Friday, August 4, 2017

The importance of one inspired word: residual

In 2002 I was graduating from BYU. It was a great day and for the most part a very happy one. There was only one thing troubling me, a task I had not been able to accomplish. I had worked on it and done my dead-level best to fulfill it, but had not been able to. I worried about it (just a little) that day. Had I done right? Had I really done everything I could? Had I missed something important?

Our graduation speaker was Pres. Henry B. Eyring, an apostle of Jesus Christ. Most of his speech was about the school motto: Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve. He emphasized the second part, going forth to serve. It was a nice little graduation speech.

Then in the middle-end of his speech, he used a word that was very significant to me: residual. He told us to do the best we can, and leave the residual in God's hands. In econometrics - the statistics that economists use, and a class I had not only taken but TAd 3 times - the residual is an error term tacked onto the end of an equation for all the things we don't know and can't control.

I suddenly felt the beginnings of understanding a very important principle. Yes, we cannot know all that God has planned or control others' choices. We can only control what we can control. But we can trust God for all that we cannot control, that the end will bring us out alright, that even the greatest trials of our life can be for our experience and benefit. Trust Him for the rest.

That one word and that phrase stuck with me for the last 15 years. How important and what a relief it was to feel that I had done all I could and it was okay to leave the residual in God's hands! I went away comforted and at peace.

I was thinking of that experience again last week for some reason and looked up Pres. Eyring's speech. It turns out he only used the word residual once - enough for me to latch onto it - and otherwise used the term "residue." Maybe my hearing wasn't 20/20 even then and I heard residual because I'd spent so much time thinking about it. Here is what he said after quoting D&C 103:35-40:
Your key and mine to rising to our potential as servants is to know our Master, to do for Him what we can, and be content to leave the residue in His hands. Let me give you an example that will face you in the days ahead. You will be torn between the demands to put bread on the table and a roof over your head, to take care of a family need, to respond to the cries of the widows or the orphans around you, and at the same time to meet the requirements of the calling you have accepted in the Church. When that happens, you will be sorely tempted to murmur, perhaps even to complain. 
But remember that you serve a Master who loves you, who knows you, and who is all-powerful. He has created not demands for your service but opportunities for your growth. You can pray to Him with confidence and ask, “What would you have me do next?” If you listen humbly and with faith, you will feel an answer. And you will, if you are wise and good, set about to do that which your Master has commanded. And you will leave the residue in His hands. As His servant I promise you that you will find that some of those residual tasks you left will be done when you return to them. Others will have been prepared for you. And you will be the stronger for the task you already tackled. 
Then, when you pray again, an answer will come again. And you will move on to the next task, at peace and not complaining. Sometimes you may not feel an answer to your prayer because your Master may not care which task you start next. But He will care that you asked. And whatever you choose to do next, you will know that the residue is in His hands.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Like father, like son - how to get to sleep

Superstar used to be the World's Greatest Sleeper. We could take baby-Superstar anywhere and he'd fall asleep in his carrier most happily. Didn't crimp our lifestyle at all! Those days are long gone, though, as Superstar has been having some trouble sleeping.

One thing I remember most vividly from my boyhood days was the level of stress and distress I gave my parents by not going to sleep when they put me to bed. I came out just about every night most of the time, often multiple times. Now I understand the stress I gave Pop and Grandma anyway.

I don't recall being particularly scared of anything - more bored and unable to get to sleep. The thing that most helped was when we got me a cassette player and bunch of tapes (here's a link for the google challenged or nostalgic) of people reading stories. If the tape finished before I fell asleep, I'd just turn it over and listen to some more. My brother also got some stories that added to our listening options. Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories and Kim, Winnie the Pooh, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, bunch of Native American legends along the same lines as the Just So Stories, bunch of others. Kim might have been my favorite snoozer - don't think I ever stayed awake long enough to finish it.

Image result for frog headband headphones
Not Superstar
So we thought we'd try that solution out for Superstar too. We got him a CD player and a fun headband with headphones and sent him off to Fablehaven his way to bed. On Sundays he listens to James Earl Jones read the New Testament.

In the two weeks since, we've only seen him come out of bed ONCE!

But there's also been one other discovery. Ages and ages ago, little Derrill LOVED being read to. I'd beg my parents to read to me constantly, the same books over and over again. So they recorded themselves reading my favorite stories and got all our living relatives to do a story as well. Those were easily the tapes I listened to the most. I transferred them to CD some time ago and wondered if Superstar might enjoy those stories too.

