52 Blessings: Week 52

Week 52.

This entry is the last one in the project for this year.  I spent a grateful hour on Sunday afternoon reading through the other 51 entries, remembering, and giving even more thanks for a seemingly charmed life.  The truth is my life is equal parts joy and sorrow, equal parts easy and hard, equal parts drudgery and bliss.  But this project has given me new eyes for seeing the beauty and grace of every day, for finding the gold in the sand, as it were. (I keep coming back to that.)  I am filled with gratitude for the exercise itself.  The more I tried to look for blessings, the more I found.  The more I looked for the hand of the Lord, the more I saw it.  By the end of each week, the hard part was always choosing just one blessing to record.  This revelation is a gift in itself.  And I’m convinced that this way of seeing changed my year, for the better.  The greatest blessing of my week came as I read through week after week of grace and blessing, a whole year’s worth, and saw my life from a distance for what it really is…a gift.  All of it, a gift.  Straight from heaven.

I take these new eyes with me, into the next 52 weeks.  And I don’t know that there could be a better blessing that that.

52 Blessings: Week 51

Week 51.

Another week full of (car) challenges.  And blessings, car and otherwise.  But the greatest blessing of my week came on Tuesday as I addressed and wrote my Christmas cards.  It is one of my favorite activities of the whole year.  I love the whole process.  Finding the cards, writing the letter, buying the stamps and a new pen for addressing.  David suggested once that he could quickly print some labels for me and "save me a step."  I was horrified.  I love, deeply, going down my list.  At each name I remember, and thank heaven, for the blessing each person is in my life.  Name them one by one.  It is like a little reunion for me, me doing all the lines, remembering the last time we were together.

On Saturday night, we had a candlelight dinner at my parents' house. My brother Matt shared this quote from Elder Holland:

My beloved brothers and sisters, I testify of angels, both the heavenly and the mortal kind. In doing so I am testifying that God never leaves us alone, never leaves us unaided in the challenges that we face. “[N]or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man [or woman or child] upon the face thereof to be saved.”  On occasions, global or personal, we may feel we are distanced from God, shut out from heaven, lost, alone in dark and dreary places. Often enough that distress can be of our own making, but even then the Father of us all is watching and assisting. And always there are those angels who come and go all around us, seen and unseen, known and unknown, mortal and immortal.

It reminded me of my Christmas card list.  Of the angels, seen and known and mortal, that have blessed my life in countless ways, especially when I was in "dark and dreary places."  I was so grateful this week for that list, for the love that it represents, for the kindnesses unrecorded and innumerable, and for the undeniable ministering of angels.

52 Blessings: Week 50

Week 50.

This week's blessing is sacred to me, perhaps too sacred to talk about properly.  But I will try.  The week was full of stress and trial.  We had to replace two tires on our Expedition, and we found out that David's car has to be completely replaced.  David felt particularly bad about this last bit.  Adding all this to the extra activities and expenses of the busy holiday season left us both feeling overwhelmed.  I picked David up from work on Friday night, and we had one of the best conversations of the year.  I reminded him, as I was reminded on the way to get him, of Elder Wirthlin's final talk: Come What May, And Love It.  We determined to do just that.  I was so grateful for living prophets and apostles, who receive heavenly inspiration and bless our lives in countless ways.  Amist everything, David came home on Thursday in the afternoon to switch cars.  I was at home, typing our Christmas letter.  He leaned down and kissed me hard.  He leaned his forehead on my cheek and said, "I'm so glad I have you in my life."  The greatest blessing of my week was being in a covenant with David.  Come what may.  There is no greater blessing than to have each other in times of worry or sorrow or grief or joy.  And to know that we are known by heaven.  And I count these tender, poignant moments with David as the greatest blessings of my week.

52 Blessings: Week 49

Week 49.

This week Caleb had his aerospace challenge all day on Tuesday.  I was nervous for him.  His group had 10 separate groups of judges who each came to ask about a different aspect of the project.  After months of work, he had spent the last week or so memorizing the area, oxygen needs, water needs, and waste recycling processes of his hypothetical space station.  As I was taking this picture, I thought the greatest blessing of my week would be this moment, as I saw him carefully and earnestly explaining the irrigation needs of the 600 square meter greenhouse, and the estimated amount of oxygen one leaf can produce every hour.  But then today at church in testimony meeting, he walked purposefully to the stand and poured his heart out about how much his parents are a blessing in his life, how he knows they will help him with whatever he needs, and even counseled the other children in the congregation to be grateful for their good parents.  David grinned over at me.  I just swallowed hard.  And wiped my eyes.  And thanked heaven for this good and righteous boy, who tries to be as obedient and faithful in everything as Caleb of old.  I am more grateful than I can say for this experience I had with my boy, to be his coach, to be his mother, and to be a witness to his goodness.

