Monday, June 20, 2016

Tanner's Last Mission Letter

Tanner will be returning home from his mission to Guayaquil, Ecuador this coming Tuesday. We are so proud of him and the things he has learned and experienced. The one thing I noticed about him through his letters is that despite primitive living conditions, different food, dengue fever, major earthquakes, and probably a lot of other uncomfortable and difficult situations, he never complained. He learned to be grateful in any situation and for that alone, my sacrifice of only speaking to him twice a year has been more than worth it. I am excited to welcome home my son. Here is an excerpt from his last letter home: 

 The mission has changed my life, I love this Gospel and all that I have learned here in the mission. I have learned by experience of the power, and hope that the Gospel and the atonement of Christ gives, and have learned to build upon the doctrines and principles of the gospel.
Being a missionary has been the greatest thing that has ever happened in my life. I know that true happiness and joy comes through repentance and righteousness and helping others come unto Christ. I
know that the gospel has power to change lives, even our very nature
and character. I am forever grateful that I could bring these kinds of blessings to the lives all the people I have met.  I know that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world, and through his grace we are saved. I know that we should strive every day to receive His grace and blessings, and help others.  I cannot believe that t
he time has gone by so fast. The mission has truly been one of the greatest experinces of my life. I have learned so much, and of all of
the important lessons that I learned is about the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I know that my personal testimony of faith in Jesus Christ has increased, beacuse of my love and service to God, and knowing the mercies, love, and  perfect grace of Christ. I thank you all that have supported my on my mission, for your prayers and love.
See you soon!
Elder Brown

This is me with my mission president and his wife, President and Sister Riggins. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Annie's Mother's Day Talk

Annie was asked to speak in church on Mother's Day. Luckily, she had a two week notice and a topic she is very familiar with. I am so proud of her. We worked on writing this talk together. She wrote a very good outline of what she wanted to say and I helped her put it into sentences that still sounded like her. She practiced saying this talk out loud at least twenty times until she practically had it memorized. I admire her dedication and determination to constantly work with the skills she has.
She is wonderful and an inspiration to me.

Annie Michaela Brown:

A talk about faith

We believe that the first principle and ordinance of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Faith is the foundation of the gospel. It begins with knowing that Jesus is our Savior and we must have faith in Him, His gospel, and His teachings as we live our lives here on earth. At eleven years old my faith got tested and I have had to practice living with faith every day since.

 When I was 9 years old I used to be a gymnast, soccer player, play the clarinet, and I loved to read books. I never went anywhere with out a book. But, on the night of  August 13, 2009 my life changed forever. I was at tumbling practice and I was so excited because I finally did my first back hand spring. After practice I got this wave-like feeling in my stomach and started sweating. I had no clue what was happening. When I got home, I rested on the couch and I remember blinking my eyes only twice then everything went black. That next morning, I woke up in the hospital with My mom telling me that night I seized for 14 hrs. We thought at the time I would recover and be fine, but it happened again a month later, and again a month after that. Eventually they diagnosed me with epilepsy and I became sick all the time.
 Over the next 2 years from 2009 I kept having severe seizures that sent me to the hospital multiple times, I had to take at least 8 pills a day, and I had to quit tumbling and all my other favorite activities. My faith was being tested. I had anger in me, depression and fear. There were days where I didn't go to school and it made me angry to be in so much pain, and I was afraid to be by myself in case something happened.
 In just last months conference Elder Donald L. Hallstrom stated "when difficult things occur in our lives, what is the immediate response? Is it confusion or doubt or spiritual withdrawal? Is it a blow to our faith? Do we blame God or circumstances? Close quote. I didn’t blame God, but it was a blow to my faith because there were so many activities I couldn’t enjoy anymore.
 On October 15, 2012 I was submitted to a Pediatric Epilepsy Monitoring Unit known as PEMU. I would lower off my medication to see where my seizures were happening in my brain. I spent 5 days in the hospital that week which I called a week of pure misery or other wise the word that is opposite of heaven. The results showed I had a lesion in my brain which made me a candidate for brain surgery.   Then, I had even more fear of having person cut through my head.
   In Proverbs 3:5-6 it talks about trusting in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding." I was at a point in my life at only 11 years old, almost 12, where I had to trust the Lord, because the doctors told us that if they could remove the lesion, my seizures might go away.

