Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas to all

As I've been pondering the gift that I spoke about here, that I have given to my Savior, a series of images swirled in my head.

I imagined what it would be like to literally, physically hand over this gift of mine to Jesus Christ himself.

And as I thought about it, and let it play out in my mind, a story immerged, and I wrote it down.

It is simple, and not an amazing piece of writing. But it is from my heart. And I wanted to share it.

Merry Christmas everyone.

"There were only 4 days left until Christmas.

It didn't feel like enough time to find the perfect gift, the ooh and aah inspiring item that would help the most amazing person I knew, feel the love that I had for Him.

I had pondered for a long time what I could give someone who has everything.

It was no easy task coming up with a gift that would surpass all other gifts.

But I had finally found it, buried beneath a mountain of other things. I had to dig deep, but when I pulled it from the pile, I knew I had struck gold.

It wasn't a gift that I could give anyone. Most wouldn't even know what to do with it. Most would fling it back at me and ask why I would give them such a thing as this, this seemingly broken and damaged offering.

And at first I had let me own doubts keep me from wrapping up my present. It had remained in a corner for a while, waiting to be carefully covered in beautiful Christmas paper, complete with ribbons and bows.

When I finally found the courage to gather it in my arms and begin to wrap it, I found that I was reluctant to part with it.

Sure, it was used and worn and a dead weight upon me, but I hesitated to give it away. Some part of me wanted to treasure this item that brought me no joy, instead of giving it to One who could make something beautiful out of it.

But I took a deep breath, and told myself, "This is the perfect gift. He will know what to do with it."

And so I proceeded to lovingly wrap it with care. Gently creasing the paper to make perfect lines. Curling the ribbon that would wrap it all up. And placing the largest and most beautiful of bows on top.

When I finished, I wondered if I should include a card.

What could I possibly say that would explain why I needed to give him this particular item?

He had asked me to give this to him many times. So He would already know that this was a momentous occasion for me. But still, I needed to tell Him why this gift was so important. Why I needed to give it to Him, of all people. And what I hoped and dreamed He would do with it.

So I sat, and I pondered all that this item had meant to me. I had owned it for years. At first I saw great value in it. But over time, I realized that owning it was in fact a great burden to me. Yet still, I obstinantly clung to it. Dependent upon it. Even as it drained me and left me bent from it's weight. I became scared that letting it go would be like losing a dear friend.

But finally, I knew deep within, that giving it to someone else was the only way to free myself from it forever. I couldn't just hide it away in a dark corner, or keep it buried under so many of the good things I owned.

I had to give it away, and do so willingly.

All these thoughts crowded upon me as I wrote out the card to accompany the glittering wrapped gift.

Finally I decided upon these words.

"I know that you have hoped I would give this to you for years. That you, of all people, will know exactly what is to be done with it. So here it is. It is not pretty. It is damaged and it's weight is almost more than I can lift anymore.

So I am giving it to you. And I know that you will accept it with joy and love, despite the condition it is in. And that because of you, I will finally be free from carrying it any longer."

With the card inscribed, the present wrapped, I knew He would be there soon to pick it up, and I waited patiently by the door.

My stomach twisted in knots as I lifted the present, knowing I would never need to lift it again.

Why was I so nervous?

I knew He would gladly accept this from me. And I knew that He would love me, even after seeing the state it was in. But still, I couldn't help but worry that even He would be shocked when He saw what I had been carrying around with me for so long.

As I heard the knock at the door, I looked down at the package in my arms one more time. I didn't have to answer the door. I could pretend to not be home and He would still not be angry with me.

But I knew it was time to part with it, so I hesistantly opened the door, a small smile upon my lips.

With an increasingly lightness of spirit, I invited Him in and handed the package over to Him to open.

Already, my heart was lifted, my shoulders less stooped. And my stomach unknotted.

As I watched Him read the card and then begin to unwrap my gift, I had one last moment of doubt, only to have it washed away with the look upon His face as He gazed at what He held in His hands.

His perfect hands. The hands that had been pierced, and still bore the scars. The hands that now gently reached to pull me into His embrace.

"Thank you." He said. "Thank you for giving this to me, for entrusting me with it. You don't have to bear the burden anymore."

I couldn't even breathe a reply. I was so overwhelmed with the relief and gratitude I felt. And still a little confused at what He could possibly do with something so damaged and ruined.

But I believed Him. And I knew that He would now willingly shoulder this burden for me, and never make me take it back.

He then told me that He had a gift for me as well.

"A gift for me?"I wondered. "But it's your birthday."

He just smiled as He handed me a small box. Nothing rattled inside or clinked like so many presents I had received.

But as I opened it, my eyes widened in wonder. For instead of a trinket or other shining object, He had given me the most prized of all gifts.

He had given me, Peace.

It flooded over me. Overwhelming my heart and mind and suffusing my body with warmth and joy.

As tears streamed down my face, I could barely mutter a word of thanks, so overcome as I was with gratitude.

I had given Him my most worn, used and broken of possessions. And in return, He gave me more than I could have ever imagined.

Looking into His eyes, my vision clouded by tears, He said simply, "Now be whole."

As He gathered up my gift and made His way out the door, I knew that the next time I had something broken and burdensome, I would gladly give it to Him.

