Thursday, December 31, 2015

Bears for Bishnu

A video of Eliza sharing more about her project can be seen here:
or here:
Does the name Bishnu Adhikari sound familiar? For those who have watched the documentary, "Meet the Mormons" it may be more familiar. Currently the film is streaming on Netflix. Whether you're a member of our faith or not, it's well worth your time. For me, the film showcases the marvelous way in which our Father in Heaven blesses and assists his children in reaching their potential. It was a testament to me that God knows us and that he intentionally blesses us with unique talents and gifts. It was a reminder that He can do more with our lives when we surrender our will over to Him.  
Bishnu is a native of Nepal. He works with Choice Humanitarian. Their shared goal is to eradicate poverty and help ease the challenges his people are burdened with. As you will remember, Nepal was devastated by an earthquake this past May. This summer, Bishnu spent time in the United States raising awareness of how this tragedy has impacted Nepal. After listening to him speak, Andrew and I were able to bring Eliza over to the home where we had listened to his presentation. Wanting to help, Eliza offered to give Bishnu all of the bears she had sewed this year in an effort to lift the children's spirits. Due to limited space in his suitcases, he asked if he could have one. He told Eliza that if she were to sell the others, the money could go to help send a nine year old girl to school. Fifty dollars, he told Eliza, would send one girl to school for a year. Earning fifty dollars became her goal. 
Christmas time rolled around and Eliza had a handful of bears. It took her months to complete these. A previous batch had been donated to help raise money at Willa's Fairy festival. I went to social media to see if there were any nearby neighbors interested in a bear. Having shared a piece of Eliza's story, I was suddenly inundated with requests for bears. We didn't want to turn anyone down that day so that weekend, the one before Christmas, our family got busy sewing and delivering bears. 
It was rewarding to see some of the children's reactions. We received text messages with photos of children bonding with their new bears. It was humbling as a handful of friends generously donated extra money when they received their bears. Eliza was shocked (and thrilled!). She told one person that she felt like the Grinch. But first, she clarified:

"My heart wasn't two sizes too small to begin with. But each time we get a donation, I feel my heart grow bigger and bigger." 
That Friday we sewed 15 bears. The next day we drove to Salt Lake. With the help of Nanna Teresa and Uncle Mike we were able to sew 18 more. 
It became a labor of love. I really enjoyed the visiting that transpired as we worked. Surprising myself, I was not bothered that this was how we were spending our final weekend before Christmas. It was exactly what we should have been doing. We were working to support Eliza and help girls in Nepal obtain an education. It became our gift to the Savior. 

And we managed to have some entertaining moments along the way. 
After delivering all of the bears, we counted the money that was donated. We were blown away. Eliza raised $430.00. That's enough money to send eight girls to school!!

A few days before Christmas, Eliza and I delivered one final bear to our neighbor Miss Nancy. She was the one who introduced us to Bishnu. She is our connection to Choice Humanitarian and will ensure that the money earned will help these girls. The sun was setting as we went to her home. It was breathtaking. I felt like it was a manifestation from Heaven that our girl had done a very good thing.

Before completing this project, Eliza and I had the following conversation in our kitchen.

"Mom," she began, "When I grow up, I want to be a humanitarian." Looking her in the eye, I smiled and said, "You already are one." And that is the truth.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Best Time of the Year!

Christmas Sunday 2015:

One of the unexpected highlights of our Christmas Season was when Andrew received an e-mail inviting the two of us to meet with our recently called stake president. Initially, our feelings were a mix of curiosity and panic. Soon after taking our seats in his office, he called Andrew to serve on the stake high council. Rather than go into my feelings, I want to share my observations pertaining to Andrew's reaction. And because I feel certain that Andrew doesn't read this blog word for word like he once did, I feel bold in my desire to describe what I saw.

He was emotional. Tears filled his eyes. He swallowed hard as he attempted to find the capacity to articulate his thoughts. He was the picture of humility as he expressed his feelings of inadequacy. In the same breath, he verbalized a wholehearted commitment to serving. We made a few jokes about his age as it would seem that he is rather young to fill this spot. Andrew was reassured by our stake president that this call came to him "rather immediately" after being sustained the new stake president. I remember he talked about the high council members as being his future best friends and shared that it is a special brotherhood. For me the most important feeling of that encounter was a sweet reassurance that this call was from Heavenly Father and that I need to support and encourage him as best I can.

