Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Toasted Coconut Muesli with Cardamom, Ginger, and Dried Fruit

things I could be blogging about: I turned 35, we went on a ten-day spur-of-the-moment camping trip to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and Utah, Isaac turned 9, the kids start school in less than 2 weeks and the summer is almost over, Isaac started orthodontia, my sister started chemo, our garden is crazy huge, I've been doing tons of home projects, my tumors were benign.

things I'm going to blog about: the recipe for this muesli, because I wrote it up for a friend today and people are always asking for it.

so here it is. 

Toasted Coconut Muesli with Cardamom, Ginger, and Dried Fruit
6 c. old-fashioned oats
1 c. shredded coconut
1 c. pepitas
1 c. sunflower seeds
1/4 c. flax seeds (honestly for this part I just throw in all the seed varieties I have on hand). 
optional: chopped nuts (we like slivered almonds)

Combine that list of ingredients, and then boil together scant cup of sugar, 1/4 c. oil (I like to use coconut oil) and 1/4 c. water. Or you could just do 3/4 c. honey and 1/4 c. oil but I usually end up using sugar because I'd rather save my honey for other things where I notice it more. Then I add a teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, ginger, and cardomom (sometimes I throw in fennel or nutmeg or whatever seems good), boil everything until the sugar has dissolved, and stir it into the oats mixture.

Grease 2 rimmed baking sheets, divide the mixture in half, spread evenly on sheets, and bake at 300 for 22 minutes, stopping halfway through to stir/swap sheets' places if your oven doesn't accommodate them side by side. Remove immediately from baking sheets when done so they don't continue to cook.

Then I like to add dried fruit--my kids' favorites are slivered apricots, Craisins, raisins, dates, prunes, etc. 

And voila! Should keep in an airtight container until you've eaten it up (which is about 3 days in my house so I don't know how long it would last otherwise!)
ps I like to buy my spice's from Penzey's. They are awesome. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018


I've been wanting to blog for awhile but my heart has been so heavy. Finally sitting down today to jot down a few things.

Yesterday I had outpatient surgery to remove a (likely) benign 5-cm tumor from the base of my skull. It was not fun--very painful and involved shaving part of my head--and I would be feeling a lot more sorry for myself, except that my sister was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and nothing can compare to how devastated I am by her diagnosis.

It's been really hard for me to do much of anything the last couple of weeks other than think about her and pray and cry. There were about four days in a row where Neil would get home from work and I would just go to bed because I had exhausted all my emotional resources and I had to just go cry somewhere away from the kids and just be alone.

I really don't know what else to say. This has been so big and so consuming. And there have been some other things weighing on me that I can't talk about here, but right now is a pretty heavy time. I threw away my prescription for Percocet post-surgery because I think I would be far too susceptible to opiod addiction right now.

I guess what I want to say is that just because there are good things in my life--or anyone's life--it doesn't mean that there aren't also awful terrible things. There are still so many little things I find joy in--(houseplants! yesterday's solo ten miles before the sun came up! my crazy huge garden! date nights with neil!) that make life wonderful, and then there are other things that make it achingly awful and unbearable. And right now it totally goes minute to minute on whether the good things or the bad things are more influential.

It's been a hard summer. I've felt pretty inadequate as a mother and worried that we're not doing many fun things. (Apparently it's easy for me to discount trips to the Outer Banks and Yellowstone and just focus on the days where we stayed in our pajamas and one child complained about being bored.)  I've gone back and forth between loving having all my children home--they're so wonderful and delightful and I never want them to go back to school!!!--and thinking I will go INSANE with the mess and the chaos and the bickering.

This I know about myself: I need a spotless home to feel my best.

Also I have six children.

But for now, it's quiet with Matthew asleep, Neil and the kids went to see Incredibles 2 for Isaac's birthday (how is he already 9???!!) and my mile-long to-do list is beckoning me even more than the throbbing pain in my skull which is begging for a nap and more Tylenol, so I will end this here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Happy days

Dear younger children, your lives aren’t documented the way your older siblings’ are not because I love you any less, but because we are so much busier! But honestly, Matthew, even though you barely exist on this blog, I don’t think it’s possible for any younger sibling to be cherished more than you! (And you’re all over Instagram.)

