angels helping angels

Ellie was asked by our bishop to share her experiences with HEFY this summer. I was so glad he did, and that she was willing, because it gave her the opportunity to reflect on all of it’s goodness…

Her words…

This summer I went on a humanitarian trip with HEFY to Tonga, that stands for Humanitarian Experience for Youth. They go to 19 different countries and build homes, schools, orphanages and other much-needed facilities in impoverished countries. The expeditions are 2.5 weeks long. There are typically 24 people per trip. On my trip we had 19 builders (I was one of them) 7 boys and 12 girls. We also had 2 parent leaders, a mom and dad and two trip leaders from HEFY.

In Tonga, our project was to build a house from start to finish for a family in our Tongan ward that needed one.  We had 8 days on the worksite.  The first day we showed up to work, all we had was a piece of land, shovels, a bathtub, a pile of rocks, bags of cement, cinder blocks and 4 Tongan men to help and teach us.  

The first day was really hard. When we showed up it was pouring rain. We were all so excited to get to work but under the conditions, it was hard to believe that we were going to make it work. Usually when it rains, the groups aren’t able to work, but our trip coordinator in Tonga found tarps for us to dig and work under. Even with the miracle of tarps, we still got drenched and completely covered in mud from head to toe. At the end of the day, we were all so exhausted, we had trench foot, and I was the most sore I have ever been. Even though it was such a hard day, it felt so amazing to be working and serving.

Everyday we showed up to the worksite so excited and happy to make more progress on our house. We were building it for a woman named Kafy and her five kids in our ward. It was so cool to see how excited they were to finally have a home. Whenever it would get hard on the worksite, thinking about these kids finally having somewhere to go home to, made it so easy. Kafy and her family have never had a house. They just hop around in other families home to stay, with her 5 children. Kafy’s husband works in New Zealand to support them. He stays there for a few months at a time to work.

One aspect of HEFY I didn’t anticipate was how much love we felt from the people. They immediately took us in, and we became a part of their family. We spent almost every night in ward members homes or at ward activities. These families didn’t have much at all. The homes were about the size of my living room and they have cement floors with mats and little furniture. Every time we went into a family’s home, it was a highlight of my day. We would play games and sing and we would be laughing and joking the whole time. We had so much fun with everyone in our ward. After two weeks I felt like I had known them my whole life. They were so selfless and caring towards us. I thought I was coming to Tonga to build a house, but we left with so much more than we gave. It sounds stupid to say that the gospel is so strong in Tonga, because it’s the same wherever to go, but it really was so much stronger when we were serving and applying the gospel principals to our life. It was so amazing to see Christ’s gospel in action.

One day on the worksite, I was mixing cement with shovels in a broken bathtub (which wasn’t easy) with a few other kids and a Tongan worker named Sam.  One of the girls said, we are definitely going to have muscles when we go home.  Sam said, “no you won’t have muscles, you will go home with a testimony.”  

Our Bishop told me a story about his son. His son was going to school and he saw a Palangi on the street. Palangi is the Tongan word for caucasian people. Our Bishops son said, Dad, I love when the palangi’s come, it makes me feel so safe. I feel like its so cool that the Tongan people have so much respect for us and seriously just love everyone like their family. I realized that even though these people thought we were the angels, they were showing us an example of what angels are really like.

President Russell M Nelson said, “Do we believe in angels? Yes! We believe in angels! Heavenly messengers- seen and unseen; and earthly angels who know whom to Servehelp and how to help.”

The theme for HEFY this year was What were you born to do. One morning we woke up before going to work to watch the sunrise. We went out to the ocean and sat on the rocks and our whole group bore our testimony about why we came on this trip. Everyone had found an answer for the question “what were you born to do”. It was cool because none of us knew each other before coming to Tonga. We were all from different places and had different lives, but we all came together on the same trip. We realized that we were all sent to Tonga to change each others lives and even with different backgrounds, we all needed the same thing. It wasn’t just a coincidence that we came together.

Pres Nelson “The Lord has more in mind for you than you have in mind for yourself! As you love him and keep his commandments, great rewards even unimaginable achievements may be yours.”

