Wednesday, December 22, 2010

comfort in a time of sorrow-miss you JZL

It's been a rough week. While I am SO excited about Christmas coming in just a few short days-its also been an extremely sad week for me. When walking out of church this past Sunday, I realized I had missed calls and messages on my phone. My boss from Union had passed away late that night/early that morning. She was 47, in decent health, and I was shocked. She had a massive heart attack. She had spent her entire Saturday with her hubby, daughter, and grandson shopping and preparing for Christmas. She went to bed earlier than her husband. When he came to bed he found her, and she'd stopped breathing. What a shock. What a huge, awful nightmare. Joni was so wonderful. When I got this news it really took a while for it to sink in. I seriously thought that people were joking with me, so of course I became angry because that's a horrible joke. There's no way she's gone, she's so young, she was fine when I'd checked in on her just the other day, and its Christmas. People just aren't supposed to die at Christmas are they?

When I say Joni was wonderful, I'm not just saying that because she passed on. She truly was an awesome person. She was my direct boss for the group I worked in at Union-CDU. CDU has always been kind of the redheaded stepchild of Union, because it was a newer group, Union is very old school, and a lot of the people don't do well with change. So when Joni started the group, she received much resistance from all parties involved. She had to learn a HUGE amount of information in such a short time. I remember thinking daily, how in the world does she know all this stuff?  I mean her brain must be amazing to contain so much information. Joni really did know everything there was to know about the business. She'd been with Union for 26 years. So not only was she truly their most knowledgable person, but she was so loyal. So willing to help. As I sit here I can think of 1000 times where I'd call out "Joni...can you come sit with me?" "Joni...can you come help me?" "Joni...I don't understand this.." and you know what? She would drop everything, every time, and help me. She was so good to us. Too good to us. Too good to me. At my new job now I can see just how amazing this woman was with me, and how PATIENT. When I started in loans, I was CLUELESS. I knew how to fill out a loan payment slip, and that was IT. By the time Joni was done with me, I could process any loan, from the smallest unsecured loan, to ridiculous home equity loans and mortgages. With the help of Ashley, she really did teach me everything I know about loans. She's the reason I got my new job. Without her knowledge and patience, I would be clueless. Now at my new job as I said, I can really see how amazing she was with me. I've realized out in the real world, normal bosses don't coddle you every time you have a question, make a mistake, or just don't seem to get it. In the real world you dont get second, third, and one million chances to get something right. She warned me of this when I gave her the sad news about me leaving, and just like always, she was right. That woman did more for that company than they could ever begin to pay her for. Thank God for Joni. Yes thank God for her. I remember us saying that almost daily in our small group. I remember the countless times we'd say "this place is nuts, I swear, if anything ever happens to Joni, this place will fall apart" No one knows the system like Joni. She knew EVERYTHING. I honestly don't know how they will make it without her. I know a lot of people in their jobs are easily replaced. Joni was not. She was and is honestly irreplacable.

And all this isn't even a big deal in the scheme of things, when thinking of the hundred other reasons Joni is irreplacable...she was a wife. A daughter. A mom. and a Nana to an adorable boy who hasn't even reached his second birthday yet. She LOVED that kid. When her daughter would show up to work to visit with her grandson, Joni would light up like the 4th of July. I've never seen anything like it. The love she had for her family was so great. And the love she had for everyone in her life, was amazing. She was like a second mother to Ashley and I. Truly worried not only about how we were doing with our work, but how we were doing personally. She knew EVERYTHING that was going on with us, because she cared about us. There whenever we called. Patient. Loving (her last name!!!) Kind. Generous. I don't know how she did it. Maybe that's why she's not here now. Obviously Heavenly Father has a plan for all of us, so He does for Joni too. But maybe that's it. Maybe she did so much, for so many people, and lived such a good life, that she was done. I don't know. What I do know is that I wish she were still here. I have so much guilt. I know the last two months since I've left were terribly hard on her as losing a member of a small team makes things stressful, and that place was already VERY stressful when I was still there. I feel bad that I didnt get to spend 40+ hours a week with her for the past two months. I wish I could take it back. I missed her so much before just not getting to see her every day. Now that I know I wont get more time, its awful. I hope she knows how much I cared about her. I hope she knows how much she'll be much she's missed already. I am glad that we were able to speak at least a few times after I left, and she was always so sweet. I'm glad I got to tell her that I missed her.

Saying goodbye was hard. It was hard last night, and it was worse today. It was especially hard visiting Union and stopping by my desk that doesnt belong to anyone now, and then seeing hers...still the same, still untouched, her things still on the desk, loans still stacked up neatly, nothing has changed yet. Maybe it was a blessing that I left. I honestly don't know if I could handle walking into that place and sitting by her empty desk every day. :( I pray for strength for my coworkers-my friends really, we are like family. I pray for strength for her family and other close friends. I miss her.
Sunday was when I got the bad news. She'd passed away late the night before. Most of Sunday I spent in shocked. I slept a lot. I ignored it. I was "ok". Monday...oh boy. Woke up. Cried. Put my makeup on while on my daily morning phone call to Ashley. Cried. Got in the car, drove to work, while crying. Got to my desk, people kept asking me what my deal was, more crying. Oh boy I was a mess. I talked for a while about it with one of my new coworkers. She is a great believer too, and she had a lot of comforting words to say. She prayed for me.
That same day...a couple of hours later while at my desk, processing away, I noticed I'd been singing to myself, for quite some time, a song I hadn't heard in a good 2 years at least. I didn't have music going. No one else did either. This was strange. When I say it was strange...I mean for a song to get in my head, I either have to hear it first or read the lyrics. Neither of those happened. I just remember one moment I was upset....and shortly after-I was fine, and singing to myself. The song? "It is Well with My Soul". An old hymn. How did that pop into my head? Where did it come from? That never happens to me. So I told my friend at work that had prayed for me earlier. "Oh come on Jen, why are you so surprised? That was God and Joni telling you, that she's ok, and you should be too. It is well with her soul..."
It was one of those amazing moments where you just feel this HUGE rush of comfort that you've been longing for. It was awesome. This song to me is so meaningful, because I remember once before a gentleman sang it at my old church, he told the story of why it was written. (thanks for the refresher course Wikipedia!) So I figured I'd share:  (and if you haven't actually heard've GOT to listen to it as well. Beautiful!!!)
This hymn was written after several traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his only son in 1871 at the age of four, shortly followed by the great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer). Then in 1873, he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre, but sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sailing ship, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford's daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone." Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.