Life these days is busy and happy. Jam-packed full of goodness and learning and growth. I want to have a record of these “normal” days like i do for the days with the older kids when they were young, so here’s yesterday: early five miles before the kids were awake, home to start laundry and breakfast, grocery store with Nathan and Matthew while Luke and Isaac played downstairs and the girls slept in (teenagers???!!!), making jam, then chores and piano, IKEA for lunch and to throw Matthew in the stuffed kitties, pool in the afternoon, dinner on the deck, biking to the playground with a strawberry pie for dessert, scriptures and prayer and collapsing into bed. I’m tired all the time but it’s a good tired—3 weeks into summer vacation and we are mostly through the camps and just settling in to our summer rhythm.

And I continue to be crazy giddy happy and in love with our life here. So so so so so so so happy it basically is constantly bursting out of me.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Summer Reading 2018

I figure since most of my kids are 4 books into their summer reading lists, I really should post these already!!

 Here are the lists the kiddos are working through this year (we have a few repeats from last summer since several of the children asked to swap out books once they got really into a series--my strategy is often to ask them to read the first in the series in hopes that they get hooked!). I ask the kids to read specifically from their lists for 30 minutes a day, so the children who fall in love with their books and keep reading (rather than switching back to whatever else they're reading) generally make it most of the way through their lists...and a certain child reads the assigned book for exactly 30 minutes (setting a timer) and then goes back to the previous activity. Different strokes!

Abigail (just finished 7th grade)
1) Rilla of Ingleside (L.M. Montgomery)
2) A Wizard's Dozen (ed. Michael Stearns)
3) The Sherwood Ring
4) Cart and Cwidder (Diana Wynne Jones)
5) Drowned Ammet (Diana Wynne Jones)
6) Trickster's Choice (Tamora Pierce)
7) Trickster's Queen (Tamora Pierce)
8) The Outlaws of Sherwood (Robin McKinley)
9) Hawk of May (Gillian Bradshaw)
10) The Demon King (Cinda Williams Chima)
11) The Phantom Tollbooth  (Norton Juster)
12) The Hiding Place (Corrie Ten Boom)
13) Peter Pan (J.M. Barrie)--link is to my absolute favorite edition with illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman, but you can certainly find a more inexpensive version! ;-)
14) The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)
15) Puck of Pook's Hill (Rudyard Kipling)
16) A Year in Provence (Peter Mayle)
17) Monsoon Diary (Shoba Narayan)
18) Assassin's Apprentice (Robin Hobb)

Juliet (just finished 5th grade)
1) Eragon (Christopher Paolini)
2) Watership Down (Richard Adams)
3)The Blue Sword (Robin McKinley)
4) Cart and Cwidder (Diana Wynne Jones)
5) Drowned Ammet (Diana Wynne Jones)
6) A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
7) Magic Kingdom for Sale--Sold! (Terry Brooks)
8) The Witch of Blackbird Pond (Elizabeth George Speare)
9) The Oracle Betrayed (Catherine Fisher)
10) Eight Cousins (Louisa May Alcott)
11) Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
12) Swiss Family Robinson (Johann David Wyss)
13) Sorcery and Cecilia (Wrede/Stevermer)
14) The Giver (Lois Lowry)
15) Mistborn (Brandon Sanderson)

Isaac (just finished 3rd grade)
1) Time Cat (Lloyd Alexander)
2) From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E.L. Koningsburg)
3) The Egypt Game (Zilpha Keatley Snyder)
4) Charmed Life (Dianna Wynne Jones)
5) The Lives of Christopher Chant (Dianna Wynne Jones)
6) The Wheel on the School (Meindert deJong)
7-11) The Chronicles of Prydain  (Lloyd Alexander)
--The Book of Three
--The Black Cauldron
--The Castle of Llyr
--Taran Wanderer
--The High King

Luke (just finished 1st grade)
1) Grip of the Shadow Plague (Brandon Mull)
2) Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary (Brandon Mull)
3) Keys to the Demon Prison (Brandon Mull)
4) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Rowling)...etc. Hoping this takes off and he likes it more than he did last summer ;-). He started Brandon Mull's Fablehaven series the last week of school, whipped through the first two, and is now most of the way through the fourth one, so I would not be surprised if he finishes the Harry Potter series by the end of summer.