On a car ride last week to and from our dear friends, we listened to Pop and Grandma reading stories to little Derrill, who laughed and helped read sometimes and interacted. It was SO charming and heartwarming for all of us. Superstar did indeed ask for one of those CDs right away and listened to it several nights in a row. Sadly the aunts and uncles CD didn't work as well (which I mention in case my parents have a cleaner copy than I did and want to try preserving it again), but the Pop and Grandma CDs sound great even 35 years later.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Wedding #2 - Salt Lake City

We got tucked into our home-tel none too soon before we drove back south to Salt Lake City for cousin Ari's sealing. Ari is the eldest son of Joy's cousin-sister Laurel (who we call Lala) and Rich. We stayed with them back when we first got married. Back then, I befriended the 10-yr old Ari by playing Star Wars Battlefield with such ineptness that I won the Traitor award for killing more of my own squad than the enemy. Ari is an amazingly talented young man who dances better than I even dreamed of doing. He recently returned from a mission to South Korea, whereupon he swiftly and successfully wooed Paula.

We arrived early so we could take the kids on a tour of Temple Square. At the visitor's center we listened to the Christus statue presentation and watched a movie about family, listened to someone practice on the Mormon Tabernacle Organ*, and ate lunch under the Seagull monument. There was apparently a massive car crash on the 15 coming north to SLC, so the rest of the family was delayed and I waited in the children's playroom at the temple for a while before someone came to relieve me and the ceremony was set to begin.

Meeting family we haven't seen in ages is great. Reuniting with family we haven't seen in ages at the temple of God is even better.** The sealing ceremony was beautiful. I hope Ari and Paula wrote down some notes of what the sealer told them before they were married for time and eternity. That was the first thing Joy and I did after our sealing: stand in the hallway scribbling everything we could remember on the envelope that our wedding certificate came in. I told Joy we'd have to dig around in our journals when we got home to find those notes again.

While waiting for the bride and groom to change and come out to meet the rest of the wedding party for pictures, we got some pictures of the kids playing on the steps of the Salt Lake Temple. We got to join some of the family pics, but the kids eventually got antsy enough I took them off for a bit more Temple Square touring.

We visited this statue of Hyrum Smith, the Three Witnesses, John the Baptist restoring the Aaronic Priesthood to Joseph Smith, and these gorgeous pink flowers. We also learned a little about how they built the Salt Lake temple and saw the model of its construction before we were all in desperate need of a long sit down and to refresh our blood sugar levels before driving down to Orem for the reception. (see next post)

* - I got to play that organ back in 1997 as part of a class I took at BYU on organ registration (that means picking the right sounds for the organ to make to get a particular feel).
** -  The only downside is that the temple workers had to make a very soft announcement over a microphone every so often to remind us in the waiting area to keep it to a whisper to preserve reverence - an announcement she had to make so often I jokingly expected her to mention not to leave bags unattended and to report any suspicious behavior to TSA. Way to be reverent, Derrill!

Memorial Day in Lehi

Before we got to our home-tel, though, we stayed a couple days (May 28-30) with Joy's cousin-brother* Mike and their family in Lehi, UT, just north of Provo/Orem. (Incidentally, that's also our 12th wedding anniversary. I love you, Joy!) After lunch with my uncle Sherm's family, we drove the 4ish hours across the Utah desert through unfamiliar territory until suddenly we hit the I-15 and we were HOME. I may have never claimed Utah as my home - I've only been a wayfaring visitor despite 4 years at BYU - but it sure feels good to be back!

Mike and Genevieve threw a Memorial Day BBQ and we got to spend some good quality time with a lot of that branch of the family right off the bat.

But first, a trip to Smith's Monday morning. You'd think the kids had never seen a grocery store before, they were so excited! Then again, maybe I'm the odd one for not being excited because I think Joy was also rather happy about it. Among our culinary highlights of the trip was Grandma Sycamore's bread; SO much better than Large Mrs. Baird's in Texas.**

I tried to help the kids understand Joy's complex family tree so they could figure out how they were related to all these nice people they hadn't seen in 3-15 years. Half-siblings and extended cousin-brothers just don't fit the usual diagrams! Superstar eventually got it down well enough to try to draw the genealogy lines during sacrament meeting one Sunday.

Our home-tel in Brigham City (*****)

We had a wonderful experience with our Airbnb, a place called The Temple View Inn. I called it our home-tel (home-hotel). The family is moving out of the place and using it as an airbnb for some extra income, so we had this four bedroom home to ourselves. The Airbnb website doesn't so the place justice:

For the kids, the highlight was this narrow attic playroom. (Superstar says, no, his highlight was the Wii. "I had no idea they would have a Wii.") Okay, but the kids spent many hours in the playroom and it was the first thing they mentioned when we talked to other people about our home-tel. Lots of toys of many kinds, a TV/VCR with a stack of Disney movies, and most importantly a keyboard. The kids are begging us to get a keyboard. Why, when you don't play the piano we have? or the toy piano we already have?

