October 7-13: Stille Nacht

Do you hear that? Ah yes, Silent Night is playing. Tis the season. As birds instinctively know when to head south for the winter, my body knows when it is time to play Christmas music. And it hit this week. What a time of year! (Except for Oct. 31. Can you imagine what our puritan ancestors would have thought celebrating such a “holiday”?)

Also heard this week: destined, either, neither, derelict, glutton. Words pronounced wrong by me. Granted, glutton was a slip-up (I was talking about gluten in the same sentence…) but the others I fear have been mispronounced for years. Always makes me smile when I realize something like that.

Monday, for FHE our group did a “Just Dance” activity. This was my first time trying, and I have to say, I LOVED it! It was a lot of fun. Who walks like an Egyptian? This guy!

Pictured: Leftover hawaiian haystacks that I had for lunch. Didn’t finish, but came close. Had to save some room for the banana cream pie.

Friday, my boss’s wife, Noelle, was diagnosed with breast cancer. They’re closer to 40 than 50, and my heart went out to them. So much uncertainty and difficulties in the days ahead.

The LSAT prep continues. This week I took my fifth practice test, scoring a 169, my highest yet. If I could, I’d lock that score in. As it is, my goal is to go up more. I’d like to be at 175 before taking the test, and that way if I perform worse in the actual test because of stress or it is simply a tough one, I’ll still fall back to the 170 level. Fingers crossed.

After I finished the proctored practice, I headed to a quick MaeserLaser meeting. Methinks I’m going to be taking the newspaper back. Henry has done well in my absence but was quite eager for my return, and I think I’m in a better place to be able to handle the added responsibilities.

Saturday I was also able to go to the Provo City Center Temple.

Today, Kevin, Cooper and Porter came over after church. Which, by the way, church was so, so good today. I had a meeting at 9, but stayed and stayed, being there from 9-3:30, not because I had to, but because I didn’t want to leave. For priesthood we divided up into 4 groups, and separated to have smaller discussions on Pres. Nelson’s conference address from last Sunday, “Closing remarks.” I led one of the groups and we talked about making our own plans to prepare for the next 6 months, and about the temple, the crown jewel of the restoration. Sunday is my favorite day of the week. Going back to dinner, we had whole wheat rolls, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, chicken legs, and veggies. Delicious. Having no stock on hand, I went for broke in making a gravy, no recipe in sight. I boiled a few cups of water, added two bouillon cubes, a little bit of cream, flour, tossed in some garlic salt, black pepper, poultry seasoning, rosemary, and BOOM! That stuff turned out delicious. I’ll be making it again.

We played a few rousing rounds of bananagrams, and then I acted like they were missionaries, and asked who would be sharing a spiritual thought. Kevin went, guiding us to Romans 5:19,

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

He applied it well to us, and testified that one person can make a big difference, and we can be that one person.

I thought the idea was great, so I turned to Porter and he shared Pres. Eyring’s Oct 2009 Conference address, “Be Ready.” The point, prepare yourself and stay worthy to be ready to bless someone with the power of the priesthood for you never know when a call might come. For Porter, that call came this week, when he went and visited someone in the hospital. Cooper talked about Stephen Owen’s talk which mentioned how a deer herd had been stranded by winter weather and had nothing to eat. Well-meaning humans left them straw, and while the deer ate lots of it, they were found starved, with their bellies full of straw. They ate, but were not food. Cooper applied it to us and said that there are many things, such as social media, which can use all our time, and leave us undernourished and starving. We need to make sure that we are spending time doing what really matters. I loved their insights, and will be asking everyone for more next week when they visit as well.

While Cooper had to head home, Kevin and Porter joined me at the nursing home where we sang for 40 minutes. Those boys not only have some good sized lungs, but can hit the right notes. It was a really good time. Someone asked if they were twins, to which they replied no, but indicated the familial relationship and then gestured towards me. I felt small standing next to the 6’7″ and 6’4″ giants.

Here’s the thought I shared with the fam today after dinner. It comes from section 36 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

Thus saith the Lord God, the Mighty One of Israel: Behold, I say unto you, my servant Edward, that you are blessed, and your sins are forgiven you, and you are called to preach my gospel as with the voice of a trump;

And I will lay my hand upon you by the hand of my servant Sidney Rigdon, and you shall receive my Spirit, the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which shall teach you the peaceable things of the kingdom;

Referring to Edward Partridge, this revelation was given in December 1830. Nevertheless, the principle applies to us as well. Many times, we don’t see the whole picture. When we are set apart for a calling, ordained to an office in the priesthood, or blessed, we see the human hand on our heads. As this scripture notes though, the Lord is laying his hand on as well. The priesthood is the power of God on this earth. Joshua 3:5 commends, “Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” As we work to purify ourselves and do the will of the Lord, we will experience miracles in our lives, and be tools to perform miracles in others.

 

 

 

 

September 23-29: Song Sung Blue

Neil Diamond is one of the best!

The c-suite executives came out to Utah from Orange County this week. We recently expanded our office, and I moved into the new space. The plan is to continue growing, and the execs wanted to look at places around the valley where they could grow the company. My hunch is that they’ll move to Provo (which would be quite interesting) but our lease goes until June, so no changes will be happening anytime soon. The plan for a team activity had been to go axe-throwing and have dinner, but incredibly, all the axe places were booked on Wednesday already, so I suggested TopGolf.