52 Blessings: Week 48

Week 48.


(This is not the actual "blessing list."  I took this picture a week or two ago because of the position of milk and honey that somebody added to the list.  I smiled to have them there so close together.)

Of all my homemaking chores, I dislike grocery shopping the most.  Well, except for maybe windows.  But it's still up there.  I often have nightmares about trying to grocery shop and remember lists and think up menus and get out of the store in time to meet Ethan's bus...terrifying, I know.  (There is no end to my "crazy.")  So the Thanksgiving shopping trip is one of the more daunting tasks of the year.  Usually it involves two carts.  Enough said.  David, knowing the heaviness of the task, volunteered on Tuesday night to do it for me.  Just like that.  I protested.  "I'll have to make a list."  He said, "Okay."  And went for paper and pencil.  I protested more.  "I'll just do it tomorrow...you won't know what I usually buy."  He looked at me then as if to say, "I've been married to you for a while now.  I think I can handle it."  I gave in and made the list.  And an hour and a half later, the job was done and put away.  Just like that.  Easily the greatest blessing of my week...compassion and a gift of service tailor-made just for me.  I was so grateful, and a bit teary, the next morning when I opened the door of my full refrigerator.  I was sustained this week by that food in more ways than one.

52 Blessings: Week 47

Week 47.

(I used this picture of me in my talk on Sunday night.)

My week started with a blessing, the greatest blessing of my week it turns out.  Last Sunday night, I had the opportunity to speak at Stake Standards Night to the youth in our stake.  And as hard as I find these speaking assignments, I love the opportunity to really feel the Spirit and take my plea for help to the Lord.  And plead I did.  On Sunday night as I stood to speak, I felt the hand of the Lord leading me along, the voice of the Lord whispering in my ear.  Somehow he knew what these youth needed.  It always humbles me to see his love for his children, and this experience was no different.  As I talked, they listened.  As I told stories, they laughed.  But really, they were simply responding to the spirit.  And it was amazing.  I always think, "Cast your bread upon the water and it comes back toasted and buttered."  It has never been otherwise for me.  I felt the gifts of heaven poured upon me and I was so grateful for the knowledge that He knows me, loves me, and always helps me.  And when we climbed in bed, and David pushed his nose into my neck and whispered, "It was so good, sweets,"  I felt pure joy.  Completely blessed by an outpouring of the spirit.  Despite my weakness.  Despite my wandering.  I felt directly blessed by heaven. 

52 Blessings: Week 46

Week 46.

I intended to write about something else.  But just now, as I started, I remembered this blessing and changed my mind.  This week I was especially grateful for the blessing it is to iron David's shirts.  After Ethan was born, I started taking David's shirts to the cleaners to have them ironed at $1.25 a shirt.  Money well spent, I thought.  But with the economy being what it is and Christmas coming and all the rest, I decided I need to be more thrifty, and so a while back I re-started ironing his shirts.  Six per week.  (He wears a t-shirt on Saturdays and I don't iron those, though my grandmother would.)  And it has been a surprisingly delightful task.  Quiet, satisfying, and gorgeous hanging in a row.  Every time I iron a shirt, I thank my Heavenly Father that David has a good job to wear his shirt to every day.  And every time I iron the yoke, I think about all that is resting on David's shoulders and all the burdens and worries he carries for the rest of us.  The greatest blessing of my week was ironing and hanging these shirts one by one in David's closet.  And the multitude of blessings that row of collars and cuffs imply.  Plus I love the smell of starch and steam.  Mix it with aftershave and I'm a goner.

I'm including this gorgeous piece of my Grandmother's writing as well because I cannot iron anything without thinking of it:

"[Laundry] done, the next chore was to dampen them down with a shake of dripping fingers, roll them up in little bundles. Cuddled in the clothes basket, they looked like loaves of bread dough set to rise. Here they waited for the next day when the four boat-shaped flat irons were placed on the coal stove, more fuel put on the fire, and each of us girls took our turn at smoothing out wrinkles of an apron, shirt, or dress. When one iron became too cool, it was exchanged for a hot one by releasing the clamp on the curved wooden handle.

"I wonder if my children aren't missing some of the labor, mess, and satisfaction of doing the laundry as it was done in the good old days.  The modern ease and convenience of our automated lives has taken something besides the drudgery out of the domestic scene."

