Wednesday, May 24, 2017

It's Good to be Home

This week has been great! Gabe took his final Boards exam back in St. Louis last weekend, so it finally feels like we are here and settled in. Saturday night and Sunday were Stake Conference, and we saw so many friends and family members there. Then we spent Sunday evening out at James and Kelli's and I got my hair cut again (yay!). Monday and Tuesday we babysat for James and Kelli while they were out of town. Taking care of 7 little kids really is a lot of work! It always makes me feel good about myself that I can handle all of them without a problem...and then somewhat overwhelms me when I think of having to do that EVERY day, not just for a few, haha. Being a mom to a bunch of young children is a lot of work! And very mentally exhausting, haha. It is truly a self-sacrificing labor of love. You moms are awesome. Also, I can tell how good of friends we are with them that Gabe was so willing to do it, when just 2 or 3 months ago he commented on not wanting to do anymore overnight babysitting for a long time after a 6 day stint for a family in our previous ward (the one with 4 kids that pretty much all took care of themselves, lol).

So I thought I might take today to sleep in, relax, and get caught up on my housework after being gone for 2 days, but I woke up to a phone call from Mom, saying that they were ready to start painting the new house today. That phone call was also basically as Gabe was getting ready to walk out the door for work (which is a whole other tangent on how awesome, laid-back, and generous Sam Sanders is and has been as Gabe interns with him). So I quickly got dressed and grabbed my stuff and headed out to Mom and Dad's. I ate breakfast with them at their house, and Mom and I got to the new house around 10-10:30. We had to start with scraping the walls to smooth out the texturing, and then when Hyrum and Baylie (I was just getting used to spelling Bailee...I wonder how long it will take me to get Baylie right :P ) showed up, we painted the two bedrooms and the bathroom downstairs with primer. After cleaning up, Mom and I left right around 4. It was a pretty good day of work!

Gabe was done by the time we got back, so we headed back into Springfield to go home. After cleaning up from my day of painting, we decided to go out for Gabe's birthday. We tried a new Indian restaurant downtown, Zayka's, and it was delicious! It was fun to go out with my sweetheart. :) Then of course we had to have some Andy's for desert. ;)

It has just been so nice to be back home again, nearby and available to help family and just spend time with them and be a part of their everyday (or at least weekly) lives. We're getting settled in nicely, too. All of our regular-use things are unpacked downstairs - we just need to organize our books and storage things in the upstairs bedrooms. I love having a house to live in. And James and Kelli are giving us a fridge this week to replace the old, small one here. They also have a dishwasher we can install and a board to use as a counter top for our "bathroom vanity turned kitchen cabinet". Again, it's so nice to be around family, so that they can help us out, too! :) Gabe's parents are also coming down to replace the old window ac unit in the living room with a new one that works better so that the house stays cool this summer. It's just so nice to be home!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

My St. Louis Testimony

I'm sitting here this Sunday in an almost completely empty home. Our stuff is all packed up and moved to Springfield (thanks everyone for your help!), minus a small carload of stuff that we are taking with us when we leave tomorrow morning. As our time here in St. Louis quickly comes to an end, I can't help but think about all the ways we have grown and changed since being here; all that we have learned and become. For the most part, those changes have come slowly over time, the kind that you don't really notice while you're in the midst of it. But when I look back at who I as 3 years ago when we first moved here, who WE were as a couple, we really have changed. A lot. And being fast Sunday today, I thought more specifically about how my testimony has grown and changed during my time here in St. Louis.

First and foremost, I have gained a testimony of the temple, stronger than I previously knew was possible. Words cannot express the peace that regularly and consistently being in the temple brings into your life. They cannot express the strength and fortitude that I have been blessed with through my service there as an ordinance worker each week. They cannot express the paramount importance of the work and ordinances performed there and their role in our salvation. They cannot express how completely being in the temple changes you, and fills you with the Spirit, with love, with His love.

