Friday, October 30, 2009

Hope Floats

It does, you know. No matter how hard it is held under, hope will always float to the top. I suspect the reason for that is, hope is lighter than the opposite which is gloomy despair, or painful discouragement.

Not long ago I attended an auxiliary training for our stake. There I experienced both ends of the spectrum. We were introduced to next year's YW theme, taken from Joshua 1:9. This new favorite scripture of mine says the following:

"Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee, whithersoever thou goest."

To me, this scripture speaks of peace of heart and mind. It says in essence, that no matter what the days ahead may bring, we are not alone and things will be okay. True, we have to live up to our part of the deal--obeying the commandments is a solid guarantee that we will have the help of heaven to survive our challenges. It doesn't mean that there won't be any trials, for that is how we learn, grow, and prove ourselves while in mortal mode. What it does mean is that we shouldn't go around wringing our hands in fear. The Lord is with us, no matter where we are, or what we're facing.

So as I sat basking in the glowing warmth of the inspired scripture above, someone tried to pop my proverbial balloon. That night someone stressed that we need to be honest with our YW and tell them that the days ahead will be horrible. "These girls need to know what they will be facing, so they can be strong enough to do so. They need to know that things will keep getting worse and worse and that they need to be prepared."

Wow. Where did that come from? I'll admit, we live during a difficult time. Has it ever been otherwise? Has there ever been a time when there weren't challenges? Has the adversary ever crawled into a hole and left people alone for any amount of extended time? Nope.

I'm sure during both World Wars and the Great Depression, people weren't always dancing in the street for joy. Nor were they when the world's population waded through the dreary times known as the Dark Ages. So on and so forth.

In today's world, we enjoy more blessings than in any previous age. The number of temples now in operation should be reason enough to keep us rejoicing for a very long time. Despite the news stories that fill TV screens and computer screens alike, good things are happening in the world.

While I do plan to help our YW prepare for the challenges that lie ahead, I refuse to convince them that their future will "inhale" and it will be filled with terrible things. I've survived enough of those kind of trials to know that despite the very darkest day ever, there will be other days when the sun will shine brightly and hearts will fill with peace. It is my own opinion that we need to instill calming faith, not despairing fear inside the hearts of our vulnerable youth. Yes, there are a lot of trials currently taking place in the world, but dwelling on the negative things isn't what I think our Father in heaven would like for us to do.

During these turbulent latter days, we need to be a positive light in an ever-darkening world. Our balloons of hope need to be visible, dancing in the sunlight of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Favorite Fall Photos

People who know me well, know that I'm rarely without one of my cameras. It's a hobby, what can I say. ;) That said, periodically I manage to capture interesting moments in time. I figured for today's blog, I would share some of my favorite fall photos, taken about a week ago. There is one exception; the final picture is one my daughter-in-law snapped of my cute little granddaughter. But it's a cute fall picture and it shows how much she loved playing in the leaves, so I have to share. Enjoy and check back next week for more fun blog posts.

This is a shot I took up Emmigration Canyon.

This is a colorful hillside I snapped up Emmigration Canyon.

Here my spouse posing up nearby Maple Canyon, not far from our home.

Kennon had me pose in that same canyon. Maple Canyon is also where the first picture at the top of this blog was taken . . . in case anyone was wondering.

This is a picture I snapped up above Bennington in the nearby "Orchard," as we call it. Bennington is the small town where we reside.

This is a shot I captured when we were in the Crow Creek area on our way to Wyoming a few days ago. The sun was just starting to set and it made a gorgeous picture.

And as promised, here is the picture of my cute little granddaughter, playing in the leaves near her home. Aari loves being outside and she thoroughly enjoyed romping in the leaves that day.

If you get a chance this weekend, weather permitting, go out and enjoy what is left of the fall season. I absolutely love this time of year and I wish it would last longer than it usually does.

Monday, October 19, 2009


To begin today's post, I'm sorry for not posting anything last week. I caught a vicious bug going around (shudder, shudder, cringe some more) and was pretty well wiped out for nearly 5 days. Good times--NOT! ;)

Enough said, and onto today's post, which is a review of a wonderful new book by Jennie Hansen. In my opinion, this new suspense novel will affect numerous lives in a good and positive way and I am honored to review it in a public fashion. This is a book that I highly recommend---if I posted stars as a rating system, it would rate 5 out of 5.

