Monday, February 8, 2010

Life Lessons, Symbolism, and Falling Apart

I get the distinct feeling that God is trying to either teach me something big or prepare me for something I can't imagine right now. So many things have happened in our lives in the past three months that have tested our faith, our patience, our love, our relationship, and our endurance. Through it all, I've tried to maintain a good attitude. I've tried to find the silver lining in the clouds. I've tried to remind myself that everything happens for a reason and that some lessons are not apparent to us right now. We aren't always privy to the "whys" of the challenges we are faced with. But tonight was the final straw for my battered spirit.

To recap the past few weeks... our home was burglarized. That was the first blow. We remained positive, knowing that our home owner's insurance would cover things. Then we found out that without our knowledge or approval (of which we discovered neither is required), our deductible on our policy had QUADRUPLED. We fought and fought to no avail. We felt used and taken and that was the second blow. Again, we held our heads up, upset as we were, and took it in stride. (Yes, we were depressed about it for a bit, but we got over that and moved on. What else can you do really?) We took comfort in the knowledge that we could use part of our tax return to pay for some things. Imagine our horror when we did our taxes tonight and discovered that for the first time in 11 years, we owe money to the I.R.S. We normally get at least a couple thousand dollars back but for varying reasons this year, we actually owe money. (Thankfully, it's not very much.) This was the final blow for me. I was okay for about an hour and then I spiraled.

I left the room and just had myself a really good and cleansing cry. Why? Why is this happening to us? This isn't fair. Let me reiterate that this is NOT about the "stuff". I don't care about any of it anymore. I've said goodbye to it all and I know it's never coming back. It's just the combination of it all. Mike put it quite eloquently tonight when he said, "I feel like we got robbed three times." It feels violating. You feel helpless and used. After I wallowed in self pity for awhile, Mike and I sat down and talked through it all (and I cried some more). And truthfully I do feel better about things. And once I allowed myself to feel sorry for myself a bit and have a good cry (or two), I was able to clear my head and be open to the Spirit about things.

I am reminded of the following scripture found in Matthew 11:28-30:

28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

I am once again able to remind myself that everything happens for a reason. I have always had a profound belief in that concept and this is no different. At first I wasn't able to see what that reason was. But as time goes on, I think I am catching a glimpse of what it might mean. (Of course there may be multiple lessons here, but this is just one that I'm extracting from these recent escapades.)

Mike verbalized it when he said, "We needed to have the reset button pushed." Yes. That's it I believe. Aside from the home invasion woes, Mike and I have also been working on our own marriage relationship and through ALL of this, I do believe that God is trying to tell us that we need to have the reset button pushed. What we've been doing (in our relationship, in our family, in our daily lives) is rote. It has become rote and unthinking and in more ways than one, it is not working. We needed a loud wake-up call because if He's been sending us soft ones, they've fallen on deaf ears. We needed something big to wake us up, make us think, and get us out of a rut.

There are so many facets of our lives that need changing and need resetting. I think this is simply the wakeup call that we need to get our ourselves in gear and start making some serious changes. We're slowly revamping our diets and between that and having our (stolen) video game consoles gone, we have already noticed positive behavior changes in our children. That alone is priceless. We have a long way to go and I know these things won't happen overnight, nor will they happen painlessly, but we must put one foot in front of the other and know that God has a plan for us and although He never promised it would be easy, He did promise that it would be worth it.

I am also reminded of one of my very favorite church stories. I learned this story from my seminary teacher many years ago. Sister Hallstrom was an AMAZING seminary teacher. She put her whole heart and soul into that program and while I know I didn't appreciate it the way I should have THEN, I am beyond grateful for her time and sacrifice today. She taught me SO many things that I use in my life today. One of the stories she shared is a well known one in the church. It's called The Currant Bush, by Hugh B. Brown. Whenever I am particularly down on life, I reread this story and it always makes me feel better. I won't write out the text of it here, but you can click the link if you want to read it. There are profound lessons to be learned in that story.