In case the picture isn’t clear enough, (don’t worry, the window isn’t actually that dirty) this is me looking out my bedroom at roughly 150 people dancing in my backyard. Friday, I returned home at 9:00, and was surprised to find this scene. One of Spencer’s friends needed a place last minute to hold this party, and Spencer volunteered our backyard. It was funny because for the majority of the time, Tyler, Spencer, and I were all gone. And when we were back home, not one of us went outside. Just happened to happen at our place I guess. And it was over by 10:30, allowing for a nice night’s sleep.

When I said I returned home Friday at 9, I returned home from my date with Caroline. The much anticipated date. We went to the soap factory, which she was really excited for. This time, the form I chose for my soap had a baby grand piano as the motif, and Caroline went with a seashell. Alas, while everything went well, nothing went great, and we just didn’t click. I was still interested, and wanted to go out again, but was thinking she wasn’t that interested. I put it off for a few days, but hating any degree of uncertainty, on Tuesday (Oct. 1st) I asked her out again. Per my hunch, she said she wasn’t interested.

This is me, on Saturday, surprised by a flock of seagulls in Provo. I was sad things hadn’t gone as good as I hoped the day before, and after going to the gym, I decided to go golfing. It never fails to make the sun shine brighter. I enjoyed pondering for two hours, outside, alone with nature, and 14 clubs.

Everything had gone south that day. I didn’t do well on the practice LSAT, proctored at BYU that morning, and then ran straight to our EQ activity. Which also didn’t go well, with way less people attending than we had expected. I asked Jacob W. for a blessing, and he came over at night. I am so thankful for friends who care and always help. It was the longest blessing I can remember receiving, about 10 minutes. The power of the priesthood is real, and I felt rejuvenated immediately. The next day, Sunday, was wonderful. W The best way to get out of a funk is through service. There was a stake meeting from 7-8:30 am, and then I met with the Ward Council from 8:30-10 as we discussed callings and ministering assignments in the ward. Church is from 12:15-2:15, and right after that, Dillon and I set apart 5 people who had been called. That was a tender experience, and something I’m still getting used to. The fam, Tanmarie, Nora, Porter and Cooper, came over for dinner, and we had biscuits and gravy. Ironically, I almost never use/drink milk, but the last few times I’ve had Tanner over, I’ve inadvertently made meals using lots of dairy, forgetting that he can’t really eat it. Oops.

I witness that God lives, and He speaks through his servants. He has in the past, and he does so today. A few experiences to illustrate that. First, the aforementioned blessing I received from Jacob. The Spirit was so strong and bore witness to me of the truthfulness of his words. Second, I’ve brought all (or nearly so) my belongings from my parents house to Utah. Included in that haul, are my scrapbooks. Over the years, I’ve looked at them a lot – excepting the book documenting the first year of my life. That time as a baby has never interested me much, in part I think because I have no memory of it. Recently, I looked through it, and came across the blessing I received from when I was a baby. Obviously, I have absolutely no memory of that, and didn’t even know the words had been recorded. It was quite sweet to be able to read that, and hear the words, for the first time in 24 years. In that time, much of the blessing has come to pass. It fortified my testimony that God speaks through his servants. I am thankful for a father who does his best to live worthily to be able to have the Spirit with him, and is ready to bless those around him. Third, the Bishop presented a plan for the ward, and the Spirit testified to me, that it is the will of the Lord for this ward.

God lives, he loves us. He has blessed us with leaders who speak his will, and work to carry it out. We have a prophet today, President Russell M. Nelson. As we follow his counsel, we will not be led astray, but will come closer to our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Sept. 30-Oct. 6: Conference Weekend

The highlight of the week was General Conference.  Our stake in Texas provided tickets for Saturday morning. I had been tipped off that Elder Holland would be speaking Saturday morning, and sure enough, he was the first speaker. I drove up to SLC with Cooper, and we met my co-worker Glenn, and Porter with two girls he rode up with, Whitney and Deseret. The seats were up in the balcony, way on the left side, the first time I’ve sat in that area. When that session ended, we split up,  Porter and I going to the Law School luncheon held in the Joseph Smith Building, right next door. Looking for a place to sit, I saw President Nieder and his wife Cindy and it was great to be able to talk to them. I also talked with Adam Balinski again. On our way out, President Nieder gave me a kind, and unsolicited pitch to one of the assistant deans, Gayla Sorenson, telling her that I need to be at BYU Law School next fall, and they can’t let me get away. Porter and I hustled over to the standby line, and patiently waited to see if we’d make it in. We stayed in the old tabernacle, and just after the start of the session, we were led over to the conference center, and given great seats down on the floor. It was another great session, and I am continually grateful for the opportunity I have to attend conference living in Utah.

On our way home from the afternoon session, Porter and I stopped by Wal-Mart for a few items. Checking out with the automatic cashier, I got $20 in cash back, and then was interrupted by the person in line behind me, Ashley, who recognized me from last Sunday, and just moved into the ward. It cracks me up, how little it takes to fluster me, as I promptly forgot the $20 still sticking out. Ashley kindly got that to us before we made it to the van, but I then made a wrong turn leaving, apparently still flustered.

That night, I watched the women’s session for the first time. Why have I not done this before?!?! It was fantastic, and the temple announcements by President Nelson were exciting. Orem will finally have a temple.

When it was over, I made some visits to quorum members to talk about ministering, and then took the LSAT practice test. On Thursday I took it as well (tries #3 and #40) scoring 166 and 163. My goal is a 170. I have 6 weeks to go, and haven’t done much in terms of actual studying yet, so I think with a bit of grit it can happen.

