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.

“He lived life in crescendo” July 29th, 2018

Said of the prophet Joseph Smith, I hope to be worthy of those words as well. Ever onward and upward!

My departure from Texas was scheduled early Friday July 20th. The day before, I had taken in the minivan to be state-inspected. It passed, but due to not having insurance until the next day, we were told we had to bring it in the next morning for another inspection. I arrived as soon as they opened, at 7 am, and they started looking at it. After 20 minutes I was getting worried, and sure enough, after 50 whole minutes (whereas the usual car takes 15) I was told the minivan was spurting steering fluid and completely unsafe. The actual diagnosis wasn’t surprising as Mimi had said there was a problem with that, but I asked how did you miss that yesterday if its that bad? They retorted that the employee who conducted the inspection was not in fact certified to do so, which made me even angrier, because the boss who authorized it was before me listening to this. Oh well. That was the angriest I’ve been for a long, long time. Probably two years to be exact. After being inspected the previous day, we packed the car up, made final arrangements, as I needed to be in Utah on Sunday. I drove the apparently dangerous machine back home, ate breakfast, read some mechanic stuff on the internet, checked a couple things on the car, decided it was perfectly fine for now, and took it to another mechanic, who inspected it and deemed it a-ok.

And thus, I was off. Admittedly, I cried saying goodbye. I’ve had a good summer, and its hard knowing that nothing is ever the same. Nothing ever returns to how it was. I had written my route instructions on some sticky notes, I had dozens of cassette tapes, an Elvis CD and plenty of gas money from Mom. I was off.

After taking so many road trips through the years, I’ve developed some ideas on efficiency, and thought now was my turn to test them out. Turned out a lot harder than I thought to plan out stops, but I traveled with hardly any setbacks, besides a few road construction delays and detours. I loved driving through the beautiful countryside. I like going through the small Texas towns dominated by silos and co-ops. I love going through New Mexico with the green carpet stretching out for miles, framed by mountains in the background. And I love Colorado with the pine trees and conspicuous rock formations.

I had lunch packed with lots of snacks, and besides for gas only stopped in Colorado for some chick-fil-a. I made it to Uncle Zach’s house at about 10:30, making the trip in 13 hours. And I was tired! It had been a long day, exhausting mainly because of the uncertainty brought about by the failed inspection.

I enjoyed a beautiful sleep, courtesy of cousin Gabe, and the next morning was filled with lots of games, an inspection of the garden, and some moral support as Uncle Zach built some cupboards. I was impressed with the project and execution thereof. Lincoln won as my favorite for the trip. He was all smiles and giggles with lots of one-liners full of wisdom. And Uncle Zach not only made apple-pie bread pudding which was new to me, but also passed on the recipe. I do plan on returning to Colorado later this year.

By noon I was back on the road, heading up through Wyoming. The eastern half is beautiful, and I love driving through it, but the western half drags on and on and on and doesn’t have that same natural grandeur. I stopped for food at a Wyoming subway, and my scores for efficiency plummeted more, as after filling up, getting food, and returning to the interstate I was down 40 minutes. Unbelievable.

Co-pilot shout-out to Truman Madsen. I listened to hours of his tapes on the Prophet Joseph Smith, and being completely unencumbered by traffic and wanting to remember what I learned, near-perfected the art of note-taking on the steering wheel. I ended up with several pages.

I got some chills crossing the final state border and entering into Utah. Every year holds so much promise and adventure I always love coming back. Originally, I had planned to continue to Salt Lake City to catch the Pioneer Day concert, but I would have waited for tickets, and at this point I was tired and just wanting to arrive. So I meandered through Heber City which left me awestruck, and was incredibly beautiful. The city is set out nicely and the scenery is beyond compare. Utah is a lot greener than I imagined in summer. I arrived at Tanmarie’s apartment just in time to see them off to the temple and stand guard over the sleeping Nora.

They had recently moved to a new, temporary apartment and I had naively imagined, despite Tanner’s claims to the contrary, that it was quite spacious. They graciously hosted me, but within an hour of arriving I knew I would need a different place. Sunday involved lots of meetings and interviews and I was glad to be able to serve, where I am needed.

Monday morning I returned to the Crestwood and was glad to find a room I could spend the next few weeks. I immediately signed and started emptying my belongings into the new place. I have to say, my life seems so luxurious lately. I have records, I have my bathrobe again, slippers, golf clubs, etc.

