may 18th-24th: I fell into a burning ring of fire

Yep, still reading the Inferno. And while the mutual dates have continued, I haven’t fallen in love yet.

There were three dates this week. The first was with Lauren on Thursday night. She’s from Arizona, served a mission in Montana/Wyoming, and wants to be a nurse. She came over to my house and we sat at the kitchen table and painted watercolors while conversing. It was a fun (and simple) date, and I then walked her home.

Saturday, I went out with Maddie. Quick background: Last week, Porter is good friends with her younger brother. They were all on a camp-out together and Porter thought he would get along well. All of this was happening unbeknownst to me though. I received a text from Maddie introducing herself and then a few minutes later one from Porter quite funny. I texted more with Maddie throughout the week than any one before, and I was quite excited to go out on this blind date. I called her and we marked a picnic for Saturday at Draper City Park. My friends Kimball and Aubrey met us there, and we played bocce ball and corn hole and ate some pasta and watermelon. Maddie is a student at UVU, studying business and currently works for the church in the Seminaries and Institute department. She served her mission in Atlanta.

And the third date was on Sunday. This one was with Fernanda, from Petropolis, RJ, Brazil. She is a student at BYU and LOVES to paint, so we also did watercolors. I picked up a couple of pointers from her and had another good time.

More than anything, I wanted to be more social this week and simply go on some dates. Mission accomplished. For those who may be wondering, I always like to note where people are from, what they are studying, and where (if applicable) they served their mission. I know that this doesn’t even begin to define who they are and the myriad assortment of talents and interests that they have. Yet, I am amazed at all the wonderful people I am constantly meeting and am blown away by how amazingly different people are, and that is in some very small way indicated by those three facts. The world is a lot bigger than I can imagine, and it’s filled with talented, hard-working kind souls who truly care about others and intend to leave the planet better than they encountered it.

Eating healthy, working out. The gym is open Monday-Friday, and then they close over the weekend for “deep cleans.” I’ve been going with David, and we made it all 5 days this week. My days have fallen in to an easy routine of waking up, having breakfast and free time until 8 am, then reading scriptures and studying until 10 am. At that point, I meet up with David in the gym and we work out for just over an hour, then I go running, and return home to shower. Lunch is at 12, and I try to be in the BYU Library at 1 to start studying.

The reality is, this is the most time I have put into working out and focusing on eating healthy, and I think I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in.

Another benefit of quitting my job is that I’ve had time to ponder, meditate, and just think creatively. And yes, there are now 4 small-business ideas that I want to try. I’ve been working with my new friend Klaus, on golf tours in Brazil. He is from Vienna originally, but married a Brazilian, and has lived there for 18 years now. he leads tours, both for Brazilians wanting to go overseas to Europe, and for Germans to Brasil. I am partnering with him to try and get the american market. I think the key will be the corporate travelers who have a day or two free while they are there on business.

Porter came over Sunday and this is what we had for lunch. I kind of want to do a food blog, and so I’ve been working on presentation.

We played Scrabble again, and this time I barely emerged victorious after a furious comeback and lots of luck. The last letter I drew was the blank which allowed me to both take advantage of a triple word score and go out first.

The other notable event of the week was “The Re-Match.” I partnered up with Kimball and we faced off against c-i-l Mike and Bowen at Talon’s Cove Golf Course. We tried and we failed again. Bowen and Mike won the first two holes and we couldn’t ever catch up. When they won the 8th, it was officially over. These 2×2 matches have been a lot of fun, and I want one more shot at beating Bowen, so round 3 will be soon.

I’ve really been struggling this week to decide if I even want to go to BYU Law School, or if UConn is the right place for me. I’ve compiled a list of pros/cons to help me weigh the factors. It’s a tough call. In the midst of this, I am more  thankful than ever to know that God has a plan for each and every one of us. I know if we try and live worthy of the Spirit, He will guide our footsteps and all will be well. 2 Nephi 32:3

“Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.”

What struck me reading this is that it is not enough to read good books. It is not enough to read the scriptures. We must be buried in the actual words of Christ.

May 11-17th: Potato Paradise

It’s been a great week! My inevitable 1/4 century crisis is still 45 days away, and I had an absolute blast these seven days.