"It Is Well with My Soul" by Horatio Spafford

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

when sorrows like sea billows roll;

whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,

it is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

let this blest assurance control,

that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

and hath shed his own blood for my soul.

It is well with my soul,

it is well, it is well with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part but the whole,

is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well with my soul,

it is well, it is well with my soul.

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,

the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,

it is well, it is well with my soul.

Joni Z. are awesome. Thank you for ALWAYS taking care of me-even after you've left here by putting that song in my head countless times over the past 3 days to comfort me.  I love you, and I miss you, and I am so sad that you're gone...but I know you are in a better place, and I'll see you on the other side one day :)


Thursday, December 16, 2010

“Of You It Is Required to Forgive”

~as many opportunities I've had to work on forgiveness, you'd think I was a pro by now. hardly. I came across this tonight when I needed some comfort, and of course it was just what I needed. Enjoy :)

Of You It Is Required to Forgive

By President Gordon B. Hinckley
Ensign, Jun 1991, 2

A spirit of forgiveness and an attitude of love and compassion toward those who may have wronged us is of the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each of us has need of this spirit. The whole world has need of it. The Lord taught it. He exemplified it as none other has exemplified it.

In the time of his agony on the cross of Calvary, with vile and hateful accusers before him, those who had brought him to this terrible crucifixion, he cried out, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34.)

None of us is called on to forgive so generously, but each of us is under a divinely spoken obligation to reach out with pardon and mercy. The Lord has declared in words of revelation: “My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened.

“Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.

“I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.

“And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds.” (D&C 64:8–11.)

How much we need application of this God-given principle and its companion principle, repentance! We see the need for it in the homes of the people, where tiny molehills of misunderstanding are fanned into mountains of argument. We see it among neighbors, where insignificant differences lead to undying bitterness. We see it in business associates who quarrel and refuse to compromise and forgive when, in most instances, if there were a willingness to sit down together and speak quietly one to another, the matter could be resolved to the blessing of all. Rather, they spend their days nurturing grudges and planning retribution.

In that first year of the organization of the Church, when the Prophet Joseph Smith was repeatedly arrested and tried on false charges by those who sought to injure him, the Lord said to him through revelation, “Whosoever shall go to law with thee shall be cursed by the law.” (D&C 24:17.) I have seen that in our time among some of those who have vindictively pursued their nurtured grudges. Even among some of those who win their contests there appears to be little peace of mind, and while they may have gained dollars, they have lost something more precious.

Avoid Bitterness

Guy de Maupassant, the French writer, tells the story of a peasant named Hauchecome who came on market day to the village. While walking through the public square, his eye caught sight of a piece of string lying on the cobblestones. He picked it up and put it in his pocket. His actions were observed by the village harness maker, with whom he had previously had a dispute.

Later in the day the loss of a purse was reported. Hauchecome was arrested on the accusation of the harness maker. He was taken before the mayor, to whom he protested his innocence, showing the piece of string that he had picked up. But he was not believed and was laughed at.

The next day the purse was found, and Hauchecome was absolved of any wrongdoing. But, resentful of the indignity he had suffered because of a false accusation, he became embittered and would not let the matter die. Unwilling to forgive and forget, he thought and talked of little else. He neglected his farm. Everywhere he went, everyone he met had to be told of the injustice. By day and by night he brooded over it. Obsessed with his grievance, he became desperately ill and died. In the delirium of his death struggles, he repeatedly murmured, “A piece of string, a piece of string.” (The Works of Guy de Maupassant, Roslyn, New York: Black’s Reader Service, n.d., pp. 34–38.)

With variations of characters and circumstances, that story could be repeated many times in our own day. How difficult it is for any of us to forgive those who have injured us. We are all prone to brood on the evil done us. That brooding becomes as a gnawing and destructive canker. Is there a virtue more in need of application in our time than the virtue of forgiving and forgetting? There are those who would look upon this as a sign of weakness. Is it? I submit that it takes neither strength nor intelligence to brood in anger over wrongs suffered, to go through life with a spirit of vindictiveness, to dissipate one’s abilities in planning retribution. There is no peace in the nursing of a grudge. There is no happiness in living for the day when you can “get even.”

Paul speaks of “the weak and beggarly elements” of our lives. (See Gal. 4:9.) Is there anything more weak or beggarly than the disposition to wear out one’s life in an unending round of bitter thoughts and scheming gestures toward those who may have affronted us?

