My Granddaddy passed away peacefully on January 21, 2022. My mother and uncle were by his side and "Amazing Grace" was playing in the background as he took his final breath.
And just like that, my wonderful Granddaddy has departed from us, but I can only imagine the many tender reunions happening on the other side of the veil. One of which would be my Namma who passed away about 2 years ago.
Namma and Granddaddy. The true duo.
When I think of Granddaddy, I think of Christmas mornings in a mountain cabin where he would put on a skinny Santa hat at pass out presents one at a time. I think of the man who always made the most perfect bacon. I think of playing games like Scrabble, and him clapping his hands and saying "Hot dog! Look at that!" when he would get an especially good scoring word. Granddaddy had some funny sayings. "Jiminy Cricket" was another good one when something wasn't going his way.
I think of a man who was so full of love. My husband Andrew always would comment how easy it was to talk to Granddaddy. He was a great conversationalist and made everyone feel included. At his memorial, so many people talked about how Jim Messenger always made you feel like you were the best at whatever you were doing. He'd tell my mom what a beautiful skier she way. He'd tell me what a beautiful writer I was. He was always full of compliments and encouragement.
Granddaddy loved his family and he loved God. In the past few years after Namma's death, he was able to go to the temple and perform sacred ordinances to unify his family for eternity. Those are holy memories I will always treasure in my heart.
A few days before his passing, I was upstairs talking with him and my mom. Granddaddy's mind clearly wasn't fully there and he kept saying some strange things. But before I left I told him I loved him. He looked me straight in the eyes and said with a tender smile, "I love you too, Maichael." That was the true moment when we said goodbye to each other.
While I miss Granddaddy, I am so happy for him. I am happy he is no longer in a state of pain or confusion. I am happy he is reunited with his bride and extended family and friends. I am happy he left us with so many wonderful memories
I’m sitting in my little office listening to toddler giggles coming from upstairs. Grace and Madelyn have been little BFFs today and are having the time of their lives as they play pretend together.
I love seeing their relationship. Their little two and three-year-old imaginations. I love watching the dances they perform in the kitchen and the dress-up outfits they end up dirtying with peanut butter fingers. The mischief they get into together. I love hearing Grace’s big dramatic sigh when I tell her to stop putting all the lotion on Madelyn, and how she walks away all dejected and says, “Come on, Maddy.” I love seeing Madelyn following her big sister like a little puppy dog back upstairs to see what new trouble they can make. I love hearing them say “I love you” to each other and seeing them embrace each other.
Yesterday we went to Disneyland with some new friends. All the adults wanted to go on Space Mountain and Grace told me she wanted to go, too. I explained that she was still too little, and we both walked up to the measuring stick so that I could show her. To my shock, she actually was tall enough to go on the ride. But then I explained that it was a really fast ride and I didn’t think she would like it. Grace responded, “Hm, well, I think I still want to try it.” With that, my goal was no longer to talk her out of it but rather to pump her up! “Ok, Gracie. It’s super cool. It’s like you are in space and you are flying a rocket and you get to see all the stars and planets. Daddy will be sitting right beside you the whole time, so you can hold his arm if you need to. You are such a big girl!” I watched Andrew and Grace walk away, and I sat there with all my Mom-nerves as I waited. When they disembarked, I was relieved to see no tear-streaked cheeks. Grace came up to me and simply said, “Mommy, I didn’t like that ride.” I laughed and told her, “That’s ok, baby. But I am so proud of you for trying something new and being so brave!” She smiled at that.
Today we set up beach chairs behind our garage and pretended to spend the day at the beach. We imagined the ocean and the sand. Madelyn found some sand toys, and Grace grabbed the cooler and pretended to have it filled with snacks. We drank water and ate apple sauce. Maddy then proceeded to spill almost all the water (she is known for making a mess wherever she goes). We imagined fishing for big red gooey fish (Thank you, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse) and watching the dolphins jumping in the ocean. It was so simple and yet so fun.
Lately, Maddy has been a little more needy. (I think she knows change is coming). "Mommy, I want you to hold me on the couch," is a phrase I hear EVERY day. It can be exhausting when I am trying to clean or be productive in some other task, but then I put it all into perspective and realize that cuddling my babies is exactly what I should be doing. I am grateful my girls love cuddling me and having me read to them. This is what my motherhood looks like, and I love it!
I feel so lucky to have Grace and Madelyn in my care. I love being their Mom. They really are special little girls.
