Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Talk about Gratitude

I gave this talk in the Livingston Ward on 11.08.15. I don't always write out my talks, but this one was mostly quotes and it made me emotional, so I wrote it all down.

BECOMING A GRATEFUL PERSON                             11.08.15

 It has been a long time since I was a seminary student. Seminary was a huge blessing in my high school life and there are lessons I learned there that had such an impact, they changed my thinking and shaped the person I am now. One of those lessons came in the year we studied Church History and memorized scriptures from the Doctrine and Covenants. Learning D&C 59:21 had a great influence on me. It reads:  “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.” The thought that all the dumb things I do don’t really offend God was encouraging. The idea that all I needed to do to avoid offending Him was to remember Him and look for His hand in my life seemed doable.

 Elder James E. Faust said, “It is clear to me from this scripture that to ‘thank the Lord thy God in all things’ is more than a social courtesy; it is a binding commandment.” {r]

We often think of gratitude as giving thanks. Saying thank you to others for kindnesses, writing notes, saying prayers, or even having a feast and a day set aside to thank God for our blessings each year. All of these are good examples of expressing gratitude, and great habits to cultivate.  I’d like to speak today about gratitude as an attribute. I’d like to talk about becoming even more than one who gives thanks-- becoming a grateful person.

Elder Uchtdorf gave what I feel is the ultimate talk about gratitude in April 2014. In his talk , he said, “It is difficult to develop a spirit of gratitude if our thankfulness is only proportional to the number of blessings we can count. True, it is important to frequently ‘count our blessings’—and anyone who has tried this knows there are many—but I don’t believe the Lord expects us to be less thankful in times of trial than in times of abundance and ease. In fact, most of the scriptural references do not speak of gratitude for things but rather suggest an overall spirit or attitude of gratitude…[SO] Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be.” Or in my words, become a grateful person--in all things, in all places.

Gratitude as a Saving Principle

Elder James E. Faust said, “It seems as though there is a tug-of-war between opposing character traits that leaves no voids in our souls. If gratitude is absent or disappears, rebellion often enters and fills the vacuum…A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being.

“But there is a truism associated with all types of human strength: Use it or lose it. When not used, muscles weaken and skills deteriorate, faith disappears. Said the Lord, ‘And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.’

“As with all commandments, gratitude is a description of a successful mode of living. The thankful heart opens our eyes to a multitude of blessings that continually surround us. President J. Reuben Clark said, ‘Hold fast to the blessings which God has provided for you. Yours is not the task to gain them, they are here; yours is the part of cherishing them.’” [close quote] Did you catch that? Grace has provided blessings all around us—we don’t have to earn them, we just need to recognize and cherish them. Open our eyes!

Elder Uchtdorf said, “Part of our challenge is, I think, that we imagine that God has all of His blessings locked in a huge cloud up in heaven…In reality, Heavenly Father is constantly raining blessings upon us. It is our fear, doubt, and sin that, like an umbrella, block these blessings from reaching us.

“His commandments are the loving instructions and the divine help for us to close the umbrella so we can receive the shower of heavenly blessings.” One of the most effective, umbrella-closing commandments is to be grateful.

Elder Stephen Snow suggested, “The next time we pray, instead of presenting the Lord petition after petition for some action in our behalf, give Him thoughtful thanks for all with which He has blessed us. President Joseph F. Smith has instructed us that ‘the spirit of gratitude is always pleasant and satisfying because it carries with it a sense of helpfulness to others; it begets love and friendship, and engenders divine influence. Gratitude is said to be the memory of the heart.’”

Let’s dissect that quote. Let’s think about how Gratitude helps us to be more Christlike:

 -A sense of helpfulness to others- As we notice the kindness and generosity in our lives, we develop a desire to be kind and serve our fellowmen, which in turn serves God, which helps us to keep the commandments that Jesus himself said were most important: to love God and love others.

 -Engenders Divine Influence- a gratitude attitude invites the Holy Ghost to be with us. As we thank God for our blessings, blessings are added unto us. Our hearts are soft and able to be led by the still small voice. And that still small voice leads us right back into the arms of our Heavenly Father. Do you see the chain reaction? This is why gratitude is called a saving principle.

“How blessed we are if we recognize God’s handiwork in the marvelous tapestry of life,” said Elder Uchtdorf. “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 a catalyst to all Christlike attributes! A thankful heart is the parent of all virtues.”