Joseph F. Smith presided over the Church at a time of great bitterness toward our people. He was the target of vile accusations, of a veritable drumbeat of criticism by editorial writers even in his own community. He was lampooned, cartooned, and ridiculed. Listen to his response to those who made sport of demeaning him: “Let them alone. Let them go. Give them the liberty of speech they want. Let them tell their own story, and write their own doom.” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939, p. 339.) And then, with an outreaching spirit of forgiving and forgetting, he went ahead with the great and positive work of leading the Church forward to new growth and remarkable accomplishments. At the time of his death, many of those who had ridiculed him wrote tributes of praise concerning him.

I recall listening at length to a couple who sat across the desk from me. There was bitterness between them. I know that at one time their love was deep and true. But each had developed a habit of speaking of the faults of the other. Unwilling to forgive the kind of mistakes we all make, and unwilling to forget them and live above them with forbearance, they had carped at one another until the love they once knew had been smothered. It had turned to ashes with the decree of a so-called “no-fault” divorce. Now there is only loneliness and recrimination. I am satisfied that had there been even a small measure of repentance and forgiveness, they would still be together, enjoying the companionship that had so richly blessed their earlier years.

Peace through Forgiveness

If there be any who nurture in their hearts the poisonous brew of enmity toward another, I plead with you to ask the Lord for strength to forgive. This expression of desire will be of the very substance of your repentance. It may not be easy, and it may not come quickly. But if you will seek it with sincerity and cultivate it, it will come. And even though he whom you have forgiven continues to pursue and threaten you, you will know you have done what you could to effect a reconciliation. There will come into your heart a peace otherwise unattainable. That peace will be the peace of Him who said:

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

“But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14–15.)

Prodigal Son

I know of no more beautiful story in all literature than that found in the fifteenth chapter of Luke. It is the story of a repentant son and a forgiving father. It is the story of a son who wasted his inheritance in riotous living, rejecting his father’s counsel, spurning those who loved him. When he had spent all, he was hungry and friendless, and “when he came to himself” (Luke 15:17), he turned back to his father, who, on seeing him afar off, “ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).

I ask you to read that story. Every parent ought to read it again and again. It is large enough to encompass every household, and enough larger than that to encompass all mankind, for are we not all prodigal sons and daughters who need to repent and partake of the forgiving mercy of our Heavenly Father and then follow His example?

His Beloved Son, our Redeemer, reaches out to us in forgiveness and mercy, but in so doing he commands repentance. A true and magnanimous spirit of forgiveness will become an expression of that required repentance. Said the Lord—and I quote from a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph:

“Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.

“For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

“But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit . …

“Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.” (D&C 19:15–18, 23.)

Such is the commandment, and such is the promise of him who, in his great exemplary prayer, pleaded, “Father, … forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matt. 6:9, 12.)

“Bind Up … Wounds”

Are not the words of Abraham Lincoln beautiful which he spoke out of the tragedy of a terrible civil war: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, … let us … bind up the … wounds.” (In John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1968, p. 640.)

My brothers and sisters, let us bind up the wounds—oh, the many wounds that have been caused by cutting words, by stubbornly cultivated grievances, by scheming plans to “get even” with those who may have wronged us. We all have a little of this spirit of revenge in us. Fortunately, we all have the power to rise above it, if we will “clothe [ourselves] with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace.” (D&C 88:125.)

“To err is human, to forgive divine.” (Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism, 2:1711.) There is no peace in reflecting on the pain of old wounds. There is peace only in repentance and forgiveness. This is the sweet peace of the Christ, who said, “blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matt. 5:9.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'm an auntie-again!!!

So there's this person I've been dying to meet all year.

I dreamed about the day I could finally meet her. What would she look like? How tiny would she be?

Who am I talking about? Miss Bailey Ann Alt.

I am impatient. I mean, like I really have a problem. Especially waiting for something exciting like a little pink miracle. So I was very pleased that I didn't have to wait as long as planned. E and I hate it when plans are messed up. We don't do well when things don't go according to THE PLAN. But...this was the exception. This early little surprise was just what I needed in my life. When I got that text minutes after she was here, I was beyond thrilled. So freaking crazy excited. I woke up enough for Matt's phone call, then fell right back to sleep, and dreamed about meeting Bailey. The happiest dreams I've had in a while :) Of course my dream involved her in a ridiculously cute pink frilly outfit, and Coco was there playing with her. Obviously this was a dream because the girl was already the size of a 5 month old, sitting up, laughing, and playing with Coco. I remember looking at Elisabeth during the dream, and saying, "um Elisabeth? she has earrings already? (large pink diamond studs actually...) I mean that's cool, but you just got home from the hospital today?" "yeah Jen, they do it at the hospital now, isnt it great???" hehehe. Such a Jen dream, seriously. :)

So when it was time to wake up and go to work (booo!!! I wanna go visit her NOW!) I had to call and check on her, this time I was actually awake for the convo. Awesome birth story! Once I got off the phone, she won't know this, but she will once she reads this blog...I started crying. I was just so happy for my best bud. I couldn't take it. I couldnt stand it and just bawled like a baby myself. How wonderful. How lucky, how blessed she is! I am just so beyond happy for her. I had to keep redoing my makeup before work. Needless to say I was 15 mins late. Oh well I had a good excuse :) Then I got in the car and played Taylor Swift's "never grow up" (I really am a glutton for punishment huh?) and cried, again. So wonderful. SO excited! I couldnt wait to leave work and head to see that sweet baby girl.