52 Blessings: Week 45

Week 45. 

Let me be clear: this is not to brag.  This is only to record and remember one of the greatest kindnesses I received all year.  On Sunday, I gave my third gospel doctrine lesson.  I had thought and prayed and fussed about it for weeks.  I talked to my brother, Matt, and my dad, who is about the best gospel teacher there is, and asked for help and advice and wisdom.  They generously gave me all of these.  The lesson included chapter 54 from Isaiah, and I found this comforting because if there is one thing my dad has taught me, it is how to read and understand Isaiah.  Remarkably, he never thought it was above us or too hard for us to understand.  I gave the lesson to the best of my ability and I felt the spirit.  That was all I could hope for.  I taught the class some of the things that my dad had taught me.  I closed the lesson with my testimony and asked a man in the class, Brother Brenchly, to say the closing prayer.  The words of his prayer were the greatest blessing of my week.  In an act of kindness that left me speechless and overwhelmed with gratitude, this brother humbly said with a tender crack in his voice, "We thank thee, Father, for our teacher who has been prepared her whole life to give this lesson on Isaiah."  And at his words, I was thankful too.  For his sweet words.  Could a kinder thing be said?  They were a balm to my tortured, beleaguered spirit.  I was immensely grateful to be a part of a community of believers that would minister to me, inadequate as I am, with so much care.  I was thankful for my dad, who taught me the scriptures from my youth.  And especially grateful for the poet-prophet Isaiah, whose words are so beautiful, the Savior of the World quotes him. 

52 Blessings: Week 44

Week 44.

There's no place like home.  I was so grateful this week for a safe arrival home.  As simple as the word is, it contains the whole world for me.  The greatest blessing of my week was to be back around my table, back in my husband's bed, back in our prayer circle, and even back at the stove and the washer and the sink.  The other day I grinned as David said, "We have the perfect pumpkin house."  Indeed.  And it is so like him, (so nostalgic and so charming) to buy a house that, despite its flaws, would be perfect for pumpkins.  I love this house with its pumpkin wall and especially the darlings inside it who make my homecomings the sweetest joy of my life.  I am so happy to be home.

52 Blessings: Week 43

Week 43.  (A week late.)

My blessings were many this week.  I was so happy and grateful to be a witness to the tender mercies of the Lord this week, as I traveled to Houston to help my aunt Jill with Quilt Market.  I have an amazing and long-suffering and everlastingly kind husband who happily "held down the fort" while I was gone and even vacuumed for my homecoming. 

But the greatest blessing of my week came quietly on Thursday morning as I was doing Olivia's hair for school.  Ethan has just started reading and was practicing his latest book, A Tiger in My Box.  Savannah sat next to him and helped him sound out the words, one at a time.  As I turned to look at their down turned heads, bent over Ethan's book, I was touched by Savannah's kindness.  I was touched that she is now a good enough reader herself to help her brother and tell him all about "king E" and "sight words" and "what short i sounds like."  But above all of this, there was Ethan's earnest, quiet, hesitating voice, making its way word by word through the book.  Of all the joys of motherhood, this is one of my favorites.  I love watching my children learn the indescribable magic of reading, the world of words.  I was so grateful for this experience one last time.  For the sounding out and the frustration and the wonder when the word finally reveals itself.  It will be over before I know it.  I know this for sure.  Just look at Savannah.

52 Blessings: Week 42

Week 42.  (Only 10 left.)

This is a simple one.  On Monday night, we had family home evening as usual.  It was David's turn to give the lesson.  He gave a sweet and simple lesson about our testimonies, about the five parts of a testimony, and used a glove and pictures to illustrate the five parts.  Then he bore his testimony to the children, one of the most powerful I've heard, and then had each of the children stand and bear their own testimonies, using the five priciples he taught us.  It was a sacred, reverent moment.  I was touched by Ethan's question mark at the end of each sentence, and Savannah's hesitancy, Olivia's earnest exactness, and Caleb's branching, growing faith.  Like watching a testimony grow right before my eyes.  I was so grateful for David's leadership and love.  (I would follow him anywhere.)  This simple, tender fifteen minutes in our family room, filled with the spirit, was the greatest blessing of my week.  It reminded me of why we are here, why we're together, and why it must be a wilderness.  There is no other way to gain a testimony.  And I was deeply grateful for this little view of eternity from my fallen family room.

As testimony fills my heart, it dulls the pain of days.

For one brief moment, heaven's view appears before my gaze.

