then His triumphant victory over death in the Resurrection.  As I looked up at the blue sky with the brilliant sunshine on Easter morn, my heart was filled with joy not only because the weather seemed so fitting for the day, but because it had been SO long since we had enjoyed a sunny day.  And all that rain made me even more thrilled to see the sun.  It truly is a gift to experience trials and pain in this life, for without them, we can’t know joy and peace.  We wouldn’t seek for the Hope Christ gives us if we could not experience the pain of this world.  The joy of the resurrection would mean little if we didn’t have the grief and loss that death brings.

And so, at this Easter time, I am grateful for the rain.  It is hard to see gray skies so much, and to wonder when the sun will come again, but there is beauty all around us if we just step outside, and somewhere, someone is seeing a rainbow.

Watching the Director

I was asked to be the choir director in my Church today.  I have yearned for this opportunity for a long time, but have always landed myself in wards (groups within our Church) where there were plenty of other people with way more musical expertise than myself, so I figured it probably wouldn’t happen.  Well, it just so happens that although I’m still in a ward like that, the awesome music people are off doing other things, so there was a vacancy.  The great thing is, that if you are willing to learn and serve with all your heart (which I try to), you can learn and grow as you fulfill your “calling” and (hopefully) everyone is patient and supports you as you figure things out.  AND, there are training manuals etc. etc.  so, while I may not know exactly what I’m doing, I have an idea, and I believe that I will have the help I need to succeed. I believe that music is a gift from God that can touch souls and communicate to us in ways words cannot.  I want so much to help the choir members and congregation see through my imperfections as a leader and musician and feel of the testimony and truths in the music.

During a moment of self reflection today, I did wonder, “how am I going to direct a choir where there are several people who are more musically trained that I am?”  I thought about the many times in our lives where we may be put in a situation where we really don’t have a good idea of how to do things the right way and we have to learn “on the job”.  How about parenting?  How about marriage??  How about life? 

I also thought about orchestras and really amazing choirs, and how interesting it is to think about the fact that some of these ensembles are comprised of exceptional musicians who have had years and years of training.  And yet, they are still led and follow a director.  They may be amazing, but they pay attention to the notes, the dynamics recommended by the composer, and they watch (even during a performance) with focused gaze on their director.  They may think they know better, but if they go off on their own, they will end up detracting from the song and kinda ruin the performance.  They must play their instrument the best way they can, while still staying within the bounds the director has set.  After set practice hours, they practice individually, and they study the music, so that they are prepared and ready to follow instructions during rehearsal and the performance.

The violinist does not compare herself to the tuba player, nor does he feel bad about himself because he does not sound like the drummer.  We all have our own instrument, our own song to sing, and each instrument, when played at its best, contribute to the beautiful thing that is the symphony.  The maestro knows each of his musicians, and their strengths and weaknesses, and he knows their instruments too.  He wants to bring out their best selves, and help the orchestra be all it can be.  He requires our focus, our hard work, and our commitment to follow directions and study the music.  He understands that we will make mistakes now and again, and

So as I direct my small choir I will be mindful of that great Director who is encouraging me and helping me be my best self.  I need to more fully commit myself to following Him and studying the music (the scriptures) so that I can grow in my abilities, and be prepared to play through the hard times, watching Him closely so that I will not waiver.   I also believe that while He is giving me this small opportunity to direct, that in the end it is He who I should look to.

The List

For as long as I can remember whenever I’ve called my mom with my head stuffed with a myriad of things to accomplish, and not nearly enough time to do them all in, she has always said, “have you made a list?”  Usually my answer was “no”, but I got better at it, and now that I’m married, most Saturday mornings find me and my guy making a list of the things we’d like to get done.  We do this so we can try to focus on the most urgent tasks, and so that we can know how to support each other in attending to our individual priorities as well. 

Last Saturday we made such a list.  It was pretty long.  About an hour later however, I remembered to my delighted horror (that IS a thing), that my daughter’s birthday was tomorrow.  I had been thinking all this time that it was Tuesday, but it was indeed Sunday.  I had procrastinated buying anything significant and really didn’t know what to get because I hadn’t planned anything either.  Mommy guilt trip planned and underway…  And, being pretty set in our religious convictions, I knew that if there was any purchasing of presents or celebratory décor, it had to be done today.  Suddenly, all the things that I had put on the all-important list, became, well, quite unimportant.  I took my daughter out and we went to Build-a-bear where she settled for a stuffed animal palomino, in lieu of the real thing.  I sat and watched her eat (very slowly) a pink cupcake, and on the way home I remember hearing her say, “you know what I love about my horsie?  ALL OF IT!” She had a fun day, she had felt special, mission accomplished as the mommy guilt train left the station…phew!