All day, the anticipation was killing me. I tried my best not to bug my friend. I mean she just gave birth for goodness sake, I know she was exhausted, and I figured people were blowing her phone up. So I tried to call as little as possible...TRIED to focus on work, and finally the time came to leave...yayy!!!

That was one looonnng walk to see her. I was so excited. I figured I better calm down before I got to the baby section...didnt want them thinking I was some crazy stalker baby taker... :) lucky for me she was the first door I came to. How did I know? No name on the door. But there was a list of drug allergies on the door. A MILE long. Yup, I know it, this is it! hahahha...poor E. Love u!

I walk in, and my bestie is all done up. (SO proud of her for this!) I was expecting to have to do this myself. I hate to come in seeing a tired mommy with no makeup or hair done. I am always the friend that comes in as the "glam squad" :) But E being the type A that I love had it taken care of. She looked gorgeous! And she had my lil sweet pea bundled up nice and tight in Jenny R's adorable homemade blanket, a sweet pink outfit (not that silly hospital grade mess!) and of course, be still my heart, a pink headband on the child's adorable, perfect, tiny head. Love it. She was wonderful, she was perfect, and I am so glad I got the crying out that morning, cause that would've been embarrassing lol :)

I had an awesome visit with two of my favorite girls, E and Bailey Ann. Yeah I like to say Bailey ANN. Sounds so good with Jennifer Ann huh? Ok so I know its for E's wonderful angel mother...but hey, works for me too right? lol. I couldnt help but think of E's mom while there. How sweet of her to let Bailey come down to us early. She obviously knows how impatient E and I both are. :)

Ok I'll stop blabbing about my baby worship here and show what everyone wants, the goods...
SO tiny

again, beautiful
proud auntie
this pink thing will NEVER get old...
sweet family
melt my heart why don't you?

Bailey Ann Alt
December 2, 2010
6 lbs 13oz

Hope you enjoyed meeting the perfect little extension of my best bud...Miss Bailey Ann Alt :)

She had me wrapped around her finger before I even met her.


baby shower for Bailey Ann-getting the nest ready...

THE BABY SHOWER! Oh my goodness, how long have I been looking forward to this day? How many times had Elisabeth and I talked and planned (or, prannnned) for hours about this? How many times did I burn my fingers making fabric rosettes because of my crafting disability? lol How exciting is it that it finally happened?? So great!

I was so thankful and happy to get to plan a shower in honor of one of my best friends in the world, Elisabeth, and her new addition, Miss Bailey Ann. Elisabeth and I had literally been talking about this for months, pretty much from the moment I heard she was pregnant, I could already see the pink everywhere! We were 99.99999% sure it would be a girl anyway-um I mean, hello, how could she not be?!?!? and we were right! So we got to have our little birdie baby shower for Miss Bailey Ann. And we had a blast. Here are some pics to document our great time. It was so so so wonderful to get to spend time with Elisabeth's closest friends and family.

hairbow tree for Miss Bailey :) along with the bird nest favors

I had to grab some of the fabulous photos by Maddy to share

Diaper cake! & fabulous invite

a little of the food before it was all goodness there was so much food it was nuts!
Is that table runner homemade you ask? Why yes it is! Made by Elisabeth! My awesome friend made her own table runner because she knew the store ones wouldnt satisfy her psychotic baby shower throwing friend that can't sew a lick... :) Thanks E!

pom poms everywhere :)

Me and E
P.S., I was so happy with her corsage. I went to so many places and no one could satisfy my need for a not all rose, pink and green, non old lady looking, you put one piece of babys breath in there and I will cut you corsage. What is wrong with people seriously??? lol. Thank you awesome lady at Kroger for putting up with me!!!

I love seeing Jenna laugh! Some of the ladies working on their personalized onesies. I have to say I am not a big shower game person, so I changed it up a bit. :)

oh we did play one game-guess the celebrity mommy on your back by asking questions-but it was just a get to know you thing :) You can't see it, but Jenna's Celebrity? Elisabeth Alt:)
mom and sam being very serious about their onesie decorating
presents everywhereeee

so cute!
Matts sis writing down some baby advice for Elisabeth

she is so cute pregnant!
yayyyy carseat!
LOVE this quilt :)

Me, my sis Samantha, and Mom <3 they were sweet enough to make the long trip :)
with presents and shrimp pasta salad mmmmm...
now, who in the world would give an infant a tutu? :) DUH!!! hehehe
I went a little dress crazy. I couldnt help it. I am powerless against the baby clothes. Someone will be well outfitted this summer :)
E & Aunt Wanda
E and her bestie Jenna
E's Mom & Sis In Laws
I heart this chica
Catie, E, and Aunt Wanda
part of the shower gang
the damage :)

So...I went a little crazy. But we do it big around here. That's the only way to do it :) And I have to say I'm pretty proud of myself, as someone that can admit to having a disability in the creativity department, I did alright! We had such an awesome time, we were so stuffed, and I am pretty sure we ate leftovers for a week. Mmmm!!! Thank you SO much to E's mom in law Chris, E's dad for supplying his home bc it was just too perfect and charming, E for putting up with my 5 zillion questions and ideas, friends and family that drove a long way to get here, and everyone who came out and supported one of my best girls. It was a perfect day and a perfect way to celebrate Miss Bailey Ann's arrival that was soon to come...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

busy but still productive at home...