52 Blessings: Week 41

Week 41.

I met the man I love and married at BYU, and this week he took me back there for the homecoming game.  Well, actually he took all of us.  It's no longer just the two of us.  As we sat high up in the football stadium drinking hot chocolate and bundled in our blankets and beanies, I looked over at this man and counted his red cheeks and boyish grin as the greatest blessing of my week.  To say nothing of his blue, blue eyes.  (They have always been my undoing.)  It was an absolute joy to be in the very crisp fall air, snuggled together, cheering the Cougars to victory, and singing the old fight song every time we scored.  It was all his idea.  "Let's get away.  Wouldn't you like to see a football game?"  This game, in the perfect football weather, in a stadium where they start the game with prayer, in the mountains where my real life began, was an absolute blessing to my school-weary, schedule-heavy soul.  And I am so grateful to have been there, again.

52 Blessings: Week 40

Week 40.  (This picture was taken in front of Lucy Mack Smith's kitchen sink this summer.)   

This week I was so grateful for the words springing up towards eternal life that were given at General Conference.  My heart has been full of worry and concern over the state of our economy, our political leaders, the looming last days, and the wickedness in my own heart.  And so I was especially grateful for the talk given by Elder Holland on Saturday afternoon.  It was a balm on my troubled, aching, hard heart.  It was the answer I had been praying for.  And it touched me deeply.   His talk reassured me that heaven is always very close, and that His help is always very near.  This was the living water I came thirsting for, reassurance and a call to be more angelic.  These words were the best blessing of my week and my cup was filled to overflowing.  In many ways I think the worries of women are universal.  In my mind I can see the scenes changing, from the well, to Lucy's soapstone sink, to my well-lit kitchen, and always the ever-present need for water, to wash our children and make our bread and clean our clothes.  And though my water runs right into my house, hot or cold, I have the same deep need for help and guidance and salvation that these women had, to make my "daily trips to the well" worth the work and to give me the strength and courage for the lifting and carrying and balancing this earth life requires.   As much as I need the water, I need the words even more.

52 Blessings: Week 39

Week 39.

Virginia Wolfe "On Being Ill":  "how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed..."

It was difficult to choose a blessing this week.  As I sat next to David in sacrament meeting today, singing the hymns of the restoration, I was deeply touched by the wonder of my life.  The blessings of my week passed through my mind, one after another, each one as precious as the next.  But among all my blessings, I was deeply grateful to be healthy again.  At the beginning of the week David picked up this prescription for me and it was my sweet salvation from sheer misery.  This little bottle and a few gallons of cranberry juice were the greatest blessings of my week.  How grateful I am to live in a time and place where relief is so readily available.  There are few feelings as delightful as the relief of waking up "better."  And this gentle grace made all of my blessings taste sweeter this week, and made me remember what a gift each healthy morning really is.

52 Blessings: Week 38

Week 38.

I met my very good friend, Merri, for breakfast this week and we discussed our progress on our "secret pact," our experiment on the word, as it were.  We were both delighted to find that we are happier, that in fact our experiment is working.  This breakfast, omelets and juice (though Merri's juice looks more like Diet Coke), and the very best kind of conversation was the greatest blessing of my week.  In fact, I confided to Merri that this monthly ritual may turn out to be the best blessing of my whole year.  I am so grateful to have a faithful friend with deep faith.  I am so grateful for her brilliant idea in the first place and for the many ways it is blessing my life.  I've started a journal to record the fruit of our little experiment and someday I will share it.  But not yet.  It is just taking root and I have to be careful. 

But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.

This very good seed, sprouting away, was the very best blessing of my week.

[And I bet you didn't know that Merri and I became friends when we were called to visit teach together.  And as long as I am counting my blessings, I will count that one as well.  I am so grateful for the inspiration and care that put us together in the very beginning.  There are no coincidences.  I thank heaven for that.]

52 Blessings: Week 37

Week 37.  (This is one of the best weeks of the whole year for me.)

