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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Friends in Old Familiar Places

I had a series of unique experiences today, and I just had to blog about them. I had a physical therapy appointment at 2:30 in Alpine, and I went expecting to have a great opportunity to get a workout. But the Lord had more in mind for me today than that. As I was nearing the end of my workout, one of the newer Physical Therapy aides looked at my chart, then looked at me. He had an excited expression on his face.

"Are you James Stokes?"

"Yes, I am."

"Did you live in Payson about 20 years ago and go to Barnett Elementary School?"

"Yes, I did."

He then told me his name. It was a name I instantly recognized from class pictures at Barnett Elementary School. As we compared who we had for 1st-3rd grades, we realized we never had classes together, but he still remembered interacting with me. He asked me if I remembered a certain classmate, and I responded I did. He said he was still good friends with that classmate and would tell him I said hello the next time he saw him. And while once the excitement of the moment wore off I forgot the name of that classmate, I will never forget how great it felt running into someone who remembered me from way back then. He said he hardly recognized me. I don't blame him. I've changed a lot since then.

After Physical Therapy, I headed to Wal-Mart with Amy to do some shopping. Since she wasn't feeling well, she stayed in the car and sent me on alone to get the groceries. In the process of doing so, I saw a man who looked familiar to me, but I couldn't place him. He nodded and waved to me as he passed. I continued shopping. A few minutes later, I encountered him again. He said, "Hello, James. Do you remember me?"

I admitted that I did not. He identified himself as Allan Leatham. My brain went back in time and connected the name to one of the men I had worked with in the temple on the Friday 3rd shift. He told me he was retired now and volunteering as an assistant manager over certain areas of that Wal-Mart. He said he and his wife were still serving at the temple and were planning on serving a mission soon, locally, which would allow them to retain their temple service. I was overjoyed to see him and told him to please say hello to all the Friday 3rd shift brethren for me. He promised that he would do so.

Directly after that, we went to Good Earth so I could pick up some more Granola Bars. I had selected the ones I needed and was just checking out when something told me to turn around and look behind me. There standing behind me was another dear friend, a surrogate grandfather who is as dear to me as my own natural grandfathers, George Sturt. I wasted no time in greeting Uncle George and in asking after his welfare. I was pleased to see that he was doing well. Since Aunt Louise passed away in 2012, I've worried about him, but he's done fantastic. He asked how I was doing, and I told him. He asked how Amy was, and I explained that she was not feeling well and was waiting for me in the car. I told Uncle George we'd wait for him to come out so he could say hello to her as well. He was happy about that. I exited Good Earth and told Amy about this third encounter. We waited, and soon enough, he came out. He asked Amy how she was doing, and they talked a bit about her family history. After a couple of minutes, he left.

It is sobering to think that if I had been in those places just a few minutes earlier or later, I would have missed each of these encounters. I believe these were encounters the Lord wanted me to have today. It was fun to see these friends in old familiar places. I know that the Lord is keenly aware of us, and because of this, He often sends tender mercies such as chance encounters that couldn't have happened by accident.

In other news, I got another call this morning from a representative from Jive!, another company I had applied with. She said that they were looking to fill one position very soon and that based on my resume, I was a very strong candidate. Unfortunately, I had to get all this by voice mail. When the phone rang this morning, I was tired from a bad night and kind of cranky and not wanting to talk to anyone. Once I knew what the message was about, I attempted to return the call and wound up having to leave a message on her voice mail. I hope she will call again. This time, I will be ready for her.

Still haven't heard back from BidSync, but I hope to within the next couple of days. Don't know what to hope for or expect, so I am merely praying that the Lord's will might be done. I have recently become aware of a feeling of cowardice on my part when it comes to the idea of entering the work force. I find the prospect of starting any new phase of life scary. I have always been anxious about starting at a new school. I was very nervous about getting married. While I long to be a father, I'm scared to think about beginning the new experience of parenthood. Since I've never had a regular job before, I'm a bit of a nervous wreck when I contemplate entering the work force. But I have never let fear keep me from doing the right thing. And I have always been better off for doing the right thing. As James Neil Hollingworth, pseudonym Ambrose Redmoon, put it, "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear." So I feel confident that when it comes down to it, I will be just fine.