Monday, I had planned to go to Salt Lake and have brunch with Emma, but she had work and cancelled last minute. I instead got some studying in, and then headed up to Boise. Yep, as in Idaho. I’ve been promising my friend Brian for almost 3 years that I would visit, and figured that now was the perfect time for a little golf trip.

The drive took 5.5 hours, was uneventful, rather peaceful, and I loved seeing the countryside. I haven’t been to Idaho since I was a baby, so everything was new. i arrived about 4:30pm, at Brian’s office, and we left from there for our 5:05 tee time at Banbury Golf Course nearby. The course was fantastic and in great shape (although the greens had been aerated, so they were a little slow). We played 18, enjoyed the great weather and I learned lots about Brian and his business.

This is the tenth hole, which was our first of the day. It runs through a residential neighborhood, but the houses are far enough away that you can barely even see them, and they *shouldn’t* come into play. Key word being shouldn’t. I’m unfairly blaming my bad shot on the long car ride. I stepped up to the tee above, and the easiest hole on the course, a straight 370 yard hole, and pushed my drive so far to to the right the houses did come into play, and for what felt like a long time, I was muttering, “don’t hit a window, don’t hit a window…” Then we heard the satisfying smack off the roof, and I could breathe again. No one came close to hitting a house after that.

This is on the 8th, our penultimate for the day, and a short little par-3 over a lake.

After the round, we went to Brian’s apt, had some snacks, and then joined his roommate Mike and some friends at the hot tub. After that, it was off to bed. I crashed on the couch and slept like a baby. Brian and his two roommates all left for work by 8, so I was alone and cranked out some studying in the morning. They subscribe to National Geographic, and I did take a break to check that out. Oops. Once you read, “Hundreds of Tiny Arachnids are Likely on Your Face Right Now,” there is no going back. Here is the link for those interested:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2020/05/face-mites-the-tiny-tenants-that-likely-live-in-your-pores/

I had no idea all these mites were living on me, and don’t think I wanted to know either.

After studying, I headed to downtown Boise 15 minutes away for lunch and to sight see. I stopped at Westside Drive-In for a huge burger.

The size and deliciousness exceeded my expectations. They also have this on the menu:

Regrettably, I didn’t get this. It seemed a little expensive, the picture didn’t look appealing and 1/4 of the menu items were labelled world famous . I mentioned it to Brian later though and he said that the Ice Cream Potato is 1. huge 2. Beautiful looking 3. Delicious. So, if there are any Boise travelers out there, get the cold potato!

I continued my wanderings, and visited the Old Penitentiary compound, and walked around the capitol building and the surrounding area. Most everything was closed to visitors due to coronavirus, but I did check out a couple food stores and peeked at the state botanical garden as well.

The most interesting fact from the Idaho Capitol area relates to a statue of Frank Steunenberg that I stumbled across. Here is the inscription:

When in 1899 organized lawlessness challenged the power of Idaho, he upheld the dignity of the state, enforced its authority and restored LAW AND ORDER within its boundaries, for which he was assassinated in 1905.
“Rugged in body, resolute in mind, massive in the strength of his convictions, he was of the granite hewn.” In grateful memory of his courageous devotion to public duty, the people of Idaho have erected this monument.” 

The Western Federation of Miners (WFM) didn’t like Steunenberg to the extent that even though he had left office in 1901, the leadership under the direction of Big Bill Haywood called a hitman in, and had Steunenberg assassinated in 1905. It took a couple attempts, before Harry Orchard set a bomb and finished the job. Clarence Darrow represented Haywood at the trial and got him off the hook somehow, although Orchard, was sentenced to life in prison. He spent the next 46 years in prison, serving the most time ever in the Old Penitentiary, before dying at age 88. He never recanted his testimony, and and continued to admit that everything he had said (including the fact that he had killed 17 people for the WFM before Steunenberg) was true.

Talking about the penitentiary, here it is. Supposedly one of the better hikes in Boise, to Table Rock, is up a mountain nearby, and I went up a little bit before calling it a day.

