Friday, March 13, 2015

Cleaning the Temple...and me...

Last night, I had the singular opportunity to get to clean the temple from 9:30 pm to 12:30 am. When they sent the email to our ward, I responded immediately. I mean, I clean my house regularly, but how often do you get to clean the House of the Lord?! 

My day didn’t go as planned at ALL. The quick morning dentist appointment turned into TWO, yes two root canals on opposite sides of my mouth, leaving me pretty deadened and dysfunctional for most of the day. I even fell asleep before I could go pick up my prescription and the next thing I knew, it was 8:30pm and I hadn’t even showered yet.

I knew I wouldn’t feel the greatest, but I also knew I could not pass this up. So, I rode with my friend to the temple, which was UNBELIEVABLY busy. We should have known when we pulled into a FULL parking lot at 9:30pm. The Baptistry is open here until 10pm, and they didn’t actually finish until 11:45!!! They also had to add at least 3 more late sessions to allow everyone to participate. Amazing.

We were given white scrubs to wear and assigned into groups. I got to clean the main floor on the sisters’ side, which means I got to vacuum the marriage waiting room, the bride’s room, and the children’s area which hardly anyone knows exists in a temple unless they’ve tended to children before a sealing. They’re awesome places.

As I was vacuuming the Initiatory areas, one tiny thought bloomed into an hour long conversation in my mind. My patriarchal blessing admonishes me specifically: “Make your visits to the temple as often as possible, for within those walls great Truths are taught.” My goodness, yes. The following is the process of understanding that unfolded before me as I ran the vacuum over occasional tiny pieces of white lint…

“That one didn’t come up. Oh well…….……..nope, I can’t do it. *goes back to remove one tiny piece next to a partition* Interesting. I must be totally anal if I can’t even leave one tiny spot……..but I don’t want it to bother any patrons. I wouldn’t want it to fester in their minds…..fester. Odd word. Huh…..

I have a VERY firm testimony that the Lord DOES walk those very halls and touch the same doors and railings as we do. I’ve had it testified unto me by those who know. So if he walks here, I don’t want that one piece of lint to fester in Him, right? I mean, it’s not like he’s going to come “white glove” the temple or anything…but what if He asked me, ‘Karen, why is there still one blemish here?’  I would just melt in humiliation if I had to say, ‘Oh, uh, sorry. I just decided it wasn’t important.’  There’s a reason I have to be so completely thorough in my cleaning. I’m cleaning it for Him. To show Him my appreciation for all He’s done for me.

Appreciation……fester…....blemish……..WHOA. This has Atonement applications! Oh gracious. *starts to tear up* OH my word, what if I had to stand before Him in the next life and have Him ask me about my life on earth, ‘Karen….why is there still this blemish here? Why did you allow it to fester for so long?’ ‘Oh, uh, sorry. I just decided it wasn’t important…I was just too lazy to take care it.’  *now sobbing* I NEVER want to have to say that. It’s SOOO important to proactively apply His Atonement to cleanse us completely! We have to try every day and renew our slate every Sunday with His precious Sacrament. The Lord is so patient.

*gives up and goes to find Kleenex while shaking with emotion* ……….OH my goodness. Each blemish I’m talking about…what does that actually equate to for Him? Ugh. ‘Karen, why is there still one blemish here? Why did you allow it to fester for so long?’ ‘Oh, uh sorry? I guess I just decided that drop of blood, that thorn, that scar wasn’t that important…’” *cries harder than ever before*

My comprehension of the Atonement is even deeper today because of this precious lesson, for which I am eternally grateful. EVERY drop of blood, every thorn, every moment He endured for each one of us is monumental. I have not entirely understood my personal need for the Sacrament each week until this time in my life. It is vital. I cannot make it back to my Savior to thank Him, and to my Father in Heaven again without it. Until that time, I’ll focus a little more on the lint I may be ignoring.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

AWESOME story time....

**Originally written to my babies in the mission field...**

Good evening, and welcome to AWESOME Stories from Aunt Karen!  Thank you for joining us and we hope you enjoy this week's installment of joy, hardship, and thought processes as only Karen can imagine. :)  Plus, watch how the missionary flame has spread from you to me.... ;)

It was Monday. Ugh. But, the good news is I'm still WAAAAAY over on hours, so I slept in. I'm tellin' ya...waking up at 10am = Happy Karen. Eventually I made myself get all fancy-presentable for my afternoon meetings and left my house near noon. Cruising along in my awesome new car, I remembered that I still had some price-checking to do for a project for work. Since I needed to stop by a different shop for personal reasons, I decided to change my route o' errands. My mind continued to flash through thoughts at lightening speed as I neared Smith's along my route. Two seconds later, I spontaneously darted into that parking lot thinking, "Oooh, I could check to see if they have those marshmallows here, then I wouldn't have to drive nearly as far out of the way on my way to work. Obviously they're cheaper at Walmart, but I just need to see them one more time to decide which size is best. It'll only take two seconds..."

