Sunday, June 25, 2017

They of the Last Wagon

I worry. And if I was a betting woman, I would bet that most of you reading this, also worry. (All three of you!)

But don't worry! I've learned the three of us are not alone! Most humans worry. In an address by John S. Tanner, he relates the following: "According to Parley P. Pratt, the pioneers who endured the first terrible winter in the Salt Lake valley suffered more from fear than from actual hunger." Brother Tanner continues; "Uncertainty can be more chilling than winter, doubt more gnawing than huger, tempest of the mind more fearful than

pelting rain." Brother Tanner emphasizes the human propensity to worry as he quotes Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, whom "describes a peculiar reaction evident in many people picked up by the Soviet secret police: "Sometimes the principal emotion of the person arrested is relief and even happiness!" Solzhenitsyn explains, there is a kind of exhaustion that is worse than any kind of arrest." Brother Tanner nails it when he states: "Not knowing when or if an affliction will end is often more taxing than the affliction itself."

I've felt this affliction of the unknown. I'm sure you have too. How do you remedy it? How do you find the strength to continue when your spouse is unemployed, or a child suffers a debilitating illness or the evil of the world seems insurmountable? I believe the answer is faith. Faith in what or whom? I would suggest, faith in God and His promises. 

At times, faith in God is hard. We can't see God or the "distant scene". I relate to the father of the afflicted child in the New Testament book of Mark. In essence, the Savior asks the father of an afflicted child, "How long has your son been afflicted? The father responds, "since he was a child." In verse 23 we read: "Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." (Mark 9:23-24)

The father had enough faith to ask the Lord for his help to heal his son, but was his faith sufficient for his son to be healed? My answer is: yes! In verse 27 we learn, " But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose." My take-away from this narrative is this: if we have the faith enough to ask the Lord for His help, He will meet us half way in our seemingly "belief/unbelief" impasse. Also, I've learned, if your faith is failing, feel free to surround yourself with those of unfaltering faith. 

Relating the plight of pioneers of 170 years ago, making the trek across the unforgiving desolate plains, J. Reuben Clark shares with us a mighty metaphor for living by faith:

… Back in the last wagon, not always could they see the Brethren way out in front, and the blue heaven was often shut out from their sight by heavy, dense clouds of the dust of the earth. Yet day after day, they of the last wagon pressed forward, worn and tired, footsore, sometimes almost disheartened, borne up by their faith that God loved them, that the restored gospel was true, and that the Lord led and directed the Brethren out in front. Sometimes, they in the last wagon glimpsed, for an instant, when faith surged strongest, the glories of a celestial world, but it seemed so far away, and the vision so quickly vanished because want and weariness and heartache and sometimes discouragement were always pressing so near.
When the vision faded, their hearts sank. But they prayed again and pushed on, with little praise, with not too much encouragement, and never with adulation. … Yet in that last wagon there was devotion and loyalty and integrity and, above and beyond everything else, faith in the Brethren and in God’s power and goodness. …
So through dust and dirt, … they crept along till, passing down through its portals, the valley welcomed them to rest and home. …
So when the view of our future seems obscured by the "heavy dense clouds of the dust of the earth", may we have the desire to cultivate sufficient faith- the faith of "they of the last wagon."




Sunday, October 23, 2016

But if not---


I am stirred by the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in the book of Daniel, found in the Old Testament. In summary, King Nebuchadnezzar commands all men to bow down and worship a golden image he has created. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego refuse. King Nebuchadnezzar is ticked and responds:  

Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?

The Jewish boys respond: "You betcha!" Now the King is doubly ticked! Not only do they refuse to abandon their God when all is well in their world, they continue to refuse to leave their God when things get a "little hot".

Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated.
And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.

And this is the part I love; Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego respond to their executioner by declaring:

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. Daniel 3

I remember teaching a lesson regarding this principle: "But if not..." Could I be faithful to my God if I was thrown into a fiery furnace? If those that I love left God? If I was betrayed? If my child died? If my spouse was unfaithful? In my mind, I've always thought, "Of course!" Nothing could come between me and my relationship with God. But this week-end, I felt differently.

Annie Schmidt, daughter of Jon and Michelle Schmidt went missing. Her car was found near the Bonneville Dam in the Columbia River Gorge. Michelle is my sister's best friend from High School. My sister loves Michelle. And because my sister loves Michelle, I love Michelle and Michelle's sweet Annie.