I came home, really tired (there were a lot of bratty kids in build-a-bear, and it had taken a toll – FYI, the cupcake was awarded to one very well behaved child…).  I put my babe down for a nap, and then snuck off to take one myself.  Not long after which, my baby decided he’d much rather snuggle with mom.  Which turned into, much rather explore my bed and tempt fate by crawling full speed right to the very edge.  I got up and came downstairs. 

There was a church meeting to go to, where we would get to hear from some of our female leaders from Church Headquarters.  I was tired, I didn’t really feel like going.  BUT, I remembered that a long time ago I almost didn’t go to a church meeting because I didn’t feel great, and I ended up hearing a talk that would impact my family and many, many others for good.  So, I decided that if I really didn’t feel like going, I probably REALLY SHOULD go.  So I did, and it really helped my whole mood, and spiritual energy go way up.  I was able to sit with ladies who I love to laugh with, and the messages were truly inspiring.  AND, I was able to get to Menchies with 5 minutes to spare to pick up a cake that my 4 year old talked all day about getting.

When I got home, my husband told me something that really struck me.  He said, “I think you chose the right things today.”  Had I?  I guess I had.  I had almost forgotten what I had even added to the list, but it didn’t matter then because I felt fulfilled.  It made me think about how I use my time, because I think that most days, I flounder about wasting time here, focusing too much on cleaning there…and not enough time just being WITH my kids.  And I don’t mean just physically with them, am I really present.  Am I taking seriously the charge to seek after the things that matter to God.  Or, am I too busy with my own to-do list.

A friend of mine recently had to write her brother’s obituary.  He was my age.  And it made me think if I would feel fulfilled when my mortal life comes to its end.  Would I feel as if I had worked off the right list.  Would I have more hours logged on Facebook than hours spent reading to my children.  Will I have helped someone else feel better, rather than helped myself to more dessert.  I very much want the things that I choose to spend my time on, reflect who I want to become, or rather, who HE wants me to become.

What if you learned that you suddenly only had today to live.  Or that someone you loved only had today.  How would you choose differently?  What would be on your list? 

I think I would have “watch the sunrise” at the top, then “pray”.  I would make a point to look into my kids eyes when they speak, not just nod while looking at my phone.  I would go for a walk and feel grateful for a healthy body, and a beautiful world to enjoy it with.  I would look for opportunities to help others instead of judge them.  I would be more forgiving of myself.  Well, then why don’t I?  Why don’t I make lists of ways to be, not things to do. 

Maybe my “vision board” should have words like, “gracious”, “prayerful”, “kind”, “patient”.  Isn’t that the whole point?  We are here on earth to “become” something more, not to acquire more somethings.  After all, when the sun sets on our lives, will others applaud us for having many shares, or for having shared, with many?  I hope it’s the latter..

So for now, I take a break from the everyday to-do list, and make lists that help me remember that it is who I am becoming that is more important, rather than the never ending check boxes of tasks that leave very little mark on our world or on the hearts of those around us.

Some ideas are…

The things you love about your spouse

The things you are grateful for

The things you want your children most to know

The things you remember about someone you’ve lost

The people who have touched your life

The qualities you most admire and want to develop

To Give Us Life…

The trial and condemnation of Jesus Christ are not unfamiliar topics in Sunday School, but today I was particularly touched by some symbolism in the story.  When the Roman leaders asked who they should free (according to the Jewish custom), Jesus or Barrabas, they chose the murderer.  Perhaps they were so desperate to do anything they could to do away with the man they viewed as a threat, but today, I thought about the fact that they chose someone who sought to steal physical life.  Jesus came to grant everyone freedom from physical death, and not only that but freedom we can’t even begin to imagine, spiritual freedom and exaltation with Him. 
He came not just for His disciples, and for those who faithfully followed Him, He came to offer everyone the gift of resurrection.  Yes, even those who cheered for His gruesome demise.
I wondered how many times all of us choose paths that lead to things that gradually steer us away from the path of discipleship, and even habits and vices that destroy our lives and others.  Why would we do that when the other choice is to follow the Prince of Peace and attain true freedom for our souls?  Because we are mortal, and we let ourselves be led away by that liar and captor we call Satan.  He tells us he offers more freedom if we just “do what makes us happy” and “what we deserve”.
Interesting though how much light and joy our souls experience and the increased ability to love and bless the lives of others when we follow in the strict paths of our Savior.  He truly wants our happiness, not to steal it, but to let it soar.  I am in absolute awe of this gift, this opportunity to be more than I could ever hope to be without Him.  He will not force us to follow Him, but in so many of His creations and kindnesses of His servants, He calls to us with a quiet, gentle voice, pleading, “Follow me and I will bring rest to your soul.”

