Feeling Appreciated

I go to church all the time.
Every week in fact.

Sometimes I'm excited to be there. But most of the time, I have to gear myself up to go and sometimes it's really hard to sit through it all. But almost every time I leave, I'm glad that I went. And when I don't go at all for various reasons, I truly do feel a void. Who knows if that's just because it's a habit or what, but I think there is more at work when I go to church and make it a priority.

Last year, I moved into my new singles ward. I was really nervous about it. I had just left my ward in Dallas that was very tight knit. I always lived with people in the ward and most all of my social activities involved someone in the congregation. Going to church was expected but enjoyed, not just for worship but also as a main pinnacle of my social life.

So moving to Salt Lake on my own and having to go to church by myself frightened me a wee bit. I've had to do this plenty of times before, I can't count how many different singles wards I have been in but the number has got to be somewhere near 20. The whole introducing-myself-to-strangers thing has become second nature, and of course I'm grateful for that opportunity to feel comfortable even in new situations.

So I went to my new ward. And it was hard. There were a lot of people. We had sacrament meeting last in the 3 hour block, and by the time it started, I was already ready to go. I sat alone near the front on the right side of the chapel. I was tired of trying to talk to people so I just got out my sketch book until the program began. Once it did, I was shocked to learn they were changing the bishopric that day. All of the 3 new men who were called to the bishopric had never been in a singles ward bishopric. They were bright-eyed and excited to get to know the young single adults of our area. They were excited and so it made me excited. They were new, so we could all be new together!

A couple weeks later, they invited me in for an interview. Most wards do this when you just move in as a get-to-know-you opportunity. They want to find out more about your life and what your interests are so they can know what you might need and where might be the best place for you to serve. As we were wrapping up, I said
"Well let me know when you figure out a calling for me because I'm anxious to get involved where I can."
Brother Taylor replied jokingly, "Well you don't play the organ do you?"
"Well I do play the piano and I've always wanted to learn..."
"Really?! That would be awesome. We've been praying and praying to find someone who can play the organ for us. In fact, just this morning we fasted as a bishopric to find someone willing to play."

I panicked. "Oh cool, well yeah I mean maybe I could try, I don't know, I'm not very good."

I left the interview, went back home and had one of those what-do-I just-do moments. In fact, I have a post-it note set at my office that has a woman smiling on it and it says, "Stop me before I volunteer again." I'd been working on not over-committing myself to too many things and here I had just done precisely that. But there was nothing I could do, it was out of my hands.

I went back to the church, this time for our regular meetings. I went to Relief Society and as I was heading to Sunday School, I got a text message asking if I could come meet up with another member of the bishopric. "Here it comes," I thought to myself.
I walked to the office and met Brother Ward. He welcomed me in and asked lots of questions about myself. He was very intrigued by my career choice. He was fascinated about graphic design and felt strongly that we need visual language to make sense of things, and how he feels it's just as important as other languages of learning. Validation? Check.

He told me that he had heard I play the piano and wondered how I would feel about learning the organ. I was totally honest with him. I told him that I'm new in the ward and I'm a bit scared. I can only play about half of the songs in the hymn book and I don't know if I'll be able to confidently play, especially while people are singing. He calmed my fears and told me that it would be ok. He said that I could pick all of the songs we sing. And that even if I only learn 6, we can rotate the 6 songs every week. He said I could play the piano if I prefer and they could put a microphone up to it so it would be loud enough for the congregation. He said he would give me a key and security fab to the building so that I could come in and practice whenever I want. Suddenly it didn't seem so impossible. I accepted the challenge and told him I would be our organist.

The next week I practiced for hours. I chose all the easiest songs in the hymn book. I practiced them at the piano, and then I took them to the organ and experimented with the controls. I invested in a stack of post-it notes so that every week I would choose my pedal settings for the song and then write a post-it note above the setting, so I knew which song had which pedal. It was so confusing.

But when I finally played in church, all of my hard work paid off. People sang! They followed along! They didn't look up at me when I made a mistake! The settings on the organ worked!