This is the Bishop’s House, at the Penitentiary. Slightly more than 1/4 of the population of Idaho are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so I thought that might be why this house is called the Bishop’s House, as perhaps there was a chaplain assigned to it, but it belongs to the Catholic Diocese.

After my short tour of Boise, I went to meet up with Brian at Shadow Valley Golf Club. They have an evening special of $9 for 9 holes, and the manager was kind to give us that deal, and then let us play a few holes for free on the back to warm-up before our 6:20 tee time.

We made it through 5 holes when the ominous looking clouds began to dump rain on us. We hid behind a brick restroom building, and thought about calling it a day. After 15 minutes, it blew past us, and the weather was perfect. The rain had also chased everyone off, so we had the course to ourselves just about. And, I made a slight adjustment in my stance, sliding my right foot back two inches, which led to me hitting bombs and really wanting to finish the round.

This is the fourth hole, a 558 yard par 5. The clouds are moving in, but we thought might slip by us. 25 minutes later, we would know we were wrong on that.

And, after the storm. It’s overcast, but not raining. This is the other par 5, hole number 7. Each hole had lots of undulation and variety. The architect did a great job providing different options and lots of risk/reward shots. This hole was my best drive of the day, a bomb that started right and drew back to finish on the right side of the fairway….345 yards away.

I was really playing good and looking at a great score before the last two holes tripped me up, and my greediness cost me some strokes. Still a great round and a great course.

We returned to the apartment, and went hot tubbing again. It was so relaxing and felt great. Mike had made us steaks, and they were unbelievably good. He gave me some pointers, which i will have to try. For these, he seared them, then slow-cooked them for 2 hours, and finally added a homemade honeybutter glaze on top. 5/5 stars.

Golf, hot tub, steak. It was a great day!

Wednesday morning, (after another deep sleep, maybe due to the hot tub?) I had the place to myself and studied some more.

Part of my reasoning for making this trip was because Oregon is only about 40 miles from Boise. I have never been, and it would make state number 44/50, (leaving Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Alaska, and Hawaii). The other 4 in the continental US are all adjacent – and I figured this would be my best near-term shot at visiting the Beaver State.

So, after doing my study time, I headed out and made it to Ontario, Oregon, where I figured I would play one more round of golf. This is farming country (the grocery store in Boise had like 10 apple varieties – Pink apple variety is a new favorite), and while I had looked up the place before, I was still surprised. When I called to get a tee time asking for something around “10 or 11 am,” the manager said, “well, Bill’s group tee’s off at 11 am. So don’t come then.” That was it though, which left me confused until I got there and understood that every other time was open. Bill plays with four friends every Wednesday at 11 am, but no one else was on the course. The course is called Country View, and when i got there, that made sense too. It is on the top of a small mountain and one can see for miles in every direction. It was beautiful!

 

Hole #8, a short par 4. Alas, I missed this short putt.

This is hole #3. It’s 165 yards, straight downhill, and has the smallest green I have EVER seen on a golf course.

I am a huge fan of Treasure Valley. I talked with the owner, Scott McKinney for a while, then went out to play. My step was light, and it just felt pure. It wasn’t overly manicured, but it was natural and followed the land. The first few holes were good, holes 5-9 were incredible! On 5, i lost my first ball in 24 holes, ending a good streak, and hooking one into a farmers field. 5 is a par 5, and you have to play over a huge gully to reach the green in two, or you can play way to the right. Hole 6 is a par 3, also over a huge gully, and I had my best shot of the day. I drew my 8-iron 190 yards into a slight breeze and finished 5 feet behind the pin. It was perfect.

Hole number 5.

I finished well this time too, and returned to the clubhouse to talk a little more with Scott, and hear some history of the area, before going on the road again. I was tempted to swing down to Jackpot, NV on my way home, but that was pushing it, and I figured I’d save that for another trip. I did make two stops though.

The first was in Bliss, ID, population 318. With a name like that, and no rush, I thought I’d briefly visit and am glad I did. It has amazing views of the snake river.

I continued further, and stopped in Twin Falls, ID. Evil Knievel tried jumping the Snake River Canyon here in 1974, but was unsuccessful.  I had no idea how beautiful the canyon is. Shoshone Falls, called the “Niagra of the West” is just outside the town, and after eating I went to visit.