So I work a LOT now. But I've somehow found the time (either Sundays or weeknights around 1am) to get some things done. First was Christmas shopping, mostly done online. I did finally get some done yesterday, then Darren and I went to Cheesecake Factory and stuffed ourselves....Mmmmmmmm it was SO good. I'm still not 100% done, but thats alright with me. The tree is up, lit, and has ornaments on it and wrapped presents underneath, which is a lot more than I can say about it last year :) I also found the time one night after work to finally work on making floral arrangements for my Nannie's grave. I've only been thinking about doing that for 5 years now, so it was about time. Let me just say I am not creative, not crafty, I just have no interest in it. But I just didnt like what the stores were selling as far as premade arrangements, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Not too bad of a job for someone who's never done it before, but I won't quit my day job. I miss blogging, wish I had more time on my hands! :) But I am so thankful for having a great job that allows OT. Merry Christmas everyone!!!!

Almost forgot! I sponsored a child for Christmas at work, and had some fun doing online shopping for her. Her most requested item was jeans, and she's 15, so she was super easy to shop for. But she wanted some other items too, including a camera, and Darren was sweet enough to donate that :) I've always wanted to do something like this for Christmas, and am so thankful that I was able to this year!

Merry Christmas and God Bless!!!


Sunday, November 7, 2010

I needed this today!!!!

After church today I prayed for guidance. I decided to pull up the recent conference talks, and decided to watch  this one. AMAZING. Thought I should share in case someone else needs this today as much as I did.

The 3 R's of Choice-by Thomas S. Monson

Each of us has come to this earth with all the tools necessary to make correct choices.

My beloved brethren of the priesthood, my earnest prayer tonight is that I might enjoy the help of our Heavenly Father in giving utterance to those things which I feel impressed to share with you.

I have been thinking recently about choices and their consequences. Scarcely an hour of the day goes by but what we are called upon to make choices of one sort or another. Some are trivial, some more far-reaching. Some will make no difference in the eternal scheme of things, and others will make all‍ the difference.

As I’ve contemplated the various aspects of choice, I’ve put them into three categories: first, the right of choice; second, the responsibility of choice; and third, the results of choice. I call these the three Rs of choice.

I mention first the right‍ of choice. I am so grateful to a loving Heavenly Father for His gift of agency, or the right to choose. President David O. McKay, ninth President of the Church, said, “Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God’s greatest gift to man.”

We know that we had our agency before this world was and that Lucifer attempted to take it from us. He had no confidence in the principle of agency or in us and argued for imposed salvation. He insisted that with his plan none would be lost, but he seemed not to recognize—or perhaps not to care—that in addition, none would be any wiser, any stronger, any more compassionate, or any more grateful if his plan were followed.
We who chose the Savior’s plan knew that we would be embarking on a precarious, difficult journey, for we walk the ways of the world and sin and stumble, cutting us off from our Father. But the Firstborn in the Spirit offered Himself as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of all. Through unspeakable suffering He became the great Redeemer, the Savior of all mankind, thus making possible our successful return to our Father.

The prophet Lehi tells us: “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.”
Brethren, within the confines of whatever circumstances we find ourselves, we will always have the right to choose.

Next, with the right of choice comes the responsibility to choose. We cannot be neutral; there is no middle ground. The Lord knows this; Lucifer knows this. As long as we live upon this earth, Lucifer and his hosts will never abandon the hope of claiming our souls.

Our Heavenly Father did not launch us on our eternal journey without providing the means whereby we could receive from Him God-given guidance to assist in our safe return at the end of mortal life. I speak of prayer. I speak too of the whisperings from that still, small voice within each of us, and I do not overlook the holy scriptures, written by mariners who successfully sailed the seas we too must cross.

Each of us has come to this earth with all the tools necessary to make correct choices. The prophet Mormon tells us, “The Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil.”

We are surrounded—even at times bombarded—by the messages of the adversary. Listen to some of them; they are no doubt familiar to you: “Just this once won’t matter.” “Don’t worry; no one will know.” “You can stop smoking or drinking or taking drugs any time you want.” “Everybody’s doing it, so it can’t be that bad.” The lies are endless.

Although in our journey we will encounter forks and turnings in the road, we simply cannot afford the luxury of a detour from which we may never return. Lucifer, that clever pied piper, plays his lilting melody and attracts the unsuspecting away from the safety of their chosen pathway, away from the counsel of loving parents, away from the security of God’s teachings. He seeks not just the so-called refuse of humanity; he seeks all of us, including the very elect of God. King David listened, wavered, and then followed and fell. So did Cain in an earlier era and Judas Iscariot in a later one. Lucifer’s methods are cunning; his victims, numerous.

We read of him in 2 Nephi: “Others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security.” “Others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell … until he grasps them with his awful chains.” “And thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.”

When faced with significant choices, how do we decide? Do we succumb to the promise of momentary pleasure? To our urges and passions? To the pressure of our peers?

Let us not find ourselves as indecisive as is Alice in Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. You will remember that she comes to a crossroads with two paths before her, each stretching onward but in opposite directions. She is confronted by the Cheshire cat, of whom Alice asks, “Which path shall I follow?”

The cat answers, “That depends where you want to go. If you do not know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which path you take.”

Unlike Alice, we all know where we want to go, and it does matter which way we go, for by choosing our path, we choose our destination.

Decisions are constantly before us. To make them wisely, courage is needed—the courage to say no, the courage to say yes. Decisions do determine destiny.