December 20, Christmas Sunday as we call it, he was sustained by the members of our stake and set apart. His Dad, Bubba, Mom and brother Mike drove up to our ward, attended sacrament meeting with us and then came to his ordination. During Sacrament, the kids sang with the primary. Forrest was adorable and surprising as he joined his older brother and sisters on the stand. Lottie kept her arm around him the entire time. Being a Mom has very sweet rewards. I sang with the choir. I nearly succumbed to emotion while singing the song, "Where you there on that Christmas night?" but thankfully I held it together.

After the meeting, Doug (best known as Bubba around these parts) set Andrew apart as a high priest and then the stake president followed with setting him apart as a high councilman. The kids were there and did really well considering that this was a time to be reverent and reflective. Here are a few photos taken that morning of the children in their Sunday best and of our family after Andrew was set apart.

Christmas carols and neighbor gifts:

"We Wash You a Merry Christmas!"

My kids were kind to indulge my cheesy nature as we delivered a few of these to our neighbors/home teaching families/etc. Wearing their elf hats, we went door to door and sang "We Wash You a Merry Christmas" before handing them these soaps and a Christmas card.

Christmas Village:

Eliza's project to sew and sell bears in an attempt to raise money for girl's in Nepal became a sudden priority our last weekend before Christmas. It wasn't intended to be but it happened. A separate post will be written to detail that project, but I wanted to include here that Henry and Lottie took a quick trip down to Christmas Village with me after Eliza and Andrew opted to stay at home and sew more bears. When I got home, I'd like to mention, I got busy helping. I also stopped at the craft store on our way to Christmas Village to pick up some needed supplies. Anyway, the three of us had a wonderful time taking in the magical lights, sipping hot chocolate and riding the train. The only negative was when it was discovered that one of Lottie's treasured pink gloves fell out of my coat pocket. She was understandably upset. I also felt guilty that I didn't bring Forrest with us. He would have loved it. Still, it was a good thing to be able to spend special time with Henry and Lottie.

Eliza's school choir concert:

Last Thursday, Eliza sang with her school choir. After waking up early each Wednesday to go and practice, it was about time that I got to watch her perform. :) They did a great job and I could tell that Eliza enjoyed herself. Nanna Teresa came up that afternoon and had dinner with us before we went to the school. It was fun to have her in our home. My Mom also joined us for the performance. I tell my kids often how blessed we are to live so close to family.

(The above video features the CUTEST song ever. 
Eliza can't get over a bad case of the giggles. 
It's probably the best thing I've posted on youtube to date.)

SNOW BOY!!!! (Oh boy!)

The week leading up to Christmas, we received buckets and buckets of snow! And it is so beautiful. These photos are from two different storms. The children have had an ample amount of time enjoying it. The most recent storm arrived while Andrew was traveling. That left me with the job of shoveling our driveway as I couldn't get the snowblower to work (of course!). I felt a lot of appreciation for Andrew in those moments as this is a job he typically takes care of. What a good guy he is.

We were delivering a few of Eliza's bears yesterday and I couldn't handle the beauty of where I live. I love these mountains and the trees that line our streets. I'm thankful for our life here.

Holiday Treats:
Forrest preferred driving his trucks through the cookie dough instead of cutting fun shapes. 
Making and decorating treats is probably most important to Eliza. It's an art project that she looks forward to all year. I'm glad that we got the chance to decorate as much as we did. First, our neighbors provided us with some cookies to decorate; he called them 'coloring book cookies' as the kids filled different colors in the design he made using black icing. This week I made the cookies that I prepare each year. Lottie and Forrest cut out the cookie shapes while my big kids were at school. The next day we decorated them together. And finally, yesterday, my Mom made gingerbread men that the kids decorated with their cousins.

Lottie visits the North Pole (at preschool)

Funny Forrest:
When Nanna Teresa came to Eliza's concert, she brought presents for the kids. The next day, while I was upstairs getting dressed, Forrest went to town unwrapping six of them. As soon as he saw me, he said,

"Open presents!" It was adorable. He then proceeded to rush the wrapping paper scraps to the trash. I'm not sure what his train of thought was but he seemed urgent. I tried to explain to him that we needed to wait and open them together on Christmas. Together we wrapped them back up. The other kids were at school so nothing was spoiled.
This made me smile. Forrest drove his monster truck to the stable to pay his respects to the Christ child.
And finally, Andrew had a near emergency this week as he traveled home from Idaho.  He called me to say that he was 23 miles away from the nearest town and only had 6 miles left until his gas was gone. The kids said a prayer for him as we were anticipating that he'd be stuck somewhere in the snow. I found some comfort knowing that Andrew had taken a sleeping bag, food, water and other emergency supplies knowing the weather was going to be bad. Thankfully, he didn't need them because he never ran out of gas. He made it to the gas station after driving 18 miles on empty. We believe in miracles, both the big and small ones, at our house.