Christmas Newsletter

Our Christmas Newsletter didn’t quite fit on our blog. Check it out at the link.
Click on each picture stack to view them all…

Merry Christmas!

Full Steam Ahead!

Parenting, the great adventure… when you’re up in the middle of the night with a crying baby it seems like it’s going pretty slow, but then suddenly it’s like being aboard a steam train headed…. well, somewhere… FAST, and you just gotta hang on and make the best of it trusting that in the end, you’ll get where you need to be…well, part of this adventure has been a long one, and hard, very hard.

My son Luke is very intelligent, he has a phenomenal memory and is sweet, kind and thoughtful.  He is detail oriented and loves to learn, spending most of his days creating amazing car designs and maps, and reading the rest of the time.  He is a great snuggler and loves to wrestle.  Yet there was an outward shell of distraction, frustration, and intense feelings, and it just felt like something wasn’t right.  I wanted so much for my child to reach his potential and have meaningful relationships with others, and be happy, after all, that’s what the adventure is all about right?  I just didn’t anticipate all this… 

He started with speech therapy at 3 1/2 then had social skills classes, then occupational therapy, then trips to several psychologists, then visits to an ENT, a Functional vision exam, a hearing test, and many trips to Seattle for iLS therapy.  Then more trips to psychologists, and then the Amen Clinic where he was finally diagnosed with ADHD Ring of Fire (that’s the latest guess).  Then we went to a Sleep clinic for a sleep study, then a naturopath for food allergy testing now we’re about to start Neurofeedback to see if we can’t alleviate remaining symptoms and perhaps get rid of some of the supplements he takes several times a day.  The great news is that I just found an amazing pediatrician who seems like a Godsend.

When you’ve been to that many doctors, filled out that much paperwork and spent way too many hours researching different disorders, therapies, and tests, you begin to appreciate the complexity of the human body (especially the brain) and how far we are from knowing how everything works and fits together.  I feel like I have a little more compassion for the mother of that kid who’s misbehaving or throwing a fit because sometimes they’re doing everything they can and there’s more going on there than the rest of us can see (sometimes the kid needs some discipline but it’s not the cure all I thought it once was!). 

He has come so far, and I am amazed with how patient he has been with all of this.  He has endured, and boy, I have endured.  I wish I had been more patient because I probably spent a little too much time crying, and not enough time on my knees, although sometimes I multitasked those two…  When you’re in the middle of a trial it’s sometimes hard to know how long it will be until you reach the end of the tunnel of darkness and reach the light (I think that’s where the faith and patience comes in).  I know that I needed this experience in my life to learn and grow because my learning curve has pretty much been vertical.  And above all I know that God has been aware of my struggle and heartache because all along this difficult road, there have been Sunday School teachers, Preschool teachers, friends, neighbors, all seemingly placed directly in my path so that although I was facing the biggest trial to date in my life, I wasn’t facing it alone.  My husband gets super props because he has absorbed most of those tears, and he has been my lifeline countless times when I needed major support. 

I truly believe that as a mother I have been privileged to not only have these sweet children in my home to teach and love, but that when I need help with knowing how to do that, I get it.  There have been many times when I have followed the direction of the Spirit in parenting, and then later, a therapist or teacher recommended that I do just that.  I now credit more of my “great ideas” to divine intervention because they were so right on, and heck, I’ve never done this before!

My son got dressed without a fuss this morning, was happy about going to Church, participated, even created an activity for the children’s singing time for me to use (that’s my job 🙂 and played with his sister this afternoon…. there was no sign of the opposition, distraction, frustration that there was before.  I know there will be hard days ahead, there are for every parent and every kid, but I feel like I’m coming out the end of the tunnel, and the sky is blue.  And that blue, is the most beautiful color I’ve ever seen.

