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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Two Temples to be Renovated/Update/Christmas Miracle

Hello, friends! I realize it has been two weeks since I last posted. Things have been busy. I could have posted last week but decided against it. Therefore, I have two weeks to update my readers on. I am excited to do so. As a preface to that, however, I wish to share yet another exciting official announcement from the Church.

On December 16, 2014, the First Presidency officially announced the closure dates and extensive renovation of two temples, the Freiberg Germany and Idaho Falls Idaho Temples. The Freiberg Germany Temple will close to patrons effective Monday February 9, and is expected to reopen sometime in May 2016. This will be the Freiberg Temple's second renovation. The first renovation happened in 2002. Coincidentally, President Gordon B. Hinckley was involved with both the original dedication of that temple in 1985 and its rededication 27 years later. It will be very interesting to see who will be sent to rededicate that temple. My guess is that it will be either President Thomas S. Monson, who has ties to Germany, or President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a native German. The Frankfurt Germany Temple will accommodate patrons from the Freiberg Temple district during the closure. The Idaho Falls Idaho Temple was originally dedicated in 1945 and was the only temple dedicated by President George Albert Smith. The 8th operating temple of the Church will have its first renovation starting Monday March 16, 2015 and is expected to be completed sometime in October 2016. The Rexburg Temple will serve patrons that typically go to the Idaho Falls Temple while it is being renovated. With these two announced renovations, there will be 5 temples undergoing renovation at the same time. Rexburg and Freiberg join the list of renovations underway in Montreal Quebec (projected to be completed late next year), Mexico City Mexico (also projected to be completed late next year) and Suva Fiji (projected to be completed either late in 2015 or early in 2016, depending on how construction progresses).

The First Presidency on December 12 also released a report on how under construction temples were progressing. Oddly enough, the list included Phoenix Arizona (already dedicated) and omitted any mention of the Fortaleza Brazil Temple, which, though ground was broken for it in 2011, has yet to begin full-scale construction. For the latest in temple information, please see ldschurchtemples.com, which, though it is not an official Church website, nonetheless has the latest sourced information about temples and includes projections about completion dates for under construction temples as well as up-to-date news about the announced temples. Some may question the veracity of information on that site, but I have always found it to be accurate. Even if information on that site is not currently validated by the Church, I have on good authority that the webmaster receives official temple news from the Church for his site. So I have no qualms about accepting information on that site as factual, albeit subject to verification by official Church News Releases. I know from what I've been able to learn from that site that at least two temples are anticipating their groundbreaking next year: Lisbon Portugal and Tucson Arizona. All the rest (except Cedar City Utah, Durban South Africa, and Urdaneta Philippines, which have yet to have an official site announced), are nearing the time when groundbreakings may take place. So I anticipate 2015 as being a great year for temple groundbreakings. Additionally, of the temples that are under construction, as many as five more (plus Cordoba Argentina and Payson Utah, which have already had dedication dates announced) may be completed by the end of next year, as well as up to three that are currently being renovated. What a remarkable era of temple building we live in!

That being said, it's time to update you all on what has happened since I last wrote. There have been so many wonderful things. I will talk about the most significant one first. I faced the week of the 15th as Christmas approached with the knowledge that we likely wouldn't have much to work with. I prayed for a Christmas miracle, for some way, any way, to make it special for Amy. Someone I went to High School with offered to take me shopping for a Christmas gift for Amy. As I was waiting to ascertain what I could get her with this friend's most generous offer, we checked our mail one day. In it we found an envelope addressed to the Stokes family, with the return address "Santa Clause, North Pole". Inside was a single sheet of paper. Written was the simple message, "Merry Christmas. Know that you are loved. From Friends." Enclosed in the message were two $100 bills. I cannot begin to explain the feeling of gratitude and love that filled my heart for this gift. What may not have been a big deal to our anonymous benefactor was a HUGE deal to us. Because of it, we were able to spoil each other for Christmas, and we had enough and to spare for our needs until my next check came in on Friday the 26th. As a matter of fact, we are still reaping the benefits of this Christmas gift.

On December 15, we went and saw an advanced special screening of The Hobbit (the last installation in the series) as a Christmas present from my work, and that was great. The next day was my birthday. I had a very pleasant day at work, after which I spent the evening with Amy and was visited by her brother Troy and received many well wishes on Facebook and by phone from family and friends, which was good. I got a very good start to being 28. On Thursday December 18, we marked four years since we were married. It was a great day to reflect upon all the wonderful experiences we've had together and to look ahead to the many wonderful things that would happen in the future. That weekend was typical, with me getting paid an about-average check and us spending it almost as soon as we got it. I also went to Physical Therapy on Saturday and enjoyed the Church meetings on Sunday.

