Sunday, June 16, 2013

Room Improvements

While my wife and children are enjoying an adventure out of state, I've been working on redoing one of our rooms (heretofore called the Black Hole of Calcutta). If you're a fan of before/after project pictures, here are some for you to enjoy:

You don't have to look out the window to see popcorn in our house--it's on the ceiling!
I removed the popcorn, added a more subtle texture, and replaced the fan.

Painted walls. And yes, the floor is now just exposed concrete slab.
We'll replace the flooring for all three rooms when they're all redone.

New closet organization options

Another shot of the closet

As a bonus, here's how I'm thinking of arranging the furniture (My son and daughter will share this room until we finish redoing all the children's bedrooms and then we'll have to decide who goes where).

The old closet doors are back on; we may swap them out.

That's a LOT of stuffed animals!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Everglades Adventures

Want to join us on a camping adventure south of paradise!? Well, since you can't make it, here are pictures for you to enjoy:

Can you see the cougar (panther) in the weeds?

Alligator through bridge planks

Lurking. Would you rather run into
a troll under a bridge or this guy?

Vultures were everywhere, and they like rubber apparently

Sleek swimmer

One of the only bugs we saw, which was a pleasant surprise for us!

Overlooking the Everglades

Our campsite--you can see the water a stone's throw away

Geocaching! (link)

Happy to see the keys


Enjoying a hike

Exploring the debris

Learning that the bald especially need sunblock



A fellow redhead

Ruined dock is evidence of past hurricanes

My daughter's favorite flower on the hike

Sharing binoculars on a boat trip around the bay

Wildlife watching


Waving at waves


Telling about the dolphins she saw

The Florida crocodile (not alligator)

Moonlight walk (so they wouldn't stay awake all night again)

Reflected moonlight on the bay

Monday, March 18, 2013

One Step Closer to the Savior

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

One Step Closer to the Savior, by Russell T. Osguthorpe
Sunday School General President

As a green missionary, my companion and I had dinner in the home of a friendly bishop. As we shared a gospel message with the family over dinner, the conversation somehow turned to the view of the mountains near Weiser, Idaho that we saw out his front window. I don't remember how, but this fine bishop told us that whenever he looks out his front window, he's reminded of his mission and the need to help others come to Christ. While I don't remember the specifics of what led up to this conversation, I remember what he said next:

Too often missionaries equate baptisms with success. While leading converts into the waters of baptism is an important aspect of missionary success, it is not how success is measured. The goal of each missionary should be on helping others come closer to Christ, one step at a time. When you are blessed to teach people about Christ assist them in their baptismal covenants, please realize that they were likely led closer to Christ, step-by-step, by unseen friends and associates. Likewise, when you are serving others who don't become baptized, it doesn't mean that you failed so long as you tried to bring them one step closer to Christ.

I think of this bishop's words fairly often—they've really stuck with me—but I admit that I've historically only thought of the steps taken closer to Christ leading up to baptism. President Osguthorpe reminded me that there are more steps each of us can take:

When we learn and teach His word in His way, we accept His invitation to "come, follow me." We follow Him one step at a time. With each step, we draw closer to the Savior. We change. The Lord knew that spiritual growth did not happen all at once. It comes gradually. Each time we accept His invitation and choose to follow Him, we progress along the pathway to full conversion. 

Conversion is the goal of all gospel learning and teaching. Conversion is not a onetime event. It is a lifelong quest to become more like the Savior.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I hadn't made the connection of that life-changing conversation with that bishop in Weiser to my efforts to be Christlike. It's so obvious now that I've realized it!

I want to be like Christ. I want to help others come unto Christ, too. I want to remember the importance of each step closer to Christ that I take, and that others take.

In addition to remembering the conversation I had while gazing on the mountains in Weiser, I want to remember how President Osguthorpe expanded my understanding:

We can all learn, teach, and live His word in His way by taking one step closer to the Savior. As we do, we will become truly converted.

The Joy of Redeeming the Dead

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Joy of Redeeming the Dead, by Richard G. Scott
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

About a week ago I received a phone call from my excited wife. While looking at family history, she found what looks to be a lost ancestor among the recently-digitized US Census information (which she helped index, by the way). I'm excited to help her further research this great lead—even if my "help" is just helping her have time at the computer to do what she wants to do.

If you're still waiting for your heart to turn to your fathers, I recommend you take a look at a fan chart of your personal family history. In fact, there's a site where you can get one prepared for free:

What I love about this type of chart is that it quickly lets you see the gaps or holes in your family history research. Here's what my personal fan chart looks like; note the many empty yellow cells on the right:

In a letter from the First Presidency, we were told: "Our preeminent obligation is to seek out and identify our own ancestors." In fact, as I'm writing this on my lunch break, I just received a call from my wife. She called to report that she rode her bike (our youngest child in tow) to the church family history center to continue her research on my family line (in the yellow section of the fan above). Some may say that she's not working on her own line, but she likes me enough to consider me family.

I love my wife. I love my family. I love spending time at the temple with my wife and family. I Elder Scott's observation connecting family history research, families, and temple worship:

Receiving ordinances vicariously for one of your own ancestors will make the time in the temple more sacred, and even greater blessings will be received.


For our family home evening lesson today, my wife gave a lesson where she shared the new information she learned which she called today to tell me about. We also watched a video from the Church History Library; you can see part of it below:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Being a More Christian Christian

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Being a More Christian Christian, by Robert D. Hales
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Our neighbors are grandparents who tend their grandchildren everyday. This sounds like a wonderful thing considering that we live in a cul-de-sac and have similarly-aged children, and it used to be, but something changed over a year ago.

Here's my brood playing in the cul-de-sac last July

What started out as small hints became more and more obvious when our neighbors would go inside whenever our children went out to play in the front yard. Recently, one of the grandchildren told our children, "we're not supposed to play with you."

Naturally, our children wondered why.

While we don't know for sure, we've discussed it as a family and talked about boundaries and making sure we're kind when we're playing with others, etc., in case we did something unknowingly to offend them; however, I believe the ostracism stems from something else.

If memory serves me, we were all friendly until my son's baptism was approaching and he wanted to invite our neighbors to attend. We prepared invitations and delivered them to our neighbors. Whereas most were happy and congratulatory, this is the time that this particular neighbor family stopped talking/playing with us.

Again, I don't know for sure, but I suspect they don't like us because they now know for sure that we're Mormon.

Perhaps they don't think that we're Christian. All I know is when my children excitedly go out to play and see their friends quickly ushered inside by their grandmother, smiles fade and I'm tempted to do things that aren't Christian at all!

Recently I've been building up the nerve to confront our neighbors and see if they'll finally help me understand why the rift between us exists, but they've either not been home when I've wanted to visit, or I get so worked up about the perceived injustice that I don't feel like being nice anymore so I don't go.

I came to Elder Hales' talk this afternoon and thought of my neighbor-conflict when I read the title, "Being a More Christian Christian," because it's so obviously what I need to do in this case. In his talk, Elder Hales reminded of the need we have, as Christians, to "feed [his] sheep," including, as he put it, "those who think and believe differently than we do."

If the cul-de-sac conflict is a result of difference of religion, I especially need to remember to be Christian and Christ-like if I ever discuss it with them. Elder Hales taught:

I testify that through His infinite love and grace, we can become more Christian Christians.

Reviewing this talk has helped me see that I need to have Christian patience and Christian forgiveness. I just need to decide when to stop turning the other cheek and have a loving Christian conversation to resolve the cul-de-sac conflict.