All I need is a wife and an armchair. Well, and a job, but I am confident I’ll have employment by next week. It’s the other two that leave question marks.

For Family Home Evening we went to the Spring Garden Retirement Home in Lindon and played bingo with the seniors there. That place was oozing money! Indoor waterfall, granite everything and, (my personal favorite) they meet and attend church in huge armchairs. I helped a Congregationalist from Idaho, and although we didn’t win, I had a great time. And I was able to scoot to Uncle Ben’s after and pick up my stuff I had left over the summer.

Tuesday, being pioneer day was filled with recreation and remembering. I ended up playing a little golf (from the black tees!) and was ecstatic to reach the 9th hole, 578 yards in two shots. Even though I three-putted. I helped my roommate, Rory, move a couch and dining room set to his new house in Springville. He’s getting married in August. From there I ran over to a picnic with Tanmarie and the Pace’s. We ate well, including Rhubarb pie Annemarie made and played frisbee golf and Kan-Jam (my first time). I bailed that evenings activities deciding to read in my room, and only listen to the fireworks.

I am thankful for all the pioneers in my family, especially my Father and my Grandparents for their decisions to accept the gospel and seek earnestly after the best things in life.

Wednesday and Thursday went by quickly. I was working on job applications and newspaper stuff. Unfortunately, we were turned down by the library for distribution, so that made our plans change slightly. With Annemarie’s assistance at Costco, I was able to take care of all my shopping needs. Over the summer, due to some pondering and the messages of some books, I had decided to cut back extensively on my meat consumption. Not that it is a lot right now anyways. However, the average American ate 4 oz of meat daily in 1970, and now that number has tripled. I think its causing most of our (nation’s) health problems. And of course, the supermarkets all have meat specials as soon as I get here. So there’s 18 pounds of meat in my freezer already. But, all packaged in neat 4 oz bags.

Wednesday night, I received a message at 10:45 pm for someone looking for a blessing. I went over to that apartment and helped, and shortly after returning to my apartment, I received another message from someone else, this one more urgent, requesting another blessing. I didn’t know who could help administer, but as I stood outside thinking about what to do, James, who recently moved in, walked by dressed in a white shirt and tie, and I thought, “that’s the guy!” We were able to go over and help, and we both had a cool experience knowing that the Lord was cognizant of each person’s needs.

Thursday I invited two friends over, John and Maddie, and we ate homemade pasta and spaghetti and sausage. I’ve long wanted to try making pasta, and it turned out okay. I rolled out the dough with a rolling pin, and it was a little thicker than ideal, but still tasty. Earlier, we had our first presidency meeting in a LONG time, and I attended institute class for the first time ever. We went over Moses 6-7.

Friday  I cleaned the car from the nearly 4,000 miles its endured the last three weeks, and enjoyed a free car wash. I helped a member of the ward run a few errands and then was interviewed by Northwestern Mutual over the phone. I’ll be going in on Tuesday for the in-person part.

And that evening I went golfing with Lydia. She had never played before, but I’ve decided that in dating I tend to focus only on buying instead of selling, i.e. learning who the other person is, instead of showing who I am and therefore golf would be an ideal activity. We went at 7:15 and the weather had cooled down sufficiently we watch the evening set against the mountains. She took some pictures and the setting was gorgeous. Provo is a big city (for me) but the golf course is on the outskirts of town and silent from city pollution. I had a fantastic time. We took turns hitting shots, catching up on summer activities and discussing what living a meaningful life would involve. And we’ll probably be going out again.

Saturday I had two mission friends over, Lawson Lighten and Kimball Hatch, both from my last area of the mission. I wondered why I was assigned to that area at the time, but its brought so many blessings and good times both while I was still there and now. We had the best Brazilian feast yet, and played Settlers of Cataan. I had told Tanner I would babysit Nora starting at 3, so we packed up the games and played for another two hours at their place before finally calling it a day. Nora slept from 3-4:20, and was the best baby ever until 6:20 when she started getting fussy. So, at 6:40 until 7:00 we walked outside and she was happy and calm again. And at 7 until Tanner came back at 7:15, she cried. And cried. And cried. Every idea I had to help backfired and made her screams even louder. Ah, the joys of unclehood.

Today, I played the organ, cranking out “O my Father,” “Father in Heaven, We do Believe,” “For the Beauty of the Earth,” and “Israel, Israel, God is Calling.” I continue to enjoy conducting interviews in EQ and we are making a lot of progress, both in becoming unified and in our ministering efforts.

