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Friday, October 31, 2008

Bacon, really?

I don't know about anyone else, but even just looking at this maple doughnut with bacon on top makes me want to hurl. Who comes up with things like this?  


We'll be continuing our Halloween tradition tonight of making homemade doughnuts... and we're really looking forward to sharing them with friends. You can rest assured that we won't be adding bacon as one of the ingredients.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Planting Bulbs for Springtime

A few weeks ago my Mom asked me to plant some daffodil bulbs in their front yard, so that when they get home from their mission in a few months that they'll be able to enjoy some yellow beautifulness. So, I picked up some bulbs, which have been sitting in a bag waiting for me to find my gardening gloves and my handy little kneeling pad. Last night I was looking over the instructions, hoping that I haven't missed the prime planting time yet. I was happy to find that for where we live the ideal planting time is October to December, with the specific instructions:

Plant in the fall, before the first frost hardens the soil.

It made me think of something I read recently (I don't remember where, though)... something about planting a tiny seed of hope in our hearts, even if it's hidden under the many wintry layers of grief and sorrow. When I read it, I imagined my heart covered in winter snow and there underneath it all - a seed, waiting for the winter to pass and the sun's warmth so that it can blossom. It makes my heart warm to think of something with beautiful potential lying dormant under the winter soil, sure to bring joy and beauty after a cold and dreary winter.

In the past (and very recent past, I might add) I've had a really hard time with the principle of hope. It feels so risky to put my emotions and expectations on the line {again}, not having a perfect knowledge of whether or not what I hope for will actually come true. If I give myself permission to hope for something I desire with all my heart, then I worry that I'm setting myself up for further failure, greater disappointment and another hard fall. It can be so scary to hope.

But, then I'm reminded of this quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt: Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

I find it rather interesting, though, that putting my hope in the potential of these daffodil bulbs to grow doesn't trigger any risky feelings at all. If I didn't know better, I might be very skeptical about how these bulbs could survive the frozen winter ground and still emerge in the spring as beautiful flowers. I might think it's a waste of money, time, and energy, and not even bother planting them.

But, I've planted enough bulbs and seen enough bulbs blossom that I know that good things come from the time I spend planting these bulbs. And, besides, even if there are some that don't bloom, there are enough bulbs being planted that it won't make a difference. The key is that in order to enjoy the flowers, the bulbs have to be planted. I know it's obvious... but, they will not grow if they have not been planted.

So, while I am digging and placing these daffodil bulbs, I find myself wandering through the garden of my heart. Gratefully the soil is still good, and if I use my agency to choose to plant good things there, then good things will surely come. Otherwise, I can decide it's too scary and risky to plant seeds of hope, allowing my heart to be over-run with despair and discouragement. It's really my choice what gets planted.

Rather than let despair and fear keep me from planting bulbs of hope in my heart, I'm just going to plant enough that beauty is sure to abound. Having the courage and faith to dare to hope, puts me in a position to allow God to continue to fill my life with His blessings. I've dared to hope for the impossible before and was blessed in greater abundance than what I had hoped for. Who am I to place limits on God and His power to bless my life, even with miracles if necessary?

So, I'll do the planting now, brace myself for whatever winter brings, and patiently wait for my Springtime. I don't know when it will come, how much longer the wait will be, but it will come. I do know that. And, plus, if we're commanded to have hope, then I know God will prepare the way before me, and have mercy on me because I'm choosing to hope {still}... not only for the blessings that await in the next life, but for blessings He has in store for me now. 

I know there is so much still to hope for. 

Friday, October 24, 2008

One Vote

I'll be honest, I'm very concerned about many moral issues that are being debated with this upcoming election. I'm concerned mostly for my children - the children that are yet to join our family - and the world they will be raised in. I have other fears and concerns, but they mostly come down to what life will be like for our future generations, if we don't protect what is sacred now.

Please, God, bless America... and bless Americans to use their voice for good. 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Infinite Power of Hope

“ ‘Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey towards it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.’ … Hope sweetens the memory of experiences well loved. It tempers our troubles to our growth and our strength. It befriends us in dark hours, excites us in bright ones. It lends promise to the future and purpose to the past. It turns discouragement to determination.”

- Samuel Smiles

(image courtesy of flickr)

This week I've been studying and thinking a lot about Elder Uchtdorf's talk from Conference - The Infinite Power of Hope. If I had to choose a favorite, this might just be the one. It is awesome and I strongly recommend a good read through of it. And, if I had to choose some favorite parts from this talk, these would be included: 

"[H]ope is both a principle of promise as well as a commandment, and, as with all commandments, we have the responsibility to make it an active part of our lives and overcome the temptation to lose hope. Hope in our Heavenly Father’s merciful plan of happiness leads to peace, mercy, rejoicing, and gladness. The hope of salvation is like a protective helmet; it is the foundation of our faith and an anchor to our souls.


