Monday, March 30, 2009

Top Ten Blessings Count

I have tender feelings for the hymns of the gospel. I first felt the spirit as a child singing next to my dad or mom. I have wonderful memories with so many of the hymns and nothing helps me feel the spirit more than their familiar words. Over the last year, the lump in my throat would make it impossible to sing their comforting words but instead the words became the pleas of my heart. Things are better now and I have been able to sing again. I don't sing well or on key (whatever that means) or the right notes, but I don't care. I sing as loud as I want. The words come from my heart.

I didn't get much sleep the last couple of days so maybe that has been why today has been hard. Anyway, I have been thinking of this hymn - "Count Your Blessings"

When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.


Count your blessings; Name them one by one
Count your blessings; See what God hath done

Count your blessings; Name them one by one

Count your many blessings; See what God hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?

Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count you many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.


When you look at others with their lands and gold

Think that Christ has promised you his wealth untold

Count your blessings; money can not buy

Your reward in heaven nor your home on high


So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
Count your many blessings; angels will attend,

Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.

I need to count my blessings. I think the numbness & shock of the last year is starting to wear off. The anger is subsiding and at times I feel overwhelmed with my reality. I am feeling very "tempest tossed." And so the Top Ten Blessing Count begins-

10. I have a job - a huge blessing in the current times. I have the potential to love my job and feel like I make a difference. I make enough money to provide for myself & Ryan. I am grateful that Heavenly Father put me in a job where I get so many sweet notes from kiddos that build up my seriously flagging self-esteem.

9. I am relatively healthy. I am not ill. My body has met my needs. Everyone thinks my gray hairs are new highlights. A Dr. at church has helped my back tremendously and generously made it affordable.

8. I have a cute cottage that has great potential in the adorable spectrum. Not there yet, but if I have a bit of time & money... It has met my needs. I have a great landlord that has provided a listening ear more than once. So many friends have thoughtfully taken care of so many needs and wants.

7. My sweet car runs and is cheap on gas. She is currently all one color without any rust spots. She doesn't leak when it rains. She is very forgiving and has been a true work horse. She needs a name. Lately, I have appreciated her so much that I have been thinking of keeping her until she dies of natural causes years from now. I almost feel disloyal to think of selling her for something better.

6. Sunshine & Spring. I feel hopefully. I itch to plant beautiful flower beds with veggies & flowers. I love the walks, the open doors, the days without the heater or the AC. I love seeing all the people walking around the Lake or hanging out at the baseball park. I wish it could stay 75 - 80 all summer long.

5. Friends. I could never say enough about the incredible people around me. I am so humbled by their examples, their thoughtfulness, their kindnesses, their love. And so many are kindred spirits - the kind of friends that you don't talk to for a year or two and when you do, it is like you just saw each other yesterday. They are the kind of friends that make me what to be a better person.

4. Nauvoo Pageant - the application process taught me some very personal spiritual lessons. The opportunity is almost like a dream that I can't quite believe it going to happen. I listened to the music we need to learn and I got teary-eyed. I just feel this is going to be a huge mile marker in my journey of life and I am so grateful for it. I am grateful to have something to look forward too. I am grateful that I will be there on the one year anniversary of the divorce. So grateful.

3. Family - Over and over again, I am reminded what a special family I have. We definitely have our own brand of disfunction, but at the same time we are amazing. I love my family & I am so grateful that I can call them my best friends as well as family. I am so glad that we get to walk the adventure of life together.

2. Ryan - Some blessings are so special it is very hard to express them. I could never convey what this sweet, obnoxious, wonderful, crazy, silly, wise, endearing boy means to me. He is growing up so fast, especially lately. I feel like the sands in the hour glass are slipping faster and faster and some days I just want to break the hour glass and stop time. I am not ready for him to grow up. I am still learning to live in the moment and soak it up. Yet at other times, I see glimpes of the man he is becoming and I look forward to knowing him as an adult, hearing his opinions and enjoying the ripples in the pond of life that he will make. It is my highest honor to be his mother.

1. The gospel of Jesus Christ is by far my greatest blessing. It gives my life meaning, purpose, and hope. It has provide a constant source of answers, comfort, love, hope, strength, and joy. It has given me an eternal perspective. It has challenged me, educated me, humbled me, and blessed me. I could never express what it means to me. I am so grateful that I know. I know God lives. I know He knows me. I know who Jesus Christ is & what he did. I know the "good news" of the gospel. I know.