Well, needless to say, Karen can easily monopolize Karen's attention I promptly drove passed three available parking spaces. DOH. Eventually I focused enough to find a good space, and as I rounded into it, I saw a woman standing outside her SUV with the spare leaning against it, looking around helplessly.  SWEET! I love service! Especially spontaneous ops like this....straight from HF. Maybe we should call them "white ops"...HAHAHAHA! Ok, focus...

So, I got out and approached her, "Uh oh, this doesn't look good."  She was somewhere near my age, looked latino, had a few tattoos up her arm, visible because of the tank top she was wearing (it's friggin 60 degrees here). This poor woman was just utterly clueless about cars. "I know!" she whimpered, "I have no idea what to do! I have all this stuff, but I've never had a flat tire before..."  *smile spreads across face*  "That's ok, I do!" 

She quickly warned me, "Just so you know, I think the one thing that actually fits those things is the problem. It's broken."  I looked down to figure out what the crap she was talking about and I see that she has tried to loosen the bolts WITHOUT USING THE JACK. Did I say clueless? And helpless? I felt so badly for her. SO, I said, "Well, first things first, we gotta jack up your car so we can even get the tire off."  " do we do that?"

So, I started assessing things and realized I needed something to lie down on so I didn't get my nice clothes (remember, I had meetings to go to) dirty. I went to grab my jacket, and as I returned, another gentleman approached us with his 4 year old son. "Can I help?" he asked. I looked at him and we both stopped for a second and simultaneously asked, "Do I know you?" Ha! Turns out he's another IP&T PhD student. I told him all about the issues and he very graciously got on the ground and placed the jack. I tried to keep the woman preoccupied as he worked on raising it. As she was lamenting how untimely this was for her family, I looked up and saw 6 kids in the car. WHOA. Ok. She was really just overwhelmed and clueless, so she kept kinda pacing a bit. I talked and joked with her but nothing really soothed her. She kept saying, "We just came here to grab the stuff for chicken sandwiches. I didn't need this today! Oh man..."  When Grant (the Phd dude) had it ready, we tried to use the broken--cheapest thing I've ever seen--wrench to get the lug nuts off, but to no avail. She was right. The crappy thing had cracked, so there was no way to keep it where it needed to be AND get the twisting torque required...even with two of us. We stepped back to think for a bit, and I noticed my hands were completely black. Doh.

"Hmmm, well, let's keep thinking and I'm going to go find some paper towels, ok?"  She kept repeating, "You guys are too nice, you don't have to do this." *repeat smile*  I turned and went into the store, unloaded many rounds on the bathroom paper towel dispenser, and was on my way back out when I walked right passed 4 ELDERS.... :)  "Hi Elders," I mindlessly said without breaking stride and continued for the door when that voice in my head that resides right behind my left ear yelled, TTTTTTUUUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRNNNN ARRRROOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUNNNDDD!!!  I literally did a ungainly about-face as it clicked in my brain and yelled, "ELDERS!!!!!!" 

Ha! All four of them whipped around with shocked faces. "Hey! I have a service opportunity for you!"  They most diligently perked RIGHT up and listened. "Changing a flat tire," I explained while showing them my disgusting hands. Laced with a little too much machismo for my liking, they said, "Ooohh, yes. We can totally help you. We know how girls can be, we'd be happy to change your tire for you..."

Pssh. "Ok, let me stop you right there. It's not my tire. I'm well-versed. BUT, there's another woman out here who REALLY could use your help. I don't even know her name, but she also has lots of kids. Come on."  They honestly reminded me of a bunch of overeager puppies, but it was awesome. As we walked toward her car, I accidentally flipped into Aunt Karen and sternly cautioned them wagging my finger in the air, "One rule, Elders: DO NOT ruin those white shirts!"  They all smiled. "What's your name?"  "Oh, I'm Karen. But I'm Sister Cottle to you..." I said quietly as I turned around just in time to meet the lady. I wanted them to know they didn't need to focus on me. (completely forgot there was a big ol' Y on my shirt)

"I brought reinforcements!" I announced. Grant turned around from his squatted position and just started giggling. I turned to the lady (I can't remember her name for the life of me) and said, "I brought these guys. They're very nice and totally ready to help."  As they all kicked into missionary mode and started introductions of themselves to her and her oldest daughter (maybe 13), I went to my car and got the leftover gummi worms from yesterday's WY trip and offered them to her. "I certainly don't need any more of these, and I'm guessing the kids are getting restless."  She just kept saying, "You guys are unbelievable."  I turned to the kids (windows unrolled) and Aunt Karen said, "Ok guys, you can only have the candy if you sit quietly and share them, ok? Be good," and then I went in search of some other big car in the parking lot to see if I could borrow a wrench...  (...that Aunt Karen comes out of nowhere sometimes...)

When I came back about 5 minutes later (no luck), I saw the cutest little old lady approach the group and pass out individually wrapped hand sanitizers to everyone, shaking each missionary's hand and winking. At that point I thought...ok, where's the seminary video camera pointed at us? :)  They were all just standing there, though the group of people had grown a little to include even more people that looked like the perfect contacts for missionaries (meaning they weren't obvious members). One of the elders turned to me and said, "My companion went across the road over there to ask the lube place if they have something..."  I smiled really widely and then turned to the lady, "Well, I'll leave you with these gentlemen. You are in good hands."  She thanked me profusely and kept mindlessly reviewing her train-of-thought aloud under her breath, "I really can't believe this....we just came here to get the stuff for chicken sandwiches..."

