Friday, December 20, 2013

I Need a Silent Night

In the ever crazy hustle and bustle of the Christmas Season, it is easy to lose the Christmas Spirit, and it is easy to forget the Savior in the craziness and the stress, even though He is the One who all the extra events are about.  My father had the assignment of pulling together a Christmas Community Concert for his church with a Nativity display.  For months he has been working with a committe of about 20 or more people to pull this off.  Far more than 20 contributed to the cause, however.  There were over 200 nativities donated for the displays, and I'm guessing about 75+ people involved in the choir, orchestra, and special musical numbers on Saturday's performances - that doesn't include the Thursday & Friday night concerts that involved other performers.  I was fortunate to be asked to arrange an organ part for the Coventry Carol, "Lully Lullay", and I played the piano while our friend George played the organ part I wrote.  I was also fortunate to play an organ/guitar duet with our friend, Ray.  He hasn't performed classical guitar for 45 years, and he worked so hard to be ready for this.  It was so rewarding - now he can NO LONGER say that it's been 45 years since he last shared his talents, and what a neat & professional quality event to share his talents with over a thousand people.
Needless to say, whenever there is a worthy cause, the "law of opposition" kicks in.  My dad always says he knows he's doing the right thing when problem after problem gets in his way to stop the end result.  So the only answer is to push past the problems, remember WHO we're really doing this for (God), and keep moving forward.  It would have been so much easier to cancel it all and let it fall apart, because there were so many obstacles, but then the great rewards of reaching the hearts of people who needed to hear the Christmas message would never have been achieved: 
There was a story of a young high school age girl who was found crying in the bathroom- one of the ladies helping at the event asked her what was wrong, and as she shared her story she ended with the words, "I love the way I feel here.  I don't want to leave, and I wish my family would bring us to church more often."
That's when the sacrifices of the last 2 months feel like nothing at all - if that ONE girl could feel the love of the Savior in her life & have peace in a moment that she needed it, everyone's efforts, all the practices, the late nights, and sacrifices of everyone involved were ALL WORTH the effort!

Heber, D-Jo, Dad (This was after the concert)
My thoughts have been filled with my favorite songs from that night:
A sweet 14 year old girl named Tory sang Amy Grant's "I Need a Silent Night"
(Truly an evening full of music about the birth of Jesus Christ created the "Silent Night" that I needed this year.)
I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night
December comes then disappears
Faster and faster every year
Did my own mother keep this pace
Or was the world a different place?
...Look at us now rushing around
Trying to buy Christmas peace
What was it like back there in Bethlehem
With peace on earth, good will toward men?
I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night
One of my other favorites was sung by the choir - Hosanna by Rob Gardner:
"Hosanna! Hosanna! Thy Savior will come, O Israel,
And blessed He’ll ever be called!
Hosanna! Hosanna! Sing praises to God,
Our Hope, our Deliv’rer, our All.

Our Hope and Deliverer promised of old,
For whom we have waited e’er long,
Hath come to redeem us from slavery’s yoke
And deliver His people back home.
Come, Israel, come and see He who shall reign,
In whom we will ever rejoice,
We hear the sound of the glorious refrain
And it echoeth back in our voice:

        Oh, why should we wander as strangers from Thee
And turn from Thy bounteous hand?
Restore and defend us, oh, set us free, That beside Thee we ever may stand!

...He looks, and ten thousands of angels rejoice,...

And myriads wait for His word;
He speaks, and eternity, filled with His voice, Re-echoes the praise of her Lord:

Hosanna! Hosanna! Thy Savior hath come,
Our Hope, our Salvation, our All!"

 Myrna, D-Jo, Miles, Mitch, Tyson, Emmett
My sweet mother in law came to help Mitch with the kids while I was performing - I love her!
I love Christmas time so much!  I love that my kids know the true meaning of Christmas!  We love Santa Clause and all that, too, but NOTHING brings peace and love into our lives like the gift that Jesus Christ brought to the world. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

When the MAYOR Reschedules the Gilbert Days Parade in your Behalf...


Thanks, Honey, for making sure I woke up 2 hours before the parade!  We didn't miss it, that's for sure! :)  Thanks to Mitchell, we had a great breakfast, bundled up kids because it was freezing, grabbed camping chairs, and went to the parade with a little nervousness - he was right.  There was NO WAY I could miss Gilbert Days after I shared my distress about the cancellation with the Mayor AND his council, and got personal emails from about half of them.  Apparently it's been 50 YEARS since the last time the parade was "cancelled", and even then, it wasn't truly cancelled or even rescheduled, it was just changed from a celebration of the Town of Gilbert to a JFK memorial this was probably the first time EVER in Gilbert's history that something like this happened.  I'm a rain-or-shine kinda girl, but I have deep respect for our Mayor & his Council--especially the Mayor for the way he treated me.

