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I love Sundays, and the older I get the more I have decided that it is my favorite day of the week, mainly because I love Church. When I was a kid and throughout my teenage years however, I went to Church not for the Spiritual uplift, but for the social aspect. Being raised in Utah, a lot of the social activities I participated in revolved around Church activities anyway. But as I have gotten older, my perspective of what Church is, and why I go has changed.

As a teenager I never felt invincible like many teenagers feel, but I felt like I was pretty knowledgeable, pretty set on the right path, and that I was pretty much right in most of what I did. I did try to listen to my parents and be obedient, but I felt like, as an all-around person, I was doing alright. I rarely struggled with doubt within myself and have always been a pretty happy person.

First, let me say, I still am a pretty happy person, almost all the time. I feel like that is not a state of being, rather a choice that we make each and every day. It’s how we choose to look at life. But, as I have had children and had lots of, I guess, “adult” things happen in life, like we all do, there are days when I need help, strength. I find that strength most often at Church through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as well through my daily scripture study and prayer. Sunday’s have become a day of rejuvenation, rest, a time to be filled and prepare again for the coming week.

I remember when my kids were small, and we would prepare to go to Church. It was always hectic and crazy getting everyone out the door. My husband usually had a calling that took him to Church earlier than me, so I had to get myself and 4 kids ready to go. There were weeks that if I hadn’t understood the lift that I get, I would have thrown the towel in and stayed home. But I knew that I needed to be there, and I knew that I would leave Church with an added inner strength that would help me get through the coming week. It never failed, I always left more at peace, and better prepared for my coming week.

Many people in today’s society are drifting away from religion and church attendance of any kind. Many say that being out in the outdoors is just as good, or that spending time with family or friends instead of attending Church is a better way to spend Sunday’s. Being outside is definitely rejuvenating, I love being outside in nature and in the fresh air, it’s rejuvenating to my mind and body, but not quite the same way as the Gospel rejuvenates my soul. I love spending time with my family, more than just about anything else. One of my favorite parts of spending time with my family is the joy they bring me. But that joy is often fleeting, only lasting until the family jumps into the week and their busy lives, not that the joy of family disappears, but things get hectic and chaotic during the week. The joy that I feel through learning the word of God at Church, and the Spirit that attends that learning continues to fill me during the week and helps me remember in all those chaotic moments what is really important, how much I love my family even when they frustrate me, and that my family is eternal. There is a peace that permeates every aspect of my life, that I can’t get anywhere else.

Church for me is not just another thing to check off my list every week, but a necessity to keep me going. Sometimes I go and look for others to help, or ways to lift. Other times I go looking for relief. But either way, I know that when I leave, I will have been filled, lifted, and prepared for whatever challenges I may encounter in the upcoming week. I know that I can leave there with peace that will stay with me, a peace that isn’t achievable except through the Lord.

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This month of November is a great time of year to remember our many blessings and to be thankful for all that is this life. I was thinking about all the stuff that surrounds us, and how easy it is to take it for granted, but also how easy it is to be thankful for all the stuff, the things we have accumulated, especially when it works well. But then I thought, how often am I grateful for the things, the stuff that makes my life easier, when it actually works well? Usually, I realize how grateful I should have been when it breaks. So today, I thought I would list off some of the things I am, or should be more grateful for, or things that I have realized lately I am grateful for but forget to be thankful for. So, in no particular order, here are a few things this week I have been grateful for:

I am grateful for a dishwasher. Mine is currently broken. When it works great, I don’t really even notice it. When it works great, the kids do most of the work, so I never really have to worry about it. But it hasn’t worked for about 3 months now. Don’t worry, it’s on the list of repairs, but there are other things more pressing at the moment. At the moment I have to wash dishes by hand, mostly by myself as everyone else is gone during the day. The kids help at night. I am grateful for kids who help me wash the dishes. It makes it a more enjoyable experience. We talk, we listen to music, we debate, it’s fun, and at the moment, I am grateful for the time with my teenagers. Broken or not, the dishwasher is a great thing!