I still don’t know why exactly I’m here. I know the Lord wanted me back, and like I told Uncle Zach, I don’t know if it was to help the Elders Quorum, for a relationship, or for a job, but I hope its all three. One week in, and I’m no closer to reaching a conclusion. But that’s okay. Boyd K. Packer related once how he went to Harold B. Lee seeking counsel, and was told “The trouble with you is you want to see the end from the beginning.’ I replied that I would like to see at least a step or two ahead. Then came the lesson of a lifetime: ‘You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you.”

I suppose I’m like that. I think it would be nice to know the outcomes before they happen. However, as trying as it can be, I really do know that the joy is most often in the journey. To say nothing of adventure. See here we go, off into the unknown.

Here’s something I do know as a result of this week:

A few years back, I conducted a long and extensive study on charity and concluded that charity is acting with someone’s eternal worth in sight. Regretfully, I used that to rationalize some stingy behavior. I still think charity could involve denying and does involve the long-term view. However, now, I understand that charity is doing for someone what they can’t do for themselves, as the Savior atoned for our sins.

I am so grateful to have a Savior who loved me enough to die for me, and hope that through my actions I can reflect at least a small portion of that love to mankind.

 

Avante, Avante Para a Vitoria!

That was my mission’s theme,

Brethren, shall we not go forward in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and ON, ON TO THE VICTORY!

And may it ever be our mantra as well! It’s said that to be successful, a man needs something to live for and somebody to live. I am so thankful for the gospel of Jesus Christ!

This last week has been one of transition- with the ending of old, and the starting of new. It was nice to rest a little from the summer trips and ever increasingly I am realizing I am not a traveler. Don’t misunderstand me, I enjoy seeing new places and making the occasional vacation. Yet, deep down I look forward to putting roots down and becoming a part of a community. One’s outlook does change, knowing that they are tied to a place. I want to feel like the land is mine, I want to feel connected deep down, to help build a town, and I even want to feel invested in every local bond issue that arises.

Bro. Bach suggested we call the white van, “The Great White Hope” for it’s death has been exaggerated far beyond Twain’s. This week saw it start and run for the first time in over a year. And for me, it’s been three years since I was behind the wheel. It sputtered, but stuck, its strength increasing, as I idled and then cautiously took it for a neighborhood tour. White smoke billowed as water or old gasoline burned off and I strained each turn as the power steering was out. The next day I took it in for an inspection knowing it would fail. And fail it did, but with passing colors! For again, there would be no immediate death, as all the problems were fixable. The plastic windows were ok, the bumperless front presented no problem, and the bent side was perfectly fine. However, there is a slight electrical problem, and we currently have no brake lights or blinkers. That’s on the menu to fix tomorrow. I’ve checked all the fuses so it must be a wire or ground problem.

On Thursday, I went with all the kids to visit the Merritt’s in Tyler. Amidst brewing clouds we took off, and by the time we made it to Dallas, the rain was absolutely pouring, we had our windshield wipers going at 100% and traffic crawled along at only 35 mph due to our inability to see beyond the brake lights of those in front of us. Thankfully, the weather cleared up for the last hour of our trip and we encountered no difficulties. It was again a weekend filled with lots of games and fun. Although this trip against Aunt Janel my record in ping-pong was 0-4 and it is quite frankly getting embarrassing.

Saturday morning we left the Merritt’s and helped at the temple grounds clean-up service activity. From there, Sawyer drew the short straw and while the rest of the family headed to Trader Joe’s and then home, he joined me on my excursion to Josey Record Store. Situated in a huge warehouse, they have tens of thousands of records and cds. Running short on time and  funds, I picked up 7 old records out of the bargain area (totaling $8) and two cds.

That evening, I worked for Mr. Clark one last time, weedeating for 2 hours. It’s such a blessing to be able to do that type of work, and not worry about poison ivy.

Sunday I taught again in Elders Quorum, facilitating the discussion on meekness, based off of Elder Bednar’s address from April’s conference. Here are two key takeaway’s that I had:

In Matthew 11:28-30, the Savior says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I find it very instructive that the Savior, among all the attributes that he so perfectly emulates, describes himself as meek.

