Dessert in the Desert – August 26th, 2018

On Tuesday my mission president, President Young and his wife came over for dinner. Truly times never to be forgotten. They have been a tremendous influence in my life and it was wonderful to meet up with them again. I have seen President Young sporadically since being home, so it was especially meaningful to talk with Sister Young. They related story after story and I was inspired and uplifted. I knew what I learned during my two years, and it was interesting to see what they learned and the challenges they had to overcome. In Brazil, we would frequently eat with extremely impoverished members yet they would always feed us the best food they had, often being the only time they would have meat that week, recognizing us as servants of Christ. I will always recognize Pres. and Sister Young as Servants of Christ and served them my best as well. We enjoyed grilled fish, squash, mashed potatoes, and rolls, followed by apple pie and ice cream. I love them.

Thursday was an adventure. At about 1 pm, I received a message from Matt Stone asking if I was free to help his parents move some furniture. He had given me a head’s up a few weeks prior, and I was happy to leave work a little early and help. The hardest part was dragging the refrigerator up the stairs, but we made it. The Stone’s drove from Arizona bringing everything up, and on their way encountered the first rainstorm of 1+ months, which blew their tarp off, and exposed their furniture to the elements. Thus they decided to get rid of their futon and and a bookcase. Having a van, I jumped at the idea, and brought those treasures home where they have made a nice contribution to my room. I did forgo the couches though…

From there, I ran home, quickly changed into dress clothes, and ran to an “Opioid Abuse and Prescription Medication Abuse: How to Help” devo. I grabbed the only food ready, some mashed potato leftovers, and started driving. Unfortunately, on my way after making a sharp turn, the potatoes went flying all over the passenger seat and door. Nevertheless, it was off to the meeting, where Kara, the RSP, had saved me a seat. It was a great event, and my eyes where opened to the extent of the problem here in Utah. One of the speakers was Mark, currently a service missionary working in the church’s addiction recovery program. You can hear part of his amazing story here: https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2014-04-004-the-savior-wants-to-forgive?lang=eng

The meeting ran 15 minutes over, which made me late for my date with Avery. Kara kindly helped me prep the car, cleaning potatoes, and we realized that my passenger seat belt was stuck – making it impossible to put on correctly. Not the ideal situation, but only way to go was forward, so I went and picked Avery up. She was a great sport, and I enjoyed getting to know her as we went to Rockwell Ice Cream. Peaches and Cream was a 10/10.

Friday I left work and met Philip Gebler at Talon’s Cove golf course in Saratoga Springs. This was my first time on the other side of Utah Lake, and the view was gorgeous – I loved being able to see the entire valley. The course was a link’s style, and on most of the holes the wind was strong, and we played right along the lake’s border. I loved it, and for $15 for 18 it was  steal. I birdied four holes, but also had a triple and quadruple bogey, which evened it out. I would definitely recommend it, and hope to play it again.

My friend Bryan came down from Idaho later that night, putting immediate use to the futon and crashing there for the night. Poor guy – he came down to go on a date with someone in the valley – but due to some unforeseen issues, the date fell through, and he attended the City Center temple with me before heading back up to Idaho.

Lunch was pancake with pals, (and I wasn’t cooking). In the afternoon, Sarah and Maddie, two friends from last year wanted to catch up, so we went swimming at Maddie’s apt. complex, where I ran into Abby Weible, and we had a couple random people join us in the pool where we had a good time tossing a ball around and asking each other questions.

And having set me up in the past, they decided that it was time for me to return the favor, and so I committed to a triple date later that night. It took a little bit of legwork, but I went with Holly from Arizona, and Philip and Josh joined Maddie and Sarah and we jumped into my van and we (again) went to Rockwell’s Ice Cream. For the record, before taking a date there, I do ask if they have been, and so far no one has. I am obviously the one keeping them in business. This time I went with Strawberries and Cream and again, it was 10/10.

Today’s been a LONG day. Meetings started at 8:30, church was 12-3. I did not have to play the organ though, and that helped me tremendously. I spent both the second and third hours conducting ministering interviews. And finally, in an event long anticipated, with the calling of recent move-in Porter Wright to serve as 1st counselor in the EQ presidency, we had a full presidency at church for the first time since April. Hallelujah. Porter is a great guy, humble and hard-working and I’m excited for how everything is looking. Two EQ teachers were also sustained, and we have an activity planned Sept. 8th.