In case you didn't make it to the Dec. 7th rescheduled version of the Gilbert Days Parade this year, here's the parade for your enjoyment:

Our friends, Kai & Clarissa were there & sat right next to us.  We couldn't have planned it better - they are such wonderful people, and we love their examples. They are doing a fantastic job raising their girls - one has special needs, one and they just had their third baby.  Kai has been in the Easter Pageant with us, and we have so much fun with them.  Shortly after the parade began, I noticed Kai gave his chair to a man with two kids, and then Kai stood for the whole parade.  I didn't think anything about this man, because he was sitting on a bench with his daughters, but when Kai reached out to him, I realized how much of a difference that made.  Instead of sitting on a bench, slightly further back & removed from the parade, this man & his daughters were brought right up to the curb with us, so they got candy and bags, and hand outs from the people in the parade that they wouldn't have had if they stayed back on the bench where they had originally sat down.  All day I thought of the kindness & thoughtfulness that Kai shared towards this stranger.  I hope someday I can be more thoughtful like that.

God Bless America!

I was hoping to snap a pic of Mayor Lewis, but we got Sheriff Joe instead...thanks, Tyson!  Haha!

These horses were FAST!!!!  (All these photos are also courtesy of Tyson.)

LOVE THIS!  I'm so proud to be an American!

Oops, it downloaded sideways.  I need to fix that someday.  Happy Birthday to Gilbert Public Schools -- 100 years strong!  LOVE IT!

Can't end a parade without Santa at this time of year!
Life is so good!  I LOVE HOME-TOWN PARADES!  It's more than just a parade for me. It's about being a patriotic AMERICAN - yes even in the months of November & December! 
Thanks again, Mayor Lewis!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Know a Good Day When You See One

Sometimes there are hard moments in life.  One of the biggest downfalls of having a Digital Age of instant communication & social media is that at times it can seem like everyone one around you has a better life than you do.  That idea can deeply affect your self-esteem and ability to cope on your every day challenges if you dwell on it.  It seems as if this "newly" developed psychological test has hit everyone in the world in the same season.  Some people can get past it quickly because they know who they are and they know they're important in the lives of the people who love them, and especially in God's eyes.  Other people let the challenges of social media ruin their perspective on their own life, and allow it to ruin their friendships and/or reality.  The truth of the matter is that your life is just as important or exciting as someone else's - everyone's lives are different, and each of us are interesting or unique.
I tend to blog for many reasons.  First and foremost, I have always been a journal writer.  I have 10-15 volumes of handwritten journals from when I was kid until present day.  Writing down my memories is something I love to do & I believe that it helps me remember my blessings and that God is in my life when I focus on the good life He's given me.
Secondly, I want to keep a history of what happens in our family life so I don't forget all the perfect moments that come so rarely, the fun time, and how I got through the hard times.
Finally, I blog for stress relief.  Sometimes I need to write just to regroup.  And especially when I'm stressed I like to focus on only the good things to help me remain optimistic and get through whatever problem I'm experiencing.
So with that being said, it is my hope & desire that while a reader may come across my blog and happen to read about only see the good parts of my life - I hope that none of those readers ever feels like their life is less valuable or less exciting than mine.  We all have our own stories to write.
I have a few personal theories.  One is that the happiest person you know has also experienced the equivalent amount of pain in their life.  I believe the "law of opposition" requires that in order to know happiness, we have to experience sadness.  It requires that ALL of God's children must be tested in their own individual ways that challenges their own personal ability to withstand the trials of this life.  The purpose of these trials is to bring us closer to the ones we love and closer to God if we will let it.  Just because someone around you seems to be happy all the time doesn't mean that they haven't had their share of trials, or that they don't understand what it's like to have difficulty in their lives.
The day before Thanksgiving, I found out I was going to have a miscarriage.  Before I had my 3 beautiful boys, I had 3 miscarriages in a row and I didn't know if I'd ever be able to have kids.  That was a trying season in which I learned a lot about myself and about my faith.  I never knew how someone could be mad at God until that time in my life.  I also learned quickly that I can't afford to be mad at God when He's the only one who can truly help me get through the trials He's allowed me to experience.  I learned that anger is destructive to faith and that the quicker you can get through the anger stage of the grief cycle, the better. 
Even though I've been down this path before, I didn't expect to find myself in this situation again...or at least I hoped that I wouldn't.  I thought we were sitting pretty after Miles - he tied up my pregnancy ratio of losses to viable pregnancies - 3 to 3.  But unfortunately, I have developed thyroid problems from my pregnancy with Miles that are still affecting me.  My hormones are completely out of whack, and the scales are tipped back in the other direction turning my ratio into 4:3.  At one point in my life I thought that in this world you just grow up, get married, and have kids, but once again I am reminded that it doesn't work that way.

