True worship

This morning I’m preparing a Primary lesson I almost forgot about because I had an entire week’s notice, as opposed to the last-minute notice I usually get when someone has an emergency and needs a substitute.

In any case, our Primary is reviewing LDS Conference talks so I had lots of choices for subject matter. This is the talk I chose, and for two reasons. 1. I never walk away from the opportunity to read from the account of the Savior’s visit to the Americas after his resurrection. It’s holy and the spirit speaks freely from those verses in 3rd Nephi. 2. It so beautifully captures how and why I’ve come to love communion with God and saints through worship.

For anyone who might wonder why I go to church, even when it means I go alone, this talk sums it up so perfectly.

I know God lives. My heavenly parents love me. And I love them. I look forward to gathering with my congregation–with these people I love–to renew our covenants and fill our hearts with the sweet feeling of love and peace that comes from true worship.

True worship transforms us into sincere and earnest disciples of our beloved Master and Savior, Jesus Christ. We change and become more like Him.

We become more understanding and caring. More forgiving. More loving.

We understand that it is impossible to say that we love God while at the same time hating, dismissing, or disregarding others around us.9

True worship leads to an unwavering determination to walk the path of discipleship. And that leads inevitably to charity. These too are necessary elements of worship.

I want to open my heart to the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I want to gather the heavenly light into my soul. I want my life to become the token and expression of my worship.

A street you love

eastward from my street

I wanted to write about the streets I grew up on. So many memories. I almost wrote about the street I now drive twice a day two and from work. So many heaven-sent views.

But to do so would have been a disservice to the street that has been my home for the longest. The street I love so much that when it was time to move into a bigger home, I could only bear to move across the street.

1320 North.

We’ve been here since the early 1990s, when we moved here with two tow-head toddler boys in tow. So many birthdays, bbqs, and homemade ice cream parties.

That time my kids drove out of my driveway and put a big TV through my rear windshield. Well, not all the way through. The TV was fine. But the windshield shattered into a million tiny pieces.

Our neighbor Bill’s rose bushes. OK, so his wife–the one we’ve never met because she died before we moved in–but his wife’s rose buses adjacent to ours.

The sandbox in house one. So many lakes and rivers and dams and dikes. So many cases of pinworm from the neighborhood cats who played by night in the sandbox my kids loved to play in all day.

Not one but TWO fires. One across the sweet on the 24th of July. The other right next door on New Year’s Eve Day.

Too many deaths. So many of them unexpected. My friend Alice’s toddler, Taysom. Our friend and neighbor and former bishop Merril, to name a few we lost too soon.

So many sunsets and sunrises and rainbows. So many storms. Rain storms and snow storms. I think I mentioned how I used to shovel the driveway of our current home a time or two when we lived in our former home simply because I loved to shovel snow.

So much lightening. We have a lovely view of the valley southward from our living room.

But even more than the quiet street in what was once a brand new subdivision right next to the Beltline (?) in Eugene Oregon and the long two-lane farm road at the end of our long gravel driveway in Junction City, Oregon, this street is home to me.

These people are my people. We’ve loved, laughed, and wept together through all the seasons over and over again. And the people who live here are the same ones I want to see on the other side someday.

[Day 89 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]


women's day
Provo Women’s Day

Today’s prompt is “empty” and I know about empty and I’ve written about empty but because it is women’s day and I really don’t do bleak I’m writing about “full.” Because my heart is full.

Last night I dragged myself to a Utah Women & Leadership Project event at UVU because I’ve been wanting to learn about Crucial Conversations. I went by myself. After backing out of at least the last 5 events I meant to go to by myself. And I’m so grateful I did. Hopefully I can write about the substance of both the events I’ve attended the past to days another time. But what I want to write about today are the people who made a difference in the way I experienced these events.

At the breakout session on Crucial Conversations, I sat on the end and two women filed in next to me who had obviously come together. They were bilingual and visited together comfortably in their native language when we were to take a few minutes to talk to the person next to us and since I was on the end I kind of sat there with nothing to do. After talking with her companion for a bit in Spanish, the woman turned to be and invited me to converse with her, so I could participate in the class as directed.

She didn’t have to do that. But she did. Both that time and the next. I was grateful. And because being inclusive is important to me, I was sure to thank her for being inclusive.

As I was walking out of the breakout session I thought about just going home, but I decided to take a look at the social gathering for refreshments on my way out. A friendly man walked up the stairs with me, said hello, introduced himself to me, asked me my name, and then asked how I’d heard about the event. Apparently his wife is involved with the group who sponsored the event and I just figured he was surveying people for her and that was that. But he–his name is Craig–kept pace with me. And kept talking. He introduced me to his son who was at the top of the stairs. And kept up with me as I walked through the refreshment line by myself. He asked me about my job and about my family and told me about his job and about his family. Then he stood out in the hall next to me while I munched on fresh fruit and cheeses and we talked about entrepreneurship and the challenges of following your dreams and other things. And he was kind and gracious and made me feel like it mattered that I was there participating.

