Thursday, November 20, 2014

Can You Say BOOK CLUB!?!?!

So!  I officially belong to a book club.  A LEGIT book club.  Like so legit that they have been reading books together for over 10 years and have a monthly record of the books they have read, which they like to stroll through every once in a while.  Made up of some of the funniest, most honest people ever!  Not to mention the after treats that I partake of, but do not always furnish :)  It may be the BEST THING TO DATE that I love about Payson, UT!

I started the year of 2014 with a goal.  I was going to read 24 books this year!   Honestly, this was a really exciting goal for me.  I LOVE to read.  But that was not always the case.  When I was a teenager, I received a blessing that instructed me to read "good books" that would enrich my life. (like not just the scriptures etc which I love the most, but....books!)  My love for literature was not instant, but Harry Potter may have been accelerant....and I may or may not think that he is real sometimes :)   And I may or may not sometimes still cry when I remember that Dumbledore is dead.

ONWARD!  This year, I was going to Make TIME!  If something was important enough to be instructed about, I should probably get on with it.  I have read 20 books to date, and loved most of them....(which I will list soon hereafter).  What I have loved the most about this entire goal is what I have noticed about me.  And it all came together for me during a Young Women's lesson this week taught by my friend Stephanie!

We were studying the Word of Wisdom and the blessings to body and mind that come with it.  I read this particular verse.  Doctrine and Covenants 88:124

Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.

I hope you don't find this a stretch at all, because, it all made perfect sense to me.  I have always wondered why that phrase in red was included in a verse that seemed to be about good health.  Then I realized that this last year has been a little different for me.  Because I have been reading, I have had very little desire to talk bad about people or things or insignificant things in general.  It is like my thoughts have been elevated.  Gossiping doesn't seem to be much fun!  I would rather talk about China!  AND BELIEVE ME, THERE IS A LOT TO TALK ABOUT CHINA!!!!!!

Work through makes sense eventually :)  So now for the books!  I will list them in the order I read them and rate them or caution them for your reading pleasure!

1.  Elizabeth Smart, My Story
I had to read this in one day....getting to a happy place before I went to bed.  It is hard to read, but she is AMAZING and her story needs to be told.  
2.  The Great and Terrible- The Brothers
This book made me think more than any other book this year.  I eventually read this entire series.  Although the character development is sometimes a bit shallow, the story line is intriguing and worse yet, possible!
3.  Assisted by John Stockton
I have elevated Stockton from a good guy to a HERO!  Great book!
4.  Great and Terrible -When Angels FAll
5.  Gifted Hands!
There is a quote by C.S. Lewis that says "since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage."  Ben Carson is one of these!
6.  The Great and Terrible #3
7.  The Great and Terrible #4
8.  The Giver
An all time I have not seen the movie!
9.  The Great and Terrible #5
10.  The Great and Terrible #6
11.  God's Double Agent!  Bob FU
By far the most influential book I read all year.  I have been changed!  READ IT!
12.  Strength Training for Women
13.  My Name Used to be Muhammed
The story was fascinating.  Some of it was hard for me to hear.
14.  I Knew their Hearts
15.  The Secret Journal of Brett Colton
An all time favorite!  One of the few I could read over and over.
16.  Heaven is for Real
17.  A Distant Prayer
Another to add to my book of Heroes!
18.  When the Bough Breaks!
I love the writing more than anything else in this book :)
19.  The False Prince
Slow to start, but left me wanting more....Christmas maybe ...Jared?
20.  Bishop's Agent

I plan on meeting my goal by finishing when I am already reading, The book of Luke, My December Book Club Book, and "A History of the Lost Rhoades Mines."  Just so I can talk to my Brother -in-laws about their crazy stories :)  


Friday, October 3, 2014

Happy Conference Weekend!

So!  We have a lot of family visiting this weekend!  Yeah  for Conference Weekend!   A couple of days ago, I started wandering around my pantry and making a list of meals, treats, and favorites for the weekend festivities.  Quite normally, I found myself saying, "Oh, I really should make some of my taco soup, DAD loves that.  And oh!  Pick up some nuts from Costco..he loves those too!"