Today is day seven of the search and rescue attempt to find Annie. Yet, no Annie. I have been heart-broken, even angry. In my mind, I've asked "Why, Why can't they just find her?! Michelle and Jon have been faithful!" I've tried to find peace, but like the rescue teams searching for Annie- nothing. Then this morning, I knelt down to pray. I felt I should express gratitude instead of just begging for answers. So, I thanked God for the good weather to allow the search to continue, for all of the volunteers that came to help and for the search and rescue crews. However, I still felt unsettled.

And then during one of the meetings at church, I captured a bit of understanding. President Uchtdorf relates the following from the parable of the Good Shepard:
 
The sheep is worthy of divine rescue simply because it is loved by the Good Shepherd. He knows when you are lost, and He knows where you are. It matters not how you became lost- whether because of your own poor choices or because of circumstances beyond your control. What matters is that you are His child. And He loves you. He Will Place You on His Shoulders and Carry You Home

That's what I needed.

Annie is still missing. And I believe they are entertaining suspending the search and rescue mission. On top of, I can't even imagine what Jon and Michelle are experiencing. Still, I found a glimmer of hope in the knowledge that Annie is not missing to God. She is His. And that has always been enough.


#bringherhome #prayersforannie






Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sup!? Summer Road Trip, That's What!



This pic describes it all...torture with a smile! Last week we took a huge risk and put our 193,000+ mile Plymouth Voyager (machine of wonder!) on several highways and sputtered along to grandma Lloyd's house in Boise, ID and then continued along on I-84 to grandpa Doug's cabin in Garden City, UT.



While in Boise, we had a lovely visit with grandma Lloyd and prayed over our mini-van in the VICU (van intensive care unit). Hey, don't judge. We made it 700 miles with only one need for a van repair. Believe me, we were counting this as a good omen! Of course, we told the mechanics not to look too close and not to wiggle anything that looked loose or unstable! As we left our van in the good hands of competent mechanics we savored the summer joys of: Pokemon hunting, school clothes shopping, movie watching, book reading and grandma Lloyd's cooking!



 We found Pokemon lurking around the Idaho Boise Mission offices.



We left our two day spa stay at grandma Lloyd's and traveled to...yes, the Middle of NOWHERE!



You guessed it, that is an alpaca- right in the middle of nowhere! Where else would you expect to see an alpaca, Interstate highway 84, that's where!



 This road trip was WILD! We saw sheep and pigmy donkeys too!





Anna- the animal whisperer

   

A petting zoo and a rest stop? Let me tell ya- this was no rest stop! There were NO restrooms and not even a garbage. It was literally a petting zoo off of Interstate Highway 84! This is what all epic road trips should include in their itinerary!



This was the most BEAUTIFUL thing I had seen since the cronut in Laguna beach-- THE scone from Angie's Restaurant in Logan, UT.



 A road trip would not be complete without taking in the clothing choice of the locals!



 Our road trip wouldn't have been complete without the Fireball of the Party- aunt Shannon! We were all thrilled that Shan and Weston were willing to drive up I-15 to join
 our adventures at Bear Lake with grandpa Doug. We explored the Minnetonka caves, invaded Raspberry Days Rodeo, ate raspberry everything and aunt Shanny used her "Appolo 13" ninja skills to blow up the ginormous inner-tube so the kids could create memories of dodging the Bear Lake monster as they rode in the wake of grandpa Doug's boat.



Want to feel like an American?! Head on down to your local rodeo. God Bless America and those Cowboys and Cowgirls! YEHAWWWWW!



My fears of the Bear Lake monster were put to rest when I captured a glimpse of these three cowboys ready to take on any mishaps during Raspberry Days.



We got off the lake and went straight back to grandpa's cabin to pack up- and who do we see? Josh, Ashley, two handsome boys and spot makes three!



We returned to Boise and before we left on Monday morning, Alan Bingham aka- nicest guy on earth, invited the kids to come and ride his horses, Trio and Sunday Girl.



As we drove away from Boise after a week of close quarters, sleepless nights and tried patience, I thought of the words of a wise leader, I heard speak twenty three years ago when I was a missionary for our church: "You will have more sorrows than joys but your joys will out weigh your sorrows." 
Word. Road trip-20-16.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Dare to Stand Alone


A month ago, I reported for jury duty at The Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland. The judge came down to the prospective juror room and shared the projected length of the trial. I opened up my planner to check my availability- (Because- you know what an exciting life I lead- hashtag: I wish!) and of course my calendar was...blank. Yep, blank. I immediately knew I was going to be selected. And I was.



