Monday, December 12, 2016

Love Your SELFie but Not Too Much, Please

Before I go ANY further, let me publish this important and necessary disclaimer:  1) I am the most self-centered person I know (TRUE FACT).  2) If you "LOVE your SELFie" too much, don't read this, because I will offend you....  I probably shouldn't worry, though, because the people who need to read this will actually be too busy taking their own selfies.


I don't know about you, but there are a few types of selfies posted daily on the Internet that just make me CRINGE.  Sometimes it's easy to tell exactly what the person was thinking at the time they took their series of pictures - "Not that angle, no not quite, just a little higher - yep, now THAT ONE looks GOO-OO-OOOD."  The reason you can tell exactly what these people are thinking is because you've taken pictures of your own self and your thought process has gone that very same direction.

Humiliating, right?

Selfies are on the Net in epidemic proportions.  Now don't get me wrong - I like to take selfies, too.  But there are certain kinds of selfies I wouldn't be caught dead taking, which is why I enlisted the help of my husband to demonstrate exactly what I mean:

I'm certainly not the first one to wonder - WHY are you taking pictures in your bathroom?  Of all places on this beautiful earth, you would choose THE JOHN?  Does it smell like roses in there?  I'm thanking my lucky stars that this is not a scratch n' sniff photo.  I wouldn't want to take a chance on that, no matter how good you might look in that mirror.  I could be going out on a limb on this one, but some would call the bathroom a GROSS place.  Selfie sticks are portable you know - it's possible you could pick a better location next time.

Did you think those pouty lips were sexy?  Because we all think you look like a duck.  These kinds of selfies are pretty dangerous, too, so photographer beware!  If you must kissy-face yourself, try not to get injured when you accidentally kiss your phone screen or your mirror during your photo shoot....  And remember when you post it publicly, your Mom and Dad are going to be oh-so-proud of having a grown up sexy duckling....

These ones are a little awkward, now aren't they?  We're all acutely aware of the Twilight Zone music playing in the background as we see your photos--being naked in front of others is a thing that my mom's generation would have had nightmares about.  Unfortunately for us, we're LIVING through the terrors when we open our newsfeeds!  Not to mention all the teenagers, and people who aren't your husbands, oh, and your parents, too - they're all glad you're half-naked in a bathroom mirror.  (All you gotta do now is make some duck-lips, and you might score Gold, Silver, and Bronze for the all-time-worst SELFie-awards - in one picture, too.)

Remember that this is what you think you look like:

This is what we think you look like:

Because my husband was a good sport, we'll add a few more selfies to make fun of:

...Which has no purpose than to ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE let people look down your shirt.

 That hair on his chest looks, well, hairy!

The "It's a Beautiful Day" Selfie
Wait - where is the day you were talking about?  I can only see your face!


You know, I don't love these kinds of selfies, but the location is a step up from THE JOHN.  So kudos to you for heading in a different direction.  Just don't forget to post the "accident selfie" on your ambulance ride to the hospital.

I do feel a smidgin' guilty for throwing all my selfie snapping friends under the bus with this post. So I'll use a scripture now to make them hate my guts even more:

A really long time ago, there was an apostle named Paul, and he wrote a letter to Timothy.  In 2 Timothy 3:2, he prophesied that..."Men will be lovers of their own selves...."

Paul must have been shown a Facebook or Instagram feed in a vision, because a truer statement has never been made about these last days.

Since his words ring so clearly to me, I don't want to be like that.  I know that I have deeply rooted pride--as much as any other person who walks this earth, but I really don't want people to see how in love with myself I that's why I like to hide my love for myself by taking GROUP-ies.  Those are the kind of selfies that actually make me feel happy & not so lonely, a lot less self-centered, more focused on friends & family.

Even with this kind of a selfie you have to take a few shots with the right angle so you can look goo-oo-oood, but it's less obvious that you're trying so hard as there are others in the photo with you.

For all of those who may still be reading, I'm going to lose the last friend or two I had left by inserting my italicized anti-SELFie opinions into the full scripture below:

2 Timothy 3:2

"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come (I told you the duck-lip selfie was dangerous - and so is the driver's seat selfie)For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy (bathroom selfies are definitely unholy), without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high minded (oops! darn it! this anti-selfie blogger is sorta on a high-horse), lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."

Now I'm going to go through my phone and delete the types of pictures that I just made fun of other people for taking...if I do have photos I forgot about I certainly can't have that kind of thing show up online....  :)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Day the Music Died & The Day It Lived Again

Everyone has a Ghost from Christmas Past don't they?

December 19th, 2003 was an infamous ghost of Christmas Past for the Joseph Tenney family, and let me tell you why: 

Anyone who really knows my dad, knows that he's a dreamer.  He's a can-do person, a don't-take-no-for-an-answer kind of guy.  He's the epitome of an American Patriot - and has the entrepreneurial heart of a true believer in capitalism.  He's passionate about everything he does.  And I do mean everything.

Well, the down side is that sometimes the greater you are, the harder you fall. 

Around 1996, my father and mother lost their business - a very successful CADD systems company that he partnered with his nephew.  The company bit the dust in a way that took our family down with it.  We lost everything & had to sell our beautiful dream home with a large yard, swimming pool, and basketball court...the place that was meant to be where my parents would settle & raise their family.  That's when we moved to Lindsay & Ray and rented for a year. During these hard times people were very kind to us and we were the recipients of Secret Santa gifts showered with love. The memories of opening the door & seeing all the presents on the doorstep still makes me cry.  Even though my parents were able to sell their home, they felt like they LOST their home.  A year later we had to move because the home-owner moved back, so we moved to Gail Street - fortunately in the same neighborhood and continued to rent for a long time.  My father was able to obtain what seemed like a successful enough job with Cox Communications.  He was a good salesman and earned commissions.  But unfortunately, there came a time when his particular division of the company made changes and someone within wouldn't honor the contract, and chose not to pay my father commissions for the deals he closed.  So now he was unemployed again, but this time had no house to sell, a year's worth of commissions that were no longer coming in, and he had 5 children to feed.  The dark days were getting darker.  He took any and every job he could - but they were the kinds of jobs that couldn't feed the family of 7.  He never gave up even when he was down, and one of his endeavors in this dark time was to build up his music business to try to provide for the family.  He was getting contracts with big name artists, he was meeting up-and-coming artists, and my dad was a BELIEVER.  He knew that if he worked hard enough, he could make things happen.