It only lasted for a few seconds, but the thought of my dad coming to my new house, eating with us, and TALKING! JUST TALKING!  Almost left me in tears....But not for long!  Thank Goodness for the Gospel of Happy Endings!

I have long loved General Conference!   It always happens at the very best times of the year!  And you had better believe that we are LOVING FALL this year!  We have  spent 10 long years without seasons....leaving us feeling like we live in the Garden of Eden!

But 7 years ago, Conference started to totally change my life!  Bishop Leavitt called me into his office to issue a calling!  There was not a name for it, because he made it up :)  But, one week later, I would be sustained as the "Ward Teacher".  A calling I kept for 7 years!  I loved it!

My job.  I was to teach every 5th Sunday Lesson, on a topic the Bishop assigned.  Topic:  whatever was weighing heavily on the Bishop's mind.  The Text:  The Latest General Conference!

I tried to remember the topics...try being operative!  Here are the few I DO remember!

*Using Technology
*Using the Atonement EVERY DAY
*Studying Scriptures
*Being Willing and finding the time to SERVE

I would be assigned my topic and then I would dive head first into the Conference Ensign Issue.   Marking and Marking and Marking everything that pertained to the topic, and the questions I had about it.  THE PROCESS NEVER FAILED ME...NOT EVEN ONCE.  I never had to go to another source.  The Prophets of Latter Days answered REAL LIFE QUESTIONS!

I love Bishop Leavitt for a lot of reasons (mainly his family :) But this opportunity he afforded me changes me still to this day!  Thank You Bishop!  Because of you!  I KNOW!  No more a stranger, tossed to and fro!  I know there are PROPHETS OF GOD!  They speak to  us,  if we cling to their words, WE GAIN THE ETERNITIES!

Happy Conference Weekend!  May your heart be soft!  May your ears be searching for truth! And may your answers be MANY!

Friday, September 19, 2014

It Is Time to CHOP CHOP!

I went to the Provo Temple last night.  It is the temple we are assigned to until the Payson one is completed!  At which time, you, all of my friends and family, are invited to the dedication  and party at our house afterwards :0  (See you then)!

However, back to the Provo Temple.  Throughout these next couple of paragraphs, it is imperative to remember that IT is the crux of this entire post!  However, we must start in a far away place.....high school.

My parents and my adopted parents (the Christensen's)  were excellent at teaching us how to work.  Their  escapades were many and opportunities abounded.  Today we we will focus on ROLLING TREES, my part-time, high school employment.  DON'T JUDGE.

If this conversation is to continue, I must briefly educate you!  In Idaho, we still believe in logging  (like chopping down trees for man's use :) So, after the trees are chopped down, the Forest Service would go in and plant tree seedlings.  These tree seedlings are very delicate.  They are stored in an ice cache until the day before they are ready to  be planted. At which time, Papa Joe, would dig into the ice cache with the back hoe, hit a tunnel, and Jay, Renn, Paul, Chris....would pull out massive boxes of trees.  The trees were then taken to a small warehouse consisting of barrels of burlap, tables, and a conveyor belt down the middle.

Within this warehouse, were two sets of people.  The Counters!  and The Wrappers!  If you were really talented, you got to be a wrapper:)  Just kidding Ernie! (kind of)!  The counters stood at the front of the warehouse, counting bundles of 25 trees, aligning their root collars, and sending them down the conveyor belt.  The rollers stood at the back of the warehouse.  Their job was to grab a wet, nasty burlap out of the the barrel, grab two bundles of trees off the conveyor belt, align their root collars, cut the roots to a certain length, and proceed to roll up the bundle, sealing it with a big rusty nail.

Paul, at the end of the conveyor belt, would then gather all bundles, and set them in the cold storage room, where the next day they would be retrieved to be planted.

The job would start right after school and end....well, when you got done.  Some nights, we rolled 50,000 trees.  Some nights we rolled 90,000! I bold that, just to make sure you know that was a feat of nature in itself. It was those nights that hold the memory that was brought to my mind as I sat in the temple last night.

Around 70,00 trees, life looked BLEAK!  We were TIRED, HUNGRY, and no amount of root beer barrels were going to ease our anxious desire to GO TO BED!