"Surrounded by those we love, we will know the meaning of ultimate joy as we progress in knowledge and in happiness. No matter how bleak the chapter of our lives may look today, because of the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we may hope and be assured that the ending of the book of our lives will exceed our grandest expectations. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”


"There may be times when we must make a courageous decision to hope even when everything around us contradicts this hope. Like Father Abraham, we will “against hope [believe] in hope.” Or, as one writer expressed, “in the depth of winter, [we find] within [us] an invincible summer.”


"And to all who suffer—to all who feel discouraged, worried, or lonely—I say with love and deep concern for you, never give in.

Never surrender.

Never allow despair to overcome your spirit.

Embrace and rely upon the Hope of Israel, for the love of the Son of God pierces all darkness, softens all sorrow, and gladdens every heart."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Headstone decisions

When Marc and I were first looking at headstones, Marc had decided it would mean a lot to create the design/layout of our girls' headstone. Well, it's taken us three months... mostly because it has been so hard to make any final decisions, knowing it would be, well, so... FINAL. (Unless we want to pay thousands of dollars to change it every month.)

Well, we still don't have the headstone in place... BUT, we almost have the design and wording finished. I never knew it would be so hard to figure out what to put on a headstone. What words do you write? Do you address the loved one to whom the grave belongs or do you address the random stranger who may or may not visit the site? What graphics or pictures do you include? Any other designs? What font? How about a decorative border of some sort? And, did you know you can get different colors of granite? They have red and pink, black and other random colors I didn't care for. We decided on the normal gray granite, since it weathers better than the colored granite.

I've been feeling anxious lately about getting it done... as hard as it is to face all these questions and make these decisions, I just want the gravesite to be complete. I already have the prettiest purple and cream, silk flowers to put in the girls' vase, but I'm waiting for the headstone to be in place before leaving the flowers. Motivation of some sort to get the headstone done, I guess.

There is something really final about the headstone that makes me relieved and sad at the same time. Relieved because it's really the last thing to do (besides taking down the nursery... still haven't done that). But, sad because it makes it feel more real that they're not with us... but, that's obvious I guess. It isn't like I'm expecting them to come back to life or anything. (Not right away, anyway.)

I guess it's just the recognition that our most hoped-for-but-never-would-have-imagined, greatest dreams came true with our miracle twins. We will forever remember the sweet taste we received from those brief moments with Elliana and Emmaline. That sweetness is our driving force, pushing us upward along this path, filling us with hope for the day we meet again. I can already imagine drinking deeply from the well of joy and love that awaits us on the other side.

And, just because, here's a little random fact.... In my quiet moments, I find myself writing letters to my daughters in my thoughts. I've never had my thoughts organized in "letter-form" before. It's kind of a neat experience. I mostly ask them questions... I guess it's my way of anticipating with great hope to one day hear all their answers.

Elli and Emma, do you have any idea how much we love you? I think you do. Do you know you've brought us more joy than we ever could have imagined? We couldn't have been blessed with two more courageous and perfect girls. We can't wait to be with you... we'll make it through this. We promise. Oh, how we love you....

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Heart throbs

I had the hardest time choosing a major when I was in college. It actually got to the point that at the beginning of my Junior year I wasn't allowed to register for classes until I declared a major. After a very long process that consisted of all kinds of failed attempts to find my "passion," I finally settled for "eenie, meenie, minie, moe" and ended up with Spanish as my major. 

I had done well in Spanish in high school, and the language had come fairly easy for me, so I figured at least that I could get good grades with Spanish as my major. I progressed quickly through the classes, and soon found myself in classes with students who had been missionaries in Spanish-speaking countries. And, as I thought ahead to the mission that I would serve, I would dream of all the Spanish-speaking countries I could possibly go to.

As you know, my mission call was to Italy. It came as a HUGE surprise to me. I had never once considered Italy as a possibility. In fact, after I first read my mission call, my friends and family who were with me said that I seemed very dazed as I repeated over and over again "I'm going to Italy." 

When I arrived at the Missionary Training Center I was very excited to jump into the language, since I had heard Italian was very similar to Spanish. My foundation of language learning proved to be both a blessing and a curse. Since I didn't want to forget all the Spanish I had learned, whenever I would learn something new in Italian, I would automatically translate it in my mind in Spanish... it shouldn't have been a surprise when in conversations I would use phrases like, "muy bene." That mixing of the two languages was greatly discouraged.