During this time--in 2003--we threw all our efforts and energy into hosting a benefit concert for The School of Life Foundation.  We hosted it locally at Gilbert High School, and we worked our tails off to advertise, to sell tickets, and to get people there.  It's no small feat to rent an auditorium and put on a show, and we knew that if we believed enough, worked hard enough, had a good enough product, and certainly if we PRAYED enough, we could make it happen.  We also got some big local names to join us - we involved Jeff from Jesterz, we had William Joseph, Kirsten Millsap, Three2U, and we had the Riggs' sisters.  We tried getting Deseret Book on board, but to no avail as the AZ market is a tough cookie to tap into, and we also happened to be performing head-to-head with Michael McClean that evening, so that was a major hit against us.  Even so, we had an excellent show lined up and knew we could draw attendance with the quality we had.  After a grueling & extremely stressful lead up to the concert, including almost dying in the Gilbert Days 5K...even after doing all we could do, when it all boiled down, "no-one" showed up.  That's not actually true - we had probably about 175 people there if I remember correctly, but MOST of them were our very own extended relatives and close friends, and I'll never forget the way Rosanne Tidwell shook her head and said to me, "I'm so sorry" as I was up there in the booth helping her get ready to call the show.  In an auditorium of 1000+, when your starving family was using money they didn't have as well as investments from others to pull this together, an experience like that was like a nail in the coffin.  In the coming days when people said why they couldn't make it or why they did not come, it was just all the more painful - it felt like insult to injury - not that they understood what was at stakes for our family.

My parents lost so much money from that concert alone right before Christmas, and they had no idea on earth how they were going to feed their family or how soon anything else would ever turn around for us.  My mom had a job at $9/hour, but her job alone was not enough.  I cannot even express to you how devastating that concert was for my family, my father, my mother, and for me. To recap just exactly what happened - after a downward spiral of losing a business, a home, a job, another job, and a contract with a big artist, losing all retirement, losing all health insurance, December 19th, 2003 was the final day my father lost all the faith, joy, and belief he'd had remaining in the very LAST thing he thought he had left to hope or believe in - music.

I will never forget the look on my mom's face the night of that concert.

And I will never forget the look on my dad's face when the true financial damage was assessed the next business day.

THAT was and HAS EVER SINCE BEEN labeled as, "The Day the Music Died" to my father.  How painful it was for us to understand the full magnitude of what he meant when he made those kinds of statements, and to literally see the light of hope & joy extinguished in someone we love.

But it didn't just happen to him - it happened to all of us, and none of us believed anything extraordinarily special would ever come from music to our family again.

In the wake of that dark time, my friend Lindsay encouraged me to apply at Steve Madden Shoe Stores. I took the job at $7/hour.  I was also employed shortly there-after by Bro. Mabb & his business, and my father and mother were given the opportunity to work with Brett Brewer, doing hard-labor jobs. My father started doing them alone.  One day he was in a backyard looking at fence-high weeds and sat down on the back porch and even cried.  He told God he couldn't do it alone, that he needed help.  He says that that's when God did one better and sent him a son-in-law instead.  I had recently met Mitch at Institute, and while we were dating, Mitch took on working with my dad and mom.  For a long while we joked that our job was "cleaning toilets" (because included in what we do was cleaning a lot of nasty toilets). But over time the business has grown, and my husband who is very handy is now partners with my father for a business that originally started out as a music company, but that now has a larger maintenance & repairs division than we ever imagined.

Fast forward a few years.  I have no recollection of how it even came to happen, because we all knew that "the music had died" for my dad, but Richard was now a cancer survivor, and in 2010 Three2U made the "Deep Peace" album, and my father started to find joy in music again.

Fast forward again to 2015/2016, the trio was coming up on a 20 year milestone of singing together and decided to commemorate by doing another Christmas album - as Christmas music with the Three Kings album was what had "started it all" for their trio.  They've been practicing all year, were arranging & recording, when OUT OF THE BLUE they got a phone call from Jason Deere who invited them to come to Nashville and record their songs in the studio of Jay Demarcus from Rascal Flatts.  Going to Nashville was a dream come true for Joe (my dad), Richard, and Jon.  Richard called it a bucket list item, and Jon said if he had gone to Nashville when he was younger he would have never come back.  They had the time of their life, ate delicious food, because we all know they go out to eat as much as they "practice" music,.  And wouldn't you know, they got invited back to Nashville again.  

While they were there, Michael McLean (the same Michael McLean whose concert was on the same day as our concert all those years ago) wrote a new chorus for the song Let Him In that my dad solos on the album.  

Amid all the recording and trips to Nashville, my dad started talking about doing a concert again.  I knew exactly how much effort goes into something like that because I was involved last time, but I got distracted from the magnitude of the feat because from the beginning my dad suggested using Gilbert High School.  I told him I'd host the concert ANYWHERE BUT Gilbert High School, because we were NOT going to have a repeat of "The Day the Music Died".  We seriously almost used a high school auditorium - I literally called Highland High School, and Campo Verde High School, and Queen Creek High School, but I didn't even check the schedule for Gilbert High School because I personally couldn't do this concert there and re-live that awful experience.

Well life got crazy, and extra stressful - more busy than the last time we did something like this, because I bought a house, I'm adopting children, my dad is a bishop, my parents are running their maintenance business, and the music is on the side...fortunately it's on the side this time...but still because it's on the side, the fires to put out for it were extra stressful.  I honestly still have no idea how we found the time, but we found the time to pull it together.

Last week Three2U toured with The Nashville Tribute Band.  Our company, Golden Bee Productions produced their concerts - one in Show Low, and two in the Mesa Arts Center.  Interestingly enough our biggest day was on the 19th again, but of November this time.  Honestly it wasn't until the day of the Mesa Arts Center that I really started to freak out.  I was so sick to my stomach.  I realized I had actually been in denial over the last many months of planning, and I woke up realizing the full magnitude of what we were trying to do.  I literally wondered, "WHAT ON EARTH WERE WE THINKING TO TRY THIS AGAIN?"  Maybe you could say that I had a little bit of PTSD going on from the trauma that had been created back on Dec 19th, 2003?   