Shoshone Falls. The dams control the flow, so it’s not as wide as it once was. It’s not as powerful as Niagara either. However, it is taller. I felt woozy even looking down. The falls are 200+ feet tall, and I was higher than that. The canyon is simply incredible.

Perrine Bridge, crossing the snake river Canyon. When it was built, it was the highest bridge in the world.

I’m at the Visitor’s Center here, looking out on the canyon. The picture simply does not do justice. This was one of those times my breath was taken away, and I could imagine living in a house nearby, in perpetual awe of the grandeur of God’s creations. This is a few miles upstream from the falls, and in my mind it is prettier.

I stayed longer than I anticipated, but less than I wanted, before finally getting back on the road again for the last few hours. The final leg was uneventful, and I arrived home about 9:30 pm. This was an unforgettable trip, and I am very, very grateful for how everything turned out, the opportunity I had to go, and the memories I’ll forever treasure.

Saturday, I had my first date in 3 months. I met Haylie via mutual, and for our date we went to Kiwani’s park and played tennis. She won, and I had a blast. Then we went and got some ice cream at “Founding Flavors,” a new ice cream shop. It’s very historically themed, with the employees dressed up as revolutionary war soldiers and each flavor named after a founding fathers/someone from that era. I tried the “Aaron Burr Murderous Shot,” which was Madagascar black vanilla. Either flavors include “Franklin’s Black Raspberry Republic if you can keep it,” “Thomas Paine’s Peppermint Common Sense Concoction,” and “Give me Chocolate or give me Death.” Haylie is from Colorado, served a mission in Alberta, Canada, is finishing up her accounting degree, and justtjust signed her offer to work for KPMG. It was a way fun date.

Sunday, we had sacrament at our house again, and Porter came over for lunch. Then he whipped me, absolutely thrashed me, in Scrabble.

I went over to Tanmarie’s that evening, as Tanner had kindly offered to take some photos. He did a great job, then I hopped on the roof to take Tanmarie’s annual photo. While I was snapping that, they snuck one last shot of me.

It’s been a great week. I’m truly grateful for how blessed I am. What I am most grateful for however, are the things of eternity. So much of what we expend effort on, ultimately doesn’t matter and will be forgotten shortly. We must treasure the eternal.

D&C 132:13 reads, “And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me, or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain….”

Let us all seek to See his face, Feel his presence, and Trust his love.

May 4th-May 10th: resplenDENT times

The studying in earnest has begun. So far, my scores aren’t really increasing and I am looking at ways to change up strategies. And now for the rest of the week:

David has been a little under the weather some of the week, so I met up with Sonny and Kelson a few times this week for exercising. Sonny came up with a pretty good “prison workout” after doing some research, and I left SORE! It surprised me how much of a workout you can get with no weights and only household items. Perhaps the best was a tricep shredder that involved 2 people and one pair of (extra) pants. Person A, raising the pants legs over his head with his elbows bent, would then try to extend his arms all the way up, while Person B stood behind him, held the waist part of the pants and did triceps pushdowns simultaneously. I also went with Sonny to a local frisbee golf course and got some vitamin d that way. He showed me some new ways to throw, so Sawyer and Miller better be ready!

