Counting Blessings

A Simply Marvelous Life

caroline-harpWhile going through old class notes for my current paper, I found this story I wrote last spring. I remember how it made the student that presented after me cry. I felt so bad as she approached the podium upset. She explained that my story was especially tender to her because her dad had passed away recently. How was I to know that within months I’d be in the same “dad gone” boat?

I remember telling my dad of our plan to take a gift to the orphan boys and how he loved it. He wholeheartedly sanctioned it to my kids and he shared an inspiring story of his own. He cried. What a tender memory. He believed in the art of compassion. He lived the art. How grateful I am for him and his  example. He inherently knew that the true joy of life was within our relationships with others.

I am grateful to have come across this story today. I’ve been in a school slump, not feeling up to the writing task. Today’s discovery reminded me of the importance of storytelling. Even if I am not the most eloquent storyteller.

A Simply Marvelous Life

“Those poor, poor boys,” Mother said loud enough for the room to hear as she read the newspaper. I asked her, “What boys?” She explained. Twenty years before she used to work with this guy. They were nothing more than acquaintances. “But still, it’s just so tragic.” He was dead now among the remains of his personal jet. It crashed on take-off in Colorado. The crash also killed his wife, and two of his five children.

Mother seemed obsessed over the three children left. It was hard to understand how complete strangers to her sabotaged her heart for months. She talked about them to everyone. Her friends. Her kids. Sometimes she would even talk to random strangers about how grateful she was to be alive. “Shopping with a toddler is hard, but it makes it easier when I think about how blessed I am to be alive.” When the family knelt in the family room every night, mother would sometimes pray out loud for the family. “Bless those boys.”  When I complained about chores or homework or getting my phone taken away, she would remind me to be grateful. “You have both your parents, and all of your siblings. Remember, life is marvelous.” When Christmas neared mother told us that in the quiet of one morning she heard a voice in her mind. It was a woman begging, “They must have a gift from us under the tree.” Asking our forgiveness mother said she hoped we’d understand her stealing from us. She had withdrawn from her Christmas account, upsetting her carefully budgeted plan, to buy something for the orphans. She apologized and explained that we might have a little less this year. “But, I just feel it my duty to provide a gift for them from their dead mother. I can hear her voice as clear as day. I can’t ignore it.”

As Father drove us to the next town over, Mother watched her five elves stretch and giggle among the large sack of gifts in the back. The wrapped gifts would be left anonymously. “Because that is the best kind of giving,” mother said. The boys’ names, the ones their mother gave them, were monogrammed on their blankets. A note was included reminding them of their mother’s love, all the way from heaven. “She had found a way to hug them, through the mind of a stranger.”

Mother had done some serious sleuthing to get the names and address of the boys, but could hardly believe her eyes as they pulled up. When they verified the house number to the information on the paper in mother’s hand, everyone voiced their utter shock. A chorus of “no way” echoed the yelps of surprise as the vehicle reached the top of the mountain. The boys lived in a literal mansion. Mother laughed. “What in the world?” We all told her we should take the gifts back home, but she directed her elves to drop the gifts on the doorstep. “Be quiet. Don’t let anyone see you. Hurry up before someone calls the police.” As we sprinted our way back to the modest minivan that cowered under the massive gate, my little sister spared a glance for a golden harp glowing through the windowed fortress. We jumped in. The tires peeled. My baby sister described the harp’s shine to her amused mother. How badly Caroline wanted a harp. She had even written to Santa for one. She didn’t know what I knew.  Santa had already bought her a harpsichord. It was the last Christmas purchase she had made right after the wrapping for the boys’ blankets.

We never knew it, but in those first few moments driving home, mother deeply questioned the meaning of helping where help didn’t seem to be needed. Those boys had more than she or hers ever would. The answer came quick, at the traffic light on the way home. Flashing behind her eyes, red and green, it spelled one word. C-o-m-p-a-s-s-i-o-n. Mother turned to dad and said, “I guess tonight we got to help meet an emotional need, not a physical one.”  Yes, compassion knows no class structure. Or biases. Only pure love. And that night both mothers had managed, from separate realms, to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas.

The next day mother listened as her baby girl, surrounded by her parents and four siblings, transformed our family’s condo into a two-bedroom castle with music from her harpsichord. As Mother closed her eyes to enjoy the marvelous moment, a familiar angel voice spoke to her mind one last time, “It sounds just like my harp.”

 

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The Bomb

I just read another mommy blog post that although long-winded had a great little tidbit of wisdom.  From all the places in the world for it to come from, I never expected it from Stephen Colbert. After digging for a bit, I found the GQ article where the wisdom orginially surfaced. It’s a gem. Go over and read if you have time. It might bring tears to your eyes.

If you don’t have the time, here is the Cliff Notes’ version. While at Northwestern University, Colbert was introduced to improv. Here are his words:

“I went, ‘I don’t know what this is, but I have to do it. I have to get up onstage and perform extemporaneously with other people.”

“Our first night professionally onstage, [our director said:] “You have to learn to love the bomb.”

Colbert spoke of how not just living with discomfort but embracing discomfort – really loving it – is essential to joy and success. He’s a deep dude:

“It took me a long time to really understand what that meant,” Colbert said. “It wasn’t ‘Don’t worry, you’ll get it next time.’ It wasn’t ‘Laugh it off.’ No, it means what it says. You gotta learn to love when you’re failing.… The embracing of that, the discomfort of failing in front of an audience, leads you to penetrate through the fear that blinds you. Fear is the mind killer.”

He shared how his mother helped him to live with courage after they lost his father and two of his brothers in a plan crash.