In the end though, when this last weekend all boiled down, we had 3 successful shows, one of them was SOLD OUT.  We thought we were going to fall flat on our face again with the Show Low concert, but people pulled through and bought tickets last minute - my cousin Tiffani even arrived with a literal BUS LOAD of high school kids who wanted to come to the concert. There was a children's choir at the Mesa performances, and without purposely planning it this way, interestingly enough had children from the Mabb family and the Brewer family - both families that had been involved in our lives back when the music died and who helped us get on our feet, and even the company my mom used to work for during that time carried our insurance coverage for the event.  My friend Lindsay was there.  Mitch was there.  Friends & family were there.  Strangers were there.  And on the front row was Greg - who my dad had partnered with all those years ago.  The concert was an amazing experience - definitely so fun to meet Jason Deere and spend time with Dan Truman, his boys, and all the members of the Nashville Tribute Band.  I can't say we "made money" on the events, but everything was different this time and our efforts and experiences were well worth the investment.  Now when people ask me if I'm the manager of Three2U, I can say - "I guess that I am!" - I was doing all the things for Three2U that Manager Jeremy Barron was doing for The Nashville Tribute Band. :)

This time it was like God sent us a gift.
For my dad, my mom, and my family, this experience was definitely a healing kind of gift.  It was also like the Lord sent us our own little "It's A Wonderful Life" kind of moment last weekend.

It was like this time He told us that He believes in second chances, and that He wants us to have them.

It was like this time He told us it's okay to heal from the sadness of the past.

It's like He told us it was okay to believe again.

It was because of Him that we were able to experience "The day the music lived again."

Now I'll never forget the content expressions on my Mom's face before & after this concert, and I'll never forget the way my dad said to me, "We did it, D-Jo!  We did it!"

Thursday, November 17, 2016

BOOK OF MORMON EVIDENCES by Guest Author Heber Tenney

I don't typically publish works from others in full, but my brother Heber Tenney sent me an essay that was too good not to publish and share today:

Heber Tenney
Brother Wilcox
BOM T, TH, 2:00
16 November 2016
You Cannot Hide the Truth

            Since the original copies of the book were published back in 1830, Anti-Mormons and critics have vehemently attacked the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith was aggressively persecuted for having published the Book of Mormon; antagonists claimed that he had written the book himself and lied about having been guided by God. There is an old saying which states “The truth always reveals itself”. With regards to the Book of Mormon, the same principle holds true. While critics may preach against the book’s divinity and have repeatedly strived to hide the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, the truth that the Book of Mormon is inspired scripture from God, always seems to come to light and prove itself.
            C.S. Lewis once said “Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish”. The biggest evidence that the Book of Mormon is the word of God comes due to a witness from the Holy Ghost. However, as Lewis proclaimed, it is not bad to have rational arguments because these arguments can allow us to obtain a special witness. Sometimes people are close minded and refuse to believe something when it appears illogical or irrational to them. Rational arguments can help people break down those hard-hearted barriers so that the spirit may testify of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon to them. One of these rational arguments in favor of the Book of Mormon has greatly affected my life and helped me to be even more firm in my testimony; this evidence is word printing.
            Word prints are the equivalent of finger prints for writers. Everyone on earth has a finger print that is unique to them and only them. Writers and Authors are the same, they possess a distinctive writing style that is exclusive to only them. John Hilton III describes word print as “writing patterns that are different and distinct from those of other authors”. The way authors use conjunctions, or how they use words such as: the, a, as, or of, give each of them a literary thumb print by which we can identify them as the writer. Researchers from BYU embarked on a project to determine whether or not Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon. To determine if he was the author of the book they did a word print analysis.
            What the researchers found, gave even more proof that Joseph Smith was a prophet guided to translate the Book of Mormon. First off, the analysts found that each book in the book of Mormon, whether it be, Nephi, Alma, or Moroni, has a unique word print. So, in other words, the person who wrote the Book of Alma is not the same person who wrote Moroni. This proves that the Book of Mormon is not the product of a single author, rather many different authors. Since there are multiple authors, Joseph Smith could not have written the Book of Mormon by himself. Anti-Mormons claim that Oliver Cowdrey could have helped write portions of the Book of Mormon, but the researchers concluded that it is “indefensible to propose Joseph Smith or Oliver Cowdrey as the author of the Book of Mormon”. Neither Joseph Smith or Oliver Cowdrey’s word prints matched with any of the authors of the Book of Mormon.
            A person may try to fake their word print and try to write in a style they think will disguise their writing style but this has been proven to be inutile. John Hilton III showed why this is a pointless effort when he explained “Even when writers try to change the way they write, their word print follows them”. The way our minds organize our thoughts is impossible to hide, eventually, somewhere in our writing our word print will still leave its mark. Joseph Smith couldn’t have written the Book of Mormon by faking his writing style throughout the entire book because his word print would have shown at some point in the text and it never did.
            Word print has not only been used for religious purposes but also has been used by the FBI for finding criminals. In the 1980’s there was a criminal known as the Unabomber, who was an American domestic terrorist. In 1995 this terrorist wrote an article in the New York Times anonymously, the FBI worked with experts from BYU to see if the word print from this article matched any of the word prints of their possible suspects. John Hilton III explained that his grandfather, who was working for BYU at the time, helped the FBI with this investigation. The Unabomber was later ratted out by his brother and his identity was revealed as Ted Kaczynski. Given the fact that the FBI was willing to trust word print in order to capture one of the most wanted criminals in the United States, goes to show the reliability of word print.
            The rational arguments that word print gives us in support of the Book of Mormon have been important to my personal testimony that the book is true. I have known since I was eight years old that the Book of Mormon is the word of God because I felt a strong burning in my bosom that I knew came from the Holy Ghost, there was no other explanation. Since that day when I felt the Spirit so distinctly, I have stayed firm in my testimony and received other witnesses confirming that the Book of Mormon is true. While I was on my mission in Mexico, I confronted many Anti-Mormons and people who tried to convince me that the Book of Mormon wasn’t true and that Joseph Smith wasn’t a prophet. I never let these people hurt my testimony, but sometimes I would have little slivers of doubts, not necessarily doubts, rather, more so a fear that they could be right. I guess what I’m saying is that I would psych myself out a little. Thankfully, the Savior allowed me to feel the spirit, which confirmed that what I had felt before was true and those fears went away.
            When I learned about word print, my testimony of the Book of Mormon grew even stronger. Those slivers of fear and doubt that I have had due to some of the world’s rationalities are now irrelevant because I have rationale in favor that the Book of Mormon is true. These rational arguments aren’t the foundation of my testimony but they help me to think about the gospel from a logical standpoint as well. Once you analyze it, its logically impossible that Joseph Smith could have written the Book of Mormon, Joseph never knew that word print was going to be invented and used as a way to link authors to their literary works. Even if he did somehow magically know that it would be invented, it would have been impossible for him to have changed his word print for each individual book within the Book of Mormon, never making any mistakes. It’s simply, irrational to believe that Joseph Smith was some psychological genius who could predict the future, create the Book of Mormon and hide the fact that he wrote it. The truth would have come out at some point that he was the one who wrote the book, but it never has and never will because Joseph Smith didn’t write the Book of Mormon, he translated it by the gift and power of God.
            Along with the other rational arguments in favor of Joseph Smith such as: the time he took to translate the book, his level of education, and the fact that the 11 witnesses never denied their testimonies, word print shows that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God who was called to bring forth the Book of Mormon. I feel more confident now when I am asked to defend my belief in the Book of Mormon because I have not only a spiritual argument, but also a rational one. I know without any doubt in my heart, that the Book of Mormon is true and that our Heavenly Father gave us this sacred book of scripture to give us peace and guidance in these last days.

