Thank You Matt Walsh

For the Thanksgiving season I wanted to write some thank-you notes to some of my favorite bloggers.

I came across your blog relatively recently, but I have been very impressed with many of your blog posts. Thank you very much, particularly for your defense of marriage, family, and Christian values. I particularly enjoyed your post about parenting and freedom.

I love your boldness. I love that you are defending truths and standards you’ve come to understand and value. Many of those are things that I also have come to value more as I am now raising my own family.

Thanks again for your efforts.

Squanto

After enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving meal and letting things settle, we sat down and put on the “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” video, which includes a presentation on the pilgrims, their struggles, and the aid that was given to them by the Indians, particularly by Squanto.

I thought about the life that this man had. Captured and taken away from his home, almost sold into slavery, continually trying to return back home. When he is able to return home, it’s not there. His entire tribe has been wiped out by disease.

Two things really strike me about Squanto. the first is that in spite of his sufferings, he chooses to help the Pilgrims. He is not only instrumental, but vital in helping them to survive and learn how to live in their new home (which happens to be his old home). Think about that for a minute. He could so easily have been bitter. He could so easily have withheld his support and knowledge. He could have told Chief Massasoit what horrible people the white men were, but he didn’t. He helped those who were in need.

The second thing that strikes is that because of his sufferings, he is able to help the Pilgrims. Because he was taken to England he learned English, which was critical to his being able to help the Pilgrims right away. He understood the white man, and how they lived. He knew better than anyone how to best help these people.

I am so grateful for the kindness and generosity of this great man.

And I wonder, in what ways will the trials I have and suffering I go through be used to assist others?

The Bishop’s Storehouse

Today I gave a lesson to our deacon’s quorum (12-14 year old boys) about how the Church helps the poor and needy. I shared with them something that I felt should be recorded, and that is when I was the one that was poor and needy.

A few years ago I had an awesome job working for a new startup that showed a lot of promise. In addition, both my dad and brother worked there. Ever since hearing about how my great-grandfather spent a couple years working with his dad, I wanted to have the same experience, and I loved it.

Until the time came that the awesome new startup couldn’t make payroll. This was in October of 2009. So: the holidays are coming up and sorry, no payroll, but don’t worry, money is just around the corner. Well, money continued to be around the corner for another month and a half, and sometime in mid-November, we decided to ask to be laid off.

At this time, my calling in the ward was the assistant clerk over finances, so I was familiar with the fact that if I got in a real bind, then I could go to the bishop and ask if the ward could help out (In the LDS Church, a ward is a local congregation and the bishop is the person in charge, similar to the pastor). As financial clerk, I had helped a number of times to prepare checks to pay for various utility bills for others in need. I think it was late October or early November that I took an occasion to let the bishop know that I was currently not getting paid, and while we did have a little savings and thought we’d be OK, I might be asking for help somewhere down the road.

His response was, “I’d like to meet with you right away.”

Somewhat surprised, I went ahead and met with him and explained that I wasn’t getting paid and it was likely the company would fail. The bishop let me know that in cases like these, I was expected to do everything I could to take care of myself and my family, including trimming down expenses as much as possible, etc. After that, the responsibility to help went to my family–parents and brothers and sisters. After those had been explored and used, the ward could also help in various ways.

He then proceeded to discuss with me my current expenses in some detail. We went through those, and he didn’t find anything that could be trimmed. From there, we discussed in rough terms whether anyone in my family could be approached for help. Given the fact that both Dad and my brother were in the same situation as myself (and they both are typically sources of financial help to other family members), it was pretty apparent that my family was not in a good position to assist. In addition, my wife’s family was not able to assist due to a business venture they were invested in at the time.

But I did have a little money saved up, so why was the bishop working through this with me now? He explained that he thought the wisest approach would be for me to use that money only for bills, rather than waiting to ask for help when all the savings were gone. We would use the bishop’s storehouse for food and other basic necessities that were needed. Handling food was a lot easier than handling bills.

Having said that, the bishop taught me a further lesson about the bishop’s storehouse; that it was not simply food for the poor. In D&C 82:18-19 it reads:

18 And all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church—
19 Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God.

