Tuesday, April 21, 2009

London Post IV

Jeanne and Emmy indicated they'd like to get some rest so Mary and I took a walk through Kennsington Gardens and a little of Hyde Park. It was a beautiful day, the weather was perfect and it was fun being with Mary. She was quite patient about my stopping to take pictures. I felt so blessed to have such a great relationship with a child. Jeanne and I have been so blessed in that regard.

We began by walking toward Kennsington Palace. This is where Victoria spent much of her life before becoming queen and where Diana lived after the break up with Charles. The Palace has lovely sunken gardens and beautiful grounds and it was on this walk that Mary began to educate me a bit about who Victoria was. It was a great introduction to later activities like touring the Palace, seeing the movie "Young Victoria" and visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Palace struck me as understated as far as palaces go. That was a sort of endearing thing about it. It looks smaller than it is from the outside. So, I guess if I had to own a palace, maybe this one would be it.

It was here in front of the palace that people left cards and flower arrangements and memorialized Diana after her death.

From the palace we walked toward Hyde Park. Mary took me to a "walkway" of sorts and told me it is the "Princess Diana Memorial Walk." Again, the blossoms were coming on, the flowers were blooming. It seemed we couldn't have come at a better time.

And fortunately, Mary is a pretty willing model.

We reached a point where there was a large memorial in the distance. Mary told me about it as we walked toward it. It is a memorial for Prince Albert. Albert was Victoria's husband and only love. A bit unusual for royalty. They married very young and although Albert died young (age 42 of consumption I think) they were married 20+ years and produced 9 children.

When a plan was hatched to create a monument for him, Victoria apparently told the planners, "If you're going to build him a monument, make it a real monument." This was the result. I saw many statues and monuments to Victoria, including in Birmingham, but none of them rivaled what they came up with for Albert. She really loved him and never remarried in the 40 or so years she lived after his death. She is the longest reigning queen of England and was pretty much universally loved. Albert and she were famous promoters of the arts and so Albert's monument recognizes the great artists and thinkers of the world to his time.

It was my first day in London and so architecture was thrilling to me. Simple views like this enthralled me. Actually, I never tired of the architecture the entire time.

Everytime I saw the chimneys it reminded me of the movie Mary Poppins.

I mentioned earlier how patient Mary was with my photography. One thing that compels me is helping people "all" be in the picture. Jeanne and Emmy and Mary could all tell you how many times they looked back to see me taking a picture of someone with their camera. On the way home, this couple was in the park and so I ask if they didn't both want to be in the picture. The young woman immediately and enthusiastically said yes, so while the young man was reticent, he had no choice. They were quite cute, he British and she American.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

London Post III

After our "on street" reunion, which by the way, included Mary running up to me and jumping up in the air, wrapping her arms around my neck and telling me she loved me (it could have been a TV commercial it was that good) we settled in a little, then took a walk down to the BYU center.

It was a beautiful day and immediately I noticed it was going to be a great week to be in London. Right on the corner of Palace Court was a gorgeous tree in full bloom. Kind of a sign for the overall beauty of the moment.

As mentioned, the BYU Center was just around the corner from our "Vacation Apartment." The beautiful old buildings offset by the deep blue sky and billowing white clouds was an awesome sight.

The BYU Center is quite a stately, historic place. It was once an embassy and has been inhabited by some known people.

Jeanne and Mary and Emily began a conversation that essentially lasted 8 days. These are the sorts of "tell me everything that's going on" conversations that remind us of the hope for eternal families.

The center was beautiful from what we could see and the faces we saw were smiling and comfortable. We could tell Mary had truly had a great semester.

London Post II

It seems miracles have always happened in our family - ranging from Rodger living through a car accident to Annie making it home from Chicago for a wedding. Our London trip was no different. In fact, miracles began before we even left. Air India informed me that they had canceled their flight from London to Newark that Mary was to return on. They rebooked her on Virgin Atlantic. Mary didn't like her trip over on Air India, so it was a blessing to be on Virgin Atlantic AND originally Mary was scheduled to return 3 hours earlier than Jeanne and Emmy and now they returned at the exact same time! Mary really enjoyed her Virgin Atlantic flight and they all met each other at baggage claim! Back to London. Mary said she had class the day of our arrival until 11:30. By the time we got on the train, figured out the subway, dragged our luggage to our flat, got checked in and decided to walk over to the BYU center, here comes Mary around the corner and we have a big emotional reunion right on the sidewalk, on Bayswater, across the street from Kensington Park, on a beautiful day in London. It couldn't have been a more perfect reunion. Just another little miracle. Also, before we left we found a flat just doors down the street from Mary, literally around the corner. To boot, it was only 88 pounds a night and they gave us one night free. It was a miracle. Now sometimes, you have to accept miracles for what they are in your life and just know they are indeed miracles. Because, after spending many hours getting to London and functioning on essentially no sleep, there was a brief moment when we wondered just what kind of miracle this was.

