Sunday, April 24, 2011

Seminary Donuts

Nathan and I spoke in church today.  This is the third Easter that we've been asked to speak in Sacrament Meeting since we've been married.  Either we totally rock or there is just something about the Atonement that we're not grasping and we need a little more studying...but I'm guessing it's because we both needed the message.  It's been a tough couple weeks.  

Anyhoo...I used the following story in my talk and loved it so I thought I'd share it.  It's a perfect story to share on Easter.  Thanks to Bro McKay at Weber Seminary for sharing it all those years ago (I won't tell you how many...but it's double digits)

Seminary Donuts

There was a boy by the name of Steve who was attending Seminary in Utah. In Utah, Seminary classes are held as part of the curriculum. Brother Christianson taught Seminary at this particular school. He had an open-door policy and would take in any student that had been thrown out of another class as long as they would abide by his rules.
Steve had been kicked out of his sixth period and no other teacher wanted him, so he went into Brother Christianson's Seminary class. Steve was told that he couldn't be late, so he would come in just seconds before the bell rang and he would sit in the very back of the room. He would also be the first to leave after the class was over.
One day, Brother Christianson asked Steve to stay after class so he could talk with him. After class, Brother Christianson pulled Steve aside and said, "You think you're pretty tough, don't you?"
Steve's answer was, "Yeah, I do."
Then Brother Christianson asked, "How many push-ups can you do?"
Steve said, "I do about 200 every night."
"200? That's pretty good, Steve." Brother Christianson said, "Do you think you could do 300?"
Steve  replied, "I don't know... I've never done 300 at a time."
"Do you think you could?" again asked Brother Christianson.
"Well, I can try," said Steve.
"Can you do 300 in sets of 10? I need you to do 300 in sets of ten for this to work. Can you do it? I need you to tell me you can do it." Brother Christianson said.
Steve said, "Well... I think I can... yeah, I can do it."
Brother Christianson said, "Good! I need you to do this on Friday."
Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the room.  When class started, Brother Christianson pulled out a big box of donuts. Now these weren't the normal kinds of donuts. They were the extra fancy BIG kind, with cream centers and frosting swirls. Everyone was pretty excited - it was Friday, the last class of the day, and they were going to get an extra early start on the weekend.
Brother Christianson went to the first girl in the first row and asked,  "Cynthia, do you want a donut?" Cynthia said, "Yes." Brother Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, "Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?"

Steve said, "Sure," and jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. Then Steve again sat in his desk. Brother Christianson put a donut on Cynthia's desk.
Brother Christianson then went to Joe, the next person, and asked, "Joe, do you want a donut?" Joe said, "Yes." Brother Christianson asked, "Steve would you do ten push-ups so Joe can have a donut?" Steve did ten push-ups; Joe got a donut. And so it went, down the first aisle. Steve did ten pushups for every person before they got their donut. And down the second aisle, till Brother Christianson came to Scott.
Scott was captain of the football team and  center of the basketball team. He was very popular and never lacking for female companionship. When Brother Christianson asked, "Scott do you want a donut?"
Scott's reply was "Well, can I do my own pushups?"
Brother Christianson said, "No, Steve has to do them. "
Then Scott said, "Well, I  don't want one then."
Brother Christianson then turned to Steve and asked,  "Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Scott can have a donut he doesn't want?"
Steve started to do ten push-ups. Scott said, "HEY! I said I didn't want one!"
Brother Christianson said, "Look, this is my classroom, my class, my desks, and my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don't want it", and he put a donut on Scott's desk. Now by this time, Steve had begun to slow down a little. He just stayed on the floor between sets because it took too much effort to be getting up and down, and a little perspiration appeared around his brow.
Brother Christianson started down the third row. By now, the students were beginning to get a little angry.