The bishop explained that the storehouse included all the talents and skills of the members in the ward, and we were to use those to assist others. For the help that I would be receiving, I would be expected to assist others. He made note of some skills that I had and we discussed some specific things I would do.

I love that. I love that we all have different skills and abilities, and that we are to use them to help others. We help others and receive help from others. It’s a similar concept to (or you could argue it’s the same concept as) spiritual gifts. There’s a fairly standard mormon gospel lesson on spiritual gifts – the 5 second version is that we all have at least one spiritual gift; we can (and should seek to) increase ours and gain others, and they are for the benefit of others so that we can all rely on each other. Same thing with the Bishop’s Storehouse. But temporal. Someone may need help with their computers. I can help with that. My car may break down. I can’t do much about that. But my neighbor can.

A couple days later the Relief Society president came and helped us with a form that was essentially an expanded version of a shopping list. It contained the items that we could get from the storehouse. She discussed with us what we needed for the week, signed the form and left it with us.

We took that form to the storehouse and filled our carts with what we needed. The checkout process consisted of a worker verifying our items with the form. We found that it wasn’t unusual to be told we weren’t taking enough and a few more things would end up in our cart. The most extreme case of this happened right before Thanksgiving. We explained that we were eating with my wife’s parents so we didn’t really need much, but the storehouse workers insisted that everyone left that day with a Thanksgiving feast. So we took home a turkey, yams, potatoes, cranberry sauce, etc. along with our other items. That year we discovered that our kids really enjoy cranberry sauce.

This was how we lived through November and December 2009. Each week we met with the Relief Society President to handle that week’s form. When the Relief Society President was released and a new one called, we helped her on how the form should be filled out (again, in the LDS faith almost all callings–including the bishop–are temporary and regularly get shuffled). Then we went to the storehouse and got our items. Usually food, formula, and diapers, but once in a while we needed something else. In particular, our kids outgrew their pajamas, so one week we got blanket sleepers for them (They didn’t have enough of our 6 month old boy’s size, so one of the pairs that we got for him was girly–I’m sure it scarred him for life). We didn’t do any other shopping at all. Period.

I did some odd service around the ward, although at the time there wasn’t that much for me to do (a fact the bishop lamented). But I also kept busy job hunting. I found a part-time contract job that paid us a little bit and helped out. My wife already had an at-home part time job which also helped. By Christmas I had a job lined up, and went back to work a few days before the new year. Between the part time jobs and our savings, we just barely had enough to handle our bills and mortgage until I started getting a regular paycheck again.

And what about Christmas? Interestingly enough, that year my wife had been particularly driven to get all the Christmas shopping done really early. I remember mentioning to her several times, “Honey, we don’t have to decide or get this right away, we have lots of time” and she just replied that she really wanted to get it done and taken care of. She finished getting Christmas shopping done in September, and so we had a wonderful Christmas with our extended families. In fact I had to make extra sure the bishop and Relief Society president knew that we were good for Christmas and did not need to be Sub-For-Santa recipients.

So that is our experience. It honestly was not that difficult; I’ve seen others have to struggle much more with financial difficulties than we’ve ever thought of having to. We fell squarely into the safety net of our savings, odd jobs, inspiration, and the Bishop’s Storehouse. We may run into difficulties again and may need help from others. In the meantime we can help others as much as we can. And for that I am truly grateful.

Thank You Diane

You may be aware that I’m doing thank-you notes to my favorite bloggers… now it’s your turn.

I have enjoyed reading your blog as well as your articles on United Families International. Coming from a large family, I like seeing your thoughts as you raise your own large family, and how you and John have met the various struggles and difficulties that have come your way. I have sometimes thought “Is that what my mom went through/thought/did?”

I also enjoy your current format of giving a report on each member of the family – how they are doing and what’s going on with them. I like that you make sure to give space to each of your kids.

I also really appreciate your efforts to defend marriage and family. Thank you for your writings defending faith, religion, motherhood, and family. It takes a lot of research to put some of that stuff together. Thank you also for your efforts on these outside of your blog.