Sunday morning, for day two of conference, the Whitcomb and Schenewark contingencies met up. Abby, Michael, Emily, Cooper, Porter, Tanmarie, and Nora all came over for pumpkin pancakes. Thursday, one of my co-workers mentioned how every conference they make pumpkin pancakes and I was immediately scheming. I haven’t really ever made pancakes of any variety before, but it was pretty easy, and they turned out a lot better then I expected. Tyler, one of my roommates also joined us, and he said that with the whipped cream and syrup, it was like “eating pumpkin pie.” Everyone left after the morning session, and I watched the afternoon finale with Tyler.

Tanner noted this was quintessential Hunter: cooking, conference, and a bathrobe.

Alright, its late, and this feels way too newsy, so to finish:

Porter and I swimming at 10 pm on Tuesday. Why not? The pool was heated and empty.

My lifetime number of selfies has doubled this week.

I had the serendipity to enter into possession of some expensive face masks. (Read: the last inhabitants of the house left them). So naturally, I’ve been trying them all out. This is bentonite clay mixed with apple cider vinegar. 8/10. My favorite so far has been a souffle made of shea butter and lemongrass. Confession: This pic was pre-date. I was going all out.

I went golfing with Mark Soelberg on Thursday. Its been a while since we’ve hung out, and its always a fun time with him. We played nine at Fox Hollow. We were able to talk a lot about church, and what it means to have charity, one of my favorite discussion topics. That night, I went with our new secretary Jacob Doman and we made a bunch of visits. We hadn’t planned on it, but felt prompted to visit William M., and as soon as he opened the door I knew why. We shared 3 Nephi 17:5-10 with him:

And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus spoken, he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them.

And he said unto them: Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you.

Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.

For I perceive that ye desire that I should show unto you what I have done unto your brethren at Jerusalem, for I see that your faith is sufficient that I should heal you.

And it came to pass that when he had thus spoken, all the multitude, with one accord, did go forth with their sick and their afflicted, and their lame, and with their blind, and with their dumb, and with all them that were afflicted in any manner; and he did heal them every one as they were brought forth unto him.

10 And they did all, both they who had been healed and they who were whole, bow down at his feet, and did worship him; and as many as could come for the multitude did kiss his feet, insomuch that they did bathe his feet with their tears.

If Christ was here, what would you ask of Him? My testimony is that he wants to hear from us. His arm of mercy is extended always, and he can heal those who are lame, halt, blind, or have any sort of struggle. He is our Savior.

 

Basmati and Bellagio: September 16-22, 2019

Holy moley. Sorry, (almost) no pictures folks, use your imagination. I’ve thought that things would slow down, and I could catch up a bit. Nopers. Nice try. Life is moving quick here.

I decided to increase my budget by $100 monthly. Currently, all in, fixed and variable expenses, I’m spending $900 monthly (excluding tithing and taxes); What does $100 mean? Basmati rice. No more sticky varieties. Can’t believe what a difference it makes. Additionally, impulse spends are all the rage. I spent $20 to buy Bellagio-branded pillows. My old standbys had been flattened to just over an inch after years of wear, so these are proving wonderful and well-worth the money.

Monday we had our FHE ward opening social down at a park. For the first time in years, I threw around a football, and man, I was hucking it. Fast and accurate. It was a lot of fun. My roommate Tyler has been participating in the ward a lot more, and it’s been fun to have him join me at these events. We both went in with personal objectives of talking with two certain young ladies, and both failed pretty bad. Oh well. The night was still enjoyable.

Tuesday I woke up with a screaming sore throat and all the signs of a wicked cold virus. (Some ward members and nearly all my work colleagues had been out, as it was a pretty vicious virus, and came when the temp dropped 15 degrees). I still worked, taking lunch to livestream Pres. Nelson speak to BYU and YSA’s across the world. The 5 truths he spoke of:

  1. We are sons and daughters of God.
  2. Truth is truth,
  3. God loves every one of us with a perfect love.
  4. The Lord Jesus Christ, whose church this is, appoints prophets and apostles to communicate his love and teach his laws.
  5. You may know for yourself what is true and what is not.

#4 was quite significant, as Pres. Nelson explained in greater depth of why the policy concerning the baptism of minors whose parents are LGBTQ. I know many people who have struggled with the changes both in 2015 and 2019, and as Pres. Nelson spoke received a further witness that he is called of God, to lead his church at this time.

At 5pm, I attended the now-weekly Tuesday evening company-wide meeting. Con: it lasted a full hour. Pro: they catered BBQ for us, and I ate some delicious brisket. I was, however, an hour late to day 2 of my LSAT prep, catching the 7-9 pm part.

Wednesday the throat felt a lot better, but either the cold had moved onto my sinuses or allergies hit. Playing the mind game with myself, i called it allergies and felt a tad better about the situation. I took off from work 1/2 an hour early and met up with Rick Holmes. He was the high councilor in my last ward. We played 9 at Fox Hollow. I played fantastic the first 4 holes, awful #’s 5-6, before pulling it back together the last 3. We had a great time, even though Bro. Holmes edged me by one.

From there, tires squealing, I made it back just in time to start the EQ Presidency meeting. We had a great time, being joined by our High Councilor Bro. Sutton (from New Zealand) discussing mainly ministering. We went long and I missed book club, no regrets though.

Thursday was the worst-feeling day. I did use some peppermint essential oil and that incredibly helped me a lot. (Disclaimer: I’d probably give genuine snake-oil a try too). This time, I spaced and forgot what time my LSAT class started, and after taking a 20 minute nap realized that I was already late, again missing the first hour.