Brother Christianson asked Jenny, "Jenny, do you want a donut?" Jenny said, "No". Then Brother Christianson asked Steve,  "Steve, would you do ten pushups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn't want?" Steve did ten; Jenny got a donut.
By now, the students were beginning to say "No" and there were all these uneaten donuts on the desks. Steve was also having to really put forth a lot of effort to get these push-ups done for each donut. There began to be a small pool of sweat on the floor beneath his face, and his arms and brow were beginning to get red because of the physical effort involved.
Brother Christianson asked Robert to watch Steve to make sure he did ten push-ups in a set because he couldn't bear to watch all of Steve's work for all of those uneaten donuts. Robert began to watch Steve closely.
Brother Christianson started down the fourth row. During his class, however, some students had wandered in and sat along the heaters along the sides of the room. When Brother Christianson realized this; he did a quick count and saw that there were now 34 students in the room. He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it.
Brother Christianson went on to the next person, the next, and the next. Near the end of that row, Steve was really having a rough time. He was taking a lot more time to complete each set.
Steve asked Brother Christianson, "Do I  have to make my nose touch on each one?"
Brother Christianson thought for a moment, "Well, they're your push-ups. You can do them any way that you want." And Brother Christianson went on.
A few moments later, Jason came to the room and was about to come in when all the students yelled, "NO! Don't come in! Stay out!" Jason didn't know what was going on.
Steve picked up his head and said, "No, let him come."
Brother Christianson said, "You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to  do ten push-ups for him."
Steve said, "Yes, let him come in.
" Brother Christianson said, "Okay, I'll let you get Jason's out of the way right now. Jason, do you want a donut?"
"Steve, will you do ten pushups so that Jason can have a donut?"
Steve did ten push-ups very slowly and with great effort. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.   Brother Christianson finished the fourth row, then started on those seated on the heaters. Steve's arms were now shaking with each push-up in a struggle to lift him against the force of gravity. Sweat was dropping off his face and, by this time, there was not a dry eye in the room. The very last two girls in the room were cheerleaders and very popular. Brother Christianson went to Linda, the second to last, and asked, "Linda, do you want a donut?"
Linda, too choked up to talk, just shook her head. Brother Christianson asked Steve, "Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn't want?" Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow push-ups for Linda.   Then Brother Christianson turned to the last girl, Susan. "Susan, do you want a donut?"
Susan, with tears flowing down her face, asked, "Brother Christianson, can I help him?"
Brother Christianson, with tears of his own, said, "No, he has to do it alone."
"Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Susan can have a donut?" As Steve very slowly finished his last pushup, with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 pushups, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.
Brother Christianson then said, "And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, pleaded to the Father, "Into thy hands I commend my spirit", and with the understanding that He had done everything that was required of Him, collapsed on the cross and died - even for those that didn't want His gift."

Happy Easter

Thursday, April 21, 2011


I have a thing for feet.  Nothing creepy or inappropriate, but I like taking pictures of our feet at all the places we go.  It's weird I know...oh well, I'm weird. 

Here's our Southern "vacation" ...feet style.

Bewildered, hurt, angry feet on River Street in Savannah, GA

Sad, grieving, healing feet in the Atlantic Ocean on Hilton Head Island, SC

Sunburned, swollen, ready-for-home feet in Charleston, SC

Be sure you put your feet in the right place, 
then stand firm. 
-Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Not shatterproof

I feel like I'm barely keeping it together.  I try to act tough and strong...but I'm not.  I try and smile and repeat positive mantras to if that will keep the rising tide of sadness at bay.  

I don't know why this one has hit me so much harder than the others.  Maybe because we actually got on a plane this time.  That simple act let my heart believe that it was real; that I was finally going to be called Mother.  Maybe it's because of my ever growing fear that with this failure the scales were tipped to the hopeless side of things.  