I made Hawaiian haystacks tonight, but thinking I bought Chicken broth, I dumped the can in, to discover it was chicken noodle soup. Emphasis on noodles. It was an unexpected and funny addition.

I can’t believe school starts in one week. I’m excited for the new semester. The Maeser Laser is due to be printed September 10th. We received our first article, “Life: Sacred but not Sacrosanct” which condemns abortions and condones capital punishment, and are expecting a couple more to be in this week.qq

When I was swimming with Sarah and Maddie, as we reminisced about some shared events of the past year, I remarked that I never would have guessed that we’d be swimming at the Glenwood together. (Last year they had both been dating my roommates.) I mention that only to illustrate the unpredictability of life. And despite our failed plans, and having no ability to perfectly craft the future, I am in awe of the beauty that fills our lives and the joy we encounter in the journey. And know that as we keep our covenants and make Christ the center of our lives, we will experience more happiness than we could imagine.

This is one of my favorite scriptures: (D+C 97:8-9)

Verily I say unto you, all among them who know their hearts are honest, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice – yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command – they are accepted of me.

For I, the Lord, will cause them to bring forth as a very fruitful tree which is planted in a goodly land, by a pure stream, that yieldeth much precious fruit.

(mission pic from Itaperuna, RJ, Brazil)

 

The Circle of Life – August 19th, 2018

“Nothing quells ambition like biscuits and gravy. As I type this barely awake lying in bed. At 6:45. Ah yes, biscuits and gravy.” That was the extent of my letter two weeks ago. For the record, that was my first time making biscuits and they turned out absolutely delicious.

Now to attempt to retrace the last three weeks in a succinct manner:

WORK

I applied to three places. And I’ve been hired on at all three. I’ll be working football games again in the fall, but this time as a supervisor. Doesn’t get much easier than that.

I applied, at the kind bequest of Tanner, to Canopy tax. Turns out there was a bunch of people who also applied, and while I did try to do my part (killing the in-person interview) I am grateful for Tanner’s work and example. He is widely known and highly looked upon, making everything so much easier for me there. So far the work has been good. I’m putting in 40 hours a week until school starts when I’ll cut it down to 20. I’m a fan of the product, software for tax practitioners, have loved learning about the field and have been highly impressed with the CEO, Kurt Avarell, and his vision and goodness.

Plus there is a putting green inside, and free lunch and breakfast. The food has been a lot better than I expected, and has since drastically curbed my cooking.

That said, I do struggle at times. Its hard to respect your boss when he shows up habitually in joggers and skinny jeans. (not the CEO). And the fact that while I do appreciate the tax software, I’m still a Luddite working for a tech company. And when one co-worker remarked that “I don’t even know how to write on paper anymore” I felt almost nauseous. And finally, I admit that since day one, I’ve been hearing good ol’ Tennessee Ernie Ford singing “I sold my soul to the company store” in my head.

My last job is my favorite. I was hired on at Northwestern Mutual. I thank all those who helped me by letting me conduct some interviews and get a feel for talking with clients about financial issues. After onboarding last Thursday, I was told I needed to pass the Utah Life and Health Insurance exam to become licensed. NM pays for the test, test prep, and fingerprinting which comes to over $200. Important to know, NM doesn’t officially contract and pay you until you are licensed, so I decided to forgo the 5 week study course, and signed up to take the test in a week. On Monday, I started to look at the material and realized this would be a LOT harder than I thought. For those three days, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday I studied longer and harder than I ever have in my life, putting in 3-4 hours a day after work. On Thursday, after becoming lost, I miraculously made it to the testing center with two minutes to spare, went in and passed. Lots of tender mercies all around. So I am now officially licensed as a Life and Health Insurance agent. And can collect the $100 a week NM pays for a one hour training every Monday. Oh yeah. Plus, I learned a lot and have been fascinated by the field. I’ve long felt that insurance companies are like secret combinations and have wreaked havoc upon society, and its been very informative to learn more, and while I still hold to that, I will except life insurance from the other insidious forms of insurance. I’m a believer. (Given the right circumstances)

DATING

Lydia and I went out again last Wednesday. It was a delightful time at an escape room, themed “Ticket to Ride” and afterwords ice cream at Roll-with-It creamery. The escape room was way easier than I imagined, and I was a little disappointed as it seemed to be more “guess and check” and random puzzles instead of having a logical sequence and being related to the actual train ride story we were involved with.