As soon as we felt like faking sick, a whispering started in the ranks!  Beginning at the head of counter's table (Bob)!  you would hear the faint sounds of "it's time to chop chop!"  Before you know it, the rollers were bombarded with bundles of trees!   Just when we were the very most tired, we were not going to be outdone by the counters, so it was also time for us to CHOP CHOP!  20,000 trees had never been counted so fast. All to the humming whisper of a conveyor belt and CHOP CHOP!  To this day, every tree roller knows  what it means to CHOP CHOP!

I  LOVED  this job!   I was surrounded by family!  Blood and Not Blood.  Believe me when I tell you that you cannot spend months with someone dressed in  grossly enormous bright yellow rain gear, smelling like a combination of dirt and formaldehyde and not become deeply emotionally connected :)

Now...Remember the crux of the story...The Provo temple.   I walked up to the doors of the temple last night, feeling like I had just physically rolled 70,000 trees.  Emotionally, I was weighed down to the tune of ISIS,corruption,and hopelessness on all accounts of what we call Public news!  I was ready to relax.  That is not what happened.

This temple is a MACHINE!   PEOPLE EVERY WHERE!  Everyone quietly hurrying off to an assignment. Lest you get visions of irreverence, stop your self there.  If there is such a picture as a SACRED URGENCY,  picture that!

At one point, I had to wait.  And as I waited, I listened!  There was a HUM of words.  The hum seemed to grow and the feeling I got seemed to intensify.  I felt  RIGHT THEN  and THERE as if I finally knew what it meant that the "WORK IS HASTENING!"  It is through the Power Of God on earth!  Through Covenants!  Through righteous messengers (on both sides of the veil)  that the bleakness will lose its clenching grip. 

Strangely, I whispered to myself, (which I do quite often) "I get it now."  I also felt Papa Joe there, and then the memory of ROLLING TREES.  The feelings and thoughts all seemed  to converge with a message from my dad.  I get it dad! Like never before, it is time to CHOP  CHOP!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Marriage is good :)

Jared and I have been married 13 years TODAY!  So in honor of contemplation I have made a list of why the last 13 years of my life has been AWESOME!  Fast, a blur, and tiring, but AWESOME.  INDULGE ME :).

1.  It is the BEST WAY for my kids!  There is something so GOOD AND SAFE about living within 4 walls that are are governed by two people that are totally and completely devoted to and love each other...Ask me, I know!  I was raised in one of those houses :)

2.  It is the best when there is someone to check up on you!  "Did you make it ok?"  "How is your day going?"  "I love you have a great day!"  Can you imagine a better text :). Not me!

3.   He does the dirty work!  Something in his genetic make up makes it perfectly ok for him to stick his hand down the dark slimy confines of the garbage disposal, fix a toilet, or remove the snake that enjoys our front yard!  My genetic make-up...does not!

4.  Can you say Reinforcement?  "What did your dad say?"  "What did your mom say."  Nothing gets by us :)

5.   He steadies me!  At the end of the day, when he is home and I am home....I know it is all going to be ok!

6.  I love to talk!  He loves to listen!  It works for us :)

7.  He takes over!  When I have done everything, I can do, and I am left exhausted!  Which usually occurs around 9 pm on Friday night :). I can can slip off to bed and know that the kids will be taken care of  and life is good!

8.  He makes the money and I get to spend it!  Seriously :). I can't think of a better arrangement!  In all  honesty, he is a wonderful provider and leaves me so greatful each day that I can stay home and be with my kids!

9.  Life is so FUN!  TOGETHER!
10.   And lastly!  He is my constant reminder of my greatest goal! My companion on the pathway to Eternal Life!  With HIM!  With Heavenly Father, my kids, and the myriads of family that make me complete!

