Rededication, overcoming entropy in your personal life

I love New Years Day and the turn of the new year, largely because it’s a time where we all take the opportunity to reevaluate our lives, assess where we’ve been, and plan where we’re going.  It’s a phenomenal event, pivotal, and magnificent.  I hope you all take the time to do it.

As for my assessing ’08 I found that I’d been so greatly blessed.  I had a splendid year, nearly incomparable in fact.  Even in spite of such tough times.  The brief time I’ve taken to reflect has surely manifested the Lords hand in my life, for truly, I’m unworthy of such blessing, and certainly incapable of creating such a great year autonomously.

The realization of that reflection caused me to rededicate my life in many respects (illustration of my post “Gratitude, the key to righteous desire“).  One of those areas of rededication is with my blog.  I felt strongly (as I mention here), that this was an endeavor the Lord wanted me to undertake.  He’s blessed me with the talents to do it, and it’s my duty to use those talents appropriately, leaving room for the Spirit to magnify my efforts so that they’ll be of enduring value.

But the whole process of reflection upon the past with the perspective of today tends to call out the starkest instances of entropy experienced in our lives (which I explain here).  Those areas where we’ve let slip the most.  Those are the areas we need to proactively rededicate ourselves to. 

Life is not casual.  Life is engaging, and requires us to be engaged with it.  Spend too much time as a bystander, and you find your life is filled with more regret, than accomplishment and opportunity.

I love New Years Day and the turn of the new year, largely because it’s a time where we all take the opportunity to reevaluate our lives, assess where we’ve been, and plan where we’re going.  It’s a phenomenal event, pivotal, and magnificent.  I hope you all take the time to do it.

As for my assessing ’08 I found that I’d been so greatly blessed.  I had a splendid year, nearly incomparable in fact.  Even in spite of such tough times.  The brief time I’ve taken to reflect has surely manifested the Lords hand in my life, for truly, I’m unworthy of such blessing, and certainly incapable of creating such a great year autonomously.

The realization of that reflection caused me to rededicate my life in many respects (illustration of my post “Gratitude, the key to righteous desire“).  One of those areas of rededication is with my blog.  I felt strongly (as I mention here), that this was an endeavor the Lord wanted me to undertake.  He’s blessed me with the talents to do it, and it’s my duty to use those talents appropriately, leaving room for the Spirit to magnify my efforts so that they’ll be of enduring value.

But the whole process of reflection upon the past with the perspective of today tends to call out the starkest instances of entropy experienced in our lives (which I explain here).  Those areas where we’ve let slip the most.  Those are the areas we need to proactively rededicate ourselves to. 

Life is not casual.  Life is engaging, and requires us to be engaged with it.  Spend too much time as a bystander, and you find your life is filled with more regret, than accomplishment and opportunity.

“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness”. 

Doctrine and Covenants 58:27

 

Rusty

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On a personal note

I finally went in and got my nose fixed today – deviated septum.  Back when I was about 10, living in Montana, I was playing king of the, well, ice hill, at school when some kid shoved me face first into a mound of ice and really did a number on my nose.

This was before I got adopted, and if I remember correctly while my biological mother was away on a singing gig, so I didn’t ever get it fixed. 

But I went in and got a sleep study done last week to figure out why I’m always so tired.  I figured it was my friends Jim, Ringer, or the Pondering Pastor always pushing my brain, but instead found out I have sleep apnea.  Here’s a picture of that night – hilarious.  They hook you up like this and then say “go to sleep”.  I say “yeah right”.  They say “like we haven’t heard that before” and give you that look like “just shut up and do it, okay?”  LOL.

 

So my doctor told me it was time to fix my nose, which brought me to this point… (the before shot where I’m still smiling):

So now I’m home resting, updating my iPhone, pondering the recent blog comments, and realizing why I put this off for so long.

The good news, is that I have some forced “off-time”, which will let me catch up on some of these comments!

Rusty

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There is beauty all around

I woke up this morning, hearing my almost two-year old in the next room calling out in his soft, toddler voice “Daaaaaadddd”.  This is how he lets me know he is awake.  I crawl out of bed, stumble into his room, scoop up his warm body and carry him into the living room where we lay on the couch and “talk” while we watch the sun seep in through the blinds.  This is how I generally start my day.

Soon, he got tired of snuggling and starts to play cars while I get up and go about getting ready for the day.  Not long after, the rest of our kids join us upstairs and their conversations, so full of enthusiasm and passion fill the house.

After morning prayers, I kissed them all goodbye and headed outside.

The sky was a clear, powder blue, with billowing cumulous clouds reaching towards the sun, which was rising leisurely above them, and creating a beautiful highlight to their topmost curves.

The tips of the Rocky Mountains which surround the valley were etched with snow, brilliantly reflecting the sunlight as they clung to the memory of winter.