I plead with you to make a determination right here, right now, not to deviate from the path which will lead to our goal: eternal life with our Father in Heaven. Along that straight and true path there are other goals: missionary service, temple marriage, Church activity, scripture study, prayer, temple work. There are countless worthy goals to reach as we travel through life. Needed is our commitment to reach them.

Finally, brethren, I speak of the results of choice. All of our choices have consequences, some of which have little or nothing to do with our eternal salvation and others of which have everything to do with it.

Whether you wear a green T-shirt or a blue one makes no difference in the long run. However, whether you decide to push a key on your computer which will take you to pornography can make all the difference in your life. You will have just taken a step off the straight, safe path. If a friend pressures you to drink alcohol or to try drugs and you succumb to the pressure, you are taking a detour from which you may not return. Brethren, whether we are 12-year-old deacons or mature high priests, we are susceptible. May we keep our eyes, our hearts, and our determination focused on that goal which is eternal and worth any price we will have to pay, regardless of the sacrifice we must make to reach it.

No temptation, no pressure, no enticing can overcome us unless we allow such. If we make the wrong choice, we have no one to blame but ourselves. President Brigham Young once expressed this truth by relating it to himself. Said he: “If Brother Brigham shall take a wrong track, and be shut out of the Kingdom of heaven, no person will be to blame but Brother Brigham. I am the only being in heaven, earth, or hell, that can be blamed.” He continued: “This will equally apply to every Latter-day Saint. Salvation is an individual operation.”

The Apostle Paul has assured us, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

We have all made incorrect choices. If we have not already corrected such choices, I assure you that there is a way to do so. The process is called repentance. I plead with you to correct your mistakes. Our Savior died to provide you and me that blessed gift. Although the path is not easy, the promise is real: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” “And I, the Lord, remember them no more.” Don’t put your eternal life at risk. If you have sinned, the sooner you begin to make your way back, the sooner you will find the sweet peace and joy that come with the miracle of forgiveness.

Brethren, you are of a noble birthright. Eternal life in the kingdom of our Father is your goal. Such a goal is not achieved in one glorious attempt but rather is the result of a lifetime of righteousness, an accumulation of wise choices, even a constancy of purpose. As with anything really worthwhile, the reward of eternal life requires effort.

The scriptures are clear:

“Ye shall observe to do … as the Lord your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.

“Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you.”

In closing may I share with you an example of one who determined early in life what his goals would be. I speak of Brother Clayton M. Christensen, a member of the Church who is a professor of business administration in the business school at Harvard University.

When he was 16 years old, Brother Christensen decided, among other things, that he would not play sports on Sunday. Years later, when he attended Oxford University in England, he played center on the basketball team. That year they had an undefeated season and went through to the British equivalent of what in the United States would be the NCAA basketball tournament.

They won their games fairly easily in the tournament, making it to the final four. It was then that Brother Christensen looked at the schedule and, to his absolute horror, saw that the final basketball game was scheduled to be played on a Sunday. He and the team had worked so hard to get where they were, and he was the starting center. He went to his coach with his dilemma. His coach was unsympathetic and told Brother Christensen he expected him to play in the game.

Prior to the final game, however, there was a semifinal game. Unfortunately, the backup center dislocated his shoulder, which increased the pressure on Brother Christensen to play in the final game. He went to his hotel room. He knelt down. He asked his Heavenly Father if it would be all right, just this once, if he played that game on Sunday. He said that before he had finished praying, he received the answer: “Clayton, what are you even asking me for? You know the answer.”

He went to his coach, telling him how sorry he was that he wouldn’t be playing in the final game. Then he went to the Sunday meetings in the local ward while his team played without him. He prayed mightily for their success. They did win.

That fateful, difficult decision was made more than 30 years ago. Brother Christensen has said that as time has passed, he considers it one of the most important decisions he ever made. It would have been very easy to have said, “You know, in general, keeping the Sabbath day holy is the right commandment, but in my particular extenuating circumstance, it’s okay, just this once, if I don’t do it.” However, he says his entire life has turned out to be an unending stream of extenuating circumstances, and had he crossed the line just that once, then the next time something came up that was so demanding and critical, it would have been so much easier to cross the line again. The lesson he learned is that it is easier to keep the commandments 100 percent of the time than it is 98 percent of the time.

My beloved brethren, may we be filled with gratitude for the right‍ of choice, accept the responsibility‍ of choice, and ever be conscious of the results‍ of choice. As bearers of the priesthood, all of us united as one can qualify for the guiding influence of our Heavenly Father as we choose carefully and correctly. We are engaged in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. We, like those of olden times, have answered His call. We are on His errand. We shall succeed in the solemn charge: “Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.”‍ That this may be so is my solemn and humble prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Master, amen.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'm alive

Going through a bit of a rough is stressful-but I'm blessed to have a job. Had to make some other big decisions that were hard to make, but I had to do what was best for me. Why am I telling you this? Cause I need prayer. Prayer for guidance,  prayer for patience, and prayer for peace. I'm ok. Just a little rattled lately. But life is still good. And I know I'm blessed. Maybe just some blessings-Ill just have to wait for...


Sunday, October 17, 2010

recipe hit & miss...