I have been very fortunate on this go-around.  For one, we didn't see a heartbeat and then lose the baby later...I know that's harder, because I've been there before.  For two, as soon as I found out, I had a good cry, but then had to pull myself together to go to a Thanksgiving dinner with my favorite cousin, Jilliam at his group home.  It's hard to leave a group home feeling like you have the worst predicament in the world, because you SEE people who have it harder than you do - like living trapped in a body with cerebral palsy for 42 years...THAT is HARD.  And third, I have 2 friends who had miscarriages at the same time I did this year.  I feel like God blessed me to find them on days that we needed each other and it allowed me to grieve with them and find healing as we leaned on each other for support.  You'd never wish to have an experience like that, but since we HAD to have that experience, at least we weren't alone.

I have also been blessed with A LOT to do.  This time around I do happen to have 3 beautiful children to focus on.  Never in my life have I been more over-scheduled or spread so thin, but it has been a blessing to keep me going and enjoy the wonderful moments that life has to offer, because I certainly didn't have time to focus on the disappointments.  After Thanksgiving weekend was over - cram packed with everything from family events, to helping with my cousin's wedding, to family pictures, to taking care of kids, going to birthday parties, movie marathons, and participating in musical church service on steroids, I finally had a moment to breathe on Monday of last week.  I got my blood work done and filled up my gas tank afterwards, and lost it at the gas station when a kind stranger told me, "Happy Thanksgiving...or whatever holiday it is now." It made me laugh.  I told him thanks for being nice to me, because I was having a rough morning, and he sent me on my way with well wishes, "Well, I hope YOU have a GOOD morning."

He had no idea what that meant to me.

I was sad for about 3 days, and last Wednesday when I was having what I call a bi-polar head battle - you know when you're like, "I'm not happy.  Yes I am.  I'm not happy.  Quit it; you're fine. I'm not happy, I need a change...."  I don't know, maybe I'm the only one who has to overcome mind-games, haha!  But anyway, the morning was starting off like that, and out of the blue, my friend Rachel Blake brought me flowers - I think there were 36 roses in there.  I've never had 36 roses in one bouquet!  Every time I looked at the flowers, I just knew that yes - I really was okay - I was happy.

 And then the UPS truck came with a LONG anticipated delivery for my husband, so I could call him and help him be happy.  (Emmett made cookies for me, so he was definitely feeling happy, too.)

And while deep in my heart I was still walking through a struggle, in that very same place of my heart I also knew that it was a good day.
Life is too short, too fragile, too important, to let little problems allow you to have a bad day.  Sometimes life really is hard and we really have hard days, but even amid the heartaches, we need to know a good day when we see one, and recognize the little things that come are really gifts from Heaven to buoy us up and strengthen us.  Look for the good - that's what will keep you going.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Become as a Little Child: Wax Philosophical

I am frequently found marvelling at the words my children choose to speak.  Such as the other day when my darling 4 year old was snacking and watching my father haul a Christmas tree inside the house.  After my dad removed a few inches from the trunk with a saw, Emmett piped up, "Excellent cutting, Grandpa!"  Such praise increased my father's self-esteem without a doubt.  How could it not?  My preschooler's diction also made us smile.

Any time my kids say something I don't expect, it improves my day and makes me love my life with them even more.  Recently, I have been astounded by the deep intellectual & philosophical thoughts of my 6-year old.  Last night for family night, he wanted to share his testimony at the end of the lesson.  For whatever reason, he has never been able to  share his testimony in a simple way - he draws parallels and analogies and splutters out the world as he sees it by saying things like, "Our lives are like a plant....  If the plant dies, that's when you're going off the path.  ....If you want to make the plant grow, you have to follow the plant rules, which is like following the ten commandments...."

Also last night before the kids went to bed, Tyson said something kind to his brothers.  I was proud of him, so I tried to encourage that behavior, and as we were talking I told him that his little brothers look up to him.  I asked him if he knew what that meant.  As he was thinking I told him it meant he's taller than they are, and he responded, "It means that they want to do the things I want to.  So it's important for me to stay on the path so that they'll want to also."  Mitch and I just looked at each other & wondered where he learned it.  I don't believe that we've necessarily had this conversation before in such plain terms.