Now that is not to say that every single time you attend the temple will be a profound, ground-breaking, life-changing experience that you will remember the rest of your life. To be certain, I WAS blessed with a precious few of those experiences through my service there, but they definitely did not happen every week. There were plenty of days that I went to bed the night before, dreading the time I had to wake up the next morning for my shift. Plenty of days that I wished I could just fall back asleep rather than get up and get ready for the temple. But even though I didn't always feel like going, and even though I didn't always have a miraculous experience while in the temple, I DID always feel the Spirit. I DID always feel His peace. I DID always have opportunities to serve. I DID always have opportunities to be blessed by the service of others. And that is how my testimony grew into what it is now. Just as the scriptures said, through small and simple things (Alma 37:6) and by doing his will (John 7:17). It was in the doing that I learned for myself, the going and being in the temple each week. And it was the everyday, nondescript, small and simple things that took place there each week that drew my heart to Him, that changed me and brought to my heart a new spirit, the Spirit of the Temple.

I have such a love for the temple now; I wish that everyone could have that some love for and testimony of the temple. The beautiful thing is that everyone can. Everyone can become worthy of a temple recommend, and choose to make temple attendance a priority in their life. Everyone can determine to act. Everyone can feel the sense of belonging, the feeling of coming home when they walk through the temple doors and participate in the ordinances therein. But for you, just as it was for me, that love will not come right away; that change will not come immediately. It will come slowly, many times almost imperceptibly. It will come piece by piece. It will come here a little, and there a little (Isaiah 28:10). It will come line upon line, precept upon precept as you are faithful and diligent in your efforts (D&C 98:12). For that is how the Lord works. That is how He shapes and molds His people. That is how you draw near unto Him.

And that is the testimony that I have gained as we have been in St. Louis these past 3 years. That is the change that has begun in me. And that is the change and testimony that I hope to keep alive and burning within me throughout my life, that I hope to be able to look back on and still be able to say in the years to come that I still "feel so now" (Alma 5:26).

Sunday, April 9, 2017

General Conference

Hooray for General Conference! It always makes for such a wonderful weekend. This Conference I took a page out of our Mia Maid leader's book and asked the Beehives to listen to General Conference looking for a favorite talk that they could share with each other this Sunday, and us leaders were to do the same. But as I listened, there wasn't any one talk that really just stood out as my "favorite." (In retrospect, I don't really think that I usually do have 1 single favorite just after listening, except for last October Conference. I absolutely LOVED President Nelson's talk on joy, and I have loved rereading and reviewing it over the last six months.)

I did, however, have a few favorite challenges that were given this Conference, and I am striving to be better at them in my day to day life. First was President Monson's challenge to read the Book of Mormon every day. He said, "If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so," and "I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day." You can't get much clearer and direct then that. And especially with it coming from the prophet himself, and being one of the only things he stood and said this Conference, I felt I had better listen and obey. I do read from the scriptures every day, but lately I have been working my way through the Old Testament (and by lately I mean off and on for the past 2 or 3 years....), and sometimes I use the scriptures and material from an upcoming lesson I am teaching for my personal study. But for the past week I have made sure to also read at least 1 chapter from the Book of Mormon. Nothing overly profound has happened, but I have been very grateful for the counsel and the challenge. I just love the spirit of the Book of Mormon; it is just so familiar to me and so easy to understand. It has really helped, too, for the days when I don't really feel like studying. Instead of continuing to put off my scripture reading, I start with my one chapter from the Book of Mormon, and then even if I am just casually reading it, it more fully invites the Spirit, and puts me in a better place to really study other scriptures or prepare my lesson.

Which brings me to the second challenge that I heard and loved. Elder Rasband spoke about always having the Spirit to be with us and how we can make that a reality. It was his fourth suggestion that I took as a challenge, to act and be confident in the first promptings that I receive from the Holy Ghost. I think that probably everyone can relate with his comments that, "sometimes we rationalize; we wonder if we are feeling a spiritual impression or if it is just our own thoughts." But what followed played a large part in my determination to act. He said, "When we begin to second-guess, even third-guess, our feelings - and we all have - we are dismissing the Spirit; we are questioning divine counsel." Again, can you be any more clear or direct? I loved everything Elder Rasband said in that section of his talk: to act, and 9 times out of 10 we will get it right, that first promptings are pure inspiration from Heaven, and especially his caution to not expect "fireworks" because "you are about the work of the still, small voice." As with following the challenge to read the Book of Mormon each day, nothing overly profound has happened this week as I have tried to act on my first promptings, but I have felt more confident about my choices, and more satisfied at the end of each day that I have done what the Lord wants me to. Like I was saying about my scripture reading, instead of setting aside and dismissing the promptings I may receive during the day to stop what I am doing and read my scriptures because I don't really feel like it at the moment, I am now doing better at acting the first time, pulling out the Book of Mormon, and reading, which prepares my heart and mind for further study when I take the time to do so. And if I don't do any further studying, I have still at least read my scriptures for the day and followed that first prompting.

