Tuesday, June 28, 2011

No Man Is An Island

Lately, we've been thinking about all the good people we’ve known who’ve had a positive influence on our lives -- and how many of them would be surprised to know that they were an example, a hero, a mentor, or a friend in time of need.

Sure, we try to tell those we love and admire how we feel about them on occasion. Sure, we express appreciation once in awhile. But rarely do we really express our deepest, heartfelt feelings like we could. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid to get too emotional and stumble and stutter. Maybe it’s because we’re too busy being busy. Maybe it’s because we never learned how and we haven’t had enough practice. Maybe it’s because there’s always tomorrow.

Somehow, in our day to day living, we don’t seem to have enough time to tell each other, “Hey, you matter to me.” “Wow, I sure admire you.” “Thanks, you made a difference in my life.”

During the past several years, we’ve had the misfortune to lose a few family members and friends who have taken their own lives for various reasons. Without exception, they had no comprehension - at all - of the enormity of the number of people who would be touched by their untimely death and feel the sting of their departure. Without exception, they were unaware of the magnitude of their influence in the world. Maybe now they know how much we miss them.

Each person we get to know adds something to our lives. Neighbors, friends, old school chums, teachers, ward members and leaders, each and every family member (grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, children, grandchildren), and even doctors, business associates, and the hair dresser - everyone makes a difference. Everyone has an influence, whether they know it or not.

If you’re reading this, you are an important part of our lives. If you’re reading this, we love and appreciate you more than we have told you. We cherish your example, your influence, your love, and your impact on our lives.

We look forward to taking the things we’ve learned from you to the people we will meet on our mission. We want to be an influence for good in the world. ~Pat~

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why Are We Going?

As the time to depart gets closer and closer and we face leaving our family and home, Pat and I find ourselves musing about the reasons we feel compelled to serve a mission. It’s a desire we have had since we were first married. We’ve planned and hoped for this time. However, now that our hopes are finally becoming reality, we must climb out of our comfort zone and actually prepare to go. It's an exciting, but challenging time.

We’ve carefully explored our motives and here's what we've discovered about why we are going on a mission:
1. Gratitude. We have been blessed with good health (and some medical miracles), adequate means, time, and supportive children. We want to share what we have with others.
2. Love. The world needs love and we want to take the love of Heavenly Father and Christ to others.
3. Covenants. We've made commitments to consecrate our time, talents and means to further the work of God on the earth.
4. The Joy of Service. It is a privilege and honor to serve a mission. We know the joy that comes from serving others.
5. Example. We've been strengthened by the missionary examples and experiences of our parents, grandparents, and ancestors. We hope our children and grandchildren will likewise be strengthened.
6. Blessings. We have seen the blessings that come to the families of those who sacrifice. Even though we know that our family will face some trying times while we're gone, we have trust that they will be blessed in ways we cannot foresee.
7. Faith. We have faith in Christ -- we trust him, his teachings, his watchful care, and his eternal plan for each of us.

President Ezra Taft Benson said: "Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life." (Ensign, Dec. 1988) We know this to be true. ~Don~

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Only Constant is Change

For many years there was a little sign on our fridge on Parkridge Drive that read, "This, too, shall pass." It appeared there, originally, to remind me to have faith that the hard times we were facing would someday end. They did. And over time I came to realize that, eventually, just about everything changes. Experiences have a starting point and an ending point. Children grow, opportunities and challenges come and go, relationships evolve, life goes on. Good days give way to bad days which give way to more good days.

Understanding that helped me to learn the other truth that showed up on my fridge long ago: "Celebrate the Temporary." That's what I've been trying to do lately. Knowing that our lives are going to change substantially when we enter the MTC in four short weeks, I am noticing and appreciating little things I often take for granted. The hug of a grandchild, the sound of the grandfather clock in the dining room, the peacefulness of the patio in our backyard with it's view of the majestic Wasatch mountains, the time we spend with our children, a conversation with a friend, and the common daily activities we do without even thinking. Right now, I feel a little like "Emily" in Our Town when she is allowed to return and relive a day in her childhood. Every normal, mundane thing about her life seems so precious when she realizes it has come and gone.

I'm grateful to be celebrating the temporary and to be appreciating things a little more deliberately. It's a good thing to do once in awhile. ~Pat~

Monday, June 6, 2011

Goodbye and Hello...

This morning my babies said good-bye to each other. Amy and Colin are on their way to Alabama where Colin will have seven weeks of training before he begins his Air Force service at Andrews AFB outside Washington, D.C. Emily and Josh will leave Thursday to dance in Hungary, Croatia, the Czech Republic and a few other places with BYU Folkdancers, then return to live here in our home while we are on our mission.

Watching them part, I had a flashback of the morning, 24 years and 3 months ago when we brought them home from the hospital and laid them side by side on our bed, facing each other, in miniature pink caps and sweatshirts that read, "I'm Amy, she's Emily" and "I'm Emily, she's Amy." They were so tiny and frail that we almost couldn't find them in their fluffy new quilts. Except for a few weeks here and there when they've performed in different dance tours, they haven't been out of touch with each other for very long at all. Now, it'll be six months before they see each other at Christmastime, and much longer until all our family can be together again.

But the good news is, they will still be in touch -- and so will the rest of us. Thank you, Lord, for text-messaging and free cell-phone calls anywhere in the U.S., and Skype and all the other technological miracles that will keep us in touch when we all go in different directions. I am counting my blessings.

I remember this same dull ache in my heart when our oldest, Janet, moved out and went to college -- and the same with Kristen, Jenn, and Amy & Emily. OK, so none of them went any farther that Provo(!), but Provo seemed half-way around the world when they left. It's hard to see your children grow up and become independent -- even if that's exactly what you just spent all those years training them to do. It just seems so quiet in the house on the first day they are gone -- no matter how many others are around.

Last Saturday, we went to see the new movie, "Seventeen Miracles." It gave my hurting heart a little perspective. I had been anxious to see the movie because my third great-grandmother, her sister and their father were in the Willie Handcart Company, which is the subject of the movie. I was deeply moved by the portrayal of their trek, and today my mind goes back to them and to the thousands of other pioneers who left their homes in Europe and traveled in the worst of conditions by ship, wagon, train, and by foot to make their home in the very valley where I now live. They not only didn't see their families again, they couldn't even communicate with them. There was no international mail service; there were no phones; there wasn't even Pony Express.

Suddenly, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Gratitude for all the years we have had together. Gratitude for the love we have in our family (even in hard times, there has always been love). Gratitude for the good times and the bad times and all the memories we share. Gratitude for each and every day, past, present and future.

It is truly a day to be filled with gratitude and to look forward to all the hellos the future holds -- both now and for eternity. ~Pat~