Gratitude as an Act of Faith

Where do we start? Here are two ways of thinking that have helped me begin to cultivate a gratitude attitude as an act of faith.

First, train yourself to see trials as an expression of Heavenly Father’s confidence in you. God tells us in every book of scripture, “whom I love I also chasten…and I have loved you.” This is not my favorite expression of God’s love, but I know he believes in me. He believes in us. He knows we can be better than we are, so he has allowed and/or created circumstances that will compel us to grow and change for the better.  We can apply the enabling power of the atonement to our struggles.  Not only will we be able to overcome our present challenges, but our faith in God and confidence in our strength as we call on Him will grow. In the big picture, each victory over the darkness in our lives adds to the strength and brightness of our faith, “and that light growth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24).

 The second influential way of thinking is the simple but profound testimony born by Nephi in 1 Nephi 11:17. Good, faithful Nephi has prayed to understand his father’s vision and his faith was so strong, he got to have the vision himself. As the angel shows him the Savior’s birth, he asks Nephi if he knows about the condescension of God. Nephi replies, “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” The significance of a prophet of God willingly admitting he doesn’t know everything, but He knows God loves His children pierces my heart like an arrow every time I read that scripture. Think about the faith and strength that come from knowing that we are sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves us and wants us to triumph in this life. We cannot know all the means our Father will use to refine us, but we can feel peace and confidence because we feel His love. We can also trust that he loves our children more than we do and can go with them to places we cannot go. We can know that all these things will bring us experience and will be for our good. This is gratitude as an act of faith.

Elder Uchtdorf taught us, “We can choose to be grateful, no matter what. 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. We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain? Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges.

“Being grateful in our circumstances is an act of faith in God. It requires that we trust God and hope for things we may not see but which are true. By being grateful, we follow the example of our beloved Savior, who said, ‘Not my will, but thine, be done.’” [close quote]

 In times of trial and not-knowing, this kind of gratitude is nourished by the many truths we do know. Again, in Elder Uchtdorf’s words, “Your testimony of Christ, born of the Holy Ghost, can help you look past the disappointing endings in mortality and see the bright future that the Redeemer  of the world has prepared.” Choosing to be grateful in all circumstances is an act of faith. It is an expression of our testimony that God loves us and will lead us along.

I testify that choosing to be grateful is an act of faith. Being grateful opens the windows of heaven. Becoming a grateful person helps us to become a Christlike person by creating an environment where the Holy Ghost can be with us and we are led to love and serve one another. It is my testimony that gratitude helps us to have soft and humble hearts. Being grateful helps me to remember that my Heavenly Father is literally LENDING me breath. It is by Him that I am or I do anything. Being grateful helps me to see the good in an evil world and brings me peace in times of trouble. I pray we will have eyes to see and hearts to feel His blessings. I pray that we may become Grateful People so when our Savior comes, we will see Him and we will know him and we will love Him because we are like Him. In His sacred name, Jesus Christ, amen.

Sunday, November 01, 2015


Dear Loved Ones, 
Happy Halloween! I’ve discovered that Sunday nights are better for catching up with the kids than writing our family letter, so I will have to squeeze it into another time. I’m working on it. In the meantime, a whole month has passed since my last letter. It has been such a beautiful fall, I can’t remember an October where we didn’t have any snow or cold snaps. I just picked the last of or tomatoes last week!

October began with General Conference, which was just what we needed. This was the most peaceful conference in the history of our family. We got to listen to every session without much interruption—the little boys played quietly for the most part or napped, the big kids listened and did art or Legos or took notes. No fighting or annoying each other. It was delightful. And the Spirit was so very strong and transformative. We were so grateful for all the memorable talks and lessons and parables that are already blessing our family. The call to personal purity through partaking of the sacrament and observing the Sabbath was heard loud and clear. We are striving to “crank it up a notch” as it seemed clear that one of the themes of the conference was that things are not going to get better, so we need to be better. We shared Saturday lunch and afternoon session with the Jones family, and Sunday afternoon lunch with Mom and Dad Melin and Mike Egeland. So nice to share with people we love.

The next weekend (10/10) our new hospital had an Open House and ribbon cutting. It’s so exciting to have such a beautiful new modern building in Livingston (I’m sad I won’t be having a baby there). The CEO and the Finance Manager are both in our ward, so we were especially happy for them, and all our healthcare professional friends who have such a nice new workplace. That same night, we attended a missionary Open House for Curtis Jeffrey, who left to serve in the Texas Dallas Spanish-speaking Mission. He is the 4th missionary out from our ward.