A minute later I was recalling the series of events as I walked back into Smith's....

That was crazy awesome, HF! Thank you!! I love that...and to think, I didn't even plan to go here! It was just on some whim I turned in.....why am I in here again? Oh! Right...marshmall.......oh crap! Meetings! I'm gonna be late!!......I don't even really need to see those, what the heck? WHY DID I STOP HERE IF I DIDN'T EVEN NEED T....... OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!   And I almost ran to the bakery with giddiness. :)

I found the yummiest looking sandwich rolls I could find and asked the worker to slice them for me. I then sped to the sandwich meats and grabbed two things of sliced chicken and a package of cheese slices. I rounded out the sprint by grabbing lettuce that had already been broken apart for sandwiches and a bag of clementines. I nearly tripped as I suddenly skidded to a halt in front of a display of 10-pk baby Dasani water bottles and snagged one of those, dashed back to the bakery and on to the self check out.

I approached the group again as the missionary tightened the last lug nut on the spare. She just kept saying, "I truly don't know what I would have done without all of you! You're so kind, I just can't even.....we only came here to get the sandwich stuff, and now I have to take this car to this other place, right?"  "Yes," I said, nonchalantly holding the groceries as if they were mine. "It's a little far, will it make it?"  "Oh yes, you'll be fine, as long as you don't go more than 40."  " have to go there now then..."  I could see the wheels turning in her head as she watched the 5 other children in the car now hyper and hangry (hunger induced anger). 

"Well, then, I guess you'll be needing these ,"...and I held out her groceries. Tears filled her eyes as her chin dropped open..."NOOOO. Are you serious?!?!"  I smiled and sucked back my own tears as I said, "Yup. Now you can feed them while you wait for your car. I hope this makes your day better.......and if it still blows your mind, you can ask those guys anything, as I pointed to the missionaries standing tall. They have all the answers." 

And then I smiled, and left. IT. WAS. AWESOME. I made it to work with three minutes to spare, all the while crying but trying not to let the tears of gratitude mess up my make up. I was so happy, but mostly because I was SOOOOOOOOOOO excited to come home and write about it to you guys. I knew you would be so proud of me. :)  As I've rehashed it in my head all day, I realized something...I prayed for this. I didn't remember at first, but I now remember a simple line in one nightly prayer about wanting more opportunities for service to His children because it makes me so happy. "You know, HF, kinda missionary-like, but more up my alley..."  Today was His way of saying, "Yes, Karen, I do know. I always know."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Most favorite thing...

I absolutely LOVE the face of a person who just received the PERFECT gift. It has nothing to do with cost or even anticipation. In fact, simplicity and surprise are usually key. It's the forethought and authenticity that create a magical moment like this one:

That's right. It's only a box of Fruit Rollups and a disgusting old Creamery polo, but for L, it was humor, love, and best wishes all wrapped up in tissue paper. It. Was. Awesome.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"Spoonful of sugar" anyone?

So, we kicked it...AGAIN. Sometimes my family exceeds even MY expectations. Check out this awesome-sauce...ness! Tis pretty amazing. SKILLZ, people. SKILLZ. (Shhhh, don't tell anyone I had to replace N the missionary...)

We made all the costumes except the red one (rented). On the coat, mom LITERALLY sewed strips of different colored bias tape onto white fabric and THEN cut it out and made it. And she killed it with the white one...and I raided my DI quite a few times. Basically, the costumes were PHENOMENAL.
I learned how to mix music so we had Step In Time, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Jolly Holiday, and A Spoonful of Sugar all meshed into 7 minutes. J and K danced the appropriate dance in front of the truck to Jolly Holiday, and the ones on the float danced to Step In Time.
Below, you can kinda see that K and dad rigged a way for the boys to step on small black bellows-ish thingys as they marched on the float, which shot red and turquoise firework-looking-things up and down out of the chimneys.  (Originally, I wanted to have real fireworks come out...but somebody told the mayor...) And C spent hours cutting all the colored lettering out of sparkly paper that danced in the sunlight. It was just awesome.
L and I walked along the sides and handed out (of our carpet bags) plastic spoons with either a scoop of Skittles or jelly beans wrapped in colored tulle with an elastic band around it...asking the spectators if they'd "like a spoonful of sugar?"...which they LOVED!
 Well, one more year down! The kids really enjoy it, and even started planning next year's before this one even happened! Crazies...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ok, so just to emphasize my previous point....I MIGHT be old...

When did this HAPPEN?!?!  Love them all more than words can say, btw. (And that last pic? Well, the tall one in the back happens to be the gorgeous missionary in the previous post...)

 Where in the world did the time go?!  A, E, K, slay me.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Good Gravy...sometimes I'm old...I mean proud!

Here she is!!!!!!!!!  All growed up and ready to take on the world. Much love, N...seriously...I pretty much can't even think about her or I tear up....

Good luck, sweetheart! Love you. Texas doesn't know what's comin...