And in return, the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Lords, my Savior and King, would gladly receive it and leave me with more than I could ever give Him.

I gently closed the door behind Him, and with my body and spirit swirling with His gift of peace, I began to ponder and think upon what I would give Him next year.

With all I had to choose from, I knew it would just be a matter of deciding what I could finally let go of. And that no matter what it was I gave him, He would always give me more in return."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Not hiding our light under a bushel

Two weeks ago, I received a call that threw our house (mainly me) into a flurry of nervous apprehension and performance anxiety.

For our wards Christmas program, our family was asked to perform something. Anything. Whatever we wanted.

"Spiritual or funny?" I asked.

It didn't matter I was told.

At first, I perused the internet, hoping to find inspiration from others who had performed.

For some reason, I didn't just want to sing a song and be done. I wanted it to be more memorable than that, for both the audience and our family.

So after finding nothing that struck my fancy, Jeff and the kids and I all started to brainstorm.

We came up with several ideas, that soon morphed into one. It involved a little comedy, some singing, acting, and general goofiness.

With our brainstorming session outlined, I set about writing a script for our little 9 minute production.

We gathered or borrowed props.

We practiced and practiced until everyone had their lines memorized.

There was drama, a little in-fighting and there may or may not have been some crying, caused by me, during the dress rehearsal. (sorry my dearheart)

It was just like Broadway!

Ok, not really.

But it was superfun, once it was over, and I'm so proud of my children for not being afraid, for putting up with my stress levels as I strove for perfection, and for truly giving it their all.

So I present to you, the link to our youtube channel.

Allen Family Players

Please come back and tell us what you thought. I know the kids (and my own tender ego) would love to hear it!

And if you want to borrow this idea for a future skit, just let me know. I have a script I can email you. But please ask. I know it's not the most brilliant thing ever, but it is our own creation.


Friday, December 17, 2010

A new addition, or two.

I have joked(had a premonition. Either way.) with Jeff for a long time, that I'm going to get pregnant with twins someday. Probably when I'm 40.

They will be a boy and a girl, most likely.

And we will love them.

But sometimes things happen a little earlier then planned.

Yup. You guessed it.

We got fish.

Their names are Grover and Sharp Cheddar.

And they fit right in with our family.


Because they obviously love butter. As do we.

Welcome to the family little fishies.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I am still here. But we got a new computer, yay!, and as soon as Jeff as it all set up, I will post again.

Our old computer would get too hot because there was something wrong with the internal fan, or something, so we would have to sit with the window open to keep it cool enough in the office.

Even then it would shut down on you without warning. Sometimes every 5 minutes until you wanted to scream with frustration.

So I am looking forward to blogging without the worry that everything will shut down mid post.

No pressure Jeff:)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Double Homicide

If I believed in Greek gods, I would believe that the god of Bread was conspiring against me.

I would believe that sabotage, mayhem, and death were all working closely together to abolish bread making in my household as I know it.

I usually make all of the bread we eat in this house. It is better nutritionally, it is super cheap, and with my Bosch mixer and the awesome bread recipe I have, it is fast and easy.

Knowing that we would need more bread come Monday morning, I set out on Sunday to make bread. My kitchenaid had already been hard at work making brownies, so she was resting in the corner.

But the Bosch was ready to get to work.

Now let it be known that my Bosch mixer was previously owned by Jeff's grandma. So it has seen many a bread dough in it's time, and it has worked faithfully for me as I'm sure it did for her.

But something was a foot yesterday. As Jeff stood over the Bosch, holding it in place (the older ones don't have the high powered suction cups that the new ones do, so they bounce around on your counter a lot), we heard a sudden metallic, bumping around sound. Which worried us, since the large metal rod that helps hold the bowl in place had already broken and been replaced, so you kind of think, "What now?"

Jeff stopped the mixer, and when we pulled everything out, this is what we found.

The bread paddle attachment had broken completely. Crumbled almost. I was understandably ticked. But I tried to make the best of it.

So I took the bread dough out, carefully removing all bits of broken off steel, I took half of the dough, and planned on letting it finish up the kneading process in my Kitchenaid.

I cut the dough in half because the Kitchenaid has a much less powerful motor than the Bosch and cannot handle as much.

After depositing the dough in the Kitchenaid bowl, I called my mother to ask her about a lady that can get new Bosch mixers for pretty cheap.

Only to be interrupted by a persistent whirring noise.

You guessed it. In it's attempt to not disappoint me, and to pick up where the much older Bosch failed, my poor Kitchenaid, that I have had for 13 years, decided to poop out as well.

So at this point, I have un-kneaded dough, two broken mixers, and tears.

That's right, tears. My poor mother had to hear my breakdown as I realized that it's 13 days til Christmas, the busiest cooking season, as well as the spread-the-thinnest-money-wise season of the year, and both my mixers were just sabotaged.

Am I complaining? Yes.

But it gets worse. Have you seen what bread that doesn't get kneaded enough looks like? It ain't pretty.

So now I have no mixers and no edible bread for Monday school lunches. But then, then I begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I finally have a legitimate reason to get a new mixer. Hallelujah! Eureka! It might not be until after Christmas, but what a convincing argument I have. Not one, but two broken mixers. No husband could deny his wife a new mixer after THAT. Especially with all the money I save us making our bread from scratch.