The kids had a boring Fall Break this year. Addie had to babysit a lot. On Thursday I joined some ward friends in painting and cleaning our friend Sheryl’s house while she was having a chemo treatment. On Friday Rich and I got to go to the temple on a double date with the Joneses. Grandma Melin and Addie baby sat so we could go and we were so grateful. Saturday I took the kids to see “Hotel Transylvania 2” in Bozeman while Rich worked at the Preparedness Fair (Emergency Essentials booth). We also went to Helena and picked up Nana (my mom). She came to visit Matt October 10-24, so she came to our house the 17th-21st. Finally on Saturday night, the girls got to have some fun. The invited some friends over to play games and had a good time.

While Nana was here we had a good FHE given by Heidi and James (Faith in God requirement) and delivered Halloween treats. The next night she got to hear Addie, Izzi, Clara, and Jeanette practice “We’ll Bring the World His Truth” for 10/25 sacrament meeting. They did so well, the made her cry. I took Nana back to Uncle Matt Wednesday night. We met at Wheat Montana just as it closed.

The day Nana left, Uncle Mark arrived to visit from New Jersey. He came to hunt and spend some time with the Parents at the ranch and play with the kids. We had a great time with him, but we really missed his family!  Uncle Mark got to go with Rich to take his scouts backpacking into Yellowstone Park at Canyon Lake. They had a good turn out and a chilly night, but no one got eaten by the grizzle bear that was roaming around. At home we had a fun movie night. The girls had friends over and we had pizza and watched “Far From the Madding Crowd” when the boys went to bed. In the morning I finally got to watch “Love and Mercy” (about Brian Wilson) while I did laundry-both great films! That night Rich took the kids out to the ranch to visit Uncle Mark while I had a long Epsom soak and visited my sick friend.

Sunday 10/25 was Terin Bowden’s farewell. She is leaving to serve in the Texas Lubbock mission with our former stake president, David Heap, as her mission president. We are jealous. Addie and friends sang their song just perfectly, I was so proud of them. Monday was Uncle Will’s birthday. I gave Ammon his first haircut. Uncle Mark and the grandparents came over for pizza dinner and FHE. Heidi and James gave the lesson again (another Faith in God requirement), about three thing President Monson asked us to do last conference. We talked about letting our light shine and being examples. It was a good lesson for some struggles Heidi is having lately. We had a nice visit with the family.

The next night was James’ pack meeting. The grandparents and Mark came to that, too, and Addie helped the Young Men set up for the Trunk or Treat the following night. I took Heidi on a much needed date. Wednesday Uncle Mark went home (L) and we had our Trunk or Treat and Chili Cook Off at the church. It’s always a busy night, but the kids had a blast. Addie dressed as Annabeth from Percy Jackson, Heidi was Prussia from the anime show Hetalia, James was he Scream, Niles was a caterpillar, and Ammon was a pumpkin.  Friday was another busy Halloween day. James had a class party at 2:15. Then the middle school had an awards assembly where Addie was 8th grade student of the quarter. Then we went back to James’ school for the costume parade, then back to the middle school to get the girls ready for the Halloween dance. Rich picked them up and came home at 6pm. We had stew and yummy apples for dinner and carved pumpkins and watched “Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Room on the Broom” (later the girls watched Les Miserables).

Saturday we quickly did chores, and then headed to Bozeman to visit Museum of the Rockies and pick up pizza for our pre-Trick-or-Treating dinner with friends. We took the little kids down a few blocks of Yellowstone Street for the first time ever, and then we let the big kids go with their ward friends. Hedi decided to stay home and had out treats since we were only gone for an hour. It was nice to meet up with the Johnsons and Roberts for a while, the kids had a blast.  I’ll be honest, I hate Halloween, but I try to make it fun for the kids. I am celebrating that it’s OVER! Now it’s time for a month of gratitude, which is my FAVORITE.

Happy, happy birthdays last week to Aunt Jill, Jex, Uncles Willy, Jess, and Michael, and Cousin Emily Post. We love you all and we are so glad you were born! Thanks to Uncle Mark for dinner lst Monday and all the good visits and love and advice. We are blessed to have you in our family, and hope you took lots of our love home to your family—we really miss you all!  Tuesday Cousin Maeby turns 9 and next Saturday Aunt Angie and Uncle Clinton Mullins have birthdays, so enjoy your special days guys! We love and miss you all and look forward to hearing from you and seeing all your Halloween pictures.

