The president of our church, Russell M. Nelson, shared an inspiring message with the world last Friday. If you didn’t see it, you can watch it here. It’s short but cascades with hope and healing.
In the midst of adjusting holiday plans to pandemic parameters, a third school shut-down where we are, and all kinds of mourning that seems to be coursing through so many lives right now, his words filled me with a sweet and calm assurance about the future.
As a former world-renown heart surgeon, he said the following:
Skilled scientists and researchers are laboring diligently to develop and distribute a vaccine against the coronavirus. But there is no medication or operation that can fix the many spiritual woes and maladies that we face.
There is, however, a remedy — one that may seem surprising — because it flies in the face of our natural intuitions. Nevertheless, its effects have been validated by scientists as well as men and women of faith.
I am referring to the healing power of gratitude. . .
I have concluded that counting our blessings is far better than recounting our problems. No matter our situation, showing gratitude for our privileges is a fast-acting and long-lasting spiritual prescription.
So President Nelson, at the incredulous age of 96, asked us to post for the next 7 days on social media things for which we are grateful, and to use the hashtag #givethanks. So this post, while also an attempt to (sort of) catch up on the last six months of our lives, will also be an effort to accept his challenge – to give thanks for the countless and glorious blessings we enjoy.
I have genuinely enjoyed seeing friends who rarely pop up on my feed, post a photo of something happy and meaningful in their life. I love that some people who post frequently have changed their tenor a bit, so that their posts look more upward and outward. Personally, I think it’s been a refreshing movement across our handheld screens.
I read recently, however, that for some, this constant flashing of everyone’s “gratitude” across their feeds, makes them feel sharply aware of their own losses or less-thans. A marriage that didn’t last, a parent who was in fact, not great, a job they did not get, children they could not have, experiences in which they have not been able to share.
That is the double-edged sword of social media, right? It does such a great job of linking us together, but other times it can hurt and only increase the isolation we feel.
My daughter Ali just got instagram. She is 13, and wanted to participate in President Nelson’s challenge. So we said yes. I tell my girls often that being on any kind of social media requires mental stamina to keep scrolling. It demands the ability to cultivate a sincere happiness for others and the skill of seeing your own blessings as different but equally representative of God’s love.
I guess, that is where we have to know ourselves well enough to know when it’s okay to pull away from our device and practice gratitude in our journals, or on our “turkey wall,” rather than on the gram.
No matter how we express our gratitude, I am reminded by President Nelson that we there is great purpose in not just posting, but praying to our Heavenly Father often, so we can connect, rather than compare. That divine connection is what brings real peace.
At the end of his message, President Nelson offered a beautiful prayer for all of God’s children. I felt like he was kneeling in our very own living room, praying for my family. He has seen enough grief in his personal life that he knows how to mourn with God’s children, and his knowledge always gives me a sense of hope and determination to press on.
While these images are in no particularly order of ranked gratitude, I do feel the need to start here. With these 6 individuals ⬆️ and ⬇️. They are the ones teaching me to truly love. I’ve thought so many times during this pandemic how difficult it would be to live alone.
I’m grateful every day for a happy marriage. Life is hard, marriage requires so much work, but Doug’s humor and devotion hold our family together. I will love him forever.
Taking care of these five kids keeps me busy and gives me a purpose. Loving them, with a devoted companion like Doug, is joyful, hilarious at times, and of course, frustrating. But I have to remind myself, I longed many years for these five souls and when I stop to truly see them, I remember, being their mother is the greatest privilege of my life. They are each their own being, unlike any other who has walked this planet.
We celebrated Halloween with Doug’s special Halloween dinner, costumes, and some trick-or-treating. In masks. 😷
Costumes were a last minute deal this year, since I wasn’t sure if we would go trick-or-treating. But a couple days before, the boys decided to “verse each other” and be UTAH vs. BYU fans. These two universities make up our state’s biggest rivalry.
I have to pause here to give a shout out to Eliza’s darling friend, Kate, who made these masks for the boys last minute. She has a mask-making business and can do custom requests – whatever you want. She specializes in kids’ sizes. They’re perfectly made and comfortable! You can find her on IG @masksinthemaking.
I am so grateful to live near the mountains. Having these beautiful peaks as our backyard is one of my greatest joys. A month or so ago, we went up to Alta to check out the ski resorts. Looking forward to more snow!
I love the natural world. I think it holds the grandest artistic displays. Look at how this skiff of snow formed a maze-like design on top of frozen water.
The majesty of autumn color is always breathtaking.
Every November, the south slopes of Millcreek Canyon float away in these cottony puffs of vine. This year I stopped to take photos and Saydi helped me figure out what the vine is called. It’s called Old Man’s Beard. Isn’t that the perfect name?! Mother Nature never ceases to amaze.