Truly, what a blessing it is to live in a day where we are guided by living prophets and apostles with modern revelation. And how remarkable that within a week of first hearing their words, we have access to read, listen to, or watch their talks again as often and wherever we want. I have been studying the Restoration lately in preparation for the combined young women lesson I am teaching next week and those blessings have been brought to the forefront of my mind. That we have again a living prophet, and that we have access to his words, and the words of those before him, that we are able to read them in our own language, and we can carry them with us everywhere we go by downloading them to our phones. These are all such commonplace things to us now, but what miracles and gifts they truly are.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Oops, I Did it Again...

I know you have Brittany Spears stuck in your head now, but that's actually NOT what I'm talking about. Nope, I'm talking about locking myself out of the house again. *eye roll* And only like two or three weeks after the last time - you'd think I'd have learned... Only this time Gabe was with me, and neither of us had keys.

It was Sunday over spring break. Gabe had a seminar that morning, and I had to go let a friend's dog out before going to Stake Conference. Thankfully Gabe always likes to leave early. We were talking to each other, and then I was also distracted with making sure I had the dinner stuff that I was going to put in the crockpot at the friend's house after letting the dog out. I think I was also carrying out all of my scripture study and lesson stuff to work on at their house. Usually when we go somewhere together, Gabe drives, so with my hands full with books and food, I forgot to grab the keys. We step outside together, and as he shuts the door, I stop what I'm saying in relation to the conversation and blurt out "I don't have the keys!" Too late. It was like 7:30 in the morning, so we're thinking, well at least we know the park manager will be home this time! But the door to his porch was locked and he didn't answer his phone, because I'm sure he was still sleeping...So Gabe tries opening the door with an old card (which he told me the last time wouldn't work on our door...just saying). No luck.

Then we remember that our kitchen windows don't actually lock, so if we can remove the screen, we could get in that way. Gabe finally bends the screen out of shape so that he can get it out of the way, and realizes he picked the window that actually halfway does lock shut...so he can't get it open. He moves over to the other window, has to break that screen as well, and then we get that window open. But trailers are raised, so the window is actually kind of high when you're standing on the ground. So we prop the window open (with the wooden spoon we keep next to it for that purpose) and I half stand on the trailer jack, half stand on Gabe's hands as he hoists me into the window. Of course it was the one cold day during the past month, so I have my winter coat and layers on as I pull myself through. This time, it totally looked like a break-in, lol, so I guess it's a good thing pretty much everyone was still asleep and didn't see us, haha. I got in, opened the front door and grabbed the car keys, and we continued on with our day, not really late for anything because, like I said, Gabe had us leave (or attempt to leave) early.

And this time, he made sure I learned from my mistakes. He gave me the spare key that he usually keeps in his backpack, and now it stays in my purse 100% of the time, haha. And if he needs a spare key, he takes the one with the mail key on it. (Except for that day, when I dropped him off at the seminar and then realized that he forgot a key, so I had to go back to the house, pick up another set of keys, and take that to him before heading to our friend's house to let the dog out, lol). What can I say...apparently I'm not always on top of everything. :P

Just Some Rambling

While I've definitely been writing on my blog more consistently than I probably ever have in the past, I still have not been writing even close to my goal for this year...which I'm pretty sure was like once a week. But hey, at least I'm improving! Anyway, point being, I'm writing now because I need to do it more. Not because I have anything specific to say or talk about. So this post may end up a little less than coherent. You have been warned, so here are my thoughts. :)

