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Monday, June 22, 2015

Little Things about Texas

There have been many things that have made my heart sing lately.

As we prepare to move cross-country and leave Texas forever, my heart has been enthralled again with the natural beauty of our area, as if it's being experienced for the first time. This year has been a very wet spring, so the wildflowers are uncommonly thick, covering fields and roadsides with vivid color. I've taken particular delight in admiring the wildflower patches everywhere, and I feel very grateful to the Lord for letting me see such a spectacular spring one last time. I'll sorely miss the spring parade of color, and I know pictures of Texas wildflowers will forever tug at my heart and fill me with nostalgia.

And my trees. Oh, my trees. We bought this property just for the mature oaks that grace it so thickly. Ever since I was a young girl, my heart longed to have a sprawling huge tree. In my mind, a perfect childhood was one that had a giant tree to read in, to picnic under in the shade, to climb, to admire and embrace. I love old trees so much, and my heart always fills with deep contentment when I can be around them. I take walks around our farm just to admire our oaks. They are so old, they make my own timeline feel so small in comparison. The history behind an old tree fascinates me. I love to wonder what life stories have been played out under these branches. I imagine these trees with personalities, and I feel rather protected under their far-reaching arms. My two favorite trees are the very biggest ones, hundreds of years old. When we first moved in I named them without really meaning to. They are the Grandfather Tree and Grandmother tree. The Grandmother tree held up our giant tire swing- the first home improvement project we made on this property. I know I will cry when I say goodbye, but for today I am relishing their presence.

I have really enjoyed spending time in our goat pasture, sitting with our friendly goats. They always come running across the meadow to meet me when they hear my voice. Two nannies in particular are extremely social and always lean against me to ask for caresses. They nuzzle their heads under my hands and flicker their tails in contentment. I love it. They are all pregnant and very fat. We are looking forward to baby goats with great anticipation- it's just like the delicious anticipation of Christmas, except we're never quite sure when the delivery will happen. The children and I run out to the pasture at sunrise each day to check on the goats, looking for new kids. We know we won't have the babies for very long, so it's a bit bittersweet.

I cherish the sounds of nature here. Each day I'm blessed with a symphony of birdsong. I love to lie on my back on the tire swing and gaze up into the green leafy branches far above my head, listening to the birds. I try to count how many different voices I hear, but the talented  mockingbird always messes up my tally. I love the bright flashes of red plumage we see each day from cardinals flitting through the shadows of the oaks. When I was a child in Idaho I was familiar with robins and chickadees, but felt cardinals were especially exotic. What a delight it was to discover plenty of cardinals on our farm. Blue jays are my next favorite bird to see, perched on the fence outside  my bathroom window.

Our property is graced with a grassy meadow, filled with wildflowers of various colors. I have loved being bestowed with gifts of hand-picked blossoms presented by chubby children's fingers. Joseph always takes delight in picking the prettiest flowers for me, sometimes making special trips out to the pasture just to collect the blossoms from the far corners of the farm.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Sarah's acheivement and Starry nights

-Originally written in March-

Boy am I proud of my girl! Last night she finished reading through the entire Book of Mormon on her own. She has been plugging away at this goal for two months, and was determined to finish this week. So during Spring Break she read all day, almost every day. She'd wake early to read, then only take breaks for meals, and continue reading late into the night. What a dedicated trooper!

She has also been doing a scripture journalism project to record her favorite verses, her thoughts, and questions as she studied scripture manuals and other study guides. I hope she keeps it forever- I'm sure it would be fascinating to look back on her early musings decades from now. 

As I was typing this tonight, Nathan came home from his dress rehearsal for the "Savior of the World" musical our stake is performing for our community. He came in without a word, took me gently by the hand, and swept me into his arms. I didn't have a chance to grab shoes. He carried me out into the dark night, placed me in his truck, and away we went down the quiet country roads. When I queried our course of action, he replied that Venus was very bright and beautiful tonight, and it would be a shame to miss it. We found a dark parking spot on the edge of the wilderness preserve not far from our house, and pulled over in the pitch black. Not a house was in sight, and no street lights could mar the darkness. He carried me to the back of his truck, where we sat together on blankets admiring the stars. The stars are absolutely brilliant out here, filling the night  sky with so many points of light that I am caught breathless at the beauty of it. It's so overwhelmingly beautiful, and so wild. It makes me want to either throw my arms up in the night air and shout in joy, or clasp my hands to my heart in quiet, breath-holding reverence. Both actions seem so adequate. 