Lastly, when Tyson hops out of the car everyday, I like to send him on his way with sentences like, "I love you!  Be awesome today!  Make good choices! (Etc.)" This morning, Emmett piped up before I could say anything to give Tyson a reminder: "Remember who you are!"  I realized we've never really talked about what that phrase means, so I decided to break it down.  I asked him what they thought that meant.  Emmett said, "It means to remember you are who you are."  And Tyson said, "No, it means more than that.  It means remember who you always want to be."

As soon as he said that, I agreed - that's exactly what it means.  Surely the phrase could be elaborated in various ways to explain what it means to you, but he essentially hit the nail on the head. I am amazed at his understanding and answers - I can only imagine how the people in Jesus' day felt about the words He spoke - they must have been words of eternity and love from the beginning.  What I would give to know all the amazing explanations that the Son of God may have given as a little child.  As I think on these things, I also remember that in the scriptures we have been told to be as little children.  No wonder - we muddy up our lives with problems we create for ourselves.  But kids can see the world through simple lenses that aren't tainted by issues.  Kids can see black and white and understand eternal truths in ways that make us want to draw closer to Heaven so that we can understand, too.   

When is the last time you were found waxing philosophical?  I for one, have some work to do in this area when compared to my darling little boy who has an "old soul".

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

It's the Beginning of the End! - Black Hawk Soccer

We went to see my little brother play Varsity Soccer tonight for the Black Hawks.  Heber is a Senior in High School, and is a starter for the Black Hawk Soccer Team.  Last year's coach referred to him as "a horse".  He usually gets voted as the MVP on every team he every plays on, because he's all about working with his teammates, pumping others up, doing his best, and being an all around valuable athlete.  He always puts his best foot forward & I love to watch him play.

Soccer happens to be my favorite sport.  I remember when Emmett was less than 2 weeks old, Heber had his Junior High Championship Soccer Game, and I just couldn't miss it.  I bundled my little guy up and strapped him in a baby carrier on my chest and tried to ignore the stares of everyone I walked past, who were no doubt thinking, "Wasn't that the girl who was pregnant at the last game?" - The Chaparral Sharks won that day in Triple Overtime by Penalty Kicks - we all cried for joy at the end of that battle, the boys worked so hard all season & definitely earned their victory!  In those days we stood on the field by the coach & the players, smelling the grass & b.o., hearing all the calls, and praying we wouldn't get rammed by kids who couldn't stop running when the ball came towards our camping chairs.  We were there. We were in it.  That's when I really started to love soccer. Not to mention it's faster paced and easier to follow than football.  I actually watch soccer, but when I go to a football game, I chit chat and then stand up to cheer when everyone else does.
At any rate, Heber is so busy - he is involved in every activity under the sun.  He is the VP of the National Honor Society at his school, he is in every AP class or dual enrollment college credit course offered at the school, he's a potential candidate for Valedictorian or Salutatorian, he manages the Girls Volleyball Team, he does more service hours than any other teenager I've ever known, he works with my parents on days that he has no school, and on weekends he sells manure as another job.  That's not even the half of what he's involved in, so you can imagine how infrequently I see this kid - unless I go to his games, I hardly get to see him.  What's funny is that back in the day after I got married, I started supporting my siblings in as many activities as I could.  I felt bad that they were always forced to support me in all of my school activities & concerts, so I wanted to give back to them & show them I appreciated it.  I can't always make it to everything, but I like to try, and now I realize that with a brother like Hebes, if I want to see him, this is essentially one of the best ways to be close to my brother.
Heber plans to serve a mission next year.  So when you look at it like that, not only is this the last high school soccer season he'll be involved in.  This is the last soccer season he'll be playing in until 3 years from now after he returns.  I am praying he'll play in college.  I love watching him play soccer too much - this just can't be the end!  But in a way, it still kind of is. 
Tonight Tyson was climbing on the fence yelling to his uncle:
"Hey, HEEBS!  Just KNOW that you can win it!"
"Just be the boy you know you are!"
It cracks me up.  We had so much fun, and Heber did an awesome job.  Our team lost, but Heber made a goal, and it was awesome to see him get fired up.  He made a goal, but the ref called off-sides and didn't award the point, so immediately after the ball got thrown back in, Heber took it past a strong defender & made the goal all over again - he was like, "TAKE THAT!"  And the crowd CHEERED!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

More Thanksgiving - Part III, 3, Tres, ...