Princess slept in the coastal-Africa room while the boys took the Cars room. We were upstairs with two rooms to choose from: one decorated like Nauvoo with a 50lb sunstone doorstop, a carved hope chest, pictures and busts of Joseph and Emma, a crocheted-lace Nauvoo temple, and LDS church history books; the other in white and blue with wedding pictures. We could see the Brigham City temple from the Nauvoo room. We made Nauvoo our main bedroom and used the blue room for naps.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Being 4-F has never been so adorable

Princess: Daddy, are you going to go fight for our freedom?

[Hmm, that's an unusual question for just before bed. Maybe it's because we're reading the war chapters in the Book of Mormon. The good guys are fighting for freedom, so she probably wants to be reassured I'm a good guy.]

D: Well, if America calls for me, sure.
Princess [worried]: Oh, but they wouldn't, right, Daddy? They have lots of other warriors?

[Ah. That's her worry. ... Of course. Silly daddy.]

D: Yes, yes they do, Princess.
Princess: But, what if all the warriors die and they need some more? Would you fight for freedom?
D: I would if they asked me, but, they're not going to ask me. You see, they want people with good health to fight for freedom.
Princess [brightening]: And you NEVER have good health!

D: "Well, I wouldn't say neeeever. But, yes, they want someone ..." in better shape [let's not go there] stronger [hey, I'm strong!] whose wrists haven't abandoned him [too long explain] who can actually run "Yes, someone who doesn't get sick and hurt as much as daddy does."

[She was greatly relieved. She snuggled up close to me and gave me the most angelic smiles.]
Princess: I don't want you to go fight and die, Daddy. I want you to stay with me forever and ever.

Image result for 4F george bailey
Fellow 4-F, being thankful

Sunday, July 9, 2017

What did we do the last 5 weeks?

6222 miles in the last five weeks!
TX, CO, UT, NV, and LA all got stopovers

Why? Mostly to visit family we haven't seen in three or more years.
2 weddings and a funeral.
We left to visit Joy's family primarily, but ended up seeing every single member of my extended family except for my grandmother as well.

The kids got so used to living in the car, they started asking where we were driving today as their first question of the day!
We went to a different ward every Sunday - Princess particularly enjoyed that because she got good at making new friends in every Primary while I enjoyed comparing Sunday School teachers teaching the same lesson I heard last week.

We stayed at a nice place in Brigham City that was three blocks from the Brigham temple, so Joy and I made it to the temple every single week.

Superstar read about 6600 pages and I've done a bit more than half that much. 
We all listened to Fablehaven 2-4 in the car.
Unfortunately, my computer is in the shop right now so I can't  post a bunch of pictures today or I totally would. I'm hoping to share more over the next couple weeks, so stay tuned!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

I blew it

The tire, that is.

About 10-15 miles outside of Plainview, TX on Friday, May 26, we paused for a potty break on the side of the road. As we rejoined traffic, I noticed the car was a little harder to control than I remembered it being. As we got up to freeway speeds (75 mph or so) the car was bouncing and bouncing as if we'd lost our shocks. I started slowing down and pulling over just as Joy suggested I might want to do just that.

I didn't have time to say, "That's exactly what I'm doing" when the tire went BANG.

We had just found the spare tire (hidden in an all-but-inaccessible place) when a good Samaritan drove up. He used to work for the call center that calls a tow truck to help stranded passengers and he knew a thing or two. He helped me finish getting the spare out and mounted, only to realize that the spare was kind of flat and appeared to have a tear in it as well.

So this friendly guy drove me to Plainview where WalMart didn't have a tire our size (though they could get it in by Tuesday...). Thankfully, a smaller tire store did have our size and we were soon heading back up the road to where my family waited patiently for me to repair the tire.

After he left, though, we discovered that leaving our emergency lights on for 2 hours had drained the car battery. So we called our Samaritan back to give us a jump. That was, thankfully, the last of our troubles for that trip. That tire made it to Utah and is still going strong, so I guess we got it on correctly.

John-Thomas wants to tell you about the Jungle (June 8)

I want to say something to it. Let me tell you. I love to go to the slides. Yeah, I love to. For my birthday, can I go to the Jungle? I know that you go around and then you climb up and that's how you make it!

(The Jungle is a climbing structure in Logan that Superstar and JT enjoyed while Princess and Joy went roller skating.)

And while JT is talking to you, let's go back  to the Straws to hear puppy-JT speak:


Wedding #1 - Grand Junction, CO

McKenzie's pun is that she caught "the last Straw."
The timing of this year's vacation was determined by a couple family weddings. My only uncle, Sherm Straw, has but one son, and he was sealed in the Washington DC temple last month. That's the same temple where my parents were married. So we left Stephenville just as soon as I was done with my work for the semester and drove up to Grand Junction, CO to attend Brandon and McKenzie's reception.