Harvest and home and the blessings of heaven.  These jars of peaches sitting on my kitchen counter represent all of these to me.  I love, (in the tingly-schoolgirl-crush way and the sacred-married-truelove way) canning season.  I love the gorgeous, ripe fruit.  I love the sight of the empty glass jars sitting on the counter waiting to be filled, mouths open waiting to be blessed with bounty.  I love the juice dripping down my arm as I peel the fruit, and the sight of the jars slowly filling with treasure.  I love the pop of the lids as they magically seal all this goodness for later.  As I stand in my own kitchen, I remember standing in the kitchen on 300 East with my mom, putting the peaches right-side-up in the jars because my hand could slip easily in and out of the jar.  I remember watching her pull jar after jar out of the canner, the sound of the whole kitchen popping away, her careful handwriting as she labeled the jars, and helping her carry load after load of them down into the dark basement.  The greatest blessing of my week was putting these peaches into jars and onto my own shelves.  They look like jewels to me.  This week I am so grateful for the heavy boxes full of fruit, for the work, for the complete satisfaction of pulling hot jars from a canner, for my full shelves, for my memories, for my full heart at the beginning, middle and end of canning days, and mostly for these shiny, sweet jars of the best treat on earth. 

52 Blessings: Week 36

Week 36.

This week Savannah was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The sister who spoke at the baptism explained to the kids how this was like a second birth and I was undone when I saw her walking down the hall holding David's hand in her bare feet.  Those bare feet reminded me palpably of her other birth.  The greatest blessing of my week came as Savannah came out of the water and I got to help her out of her soaking wet dress, heavy from the water filling the layers of organza and satin and netting.  As I unzipped her dress and wrapped the towel around her eight-year-old body, I keenly felt the differences in the way I wrapped her now and the way I had swaddled her at her birth.  I could see how much she had grown, how much she knew, how capable she was, and how much my role as her mother had changed, and had to swallow tears of equal joy and grief.  As I combed her wet hair and tied her velvet ribbon, I felt distinctly how she now belonged to her Heavenly Father and in a moment of perfect clarity, how she always had.  I felt so grateful for the privilege of simply being the one to help her in and out of her dress, as it were, just as I had been the one to help her into her sweet little body on a Tuesday morning more than eight years ago.  I stood in awe of the plan of happiness, of a Father's love for His children, and the power of ordinances to seal us His.  And I was so grateful to have been a witness to my girl's birth, twice now.

52 Blessings: Week 35

Week 35.

The Fall (you know, the big one) has been on my mind in earnest this week, and I have felt heavy and simply achingly sad as I have contemplated the fragile nature of life and the harshness of life here in the "wilderness."  On Sunday morning, I awoke with this feeling still haunting me and exhausted from the busyness of the week, I briefly thought about staying home from church.  But I told David that I stood in need of comfort and so I was going to church.  I was so grateful as I took the sacrament, to remember my Savior and his constant succor.  There was a touching talk which reminded me of truths I already know, that as Christ suffered, in his moment of deepest sorrow, His Father sent an angel to comfort him.  And that He does the same for us.  But I was most especially grateful for the closing hymn.  As I raised my voice and sang these words,

Oh, refresh us, oh, refresh us, Trav'ling thru this wilderness.

Oh, refresh us, oh, refresh us, Trav'ling thru this wilderness.

I clearly felt the comfort of heaven and a fervent gratitude to know that we are not traveling alone.  The greatest blessing of my week came from singing these simple lines, written more than 200 years ago, by John Fawcett who, though separated by time and specific experience, must have felt at some point, the same feelings I felt this week, here in the lone and dreary wilderness.

52 Blessings: Week 34

Week 34.

Each one of my children ride the bus to and from school, and even though David thinks this is the height of childhood tragedy, I am immensely grateful for the beautiful, yellow buses that shuttle my children to and from school every single day.  Caleb is over 7 miles (and 40 minutes roundtrip) from his school, and my other kids are across a very busy street from their school, which I would have to drive them across without the blessing of the bus.  I am so grateful for these bus drivers who know my children's names and show up every day to drive them across the street or clear across town.  Returning to school makes me weary in so many ways, and this week I am so grateful for the bus, which makes this part of my life just a little bit easier.  Most mornings it feels like the kindest gesture anyone could do.  

52 Blessings: Week 33

Week 33.

My youngest child started school this week.  It really did feel like the beginning of the end.  And while I want my children to be educated and expanded, there is a part of me that wants them to just be mine.  I know that this is not the plan, not possible, and not even what I really want for them deep down.  But still.  So my greatest blessing of the week occurred five times last week, when Ethan climbed down the bus steps, each one as tall as his calves, and ran for me, arms stretched wide.  I am so grateful for this moment in my day, so grateful for his running, sweaty hug, and the simple joy of reunion with this little boy.  One morning as Ethan was dressing, he said exuberantly, "Mom, I love school!" and then apparently seeing something in my face he quickly said, "Oh, I love you too."  I had to turn my head and wait for my heart to start up again.  Motherhood is a blood sport.