The morning of November 15th, I was still having fear and worries about surgery. At 8:00 am, the doctor came in and said the nurses will take you up to the OR after they get your blood drawn. When I left the room I held strong to my faith and trusted in the Lord with my extreme fear and kept saying "I'm not gonna die, I'm not gonna die, everything's gonna be alright."

I woke up later with one eye shut, gauze wrapped around my head and having a cold rag on my face. Each day I stayed in the hospital, there were more effects than we thought. My brain could not handle loudness, music, and crowds. For 2 months I even had double vision, from the way they opened up my head. I forgot completely who my uncle was, and how people were related. And I couldn't even repeat a five word sentence back to the doctor. Therapy was my next step.

When I started therapy it was the most hardest thing in the world, but the best thing to help rebuild my brain and find new ways on how to use it. I did therapy for 2 years, but It didn't mean I would be back to how I would use to be before. Some people think losing pieces from your brain is nothing and you recover in just 6 weeks! But no. My brain is not how it was. I'm not a straight A student anymore and getting a 100% on a math or writing tests. I still can't sing and I get tired fast of loudness and crowds. I became almost the exact opposite of how I was before. And sometimes the days are really hard.

However, what I’ve learned from having faith in Jesus Christ is that when I trust in his plan for me, and get rid of the fear and worries, I am happier.  He has a unique plan for me and I have absolute faith in it. It is what it is. I decided to follow his path, it was hard from the beginning and it still is, but some things I’ve discovered that are different after surgery is my happiness. I am happy to be who I am now and happy to be seizure free. I am thankful for all of the love I have gotten from my friends and family.
  I was glad I was asked to talk about faith in Jesus Christ on Mother's Day because my mom set many examples to me.  I read on pinterest that "Life doesn’t come with a manual it comes with a mother." I’m grateful my mother was with me on this journey and was able to survive my tears of pain, and I’m glad she was able to let me practice my own faith and not have her do it for me.

So today, my assignment was to talk about having faith in Jesus Christ and I decided to share with you an experience I have had practicing it and I hope that was helpful. You’ll never go wrong trusting in the Lord and livin one day at a time.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Michael's Tribute to his Dad

Funeral Service for Jack Albert Brown
In contemplating my Dad's life, I’ve considered Solomon’s wise statement in the Book of Proverbs:  “As a [man] thinketh, so is he.”  I believe Dad was able to live a rewarding and meaningful life because he was able to develop constructive thought patterns, which in turn guided his conduct and actions. 
From my view, one of those patterns was the ability to maintain a feeling of gratitude in his mind and in his heart in all aspects of his life.   He was a happy, positive individual for a reason – he was full of gratitude.  

Jesus Christ taught that the first and great commandment is to love God with all thy heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Dad was intensely committed to his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and was grateful to serve in numerous capacities.  As a bishop here in St. Johns, he freely gave up many hours each week for several years presiding over and counseling with those who shared the common goal of trying to live a Christlike lives.  Although I was quite young during those years, I remember how he always kept a positive outlook, which I attribute to his ability to have hope and exercise great faith - he commented many times that “discouragement is one of Satan’s greatest tools.”  

In a nutshell, Dad was grateful for everything he had:  Family, church, ranching, farming, gardening, water – even politics.   Owning and operating a ranch and farm gave him great enjoyment and satisfaction, even though it required incredibly hard work.   Dad was always concerned about taking care of the things he had been blessed with.   He learned that you worked with the land, the water, the cows, and horses – not against them.  I learned at an early age about Dad’s seemingly unique approach to livestock. For example, he preferred that no one use spurs on our horses, and when working with cattle in the corral he didn’t like using a Hot Shot, which is a rod that gives the cows an electrical shock to get them to move.  Instead, he found that a small stick or branch would usually do the trick.  Also, I never once in my life heard him utter a swear word, not even when he was exhausted from loading about 90 recently weaned calves into a semi-trailer, one by one, for several hours in the dark, or when I watched our mare “Shortening” kick him in the chest so hard it knocked him flat on the ground for several minutes.  

  Now, I’m sure some of my cousins are thinking, is this the same Uncle Jack we knew when we came to help on the farm and ranch?   There is no doubt the decibel level of Dad’s voice increased when he was working, and admonitions such as “get out of the middle of the herd!” or, “don’t break that shovel by leaning on it”, “can't you see that water won't run uphill?” or the ever popular, “don’t pop the clutch!”, caused all of us to feel some sting at one time or another.   Regardless of the urgent delivery of the message during those times, I have little doubt we were able to learn and grow as a result of Dad’s efforts to motivate us to work harder and faster.  And there is no doubt that he enjoyed the opportunity to share with others the skills and knowledge he had gained throughout his life.

