Saturday, December 26, 2015

The whipped cream and the mousse

I shake the whipped cream can (yes sometimes we do eat whipped cream out of a can and actually my kids love it so much that they will spray whipped cream out of the can straight into their mouths if you can believe that!) and try to spray it on my pie, but even though it sounds like there is still whipped cream in there, nothing comes out. It must be empty, even though it doesn't sound that way.

My hair styling mousse, on the other hand, is just the opposite. I have been sure for 3 months now that it was empty.  Each time I shake the can there is a pathetic little rattle, & I think "it is surely gone, and I will have to break out that new can," but then I give it one last try, and much to my surprise out comes enough mousse to do my hair for the day.  I am astonished every time.

It occurred to me this week that there is a life lesson in this for me, in the whipped cream and in the mousse. And the lesson is this: that some situations in life are like the whipped cream. Sometimes it seems like there is something left, but that is deceptive, because it really is all gone. And sometimes situations in life are like the mousse. It seems forever like it is all gone, but there is still more left. 

I think the message for me here is about openness, about accepting that there is so much that I just don't know.  And about having a heart that is open enough to allow each situation to be what it is without judgement in the moment. That some things will end sooner than expected, and some things will go on for longer than they appear to be able to. 

My new goal: to receive what I receive with gratefulness and to focus on gratitude when something is over.  But also to realize that things are not always as they appear and those endings may not be as obvious as I am inclined to think.  Lastly, to rejoice about the extra mousse, the unexpected gift. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

This Christmas

This Christmas will always be...

The one where Mahon and Cindy Lynn (and Kate!) lived here too.

The one where Jenna got all art and cat stuff.

The one where Rachel got all batman stuff with her replacement phone.

The one where Jared guessed everything he was getting, either before Christmas day or before he opened it.

The one where Josh ordered all of his own presents (plus presents for everyone else) from China.  

The one where a grossly disproportionate number of presents under the tree were for Jason, because I mislabeled some boxes and the girls mislabeled some packages so then amost everything Jason opened was really meant for someone else.  Poor boy, present after present snatched from his hand the moment they were opened!

The one where most of what I got said "beach."  Necklace, bracelet, sweater, puzzle, all ocean themed and lovely.  

And, as I sit here thinking about it, the one where I'm not sure Russ got his big present at all.  I'll have to do some investigating after nap time.  (UPDATE--he did open it in a moment where things were a little chaotic.)

One funny story from the day so far:  My dad and Ramona sent a picture, and as I unwrapped it I looked at it and thought that I didn't know who the artist was.  But what I said out loud was "I don't know who that is."  And the kids were all like "MOM!!  That is JESUS!!"  And Jason said "I have two friends who'd love to teach you about who that is."  It was hilarious, and I will think of it as I enjoy the picture by Simon Dewey.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Be Still My Pounding Heart

I’ve heard people get up and bear testimony, saying that knew they needed to do it because their hearts were pounding so hard.  Until this month I don’t remember ever having that experience.  But this month as I sat on the bench with no plans to get up and do anything, my heart started beating so hard that I expected that Russ sitting next to me could probably feel it as well.

I used to feel a mix of compassion and interest and envy when I met people who had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Compassion and interest because I knew that their experience and transition wasn’t always easy, and envy because I was always a little envious of their chance to come to know that this was the truth.  I knew, yes, that all of us have to be converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but that seemed to be so much easier, like starting a race from the halfway mark.

I don’t believe that anymore.  After the turmoil that I’ve seen and heard about and read about and lived in the last 18 months I don’t believe that people get a pass just because they were born into the church.  I now think that at some moment (or many moments) in time they will have to grapple with the ideas and doctrines of the church just as every new convert does.

My own experience has been unexpected and frustrating, but also interesting.  It’s been interesting to see as I’ve taken old beliefs out of the closet that is my brain, shaking them off and examining them in the light, which ones are things that I truly do believe as adult and which are things that I feel like I misunderstood along the way, things which were taught to me in error, etc.   It’s also been interesting (interesting in the abstract if I can let go of the pain of this being my experience) to see what beliefs have settled back in as a foundational part of my testimony.  

The first one is the existence of God & his son Jesus Christ.  I feel like I sing a line of a primary song over and over again, whenever I am outside or driving or noticing things in nature.  “In all the world around me.”  Again and again, whether I see the beautiful fall foliage, the mountain range, waterfall, blooming flower, I hear it in my head.  I think our beautiful world is such a gift of love to me from them.  I feel their love in the beauty of my life, in the sweetness of little Kate, in the moments that are clearly tender mercies.  Sometimes when I look at my own children and feel so much love for them I then wonder how it is that God can feel so much more for us, and I am grateful that however it is, he does.

The second one, interestingly, is the organization of the church.  It’s been over 25 years since I realized as a frustrated overworked young mother with too many callings that the church and the gospel weren’t the same thing, but that the one existed to provide a framework and to help the other function.  As I’ve been on my own personal journey, however, I’ve come to have a greater love for the church even as I have a greater understanding of it’s imperfections.  Greater love for the imperfect men who literally devote their lives (at a time with others their age are living lives of leisure) to lead and guide the church.  Greater love for the imperfect organization that helps to teach the same truths to me in Oregon or in North Carolina or in Africa.  And greater love for our bishopric who also give so much of their time and energy to help and shepherd their ward family.  I am filled with love at the idea that everyone is working so hard in their little sphere, imperfectly, because of their own desire to participate in the kingdom of God.  

There is still so much that I don’t know, but I’m grateful to feel again that there are things that I do know.  