Jennie is a talented writer and author of several popular LDS books. She also writes informative and fair book reviews for Meridian Magazine, an online LDS resource. Jennie's latest release is a book entitled: "Shudder." In the pages of this book, Jennie has courageously tackled a difficult subject matter--spousal abuse. Borrowing from a paragraph in the acknowledgments of this significant book:

"Shudder is a book I knew I would write someday. During the years I worked as a reporter, served in Relief Society, and even while being employed as a librarian, I heard stories from lonely, isolated women. I witnessed the bruises, the broken bones, and the haunting fear in their eyes. I became the confidant and only friend of one such woman. I was a visiting teacher to another . . . I have heard General Authorities and prophets denounce those men who would inflict pain on their spouse and children, declaring them unworthy to hold the priesthood. The truth is that no woman deserves to be abused by the man to whom she has given her trust fully
. . ."

Jennie has done a great job of weaving a storyline that illustrates how devastating abuse can be, no matter the form. Verbal, physical and sexual abuse are wrong and lives are destroyed when this type of behavior takes place.

The two main characters of Shudder are close friends: Clare and Darcy. They grew up together, best friends who have always been there for each other. Surprisingly, their home lives were as different as day and night. Darcy grew up in a typical LDS home, one filled with loving siblings and parents who treated each other with respect. Darcy was raised with love and support and she matured into a loving, strong young woman with high ideals. Saddened by the tragic death of an older sister, Darcy rises above the challenges in her life to reach for important goals.

Clare, on the other hand, was raised by an ailing mother who eventually passed away, leaving the young woman on her own as an orphan. Though Darcy's family did their best to include her in important family gatherings, Clare struggles with an inherent emptiness. The need to be loved seems to be filled by a young man named Blaine. Clare falls in love with the attractive young man from a prominent family, unwilling to listen to Darcy's unease about the kind of person she suspects Blaine to be. His belittling manner and domineering ego clash with everything Darcy knows is good in a relationship.

Though Blaine is a returned missionary, his rude and selfish behavior indicate he is an aggressive predator. Closing her eyes to the danger, Clare ignores the warning signs that she is in an abusive relationship, and she acquiesces to Blaine's outrageous demands, certain that he is her knight in shining armor.

The final straw for Darcy is Blaine's insistence that he move in as a roommate to her and Clare. When Darcy refuses to cooperate, Blaine moves in behind her back, prompting Darcy to move out. From that point on, Darcy and Clare head in opposite directions. Clare accepts Blaine's proposal, and though her wedding is not what she had always dreamed it would be, she convinces herself that marriage to Blaine will fulfill her desire for a loving family. All too soon she realizes that Blaine is not the man she believes him to be and she turns to the one person who has always been there for her in the past, Darcy.

While all of this is taking place in Clare's life, Darcy continues with her education, completing her student teaching at a local high school. She meets and begins dating a wonderful young man named David. Unlike Clare's experience, Darcy establishes a healthy relationship with David, who embodies what a priesthood holder should be. Lending encouraging support, David helps Darcy survive a dangerous situation where both of their lives are in mortal peril.

Full of surprising plot twists, "Shudder" will keep you on the edge of your seat as you read on to see what happens next. This is a book every woman should read. Not only will it open the eyes of women who haven't experienced an abusive relationship, but it may give those who have the courage to reach for a different life.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Moxie In The Mix

I laugh every time I see the picture above. This is a shot of my little granddaughter, something I snapped in August during a family reunion. It was a blistering hot day, and before it was over, we were all wishing we were dressed like Aari. ;) There she was, balancing herself with one hand, lifting up something that to her was quite heavy. She was doing her best to imitate her daddy who was playing a similar game nearby.

Aari possesses moxie and this fills my heart with joy. She recently learned to walk and she now toddles everywhere, eager to explore life. This past weekend, I followed behind as she climbed something that to her, appeared to be a giant mountain. It was a long set of stairs in my sister-in-law's home, but to Aari, it was a steep challenge that beckoned and we both cheered when she reached the top.

Aari had a rough start in life. For months we agonized over a kidney problem that became apparent compliments of a series of ultrasounds. Before this tiny girl was born, it appeared that she would endure some health issues. At the very least, we were told that surgery would be required to fix the kidneys in the months following her birth. If things looked grim enough, transplants were in order down the road.

No one likes to be told that a tiny baby will be facing procedures of this magnitude. We fasted. We prayed. We kept her name and the names of her parents on temple prayer rosters. The biggie was maintaining our faith that all would be well. Then about a month before she made her arrival into this mortal realm, we witnessed a miracle---one kidney decreased in size, exhibiting signs that it was working properly as the swelling disappeared.

We cried with relief, expressing heartfelt gratitude to the One we knew had made this possible. But our celebration was dampened somewhat by the solemn face of a doctor who pointed out that the other kidney was still in trouble. He explained there wasn't time for the second kidney to improve on its own. It would need surgery after her birth.

It's a difficult thing to walk by faith. Doubting fear can rob us of peace of heart and mind, and in the weeks before Aari's birth, we agonized over what this precious child might have to endure. Still we prayed, clinging to a thin thread of hope that all would be well.