He was grateful for America, and especially the State of Arizona and the ranch land he was privileged to work with.  He made sure he was a good steward of the land – moving the cattle to prevent overgrazing, putting in dozens of miles of pipeline to provide water in more areas of the ranch.   When I was about 12, I remember moving cattle off of one of the forest permits. We finished lunch and dad was anxious to get the herd moving again; however, I wasn’t done drinking my can of pop, so I took it with me on the horse, which probably wasn’t a great idea.  A little while later Dad asked if I had finished the can of pop and I answered yes, but then he asked “what did you do with the can?”  I sheepishly answered I had dropped it on the ground awhile back.  He then calmly instructed me to get off my horse and walk back to find the can.  Eventually I found it and had a fairly long walk to catch back up with the herd, giving me plenty of time to reflect upon my mistake.  I wondered why he didn't let me take the horse to find the can.   Obviously, it’s because it would needlessly tire the horse for my dumb mistake.  I've often thought how he didn't have to lecture me or scold me or shame me because of my error, it was by his actions that I learned.  I had understood the message loud and clear that this is what we do to respect what God has allowed us to use while we live on this beautiful earth.    
I’m confident Dad's thoughts also focused on the second and great commandment, “love thy neighbor as thyself.”   Dad was rarely concerned about his own needs; instead, he wanted to help lift those around him.  He understood the meaning of compassion.  Throughout my years growing up, there were many times when individuals came to our house seeking advice or some other type of help.  Dad would chat for a few minutes and usually send them on their way with a bit of assistance.  He never made a big deal of this – he would just occasionally comment   that the people were a little down on their luck, and he wanted to help out where he could.  My father knew and practiced the scripture:  “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”  
I hope and pray that I will be able to develop similar thought patterns that my Dad so effectively used in his life. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Short Little Letter from T

Hola Familia, 

This week was really good. Sad to here that Grandpa Jack passed away, but its good to hear that everything is fine at home. It was still a little wierd to have my birthday without also celebrating halloween, by the way, halloween officially doesnt exist here. But this weekend was dia del difunto. We went to a mini zoo in Sanborondon today, it was really cool and I will send some pictures. This week should be very good, because we have a couple of people that could be baptized this week. 
Well I hope you all have a good week,
Elder Brown

And then Nicolina received a short memory about Grandpa Jack: 

Well KEYRudd. Grandpa was obvisously a very hard worker that never gave up. I didn´t get to know him too well, but I know that he knew how to raise a strong family and we are all very blessed because of his hard work and dedication. We will have a lot to tell our grandchildren, especially of the great cheesy sayings but at the same time very inspirational. My favorite is when we are out on the ranch in the middle of the desert trying to eat lunch and dying of thrist, and that saying comes to mind "the best time to plant a tree, was 20 years ago". 

And then he sent along a few pictures: 

And when I zoomed in on his companions tag I discovered his name, did a quick google search and what do you know? I found more pictures of Tanner.

He seems do be doing JUST fine.

Monday, September 21, 2015

My Son and an Iguana

I received a letter today with pictures! I only asked him a month ago to start thinking about emailing a picture or two. And today was my lucky, lucky day!
Even though one picture is of an Iguana--an Ecuadorian Iguana so I guess that's kinda okay.

But here is what I wanted,
A picture of his face. 
Real evidence that he is alive and well.

Here is this weeks letter: 

(They are getting quite short and quite mixed with Spanish)

Hola Familia, 
This week was pretty good we had a lot of less actives in church that we are helping get reactivated. All this next week we have to find a lot of new people to teach so that they can go and see General conference. We are really excited for conference, we have to invite as many people as we can so that they can come see for themselves if the church is true. Well all I can tell you to do ahora es to get ready for conference by inviting someone that isn't a member to listen, I don't think there is a better way to be prepared than to invite someone and have to explain to them about conference and what it means to you. Well its just an idea to help be prepared for conference. 
I hope you all have a good week, 
Elder Brown

I really cannot wait to see him again. Next summer can't come soon enough. But for now, I will be happy to know that we both will be watching conference together, just many miles apart.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Mowing the Farm

Saturday's require Michael to jump out of bed and start trimming and mowing before the sun peeks over the giant fruit trees on the east side of the property. He pulls his bright yellow riding mower out of the shed and climbs on with a new sense of purpose. Forty five minutes later, he climbs off and then goes for the push mower to hit the spots the riding one couldn't get to. Then it's on to the trimmer. And on and on to the next piece of equipment until the sun is well up past the fruit trees and shining brightly down onto his fresh cut lawn. 