Work Cited
Hilton, John. Little Book of Book of Mormon Evidences. Deseret Book, December 8, 2011.
"Ted Kaczynski Biography." A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.

I love this article and agree with the evidences of word printing.  I know the gospel is true. I love that it has been shared throughout the ages and across the continents. The Book of Mormon is evidence to me that God loves ALL his children and wants them to all know about their Savior Jesus Christ.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Mama Bear Feelings for All My Children - the Ones I Know and the Ones I Don't Know, Yet

I wrote my last post while still in despair over circumstances I could not change or influence.  But my feelings have changed since I wrote it!  I'm more sure that what my friend Merri said was true, and maybe some of the things I said in my doubting and despair shouldn't have been said.  Recently, the notion was presented to me that kids who are adopted aren't meant to be in your family because they weren't born into your family, but it's choices that led them there. I was instantly fighting mad - infuriated to say the least about this notion.  I should have been patient and kind, but I thought, who would dare say such a thing?  (Never mind my very own post could have potentially lead someone else to think that.)  I knew instantly that the doubts I presented about wondering if God really has a plan for His children were clearly not deep rooted in comparison to my deeply rooted outrage with the idea that an adopted child "isn't meant to be" with me.

I actually DO KNOW that my future children who are adopted are MEANT to be with me, because of the FEELINGS I have had from the very beginning of this journey.  My heart has been open to adoption for a very long time - before I was ever married or had children.  I have had unusual experiences & even dreams about adopting throughout the years.  About a year ago, a friend and I were talking about adoption & how people get to that point if it was something God wanted you to do, and I told her, "Well, God may want you to adopt, but He's not going to fill out the paperwork for you."  My own words have been ringing in my mind ever since, except those words sort of surprised me when I said them, so I know they weren't really MY words.  They were actually inspiration.

My husband was suddenly open this year because of some of his own experiences, and when we both prayed about it, the answer came to BOTH of us OVERWHELMINGLY and URGENTLY that THE TIME WAS NOW.  We felt we couldn't tell our friends & families when we knew, because as supportive as they are, we knew that the timing wouldn't make sense to them.  So we waited to share our news, but we actively took steps to move forward.  Immediately upon that decision, inside my heart was sudden & intense heartbreak - I knew with ALL my heart that there was a child - MY child - SOMEWHERE out there in the world - maybe born, but maybe not yet, whose circumstances could be putting them in danger, and I knew they needed to be safe home with me.  The feeling KILLED me inside.  To have no control over the circumstances to protect this little child or children who we were on a journey to find.  All I could do was get my license as fast as humanly possible so that I could get to them, but "as fast as humanly possible" is not a term that goes along with the State Licencing system - that's for sure.

I'm actually very grateful that we waited to tell friends & family, because we were emotionally fragile and we needed time to process the life change and know 100% that we weren't going to waver on it before anyone's opinions were presented whether the opinions were for or against, excited or worried, on the ship or not on the ship.  My family might say that I'm still emotionally fragile about all things related to fostering or adopting.
And in many ways I am.

Basically at any point that ANYONE has chosen to act as a Mama Bear FOR ME - by expressing their worries that my needs would not be met, or that they were worried about me and my kids first depending on what kind of a situation was brought into our home - I would take it personally.  I felt that because they were being a Mama Bear for me, that they cared NOTHING for the child I am ready to protect.  The child I am already bonded to before meeting.  The child who needs me.  But because they weren't worried about the child and they were only worried about me, I was upset and felt they weren't on board in the slightest and it made me all the more defensive to protect my soon to be adoptive child from them.  I felt that if my family really wanted to "take care of me", that they would feel the same protective feelings about my future child as I did.

But the problem is that not everyone instantly bonds with an unknown child - some people cannot do that until they meet the child, especially if it's not going to be their child & it's going to be someone else's child in their family.  You'd wish that people would feel instant bonding like they would if you were pregnant, but it's harder for them when you're adopting sometimes.

My dad did inform me that there are cases where people have a hard time bonding even with their biological children - that's something I've never experienced, so I hadn't thought about it.  But he reminded me not to fear and to just press forward approaching the situation like I would any other situation - with faith and prayer, and following the Spirit's direction.

But this process to get licensed has been grueling & excruciatingly difficult - even cruel at times.

Two months ago, we were actually supposed to take a placement for 2 little kids.  That placement was one of the hardest of my life. It was a situation that none of the classes prepared us for....  We stopped our lives and got ready to take the kiddos, but something happened that prevented the children to come to our home, and that something actually put the children in danger...for 2 1/2 weeks I was a wreck.  I could hardly even function.  I was worried, and stressed. Missing children WalMart signs never meant more to me, and I just cried reading the posters. All I could do was pray.  But I couldn't see any results of my prayers.  All I could see was a continual wall of not knowing, and all I could do was cling on to the faith that God really did hear my prayers, and that He really was answering them, even though I couldn't see the answers.  I was experiencing full grief by the end of a week.  People were surprised that I felt so strongly about a child I had never even met.  But the connection didn't surprise me, because I've lost 4 children to miscarriage, and maybe through those struggles from years past you could say that I've developed the strength of being bonded to and caring for a little one I'd never been able to see with my own eyes.  Sort of a sad thing, really, but a strength none the less.  The fierceness for which I cared seemed to shock people around me.  I was told I couldn't feel the way I felt, but I couldn't stop caring.  I was even threatened by someone who could have affected my licensing, because they were surprised that I cared so deeply.  All of that infuriated me all the more - excuse me for caring about a little someone who no one else in the world seems to care about.  When they say to you, "Well, DCS has a lot of children to help, so they'll get to it when they can." It's easy to just think, "Well that's easy for you to say, because THIS ISN'T SUPPOSED TO BE YOUR CHILD!"

It's awful the way that people turn their hearts off to the little ones in the world who are the most helpless.

