Monday, December 31, 2018

Count your many blessings

Jenkin Lloyd Jones, a minister in the United States around the turn of the 20th century, gave this prescient description of our time on this earth:  

"Life is like an old time rail journey…delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”

As I come to the end of one year and the beginning of another, this description feels rather apt.  This has been a year of magnificent highs and difficult lows. Today I faced one of the most devastating challenges of my professional career. After taking some time to try and catch my breath I looked for ways to recover and overcome. The words of a hymn came to my mind:

When upon life's billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one, 
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

So here I am in front of the computer, listening to uplifting Christian music and blogging about my blessings. I truly feel much better already! I could write extensively about so many blessings, but since nobody wants a 47-page blog post, I'm going to write about 18 blessings as 2018 comes to an end.  I'll keep the descriptions short and filled with things that are particularly impactful to me.

1. The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of His grace, I can be forgiven, return to live with my Father in Heaven, see Jacob and Emily and my sister Tiffany again and have an eternal family. Unbelievable blessings!

2. My wife Christianne. I tried to find the right adjective to describe her, but it's impossible. She has made my life so much better in so many ways that there is no way to put into words what a tremendous blessing she has been. A partner who loves me in spite of me, who loves our children as much as I do, who loves to travel and work and play and parent with me. 

3. Taylor. Our firstborn. Made me a dad. Endured so many mistakes from an inexperienced father. Still likes to camp and hike and spend time with me. Great student. Great brother. Great son. Movie buff extraordinaire.

4. Parker. Unstoppable. Full of dreams and goals and a vision for his future. Thoughtful. He always looks out for his siblings and his parents. He loves his mom so much! Musician and athlete. Joy to be with. Still says "I love you" at the end of every phone call.

5. Jessica. Still loves to be tucked in each night by dad. Diligent student. Loves to play games. Great friend. Wonderful travel companion. Talented fashion hair designer. Willing to help around the house. Involved in church and strives to stay close to the spirit.

6. Elli. Precious, perfect angel. More challenging than all the other kids combined, but completely innocent in her trials. Full of joyous, happy belly laughs. Lover of music. Lover of food. Lover of her family.

7. Graci. Example of endurance and perseverance. Hard worker. Showers attention on her siblings. Pure testimony of Jesus Christ from the moment she learned of Him. Strives to let only the best entertainment influences into her mind. Christlike example.

8. Xander. Happy, joyful, sometimes silly. Always looking for opportunities to serve. Fantastic chef. Loyal friend. Obedient. Long-suffering and patient through multiple health issues. Great singer of Kumbaya. Sensitive. Fun!

9. Lexi. A glowing light to all who know her. Outgoing and always looking for new friends among strangers. Gorgeous and versatile singing voice. Patient friend and sister to Sophi. Partner to Conner. Vulnerable yet able to rise above the challenges of her blindness.

10. Sophi. Power packed bundle of energy. A little rock star. To know her is to love her. Ebullient. Effervescent. Exuberant. Persistent seeker of pets. Writer of stories and lists and letters. Best hugger in the world.

11. Cali. Sweet and sassy. Quiet everywhere but home, loves to share her opinions with her family. So beautiful inside and out. Talented artist. Great friend. Hard-working student. Always does her chores. Rises above her challenges. Stands out while she sits down.

12. Conner. Patient and caring. Loves his family and cherishes being part of it. Always concerned for Elli and her needs. Wants a girlfriend before he dies:) Piano player extraordinaire. Handsome, humorous, humble. Fearless in so many ways.

13. Our home. I am still so grateful to so many who sacrificed so much to help us be in this amazing house. It is a place that fits our family and allows our kids to have their friends come over. Adaptations for our special needs help us so much. We love to travel, but we always feel so grateful to come back to our special home.

14. My parents. I am grateful for parents who taught me about Jesus Christ. Parents who loved me. Parents who set expectations for education that have helped me throughout my life. Parents who have been willing to admit their mistakes and do their best to move on.

15. My siblings. I'm grateful for our text group. So glad that the five of us who are still alive are also still friends. I'm grateful for the love and support I feel from each of them in their own ways. I'm grateful for Tiffany and for faith that life continues after we are gone from this earth.