It must have been pretty bad, because after about three weeks at the MTC one of my teachers finally pulled me aside and said, "You have to stop speaking Spanish." I guess she was afraid that no one would understand me when I got to Italy. Go figure.

That was a major turning point for me. It was the first time in those three weeks that I recognized that I was having a really hard time. I had been so focused on staying positive that I finally realized that I was afraid if I admitted I was having a hard time, I would somehow disappoint my family, and more importantly God. But, the truth was that not only was I struggling with the language, I was struggling with homesickness, and with finding my place in this new way of life.

I still remember the moment kneeling in prayer, when I honestly opened up and admitted I was really having a hard time. It all came out... my fears about living in a foreign country with very limited contact with my family, my frustrations with learning a new language, my insecurities about being fit to be a missionary. And, the most incredible thing happened. As I trusted those very vulnerable feelings to God in prayer, I was filled with peace and reassurance that not only did He already know everything I was feeling, but He had been waiting and wanting to help me get through it.

Over the last three months, I've found myself feeling many of the same feelings as I did in those early weeks in the MTC. I've been trying so hard to go through this trial with a clear perspective and a positive attitude, afraid that I might disappoint God in some way if I admit that I'm having a hard time coping and healing, and even accepting this loss.

I've been filled with fears and insecurities and frustrations, and they have added up against me this week. My heart has felt so heavy all week... and I'm trying to re-learn the same lesson I learned almost ten years ago... that admitting it's hard and that I can't bear the burden of this trial on my own doesn't make God disappointed in me, but rather it opens up the way for Him to comfort me and strengthen me.

I have always appreciated James E. Talmage's insight on prayer: 

"It is well to know that prayer is not compounded of words, words that may fail to express what one desires to say, words that so often cloak inconsistencies, words that may have no deeper source than the physical organs of speech, words that may be spoken to impress mortal ears. The dumb may pray, and that too with the eloquence that prevails in heaven. Prayer is made up of heart throbs and the righteous yearnings of the soul, of supplication based on the realization of need, of contrition and pure desire. If there lives a man who has never really prayed, that man is a being apart from the order of the divine in human nature, a stranger in the family of God's children. Prayer is for the uplifting of the suppliant. God without our prayers would be God; but we without prayer cannot be admitted to the kingdom of God. So did Christ instruct: 'Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.'" (Jesus the Christ, pg. 238)

At a time like this when I can't make sense of the feelings in my heart, trying to express them in prayer can be a very overwhelming task... and that's why it brings me such great comfort to know that God already knows what I'm feeling. He already knows that I feel weighed down and discouraged, heart-broken and afraid. When I kneel in prayer, and emotions choke my words, I know He hears my silent pleadings and understands my hidden sorrow. And, I'm so grateful that He is so generous in reassuring me that He is not disappointed in me, but that He loves me with the perfect love of a Father. Not only do I find relief in my honest prayerful moments, I sense there is also a feeling of relief on His end when I fully open my heart to Him.

"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." - Romans 8:26

Friday, October 17, 2008

Beautiful Autumn

An opportunity came up that we couldn't refuse and, knowing that a good vacation would be good for us, Marc and I spent most of last week in New England. Autumntime is our very favorite time of year, and we happened to be in the most beautiful part of the country at the most spectacular time of the year.

Here's an overview of the loop we made through as much of New England as we could possibly squeeze into our trip:

We started in Manchester, NH. From there we went to Portland, Boston, Providence, some small town in Connecticut, then back up to Manchester. It's too bad we didn't make it to Vermont. I guess it gives us a reason to return. 

We did a lot of driving, a lot of walking... but, most important we completely jumped into the present. We didn't think or talk much about what has happened, we didn't worry about what lies ahead of us; for the six days we were away, we lived. We enjoyed each other. We marveled at the beauty of the earth. We reconnected. We found renewal. And, for the first time in three months I felt one hundred percent certain that we were really going to make it through this.

The photos that follow are just a tiny glimpse of the beauty we experienced. It's impossible to capture what we saw, and even more impossible to describe the healing effect this getaway had on us. It was exactly what we needed... I only wish it could have lasted longer or that coming back wouldn't have been so awfully hard. But, I suppose this is all part of the process.

New Hampshire

From the start of our trip, we got off the major freeways and travelled as much as possible on smaller highways and roads. We loved exploring and finding little treasures along the way. New Hampshire was very clean. It was the only place we've ever found an upscale Walmart. Yeah, I know, it would have been picture-worthy.

