Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas 2014

Chris and I have been hard at work to get into the Christmas spirit this month.

And, because we don't have kids and all of our near-and-dear friends live far away, it can be just that: work.

Mostly it's the work of be excited, to get the things done that we intended to. We've discovered a couple of things, like how neither of us actually likes The Nightmare Before Christmas, and both of us feel like a tree without lights is pretty pointless. We've started a couple of traditions, like watching the Christmas devotional and decorating with homemade and gifted items.

In truth though, the most meaningful Christmas moments this year have existed entirely in my own head and heart. This year, I've been struck again and again by what Christmas is really about...and not just in the "let's put Christ in Christmas" kind of way. It's been a level deeper than that.

Do you realize who Christ is? Do you really understand His role and purpose in being born? Without Christ, there is no hope. No forgiveness. No improvement. No mercy.

But with Him...oh, the magnitude of blessings we have. Because of Him, every brokenness can be healed. Every failing can be changed. Every harsh reality of moral existence becomes nothing more than a moment to stretch and demonstrate our faith.

That little baby was the Savior. The Redeemer. The Deliverer. The Light, the Life, the Way.

He saves, redeems, delivers. Resurrects us, even, from our cold and sinful ways to the warmth and vibrancy and safety of His love.

And oh, isn't that worth celebrating?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Today was spent taking Chris to Chicago to catch a place. He'll be in San Francisco for about the next week or so, giving a couple of presentations at a big conference. He really didn't think he was going to be able to pull it off, but somehow he mustered a lot of faith and courage and sure enough, it looks like he'll get everything done that he needs to in order to have a successful presentation. I'm awfully proud of him.

Even if it means that I walked into my apartment tonight, alone.

It gave me a fresh perspective, though. As I looked around, taking in the surroundings that would be solely mine for the next week or so, I noticed just how messy things have gotten. Just clutter and disarray. Nothing too horrifying, but it's hard to find a place that isn't littered with stuff.

But you know what? That's what our life looks like these days. We are exceptionally busy, occasionally lazy, and so completely in love that a lot of evenings, it's just more important to us to sit on the couch and snuggle than it is to do the dishes.

I guess what I really see when I look around here is a lot of love. Our awesomely decorated living room, where we picked out and arranged everything together. The load of clean laundry that Chris did without me having to ask. The basil plant Chris let me get just because I wanted it.

The last days and weeks have been tremendously hectic ones, but I have to acknowledge that we have been richly blessed even as we have struggled. I will deeply miss Chris every day that he is gone, not just because I will want someone around (although that's probably true too) but because I want him around. Every day I spend with him is another day's worth of love that I have stockpiled for this delightful person that Heavenly Father gave to me. How amazing is that?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

family history

I've tried to link to information on concepts that those who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints might not be familiar with. If you have questions beyond what I've tried to address, please don't hesitate to ask!

I testify that Heavenly Father knows us, loves us, and has provided a way for families to be together forever. If you'd like to know a little more about a piece of my forever family, you can read the brief accounts below.


Mary Loretta Jackson is my paternal grandmother. When my dad was a single parent, my brother and I spent the summer with "Grandmom" (she hated being called "grandma"...I think it made her feel old!) so that my dad could continue to work during the day while my brother and I were out of school. I loved to sing the children's songs I learned in church, and many summer days found me singing "I am a Child of God" while I sat on the living room floor of Grandmom's apartment, playing Barbies:

I am a child of God, 
And he has sent me here, 
Has given me an earthly home 
With parents kind and dear.
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me,
Help me to find the way.
Teach me all that I must do
To live with him someday.

Although I didn't really understand it at the time, this was strongly developmental of my grandmother's personal relationship with her Savior. My dad, who joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in his 20s, shared the gospel with my grandmother, but it was her granddaughter's repeated action of bringing the Holy Spirit into her home that began to influence her to change her life.

When Grandmom was finally baptized, she asked me to sing "I am a Child of God" at her baptism. I am so grateful that she chose me to be a part of that and recognized the power that the Savior can have in our lives, even if it comes from a child.