He pulled out his tablet and opened a star chart app that delighted us and guided us on our star gazing. I was so happy to finally find Sirius in real life, and not just on a paper star chart. That star that has teased my imagination for years. (In case you wondered, Orion's belt points to Sirius, which is located some distance to the left of Orion. It's a very beautiful star.)

I so dearly love the starry sky, and this was such a perfectly beautiful moment to share with my beloved. We felt so in awe of God's creations, it was thrilling and humbling at the same time.

I'll miss this place so very much. We're selling the Texas farmhouse and moving to Utah this summer. It's very bittersweet. On the one hand, I'm so eager to have a new adventure and fall in love with a new place. On the other hand, I'll always leave a piece of my heart in Texas. I love this place so very much, and saying goodbye will be painful. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

February sealing with dear friends

So many things were missed that I need to record. Now that the overwhelming craziness of our over-scheduled Spring is over, it's catch-up time.

In February I was blessed with the privilege of attending the temple sealing of two dear friends in our neighborhood, Roman and Yasuko Atkinson. I have been Yasuko's visiting teacher for several months, and it's been such a deep delight to serve her and teach her. Any time I stopped by- whether for an appointment of an unannounced surprise visit- they eagerly welcomed me with enthusiasm and treated me as a guest of honor.

Our souls have connected in such deep, meaningful ways as we've discussed the teachings of Jesus Christ, and our hearts were truly knit together as one.Every time I visited her home, my heart felt like it would just burst from overflowing with so much love for this sweet little lady. Her Japanese accent was thick, requiring concentration on my part to understand what she said....but our conversations were so wonderful. She was learning the gospel and was so eager to come closer to God. The Spirit was always so very powerful when I was in her home, and I learned so much in the hours I served her.

She was always so gracious and welcoming, and eager to have company over for a visit. I took great delight in dropping off flowers to brighten their kitchen table, or loaves of homemade bread, or gifts of homemade soap. She showed me her large collection of Japanese dolls, her photo albums of Japan, pictures of her family, and shared memories of Roman courting her as a young serviceman after WW2. She adored Joseph and loved it anytime I brought him along, and she asked to take him out to lunch for a special date.

We were such good friends, and I was delighted beyond words when they were ready to attend the temple for the first time. Nathan generously offered to take the day off work so he could watch Joseph, allowing me the chance to attend the temple ceremony sealing Yasuko and Roman as eternal companions. The 2-hour drive to San Antonio was long, but I was happy to have the chance to be a part of their special day. At the temple there were only 4 people there to share the special moment, so I was doubly happy to be there. The ceremony itself was beautiful and emotion-filled as this marriage of 50 years was finally made an eternal one to last beyond the chains of death. I had thought to bring along my camera and take 'wedding' pictures afterwards. They looked so lovely in their white temple clothing.

Yasuko later told me she had never had a white wedding dress or even a wedding. They had been originally married in a short civil service in a courthouse. Being sealed to her husband in the beautiful surroundings of the temple while wearing a white dress held special significance for her and fulfilled a long-held wish held close to her heart. Oh what dear friends these good people are to me!

After the temple ceremony, Roman invited us to join them for lunch in celebration. I couldn't refuse their kind offer as Yasuko implored me to accept. They took us to a very nice steak restaurant decorated in rustic Texan antiques and stuffed longhorn cattle looking down with glass eyes. It was rather pricey, and I wondered how much they'd have to pinch and scrape by in the coming weeks to cover this bill from their regular budget. After ordering the smallest salad on the menu, I enjoyed  lovely conversation and laughter as the hour ticked away.

I needed to leave a bit earlier than everyone else, so I said my good-byes and -when they weren't looking- I ducked into the opening of the kitchen where I was out of their line of sight. I nearly bumped into our waitress, and sheepishly explained that I needed to hide while I spoke with her. I asked her to let me pay for the dinner as a wedding gift to the happy couple, and hastily scrawled a note of congratulations for her to give them instead of the bill. After one last peek at my glowingly happy friends I sneaked out the back door. What a delight it was to surprise them that way!

As I write this sitting in Utah- my heart aches and I actually cry when I think that I'll likely never see them again in this life. What dear, sweet people they are. I feel so privileged that I am able to call them friends, and I look forward very much to seeing them again- most likely in the next world. What a comfort it is to know that friendships continue past the grave. What a joyful reunion it will be!