The stairway was narrow, certainly nothing was fancy and the help at the desk was not exactly bending over backwards in the customer service arena.

Once inside it seemed a bit different than the internet pictures. Then I remembered the pictures I took of our house with a 10mm wide angle lens and how big everything can look. It was smaller than expected but had enough beds for the three of us, a table a shower and a small kitchen.

When I say "small kitchen" bear in mind that my lens zooms from 18mm-200mm and 18mm is pretty wide. These pictures are taken with a pretty wide lens giving the appearance of "bigger than life." But - once we got rested, and once committed that we could move to a hotel (for 4 times the price) if we couldn't endure, it really became our London home. We eased into a routine and the place returned to its "miracle" status. We could have "murmured" but I'm afraid if you reject miracles with murmuring, potentially bad things can happen and fortunately we never found out what those bad things could have been. We (ultimately) were just grateful for another miracle in our lives.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

We're Going To London!!

We just can't believe the time has gone by so fast. When we sent Mary off to London for a semester abroad, we didn't even know if I'd still be employed. Now, we are about to pick her up from her London adventure and I'll be staying an extra 5 days for business with Belron International. Wow, how life is fun!

Our trip began on April 6th, 2009. We felt so blessed to be able to travel and take Emily with us, but there was something far more blessed about the day. It was a bit rainy in PA, and about mid-morning a friendly Jehova's Witness knocked on the door and presented me with a pamphlet about Christ. "A great day to be talking about Christ," I said. She looked into the sky, put her hand out, and said, "Well, the weather isn't that great." "No, I mean April 6th is a great day to be spreading the word about Christ. We believe he was born on this day." She kind of just looked at me (as usual) and moved on. But the message stuck with me. We were about to set off on a great adventure on the advent of the greatest adventure of all time. We felt doubly blessed.

We left for Newark at 3:45p. I had wanted 3:30, Jeanne thought 3:45 would be good and 3:45 it was. We were flying out of Newark at 9:05p on British Airways and would have a 7 hour flight if all things went well. The trip to the airport was flawless, taking only 2 1/2 hours which put us there in plenty of time to get some dinner before the flight.

Emmy opted for Philly Cheese Steak.

We were quite relaxed and satisfied as we boarded the plane and althought our seats were not beds (like the ones in the front of the plane - I've never seen anything like it) they were quite comfortable and even had little built-in head rests.

Each seat had its own little entertainment center with the choice of 7 movies, but we weren't too concerned about that since what we really wanted to do was sleep. Full tummies, comfortable seats, sleep should be no problem. Except that, as soon as we settled in, the attendants wanted to serve us dinner. It was hard to sleep over all the clatter, dinner service finally ended, but Emmy and I were quite awake by then, so she watched Inkheart and I watch Easy Virtue, until sleep finally came. It seems to have lasted at least a couple minutes before an attendant wished to know whether I'd like some breakfast. That couple of hours went quite fast and before you knew it, there out the window was the greenery of Great Britain.

The excitment began to grow as you can tell from the look on Emily's face.

After landing in London, customs was a breeze but a couple things were a little more difficult. Jeanne and Emmy went off to find Emjmy's Oyster Pass for the underground and I went to change my ticket back to the states to accomodate my stay for business. Both of those tasks proved a bit longer than expected and then we tried to meet each other about 50 feet apart, each of thinking we were in the right place and lost a few more minutes until we discovered each other, then we were off to London - on the train!

I just love European train stations. This picture is especially for Clayton who loves trains too.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Baptismal Faux Pas

Icy Sunset 31 Jan 2009

Well, just a little story so my posterity can know that I mess up some times - big time. A young single adult I've known for 4 years agreed to be baptized and I was asked by the missionaries to give a talk on the Holy Ghost. The baptism was Saturday the 31st of January, 2009 at 11:30a. I was excited. Friday night the missionaries called and said the YSA had postponed her baptism but that a family, consisting of a mother, an 11 year old daughter and a nine year old son were being baptized and would I still want to give the talk. It was too late to call them back by the time I got the message but during the night, lying in bed, the text of the talk came to me and I knew what the answer would be in the morning. The missionaries were happy to have me speak so I went about writing the talk Saturday morning.

The theme of the talk was the "GIFT" of the Holy Ghost and why it was so great a gift and how we should desire for and seek happiness with the gift. As part of the set up, I would ask the young boy what he liked about birthdays (trying to get the answer "presents"). Then I would ask him if he'd ever gotten any really good gifts like a gameboy or a walkman.

The baptism was a spiritual feast. I suppose that happens most often when you are ready to be fed, so maybe preparing the talk helped me be in the mood, in any case the spirit was quite strong and it was a moving experience. As I approached the pulpit emotions nearly overcame me. I apologized and by doing so almost immediately got "off script." It was ok, I knew the material well and felt confident enough.