My paternal grandmother was a creative person. She had more Bob Ross videos than I could comfortably count at age 9, and would often paint-by-number while I watched the progression of black and white outlines to full-color birds and animals with awe. My childhood was filled with elaborate, beautiful crocheted doll's dresses and carefully coordinated and sewn casual outfits which she had given me for Christmases and birthdays.
Perhaps one of her most enduring creative legacies, however, exists in the form of a poem. (If my dad knows where his copy is, I'll try to post it later!)
This poem is based on a particular experience she had, before she had even really considered joining the church. I hope to relay it accurately, but my retelling is based on cobwebbed childhood memory and therefore a little creative license of my own can be anticipated.
It was a rainy night, common to San Diego winters. My grandmother drove down the freeway, harrowed up by the anxieties and struggles she faced. As she drove, she began to pray, reluctantly at first, but with increasing earnestness as she took full stock of her life. Things seemed hopeless and she felt increasingly aware of how trapped she felt by her circumstances and personal weaknesses. In this dire moment of self-doubt and spiritual exhaustion, she cried out for help to the Lord. 

She drove her car around a bend in the road...and there was the temple.

The San Diego temple shone in its full splendor through the rainy, dismal night and my grandmother's tears. Light radiated from it in a holy proclamation of peace and majesty, and that holiness washed over my grandmother's heart. Tears fell anew as the Spirit bore personal witness to her that her prayers were heard, that her sacrifices and efforts were accepted, and that her Creator, her Heavenly Father, loved her with all of His infinite heart.
Grandmom's decision to put this experience into words influenced my own desire to become a writer, and her commitment to creating beauty to share with others inspires me to do the same. Most of all, however, I am strengthened by her testimony that Heavenly Father is aware of us, even in our darkest moments, and provides all of the promise and peace of the holy temple to bring us joy and light forever.


When my dad was a single parent, my grandmother was a strong influence in the life of my brother and I. Simply put, Dad needed the help, and Grandmom stepped up to the challenge of caring for the children of her children when she was needed.

Although she may not have realized it at the time, the most enduring aid she gave to me was allowing me to witness and participate in her conversion. My grandmother loved the temple, and the Primary songs I would sing to myself as I visited her. However, with all of the ways that the truths of the gospel resonated in her heart, she still struggled with the Word of Wisdom.

I remember a particular week when she had not been very successful in avoiding her addiction to coffee and cigarettes. She felt so weak, and the discouragement and disappointment she felt in herself hung like a heavy burden on her shoulders. That week in sacrament meeting, we could tell that she wondered why she was even trying.

During one of the songs in that meeting, I heard a sniffle. I glanced over to find my grandmother weeping, as her gravelly, tobacco-damaged voice sang:

I marvel that [Jesus] would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,
That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.

Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me 
Enough to die for me.
Oh it is wonderful, wonderful to me.

She was reminded, before my very eyes, that Jesus Christ atoned for our sins, that we are blessed for every attempt we make to walk uprightly before God, and we are forgiven for each and every stumble.

Even almost 20 years later, this song still touches my heart and makes me think of my grandmother and her humble testimony. I, too, am amazed by the love that our Savior has for each of us, and with Grandmom, I testify that we can be free from every sin, addiction and weakness through His Atonement. And that is wonderful to me.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

my amazing husband

My husband is on an absolute roll these days.

Before my new job, I've been the one responsible for housework and errands and things, mostly so that Chris could focus on school. After a couple of evenings lately when I was flipping out about how busy my life is, Chris sat me down. "I think you might be just as busy as I am, if not busier. You need to let me help."

We were very worried about what this transition was going to look like in our family. Was it going to cause fights if Chris didn't get around to what I'd asked him to do? Was I really going to make a new habit of asking for help? Were we going to be able to prioritize our very busy lives sufficiently?

We're at the beginning of my third week working, and it's been an impressive success so far. Mostly though, I'm impressed with my husband.

In the middle of a work project when I ask for help with dinner? "Be right there."

Being asked to do one of his least favorite chores? "Just do the first part to get me going, and I will do the rest."

Given a bigger job than he was hoping to be given? Does even more than requested, and when I ask about it, responds, "Well, it was dirty."

Stuck on the couch because his very tired wife just wants to snuggle? "You take a break. Can I tell you about my work project?"

Surrounded by clutter because we just haven't gotten around to it? "I'm sorry, I need to do better at checking our chore chart. We'll get it done, though. I really do want to help."