The ONLY thing that stopped my intense grieving was the day that the children were safe.  They didn't actually come to my home because something positive in their family occurred, and that positive thing kept them with their family.  So I felt like maybe God only intended for me to be involved for those 2 1/2 weeks because He knew I would care enough to pray without ceasing for these kids, and maybe, just maybe my prayers were the kind of thing they needed during that difficult time.  I believe He answered my prayers even though I couldn't see them.

But while it's been 2 months, and while I have recognized times that I was grieving over those children, something happened to me yesterday that was an answer to my prayers.  I have become increasingly unhappy with the stage my youngest is in.  I actually have said to a few others - "This phase is probably the least favorite for me that children go through."  As I said those things, I knew it was unusual for me to say that - because I usually love all the stages of childhood development (even if they are more needy in certain phases).  But I also have been increasingly unhappy over time, and especially this week.  As I was praying to ask God to help me resolve the issues in my life that were affecting me negatively, I felt like I should go tackle a pile of boxes from moving.  I opened a box, and right on top was book that was handed to me at my doctor's office on the day I found out I was having my 2nd miscarriage. I still remember the doctor's kind voice as he handed me a tissue, telling me he was so sorry.  He opened up the cupboard. He pulled out a pink book entitled, "Empty Arms", and gave it to me.  I honestly don't remember reading much of the book back then, but yesterday I opened it.

What would you know? Here was a book about miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death, but I flipped open immediately to a page that talked about losses associated with adoption:

"There is another kind of adoption loss - I have met many parents who were in the process of adopting a beloved baby and then something happened.  Either the baby was no longer available for adoption, has died, or something else occurred that made it impossible or impractical for this baby to come to your home.  The experience of grieving for this baby will likely follow.  After all, you are already bonded with this baby. 

.....If the baby did not die, but is no longer able to be placed in your home, you know the child lives and may at times feel good about that, but you, too, will grieve for what could have been.  On top of that your loss may not be visible enough for others to see.  They may truly believe that since you did not have the baby in your home, you will not grieve as deeply.  They are wrong.  In any case, if your baby is missing from your life you, and others, will need to recognize that you made plans in your heart and life for this child.  Now you need to work on saying goodbye.   That will be hard and painful.  Reaching out to others, finding support groups, and books will be critical.  You need and deserve support and understanding." 

Yesterday I immediately understood that the Lord answered my prayers to show me why I was feeling the way I was.  I've just been so unhappy.  But upon reading this, I realized that while I thought I had dealt with grief for one of the children who was supposed to be placed with me, I actually hadn't dealt with grief over the other - but I was definitely still grieving.  The 18 month stage is not actually one that I dislike, and I actually AM NOT BETTER OFF to NOT have 2 children that age in my home.  All of that was a superficial excuse to shield my heart from hurting.  But it's important to recognize that I have been hurting, and I have been grieving the loss of that child.

Ever since I have recognized what happened to me, I have been able to ENJOY every moment of the day with my 18 month old.  He has made me laugh, the things he needs are not bothers, and I don't mind that he's not talking very well, yet. I am enjoying this stage again, because I am now on the path to healing from an adoption loss.

At any rate, being a Mama Bear is hard work.  It's a labor of love.  Sometimes (especially on the journey of foster care an adoption) you will feel feelings that you never knew existed.  But I know that I'm here because God knows how I feel, and HE needs me to feel this way so that I can be there for the children He sends me.  And if I didn't feel the way I feel, I couldn't be there in the ways He needs me to be there for them.

I'm going to keep being a Mama Bear for all of my children whether I birth them or adopt them.  I know they are meant to be with me, and I WILL FIGHT FOR THEM.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Patience in Reverse

(Written June 16, 2014)

Monday night we had a family home evening lesson...on patience.

Taylor, who is now home from his mission to Guatemala, shared some thoughts he had, and distributed gifts & souvenirs that he brought back for us.

It has been such a sweet blessing to have all of the siblings together.  Especially as we will only get to be together like this for a short while.  And Taylor, especially, has brought a light with him back home.  He is always happy.  He is always smiling.  He is always determined. He's always thoughtful of others & pays serious attention to the kids - as if they're the most important people around. It's the same Taylor we sent away on his mission, but now he's grown, and he still inspires all of us to grow.

As Taylor was sharing his message, he mentioned that each week he focuses on a different topic to improve on.  Basically if you focus on everything you ever need to work on at once, you're going to fail, but if you focus on one at a time, you can make improvements that last.  That week he had been working on Faith.  This week he was going to focus on Hope.  All too often I pat myself on the back just for simply reading scriptures at all - it's quite an ordeal to round up squirmy kids and get a prayer in in the morning, and before bed, and teach a spiritual thought each day.  It takes so much energy just to keep going thru the motions that in my mommy phase, I had never considered rotating gospel principles each week as a main focus ON TOP OF our usual spiritual goals of JUST DOING IT.  However, at the same time that he shared this, I felt inside that he was sharing his SECRET - the reason he is so happy.  His heart is in the right place.  He is always striving to draw himself nearer to God, and he is using effective methods.

We all decided to try to be more like Taylor, and as a family we decided to study the same topic together this week: PATIENCE.  It felt like the right thing It felt like a good thing.  It felt like we were going to instantly feel more spiritual and have a wonderful experience.  Now that we were all going to have a laser focus on practicing patience, then we'd all live in peace and harmony, right?  It was going to be like Heaven.

Well, God had another plan for me.

This week was not easy.  Don't worry - I was actually pretty patient.  A few times I consciously reminded myself to be more patient, but I didn't have to deal with any major temper tantrums from the kids like I imagined.  But what I did end up having to experience was being the one who desperately needed others to demonstrate patience on MY behalf!

So Monday night, we had the lesson on patience.  THEN.....

1) Tuesday, I woke up to an early morning phone call.  The previous day when I left work, I left one task undone.  That usually wouldn't have been a problem.  However, there were about 3 other pieces to the puzzle and mistakes of omission that caused a potentially major company issue.  Had I worked anywhere else besides a family business, this particular mistake would have cost me my job....   Fortunately by the end of the day it was corrected, but I still felt terrible for inadvertently causing my mom major stress and for giving her the need to be patient with me. 

2)  After work one day this week, I was supposed to follow Mitch home.  I decided to make a quick detour and visit a friend in the hospital.  When I called Mitch to tell him, he didn't answer the phone.  So I called the home phone.  Nothing.  I called the cell phone.  Nothing.  I called the home phone again. *UGH!*  In my head I thought, "Well, if he wants to know where I am, he's just going to have to or call me back."  So I went to the hospital, but while I was there, my phone was on silent and I didn't realize he was trying to call me back.  He was genuinely worried about me by the time I got home.  Once again, I caused someone else the need to have patience with me.  Then I realized WHY he hadn't answered when I called, and I felt EVEN WORSE.  He and the boys had been outside washing my car to SURPRISE ME, and they couldn't hear the phones ringing inside.  I realized that if I had had more patience with them not answering the phone - had I even left a message or a text to tell him where I was, they wouldn't have had the need to practice having patience because of me.