So I begin to allow visions of new mixers to dance in my head:

As I'm daydreaming away about brand new breadmakers, and lovely ice blue mixers, I hear Jeff call my name.

"Hey Amy, I found a 20 dollar part online that can fix the kitchenaid, and we can get a new bread attachment for the Bosch for 40 bucks. " (I guess Bosch attachments are universal, and it doesn't matter how old yours is)

All of a sudden there was a new noise, the sound of my lovely dreams coming crashing to the floor.

My reply was heavily laden with sarcasm and not attractive, "Can't we just duct tape them back together?"

My sarcasm was surprisingly not appreciated.

Normally, I am very proud of Jeff's ability to fix things, to make things last a little longer.

But this time, THIS TIME, I could have done with out it.

The end.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Last night was the first of many band concerts I am sure to attend at the middle school level.

If you played an instrument in middle school, or have a middle school band student yourself, then you already know what it's like.

I played the flute from 5th grade through high school, so the sounds I heard, while not surprising, were endearing and enjoyable.

The look of concentration on all of their faces was awesome. Not one kid there was not trying their best and they all seemed to really enjoy the process.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see the difference between the 5th grade band last year, and the leaps and bounds they have made this year.

I kind of push music in my house. It's been documented that kids who play musical instruments are better at math, and school in general. I don't know if it's directly because of music, or if those kids who choose music are smart to begin with. But either way, once I heard that, I decided that each child would play at least one instrument. For most of them, it's the piano. But I was pleasantly surprised when Julia said she wanted to play clarinet as well. Kate used to play the violin, quite well for her age, back in Utah. But when we moved to Maple Valley, we were quite dismayed to learn that there is no orchestra program to speak of.

Anyway, my whole point in sharing any of this with you is that if you played an instrument growing up, and your parents came to your concerts and endured, I mean enjoyed all the practice time plus concert time, well then, you should go thank them. Now. I mean it. And I will do the same.

"Thank you mom and dad for coming to each and everyone of my band concerts all growing up. I know that as I got older, it got better, but I also know that most of your time spent listening to me was just because you were supportive. Not necessarily because it was music to your ears.

I want you to know that I appreciate all that you did to instill a love of music in me, through providing lessons, driving me to competitions, accompanying me on the piano, and listening to numerous concerts every year for all of your children. "


Now if you'll excuse me, I'm sure there is at least one child in this house, if not more, who need to be practicing the piano. I'm off to hover, I mean support them in that effort.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Part two

In case you're worried, everything turns out ok:) But here's the rest of the story.

Back at his own host family, Jeff too was not sleeping. He sat up with all of his mind racing. Doubts, assurances, pressure from family, loving another, all these were things he thought about. But in the end it came down to Jeff's confidence in his Heavenly Father. Jeff had received a witness that he should date Amy and Amy only. After reading his scriptures and much thought and prayer, Jeff was able to sleep peacefully. He knew what he would do tomorrow when he saw Amy. He held the key to Amy’s happiness, and only Amy did not know as she tossed and turned that night, which way that key would turn.

The following morning Amy awoke with a plan in mind. She knew that she could be sullen and depressed, or she could portray a calmness and confidence she did not feel. She wanted Jeff to be able to make up his mind based on his real feelings. Not just feeling sorry for Amy. She would not let him see her pain. She could only hope he would change his mind.

When they saw each other the next morning, amidst singing songs for the sweet people at the nursing home, Jeff felt a peace and happiness, while Amy felt only nervous anticipation. She stood apart from Jeff, sneaking sideways glances at him. Wondering what he could possibly be thinking. Confused by the contented look on his face. Would this be the end? Or would they be able to continue from where they left off.

When there were a few moments available for Jeff and Amy to talk, he pulled her aside, and with that self-deprecating smile she would come to know and love, he asked her if she could just forget everything he said the night before. The relief that washed over Amy had to have been apparent. She could have cried with the sudden change from sorrow to joy again. They talked for a while longer and he explained why he had his doubts and that he knew those doubts were not from his Heavenly Father. Amy frankly and completely forgave him the drama he had caused and neither of them looked back. Although, in future years Amy was known to tease her sweet Jeff occasionally for the one night he broke up with her. (ok, I teased him mercilessly for a long time. I only bring it up every couple of months now. :)

They spent the next few days in eachother's presence, every waking moment in fact. And both had the feeling that some big changes were coming for them. On April 16th after another late night together( our late nights consisted of talking, ordering pizza, hanging out with roommates, and kissing of course,but that's it!) they sat in Jeff’s car in front of Amy’s house talking . He spoke of going to BYU and how he had been thinking that Amy should just go with him. You can imagine the leap that Amy's heart made at this comment. We all try and imagine who we will marry someday, and here he was, sitting next to her. They talked into the night about marriage and other important topics and when they parted it was 4 a.m. Though Amy had to work a mere 2 hours later, she was floating on air and barely felt the fatigue from the night before. Jeff hadn’t officially asked Amy to marry him, but she knew now that he would. Their love for each other was blossoming and it was only a matter of time. Amy was patient, though. She had waited 22 years to meet Jeff, she could wait a few more weeks to hear the words she longed to hear. However, she would not have to wait long.

