Thursday, February 28, 2013

My children - and my daughter in particular today

Today was Sabrina's 7th birthday. It would be a huge oversight if I didn't recognize the hand of the Lord in my life by giving me a daughter who teaches me so much humility and love. She is the light of our home (as everyone will agree) and our little princess. She brings joy and fun wherever she goes and smiles just follow her around. She is truly a blessing for me and my family.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Being an answer to someone else's prayer

Tonight I went to an activity for the Young Women of our ward. They were holding their "New Beginnings" program where they introduce all the YW that will be turning 12 this year into the program. It's very fun and quite cool to see how interested the older girls are in making the younger ones feel welcome and special.

As soon as I walked through the door into the room where everybody was seated Sis. Barrus immediately looked at me and said "Oh, Bro. McLain! Thank goodness you're here! This is an answer to my prayers!" She was having some technical difficulties with her computer and a projector, and was trying desperately to figure out the problem, she was praying silently that she could get some kind of inspiration or help so that she could carry out her presentation as she had planned it. When she saw me, she knew that I had done some tech work with her in the past and she was confident that I could fix her problem. I could and everything turned out okay. Afterwards she thanked me again and shared with me how grateful she was for not just my help tonight, but for all the help I have provided in the past.

It isn't often when you get someone telling you "You're an answer to my prayers!" as soon as you show your face, but tonight was one of those times and I'm grateful that I was able not only to be there to help, but that I had the knowledge and skill to provide the help needed. I'm also grateful for Sis. Barrus and her quiet faith and strength.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kids who still get excited

For the last few days I've actually been noticing it a lot more, but I love the fact that my kids still get excited to talk to me and are excited to give hugs or do any little thing with me. I haven't really taken notice of it quite so much until recently, and I'm not sure why it has come to my attention quite so sharply, but I can say that I now recognize it as a tremendous blessing, and one that might be fleeting, so I'm grateful that I do recognize it as something special while it still lasts.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Small, but significant

The whole story is rather long and complex, but I will shorthand it here a bit. After 3 years of actively trying I  finally managed to get a reservation for Philmont. It hasn't been easy and it hasn't been a smooth path. This year timing was everything and nothing seemed to be going the way we needed it in order to have a successful outing from the Stake to get to Philmont. Leadership change was our biggest problem with a change in the stake presidency causing the most difficulty. Nevertheless, we have forged ahead (myself and the stake YM president, Lyndon Smith) and acted as effectively as we could under the constraints we were given. 

We got the final authorization to go ahead with the trek a little over a week ago, but we had a payment of $100 due to Philmont by this Thursday in order to keep our reservation. We were only able to get the barest of communications out, mostly by e-mail, to try and get as many boys and leaders on board as we could. It looked like it would only be semi successful. After speaking with Pres. Smith about it we decided we needed to ask Philmont for more time if we were going to be more successful. So, today I called Philmont to plead our case. All we wanted was 2 more weeks to get the word out a little better. Philmont actually offered to give us until April 1st to get our payment in. 

This is an unbelievable blessing. We now have the time to get a little more organized and really reach out to the boys in the stake and try to get them interested in the adventure. I'm extremely grateful that we now have the opportunity to do what we have been wanting to do and get in front of boys and parents and to really talk to them about the Philmont experience.

I will post at some time in the future about how utterly beside myself with excitement I am for the blessing of being able to go there at all, but for now, I'm just ecstatic that I get the chance to share what a wonderful experience it will be for the boys (and leaders) and get as many on board as possible.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A good Sabbath day

On Sundays, occasionally there is no need to be grateful for anything other than it being the Sabbath and all that goes along with it being a blessing. Today was one of those days. I always draw strength and renewal during the Sabbath, but today felt particularly good, and was particularly necessary for me.