Friday I left work at 2 and spent the final few hours logged in from home. My body needed the rest, and I was grateful to be able to relax and rejuvenate. This made a huge difference, and helped me turn the corner. By 6:30, I was up and off to see Neil Gorsuch, of the US Supreme Court speak at BYU. Tanner saved me a great seat and I used all my finely-tuned crowd-beating skills to quickly enter, showing the requisite ticket and id, and talking myself into the lineless “reserved seating” door. The event was a blast; not so much for what he said, as for what it made me want to do. Bonus was hearing President Oaks (of the 1st Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and President Worthen (president of BYU). Also attending: Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Steve Young, Jonathan Johnson, and Senators Orrin Hatch, and Mike Lee. Tanner bought a copy of Gorsuch’s book, “A Republic, if you can keep it” and had the Justice sign it “Welcome to the profession Hunter, Neil Gorsuch.” Very kind of my brother.

Saturday I went and looked at the invitation to Abbey’s wedding, wondering what the address was for her luncheon. To my surprise, a small card previously unopened fell out, and I realized I was in fact invited to their sealing. So I got ready and rode with Tanmarie up to that. Grampy performed the ordinance wonderfully, offering great counsel. Dealing less with marriage and pertaining to all of us there, he shared his acronym, One Simple Goal, Choose Christ, which has already blessed my life, and influenced my thinking. Pictures have to be at least a little painful, and after the few required ones that i was a part of, I skedaddled with Uncle Aaron over to the luncheon location. Time dragged, but Uncle Aaron kept us all entertained and I’ve had the song “truly Scrumptious” running through my head since he played it there a few times. The ring ceremony was cool. and Michael’s dad did a great job overseeing that. Abbey and Michael read each other some personal vows too, before exchanging rings. Lunch was delicious, and surprisingly hearty. Then, we all suffered indigestion. Aunt Jenny and Uncle Roger both spoke briefly, and I was touched, and loved their words. Michael’s parents did a great job as well. Stevie, the bridesmaid was brief and eloquently talked about Abbey and their friendship. Then Michael’s best man spoke. I’ve been golfing with him once before and thus wasn’t surprised with the speech. And it was a speech, going on for 7ish minutes. And roughly 10 Uncle Aaron facepalms in that time frame, with all of us wondering what the heck was going on, and if it was possible to turn the mic off. We survived though, and shortly after we took off.

After taking care of some housekeeping and mundane tasks, the special night that Tyler and I had planned was upon us. He made homemade rootbeer, and I supplied homemade vanilla ice cream, and we had invited 7-8 other people over to join us around a fire. He was interested in Maddie from the ward and had her over, but apparently the allure of fire was too much, and 25-30 people ended up stopping by our backyard, wondering what was going on, and inviting themselves over to see. Alas. The night went anything but what I had thought and hoped for, leaving me rather disheartened by the turn of events and inability to get to know someone in particular. Oy vey.

I did enjoy having Porter over, and at 10:30, the 20 people still there were successfully corralled by Tyler over to a neighbor’s house where there were mocktails being sold and a 1920’s themed night happening, remembering F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birthday. Porter and I enjoyed the dying embers and talked for 45 minutes.

Admittedly, I tossed and turned a bit, going to bed at almost 1, and waking up in time to get ready for today’s 7:30 a.m. stake leadership training. That lasted until 9:30, and then we had stake conference from 10-12. Elder Jaggi, an area authority presided. He is only 46, and he and his wife were amazing! Great energy, and strong testimonies. I wrote down about 10 invitations they extended, and will have my hands full trying to achieve what they challenged. Here are two lines that made a great impact.

-Comparison is the thief of joy.

-God will always comfort you, but you won’t always be comfortable.

And truly that is so! Our Savior is always here for us, and God is only a whisper away. As Alma 7:11-13 says, “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.”

And that is the testimony which is in me. Recently I’ve been reading Bruce R. McConkie’s book, “The Promised Messiah,” at lunch. Every time I read about our Savior, I can feel the Spirit. I know that Christ lives. I know of his divinity. Of the reality of his atonement, and ennobling grace. And I know of his love. 2 Nephi 1:15 (One of my all-time favorite verses):

But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.

 

Now just to finish the week off here: -One other takeaway from conference concerned dating. Inspired and emboldened, I nevertheless questioned whether i should go ask someone out right then. I gave the question the old scripture test, flipping to a random page, which this time happened to be D+C 58:26-29:

For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is acompelled in all things, the same is a bslothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

27 Verily I say, men should be aanxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

28 For the power is in them, wherein they are aagents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their breward.

29 But he that adoeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with bdoubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is cdamned.

Okey dokey, I gathered my gumption and at the conclusion of conference went and asked Caroline on a date for Friday, to which she sweetly said yes.

After leaving, I picked up Porter and Cooper, and we went to Uncle Ben’s for one last hurrah before Mimi and Grampy headed back to Boston. We had lunch, swapped tales, ate lots of pie, and scrabbled together. What a day.

Hunter Schenewark, Esq.

This post covers July 29th – August 4th. Disclaimer: It’s been one of the most influential weeks in my life.

Monday I made my second trip to Orange, CA. Thankfully, the flight left at 8:32 this time, and I had plenty of time to sleep and make it to the airport. And good thing, because I was stopped by security (my scriptures are always the culprit, the gold tinted paper and the density sets the alarms off rather frequently,) and then I WENT TO THE WRONG GATE. In a different terminal. It took me a bit to arrive, the whole time I was questioning why it would be in the other terminal, and sure enough, it was a different flight, albeit same airline, and then I had to run back to the right gate. I was huffing and puffing, and had the dubious distinction of hearing, “last call for flight 1749 to John Wayne Airport…We are looking for passenger Shanerk.” That name made me smile and chug the legs faster, and I made it onboard. The flight was uneventful, on a Boeing 717, which felt much more crowded than a 737 and I didn’t sleep much. 