Jeff’s plan to ask Amy for her hand in marriage was a simple one. He was fairly certain she would say yes, so normal doubts and fears were replaced by a desire to make it the perfect evening. He first needed to ask her parents for their permission. His opportunity arrived on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Stake conference (translation: twice a year we meet as a stake-all the local congregations gather to listen to talks) was being held at the Ellensburg Ward building which would mean that Amy’s parents would be there, since they still lived in Cle Elum at the time. After conference was over, Jeff and Amy stood around talking with acquaintances and Jeff quietly pulled Amy’s parents aside. ( how could I have not noticed the three of them disappearing together?)When they found a quiet room, Jeff sincerely asked Bonnie and Digby Granger if he could have Amy’s hand in marriage. Bonnie responded, with tears in her eyes, “You can have both her hands!” Amy’s parents could not be more overjoyed at this wonderful news. Amy was waiting down the hall, having no clue what had just transpired. That is until Bonnie came up to her with eyes shining and hugged Amy. Amy’s confusion was apparent until she heard Bonnie telling people she knew in the hallway that Jeff and Amy were getting married. Amy quickly pulled her mother aside and said “Mom, he hasn’t asked ME yet.” Bonnie felt a tiny bit silly, but her joy was more than any mother could bear.

With the news published for all to hear, Jeff would have to try and plan an evening with the knowledge Amy knew it would be happening ahead of time. This, however, did not daunt Jeff. HE planned a perfect evening up at Manastash ridge with Amy. He wrote a beautiful letter to Amy, sharing his feelings of love and devotion to her. He had recorded a tape with four songs that came to mean so much to both of them. They shared a bottle of Mystic and some ice cream bonbons-two of Amy’s favorite things at the time. He then proceeded to ask Amy to marry him-and she said yes! It was more ceremonial at this point, since Amy really had said yes to the question of marriage the moment she laid eyes on Jeff. But it was official. You have never seen two hearts bursting at the seams as the hearts of these two young lovers. Dreams were coming true for Amy, and Jeff felt he had found the perfect woman to be his wife.

Life was happening fast and there would be much to plan over the next few months. They wanted to get married before August and then they would move to Provo together where Jeff would go back to school at BYU. Amy was in seventh heaven with all of the planning of their wedding. To Jeff it was left to plan where they would spend their first night as husband and wife. They planned on the Oregon coast for their honeymoon, but Jeff wanted the perfect spot for their wedding night.

The morning of July 12th arrived with beautiful blue skies. It was a glorious day. Jeff and Amy were about to be husband and wife for all eternity. You could not have found a happier pair in all the world at that moment. The wedding ceremony held all of the hopes and dreams that either of them had ever had. Amy felt tears come to her eyes the moment she and Jeff entered the sealing room.(in Mormon temples, couples are married for time and all eternity. Not just until death. We call this being sealed, because it is a binding covenant that the couple makes with eachother and with God) All she could do was look into the eyes of her sweetheart. There was no fear or doubt for either of them. Just the reassurance of joining together for all eternity.

Afterwards there was to be a luncheon in their honor and then they would go on to the Pension Anna. It was a wonderful bed and breakfast in Leavenworth, WA that Jeff had found to take his darling to for their wedding night. They were both a little nervous but excited to be together as husband and wife. The plan that Heavenly Father has for all of us is one of joy in the joining of two people sealed together for time and all eternity. And Jeff and Amy experienced that joy. Their lives together had begun, gloriously, beautifully, eternally.

And they truly lived, Happily Ever After.

Not the end.

So, I hope this wasn't a let down. I originally wrote this just for Jeff. It was not meant to be rich with all the little details, or include parts of conversations that we shared, or some of the drama that comes with getting married and planning a wedding,. Because I knew that he knew it all as well. It was meant to be a romantic anniversary gift, where he could have in writing, some of the feelings I experience as we dated.

The rest of the story grows more complicated and amazing as we have experienced so much together.

I think the most incredible part for many people, when they hear about how we met and got married, is that from the moment we met until the time we got engaged was only 3 weeks. And then we were married 3 months after that.

That's right folks. We only knew eachother 3 1/2 months before we got married. This is where I can firmly say that God answers prayers. We hardly knew eachother, there is no dispute there. But we knew enough, and had prayed to know if we should marry eachother. And I know that part of Jeff's answer was that there were no surprises that would be bad surprises. Hopefully he still feels that way. We had our first child 1 year and 3 months after we got married(which WAS a surprise to both of us). We have done everything quickly it seems.

But it turned out the way it all should.

And we've only just begun. 14 years is a drop in the bucket in terms of our lifetimes.

And I couldn't imagine sharing my life, or my eternity with anyone else.

I wish the same for all of you.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Can you handle the love?

About 6 years ago, I got the idea in my little brain, to write down my perspective of when Jeff and I met, and the time leading up to our wedding.

It was to be an anniversary gift to Jeff.

And it was before Pioneer Woman wrote Black Heels to Tractor wheels, so I'm not copying.
So there.