During November, we talked about gratitude with our kids. Every day I'd ask Grace and Madelyn to tell me one thing they were grateful for, and we'd write it on a paper feather and put in on a cartoon turkey we had taped to our wall. As the month progressed, the turkey earned more and more feathers and we got to keep track of all the things we were grateful for. On day 1 of the gratitude turkey, I aske the girls, "What are you grateful for?"
Madelyn's first response was, "Jesus!" She always expresses gratitude for Jesus first in every prayer she offers.
Grace's first response was "Heavenly Mother." In the past, we have changed some of the lyrics of "A Child's Prayer" to include Heavenly Mother and how much she loves us.
Wow. I was humbled hearing my two little toddlers express gratitude for such important, yet physically intangible beings in their lives. I learn so much from them. (for more on this story, see my previous post about my church talk on gratitude).
Painting Trees and Decorating Cookies
The girls have been obsessed with painting lately. So almost every morning in December, I would draw a Christmas tree with a thick black sharpie and let the girls paint them. It is truly amazing what you can learn about your children from their art:
Grace is a rule follower. She likes to keep her colors separated and neatly in the lines. She hardly gets paint on herself and likes to stay clean.
Madelyn is a rule pusher. She loves to get her hands dirty and mix the colors all over the page. By the time she is finished, you can hardly see the tree drawing under all the paint. She is also messy and loves to squish the paint between her fingers.
Christmas Songs and Books and Treats
Madelyn has decided that "Feliz Navidad" is her favorite Christmas song. haha! She is totally obsessed with candy canes and loves to bite them. Her favorite holiday-type book is called "A Long Winter's Nap", and she likes the grumpy tortoise in it. My little Mad-dog seems to be drawn to the grumps of the world. haha.
Grace points out every time a song says "Jingle Bells". She especially loved "Jingle Bell Rock" this year, but she also learned how to sing "Away in a Manger" and "Silent Night". She has a little Christmas tree in her room where we discuss a scripture story from the Bible leading up to Jesus' birth and add an ornament every night. Her favorite books this season are "Red and Lulu" and "Samurai Santa" (if you haven't read them, I highly recommend both of them).
We baked a whole bunch of gingersnap cookies for neighbors and friends. Grace and Madelyn love helping me bake, and they love handing out the goodies as well. Grace liked eating the cookies too, but Madelyn decided she does not like the gingersnap flavor. She would hand it back to me and say, "No like this, Mommy. It's goose-tus-ting." (aka: disgusting). haha. One thing is for sure...she definitely loves chocolate!
Every other year for Thanksgiving we go on a trip with (almost) the entire Macey gaggle. Two years ago, as our introductory trip, we rented a cabin at Bear Lake. We got snowed in, made crafts, ate a ton of food, played games, and had a ton of fun as a family. This year was in sunny Saint George, Utah. It was still a little chilly, but we were still able to have lots of outdoor adventures.
Grace and Madelyn really enjoyed being with family. Madelyn will try to deny it with a serious grumpy face towards almost all her aunts, but she loves everyone :). Grace clearly prefers the older cousins at this stage of her life. She would shadow them around, and she even asked Isabell to teach her some ballet dance moves.
One day we visited a ghost town near Zions National Park.
Another day the kids went swimming in the heated pool and Andrew played pickleball with family.
We watched cheesy Christmas romance movies and played lots of card games.
We cooked together and ate together.
The kids explored the Children's Museum. Madelyn liked the room with toy cars and a train track. Grace favored the theater room that had a full stage, costumes, and play makeup.
After sharing such great adventures, basically everyone ended the trip with some stage of a cold.
But I wouldn't have done it any other way. Having moved away to California, I truly treasure the time I get to spend with our family in Utah. And I love that we are friends...not just family. We joke around and laugh and tease. I am so thankful for family.
My topic today is Gratitude, and I seriously considered writing my whole talk from the lyrics of many of the songs in the church hymnbook.
I could focus our attention on the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies, for the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night, “Lord of all to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise!” (LDS Hymns pg.92, "For the Beauty of the Earth")
Or I could encourage you to count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done. (LDS Hymns pg. 241, "Count Your Many Blessings")
And with that realization, each one of us must admit that because I have been given much, I too must give. Because I have been sheltered, fed by the Lord’s great care, I cannot see another’s lack and I not share. (LDS Hymns pg. 219, "Because I Have Been Given Much")
I am grateful for how simply songs teach us important doctrine. With catchy tunes that stay with us, the words repeat in our minds and we are able to drink deeply from their messages.