I'm trying to keep hope alive, but it's getting almost too much for me to bear.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Over the edge...over again

In February we got an email about some adoption situations.  This is nothing new, I get them about once a week.  Most of the time they are WAY out of our budget so I day-dream for a minute what it would be like to pursue them, and then I come back to reality.  One of the situations in this particular email was twins.  For some reason I am obsessed with wanting twins so of course we threw our hat in the ring.  I spoke with the caseworker (her name is Amy) at the agency (which was not LDSFS, the agency we're currently going through) and found out that there was only one other couple interested and that there was a second set of twins coming a month later.  She (half) jokingly said "Let's just give one to you and one to the other couple!"  Sounded good to me.  A week later the woman stopped returning calls to the agency so that situation never panned out.  The other set of twins never materialized either.  (Come to find out women pregnant with twins are less likely to place their babies than a woman with a single baby.  The novelt of twins adds significant pressure to the woman) But our name was now with this new agency so we would get calls/emails every once-in-a-while about situations that needed adoptive families.  

That brings us to two weeks ago.  I got an email from Amy, it listed a bunch of situations but she said she thought one situation would be perfect for us.  A baby boy due in Ohio on April 12th.  I was sick at the time and so it took a couple days for me to get to the email.  I responded back with a "Sure, throw our hats in the ring".  We were the only family that had expressed interest and so ours was the only profile being shown to her.  Our profile was printed and overnighted to the woman.  She got it Friday (April 1st), on Monday she called her caseworker and said she had a few questions for us.  She said she was going to the doctor the following morning and would call when she got home.  We anxiously waited for that call...wondering what questions she might have.  Amy called us in late afternoon with some shocking news...the woman was being induced in the morning!  She asked if we were still interested (for sure!) if we were ready (absolutely!) and wondered how soon we could be to Ohio (just a 6 hour drive!).  There was still information that had to be sorted out so she said she'd call us back.   Nathan was the one that talked to her and he got a very positive vibe from the conversation so we hoped the news would be good.  Feeling celebratory, we ran to Target, TJ Maxx & Carter's and picked up some baby boy stuff.  We didn't hear anything that night until late.  Amy said she was sensing some hesitation from the woman's caseworker...she didn't know if it was about adoption in general or us in specific.  She said she'd keep us posted.  A phone call Wednesday morning confirmed that the baby was born and the mother had decided not to place.  Although we had some idea that this would be the outcome (after the previous night's call) we were still heartbroken.  We cried together.  I told Nathan I couldn't do one more...I was done.  He felt the same way (you may have seen this post on Facebook).  We decided to not make a decision in our hurt, but wait a few days and see how we felt.  That was Wednesday.  

Thursday started out normal.  Nathan got up, went to work and I went about my business being a house wife.  He got home shortly after three and as we were talking about his upcoming work weekend my phone rang.  It was Amy.  I will remember her words forever:  "Hi!  You guys still want a baby?"  My first thought was that the Ohio woman had changed her mind and decided to place.  She told me that a baby girl had been born the night before in Savannah, Georgia and they needed a family ASAP.  She said "she's yours if you want her."  I told her Nathan had just walked in the door...let me run it by him and I'd call her right back.  I gave Nathan the details and we called Amy back to tell her we wanted her.  She said she'd get to work on their end...we immediately started preparations on ours.  I called my mom to have her check on flights and hotels.  We called friends to set up care for Winston.  Nathan called his boss to set up his leave.  Amidst all this we started furiously packing (which was easy because I had created detailed packing lists for the Ohio trip I thought we'd be taking earlier that week), doing laundry and picking up the house (I didn't want to come home with a new baby to a filthy house...although the house wasn't too dirty because we'd cleaned it a few days earlier, once again in our preparations for Ohio).  I stopped the mail, talked to our neighbors, arranged a ride to the airport, packed all three of our suitcases (the small pink suitcase filled with tiny pink clothes was just too adorable for words) and Nathan and I quickly went back to Target, TJ Maxx & Carters to exchange all that blue stuff for pink stuff.   While we were out we announced our news on Facebook and started receiving a HUGE amount of well wishes (seriously...HUGE amount...the notifications crashed my BlackBerry three times that night).  We got home, pulled out the boxes of baby/nursery stuff, pulled the tags off all the pink stuff and threw it in the wash.  We finally got to bed at 3am. Friday morning at four the alarm went off, we got ready and headed to the airport.  Our first stop was in Nashville, we snapped a pic, excited to be one step closer to our baby girl.  Next up was Charlotte, NC.  I texted the caseworker who had already arrived in Savannah, asking her what the plan would be once we landed...she was still working out the details with the lawyers.  She said to call her when we landed in Georgia.  I called my mom who was figuring out where in Savannah we could get the carseat and stroller we wanted, she said she'd figure it out and have the info when we landed.  