That's the latest on us. More to come in a few days when I find out the result of the interview!


Monday, August 25, 2014

Meridian Idaho Temple Groundbreaking/Job Interview

I haven't posted in a while, so I thought I'd post today. I was pleased to see that ground was broken for the Meridian Idaho Temple on Saturday. I was also pleased to see that the anticipated completion date for the temple is sometime in 2017. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Elder David A. Bednar presided at the groundbreaking. I should have guessed that it would be either him or President Henry B. Eyring, as both served as presidents of what was once Ricks College but became BYU-Idaho during Elder Bednar's tenure. As I previously mentioned, 8 of the 12 remaining temples that have been announced could potentially have their groundbreaking either this year or next year. The remaining four have yet to have a temple site announced. It is a great blessing to see the work of the Lord progressing. If any of you, my readers, are interested in keeping track of the progress of temple construction, you can go to ldschurchtemples.com, a great website that, while not owned or operated by the Church, nonetheless has the latest official information on temples.

In other news, I finally got a chance to take Amy to the doctor last week. After listening to her symptoms, he recommended a blood test. When he phoned us with the results, he reported that her thyroid levels were low. So he has given her something for that. She seems to be doing better as a result. We are cautiously optimistic about that.

As for my health, my headaches seem to be better now that the storms seem to have let up for the moment. I should have predicted a storm coming with how bad the pain was. However, the storm has passed, and all is well.

The only thing that could make our situation better is if we were better off financially. I have interviewed for at least 18 jobs in the last 18 months with no success. They always tell me that they were impressed with me but that they didn't have any positions that would match my unique talents and abilities, whatever that means.

That being said, I did have another job interview just last Friday, with a company in American Fork called BidSync. I found out from my mom that Elizabeth works there as well, though during the course of my interview I discovered that she worked in a different department from the one I interviewed with. How did the interview go? It was interesting. I was interviewed by a man and a woman. The man did most of the talking, with the woman chipping in occasionally. After looking over my resume and letters of recommendation, most of their questions centered on my work with Wikipedia and my time serving with the American Fork Youth Court. They seemed very impressed with me and told me I had done well. They did mention, however, that I was the most responsive candidate so far and that they had several other interviews lined up for the next week (this week). They told me that they would likely get back to me on whether or not I got the job by Friday. So I am just waiting to hear from them.

I don't know what to hope for. It's a good job with decent pay and excellent benefits, and it sounds like something I can easily do. But there's a part of me that always questions whether or not I did the right thing in applying and interviewing for the job. I have just been praying that the Lord's will might be done. I guess that's all I can do.

In the meantime, I got some excellent advice from Chris Heimerdinger and Brandon Sanderson about my writing that I will be using to press forward with my writing. I have also been reading the very interesting 3 book series by Brent (BJ) Rowley called The Light Traveler Series. It is interesting to me how he explores the concept of out-of-body experiences and one young man's adventures with those abilities.

While I can think about a lot of ways my life could be better, the fact of the matter is that it is pretty darn good right now. I have the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life and all the blessings that affords. I am surrounded by my family and my wife's family, and I get along well with all of them. I love them. While I am not working, I get to spend an unprecedented amount of time with my sweet wife, Amy. I have clothes on my back, a roof over my head, and food in my belly. Though life could be better, it could also be a lot worse. I love life, and I know that the things that aren't right now will be made right, in this life or the next. And in that thought, I take great comfort. I am a very blessed man, and I feel very lucky and happy to be alive. Never underestimate the power of the small and simple moments in your life. It is in those times that we find our greatest periods of growth and development and can improve ourselves to become what our Heavenly Father wants us to be. May it be so for each of us.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Phoenix Arizona Temple Open House and Dedication

Just posting here to reiterate exciting news that the Church announced earlier today (Friday). Church officials announced that an open house would be held for the recently completed Phoenix Arizona Temple from Friday October 10-Saturday November 1. The temple will be formally dedicated in three sessions on Sunday November 16. Sessions will be at 10 am, 1 pm, and 4 pm. This will be the Church's 144th temple and the fifth temple in Arizona.

