17th Aug, 2008

Summer Breeze

…I wish we had one. Summer breeze, that is. The summer has been long and hot. When we do have a breeze, it’s a stiff wind in front of a monsoon. And those are best when we get rain in addition to the wind. Oh well…in a few weeks it will start cooling down. Then I’ll have about 6 months to remember why we live in Arizona.

A few quick hits:

-We (I mean Jana) sold the girls’ bunk bed on craigslist. We’ll probably be moving our queen in their room for them to sleep on, and getting a king in our room

-I went to Ann Arbor, Michigan last week for some software training. It was beautiful. Trees really are very nice things.

-Jana has about 5 1/2 weeks until her due date, 9/24. We’re still thinking of a name for the little guy. Jana thinks he might come a few days early.

-Since I last wrote, we went to Newport Beach for the annual summer vacation. Jana and Eliza saw Wicked.

-Last week, Grandpa Elcock took me and our girls, along with Brian and his girls, to Lake Pleasant. See here for the story and pictures.

-Anna recently turned 3, Eliza is staring down 5, and I had a birthday. We’ve had quite a few parties this summer, with more to come. I think Anna is about to have her 4th birthday party this weekend.

11th Jun, 2008

Brother Ricky Schroeder

Growing up in the 80′s, I used to watch the show Silver Spoons. I found out today that the star of that show, Ricky Schroeder, is now a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). (I am also a member of the LDS Church, for those who don’t know).

Here’s a recent article about him and some aspects of his faith. His wife Andrea said a couple things that I endorse:

”God has (made) us with this infinite potential … it’s beyond our comprehension,” she said.

Instead of comparing their abilities to others’, people need to see ”God as our gauge … because we’re all created as unique individuals,” she said.

Looking to God as the primary source of our love and our identity is important. The opinions and judgments of men and women may fluctuate, but our Heavenly Father is constant. He is always waiting to love us.

26th May, 2008

A Zoo-per Memorial Day

We had a good Memorial Day.

First we had breakfast at home. Next we went to the zoo for the balance of the morning. The girls enjoyed the monkeys, the merry-go-round, and the giraffes. Jana enjoyed the train ride and the family-together time. I enjoyed the nice weather (not too hot, even just before noon when we left for home) and the price ($2 for the whole trip!).

After lunch at home, we finished staining the new wood for our gate. The girls even helped out. For scripture study, we read about Alma’s conversion in Alma 36. In their picture Book of Mormon, the girls read (and asked many questions) about Nephi and Lehi not getting burned in the fire.

Later, I took the girls swimming at Jana’s dad’s house. Jana picked up some pizza, and we ate together on a blanket. Now, it’s quarter to ten, and I’m the only one awake in a house of 3 tired girls.

I appreciated the American flag posted in our yard by the ward deacons, in remembrance of Memorial Day. I am grateful for all those who have fought, died, and sustained, injuries defending freedom and liberty for the United States and all throughout the world. My prayers tonight will be for the loved ones they have left behind. God bless them.

20th May, 2008

Expecting Great Things

Most of you reading this already know, but for the rest of you (and for those who might need a reminder for whatever reason): we just found out we are expecting a baby boy. He is scheduled to join the earth school September 24th. We are excited, although we’re having a harder time thinking of boy names than we did girl names before!

When we first told our girls, they were kind of confused and a little disappointed. After all, all they know is girl kids in our family! But they’ve come around to the idea now. Eliza even told Jana that it’s good that we’re having a boy, because right now we only have 1 boy in our family (maybe she thinks I’m overwhelmed, I’m not sure). As for me, I think that whoever and whatever we have, they will be special. Just being a child of God makes anyone a special individual with infinite worth and all kinds of capability. And being alive is a great blessing!

UPDATE: We’re not the only ones in the family having a boy this fall! My brother Brian and his wife Julie will be having their first boy (to go with 4 girls) this October. Add that to Spencer and Stephanie having little Spencer earlier this year, and our little guy will have boy cousins born this year on both sides of the family. Not to mention his sisters and all the other cousins to play with.

14th Apr, 2008

We’re Back!

Yes, we’re back – both in Arizona, and on the Internet.