Second, in my mind there was no differentiation between humility and meekness. Elder Bednar helped me understand the difference by saying, “Whereas humility generally denotes dependence upon God and the constant need for His guidance and support, a distinguishing characteristic of meekness  is a particular spiritual receptivity to learning both from the Holy Ghost and from people who may seem less capable, experienced, or educated, who may not hold important positions, or who otherwise may not appear to have much to contribute. ” Humility deals more with our relationship to God, while meekness is more about our relationship with our fellow men. Which makes Christ’s statement even more powerful. While our Savior, he still displayed incredible meekness listening to weak and fallible people.

Finally, I finished a book by Pres. Nelson and want to share this: In his BYU devotional (given some 30+ years ago) “Obedience and Sacrifice” he talks about how the word sacrifice literally means to “make sacred.” He then traces the history of sacrifice in the Bible, talking about animal sacrifices and the Atonement. I really liked this thought,

No longer do we think in terms of shedding blood or sacrificing animals. Rarely should we focus in terms of “giving up” time and means. Instead, we should now revert to the original meaning of the word – that we “make sacred.” For us to sacrifice, we should “make sacred” every thought, every action, and our very character…. The giving of our time and means should be the end in itself, but a means to the end of making ourselves sacred. Each, by living a saintly life, can present to the Lord one more sanctified soul to the honor and glory of his Creator.

 

The City of Sleaze

Yep, I’m talking about Seattle. My flight was without incident, and Alaska Airlines left a good impression.

I met up with half the students at the airport, and we took a shuttle 90 minutes to the Seabeck Conference Center where we stayed. It’s all the way on the other side of the bay from Seattle, and is located beautifully. Everywhere is green, rainforest-like luscious, except with lots and lots of pine trees. And of course different animals. We were 100 yards from the ocean, and there was also a pond on the property. I went boating almost every day, and saw deer on the shore as well as a majestic bald eagle flying overhead. Lovely.

The scenery was scintillating, but the purpose was politics. Daily, we dived into discussions debating liberalism. “What is liberalism? Has it failed?” That was the theme of the conference, and the professors who presented overwhelmingly declared, “I don’t know exactly” and “yes, and no” in response to those questions. Helpful, right? In all honesty, I learned an incredible amount. The topic is so nuanced an actual definition is tough, but I left feeling very comfortable with the opinion that I had formed and my understanding of it. I won’t bore with Jules Verne dry details of each day, but here are some key takeaways:

-Liberalism is constantly changing and advancing. (which makes it hard to define, because various groups like liberalism up to a certain point, while others are “progressives”.) We heard about 9 waves of liberalism, which showed how each wave is advancing a new freedom, except they are all in tension, and thus each new wave lessons the freedoms of the previous waves.

  1. Freedom from religious persecution
  2. Freedom from foreign domination
  3. Freedom from civil war
  4. Freedom from arbitrary rule/tyranny
  5. Freedom from government interference in the economy
  6. Freedom from rule by another
  7. Freedom from tyranny of the majority
  8. Freedom from exploitation by sub- political groups (both in the economic and social sphere)
  9. Freedom from biological necessities
  10. Freedom from ??????

What will the tenth be? I’ve an idea, but would love to hear any others. Basically, man has given up building a literal Tower of Babel, and instead is trying to become god, by freeing himself from God. Won’t turn out good.

Interestingly, 90% of the group this year (and every year) is Catholic. They have a philosophical tradition which is absent or nearly so in Protestantism.

Shout-out to my friend named Theodore ********, whom i met at this conference.  This week he went by Rod. This was his bio he submitted for the conference

“is a rising senior at Villanova university studying literature and oceanography. Hailing from Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, he frequents service trips which have taken him all over the globe, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Wilmington, Delaware. At Villanova, he takes great pride in his position as First Mate of the Carpathia Society, dedicated to locating the true wreckage of the RMS Carpathia at her watery grave in Davy Jones’ locker.”

Hilarious. What other kid would think about showing up at the airport with a sign that read “ISI’S meeting here.”

That said, I was disheartened by the lack of creative or original thinking. Everyone, with the exception of a handful of students, was clearly repeating what they’ve been taught.

Thursday we took the day off from discussion and went into Seattle. Instead of driving around the bay again, this time we drove to a nearby town and took an hour long ferry ride to the city. I stood on the bow and loved every second. On the way back, D+C 61 was hanging around in the mind and made it less enjoyable, but this was still one of the most enjoyable parts of the entire trip.