I am grateful for the chance to cook and bake more often through these “at home months.” Would you believe this was my first successful cinnamon roll bake? (The last one was. . . well, unsuccessful.)
I love watching my children develop the gifts God has given them. Sometimes it’s a windy road to figure out those passions or purpose, but I’m trying hard to zip my lips and let the kids decide. I am realizing they know themselves better than I think they do. I cannot corner them into what I like and love. That may stifle them, or keep them from the very things they are destined to do. This is a tough walk as a parent. I’m still learning and I pray every day that my children will become who God wants and needs them to be.
Ali has come a long ways with dance. She is currently working on a solo piece for competition and I cry when I watch her practice. It’s beautiful. She has had a rough go of late. Last year we learned she has scoliosis and in the last few months her pain has increased to the point where sometimes she’s so exhausted from not being able to sleep comfortably, that she can’t go to school. Or can’t make it to dance because the pain, which never seems to let up, takes so much out of her.
We just started with a physical therapist who is absolute magic and she is confident we can, at the least, get Ali out of pain and help her continue dancing. It will be hard work, but Ali is up for it. I am so grateful for Amy, this therapist, who has given her life to understanding the body and manual therapy, so she can literally change the course for an individual like our Ali.
Just thinking for a little while that scoliosis might prevent Ali from dancing, I have considered the reality of our true essence as individuals. We are so much more than a single sport, talent, or activity. The activities we participate in do not necessarily define us. They can bring us satisfaction, meaning, and happiness. They might even bless the lives of others, but they are not all that we are. We are worthwhile, beautiful, and loved, simply by taking breath on this earth. And where one door may close, I believe a multitude of windows will open to us. Ones we might never have considered.
I am grateful for sunrises and sunsets. This sunrise was during the terrible summer fires of California. For days, smoke would drift east from California and settle in our valleys. This was such a tough year for natural disasters. I am so thankful Mother earth keeps trying to heal herself so she can care for us. We need to do all we can to care for her.
I am so thankful for this girl’s happy spirit. Doug and I were just saying yesterday how resilient and joyful she is. Every single day. It’s unusual. I do not have that same constant joy, but she is always happy. She’s been like that since she was a little girl. It is one of her divine gifts and I am so grateful she brings that happiness into our home.
Eliza went on her first date this September. Homecoming. It had to be rescheduled twice due to friends needing to quarantine, but they were finally able to pull it off.
She went with this darling boy, Damon. He was so sweet and polite and it was extra fun that they were in a group with so many of their friends. One of our friends, Rob, bought a bus a few months ago, and he offered to be chauffeur for the evening. A perfect way to get a bunch of sophomores (who mostly can’t drive) where they need to go!
Rob souped it up with a nice stereo system so they had tunes and could all ride together!
I love all these girls and I’m hoping to get to know the boys better this year. But Covid is making it super hard to hang out right now!
How is she growing up so fast?!
The boys make me laugh.
I am so thankful for music. Sami recently performed at her school’s Steinway Concert. This is the second year she has played in this performance and they play on a full size Steinway. A cool opportunity.
Listening to good music can alter my mood, lift my soul, or spark a spontaneous dance party at home. ☺️
This photo? Well it sums up how grateful I was for school to begin again. Ha! Here we are trying to take back to school photos and these two boys can’t stop teasing and tussling with each other. I was SO ready for them to go back to school! 😂
5th grade this year and I really do love them. They need to be with friends and learn via resources beyond their chrome books. So I am incredibly grateful for all the teachers coming to school this year, making it possible for my kids to attend face to face class.
Spence has a funny sense of humor, is silly, and likes to be the family entertainer. He can do some pretty great impressions. Most recent, was his Trump impersonation during dinner. Oy. But there exists a sweet side of him as well. This morning he said, “Mom don’t leave yet,” (I was sitting on his bed to wake him up) “I want to give you a hug.” I fear these moments will be gone all too soon.
Gordon has lots of clever ideas, can remember concepts well and likes to tell me exciting things he has learned at school. He has a good sense for others who are in need and I am so glad he will occasionally still snuggle on the couch with me. Both boys are continuing comp soccer and are on the same team. They are still playing guitar (Spence) and cello (Gordy) but with serious resistance. When do I say uncle?
8th grade this year for these two. We hosted a little breakfast first day of school for their friends. In masks.
Let me tell you how amazed I am with all these kids going to school in masks. We, parents, can barely get through one grocery store run in a mask, but these kids are wearing them all day, then going to their sports or activities in them. . . I am amazed. And when you ask them about it they just say, “I’m used to it now.” So impressed with them! 😷
Ali has a tender heart and is very intuitive. She’s always been an astute observer of life around her and what others are feeling or thinking. She is doing junior high dance company and watches the covid case count in our school network like a hawk. 🙂
Sami is unusual in her steadiness. She is constantly in good humor, reliable, and often pitches in to help with dinner or shepherd the boys along. She took a brave leap and tried out for the HS prep basketball team. I’m so proud of her courage just getting out on the court.