We arrived to a delicious breakfast, and once again I knew the pounds would be trying to come on. Lunch was catered, and frozen yogurt followed an hour later. In between the meals we heard from the c-suite execs and founders on their business history and where they see ListReports heading in the future. We finished around 5:30 and I crashed at the hotel for a little HGTV and laying on the bed doing nothing. Rested, I headed out and went walking to check out a couple restaurants. I made it to the first one, Lucille’s Southern BBQ, and my nose told me this is the place. Placing an order, I walked to the nearby Crystal Cathedral and explored in reverent awe.

The main cathedral was closed for an organ renovation and the secondary area closed at 5 pm (holding a life sized replica, scanned digitally and replicated of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling,) but the grounds were beautiful, and the cemetery extensive and hallowed.

The statue of Job was one of my favorites. I think this is the first time I’ve seen a statue of him. Job 19:25-26: “For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter-day upon the earth. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”

I enjoyed my time there and then went back to pick up my tri-tip sandwich, beans, biscuits, and fries. So, so good. 

Tuesday started off much the same, with breakfast provided once more. I erred, mistaking a cheddar and jalapeno bagel for an asiago. For lunch I returned to the Taco Shack for a California Burrito, and then had two hours to work. At three we did a sales team outing. Originally scheduled to be an Angels game, that changed to something sinister. We boarded a “party bus,” previously unknown and unheard of to me. Music was blaring, lights flashing, and there was a pole in the middle. Thankfully no one was onboard  but the sales team. Nevertheless, the alcohol was flowing, and the 35 minute trip to Long Beach left my ears ringing. We arrived to take duffy boats out into the bay and canal and cruise around for an hour. That was enjoyable and the houses along our route were stunning. We exited to eat at a restaurant close-by and lets just say that the food wasn’t appealing unless you were hammered already. (Quite a few were.) We left that and rode the party bus back to our office and then hotel. The bus alone cost close to $1,000. Crazy. I am glad that my co-workers were very respectful of our decision not to drink. My testimony was strengthened as I sang to myself hymns and left the bus peaceful, with no expletive-laced music in my mind. 

Wednesday is our weekly company meeting and it meant another delicious catered breakfast. Its from the same place every time and I can’t get enough of the hashbrowns and sweet potato pancakes. Sandwiched in-between work, I left to go to lunch with a co-worker, Denise, who heads our 100 person support team in the Phillipines. I enjoyed hearing adventurous outsourcing stories. We ate at Urth, which has an organic, hippie vibe. And delicious Reuben sandwiches. We worked until 3, when a company party started. We were celebrating Team Utah in California. They had the most delicious Thai food, and I ate all that I could before returning to the restaurant. The night before I had missed the presidential debate, and was glad to catch 90% of this one. It did not disappoint, and I am already excited for the next one. So far I am most impressed by Elizabeth Warren and Tulsi Gabbard. And Bernie Sanders, which goes without saying. His energy is contagious, alas his sincerity and belief in his plans is not. 

Cousin Michael picked me up and we went to the mall for some Panda Express. It was great catching up, as this was the first time in 5 years since I’ve seen him. I t is great to see him doing well. 

Thursday was my last chance to eat the free hotel breakfast, but I woke up not feeling hungry, not surprisingly. For lunch I ventured into the unknown and ate at a cuban restaurant, Felix’s, which exceeded my every expectation. I will be eating there at every return trip. 

We finally had a full work day, and we left at 5 for the airport. Before our plane departed at 6:40, the exclamation point to the trip was put on by my first visit to California Pizza Kitchen. I slept well on the plane (which means a successful flight) and returned home without incident. 

On my flight home, we stayed low for twenty minutes, flying over much of the valley. None of the pictures I took do justice but I noticed how bright the temples glow, as the sun set, in an ever darkening world. That bright light in the top center is the Mt. Timpanogos Temple.

Friday it was back to the office, which ended up being a fantastically productive day, and we all left early. I bit the bullet, taking the van for an emissions test, step one on the road to Utah registration. The rest of the evening saw me go for a run, and workout, trying to start burning all these calories from the trip. I also hung up my Boston temple picture, and LOVE IT!

One co-worker in California asked me how I have energy if I don’t drink coffee, or energy drinks. I couldn’t help but laugh and responded that I try to go to bed at a decent hour, eat well and exercise. The amount of stimulants in the world is amazing. Besides the aforementioned drinks, there’s pills and powders. And music. It is nearly impossible to find somewhere that is quiet. Restaurants, gyms, workplaces almost always have music on. The comparison is easily drawn to the old slave ships, (think Ben-Hur) where the slaves rowed and a coxswain like person pounds the beat out. That is what much of the music has devolved to, with a constant beat designed to stimulate us and keep us going. Not thinking, but going. 

Saturday morning I awoke early for a return trip to the gym, then went with William Gentry to Hruska’s, where we ate a few kolaches preparing for our evening visit to Pioneer Book. I took off from there to President Young’s, where he talked about his desire to become a garlic farmer, and I delivered another key lime pie and chocolate cream pie. Then it was to Oquirrh Mountain Temple, my first time visiting there. I quickly ate lunch, and picked up William to head to Pioneer book. With the purchase of a kolache, Pioneer Book gives you a buy one get one free. And William had two coupons, so we each picked up two books, and no one had to pay. It was very kind of him to think of me and share his coupons. Finally, John Carlson was waiting for me upon my return and we played three games of chess, remembered the good times, and caught up on what has been going on with us. 