When I got to the part about birthday presents, I felt a little connection with the heretofor unknown family and looked at Aaron and asked if he'd ever gotten a really great present for his birthday like a playboy or a walkman and continued on. Soon there was audible laughter in the audience and knowing something had gone wrong I mentally reviewed what had happened and realized I'd said "playboy" instead of "gameboy." What must his mother be thinking?

I looked up at the audience, about 50 people, and said, "for those of you who don't know, a playboy is a cross between a play station and a gameboy. Not to worry, you all have plenty of time to repent before the sacrament is served tomorrow." That seemed to quell the laughter and the rest of the talk went well.

Just wanted you all to know I have embarassing moments too. So, if something embarassing ever happens to you - don't worry - you'll survive.

Attached is the transcript of the talk, just in case you wanted to read it or have a talk coming up soon on the Holy Ghost.

June, Hailey, and Aaron – it is an honor to be here with you today at this exciting event. I was baptized 45 years ago and still remember everything about it. But more so, I remember the next day when my father confirmed me a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and invited me to receive the Holy Ghost. I can close my eyes and feel his hands on my head and the hands of others who stood with him. Most of all I can still feel the sudden warmth and peace that flowed into me when he said the words, “receive the Holy Ghost.” I was only 8 years old but knew then, and still know now that it was a bid deal, an important event, a defining moment in my life.

Aaron, you’re already nine so you’ve lived about 13% more life than I had at baptism so you’ll be able to appreciate it that much more and Hailey you are practically an adult compared to me so the significance of this event will certainly not be lost on you. And June – well, we won’t even go there!

Aaron, what’s the best part about birthdays? If the best part is getting gifts, then this birthday, and today truly is a birthday for you three, is no different. A prophet of the Lord, Wilford Woodruff, referred to the Holy Ghost as, “the greatest gift anyone can receive in (this life).” If you believe that there are living prophets on the earth and they speak the words of God, then you now believe that you are soon to receive the best gift you could ever get.

Now each of you has received some pretty nice gifts in life. Aaron, maybe a gameboy or walkman, Hailey maybe a real nice dress or a puppy, June – perhaps a child. Think for a minute about what made these gifts so special, so great. What it really comes down to is these gifts were so great because you wanted them and you liked them. If the Holy Ghost is the greatest gift we can receive in this life, then it must be the thing we want and like the most. How can that be?

Well, let’s think about some things in life and see if we can figure out why the Holy Ghost is such a great gift. Hailey, sometimes people, even so called friends, aren’t very nice to us. Have you ever been very sad because someone was mean to you? How great a gift would it be if in that moment your best friend sat down beside you, cried with you, listened to you, hugged you and made you feel good, made you feel loved, made you feel all better? Would that be a great gift? One of the names of the Holy Ghost is “The Comforter,” (John 16:7) because he can do just that. Aaron, have you ever done all your homework in a class, studied for the test and then seemed to forget everything when you started taking it? How great a gift would it be if right at that moment the teacher said, “you can make a life line call,” and you could call a friend who knew all the answers? Would that be a great gift? One of the things we know about the Holy Ghost is that he, “teaches us all things and brings all things to our remembrance (see John 14:26).” That is a pretty great gift. June, have you ever had a moment when you just didn’t know what to do and wished that someone would just tell you the right thing to do? The Holy Ghost will show us all things that we should do (see 2 Ne. 32:5). Now that is a pretty great gift isn’t it?! In fact, the Holy Ghost will do all this and more. Have you ever been unhappy? The Holy Ghost will “fill our soul(s) with joy (see D&C 11:13). Have you ever been confused and wondered who’s telling the truth? By the power of the Holy Ghost we may know the truth of all things (see Moro. 10:5).

Is it starting to make sense why the Holy Ghost is the greatest gift we can ever receive in this life? Are you starting to feel like you want to have the Holy Ghost? Like you want this gift?

Two quick things about having this great gift. Like any other gift, it can’t be great if we don’t open it and figure out how to use it and then play with it all the time. That’s what makes gifts great. So after you get the Holy Ghost, you’ve got to figure out how to have the Holy Ghost in your life. Don’t get all worried about that. Aaron I’m sure you’ve figured out how to play some pretty hard video games – it just takes time and practice and interest and that’s just what it’s going to take with the Holy Ghost.

The other thing is – remember that the Holy Ghost can only stay with us when we live in a way that invites him into our life. Our desire to have him in our life will be shown by how we live. He can only be with us when we want him to be with us and he’ll know if we want him by how we are living. In other words, he can only be with us when we are trying our hardest to keep the promises we’ve made to God today by getting baptized.

One lady said after she received the Holy Ghost, “I felt the influence of the Holy Ghost settle upon me with greater intensity than I had ever felt before. He was like an old friend who had guided me in the past but now had come to stay.”

My hope and prayer for you, and for all the rest of us who are here today, is that you may receive the Holy Ghost tomorrow and that he will come to stay so that he will be the greatest gift you will ever receive in this life and bring you peace, comfort, direction, answers, light, love and everything else you need in this life to have joy, which is why we are here.