Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Meaning Behind My Christmas Tree

One of the favorite activities for me as a child was helping decorate our Christmas tree. I only remember two things about our tree in particular. We had bubble lights, which I'd like to find today, and Mom had us put on silver icicles so very, very carefully. They had to be put on just right. I loved helping put those icicles on. Mom used them over and over so when we took the tree down, we had to take one icicle off at a time and very carefully lay them down in the box for next year. We all had our own personal decorations made at school that went on the tree, but I don't remember them.

As we got older, Mom began to take the reigns and decorate the way only Mom could decorate with beautiful color schemes and with decorations she made herself. She loved decorating her Christmas tree, too. I think that was probably the only thing that brought her real joy during the holiday season. The rest of the "stuff" was stressful for her.

Our Christmas tree has become very meaningful to me during the past 4-5 years. Before that, I just gratefully used whatever we could find, whatever anyone gave to us or whatever we could scrounge up. It had no meaning except for the few ornaments each child made at school which was added to the tree. As I tried to switch my head and heart over to the real meaning of Christmas (honoring Christ) and rid myself of guilt and feelings of inadequacies regarding the kinds of gifts I could (or could not) give, the tree became my focus.

I love my tree. It is not large or opulent. I think everybody should love their trees. We bought a medium sized fake tree that was not pre-lit. I had to have a tree that I could lift by myself. Jim and Christmas trees don't get along well. (Ask a neighbor that saw our tree catapult into her yard one year. But that's another story for another time.) So I put up the tree. I take it down. It has to be smallish. While I'd love to have a beautiful, full, pine smelling tree, they are too expensive now. I have to be content with what I have. And I am.

Every year I had added one or two new decorations and the colors morph a bit. There's more red on the tree this year. I thought I'd tell what each major ornament means to me and why it's on the tree.

I believe that Christ really lived on earth, died and atoned for our sins. I believe that is the reason we celebrate Christmas. And one day, because of  Him, peace will come to the earth. Full, everlasting peace.
 Adrianne sent me a large LOVE nativity a year ago. It is spectacular! When I saw that they were making small ones, I ordered ten to give to the women I visit teach, to the people Jim and Ammon home teach and to my co-workers. I am totally in love with these as ornaments as well as the big one. That is what Christmas embodies.
 Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus. The small key next to them says "Let Him in." This is pretty self-explanatory. This is a small one. I have a larger one that is front and center on the tree.
 This is one very large icicle. I have many smaller, clear glass icicles. They represent not only the icicles we hung on our tree when I was little, but they also represent the frigid fairy tale winters in Cokeville, which I loved.

 The snow-covered trees on this ornament reflect my memories of winter in Wyoming. Once the snow started to fall, it didn't leave for eight months. It was cold and white and beautiful.

 There are many clear glass ornaments that were my mother's. I inherited all her Christmas decorations. Her taste wasn't mine but the clear glass balls are classy and timeless. They remind me of her. She was classy and even though she has passed away from this earth, she, too, is timeless and I"ll see her again one day.
 Another nativity scene to remind me of the true meaning of a special day.

 I have several different kinds of snowflakes on the tree that I love. This one is simple but it reminds me of our living room windows every winter morning in Cokeville. Jack Frost came every night and brought new and beautiful patterns etched on the inside (yes, inside) of our living room windows. I never tired of looking at those patterns of frost.
 On the top of my piano are the nativity scenes - the ceramic figurines were made by Mom. The Christus statue stands above all in the room and the LOVE nativity scene was made by my daughter, reminding me of my love for all my children and for the love the Savior has for all of us.


 I put all the Santa Class figurines that I have on top of the bookshelf this year with garland and lights. The tree has no Santa Class mention. But these Santa Clauses are special to me because they were all given to our family. Most came the year we got the quilt with all the money tied to it. I want to always have them present to remind me to always be grateful and to express my gratitude to people who care about me and share with me some part of their goodness. That's why the Santa Clauses are on display.