I guess overall this is helping me to redouble my faith. (In my patriarchal blessing, I'm told to redouble my faith in times of adversity.) Moreover, I am being reminded that I cannot and should not go through any trials without seeking guidance and assistance from the Lord. We are not supposed to carry these burdens alone.

My outlook on all of this has changed and I can say without any uncertainty that I am turning this over to the Lord. He sees the whole picture. He knows what is best for me. I will have faith that these experiences will mold me into something better and will make me more humble and teachable.

Today in pictures

For Project 365, I can only choose one photo for the day. I took several others today and wanted to post them. These were all taken with my iPhone.

This is the crosswalk we use each day to get to and from school:

This is the road that leads to home:

Less than 1,ooo miles until my baby turns 100,000 She's been so good to me and I fully expect her to easily go another 100K:

One of my favorite places on the planet:

320th and winter trees:

Strange to put a toilet here, but for one thing, my boys will crack up laughing when they see this. For another, a very proud 6-year-old in my home cleaned this all by himself. Not only that, but he cleaned the floor and after I snapped these pictures, he cleaned the sink as well. But that's not even the most amazing part... he did it without ANY whining or complaining. He did it cheerfully and was so proud of himself. You can tell by the look on his face! I'm so proud of both my boys today, who cheerfully and quickly cleaned up this afternoon!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Face2Face Billy Joel & Elton John

I had the grand opportunity of FINALLY getting to see Billy Joel and Elton John... TOGETHER on one stage! I have such a deep respect for both of these musicians. They are legends in their own time. Both are insanely talented and to see them together was an absolute treat!!

I went with Jodi, Jaime, and Jaime's sister-in-law Melissa. We had so much fun! We found great parking and then grabbed some food in the Seattle Center House. Then we headed over to Key Arena for the show. We sat at the very stop of the venue, but it was okay. It was kind of nice not having anyone behind us. I was a little miffed at how tight the seats were packed in and I was also frustrated that we could not really see either of the screens that were up. But oh well... we still had a decent view of the stage and I thought the sound system was pretty good. We could still hear the artists when they were speaking, even if the crowd was loud.

Seeing these guys was a real dream for me. I admit that I'm a much bigger fan of Billy Joel than I am of Elton John, so I was more excited when Billy sang. He sang so many of my favorite songs! We did a lot of screaming and by the time we got done our hearing was pretty muffled!

All in all a fun night and I'm so happy I got to enjoy it with friends. Here are some pictures from the night. Thanks to Jaime for the photos!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

January recap


I thought I'd do a little January recap since this month has been incredibly busy for our family. December wasn't such a great month for us in a lot of ways. But despite how busy we have been this month, I'm happy to say that overall it's been a wonderful month and I think Mike and I are in a place in our marriage that is better than we've ever been. That is most important to me because as long as that is strong, then the rest will fall into place.

We rang in the new year on a ferry boat as we watched fireworks over Seattle. My mom was here from Hawai'i and we were also with John, Jodi, and their crew. It was a BLAST... so much so that I think I'm going to make New Year's eve my priority holiday next year!

Mike left Washington not once, but twice this month. He spent a few days in Vegas for business and I REALLY wanted to go with him but it just didn't work out. If goes to the CES conference next year, I'm definitely going to plan on going with him. My mom will be back next year and she has already told me to let her know when the conference is so that she can make sure she stays through that time to help take care of the boys. I'm so excited. (You know it's pathetic when you are excited about a trip with your husband to Vegas while he attends a work-related conference. A conference, mind you, that is an entire year away! We haven't really left our kids overnight with anyone but one time. It's hard to find people that will take the kids for overnight trips.) My mom is also coming in September and she said she'll watch them if we want to leave for a few days then too. Yay! Anyway... Mike also went to L.A. for the first time last week. It was just an overnight trip but we missed him still the same.

