Sam the Eagle

When we moved to Australia four years ago we didn't know if Sam would be able to finish the U.S. boy scout program--because (of course) they don't do it here as part of the youth program at church like they do in the states--but luckily there was a brand new BSA troop being formed in Canberra led by a group of outstanding, make-it-happen parents.  Sam jumped right in and it has been, I daresay, an even more crucial part of his life here than it was in Boston. The numbers have fluctuated as American families moved in and out of Canberra but they've kept up an ambitious schedule of adventures and learned to support and lead each other, this fairly ragtag (but in the best way) group of boys between 11-18. 

They meet each week at the embassy. Unlike most American families here, we're not affiliated with the embassy but when Ambassador Berrey heard that Sam was working on his Eagle he personally reached out to encourage him over the last year and offered to host the ceremony if he finished. Every time he saw Sam he would not only remember his name but also check up on how he was doing and tease him about being all set to host the party. It was not the only thing that kept Sam trudging toward finishing his Eagle rank but it was a gracious nudge and reminder that he had a lot of people cheering for him.  

The ceremony gave us a chance to thank many people who have helped Sam along the way here: the headmaster and housemaster at his school, his friends, church leaders, and the scouts and their families. Because security is tight at the Ambassador's residence, we weren't able to bring a camera but one of the scout families who has ties to the embassy had clearance so we are grateful to Lynnea for these photos:

The invitations sent by the protocol office: we had no idea it would be so fancy shmancy!

The invitations sent by the protocol office: we had no idea it would be so fancy shmancy!

All the pins. And Sam already has a chance to pay it forward as an Assistant Scoutmaster for the next few months

All the pins. And Sam already has a chance to pay it forward as an Assistant Scoutmaster for the next few months

Taking the oath

Taking the oath

Such a great dad. Greg's spent countless hours doing scouts with Sam, serving in some capacity for pretty much the whole 7 years.

Such a great dad. Greg's spent countless hours doing scouts with Sam, serving in some capacity for pretty much the whole 7 years.

Sam's scoutmaster, the Ambassador, and Sam all gave talks. 

Sam's scoutmaster, the Ambassador, and Sam all gave talks. 

Friends from school (in case you're wondering, Ben's striped blazer means he's a sports team captain)

Friends from school (in case you're wondering, Ben's striped blazer means he's a sports team captain)

Headmaster Garrick (left; think Dumbledore equivalent) and Mr. Cameron, Sam's housemaster (middle; think...McGonagall?) 

Headmaster Garrick (left; think Dumbledore equivalent) and Mr. Cameron, Sam's housemaster (middle; think...McGonagall?) 

It was such a happy day and it worked out perfectly that Maddy was there for her visit at the time. We missed Lauren and Patrick, though!

It was such a happy day and it worked out perfectly that Maddy was there for her visit at the time. We missed Lauren and Patrick, though!

(from left) the 4 Waddoupi, Ambassador Berrey, his partner Curtis, scoutmaster Chris Odell.

(from left) the 4 Waddoupi, Ambassador Berrey, his partner Curtis, scoutmaster Chris Odell.

Just for fun, let's take a quick glimpse at what that boy looked like back when he started on the path to Eagle back in 2009 and a few since then:

He's been so enriched and blessed by the incredible mentors who have contributed SO MUCH time and energy to help the scouts learn and grow. So grateful. Forward, march...

Newsy bits

Lauren and Patrick moved to Atlanta shortly after their wedding, driving across country as an extended honeymoon coda. P had an actuarial internship there over the summer and the move was intended to be temporary but he was offered a really great permanent position that they've decided to accept. They're in Utah this week picking up all of the gear and wedding gifts they left behind in April and are slowly furnishing their new apartment that replaces their temporary (and cockroach infested) one. Life is good in newlywedville. We're looking forward to seeing them at Christmas. And, of course, since we're moving to Virginia at the end of the year, we're excited to be in the same time zone and a day's drive away.

Maddy wrapped up a great first year at university and worked at two (paid, yay!) internships this summer: one as an economic development coordinator for a small municipality (think Parks & Rec) and one at a political consultancy/communications firm (think--what? Scandal? I don't know, I'll have to ask). She spent the summer shuttling between those two jobs, which were a couple of hours apart, and bunking with generous family members. She's excited to be able to stop living out of her car and move into her first genuine, non-dorm apartment this fall. She's got a lively, close group of friends and has been dating and attending missionary farewells and weddings all summer long. She's here in Australia this week for a quick visit and farewell tour before starting school in a couple of weeks. If we let her leave, that is.

Sam is smashing through all the milestones and rites of passage lately. He turned 18 this month, had his Eagle Scout Ceremony, was sustained to receive the Melchizedek priesthood last week at stake conference, has taken the ACT/SATs, is preparing and deciding on college applications, and completing the string of IB assessments and papers that this particular term in Year 12 demands. He's vice-captain of the school and has had a lot of growing opportunities--speaking at assemblies, helping with school-wide leadership and decisions as they transition to an all-boys school to a co-ed one. At some point he'll move up to full fledged driver from learning permit but he'll have to find three spare minutes to bundle together first. 