As the plane took off I once again couldn't hold back the tears.  We were only a short 35 minutes from our little girl.  When we touched down in Savannah and the captain said "Welcome to Savannah" the tears came in full force.  This of course brought the attention of the flight attendant and the people nearby.  "We're here to pick up our baby daughter" we told her...and she started tearing up as well as several of the passengers near us.  They wished us good luck and we got off the plane.  Nathan turned his phone on and noticed a voicemail, which he quickly checked.  It was Amy.  She told us not to transfer the money (to pay the agency), that there was a change of plans.  I knew.  I hoped with every fiber of my being that I was wrong...but in that instant I knew.  My heart sunk.  Nathan called her back and found out the woman had decided not to place the baby.  It was over.  Another dream shattered.  I texted my mom "Don't buy the stroller", then crumpled into a chair and sobbed.  I didn't care what I looked like or how much noise I made....I couldn't control it.  Right there in the concourse of the Savannah airport my heart broke wide open.  Nathan held me tight and let me cry, while shedding tears of his own.  After a few minutes he gently got me up, said we should go get our bags and then we could decide what to do.  We posted on Facebook that it had fallen through and immediately started getting kind words from those we love.  

As we made our way to the baggage claim it felt like we were in a dream...a horrible dream.   We got to baggage claim only to find out that the airline had lost our luggage...except for the little pink suitcase, full of baby clothes that we would no longer need.  (Now THAT is what you call irony).  At the baggage claim desk I lost it again.  The sweet woman who was helping me, upon hearing what had just happened, came around the desk and hugged me tight.  She told me how sorry she was, and that she would be praying for us.  The guy at the car rental place was not to nice.  He was actually kind of a jerk...ok, not kind of...he was a JERK.  When we stepped outside to pick up the car, the unknowing attendant asked "Will it be just the two of you?"  More tears.  We drove to the hotel in near silence, the only sounds were my quiet sobbing and Garmin barking directions to us.  

We got checked in and to the room and we called our parents.  More tears...and anger.  I had a horrible headache from the tears and all I wanted to do was to take a nice, long hot shower and cry some more.  But we had no luggage...except for all the tiny pink clothes.  Which meant no brush, no comb, no clean underwear, no PJ's.  During this time I was still getting 'Congratulations' notifications on my phone...each one stung more than the previous one had.  Night came and our luggage still hadn't so we tried to sleep.  Saturday came and we found out our luggage had been had gone to another city on another airline.  They said their delivery service would run it to us, we'd have it in an hour.  Two hours passed and still no luggage.  I got a call from the same kind baggage claim agent from the day before.  She told me the delivery truck's brakes had gone out so they couldn't deliver it until later...did we want to come get it? all these mishaps were ALMOST comical. (Some day they will be...but not yet)

During the time we waited for our luggage we had decided to stay a few days to rest and recuperate...but I couldn't stay in Savannah.  It was just too raw, too real, too painful.  We looked on a map and saw that Hilton Head, SC was close so we (once again) enlisted the help of my mom to get everything switched.  So we went to the airport, picked up the bags and changed the rental car reservation.  Luckily it was a new guy who seemed quite a bit nicer than the fact when I explained why we needed to change the reservation, he teared up with me. We took the afternoon and saw downtown Savannah.  It was beautiful, but the pit in my stomach I got every time I thought about why we were there was not. 

Sunday morning we got up and made the drive up to Hilton Head, where we stayed until Tuesday afternoon.  From there we drove to Charleston, SC & caught the flight home.  We got home LATE last night and walking back in our front door empty handed was harder than I thought it was going to be.   I took that little pink suitcase full of baby girl clothes and put it in the spare room and shut the door.  I can't deal with that today. 