Some days you fund the blessings and the hand of the Lord right where you are supposed to find them.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A day of work

Today was a bit of a long day. Soccer game for Sabrina at 8:00, then working in the house. Installed a new faucet in the kitchen, finished painting the master bedroom and bathroom. Installed a new light fixture and towel bar...and then a very short "date night" with Marci that consisted of going to the gym to relax in the spa, In-N-Out burger and watching TV for an hour.

Woo. Hoo.

However, I would be remiss if I didn't recognize all the blessings in my life that have allowed me to have the physical strength and stamina to do a long day of work like that. Not even a year ago that kind of work would have meant some serious downtime due to back and shoulder issues. Now, I'm able to score massive brownie points with the wife and help her with a very extensive and difficult "to do" list around the house.

For anyone that has ever suffered from chronic pain of any sort, you realize what a tremendous blessing it is to be relatively pain free, and how grateful you can feel for the blessing of being able to work.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Eternal friends

Today I was reminded about one of the promises in my patriarchal blessing. It tells me that I will make many friends in this life, many of whom will be friends through eternity. I've been very blessed to have many friends throughout my life, and it is always interesting how no matter how much time has passed, to a really good friend, that time doesn't seem to really matter at all.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The beauty of nature

I'm not sure whether this is a blessing or simply a highlight, and in a way it is kind of both.

Yesterday we had a particularly cool winter storm. It actually snowed in Mesa. There was a bunch of small hail first, enough to look like snow as it stayed on the ground, but then a little dusting of snow on top of the hail. I heard from Marci earlier in the day that there was snow on the Superstition mountains.

Now, I should explain that I am obsessed with snow on the Superstitions. There have been a handful of times over the last 10 years or so where there has been snow on them that has stayed long enough to be really noticeable. My dream is to go and hike up into the mountain when there is still snow visible. The mountain has not cooperated. Every time it has snowed on a day when I cannot go hiking! It is either on a Sunday (I won't voluntarily go hiking on a Sunday if it can be avoided) or on a weekday when I cannot miss work. Add to that the necessity of having a partner with me to be safe, and that's nearly impossible to manage on a weekday as well.

Anyhow, yesterday was different. The now came down at such a low altitude that I knew I wouldn't have to hike up very far to see it. So, after a work meeting at an incredibly annoying time (7:00 - 8:00 - if not for the meeting I would have been up at 5:00 just to get there before sunrise) I asked Marci if I could go down to take some pictures. Marci is busy painting our bedroom and could have used my help for sure, but, and I believe I married her in anticipation of this very moment, she said "Go ahead."

So, I went. Paul Reed was also headed there for a run and we eventually met up. It was simply spectacular. I've never seen the desert blanketed in snow and ice like was worth every bit of effort, and I wish I had gotten there earlier and for longer.

Today was the partial fulfillment of a long-held dream of hiking the Superstitions in the snow, and the welcome blessing that I have a wife who understands how important and rare of an opportunity this was for me, and let me go even though it was probably pretty annoying for her to do so. Both were blessings that I am very grateful to recognize.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The activity of youth

I got to spend some time with the young women of our ward tonight. Our stake is having an activity called "walk your ancestors to the temple" (or something like that), the idea being that all the youth of the stake will do some family history research and take the family name that they have found to the temple. In addition to the family history activity, all the youth will walk to the temple from our stake center (about an 8 mile walk). It's an interesting idea and one I support.

So, tonight I got to help out the young women to get registered on the site and help them with their research. It was a lot of fun....but also very humbling. I've personally not done much family history research. I did some a LONG time ago when it was still a very manual affair and nothing was online. But I honestly haven't put much effort into the activity now that everything is online. These marvelous young women were showing me an example wherein I cannot help but find myself humbled.

So, today I am grateful for the strength of the youth of our church and for what they teach me every time I get to work closely with them.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I have no idea...

All of these posts are written pretty much real-time. I don't plan them out, I do very little editing once they are written out, and I rarely begin thinking about what the blessings of the day are until I sit down to write them. There is quite frequently a long pause between logging in and typing the first words.