Now, to the really important parts. I’ve decided to go to Law School. A few events happened this week where I realized that I needed to do this. First, on Wednesday I watched the Democratic Presidential Debate. I realized that I couldn’t articulate positions as well as the candidates could on many issues, and nearly all have them earned J.D.’s. I couldn’t understand the nuances of the law that formed the foundation of their positions.

Second, while in California I read “To Draw Closer to God,” by Henry B. Eyring. He quotes Pres. Faust as paraphrasing a Sesame Street episode in which Cookie Monster has the option to receive for free a house in one month, a car in one week, or a cookie right then. Of course, Cookie Monster chooses the cookie. The original point was about chastity, but when I read the chapter, I knew that some of the decisions I was making were in order to secure immediate satisfaction and ease, instead of setting myself up later with things of greater value.

I realized that I’ve been going after money. Not necessarily in the easier to identify, “let’s get rich” view, but in perhaps the more pernicious “let’s avoid financial hardships”. Of course, that really means let’s forgo a little pain and stretching and let’s miss out on the bigger, more important rewards later. 

To paraphrase something I read recently, John was exiled, Paul was jailed, Jesus crucified. Why do we assume God’s will for us is to have a great job, a happy life, and a large bank account? I’m comfortable where I am, but I know its not the place for me.

So, I shan’t be afraid of struggle. The end is worth the journey. Per Pres. Oaks, (another J.D.,) “The acquisition of knowledge is a sacred activity.”

Finally, I talked with Pres. Young on Saturday and he agreed that this was a good decision. Everyone I’ve talked to has said something along the lines of “I can that” or “You’d be really good at that.” I think this career choice best aligns my natural talents and provides me the best opportunity to reach my potential and help others for good.

____________________________________________________________________________________

The last experience I’d like to share was special, and I’ll include only part of it here.

I’ve mentioned Pres. Ballard’s quote before, that no other joy compares to the happiness that we experience when we are engaged in the service of our God. Reflecting on that statement, I committed to doing better, and wondered what I could do here in Provo.

And then, I caught a vision of myself in 25 years, sending my children off to Utah for school. I saw myself wondering what would happen, if they would stay on the path, if they would have good friends. I was worried. And fell to my knees, pouring out my soul to our heavenly Father, pleading for his help that they would make good choices and be ok. And at that moment, I was comforted by the thought that there would be other students to help them. To love them, and to serve them. 

The biggest takeaway was right now, I need to be one of those “other students.” Right now, there are parents and friends on their knees, pleading with all the fervor of their souls that their loved ones will be ok. We have the amazing privilege, and responsibility to help with that. 

Indigo and Blue: Saturday July 20- Sunday 28

“Death is not the end; it is putting out the candle because the dawn has come.” Thus spake Pres. Hugh B. Brown. And thus echo I.

Upon returning to Utah, I took the train down to Lehi and Kimball picked me up. We made it to my van, grabbed some grub at Costa Vida, and then headed to Riverton for the funeral of Lawson’s father, Dan Lighten. I am so thankful I could go. I left tearful, yet very inspired and uplifted. Lawson did a fantastic job, and I felt proud to know him. It’s crazy to think that only two weeks before I had seen Dan, and never would have guessed that his time on earth was almost done. Since late 2018, the family has known the time was near. So many of those we pass are struggling with things we can’t imagine, and yet never complain or make a scene. I pray that the Lighten family will be comforted during this time. 

Returning to Provo after, I had half an hour to get ready and then picked up my date, Kathryn, to head to the Pioneer Day concert. My roommate Tyler and his girlfriend Cat joined us. We made it to the Conference Center just barely before the start (I may or may not have driven down the wrong side of a road attempting to find the parking garage…). The concert featured the Norwegian singer, Sissel, and she was fantastic! Elegant, genuine, and powerful. Some of the songs were in norweigan, and the program also featured a medley of old railroad songs. My favorite was “How Great Thou Art,” sung in both english and norwegian. It was a fantastic date, and we seemed to get along fantastically. She is one of thirteen children, and grew up on a small farm in Orem. Recently graduated in Global Supply Chain management and working as a consultant, she actually served in the Tempe Mission at the same time as me, but our paths never crossed. 

Sunday I invited a few friends over, grilled some steaks (poorly this time) and made rice and beans. Colored by a “vinagarette” salad, and spiced up with some farofa, it was a good Brazilian meal. Between lots of trips, this was my quiet week.

Tuesday saw the return of our Come Follow Me group. We had a good turnout, joined for the first time by another ward member, Tammy, and great insightful discussion. 

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a text from Pres. Young asking if he could buy two pies. I made them Saturday morning and then Kimball and I drove to drop them off. It was a brief hello, and then we headed over to the oldest remaining golf course in Utah, Nibley Park, which was nearby. The land had been donated in the 1920’s with the condition that it stay a golf course, or be returned to the family. The city has grown much since then, and now the course is an urban oasis, surrounded by multi-lane roads on all sides. Nevertheless, heavily wooded, it feels completely different. It has remained very characteristic of the era it was built with raised greens sloping off on all sides. And being in the city, it is impossible to lengthen it anymore, so many of the holes only played to 300-350 yards. Which meant I could drive a couple, which is always fun. The weather was perfect, and we had a great time.

