Sunday, November 29, 2015


Dear Loved Ones,                                             

What a cozy evening we are having by the fire! Happy Birthday, Aunt Kelli! We missed you this holiday. We have pretty much polished off all our Thanksgiving leftovers and we’re watching the old school “Rudolph” movie together. This month has passed so fast. We had a steady stream of school and church and family events to keep us busy, as well as our first real winter storms. Most notable was Heidi’s first choir concert, and Addie’s first 8th grade concert. The middle school is overbooked, so they held the concerts at different times on different nights (11/10 and 11/12), but we really enjoyed both shows. The musical selections were unique and well-done. I’m really grateful for the music teachers—they are very good at what they do and they infuse our kids with excitement and go the extra mile.

That second week of November was crazy; there were activities every single night. Friday night Rich took his scouts camping. We texted at bedtime and I told him about the terrorist attacks in Paris. We felt sad for the French but also jealous of the decisive action their government took ;) Saturday night our ward had a family Pinewood derby. We didn’t make any new cars but Rich and James raced their old cars and James one third place.

On November 16th we had a cold blustery day so I tried a new recipe for soup. It was a huge hit and we’ve made it again, so I’m including it with this letter. Gnocchi is a great use of leftover mashed potatoes! That night for FHE we had a Book of Mormon marathon reading because the kids were getting tired of reading about wars in our morning reading (“When are we going to read about Jesus?”). We read from Alma 50-56 and had cookies for dessert. So this last week we just read about Helaman’s warriors and this week and we hope to be reading about Jesus’ birth by Christmas time.  I was so happy to hear Dad Melin speak in sacrament meeting today about Helaman’s warriors and see my kids make the connection.

Another big event of the month was Addie’s 14th birthday on 11/22. She had a little pizza-and cupcake party with her friends on Friday night, and then Saturday we took her out to lunch and to a family movie (“The Peanuts Movie”). We are so proud of the awesome young woman she is growing to be.

We had made a few different plans for Thanksgiving, but had felt we should keep our plans flexible and stay home this year. By last Sunday we had chosen some new recipes to try and earned our free huge organic Hutterite turkey and planned a quiet day of eating and reading and watching movies. We were surprised to see mom and dad Melin at church on Sunday. During church, through talking with mom and texting with Angie (Rich’s sis), our Thanksgiving plans emerged. Since Dad has knee surgery and needs to be in the temple, he is unable to drive to Boise to baptize our niece Hannah. So Angie decided to come here on short notice. So we planned Hannah’s baptism for Thanksgiving morning, then planned to double our recipes and share with Mom and Dad Melin, Uncle Mike, and Aunt Angie’s family of 6. It turned out beautifully (as things always do when you follow the Spirit and try to be where the Lord needs you). We were also so glad to be home for another special baptism on Saturday. Our friend Sandi Robinson (the bookkeeper and health insurance agent at our office) and her daughter Nikki, were baptized in a sweet service with tons of support from the Tyner family. There is indeed so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend, and so much to strengthen our faith for the challenges ahead of us.

We are supremely grateful for the strength of a large extended family. We could take every name on the mailing list for this letter and name so many blessings we have received from each relationship. Thanks for being on this journey with us and for all you add to our family life. We wish you a happy week and so much joy as we begin to celebrate our greatest blessing: the birth, life, and atonement of our Savior.

Love, Rich and Jamie and Family
Beautiful Snow fall this month!

Some trees held on to their leaves even in the snow through mid-November

Heidi and the 6th grade choir singing "Hallelujah" 11/10

Niles being creative 

Making gnocchis

Our new favorite dinner

Heidi dressed for Hogwarts

Addie's Birthday Eve Pizza Party

Birthday girl with cupcakes and friends (Fatima and Izzi)

Addie's friend Amelie made her this pillow.
It's Leo Valdez from the Percy Jackson books.

Addie opening gifts before her birthday lunch
(see her new Big Ben nano blocks and Tower Bridge 3D puzzle?)

She got her Hufflepuff scarf and Harry Potter Cookbook.
She went right to work and made pumpkin pasties for her friends on Thanksgiving break.

Rich and I took Addie on a lunch date to Zac's Barbecue.
She had birthday brisket!

Addie and Mom, just hours before she actually turned 14.

This facebook postcard reminded me of Elena--high five.

I stayed home and cooked on Wednesday while Rich took my kiddos to Chico with their cousins.
I made Chocolate Tarts, Sweet Potato Puff, Yellow Squash casserole, Green Bean Casserole, Stuffing, Fresh cranberry sauce, relish tray, and super food slaw.

Family at Chico

Rosalie and James

James, Little Jex, Addie, Niles, Jex, Angie, Danny, Mike, Hannah, Rosalie, and Heidi floating out front.
Taken by Rich

Thanksgiving Dinner KIDS TABLE!

Angie at the buffet

Niles, Ammon, and Grandma eating pie!

Niles and Ammon

Hannah, Me, and James having pie!
(I didn't take baptism pictures, but I will steal some from Ang and add them soon)

Friday we put up the tree and some Christmas decor.
 Saturday we decorated it and watched "The Polar Express."

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 :)


Dear Loved Ones,                                                                                                                         1...