The grass is that lush, deep, spring-time green, and every lawn I pass seems to be peppered with color as the flowers soak in the glory of the morning sun.

There are these huge billowing broad-leaf trees that line the road to work.  They look like something from a Pixar movie as the sun creates an astounding cascade of color as its rays dissipate along its outer leaves.  It was 68 degrees outside, so I drove with the windows down, basking in the glory of the moment, the wind in my face, and John Denver singing “Country Roads” over my car speakers.

If it’s been a while since you stopped and took notice of the beauty which so abundantly surrounds you, you’re missing out on one of the most important purposes of life – joy.  Tomorrow, try starting your day in awe, and see what a difference it makes in how you treat people, and how you look at things.

Rusty

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I believe there are angels among us

Finally telling my story (the first time I’ve ever shared much of this with anyone), inspired me to share the following experience.

When I was about 3, my grandma had joined my family for a hike somewhere in the Wasatch Mountains.  At some point, I must have done something to displease my father (my biological father).

To punish me, I was told that they were going to leave me on the trail.  They told me to sit on a log, while they all walked out of sight. 

Apparently they hadn’t walked far, thinking they’d wait a while, let me learn my lesson, and then they’d come back and get me. 

Instead, and not long after, I came casually walking around the corner, looking happy as ever.  When they asked me how I’d found them, I answered that a man in white had come and explained to me that I shouldn’t be worried, and told me where to find them.

Unfortunately I don’t have much of a memory of this, but my grandma has told me this story since I was young.

Not from this instance only, but from numerous occasions throughout my life, I’ve become convinced that we’re surrounded by loved ones.  Our “guardian angels” if you will.  These are not just strangers, but people who, for some reason or another, have a divine interest in our personal well-being, family or friends who have passed before, and who are there for us.

So whatever trial you’re experiencing.  However alone you may feel in your life, in your struggles, or in your efforts, know this – that you are not alone.  There are those that you cannot see that are there to help you, and the impact of their efforts is real, if seldom recognized.

Rusty

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A brief history of me – why I think we’re not limited by our past

When I was about 3 my mom and dad separated.  He’d had a vision that he was going to be a prophet, and was told to sacrifice me to prove his worthiness.  My mom thought that was a bad idea, packed up my sister and I, and we moved away (to his disappointment).  But that wouldn’t be the last I heard from him.

We moved to a small, inconspicuous town in Southern Utah called Panguich and “settled down” for a couple of years.  With my mom working as a hotel maid, we lived about as you’d expect – without much.  I remember starting school there, not fitting in, and not being very smart.  I remember my grandma pulling my hair to try to teach me my alphabet.

At some point, my mom remarried (“dad” #2).  I remember he was really severe.  We lived in the basement of a house, and I remember setting up traps (hangers dangling from a thread tied to my door knob) so I’d be awake to know whenever he’d come in my room.

At some point, my mom realized he wasn’t the right guy (plus he was still married to his previous wife), so we left him too.

We moved to another small, unassuming town called Oak City, and got a little trailer house.  My mom started singing and playing guitar for work.

By now I was in grade school.  I was the really poor kid, and was a loner.  I remember hiding at recess from the bullies, except once, when after school one of them pushed me down.  I grabbed a big rock (it seemed big to me at the time), and smashed his bike.  Then I ran home as fast as I could, terrified, but feeling vindicated.

My mom found another guy, and decided to get married (dad #3).  We moved to a tiny town in Montana called Marion.  We were really poor.  In fact, I remember one time finding a dime on the road.  I went home and showed my mom, and she sent me down to the little town store, where I bought one of those Atomic Fireballs.  I brought it home, and we broke it apart and shared it.  At one time we lived for a while in a tent in the forest.  I remember once my mom brought home a box of Bisquick mix that was about a quarter full.  My step brothers and I mixed it all up and were preparing to cook it on our propane stove, but we never got that far.  We ended up just sitting around the tin bowl scooping it out with our hands and licking it off our fingers.

My dad worked on an oil rig, and he was always gone.  But he’d come home on paydays, and would drink a lot.  He was a mean drunk, and so after a short time, we left him too.

We moved into a little tiny trailer, where we got really poor.  We couldn’t afford my older sister anymore, so she went to live with my grandma.  The trailer didn’t have electricity, or running water.  I remember not showering in the winter, unless I could manage to stay at a friend’s house, so I’d go to school and would really stink.  As you can imagine, I was expertly avoided.  In fact, my teacher got this little partition and put it in the back of the room and put a desk in it.  When I arrived in the morning, she would send me straight back to my little desk, then close the partition around me, and I’d play with a few Legos or a Matchbox car I would have brought in my pocket. 