With TWO major whammies in a row, I was ready to quit studying patience.

But it got worse.

3)  I am trying to help throw a party for a friend.  SHE is VERY nice.  However, when we coordinated this week, even though she didn't say anything negative whatsoever, and even though the point of trying to help her with this party is so that she can sit back and relax, I'm still pretty sure that with all my good intentions, I am still causing her the need to have patience with me, because we work differently.  Luckily for me she's kind & she's still my friend, and I know that she knows that if I am stressing her out I am not doing it intentionally.  But I still feel badly!

4)  I had a hair-brained idea to re-do the music video we made for our wedding as a fun & sentimental way to celebrate our 10th anniversary this year.  Of course that meant there were 10 adults involved & despite everything else going on...I had to coordinate ALL of their schedules in order to make it happen.  Have you ever tried to coordinate 3 or 4 schedules for visiting teaching or for lunch?  Sometimes it's a nightmare, right?  That's nothing in comparison to this.  Getting 10 schedules to align was NOT easy.  In the mix of it all, one person was in charge of putting up flags for Flag Day with the Boy Scouts immediately before we met up, another only gets so many Saturdays off & had to take it off of work, another cancelled & rescheduled reservations & vacation plans to make it work, another is leaving for 2 years so it was now or never for them, another had a commitment to do service for a friend that morning, and the videographer could only do it in the morning, but nothing was able to be finalized until a couple days before.  So of course it went awry, and of course there were conflicts with the only time we were able to film the music video!  Fortunately for me they all ended up being supportive & flexible to help make something that was important to me and Mitch happen, but none of that happened without a lesson in patience first - once again WITHOUT EVEN TRYING to be difficult, I was the cause for someone else to have to have patience.

I wanted to say, "Stick a fork in me, I'm done!"

No more "patience" lessons, because I'm sick of feeling like a living hurricane, thoughtlessly destroying everything in my path!

5) I had one day off, and then I had yet another awkward moment where a previous fault or weakness of mine was pointed out by another. Sometimes when this particular subject comes up, I just wish that people would try to look at what's good in me instead of what's not perfect, yet.  I happen to be a perfectionist, which means that day after day I stare at what's wrong with myself, and just like everyone else, I have to fight discouragement all the time. I'm not perfect and I know it.  I'm more acutely aware of my own imperfections than anyone else is.  That's how it is for all of us, right?  So thru this experience, I once again realized how important it is to cut each other some slack & try to focus on everything else BESIDES the one thing you can't stand about each other.

Another lesson in patience the painful way.

I know this isn't true, but in some ways I think it might would feel better to purposely cause other people grief, because then I would have a REASON to feel down in the dumps.  Especially when you are TRYING to keep people happy, and are innately a person who worries about how others feel (I'm a BLUE - I'm an "empath" - it's my trait), then you purposely try to look at the world through other people's shoes and not step on their toes.  So THEN when you step on another's toes anyway, even though you didn't even try for that to happen, then you feel like even more of a failure because you do care about the people around you but you let them down anyway.  That's when you're tempted to think, "I don't even have to TRY to be a loser - I just am."  But those kinds of thoughts and feelings really are lies & you can't focus on them.

The whole week felt PAINFUL as my eyes were opened to the REASONS we need to have patience with others.  I learned how to have PATIENCE IN REVERSE.  Time and time again I felt the cringes of my unintentional mistakes causing others grief, and each time in my heart all I wanted was for them to understand where I was coming from, to give me the benefit of the doubt, and for them to forgive me.  Because I felt that way every single day this week, I felt like God was opening my eyes to how others might feel when they do similar things to me - just because someone inconvenienced me doesn't mean that they did it intentionally.  I want to be the first to give them the benefit of the doubt - to believe that any grief they caused me was not intended - I need to be the first to be kind and flexible and do whatever I can to help them not feel like a loser.  That's my goal.  It's so crazy, because I generally have viewed myself as a patient person, but until this week, I have never truly considered how often I may cause others to have patience. 

Now the greatest lesson of all came from my Dad.

Apparently we must be alike, because his experience this week was almost exactly like mine.  He reminded me that we need to be patient with ourselves.

That's what the Lord would have us do.  Be patient with others, and be patient with yourself.  Look for the good in others, and look for the good in yourself.  Jesus Christ himself saw enough good in all of us - in mankind as a whole, and in every single one of us as individuals, that He sacrificed Himself so that we could be with HIM - and He's perfect.  We must have hope. We must have patience.  We must have long-suffering, and brotherly kindness.  We must be patient as we improve ourselves & wait for the "perfect" day....

Does Service HURT or HELP Your Family?

I wrote this post 2 years ago (don't think I'm pregnant right now, because I'm not - but I was then, haha, my mom just texted me with my last post-dated blog, "Are you pregnant")....  Sorry for the heart attack, Mom.  My baby is still my baby right now. :)

Then she asked me why I am publishing things from 2014....

I think I never published this one because of lack of confidence.  Deep inside myself I have the words resonating from others who say: "You need to learn the word no."  But I have passion on topics like this, and I have been inspired by others who live busier lives than I do.  Deep down, I still feel like I know the answer to the question at hand, but sometimes I still let the nay-saying gnaw at me from the inside....

Especially now that my husband and I have jumped into the journey of getting licensed for foster care & adoption, this question has been rolling around in my head again, so here we are 2 years later, and the question is still in the air....

(Written in Oct. 2014)

Here's a question for debate:  
Does serving HURT or HELP your family?  
I kid you not, I asked my husband this very question during our 10th anniversary date and since then I have come across the dilemma many times since in circumstances I didn't expect it to.  To clarify, I have been searching for volunteers to sing in the church choir - our church time has recently changed, and with it has come a change to the rehearsal time for the choir.  I have had several people tell me they can't come, because their family time is really important to them.  I get it - choir practice interferes with my family time, too - that's for sure.  Maybe this is meant to teach me that I need to get choir moved to an earlier time - like before church...but as I think about whether or not I want to lobby the Bishop for change in our congregation, I get to thinking about HOW MUCH I am willing to go down that road - I'm the director, and I have 3 little kids with 1 on the way, my house is supposed to be "presentable" for practice, and we're supposed to have treats for rehearsal, and my husband has meetings BEFORE meeting before church is not technically practical for MY family fact our time before church is critically chaotic family time preparing for church.  I do think it is possible that maybe the main reason I've had these experiences - is so I can advocate a different choir time - but in all honesty:  My personal philosophy is that there is no "good" time for choir practice.   My other personal philosophy is that service isn't really service unless it's a pain.  I don't really mean that - I have participated in various opportunities to serve that have been fun to do.  Even if service comes at an inconvenient time, it can be totally fulfilling when you have a good attitude.  What I truly mean is that more often than not, when someone I love truly needs something, it doesn't come at a time that is easy for me, but I think that happens for a reason.  I also know I'm not the only one that this happens to.  I think it's a test for us.  Can we drop what we're doing and help a friend?  If we're not able to make it to help them, will we find someone who is?  More often than not, service is not something that happens on our own terms, or it wouldn't be classified as service.  