“I was left alone a lot after Dad and the boys died…. And it was just me and Mom for a long time,” he said. “And by her example I am not bitter. By her example. She was not. Broken, yes. Bitter, no.” Maybe, he said, she had to be that for him. He has said this before—that even in those days of unremitting grief, she drew on her faith that the only way to not be swallowed by sorrow, to in fact recognize that our sorrow is inseparable from our joy, is to always understand our suffering, ourselves, in the light of eternity. What is this in the light of eternity? Imagine being a parent so filled with your own pain, and yet still being able to pass that on to your son.

“It was a very healthy reciprocal acceptance of suffering,” he said. “Which does not mean being defeated by suffering. Acceptance is not defeat. Acceptance is just awareness.” He smiled in anticipation of the callback: “ ‘You gotta learn to love the bomb,’ ” he said. “Boy, did I have a bomb when I was 10. That was quite an explosion. And I learned to love it. So that’s why. Maybe, I don’t know. That might be why you don’t see me as someone angry and working out my demons onstage. It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.”

He went on to quote Tolkein. {Wow, he really knows how to get through to everyone: even the nerdiest, especially the nerdiest.}

” ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude. It doesn’t mean you want it. I can hold both of those ideas in my head…. It’s not the same thing as wanting it to have happened, but you can’t change everything about the world. You certainly can’t change things that have already happened.”

escape

I was in awe of how much Colbert’s message correlated with the post I started in my head yesterday based on the this sermon. Here are my favorite parts of it:

A vision of our Father’s incredible promised blessings must be the central focus before our eyes every day—as well as an awareness “of the multitude of his tender mercies” that we experience on a daily basis.

What will  it matter in the end if what we have suffered here are the very things which qualify us for eternal life and exaltation.

So maybe you are wondering how the two correlate. Let me see if I can make sense of this. I just learned that some people who I love and adore just received the awful devestating BOMB that the last of their IVF transfers was unsuccessful. Of course after a year of full commitment and a $20k investment, they are devestated. They are paralyzed with grief founded in lost dreams. More than anything they just want to be parents. I cry with them today. I don’t understand the intricacies of their trial, but I do understand their pain. I have known BOMBS in my own life. Bombs leave devestation and paralyzing questions and fear. But, like Colbert says, we have to learn to love the bombs. Maybe not today, but eventually. So, after we process, we get up and walk in the direction of acceptance and understanding. The escape is in the light at the end of the tunnel.

We let our faith guide us and comfort us. We walk with God and we let him turn it into beauty. Like Tolkein versed, we turn the punishment into a gift. Or, like Linda Reeves said, “A vision of our Father’s incredible promised blessings must be the central focus before our eyes every day.” He’s going to give us everything he has. It may not be right now, and it may seem like he’s withholding, but he is always blessing us. Always.

So, when all crapola hits the fan in the form of your greatest fear manifested. Just listen. God’s voice is on the other side of the bomb. It’s quiet, but it is saying, “I’m here.” When you are forty-two and live in a two bedroom condo and just wonder why when you work so hard God doesn’t give you as much as everyone else. Just be glad you don’t really live in a warzone. When you have to put an elderly parent in a home because you don’t have the capablity to care for him and you’re heartbroken. Embrace the explosion. When you are suffocating under the weight of depression that most others don’t understand. Know that the black ball of TNT was meant just for you. On the other side of the sphere, opposite the TNT, it had your name on it. In a nice pretty mongram with an escape clause in small letters the words were etched, “I understand. I’ll get you through this.”

Soccer is like the gospel.

Abigail is giving a talk in church today. I am at home with Maximus feeling a little sad that I am missing it. Mothers should be able to be in more than one place at a time, gosh dangit! I will be there in spirit. [Even though I have taken Max everywhere it seems….I vowed to take one month off church when he was born and I aim to keep it.] Abigail asked me to look over her talk just a few minutes ago and we hurried and made a few minor changes as she walked out the door. I am so proud of her and the woman she is becoming. I am so happy that she has a testimony in the gospel that LeGrand and I have tried to teach. I thought you all might enjoy reading her talk.

blessings

After preparing this talk, I realized that this is a talk on repentance, Repentance is usually something you don’t think about when you hear “what are some blessings you have received from living the gospel” – which was my assigned topic. But after thinking about it, I realized that repentance is one of the greatest blessings we have as members of the church. This past summer, i gained a testimony about the blessing of repentance.

I was given a challenge for soccer that would help me to make the team. It was focused around three things: mind, character, and body. We were given things that we had to accomplish in order to complete the challenge. We had to exercise the given workouts every day, eat absolutely no sugar, candy, or soda, and do an act of service everyday. We were also given bigger tasks, like doing 200 ball push ups in one day or do something physically hard for us. We were to do the challenge for 35 days. At first, I started out great, I did every workout, made my own healthy treats, helped more around the house. I felt fantastic.

But, about 2 weeks into the challenge, i started having pains in my hip. At first they weren’t that bad and I thought it would go away, but like most things where you think that, it didn’t. It got to the point where I couldn’t run without pain and I had to go to a physical therapist to work out the injury. I had slipped up. Being injured, I then obviously couldn’t do the workouts, but that didn’t mean i couldn’t do the rest of it. However, i didn’t think that but I allowed my discouragement to justify further slip up.. For the two or three weeks that I was out of the workouts because of my injury, I occasionally had the can of soda, and ate the piece of candy that was in front of me. But that was no big deal, right? Wrong. I still did the big challenges. I did my 200 push ups and at the end when my injury was mostly healed, I ran up to the Y, but, I didn’t fully complete the challenge because I struggled with doing 100% of the small things every day. I did the best I could, kinda. When tryouts came, I felt unsure. I’m pretty sure if I had fully completed the challenge, i would have been confident of making the team.