Today is 13 years, but it is only 13 years and COUNTING!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Just a Piece of a Puzzle:)

I inherited this piano from my mother's basement, who inherited it from her mother, who purchased it for her oldest daughter, Barbara, who was somewhat of a musical prodigy.  Barbara was my oldest Aunt, I never met her, she died shortly after giving birth to her first son Eddie.  And yet here I sit in Payson, UT with her piano.
I learned to play on it (we use the word "play" lightly).  It is so heavy, it should have been buried in my mother's basement and died there with the Yellowstone Super Volcano, if it were not for my brave husband, brother-in-laws, and Christensen boys.  The trek from out of the basement to Nevada to Utah, has nearly killed a  lot of people, and demolished the side of my dad's Pick-up.  But it will follow us wherever we may go.
It sat in our Overton home for many years in slight disrepair.  Several of the keys  needed a new ivory shell and the tuning, hammers, strings.....need  I go on.   I kept saying I was going to get to it, but the time and the money never allowed the getting part to come.  However, Donna came to visit one time, and offered to tend the baby while I ran into a Dr's appointment.  I came home to find all the keys stripped and ready to be redone (not that I was ready, but it was now ready).  5 months and several  payments later, I sat down in my living room to gaze at the masterpiece, at which point, a soft, sweet thought floated through my mind, "I love your mother, She is a very special lady."  And for some reason, I knew those words came from my Aunt Barbara.
Ever since that thought, this piano has meant so much more to me....I am not sure I can explain that part of it.
Yesterday I had another, shall we call it a "Barbara Experience?"  Moving to Utah has put us closer to so many relatives.  The closest of which is my Uncle Keith in Spanish Fork.  He is an artist, in the truest sense. His home is filled with masterpieces and he is the master.  And if you can imagine, his kindness is even superior to his artistry.  Upon visiting my home he said softly, "Now when you get settled, come over and pick out a painting you would like."  I waited, less than patiently, and yesterday, I made the visit.
This painting is my treasure.
A couple of weeks ago, I was a bystander to a depressing conversation.  The jest of which was, "Do you ever wonder what this life is all about?  I mean, you work hard, you die, and then what?  No one remembers, no one cares, is it really worth everything we think it is?"  I sat formulating a response, but never dared intrude to give it.  So, to you cyber world, I will respond.
Thus, I receive so much satisfaction from serving in my church, building the Kingdom of God, building something that will last forever! Can you imagine!
And talk about SATISFACTION!  How about a family, that lasts, and lasts.....I am just a small piece of it, but as big as the eternities, because  the chain was meant to last forever.  I grip tightly to the piano, to the painting, to my kids, my nieces and nephews....because every piece of this familial puzzle that lands in my hands, is what makes life meaningful!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Planting Roots :)

Well, the transition has ended and we are officially here!  Payson, UT is our new home.   We uprooted and moved 5 hours north of home and, in all honesty, it feels like we have entered an alternate universe.

There are clouds here.  One morning this past week as we were walking to school, the kids could not quit staring at the clouds, "Mom!  That cloud is sitting right on top of that mountain!"  It was a very slow walk, but, YES!  We have mountains too.

On my morning walk/jog, I had a nice chat with 5 deer, which happen to frequent the field that resides a football field east of our house.

Sadly, I go to the grocery store and I know NOBODY.  I catch up on no friendly news.  Nor do I set up my visiting teaching appointments.  Sadly, the grocery store is just a grocery store!  And oh how we miss the two hardware stores that were a mile away from us!  They could have made a killing on our "finishing the basement " venture :)

Speaking of which.  I drove to Costco yesterday, simply because it was Friday and I didn't want to make lunch.  Can you say samples?  Can you say alternate universe?

It is August and the trees don't look like they are going to spontaneously combust!  Sam, Gary, and I went to Farmer's Market last week.  There was SO MUCH PRODUCE :)!  But alas, no figs :(

I can't keep up with the online yard sale.  It goes too fast and it would be a full time job!  I quit!

Jared teaches in a Seminary that looks like a Grade School!  Next to a high school that looks like a Jr. College!  Gone are the days of "let's go to the church to see dad!"

Did I mention that it RAINED here!  Hands down, I think we might be living in the most beautiful place on earth!

Just like Overton, Payson is full of good people!  We a re a little homesick for "The Village" :(

All in all, life is good, let the root planting begin!

Monday, June 30, 2014

From Whence Your Christmas Lights Came?

