September 17, 2017

Growing through life

It has been a while since I counted my blessings individually and collectively.

Today is that day...

Today I am thankful for Almighty God's greatest gift - that of His Son Jesus Christ and the Atonement fearfully and wonderfully wrought in my behalf.

I am thankful for the life God has granted unto me, for each tick of my mortal life's clock and all the experiences that are intended for my good, my profit and learning and for those that even drag me through the valley of the shadow of death and grant me a particle of understanding of what Christ suffered for my rescue from sin.

I am thankful beyond measure for my husband, Rick. He is ever willing, ever loving and ever present in all that I do. I hope I will never be found bringing him harm, shame or anguish. He is my best friend in every measure that is eternal.

My family as it grows continues to prove an eternally growing blessing! How thankful I am for the two sons and sweet daughter that God has given and from them the three grandchildren we have at this point. I do not know what their "number" will become, nor does it matter as if I were counting beans. I only know their potential of growth is beyond all human equation and for that I am truly and humbly thankful.

We have sweet Jared as a reminder that God's timing and man's timing are not reckoned in the same fashion nor to the same purpose. He is delighted by little things: a familiar tune that makes him smile, the movies that he enjoys and the outings that offer him a broader view of the world beyond the four walls of our home which keep us secure.

Nathan, the first grandchild of our family on either side, is a rambunctious and growing toddler of 3.5 years old. Moving from being a toddler and into being a young boy, he is a natural mimic of what he sees and recalls. Fascinated with tools and doing things, Nathan loves to climb and explore and see the world through the eyes of a little boy who knows no boundaries and learns experientially.

Nathan and the crash cymbals.

Aaron, our second grandson, is a methodical, patient 2.5 year old who sees the world around him and ventures to learn of it in careful steps. He watches and checks for the reactions of those around him before treading out on his own. He is a thinker, this one! Very tender in his expressions, he is learning to share his thoughts and feelings now with words.

Aaron and his chalk.

Our sweet Alaina was born on January 5, 2017. At 8.5 months old, she is eagerly trying to follow her big brothers around and precociously standing, testing out her little legs for walking and climbing. Wherever they are, Alaina wants to at least see what they are doing before choosing her path of play. She is to this point a very patient little one who seemingly glides through the verities of having big brothers who are themselves learning to deal with the world around them, which learning is sometimes loud, sometimes funny and sometimes filled with tears for all.

Alaina trying out the kitchen.

Thomas and Tianna are lovebirds trying to work their way through life the best way they possibly can. They are affectionate, tender, and kind toward one another in a way that is both deferential and inspiring as to how to place the needs of one another ahead of their own.

The Merrill Family - Original Edition and Second Generation

The Three Musketeers

Rick, Jared and I hold down the fort here at home. We try to be found as believers in Christ and in good and Godly people. I am thankful for the anchor of our home in a world that is often, quite frankly, a terrifying place in which to dwell. Our home is more than four walls and a roof, but is a feeling of peace in a turbulent sea. It is a calm in the storm that can shelter my soul. While the thankfulness I feel for the material things of life is indeed great, I am even more deeply thankful for the things of the spirit that transcend time and space into the vastness of eternity.

May 31, 2017

I May Have Exaggerated My Life

Our world moves pretty fast from the moment we leave the safety of the family cocoon and enter the world where everyone is in competition to become better, higher, faster, farther and more.

Now surely some of this is necessary to our growth and development for in our personal desire to grow, we need the impetus to get off our backsides and actual DO something. Otherwise, we will simply sit and rot.

But when we think about our life, the events that are of substance and style versus those that are just what we wished we might have done, sometimes we blur those lines and take the wishes and make them a memory that never had substance to back the dream.

Lying, prevaricating, selective memory, gray area, define what is is... it doesn’t matter the terms we apply to it, when truth is only a tiny part of the story, then the story is a lie.

We tell tales small and tall, we speak to others seeing ourselves as big as we wish we were, and hope that most folks can see the fun in our tales for just what it is – fun. But sometimes, they can’t.

And that is when the harm happens. They honestly deeply believe what we have said. They want to believe we did great things and look up to us for the stories we’ve shared.

But before almighty God, they didn’t happen in the way we told them.

So then what?

If we are politicians, we say “I misspoke” and send out a weak mea culpa on social media and all is forgiven and forgotten unless it is an election year and it can be used in some way to wound and destroy.

But if we are to be Children of God, truly honesty and deeply sincere Children of God, we can’t live like politicians choose to live.

We who desire to be called by the Good Shepherd by our names must be worthy of being part of the flock.

So today, I confess, I may have exaggerated my life. I may have indeed wanted to appear better than I am, to accentuate both what I did in reality do and what I deeply wish I’d done instead of allowing everyone to see me for who I truly am.