I know that heavenly father has a plan for us. I am so grateful that I could serve his people in Tonga and learn so much from them. I know that the gospel is true and that serving the lord brings so much happiness.

all I want for Christmas

All I wanted for Christmas for seven straight years was them. I wanted to be a mom. We tried with help from my regular OB and then two different fertility specialists. Danny and I each had surgery (laparoscopy for me and a varicocele repair for him). We attempted a few artificial inseminations. The last specialist we hoped would perform in-vitro for us. They deemed us “not good candidates” They suggested we try specialists in CO or CA.

In the meantime, I was studying Communication Disoders (Speech and Hearing Science) at the University of Utah. I was approaching graduation and had not considered getting my Master’s degree. I was 30 years old and really wanting to spend my time rocking babies, changing diapers and walking the neighborhood pushing a stroller. I had felt drawn to this major. It felt like what I should be doing. Unfortunately, it was useless without a Master’s degree.

After graduation I did find a job at Salt Lake Regional Hospital as an infant hearing screener. It was under the umbrella of my major. If there were to be no children in our future, I should decide if I wanted to be an audiologist or speech pathologist. The bachelor’s degree I held was preparation for both of those options.

But could I be an infant hearing screener? Could I show up on the maternity ward 5 days a week? Could I enter the rooms of brand new moms and greet them everyday with a smile, compassion and the attitude I needed to do a good job. Could my heart take that reminder over and over again of my unfulfilled wish? I decided to try.

My first week on the job, I remember being in training and feeling really sick. I was worried about being around babies while feeling nauseous. I didn’t have a choice. The screener that I was replacing was moving to TX and I needed to be trained. I showed up. The good news is that that nausea was not an illness-I was pregnant. After over 7 years of trying, it finally happened. Without any medical intervention or attention, we were expecting.

I believe now that the daily work of entering into that maternity ward was exactly what I needed. I saw everyday reminders that women have babies EVERYDAY. Because I was in a professional setting, I saw this over and over in a way that allowed me to serve those families without begrudging my situation. I saw abundance instead of lack. It prepared my heart for what was to come.

Often our minds focus on the lack- money, love, relationships and fertility. In actuality, focusing on the abundance in all of those things brings them into the forefront and in clearer focus. I realized this weekend (almost 20 years later) that I now know exactly why I chose a degree in Communication Disorders. It wasn’t to be a speech pathologist or audiologist. It was to be an infant hearing screener, making $8 an hour with a bachelor’s degree and preparing my heart to know that life and love are abundant…and in 9 months, my 7 years of Christmas wishes would come true. I would soon have my own baby to love and spoil on Christmas. Incredibly enough, it wasn’t just one baby-I got to have three. They are our miracles.

their first Christmas as a trio: December 2006

two years today

I was new to the neighborhood. I was called to teach the laurels (YW church group age 16-18). Mary was in my class. We always ended with a closing prayer. I would ask for a volunteer. There was a pause and then Mary volunteered. The only reason Mary hesitated was because she had said it the week before. She was so generous with her heart, even at that age. Years later when I had that calling in church again, I asked if she would come back to talk to the girls about her feelings of the gospel. She stood up and showed them a journal that I had given her when she was in my class. It was a scripture journal. She talked about how much it meant to her. I was so surprised-not only that she used it back then in her teens-but that she still had it. It was such a kind gesture, and my heart grew again just by being around her. It’s hard to imagine that this earth has not had Mary here for two years. I know her legacy lives on in so many people, everyone who knew her. Especially this beautiful family of hers. I miss you Mary. I will be wearing red lipstick today and sharing love as much as I can today, because I know that is what you would be doing if you were here.

advent calendar: Christmas books

We have had this tradition since our girls were small. Sometime before December 1st (usually November 30th…and sometimes the morning of the 1st), I wrap 25 books from our Christmas picture book collection. I generally buy a few each year, some have been gifts we have received, a few I have even bought at a 2nd hand store. Our current collection is probably about 35. I pick the 25-this year with help from my girls, claiming several times each “THIS is the very best one”

We did add a little twist this year. With our money system, our girls earn their spending money, buy their own clothes, gas $, etc… They are all feeling a little low in funds SO we put $ in the pages of some of the books. When we began the tradition I numbered the books. For several years now our girls have just chosen which to open. Now that decision will be a little bit more fun for them. The one that opens the book keeps the money. They are excited to start tomorrow. These are the books that I wrapped this year.