Short travelogue:

We drove up to Utah (Perry, to Ben & Kristen Ashcroft’s house) back in mid-March. The girls played with their cousins, Jana visited with her sister and helped with their twins, and we had a good time for a week. I also got to visit my college roommate Hank Howell and his wife Julie in Providence. Then I flew home to work for a week and a half, and to move furniture around while we had new carpet installed. On Friday 4/4, I flew back up to UT. We watched most of General Conference, and I went to the Priesthood Session with Ben and our father-in-law Ned (of Ned’s Krazy Sub fame). Finally, we drove home to Arizona Sunday afternoon 4/6.

It’s a week later and we’re still assimilating back into normal life. It’s good though. The girls have enjoyed having their cousin Bailey here for the last week.

The NBA Playoffs start this weekend, and the Suns are looking pretty good right now.

Oh, and although most of you reading already know this, we are expecting our 3rd child on September 24th!

And through the chaos, we just keep on keeping on!

9th Mar, 2008

Practicing Snow Angels

This Saturday we will drive up to Utah for our annual spring vacation to the Ashcrofts’ house. The girls are already getting prepared – click on the 2 links below to see them practicing making snow angels on our kitchen floor. We’ll see if Perry, Utah has any snow for them!

Snow Angels

Snow Angel

I was writing an e-mail response to my old Thailand mission buddy Hank Jenkins tonight. I wrote about something that I want to touch on a bit more here…real love versus false love.

I look at much of the world’s offerings as false love in various forms. Whether it’s power, money, sexuality, material things…each of these can be alluring in its own way.  When pursued as ends themselves, each of these can be addictive and even destructive. Then, why do good people sometimes pursue them?

I think often the answer is that people are looking for love…but in all the wrong places. Worldly things cannot fill us with good when they are ends themselves. However, each of these things can take its appropriate place in our lives when we pursue God our Heavenly Father first. Power can be righteously attained through obedience to God and through the Priesthood. Money can be used to bless our families, the Church and Kingdom, and good causes of all stripes. Sexual intimacy is meant as a sacrament, as Elder Holland has said, between a husband and wife who love each other. And material things can be used as tools to strengthen relationships, make memories, and bless the lives of others. The key is priority.

The scriptures and modern prophets teach that Satan is the father of lies. I sometimes think of that as his church calling – to entice, lie, and lead us to have fear rather than faith. Then when I feel fear or temptation coming on, it helps me to think something like, “Oh, that’s just ol’ scratch doing his church calling! You’re sneaky, but no thanks.”

When we come unto God as the source of all power and all love, we are told that we will never thirst. His love will fill us with the REAL love, satisfaction, and peace that we all truly seek. We sometimes falsely believe that other things will fill us, but as primary love sources they can never do that. Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ are our primary love source. Their love is real; it’s better than any false version out there. And They know best what we as humans need because They created us and provided the way for us to receive all that They have. The more I think about, study about, and communicate with Them, the more I feel like the real, eternal me.

Ain’t nothing like the real thing baby!

Jana and I bought a juicer at Costco last Monday. We love it. We have made fresh juice every day since then – in several combinations of apples, nectarines, oranges, strawberries, pears, grapefruits, and bananas. A few times I have made juice instead of snacking on something less healthy.

It has already made a difference in how I feel. I think this is a parallel lesson to the idea that happiness is an inside-out job. How we feel physically is impacted by what we put into our bodies (I know, not rocket science!). What we put into our bodies slowly affects what we become. I like a good bowl of ice cream as much as anyone (most of you reading this probably already know that), but a fresh, natural glass of juice will wear on me better (outside and inside) over the long haul.

Our Elder’s Quorum lesson at church today was taken from President Eyring’s talk in October 2007 General Conference, “God Helps the Faithful Priesthood Holder”. Our instructor, Eli Robbins, does a great job of teaching the doctrine through focusing on the prophets’ words and leading class discussion. Today, we talked about the 3 things President Eyring said we might receive as answers when we pray about a difficult assignment (specifically a Priesthood assignment, but I think it applies generally):

1. Assurance and recollection that God has helped us and loved us in the past

2. Forget yourself, and focus on those you are serving

3. Get to work doing something good

I thought particularly about number 2, and how that is often the one that gets in the way for me, and perhaps for others. I know that when I am filled with Heavenly Father’s love, I have much more to give to others. When I am spiritually and emotionally “empty”, it is much more difficult and more of a chore to do even the smallest acts of service.