Summer Reading 2017
Summer Reading 2016

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

the years are short

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.” --Mary Jean Irion

I've been thinking a lot lately about the passage of time in my life as a mother. We are in the thick of "birthday season" right now with Abigail turning 13 two weeks ago and Nathan turning 5 last week and Luke turning 7 next week. I literally have 21 days left of having two children at home during the schooldays. Ever. For the rest of my life.

I will never again have two of my babies home during the school day.

For some reason that is hitting me so much harder than having a teenager--the teen years are new to me but the years of reading stories and taking walks in the sunshine have been my life for more than a decade. And since we moved things have already changed so much--Nathan goes to preschool every afternoon rather than just three times a week; we are busier in the mornings with house projects (and the house is so much bigger that I spend much more time cleaning), the older kids get home an hour earlier, etc. I feel like the pace of life has accelerated dramatically in the last six months and I still haven't caught up.

I'm typing this right now while Matthew naps. The house is silent. Outside I can see the cherry, crabapple, and pear blossoms blowing in the wind--petals are drifting down to carpet the grass with pale-pink snow. I'm so grateful for my beautiful life and my sweet children, and for the years I have had with tiny little people occupying my days.

Next year I will only have Matthew home with me during the day. And then a few years after that he will start kindergarten, and the year after that Abigail will leave for college.

It goes so fast.  

Thursday, March 29, 2018

eleven thoughts on a thursday

I have so much I want to write down but never time to do it! Stealing some instagram photos and jotting down a few notes.

1) First of all, Matthew is 18 months old! I have just savored his babyhood so much. So delicious and delightful and wonderful. I'm so grateful we are ending our baby years on Matthew; all of our babies have been a joy but some have been more stressful than others. ;-) And it's great to go out with beautiful memories of this chapter of our lives. A few years ago I was just absolutely devastated by the thought that we would have no more babies. And now I am at peace. When I look at pictures of the girls when they were little, I still feel an ache of missing my sweet girls at that stage...but having older children really is a delight in so many ways. (Is it weird that I'm looking forward to grandbabies in the next decade or two?)

But Matthew certainly keeps us on our toes. He isn't talking much (which is starting to become more and more stressful). He seems to understand everything we say, and he says a few words, but most of his energy seems to be funneled into death-defying stunts. At his 16-month checkup the pediatrician watched him rapidly scale the exam table, then looked at me and said, "I'll bet he's not talking much, is he?" and reassured me that some kids focus on speech and some on movement...but I hope the movement slows down soon and the speech picks up! (A few days ago I found him standing on 5 stacked stools that he'd climbed in order to get at a box of applesauce squeeze pouches, which are stored above my head height.)

Matty loves his stuffed cats, his bottle (argh, gotta get rid of that thing), Legos, anything mechanical/building-inclined (he likes to stick screwdrivers into all the electrical all the time), feeding himself food he scavenges for himself as opposed to food placed on his high chair tray, turning off the washer and dryer, hiding in the laundry room cubbies, sneaking out into the garage and dumping all the cat food into the cat water, sneaking into the girls' room and getting out all the tiny ceramic animals in Juliet's drawer, coloring on the walls/floor/windows/doors, digging with a spoon in all the houseplants, climbing inside the dishwasher, taking baths, eating hummus from a spoon, drinking from everyone else's waterbottle, biting into clementines and furiously chewing through the skin to turn everything to pulp, bringing everyone their shoes all day long, taking rides in laundry baskets...basically he's a full-fledged toddler. Some of my favorite things about him at this stage: he always folds his arms if anyone says the word "prayer" or "Heavenly Father," when you ask him a question and he nods yes he will bow from the waist instead of just nodding his head, and he loves music SO SO SO much and is basically the most enthusiastic dancer you can possibly imagine.

Whew--that was a lot! Still with me?