The only unfortunate side effect was that the soreness lasted longer than I anticipated and despite some stretching, I showed up still sore for “The Match: part 1.” It’s part 1 because we had such a good time, a day that will live in my hallowed golfing hall-of-memories forever, that we have a rematch coming up. We had some new people move into the ward, and I went around trying to meet them. One of the newbies is Bowen P. He is from Wyoming, won the golf high school AA state tournament there and then played his freshman year for BYU-Hawaii. After his mission, he transferred to BYU and missed making the team by 2 shots. So, he’s good. The teams were Dan R. and I vs. Bowen and Kelson L. We were at Spanish Oaks and playing a 2-man best ball scramble over 9 holes. After a few ties to start off, Bowen and Kelson got hot and were 3 up after 6. Now, the best that Dan and I could hope for was a tie. We won #7, and then won #8, an incredibly hard par 3, after I got lucky, blading an 8-iron that just made it over the water and finished 30 feet away, and the other team missed a 5-ft par putt. So it all came down to #9, which is a short par-4, that is only 317 yards long and plays slightly uphill. The green is nefarious, with multiple levels, and huge undulations. Not to mention its protected by some deep bunkers. Dan and Kelson both had poor drives, with Dan’s going into the water way to the right. Bowen launched his 30-yards right of the green, but over the water. I have been driving great, and felt confident in landing on the green or coming very close to it. Nope. The worst drive I’ve had in years, resulted in the ball being topped and rolling some 80 yards. I thought we had to have a birdie, so things weren’t looking good. Then, Dan hit by far the best shot of the day for him and the ball ended up 45 feet away, so we at least had a chance. I pitched it to 3 feet, and the stage was set for Bowen and Kelson. They were stymied and couldn’t go for the flag, but I was disheartened knowing that they only had to lob it onto the green and two-putt. Then the unthinkable happened! They were pitching through trees and over a bunker, but all they had to do was make sure they didn’t leave it short and end up in the bunker. And that’s exactly what happened. That was an impossible shot, given that the bunkers were so deep and their shot was great from there, but it left them an incredibly fast 45 foot double breaking putt downhill putt that had 10 feet of break. I thought we had the tie wrapped up, and then incredibly (after Kelson goes first and putts it off the green), Bowen sinks it, putter raised in triumph, and claimed the win. That was the first time I’ve played a match like that, a 2-man scramble, but we will be doing it again! Seriously one of the most fun rounds ever.

This was also the first time I’ve used my new putter, and as it will be around for probably the next 10 years, its worth showing. I ordered a super large grip, patterned after the Brazilian flag and had that put on. It performed quite admirably its first round. I love the balance and feel. 

Thursday, I traveled southwest to visit John Carlson. We meet up every few months to play some chess, but this time I went to Magna instead of having him visit Provo. The plan was to go looking for fossils, play chess, and have dinner. We played a few games, and then his dad left and acciDENTally hit the minivan as he backed out of the garage. He felt so bad, and the family has had some hard times, and I couldn’t rationalize filing anything due to those circumstances and the fact that the door was already broken. It’s something you don’t want to happen, and after doing a quick tour of the town with John and grabbing some food, I decided to head back to Provo. Not what I would call a successful visit, but definitely a memorable one.

I’m at the town’s library, where the statue of Mark Twain had a mask put on him.

Per tradition, ending my job meant that I compiled all of my financial stats for the last 10 months. I am proud to report that after excluding tithing and taxes (what I consider to be truly fixed expenses,) my savings rate was just over 75% of what I earned. (If I hadn’t paid about $1500 for law school expenses, the rate would be even higher). And now, here comes law school, which will destroy all those numbers. Finishing the calculations did make me stop and think about the fine line between spending more than is necessary and living your best life, and ponder how I have been walking it. The consensus (as Mark Twain said, never speak in the plural unless you are a head of state or have parasites!) was that I think I’ve been doing a good job, and am willing to spend a reasonable amount of money on what I think is important or will bring me joy, and which is beyond the bare necessities.

Saturday night, I purchased a one-month mutual (lds dating app) subscription and went live! The next 30 days should be interesting…

Sunday, we again had small groups to meet and partake of the sacrament. It is nice to have that back, and to see the restrictions loosening in Utah. Porter came over for some mashed potatoes and fried chicken, and it was nice to be able to talk with mom on Mother’s Day.

I love this quote from Eliza Snow (circa 1873) and agree with it completely:

“When you are filled with the Spirit of God, and the Holy Ghost rests upon you… do you have any trials? I do not think you do. For that satisfies and fills up every longing of the human heart, and fills up every vacuum. When I am filled with that spirit my soul is satisfied and I can say in good earnest, that the trifling things of the day do not seem to stand in my way at all. But just lest me  loose my hold of that spirit and power of the gospel, and partake of the spirit of the world, in the slightest degree, and trouble comes; there is something wrong. I am tried; and what will comfort me? You cannot impart comfort to me that will satisfy…Is it not our privilege to so live that we can have this constantly flowing into our souls?”