At any rate, I DO understand that there are times and seasons for all of us - sometimes we can serve in certain capacities - maybe at choir, or at the food bank, or in the hospital, at a pet shelter, you name it, but once in a while life changes and we have to take a little break and then go back when we can.  I have had my own seasons of faithful or sporatic attendance at church choir practice.  I TOTALLY GET IT!  In this particular situation, I am not upset with anyone who cannot make it in their current time & season, BUT I am left to ponder....

Maybe all these instances happened for a different reason.   How strange is it that this topic has been brought up 5 times - once by me personally to my husband, and 4 times by others within a week and a half?  I think that maybe I need to ponder this very question I asked to my husband and find myself a REAL answer:  


Based off of my last post, it's obvious that I have been in over my head lately.  That's still true - even more so because my son turned 5, and I promised him a party.  I know that sounds simple, but sometimes simple can be stressful, and the stress makes it hard for me to function when I'm pregnant.  I have noticed that when I am stressed out, I throw up involuntarily, and frequently.  Someone I know and love has called me a wimp for this. :) Don't worry - she's nice, too.  She mercifully brought me a large Barq's Root Beer today - for some weird reason it makes me feel so much better, even though I'm an A&W girl by heart, this pregnancy makes me CRAVE Barq's.  I really don't get it, but I digress.

On our 10th Anniversary, my husband and I got some sad news about some of our close friends who are getting a divorce.  It was an eye opening moment - this couple we thought was perfect for each other, who never showed any obvious signs of incompatibility, who we thought would make it forever, is splitting up, and I believe that by now it's final.  This is all so devastating to me, actually.  It's scary to me, too, even though I'm still married.  I hate hearing stories like this, because I know for whatever reason someone has a divorce, it's got to be a not-fun reason, I know it's not what they envisioned when they tied the not all those years ago, and I know there had to be heartache involved at some point along the way, if it's not still on-going, and it makes me sad for them.

Essentially, we were thrilled to make it to our 10th anniversary milestone, but the news about our friends that same day actually made us pause in the middle of our celebration, and it caused us to remember - 10 years is really just the beginning.  What are we going to do to make sure this marriage will last another 10, 15, 20, 30, 50, 100+ years?  What's the secret?  Is there a secret?  I don't know.  What I do know and believe is that the Adversary...the Devil, if you will, is ALWAYS doing everything He can to break up the family, because "The family is essential to the Creator's Plan for the eternal destiny of His children. (A Proclamation to the World by the LDS church)."  I do know that NOT ONE OF US is exempt from temptation or weakness.  I do know that the Lord can help us through any weakness, and that He can make weak things become strong to us.  However, there are still times when weaknesses, and addictions, and choices have consequences that affect the family.  In our family, a lot of the craziness our family experiences comes because of the way I schedule our lives & Mitch sometimes seems like he's along for the ride.  So in an effort to evaluate our marriage, I asked Mitchell if he felt like the amount of service our family participates in is helping or if it's hurting our family.  I wish I had written down his million dollar response, but it was totally different than I expected.  I expected him to tell me I take the family out of control too often, and that I need to quit doing so many things, and that we need more time for our family.  But he didn't.  He said that we need to serve.  I personally think the way we go about serving the church & our community as a family can still improve to make sure our family doesn't suffer,but I do still agree with him.  We need to serve.  I do believe it will help our family learn the lessons we are trying to instill in our children.  But even though I know that, there are times that I do pray, "Heavenly Father, please bless that this time we are giving will not hurt our family, but help us."  Only time will tell how it will affect our family.

So...back to my original question.  It is essential that we protect our families.  It is essential that we nurture our marriages.  It is critical to give these endeavors our full attention.  However, we are also told to serve others and to give our time and talents to build the Kingdom of God.  I have heard time and time again, "Family Comes First".  And it should.  We need to support each other at functions in both the immediate & extended families where possible and that's one way to put your family first.  But can I justify NOT serving in the church because there will be a sacrifice of family time?  Is there such a thing as a calling that doesn't interfere in some way with family time?  I'm pretty sure the Bishop & his family serve their hearts out. I'm pretty sure the Apostles & Prophets miss out on a lot of family things the rest of us get to enjoy.  Does that sacrifice hurt their families or does it help them?

I know MANY, MANY, MANY others who RUN CIRCLES around us and who give MORE of their time and talents to their churches, families, and communities than we do.  These examples seem to say to me that service HELPS your family.  In fact, in some ways, it almost seems that your own family cannot thrive without serving others.  I think I found my answer tonight.  Sometimes our life gets a little crazy.  Sometimes the price of serving someone else means the laundry and dishes get out of control, but let's be honest, they can get out of control anyway, so how is that a real sacrifice?  If we can keep the proper perspective, adding some craziness into your family time will not hurt you, your spouse, and kids.  It will help you.

Bro. Bess
Brother Bess hosted the missionary discussions for my friend, Jenny.  He worked with Young Single Adults, and always made us feel welcome and like we had a friend in the Bess family. He died early and it was so sad to me.  At his funeral, a story was told about how he LOVED stereo systems and had been saving up money to get a new one...we're talking thousands and thousands of dollars.  There was a moment in time where there was someone within his realm of influence who needed help, and if I got the story straight, his Bishop asked him if he would be willing & able help this individual with their circumstance.  Doing so, meant sacrificing that special stereo fund he had worked so hard to build up.  Bro. Bess did it, though.  The friend who told this story said he was shocked, but Bro. Bess essentially told him, "I'm not worried about the stereo system.  The Lord knows of our sacrifices.  I'm sure someday I'll get an even better one."  He understood that you can't make a sacrifice of any sort without getting a blessing that's worth more in the end.  It will still take faith to move forward when service requires sacrifice, and sometimes the blessings for our sacrifices are not monetary, but in the end Bro. Bess did get an awesome stereo.  Did serving someone else by giving of his funds hurt him or his family?  I think not.