It was a labor of love. It's not very long, but it's honest and a sweet memory for both of us. There is a little bit of mushiness and sappiness, but I didn't write it for anyone but my dearest.

I've been wanting to share it for a while. Simply because I believe that there is such a thing as true love. Or to blave, if you speak Princess Bride. Either way, love is not devoid of difficulties or sorrows. But your willingness to work through things is the true measure of your love. And 14 years of marriage, and six children later, we are a testament to that.

So I share the first half with you today. Those of you who are not Mormon that read this blog, there may be some terminology in this story that is unique to our church and you may be asking yourself, "What the heck?". But I will do my best to insert translations, and if you have any other questions, feel free to email me or to go to for more info.

Also, I am not a a writer. I love blogging, and I like telling stories, but my writing skills are rudamentary at best. So, please enjoy, but don't judge my grammar or punctuation, kay?

So I present to you, in two parts and in third person, The Story of Our Love. Not a very original title, but it works.

The story of our love is filled with very little drama, or heartache or sorrow. Rather, the story of our love is filled with immense joy and adoration, great attraction, excitement, and respect for one another. Perhaps the lack of drama makes for a boring story, but not for those who actually lived it. Our story, the story of Jeff and Amy, began long before we met each other. I am not referring to our beginning together in the pre-existence(translation, before we came to earth) (which we both believe is where it truly began), but rather our earthly beginning in Kittitas County, Washington.

Amy was born and raised in Cle Elum, a teeny tiny logging town at the base of the Cascade Mountains. Jeff grew up in a variety of places back and forth between California and Utah until he was 12 years old and his family finally settled in Ellensburg, exactly one half hour from Amy. They grew up in the same Stake,(translation:referring to an area combined of several congregations) their parents knowing the same people. They even attended the same youth dances- more than likely occasionally admiring each other from afar along with the parade of other attractive members of the opposite sex that frequented Stake Youth dances. They never, however, actually met. Amy knew of Jeff’s sister Denise, most likely because Denise was a singer, and Amy remembered anyone her age who sang. And Jeff looking back, found Amy’s sister Maile mentioned in his journal, along with other youth members of the Cle Elum branch.(translation: a congregation smaller than 100 people) They even served on the same youth committee for Youth Conference (translation: a weekend where youth ages 14-18 meet to listen to inspirational speakers, have dances and participate in service projects)when they were 14 and 15, although they don’t remember each other, and yet again they never met.

Amy was a year older than Jeff, and having found a boyfriend her junior year in high school, she tended to not notice other young men as often as she used to. Jeff also had his share of girlfriends and crushes, and once again they seemed to float on by each other without noticing. Amy did, however, learn Jeff’s name, just what seemed by accident at the time, but in retrospect, it was the key that opened the door to their first introduction. It was her English class Senior year and her teacher, Mr. Nevills, decided to show an independent film made by students from Ellensburg high school, starring none other than Jeff Allen. Having seen him at Stake dances and now recognizing him in the film, Amy logged away his name and his status as a Mormon, and did not give it much more thought.

They both graduated from high school, a year apart and both went on to BYU. Amy returned to Ellensburg after freshman year to attend Central, and Jeff prepared to leave for his mission to Brazil. (many young men in our church serve two year missions, at their own expense, swearing off music, t.v. movies and girls) They occupied the same county again, for a few months, but again, did not meet. Jeff served a successful and honorable mission to Brazil, while Amy went back and forth between Ellensburg and Provo, discovering what she did and did not want in a mate.

The fateful night for both Jeff and Amy arrived in the springtime, the time for love and new beginnings, and normally annoying sappiness of that sort, sappiness that ceased to be annoying the moment their eyes met. It was March 27 th 1996. Jeff had been home from his mission for 2 ½ months. He had visited his grandfather in California and baptized him, said goodbye to a high school love, and found a job. He had applied for and been passed over as an EFY counselor (Especially for Youth is a week long camp of sorts for youth 14-18 where they again listen to inspiration speakers, go to dances and such) and so he resigned himself to spend the summer in Ellensburg . Meanwhile, Amy was attending school, working early mornings at Super One in the deli, and had also said goodbye to a love.

Jeff, after working an honest day’s work at Simpson’s grinding steel, and feeling pretty good about himself, showered and drove around looking for something to do. His path led him to the institute(translation: a meeting place for young LDS adults where they also take religion classes) that fateful Wednesday night. Amy and her sister and their roommates had decided to walk to the institute, for it was a lovely night as she recalled, and she could not have possibly guessed what lay ahead for her.

~It is important to note here, that a few months before when Jeff had reported to the high council about his mission,(translation: the high council consists of usually older men who have served in many capacities in our church and now help the Stake President watch over the branches and wards in the stake. Confused yet? it's ok.) that Amy’s father Digby, a member of that High Council, had introduced himself to Jeff and mentioned a daughter he thought Jeff should look up. Jeff logged that away in the "yeah right, I just got
home from my mission two days ago" file, and forgot about it. Amy’s father then proceeded to tell Amy about the young man he had met, and Amy logged that away in the "yeah right, he hasn’t been home from his mission for a year yet so he’s probably weird" file, and forgot about it.
Back to our story....