During my four week brush with justice in action, I knew I would want to write a bit about my experience- but where to start? Then this morning, I realized Father's day was tomorrow and I had done NOTHING for my father, my step-father and even the father of our children. So my mind started making connections. Now, stay with me-- I'll connect the dots of jury duty and my dad in the end. Promise.


During the deliberation process of the case in which I served, I was often in the minority. At times, I was the sole juror that voted a certain way. I knew that might happen. And in the end, one of my fellow jurors- now, friend- asked me something to the affect: "Are you disappointed because the case didn't turn out the way you felt it should?" My answer: "As long as my voice was heard, I could accept the outcome."



Earlier this week, I mentioned to my dad I was serving on a jury. He was proud to announce he had served on a jury three times. Twice, he was selected to be the jury foreman. One of his cases, had been a criminal case. This particular case involved a suspected drug dealer- the prosecution, versus the local police department- the defendant, the charge- assault. Yes, you read that right. The drug dealer was accusing the police department of assault. In a criminal case, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution to prove the defendant's guilt. The guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The verdict must be unanimous. My dad was convinced the police had assaulted the "bad guy". He was alone in his conviction. Eventually, my dad acquiesced and submitted a unified vote for the verdict.

In a civil trial, as in my case, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff by a preponderance of the evidence-- meaning the evidence is more likely true than not. In our civil case, a vote of nine out of twelve was needed to submit a verdict. ( BTW- I love using that word: preponderance! It sounds so smart, right?! Just don't ask me to pronounce preponderance or any other word beyond three syllables!)


Jury duty ended late Thursday afternoon. Just in time to make it to my fourth child's eighth grade promotion. I talked to my dad the next day and admitted my vote was often contrary to the majority of the jury. And in the end, the court polled the jurors to confirm which way we had voted. We were asked, "did the verdict reflect your vote?" Eleven jurors answered: "yes". I answered, "no".  With empathy in his voice, my dad pointed out he had been in a similar situation. In that moment, I had an epiphany. My courage to stand alone was not mine alone...Thanks, dad.

Happy Father's day.









Sunday, May 29, 2016

Carmel-by-the-Sea


  Remember that gift certificate Scott got me for my birthday? I put it to good use and booked us a day away in Carmel-by-the-Sea! Carmel-by-the-Sea is a beach village within the city of Carmel, CA. We landed a room in this enchanting B&B just blocks from the ocean.


The front patio and...



entry to our home for our get-away.



We had the opportunity to explore Tor House and Hawk Tower built by American Poet, Robinson Jeffers. He built Tor House in 1919 and started construction on the tower in 1920.



In order to construct the tower, Robinson Jeffers hauled and rolled stones from the beach below. Mr. Jeffers built the tower as a refuge for his wife, Una and a play structure for his twin sons.



In case Scott was inspired by Mr. Jeffers display of affection by constructing a stone tower taking four years; I reminded him, a diamond from Tiffanie's only takes 30 seconds to purchase.
 


The view of Tor House from the top of Hawk Tower.



The Tor House and me.



Window shopping on our way to dinner... Again, I reminded Scott a stone tower was not necessary; either one of these hats would do.  I'm sure all would agree, a hat is more manageable than a 500 pound boulder.



On day two, we explored Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.



"The Whalers Cabin". The docent reveal this structure was not really a "Whalers Cabin" but a shelter in the 19th century for Chinese fisherman. Although, whale bones were used as joists in the flooring of the cabin.



Scott and the Sea



Carmel dweller wannabes



In addition to our deli-lunch picnic on a bench in town, this was
my favorite dinning experience during our get-away: Rocky Point Restaurant. The view was extraordinary and the food wasn't too shabby either!



Another great view at Rocky Point Restaurant- toffee pudding.



After eating the toffee pudding and a quarter pound of fudge from "The Cottage of Sweets", this is a picture of me in my bikini.



Carmel-by-the-Sea was a magical two days, but my heart sang more when we came home and discovered the kids had done their chores and made us brownies. I also spied an apology note from one of the children to their other siblings. I adored Carmel, yet I identify with an inscription in Mr. Jeffer's Hawk Tower: "Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in" 
Psalms 68:16


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Spring Break Twenty-Sixteen


Laundry from the dryer is on top of the dinning room table. Left-over dinner dishes are in the sink and on the counter. Three of the kids are surrounding "my" electronic tablet watching You-Tube. It's 10:21am and we are all still in our pajamas. Spring break, day three.

Yeah- we know how to rock Spring Break! From my last post, I'm sure the reader has determined the Lloyd family would not be making it to Hawaii this spring break. Truth be told, kids don't need much to be entertained. (Me, of course, wouldn't mind a little Hawaiian va-ca!) At any rate, I believe we are all enjoying the slower, non-committal pace of our twenty-sixteen spring break.