I was fortunate enough to be there at the hospital the night that Aari was born. She arrived into this world early on the morning of September 30th, 2008. And yes, we all cried as we took turns holding this beautiful baby girl who meant so much to us.

That first day, we also held our breath, hoping her kidneys would work. For hours we waited and when the waterworks in question didn't seem to be functioning, we prayed. Aari was taken back for another ultrasound to see what the kidneys and bladder now looked like.

We'd shed tears earlier, so there was no pride at stake when the doctor returned with Aari and very good news; her small bladder was filled to capacity. Both kidneys looked normal and appeared to be working just fine on their own. We cheered. We cried. And we prayed again, thanking God for another miracle.

Miracles do still happen. I've witnessed enough of those in my life to know that we seldom walk through life alone. We are watched over and helped far more than we ever fully realize.

During a challenging time in my life several years ago, I was blessed with a message dream. They don't happen very often, most dreams are silly nonsense, but once in a great while, when the need is great, an important message can surface in this format. Years ago I was given the following dream:

I was trying to walk up a golden staircase. Every step was agony and this effort required strength beyond my own to accomplish. Then my eyes were opened and I was shown that a dark force was doing their best to stifle me. Darkened hands reached for my feet, determined to block my way. Angels hovered nearby, allowing me to move forward on my own if I chose to take those precious steps. That part was up to me. The angels could keep the dark force at bay, as long as I kept moving forward, up the staircase toward an important goal.

I don't think it was a coincidence that the next morning, after waking from this extremely vivid dream, I found myself in the local drugstore where I saw a painting of a similar scene. A golden staircase rose toward heaven, and a solitary figure was making the climb. At the top of this picture were the following words: "Help me believe in what I could be, and all that I am. Show me the Stairway I have to climb, Lord, for my sake, teach me to take one day at a time."

Stunned, I purchased this picture with my prescriptions that day. I found a frame and it has hung in a place of honor in my computer room ever since. It's a reminder that even though we all have to make that climb, we never make it alone. Inner determination, something I call moxie, gives us the courage to keep taking those steps, even when it seems that all is lost.

Aari is a living example of what can happen when we choose to continue forward. It is my prayer that she'll continue walking forward up this fragile stairway we call life. It's something we all must do, taking it one determined step at a time, ignoring the doubting fear and darkened force that tries to stifle us. Reaching the top will take everything we can muster, but it is possible when we walk by faith, step by step, until our goals are realized.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mawage is wot bwings us togeder . . .

Okay, I'm through stealing lines from "Princess Bride." For now. ;) I thought for today's blog post, I would share some pictures of a recent wedding in our family, something that took place on Saturday, October 3rd.

Here the groom (Jordan) is waiting anxiously for his bride.

Here we are, waiting for the festivities to take place: Kris, Devin, Derek, Kristen, Moi holding Aari, & Kennon. We were all very grateful that the weather cooperated that day.

Finally the wedding procession marched in. Here's the mother of the bride, Jackie, escorted by Cori's boyfriend, Abby, who accidentally got cut from the picture. (I do apologize about that.)

And here are Jordan's parents.

Cori was actually escorted in by someone else, but I owed Abby one for the earlier photo error. Aren't they a cute couple? ;)

Jonathan & Erica also made a cute couple. (Note how their outfits blend. It was a remarkable coincidence. =D)

And here the father of the bride, Curt, is escorting the beautiful bride, Cassi. Holding her train are the cute sons of Kalli & John.

Last but not least were the reluctant tikes who filled the roles of ring-bearer & flower girl. Janet the wedding planner did a great job of keeping everyone on track.

Grandparents, Bob & Verdene, looked spiff for the occasion.

Numerous relatives came for this event. Pictured here is Kenney, Trista, & Sheldon.

Presenting Mr. & Mrs. VanOrden.

Shortly after the wedding, we met up at the local church for the traditional wedding dinner.

The dinner was delicious and the company was fantastic. A good time was had by all. I understand Aunt Scoob was impressed with the silverware. ;) {Private joke}

Even the youngest member of the clan enjoyed himself. Li'l "Tater" loved being spoiled by his grandma Arvilla.

Before long it was time for pictures and a plethora of cameras made an appearance. Here Cassi is posing with her bridesmaids.

The entire Stucki Clan posed graciously for several different shots.

The reception was a great success and the line was steady throughout the evening. Then it was time to cut the wedding cake.

The traditional tossing of the bridal bouquet was next. It was so amazing that Cori was the one to catch it. ;)

It was day filled with romance, which may have inspired good brother Jeffy to whisper sweet nothings into his wife's ear. Dannyel was a good sport about that. ;)

To close, I'll end with another favorite quote from the movie, "Princess Bride":

"And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva . . ."