Sunday, August 31, 2014

Spiritual Sunday - The redeeming power of friendship

I recently found out that a long time friend has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.  Like everyone else seems to do when they get that kind of news, my mind turned to her family, our common friends and shared memories.

I first met Heidi and Jeff 26 years ago when we moved into our home.  They were among the first neighbors to introduce themselves and welcome us to the area.  Our neighborhood at the time was full of young families just like us.  We seemed to fit in except for the "active in the church" angle.

I had made it pretty clear that I wanted nothing to do with the church, but to my surprise, people stayed our friends.  It didn't matter to them what our religious affiliation was going to be, they just wanted to be our friends.  We were invited to neighbohood get together's, Splenda started playing church ball with Jeff, Heidi would bring treats and we began a great relationship.

Over time, as our interest in the church kicked back up, Heidi and Jeff were right there.  They made sure that we never sat alone in meetings.  Jeff even went to Gospel Principles class with me so I wouldn't be with strangers. When we took our first Temple Prep course, Jeff and Heidi hosted it in their home on Sunday evenings.  I don't remember what they did with their children, but they rearranged their own busy lives to make the experiences meaningful for us.  Beautiful spiritual memories were had there in their living room.  They were a huge part of our day when our family was finally sealed in the temple.  They had been through every step of the process with us.

As life goes, change happens.  Jeff and Heidi sold their home, moved further south and gradually we began to lose touch.  Of course, we'd see one another at special things like weddings, missionary coming's/going's, funeral's..... but as is usually the case, you move on while never forgetting the good that those friends brought into your life.

Once I heard of Heidi's diagnosis, my mind turned to all the things we had experienced together those many years ago.  Our children were still somewhat little when they moved so we missed much of the critical years with our kids.  I wondered......did Heidi and Jeff have any idea what their friendship meant to Splenda Daddy and I?  What it has meant to our family?  Our children?  And now our children's children?

The impact of fellowship.  I'm sure that when we moved in, and Jeff and Heidi befriended us, they had no idea just what the next quarter of a century would bring to our little family.  They just saw us as fellow young parents muddling our way through like they were.  However, their efforts to follow the Savior, reach out and love their neighbors has proven to provide the foundation of strength for a family that has seen it's share of rough times.

They couldn't have possibly known that we would struggle with rebellious teenagers, unplanned pregnancies, suicide, end up part of the USMC family and gained a couple of girls from the ward as beloved daughter-in-law's.  They couldn't have even dreamed of the challenges, heartache or struggles we would come to know.

Nope. None of that was in their minds when they decided to invite us to that Elder's Quorum shindig.  And then the next event, and the next, and the next.  When they introduced us to other's in the ward who adopted the same approach of love and friendship.

And yet.  Here it is 26 years later and I'm thinking back on all of it and wondering, do they know the impact their simple acts of discipleship have meant to an entire family?  Jesus Christ commands us to "Love one Another".  He doesn't put caveats on that commandment.  Such as:  Love one another unless they don't go to the same church as you, believe the same religion, parent their children like you, hold the same political belief's.  

It's simply to love one another.

Amazing what can happen to a family when someone embraces them and loves them back into the gospel.  No matter what horrible challenges they are faced with, struggles that are fought, or heartache presented - the anchor the gospel gives them is enough to hold them steady while they weather the storm.  Incredible to think that the simple act of friendship from Jeff and Heidi to Splenda and mCat could have such positive lasting results.  Our children were raised in the gospel and each of them are strong in their belief's.  Our grandchildren are being taught the ways of Christ and each family is valiant in their own way.

What if Jeff and Heidi had never knocked on our door?  What if they would have thought "Meh, they are over on the other street - someone else's problem."  What if they didn't act like a disciple of Jesus Christ and reach out?

My family's outcome could have been much different.  I could be telling a much stranger story right now.  One with less of a happy ending (not that there is an ending but you get the point).

Because Heidi and Jeff were Christlike.  Because they looked past our flaws.  Because they cared enough to love us and invest their time and efforts into us........ we have a beautiful family legacy that I pray will continue for eternity.

So Heidi,  I am so sad for your sickness and pain,  but I want you to know that your's and Jeff's righteous efforts have blessed our family beyond words.  I can never thank you adequately for being brave enough to reach out to us and then to keep reaching the arm of friendship every step of the way as we worked our way back to the gospel.  You didn't give up when other's would have.  You stayed by our side even when we didn't choose the temple after that first round of classes.  And the next.  You made it clear you were our friends regardless of what we chose to do.  That love and fellowship from you is not forgotten.  It's forged deep in my heart and will be forever.  There are generations of my family that will thank you for your example and dedication.

My thoughts and prayers are with Heidi, Jeff and their kids as they face this difficult chapter in life.  If I could make it go away, I would.  Instead, I can only honor her example and be the best disciple of Jesus Christ that I can.  Reaching out, fellowshipping, and being a friend to all.  

I hope I can do it even half as good as Heidi.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Heaven is real.....

It's been a weird and emotional week.  Lot's of sad and depressing things in the news, drama on facebook, commotion around the world and people suffering.  I find when it's to be a little too much for me, I go to my happy place to feel safe, secure and comforted.

And by happy place, we all know I mean my nest.

And by my nest, we all know my bed.

Today is no exception.  This time however I need more than just my blankies and my puppies.  I want my family.  I want every son, daughter, and grandgirl right here in my nest with me.

Ain't gonna happen today.

BUT - it did happen last weekend at the cabin!  Seriously, the best weekend of my life!  Splenda Daddy and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary with our entire posterity!  Bonus:  At the very site of our honeymoon!  Yeah, go ahead and giggle.....

My happiness through pictures in no particular order.....
Just a tiny piece of heaven in the woods



I've taught them to pack food well

Cool evenings on the deck

Cousin's games

Sitting out on the deck in the heat of the day watching the Sandlot all piled around a laptop

Chloee loved feeding the squirrels, Jack loved chasing them

No hunting allowed.  Can ya tell?

Puzzle fun with Mind's, Chlo and Luke

The happiest seven year old in all the land!

Throwin shoes like a boss

The view up the creek from the perfect sitting rock

It's a bit of a climb down to the water, but so worth it

Karalee ran the Hobble Creek Half Saturday morning (that's her bling around her neck) but they came right back for the rest of the weekend

One should always eat Frosted Flakes with the appropriate safety gear

Addy and Aunt Leelee

The boys had a plan to surprise the girls down at the water and instead got lost and had an adventure of their own

No cell service at the cabin.  We were all "unplugged" from the world.

Mindy and I went on a great run Friday morning

Yeah, she's faster than me

A beautiful doe, right off the driveway

You can't turn around without having a spectacular view

My favorite place for a run!

30 years of happiness with my Splenda!

More games

Splenda Daddy and I had to come down to Park City Friday afternoon to work the Park City Marathon Expo.  I think he looks pretty natural there behind some WRC product.  He can tell you what socks are anti-blister!

Saturday morning we were at the finish line of the Park City Marathon to swag out our Grand Slammers.  This is some random dude that made me laugh with his shirt.

We came back to the cabin to a greeting sign - courtesy of Mindy!!

Selfie with my bff

Jace loved the water

Jordan wants to be near me so badly that she attempted three times to get on the rock and hurt herself in the process.  I've never met a more loyal companion dog.

We started a rock throwing/water splashing contest.  Chloee kept trading teams to whoever was winning :)

She loves her Aunt Mindy

Addy loved the cabin too

Zoey sprawled out enjoying an afternoon nap

Addy creates her own Uno game

My world right there

The view from my position laying on the couch and out the front windows.  Beautiful.

Selfie with Zoey

It went something like this:
Chloee: "Hey Mindy, wanna do this puzzle with me?"
Mindy ends up doing puzzle because Chloee is bored after a minute.
Mindy = great puzzle finisher

A nice nap on the couch.  I'm the dog whisperer.....

More Addy fun and games

Last morning there and even though she's putting out some food for the squirrels, she's not happy that we have to leave.

Still not happy

Even with the cool skull the boys found

Even Jack's sad to leave

Like really sad.  "Can't we stay just one more day?"

Me and my love after a perfect weekend.

Good bye cabin......until next time.

It really was perfect.  For the first time in our family's life, we were all together in one spot for several days.   Everyone happy, getting along, no bickering (like when they were little), great gospel discussions, life talks, laughing harder than we've ever laughed before, and in general being together and realizing just how much we love each other and how grateful we are to be a family.

As we pulled out of the canyon after locking up, I started to cry as I thought about the amazing blessing we had just been given.  I turned to Splenda Daddy and said, "You know, I could die right now and be perfectly happy"

It was THAT great of a weekend.  

I have the best family.  I am blessed beyond anything I deserve.  I know such happiness is not going to last and we are sure to have some struggles thrown our way (such is the way of life) - but for those 4 days, it was exactly the way I picture heaven to be like.

And it.was.AWESOME.