Moving: Holy smokes! We're down to a month left in St. Louis! :O I seriously almost can't believe it. And while I am still very much going to miss our awesome ward and serving in the temple, I no longer have the mixed emotions that I did at the beginning of the year. After our short trip home a week and a half ago - Ok, insert side-note here. Gabe's spring break was TWO and a half weeks ago, but Marshall's was ONE and half. We weren't sure if we'd be able to make it to baby Adelai's blessing in April, so we decided to try and visit Springfield the same time as Marshall and Jenessa to meet her there. So Gabe took a vacation day from clinic that Wednesday, and totally just skipped class on Tuesday and Wednesday (like he would have gone if we had stayed home...) and we had a super quick trip home from Tuesday morning to Wednesday evening. It was great. So, as short as that trip was, it was SO GOOD. We spent time with both of our parents, Marshall and Jenessa (and their adorable baby!), Marisa, Sarah, Glenda, and James and Kelli. And it just made me so ready to be living back home again. No more mixed feelings. As much as I will always remember our time here and the people we've associated with here with love and fondness, I am so excited to get back home. Because Springfield IS home to us, and St. Louis, as much as I've loved our time here, is not.

Trailer: Unfortunately with moving comes the necessity of selling our trailer...and we just heard that the trailer park may be bought out...so we're not expecting to get as much for our trailer now as we were hoping to before, because there's a chance whoever buys it will have to move it soon. Which could possibly make this place fall apart. Just saying. We're not super worried about it, like I said, just not expecting to get as much money out of it. But like we've told everyone since buying the trailer, ANY money we get back out of it is money saved compared to what we would have spent if we had been renting an apartment the whole time - because rent here is nuts. So we're just starting to post our extra furniture and stuff that we want to get rid of, and we'll post the trailer for sale sometime this week, and hopefully we can get rid of it all before too long. :)

James and Kelli: They came to visit again last week! Some people would say we are crazy for having them stay the night in our two bedroom trailer with their 7 kids, but we always have a blast. :) This was probably the 4th or 5th time they've come up to stay the night with us, and then go to the temple while we watch their kids. We just throw all the kids in the spare bedroom, and then James and Kelli sleep on the couch, haha. This time though, we also went on a date together! I texted one of the young women in our ward and she and a friend babysat all the kids Friday night while we went to dinner and a movie together. We watched Beauty and the Beast, and I loved it! James fell asleep, lol. But the rest of us thought it was great, haha. I was pretty impressed. Gaston did an especially good job of being pompous and self-centered, lol. So ya, that visit was fun. Also, James helped Gabe fix more of our crappy plumbing, so now our kitchen sink always drains properly - yay!

Young Women: Man, being a Young Women leader takes so much more time and work than I ever realized, and can be way harder than I ever thought, but I love it SO MUCH. I think one of the things I love most is how much it has made me grow. I think it's kind of like the growing that parenthood causes. Learning to understand each individual girl, how to relate to them, how to love them and get along with them has been much more of a stretching experience for me than I would have expected. Also, I LOVE teaching. Sometimes I procrastinate too much, and totally fail, and those lessons aren't so great, but more often I spend the week thinking about it and am really able to feel the Spirit guiding my preparations and then guiding me during the lesson itself. And that is so neat. Teaching the Beehive class has been fun - a totally new and different experience from teaching the Laurels! I feel like I get more basic questions from the Beehives, and it's just kind of neat because that's a new thing for me. Especially feeling the Spirit bring scriptures and teachings to my remembrance to help me answer their questions that weren't necessarily a part of my preparations. THAT is a neat experience.

That one girl: But of course, stretching and growing comes from challenges...and since I had overcome most of my personal challenges with the Laurels in our ward, of course I was moved to the Beehives. And had to start all over. As always, there are a couple girls that I just absolutely love - they are super sweet, always have comments and questions to contribute to the lesson, they're always positive, engaged, and happy. But there's also in my current class the girl who thinks she's too cool for school. *eye roll* She only wants to participate if it's going her way. Her attention span is worse than a 3 year old's. And her "loving" jokes can actually be super jerk-ish and cutting. And somehow, she is the leader of the pack and the one in control anytime she is around. It's kind of super frustrating. Especially because she actually is a really good girl, and she comes from a really good family. But man does she rub me the wrong way - especially when the girls I super love get snubbed or made to feel less than others because of her. So that's my current stretching experience...that I've been trying to figure out since I moved to Beehives last October... And sometimes it's tempting to think, "Who cares, I'm leaving in a month anyway," and then I listen to conference this weekend and hear Elder Palmer talk about serving as a mission president and learning to stop asking how to correct these missionaries making such ridiculous mistakes or saying such surprising things, and change it to start asking how to be filled with Christlike love for them instead. And that's totally what I had to learn with the girls I struggled with in the Laurels class. And that's kind of hard to do when all you see of them is the things that drive you crazy about them. But I'm trying. Maybe not always trying my best - like when she keeps derailing the class presidency meeting and makes it last an hour instead of 30 minutes because she will NOT keep on topic - but I am trying. So I should probably stop complaining about her, because that definitely doesn't make me feel any Christlike love toward her...