This went on for several months as I lived in the ward. Each week I would spend a couple hours practicing alone in the chapel and each week I would play prelude music, opening hymn, sacrament hymn, congregational hymn, closing hymn, and postlude. I sweat more than I ever have before on a Sunday, but I played the very best I've ever played. When I practiced, it truly felt like someone was helping me. And that my fingers couldn't have played all of those complicated notes on their own.

But here's the kicker (and the point of my post). Every single week, without fail, Brother Ward would come up to the organ after sacrament meeting while I was playing postlude and put his head down near the hymn book so I could see his face, and he would smile really big and give me two thumbs up. Then he would whisper, "Great job!"

"Thanks!" I would whisper back.

It made me feel like a million bucks! After all of that effort every week, and all of those post-it notes, I felt so appreciated. He knew it was going to be hard for me. He knew I was so scared of playing in front of all of those people. And he made a special effort every week to come tell me that I did a great job. And if he wasn't there, then the bishop or Brother Taylor would come over. Some weeks, all 3 of them thanked me separately! And on my last Sunday in the ward, the week before Greg and I were to be married, they all thanked me for my service and said how grateful they were that I had volunteered and then stuck with it.

Now I've had a lot of callings. I've had a lot of opportunities to give service in the church. Sometimes it's not very glamorous. Sometimes it feels like we do a lot of work and we're not efficient and we don't do much good. But the thing I learned from playing the organ was the power of feeling appreciated. I knew that the bishopric was counting on me. I knew that they needed my talents to help bring the Spirit into our chapel. And because they appreciated me, I wanted to try harder and be more committed. Their gratitude made me feel confident. I was more excited to go to church. I was more willing to stay for the full block and get to Relief Society on time. They made me feel like it was important for me to be there and that there was a spot for me in the ward.

Fast forward to this year. Greg and I are in our first ward as a married couple. We've been primary teachers and it's been just grand. We love love our kids, we love singing time, and it's been really nice to just focus on the basics of the gospel.

The relief society president found out that I'm a graphic designer. So at an activity one night, she pulled me aside and asked if I could make her a map. She said that they didn't really have a good map of our ward boundaries. It's in a complicated area because there are a ton of apartment complexes in our ward and it's hard to know which is in our ward and what is in the other wards. I agreed and said I would send her something the next week.

When I got home, I had my same panic. Why am I over-scheduling myself? I have family in town for the month of July, we have a super busy project at work right now, Greg and I are moving at the end of the month, we're frantically trying to plan all the logistics for our trip to Europe, I'm designing wedding invitations for so many people, and I just can't take this on right now.
So I took a screen shot of a google map, cut off the boundaries that aren't in our ward, and sent it over. It only took about 20 minutes and I thought, "Hey, it's better than whatever she currently has."

But when I saw her again, she explained some more things she was hoping for in the map. I was listening to what she was saying, but in my head I was just thinking of how much time it was going to take. We ended up looking up the exact location on the block of every apartment in our ward, and then I created a shape for it on the map, numbered them, added notes for parking in some situations, made a key with the names and addresses of each complex, etc. It became fairly involved and required a couple meetings and emails. Greg and I are moving this week so I wanted to make sure I could finish it before we left the ward, as I knew communication would be more difficult when we lived further apart.

I spent a couple hours on Sunday and finally finished it. She wrote me an email and said that she was glad to have it. Then this morning, just about an hour ago, I just a voice message from her on my phone. It was two minutes long. She explained how she had sent it to all of the ward leadership and she had different versions and print outs. She told me how grateful she was for it and how much easier it would make her job to find the people she needs to reach out to and serve. She started to cry and told me that on Sunday when she was feeling so grateful for the map, she found this scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 123:15. It reads:
Let no man count them as small things; for there is much which lieth in futurity, pertaining to the saints, which depends upon these things.

She said, "I know that this may just be a small thing to you, but it means so much to me." In her scriptures she wrote "ward map" next to this scripture.

As I listened to the message, I immediately remembered how Brother Ward had made me feel when I played the organ. And now hearing her muffled voice over the phone reminded me that none of these efforts go unnoticed. Maybe my blog isn't the right forum for something like this, but I just want to document how good it feels to use the skills I have for the building up of the kingdom of God. And more importantly, how good it feels when it's acknowledged by the people who asked you to do it. I want this to be a reminder to me about thanking the people in my life who do the small things and the big things. And how we all depend on the small things for our future. We literally depend on them to keep the work moving forward.