16. My in-laws.  I have the greatest in-laws in the world and couldn't ask for more acceptance or love from them. Their support of our family is unbelievable.

17. The mountains that surround us here in Utah. I love the connection to nature and to God that I feel when I am hiking. I love the beauty I can see from our deck. Sunrises and sunsets over the Wasatch and Oquirrh ranges. 

18. The scriptures. As I am counting my blessings and working through the challenges that life has thrown at me, I am comforted by two of my favorite verses. Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." and Romans 8:28 "...all things work together for good to them that love God..."

So often throughout my life I have seen the grace of God take something that at first seemed like a trial and turn it into a tremendous blessing for me. I have faith that He knows all and that He loves us because we are His children. I truly can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.


PS. Try counting your blessings.  It's very therapeutic!!!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

So Many Surgeries

Poor Xander.  He had major reconstructive surgery on both feet last November. For over a year he has been dealing with the aftermath as the healing process has not gone as planned. On Thursday he went in for his fourth follow-up surgery!  He has been such a trooper through all of it. In addition to the surgeries themselves, it has been painful for him to walk off and on for the past year. He really stepped up his fashion game at the hospital and wanted to show off for the camera:

Christi and I are so grateful to have Xander in our lives. He is the sweetest, most thoughtful guy. He is always looking for ways to help around the house and has a heart of gold. We are so lucky!


Friday, December 21, 2018

Parenting skills

Wednesday was the last day of school for our Providence Hall kids. Today is Elli's last day.  Since most of the kids don't have to get up, Christi and I get to sleep in a little bit, but Christi still gets Elli ready and on the school bus.  Yesterday when her alarm rang, she said, "I'm so tempted to just keep sleeping and then drive Elli to school later in the morning."  Sensing an opportunity to gain some always-needed husband points,  I told her I'd get up and take care of Elli. (Poor Elli.  I've given up on trying to make her hair look even remotely good.  I just make sure it's in ponytails and out of her face.)

By the time Elli was on the bus, Sophi and Lexi were awake.  I was needing to get started on some projects, so when those two asked me to make them breakfast, I told them they could do it on their own.  Now I know they face some obvious challenges in this course of action, but they really are quite capable and often feed themselves, usually working as a team to take care of everything they need.

About ten minutes later I hear scrambling in the kitchen and start to smell smoke.  I rush in and, even in the midst if disaster, they've taken care of things.  The burning item has been taken outside and they got it out there before the smoke alarm could go off!  Apparently they had found some leftover french toast in the fridge.  Lexi thought it would be better with some chocolate syrup on it, so they unwrapped a couple of mini Hershey's bars (leftover from Halloween) and put them in a bowl in the microwave.  Sophi asked Lexi, "How long should we cook it?" Lexi replied, "I don't know. Try two minutes." Hence the smoke.

Undeterred, they kept going.  They melted another round of chocolate and heated up the french toast. When they finished their creation, they were so proud they invited me in to see the final product.  Three layer french toast with chocolate and whipped cream between the layers and topped with strawberry yogurt.  Gourmet!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Oldest and Youngest

A couple of funny conversations:

At family council on Sunday I mentioned that one of my cousins' kids was having a wedding reception in a couple of weeks.  I knew my little wedding buddies (Sophi and Lexi) would want to come with me.  I asked if anyone else would like to attend.  Graci quickly asked, "Are they having dinner or light snacks?" Christi and I cracked up.  I guess if you ever see Graci at your wedding reception, you can thank the caterer!

I was dropping Sophi off at school earlier this week.  There are two lanes that parents can pull into: lane one is right next to the sidewalk, lane two goes through the parking lot and requires the kids to cross at a crosswalk.  Usually I pull into lane one, but the flow of traffic that morning required me to get into lane two.  A deep, annoyed sigh came from Sophi in the back seat.  "I hate lane 2!  It's so humiliating!!!"
Me, in surprise: "you're embarrassed when you go through lane 2?"
Sophi: "I'm not embarrassed! It's just humiliating!!!"
Me: "Humiliating means really embarrassing."
Sophi, now a little embarrassed: "Oh.  I thought it just meant terrible."

Sophi is SO amazing.  I love her independence.  The other day she needed something out of the fridge:

I love kids! They keep me laughing:)