I visited the Pike’s Place Market, famous for its fresh fish but even more impressive with all the fresh produce being sold. Ranier cherries = 10/10. As were the golden peaches. There was so many jams that I taste-tested for an hour. There was also an “eastern medicine” boutique that I walked past and then ran by realizing immediately that this was not a place to buy essential oils. Oh no.

Then, a group of students and I walked into a bookstore. Which happens to be an extreme left-wing bookstore. The general title went something like this “How to start a revolution with no money and Defeat Capitalism.” Those two shop encounters in the space of 10 minutes crushed a lot of my american naivete. Add to that more gay pride than I’ve ever seen and innumerable homeless people, and it felt distinctly different than any city I’ve ever visited.

We split up, and I went solo, walking along the harbor, visiting the Klondike Gold Rush museum, the Seattle Mariners and Seahawks stadiums, Amtrak train station, a waterfall garden, the original starbucks store, another bookstore (only dealing with architecture thankfully) and some city parks. At 5, we met up at the harbor and enjoyed a group dinner at “The Crab Pot.” I ate some salmon, and finished the night off by bringing rhubarb cake and ice cream on the ferry back.

Above everything else, I was amazed that with all the discussions we held at the conference, no solution was available without a nationwide understanding of our identity as sons and daughters of God. We must understand that being “endowed by [our] Creator” is an essential part of being American.

I find it very informative that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in their testimony said

And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.

They testified first of God, and then our relationship to Him. I am thankful to know that we are all children of the Most High God, and draw strength knowing that He loves us and wants the best for us.

 

Rapid Fire- June 17th, 2018

Tomorrow I leave for Seattle. I am not packed, and have a bunch of things to take care of before then. So, rapid fire it is today.

-Dad, Cooper, Sawyer, Miller all went on a scout trip. They went to the Guadeloupe Mountains and to Carlsbad. The big news was Cooper having emergency surgery to remove his appendix. He’s doing well now, and they returned on Thursday night. He was funny with an appendix, and funnier without one. Go figure.

-I stayed with Mom and Breyer. First time in my life I’ve been outnumbered. Monday and Tuesday I spent 11 hours stacking and splitting wood. 7 cords. I enjoyed the work, and the solitary endeavor it was; however, allergies have been waging a horrendous battle since. I don’t recall ever having them as bad as now. The work was done for the Barton’s. I enjoyed becoming acquainted with Mr. Barton. Every other word he speaks is “man” and is very easy-going and friendly.

-On Friday, I took Sawyer and Miller to Tyler to see our cousins. The ride took 3.5 hours because of traffic, and despite no AC, we bonded and enjoyed every second. Many memories made. Once there, no time was wasted, and it was a fantastic trip. I hate to record it, but Aunt Janel thoroughly whooped me in Ping-pong. The first few games were massacres, after which I lost twice in overtime, and finally, mercifully, pulled out a win in the last. We played lots of board games as well, and Saturday morning I went with Anna and Aunt Janel to pick blueberries. Together we picked just under 15 pounds. Evan is planning a trip to Utah, which I am excited for.

-Today in church, I went for the grand slam. Blessing the sacrament, talking in sacrament, teaching elders quorum, and playing the organ (for priesthood). I am thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to serve here and have loved being part of this ward. I’ll miss it.

-Finally, a quick thought from the stripling warriors. I’ve focused so much on the outcome and their spiritual preparation and being taught by their mothers, that only recently while reading did I notice a very profound verse, in Alma 56:39-40.

It says that while being pursued, they turned neither to the right or left. They were completely dedicated and focused. I know personally, it is easy to become distracted, to lose sight of the end goal, to feel like we do not have enough time to accomplish everything, or to not give 100% 100% of the time. However, the Stripling Warriors did, and it is because of that intense effort that miracles resulted. Don’t stray to the left or right, but concentrate on that which is most important and in seemingly impossible times, all will be well, and the Lord will work miracles in your life as well.

Holy Mackerel! June 10, 2018

This week has been a little fishy.

As mentioned, Sawyer’s prize fish ended up in the trashcan. Monday morning the stink was noticeable and we couldn’t but laugh as trash is picked up on Friday. By Tuesday, no one was laughing, as anyone within a nuclear blast radius of our house could smell the fish. Needless to say, despite Dad dumping five pounds of baking soda in the trashcan, we were all thankful (and empathetic) to see the garbage workers come and pick it up.