This story can apply to the gospel because like in the T-Wolf challenge, we are given a list of requirements to get to the Celestial kingdom.  We have to read our scriptures every day, say prayers, and keep the word of wisdom. We also have those big requirements like baptism and temple marriage. If we are unable to do one of those things, like for instance read the scriptures, we can still pray and keep the word of wisdom, but we won’t be fully confident when the time comes that we are ready for celestial glory. As a youth, it is hard to keep ALL the commandments. The big ones like no killing and stealing aren’t that hard. But the small ones we have to complete everyday are pretty difficult, like obeying my parents and daily personal prayer. In the T-Wolf challenge, I wasn’t really worthy to make the team, however with God’s help, I did. Just like in living the gospel, through the Atonement, we can still make the team.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “There are some who believe that because they have made mistakes, they can no longer fully partake of the blessings of the gospel. How little they understand the purposes of the Lord. One of the great blessings of living the gospel is that it refines us and helps us learn from our mistakes. We “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” yet the Atonement of Jesus Christ has the power to make us whole when we repent.”

I was supposed to talk about blessings you recieve from living the gospel, but it dawned on me. We have a lot of blessings from living it fully, duh. But most of the time, we don’t live it fully. We aren’t perfect. We physically can’t live the gospel perfectly. But because of the blessing of the Atonement we can achieve the ultimate goal of celestial glory and that is the greatest blessing of all.

D&C 76: 40-42

And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness; That through him all might be saved.

Still Counting

When I start counting blessings I am always surprised by how many of them are categorized financially.  This tells me two things. One, I am focusing on materialistic things too much. Two, I am way more blessed then I realize when it comes to having needs and wants met. If we were to class people from poorest to richest based on how much God gives them, I believe I am royalty.

Caroline’s preschool teacher has been sharing pictures from class on her website.
Check out these gems. Each and every one put a smile on my face.
How blessed I am to have my beautiful daughters.

caroline7

caroline2    caroline12 caroline6

caroline9

 

count blessings

Right in the middle of our move when finances were super tight, I took Bella to get a tooth pulled. The baby molar had a bad cavity around an old filling that was a temporary repair for a broken tooth. The adult tooth was far enough in that the dentist decided a pull was the best remedy for the cavity pain she had been experiencing. It would only cost us $15 but it was money that would come out of our grocery budget. I got to sit and rest for 45 minutes while the dentist did his job and had a great validating chat with a friend from church who works at the dentist office. When Bella got through and I went to pay this friend informed me that we had a credit on our account and I wouldn’t have to pay. Even though she insists it was true, I still think she was pulling some kind of charitable act. Either way it was a great blessing.

After we got moved a friend from our old church congregation (As Mormons we are assigned congregations by geographical location – which can make things extra tough at moving time – especially in Utah when you only move a half mile away and now have to start associating with all new people at church) brought me my favorite of her baking repertoire: coconut bread. I ate the whole thing in less than 12 hours but it was oh so good and made me feel extra loved.

Another dear friend brought us a yummy dinner, but truthfully the comfort I felt in giving her and her husband a tour of our humble home was the best part. That goes for the friends in the paragraph above also. It really is all about relationships.

Our families aren’t really the best about birthday exchanges but my sister-in-law gave me a $25 gift-card to Olive Garden for my 40th. LG and I haven’t been there in a long time and it made for a really great date night.

On that same date, LG and I went to the cheap dollar movie and outside someone was selling kettle corn for $4 a bag. Typically I wouldn’t have given it a second look but I had $20 from my other sister-in-law (and brother-in-laws – shouldn’t leave them out…but we all know gift-giving is the girls’s job) burning a hole in my pocket. The instructions were I was only to spend that birthday gift on myself. Buying that kettle corn made me so happy and it was guilt-free. Thanks Logan Jill.

I was able to get TWO new pairs of running shoes with the birthday money I received from my mother-in-law. The money my mom sent me paid for the mirror I had to replace in the bathroom before we moved. I had bought the first one for $50 and by the time we got it installed it had broke again (right under the hardware in the same exact spot the kids had broken it) so I had to pay for a second one. The glass business took mercy on my and gave me the second one for $30 but I was grateful for that birthday money so I could afford it.

LG was able to travel to Pheonix for business and had a great visit with one of his favorite cousins and when he got home we were both extra grateful for one another. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

bdayAn old dear friend of mine sent me the sweetest belated birthday card with a $25 Amazon gift-card. Looking forward to a book purchase is bringing me happiness, but her sweet sweet validating words were one of the best gift’s I’ve ever received. I’ve worked really hard at making a lot of changes in my life and I have not a single person in my life who dishes out any sort of validation. (This is not a strong suit for my parents, husband, siblings, in-laws, or children) I wasn’t even aware of how desperate I was for it until her card arrived and brought many tears of pent up gratitude to just know that I am known and supported.

Another validation came in the form of an e-mail from a new friend in the form of a small compliment about this here blog. It made my day.

As I told you in another post some very generous soul helped us to make it during this really tight-budget month. For the first time in a year when I went to get the necessities at Costco I was able to also purchase a few non-necessities. We have been loving the grape juice and bacon bits.

When we moved I was fed up with our dilapidated vacuum cleaner that was being held together by duct tape. Instead of bringing it along, I chucked it in the garbage. We haven’t purchased a new one yet, but our commercial grade carpeting can be swept almost as easily as vacuumed. While I have been sweeping I’ve been able to clear the carpet of a lot of pesky dog-hair from the last tenant’s dog that obviously hasn’t come up with a vacuum.