I got to meet a former coworker and dear friend for lunch this month. I haven't seen Pam in a long, long time and it was awesome to catch up with her. My only regrets are that the time went way too fast and that she lives so darned far away. I am so happy we reconnected!

Jodi and I got to go and see 100 Monkeys perform in Seattle... a major highlight of the month!!

I think I finally got my second job situation straightened out. It's been months and months of agony trying to get through orientation, poor communication with the manager, and a new-hire evaluation done. But somehow, I made it through all of that I'm now just a "regular" employee instead of orientation. I've since worked two shifts on my own and they have both been very pleasant. This second job is a blessing to our family. I worked there on Thursday night and when the manager came in Friday morning, she even smiled at me and said "good morning". WOW... this is a huge improvement!

We welcomed two beautiful nieces into our family this month. Sabrina was born on January 11 and Blair was born on January 30. They are gorgeous and healthy and our family is blessed.

Our own son Ethan turned 8 years old on January 13. What a huge, huge milestone that was!! We took him out to dinner at Claim Jumper (his choice) and we saw Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel as a family. It was a really fun night. I didn't even have to bake a birthday cake because Ethan requested that instead of cake, he wanted the gigantic ice cream cookie sandwich at Claim Jumper. So we had that with a candle on it. Yum!

Ethan had his bishop's interview this month for his baptism. He is so excited and so are we! Due to work schedules, we are having his baptism a little later in February. He is busy planning the program right now and is really looking forward to this milestone event in his life.

Ethan also started Cub Scouts this month! I have a Cub Scout! WOW... it is mindblowing to think that it seems like only a few months have passed since I was holding him as a newborn. Now he's planning for the Pinewood Derby and looking forward to all that cub scouting has to offer!

Sadly, a coworker of mine lost her husband in an accident on January 26, just two days after giving birth to her third child. We still do not know all the details surrounding his death, but we certainly mourn and pray for her. The nursing staff on my unit are holding a bake sale tomorrow in her honor to raise funds to help her out. Her children are ages newborn, 1 and 2. I can't imagine...

And unfortunatley, as I've already written about in detail, our home was robbed a little more than a week ago. As I've stated before, we are blessed in that nobody was home, nobody was injured, and the only things taken were of material value. I pray for the thieves that broke into my home. I hope and pray that they will find peace in their lives such that they will no longer make the choice to engage in this kind of destructive behavior.

And lastly, we enjoyed a wonderful day at church today. It was ward conference and I learned so much. There seems to be a real focus this year on the basics and I think it's very timely. Right now it seems as though the world is very chaotic. There is SO much going on around us. So many people are having difficulties with things in their lives. So I think that getting back to the very basics is so important. After church was done, we went over to the Worrells' home and enjoyed the afternoon with them. We got to meet their new puppy Jasper (yes, he most certainly IS named after the Twilight character!!). Our boys enjoyed playing with theirs. We enjoyed talking and the comeraderie of friendship. Of course we enjoyed a splendid meal as well. We mentioned before that we'd never had a fried turkey before and so John made one! We enjoyed turkey, mashed potatoes, bread and green beans. And we had brownies for dessert. The food was amazingly good. Mike and I both agree that we would LOVE to have fried turkey again in the future... it was wonderful! The picture at the top is the view I caught looking out from Jodi's deck. Spectacular view!

That wraps up a very busy and eventful and blessed January!! I should also mention that it's been unseasonably warm this January... in the 50s nearly every single day and not a flake of snow or a speck of ice to be found! We are NOT complaining... it's been wonderful! February holds much more in store for us. Mike is traveling again, we are celebrating our 11th anniversary, and Jodi and I are escaping to another concert! On Wednesday night we are heading out to see Elton John and Billy Joel perform at the Key Arena (FINALLY!!) This is the concert that was canceled in November due to illness. So it's been a LONG wait. I believe I bought these tickets last March or April. Feels good to finally use them! And of course on the 27th, our Ethan will be baptized. There is so much to look forward to!