Love, Rich and Jamie and Family

Niles saying goodbye to Great Grandma Lyn 09.30

Grandma, Uncle Ralph and Aunt Marti, and Me saying goodbye 09.30

Having fun with the PONDERIZING idea
(photo courtesy of Stand and Shine Magazine for YW)

Niles at school 10.08

Last Day of the Season at Mark's In and Out 10.10

Heidi painting a mural at the hospital Open House 10.10

James got his costume in the mail 10.10

Heidi and Addie picking up Nana 10.17

Crazy Girls 10.17

Scout Camping in Yellowstone 10.24

Cold Scouts 10.24

Beautiful Sky
looking SE from our house 1030am 10.26

Ammon's First haircut 10.26

Ammon with Uncle Mark Ammon 10.26

Niles at Trunk or Treat face painting 10.28

8th Grade Students of the Quarter 10.30

Azalea, Milena, Addie 10.30

James as The Scream at Eastside School costume parade 10.30

Daddy and James pumpkin carving 10.30

Addie and Niles 10.30

Pre- Trick-or-Treating pizaz dinner with Johnsons 10.31 6pm

Jack-o-Lanterns on Halloween!

Our boys after Trick or Treating 10.31

On Yellowstone Street with Brody and Colton Johnson

Addie with her Trick or Treating Posse 10.31
Carter, Tyler, Addie, Sophia, Isabel, Oliver and Amelie
--photo courtesy of Amelie's Mom, Chieko

Out in the foyer at church with the fussy kids on 11.01--Ammon doing "CPR" on Draya Bowden

It's finally NOVEMBER! Time for Daily Gratitude :)

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Dear Loved Ones,   
I was surprised that nearly a month has flown by since I wrote a family letter. Every Sunday night we have had something going on, and then it was time to jump into a busy week again on Monday and I never did catch up. It has been a wonderful, beautiful month, my very favorite time of year. We have thoroughly enjoyed a true Indian Summer. Here are some highlights from September.

We began the month marking five years since we lost Papa Bill. Our hearts just naturally turn toward him and our good memories on September 2nd, so we just talked about him lots and enjoyed sharing memories. Lots of relatives shared memories and pictures on Facebook. It’s nice to be connected that way. That first week of September we had a short little cold snap and we really enjoyed breaking out our sweaters for a few days, but the sun was back for Labor Day.

 Friday September 4th we celebrated James’ 9th birthday a day early with a little after school bowling party with his scout friends. They bowled and played arcade games, then we came back to the house for pizza, birthday cake, and trampoline, all packed into 2 hours. It was fun. We celebrated a day early because on the 5th, we traveled to Helena to attend Cousin Rachel Kinkie’s wedding. It was a crazy trip, but the wedding was beautiful. Rachel and her husband Mike Meredith are a great looking couple and they seem so happy. We enjoyed the festivities so much.

Niles started Pre- Kindergarten on September 8th. He goes to school from 8am til 2:30pm, Monday - Thursday and we were worried it would be too long a day for him. Turns out he loves it and he’s learning lots and playing lots and sleeping better at night. As long as he’s happy we’ll stick with this program.

 September 10-11th I went with Rich to an Insurance conference in Great Falls, MT, while Grandma Melin stayed with the kids. I only attended one meeting with Rich (and awards ceremony and breakfast). The rest of the time I explored GF, shopped, and caught up on some writing. We enjoyed some wonderful meals and a great night’s sleep. I also watched the replay of the Today Show from 9/11/01 on msnbc. It’s always nice to watch that again because it is what we were watching on that day. I like to refresh my memory and emotions of that day so I truly never forget what we’ve been fighting the past 14 years. We returned home rested and refreshed for a fun weekend with our kids.

 On September 12th Addie and I attended a cool Interfaith Service activity planned by one of our YW as a project. We made customizable (with fabric markers) muslin dolls with hospital gowns and blankets for the new hospital to give its pediatric patients. It was such a fun activity, I wish I could have stayed all day, but we had to head home at 2:30 so Rich could go over to Bozeman for the Leadership session of Stake Conference. The general session of stake conference on Sunday was broadcast to our ward building which is always nice. We loved hearing from Elder Pino in Spanish. I was able to understand more than I thought I would, which sparked an interest in actually brushing up on my Spanish so maybe I could speak it someday.