OLIVE THE OTHER REINDEER by J.Otto Seibold & Vivian Walsh

THE BERNSTAIN BEARS AND THE JOY OF GIVING & THE CHRISTMAS ANGEL by Mike & Jan Berenstain

THE FRIENDLY BEASTS an old English Christmas Carol by Tomie dePaola

DASHER by Matt Tavares

RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER by Robert L May & Denver Gillen

YES VIRGINIA THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS by Chris Plehal & James Bernardin

THE GIFT OF THE MAGI by O. Henry & P.J. Lynch

NINE DAYS TO CHRISTMAS A Story of Mexico by Marie Hall Ets & Aurora Labastida

THE STORY OF HOLLY & IVY by Rumer Godden & Barbara Cooney (this one is too long for our purposes but it is a sweet story)

GOOD KING WENCESLAS as read by Jane Seymour & illustrated by Omar Rayyan

THE NUTCRACKER IN HARLEM by T.E. McMorrow & James Ransome

MORTIMER’S CHRISTMAS MANGER by Karma Wilson & Jane Chapman

THE CHRISTMAS EVE TREE by Delia Huddy & Emily Sutton

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE for kids by Jimmy Hawkins & Douglas B. Jones

MERRY CHRISTMAS BIG HUNGRY BEAR by Don & Audrey Wood

ONLY A STAR by Margery Facklam & Nancy Carpenter

GREAT JOY by Kate DiCamillo & Bagram Ibatoulline

IF YOU TAKE A MOUSE TO THE MOVIES by Laura Numeroff & Felicia Bond

SANTA CLAUS THE WORLD’S NUMBER ONE TOY EXPERT by Marla Frazee

THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL by Hans Christian Andersen & Jerry Pinkney

SALLY’S CHRISTMAS MIRACLE by Charles Schultz

HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS by Dr. Seuss

A WISH TO BE A CHRISTMAS TREE by Colleen & Michael Monroe

THE GREAT SPRUCE by John Duvall & Rebecca Gibbon

CHRISTMAS ORANGES by Linda Bethers & Ben Sowards

Sometimes my teenagers act like they are too grown up for picture books, then I get these out and working on our selection for the days before Christmas, they are filled with opinions and excitement. What are some of your family favorites that we don’t have listed here? I would love to add them to our collection!

WONDER & SILENCE

“Our society is much more interested in information than wonder, in noise rather than silence…And I feel that we need a lot more WONDER and a lot more SILENCE in our lives.” -Mr. Fred Rogers

I was taught a powerful lesson this Sunday. A young man, who I admire so much, was giving a talk during our church service. His subject was prayer. He stated how many prayers we would have said at that point of the day on a Sunday morning. I can’t remember the number he used—but I remember thinking it was more than I had prayed that day. Then he listed…

morning prayer

breakfast prayer

opening prayer in the church meeting

the sacrament prayer

I had been physically present for all of those prayers that morning, but the reason that number seemed high to me, is because I wasn’t truly present for those prayers. Brayden had suggested later in his talk that we stay on our knees until we feel the real intent we strive for in prayer. Maybe through the silence and quieting our minds that Mr. Rogers suggests we will find the WONDER return in seeking connection with the DIVINE. I am grateful to Brayden (a senior in high school) for teaching me this lesson. I wish you all could have heard his entire talk. I have done better this week because of what he shared.

How do you create quiet and wonder in your lives? It is a serious struggle for us at our house.

create a dream: an apartment complex

My husband Danny read daily from his vision board, OWN A 10PLEX. His vision became a reality when our dear friends decided to sell their apartments. It is a complex that houses 10 families…55 and older. It has been a lot of work for him. He spends every Saturday there, especially in the warm months, and some evenings too. He never complains. His love for this project and place override what it does to his freetime.

How did your dream to own apartments come about?  What has been your inspiration?