2) Isaac had his first Pinewood Derby this week for Cub Scouts. To say it went well is an understatement--he won every heat that he was in, won his age group, and then won the 1st place overall. He tried so hard to be a good winner and not celebrate excessively while he was still around his fellow competitors, but man that kiddo was so darn overjoyed when we got home! He's slept with his car every night since. He's so much like Neil in his ability to analyze the mechanics of an engineering problem.  As I was watching him pour melted lead into his car I thought back to 2-year-old Isaac doing puzzles every day for 3 hours straight and 3-year-old Isaac following advanced Lego instructions before he could read and 4-year-old Isaac building wildly complex K’nex roller coaster tracks that took up his entire bedroom. This kid is single-minded in his love for engineering, physics, and mathematics, and he understands them intuitively in ways I never have until he explains something to me and suddenly the concept clicks into place. One of the most delightful things about parenting is watching my children surpass my own abilities and excel in their passions.

And now some shorter thoughts. :-)

3) Neil has been traveling a looooot lately. We are adjusting and I'm pretty proud of all of us. The first few trips were pretty rough (going to Germany for 2 weeks back to back will do that, especially if the house floods during the resident engineer's absence) but I feel like we're settling into a groove. We've got this!

4) On that note, one of the things I like to do when Neil is gone is watch hair tutorial videos on YouTube. It's pretty fun and I've gotten some great ideas. My hair is so long now that I braid it most days and it's exciting to have it be a production rather than something I'm racing through. :-) I feel very Edwardian as I brush my hair out and rebraid it at night before bed. I've also been trying to really up my skincare game and so now I have this whole routine that I do every night and it is SOOOOO calming! I've always been pretty good about skincare and I always take off my makeup before I sleep and I literally cannot skip moisturizer or I feel like my face will fall off, but...there's a difference between washing your face because you have to and taking care of your skin because you love the ritual of it. I've been using this Neutrogena face wash for literally the last twenty years (if I'm super tired I use the Costco makeup wipes), so that hasn't changed, but recently I switched from this L''Oreal overnight brightening moisturizer (which I really liked but I didn't like mixing the things together because it always made me worry that I was mixing unevenly) to this Baebody one  and I am so in love with it! I also use this eye cream and then I spritz my face and chest with this rosewater & glycerin spray. And once a week or so I work coconut oil through my hair and then braid it, sleep on it, and wash it like normal the next day. So there you have my nightly beauty routine that brings me so much calming joy (I also wear a silk kimono my mom brought me from Hong Kong which really adds to the whole experience, haha!).

5) Earlier week I made a really good salad out of random stuff in the fridge: romaine, beets (sauteed them with rosemary in olive oil), feta, bacon, quinoa, clemintines, and Craisins. I dressed it with olive oil, black currant balsamic, Himalayan salt, lime, and honey. Sooooo good and I'm  eating the leftovers as I type this.

6) I have a half-marathon this weekend. I'm actually still signing up for the full marathon which will make this the first race I have not completed as scheduled...but man, plantar fasciitis is NO joke and I am super super grateful to be able to just run the half! I'm on week 5 of a strength-training program I'm doing with my sister and I really feel like it's made a huge difference in my running, both in the absence of fascial pain and also in my speed. Fingers crossed that it's a fun day Saturday--I'm not racing it but I'd still like to enjoy it and the forecast is for cold rain--yikes!

7) The kids start spring break tomorrow and I can't WAIT. I am SO SO SO excited. Of course this rain could seriously mess up all my awesome plans, but...I think we will still have fun. On the schedule--Conner Prairie, cheer for my race as it winds through our neighborhood (!!!), playdates with friends, the zoo, Decker grandparents for Easter weekend, lots of hiking, cousins Addie & Idris, and Aunt Rosalind & Uncle Chris!

8) I am kind of obsessed with Great British Baking Show. Most Sunday nights we watch an episode together as a family but last Sunday we were slow on dinner jobs, didn't watch our show, and I am DYING. I seriously love that show and it gives me inspiration all week!! Plus we get super into it and we all have our favorites and we've gotten to be pretty invested armchair critics (and it's awesome how much more appreciative my kids are whenever Neil or I bake something! Always fun to hear someone pronounce "this is a good bake").

