January 28, 2013

Soldier Hollow with the Student Alumni

On January 11, I took the Student Alumni officers inner tubing at Soldier Hollow for our winter retreat. They are a really great group and tons of fun to be around. Although it was an incredibly chilly 3°, we had a blast. Chloe joined us because I got tickets for our family and the Mc family to go in February. However, Chloe will already be in the MTC, so she came with the students. And, I think she probably had a much better time hanging out with kids more her own age.

Below is the only photo I got because I couldn't stand to have my hands out of my gloves for too long.
I'm telling myself that I look like a huge whale because of all the extra layers I'm wearing. 
Chloe and I did a daddy/daughter train down the hill, and I attempted to record it for posterity.

After two hours tubing and freezing completely, we all warmed up with Mexican food at Tarahumara's.

I'm going to miss Chloe when she leaves soon for Alabama, and I'll miss these students once the semester ends. I may look my age, but I sure feel a lot younger when I'm around them.

January 25, 2013

Chloe's Farewell

Chloe gave her farewell talk in church last Sunday. It was a full house, and Chloe did an amazing job. In fact, I thought her talk sounded more like a talk given by a returned missionary. I was very proud and kept thinking throughout her talk that she's is going to make one extraordinary missionary. However, looking back on it, I think it was rather cruel to ask me to give the closing prayer. How was I even to be expected to keep it together. I had to pause at one point to keep from completely losing it. If seriously felt like it lasted 10 minutes.

We still have a couple of weeks before it's "AdiĆ³s, Chloe!" Her report date is Feb. 6. You can count on a blog update then.

Family came into town to support Chloe. We started off by going to an early morning session on Saturday at the Provo Temple followed by all-you-can-eat french toast at Kneaders. After church on Sunday, the family came over to the house for a taco bar and cake.

Grandma Jo came up from California.
Oma and Opa joined us from Idaho.
The cousins 
And here is our family.
Um Chloe...The camera is over here.
Liam! Knock it off, or we're going to be here all afternoon.
Finally got it right.
Here is a copy of Chloe's talk. She ad libbed an introduction, and bore her testimony in Spanish at the end. I, of course, only caught a few words of the testimony, but Spanish speakers in the ward were very impressed.

“Our message is one of faith and hope in the Savior Jesus Christ.”

The United States Declaration of Independence, primarily drafted by Thomas Jefferson, was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. This document contained a simple but powerful phrase that would perfectly define the quest that many men and women would undertake; “the pursuit of happiness.”

In 2011, 4,000 books were published on happiness. The most popular class at Harvard University is about positive psychology, and at least 100 other universities offer similar courses. Happiness workshops for the post-collegiate abound, and each day "life coaches" promise bliss to clients of their seminars. I got many of those statics from searching on Google, so I can’t guarantee how accurate they are. However, I believe we can all agree that humans innately crave happiness. Yet it seems that in this mad frenzy of information, many do not know where to find it.

President Boyd K. Packer, in summary, stated that wherever we go, members and missionaries have only one message to share and it is one of the comfort, hope and happiness that comes through our Savior, Jesus Christ and his infinite Atonement.

It’s very possible that many of you have read Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. That, or you Spark Noted it for your high school English class. Regardless, I think a very valuable lesson can be learned from an exchange between two of the characters. In a very tender moment, Atticus Finch speaks to his son Jem. He said, “There's a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep 'em all away from you. That's never possible.” Just as Atticus understood that he could not keep his child from making mistakes or encountering evil, our Father in Heaven understood that He could not keep us from facing temptation and sin as we gained mortal bodies and came to this Earth. I’m sure, though maybe in different words, God also thought how he wished he could keep all of the ugliness we could potentially face, away from us. However, in his infinite love and compassion, he did give us a gift much greater than anything we could comprehend, or may ever comprehend in this life: the Atonement.

It is recognized doctrine that without the bad, there could be no good. We cannot appreciate the sweet without the bitter. It would be ignorant to believe that Satan is not an active member in the plan of Salvation. Without him, our agency would not be tested here on this Earth and the Atonement would not play a key role in our salvation. However, this by no means makes him the hero of our story. He seeks to destroy our own personal pursuits of happiness through bombarding us with the temptation of sin. Though this may be done in the most cunning and subtle ways, the consequences can be catastrophic. Whether religious or not, many today are burdened by the decisions they have made and feel that they have traveled down a road too far to turn back. Brothers and sisters, this is simply not true. By no means am I implying that I fully understand each person’s situation, but I do know, if even in a small measure, that God’s love for us is so great that he will not let us fail. However, I believe that sometimes we neglect the idea that God never once said resisting temptation and sin would be easy. He knew that our time on Earth would not be one of smooth sailing, yet it is because of this fact that he gave us His son.

C.S. Lewis, in his theological book, Mere Christianity describes this principle in better words than I could ever produce. He states that, “Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. ... We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means.”

What a beautiful concept this is! Christ is the one to which we may turn when we feel that our temptations and our burdens are too hard to bare. He understands our situation perfectly. Often I find myself becoming frustrated that regardless of my best efforts, I seem to keep slipping at the finish line when trying to overcome a temptation placed in my way. Yet never before had I considered that Christ is the one man who can completely understand how difficult my situation is. He knows that what we are up against is not something of a small nature, by any sense of the definition. Though I understood that though the Atonement, he knew what sin felt like, but I never had fully considered that he also understood temptation or guilt.