This last week has been good to me as well. On Monday I sought for and obtained approval to get off early tomorrow so that Amy could pick me up prior to her dentist appointment, so that will be good. I had so many great experiences leading up to Christmas that I can't put into words. Suffice it to say, the job is still treating me well. I got off an hour and a half early on Christmas Eve and had Christmas Day off, so that was good. On Christmas Eve, Amy and I went to a get-together at the home of Uncle Chris and Aunt Jacqui Howden (Uncle Chris is Mom's youngest brother). We had a great meal and were able to share wonderful Christmas stories and sing many Christmas hymns. Our Christmas Day was wonderful. We went and had breakfast with Amy's family in the morning and saw my family in the evening. We were blessed to have a bounteous Christmas, both giving and receiving wonderful things. The Lord has been so good to us. We ordered gifts for each other online, and not all of them have arrived yet, but our new wedding rings arrived yesterday, and it is our hope that the books we ordered for each other will arrive soon as well. On Friday this week, I slept through my alarm due to getting to bed far too late the  night before. With Amy's help, I got ready for work in haste and still made it on time. On Saturday, I went to Physical Therapy, ran errands, came home and enjoyed relaxing. I completed my tasks for the day as swiftly as I could but still got to bed far later than I should have last night.

Today (Sunday) Church was wonderful. I got my new manual for next year's Priesthood lessons. I was able to spend the balance of the day relaxing. Before Christmas rolls around, I try to watch the four Christmas movies that I have: White Christmas and the three Santa Clause movies. Due to a hectic work schedule and other factors, I was unable to complete this goal before Christmas Day. We finally finished the last movie tonight, and, in retrospect, I think I almost prefer having Christmas movies left to watch after Christmas Day. It kind of helps keep the spirit alive longer. Also, for those that aren't aware, when we moved into this apartment, as it was near Christmas, we put up a Christmas tree. After our first Christmas was over, we both couldn't bear to take it down, so it has remained up all this time. This has helped us keep the Christmas spirit all year round.

One or two loose ends to tie up and then I'll be finished with this post. I have mentioned in my previous blog post how I was not feeling well, had been diagnosed with an infection at the urgent care clinic, and had taken medications for that infection. It didn't clear up at all. If anything, it's gotten worse. Much worse. Thankfully, I kept calling my pulminologist until she called in my emergency inhaler. The bad news is that she has not yet called in something to help with the persistent coughing and chest congestion I am experiencing, and she refuses to return my calls or contact me by e-mail. So unless I hear back from her tomorrow (Monday), I'm having Amy take me to the emergency care clinic again and see if they will give me something to help with the cough, because this is now beyond ridiculous, and I'm fed up with feeling sick and not getting any help from the one doctor who should be willing to assist me in such issues. So I'll keep you posted on what happens with that.

Still no word on whether or not I will get SSI in January, but I am expecting to hear about that any day now. I don't see why I wouldn't. In November, I earned far less than their $1500 estimate of my wages for that month, so I should get something Even if I get $300 or $400 from them, that will be a godsend and will help us greatly. I will know one way or another by next week what will happen with that. As a matter of fact, I will have the money or not by next week. I'll be sure and post about that then.

Well, I've rambled on long enough. I've probably put a few of you to sleep. I just want to close by saying I hope that you are all doing well, that you had a very Merry Christmas, and that you will have a Happy new Year. My first post for 2015 will likely be next week. I don't anticipate posting before then unless something monumental happens. Until I write again, all the best!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Upcoming Temple Dedications/General Update

Hello, all. By now, many of you have read the exciting news release from the Church about the upcoming announced open house and dedication dates for the Cordoba Argentina and Payson Utah Temples. For those that haven't, the Cordoba open house has been set for April 17-May 2, with a cultural celebration to be held the night of Saturday May 16, and the temple dedication to follow the day after in three sessions. The Payson Utah Temple open house will take place from April 24-May 23, with the cultural celebration to take place on June 6 and the temple dedication to take place on June 7. The Cordoba and Payson temples will be the 145th and 146th in the Church. On December 12, the Church also released an updated progress report on temples under construction. See the link below for details.

Mormon Temples Currently Under Construction

All are underway except the Fortaleza Brazil Temple, which has yet to commence full-scale construction efforts. Additionally, according to ldschurchtemples.com, in March of next year, the Church will begin an extensive renovation on the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple. The renovation is anticipated to last around 18 months. While this information has yet to be confirmed officially by the Church, I have never had reason to doubt the information on the LDS Church Temples site, and I am confident that sometime within this week, the Church will officially announce this renovation.