9) I feel like Neil and I have grown a lot closer in the last six months, and I'm so grateful for this. We had a pretty rocky patch after Nathan was born, and we've been good since then, but the last six months I feel like we've really stepped up our game. We've spent more time together working on projects around the house and discussing long-term future plans (for so long we've just been focused on graduation and not able to look beyond that step) and it just reminds me how dang head over heels I am for this guy.

10) Last week I ordered 5 fruit trees, rhubarb plants, and a whole bunch of raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry bushes. I'm so excited to plant all these new friends and start a little orchard in our big beautiful backyard! Already daydreaming about bees...

11) And finally--I am so grateful for how well all the kids are doing in school. There's a huge hubbub right now because our district is phasing out high-ability programming (WHY ARE YOU INSANE?!!!) and while I am very frustrated by it and I've been contacting people and writing letters and attending meetings, I am very at peace at the same time, because I'm confident that my children will continue to thrive. We were prepared for a pretty big dip in grades as they adjusted here, but they came through with flying colors and have continued to absolutely ace every evaluation and in many ways are doing better academically than in our previous district. Abigail was invited to join the Junior National Honor Society and is continuing on the highest honor roll with her 4.0; all the other kids have straight A's, and Luke has been invited to participate in (whatever they have for) high-ability programming next year. And Nathan is constantly asking me how to spell things so he can write messages to all of us, and it is pretty much the cutest thing ever. Isaac just finished up programming club, Abigail is involved in space & rocketry club, and we're about to start spring sports. Life is good. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Full of light

I snapped this photo last Saturday just before Neil and I went out to dinner. I love it because it captures just how I feel these days: happy. Content. Full of light and invigorated by life.

It feels a little silly to blog when I have nothing to say other than "I am so much happier than I have been in years and years and years," but that's the truth.

Tonight I was at a flower & garden show with a friend. We had such a good time just wandering around looking at things and chatting. At one point we had stopped by a booth that was making customized orthotics, and we were talking about foot issues and she asked if I was training for anything right now, and I said I'd originally been training for a marathon but had to drop down to the half because of plantar fasciitis. We talked a little more about the time commitment involved in marathon training, and as we were talking I realized something--for the first time in years I am not using running as a method of control. I mean, I ran a marathon with a stress fracture, for crying out loud! And I am so happy and so content in my life right now that running is ancillary to my happiness, and I have not been able to say that since 2007.


For so many years I felt like so many things in my life were out of my control--that I was suspended in limbo, unable to progress forward. And in the last five months I have felt absolutely drenched in the outpouring of heaven's blessings--literally, I have felt that there is not room enough to receive all that the Lord has given us. I am so incredibly grateful for the amazing friends that surround us here and the way I have just fallen in love with our life here.

I'm going to write that again because I can't emphasize it enough--I am so, so, so grateful for the friends we are making here. I don't think it is possible to feel more welcomed and loved than I have felt.

And my children are thriving. Really and truly thriving. We had a few very rocky months but we're coming through and things are SO good for everyone.

Neil is loving his new job. He feels valued and appreciated & that his work is measurably contributing to the company's success. Such a blessing after the last twelve years of entirely opposite treatment!!! (I really can't write much about that here but most of you probably know what I want to say.)

And I love our home here so much. Every day I just look around and I'm filled with such gratitude that we live here in this beautiful home and that we are able to do projects that make me love it even more (in the last two weeks we installed new double ovens and a Jenn-Air gas commercial-style gas cooktop and ALL THE HEART EYES).

I love our ward here. I love that my children are excited to go to church and that they are learning so much from so many good people. I love love love my calling and the chance to serve with the amazing women in the presidency and our absolutely fantastic group of Primary workers.