I am grateful for my oven. This too is not working correctly. It works most of the time for short bakes, but the longer ones have to be watched and the oven relit periodically. But at this point I am just grateful that for the most part it works alright. I have a crockpot as well as a wood cookstove that I can use, and I am grateful for the backups. At the same time, I am grateful that it is cold outside if I have to use the wood cookstove as it is really hot cooking with the cookstove. I am grateful we have wood for that cookstove as well so we can use it as a backup option.

I am grateful for the beetle killed spruce trees we were able to harvest for our firewood. Sometimes they are a pain to work with getting delimbed and stacked, and unstacked and hauled to the boiler, but they burn well, they don’t produce creosote, and they keep our house warm all winter long. Burning these also decreases our fire danger, so that’s an added benefit in the summer.

I am grateful for cars that run, and for a husband who can fix them when they quit running. We currently have one vehicle in his shop getting fixed, but we have the others that work well. Breaking down in Alaska in the winter can be extremely dangerous simply because of the temperatures. Something that would have simply caused an inconvenience in the summer becomes life threatening in the winter, so I am grateful I can count on the cars running and help close by if something does breaks down.

I am grateful for my kids. The more I look around at the world, the more I believe I was truly blessed with some really awesome kids. They are thoughtful, kind, look beyond themselves, obedient, helpful, respectful, and so much more. They are teenagers and young adults, and aren’t perfect, but they are pretty close in my opinion, and I couldn’t imagine my life without them. They are truly what brings joy and happiness into my life.

I am grateful for my husband. He is a great provider for our family, and always lets me be me and do my thing. He teaches the kids about hard work and expects a lot from them, but they always strive to rise and have become better because of his example. He can fix just about anything and keeps our family, our home, our cars, and everything running and in good condition.

I am grateful for good books and those who write them. I don’t read too many fiction books, but I do enjoy reading about gardening, cooking, sewing, and painting. I am grateful that I can learn so many things just by reading books and then applying that knowledge to my situation. I have learned so many new things, as well as better ways to do things I already knew how to do but got another perspective on.

I am grateful for my daughter’s dog. I love dogs, but we haven’t had one for quite a while because the last 2 died of cancer and it was really hard. When she got this puppy however, I remembered how much I love dogs. She has been such a bright spot in our family, and everyone is smitten by her. She is so smart and learns something new almost every day. She has such a great temperament. I wasn’t sure if we were ready for a new dog, but I knew my daughter was ready and would do a great job raising one. Luna has been such a huge blessing to our family.

I am grateful for so many things, these are just a few. I may write several posts like this this month just because I think it’s important to be grateful in all things, even when things aren’t necessarily going the way we wanted them to. Maybe I’ll write about some of those experiences this month as well. I hope you have opportunity to be thankful this month, and that it will become a habit of looking for the good and being thankful all year long.

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When covid hit I decided it would be a great time to learn a few things since we would be home for a while. My kids had schoolwork to do so they were busy at least some of the day, and I didn’t want to spend that whole time cleaning, I wanted to do something educational as well. I first decided to learn how to digitize my own art. That wasn’t a super hard process, I still have a ton to learn, but this knowledge has saved me hundreds, probably into the thousands or so dollars with my artwork as it cost me on average $50-$75 to have each piece of art digitized. With that savings I was able to purchase my printer, which in turn has not only saved me money but also time and made my artwork more accessible because I don’t have to wait for a print shop to have time to print when someone wants something specific, I can just take care of it.

The other thing I wanted to learn how to do was to make sourdough bread. This is where the patience comes in and ends. Making the starter was pretty simple, and at this point I have successfully made 3 or 4 different starters, or at least I thought they were successful, until I made a really good one. Making the bread however is where the patience level declined. I love making bread, but I am used to yeasted breads that take 2-4 hours and then you have this beautiful, light and fluffy, delicious bread. But I do love the taste of sourdough, and the thought of not having to use yeast in an emergency situation was appealing to me. I got my starter going, it was growing pretty well, now that I know more, I’m not sure that it was pretty well, but at the time I thought it was good enough.