 That following week seemed to be all about harvesting, canning, and baking. I made a double batch of an amazing carrot cake recipe I got from Mom Melin. I made peach salsa and regular mild salsa (I mostly use it in the crock pot to flavor meat for tacos). We still have lots of tomatoes ripening in the garden, and if they survive, I will make spaghetti sauce out of them. I also made dilly beans with an especially strong head of garlic, so they are potent. I used a recipe for spicy dillies (with cayenne) and they definitely are spicy. Not for the casual snacker. But I love them. I ate a whole jar with my brother Matt this weekend. They taste like pepperoncinis. So yay for canning!

 Rich was gone to the Fall Camporee on September 18-19.  We had a movie night on Friday, then chores and canning on Saturday. He came home in the afternoon and cleaned up and rested a bit, then Grandpa and Grandma Melin came over with Uncle Mike and brought us pizza for dinner and gave us the news that they’d received another mission call. Grandpa Melin will be serving as the second counselor in the Billings Temple Presidency and Grandma will be a matron. They will move to Billings and serve three years starting November 1st. Grandpa will be made a sealer, which is such a great blessing for our children. I hope each of them has the opportunity to be sealed in the temple by their Grandpa. I know it was so special for all us grandkids to receive our Patriarchal blessings from Papa Bill. We are very excited for Mom and Dad and we know blessings will flow to our family from their service.

On Sunday the 20th, Grandpa and Grandma graciously came over again to watch the kids for us while Richard, Addie, and I went over to Bozeman for Stake Standards Night. Addie and four of her best friends performed the opening song, “We’ll Bring the World His Truth.” Eden Jones played the piano beautifully while her sisters Jeanette and Clara sang soprano and Addie and Izzi Petry sang the alto. They did a beautiful job, their voices blended perfectly, and we were so very proud of them. They brought the Spirit and set the mood for a wonderful, inspiring night for the youth of our stake. I’m so glad I could be there.

 All last week we worked on our Fall cleaning goals and got ready to have house guests.  Tuesday, September 22 was Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, the Day of Atonement. I love that holiday and even though we don’t observe it properly, it reminds me to ponder and apply principles of the atonement more earnestly. That afternoon Elder Richard G. Scott of the quorum of twelve apostles passed away. That makes three vacancies in the quorum to fill next week at General Conference. It’s both sad and exciting. I will miss Elder Scott so much. He gave some talks that really changed my life. I will include links on a post script.

 On Wednesday, September 23, Grandma Lyn and my Aunt Marti and Uncle Ralph and flew up to visit us from Sierra Vista, AZ. They got here just in time for dinner. We had a big salad made of greens and tomatoes from our garden, pasta, and garlic bread. Richard and Addie left for a combined youth activity at 6:30. Rich’s deacons were in charge and planned Frisbee golf and dutch oven cobblers at Sacajawea Park. At 7pm Uncle Ralph drove James over to the park to join in the fun, then I took Grandma, Marti and the little boys and Heidi over at 7:45 to have some cobbler and enjoy the warm evening by the river.

Thursday was my 44th birthday and Marti’s 61st. Our family woke up early for scriptures then the kids and Rich gave me some gifts and we had breakfast together. I got a fancy new trash can—I know it sounds crazy, but thats’ what I wanted—and some other nice kitchen stuff.  I saw the kids off then left Ammon with Aunt Marti and went to get my birthday haircut. Afterward Auntie wanted to take me grocery shopping, so Uncle Ralph volunteered to stay with Ammon during his nap and we ladies went to the store. We picked up the kids from school and got ready for a fun birthday dinner at Rib & Chop House. It was an excellent dinner, followed by a drive out to the ranch with Marti and Ralph, where we had a little tour and watched the moonrise over the Yellowstone River. Pretty much a PERFECT DAY.

We enjoyed visits from my brother Matt and family on Friday and Michael and family on Saturday. Friday night was a ward barbecue. Rich took the kids while I stayed home with Gram. Duringthe barbecue we found out my brother Sam and Kristen are expecting a baby girl February 1st—HOORAY!  Saturday morning at 4:30am Richard and Addie went on a youth temple trip to Billings. They got home at 1pm and Rich changed and went to the MSU football game with Aaron Roberts. I asked him to bring home dinner since he was going to be gone all day and he obliged and we tag-teamed. Gram, the girls, and I went downstairs and watched the Women’s Broadcast at 6pm while Rich bathed the boys and got them to bed. Soon we were joined by Michael’s wife Amber and The Jones girls. We enjoyed the meeting, especially Elder Uchtdorf’s story about Great Aunt Rose. There is so much to be happy about in life even in our trials. I was inspired by that meeting and the strength I got from watching it with strong women I love.