For the fourth Sunday, the Elders Quorum Presidency taught during the second hour of church. We split into three groups, and Jacob, Dillon, and I each led discussions for one of the three groups. The conference talk we studied for the week was Elder Quentin Cook’s, “Great Love for Our Father’s Children.” In our group, we ended up focusing on some verses in 1 John. One of these was 1 John 4:18-21:

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.We love him him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God loveth his brother also.”

And now my all-time favorite line from a movie:

“The only way to be happy is to love. Unless you love, your life will flash by.”

Love is the key. I know that if we ask for the gift of charity and earnestly seek to develop it, God will bless us with it. And if we serve our fellow men, we will one day stand before God, see his face, and be able to say that we love Him.

Time in Texas: July 12-20

My flight arrived at DFW a little early, and I waited for a time before Dad and Porter picked me up. I should note, it was a miracle how perfect the schedule worked out. When I bought my ticket, I had just started at BambooHR. I decided to book the trip from Friday to the following Saturday, without really having any reason. Porter arrived on Thursday, and I did want to see that, but this felt right. Fast forward some weeks, and I am hired at ListReports, have the aforementioned trip to California….from Monday to Thursday. It would have been difficult to skip the first part of training, so the departure Friday was ideal. God is in the details.

Two years passes by so quick; I couldn’t believe Porter was back, and I couldn’t believe that I was approaching (at the end of the month) my two year mark of being back in the states.

It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been gone, as soon as I’m with family, I feel at home. And it feels good. I hadn’t been back since Christmas, and although Dad and Breyer came out to graduation, it was a LONG time since I’d seen everyone else.

Much has already been written by other family members, and too much happened to do justice without writing page upon page, so I shall touch on only a few happenings.

First, Sunday was Breyer’s baptism. Ordinances are so important. We need the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need baptism. Truly, “except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5). I was asked by her to speak briefly on baptism, and I reminisced on my own baptism, which occurred nearly 16 years to the day. I don’t remember everything, and at that age I did not fully comprehend the significance of the event. Above all else, I do remember, distinctly, the feeling of being clean, and wanting to be perfect from that time on. Breyer’s was the first baptism since my mission, and it was a day I shall not forget. A bonus was hearing Porter give his homecoming talk during Sacrament Meeting.

It was great to have the Bach’s there; they always bring so much happiness. We played our traditional game of Rancid Tarantula. A decade in, the rule book we have created rivals the US Tax Code in length, but like Uncle Sam, I keep coming out on top.

Sunday night, before their departure early. early Monday morning, Bro. Bach realized his wallet was missing. While handy to have, this was essential as he needed the ID to board the plane back to Massachusetts. He remembered having it after church when we were home, so we tore apart the house looking in every imaginable place. The search started close to midnight, and about 12:40 I asked that we gather and pray. I prayed, and felt certain, completely certain that we would find the wallet. We looked for a little longer, but to no avail and called it a night. I still felt certain, and was glad to see upon awakening, a note left from Bro. Bach indicating that he looked in his suitcase once more, and although he had looked in the very pocket a few times before, his wallet was there. I testify that God does answer prayers.

Third, on Monday I took Sawyer and Miller golfing. This has likewise become a tradition. We wanted to try a new course and went to Sugar Tree Golf Course in Lipan, Texas. The course was beautiful! We arrived at 3:30 pm and played 18 holes in the hot, hot sun. I drank 160 ounces of water, 10 full water bottles. We had a great time. It was a hard course, and we saw some great shots, over water, out of the sand, etc. On 18, Miller Happy Gilmore’d his drive 270 and then hit his next one thin, saw it skip once on the water and land on the other side. His arms raised in both jubilation and disbelief, we were all glad we could spend the time together.

We did a bro’s trip to Tyler, with everyone but Tanner going to see the Merritt’s. We played lots of games, ate lots of food, and spent so much time in the pool. We all came back with varying degreees of sunburn, but nary a frown. I even escaped losing to Aunt Janel in ping-pong. Only due to running out of time and not playing before we left though.

Friday, the family was all together. The Friday before, Mom had surgery, and of course it takes more than surgery to replace the meniscus to keep her down, but it was nice to see her doing so much better and much more mobile.

That night, we went to a Cleburne Railroaders game. Miller’s team was being recognized, and he was memorably introduced as “Miller Schenewark, extra hitter” as his position, while walking out onto the field. We were the first fans to arrive, and had time before the gates opened to walk around the field behind the stands and find lots of home run balls. The game was entertaining, and the night capped off with a firework show.

My trip was wonderful. I know, without a doubt, that “The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan…Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).

I am thankful for parents who have taught me by example and who have always placed family, and especially their children, above any worldly considerations.

 

 

California Fun. And food. July 8-12

The start was admittedly not fun. Our plane left at 6 am, which meant waking up at 3:30. Some day I’m going to start packing before 11 pm, but not this time. I do love driving so early and seeing a state asleep, with everything yet to start for the day. 

We arrived in LAX at 7:30ish, and one of my travel companions, Glenn, rented a car, and I joined him and Angel and we were off to the office. Or to battle the infamous traffic. We were welcomed to a delicious breakfast, and I soon realized that I am blessed to be working for a company whose founders are undeniably foodies. 

Lunch was at the Taco Shack, and I ate a nice California burrito. The day was filled with onboarding tasks so lets get back to the good stuff: the food. Dinner was on our own, and we met up with our Utah manager, Ben, for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant where I tried the cheesesteak. 

Working in the office courtyard. I’m with Angel, Ben (the bald one) and Glenn

Because of my early departure and lackadaisical regard to bedtime during the fourth weekend, my head was pounding and despite taking tylenol, the pain wasn’t subsiding much. It was early to bed, and prayers for a quick recovery. 