I followed an online recipe and made the dough. Having made so much yeasted dough over the years, I looked at the dough and decided it was probably too sticky, so I added more flour. That was a mistake. I then set it aside. This is where the recipe on the internet said it would take 4-6 hours to rest and raise. That seemed somewhat excessive, and I thought maybe I could speed the process along. I put the dough in a warm oven for a while. When I pulled it out, it still hadn’t really done much. I decided it would be fine, yeasted doughs rise in the oven pretty well sometimes … I made my loaf and let it rest and rise one more time, but again, it hadn’t really gotten much bigger by the time I wanted to put it in the oven. But I decided to let the oven do the rest, if there was any natural yeast, it should be fine, right? Not so. I pulled my very flat loaf of bread out of the oven. I was disappointed. Why does sourdough have to be so hard? I was frustrated with the directions, I was frustrated with my time making a starter, I was frustrated with the recipe and website I had used. The bread did have a sourdough flavor, but it was a brick.

I gave up for the time being. A little while later I decided to try again, but life got busy, and I forgot about my starter for a couple of weeks, and then scraped the project again. About 4 or 5 months ago I decided I would like to try again. This time I researched things a little bit more and bought a book with directions, pictures, troubleshooting guides, etc. I started again, but it was in the summer, and I ended up not having the time to bake any kind of bread, let alone sourdough bread. About 2 weeks ago I finally got started again! My first starter started out well, but then seemed to be struggling. Frustration immediately began creeping in and I was ready to just give up for good. One morning I was pondering on why I was having so much struggle with this. I was praying for help to understand when the thought of flour came back to my mind. Unbleached flour. I thought that was an interesting thought, I always used unbleached flour. But the thought persisted so I went and read the label on the sack of flour. Nope, I was using bleached flour. I hadn’t checked the last few times I had gotten flour, I was in a hurry, and had just thrown a bag of flour in the cart and continued on. My yeast didn’t have anything to eat, and consequently was dying after my initial start with the whole wheat flour.

The next time I went to the store I bought unbleached flour to use specifically for my starter. I showed the kids and told them not to use it for cookies or anything, this was my flour! I started again. This time the started worked like I’d never seen it work before. I realized I had been killing all my other starters with the wrong flour. The other thing I realized is that I had been rushing the starter, sticking strictly with a 24-hour feeding rather than watching the starter, allowing more or less time depending on what it looked like. Today I am making my first loaf. I’m not done yet, but I have huge hopes for this loaf. I have also allotted myself the whole day, and if need be, tomorrow to wait and allow the process to happen.

This whole process has taught me a lot about patience and perseverance. I’ve never thought that I was an impatient person necessarily, not that I didn’t know I had to work at it sometimes, and it somewhat depends on the situation. But sometimes I think I know better, or different than what is actually the case, and it takes me some time to readjust my perspective to see things differently. I am hopeful that sometime in the next 24 hours or so I will have a beautiful loaf of sourdough bread to share with my family, but if it’s less than ideal, at least the starter worked this time, and I have more starter to keep trying with in the future. I will get it one way or the other because I am not going to let this challenge beat me. I am grateful to learn that some challenges you have to jump in and plow through, but some challenges you have to sit back and give time and space in order for growth to occur. I am also grateful for a Heavenly Father who is concerned with the details of my life and willing to help me understand even trivial things, like flour.

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Last night it snowed. It snowed about 2 weeks ago, but didn’t really stick, so this is the first official snowfall in my book. We had about 5 inches this morning when I went out to start my car, and this snow is here to stay for the winter, I’m sure. I love how beautiful and clean fresh snow makes everything look, and how sparkly the driveway looks as I drive down it and the lights hit the different crystally snowflakes.

My daughter’s puppy has never experienced snow. She was born in April after the snow had pretty much all disappeared. This summer she was too hot when it was really hot, and you could tell as it cooled off this fall that her energy level was increasing every morning. She has a very thick coat, and she loves being outside in the cold. But this morning was extra exciting with all the fresh white stuff, she has had a lot of fun playing in the snow today. It was fun to watch her as she bounded through the snow finding new things to smell, old things that are now hidden that she gets to rediscover. Everything is just fresh and new.

