Friday, January 30, 2015


To add something personal to our ward's annual history, we added spiritual experiences submitted by members. Here are the stories I submitted (in addition to the Kid History New Year's entry, and the previously posted "Prove Me Now Herewith" story about Ammon's birth).

Sisterly Love

Over the past few years the sibling rivalry between our only two daughters escalated to deep and spiteful mistreatment. They were competitive with each other, jealous, mean—fighting like cats and dogs!  Heidi tried to push everyone’s buttons, and Adeline would go out of her way to make Heidi feel rejected. Anytime Heidi wanted to be with her or to be like her, Addie would refuse—she would change if they dressed the same, she’d cancel her plans if I said she had to include Heidi. It was getting ridiculous. All my Marmie-like transcendentalist dreams of raising powerful, loving, sisterly daughters were blowing away like so much Livingston winter snow.

Before our family trip to Nauvoo in June, part of my Fast Sunday prayer was that our girls might bond with one another on the trip and stop being so hateful to each other.  They would be confined to the back seat of the minivan for several thousand miles . They’d have to learn how to get along or else kill each other.

Heavenly Father answered my Mother’s prayer. Sure enough, they found some common ground this summer and are wonderful friends now. Granted, the bonding was over Dr. Who and Sherlock, but I'll take it like it comes. I know Heavenly Father has the power to soften hearts and change attitudes, especially when we harness the power of fasting and prayer.

A Musical Miracle
 As the Ward Music Chairperson and Choir Director, one of my responsibilities is to choose music and prepare the choir for special Christmas programs, in the ward and in the stake. Every year this is a scary prospect because so few people come to choir practice regularly. The past two years, the stake has held a special Christmas Concert and Nativity night, which adds even more pressure.
For Christmas 2013, we had scant choir practice attendance up until the last few practices. We ended up being one of the largest choirs in the stake and performing “Still, Still, Still” was such a powerful spiritual experience. I was so grateful to be involved and grateful for the singers who stepped up to help at the last minute. This experience increased my faith and I knew I shouldn’t get too anxious about choir attendance because everything would be okay in the end.
So for Christmas 2014 we chose our music and began to practice in October. Our numbers were few; the most men we ever had attend was five. Some practices consisted of a total of five singers, counting myself! I kept hoping for another Christmas miracle, but when only one man showed up at an emergency practice held the day before the Stake concert, I knew it wasn’t going to be like the previous year. I had already cut the choir down to one song, and now I was going to have to cut out the men’s parts all together.  As we practiced, Sister Mills said, “Hey, wait a minute, I think I can carry this tenor part on my own.” There were only six other women singing, and Brother Mills singing bass. We tried it and it sounded amazing. We were more of an ensemble than a choir, but our song was a tender lullaby, so it was fitting.
The night of the concert arrived with a huge snowstorm. We were all afraid to drive to the stake center. A few of us didn’t brave it. But enough of us arrived safely to perform the song, and our dear accompanist, Sister Ryszka, had arrived alive, so we were going to be okay. As I rose to lead my “skeleton crew,” I prayed for another Christmas Music Miracle. The choir sang like angels. It was such a sweet performance, and we enjoyed the rest of the concert, as well. My prayer was answered. We received another miracle, though it was different than the year before.
This experience strengthened my testimony that God make us equal to our day, especially as we serve in the church. I don’t always understand why certain lessons or performances or activities turn out the way they do, but I know that God guides us to give to others exactly what is needed. The meetings go the way he needs them to go to accomplish his work when we allow him to lead us. When a lesson or activity or music plan isn’t going the way I planned, I’ve learned to truly “let go and let God,” because it’s His work and He knows the hearts of His children and what they need.