Finally, I want to tell you how much Rosanne and I have enjoyed your friendship and hospitality, how much we love hanging out with you guys, and how impressed we are with your testimony of the Gospel, and your efforts to live by the Spirit. Thank you for being our friend. Thank you for being a great example.

Thank You Josh Weed

For the Thanksgiving season I decided to write some thank you notes to some of my favorite bloggers. I have been following your blog for some time and have been quite impressed with your sincerity and desire to do good. I appreciate you sharing your experiences as best you can, and in particular your defense of the Church.

A favorite scripture of mine is from Mosiah 20:11 – “But they fought for their lives, and for their wives, and for their children; therefore they exerted themselves and like dragons did they fight.”

For one thing, the scripture mentions dragons, which is awesome.

But the main thing about this scripture is the need for us to exert ourselves to keep, protect, and defend our families. I believe that this level of effort is needed more and more in the world we live in. I think the spiritual warfare happening today is on a similar level as the physical battle described there.

As I’ve read your blog, I have been pleased, impressed, and astounded at the level of effort you have put forth to have and keep a family, and stay true to your faith.

Thank you for your example. Thank you for your faith. Thank you for your efforts.

Thank you Jeff Atwood

I’m taking the opportunity of this season to extend my appreciation for some of my favorite blogs, and Coding Horror is one that I have enjoyed for quite a while.

Thank you for your thoughts and your enthusiasm. I love how much you enjoy the topics you post about, like your awesome HTPC build, or what the best computer books are, or how you designed the perfect keyboard.

I have particularly enjoyed the posts you’ve done about your family and/or parenting, and have described and shown your parenting chart to lots of my friends. I absolutely agree–that one percent really does make all the difference!

So I hope you continue to enjoy your job, your fun computer toys, and especially your family, and wish you all the best. Thanks for your words.

Thank you MMM

So this may seem silly, but for Thanksgiving, I decided to spend some time saying thank you to some of my favorite bloggers. And I am pleased to inform you that your Middle-aged Mormon Man blog was one of those few amazingly lucky winners. Try not to get too excited from the prestige of such an honor…

I did want to tell you that I appreciate your blog very much. I have enjoyed your humor as well as your insights. I’m always excited when a new blog entry from MMM shows up on my reading list. Your blogs are consistently fun, uplifting, and/or insightful (OK, yeah, there was the monkey post, but I’m willing to overlook that).

Another thing that stands out to me is your “my blog, my rules”… er, well, rule about comments; that they all need to be respectful and not disparage the Church. I’m not sure why I found that particularly refreshing, but I did. I appreciate that you continually uphold the Church and its standards, and do not let anything on your blog that could be construed otherwise.

I’m grateful that there are people like you who are able to express themselves well and use that gift to uplift and strengthen others and spread the gospel. Thank you very much.

Thanksgiving

I love this time of year. I love that we have a national holiday that is based on gratitude, particularly to God for our blessings. For myself, while I absolutely love the big-huge-meal part of the holiday, each year I am more excited for the gratitude that is (or at least should be) behind it.

One tradition that many people do for Thanksgiving is to express gratitude for something on each day on November, leading up to Thanksgiving (typically on Facebook). While I like that idea, it’s not one that I have done myself, although I encourage you to consider President Eyring’s words on the subject:

I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.

More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance—even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened.

I have tried to do this, with limited success… I haven’t yet really got it into my routine. Maybe if I had a routine…

Anyway, I don’t think we say thank you enough. I’m always in such a hurry rushing from one thing to another, family-work-church-kids-wife-friends-church-work-family that I think that I have been remiss in expressing gratitude in some cases, and even recognizing the need to in others. Notes and expressions of gratitude and encouragement go a long way.

What I intend to do this Thanksgiving season is write thank-you notes to some of my favorite bloggers. I’m somewhat addicted to blogs, and there are 4 or 5 in particular that I have really enjoyed and/or felt inspired and instructed by generally. They have had posts I have enjoyed pretty consistently, rather than just one or two posts (not that I agree with everything they have to say). I’ll post those notes here on my blog.