It's good people like Brother Taylor and Sister Van Orden that help me realize no good deed goes unnoticed.


McPolin Farm in Park City


I know, I know. Lots of the same pictures up above! But I just love this beautiful barn!

I remember when I was in Texas, I was flipping through Pinterest one day and I saw this photo of a bride and groom in front of a beautiful white barn with a huge American flag hanging down. I loved it! It was so crisp and clean and I loved the patriotism and country roots it added to this monumental life ceremony. I pinned it to my secret board and moved on. 

I remember that one day while we were dating, I went to see Greg in Park City (where he works) and then we drove to a different part of the city. I was looking out the window and I saw the barn! It didn't have the flag up, but I definitely recognized the white barn with the trees around it. I got so excited! Who knew the barn was in Utah?! Perfect. 

I asked Greg where the flag was and he said they only put it up around the 4th of July and then they put up a wreath for Christmas. Equally adorable. 

So I begged him to come and check when it was around the 4th of July holiday so that we could come up and take some pictures. When the time finally came around, things were pretty busy. We were meeting each other's families, deciding if we were going to get married, and trying to figure out our summer as a couple. All good things of course, just not much time for photo travels. 

When we got engaged at the end of August, I thought it would be perfect to have our engagement photos at the barn. But our photographer lived down south and so I didn't want her to have to trek to Park City. I'm way too sentimental for that. I wanted to do our engagement pictures at a place that had more meaning. But my friend and co-worker, Martha offered to take some for us, which was so sweet. So we trekked up to Park City, and alas, the flag wasn't there! I was super bummed out but we took a lot of fun pictures anyway. 

When winter time rolled around, I told Greg that we had to go up to the barn while the wreath was on display because it would make a great Christmas card photo. So he brainstormed Christmas sweaters we could wear and had all the plans for it. Tripod was ready! 

On our honeymoon, we planned to swing by on our way home (we honeymooned in Midway) but I got sick mid way through (pun intended) and we ended up coming home early. :( 

A couple weeks later, we stayed the night up at Sundance for my work party. We went to church in Heber but planned to stop at the barn on our way home. It would be perfect- great lighting in the morning and we would have our Sunday best. Great photo opportunity! But then while we were at church, Greg got a migraine. His migraines and terrible. Well, all migraines are terrible. But Greg's are especially bad. He can't see, he can't eat, it's hard for him to walk, and he becomes taken over by his headache. It puts him out of commission for about 8 hours. So we hurried home to get him taken care of before it got any worse. 
(Side note: Luckily, we have some prescription medication for him now but it still doesn't seem to do the trick. We've found that for him, there are definitely certain triggers: if he doesn't get a full 8 hours of sleep, is in the sunshine for a bit of time without sunglasses, or when he is dehydrated. Of course, combining any of those variables makes the risk go way up! He doesn't drink caffeine and he hardly ever has sugar. We try to be super diligent with prevention, but it seems like once he gets it, there is no relief for several hours. He got one in March that was so bad, I almost took him to the emergency room. Rough times, folks. So any advice out there would be super appreciated!)

Fast forward to this July! At the end of June, we were planning our calendar one day and Greg said, "This is the day we go to the barn! We will take those flag pictures!" I had totally forgotten about the flag barn! So I was so glad he remembered. 
We drove up and finally got to see the flag in all its grandeur!!(In that first picture, I am literally shouting with joy that we finally got there!) 

Usually it's packed with people and photographers in the surrounding area, but that day we had the place all to ourselves. In those small pictures, you can tell that clearly we don't know how to pose. We thought we were real fancy with the tripod but when it came to figuring out what to do in 10 seconds on self-timer, we panicked! Greg always opts for the classic back-to-back pose. But there are only some of those I can handle. Ha! 