JJ

My friend Kathy who has four daughters (just like me) gave birth extremely prematurely months ago. Her son JJ finally got to come home yesterday. It makes my heart so happy that she won’t have to endure all the traveling back and forth to the hospital any more.

I am grateful for immunizations. Caroline got her 4 year old shots today and she was so brave and tough. Her laugh/cry was so familiar to me. It makes me a tad bit sad that today marks an end of an immunization era for our family. I will never again hold a child’s hand while they get stuck by a nurse. I’ve also been reading a lot of family history stories and the stories of so many children dying so young make me so grateful for immunizations and modern medicine. I have two kids with asthma. I can’t imagine watching them struggle for breath without their inhalers.

I love hot chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven, and I guess I better stop counting blessings now so I can enjoy them.

I just have to draw the line somewhere. I could count every moment the rest of my life and still not get everything recorded.

Really Need to Count Blessings Today

count blessingsI really need to count blessings today before the misery I am feeling swallows me whole. This will more than likely be the most pathetic counting blessing post ever as I am not feeling grateful. Not one bit.

I am grateful to be alive even if it means that I have to experience negativity and adversity. I am grateful for the privilege of mortality.

I am grateful to have a home, no matter how humble.

I am grateful for my husband who loves me and is willing to go to therapy with me so we can tackle our weaknesses together. I know a lot of other really great men that are too afraid to take a really good look at themselves in the mirror and do their own housecleaning. My husband is my hero for how hard he works at our marriage.

I am grateful to the three friends who showed up to help me clean our old place, one in particular who was red-faced when she got through with two hours of hard-core cleaning. When I did my final wipe down I didn’t have to redo any of her work. She scrubbed my walls with lysol (I don’t know how she got them so clean) and vacuumed with what later I discovered to be a totally full vacuum bag. (I threw that piece of junk vacuum away.) Thank you Lori. Your service meant so very much. And thank you to the other two ladies who didn’t work as long but still showed up to support.

I am grateful to my husband’s brother and sister and their spouses who took a big chunk of their Saturday last week to help us move our furniture. I am grateful to my sister-in-law Jill’s dad for letting us borrow his landscaping truck and trailer when we realized that our van and my brother-in-law’s truck just weren’t going to cut it.

I am grateful to the friend who on FB messaged me and offered up his truck.  I haven’t seen this friend in over a decade (we used to work together) and his offering touched my heart so much.

I am grateful to have lived in the ward that we did for the past two and half years. I am grateful for the lessons learned and the friendships forged. I am grateful Chelsea just showed up one day when I was really struggling. I didn’t have to say anything to her, but just her physical presence was a stabilizing force.

I am grateful that I was able to sell enough of our stuff on KSL to cover the expenses that we had no idea how we would cover when we were told we had to move with such little notice. I am grateful that someone bought our piano so we didn’t have to move it.

I am grateful I had a teenage kid in my ward that I could pay to take my old bed to the dump. I am grateful for the years of service that bed provided and for the friends who a long time ago donated it to us. I am grateful to now get to sleep on Abigail’s old bed. It is firm and I don’t sink to the middle every time LG gets in and out. I am also grateful that I get to be back in 600 thread-count Egyptian Cotton sheets.

I am grateful that I left our old home spotless. I am grateful I worked my tail off to leave it better than I found it, even if the landlord e-mailed me to tell me that she may not return our deposit because of the barely noticeable oil stains on the driveway (that I spent weeks scrubbing). I know in my heart that if she keeps our deposit it is really because she wants to use our money towards the driveway replacement that needed to happen years ago. I know that I bore the inconvenience of shoveling that broken down driveway for the past two winters and never complained when the shovel didn’t work over the deteriorated cement.

I am grateful that my van is working even if it spews oil like a broken pipeline. Before we moved it wasn’t running at all and we didn’t know if we would be able to afford to get it fixed, but we did and I am so grateful it wasn’t a really costly repair. I am grateful I have street-side parking at our new place so I don’t have to worry about repeating the oil in the driveway.

I am grateful that our landlord allowed us to just give her two weeks notice on our move and didn’t make us pay rent for the obligatory additional two weeks as our new landlord made us start paying immediately. That two weeks without rent at the old place will make up for the fact that we may not get our deposit back.

I am grateful for my kids and their resilience. Even though Caroline seems to be taking this move really hard I am grateful that she is mine and that we can be there for each other.

I’m grateful that I have internet service even if it means that there is a cable running through an open window because the new landlord is too cheap to pay for a decent solution. I am also grateful that I have running water, even if it comes out of a kitchen sink that whistles like the Titanic. I am grateful to have the shower that has a constant hot water leak that the landlord will probably never fix. I am grateful that he pays the water bill.

I am grateful we own a shovel, so that I can shovel the neighbor’s dog’s poop that is always threatening to be stepped on close to our walkway.

I am grateful that we are only going to have to pay half of the utilities at the new place. We will split the bill 50/50 with the people upstairs and I am grateful that they keep it at a cozy 90 degrees so our easy solution is to just open the windows when we are hot. I am grateful we won’t have to worry about the A/C bill come summer because there is no A/C.

I am grateful to the friends who took me out for my birthday early last week. I was actually able to enjoy myself. I am grateful to the other friend who brought me a present yesterday and a balloon. I haven’t had a balloon on my birthday since high school and having a gift to open made the lack of gifts on my actual birthday not quite as hard to swallow. I am grateful my sister-in-law made me a chocolate cake. I can’t remember the last time I had a real birthday cake.