 So here's my simple little tree that is packed full of memories and meaning to me.
I hope you find the same kind of joy and meaning in your own trees this year.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ammon's Missionary Talk

The following is the talk Ammon gave in Church as his "Missionary Talk." He found all the resources, quotes and scriptures. I helped him organize it. His testimony at the end are his exact words.  I thought this was pretty impressive.

By Elder Clark

Good morning brothers and sisters. I would like to begin my talk first of all with a quote from a General Conference address given by Elder David L. Beck in April 2013 entitled Your Sacred Duty to Minister to Others. 

Minister every day. Opportunities are all around you. Look for them. Ask the Lord to help you recognize them. You will find that most consist of small, sincere acts that help others become followers of Jesus Christ. 

I would like to talk a little bit about service and why it’s important and how we can do it. As Elder Beck said, we should be serving in one way or another every day. The acts of service don’t have to be huge and time-consuming. They should just be thoughtful things you do throughout your day. Elder Beck gives us more ideas of how to minister. He said, Start in your own home. This is where you can do your most important ministering.
He then suggested a great way for young people to minister. Quote:
Do you want to try an interesting experiment? The next time your mother asks for your help around the house, say something like, “Thank you for asking, Mom. I would love to help.” Then watch her reaction. Some of you might want to brush up on your first aid skills before you try this. You may send her into shock. After you revive her, you’ll find a noticeable improvement in your relationship with her and an increase of the Spirit in your home.
That’s just one way to minister to your family; there are many others. You minister as you speak kind words to family members. You minister as you treat your siblings like your best friends.
We, as priesthood holders also have a duty to minister in our quorums. One of the kindest ways to serve and minister is to sincerely care about our quorum members. We need to pay attention to their activity and their needs and do our best to support them.

In Mosiah 2:17, King Benjamin said, “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God."

Have you noticed that when we talk about missionaries that go out into the world we say they are “serving” in certain locations? Why do we use the term serve? Because missionaries are trying to find God’s children and teach them who they are and what they should do to return to Heavenly Father. Most of them don’t know about any of this. Elder May will be serving Heavenly Fathers’ children that reside in Germany. He will search for them. He will teach them. He will serve, physically in any way they need. That is what King Benjamin meant that when we serve our fellow beings, we are only serving God. He loves all of His children and wants them to return to Him. We help accomplish that.
I am serving in a different capacity. I am still a missionary but I help more with the temporal side of things. At the Deseret Meat facility, I do the orientation for the volunteers. I tell them what they need to do to be safe and to keep the products safe and clean for those who will eat it. I show the safety video. I fold gloves (which was hard for me to learn to do). I shred paper. I just do whatever they need me to do. This, too, is helping the work of the Lord. I, too, am serving.

I will go through the temple on Saturday and after I have done that, I will be qualified to help serve and work in the temple as a volunteer. We all know that work in the temple is for those who have already died and can’t do their own work. That is the highest form of service.
Elder Ballard talked about service in a conference talk in October 2012. His talk is entitled: Anxiously Engaged.
He said, We are to love God and to love and care for our neighbors as ourselves. Imagine what good we can do in the world if we all join together, united as followers of Christ, anxiously and busily responding to the needs of others and serving those around us—our families, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow citizens.
How do we ingrain this love of Christ into our hearts? There is one simple daily practice that can make a difference for every member of the Church” That simple practice is: In your morning prayer each new day, ask Heavenly Father to guide you to recognize an opportunity to serve one of His precious children. Then go throughout the day with your heart full of faith and love, looking for someone to help. 

Elder Ballard ended his talk with some good advice. He said, I know that if you do this—at home, at school, at work, and at church—the Spirit will guide you, and you will be able to discern those in need of a particular service that only you may be able to give. You will be prompted by the Spirit and magnificently motivated to help pollinate the world with the pure love of Christ and His gospel. 