Grandpa Tenney
My Grandpa Tenney had an assignment from the church to watch over certain families in his congregation, and to check up with them at least once a month, and help meet their needs in any way possible.  He was faithful in this endeavor while he was feeling well, but even when he was sick and on his deathbed, he didn't turn it over to someone else - he fulfilled his assignment and was checking up on these other families.  Grandpa took care of his own family, too, but he didn't stop his service because he was afraid it would hurt his own family for him to devote energy in his final days to caring about someone else.  In fact, it means more to me that my Grandpa was being selfless in his service. I still think of his example time and time again when I've been given assignments from my church to check up on others in my congregation.  I am sick and pregnant, and it's easy to use that as an excuse, but then I think of Grandpa.  He was DYING.  Literally dying must feel worse than being pregnant.  It's not a good excuse to be worried only about myself when I'm pregnant.  I love Grandpa & his example.  I miss him.

My friends Liane & Becky
I have been getting my feet wet with the Distinguished Young Women of AZ program.  Everything is run by volunteers and takes a lot of man power and hours to pull off this wonderful program that teaches young women to "Be Your Best Self" and to also award scholarships to these stellar young women.  The craziness lasts for a month or more depending on the assignment you help with, but these women are the directors, so their craziness lasts much longer.   This year they both suffered the death of a loved one during the heart of the competition.  This last month, Becky lost her mother in law, and Liane lost her best friend.  Both of these ladies served their friends and families, and continued to run the program & rehearsals without a hitch, and without complaining.  Most people didn't even know the burdens they carried as they served 29 young women from the State of Az.  Did service this year hurt them, or help their families?  They're still happy. They're still moving.  They're still going to do it again next year.  They both amaze me.

Dad & Mom
My dad is a very busy man.  Like, actually, he's ridiculously busy of his own accord, running a business.  But he is also an Assistant Director of the Easter Pageant, and he puts on amazing, highly professional, 3 day Community Christmas Concerts for free, and he speaks publicly whenever asked, and almost always whenever anyone asks him to sing he will pull strings & is able to make it work out, and now he's the Bishop of a Young Single Adult Ward in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, too.  My mom is the same way - she jointly runs the business, she cheerleads my dad in his musical endeavors, she feeds hundreds of missionaries at conferences, she decorates for large events, she keeps the family together, she makes visits to others in need, she makes dinners for people in need, and I only hear her complaining about how imperfect things the dinners she makes - never is her focus on how hard it is for her to do so much for so many people.  When I grew up, my parents taught me & my siblings that NO MATTER WHAT the Bishop might ask us to do to serve in the church, that we need to go on faith that the Lord will help us do it.  The Lord will help us develop the skills we need to do the job we were asked to do.  I have never considered saying no to the Bishop, because that's what my parents taught me, and I have always been enriched in the end by the service to my congregation, even when I had a responsibility that was completely new to me.  Does it hurt my family that my parents do so much in their church and community?  No.  I talk to my mom every day.   And my dad calls his kids individually - multiple times a week.  He thinks about us.  He shares his feelings immediately, and he teaches us the lessons he's learning as he's serving.  I cannot tell you how many times my testimony has been strengthened by the service of my parents, because they have a story to tell or a deep insight to share that they would have received in no other way, but through serving others.  I actually get many opportunities to spend time with my family because they need my help with the projects they're working on to serve the community.  So in this instance, even though it usually feels like insanity in their schedules, service brings our family closer.

Uncle Lewis
My Uncle Lewis was an amazing man.  I didn't realize how "famous" he was until he died.  I just knew he thought I was special, because he told me.  But he was well known throughout all of Northern Arizona.  At his funeral, the church building we were in was packed to the back, and the service was BROADCAST to at least 2 other church buildings.  Family out of town could watch the stream online.  I know the people in the buildings felt the same way about my Uncle Lewis - he made them feel special, but they probably didn't realize he was as famous as he was, either, because when around Uncle Lewis, it was never about him, it was about the person he was talking to.  He touched so many lives, and so many people came to honor him.  He even had a letter read at his funeral that was sent from the First Presidency of the Church to thank him and his wife & family for the service they rendered.  When my cousin Dave gave his life sketch, I couldn't even count the amount of organizations he had served in.  There was seemingly no end to the way he gave to his community.  There was even a story of Aunt Mary and the way she supported him - one time, there was an early morning church meeting for Priesthood leaders, and Uncle Lewis slept thru his alarm - it was early like 4am, but she wasn't about to have it.  She put her cold feet on his back and pushed him out of bed...she could have let him sleep thru so they could have breakfast together, but instead, it wasn't about her, or him, it was about what they could do to serve the Lord.  I have never been so motivated in my life than I was by that funeral.  I left with a commitment to do an act of service every day besides my normal daily tasks for my family.  My Uncle Lewis has changed my life and my outlook on service.  I have found that as I have taken this challenge that I felt the Spirit prompted me to do, that I have had my life enriched in ways I didn't expect.  I have also found that when I do service I almost always need someone else to help me...I don't know what I need to learn from that, but it seems like every endeavor to serve takes more than one person.  Sometimes I cannot serve the community unless someone watches my kids.  Sometimes I cannot make dinner on time without having a helper in the kitchen.  Sometimes I cannot fulfill any assignment, even if it's musical, unless I have my hubby at my side (for example, HE was my right hand during the Gilbert Temple Cultural Celebration, and still is during Choir Practice...he makes copies, he keeps the kids entertained, he makes treats sometimes...I CANNOT do it without him).  But I think about Uncle Lewis & Aunt Mary.  They had a TON of kids - double the size of family I grew up in, and yet, they still served their community.  Did that hurt or help their family?  I think it only helped them - all of their kids are grown and are successfully providing for their families - all of their kids are serving their community in major and time consuming ways, and they attend church regularly & serve there - many as Bishops & priesthood leaders, they leave Secret Santa's yearly as tradition started by their parents, and there are positive waves rippling across the world because of the Lewis & Mary Tenney Family.

Since I attended Uncle Lewis' funeral I have also started to pray that the Lord will increase my capacity & capability to serve.  I have seen the Lord do this, and I have had so many fulfilling moments of joy that would have come in no other way, but by helping a friend.  (I have also had an increase in feeling crazy, but that's okay.)

So what is it folks - is service helping us or is it hurting us?  

All any of us can do is have faith and trust in the Lord that He will bless your efforts to serve in a way that helps your family.