The Foster Family has a friend.  He could and should appropriately be called family.  And his name is WALLY,yes, Wally!  He is one of a kind.  And sometimes we think he is completely crazy.  Like the summer (much to Jared and I's delight) that he decided to get rid of ALL THINGS MADE IN CHINA that he possessed.  Luckily, Wally is a SHOE SNOB,  Luckily, Jared has the same size foot as Wally, and Luckily, all of Wally's shoes cost more than our cars :)

Well, I thought he was crazy.....until I just read my last book.  "God's Double Agent, Bob Fu."  Which is a chronicle of one man's religious persecution from the Communist Country of China, his escape, and his life-long mission to help other Christians in China.

My whole life I have heard about communism, about China....but really, the date is 2014.  People could not possibly still be being tortured and murdered.  After all, all I have ever known was America (some days freer than others) communism seemed so far away, dream-like.  Never as bad as it was made out to be.  Not for Wally.  Wally tells his own story of escaping from Russia just after World War II.  Burying his puppies alive, and children falling off the escaping truck. Wally, the Chinese way of life hit a little too close to home.  Purging all things China felt right to him.  After this book, it felt right to me.

Before you read this short story, I would like to ask you, where do your Christmas lights come from?

I…became aware of thirty-three-year-old Liu Xianzhi (her English name is Sarah Liu), who was one of four women declared innocent in the retrial verdict.  However, she and the other women were sent to “reeducation through labor” camp, a fate worse than prison.  They stripped her, used three electric shock batons on her simultaneously, torturing her on all parts of her body.  When she cried out, they put the flesh-searing shock baton in her mouth.  It burned her so mouth so bad that she couldn’t eat for several days.  They also used this baton on her genitals, which caused so much pin that she eventually was sent to the hospital unconscious.  The doctors and nurses asked her tortures, “How could you treat a girl like this?”
After Sarah was released from labor camp, we rescued her through an Underground Railroad system stretching from China through Southeast Asia.  We arranged for local Christians to cover her with leaves in the back of a truck, where she stayed for hours, completely still.  Then they drove that truck, with her in the back under the wet, heavy leaves, across the border to Burma.  There, local people created fake identification for her, which identified her as a member of a minority tribal group.  To make her appearance match that story, they fixed her hair, put makeup on her face, and sent her into an underground railroad of believers who were willing to risk their lives to save hers.  Then after successfully navigating that maze, she swam across a river to make it into Thailand. 
Still, she wasn’t free. Once she was in a remote area of Thailand, she was in more danger than ever.  She needed to get to Bangkok, but the windy roads were dotted with police checkpoints.  Without a passport, she’d certainly be sent back to China and put right back into jail.  I sent a friend of mine from Hong Kong to help her.  After exhausting every other option, they realized the only option was to go to the nearest airport and fly.  Even though she didn’t have a passport or valid identification, they did just that.  Miraculously, none of the airport officials asked her to show any identification. 
After Sarah had managed an escape worthy of a James Bond movie, she had yet to face the mountains of bureaucracy the United Nations would throw at her.  They presented so much red tape that we wondered if she’d ever be allowed to leave.  The US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, John Hanford, who was appointed by President Bush, personally took our phone calls, called the UN, and demanded they speed up the process to grant her refugee protection.  Sarah got her approval within a month because of his direct and decisive intervention, and she finally arrived in America in 2005. 
When she was safely in America, Sarah Liu and two other refugees form the South China Church all resettled in Midland (Texas).  The Midland community helped provide support for their living expenses under ChinaAid.  We invited them over to our home during the Christmas season.  We watched as Sarah walked ever so slowly up our Christmas tree and stared at the lights twinkling on and off, absolutely mesmerized. 
“Those are just decorations,”  I explained. “They’re on a string.”
I pulled out a package and handed them to her, so she could see what they looked like before being draped over the tree.
She took the string of lights out of the package faster than I could blink, her hands untangling them like she was knitting a blanket. Within seconds, she had completely unwrapped and disassembled the lights.  Then she looked up at me with the various parts I her hands.
“I assembled these in my labor camp for sixteen hours a day,”  She explained.  We made Christmas lights and put them in packages that look just like this one.”

She then reassembled them just as quickly. The whole process took only seconds.