As I watched her it reminded me of our children when they were young. My husband and I were married for five years before we had our kids. Christmas and birthdays, first snowfalls and puddles, and things like that were not as exciting, and some things, like the first snowfall, the first flowers of spring, etc. weren’t as noticed as they could have been. We had seen it, it wasn’t as impressive as when we were kids, I guess. But as we had kids, Christmas became exciting again. In fact, everything became exciting again. Fresh snow, especially the first one is always exciting with kids. Puddles to jump in when it rains, leaves falling from the trees, fresh flowers, vegetables picked from the garden, everything is fresh, everything is new and exciting.

So, today watching my daughter’s dog brought back all these memories. But more importantly, it brought back the reminder that I need to look at life with fresh eyes sometimes. See the glitter when I come down the driveway, play in the first snowfall, get excited about the first potato or carrot I dig out of the garden, jump in a puddle once in a while, and just enjoy all the little things in life! These are the things that make life exciting and fun. We experience a lot of big things in life, but there are so many more little things to experience, and this is where most of the joy in life is found.

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I know I have talked a little bit about this subject in the past, but I am always impressed when I see it in action and so I am again going to talk about it in a little more detail today. It is amazing to me how many people believe that success is limited, and that if someone else succeeds that somehow makes it less likely that they will succeed. Because of this thinking often we see people sabotage each other trying to increase their chances, or simply not helping each other when they could, preferring to watch others struggle thinking we are somehow getting ahead in the meantime.

This weekend I had the opportunity to watch quite the opposite. My sons participated in a bouldering competition on Saturday afternoon in Fairbanks. Bouldering is climbing without ropes, no more than 15 feet high, with large mats underneath to catch you when you fall, because you will fall, even if you complete the route. My boys have become quite good rock climbers and participated for the first time in the most competitive division available – the men’s advanced division. This is the only division that has a finals round, the rest just total points and hand out awards based on those points.

Prior to the finals however, there are 10 routes in this particular competition with a 2-hour timeframe to complete and/or attempt all 10. There are points for different positions on the route, this is determined by the gym. They all start at 5 points a few holds from the beginning, some have several points in between, in 5-point increments, this particular competition just had the 5 points in the middle and 10 if you completed the route. There is a lot of excitement in the air as the competition begins and people start climbing all over the gym. There is no particular order, but it becomes apparent fairly quickly which routes are the easier ones and which are the harder ones. The climbers mark their scores on an honor system which is way different than any other sport I’ve watched.

Sitting back and watching however, there is a unity in the air. Everyone knows they are competing to make it to the finals, but that doesn’t prevent anyone from helping or cheering on their competitors. You are not allowed to give advice to a climber when they’re on the wall, but before or after a climb you can discuss, and there is never a shortage of discussion. More experienced climbers take time to visit with new climbers, giving advice and suggestions how to hold holds, where to put your feet, and lots of technique options. Climbers who are obviously going to make it to finals and compete with each other will stop and talk about different routes, different techniques, and ultimately, when they’re on the walls, they cheer each other on. I watched this as one of my sons climbed to the last hold of one of the hardest routes in the gym, and as he was about to the last hold the entire gym stopped to watch, and yell and cheer. It was amazing to see all these people, previously strangers, unified in their desire for someone else to succeed. I saw that happen over and over again with climbers all around the gym. All the climbers experienced the highs and lows of each other together. Again, amazing to experience.

Success is not a limited commodity. Any and every one of us has the opportunity to succeed based upon our work and effort put forward to do so. We may not all succeed in the same ways, but we often aren’t looking for the same things. Some want money and things while others want minimal possessions and more experiences, and then there’s everyone else in between as well. But we can all cheer each other on all along the way, knowing that by supporting each other we don’t reduce or limit our ability to succeed, but we increase ours and everyone else’s chances of success as well. I am grateful for the rock-climbing community that my boys are a part of and what they have taught me about success as well as how to support each other in all situations.