New Ward: But as frustrating as that can all be, and as annoying as driving 20 minutes each way to get to mutual on Wednesday is, I seriously love serving in Young Womens. And so I really wonder what my new calling will be when we move. And if I am lucky enough to be with the youth again...I have a totally new group of kids that I would have to get to know. And getting to know new people is NOT one of my fortes. But whatever happens I'm sure it will be good. Or at least it will be what the Lord wants for me. I do believe that (of course that's easier to believe before receiving a calling that you really don't want :P ). Plus I just found out today that Sarah team teaches Gospel Doctrine in the ward we will be in! That will be fun. :) Unless I get a calling that takes place during 2nd hour and I never actually go to her class...but for now I'll just pretend like that won't be the case. ;)

Health: Holy smokes...I am SO grateful for my husband! I don't know how I would survive if I didn't have him to work on me. It's been a couple months now since he last really worked on me, and I am so feeling it. He was super busy in January and February so it didn't really happen, and then in March I was taking saliva samples during my cycle for a hormone panel, so he didn't work on me, because we didn't want any supplements to come up that might affect my results. And now we're waiting for the results before he starts working on me again. I'm hoping to get them sometime this week, and I'm really anxious to see them. We're both really hoping it will help him find some answers for what the heck is going on with my body. After going so long without him seriously working on me, I've gotten so much more tired again, needing way more sleep and being super groggy in the mornings again, more headaches and muscle aches, and being more moody and irritable, also having less of an appetite again. Mostly it's all just really annoying.

So ya, that's the stuff that's been on my mind lately. As usual this ended up super lengthy cause I'm long-winded and wordy. But hey, it's my blog, so I can make my posts as long and rambling as I want, right? ;)

Monday, March 6, 2017

Getting Back into Books

Since graduating with my Associate's Degree I've decided I need to start reading more on my own, especially books that I could really learn from, not just modern quick-read fiction. Last year I made a goal to read one biography or classic novel each trimester. I ended up reading more than just 3 books, and was so glad for the goal to jump-start me.

I began with Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations." Just adjusting to the different (and I would assert more intelligent as well) way of speaking from that time period made me feel like I was furthering my own education. I really enjoyed the whit and humor in the writing as well as the plot twists and connections, though the ending fell a little flat for me. Overall I enjoyed the read, and felt like truly classic stories and authors (like Dickens) really do have a lot to offer. Plus I didn't have to worry about coming across anything inappropriate in my reading - a HUGE plus for me.

I think the next book I read was "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe. We had gone to see Operation Underground Railroad at the theater, and Timothy Ballard talked about this being his favorite book and very influential in his beginning the operation. I also remembered hearing about it in The King and I while growing up, so I decided to get it from the library. It was such a fantastic book. The only thing that could have made it better was having my own copy so that I could mark the many passages that struck me. Seriously, SUCH a good book. She does a fantastic job showing the variety of views on slavery and blacks during that time period through words, thoughts, and actions of all the different characters. There were so many poignant passages about human nature, how we treat others, and trust in God all throughout the book.

After seeing Jenessa's recommendation on Facebook, I read "The Girl from the Train" by Irma Joubert. It's a foreign novel, following a young man and a little girl - from Poland near the end of World War II, down to South Africa amidst the prejudices there. It was really neat to experience so many different cultures through the characters in this book.

I'm pretty sure Jane Austen's "Persuasion" was my next book - which I absolutely loved. This was only the second Jane Austen book I had ever read. The first was "Emma" in high school, and at the time, I kept losing interest because of the long descriptions, archaic language, and huge age gap in the romance. It took me way too long to finish back then, and I think it kind of kept me from reading more of Jane Austen's work. This time around, I really enjoyed her writing style and the challenge of our language differences from then to now. Also, "Persuasion" has a great love story, and again, it was so nice to enjoy the book without worrying about content.

