Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Reflections on a Year, Past and Future

Out with the old and in with the new….I really love new beginnings,  new classes, new journals, new years.   I always have.  I hope I always will.  I also love this photo.  It epitomizes the end of one life, a single life in this case,  and the beginning of a new one, united with a chosen companion.  It shows joy and celebration, and implies hope and promise, and the support and safety net of others who love and care.

It was an event from our families past year.  It was taken just after our eldest daughter Nikelle was united and sealed for Time and ALL Eternity in a holy temple of our God, to Hunter Robinson.  As our  first child, but also our final one to marry, we thus ended a whirlwind 18 months of Bird Family marriages.  Each event was unique and beautiful and wonderful, a memory to look back on with happiness and gratitude.  The phase that many girls look forward to, dream about, prepare for and then plan for many years of childhood and youth, are now memories of the past for us.

For a moment, brief and exceptionally rare in a family of five children, we were as shown above,  a family of only adult  "couples", relating for the first time on newly common ground and understanding.  I really can't explain it well, but each of our children experienced it and perhaps you have in some way as well, when you had a new experienced that first expanded and then altered your understanding and perception of how others "should" do and be etc.  I love each one of these people more than I can say. That are uniquely and individually talented and educated.  We have amongst us, engineers, nurses, accountants, artists, teachers, athletes, mechanics, students of business, science, management and medicine, among many other gifts and interests, and most important to me, every one of is seeking to be a student of God's word and then to be a "do-er" of The Word.  Each is a good citizen, a hard worker,  a kind friend, and striving for Discipleship.  This is our Family.

But then something even more wonderful happened: It grew!

May I introduce MissLyla May Conrad who joined our family on September 5, 2014.   
We have been smitten ever since… ALL of us!  
In fact we have been concerned we may out of pure infatuation, spoil her to ruin….how could we help it?!!!

The year 2014, was for us personally, a year of great blessings and growth… a son-in-law and a granddaughter to show for whatever other growth we acquired.  But it was also a year of loss and reflection…. Our dearest friend, mentor, and Jeff's cousin, Randy Bird died of bile duct cancer this last spring at only 57 years old, leaving a family every bit as wonderful and promising as ours… a beautiful wife Cyndi, and 8 children, 7 well married, and one newly engaged, and 2 hands-full of small and joyful little grandbabies, all just beginning to discover life.  And then unthinkably, just 2 weeks after our Nikelle's beautiful wedding, the same family lost their youngest daughter, Michelle to brain cancer. Oh how we will miss these two warm, and happy, positive, and genuine people in our lives.  Their loss, caused us to reflect anew and deeper on what we are doing with our own precious, unknown time on earth, and in relation to those we associate with either frequently or rarely.

So we, as a family have worked to connect in every way a family living and working and going to school in three different states can do… we especially call, face time and group text!  Oh how I, low- tech by nature,  have come to feel gratitude for the amazing i-phone group text!  It has allowed me, alone in my home to bake, or clean or sew or pay bills or even travel about town doing my errands and grocery shopping, feeling that my girls are just in the next room and I am overhearing their thoughts from the kitchen as I did for years in their youth.  Slowly, due to feelings of being left out, Jeffery, and Nikelle have joined us and I think over time, the last few may too.  It is a connection of technology that is not natural to many of us in the Bird family, but is blessing us non-the-less.  

And we planned an All Family Christmas get together.  We could not all be at "home" for Christmas, and even ON Christmas, but we thought and hoped that with advanced planning all might meet somewhere half way-ish for those of us farthest away, right between Christmas and New Years.  For all who were available we planned to meet at the Browning Grandparents home in Idaho, Christmas Eve and day,  as it was central and especially because few homes feel as festive as Grandma's house.  It is their spirit of hospitality and love of family and Christ that permeates every visit, and it is a place we all love.  And with all the magic we expected, it began to snow Christmas eve as we left to look at lights, and continued on through much of Christmas day!

Then we had them join the rest of us in meeting in Salt Lake for a day or two of Christmas lights, skating, eating and more extended family connections.   Sadly not everyone was able to make it happen,( we missed you terribly Lees…) but they too were "with us" in more than spirit. The whole of Christmas day was filled with voices from far away coming through phones showing Christmas morning faces as we unwrapped gifts meant for them and they unwrapped others meant for us, and we thus "shared" a wonderful day, and weekend.

 Getting together for a family of likely any size is complicated…. and ours is no exception. We are not all alike, some like to be busy, others want to relax, some get cold and others want to get some fresh air, etc etc, so Jeff and I learned some things on this first "couples" trip. We hope we can be very fast learners, so that we can enable many future memories and gatherings that do all possible to accommodate differences while also encouraging joyful gathering.  We hope to do it better each time into the future. That is one reflection on this year that blends into our hopes for the future.
We have much to look forward to in 2 015( more about that in another entry), but it may be Christmas time again before we can be all together at once, again.  So our goals and plans contain notes about how to improve happy family gatherings.

 The beauty and lights of Christmas in general, pale in contrast to those displayed on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah,  a magnificent creation open and offered to the public free of charge, from Thanksgiving to New Years every year, coupled with Christmas music and nativity displays, organ concerts and other uplifting and beautiful performances all month long.  To see the lights of the season, encircle and frame a holy temple, when one is with those you love most and long to be with for all of eternity, is like walking into a living work of art.  I could look at these places in the cold of a winter night, surrounded by crowds of happy people, and even now at home, and feel wrapped in my own private, personal blanket of gratitude for all this and every dedicated temple symbolize for a member of Christ's restored church.  I am reminded in my heart of the uncertainty of time and life  and hope I will use what time we have, to create memories and experiences that uplift, aid and bless, now and into the future.

2014 was a generally happy year for our family and for certain, meaningful, and worthwhile.  I have great hope for 2015 and desire to do more than "accomplish" in my goals for this year… I want most of all to "become".    So, good bye 2014…. thanks for every good gift and lesson.  Here's to turning a page… hello 2015.

Happy New Year!