Broken, mortal, flawed and in need of love and friendship anyway.

Because I know I am not alone, I also reach out to those who have likewise shared the tall tales and the worn stories of both truth and truth mingled with a healthy dose of fiction.

We can be honest enough to say that we might have taken liberties with reality in order to seem like more than we are in the mirror by ourselves.

We can be truthful enough to say that we have seen both our strengths and weaknesses in full measure and try our best to live up to who we are – and more importantly, whom we are not.

So today, I confess, I may have exaggerated my life. I’m not larger than life. I’m barely life-sized. And I hope that will be enough to get along with for now.

October 22, 2016

Time Out For Women

Having someone who is your best friend is a rare commodity. I am blessed with two, other than immediate siblings, who I swear are sisters from another mother.

They are both incredible women in their own right, but their separate life experiences have taught me much.

I had the extreme blessing of being able to attend "Time Out For Women", which is a spiritual retreat of sorts that is hosted by the fine people at Deseret Book Company. This year, they selected the Birmingham area for the event.

Filled with music from David Archuleta and Calee Reed, chock full of wisdom and inspiration from the words of  Eric Huntsman, Laurel C. Day, Elaine Dalton, Wendy Ulrich, Lisa Clark and Brad Wilcox, the event is an opportunity to step away from the day to day and enjoy the break in routine and fill up the personal tank that so often is drained to the bottom with more demands than a single person can reasonably be expected to adequately fill.

It's also a time to laugh, to cry, to ponder, and to be refreshed. Plus we can shop, we can sing along, we can make notes and feel a sense of strengthening that isn't just a Sunday-go-to-meeting kind of help.

A few things stuck out in my mind as I was listening to the speakers and music.

One, God IS mindful even when we don't see His hands moving in our lives. We were instead reminded to just look for His fingerprints in those times.

Two, there is a connection that binds earth and heaven through music. Our souls can be reached by the strains of heavenly music given to those on earth in a way seldom possible through any other means. It is a divine gift and a spiritual portal.

Three, being broken doesn't equate to being useless or forgotten. That's a world view that doesn't match God's view.

Calee Reed said "God maybe views brokenness as a good thing, a useful thing. If we trust God enough to give Him those broken pieces, He will make of them something beautiful".

I really like that. Being a bullheaded person, the willingness to accept the help Father so freely offers seems a lot like eating my spinach because it's good for me or making sure I brush and floss after every meal. Sure, I do it because it's good for me, but sometimes my heart is so broken by life that I forget the whole purpose of giving Him the offering of my broken heart. It's not about what a mess I am, it's about what a skillful and loving Artisan God is! He sees the brokenness. He understands. He loves me! And He, through Jesus Christ's Atonement, can bring those shattered remnants and fragmented shards of what my life has become and through His anointing make them into an ornate and wondrous thing that is still useful, still purposeful and still worthy in His kingdom.

Learning that broken pieces are still useful when we willingly offer them means no one is going to waste who puts their faith and trust in the hands of the Master Craftsman.

I also learned how very thankful I am for my life. Not just the photo ready parts but the rough places that remind me to be on my knees in gratitude for the smooth places. Thankful for the blessing of being able to be educated despite me being a female. Thankful for being able to read, to write and to have the technology to do for myself, my family and the broader world around me. Thankful to have the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the friendships of members near and far.

Mostly, I'm thankful that my best friend Sherri sacrificed time, money and herself to come and spend the extended weekend with me and catch up on life.

It reminded me that there are blessings of every stripe and having friends in the gospel and for such a long stretch of time is truly a pearl of great price.

August 24, 2016

Comics and life

Many times, when I'm trying to sort out facets of my life, I have found a comic strip or two that fits the bill in a hilarious "that's totally me!" sort of way. Case in point today comes from "The Barn" by Ralph Hagen. It's one of my favorite comics anyway because I like cows, I like sheep, I like frogs and I like barns.

Other times, my funny bone is tickled by a comic that is pointed in a slightly different direction. This particular comic made me snort milk out of my nose so I saved it in my file. I'm not sure if that is a revealed character weakness or just additional humor for you to know that bit of trivial information, but there you go. Scott Hilburn came up with this little gem:

There are also times where the political world grabs my attention and I have saved a few choice comics from that three ring circus to remind me that no one in governmental power is really sane. I used to collect print comic strips and paste them into a scrapbook but went digital years ago because I ran out of glue. Bada boom ching!

Either way you care to frame it up, my sense of humor might well be the best consideration for an epitaph when my time comes. 

Not like I'm standing on a greasy black banana peel next to an open crater or anything... just saying my personal tastes in comedy might tell about me more effectively than a dry "perfection" eulogy.

Anyway, make time to laugh today. It's important because laughter keeps us young and it's the best sound in the world!