President Spencer W. Kimball said: "God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other" (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball [2006], 82).

One of the fun things about my mission is the assignment I have chosen to tag photos. There are many church service missionaries that are called to be photographers. They submit their photos to the church to have them available for Church media. They call me a “tagger.” I go into the large file of photos and tag them by deciding what category they should be assigned. I have tagged more than a thousand photos since I started a month ago. I really enjoy it. I actually found a photo of Pres. Tervort and a second one of Sister Tervort serving on their mission with Family History. I was pretty excited to see them in those pictures. So I got to tag them.
Last Sunday evening we went to a special devotional at the Conference Center for Young Church Service Missionaries. It was a great night. The very first person I met there was a service missionary that wanted to take my picture. There were several missionaries doing that. They were happy to know that I was tagging pictures. If their pictures don’t get tagged, they don’t get used. I am actually serving not only the Church, but these missionaries in helping them accomplish what they have been called to do. It is a simple task. It isn’t hard. Most people in the church don’t even know about this program. It makes me happy to be doing what I can to help the Church move forward.

I love the words to the song Have I Done Any Good? “Have I done any good in the world today? Have I helped any one in need? Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad? If not, I have failed in deed. Has anyone’s burden been lighter today because I was willing to share? Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way? When they needed my help was I there? Then wake up and do something more than dream of your mansion above. Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure, a blessing of duty and love.”

I’m so grateful for the opportunities I am having on this mission. I love my mission!

I would like to leave you with my testimony. I know God lives and loves us. If we continually hasten the work of salvation by being anxiously engaged in service to others, we will come together to build God’s kingdom. I know that we have a living prophet on the earth today. If we abide by their counsels, we will one day live with God again.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

2015 Christmas Gift Exchange

Based on previous years, this should be the line up for the 2015 Clark Family gift exchange. This isn't supposed to be a burden on anyone so please keep it simple. Also note that Chad and Kaitlin are moving immediately before Christmas (they leave Provo on Dec. 23, spend Christmas with Chad's parents in Colorado, and then continue on to Houston after the holiday).

I don't know of other's travel plans over the holidays.

Jason & Michelle: Chad and Kaitlin

Adam & Amy: Ammon

Brent & Chelsey: Jason and Michelle

Jess & Jen: Adam and Amy

Mike & Adrianne: Brent and Chelsey

Lindsey & Hans: Jess and Jen

Lance & Nancy: Adrianne and Mike

Dave & Tana: Lindsey and Haans

Gillian & Kevin: Lance and Nancy

Chad & Kaitlin: Dave and Tana

Ammon: Gillian and Kevin

Thursday, October 15, 2015


I hope Caleb and Megan share some of the pictures the professional photographer took. I think she was very good. I struggled with the handrails. They were always in the way and I didn't know what to do with them. But I got enough for me to remember what a fun trip we had and how wonderful the wedding ceremony was. Everything about the wedding experience was great.

Here are the combined families - now bound for eternity. Jared is the only one not present.

 Lindsey wanted pictures of her family standing in front of the temple. They were like little ants when I took the full temple. I don't have the right lens for that kind of shot.
 The temple changes colors depending on the time of day. This one was taken in the afternoon the day before the wedding.
Below is Jim talking to the man that performed the marriage ceremony. I can't remember his name. I have never heard a better explanation of marriage and the temple covenants than this man gave. He was one fantastic sealer!

 Look at these handsome brothers! Scott refused to be in any pictures I took so he got left out.

 This one is one of my favorites - just a little break for the girls.
 Cecily and Eva were clothed perfectly for the wedding. And Lindsey didn't even know what the colors of the wedding were. Aren't they adorable?
 Now sisters.


I promised Gillian I would post more pictures from Nevada so here are some.

 These were taken just outside the main lobby at the Bellagio. It was beautiful but also a little cheesey. The kids seemed to like it a lot.

