15 August 2017

Girls camp with Ashlyn

“The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives. When the focus of our lives is on Jesus Christ and his gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening – or not happening – in our lives. He is the source of all joy." 
–President Russell M. Nelson

Ahhh summer is winding down and I'm not sure how I feel about it this year. Usually by this time I am SOOOOO ready for the kids to be back in school and back to some routines and schedules. But this year, I'm still craving those lazy kind of summer days.

Ashlyn got to go to girls camp with me. Or maybe  I should say I got to go with Ash to girls camp.

This is my 4th year and not sure what next summer will hold for us, for me. I am so grateful and so blessed to be able to spend these occasions with my kids.

Our theme was JOY which I immediately loved the moment it was announced. We are designed to be happy and this Ashes girl encapsulates joy to the fullest extent. Happiness just exudes from her and people can't help being drawn to her personality and good-naturedness.

She has a myriad of friends and continues to make new ones, the latest being a 14-year-old Chinese girl adopted by the McConnells. Ash, or Pikachu as this new friend calls her, became fast friends even though the language barrier is still quite prevalent. Love and the spirit know no boundaries.


Is it possible to have joy amid trials, setbacks, and disappointments? Of course it is.

Are there going to be days when joy seems elusive and tears just flow? Of course there are.

But “what messes us up the most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be” (Matt Townsend). I know of no one whose life has turned out exactly how they envisioned. And when we get stuck wishing for a different life, that can be a joy sucker. Social media contributes to this in a big way. We start to compare everyone's best to our worst and begin to wonder why our life is so hard. Start looking at what is going right instead of what isn't. Have gratitude for the blessings seen and unseen.

Right now, these girls are some of my greatest blessings. I love them. I love serving them. I love being a part of their lives. Nicole brought me joy at girls camp as she did not become upset when she was placed in the tent not of her choosing. Jenny brought me joy in the thoughtful notes she wrote to each girl at camp. This ginormous feat only took her four days. Nevaeh brought me joy as I watched her move seats to comfort a girl in another ward who was having a hard time.


What else brings me joy? Service. Every day I try to think of one person I might serve that day. This gets my mind and thoughts off myself and the struggles I have as I try to alleviate the burdens of someone else.

May the son always radiate the joy within us as we go about serving in his kingdom and in our small sphere of influence.

06 August 2017

King Al

Alex was the lucky kid who got to spend three weeks at Grandma's this summer. (He also got to tag along to Youth Conference when we went back to Grandma's.)

I got to spend that same amount of time with my grandparents while my parents were on a trip to Israel and Grandma Seamons decided to have her hairdresser, Portia, give me a perm. I came away looking less like me and more like little Orphan Annie. Thankfully no such drastic changes were made to Alex.

I'm not sure exactly how Alex came to be dubbed King Al, but Grandpa seems to have a nickname for everyone. While Alex was there he was not doing what he was supposed to . . . telling little white lies . . . not acting as a king should act.

A family home evening lesson ensued where the lesson was about how a good king should behave. Scriptures were read about King Benjamin and King Mosiah. I was impressed when I came to pick Ash up several weeks later and he was able to tell me what he had learned from that lesson.

1. A good king keeps the commandments.
2. A good king is kind.

Good, honest leaders are hard to find. I hope Alex remembers the little lessons that he's taught. It surely does take a village, a family, a community to raise these little people into adult leaders with the power to make a difference in their small section of this world. I'm forever grateful to those around me who help in my parenting endeavors.

30 July 2017

Brighton Beehive Camp

Not sure where I've been but it hasn't been in the present. As I become more aware of people around me and their struggles, I find myself with less time at home as I reach out to help.

The Saturday before my Praxis test (I tested on a Monday) I wanted to really push and review hard all day so as to not study on the Sabbath. However, I had a baptism to attend and then I got a text from a friend asking a routine question about borrowing some magazines. I felt I needed to hand deliver them and ended up spending several valuable hours visiting. Valuable study time is how I saw it. The Lord saw it as valuable relationship time, ministering as He would minister.

"If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear." (D&C 38:30) I had no reason to stress about how my time got spent on that Saturday. I had put in a lot of study hours. I had prepared myself so that when the Lord called me on an errand I was prepared to do his bidding.

Kiersten has been working as a counselor as Brighton Beehive Camp this summer. She leaves Sunday night and gets home Friday afternoon. I haven't seen a lot of her and miss having her around. We take her to college in 3 1/2 weeks and that's going to be hard.

Up there she is known as Queen Bee, a name that was coined by her grandpa. When Ash went up and the other counselors learned she was Queen Bee's baby sister, she was dubbed Baby Bee. And because my name Melissa means honeybee, I guess it's fitting that we are from the same hive.

I got to drop her off one Sunday evening on our way home and she gave me the tour of her "office." I didn't envy the mosquitoes but I sure loved the woodsy smell.


And then this last Thursday we were invited to their mutual night and got to go up again. Ash could not contain herself at the thought of seeing her counselor "Boots" again. Doesn't she just ooze excitement!

These older young women have such an influence on the younger girls that can be such a powerful force for good. Every woman, old and young, needs a mentor, someone they can look to for a guide, for an example, for advice and these young beehives have such mentors in their counselors.

The week Ash went up, I got to go pick up our ward Beehives and bring them home. And because it was Kiersten's off week (no girls for her) she would be riding the bus down the canyon with them and I'd get to see her briefly. Watching for those buses brought back remembrances and feelings of waiting for the Trek buses. Oh, how I love these girls of mine of their goodness to the bone. They are going to leave their mark of joy upon this world.



11 July 2017

Praxis

This little book and me have been friends for quite a while. It has consistently been by my side. But freedom came yesterday and we have parted ways. I'm not too heartbroken.