Family Christmas Newsletter

Please ignore the fact that indeed this was the only post this year…I was shocked to find that the post before it was the Christmas Newsletter from last year!  But at least this one is getting published in December and not January eh?  And I have my work cut out for me when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions Smile

Luke learned how to use a number line and do long addition, write his own books and reads like a regular third grader! He recently discovered Lego City Police and so our home is filled with the sounds of sirens and bad guys getting taken “back where you belong!” In Emily’s best interests he will not be getting handcuffs this Christmas! He completed an intense session of Intergative Listening and has enjoyed finally being out of doctor’s offices! He loves to build things out of boxes, tape, paper, and couch cushions. I have learned that he has a very sweet spot in his heart for his little baby sister…

Emily learned to write her name, sleep through the night in a big girl bunk bed, ride a balance bike, and talk, and talk. She has an immense vocabulary and makes sure everyone knows what she is thinking, why, and what they should be thinking too. She has really enjoyed going to preschool this year, and adores having Amber around.  She loves to dress up, be a ballerina, and make up aliases for herself. Right now she is “Butterfly Girl…with super powers!! Unfortunately as of this morning she can no longer touch the sky…I reassured her that it is probably temporary. I have learned that I may never be prepared for the emotion, charisma, and humor of this little girl.

Amber has learned what it’s like having a body, a family, and all the time in the world to eat, sleep, and speak gibberish. With her full head of rich black hair and large blue eyes, she stops people everywhere I go to ooh and aaah over her sweetness. Her siblings are quite smitten with her too, and she finds daddy’s programming talk hilarious (couldn’t stop her laughing!!) I cannot count the miracles that accompanied her arrival. She is such a precious blessing. For now, she is the easiest and best part of my job, but I’m sure she’ll have many lessons to teach me too!

Andrew learned to juggle his time between bouncing on the trampoline with two kids, a pregnant wife on bed rest, several side projects, oh and a busy full time job. Two of Andrew’s hobby projects are being shipped as part of Microsoft products J. He also created his own secure messaging app which is now available in the Window’s 8 Store under the name “Cryptochat.” In his spare time (Ha!) he has taken up reading and is on #5 of the Harry Potter series. He is an amazing dad who gets up at night with the two older kids so I can get more sleep (See Proverbs 25:24). I have learned that there is no end to his willingness to help me, and his talents (he made a Thanksgiving pie from scratch!!)

I learned that being Young Women President (girl’s youth pastor) is hard and busy, that I have room in my heart for another sweet baby, and that homeschooling can be really fun. It was fun to plan our first family vacation down to Southern California and to find time to read (since I started my pregnancy in bed and finished it that way too). There’ve also been seasons of painting and sewing which have been nice. I’ve learned that I can text one of my teen girls, remind Emily to wipe her bum, and be planning dinner, all while reading a book with Luke, and nursing Amber…and remembering to breathe… It’s apparent that even I have super powers 😉

We hope that you can look back on this year with happiness and that you can rejoice in this Season of Peace and Joy, as we celebrate the birth of that Wondrous Child. Thank you for your friendship and love to us, we look forward to visiting with some of you in the coming year.


Christmas Newsletter 2011

I’m writing this because the pressure of time passing cannot be ignored.  I actually wrote this in mid December, but given that life gets a little nuts and before you know it you’ve accomplished the task of getting through your Christmas list and the decorations are finally being boxed.  The snow came thick and fast in January and I had to come to terms with the fact that Winter was here and so was the beginning of a new year.

I feel like we have been pretty busy, like most of you.  The biggest thing for us is how much our children have changed, and it reminds us to slow down a little and enjoy the simply pleasures of childhood before we turn around and they’re all grown up.

Emily started talking in full sentences right after Christmas 2010 and hasn’t stopped.  She talks all the time, and blows us away with her comprehension of language.  In her world, everything has a personality, from the fridge magnets to her fingers, and she treats everyone and everything as her friend.  Her world revolves around keeping everybody fed, especially herself, and enjoys throwing impromptu picnics with drink coaster sandwiches to all her little friends.  She also potty trained, went to the dentist for the first time (he had to sing to get her to open wide) and learned to ride a tricycle.  She sings made up songs almost constantly and is always in “need” of chocolate.  She loves shoes and shopping and wears her heart on her sleeve.

Luke is talking a lot more lately, telling us and anyone who will listen, very long stories.  In March he joined a preschool class for kids with learning disabilities for the last few months of the school year, but progressed so quickly that we started him in a private preschool in September.  He started Primary (children’s Sunday School) this year and has already had two speaking opportunities.  This once socially shy kid comes alive in front of the microphone.  He also started to read and learned to ride a bike!  He loves to play instruments especially the guitar and piano (thank goodness for volume control) and when we can’t find him, he is in his room with a book.