Sustaining the Priesthood
 Talks by Naomi Johnson in 2013 then by Melinda Lowe in 2014 prompted me to be more supportive of my husband and more trusting in God’s plan for his daughters as well as his sons.
Many people I love and respect have made some sound arguments about changing the way we use the priesthood in the church. Many of these people have heartbreaking stories of unrighteous dominion and other ecclesiastical abuses. Some have taken these experiences to the conclusion that women should hold priesthood offices and authority and then we’d have fewer of these problems. Listening to these ideas began to create a fog of doubt and mistrust for me about the exercise and misuse of priesthood authority. I wondered if there was something missing that we as a church needed to ask for. Not necessarily ordination for women, but something different than what we have now.
 When Naomi Johnson bore her testimony of the priesthood and working as a helpmeet with her husband, it touched my heart. I told Heavenly Father I wanted those feelings back; I told him I knew that my husband and leaders were worthy of my respect and sustaining and I wanted to have compassion for my sisters who were hurting and calling for change, but I also wanted the doubts to go away. Elder Oaks’ April 2014 conference talk was also a wonderful balm for my concerns.  I knew that our prophets were aware of our concerns and have taken them to the Lord, and that things were as they should be right now.
Fast forward to Sister Melinda Lowe’s talk on sustaining the priesthood in Summer (?) 2014. She shared several personal examples of adjusting her attitude to be more supportive of her husband and the demands on his time as he tried to both provide for their family and magnify his priesthood callings. It was such a call out to me and all my murmuring and resentment about the time my husband has to be away from us for his scouting and stake responsibilities. My mind almost instantly changed from negativity to thinking, “I am so blessed to have a husband who has a job and works hard for us AND is willing to share his time and talents with the stake and with the scouts in our ward. He is blessing not just our family, but future families who will be led by righteous, skilled men who were once scouts with Brother Melin.” And I thought of all my friends whose husbands never even try to support their families or honor their priesthood, and I repented of my ingratitude right then.
 I am so grateful for my faithful sisters and their testimonies. They helped me through a trial of my own faith and made me better through their words and spirit. Sometimes Sacrament Meeting talks just directly address my spiritual needs and I am grateful for the preparation that goes into each meeting.


Sunday, January 04, 2015

Photos of New Year's 2015

Our ward had its 2nd Annual New Years Eve Talent Show. The girls sang "A Last Goodbye" from the Hobbit 3 movie. Here they are practicing with the Jones girls on New Years Eve in the afternoon. Photo courtesy of Laura Healy, who was our house guest with Drews.
Ammon finally fit into the Vans that the Jensens sent him. They were so cute, but only fit for a few weeks...then his feet got too fat to fit in the shoes.

At 11:45pm, I went around the house and took pictures of what everyone was doing before we rang in the New Year. It was the first time in looooong time we actually stayed up that late. Here are Bea and Elanor Jones playing in the basement.

Elanor was watching Heidi play the Hobbit xbox game she got for Christmas.

Clara, Adeline, Eden, Robyn, and Jeanette watching Sherlock on my bed...
so tired!
Rex Jones playing in the basement

Cozy fire and sweet kids in the basement

Uncle Mike and James reading a book.

Earlier, Laura had curled Heidi's hair to make "Hobbit Hair." She was so cute!

On New Year's Day, Rich and James and Mike went out to tie flies in the boathouse at the ranch.

James did a little target shooting.

I stayed home with the other kids and watched movies and began to take down Christmas...*sigh*
(This particular ornament is from Aunt Marti from her mission to Ukraine--love it!)

Thursday, January 01, 2015

The First Day of 2015: Melin Kid History

ADELINE (13): I love my family and friends and Nauvoo and this beautiful place where we live.

The best thing that happened in 2014 was our Cousin Dance party for my cousin TJay’s birthday out at the ranch. I also loved seeing Ammon in the hospital when he was born, the night we had s’mores and played Clue at a bonfire by the river at the ranch.  I loved getting to go to the temple three times this year. The trip in August was especially fun because I got to introduce the ward youth to CafĂ© Rio and we kidnapped Clara and Eden Jones  afterward and they became my very best friends. I love watching Dr. Who with them and fangirling.

My happiest moments of 2014 were when Ammon was born, when my friends kidnapped me to celebrate my 13th birthday, making homemade Christmas gifts for my friends and treats for strangers, when I fell down the Jones’ stairs and got hurt and Beatrice and Elanor took care of me.

In 2015, I would like to have longer hair and more Sherlock episodes and more love in the world.

In 2014,  I felt closest to Heavenly Father in the hospital the night Ammon was born when it was just me and mommy and the baby, on temple trips, being with the missionaries in Nauvoo—the older ones and the younger ones who performed for us—and feeling the special Spirit of Nauvoo.