I am grateful that LG and I were able to have a date on my birthday even if it was just a last minute let’s get out of the house. His best of intentions didn’t pan out but after the last few weeks we’ve had, just getting out with no children was divine.

I am grateful the trail sits solid on the ground every day and waits to greet me so I can breathe deeply, enjoy the sunshine, and find serenity.

I am grateful that Caroline has preschool so that she will have something consistent and familiar among the chaos.

 

 

CYB – I Never Leave His Hands

My life is so beautiful. I don’t say that to brag or feel better than you but I say it because it is true. God has repeatedly opened my eyes to the beauty of Him, the beauty around me, and the beauty inside me. I bet your life is pretty amazing too whether you realize it or not. It is hard for me to believe that my gratitude can grow more and more every day because sometimes my days are hard, but by practicing gratitude even my bad days seems good.  Sometimes I am so filled with love and gratitude that I feel like I could burst, so I usually just bawl for a second or two to get it out.

count blessingsA friend brought over roast beef, protein shakes, and ovulation kits (which I may be giving back after further consideration.) She couldn’t use any of the three because she is pregnant. Being thought of was wonderful but sharing her joy in her pregnancy was the better part. The time she took to visit meant more than the consumables.

Logan and Jill went to Abigail’s soccer game and my heart was full to know that my daughter has support from an extended family too. They also took the girls for an adventure and they all seemed to have a blast. Visiting with Logan and Jill and our girls while we debated between Harry Potter vs. Percy Jackson was an extremely enjoyable evening that will remain with me forever.

LG and I got to go see Diana Krall as our belated 16th anniversary gift to ourselves. We bought the tickets early in the summer when our savings account was a lot more full. It was such a beautiful concert and an enjoyable evening together. LG had a $10 Red Robin gift-card leftover from his birthday too and so even though our budget barely had the stretching room for the drive to SLC, we were still able to go and enjoy a meal out as part of the evening.

diana krall

Even though it meant we had to eat more frugally I was finally able to pay down some doctor bills. This year we were put on a high deductible plan that means we pretty much have to pay for all of our medical expenses out of our pocket. It’s been a rough transition but we’ve survived. We may even end the year with every doctor bill paid in full.

The van’s engine light went off again and then came back on. It makes me smile when it is on or when it is off.

I have an opportunity to volunteer with The United Way in their Welcome Baby program. I will get to go and visit new moms and take them a little care package (donated by the community) and discuss important parts of mom and baby health. I’m really excited about this service opportunity. Mothering is a passion.

The neighbor Teresa brought over homemade salsa. It was way better then what I make.

We got to go to General Conference last week. I really love the perks of living in Utah. We also get to go to the temple on a monthly basis. Being so close to church headquarters is a huge blessing in our lives right now.

Abigail is getting straight A’s because she wants to and that makes me feel like we’ve done something really right. She wants to get a college scholarship and she is planning ahead.

LG thought he had a job offer in China but it ended up being a scam. It didn’t work out but it was sure fun for our family to have the excitement for a day. It was kind of a bummer coming down off of it, but I learned a really cool lesson: it’s about family. Our kids were ready to leave all their comforts and take an adventure. They didn’t even bat an eyelash. Abigail’s exact words, “It’s freaking China, mom. Who cares about my clothes, prom, or American boys. Let’s go!”

Jennifer brought over banana bread on a rough day. Sometimes the littlest gestures are a really big deal.

After caring for a friend with a bad back, she gave us a bucket of apples to say thanks. It was unexpected and unnecessary but pretty wonderful…especially since she packaged it up in the cutest ever red bucket.

Everyone is healthy. I take that for granted, but having so many friends pass through trials of sickness and hospitalizations this past month has made me so grateful for our health. I just got done reading Heaven is for Real and reading about Colton’s hospitalization brought back the three awful days of 2005 when 2-year-old Bella was in the hospital with a serious respiratory virus. I was so scared. Not only am I grateful for our health, I am grateful for all the healing we’ve had collectively over the years.

Reading the book also solidified a beautiful message from God about my last miscarriage. The pastor who wrote the book and his wife came to the same conclusion that I have about a miscarried baby. I had a pretty spiritual experience in the temple after mine occurred. A child came to me and told me not to forget him. I originally thought it meant I was supposed to have another baby or adopt some kids, but I am becoming at peace with the fact that maybe I will raise up that child in the millennium. That will be a blessing of no description so why mourn now?

LG gave me a priesthood blessing that said the Lord was pleased with the way I am raising my kids. Is there really anything better that I could ever hear?

A friend going through rough times chose to be grateful and told me I was her inspiration. It made me so happy not to be the inspiration but to see her able to have happiness during tough times.

After running 6 miles in 54 minutes the other days I bawled like a baby for my quarter mile warm down. God does strengthen, enable, and bless us when we seek him. I was so very grateful to Him for my physical strength.

Amy and Tyler had a baby. No really. Amy and Tyler had a baby!! After 15+ years of infertility and unsuccessful In-vitro and 2 cool adopted kids, my brother and sister in law were blessed with a little miracle biological baby girl.

amy and tyler

LG and I have never been better, but helping other ladies at church going through hard times has helped me remember how far we’ve come and how grateful I should be to have a husband who didn’t give up, who works hard for our family, and who loves me wholeheartedly.

I had a profound feeling of love contentment and joy walking with Caroline along the sidewalks of SLC while people lined the streets singing hymns. I felt the spirit of the Lord testifying to me that He is in charge of the whole earth.

I know he watches over me. Which brings me to a song….