I have taken a few days to write this post. I have so many other sweet, crazy, silly, wonderful blessings that I didn't list. My life is truly blest. The song has worked its magic - I am feeling less "tempest tossed" & less sea-sick. I see glimpes of sunlight and an amazing sky before me.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Yummy Oatmeal

I really like this oatmeal recipe so I thought I would share:

1 c. Apple Juice
1 c. Water
1 tsp. cinnamon
Mix together, bring to boil & then add:
1 c. Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

Stir together, cover & turn off burner. Let set for 5 mins. Then stir in:
2-3 Tbsp. loose brown sugar (not packed.)

I make this on Monday & eat about 1/3 c. each day of the week.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Break!!!

Has been so much fun! I keep forgetting my camera or the battery is dead so here are some of the highlights:

Staying up late & sleeping in.
Eating Corned Beef & potatoes on St. Patrick's.
Scrubbing the bathtub together rocking out to "Eye of the Tiger".
Loving every minute of the Science Museum.
The Explosions class at the Science Museum (please do not attempt this at home!)
Ryan cleaned the garage ALL BY HIMSELF. (and he did a great job too!)
Our first dance lesson in the kitchen.
Swimming for 4 hours at the awesome aquatic center we just found.
Eating chocolate dipped ice cream cones from McD's on the way home from the pool.
Watching old episodes of MacGyver on the computer.
Tickles & hugs & more tickles.
The "I love you Mom"s and the "I love you Ryan"s.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

St. Patrick's Day

Having bright red hair and fair skin, I have been asked many times if I am Irish. I believe we have a few drops way back when, but I have come to love this holiday for more reasons than just ancestry. First, I have been to Ireland. In college I was part of a touring singing/dancing group which toured the British Isles for 5 weeks. We performed in Belfast, Cork, & Limerick. I kissed the Blarney stone & roamed the Blarney castle ruins. I had an amazing time and would go back in a heart beat.

Secondly, I learned about St. Patrick. He was an amazing man and has become an example of faith for me. He was born Maewyn Succat in Scotland around 373 AD to a Roman Christian family. The Roman Empire was close to collapse and was being invaded by enemies. When he was 16, he was kidnapped & taken to Ireland. He became a slave to Irish chieftains and sold around. He spent much of his time alone tending the sheep & praying. He said,

"Every day I had to tend sheep, and many times a day I prayed - the love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened. And my spirit was moved so that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers and almost as many in the night, and this even when I was staying in the woods and on the mountains; and I felt no harm, and there was no sloth in me - as now I see, because the spirit within me was fervent. "
After 6 years of being a slave he had a dream where a voice told him that a ship was waiting for him. He felt that God was telling him to escape. He made it to the sea where he convinced a ship captain to carry him home to England. Once home, he was determined to dedicate his life to God amidst his father's protests. He went on to France to study religion and become a priest. He had another dream in that he felt God called him to be a missionary to Ireland. He began his mission in 430 AD (age 57) amid constant danger. He spent the next 30 years preaching the gospel of Christ. He was ridiculed, persecuted, and imprisoned. He wrote, "Daily I expect murder, fraud, or captivity, but I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of God Almighty who ruled everywhere." Legend says that he used the 3-leafed shamrock to teach the principle of the Godhead. History records that St. Patrick founded more than 300 churches and baptized more than 120,000 people. Many of his converts became missionaries to Scotland, England, Germany & Belgium. St. Patrick died in Ireland on March 17, 460 AD. Thousands of mourners attended his funeral carrying so many candles & torches that the sky was as light as day. ("The Holiday Book" by Jill Connelly)

Lastly, I was a missionary. I served for 18 months in Santiago, Chile. It was an amazing experience which I remember every day. One day I hope to go back. For me, St. Patrick's Day is a celebration of missionary work. I can relate to his love for the Irish people. I have that same love for the Chilean people. I also love that green is the color of St. Patrick's Day - green is the color of life and it reminds me of the new life we have with the gospel of Christ. The gospel makes us new again, full of life & possibilities, full of hope for the future.

I have been trying to be more choosy in decorating my home. I want my home to reflect what is most important to me, including the holidays. Anyway, here are a few pics of what I did this year.

Candles on rustic pillars (Dollar Tree) & a clock with Roman numerals. The candles remind me of St. Patrick's example to bring light to the Irish and his funeral. The clock reminds me of the time away from his family.