Last, but not least, we had the last part of our usual Thanksgiving traditions yesterday, when my Uncle Warren came in to town specifically JUST to see us.  He makes this trip every year - it used to be to attend a Tenney Thanksgiving Reunionish Dinner on the Saturday after Thanksgiving that he came for & then would hang out with us afterward, but that has since disbanded.  Instead of saying sianara, he still comes with his kids...or kid. :)  We have a movie marathon and look at temple lights.  It's a tradition I have come to love and cherish, whether or not we always love the movies we see.  Fortunately, the movies this year were a complete success.  Catching Fire was out of this world for me - it was so unbelievably well done. I love the way the screen writers have done this series - usually the books are better than the movies, but in this instance the movie was so good, I forgot I'd read the book & knew what would happen next, until my brother Heber reminded me to relax in the middle of the movie.

This is the new statue at the Mesa Temple Christmas lights this year - stunning!

 Would you believe it?  We ran into MORE Tenney's at the Temple lights.  In a matter of seconds there were 18 of us - it was like a mini reunion.  I thought is was so fun, and probably not a coincidence that we would see Aunt Kem & her family last night.

Miles was so cute with this pig. :)
Usually I have only seen my Uncle Warren & his kids once or twice a year - if it were not for this tradition we have, we probably would not be as close as we are.  What's amazing is that this last year, we have seen Uncle Warren, Joanna, Julia, and Nathanael at least 5 times.  It's been really fun.
This summer, I got to visit Uncle Warren's house in Tucson - he has this AMAZING wave picture on the wall - I felt like I was going to get swallowed up in the ocean.


We saw Julia at her farewell - I am so proud of her for her choice to serve a mission!

 My kids weren't necessarily impressed with the town of Tucson - it pretty much looks like the desert there...more so than other towns in Arizona, but they did have fun even with the lack of grass, as you can tell in this tree the climbed after church:

And here's one other moment we've had with Uncle Warrent this year - we met them at Sunsplash for Nathanael's birthday.  It was so much fun, and we were so glad to have Joanna there, since she's a work-a-holic!
Don't ask me why Heber is holding his arm like that, haha!
Fun times!  I love family, and am so thankful that both my family and Mitch's family have quality relationships with each other around the board - it is always refreshing to be with our immediate & extended families - it feels like we have always been forever friends & that's why God put us together in these specific families.  I also know these family relationships are what bring us closer to God, because we were sent here to help each other in ways no one else in the world can.

Thanksgiving, Too, 2, II, Cont.

We were thankful to get a Black Friday hair cut at Great Clips x 3!


Miles may have not been so grateful.

But Tyson & Emmett were thankful to sit in a fancy hair cutting chair for the first time ever & look in the mirror - and everyone is thankful for sweet Aunt Jodi!

I'm thankful that my kids know how to decorate for Christmas, and they're thankful I let them. :)

They're also thankful I don't mistake their decorations for an explosion.

And Mitch is thankful that we scheduled a family night before Thanksgiving to put up the Christmas lights...since last year we ran out of time, and he had to do it on the last Saturday before Christmas IN THE RAIN!  I'm thankful for the Christmas cheer that's on our block!


Let's give thanks for the cutest neice I have in town - Miss Aleen!
I want to eat her up!  I also want a picture of her & Miles together, but Miles had different plans:

Despite his little opinionated self that's shining through, we'll still giving thanks for Aleen's darling cousin that likes to act like he's so much older than she is
(right now Miles is twice Aleen's age).

Everyone's thankful for Caden - especially Tyson & Emmett!  They're like the 3 amigos.

Emmett is thankful for retakes, since he said,  "Sorry, Mom!  I had food in my mouth and couldn't smile, please take it again!"  Let's give thanks that he's learning to be polite!

We're all giving thanks for Pinterest - I heard recently that "If you can't find it on Pinterest, you don't need it."  That's probably true, because Pinterest has so many amazing ideas.  Myrna made these darling cornucopias THE MORNING OF THANKSGIVING!  As if she didn't have a ton of other things to worry about, like the FOOD for Thanksgiving dinner - it was all a smashing success.

Mitch was giving thanks that I actually liked his facial hair the day of Thanksgiving, and even though I thought it was funny, now I'm giving thanks that it's gone!

We're thankful for trampolines, headlocks, and dogpiles,
and also that all the boys escaped play time WITHOUT broken arms!

We're thankful for all the stages of facial hair - and that Brian looks like Wooly Willy. :)

Mitch & Hebes were thankful for quality bonding time.

Miles is thankful for balls, even if he wishes with all his heart that he could run as fast as the big kids!


And I'm thankful for Haleigh, who so sweetly followed my baby around and kept him happy so I could stuff my face and visit with cousins & friends.