Counting Blessings In Awe

My list of blessings is so long that I need to purge it here to start all over again. This post is happening a lot sooner than my last one, I hope you don’t mind. I am always astounded with the happy affect on my heart when working at gratitude, but in the past couple of weeks I have been completely in awe at the goodness of people and the goodness of God. I don’t think it is coincidental that many of our needs have been met when only we knew what they were.

count blessingsWell, at first others knew our needs because I had posted about them. Several friends responded to my last counting. I had an old friend from high school contact me via Facebook and offer up an old nonworking iPhone for us to use as screen replacements. She mailed it from California and insisted I didn’t reimburse her.  I am still waiting on the hubby to do the phone surgery but Misty’s generosity melted my heart.

Another old friend who is a pharmacist, after reading my last post, contacted me via Facebook to offer up advice on getting affordable prescriptions.

I had a super special experience with my sister-in-law the day that I posted last. She showed up on my doorstep with her arms full of produce from her garden and a few bags of food and non-food items that she had gotten cheap/free with coupons. I felt kind of bad thinking she was just responding to my desperation from the blog but she hadn’t even read it (or so she says).

I did a good job of not completely bawling, but I couldn’t hold back all the tears. It’s just so humbling to let other people support me. The only thing that makes it bearable for me is knowing that I am doing what God wants and they are just his little angels on earth.

Jill and Logan have been truly inspired in their generosity. In that first bag were things we really needed: deodorant, tissues, foods for the kids lunches, etc. On Saturday they took our kids for an adventure and even let them pick something out for themselves at the store. What a big deal for kids who are being forced to live so frugally. This mom can’t contain her emotions. I have to force myself not to think about it or I will just sit in cry in gratitude all day.

A friend from church offered up a bag-full of Hot Pockets that her kids wouldn’t eat. They have been a great reprieve from the foods I have been forced to cook from scratch and a huge treat for our kids.

The 5th was payday but because of the Labor Day holiday and an absentminded payroll employee LG didn’t get paid until the 6th. I had been anxiously anticipating the paycheck on the 5th to fill our empty refrigerator. A huge blessing came through: the check to pay me for the job I took babysitting came in the mail on the 5th. I texted a picture of it to LeGrand and said, “Dinner just arrived.” I think even LG had a moment of emotion with that coincidence. He hates seeing me sacrifice and stress over what to feed our family.

LG’s work had a great summer party where our whole family got to go and swim at a local pool for free. Dinner was also free and delicious. We had so much fun swimming after sunset in the dimly lit resort-style pool. For a little bit it was just our little family in the HUGE pool. It’s a memory I will never forget.

Our marriage counselor challenged LG and I to have three sessions of 30 minute activity a week TOGETHER. It is a tough challenge with our busy schedules but by doing it LG and I have had more stress relief and I have found a new respect for my man. He is an amazing coach. I loved him teaching me how to free-throw. The day he took off ahead of me on the bike trail was also a surprising turn-on. I also really enjoyed playing tennis with him a few days ago.

I got two messages from friends on Facebook that were super sweet and touching. One was from a cousin citing how impressed she was with my running time. It made my day. The other was from an old friend just to tell me that he really enjoyed seeing the photos from our Wills family reunion. The  moment he took to write and send his simple message reminded me of some great memories this friend shared with our family. They brought a smile to my face. Sometimes the most simple actions mean so much.

A friend shared with me a way that I could make some money from home. It hasn’t panned out, but the fact that she believes in my writing was an honor I will never forget.

My neighbor brought over some clothes her daughter had outgrown. They were perfect for Caroline this Fall.

Another neighbor (the same who gave me all the pears last time) singled me out at church and told me to come and get all the peaches I wanted from her trees. I canned them all up on Saturday and have 30 quarts to get us through the winter. I wish I would have picked more but I guess I shouldn’t hog all the blessings for myself.

A dear friend of both LG and I (he was LG’s mission companion and my district leader on our LDS missions) published his most awesome book. I really loved The Crown and the Dragon. It’s only $5 on the kindle and I highly recommend it. I would have loved it without knowing the author, but I have to admit that having my name in the acknowledgements makes the book that much cooler for me.  The blessing isn’t in the book, but it was in the fact that this friend came to peddle it at the SLC ComicCon. Our friend got us in for free and it was such a great get-away for LG and I. Thanks John!!!

Another neighbor gave me a whole bag of homegrown tomatoes.

This past Saturday our across the street neighbors showed up on our doorstep with a whole plate of leftover pizza. It was the really good kind with super thick crusts. They had no way of knowing that on Friday I had spent my last $30 on a few necessities. I was staring down a overwhelming weekend of cooking without a lot of my normal ingredients. In a situation like that a plate of pizza seems too good to be true. I will be smiling about that pizza until payday on Friday.

Last but not least, my brother took our three older girls with him to see his son’s soccer game on Saturday. On his way home unbeknownst to us they stopped for lunch. Our kids came home so happy. One of them said, “Man, that place was so good. We haven’t been out to eat in a month.”

LG and I were talking last night about how it has been six months since he was called as the YM President in our ward. When the Bishop extended the call to LG I had just quit my job with the plan to move to a cheaper apartment to make up the difference in our budget. We felt strongly that God really wanted this calling for LG and took a huge leap of faith and stayed in our current home so that LG could serve praying that God would work it out. Six months later we are in awe that God hasn’t just worked it out but has blessed us abundantly for our faith.

Living this experiment of relying on God and doing what he tells me even though I have no idea how it will work out makes me wish that everyone else could do it too. Going without more has made me happy for every little thing I receive. Everything is so magnified and blessings aren’t just blessings but manna from heaven. Is there anything better than manna from heaven? I can’t think of anything especially if it comes in the form of peaches, produce, and Pizza Hut.