Today we enjoyed the best sacrament meeting I have been to in a long time. The speakers were amazing—like conference-level inspiring. Our ward is sending off two more missionaries and they both spoke today. I was so blessed to be able to participate in the program. I sang the intermediate song, “In Quiet Grove,” with Davina Ryszka on the piano and Haylee Speas on the violin. Haylee plays so beautifully, it’s like BUTTAH! She is leaving Wednesday for the MTC getting ready to serve in the Nicaragua Managua mission. I adore her.  Curtis Jeffrey is leaving in three weeks to an undisclosed mission, and he spoke with Haylee today. The closing speaker was my beloved friend Robyn Jones and she knocked an already-good meeting out of the park with her talk on personal revelation. She noted Nephi's consistent pattern of “Seek, Receive, Act” as an example of how we should ask for and use personal revelation. I was thinking after the meeting, if I were the bishop, this Sabbath would be a banner day in my book. Totally edifying meeting, sending off TWO missionaries, good, clean worthy Aaronic priesthood holders performing the ordinance of the sacrament---Livingston Ward is doing pretty  good. We love our ward family.

So Mike and Amber made us a delicious dinner before they headed back to Rexburg. We had a nice time at Haylee’s farewell open house. We kept trying to watch the super blood moon eclipse but all we could see were clouds and then some rain. The girls watched the premier of “Once Upon a Time” and I watched the premier of “Indian Summers” on Masterpiece and I just tucked in Grandma and the girls. Phew! It’s been a great month, a fabulous birthday/birthweek, and we feel so very blessed.

Hope you all have a wonderful week—enjoy conference! Hope Aunt Abby’s Sweet Sixteen Party was awesome. Happy 9th Birthday to Matthew Melin—we will think of you while we watch conference and eat treats! J


Love, Rich and Jamie and Family

Here are three talks by Elder Scott that rocked my young adult world:
Wonderful marriage advice: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1996/10/the-joy-of-living-the-great-plan-of-happiness?lang=eng
Guidance on making big life decisions: https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/richard-g-scott_regrets/
Jesus and the Book of Mormon are our best friends: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1988/10/true-friends-that-lift?lang=eng


Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Just now, tonight, in the hullabaloo of a week night with dinner and homework and scout stuff and preparing for house guests, I felt the most powerful, encompassing sense of bittersweetness I have ever felt in my life. Sometimes I get that happy-sad feeling but it's always imbalanced. Like when tragedy strikes and I'm grieving but there's underlying joy because the Spirit brings peace, and I'm alive and I'm, like, experiencing it all and enduring, but the sad outweighs the happy by tons.

But not tonight. Tonight was 50-50.

The kids were quietly doing homework at the bar and I was rolling out cinnamon rolls and feeling heavy hearted at the loss of Elder Richard G. Scott. I already missed him so much from April conference, and now he's gone. I turned on the kitchen cd player and lucky me, it was loaded with Innocence Mission's "Glow" album. The happy strums and sweet lyrics of "Keeping Awake" felt like a hug. I thought about how I'm actually really happy deep down right now because today it's fall and it's Yom Kippur and tomorrow my Gram and auntie come. The lyrics felt autobiographical:

"Under those trees
 we will all be setting blankets down
It's tomorrow, yes it is!
Oh, I am near to sleeping
But I am keeping awake..."
{"I'm too excited to sleep :)"}

But then I felt emotion well up for loved ones who won't be getting together tomorrow, or any day, until this life is complete. A sweet PTO acquaintance lost her husband this week. The Scotts lost their patriarch. My baby brother is doing his best to keep afloat on the hurricane waves of a cruel divorce, not of his choosing. Many others I love are hurting because of the poor choices of others and the general disrespect for life and creation and honesty, kindness, integrity, charity...it's a lot. It gets heavy. My phrase for this heaviness is "Too much sad." I can't take too much sad.