And interestingly, once I’d finished my testimony and sat back down—my heart was as calm as it could be.  Curious indeed.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas Letter 2015

Dear family & friends,

Shallow confession: I didn’t send out a Christmas letter last year, mostly because we didn’t have a family picture that I was excited to send with it.  Which is too bad, because I would love to have been able to tell you about the highlights of our year; Josh starting college at BYU-I, Rachel and Jenna getting to be on the varsity winter guard team at the local high school, and all of us getting stuck overnight in the Denver airport on our way to our beach week in North Carolina.  But alas, I didn’t, and so you will never know.
But this year there is a picture!  And it is good!  So good, in fact, that I am motivated to repent of my old slacker Christmas letter ways and actually send this one out…Before Christmas!  Who knows—stranger things have happened.
2015 has been an surprising and wonderful year.  For the two or three of you who haven’t heard our amazing news, in February Cindy Lynn’s husband Mahon was unexpectedly laid off, and in March he got job near us.  In September they bought a house 10 minutes away from us.  It is one of the best things that has ever happened to our family and we are still delighted every time we see them.  
The runner up in the list of best happenings of 2015 was our trip to the beach.  The waves were rough this year but the conversations were great, the games were fun, the food was delicious, and no one had to sleep in any airports.  Other fun experiences this year included babysitting Kate for a week while Cindy Lynn and Mahon went to Maui, a trip to Utah for the girls to get their wisdom teeth out in April (it really is cheaper, people), finding out the next week that Jared needed his out too, and having Russ’s dad come visit for a week.
Russ ends this year as he began it.  Slaying the dragon that is Intel every day to provide for the family, and working with the 14 & 15 year old scouts at church.  We will not comment more on either of these other than to say that he deserves every bit of down time he gets.  He went with Jared on a terrific high adventure trip to the San Juan Islands where he sadly didn’t see any orcas but did get to ignore the rest of life for several days.
My year has been filled with adventures: weekends with friends, driving to Utah alone to meet Russ for a marriage conference, surviving girl’s camp, growing lots of flowers, canning endless jars of beans, and battling to keep slugs out of our house.  (I am cautiously hopeful that we have finally won that battle.)  When Guy came to visit I enjoyed taking him hiking and to the coast.
Cindy Lynn and Mahon have spent most of their year trying to survive moving twice and keeping up with 2.5 year old Kate who is super.  (Super adorable, super verbal, super stubborn, and occasionally super cranky.) Mahon is working at Nike and everyone has appreciated his access to the Nike store.  Our feet thank him.  Cindy Lynn is trying to find an agent for a novel she has recently finished, taking care of Kate and their new home, and trying to stay healthy.  She’s just finished a course of IVs which the CF clinic here let her do entirely at home—what a blessing.
Jason is halfway through his first senior year at BYU but will have another year before he graduates in chemistry.  He’s working in a lab on campus and also TAing for a chemistry class.  He stopped singing in the Men’s Chorus last year because he was too busy but now has joined the ballroom dance team because he had too much free time.  In the rest of his spare time he likes to go rock climbing.

Josh is halfway through his second year at BYU Idaho.  After working a telephone survey job much of last year he took a full time job this semester in a potato factory.  He decided that full time job + full time school was too much for him, but he did enjoy getting to drive a fork lift.  He is off track winter semester and looking forward to living at home again for a few months, although Jared has not yet committed to sharing the bedroom and the closet again.
Rachel, Jenna, and Jared are having a bunch of new experiences this year, starting with full time public school for their first year of high school.  Initially I was very sad to have our homeschooling end, but they are having a great experience and I’m enjoying having time to play with Kate, hang out with Cindy Lynn, sew, and even quilt a little.  They were all in the marching band this fall and it was fun to see the show develop.  The girls were in the color guard and worked with rifles and sabers, and Jared marched with his sax.  As they learned the new show the girls had such bad bruises on their arms that Rachel got called into the assistant principle’s office to be sure that everything was ok at home.  Russ & I had the dubious pleasure of getting to run the concession stands at the football games, and our feet, back, and legs were glad when the season was over.  Now we have started teaching all of them to drive, although the logistics of figuring out how to get three kids each 100 hours of driving experience is mind boggling.  
Rachel is enjoying the high school experience.  Every day she tells me that she hates her classes and her teachers and that high school is boring, but I think that secretly she loves it all.  She especially likes seminary (though not so much reading the entire Old Testament) and her color guard class.  She and Jenna have just started the winterguard season and they will be traveling in the spring to the World Championships.
Jenna took a bold step a few months ago and went from long hair to a pixie cut and it’s so cute.  Jenna isn’t quite as excited about going to public school as her siblings are but she’s having some good experiences. She also likes seminary and enjoys working with the excellent choir director.  She’s looking forward to having an art class next semester.
Jared resents the fact that he is always mentioned last in these letters.  (From the other room he says “True dat.”) Jared was never so happy as when the marching band season ended (he hated it) and the wrestling season began. (He loves it.) Sadly for him he’s having to do fundraising for wrestling and for next spring’s lacrosse season at the same time; if you’re interested, wreaths are $25 and raffle tickets are $10.   ;)
It goes without saying that it has been a highlight of our year any time we have seen any of you.  Living closer to Utah and getting to see family more often is a delight, visiting North Carolina this summer was wonderful, and we tell people here that one of the benefits of having lived near Duke is that our Duke friends now live all over.  If you are ever in the area we’d love to see you.  

We hope that each of you has a joyous Christmas season, filled with the things that make it meaningful for you.  We are so grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with so many of you as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

With love,
Russ, Cindy, Jason, Josh, Rachel, Jenna, Jared, Cindy Lynn, Mahon, and Kate the Great