Amy and her sister Maile found comfortable seats on the floor and settled in for a lesson by the venerable Brother Grover. Around 7:20 or so Jeff walked in-you recall he was wandering around trying to find some thing to do- and he sat down in the couch directly across from Amy and Maile. Now, any knew young man walking into an institute class of a young single branch is going to be noticed by every girl in the room. However, Amy didn’t just notice him, she recognized him. And instantly recalled from memory that he was Jeff Allen. And here is where it gets interesting. She turned to her sister and said “that’s Jeff Allen” Maile kind of shrugged her shoulders, she didn’t care who he was , she was waiting for her missionary. Amy then turned and said “I’m going to go talk to him” And to top it all, and Maile did not shrug her shoulders to this rather she gave Amy a sideways glance of “you‘re crazy“, Amy said “I’m going to marry him.”

It was as if everything and everyone in the whole room disappeared but Jeff and Amy. Jeff could not keep his eyes off of Amy, he thought she was beautiful and couldn’t help but feel that he knew her from somewhere, but he could not pinpoint how or where. They played staring tag throughout Bro Grover’s lesson and Maile would continually nudge Amy saying “he’s staring at you again.” It would have been impossible for either of them to have looked away, the connection across the room was instant and nothing short of a meteor falling from the sky could have stopped what was going to happen next. They both seemed to be impatiently waiting for the class to be over so that they could make their way the short distance across the room to each other. Jeff however, was waylaid talking to Brother Grover, and Amy was not taking the chance that they would leave without talking to each other, so she made her way over to interrupt. She later learned that he had decided as well to not leave without introducing himself and learning who Amy was.

As Amy approached, Bro Grover, who assumed it was him Amy was waiting to talk to said “yes, Amy”. Amy’s reply was a confident “Actually, I was hoping to talk to Jeff”. And their conversation went something like this.
“You’re Jeff Allen right?” Amy asked. Jeff replied that indeed he was, and one can only imagine that his heart skipped a beat at the knowledge that this beautiful young woman already knew his name. Amy offered her hand and introduced herself. There was a quality in the air around them as angels rejoiced in the reunion of these two souls, so destined for each other.

Jeff said” You seem so familiar, I have to know you from somewhere.” They both then proceeded to name all of the possible places where they could have seen each other. And although they both had been at the mentioned dances and youth conferences, Jeff insisted that wasn’t it, he just couldn’t put his finger on it. Amy, however, couldn’t help but feel that she was so familiar to him because they had met before, in the pre-existence. Amy realized how strange it was to feel that with such assurance, yet she knew it was true.

It’s funny how men and women remember things differently. Of that night Amy remembered the magical feeling of those reuniting who had been separated by the veil(translation: that thing that keeps us from remembering our life before we came to earth). Jeff remembered that Amy complimented him on the way he dressed, how cool he was for just arriving home from a mission. And the most important of Jeff’s memories, how great Amy’s legs were and how beautiful he thought she was. Love is funny that way.

After inviting Jeff to a dance the following Friday night, Amy and Jeff parted ways and Amy walked home with her sister and roommates. She couldn’t help but think with mortification how she wished she had looked cuter, instead of showing up in work out clothes and being slightly disheveled and sweaty from their walk to the institute. How was she to know her eternal companion would be there? Amy thought of almost nothing and no one else for the next few days, and hesitantly wrote in her journal about the events of the night. She was nervous to document the evening, for what if she only imagined the connection that had been there? What if she alone felt it? She would wait and see how the dance went.

The night of the dance both Jeff and Amy worked very hard to look their best. Amy contemplated dressing more conservatively than normal, unsure of Jeff’s taste. However, she decided that if he was truly meant for her, and her for him, then he would love and accept her for what she was. So she donned her black Dollhouse button up shirt, worn levis, and black platform heeled boots. Jeff, who had arrived early since he was unaware that a young adult dance starting at 9 meant that no one would show up until 10, nervously paced and walked around. He knew he wanted to see her again. Her eyes sparkled when she talked and her smile lit up the room. What if she didn’t come? His fears were unnecessary though. Amy arrived ready and excited to see the young man who already was in possession of her heart.

Though Jeff didn’t know it yet, and she was afraid to admit it, Amy was in love already. It was as if her heart remembered instantly what it was to love this young man. Jeff seemed to glow. Amy had a difficult time accurately describing it, but he seemed to give off a light that she was drawn to. She knew it could mean absolute joy or tremendous heartache, but she had to take the chance. Amy wasted no time in asking Jeff to dance. Usually one to sit back and wait for young men to approach her, Amy had found herself going after what she wanted. She was not taking the chance that another would swoop in and steal his heart. She had no clue that that was impossible. Jeff too, was already in love, though he did not know it yet. He was a little slower than Amy to recognize it since he and another had just parted ways and he was going back to BYU. But he was already hooked.

They danced the night away, and truly had eyes for only each other. But Jeff, being the conscientious young LDS man that he was, asked a few other girls to dance so they would have a chance to have fun as well. Rather than annoying Amy, this endeared her to him even more. He was not thoughtless or selfish. He cared for others and it showed in the way he treated them.