That being said, it has been an interesting week. I made it through my workday all right on Monday, but on Tuesday after I had been there about an hour, I took a break and was overcome by a fit of coughing. I explained to one of the team leaders that I wasn't feeling well. He couldn't have been nicer. He made all the necessary arrangements for me to be excused for the rest of the workday and then told me to go home and get feeling better. I called Amy and had her pick me up. I was terribly upset and distraught about having to take a day of rest for myself, but Amy was an absolute angel about it. She said the important thing was for me to get better. After consoling me sufficiently, she sent me straight to bed, where I slept for the next six hours, only getting up to take medication as scheduled. I woke up feeling much improved and returned to work the next day without incident. I wound up having to leave work early on Wednesday for an appointment with my pulminologist. She said that if I didn't start regularly exercising, she was afraid it would contribute to weight gain and increase sleep apnea. So I've got to get in gear and do something. After a day of work on Thursday, I discovered then that the next day I would be receiving the largest check I had ever earned from the job. That was very gratifying. The next day, my work day was like any other, some positive calls, some negative calls. Towards the end of my shift, it got very quiet. I thought I would get off work on time for a change. Then about 15 minutes before I could sign out for the day, I got a phone call. The lady needed lots of help. She apologized over and over again for keeping me so long. I told her it was not a problem. At the end of the call, she thanked me profusely for how helpful I had been. She said she wanted to talk to my supervisor and let him know what a good job I was doing. My team leader had already left for the day, though, so I told her to call back on Monday and speak to him then. It was gratifying to know that someone was so appreciative of my efforts.

Yesterday I went to Physical Therapy and we ran some errands and came home and rested. Last night we had our ward Christmas Party, and that was very enjoyable. We came home and enjoyed the rest of the day together. Unfortunately, with our financial obligations this week, my check was practically entirely spoken for the minute I received it on Friday. And because of the time I missed last week, I will be getting a very meager check this Friday. But we will be all right somehow. We have faithfully paid our tithing and leave the rest in the Lord's hands.

Today, Church was fantastic! I felt spiritually recharged for the week. I came home and rested, then got up and took some medication. I then rested some more while Amy visited with her new visiting teachers. After they left, we had a wonderful dinner and took time to relax. We went and visited my mom tonight, as it was her birthday. I love you, Mom! Thanks for all you've done for me over the years, especially staying with me in the hospital those long surgeries through. We had the opportunity to do some reminiscing tonight, and that was fun. We got to see my two sisters, my brothers-in-law, my nephew Grant, and the baby my older sister Joanna's family is fostering. I even got to hold the little guy for a bit. It was really neat, but it also made me ache for the day when we will have children of our own. I hope that day comes soon, especially as we have no idea why we haven't had success starting our family yet and we don't have the funds to do the testing to find out. It really stinks just barely getting by. But I have to believe that things will work out for us that way soon. I also found out tonight that Joanna's father-in-law, whom I had worked with in the temple, was a real estate agent, so we might be contacting him for help in our housing search. I hope something will work out that way for us very soon as well. Amy and I are really wanting and needing a place of our own.

This week promises to be a good one. Tomorrow night, my work, for Christmas, is paying for Amy and me to attend a special screening of the new Hobbit movie. That should be fun, though I don't know how I will make my medication schedule work with that. But I'll deal with that. Tuesday is my birthday, and Thursday is our anniversary. My supervisor heard that my anniversary was coming up and offered to approve time off for me to spend that day with Amy, but we determined that we needed the money I'd earn from working more than we'd need to be together on our special day. How many couples actually get to spend all day of each anniversary together anyways? Because of how little I will get paid this Friday, we are anticipating at best a very meager Christmas. I know that Christmas is about more than the gifts we give and receive, but I was really hoping to have more to work with to make this Christmas special for Amy, especially with all she's been through throughout her life and most especially in the last four years that she's been married to me. Amy keeps insisting she doesn't need anything for Christmas, but I wish I could give her everything she could ever want or need, especially now that I have a job. I guess if worst comes to worst, we will hopefully get an SSI check again in January and I can afford to spoil her a little bit then, even though it will be a little late for Christmas.

Sorry about letting my emotions get the better of me there. I've been thinking about this Christmas a lot. While I know the important thing is that we have each other and that we have life's basic necessities, and while I know the true meaning of Christmas, I wish there was more I could do for Amy. She deserves so much for all she's been through. And heaven help me, I can't do a blessed thing about it. I don't want anything for myself. I just wish I could do something special for her this year. Sorry. I'll stop complaining now. In reality, on reflection, I've never had it so good. I have the gospel in my life, along with all the blessings that come with it. I am relatively healthy. I have a good job that provides for our needs for the most part. And best of all, I have a wife who loves me and who looks past all that's wrong with me and loves me unceasingly. Without her, I wouldn't be who I am today. With her by my side, I can handle any curve ball life throws at us. The wonder and the miracle of it all is that the Lord saw fit to bring us together and to help her look past all that's wrong with me and into my eternal possibilities. She's amazing and I really don't deserve her.

Well, that being said, I should get to bed. The hour is late, and I have to be up early for work. But I wanted to pause and acknowledge the blessings of the Lord from this last week. I look forward to seeing how things will go this upcoming week. Whatever happens, I know that the Lord will be with me. And I take comfort in that knowledge. I rejoice in the goodness of the Lord to me. Until I write again, all the best!