This is in rural New Hampshire, just north of Manchester:

A cute little church in Canterbury, New Hampshire

We stopped up the road from this place to buy a bag of apples at an orchard. They were the most delicious apples we've eaten - sweet, crisp, and juicy. We're still enjoying them!

This is part of Shaker Village. The landscape in this area was so immaculate.

Lake Winnepesaukee - filming location of "What About Bob?" (This is me practicing my "baby steps"....)

This river is the border between New Hampshire and Maine:


Our second night we stayed in the coolest hotel in South Portland, called the Wyndham. We were on the seventh floor, and had an amazing view of the mall across the street. Marc just about fainted when he opened the curtains to find that the entire outside wall was all window.

The rooms in this place were very comfortable and clean. The cylindrical pillows even had "Be Well" embroidered on them. I think this was our favorite hotel, by far.

Right outside our hotel, we noticed this box van-turned-truck across the intersection from us. Isn't that awesome?!

This is the Two Rivers Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. We enjoyed the most incredible lobster dinner just next to this lighthouse at The Lobster Shack.

The other view from the Lobster Shack:

For some reason that I can't recall, I have always dreamed of eating a lobster on the coast of Maine. I couldn't have asked for anything more perfect than this setting - we were literally on the coast of Maine, eating a lobster that had probably just been caught that day. We were lucky enough to enjoy this lobster meal with the Lawsons, who were instructing me every step of the way how to eat a lobster. If they had told me to chomp down on the outer shell, I seriously would have followed their lead. I LOVED it! This was one of my most favorite moments from this trip, especially since we were able to connect with another couple who has recently experienced their own loss. It's incredible the immediate bond you feel with others who have experienced similar things in life.

Later on that same night, after we got back to our hotel, we decided to go out for ice cream. When the waitress came to get our order, I swear that she said, "Can I put coffee in your water?" We didn't even have any water yet, so I didn't know how to answer her. After repeating herself two more times, I finally understood that she was asking if we wanting coffee, tea or water. I'm sure she was laughing behind our backs at our crazy Western accents, just like we were amused with her thick New England accent. Once our ice cream came, Marc was disgusted to find a half eaten cherry on top of his Strawberry Shortcake Sundae. Weird. So, they made him something new.

Here are some of the cobblestone streets in Old Port - in downtown Portland.

We found a deli for lunch. I ordered a Turkey BLT... only, they forgot to put the bacon on the sandwich. My first thought, though, was that maybe the "B" means something else to people back East. So, I let the waitress know and they had just forgotten to put it on. I was happy to learn that BLT means the same anywhere you go in the States.

We climbed to the top of Bradbury Mountain, to enjoy this awesome view of Maine! Isn't it gorgeous?!

This is just outside of Augusta, Maine. 


In downtown Boston, our first stop was to snap a shot of the Cheers restaurant... or at least some sign that makes you think you're at the real thing. Who knows.

Then, we started down the Freedom Trail, which weaves you through downtown Boston for about three miles, to see many of the historical sites of the city. 

Here is the supposed burial of Benjamin Franklin:

Some other sites of the city... don't remember what they are, though:

This was the North End of Boston, which is basically a Little Italy! It was cool to wander in and out of little Italian stores, finding all kinds of REAL Italian products... like, PANNA... my favorite!

Statue of Paul Revere:

The Bunker Hill Monument from a distance:

This is me with my jelly-legs after climbing up the 294 steps of the Bunker Hill Monument, and then back down. Can you believe I forgot to take my camera up there with me? I almost went back up a second time, just to get some photos of the view. Almost. My legs probably would have collapsed under me at some point going up or coming back down. 

We were so happy that we were able to make it to the Boston Temple. It had the most gorgeous stained glass in shades of blue. It was beautiful!

We were able to meet up with one of my childhood friends, Christine, and her husband Ross. We enjoyed their company and had some good laughs with them. They are both incredible musicians, and we had hoped to attend one of their gigs while we were in Boston, but that didn't work out this time. If you're interested, you can check out Christine's first solo album here. I was excited to hear that she'll have her next CD out next summer. We were so happy to meet up with her and Ross! It was the perfect way to end our stay in Boston.

Rhode Island

On our last afternoon, we decided to finish off our trip with a quick road trip to see more of the countryside of New England. We found some awesome views that afternoon, stopping along the side of the road, and taking little detours that looked inviting. It was wonderful to do some exploring... and perhaps a little dreaming of living in some of these houses found along the way. I don't think there is much more to say about these photos... Rhode Island was just so beautiful!