As Jeff worked his way back over to dance with Amy again, he had already formulated in his head the date he would ask her out on. He was pretty confident she would say yes. And she did. They were to go on their first official date the following Saturday. However, the week that followed, they found themselves together all the time. Jeff spent the majority of his week working, spending time with Amy and her roommates, or talking on the phone to Amy. It was a magical time. The anticipation and wondering about how the other feels for you leaves you sort of constantly breathless and shaky. And rather than being unnerving, you welcome the feeling, because you know that you’re in love.

The night of the “official” first date arrived. Jeff had planned an interesting array of events that included the opening night of Mike Cross’ new movie, his older sister Dawn’s belly dancing troup’s performance, and a long talk sitting in Amy’s blue Nissan Pulsar up at Craig’s hill. Jeff had already been thinking along the lines of a serious relationship with Amy. But he wanted to be sure. Going back to BYU so soon left more questions than answers and he did not want to hurt Amy. Stringing Amy along was not part of Jeff’s plan, he wanted to be sure. So the day before Jeff had discussed his feelings with his Heavenly Father. He received a reassurance that he should indeed date Amy seriously. It was the confidence he needed to go ahead with the relationship. He shared this with Amy. Not in so many words, but he let her know that it was a good thing for them to be dating. She agreed with all her heart. That evening they parted with a hug, and Jeff gently kissed Amy on the forehead. She drove home feeling better than she could ever remember.

The following day was Sunday, General Conference.(translation: twice a year, the leaders of our church gather to speak to us via satellite, or in person at the conference center in Salt Lake City, if you live there) Jeff and Amy sat together, and they both felt really great being in each other’s company. That evening Jeff again found himself at Amy’s house. They always seemed to congregate there. Amy’s roommates and Maile loved Jeff and they knew Amy had never been happier.

As everyone sat out on the porch talking and laughing, the air seemed to change a little. One by one all of Amy’s roommates decided to go in or claimed to have things to do. Jeff and Amy found themselves alone on the front porch. Amy knew what was coming. She had been thinking about this moment from the previous Sunday. Jeff and Amy and a few others had been gathered in the kitchen of the institute after church. Jeff was talking and Amy couldn’t help but watch his mouth as he talked. His lips and teeth seemed perfection to her and watching him form his words was mesmerizing. This thought crossed her mind as Jeff’s face got closer and closer to hers. Soon enough, their eyes closed and their lips met and even now Amy could recall the softness of Jeff lips as he gently kissed her. When they pulled back both of their eyes were shining and the joy of what passed between them was evident. Once again they parted for the night, and as Amy went inside she already felt she could hardly wait to see him again.

The next few days passed in a similar manner. But Wednesday ended differently. Jeff had finally realized that he loved Amy and that she could be his future. As they again found themselves alone at Amy‘s house, talking on the couch, he stopped her mid-sentence with the words “I love you”. Now Amy new she loved Jeff, and she had suspected he loved her too, but she didn’t expect to hear it so soon. It caught her off guard, and as the tears welled up she answered in the only way she could. “I love you ,too” she said. The joy was overwhelming. He loved her! He loved he! Could this be all that she had been waiting for? Was she finally going to be happy?

The following weekend was a young adult rendevous in Moscow, Idaho. Jeff and Amy and her roommates Elsa, Anna and Chawntelle all drove down together. There was a dance planned for the first night, and then a service project and testimony meeting planned for the following day. Within a very short amount of time at the dance, Amy could feel that something was different. Jeff seemed distant, he avoided eye contact with her and didn’t dance close to her. The thought flashed across her mind “He’s looking around at all the other girls here, and regretting what he said to me Wednesday.” And even though she knew she was right, she needed to hear it straight from him. So in proper girl fashion, Amy asked Jeff what he was thinking and what was going on. They sat down and he told her that he wasn’t sure if he did the right thing in deciding to date Amy and Amy only. Of course Amy was crushed. It was as if all of the oxygen in the room had been sucked out and Jeff had the only life support, which he had just told her he was unwilling to share.

Amy kept herself together and calmly told Jeff that he needed to figure out what he wanted. And until he knew, Amy asked him to not kiss her or hold her hand or tell her that he loved her. Amy’s heart was breaking into a million little pieces, but she knew from experience that remaining calm and not scaring Jeff away would be her best option. Through the tears streaming down her face, Amy also told Jeff that if nothing else she would be happy being his friend. Which for the first time in her life, she meant. Just to be near him would bring it’s own amount of happiness, even with all the sorrow that would accompany it.

They talked for a little longer and then they parted to leave for their host families. No parting kiss, or loving look, just two hearts wrenched apart by confusion and doubt. Amy calmly walked away, not looking back, and joined her roommates who were waiting by the car. When Amy was sure Jeff would not see her, she collapsed in a heap on the ground next to the car and sobbed as she had never sobbed before. How could she think that everything was working out the way she wanted? How could she have been so wrong about all that she felt towards him and from him? Amy did not understand her good fortune at the time of having 3 good friends and roommates there to comfort her. Instead of returning to their host family, the 4 girls found a restaurant that was open and sat up talking. Each girl in turn sharing their thoughts with Amy about what might be going on. They gently reminded her that it had only been a short time and maybe Jeff
just was getting scared. Everything they said made sense, but it did little to ease the searing pain that was shooting through Amy’s heart.