Then the song switched to "Brave." To me, "Brave" is about FAITH. I'm going to post the whole song because it always calls me out. It's like the message of "Because I Have Been Given Much," in folk-rock lyrics especially for people who have anxiety and are super-sensitive:

You paint a tulip red with joy
You say the psalm, I will not fear
Somehow, knowing what you do know
Still you tremble out and in

You cry up in your room
Aunt Ruthie comes, you cannot still your limbs
Somehow, knowing what you do know
Still you tremble out and in

You see how I go to pieces
That I'm laying on the ground
Like the sky is so heavy
When I could be brave...
You go outside, you see the Holy Spirit
Burning in your trees
And you walk on, glowing with the same glow
Still you tremble out and in...

Oh, I know it, I know it, here is God beside
I meant it, I meant that I'm sure of that
But the sky is tall and heavy
When I could be brave, brave, brave
So I'm not going to pieces. The sky FEELS tall and heavy today, but I can be brave. I really do have faith. It's all going to be okay. There really is rest, just beyond the veil. I know the ways to get a taste of it here and now, but to be honest, tonight I'm just a little bit tired of the fight. To be honest, I'm kind of just jealous of Elder Scott. He's done! Well done, good and faithful servant. But there's more for me to do and become and experience; I'm certainly not fit for the place I'd like to end up, but if I'm brave, I'll get there.
Then "Happy, The End." came on. And that's the point. Sometimes the sky is tall and heavy, and no matter how much my trees glow, no matter the abundance laid out before me, I only feel the vast space between me, here, and My God and my home, there, where I belong. Too much sad. But so much joy. It's a small moment. And I like to think I will look back on my mortal experience like I look back on my mission or child birth. There was SO MUCH PAIN, so much growing and changing and heartbreak of exhaustion, but the happiness and the miracles of it all over shadowed everything that ever hurt. Everything negative is swallowed up in the exquisite joy. Opposition in all things. Bitter and sweet, all in the same quiet moment of my beautiful life in my humble kitchen doing my daily work, saying the psalm I will not fear.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Byron, Aaron, and Andy
(and a photo bomb from my little brother Matt- age 6)
This week marks the 30th anniversary of my friendship with Byron (and Andy, Aaron, the other Aaron, Danny, etc.) and the beginning of the connection of us East End girls with the West End boys. I wanted to mark the occasion by sharing a few memories that often come back to me about that time.

I was about two weeks from turning 14 and I had just stared high school. I attended a Back-to-School sock hop that was the combined mid-week youth activity for several wards that week. I remember carefully curating an outfit of rolled up 501 jeans, keds, and a short- sleeved plaid shirt of my dad’s from which I had removed the collar and capped the sleeves. I was in the process of growing out my she-mullet and still wore braces for two more months, but I did my best to be adorable like an extra on “Happy Days,” and went to the sock hop.

There at the dance I spotted a cute boy in a Bones skate T-shirt.  His name was Byron. His also-cute friend was named Andy. We started talking about skating and Powell and Peralta videos and music. Then we danced. Then I learned he wasn’t from the adjoining ward, he was crashing the dance with some friends. He lived and went to school, like, 12 miles from me, which may as well have been China via the city bus, so I thought that might be a dealbreaker since neither of us could drive. I was wrong. When it was time to go home he asked me for my phone number and gave me some m-n-ms and Andy made a joke about the green ones that went over my head and we left. It was kind of like a movie.

The next morning I woke up to the song “Be Near Me” by ABC. I got all fluttery when I head the chorus, “all my dreams came true last night…Be near me…” Later Byron told me he also heard a song the next day that reminded him of me, but he was embarrassed because it was a lame song:  “High on You” by Survivor (“Let me tell ya about the girl I met last night…”).  hahahaha

So Byron called. We made arrangements to meet up at the upcoming stake dance, which was at my stake building. I was still about a week from turning 14 but managed to get a dance card and go to the dance. I don’t remember much about the dance, but I never missed another dance that year, so it must have been awesome. Our little romance consisted of phone calls, youth activities, dances, and meet ups at various skate spots (concrete banks of washes we just called banks, the fountain at the Uof A, various school campuses, etc) usually by riding the city bus or bumming rides off the parents or Andy ( Andy's awesome squareback, and later The Tempo!).

We were done by Christmas, but we stayed good friends. Byron dated my friend Sooz. I dated his friend Aaron. In fact, the next year when I was with Aaron, we all met up to skate at the Uof A on a half day. We went to Mama’s Pizza for a slice and “My Best Friend’s Girlfriend” came on the juke box. Byron and Aaron started to laugh and said, “This is our song!”—“She’s my best friend’s girl, and she used to be mine!” The memory of them singing that song seared into my mind because it really was very cute.