April 20th-May 3rd: Velar comigo!

Week One: Monday morning, I let my boss know that I was officially going to quit. That left me with a week and a half to wrap everything up.

Funny how things work out though. Unemployment is sky-high, and it worried me to be quitting during a time like this. It was a blessing, and like seeing a metaphorical rainbow, to have a finance firm reach out to me and invite me to talk. I’m sure the position pays less, it is part-time, would start towards the end of the summer, and helped reassure me that things will work out alright. In other words, a great position during law school. Of course, (no pun intended), it also helped me to go golfing Monday and Tuesday. On Monday, a realtor I am friends with, cancelled our tee time in the morning, said he couldn’t make it, and told me I was welcome to instead bring some friends and use his corporate pass myself. So I called Tanner and Kimball, and we played in the afternoon at Sleepy Ridge. The pass is usually only good for 9, but it was getting dark, so I asked the course management if we could stay out a little longer, and they gave the thumbs up, only asking that we have the carts in by 8 pm. So we turned those in, and walked another five holes. It was a lot of fun.

I bombed this drive, going for the green, but it was just a tad right, and ended with a splash.

We finished playing around 8:30 pm, and it was a quick turn around as I had an 8:42 tee time Tuesday morning with cousin-in-law Mike. He brought two of his friends, and we had another good round. The pest control company he works for has a corporate pass, so I was blessed with two free rounds. That’s tough to beat!

Tuesday night we had our Come Follow Me zoom lesson.

Wednesday, I officially accepted UCONN’s offer and paid my seat deposit to become part of their Class of 2023.

We’ve begun having our Wednesday night book club meetings at my backyard around the fireplace. I’ve secured firewood from a few sources, aka ward friends, and its been enjoyable reading and discussing shakespeare while the fire crackles and with perfect spring weather. Also, Utah = no mosquitoes, so outside is quite nice.

Yard Sale – On Saturday the 26th, I went to pick up a putter I bought online via facebook in Cedar Hills. It was located about two blocks from my Bishop’s house, so I brought a banana cream pie and delivered that to him. On my way to his house, I noticed that many of the houses had piles of stuff outside on driveways and were apparently being given away for free. i have no idea if this is an annual event organized in the neighborhood or what, but I ended up going by probably 25 of the 40 that I saw. I was there in the afternoon, so perhaps the best objects were already taken, or perhaps given that it was free, people were getting rid of what they (and most people) would classify as junk. Regardless, I picked up a few books for myself and a few for Nora. And a giant desk, in great shape. It’s huge, and I was unsure if it would fit in my van. I recruited a neighborhood person to help me lift it to my van and we managed to put the biggest piece inside, and while I pondered over what to do, just about ready to relegate myself to leaving with only 1/2 of of the desk, the donor came out, bringing a philips screwdriver and helped to disassemble and load up. I much appreciated his help and generosity, and look forward to using the desk for years to come.

Scrabble – After our Sunday dinner, Porter and I mixed our normal games up, and after a few rounds of chess, brought out the scrabble board and played a great game. I was cruising before he put down a 90+ point scrabble. That looked to be decicive until I drew great letters and played my own scrabble that put me back in front and helped to close out the match. We each averaged well over 25 points per turn and it was a great game.

Other Developments this week: -I want to do a white water rafting trip this summer (after LSAT test). I am looking at the Rogue River in Oregon or the Salmon River in Idaho. Any tips/suggestions are welcome.

And, I’m planning a return to online dating in the near future via the LDS app Mutual. It’s tough to meet people with nothing happening due to Covid-19.

Week 2 (April 27th-May 3rd) was much of the same. I had Come Follow Me, and book club, and the workouts that I’ve been doing with David Kaiser are continuing. He bought exercise bands, and we supplement those with milk jugs filled with water and cement blocks to lift, etc. We are trying to stay in shape. I’ve also been running up and down lots of stairs and can feel a difference in my legs.