I think my favorite picture of all the bunch is when Greg is just sitting back looking at the big flag. I didn't tell him to pose, he was just like that. I feel so grateful that I found someone who loves and appreciates my country as much as I do. I bought a huge flag years ago and he's the one who put it up in our tiny living room. He wants to buy a flag helmet and he's always asking me if we can use more bald eagles in our decor and clothing. We love to travel, but we never want to live anywhere but the U.S. of A. His love for country is deep. 

When we were at church on June 28th (the Sunday before the 4th) we all stood up in the middle of the meeting and sang "My Country Tis of Thee." I didn't even get through the first verse without tearing up and I could barely sing the words and Greg put his arm around me and sang louder. I can't believe that I was born here. That I get to be an American and that I've had the amazing life I've been lucky enough to live. I've been to a few other countries with security check points and lots of required documentation, and I just don't know how those people do it. Sometimes I get a little worried about some of our politics and how divided we're becoming, but when the olympics happen or a tragedy happens, or we get the chance to celebrate our independence, I'm always go glad that we have a chance to cool it with the debates. A chance to stop and take a look at just how blessed we are. And even though we don't have everything figured out, we sure have a lot of it figured out. It's a great place to live and I wouldn't want to be anywhere but here. 

So as they say in the song, "I thank my lucky stars to be living here today." God Bless America! 

On a lighter note, if you now have that song stuck in your head, we did too! 
Here's a little video of singing the song on the 4th of July. My family history goal is to take more videos, because who doesn't love family videos? In this day and age, I think we should be making them more. 

Park City Dinner Party

As some of you may recall, I left my job in Dallas to move to Salt Lake City. I loved my job and I loved a lot of the people I worked with. But there were so many! In a company of 700, it felt like you only got to know someone for a little snippet of time when you worked on a project together. But then once it was over, it seemed like I would never see them again. We were spread out through several floors of a skyscraper and so you really had to be intentional about who you ran into during the day. One thing that I hoped for with my job change was more of an environment that cared about who you were outside of work. To me, things like holiday parties, staff meetings, random team building activities, and impromptu barbecues are very important. It's the opportunity to get to know my team away from the office. 

At my new job in Salt Lake, there are only 24 of us squished into a little house. You literally "run into people" all the time. And it's great! One thing I love about my co-workers is that so many of them share my love for food. A few months back, we started a food club. We bring in recipes, post them on a blog, and go to new restaurants. It's really fun! 

Last week, Becca had a few of us up to her beautiful home in Park City for a dinner party. We all contributed, Martha decorated, and Becca prepared a gourmet feast! Here was the menu: 

  • ceviche with tortilla chips (Juanita's chips, the ones that are crispy and delicious!)
  • baguette topped with apricot jam, ricotta, prosciutto, and balsamic glaze
  • watermelon arugula salad topped with a sweet vinaigrette, radish, and toasted almonds
  • a squash and zucchini flower pureed soup topped with crispy bacon and white cheddar croutons
  • grilled pork tenderloin with grilled peaches
  • fruit pizza: citrus sugar cookie crust with frosting, blue berries, strawberries, raspberries, and kiwi
Delicious! We only had a few sprinkles of rain before it cleared up for the night. When it got dark, the candles were lit, and the torches were fired up. The ambiance was beautiful, the conversation was great, and the stars were shining brighter up there. We left stuffed and filled with joy for this phase of our life. We're so grateful to meet new people and enjoy getting to know them in such beautiful settings that we have in Utah. 


America's Birthday Weekend


This past week, Greg and I travelled down south for a Snyder family vacation. We did a combo of Lake Powell part of the week and then stayed at my parents home in St. George the rest of the time. We didn’t take too many pictures at Powell, but it was a great time. The water is so warm and the scenery is beautiful. I think I’ve gone every summer for the past 15-ish years, one of our favorite family traditions for sure. 

Although the temperature was sky high, it’s nice to have some downtime at a house where you feel comfortable, but you don’t have the luxuries of home to distract you. I always forget my to-do lists in St. George and just relax. Which is exactly what we did for a couple days. There were rides in the RZR, singing and playing piano, experimenting with electronic helicopters, cooking, swimming, chatting, lego building (lots and lots of lego building), roasting marshmallows, eating, and of course driving. 

America is the best. Happy birthday USA!