I checked out "The Screwtape Letters" by C. S. Lewis from the library, but never finished it. There are a lot of profound passages in it, but I had a hard time delving into the book. I think it would have helped if it was my own copy that I could write and mark in, so that I could interact with it more, since there's not much of a story-line to follow. I really liked what I did read of it - C. S. Lewis was a brilliant man with such a wonderful understanding of morals and moral truths - and I definitely want to finish reading it at some point, because I feel like there is a lot to learn from it. At the time, I just wasn't connecting with it for some reason.

After that I ended up rereading the Harry Potter series, minus the last book. These were definitely just for fun (although I would say these books have become modern classics), but I was ok with that since I had already reached my goal of 3 classics for the year. I think that was actually my first time to reread them, which also meant it was my first time to read them one right after another, without having to wait for the next book to come out. They are such fun books! And there is just so much you miss out on in the movies. I loved the added depth and humor that I had forgotten about. Sometime during my reading the series I got "The Cursed Child" from the library and read that as well. It was a super quick read with a very different style (obviously), but I enjoyed it for what it was. The only reason I didn't end up rereading the last book of the series was because I got busy with other things and waited too long to start it, so by the time it was due back at the library I was separated from the story enough that I didn't bother checking it out again.

I've set my goal for 2017 at 1 book per month (again, going for more classic/educational books and biographies). I'm already a little behind, and there's still a LOT of time that I spend watching tv that I should spend reading instead, but I'm making progress!

Did I Really Just Do That?

That was my very first thought after I had stepped outside and shut the door to leave my house about a week and a half ago.

I had only been home for about an hour - just enough time to change out of my church clothes, relax for a few minutes, and eat some lunch after working in the temple all morning. Gabe and I were going to be dog sitting for a friend in just a few days, and she had asked me to come over so she could explain some of the ins and outs before they left. I was in a good mood and texting a couple of people as I got ready to leave. With my phone in hand, I grabbed my purse and headed for the door.

"I feel like I'm not taking very much...but I have my purse and my phone, and it's not cold enough for a jacket, so what else would I need?"

I open the door, lock the handle, step outside and shut the door behind me. As I walk toward the car, it hits me.

"...did I really just do that?"

Yes, I had grabbed my phone and my purse...but the keys were still hanging inside in their usual spot by the door...the door that I had just locked...without any of the spare house keys in my purse. I laugh at myself in disbelief.

"Well at least it's an unseasonably warm day for February, so I'm not out here freezing."

I message Gabe to tell him how silly I am, then begin thinking through my options.

"Ok, well the park manager has a spare key to our trailer, I'll see if he's home."

I walk over to his trailer. No sign of his truck outside, but I knock on his door hopefully anyway.

No answer.

Back to my house to review my other options. I pull the old Murfin's card out of my wallet and try wiggling the door handle as I move the card around. Clearly I have no idea what I'm doing, so I message Gabe again.

"How do you unlock a door with a credit card?"

He responds, "It doesn't work on that door."

Ok, so never mind. Let's try Plan C. I canvass the house and cross my fingers that one of the windows in unlocked. As I get to the back, I'm reminded of the time I was locked inside the house and had to crawl out of my bedroom window. Once again, I think of how bad this must look to passing drivers and laugh at the idea. I find a window that I can move the screen out of the way without breaking and get excited. I push the screen up, then try for the window itself.

No luck.

I'm running out of ideas, what else can I do? Gabe has a spare house key with him, but he's at clinic and I have the car...which I just locked the keys to inside the house... And even if he could get a ride home, he wouldn't be done for another hour and a half.

I give up on being able to remedy the situation myself and text the friend that I should currently be in the car on my way to see.

"So I was just about to head your way...and then I decided to be a genius and lock the door and leave my house without keys..."

After fully apprising her of the situation, she says she'll be over soon to pick me up to bring me to her house, and then pick up Gabe when he's done and give us both a ride home. What a lifesaver! I walk to the front of the Trailer Park and sit on the bench as I wait, thankful for good friends who are willing to save me when I make a silly mistake, and thankful, again, that it is so ridiculously warm for a February afternoon in Missouri.