My liberation came yesterday at 2pm when I walked out of the Tooele USU campus having just taken my 4-hour plus Praxis test. Anybody and everybody who goes into the teaching profession has to take some form of it. Even school counselors are required.

I've only been studying since last October off and on and really hit it 2 months ago. I had no idea what to expect so I studied way more stuff than I needed to. I relearned stuff I had learned eons ago, and I learned stuff that was all new. My kids were fabulous tutors as I asked questions about math and science. They know things! 

The test was 4 parts: Language arts which was 90 minutes and 65 questions; Math was 50 questions in 60 minutes; Social studies was 50 questions in 50 minutes; and Science was the same. There was no break as I went from one to the other. Overall it was easier than I imagined. I had no-brainer questions, questions that made me think, and then stuff I absolutely had no idea about.

The best part was no waiting for scores. The scoring is based on a scale of 100 to 200. Utah requires that I get a 157 in both language arts and math to pass; social studies I needed a 155 and science a 159. My unofficial scores were 183 in language arts, 182 in math, 181 in social studies, and a high score of 187 in science. That one surprised me since science is my least favorite.

Not only did I pass, but I rocked it! I think those scores are resume worthy.

This was probably one of the biggest tests I've taken since the ACT and I feel like my time is my own again.

I wasn't the only one with good scores. The AP scores came out a few days ago and Kiersten and Erik both received 4s on their exams. That will give them both some college credit.

02 July 2017

More thoughts from above

So my last post was about the hymn "How Firm a Foundation" and President Hinckley's "Things will work out" quote . . . well, guess what came around the last two weeks . . . again!

I think the Lord wants me to know a few things :)

20 June 2017

Tender mercies

I recently finished a book titled An Unseen Angel, written by the mother of a little girl who was killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary several years ago. The book was touching but what resonated with me in regards to my current life situation is this mother wanting desperately for God to give her a glimpse of her daughter's new life.

I too feel that way on many occasions. It's been eight months since we received word of a job loss. A new job has come along but it's not ideal and it won't pay the mortgage for long. My job for the past 18 years has been full-time mom so it's not so easy just to step into a good paying job that will help make up the difference.

I have been doing everything in my power to move forward but at some point you come to understand that you are powerless and need God to intervene and work his mighty miracles.

I too have felt like this mom, Alissa Parker. I just want to know what my so-called "new life" will look like.

Will I be able to land that teaching job?
Will we end up having to sell our beautiful home and yard that we've devoted so much of our time and ourselves to and start over again somewhere else?
Will another good job come along for Tyler?
Maybe I forgo the job search and start on the Master's I've been wanting?
Will I ever feel settled enough to finally hang up that vinyl saying from last Christmas? (I know I could never take it down if we move.)


I just want to know what God's plan is in all this because I've been spinning wheels and I'm not sure what my life should look like right now.

Only God can see what lies ahead. There are many days I wish and pray for just a glimpse. And on those days (like today) when I hide in my closet and cry out in fear and frustration, I have to remember the tender mercies and sweet little answers he gives me.

About a month ago the front of our sacrament program was a this quote by President Hinckley, the ever optimist.

And then a few weeks ago we sang How Firm a Foundation, the typical three verses. During the sacrament I decided to read through the other verses and was touched. I felt like my Father in Heaven was reaching out to me that day. Every verse gave me hope and strength that the Lord will give me aid, he'll strengthen me, he will be with me, this trial shall be a blessing.

May I have courage to never forsake when the days and months get long and hard and I begin to question the point of it all.

How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
Who unto the Savior, who unto the Savior,
Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?

In ev'ry condition--in sickness, in health,
In poverty's vale or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea--
As thy days may demand, as thy days may demand,
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.

Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, thy dross to consume,
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

E'en down to old age, all my people shall prove
My sov'reign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs shall they still, like lambs shall they still,
Like lambs shall they still in my bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, I'll never, no never,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake!

18 June 2017

Fathers

This has been the week for the fathers in my life.

Monday Tyler and I celebrated 20 years of marriage and for 18 of those he's been the father of my children. Last fall I was in the early stages of planning a celebratory trip to somewhere but that came to a screeching halt when a job loss thrust itself upon us. Instead we bought ourselves a tree to plant (which is a little more permanent anyway) and went to a play at the Desert Star Playhouse.

That little tree is another white fir to match the others in the back area that is slowly becoming our "camping" spot. He also surprised me with a picnic table and some quote posters for a classroom I hope to have some day.

Tyler is patient, good-natured, and works hard for our family. Our kids enjoy quoting movie lines with him which unfortunately go right over my head, and he is great to include Erik and Nate in his weekly basketball group of guys.

My dad celebrated his 65th birthday on Tuesday and now has full access to all the senior citizen discounts. Oh, how fortunate I am to have him around as he wasn't so lucky with his own dad. He is one of the hardest working people I've ever known and I give credit to him for my strong work ethic. He taught me how to get up early, work hard, and have pride in a job well done. He often worked right along side us which is something I've tried to do with my own kids.

The man never tires of creating new things:

tree houses . . . then

and now



swimming pools . . . then



and now

sand boxes

He isn't a man who needs much. This was a tv he got for one of his birthdays that we had for years and years. I think it might be smaller than the screen on my laptop.



He made camping fun.



He was and is a spiritual leader in our home, expounding the scriptures to us which helped me develop a love for the gospel. He is my rock and the mentor I turn to for advice. His unwavering steadiness is a trait I admire greatly in my dad.

His own father passed away very young when my dad was only 31.

I can't imagine what that would have been like to not be able to call your dad for help and assurance. He had to navigate the land of fatherhood basically on his own and I think he's done a pretty swell job.

I love both of these men in my life who take the title of father.