Now the question becomes, who will officiate at the dedication? President Thomas S. Monson presided at the last temple dedication in Arizona on March 2. President Henry B. Eyring accompanied him and, at his invitation, read the prayer at the first and third sessions of the dedication. As President of the Church, President Monson has dedicated thirteen (and rededicated three) temples. As a counselor in the First Presidency, he dedicated seven additional temples at President Gordon B. Hinckley's invitation. President Eyring has dedicated one temple and rededicated at least two that I know of. President Dieter F. Uchtorf has dedicated four temples. President Boyd K. Packer has dedicated 2 temples (Regina Saskatchewan and Brigham City Utah). If I had to take a guess, I would predict that either President Monson or President Eyring or both will be in Arizona for the temple dedication. We may find out at October's General Conference during President Monson's opening address, when he will give a progress report on temples.

I am grateful to live in a day when the gospel is restored in its fulness and where we have the blessing of a house of the Lord just up the road from us. Even when I have been too sick to take advantage of the blessings that temple attendance affords, I have still been able to feel the spirit of that sacred building every time I pass it.

I testify that what the prophets said are true, that the power of Satan decreases with each temple that is dedicated. I bear witness of the power of temple covenants that bind families together not just for this life but for the eternities. And I will be forever grateful that I had the privilege of spending six years of my life serving in the temple. The greatest blessing that came from my service is my sweet wife, Amy. I don't know where I'd be or what I'd be doing without her. I know my life would be much emptier. Oh, what joy it gives me to know that death can never separate us! How I treasure the knowledge that if I remain faithful, I can be with her and all other members of my family, past, present and future, forever! Truly we are blessed to be a temple-attending people!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Happy Birthday to 5 great men this month!

I was encouraged by Brandon Sanderson as part of my "homework" from him to continue regularly updating my blog. Other than the fact that my headaches have inexplicably increased and that my employment counselor has accepted another job elsewhere and will be replaced by someone I have only had brief contact with in the past, nothing much is new in our lives. Then I remembered that this blog's purpose was to allow me to "sound off" about things that are important to me. This month is a very significant month in Church history, so I thought I'd post about that. First of all, the Church recently announced it would be breaking ground for the temple in Meridian Idaho on August 23 at 10 am. It is unknown as yet who will preside at that groundbreaking. My guess? Well, it could be one of many individuals. Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy has direct supervisory responsibility for the Idaho Area of the Church. But all members of the Presidency of the Seventy jointly supervise the areas in the United States and Canada, so it could be any one of those seven, including Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Senior President of the Seventy, who is assigned to assist in all areas of the world as needed. It could also be done by any one of the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles or any one of the members of the Seventy or Presiding Bishopric that are not filling other assignments. It is always interesting to me to see how groundbreaking assignments are fulfilled.

Additionally, there are potentially another 8 temples that could have their groundbreaking within this year or the next year, so that's exciting to me as well.

But by far the most exciting thing to me about the month of August is this: of the 15 currently serving apostles, 1/3 (5) of them have their birthdays this month. Today, Elder L. Tom Perry turned 92, and is keeping a schedule that reportedly even his own children can't keep up with. (Click here for an article on him). He is currently the oldest living apostle, and based on what has been reported about his health and pace, I anticipate that he may break Elder David B. Haight's record as oldest living apostle ever in this dispensation. (He will surpass that record on July 5, 2020.)

Also having a birthday this month (and no less significant) are Elder Neil L. Andersen (On August 9, he will turn 63.); Elder Dallin H. Oaks (On August 12, he will turn 82.); our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson (On August 21 he will turn 87.) and Elder Robert D. Hales (On August 24, he will turn 82.).

I am grateful for the mammoth way each of these men have contributed to the furthering of the Lord's work. I am grateful for the knowledge that I have that each of these men have been called of God to be prophets, seers are revelators. I testify that we will be blessed as we follow the counsel of all who have been called of God to lead us in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times. I share this testimony and this post with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.