I believe, then, that much of the challenge in this area is to prepare; that is, to use my personal time wisely, doing things that will fill me up with God’s love. Things like scripture study, personal prayer, pondering the wonders of God’s creations and the instances He has blessed and guided me in the past (President Eyring’s number 1); these things fill me up a lot more than reading about sports (one of my time-wasters), politics, current news, or other things that tempt me in my free time. I’m not saying these particular things are evil, only that they should be necessarily secondary because they do less to build me up into the person I was created to be. They bear less good fruit in my life.

I read Stephen Covey’s book “The Divine Center” a few years ago. In it, Dr. Covey asserts that when we place Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ at the center of our lives, all other things more naturally find their proper place (in my case – the sports, politics, and news “things”, among others). But without the divine center, anything in life can become an inappropriate focus for us. So the main question is, am I becoming more Christlike? Am I coming closer to Him? He is always waiting for us to do so, and will supply us with more power to do it than we could imagine having ourselves. And He will give us rest, which for me means much desired inner peace (Matthew 11:28-30).

Make it a great week!

17th Feb, 2008

To Cheer and Comfort

Today at church, in Elders’ Quorum, our lesson from the Joseph Smith manual was about the Book of Mormon. One quote in particular stood out to me:

 “[The latter-day scriptures are published] so that the honest in heart may be cheered and comforted and go on their way rejoicing, as their souls become exposed and their understanding enlightened by a knowledge of God’s work through the fathers in former days, as well as what He is about to do in latter days to fulfill the words of the fathers.”

Cheer and comfort…I can never get enough of those. And today I was reminded that the scriptures generally and the Book of Mormon particularly can be great sources of cheer and comfort, when sought with an honest and open heart.

Jana returned last night from the longest spell she’s ever been away from the kids…3 1/2 days. She went with her sisters Lanae and Kristen, plus sister-in-law Shelly, to Las Vegas for a “sisters’ weekend”. They had a good time, taking in a (surprisingly risque) show, attending the temple, shopping a little, and just doing a lot of talking and laughing. That last part won’t surprise any of you who know them.

You may be wondering how we fared at home. Well…

All in all, I think we did pretty well. Jana set up a lot of help from 2 neighbor families,the Easthopes and the Riggs, to watch the girls while I was at work. She also arranged for my mom to watch the girls on Thursday evening and Friday. I went to my parents’ house from work Thursday and stayed the night over there with the girls. I hadn’t been feeling so well since Tuesday night; Thursday night, it blossomed into a solid cough and chest cold. So I stayed home from work and loafed around Friday at my folks’, while my parents took the girls to the park and to Chuck E. Cheese’s with their cousin Isabelle. The girls had so much fun that they both slept over 12 hours that night, as we went back home to our house.

Saturday, I was still not feeling up to par, but well enough to have some fun with the girls and get a few things done around the house. When Jana arrived home before 9 PM, the girls became so excited that they ended up going to sleep around 11. They love their mom!

Today, my voice was sketchy enough that I missed choir practice. Then in church today I was sustained as the choir tenor section leader, partially on account of my consistent attendance(!). I told my bishop I would accept, but not based on talent. Actually, the bishop asked for a sustaining vote for Shawn Haycock, another fellow in our ward. I stood up, the Bishop looked at me, and I looked back at Bro. Haycock, who had an amused smile on his face. He later (jokingly, I think) asked the bishop what a tenor was!

Last week, I had been asked to teach the primary children about the Book of Mormon prophet Abinadi today in both sharing times. I sorta, kinda dressed up as Abinadi (using some old Thailand garb and a tie around my head), and spent a few minutes talking about his life and teachings. At least one of the kids pointed me out as Abinadi after church. There are worse people I could be associated with.

All in all, it was an unusual but good weekend. And we’re all glad to have mom back home again.