Today is a tough one. I'm getting sick again (for the 3rd time in as many months - a very rare occurrence for me) and I'm quite unhappy about it. Marci and Sabrina are also sick (mostly Marci), and that doesn't make things any more pleasant. I won't enumerate the various symptoms I'm experiencing, but they are all pretty annoying and miserable. do you find something good in a day where you feel sorry for yourself and feel like crap?

I need to think a little harder about this one today.

Okay, I had two little experience tonight that qualifies now that I'm paying more attention, here goes:

I teach psychology at a local community college, it's a nice side job and I enjoy it quite a bit usually. That was not the case tonight. I knew I would have to lecture and I was just not feeling up to it. I was sniffing and coughing and my throat and head hurt and I felt weak - just a horrible combination for trying to entertain students for an hour. On my way to campus I said a little prayer as I was driving "Please, help me get through this tonight." As class started I wasn't feeling any better. I had some water and a pile of tissues ready to go. I warned my students that I was sick and might hack up a lung or need to blow my schnoz at any moment, then I began the lecture. 

I had zero problems. My voice held out, my mind was clear and I barely noticed that I was sick. After I concluded my lecture I went back to the computer to log off, and I had to lean on it to catch my breath and my balance. I had nothing left! I also suddenly started coughing and needed to blow my nose. It was almost as if someone cut the marionette strings as soon as I was done; but more importantly, I also now realize that I was being supported for the time I needed it. I staggered (that is not an exaggeration) back to the car and headed for home.

Once home I had to run a couple of quick errands (pick up medicine and get some food) and as I was returning home I got a text from bishop that he needed someone to cut a check down at the church. I was already out and about, so I went down to help out. I got the main business taken care of quickly and while I was there another member of our ward took a moment to thank me for talking to their spouse at a recent activity. Apparently some of the things I said "really inspired him" - I had no idea. I remembered the conversation but couldn't really remember anything I said that was inspiring or even that tried to be inspiring, but it was good to hear a clear message that somehow I had been able to bless another person's life in a small but meaningful way.

So, today I'm grateful that the Lord saw fit to support me in my moment of need, and then chose to bless me in a small random way that made me feel good at the end of an otherwise rather unpleasant day.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Shared joys

I went hiking today with Caleb. Not a particularly adventurous hike, but it was a good one nevertheless. We went and did the 302 circumference trail at the Phoenix Mountain Preserve and ended the hike with a jaunt up the summit trail of Piestewa Peak. It's a trail I've done probably 50 or more times, but Caleb had never been, so....why not? We ended up covering about 8 miles or so and had a pretty dang good day.

It is wonderful to me that Caleb and I can share an interest in hiking together. It gives us a chance to talk privately about whatever we want and we get a chance to bond and have fun together. I get to see him grow in skill and the point where I'm becoming annoyed - he can hike faster than I can and he's getting pretty strong; I've still got him in skill and stamina, but he's catching up quickly. [sigh]

It is just such a blessing to me that Caleb shares some interests with me as it really helps me stay close to him as a father. 

Now.....if I can just find something like that with Gavin I would feel truly blessed.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Preparation is key

Today I'm grateful for a lifetime of preparation. As I mentioned in my post yesterday I was a bit of a bonehead and forgot that I was arranging to get speakers for sacrament meeting this month. Due to the extremely late nature of the dawning of that realization this week I made the decision that I should bear the responsibility of my idiocy and I should be the one to give a talk.

I had very little time to prepare much of anything between realizing that I needed to prepare and the actual time I needed to deliver the talk. I was really only able to think about what I was going to talk about but not really write anything down or do any extensive research or preparation. I was essentially flying by the seat of my pants.

This morning while in our normal bishopric meeting I did a very quick preparation and decided that I was going to talk about agency and how it affects us as we strive to gain knowledge. I was using as my foundation the lesson for the youth Sunday school curricula "Come Follow Me". The February topic is "The plan of salvation" and one of the lessons is "What is the role of agency in learning the gospel?" There is a wonderful talk by Elder Bednar linked in that lesson that speaks about using our agency in order to learn about the gospel. It is a topic that has absorbed my attention and thought process for a few years now and I feel that I am only just starting to understand the subject.