More candles surrounded by river rock. One day I want to etch words like Faith, Courage, Service, etc. onto the rocks.The rocks remind me that Christ is my rock.

I bought 3 plain green mugs from the dollar store and have them in my kitchen windowsill. I know the wreath's ribbon should be green - I just didn't get to it this year.

Also, I put out pics of my mission & I have an Irish blessing on a plaque that says:

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the Palm of his hand.

The best part was having Ryan home & celebrating with him. We had corned beef, baked potatoes and coleslaw. So much fun...

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Love-Hate Kind of Day

I love that I made it to Spring Break.
I hate that Ryan has left for part of Spring Break.
I love that I will be able to get sooooo many projects done while he is gone.
I hate that I will work at the school during Spring Break.
I love that we are going to PLAY when he gets home.
I hate that I came home to an empty house tonight.
I Love that Ryan called me tonight just to tell me about his day & that he misses me.
I hate that Tim got married today.
I love that Tim got married today & that Ryan got to be the ring bearer.
I hate that life is not fair.
I love that in the end, I won't care that life isn't fair. With the gospel, it is all good. Hard but good.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Marriage Thoughts

I have been doing a lot of thinking about marriage, analyzing mine & studying others. I thought I would record some of my thoughts so that I can read them later when I have forgotten the lessons I have been learning.

Divide & Conquer- is a myth. For some reason, Tim & I fell into the division of labor trap. I took care of the house, the kids, the budget & the homeschooling. He took care of providing for us, the outside of the house, vehicle maintenance, and larger projects. We approached most things as divide and conquer. Guess what? It taught us to work independently. It created a "Return & Report" feeling instead of a teamwork feeling. It also let each of us feel less responsible for the others' "duties." As a child, I went through the terrible twos. My mom told me that my favorite sayings those years was, "I do it myself!" I didn't want any help and heaven help anyone who tried. Call me a late learner, but I think I took the "I do it myself!" attitude into marriage. So many times it is easier than teamwork.

Together - If I could have a do-over, my theme would be "I do it together." Cook together, eat together, clean together, yard work together, budget together, change the oil together, bathe the kids together, homeschool together, work out together, play together, etc.

Ideas in Living Color:
Meghan & Jon- had a competition between them. Push-ups for him & sit-ups for her. I love that. They read books together. Once she told me that for their date night they went back home and read "The Count of Monte Cristo" together. They also attend the temple together even though it is a huge committment of time, money, & energy. I love their commitment to attend together even though it would be sooooo much easier to tag team (that pesky divide & conquer!)
Jay & Alisa - Jay came home the other night when I was there & immediately starting putting the house back together & helped her with dinner. I have seen him bathing their kids. Once I was at their house on a Sat. and Alisa asked Jay what he wanted to have happen with the discipline of one of their kids. I made a mental note of the parenting teamwork.
Sara & Shawn- Shawn reads books to Caleb while Sara reads books to the girls when they put them to bed. They both snuggle & tuck in their kids at night - together, at the same time. Not one watching tv & taking turns to say goodnight to their kids.
Ben & Judi- They cook together, at the same time, in the same space. Sunday nights they both sit down with their school age kids and go through their books and they decide together what the homeschool assignments will be for that coming week. Ben takes the kids and they all cheer for Judi at her running races. And they participate as a family in the kid runs.
Kevan & Klarissa- run together. They ran 3 miles together two nights ago. They also work out with their kids. I love that.
Cindi & Ken - read the scriptures with their kids together, as a family. They have are diligent even though they only have some of their kids half the time.
Warren & Micki- Sit down together & budget. When I lived with them, he would write it up & then they kicked all of us out of the kitchen (they had 8 kids + me) and discussed it together for 30 mins. They also fast as a family together every month. And everyone helps make Sunday dinner together.
Bobbi & Tony- play with their kids together. Everytime I pick up Ryan from their house they are doing something with their kids together. Once they were playing on the slip & slide - all of them. Another time they were playing the wii. I've seen them all together playing basketball, volleyball, & swimming. Last week, they were reading a book aloud on the couch - the boys were all freshly bathed & in their jammies & they were all smushed up together on the love seat. Love that.
My Mom & Dad - worked together. I have so many memories of cutting wood, planting the garden, canning, or building fence together. I hated doing the chores on the farm by myself, but I loved doing them with another family member.
Vickie & Clark- talk together. I would see them taking walks together all the time in Oregon. Once, we spent the night at their house and in the evening, when all the kids were in bed, they would talk together. No tv, just some soft music, reading & talking.