Counting Blessings at 4 months

I am 4 months into this happiness at home experiment. This is where I am today. I am extremely blessed, even if things aren’t easy.

We had payday on the 20th and I was able to pick up our needed prescriptions. $120. Thank you high deductibles. LG has decided to totally go off his medications for diabetes all together to save us the $200 it would cost us for all that he was taking.

He is doing a pretty good job of controlling his blood sugar through diet and has found exercise to be absolutely necessary. Although I don’t like him not taking his medications as I am afraid of the effects of diabetes, it’s been a huge bonus for him to not want to spend the money. It’s great to see him having accountability for the disease.

After paying for my anti-depressant (necessary for my sanity) and Abigail’s ADHD meds (necessary for her to focus at school) we were then plum out of money until next payday. The week prior to payday we had spent about $200 for soccer fees, $160 for Abigail’s physical therapy, and $120 for back-to-school necessities. We normally would supplement a bit from savings, but after me quitting my job in April and making the trip to CA for my parents 50th anniversary this summer our savings is so small that we don’t dare use whatever is left. Especially since any day one of our cars or our dryer is going to quit working all together.

We usually have about $500 every two weeks for groceries, kids’ extra-curriculars, clothes, doctors, etc. Anything that isn’t a bill or gas for the car has to come out of that $500. When you have 4 kids, I’m not gonna lie, it’s tight. Super tight. Just to go to Wal-mart and buy the necessities alone (produce, a little meat, bread, eggs, milk, cheese) costs at least $100 a pop. I’ve had a list of the things that I normally buy at Costco piling up for over two months. The only things I buy at Costco are what I can’t find cheaper anywhere else. Just to go and buy those things (flour, sugar, trash-bags, soap, and other like necessaries) it will cost me at least $300. The longer I wait to make the trip the bigger the impending tab becomes.

But this post is about counting blessings, not worries. I just thought it was necessary to paint the picture of what we deal with on a daily basis. It seems so much around here boils down to the bottom dollar and I’ve gotten the feeling lately that God is trying to work with me to embrace frugality and sacrifice.

So here are some blessings.

A neighbor invited anyone who would like to come and get pears from her well-pruned and groomed trees. I was able to get 2 five gallon buckets worth. We’ve had pears to eat, made fruit leather, and I still have some waiting to be bottled for the winter without spending a dime.

pears
Yesterday as I was working side by side with my daughters on said pears I had an epiphany that this was one of the very reasons that God told me to quit my job. I would have never had the time for that kind of homemaking if I was still working and my girls would have missed the “fruits of their labor” lesson entirely. It was extremely satisfying for me to see the food through the whole process starting with me picking, to washing, then peeling and coring, processing, cooking, and finishing off straight into the kids’ lunches this morning as delicious fruit leather that I didn’t buy at Costco. Without the desperation of our situation, I wouldn’t have sought out those pears.

On payday when I was at the point of nervous breakdown, a good friend of mine showed up on my doorstep with a bag of peaches. Her only reason for showing up was the generosity in her heart. I think she has a secret honing device to know when I am having a bad day. She always comes through when I am most desperate. It’s as if God himself is showing up at my door to say, “Alice, I know. I am here.” To tell you the truth, sometimes without anything changing, after crying to this friend, everything seems instantly better.

Caroline was diagnosed with asthma two weeks ago. We still had a bunch of Bella’s old breathing treatments that were just the right dosage. They were expired, but still good. I didn’t have to buy the medicine and after a week I didn’t have to take Caroline back to the doctor when the first treatments didn’t work. With my extensive asthma experience with Bella (we lived the first 9 years of her life in the very green mossy south with her mold allergy) I knew what Caroline needed. I had the longer term additional meds. and started her on them myself without paying for another doctor visit. Her cough cleared up in two days. She is doing great.

Abigail’s back seems to be completely healed. She is playing soccer again at 100% and looks good out there. She made the team as the ONLY player to never play on a club team. I give God all credit for making this all work out. It is humbling to know that in the soccer situation He truly did make up the difference for these poor parents who couldn’t afford to give Abigail the best of training. God sent her good recreation coaches throughout the years and gave her an extra dose of talent.

After spending so much on Abigail, we were struggling with not having anything left for Sophia who also wanted to play soccer this fall. I called our marriage counselor’s office and asked if we could just pay half of what we normally do this month. They were totally fine with it leaving us $100 for Sophia. I suggested that Sophia go to the website to find out the details so we could sign her up and she found a new interest. She wants to play volleyball instead. It only cost $60 instead of $100 and I might even get to coach. This left us $40 for groceries on a week where we would normally have to live on powdered milk. Miraculous.

Even more miraculous, Bella doesn’t want to do any sports until Spring when softball comes back in season.

My garden has been giving us squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers. I planted the garden because I had extra time on my hands after quitting my job. Every day without being told to I see Bella go out and check the plants and it makes my heart smile. Next year, I hope we can get a little more serious with our gardening again. The kids have loved it and I think they will want to help more now that they see what those seeds can become.

I canned 30+ quarts of white grape juice from our grapevine. It didn’t cost me a dime, and we now will have yummy juice to last us the winter.

We are really enjoying our relationships with the people in our ward (church congregation). After two and a half years we actually feel like we are home like we used to be in TN. We planned to move after I quit my job, but then the Bishop asked my hubby to work with the YM. We prayed about it and knew we needed to stay. It has made things extra tight financially, but friends are better than money.