 This was the ceiling in the main lobby of the hotel. These are all blown glass - it was quite dark in the room so it doesn't show how really beautiful this is.
 Gillian had just bought her little selfie stick so they were having fun trying it out.

 There are some huge, beautiful homes just above where Gillian lives. Multi-million dollar ones. I loved the sleek lines of this house.
 This house would cost about as much as a single townhouse in Georgetown in Washington D.C.
 I loved these little barrel shaped cacti.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Kansas & Nauvoo

Our computer won't read my camera so I downloaded them to Ammon's computer. I have several of the wedding but I want to crop some and don't want to put them on until I'm finished with them. I just posted a few for now.

We had a wonderful trip to Kansas and Nauvoo. Lindsey and Hans and family met us on Thursday at the airport. We went out to dinner and then drove straight to Nauvoo. There were a couple of incidents that slowed us down a little (Jim throwing up a few times among others. You can ask Hans about the other one if you want.) We didn't get to Nauvoo until midnight and we were all exhausted. We stayed in the Nauvoo Condos 2 miles outside of town. It was a really nice place with a kitchen, plenty of beds, two full bathrooms, etc.

The following day we all hung out at Nauvoo, exploring, riding on the wagon, going to different sites and houses and went to the Visitor's Center. It was relaxing and fun. Lindsey's kids loved Nauvoo. And then Saturday came and the rest of the Clarks arrived. We did not know that Caleb was staying at the same place we were until the following day.

The wedding ceremony was as good as any I've ever attended. The sealer did an unbelievably great job explaining the "whys" of what Caleb and Megan were doing. I was completely impressed.
The bride is beautiful and tiny. Her family was very friendly and it was nice to meet them. The bridesmaids looked darling, the boys and groomsmen were handsome and well-dressed. After the wedding and after pictures were taken, we went across the street and had a lovely meal (Chipotle brought down from Iowa City). They had a simple ring ceremony there for all those that could not go into the temple.  Everything was just wonderful.

When I get our computer and camera to love each other again I'll post a few more pictures.

 Bridesmaids - see Alyssa on the right right. She's all grown up. She went to Homecoming that night after she got home. It was her first date. I'd say she had a pretty exciting day.

 Man, I've sure got some handsome grandsons!
 Michelle and Alyssa.
 There is no place on earth that has better sunsets than the Midwest. Sun going down behind the Mississippi.
 My favorite random picture. 
 Cecily wouldn't play the part of the little girl so Eva happily posed. This was so funny!
 Such cute kids!

I loved how the sun caught the girl's heads. Cecily had a poker face most of the time. She's kind of camera shy. I was always happy when I caught her smile.

That's all for now. I'll post more when I can straighten the temple, crop things out, etc.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Vacation Pictures

These photos are in no order whatsoever.
 This top photo is of a pond that is below David and Tana's back yard.
This photo and the one below are of the gardens at Mt. Vernon. Luscious!

 This is for Mike.
 The Washington DC Temple was closed and we couldn't get near. Scaffolding is on the sides and they were doing ground work. Volunteers from 5 stakes were also there stringing Christmas lights.
 Picture below is of the Vietnam War Memorial. We were actually able to find the name of an air force pilot lost in action from Benjamin. He was MIA for about 20 years. His body was finally found and identified and sent home about 10 years ago. His name was Franklin Caras.

 We did not do well with night-time pictures of this place. We didn't have a tripod but you get the idea. Lincoln Memorial is a wonderful place.
 Countryside where horse farms abound.
 Love, love this picture.
 A canal running nearby where David's first office was.
 This is the embassy of Saudia Arabia. We went down Embassy Row - all the embassies were there. I was awestruck! This road represents almost every nation in the world.
 Cutest little fat cactus I've ever seen. (It wasn't so little.)
 Stopped in St. George on our way home. Wish the wedding party hadn't been there.