My father and grandfather invested money in real estate.  I always knew that I would do the same. 15 years ago we bought our first investment property (a rental house) and we knew that it was the right thing for our family.

Imagine yourself at 80 years old-what will be grateful that you did in this stage of your life? 

80 year old me, will be grateful for the sacrifices I make now.  I love the quote- “today, live like no one else so that tomorrow you can live like no one else.”  Being a man of faith, work and family will be what my future self is most grateful for.  I think I will be grateful for the exercise I do today too.

Is there anything that you do daily no matter what? 

pray

What does the world need more of?

Grateful hardworking people

If you had an extra hour every day, what would you do with it?

Spend it with my girls, long walks with you.

What is the best professional decision you have made?

Take a job with the Woodbury Corporation out of college, and learn about commercial real estate.

What was your first job?

Working on the farm with my grandpa (age 4)

What is the best advice you have been given? Who is it from?

From my grandpa- “hardwork is the only option”

What ______________tool could you not live without? Why?

My truck, It gives me freedom to do a myriad of tasks…haul off old water heaters, pick up loads of trash, pull trailers and not spill gas in my car when I am hauling gas powered tools! 

What does confidence mean to you?  How do you create it in YOUR life?  Confidence is being prepared to take the opportunities when they come to you.  Those opportunities come after a lot of hard work.

What is your favorite failure/mistake?

Anatomy 101 at the University of Utah. It made me realize that I was not going to be a physical therapist, as I had hoped.  I switched to Economics and have loved my profession in commercial real estate and property management.

What is your favorite quote or thought to think?

The scripture in the Book of Mormon, Ether 12:7 “And if men come unto me, I will show unto them their weakness.  I give unto men weakness, that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that  humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

Will you share a favorite routine?  How does it benefit your life?  I get up at 5:20 am every weekday.  I pray, read scriptures, write 10 dreams and 1 goal, what I am excited to do that day, 1 hang up might arise and how I will overcome it.  I read from a book, instructional or inspiring.  Then exercise.  This makes my whole day go amazing.  If you can do those things everyday, you will be ready for the rest of your day.

How do you define success?

Waking up in the morning-being excited about your day.

His hard work and determination inspire me every day.

100 day challenge: round two

I finished my 100 day challenge. I challenged myself to go without sugar (desserts, candy, ice cream, chocolate, etc…) for 100 days. I posted about it here and here. My last day of the challenge was on October 30th. I hadn’t planned for Halloween day to arrive in celebration of the end, but it did. I thought I would be excited- but I was actually kind of bummed it was over. I loved it. It really changed my perspective and habits around treats. I didn’t even want Halloween candy- which was a shocker for me given my previous obsession with chocolate and ice cream. It was gone. I loved the challenge so much-I decided to start a new one.

For my next challenge I was ready to give up another bad habit. As a few days wore on…I started thinking about adding a new habit instead. I do think sometimes it’s easier for me to kill an old one but I was ready for a challenge. My new 100 day challenge:

WRITE 10 VERY SPECIFIC THINGS THAT I AM GRATEFUL FOR, IDEALLY COORDINATING WITH MY 10 DREAMS I WRITE EVERY DAY

More about my dream journal here and here. We are taught from so many sources to seek gratitude in our lives: every self help book I have read (and I have read an embarrassing pile), scriptures, faith leaders, athletic coaches, therapists, financial advisors, motivational speakers, artists, our parents…nearly everyone agrees-

MORE GRATITUDE is what many individuals and groups need.

Some of the inspiration that I have found lately:

this video was our “life coach lesson” last week

this podcast…

this talk

this book…that isn’t specifically about gratitude…but incorporates the benefits of a grateful mindset over and over again

our family quote board

Dedicating myself to a challenge (eliminating most refined sugars from my life) completely changed my mindset and habits. It strengthened my confidence and clarified my perspective. It was actually fun too. I am hopeful that this new challenge will improve my life in even greater ways! Are you interested in a 100 DAY CHALLENGE!? Send me an email @ carindavisphotography@gmail.com and I will email over my 100 DAY CHALLENGE checklist. You can modify for any challenge you are up for. I would love to email it to you!