Last week, on our way to the YMCA, I noticed a hiring sign at Farmer’s Insurance. Monday morning I ran over there, and after being intercepted by the receptionist, I dropped my resume off with her. One hour later, I was surprised by a phone call from the head honcho there who wanted to interview me ASAP. That made me hopeful, and I returned with heady dreams and ambitions. Lets be honest, their commercials are funny, and that’s half the prestige of working for someone else. Unfortunately, el jefe had only seen the first item on my CV (working for GPS Capital Markets) and was way excited to meet me. After finding out I wasn’t graduated, and would be leaving town shortly, not so much. Thus, I left unemployed once more. I’m getting comfortable with these interviews and nailing them. Going in, I knew the history of the company, and all the pertinent statistics. He was impressed, but there is no way to waive the accreditation and certifications necessary to sell insurance, and that is what they were hiring for.

Back to the fish saga. Breyer played a game on repeatedly this week. As soon as anyone would walk outside, she would astutely run to the door and lock it, and laugh hysterically at our plight as we were stuck outside with the decomposing fish. Eventually, her mercy always let us back in.

We finally finished planting the garden, and brought the Aiello’s rototiller over. When we got there, he was busy picking up wild plum seeds that had been digested by a fox. Apparently, for the seeds to grow, they must be passed by an animal. Cool stuff, but I’ll pass on the handshake. We’re pretty good friends though.

I have ended my letter reading. What is most interesting is to see how my relatives faced their early twenties. I made it to 1997, and ended with Uncle Ben dating Aunt Joy, and Uncle Aaron marrying Aunt Rachael. However, one of the most interesting stories was reading about Reed and Rob Nixon’s accident that left them paralyzed. It was incredible to see in depth the outpouring of the  church and community as large. To read about Pres. Hinckley’s blessing and see how they were prayed for the world over. Earlier in the week, I played Monopoly with Miller and Breyer. They didn’t know this, but our game (a baseball themed version) was gifted to Tanner and I by Reed some 10-12 years ago. I missed his funeral as I was in Brazil, and I distinctly regret having scheduled a time to visit him in 2015 before leaving and then being unable to make it work. I am truly thankful to have known him, to have associated with him, and to have seen his optimism and faith in the midst of some incredible trials. Above all else, I’ll remember his purposefulness. While being a quadriplegic, he  didn’t let that stop him. He earned a college degree, worked, and simply lived. Despite his countless problems, he served. He cared. He loved. May we all be more like Reed Nixon.

 

6/3/2018 Summer Vows

I’m close to taking my vows of poverty. The job hunt continues-ish. At this point, I’m essentially cutting my losses, and preparing for July-August and the Fall. I’m almost done with my financial analysis for next school year, and right now, with a little bit of luck, and a lot of hard work, I’ll buy a car and stay even for the year. However, if a ring comes into play, it could get a little dicey. Nevertheless, I’m still praying it gets dicey.

Memorial Day Monday, we had FHE, visited a flag of fields and watched “Taking Chance” a perfect, and touching movie for the day.

Tuesday I picked up some cash by helping Connor move to Ft. Worth. And doing some yard work on Friday.

(Long golf story next, for those who wish to skip this sublime round, proceed to the next paragraph.)

Pres. Nelson called out the golfers in his devotional, but my membership ended and the clubs are in the garage, so no pleading guilty here! For the record, on my last round on Thursday, I desperately wanted to shoot under par. It started inconspicuously to say the least, for after hitting the first green, I proceeded to 3-putt. Bogey start was not what I wanted. The second hole, some onlookers watched me crash my drive, 320 up a hill, and then chip the remaining 20 yards, and make a 7 foot putt. Back in it! Mostly pars followed, with  birdies (reaching the green in two) on both par 5’s, and one bogey on a par 4. I turned in 35, -1. However, it took me 80 minutes, and it was now 8 pm. The group in front wasn’t letting me pass, so I played number 10, (another bogey dang it!) then jumped to play numbers 14-17. I added another birdie to move back to -1, before going to play the tough  11+12 holes. Getting up and down on both, I moved to 18, (historically the easiest hole on the course for me, a straight 460 yard par-5) needing only a par to achieve my goal. By now, it was way dark, and hard to see. I briefly considered playing 8-iron, 8-iron, wedge to the green, to secure my goal, but thought no way! I’m not ending my golf season with a wimpy layup! I smashed my driver again, avoiding the dangerous out of bounds on the right side, and leaving me only 150 yards . Choked down and hit my clutch shot, a baby draw, with my pitching wedge, and knew I hit it to perfection, but couldn’t see at all where it landed. So, I walked up to the green, and lo and behold my ball was 18 feet behind the flag, right in the middle of the green. Whatever happens, don’t leave it short, so I struck the putt, playing more off memory than sight, and boom! the ball broke three inches to the left, hit the cup, popped up and popped in for an eagle! It was the best possible way to end my summer playing, and I signed for a 69.