He didn’t have to do that. But he did. I wished him well with his startup and we parted ways.

Today was the 2nd annual Provo Women’s Day event celebrating International Women’s Day. I wanted to go, but didn’t think I could take work off. A couple of weeks ago my calendar cleared up so I got the day off work only to find the event was full. I sent the mayor a comment thanking Provo for their efforts to provide such a great event but asking that they consider finding a bigger venue for next year. The mayor emailed me back and asked me if I would still come if he could find me a seat. Of course I would still come! Within a couple of hours I got an email from his staff saying they had a seat for me and inviting me to please come.

This morning as I parked my car west of the city building a tiny older woman waved and smiled at me as she pulled up next to my parking stall. As we walked in together we talked about where we were from and how we were happy Provo hosted such a great event. We visited as we navigated the long halls trying to find the council chambers. Because she had a ticket and all I had was an email, she got in ahead of me, but found me as I entered to let me know she had saved a seat for me, a stranger, as if for a friend. She didn’t have to do that, but she did. And it meant something to me, which I was sure to let her know.

Before the event started I went over to find the mayor and thank him for making a place for me today. He told me that he had to after learning I had taken off work. I reminded him that he didn’t have to–because he didn’t–he chose to. And the fact that he did meant a good deal to me. Because it does.

One of the speakers today talked about feeling invisible. It may be hard to believe that someone tall and large and strong–very physically visible–could possibly feel invisible, but I often do.

My heart is full of gratitude for the people who notice and care and who treat strangers as though they were friends.

[Day 88 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Post edit:
Writing simply for my own memory: I don’t have so much an opportunity to work with students in my job at UVU, but am forever looking for ways to make a difference. I learned today that sometimes by small and simple things you can help others without even knowing.

A couple of years ago I bumped into a friend I made when our kids were friends together at school. I hadn’t seen her for a few years and didn’t know she too was working at UVU. As we caught up I she mentioned her son-in-law was wanting to be a pilot but didn’t know how to get his hours in. Because at the time I did our social media, I was able to tell her about a bridge program we have with an airline that helps student pilots get their hours in a queue up to the front with seniority. I didn’t think anything would come of it. In fact, if I recall, her son-in-law lived in another state at the time.

Today we connected again at the Provo Women’s Day event. She pulled me aside to tell me that not only had my advice helped her son-in-law, but also another family member, in a significant way. They are both involved in the program and this much closer to working for the airlines. #thingsthatmakemehappy

Hotel rooms

hotel rooms
View from my window, Florida, 2016

We don’t have cable. So our kids were, for the most part, raised on Sesame Street and Arthur and Reading Rainbow, and the like. They probably didn’t know what they were missing until they got a bit older and discovered there was a whole new world out there called cable TV.

This was never more clear until we had occasion (rare occasion) to share a couple of hotel/condo stays during certain cable TV marathons. The first was a Mythbusters Marathon. My older, science geeky kids (ok, we are all a little science geeky) ate it up. It’s not to say we didn’t leave the hotel room. It’s simply that when we were in the hotel room, we were glued to the TV watching Mythbusters.

Our next marathon was during a condo stay at Lake Tahoe for a family reunion (the one to which I hauled a giant Costco-sized birthday cake from Utah to California so we could properly celebrate Lindsay’s birthday only to drop the cake in the gravel driveway while taking it in from the car. Which meant my ox was in the mire and I had to go to Albertson’s on a Sunday to buy her a new birthday cake. Because if you have to be away from home (read: friends) on your birthday, you at the very least deserve a good birthday cake.). That happened to coincide with an NCIS marathon. OK, not a cable show. But at the time we didn’t watch much TV so we had never seen it. Again, it’s not to say we stayed in to watch, but if we were in, NCIS was on.

True story, I still watch NCIS. I usually close my eyes during the opening segment because I know someone is either going to be murdered or find a dead body and I don’t much want to watch. But the mystery part–even the unrealistic forensics miraculously rendered by the delightful Abby Sciuto in less than 22 minutes–draws me in.

It was during the Lake Tahoe stay I discovered something about myself. I/we crave simplicity/have too much stuff. Shane and the oldest two boys had to leave after the reunion to get back to Utah for youth conference. But I decided to keep the two youngest for the rest of the week (the way my mom’s time share worked, you booked for an entire week) and help my mom drive home.

It was heaven. No clutter. We had maybe a suitcase each which tucked neatly away in our closets. The minimal amount of carpet could be easily vacuumed every day (because, kids). We were down to bare bones in the kitchen, so cooking and therefore messes was simple.

As noted earlier, I rediscovered said love of being unencumbered in 2015 and early 2016 when I had some 7 week-long stays (along with a couple more shorter ones) away from home for work and also went to Finland. The simplicity of having all my possessions reduced to what I can fit in a small carryon and a bright colored backpack is indescribable.