Which brings me to my next observation. TV. We didn't have one that work most of the years growing up. It did work with the VCR so we would have family movie night on Sat. nights as a reward because in our house "Saturday was a work day". I truly hate tv. It is a vortex that drags me down to hours of idleness. And I have noticed that most of the families that I take note of either do not have a tv or they rarely watch it. Tim & I sold our ancient tv when we first moved to Oklahoma and were tv free for almost a year. At the time, I was the one who wanted one when a friend offered an old one to us. Tim was gone to school ALL THE TIME and I was very lonely in a new city with a one year old. Our computer & stereo had been stolen a few weeks after we arrived here & I was very lonely. If I could have my do-over, I would have gotten gotten a library pass. I wonder how different our marriage would have been if we hadn't had that diversion. For us, tv created a lot of wasted moments. It created a lot of envy & false expectations of what the "Jones" had. In later years it created a gulf between Tim & I as I didn't want to watch some of the shows he was interested in. In the evenings, I would end up on the computer while he was watching tv. No togetherness.

So, those are some of my thoughts. Interestly enough, this divorce has made me believe in marriage even more. Eternal love is real. It is tangible. It is possible. It is togetherness.

"I do it together."


First, a huge thank you to all of you for your comments, both published and private. I really appreciate your support as I write bits of my story.

A few weeks ago a piece of siding fell off the front of my house in a wind storm. I told my landlord & left it lying there because, frankly, I can't keep up with the inside of my house, let alone the outside. A few days ago I came home and the siding was back up. I went to thank my Landlord and he said, "It wasn't me. We are going to come to your house this weekend & tear all your siding off and put it back up the right way. I bet it was your neighbor. He is good like that." In our conversation, it became apparent that my neighbor has also been putting away my trash cans for me for months and has occasionally mowed my yard.

Wow. I hope that it can be said of my one day, "Oh, Julie, she's good like that." I feel silly, but I get teary-eyed everytime I see my trash cans up by the house now.

Then, one of my friends called that received a Single Awareness Day card with a challenge called and reported that they had spent part of the money to pay for the person behind them in the drive thru. We started talking about how good we both felt doing things for other people and how it doesn't have to cost money. Taking in my trash cans doesn't cost a thing and yet it is a priceless gift. The traffic getting to school in the mornings is pretty bad where I work. My lane always has the right-of-way and I watch as car after car go by without letting in the other lane. It doesn't cost anything to let another car in & start their day off with some kindness.

I love service. I love that sweet feeling when a bunch of us get together & help each other. I love how much can get done in a few minutes when we work together. I love how the ripples of service go on forever.

It all reminds me of that commerical-
Goom, fear, & despair - free
Bad Economy - trillions of dollars
Random Acts of Kindness - Priceless

Sunday, March 1, 2009

One year ago today...

Tim asked me, "If we got divorced, would you take Ryan & move to Washington to be with your family?" His words seemed like a foreign language, but his tone of voice immediately got my attention. This wasn't a "what if" tone. It was a making plans tone.

I didn't even know what to say. Finally, I stammered out, "what are you talking about? We are married. I am not going anywhere." My brain wouldn't compute for a few weeks that he was.

I have been dreading the anniversaries that have been awaiting me. February 22, 2008 was our last date night together to the Ward Valentines Day party. I had thought we had such a good time. I am so grateful to good friends and a loving Father in Heaven that allowed that day to pass virtually unnoticed by me.

As I sat in Stake Conference today, I let the past year wash over me. As I replayed the year in my mind, I was overwhelmed by the Lord's blessings. I feel so much stronger than I was a year ago - I almost don't recognize the woman I was then and I know where that strength has come from. It wasn't me.

I recently saw a picture of Christ praying in Gethsemane and the speaker questioned how would we act if we could hear Christ praying for us. In a strange way, I feel like I have felt him praying for me this past year. It has made me stronger, try harder, softened my heart, and brought me closer to the Spirit. Today, one of the speakers talked about trials and how at the end of them, looking back, we gain a certain gratitude for them. I still wish that I wasn't divorced. I wish that Ryan could have had the amazing blessing of growing up with both of his parents, parents that loved each other. But since this did happen, I am so very, very grateful for the blessings & lessons & strength from the Lord.

Step by Step

Day 20 Stumbles - Temptations - For a while I've wondered about personal temptations. It has felt like Satan wasn't really worri...