Of course, the more memorable and important event of Thursday happened earlier, as I left with Mom at 4:35 am to head to Dallas. I dropped her off at work, and headed to the Dallas Temple. Two weeks ago, I had also attended, doing two endowment sessions and a bunch of initiatories. It was an incredibly important day in my life, and I returned hoping for more of the same. And did not leave disappointed. From there, it was lunch on the grounds, and then going downtown to be an uber driver. That failed, with the phone dying, so to be productive while waiting for Mom to finish her work, I visited Wells Fargo and Chase Bank, opening up an account at Chase. Gotta diversify, right?

Friday we continued our near daily YMCA adventures, had dinner with the missionaries, saw Sawyer hook himself and head to the hospital, before settling in to watch the “Be One” 40 anniversary celebration of the Priesthood announcement. SO to my pal Andre Johnson. Pres. Oaks did a great job (as always) clarifying potentially sticky issues.

Today, Miller woke up with a headache, so we left him, and Sis. Page took us to church. Breyer liked the idea, and started saying she was sick, but to her chagrin, I called her bluff, and she ended up at Elder’s Quorum with me. I was also set up apart in my new calling, as EQ teacher. I’m looking forward to it. I’m enjoying getting to know and love my fellow ward members. As they say about me, if you’re over 70, we’ll probably be friends. And Granbury is perfect for that. Bro. Sullivan was called to be another teacher, and I met his wife, who is from the Azores Island. Her cousin is an LDS district judge in Boston.

After our Fast Sunday officially ended, I made some bbq chicken pizza and while it was in the oven, we facetimed Tanmarie and Nora.

We held a spontaneous floss-off (culturing me) and Annemarie and Miller were declared the unanimous winners.

Random thought that came to me (after being invited to play a a card game tonight): Card games- the social media of the dark ages.

We watched the Nelson’s devotional tonight, and wow, they always blow me away. In case you missed it, here are the invitations extended by the Prophet.

1-Do a 7-day Social Media Fast

2-Weekly time commitment to the Lord

3-Keep on the Covenant Path (Complete a thorough life assessment)

4-Pray daily for all to receive the blessings of the Lord

5-Stand out. Be different. Be a light.

Follow the Prophet, accept this challenge, and join the Lord’s Battalion!

This entire week, I’ve been thinking about what is most important and eternal, and two answers – family, and building up the Kingdom of God- repeatedly strike me.  Don’t waste time, and help build that which shall never  fall again.

 

May 29, 2018

I made some pumpkin muffins, and went to put some cloves into them. Mom organizes her spices alphabetically, and as I went to get cloves, I realized that for the entire last year, I’ve inadvertently put chives into my muffins, instead of cloves. Whoops. Got them confused. Every time I made them (or pumpkin pie) I thought it was strange to be putting these green things in, but hey, everybody liked how the food turned out.

Update on my Summer60: These last two weeks I’ve only finished one book, Teach Ye Diligently, by Boyd K. Packer. What a fantastic book. I have such great admiration and love for this man. His humility and sincerity and putting God first, are apparent in all he did. He truly was a witness of Christ. I also found, in my scrapbook, a Boston Stake Conference that I attended where he presided. Cool.

The book that I’ve been laboring over for close to two weeks now is The Closing of the American Mind, by Alan Bloom. Can’t say I understand everything fully, and its informed me (not that I didn’t already know) that my knowledge of philosophy is pitiful. Still, gained some good gems from it. Forty pages left.

What’s really been slowing my summer reading down is my discovery of previously unknown (to me) family letters. I’ve read over 1000 pages, from 1986-1992 so far. Its been incredibly entertaining! I love my family, and these accounts are truly priceless.  Especially interesting has been the relationship rollercoasters of my aunts and uncles… and parents, as they worked on finding their soulmate.

The Celtics are finished for the year, but the Red Sox keep getting better. We’ve been following them pretty closely, and with the return of Pedroia, we’re planning to keep watching all the way to November. Lets go Boston!