Beyond his sympathy and understanding, Christ provides for us a way of erasing sins from our life’s slate. He is a means of cleansing, that we may return spotless before our Heavenly Father to live in an eternal state of deep joy and love.

Our Savior, Jesus Christ, loves us more than we can comprehend and his Atonement was meant for each of us individually. Once again, I can’t even remotely claim to have even a small grasp on this love, or to understand the Atonement in its entirety, yet through small moments in my life, I have been able to understand parts. Parts that will hopefully make a whole in the life to come.

When in a place of sadness, I believe that sometimes the hardest thing to remember when we are ridden with the guilt of our past is the simple truth that the Savior died for us individually, and he believes that we are of infinite worth. It is through the Savior that we can find peace and hope through our deepest trials, while our successes, large or small, shall be enhanced. Our burdens can be lifted, and Christ will give each of us every opportunity to accept the fact that our lives can become "unmanageable" without his help. His presence offers an indescribable peace to the soul, and I testify of his power and love for every one of us. He'll help us if we ask. He will never leave us alone.

Jesus Christ and his Atonement has given me a glimpse of the person I'm capable of becoming and of the divine potential of every person I have the privilege of meeting. That amazing vision becomes clearer to me every day as I learn of Him. The more I rely on His Atonement, the more reliable I become to myself and to everyone else.

I also want to touch on a subject concerning the Atonement that I find beautiful and marvelous, yet is something that I have only really began to ponder until the past few years. I have come to realize that the gospel can be lived in different ways. I know it’s a simple thought, but there is great truth behind it. Though God’s commands remain the same, his children are each very much their own individuals, and how grateful I am for that. Each of us leads a radically different life, with different interests, different perspectives on gospel topics and most importantly, different relationships with the Savior. The fundamental steps of utilizing the Atonement in each of our lives may be the same, yet each of our journeys to becoming a God or Goddess is and should be different. The Atonement was meant to be individual because Christ did it for each and every person. He knows your name; he knows how you feel. Developing a personal relationship with the Savior can deepen our knowledge and appreciation of the Atonement. I would like to challenge each of you to re-evaluate how you utilize the Atonement in your life. Don’t compare it to your neighbor or friend, but truly seek to know it for yourself. The experience of the Atonement is different for each person, and I find that to be one of the greatest blessings of all.
As I leave to serve a mission for the Lord, my greatest mission shall be to inform the people of Alabama that Jesus Christ loves them. Too many today feel that they are alone, yet they could not be more wrong. Though Christ was abandoned in his moment of greatest agony, he shall never abandon us. Converting every person I meet would be quite the unrealistic goal, so I decided that my personal objective was to at least let the people I do speak with know that someone loves them. Someone thinks they are worth it. Someone believes in them. That someone is Jesus Christ. I think that is the mission we can all take upon ourselves, to act as Christ would; to be his disciple. The greatest way that we can share the blessings of the Atonement and the beauty of the Plan of Salvation with others is by first loving them, serving them and acting as Christ would. This will in turn, will strengthen our relationship with the Savior. Though we can’t always find an opportunity to teach a discussion, we can always find time to be kind.
Before I begin to wrap up, I’d just like to bear my testimony to you all briefly of how the Lord plays a role in our lives. His Plan of Happiness, with each of its elements, is designed for us. In preparation for my mission, I’ve frequently been asked questions similar to, “How did you decide to serve a mission? How did you prepare yourself? Were you planning on it?” Let me try to explain. Being the music buff that I am, one of my favorite stories of one of my favorite musicians, Elvis Presley, is that of him receiving his first guitar. One Christmas, as a young child, Elvis had expected to either receive a gun or a bike as his gift, but definitely not a guitar. However, underneath the wrapping paper, he found a 1940s Kay Guitar. Though maybe confused or disappointed at first, on the whim of his parents, he took that guitar and eventually went on to become one of the greatest musicians of all time. Music was his life. I promise, I’m going to make this relate. I can already see some concern on your faces. Even though I’ve thought I had a plan for my life, Heavenly Father has placed some metaphorical “guitars” into my “Christmases” that left me a little confused. I didn’t really understand why these things happened to me until later, but now I can look back and see that Heavenly Father has been preparing me to be what he knew for a fact I could become. He’s had me in missionary training for a lot longer than I even knew. The instances where I abandoned my own original plan and sought to follow his will, in hindsight, have been key in preparing me to serve a mission. Though I didn’t always know that I’d be standing here today in front of you, Heavenly Father did.

January 22, 2013

Gingerbread House Demolition 2013

Last year, we began a new tradition. Now on New Year's Day, we dispose of our gingerbread houses in a most entertaining and festive way. Click here to see the inaugural event, and to read about the creation of our 2012 gingerbread house,s click here.

This year, we didn't actually get around to the gingerbread fun until the 5th, and it was an extremely cold morning—only 3°. But, we had a great time.

There was only one problem though—I was the cameraman. In addition to my fingers freezing, my brain froze. Watch the video, and you'll see what I mean.

I'll do better next year. I promise. 

We have decided to add to the tradition though. Next year, we want to make an additional house. The extra house will be covered in candy we actually like to eat and picking at the house WILL BE allowed.