It is amazing to us the caliber of friends and family we are blessed to have in our lives.  The outpouring of love and support has lifted us up and carried us when we couldn't go any further.   We are very blessed. 

Over the last week Nathan and I have asked ourselves multiple times why we have been asked to travel this road.  Adoption is tough, but it seems that we have experienced an exceptionally rocky road.  Four failed adoptions in nine months...with two of those coming in one week.  We don't know why this is our path, but we know we're supposed to be on it.  Someday it will all work out.  I wish I knew when....oh how I wish I knew.  We hope that this will be the end of our heartache, but if it isn't we accept that. 

I am a lucky woman.  I married a wonderfully supportive husband.  He is my rock.  I have a kind, generous mother & father who would do anything to help us in our hours of need.  I have grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins & siblings who give us love & support.  I have beautiful friendships that buoy me up when the waves crash around me and I can't stay afloat.  And I have a loving Father in Heaven that wraps His arms around us when we're all alone and feeling broken.   And while my heart and empty arms ache for a child, I am grateful for the things I do have that help us get through horrible things. 

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Perfect Little Prophetic Epistle

Over the weekend Nathan and I made it a priority to listen to General Conference.  For those not familiar, the LDS Church holds a General Conference twice a year.  In both April & October a set of five 2-hour sessions are held where we are counseled by church leaders.  The Conference is held in Salt Lake City, Utah and broadcast all over the world, in many languages.  In the closing session on Sunday afternoon Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke about the Conference itself.  He said that if you listen with the Spirit, you will receive your own "Perfect Little Prophetic Epistle. In other words, something the Lord meant for you to hear, that He knew you needed.  I'll have to admit that in other conferences I haven't always paid close attention and so many times I haven't come away with my own PLPE.  But this time my heart was very open, in large part to what's been going on in our lives as of late.  So Sunday morning when Elder Paul V. Johnson spoke (you can watch it HERE) I was ready to hear what {I needed} to hear.  He spoke about trials, which is not a new topic; but there was just something about his words that pricked my heart strings.  He spoke about the Crimson Trail in Logan Canyon, a difficult trail that Nathan and I have climbed before; and maybe that is part of why I connected so much with him as he spoke.  He mentions that the trail is difficult, but the hardest part is the last little piece.  I can vouch for is steep and you can't see anything that suggests the effort is going to be worth it.  Elder Johnson said "The views of the canyon are hidden by the cliffs themselves".  There was a part of me on that hike that wanted to turn back...convinced we'd seen enough and couldn't possibly go any further.   It is difficult to see the big picture when you're stuck in the middle of something...especially if that something is difficult.  Elder Johnson agrees:
"In the midst of problems it's nearly impossible to see that the coming blessings far outweigh the pain, humiliation or heartbreak we may be currently experiencing."
But if you press on, just past that tough stretch the panoramic views of the canyon are spectacular...well worth the effort.  Elder Johnson then said:
"A pattern in the scriptures and in life shows that many times the darkest, most dangerous tests immediately precede remarkable events & tremendous growth."
I feel like in our lives, and more specifically in our adoption journey, that we are facing a horrible, painful, exhausting stretch.  Many times over the last few months, and especially the last week I have wanted to give up.  I felt convinced that we'd seen enough and couldn't possibly go any further.  So as I sat, listening to the words spill out of Elder Johnson's mouth I felt comfort.  I hold on to the hope that our remarkable events are not far away.  Yesterday was hard again; and I found myself wanting to give in to the crushing hopelessness I felt.  I prayed for strength as I fell asleep last night on a tear stained pillow, and I woke today to sunshine streaming through my window and feelings of comfort in my soul.

I want to leave you with my Perfect Little Prophetic Epistle...which you can hear for yourself if you want.  It's at about the five minute mark in this video.  The trick for me is remembering this while in the depths of despair...and I'm working on that.
"Time after time we see marvelous blessings on the heel of great trials."

Up, down, up...

...and down again.  

Adoption is not easy on the heart.