Thursday was my last day of work. It felt surreal, its been an important 10 months in my life. Tuesday, I was interviewed by the CEO during our company meeting, and we talked about how we all need to find the area we can make a difference, what our superpower is, and double down on developing that skill. These 10 months have been quite amiable, yet it can be tough as when both sides know the end is coming, there is less reason to work and get along. Little disagreements that in the past would have quickly been brushed over now become sticking points. I have had that happen with roommates at the end of a semester too, and it is hard to power through some of these challenges and try to leave with all still good. Most companies still pay a commission check the month after, but ListReports said that this would be my last paycheck April 30th. That was unexpected and not what I thought was right, so I did bring that up, and had it increased $150, so we could all shake hands (virtually of course) and have both sides leave with good memories.

My first day off was not filled with studying. I haven’t had a day off since Christmas vacay, so I enjoyed reading and gardening most all of the day. We also started a little walk ‘n talk with book club. We meet up at a local park and walk around talking about Dante’s Inferno. Its quite nice – both the book and the sun.

Sunday, Porter invited me to join him at the house of a Brazilian family. They recently moved here from Campinas, and were members in Porter’s last area. Another Brazilian family joined us too, and incredibly they are from the stake in which I spent half my mission, that of Campos dos Goytacazes. They were due to return by now, but have had their flight delayed by one month. We reminisced about many mutual friends and the work in the stake. It brought back many memories, and while quite unhealthy, our meal of fried pastries, “Coxinhas” and cake and ice cream hit the spot. It was also a challenge to try and keep up with the 3-4 conversations that were going on constantly. Really, really good practice for me. We stayed for almost five hours, and as Porter and I went to leave, we were struggling to talk in English again.

Here I am with Irma Maria das Neves Rangel. One of my favorite areas was Quissama, a small town of 15-20,000 and remarkably Maria had  her husband were assigned by the stake to help the small branch there. We talked and talked of this small town, unknown to the world, but which has blessed innumerably both of our lives.

Admittedly, I don’t take very good food photos. But, there was definitely a lot of oil involved!

We left to return to my house and watch the YSA Devotional with Elder (of the 70) and Sis. Gay speaking, and made it back in time for it to start at 6 pm. The food did a number on us though, and within minutes, we were both out, missing the vast majority of the devotional. It was a great nap.

I did listen to a recording of the devotional and LOVED IT! Elder Gay told some stories that hit a nerve with me. His main theme was “Covenants over Convenience.” He talked of one time meeting with a general authority, who asked him how it would be for him to serve as a mission president. Elder Gay was working in investments and had cofounded a company for this (read: he closed a $1.1 billion fund in 2009),  and told the general authority that in a couple years it would be ok, but it wasn’t a good time then, as he was about to really make it big and then could help a lot more people. Elder Gay was still serving in the church and trying to serve, just not ready for a 3 year full-time mission. The GA replied that the Lord was trying to save his life. It’s never convenient to serve the Lord, but we must put our covenants before convenience. Elder Gay related how those three years as a mission president altered his life’s trajectory forever.

The scripture in Matthew 26:40 has long been meaningful to me. Christ is in the garden of Gethsemane suffering for all of our sins, and it says,

“And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?”

I’ve often wondered, how could Peter not stay awake? This week I had an insight that left me realizing I’m much more like Peter than I would care to admit in this regard. We have long been commanded to study our scriptures, and I’ve made the goal to do so for one hour each day. And it is hard. Occasionally I feel myself being lulled to sleep after a few verses but much more often than this though, I find myself rationalizing that I can sleep a little bit longer in the mornings and do a quicker study.

Elder Richard G. Scott testified,

“Don’t yield to Satan’s lie that you don’t have time to study the scriptures. Choose to take time to study them. Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media. You may need to reorganize your priorities to provide time for the study of the word of God. If so, do it!”

Amen! I implore everyone to make study of the scriptures a priority in your life. Start with a few verses a day and you will notice the difference in how you think, and how you act. If you feel yourself feeling sleepy at night before you study, or want to hit snooze on the alarm clock, listen to the echo of Christ’s words that will come to you too. “What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” 

I know, as I have seen the blessings in my life, that if we make scripture study a priority, we will be able to accomplish more in the time remaining in the day than we could have in the whole day without study. We will have more energy, clarity of thought, and the Holy Spirit to lead us.