Andrew is working on several very complicated things at work that will revolutionize the industry and change the world as we know it.  He recently presented a concept to upper management which he hopes they will let him do at his day job.  He got promoted mid year making him a Senior Software Development Engineer.  In his spare time he mows the lawn, tickles and reads stories to his kids, and watches Star Trek and 80’s TV shows with Cheryl.  His little girl has him wrapped around her finger. 

I relished in the chance to finally have a garden and with the help of my mom planted spring bulbs and tons of perennials.  I just loved looking out of my kitchen windows at the hanging baskets, lavender bushes, and blue jays at the bird feeder…paradise.  Luke and I planted sunflowers and Emily and I made freezer jam.  I painted the master bedroom and Luke’s, and spent way too much time on Halloween costumes for the kids.  Even though I feel like perhaps I have gotten less done this year, I have enjoyed the doing a little more.  I’m trying desperately to simplify and resist the urge to be crazy busy, although that is easier said than done.

This year we went on several adventures.  11 hours in the car took us to Idaho for Andrew’s brother’s wedding in May, 4th of July was spent with the Webbs in Portland, the Mackrory Family Reunion was in July in Colorado, and we watched the Webb kids in Portland in October while Dan and Rebecca vacationed in Hawaii.  Cheryl got a little time away in November, attending a best friend’s wedding in Utah.  We have also gotten to know more of our own state and discovered how much we love the Northwest.  From the windblown ferries to the blueberry fields, we have fallen for Washington.  Although we miss our family as they are scattered across the states and the world, we are thankful for email and blogs that help us keep in touch.

We are especially thankful at this time of year for the miraculous birth and life of our Savior, and His love for each of us.  And hope that each of you feel of His Spirit and the joy it brings.  Merry Christmas. 

P.S  We got our Christmas wish early with the news that we will welcome a new child to our home in August!

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Things That Go!

We set off on Saturday for a little outing to see the Kitsap Live Steamers in Port Orchard.  That meant that we either had to GO around the bottom of the Sound to the other side or take a ferry ride.  We opted for the latter since in our family, we just love “things that GO” and we like spending as little time as possible in the car with Sweet Emily (who doesn’t like being confined Smile).  We took in some great sights as we stood on the bow of the ferry.  Seals on a buoy, jelly fish, gigantic cruise ships at the Port of Seattle, countless sailing ships, and as we arrived in Bremerton, a Navy Ship Yard with several large aircraft carriers!  Wow.  It was beautiful.  I was so busy taking it all in I didn’t get any photographs…

After an hour ferry ride and a couple U turns later we found ourselves at the “depot” where these 1/8th scale steam and diesel engines give free rides to the public.  They are just like the real thing, very heavy, pulling cars loaded with about 20 people, and still getting about 7 mph.  We got a tour backstage with one of the club members and a ride at the beginning and end of our stay.  Luke was in heaven since he spends most of day playing with his train set, pretending his tricycle is a train and watching these guys on YouTube.  His favorite part was watching the “dingers” as the trains crossed the road into the parking lot.  Emily had fun at the playground and got a ride on something that GOES Ribbit Ribbit instead.

We topped our day off with a long car ride home in the hopes that our two very sleep deprived children would GO off to dream land.  Sometimes, despite the soft classical music and exhausting day, they’ll just take turns screaming, and you know… that’s just how it GOES.

Oh, and Emily can ride a tricycle now!  So she is GOing like never before!  My little baby’s not such a baby anymore…



The Beauty of Creating

I love to create!  I am my happiest when I am sewing, cooking (except on a Summer’s evening in my hot, hot kitchen), decorating, or cleaning.  I get so much joy out of making something better, cleaner, or more beautiful.  I would love to pass this love on to my children.  In the Spring, Luke and I planted some sunflower seeds, and in spite of the snails, they actually grew to be several feet tall and now to his great delight they are blooming!  Every day he comes running back inside insisting they are growing faster than the day before.  It is so fun to see the joy in his face!

Emily got her joy from making raspberry freezer jam.  I had hoped to wake up early Wednesday morning (6:15) and drive up north to pick them fresh off the farm.  Yeah…we were spotted later that day purchasing a flat from the farmer’s market…I refuse under any circumstances to wake sleeping children!!  Despite Emily’s persistence to “eat one more” we managed to make 7 delectable jars of sweet raspberry elixir.  Oh yeah, Summer in the Northwest of the best creations ever.  Tomorrow?  BLUEBERRIES!!!!


My children often create a “robot” from the laundry basket – here is a rare shot of the “tricycle riding robot” – I wish I had my children’s imagination.