I began my talk as I had intended, but as I spoke I realized that I wasn't really talking about agency, what I was talking about was preparation. I was demonstrating preparation. Yes, I had made an error in forgetting to fulfill an obligation, but I have spent a lifetime studying the gospel. I've spent a lifetime learning and studying the gospel. I've spent years serving in the church learning how to interact with the gospel. I've been a parent now for 12 years and have started learning how to talk to and teach my children. All of that preparation gave me the strength, knowledge and ability to get up in front of a congregation of worshipers and to deliver a talk at the last minute. All that time spent serving gave me the ability to recognize the promptings of the spirit and to share a message that was meaningful to me and (I hope) meaningful to someone else.

In all honesty, whether or not it helped anyone else is actually not as meaningful to me as what I learned myself from the experience. Sometimes we continue to do what we do in the church and do it almost out of habit without ever really seeing or feeling the results of our labors. To be sure there are moments where we feel that surge of the spirit or we recognize the immediate or necessary help we have been able to give to another...but we rarely see the change in ourselves. Today I was taught by the spirit that all that learning and preparation of a lifetime can help me in a moment of need and can still teach me even when I don't think I have anything to offer. Today I learned that sometimes, even when you make pretty stupid mistakes and force yourself into a corner, the Lord is still there to support you.

Provided you've put in the effort beforehand.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Back in the saddle - I hope

Seems I've taken a break since late November. I was disrupted for a few weeks due to having shoulder surgery. I had an arthroscopic procedure done to clean up my right shoulder joint and re-anchor a torn labrum (sp?) tendon. This essentially put the use of my right arm out of commission for several weeks. I tried typing a few times, but I was relegated to typing one handed for about 3 weeks and it was really lousy. After typing all day at work the last thing I wanted to do was type some more.

And that was it. No other good reason for such a long break. I took the easy way out and took a break for a few weeks rather than deal with the frustration.

At first I wasn't in the mood to count my blessings. Then, right as I started thinking I should get back to writing in this blog, I got the flu and was down and out for a week. Then the holidays, then coming back from the holidays, then the start of school, then....blah, blah, infinitum.

The much more simple explanation is this: I got lazy. I let the simple frustrations of every day life get in the way of the goals I had set for myself. I could somewhat justify myself through some of my physical problems, but really....there's not much of an excuse that is worthwhile. I found the time and found a way to do other things that were of far less value but required probably the same amount of work and effort, so the bottom line is that I didn't make this a priority......for 3 months.

But - today is the day to start again and not procrastinate any longer.

Today I am grateful that I am an idiot. I know that most everyone is already aware of this fact, and certainly I've been aware of it for most of my adult life (cocky teenagers and early adults don't count - they don't have a brain and are therefore incapable of recognizing their idiocy, and I most certainly fell into that category).

The month of February is my month to find speakers to talk in sacrament meeting. We had fast Sunday (no problem there) then stake conference (again, no problems) - but then this week I completely forgot about it till Friday morning. Yikes! Thank goodness it is High Council Sunday and Wade Pew (the High Councilor assigned to our ward this month) was ready to go and willing to come on short notice. Now I just needed to find a companion speaker for I looked in the mirror. If I am going to be lame, I cannot foist my ineptitude onto another. I have to take that responsibility on myself (and besides, Marci laughed in my face when I asked her). So, I will be preparing a talk. For tomorrow. It is 9:00 Saturday night, and we have church at 8:30 in the morning.

So, I will be relying pretty heavily on the spirit in my talk tomorrow, and for that I am grateful. It teaches me humility, it teaches me to remember the things that are important, and it reminds me that I need to stay close to my Heavenly Father just so that I can always be prepared for moments like these.

What can possibly go wrong?