I love the library with its heirloom seed library and its child-sized door for storytime and its endless rows of books that make it double the size of any library I've been in before. I love the arts & design district which is always the high point of my runs and I love the trails along the river and the greenway that is full of friendly runners and the roundabouts that drove me nuts at first but now I can't live without them. I love the Christmas lights that are still up on the fountains and pine trees in the center of the roundabouts. I love that my kids can bike to school or to the playground and that there are always kids out playing tennis in the street or biking or starting up a game of baseball. I love the funny weekly paper that always gives me info about what exciting things are going on. I love the parks with their inventive play structures and free maple sugar bush tours (hello that was the best morning ever!!!). I love the schools that give my kids the opportunity to study violin and foreign languages and STEM and ceramics. I love seeing Isaac's excitement when I pick him up from programming club and Abigail's joy after rocketry club. I love that the soccer fields and baseball fields are both within biking distance from our house. I love the ponds and creeks everywhere--it seems like I can always hear the sound of water. I love the proximity to Costco and Trader Joe's and IKEA and Whole Foods and Hobby Lobby--this is the first time in more than a decade that I can be at a Target in five minutes instead of twenty-five! I love our fantastic piano teacher and all our friendly welcoming dog-walking neighbors that my kids always refer to by name & pet as they walk by: "That's Melvin with the sausage dog." "There's Elaine with the frisky black dog." I love the friends who show up at my door with soup when I have the flu and the friends who drive carpool with me and the friends who worry about class changes for next year with me and the friends who lovingly describe pie recipes while we run at 6 am and the friends who stay at my house until 11 pm and tell me we feel like family and the friends who tell my kids they can't just eat tortilla chips for dinner and the friends who drop by to chat & clean my kitchen while they're at it and the friends who invite me for movie nights and the friends who have us over for dinner because they have lots of kids too and don't mind the crazy and the friends who trade playdates with me and text me for spontaneous double date nights and the friends who just text me to see how the day is going and if I want to meet up at a park.

I love it here.

There were so many dark years in West Lafayette where I honestly did not know if I would survive. If our marriage would survive. If my faith would survive. I clung so desperately to the promises I had felt and the peace I had felt when we originally prayed about our choice to attend Purdue for graduate school. I reminded myself over and over of the words of our stake president in blessings that he gave Neil & me during our last years there--that this was where the Lord wanted us; that he was mindful of our family, and that this was all for a wise purpose in him.

And I am so overwhelmed with joy and gratitude to see that purpose now. To know that had Neil not been forced to switch research topics after six years that this job would not have been possible. That had he not been delayed over and over by equipment failures, by funding losses, by research obstacles, that this field would not have been an area of extreme priority for his current employer. That had his funding continued as we had originally planned he would never have been assigned to the research opportunity that introduced him to his employer; that had his funding not completely run out and he literally worked for almost a year for no salary...this job would never have worked out in the way it did. That we would never have experienced the richness of happiness that we are enjoying now.

And I am so grateful for the fact that during all those years I was able to work. When Neil and I were married, my plan was to go to law school, and as I was proceeding with my application and preparation for the LSAT, it was very very very clear to me that law was not the Lord's plan for me, and that I was supposed to pursue a master's in English instead. I was absolutely ENRAGED by this (I vividly remember throwing everything within reach when I got up from that prayer), but my master's program gave me the training and education that has provided for our family so that we never had to take out student loans. We definitely lived on a student budget (and man did I love ordering furniture for our new home over the last few months!) but we always had enough for our needs and some of our wants. Such tremendous blessings and I can so clearly see the hand of the Lord guiding us here over the last fifteen years.

I just really hope that we get to stay put for awhile. ;-)

Last but not least, I have thought of this talk so, so, so, so, so many times over the last years. Neil and I used to listen to it a lot the first few years that we were married--we would go for a drive up in the mountains and turn this on. So frequently I would be praying and just pleading with the Lord to help me make it through another day and I would hear "I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to be."

So I hope this helps someone else the way it has helped me.