Our paths crossed and intertwined occasionally after we all went our separate ways for college. We did have a little lonely hearts club reunion around Christmas time in 1999 when I had a broken engagement, there were some divorces and other life changes, and there we all were in Tucson again. We met up at Aaron Smith’s house to catch up and it was pretty sweet. I don’t have tons to brag about in life, but I have great taste in friends. I love that the people I loved at 14 turn out to be even more loveable and awesome at 30, and probably at 50, which is coming right up. So thanks for so many great memories, guys. You made growing up so much fun.

Monday, August 31, 2015


This is the canyon heading toward Bozeman on Thursday afternoon (8.20) as we headed to Mack's Inn for the reunion. There was a huge fire burning near Three Forks, plus all the smoke from Idaho and Washington fires. YIKES!

Niles, Max Craft, Max Mullins, and James chillin' at our camp site.
They were insta-buds!

Rich working hard to get set up

Heidi drawing and journaling Friday morning

Max M and James Friday morning

Niles on Friday

Johnny Sacks' cabin at Big Springs
This is the little water wheel below the cabin--such beautiful wood work, I want my own cabin now!

Heidi checking out the springs

It was mesmerizing to watch the plants move beneath the perfectly clear spring water.

Hiking around the cabin with cousins

Addie, Heidi, James with hands on Max and Niles, Aubrey, Kate, and Ellie Mullins.

Addie, Heidi, James with hands on Max and Niles, Aubrey, Kate, and Ellie Mullins

Upstairs at Johnny's
Addie, Niles, Heidi, and James

Heading out to float Henry's Fork

Addie in the river

Heidi and James

Owen, Kristen, Gavin, and Sam Layton with Heidi

Laytons Ahoy!

Audrey and Spencer heading out

Rich, James, Maeby, and Willy

Maebs and Will heading out

Liam and Melanie bringing up the caboose

Such a serene scene...
probably because the river wasn't moving. Like, at all.

Four beautiful boys at the playground Saturday morning.

I was struck by all their beautiful EYES!
Gavin Layton, James Melin, Max Mullins, and Owen Layton

Sam in West Yellowstone.
He sometimes answers to "Bullwinkle"

Mob-o-Laytons in West Yellowstone

Heidi and James are crazy

Addie Melin, Kennedy Craft, Brenna Layton, Aubrey Mullins, Owen Layton in front of Hailey Layton and Heidi, James Melin, and Ellie Mullins
 front row L-R:Niles Melin, Zecklin Oslin, Kate, Nathan, and Max Mullins, James Layton, Max Craft, Lexi Mullins, and Gavin Layton.

Owen, James, and Aubrey watching the taffy puller.


The crowd of candy fans grows...

Mullins family picking out their fudge treats.

Look at those faces just eyeballing that candy

Niles and Lexi sharing treats

Silly cuties

Niles getting a bear hug

Owen, James, Niles, and Little James with a bison in West


Our cute niece, Piper Craft

Back at camp--Lexi, Niles, Zecklin

Addie and Zecklin

Niles and Lexi--wondertwins

Ammon, Kate, and Lexi

Love these sweet girls!!!

Chef Richard and his pizzas and cheesecake


Another dynamic duo: Heidi and Kennedy

Addie with Rhonda's sweet baby Reese

Shelby helping with portraits, bless her heart.

Blurry but hilarious pic of Addie.
Typical reaction to Heidi.

Ammy eating in his little chair under the tree, happy as a clam and safe from danger or disaster.

It was like Thanksgiving in summer at the Saturday potluck. Every dish was delicious!
It was a lovely final gathering for everybody.

These Two!

Ammon said, "HAPPY TRAILS, y'all. I'm out."
Here are all the portraits we took after dinner on Saturday (8.22).

Two Jameses

Three Jameses

Jamie's Family

Willy's Family

Laura's Family
Dad and Laura

Dad and Becky with Lisa's Family
Dad and Becky with Laura's Family

Lisa's Family

Rhonda's Family

Sam's Family
Ryan's Family (missing Gavin)

Ryan's Family with Dad and Becky

Dad and Becky with Sam's Family
Erin's Family

All 8 kids with Dad and Becky
Erin, Rhonda, Jamie, Sam, Willy, Ryan, Laura
Becky, Dad, Lisa

Thanks for the memories, everybody!!!