Greg has done some fun winter hikes and camps with Sam and the scouts, including a four-day snowshoeing + backpacking trip in Kosciuszko National Park. He is heroically straddling two jobs with one foot in his new role and one in his current job.  This will continue until we move in late November, with him rotating time in DC and here. They're both technically with the same company but very different roles and he's handling it like a champ. I marvel at the way he can be completely swamped & pressured at work but you'd never know it in his interactions with us at home, other than he's sometimes awake in the middle of the night with all the thoughts. There's never tension spillover--he can separate those things from his general outlook on life. With me you can always tell what's brewing: sometimes a stress stew, sometimes a bliss souffle, usually some kind of combo platter. But, oh, there's spillover. 

As for me?  I've gotten fairly hermit-y here in Australia winter lately but I'm still here! I'm prepping for the courses I'll be teaching in January, working on a social science research project here in Canberra, doing some long-distance house hunting and tackling the move to-do list in between. (The moving company comes next week to catalog our belongings and then will pack us up for the slow boat shipment next month!)  I got glasses. Two pairs that are hello-aging multifocals and a bunch of reading glasses (favorite blues pictured above) that are scattered on the flat surfaces and in drawers all over the house. I've become enamoured with bullet journaling (hat tip Sarah). I miss writing--I think I've had enough of a mental/creative hibernation season and am keen to create again. Times and seasons, they keep rolling by.


Listening:
 Your Best American Girl by Mitski
First Days of Spring by Noah and the Whale
Cloves album Xiii

Reading:
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

Watching:
The Olympics,
old episodes of Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, &
we loved & binge-watched Stranger Things 

Joining in:
Ann Dee Ellis's memoir group with daily writing prompts  
 

Two daily questions

As I mentioned once before, when I was in Boston last year, it happened to be stake conference in my old stake (which is like a diocese or a regional organization of several local congregations). So I went. What I heard there gently changed my life.* I think it just hit me in the right time and place. The mission president of the Boston mission spoke about what he tells his returning missionaries, as they wonder and agonize about how to take the spirit of their missions into their lives. 

This was a fresh experience on my mind, having witnessed Lauren's transition from missionary life to regular life. I noticed that there was a very real grief process in giving up that full-time richness of inspiration and love and services so I tuned in especially closely to the talk with her in mind. But I quickly realized this was going to be applicable to me. For me.

photo via

photo via

There was one section that felt particularly relevant to me, practically a neon flashing sign:

The key, said President Packard, is to develop a personal daily ministry. He suggested asking yourself and God every morning, through prayer and meditation: "Who are my people?" "What do they need?"--taking note of ideas that come to mind and then committing yourself to act on the impressions when they come. Ask those two questions every day and then turn it all over to God. Ideas will flow and crystallize. You will refill with pure love every day and receive opportunities to share it with others. 

Second, he said, view your entire life as a holistic offering to God. You can be "on his errand" wherever you are--whatever you're doing, even if it doesn't seen conventionally religious or service-y. He wants us to thrive at home, in school, on the job, and have a joyful life and bring that joy into all life's facets. Under that mindset, there's no room for guilt that you're not Serving enough (or full time, as missionaries have) because the love you bring into every situation is enough. You're watering your own corner of the garden, your own section of the vineyard. You're hastening the work within yourself.

These simple, profound suggestions have transformed how I treat my spiritual life. Truly. Like many women I know, I have sometimes felt a low grade guilt of not measuring up--in my church assignments, roles at home and work and elsewhere. I tend to have a running list of should be/could be items that is way longer than the day would allow.  But when I have started the day with the question "who are my people and what do they need?" I have felt the freedom to consider every interaction in that day as worthwhile and part of my personal ministry--at appointments, in work meetings, with my kids and G, with neighbors and friends. Sending an email. Talking to a teacher at Sam's school. Doing research interviews. Teaching a class.  These are my people, my ministry. My task is simply to show up for them and connect and hopefully be a positive presence--a conduit for some bit of love that's tailored to them. This approach replaces my feelings of aspirational anxiety with a sense of peaceful partnership.  It feels beautifully zen, really, almost a Buddhist mindfulness practice. The Jesuits also have a defining phrase (and practice) for this: finding God in all things. I like that.  

Clearly (if you know me) this is an ideal, a blueprint that doesn't always show up in my daily interactions. But for me it has recentered my spiritual efforts, simplified to its essence what I think being a disciple is, and released me from a racing mind. Today: Who are my people? What do they need? Send them to me and me to them. Or, in other words, what is needful


*it was a double-header spiritual boost for me; it's where I heard this talk and had this experience as well.

 

The reception

       

The setting:

And the bridal party:

The program:

The first dance and cake cutting 

The friends, family, & festivities

It was magical. 


Reception venue: Springville Museum of Art
Photographer: Chelsie Starley Photography
Engagement photographer (photos on table): Michelle Lehnardt
Those amazing flowers: my friend Christianne Cox (Urban Flowers in SLC)
Food & Italian soda bar: Magelby's Catering
Wedding cheesecake (L&P don't like cake!): The Mighty Baker
Wedding dress and veil: Avenia Bridal