After dropping her off at her house, Lydia let me know, kindly, that she wasn’t interested in continuing our dates. Thus, an episode has ended. Nevertheless, I am very grateful for what has transpired, especially for what I’ve learned. And I believe I’m a better person because of that. One scripture that has really struck me recently is D+C 78:19.

“And he who receiveth all things with thankfullness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea more.”

And so, that night, while it was hard  as it was not my will, I was able to kneel and thank my Father in Heaven for being single and for the growth opportunities. Which made me feel good. As did passing a week playing golf, looking through rolls upon rolls of nickels, and watching Red Sox games.

But now, I shall again venture into the harsh wilderness, seeking the Promised Land. On Wednesday I’ll be going out with Avery Harker, and have been set up with Avery Campbell and Brooke Ferrin.

Church

The Elders Quorum has kept me sane; there is always lots of work to do. Friday was move-in day for the new residents, and I went with the RSP, Kara Ladle to every apt. in our ward meeting new people and seeing if they needed any help. Today in church it was wonderful to see a high attendance and feel the new energy. Great things are happening here. I taught EQ today and we had a very candid discussion as a quorum about what we would like to see in this upcoming year. Carson Buttars was called as our secretary today. Also, I again played the organ, and have been complimented on how much my playing has improved in the last 8 months. Its good to see the improvement, even though there is still a LONG way to go. One day i’ll be able to actually count the beats right.

Misc

The Tuesday before last, I went with Derik, and we climbed Mount Timpanagos. It was sort of spur of the moment, and turned out to be much harder than I anticipated. Which made it that much more satisfying. We ascended in just under four hours, making really good time, and enjoying the beautiful scenery. We loved the wildflowers, saw snow, and watched mountain gates five feet from us eat.

For the final ascent though, I started cramping really bad on my thighs and slowed us down. We enjoyed half an hour on the peak meeting the other climbers (including one guy who climbed it for the 989 time that day!) and partaking of a packed lunch.

The descent was TORTUROUS. The sun was beating, we were tired, and it took way longer than I thought. I expected to descend in 90 minutes, but it was a laborious 3.5 hours before we made it to our car. That said, it felt really good to push myself and do something hard.

Friday was the sealing and reception for Stephen Welch.  It was wonderful to see him and his family after 4+ years.

Saturday August 11th, I rounded out a foursome and enjoyed one of the most memorable golf outings of my life. My friend Brian Crane was visiting from Idaho and he invited me to go with his mission pal Kyle Rushton. They also invited their mission president and former counselor in the Young Men’s General Presidency, Michael Neider. Needless to say, that was my first time golfing with a former general authority. We had a blast, with lots of laughs, and good stories. He recounted meetings with prophets and speaking at General Conference. I also played my best golf of the summer and just torching drive after drive and making every putt. We played Crater Springs in Midway, and were nestled in the mountains and Pres. Neider took us to lunch at the “Back 40” in Heber, and left with a promise to set me up with some amazing young women. A day I’ll never forget.

I visited the dentist, and per usual talked with the person doing the cleaning. Who all to quickly volunteered that she is usually at the desk and was just helping because they were a little shorthanded. Before she began, she offered to give me laughing gas, to which I laughed thinking it was a joke. It wasn’t. With m confidence at new lows, I declined, and confirmed that this was just a cleaning. I made it out, and don’t have any cavities. And didn’t swallow any screwdrivers. Hearing about Mom’s ordeal has scared me  further and made me question (further) the competency of some practicing dentists and their assistants. For three years now, I have not had a single nightmare that didn’t center around teeth.

On Friday, I learned of the death of another classmate, Michael Jalin. We’ve now had three die, one being murdered over drugs, and two dying in vehicular crashes. Each time I am reminded that life doesn’t end at the grave and that we are so much more than a name on an engraved tombstone. Michael attended seminary a few times, and I was glad for the chance to know him. I’m so thankful for the gospel of Jesus Christ which allows relationships to be eternal, and  provides meaning to our lives.