Thankfully that did materialize and my head felt a lot better Tuesday. 

Food, food, a little work, more food. That sums up the week basically. I enjoyed hearing more of the company vision, and meeting my co-workers. The next few months here will be a lot of fun as we expand rapidly. They recently raised $15 million in an effort to make a big push these next few months. 

Bass with veggies and lemon yogurt. SO GOOD!
lunch at a Lebanese place. We also had lunch there Thursday. Tasty, but not so filling

Additionally, I was able to catch up on my sleep, read, write and in general live quite scrumptiously. It was a good change of pace to have a king sized bed, no roommates, no distractions, basically no expenditures on my time besides the whole 8-5 part.

Wednesday night, Aunt Janeen and Sam came down from Long Beach and I spent the evening with them. This was my favorite part of the trip, and I appreciate their efforts to come down and see me. We had a good time at Wahoo’s fish tacos and talking about everything that is happening in our lives and in the lives of those we love. Alas, I failed to take a picture to help record this memory. 

Our flight left at 7:50 pm Thursday and we arrived in Utah about 10:30. Turns out the highway was down to one lane, so the anticipated 45 minute drive took almost two hours. Knowing I’d be leaving for Texas in hours, I didn’t unpack, deciding to leave my dirty clothes in my suitcase and take the same things with me. 

I made it to work Friday morning and then headed with Ben to help run a booth at a little car show that was happening nearby. Our company had reserved a spot for this, so Ben and I went and set up some horseshoes and handed out drinks to realtors and loan officers and played against them while talking about ListReports. Finally, at 3:45, I was headed out of Utah. This was later than I had intended, so it was Lyft to the rescue, with me leaving my car in the work parking lot.  

My Lyft driver to the airport had moved to the US from Brasil only two years before and we talked in Portuguese the entire trip. I let him know that my brother had in fact just returned the day before from Campinas.  To be continued….

 

Turning 24: July 1st-7th

Monday morning started my first day on the job at ListReports. This is the most committed I’ve ever been to a company, and I am going to work hard to make this the start of a career. There is a great opportunity to grow, and to put myself in a good spot financially. Monday we did a little bit of training and moved to our new office, a WeWork spot that just opened up. It is fantastic! Tuesday and Wednesday were much of the same, with everyone acclimating themselves to the new situation. I am joined in the office by manager Ben, and coworkers Adam Fox, Jake Mangum, Angel Lentini, Glenn Daniels, and Miller McMillen. 

Monday night for FHE we had a really fun activity where we divided into groups and played “Bigger and Better.” The game is simple: each group starts with a quarter and we go around the neighborhood bartering our way up. We had 75 minutes before we had to return and show the goods. I was skeptical at first – who would really care about helping a bunch of young adults with this on a Monday evening? Nevertheless, our group proceeded and I was shocked by the outcome. Disclaimer, nearly everyone we met knew the game. It’s apparently a Utah tradition, and one person we met even confessed to having played it only the week before. After five trades, we ended with a queen-sized air mattress. Not bad! In an effort to secure the victory, tainted that it may be, one of our group members called an aunt, and we swung by and borrowed her shop vac. Cool activity, I’d do it again. 

me, william, nicolas, maddie, and sandra. great group!

 

After the official ending, Jacob West and I hung out on the lawn and had some deep conversations. He’s such a good guy, and I’m lucky to know him.

Tuesday was our come follow me discussion, and Brielle brought over delicious apple muffins for us and everyone had great insights. I especially appreciated this thought: Acts 3:1-8 relates how Peter healed a man lame from birth. Its already a great story, but a new meaning was added with a closer look at verse 2. That reads, “And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple.” If he had been at the temple everyday, then he doubtless would have seen Jesus, and Christ probably had seen him. Yet, he wasn’t healed until Peter performed this miracle. Likewise, we might be waiting for a wound to heal or a trial to end, perhaps even something that feels like its been going on since birth. We must trust in God’s timing for us, and eventually we will be healed, experiencing the miracle that we need, and allowing us to leap up and praise God (vs. 8) as did this man.

Wednesday night after work my birthday celebration started, and that night I reached a new high for in chess, a 1787 rating, and successfully benchpressed 225 twice. For my birthday, I had turned down a couple 4th of July celebrations, instead planning to go to the mountains and enjoy a day of solitude meditating on where I am in life. And I did. It was wonderful! I spent the morning on Y mountain, looking down on the valley below and painting watercolors. Around noon people started to reserve their spot for fireworks, and I hightailed it out of there, returning home for lunch, and then going off to the MTC lawn to read.  That lawn too filled up, at about 7 so I left, feeling good about where I am in life, and rejuvenated. Returning home for dinner, and watching a few fireworks before calling it a night. Or trying to. There was  a lot of festivities going on, so I put on a movie and watched “Wonder,” which was heartwarming. What a wonderful day!

Friday the fifth we also had work off, and I went to Draper to play golf with Mark. He wanted to pay as a birthday present, and we had a great time playing nine at South Mountain. 

Cool cats

 

Next week I’m in California, and then heading to Texas (July 12th) to see my family. The Book of Job records our time in premortality, 

“when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy”

Yet, I have to wonder, did we know how wonderful this life truly would be? I think not.

There is truly so much to be grateful for. Life keeps getting better and better.

I have to echo President Ballard, “Nothing brings more joy in this life than in being involved in the work of God.”

That work is encapsulated by two things:

-serving our fellow men and bringing them to Christ

-and spending time with family, working towards creating an eternal unit.

 

May we do both is my hope, and I know we will have an unprecedented outpouring of happiness and contentment.