Our next door neighbor came over last week and asked me if I would be interested in babysitting her kindergartner after school. I had been thinking about babysitting again to help supplement the income without working outside the home. I was really hesitant because I didn’t want to give up  my morning exercise time while Caroline is at pre-school. With this job, I will still have M,W,F mornings to myself and I will be making as much money as I was at my old job without being gone every day from 3pm-9pm. In fact, more than likely I will probably only have to watch her two to three days a week for four hour stretches and she will keep Caroline entertained.

The twice shattered i-phone that I use and the twice shattered one that Abigail uses are both still working after a year. Good for us. Bad for future apple profits. I think I will be upgrading to an android that won’t lodge glass shards into my ear when our renewals roll around.

Our girls have been able to earn some good babysitting money. They each only earned about $20 from us from the summer chores, but ended up having about $50 each when they combined our pay with their babysitting money. I have taught them to be amazing bargain shoppers. They all turned their $50 into 3-4 outfits. Amazing!

Nobody really needed new athletic shoes or backpacks this year.

pencil cookiesWe made some awesome cookies for the girls’ teachers instead of spending a million dollars on back-to-school gifts. They seemed to appreciate the effort and the girls learned a new skill and all worked together.

And last but very much not least:

LG and I enjoyed our 16th anniversary. If you would have asked me  five years ago, I would have told you we would be divorced by now. Instead we both keep choosing each other over and over again and work on bettering ourselves to make each other happier. I’m pretty much the most blessed girl who ever lived.

Counting My Blessings

count blessings

It’s been a little over two months since I took God up on his challenge to quit my job and work on being more present at home, simultaneously starting this blog to record my journey.  I can honestly say it’s been a wonderful two months. The first month was extremely challenging but somewhere in the past few weeks something has changed within me. Like they say in the “Wicked” music: “something is not the same.”

It’s amazing to me when I do what God has asked, He seems to always shower me with unexpected blessings that never could have been anticipated. For instance, I feel a tremendous amount of peace. I know it may seem silly to say I didn’t anticipate peace; don’t we always get more peace when we follow God? But truly living on the budget that he was requiring of me and hanging out with my kids more seemed like it would bring anything but peace. Miraculously though I feel more peace then I ever have before. The peace I feel is by far the greatest blessing I have received as a direct result from this inloveathome experiment.

I can’t help but think of a scripture from The Book of Mormon

Mosiah 2:24 “And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?”

Last month when I was struggling I asked my FB friends how they overcame times when they weren’t happy and one of the overwhelming responses was they counted their blessings. Counting my blessings is a practice that always brings me greater happiness, so I am excited to share it with you. I thought it would be fun to list some other blessings I’ve received over the past two months. I hope to do this from time to time  – sometimes I have so many blessings stirring around in my head it gets rather crowded. I hope if I write them here I can make some room upstairs to ponder the new ones. I also hope that this record will stand as a living testament that God is aware of all of his children and that he does shower us with blessings if we are willing to follow Him.

1. A friend brought over 4 pounds of sausage just to show her love and support.

2. Another friend e-mailed me about how I inspire her as she is quitting her job too.

3. My sister complimented me on my willingness to follow the promptings of the spirit.

4. My sister-in-law and two friends gave my girls some cute second-hand clothes.

5. With a coupon and some trade-ins, we were able to buy Bella a used softball batting helmet for $4.

6. Abigail’s old cleats fit Sophia just in time for soccer camp.

7. A friend gave me her milk and eggs that would go bad when she went on vacation. The milk was just enough to tide us over til payday.

8. I was able to work miracles with the budget at the beginning of June and even send our dads a very small Father’s Day gift. Gift-giving makes me happy. LG and I were also able to exchange very small and simple Fathers and Mothers Day gifts but they were meaningful and appreciated.

9. We were able to afford swim lessons and soccer camp for the kids.

10. We have the pass of all passes that has given us a lot of free entertainment this summer.

11. Our cars are still running. One day the A/C in my van started making a really funky noise, and I dreaded the thought of taking our kids across the desert to my parent’s 50th reunion coming up. I prayed and said, “Heavenly Father, if you feel like us not having an A/C is a trial that will teach us something, let us be ready to learn it, and let me be cheerful, and if not, please let it keep working til we can afford to pay for it.” The sound went away the very next day and so far it is still working. Thank you to my Heavenly Father!!

12. LG and I have been making some real breakthroughs at marriage counseling. We have a wonderful marriage counselor that we found through an online friend whom I only know because of my old blog. It looks like we will be able to finish up with counseling just in time to utilize the same amount of money we are paying monthly now to pay for Abigail’s braces.

13. We got a check that was $500 more than we expected from our former mortgage company settlement and it is just the amount we were short to pay for our upcoming family reunion so I don’t have to keep scrounging to make do.

14. We’ve been reading a lot this summer and because a friend of mine has been on bed-rest, I’ve been able to share my love for the library with her three children too. Sometimes service opportunities are the best blessings.

15. Sophia’s arm-cast fell off all by itself so we didn’t have to pay the doctor to remove it.

16. My bike hasn’t gotten a flat tire all summer and it’s such a great way for me to find joy and serenity when I need it.

17. We were able to get the kids some summer clothes at the thrift-store 50% off. We’ve been able to give Abigail and Caroline nice birthday celebrations. Abigail is a teenager who is happy to use her birthday money to shop at thrift-stores and second hand stores. Talk about miracles.

18. LG has been gaining confidence at work and with his new calling at church to work with the Young Men.

19. Abigail and I both have broken iPhone screens but the phones keep on working.

20. I feel closer to my kids.

I feel grateful for every little miracle. You may call them coincidences or will argue that they would have happened anyway but everywhere I go, I see God’s hand in my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I am so grateful and I am so blessed.