Having sung these songs so many times in our lives, have we really internalized their message? Or is this just a message of gratitude something we put into practice during the month of November to prepare ourselves for Thanksgiving and then forget it for most of the year?
Pres. Monson gave a talk in 2010 entitled “The Divine Gift of Gratitude”. In it, he expressed, “This is a wonderful time to be on earth. While there is much that is wrong in the world today, there are many things that are right and good… Our lives are blessed in countless ways. We can lift ourselves and others as well when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude.”
While that talk was first given over 10 years ago, the words still ring true today. Life is tough right now. Whether you are frustrated about the continual effects of the pandemic on the world, or are anxious over the discord in politics and in society, or are even passing through your own personal gethsemane, there are miracles and answers waiting for you…and many of them come through gratitude.
Let’s look at the Savior for an example of how gratitude can bring about miracles (this is again taken from Pres Monson’s remarks). As Jesus traveled in the wilderness for three days, more than 4,000 people followed and traveled with Him. He took compassion on them, for they may not have eaten during the entire three days. His disciples, however, questioned, “Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?” Like many of us, the disciples saw only what was lacking.
Notice that the Savior gave thanks for what they had—and a miracle followed: “And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.”
Faith precedes the miracles. Gratitude often precedes the miracle as well.
Gratitude seems to reach so many directions: it precedes the blessings, but then we must also remember to be grateful during our experiences, and of course we must give thanks after as we count our blessings. So really, we shouldn’t see gratitude as an event (a moment when we express our thanks); we should seek to develop a true “attitude of gratitude” that permeates our very lives. We should seek to live in thanksgiving daily whether we are currently content in our situation or are passing through bitter sorrows.
President Uchtdorf put it this way in his talk “Grateful in Any Circumstance”, “Perhaps focusing on what we are grateful for is the wrong approach. It is difficult to develop a spirit of gratitude if our thankfulness is only proportional to the number of blessings we can count…. It is easy to be grateful for things when life seems to be going our way. But what then of those times when what we wish for seems to be far out of reach? Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation. In other words, I’m suggestion that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances, whatever they may be.”
Let’s look at another scripture example to better understand this concept. In Ether we read the story of the Jaredites who were commanded to make barges so that they could cross the oceans and reach the promised land.
They worked hard to prepare themselves as much as possible. They followed the Lord’s instruction on how to make the boats (if you don’t remember, they were tight like unto a dish). The Lord provided the light for their barges; the people gathered food, animals, and all other supplies for their journey.
And then they had to stand back and let the Lord take the reins. There was no way to steer the vessels. In Ether 6:5-6, we read of how the Lord directed the barges towards their final destination:
Now let’s paint a picture of the difficulty of this journey.
But despite the difficult trials, listen to the attitude the Jaredites had:
Ether 6: 9, 12
9 And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.
12 And they did land upon the shore of the promised land. And when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them.
During the entire journey, they did not cease to praise and thank their Lord. And they did see miracles. The difficulty of the winds and waves were part of the miracle. Those winds led them to promised land. They were grateful for it, but it does not mean that it was an easy trip. Yet their constant gratitude brought peace, it strengthened their faith, it kept them humble and patient, it fostered empathy and charity for others. Gratitude has been called at times the “parent of all virtues”. What could have been a trip for the Jaredites filled with grumbling, anger, frustration, and doubt was instead transformed into a sanctifying experience. One that helped them become more like their Savior because they were so focused on showing gratitude to the Lord. May we be able to similarly transform our lives with gratitude so as to develop the many Christlike attributes we desire.
Gratitude truly is a powerful tool. I have a testimony of the seemingly magical qualities of gratitude. Just this week when my kids seemed to just want to fight and pester me, we started writing down things we were grateful for on feathers for a paper turkey on our wall. The list ranged from being thankful for unicorns, chocolate, and ballet to more meaningful answers like gratitude for Heavenly Mother, for primary, missionaries, and family members. After having discussed the things we were grateful for, we went about our day and didn’t mention the turkey again. But the spirit had already worked on our hearts. I was more patient, my girls were more loving with one another, and our home seemed to be a happier place. I am so grateful for the power of gratitude.
Let me end my talk by reading the Lyrics to one of my favorite hymns of gratitude and one that proclaims my testimony: (LDS Hymns pg.193)
Andrew and Maichael
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