One photo without masks!
Eliza, sophomore year.
I have to show you the sewing camp Eliza put together this summer. She taught small groups of 5-6 girls beginning sewing. They made tote bags, aprons, pillows, scrunchies, and key chains. She created all the designs herself.
We cut and pinned outside, sewed inside with the doors open, and thoroughly loved every little girl that came.
She’s planning to do it again next summer!
Okay, now for a big announcement. Did you know my Dad remarried? Over a year ago? I think life felt so crazy at that time and I couldn’t find the right way to write about it. But, yes, he did. And she is lovely. Her name is Sue. They knew each other way back in the years when they were both raising their young families. Sue’s family lived nearby. But just far enough that none of us really knew her. Sue’s husband passed away a year or so before my Mom.
It’s such a blessing these two can share their later years together because a few months after they were married, my Dad was asked to serve a medical mission in American Samoa. Then Covid hit and everything came to a stand still. No one was going on or off the island. Borders closed.
But the government hospital there has been in great need of a board certified ER doc for years. So the governor finally said, “This is silly to have him waiting in Salt Lake. Let’s find a way to get him here!” So after many negative covid tests and crazy travel plans, they finally boarded a Coast Guard flight in Honolulu and took an 11 hour ride on a prop plane to American Samoa with FEMA. Samoa doesn’t have a single case of Covid and they’d like to keep it that way.
They left end of August and have been there about three months. They are loving it all. The people, the children, the beautiful islands, the generous church members, and the other docs that help staff the hospital. Hopefully he can get a real name tag soon. 😂
My Dad has limited supplies. He’s still trying to round up medical grade surgical gloves and a stool. This photo makes me cringe when I think of his back. Not sure he can hold up like that for very long. Hoping he can find a rolling stool soon! He finally got a headlamp. You can see in this photo, the woman holding up her phone is shining her phone light, so my Dad can stitch.
They are absolute troopers and I’m so grateful Sue was willing to go anywhere they were called, and with a happy, adventurous attitude.
Occasionally they will set up a clinic on one of the outer islands. This is the island of Manu’a. In one day my Dad saw 47 patients there. They have no health care on the outer islands so when there is a clinic, they come!
Sue is working in the schools with the special needs children. She has degrees in counseling and psychology and I’m so glad she has also found ways to contribute.
While this photo only holds three of the cherished friends I have in my life, I am grateful beyond words for all the friends who have informed my life path, taught me through their example, generously served me, prayed with me in times of need or sorrow, and laughed with me until my cheeks hurt. I treasure meaningful relationships and good friends are priceless to me. I can’t imagine getting through life without them.
“My gratitude for good writing is unbounded. I’m grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean. . . For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper, unfolds world after world after world.”– Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
Good books have not just guided my life, they have steadied it, yanked me out of self pity, sent my heart flying, held my grief, and exploded my small understandings. I am currently working through these reads above, 📚and some for the second time, because they are that good, that true.
I am thankful for every single young woman in our neighborhood that I get to love and serve. I see firsthand how inspired, brave, intelligent, resilient, hardworking, compassionate, and capable they are. I believe the future has been intentionally placed in their competent hands.
Covid foiled most of our plans this year but I’m so glad we squeezed in a summer day camp for each of our age groups and made some wonderful memories together. Shout out to Jared and our Via Ferrata crew in Ogden. This “iron rod” experience with our older girls was incredible.
Floating the Provo with our younger girls.
Went horseback riding, hiking with our sophomore girls.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to be with our 9th grade girls for their camp. I hope each girl knows how deeply I care for her.
I learned recently that every teen needs three adult mentors beyond their parents. Adults they trust that can offer sound advice and can safely guide them along. I love that our church has a youth program set up to provide mentorship like that for my own girls.
Lastly, and most importantly, I am grateful for Jesus.
He makes everything else I have listed possible. He created this earth I enjoy, provided a way for my family to be together beyond death, heals my wounded spirit, forgives me, grants me gifts and abilities, built and restored a church that gives me so many opportunities to grow and serve, and on and on and on.
I love this painting by J. Kirk Richards called “Christ among the Lepers.” I love it because I need this example every day. I need to be reminded where Jesus would hang out, who He would notice, those to whom He would reach, include, even heal. I do not always remember this and I am trying to do better.
Happy Thanksgiving to you. You, who are also my friends. I’m grateful that although I don’t write as often these past few years, you still visit. I hope the healing power of gratitude is at work in your life and may your celebrations this week be sweet.