Amy fell asleep with an endless stream of thought running through her mind, wondering what her future really held.

to be continued......

Friday, December 3, 2010

When you don't get to pick how to spend your money

The week before Thanksgiving, we rented a movie with the kids.

Normally, we see what's on Netflix, or Redbox, or we look through our own collection.

But last week, we happened to be by Blockbuster, so we rented one from there.

And then we forgot to take the movie back. And we kept forgetting. And then when we would think of it, we wouldn't be able to find the case for it. Or something.

Finally, we saw a little charge in our bank account for 10.68 from Blockbuster.

Seems they have ended late fees by just charging you for the whole movie when you keep it longer than 10 days, or so.

This happened to us once in the past. And it wasn't that bad because the movie was Eragon. And while not a classic or award winner, we all liked it enough that I didn't feel ripped off.

This time however, not only was it not a classic or an award winner, but rather a movie in a class all it's own.

It was:

Enough said.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Gift

As promised, Grandmothers, pictures of the children with Santa.
I wonder what these pictures would look like as a flip book, with each child getting progressively bigger.

Santa is an exciting figure in children's lives. He represents wishes granted and all that is magical about Christmas.

And while the other kids were super thrilled to visit with the big Elf, I had to threaten Kate and Julia with coal in their stockings to get them to sit with Santa.

I mean, who doesn't want to sit on Santa's lap? Only certain social norms kept me from taking my turn on the big guys lap.

Psst! Santa! I want a Mint Cleaner or a new ipod to replace the one that got dropped in the mud.

And a first ever for our family, no one cried this year. Yay!

(and then after the pictures, keep reading for my Christmas Challenge)

Ok, now that grandchildren have been given their proper spotlight for grandparents to delight over them in, on to my challenge.

First. Normally this blog is just a carefree look into our family's life. There is no agenda to it. Just me showcasing the people and things I love most.

But I am a very religious person. I am. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, the Mormons. And for me, this time of year is about so much more than just the gifts we give and receive.

About 2 thousand years ago, the most amazing of events happened.
Christ, our Lord and Savior, was born to the earth. Sent to the most humble of circumstances, but born a king, and destined to save the world.

33 years after His birth, the most important event the world has ever known occured. Christ was crucified. He suffered in Gethsemane, and died on the cross so that the rest of us could return to live with our Father in Heaven.

This was truly the greatest gift ever given. To have someone love us so much that He willingly laid down His own life so that we could repent, be forgiven, and benefit from His grace, so that we could live with Him again. Nothing comes close to that.

And I wouldn't think that anything I could do would ever repay Him for this, the greatest of gifts.

Yet, I can live a good life, I can keep the commandments and show through my actions the love I have for my Savior and my Heavenly Father. And I can give Him the one and only gift that I have that is fit for a King.

My will.

We all have it. Free will. Free choice. Agency. Whatever you want to call it. It is ours to keep or give as we see fit.

And since I am 100% sure that He would accept the gift with love, and not take it for granted, it makes me want to offer it that much more.

So as I work on my Christmas list, the presents, the food, the decorations, I have in mind something special for the Savior. It is His birthday after all. And while we give gifts in celebration of His birth, I think that so often, I forget to give Him anything.

So while I could keep my will wrapped up tightly, concerned only with what I want, this year I am considering what He would want from me. And that will be my gift to Him.

I know what it will be, and while it feels too personal to share what my gift will be on this blog, I still want to issue the challenge to all of you. Search inside your heart, pray and ponder about what you could give the Savior.

It seems a big task considering He gave all He had to us. But I have faith that we each know what the best gift from us, personally, would be.

Are we so wrapped up in our own world that we forget our neighbor, or friend or family member who is in need?

Do we react in anger to our children when a gentle response is really what is required?

Do we place blame on others for the lives we have, unwilling to forgive those who have hurt us?

Do we spend more time on our outside appearance than we do on the inside of us?

Do we take our spouse for granted?

I see myself in all of these things. And I want to give more than that.

So for the entire month of December, I will be giving a daily gift to Jesus. I will be turning over to Him, a struggle that I am afflicted with, and let Him help me change this less than attractive characteristic, into something more glorious, happy, and Christlike.

It really hardly feels like a gift when I will be getting so much in return. But that is the beauty of the relationship we can have with our Savior. Give Him your trials, your struggles, your flaws, and He will gladly take them and turn them into something shiny and beautiful. A completely new you all for the cost of a handful of the worst in you.

Because ultimately, the greatest gift we give back is to let ourselves be perfected through him.

So the challenge:

Find something within you that you know you need to change, something you need to give up, something you need to add to your life.
And every day of December, work towards that.
Don't just let it sit in the back of your mind as something you know you should fix or start doing, but really and truly, proactively work on it everyday.
And by the end of December, who knows? There could be a brand new you.

Give it over to the Savior, let Him take it, fix it, and give it back to you as something beautiful and amazing.

And then, when December is over, I will post again, to talk about the changes that have occured for me personally, and invite you to do the same.

Why? Because I love you. I do, I do.

And to read it put much better than I could ever write or say it, go here.

Now I'm off to begin my 1 month journey to a better me. Won't you join me?
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