I know I wrote about this before, but it bears repeating. Hotels allow you to be closer to places you could never afford to live.

Two examples.

One: While staying in Alexandria–with just about a 20-minute commute into the city–I relished crossing the river and seeing the monuments each day. “I could live here!” I said.

No. The reality is I could not afford to live anywhere near there. Most of the people I worked with during those weeks–people who make way more money that I do–had anywhere from an hour (by train–it would have been longer driving) or two commute. That’s one way.

Two: There is something to be said of standing in the ocean, bare toes digging into the sand for a foothold against the waves, and washing away your cares at the end of a long day. Also something I could never afford to enjoy every day. But a memory I will hold on to and appreciate forever.

[Day 87 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Lost in a good book

This, along with From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, were well-worn, dog-eared favorites I read over and over and over again as a child.

When I was a kid I used to sneak a flashlight and read under my covers until the wee hours of morning so my parents couldn’t see the light from my window long past bedtime.

It was while reading Shakespeare in my high school English class I suddenly knew I would go on to study English literature in college. Man’s Search for Meaning, All’s Quiet on the Western Front, and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (language!) shaped me.

I used to be so much better about finding–no, making–time to read. Sometimes I would pick out a book (anything by Michael Crichton or John Grisham) that I knew would be intriguing enough it could help me wile away my minutes on the stationery bike at the gym. But then I would get caught up in the story and have to go home and finish it in the next day or two.

Willa Cather–particularly Death Comes for the Archbishop–is wonderful to leave on your nightstand and consume one chapter at a time at the end of the day. Wallace Stegnar’s Crossing to Safety by is another that is perfect for winding down your day just before drifting off to sleep.

I caught on to the delightfulness of the Harry Potter series early, but was grateful when it became such a phenomenon that I could go buy the next book in the series at Walmart in the middle of the night the day it was released and my kids were at just the right stage of independency that I could stay up all night and finish it sometime the next day and no one would be the worse for the wear (or, ahem, sight amount of neglect).

There was that one year, the year my mom was dying, when I read one book. The same book. Twice. “Where’d Ya Go, Bernadette?” It made me laugh. And after I finished it I knew it was quite possible there was nothing else that could make me laugh quite so. So I read it again.

Those days seemed to disappear since I started working full time. At the moment I am in the middle of at least three books I can’t seem to finish. (One is good and well recommended, but slow. The other has far too many words, but I want to persevere and see how it ends.)

That’s not to say I don’t read at all. True, I no longer finish books in a day, but if on Monday I realize book group is on Thursday and I haven’t read the book, but I did think ahead enough to procure a copy, I can still finish it by reading a few hours each night for the next three nights.

Which reminds me, I’d better see what we’re reading this month…

[Day 86 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Study abroad/regrets of what you did or did not do in college

dalene in liegeSoeur Rex at the Museum of Natural History in Liege

I had high aspirations while I was at BYU, and, while I try to live my life in such a way I have as few regrets as possible (you know, part of that isn’t so much in what you DID or did NOT do, but rather lies in living in the present and not the past and trying not to beat yourself up to hard for not being able to do or have it all), there were a couple of things I wanted to do but never did. Study Abroad was one of them.

I thought it would be cool to live in the French house and go on a study abroad to France and/or England. I can’t remember if I wanted to do this before or after I flunked out of French 101. Most likely before, as
1. I saw how cool the “houses” were when at least one of them was part of my freshman ward and
2. Usually I shy away from things I’m not at least remotely confident I will succeed in. Failing French would have likely doused any remote sense of confidence.

Ephiphany! I say that, but I just realized that my BYU experience proved me wrong on not just one, but two counts. I did end up learning French–and actually living in France–when I was called to serve a mission there. I suppose if I were devastatingly discouraged by failing French I could have chosen to not accept my mission call to serve there. In fact I did accept. I was known as the SYL (speak your language) queen of my MTC district and, in fact, used to make up words if I didn’t know the correct word (maison du fromage for cottage cheese comes to mind) in France in order not to break character. I returned fluent and even minored in French before graduating. And 2. I also failed (miserably) my first Humanities course at BYU. The art and architecture seemed beyond me. But I ended up graduating from the College of Humanities (in English) and did retake and earn an A in that very same Humanities 301 class. (Perhaps, in hindsight, the small-farm-town girl from Junction City, Oregon should have been less ambitious than tackling a 300-level humanities course at first go.)

In any case, I digress. The other two things I wanted to do but didn’t were 1. study abroad in the Middle East and 2. go to law school.

Instead I got married just before finals my second to last semester, worked for a year–miraculously in journalism, which was something I wanted to do–and then became a mother.

Becoming a mother was what I most wanted to do. And I did it. And at least one of my kids did that study abroad trip to the Middle East. And another is currently tackling grad school. And who knows, maybe one of my grandkids will go to law school someday.

In any case, definitely no regrets about being a mom to four wonderful kids and being around to watch them grow into who they were always meant to be.

[Day 85 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]