The day grows hotter and he doesn't even seem to notice. He hauls branches and stacks them to be burned later in his newly created fire pit. It's like watching a boy at play. He loves his new playground. 

The big storm two weeks ago, destroyed this patio he is standing on in this picture. And instead of thinking it was a loss,  he thought of a new opportunity, 

to build a larger fire pit. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Church talk-charity

Good Morning, I’d like to thank the Bishopric and the ward council for this opportunity to speak today. Our family moved into the ward, from only about a mile away, a few months ago and we have been making the adjustment of becoming Grove 1st ‘ers’ versus, Grove 2nd ‘ers’.  We bring our two youngest daughters with us. Haley is 18 and a senior at Perry High, and Annie is a freshman. We have a son Tanner that is serving a mission in Guayaquil Ecuador and can’t believe we switched wards on him mid mission. We also have an older daughter Nicolina that just graduated from BYU with a degree in Graphic Design and even older daughter that is graduated from BYU, married, and living in North Carolina. She works at Wake Forest Law School while her husband attends the Medical school.
We live in the county island part of the ward on a what I call a farm but my husband argues that it is absolutely not a farm. But I think that’s because he is from the small ranching town of St. Johns Arizona and I am from the sprawling suburb of Broomfield, Colorado, just north of Denver. And I think if you have horse and goats and chickens as neighbors, it’s a farm. But he thinks that a farm is acres and acres of alfalfa with tractors, and other farm equipment. But as I drive down the new street I still see farm equipment and at least an acre of some sort of grass growing and cows eating it, in my city girl mind that qualifies as a farm. To which he reluctantly agreed, however he adjusted my definition as property that is located on a rural street, with farm like qualities, but we specifically do not live on a farm. So I said, fine I’ll accept that definition. But just so you know, when the guy from Century Link showed up to set up the Wifi and asked my what we’d like to call it, I said, “TheFarm.” So needless to say, we work hard balancing the city girl in me, and the small town boy in him and after 27 years of marriage, we think we have finally found the house, on a farm-like property, that is only five minutes from Target. And that works for both of us.

We have been serving in the Stake as the Stregthening Marriage Intructors, which means that for six straight weeks in a row, about three to four times a year, we get together and talk about relationships. We have served for two years now and as time has gone on, I have realized that the information and lessons that are in the manual contain the same skills that are required to make any relationship work. Be it parent to child, friends, brothers and sisters, co-workers, etc. and the lessons revolve around one core principle. And I’ve seen that the People that can master this core principle and develop the skill to practice it, have working, successful relationships. However, the principle is all encompassing and has many parts to it and can be complicated in every way. As followers of Christ we try hard to emulate this principle every day. We pray to be Christ like, We pray to be more loving. The prophet Moroni has told us that the love we want to practice is called charity, and this charity is the pure love of Christ.

The Apostle Paul defines charity for us in the New Testament and Moroni echoes his words in the Book of Mormon and gives us a glimpse of the many parts to the definition of Charity.  “Charity, suffereth long and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, it beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, and endureth all things. Moroni warns that if we have not charity, we are nothing, for charity never faileth.

There are so many parts to Charity however we must have faith that the practicing of charity will never fail us. But oh how hard that is to do when people have different personalities, traits, likes, dislikes, different backgrounds, traditions, than ourselves. However, these are the obstacles we will face when trying to live a Christ like life.

I’d like to focus on one important skill we’ve learned from the lessons we give about marriage that can help us develop charity. The skill is communication. Which might sound odd that I’m linking communication to Charity, which generally is seen as acts of service like making someone dinner, or helping a person move. But the more we have taught the lessons, the more we realized that communication is the very basis for developing Christ like love.

President Spencer W. Kimball once said that “there is magic in words properly used. Some people use them accurately, while others sloppily.” He goes on to say that “words are means of communication, and faulty signals give wrong impressions. Disorder and misunderstandings are the results. Words underlie our whole life and are the tools of our business, the expressions of our affections, and the records of our progress. Words cause hearts to throb and tears to flow in sympathy. Words can be sincere or hypocritical. Many of us are destitute of words, and consequently, are clumsy with our speech.”