So I recently decided to really start cooking again. I used to cook all the time years ago, but got really slack and pretty much quit. So I'm out of practice, but I'm slowly working on it. I did quite a bit of blog stalking, getting most of my inspiration from The Cooking Photographer, as well as the blogs of friends. So anyway, I tried this recipe Roasted Carrot and Cream Bowties with Peas. I modified it a bit, adding chicken (because lets face it, a meal isn't a meal without some sort of meat), switching rotini for the bowties, and pureeing only half of the carrots and saving the other half to put in the pasta for color. It tasted ok. But just ok for a lot of work is not enough for me. It was good enough for me to eat that night, and two helpings the next day though, with the help of my salt shaker. The problem didn't start until Saturday, when I get a call from Kroger. Guess what? The huge bag of peas that I'd poured right into the pasta? Recalled. Well's a little too late...since I ate 3 helpings, and Darren had 1 the night before when he came over. Guess why they were recalled? Because they found GLASS in them! WONDERFUL! So needless to say, I threw the rest of the leftovers away. Luckily, Darren and I both survived so far. How often do you get a call from your grocery store basically telling you, hey if you eat those peas you bought this may die! I can't stop thinking about that popsicle "Shards of Glass" commercial. Fabulous...Once mom realized we'd be ok, she said, Jennifer, you finally cook for Darren, and now he's going to die. LOL...

So today I tried again, with much better results this time. Sheila from Union gave sent me this recipe last week, and I am so into anything that includes the words "buffalo chicken" that I just had to try. The only adjustment I made on this one was no celery...because I think that's just weird. It turned out DELICIOUS! I used Frank's Red Hot sauce for my wing sauce, and it was wonderful. YUM!
Ok so I'm not the best at pie cutting. But you get the point. This Buffalo Chicken Pie was Sooooooo yummy!

Life is fabulous! xo

Friday, October 15, 2010

he really is awesome...

Darren, that is.

My sweet, adorable, handsome guy placed these on my coffee table Wednesday.  

When I asked why, he gave me a puzzled look, that um Jen, don't you get it? Look.

"Cause you said you were having a bad day..."

Could he be any more awesome?

I told him he can't do this every time I tell him I've had a "bad day", because he'll have to buy them all the time.  :)

Remember these? From my bad day last month. I see a pattern. lol

Life is fabulous! xo

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What's going on in the life of Jen?

Outside my's late, so it's dark. And it's been SO chilly lately. Not a fan. But I hear that this weekend is going to be warmer, which makes me smile :)

I'm thinking....things are going to be turning around soon, financially anyway. The new job is going well. Got my first two mortgage files in late this afternoon. I start on them first thing. Refis! I know they won't all be that simple, but its nice that the first two wont be purchases. I'm also really liking some of my new coworkers, they make me laugh. Also looking forward to Williamsburg with mom on Monday for our day off.

I'm thankful for....having all my needs met, at all times. And then some. I tend to worry needlessly. I have to remind myself of all the times and amazing ways Heavenly Father has taken care of me. Oh and my parents :) and friends!

I'm wearing....pjs and a dog sleep on my leg-she must be as close as possible of course

I am remembering....ideas for Elisabeth's shower, and jotting them down so I won't forget. Been thinking of my Nannie lately. And having dreams about her and others from my past. Weird. Also remembering how much I miss the beach and how awesome it was. I can't believe that was 2 months ago!

I'm bed soon, I am not getting enough sleep! Good thing work is not that far so I don't have to get up early

I'm currently reading.....well...I hope to be reading the last Vampire Academy soon. Please find it soon E! :)

I'm hoping.....Friday comes soon.  Well, tomorrow evening first so I can see Darren, then Friday :)

Noticing that....I have more free time with this new job. (I guess from no commute) And I'm loving it!

Pondering these words....."The more that you learn, the more places you will go" Dr Seuss. So true!

From the kitchen....I am starting to gear up to actually cook again. Its been ages! Planning on making practice cupcakes for E's shower-maybe this weekend

One of my favorite things.....Coco-and lately? Junkfood. Don't know what my deal is. Can't. Stop. Eating!!!

A picture thought I'd like to share.....
Happiness sometimes comes when you least expect it to, and where you least expect it from. :)

Life is fabulous =) xo

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ok....I think its time to be nervous

Last week was sad. My last day at Union was Thursday. After exactly 8 years there, it was hard to leave to say the least. Not the building. Or even the corporation in general. But...the people!!!! Those awesome people have become my family, especially my group (CDU). Our group started about 2 1/2 years ago, and we are probably the most hated group in the corporation (aside from IT? lol) so we had to become like family and become a united front. Those people are awesome. I definitly shed a couple of tears on Thursday. Sometimes I wonder how I'll do without the encouragement of Sheila and Nelson, the laughs from Leo and Sara, the awesome close friendship of Ashley (and the gazillion things she taught me-both about my job and life in general), and the massive amounts of knowledge and patience from my wonderful boss, Joni. Yup, I said my boss (well former boss now) is wonderful. Because she is! They were so gracious about my leaving. They all knew it was for the best, and while I will miss them dearly, I have to agree, it was time to move forward. I got an offer I couldn't refuse, and I am grateful for that. These awesome people (along with several other coworkers) made the last two weeks of my time there a lot better than I thought possible. Encouragment, jokes, cards, gifts, food, cakes-they are so sweet! I love these people and will miss them soooooooooo much!!!