This year, spring break started off legit, with a week-end of viewing General Conference from our church leaders. Every six months, our prophet, apostles and general leaders of our church share the word of the Lord meant just for our day. Through General Conference our faith grows and our belief in the Lord and His goodness is strengthened. The beautiful thing about conference is although the majority of the speakers are using eloquent language even the young can understand a message meant specifically for them through the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. This year, General Conference was translated simultaneously into ninety-two languages. http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/what-is-general-conference



On Monday, we went to Santa Cruz and spent the entire day on the boardwalk. Making sure the kids were in pairs with a cell phone, I managed to escape the smell of deep-fried Oreos  and walked along the coast line. I envied the agility of the enthusiastic surfers.


Not me


Of course, our Sarah was not with us. She is continuing her service in the Little Rock, AR mission. However, with Sarah in our hearts and garlic fries in our stomachs, we ate funnel cakes, crab cakes, 1/3 pound hamburgers, and walked the length of the pier down to the Dolphin Cafe in her honor.



Sadie, Natalie and a $160 Pickachu


Dreams came true on Monday, as each kid won an equivalent of a $1.50 stuffed Pikachu for a mere $15.00. Ahhh- to be a Carni.

We are still recovering from the sugar and sun overload. But spring break or not, we'll have to shower and eat something not dripping in frying oil at some point...maybe.


Anna, Max and Waddles


My friend, Egret


Me in my bikini



Happy Spring Breaking.





Friday, February 19, 2016

MoneyMoneyMoney

As all two of you know, Scott and I married at 37 and 30 years old respectively. Scott had a Master's degree, a six bedroom rambler in suburbia and was co-owner of Alta Technology. (Scott and a buddy started their own computer company and worked out of his friends basement for a year. During that first year, Scott took no pay.) What I brought to our marriage was a bit less in monetary value, I had a MFA, a hand-me-down Ford Festiva and two suitcases.

I was thrilled at the thought of not having to put a husband through school and living hand to mouth. I shouldn't have put that thought out into the universe. Because... fast forward ten years into our marriage, we were unemployed for about the fifth time, sold our 3,000 square foot, crown-molding-galore home in Boise and moved into 950 square foot institutional, steel door, indoor/outdoor carpeted student family basement apartment (Two years later, we moved our family of seven into 750 square feet!) and Scott entered a PhD program in Computer Science. So much for not having to put a husband through school and living hand to mouth!

Six years after Scott started the three year PhD program, he finished and landed a job, in you guessed it---Nor Cal at Lawrence Livermore National Labortory.  And like other families having experienced the bare essential living of graduate school, we thought we were going to have so. much. money! Wrong.

First of all, we moved to the Bay area. As of August 2015, the average price of a home was $661,000. Yep. Might as well be a bazillion dollars!

Second, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, Scott's employer's principal sponsor is the National Nuclear Security Administration, Department of Energy.  Meaning, Scott works for the government. AKA: NOT a "Google" salary.

Third, We have five ever increasing expensive children. Sarah is serving a mission for our church $. Anna is starting Utah State University in the fall $$.  And Max, Natalie and Sadie keep growing out of their shoes $$$!

What all of this means is: we are driving the same cars since Sarah was born. We are renting a house and we're seriously entertaining binding our children's feet so they can wear the same shoes for 3 more years. jk. sort of.

Yet, I've learned a few things. Beginning with, the promise made by the ancient prophet Malachi is true:
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
 We have always aimed to pay our tithing. (In our faith, we pay a tithe; one tenth of all of our increase is donated to the church.) One of the many blessing I have notice as a result of paying our tithing is: our cars have lasted! One might think, that a "windows of heaven blessing" would be two brand new cars. That would be nice but- I've noticed and believe the windows of heaven blessings are what E. David A. Bednar calls "subtle but significant".
For example, a subtle but significant blessing we receive is the spiritual gift of gratitude that enables our appreciation for what we have to constrain desires for what we want. A grateful person is rich in contentment. An ungrateful person suffers in the poverty of endless discontentment.
Throughout these post-graduate years, it is confirmed: we clearly don't have a whole lot of money, but we are rich.
Machines O' Wonder
This is the ceiling upholstery in the Prizm. Notice the upholstery is gone. This is styrofoam. It falls into your eyes.

Odometer reading on the van

The floor mats in the van. The van doubles as a horse trailer. Not really, but Anna brings home half of the barn floor.