I thought this last year of college, being the first back from the mish, would be the hardest,  but boy oh boy was it a breeze. Frustrated and tired by the ease, I began asking for challenging opportunities in my life. New church calling upped the ante a little, but now, I finally feel stretched. And of course, now that it happens, the temptation is to back off.

I suppose most of the hardship is financial. I believed that this summer would be a financial windfall, and instead its been a financial free fall, being a severe struggle to save some lettuce. Nevertheless, I know I’m in the right place, and trust all will be well.

I’ve enjoyed going out with the missionaries. We’ve been teaching a family, who while they have some normal struggles did attend church last Sunday. I’m most excite about a young investigator, Juliette, who actually knows Porter and was in his graduating class. There’s a great work to do here!

I also went with Bro. Dewey to Fort Worth and we administered to one of his co-workers who had been severely injured, paralyzed, in a motorcycle accident.

 

Ok, I’m fading here. The eyelids are getting heavy.

Joke of the week: What happened to the cannibal who arrived home late for dinner?

His wife gave him the cold shoulder!

 

Seriously though, life is good. Its the rough times that make the smooth sailing so much fun.

And, as Elder Maxwell said, as Jesus comes to have a real place in our lives we become less and less concerned with our place in the world.

 

Mother’s Day — May 13, 2018

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

We skipped the line and talked to Elder Schenewark on Saturday. He is looking and sounding good, with lots of crazy adventures still happening.

For my mom, I painted a picture of the Washington D.C. temple to commemorate their wedding day. She is truly an example, an inspiration, a mentor and a friend. Like Lincoln, all that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. This year was the first time since 2014 (aka high school) that I’ve been with Mom to celebrate this day.

Azalea Advertising has unofficially died. Unofficially because I still have lots of business cards printed already. Otherwise, its gone the way of all the earth. I believe in the idea, but need to face the music and confess I’m not a salesperson, and to have any sort of success in this field in such a short time frame, salesmanship is essential. So, I’m now looking for a job. And have scaled back significantly my summer financial goals.

Today in church I played piano in Primary. I was asked to yesterday, and while agreeing to, was internally hesitant. Oh boy, this was the most fun I’ve had in church in years! Granbury has the biggest primary I think I’ve ever seen, some 50 kids, and without any of their normal teachers there, it was a riot. A few boys, probably age 4-5, sat in the front row and were acting like zombies to each other. I couldn’t stop laughing! There was so much constantly happening, and all the answers given were so different than what I’m used to hearing, and yet so profound. Truly, from the mouth of babes.

I never thought I’d be a pianist of any sort, and feel grateful to be able to share any degree of talent I might have in that category with others. During sacrament meeting, the priesthood sang “Teach me to Walk in the Light” for all the sisters in the congregation, and I also accompanied that. I remember having the goal of learning 6 hymns to be able to play on my mission, and how that simple goal has led to today.

On Wednesday I played in a local golf tournament, a short 9-hole skin game in scramble format. We eagled the hardest hole and I thought we’d be walking away with the money, but alas, another group equaled our feat. I do plan to keep playing in this weekly tournament. I love my new driver, and enjoy out-driving everyone else by 20 yards.

Saturday, I went teaching with the missionaries. Unbelievably, this is the first time I’ve gone with missionaries since being home. I’ve been bugging them about teaching with them, and finally they invited me to go along. We went and taught a family, Angela the matriarch (50’s) her daughter Candice, son-in-law Joe, and granddaughter. Angela has studied theology before and seems sincerely interested. We had a great lesson, and the Spirit was strong. I loved teaching in English, and hopefully can go out with the missionaries again soon.

Today in Sunday School we continued our discussion about the Israelite’s wandering in the wilderness. It’s incredible to think that they repeatedly complained and wanted to return to slavery in Egypt. However, I started thinking, are we not often slaves? Slaves to our work, to phones, or other entertainment, to wasting our time,  or a million other habits and actions?

Do we forgo our wilderness of affliction and trial and principally of growth for some eternally meaningless comfort? Tough questions that made me reevaluate some of my actions. And, as Pres. Packer taught in the book Teach Ye Diligently, “Nothing is truly ours until we can give it away.” Lots of applications, but for this, let us note that we cannot help others, until we ourselves are free. I know that to make it to the Promised Land, we will have to leave our comfort zone, follow the Lord in faith, make sacrifices and trust in His promises.