"Could I tell you just a quick story out of my own experience in life? Sixty-odd years ago I was on a farm in Canada. I had purchased the farm from another who had been somewhat careless in keeping it up. I went out one morning and found a currant bush that was at least six feet high. I knew that it was going all to wood. There was no sign of blossom or of fruit. I had had some experience in pruning trees before we left Salt Lake to go to Canada, as my father had a fruit farm. So I got my pruning shears and went to work on that currant bush, and I clipped it and cut it and cut it down until there was nothing left but a little clump of stumps.
And as I looked at them, I yielded to an impulse, which I often have, to talk with inanimate things and have them talk to me. It’s a ridiculous habit. It’s one I can’t overcome. As I looked at this little clump of stumps, there seemed to be a tear on each one, and I said, “What’s the matter, currant bush? What are you crying about?”
And I thought I heard that currant bush speak. It seemed to say, “How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. I was almost as large as the fruit tree and the shade tree, and now you have cut me down. And all in the garden will look upon me with contempt and pity. How could you do it? I thought you were the gardener here.”
I thought I heard that from the currant bush. I thought it so much that I answered it.
I said, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. If I let you go the way you want to go, you will never amount to anything. But someday, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to think back and say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.’”
Ten years passed, and I found myself in Europe. I had made some progress in the First World War in the Canadian army. In fact, I was a field officer, and there was only one man between me and the rank of general, which I had cherished in my heart for years. Then he became a casualty. And the day after, I received a telegram from London from General Turner, who was in charge of all Canadian officers. The telegram said, “Be in my office tomorrow morning at ten o’clock.”
I puffed up. I called my special servant. (We called them “batmen” over there.) I said, “Polish my boots and my buttons. Make me look like a general, because I am going up tomorrow to be appointed.”
He did the best he could with what he had to work on, and I went to London. I walked into the office of the general. I saluted him smartly, and he replied to my salute as higher officers usually do to juniors—sort of a “Get out of the way, worm.” Then he said, “Sit down, Brown.”
I was deflated. I sat down. And he said, “Brown, you are entitled to this promotion, but I cannot make it. You have qualified and passed the regulations, you have had the experience, and you are entitled to it in every way, but I cannot make this appointment.”
Just then he went into the other room to answer a phone call, and I did what most every officer and man in the army would do under those circumstances: I looked over on his desk to see what my personal history sheet showed. And I saw written on the bottom of that history sheet in large capital letters: “THIS MAN IS A MORMON.”
Now at that time we were hated heartily in Britain, and I knew why he couldn’t make the appointment. Finally he came back and said, “That’s all, Brown.”
I saluted him, less heartily than before, and went out. On my way back to Shorncliffe, 120 kilometers away, I thought every turn of the wheels that clacked across the rails was saying, “You’re a failure. You must go home and be called a coward by those who do not understand.”
And bitterness rose in my heart until I arrived, finally, in my tent, and I rather vigorously threw my cap on the cot, together with my Sam Browne belt. I clenched my fist, and I shook it at heaven, and I said, “How could you do this to me, God? I’ve done everything that I knew how to do to uphold the standards of the Church. I was making such wonderful growth, and now you’ve cut me down. How could you do it?”
And then I heard a voice. It sounded like my own voice, and the voice said, “I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to be. If I let you go the way you want to go, you will never amount to anything. And someday, when you are ripened in life, you are going to shout back across the time and say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.’”
Those words—which I recognize now as my words to the currant bush and that had become God’s word to me—drove me to my knees, where I prayed for forgiveness for my arrogance and my ambition.
As I was praying there, I heard some Mormon boys in an adjoining tent singing the closing number to an M.I.A. session, which I usually attended with them. And I recognized these words, which all of you have memorized:
It may not be on the mountain height
Or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle’s front
My Lord will have need of me;
But if, by a still, small voice he calls
To paths that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine:
I’ll go where you want me to go.
. . .
So trusting my all to thy tender care,
And knowing thou lovest me,
I’ll do thy will with a heart sincere;
I’ll be what you want me to be.

[“It May Not Be on the Mountain Height,” Hymns,1948, no. 75]
My young friends and brothers and sisters, will you remember that little experience that changed my whole life? Had the Gardener not taken control and done for me what was best for me, or if I had gone the way I wanted to go, I would have returned to Canada as a senior commanding officer of western Canada. I would have raised my family in a barracks. My six daughters would have had little chance to marry in the Church. I myself would probably have gone down and down. I do not know what might have happened, but this I know, and this I say to you and to Him in your presence, looking back over sixty years: “Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down.”

--Hugh B Brown, "God Is the Gardener"
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