I am so impressed by Chris' humility, generosity, and work ethic. It seems that no matter how much Chris struggles with anything else, I really am his top priority. That blows my mind. With weeks like this one, I just can't imagine why he would ever doubt himself or whether or not the Lord is pleased with him.

I'm so blessed, guys. My husband is such a powerful example of goodness to me -- and that's not just with helping me around the house, either. In the last couple of months, we have made a friend through the missionaries. Frankly, our friend has needed a lot of help because her life is in such a huge transition, but I haven't heard Chris complain about it once. In fact, he's the one who baptized her this weekend.

I really do have the husband I always wanted, but never quite believed I would get. And I'm convinced that I'm able to recognize this because I've been diligently reading my scriptures lately. Because of the scriptures, I can see the truth:

He really is amazing.

Saturday, February 1, 2014


Worry worry worry worry worry.

Gnaw gnaw gnaw gnaw.

Worry worry worry worry worry.

These are the sounds my brain is making at 4am, which is why I am not currently asleep.

I just got called to lead the girls' youth group in the Spanish congregation, and they haven't had a leader in months. I feel like I have to start it from scratch.

But when it comes down to it, I don't.

The Lord is perfectly capable of accomplishing His purposes...I just happen to be the tool He has chosen to use this time.

He wouldn't have called me unless He thought I could accomplish His work. He's asked people to build ships, nations, and churches "from scratch," but He has always had a plan in mind for it -- both an end goal and a process to get here. I don't really know either of those right now, but at least I know I'm not alone in trying to figure out what is best for these girls. He already knows them and already knows what is best for them. So I'm not really starting from scratch at all. I'm just trying to know the mind of God.

Today I am grateful that I am not alone. God has a plan for me. He already has this all figured out, and as I come to know Him better, He will reveal his plans to me.

I am grateful to be a part of Christ's church restored on the earth. Strangely enough, no matter how much or how often I worry, I come back to one thing: I know where to find answers. The scriptures are meant to get us acquainted with God, to know who His is and who He will always be. I know they hold that power. And a part of me suddenly suspects...prayer is, in part, meant to get us acquainted with ourselves. What do we ask for? Do we plead for it sincerely? How often do we pray? When we know who we are and we bring our truest selves to Him, the answers come so much faster. Our eyes clear so that we can't be withheld from seeing Him. Even if we are incredibly weak.

I am grateful for personal revelation. My concerns matter to the Lord. My marriage is important to Him. My happiness and growth are way at the top of His priority list. He created me to have joy, not just now but eternally. That means that He is willing to give me the compassion and instruction that I need...and that He has given me the means to acquire it. He already knows what I need, and He clues me in as He provides it.

I believe that Heavenly Father already has a picture in His mind of what things are supposed to look like. I believe that He already has my day prioritized. I believe He does not want me to be angry or full of fear.

And so, at 4 a.m., I pray, O Father, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief.

My ways are not Thy ways. My thoughts are not Thy thoughts

Help me to empty myself of self so that there is room for Thee here. 

And surely, slowly, gradually, the peace comes. And I am not afraid.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

a day to remember

On bad days, I want to remember what today looked like.

I want to remember that my rudimentary skills were enough to serve the purpose, and that I was proud of my work.

I want to remember that it was convenient to be nice to my husband, and I was genuinely excited about that.

I want to remember that I chatted with a friend and reveled in our comfortable, worn-in, beautiful dynamic.

I want to remember that I accepted feedback not as criticism, but as conversation.

I want to remember that I asked for help.

I want to remember that I compromised.

Life is so full of days like today, which are nothing too special by themselves. But put together, they make happy marriages and thriving homes and meaningful progress.

Today was a good day. And the best part about it was that it was completely normal.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Today I was going to go exercise with a bunch of girls at the stake center, but when I got there the doors were locked and the parking lot was empty.

So instead I called my friend, who is temporarily staying with a family not very far from the stake center. We had a good talk about how much calmer her life is now that she is out of the place she was living at previously. She's like a different person now. It makes me happy for her.

I also went to day three of my new job today. It was much better than the last two days have been, since I am getting used to working in a team/office environment again.

We fed the elders, too. They're always fun, and I love that my husband loves to serve with them.