So, tomorrow is my first day at my new job. It was originally going to be today, but they had some issues getting my trainer in town in time, so tomorrow it is. Instead of being productive, I literally spent all day on my couch. This is something I NEVER do. So needless to say, the dvr may be cleaned up now, but nothing else is.  I planned on picking my outfit early, having everything ready, including my lunch...and here it is, nearly 9pm...and none of that is done. At least I have somewhat of a plan as to what I'm wearing....and I get to leave much later than usual, since my commute is less than 5 minutes now :)  What a HUGE change for me...this is the first job that is less than a 30 minute commute for me. This place is maybe a mile from home, if that. 
I have a few worries now that its getting close...I won't have everything done that I want to by the morning. I won't be on time, because something insane will happen, and then I'll look bad. Or I'll be 30 minutes early and look like a nutjob. I won't do well in training, and they'll send me home and fire me the first day...My outfit won't be good enough, my feet will hurt...blah blah blah. This is normal right? Bah!!!! I know it'll all be ok.
Enough whining for me. I know I'm blessed :) And excited. It'll alllll be ok. Now, time to do some "ironing". If you know me, you know what that means ;)

PS, anyone want to place a friendly bet on how long the 2 1/2 huges boxes of my desk crap will stay in my trunk?

Life is fabulous. xo ;)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Listen to your heart....and put one foot in front of the other"

While I don't put much faith into horoscopes, I find them fun and interesting to read. So when I got my new phone, one of the apps I downloaded was a horoscope one. I send E and Mel theirs almost daily (especially when they seem appropriate for whats going on) but I have to say, mine have been DEAD ON. It is crazy. I know its not real, but they are fun regardless, especially when they are so close to whats going on :)

Things this past year (or more really) have been rough on me. I mean R O U G H. Horrible breakups, get back together disasters, and more breakups, and huge disappointments on the job front. Between the letdowns in the guy department and me being disappointed with my job for quite some time...I was starting to get really down. But still, I perservered. After quite a bit of work and prayer...things are really starting to get better. When I went to the beach, I made my "job" for the week to find a new job. And so I spent an hour or two each morning (before hitting the pool for 8 hours) looking feverishly for jobs. After applying for what seemed like a zillion jobs, I was fortunate enough to get a few interviews that seemed promising. After a big let down, I thought I should quit. I had an interview lined up for another position, but thought it may not be worth my time. I even cancelled the first interview. But something told me to reschedule, so I did. I had my first interview, and it went SO well. But then I got a bit of a scary email making me think I may not have a chance. But after talking to them they said come in, we really think its worth your time. So I went to my second interview, which also went well. I didnt expect to hear back for a good week,but heard back the next afternoon! I got the job!!!!!! It's closer to home AND MUCH better pay. YAYYYYY!!!! Maybe I'll stop eating pasta for every meal now! :) So last Thursdays horoscope(I'm a Cancer):

"Life is too short to...quick moonchild, how would you fill in that blank? The first thing that comes to mind is the first think you need to concentrate on. Somewhere in your life you are dissatisfied.  You have been treading water or spinning your wheels or going through the motions for too long.  Now it's time to change the status quo. You may be so caught up in some routine that you aren't sure how to go about changing anything. But you can do it. Listen to your heart, and put one foot in front of the other"

And so I did. I took the new job, and my first day is Monday Sept. 27. What a huge change!!! I'll still be processing loans (only mortgages now though), but with a totally different company. I've been with mine for 8 years. While I love my coworkers, it was time for a change. (WAY OVERDUE). I am so thankful.

Things aren't just looking up on the job front, but in my personal life as well. :)

How refreshing it is to not only be blessed with a brand new job, but an awesome new bf too :) 

Life is so good :) xo

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

trying new things...

So recently when I went to visit Mom and Mike we decided to head up to do some shopping in Fredericksburg. After searching for Bella's birthday gifts, Mike wanted to surprise me with sushi! I love sushi! Now- when I say I love sushi...I mean I don't really love sushi...I love the wuss stuff. Yup. Like Tempura Shrimp and California Rolls. That's IT. I never had a desire to try more. Mike said there was one condition to this...I had to try whatever he gave me. Uh oh...

I started with a clear soup, not bad. Then came the Octopus Salad...I was a lil scared.

This was what was left of our salad...only a few pieces of octopus left...I loved it!!!! (It was cooked)

Then came the tuna. The R A W tuna. I thought I was going to gag just getting it near me. But I had to try. So I did. It really didn't taste bad. But the yeah that takes some getting used to.

Then finally time for the good stuff!

Shrimp Tempura Roll, Spider Roll, and California Roll
(there were others...I just didn't eat them)


Then came Mike's Sashimi plate. Oh no. Lots of raw fish. I tried the tuna again (not too bad), yellowtail (I think that's what it was called) barf-so gross, and this yellow looking tuna-um I actually had to spit it out. So bad. Then came the super scary part...Eel! I'd heard it was nasty, I protested as much as possible, but I'd promised I'd try, so I did.
Glad I tried it =)

Thanks to Mike for a cool sushi experience...and sorry to Sam and Lil Mike for nearly barfing up some raw fish. YUM. lol

Life is good =) xo

Bella Bug is TWO!!! talented. That's all I can say. She is so great at putting together parties, homemade everything....LOVE IT! :) In case you are blind...she did a ladybug theme...too cute!!!

Happy 2nd Birthday Bella!
I can't believe she's already TWO!

Even a homemade outfit! E made an adorable tu-tu
This banner involved a lot of pain on our part haha, but turned out great!
of course we match the decor =)
It melts my heart when I walk into a room and I hear a shout of "JEN!!!"
Its awesome when kids learn your name:)
Bella stylin in her shades, going shoppin I believe...She's SO CUTE!!!

Happy Birthday Bella Bug
I love you <3


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