HEIDI (10-1/2): You were a great year, 2014. Thanks for turning me into this person.  You introduced me to a lot of things I really love and I feel great about myself.

The best thing that happened in 2014 was Independence Day week. I loved going to the parade with my cousins, floating the river, jumping on the trampoline, camping, and all the fun things we did with cousins.

My happiest moments of 2014 were laughing with Addie, Jeanette, Clara, and Eden. I love having good new friends.

In 2015, I would like to learn to play the piano and drums and read music better.

In 2014, I felt closest to Heavenly Father when we got stuck in the snow at Pine Creek and we prayed to get out. Heavenly Father answered our prayers and we felt safe instead of scared. I felt close to Heavenly Father when we visited Nauvoo. I just thought it was so special how all those people are preserving it and taking care of it and teaching us about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. I loved being with my family in a fun new place and seeing Grandpa and Grandma on their mission.


JAMES (8): It was a really fun year with a lot of really cool Lego sets

The best thing that happened in 2014 was I had a great birthday. It was so exciting. I got baptized and that was special. Then it was so exciting to have a Lego Birthday party and get that cool Star Wars Lego set. Also, I got to start Cub Scouts with my friends Curtis, Kinnick, William, and Zane. I love Cub Scouts.

My happiest moments of 2014 were when Ammon was born and I got to have lunch with Mommy in the hospital. Also, I was so happy when I tore the wrapping paper off that Lego Tank set.

In 2015, I would like to change and be nicer to Niles and be a good big brother.

In 2014, I felt closest to Heavenly Father at my baptism. When I closed my eyes in the water, I pictured Heavenly Father and Jesus. They were smiling and they said, “Thanks for making a good choice.” They were happy for me.


NILES (3-1/2): I love Jesus because he loves me. I’m going to be a Sunbeam. I like to shoot my gun. I love James, he makes me happy, soccer makes me happy, and preschool.


EPILOGUE: The Last Day of 2014

 We all woke up late except for dad—that poor guy had to go to work. The big kids had stayed up til 1am watching the extended Lord Of the Rings with Uncle Michael and Aunt  Amber, and Ammon was up late feeling yucky  (teething, we think) so we needed a long winter’s nap. Outside, the temp had been hovering around zero for 4 days with a gusty, freezing wind. The day before we woke up to a wind chill of -30. But thing were looking up on the last day of the year—the expected high was 29 degrees! Nonetheless, we kept the fire stoked and cleaned up the downstairs in preparation for some New Year’s partying.

 Uncle Michael, Aunt Amber, their kids Emmalyn and Autumn and their friend Laura were visiting us from Rexburg. The had planned to stay at least until New Year’s Day, but Amber got sick and needed her own bed, so they left before noon on New Year’s Eve—bummer! We got their rooms cleaned up and cleaned the kitchen. Then we made brownies, Chex Mix, artisan bread with herb butter spread, and nachos for New Year’s Eve snacking. Mom needed a nap, so Dad finished the food prep by making Mini-Pigs in a Blanket with Cheddar Little Smokies for the Ward Talent Show refreshments.

 At 4pm, the Jones came over to practice music for the talent show, and we left for the show at 6pm. Uncle Mike Melin joined us. The girls sang “The Last Goodbye” from The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, and Sister Jones and mom sang, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” a capella with some of the John Wyeth verses added back in. Mom also accompanied the cute Denniston girls singing “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and Heidi decided to sing “Rollin’ in the Deep” at the very last moment and she rocked it. Niles did a side show while the missionaries were rapping, showing off his awesome dance moves. We stayed at the church with our ward friends until 8pm, then the Jones Family came over to our house to hang out and ring in the New Year.

We talked, listened to music, ate food, played Yahtzee, snuggled and watched Sherlock upstairs, snuggled and played The Hobbit on Xbox downstairs. We drank Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider at midnight and sang Auld Lang Syne and hit the hay. Ammon fell asleep around 10pm and Niles crashed at 11:50pm, no kidding! He almost made it. We welcomed New Year’s morning with raspberry French Toast and interviews with mom to reflect on 2014 and what we want to happen in 2015. The sun is out, the air is crisp, and there is promise in the air. Happy New Year, everyone!


Dear Loved Ones,                                                                                                                         1...