I have to work every minute of every hour on my clumsy speech. In stressful situations that arise quite quickly, why is it that sometimes the quickest words that jump into my head are the sarcastic, or the angry, or the defensive ones? I hope I’m not alone in this. I know that we have a battle to fight everyday against Satan and these clumsy, poorly used words can be a powerful weapon for him to use and keep me from having a loving heart.

However, when I study Christ’s words, I learn that they are thought out and methodical. They are reasoned and full of wisdom. He asks questions and discusses. He never demeans or justifies and he doesn’t quickly react. My daughter is taking film study this year and we have been watching the movie Gandhi with her. Ghandi studied the life of Christ and had a Christian minister as a friend. He learned how to emulate Christ. He speaks gently, with knowledge. Early in the movie, there is a scene with his wife where he doesn’t use these skills and they have a fight. He immediately recognizes his arrogance, and bullishness and apologizes. His wife points out that even though he is trying his best he still is human, he does make mistakes, and she does as well. So I do recognize that I’m not going for perfection, just more skilled practice. I feel like communicating with charity is like a dance, it’s a work that we do together that we have to be aware of every minute of every day, otherwise, toes will be stepped on, and the flow of the dance interrupted. When charity seeks its own, meaning, we seek compassion from others, or expect other to be compassionate to us, problems will follow. One of Gandhi’s famous quotes is that “an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

Christ was born into this world to help us see. He came to cure our blindness. He does that by opening our eyes when we practice charity. Charity has the power to heal relationships, and make good relationships soar.  Learning how to communicate your love for your family with good words can be a way to serve them.

For example, when my husband comes home from a long day at work and he looks beat, It’s much nicer, kinder, and charitable to say, “something seems to be troubling you, do you want to talk about it?” instead of “well you came home grumpy, what is your problem?” Even My tone and body language is softer in the first example. In fact, the first statement might even be accompanied by a hug or at least a pat on the shoulder.

Elder Marvin J. Ashton once said, “I pray our Heavenly Father will help us to communicate more effectively in the home through a willingness to sacrifice, a willingness to listen, a willingness to vocalize feelings, a willingness to avoid judgment, a willingness to maintain confidences, and a willingness to practice patience. Communication can help build family unity if we will work at it and sacrifice for it.

The number one thing I love about facilitating the marriage class is when the couples really understand and recognize the importance of practicing charity with the way they communicate, and actually change their tone, words, and pay attention to their clumsy speech, then the miracles start to happen. Problems that seemed unsolvable, are solved. New problems crop up, like they always do and always will, but they handle them differently than they did before. The frustrations that existed seem to dissipate.

They finally understand that loving another person wholly means loving without any expectation of love in return. Which is a very hard concept to accept. A common discussion point we have after about the fourth week, is “What if I do all I can and the person still doesn’t change?” It’s at that point, that we go back to lesson one, and discuss the principles of Charity all over again. We have to understand about unconditional love and the faith it requires to practice it. We must do what Moroni tells us in Chapter 7 verse 48 ,Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as his is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.”

We have to pray to learn the proper way to communicate love. We can ask for help with better word choice. We can ask for our own eyes to be opened to the words we use that might unknowingly be hurting others. It’s an uncomfortable feeling to be shown that you are offending, but I’ve seen a person change and humble themselves from what they thought was funny sarcasm, to good humor that made their spouse feel valid instead of demeaned. And the person did not know their sarcasm was hurting the other person until it was communicated in a not-threatening way, clearly and with love.

I like the promise that Moroni writes in verse 47 of chapter 7 too.
47“But charity is the pure love of Christ and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
When I see, after a few weeks of class, that the couples that apply the principle of charity, are sitting closer together, and have a glow about their countenance, I can’t help but think that this is serving one another. The apostle Paul even reminds us that “although we might bestow all our goods to the the poor and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” So basically he is saying, there is no amount of service you can give that would make up for this lack of love. It must co-exist together.

I would like you to know that I have a firm testimony of Jesus Christ and following his example. When I apply His way into my life, he blesses me and reassures me that His way is the only way. I have to pray everyday though for his strength to remind my clumsy mouth to choose better words.  And sometimes I’ve even thought, maybe It would just be easier if I should just not speak at all, or just stay home because I’m sure to say the wrong thing. But isn’t that what Satan would have us do, be alone and miserable and not reaching out to others. So, I have to learn that I”m practicing everyday, just like everybody else, and gratefully, my husband and my dear friends and my loving family are very skilled in the practice of forgiveness.

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