One time I walked in and my teacher made some comment about my clothes, or my smell, I can’t remember now, but I simply hauled off and punched her.  But that got me suspended, which wasn’t good, because the one thing good about school, was that they provided lunch.

By now my mom was working really hard to make money, so she’d be gone travelling for several days at a time on singing gigs.  I’d be home alone in that little trailer, with some blankets and a little dog that I owned, and I remember sometimes it was really scary, there in the middle of the woods, 10 years old, and all these noises outside.

One day my mom came home from one of her trips with some guy I’d never met before.  I remember one night when I was trying to go to sleep, I heard a car pull up.  Seeing the headlights coming towards the trailer, I was excited to find she’d come home a day or two early.  She was with some guy I’d never seen before; she introduced us, and then said we were leaving.  So we packed our stuff into 3 or 4 black garbage bags, put them into the back of his pickup, and drove away.

She dropped me off at my grandma’s house.  Eventually she told me she was leaving to try to get some money so we could be together again, and left.

My grandma and grandpa were already taking care of my sister, and I was a growing 11 year old boy who really needed a full-time dad (and some structure), so we drove to Idaho where we visited my Aunt and Uncle (with their 6 kids). 

I didn’t know them very well.  My mom and my uncle (her brother) never really got along, so we never really saw each other, so here I found myself in another completely foreign place, with foreign people.  But alas, I figured we were only visiting, and at least I had my grandma, who seemed to be my one “constant” in life.

That made it very difficult when she pulled me aside to tell me that she was leaving me there, to live with them.  Watching her drive away – my last vestige of familiarity was one of the hardest moments of my life.  That and the day I actually came to grips with the fact that my mom was never going to come get me. 

Now the point to all this…  Those two events were probably the most challenging of my life, but were probably the two most important things that ever happened to me.

The family that took me in ended up being exactly what I needed.  As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy, for me or for them.  I came in as an 11 year old boy, with no structure, no discipline, and… well, a lot to learn.  I was now the oldest member of the family – dethroning their oldest boy, and coming in as the same age (basically) as their oldest girl. 

Just try imagining that for a minute.  Picture an 11 year old boy that you know (think of how naturally awkward they kind of are at that age), now picture having that person come in to live with you, not for a while, but for the rest of their childhood, and when you already have 6 kids.  It’s a sacrifice they made that I’ll never fully appreciate nor understand.  And we didn’t always get along, for a long time I clung to the fantasy that my mom would come get me, and that caused problems.

But they gave me shelter, heat, food, clothes, and all the material stuff I’d never had.  But more importantly they introduced me to the church.  They taught me the gospel,  gave me my own set of scriptures (a copy with an upside-down cover – I still have them today), and set me on a path that led me to here.

Fast forward to today.  I’m married to a shockingly beautiful woman.  We have 6 amazing kids (5 boys, 1 girl).  I’m a Vice President of Products for one of the largest and influential real estate software companies in the nation.  I served a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), speaking Mandarin Chinese in Sydney Australia.  Both of our luxury cars were gifts from my employer.  I’ve been to college.  I live in a beautiful house on the foothills of the Rocky Mountain range in the Salt Lake area. 

I could go on and on about the wealth of material blessings we enjoy, but those can be gained by anybody.  More importantly, I’ve been given perspective.  I’ve been able to see two polarizing sides of life.  I’ve lived and breathed poverty, and as such have a burning empathy that comes only from personal experience.  I’ve seen firsthand what broken homes do.  What broken marriages do.  But at just the right moment, at the most critical point in my life where perhaps I was at the tipping point, the Savior lifted me out of that life, and placed me in an environment that would show me the other side of life.

I did a post here about a cartoon that was once sent to me that I loved.  It shows a man carrying a cross along with a bunch of other people, each carrying their own crosses.  Along the way he keeps cutting his down to make it lighter and easier to carry.  But soon he comes to a chasm in the road.  The others, who had accepted the struggle of the crosses given to them, were able to use their cross to bridge that gap and cross, but his was too short.  It was followed by the statement “we often complain about the cross we bear, but we forget that it is preparing us for the chasm that only the Lord can see”.

The burdens I had have prepared me to be who I am.  I wouldn’t be the father I am today, nor would I have the testimony I have, had those experiences not been mine.  They have prepared me for life in a uniquely compelling way.

And finally, they have shown me that no matter what our circumstance in life, current or historical; we can overcome any and all obstacles.  It is not our past that matters.  No, our future is determined by far more substantial things than memories.  It’s our perspective on life, our perseverance, our will to succeed, our attitude, and most importantly, our ability to hope and to trust in God.  These are the things that shape our future.  Past is past.  Dwelling upon it only results in an ever inhibiting cycle of self-imposed limitations.  We convince ourselves that we are stuck within it, but we’re not.

My experience has taught me that.

Rusty

 

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