the hole in my heart

twelve days.
it doesn't seem fair.
or right.
and yet, it's his right, as a father.
to take his daughter.
from her home. her room. her family. her life. our life.

so i replay things in my head.
should we have called the police in march?
our counselor warned us about this.
all or none, he said.
we thought we were doing what was best.
for everyone.

but we shouldn't have protected him.
he is an adult.
he created this mess.
this chaotic, dysfunctional mess.
dcfs is supposed to protect the children.
but instead, they protect the parents, the adults.

what would have happened if we hadn't opened the door?
the policeman was pounding so hard.
should we have taken her back
when he was done with her after two hours?
or would the cycle continue. forever.
no more cycles.

she needs stability.
we need stability.
she needs love. protection. nurturing.
i promised her i would always take care of her.
and keep her safe.
but now she's gone.

so i turn to God.
it is better for us to pass through sorrow.
for it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.
tuesday was the day of tears.
how long will the new, new normal last?
is everything as it should be?

we saw her monday.
nails needed trimmed. eczema was bad. hair needed washed.
how could he do this to her?
how could he do this to us?
betrayed and broken.
how can this be His plan?

i avoid people. places. situations.
because i don't want to talk about the hole.
the hole in my heart.
the hole that can't be filled.
waiting. waiting. waiting.
forever uncertain.

so we trust in the Lord with all our heart
and lean not unto our own understanding
in all our ways
acknowledge Him,
and wait
for Him to direct our path.


A Special Tour of the Ogden Utah LDS Temple

I have a lot of catching up to do, but I am also going to attempt to record (and then actually post) things as they happen. A couple weeks ago, Steve came home from work and handed me this invitation. It kind of made my day. 

So this afternoon, Steve and I were able to go on a special tour of the Ogden Temple. The following photos are from www.mormonnewsroom.org. 

The tour began in the tabernacle, which has been completely renovated and looks sharp. We went into a room and watched a 12-minute video about temples with our tour guide, Elder Marlin Jensen.

Elder Jensen asked everyone in our group to introduce themselves. There were quite a few people from Salt Lake, a man from Saratoga Springs, a couple from Pennsylvania, and others from the Ogden area. Steve said that we were Steve and Emily Ballard from Ogden. Elder Jensen asked if we were business owners. . . which means I must have been dressed nice enough to be confused with someone who does business instead of a stay-at-home-mom who spent all morning cleaning the baseboards. Steve told him we owned Sonora Grill. Elder Jensen immediately stopped and told everyone he would like to bear his testimony of the Chicken Tostada Salad. It was awesome.

There's been a lot of chatter about the interior finishes in the Ogden Temple, and it doesn't take long to figure out why. The dark mahogany African wood next to the Egyptian marble is unusually dramatic.

Elder Jensen expressed his concern about all of the ornate finishes in the temple and made the analogy of a precious jewel inside of a box.

The box that holds the jewel becomes precious and valuable because of what it contains. But he hopes that everyone who goes through the temple will focus not on the box, but on the jewel, which is the covenants that are made in the temple. He later explained covenants as "promises that help guide our behavior".

Steve absolutely loved the paintings in the baptistry. The paintings throughout the entire temple really were phenomenal. Before we left the baptistry, Elder Jensen paused and said, "Doesn't that water look inviting? We'd really like to baptize some of you before we move on, but they won't let us do that today."

We spent quite a lot of time in the brides' room. . . probably about as long as I did on my wedding day. 

Elder Jensen had such magnificent things to say about the temple. I wish that everyone who goes through the temple during the open house could have him as their guide. It felt like we were listening to a general conference talk in every single room. I had to pull out my phone a few times to take notes.

Elder Jensen served as president of the Utah North Area while my Grandpa Malouf was in the Logan Utah Temple Presidency. He told me he remembered eating bread with my grandparents in their home and mentioned how healthy they ate. He looked up at me and said, "You are much taller than them. The bread must have worked!"

The chapel that you sit in while you are waiting for a session is beautiful with lots of light. . . I'm thinking it must be located on the other side of these windows: 

There were some nonmembers in our group, so he attempted to explain how going to the temple makes him feel. He said that the word temple is associated with the "center" and we can go to the temple to feel "centered". Whatever difficulties and hardships we are facing, we can go to the temple and gain a renewed sense of focus. 

Steve sat down on the left side in this instruction room, also known as an endowment room, for his first time ever. . . 

While we were in the endowment room, Elder Jensen said that a rich person endows someone with money. At the temple, we are endowed with context. "We are in a three-act play" he told us. "But we are stepping into the second act without any context." Before we left the room, Elder Jensen bore us his testimony of temples. It was a special thing to hear.  

There was no talking while we were in the celestial room. It was exceptionally quiet. 

Everyone sat still. . . except for Steve, who walked around and inspected everything


We exited and walked around to the south side of the temple where a large tent is set up to provide a reception area. There were a number of displays about temples and a couple of tables covered with sandwiches, fruit, cheese, cupcakes, chocolates, and cookies. (I asked if they would be serving cookies at the open house, and the answer is no. The mess at the Brigham City Temple open house caused some problems, so the Ogden Temple open house will only be serving water.)

I've had a few discussions about iPhone pictures lately, and these next couple of pictures that I took are a great example.

I took this picture with my new (expensive) camera:

And I took this picture with my iPhone: 

The iPhone (and Snapseed) wins. . . 

Steve and I walked around the entire exterior of the temple: 

And then we down the block to Sonora Grill because we were in need of a new picture of the restaurant for Facebook. It took about 15 minutes to catch a break without cars driving through the intersection, but we finally got one:

It's really exciting to feel the energy in downtown Ogden. The community has been working to prepare for the estimated 750,000 visitors who are expected to come to town over the next six weeks. Steve has been involved with preparing downtown businesses for the influx in visitors and we have seen a lot of neat projects come to fruition. I lived in Vernal during the dedication of the Vernal Temple in 1997 and feel lucky to be involved with my second temple open house. (In comparison, the Vernal Utah Temple was toured by approximately 118,700 visitors during its two-week open house.)


Camp Kiesel with the Activity Days Girls

Last Wednesday, I went to Camp Kiesel with the Activity Days girls from our ward. 

A woman in my ward told me that they bought their home when her daughter (now eleven-years-old) was in nursery. For years and years, she was the only girl in the ward. Their family planned to move when she got older so she would be able to participate Young Womens with other girls. Within the last couple of years, the number of girls in our ward has exploded and they don't need to go anywhere.

At Camp Kiesel, the girls participated in some running games:

An obstacle course: 

Shooting wrist rockets: 

Shooting BB guns: 

And archery:

I took a nap while they played lawn games and then joined back up with them for lunch. Earlier in the morning, the girls also had the chance to buy something (with money they each brought from home) from the camp store. I was proud of Rachel and Lucy for coming back out of the store empty-handed. "Everything is so expensive in there. They were selling bracelets for four dollars! Do you know how much you can buy in Thailand with four dollars?!" I loved it. 

We made crafts, learned how to tie knots, and went for a nature hike. The scout camp leaders told the girls that Lamb's Ear was poisonous. And that if you ate it, you would die in three days because there is no cure. . . so now I'm not sure whether to believe anything else they told us. 

The girls listened intently to the water safety instruction: 

And then it was finally time for boating!

I actually started out as the captain of one of these paddle boats:

But after paddling across the pond and back, I jumped out and had this scout camp worker switch me so I could take some pictures. 

It was a beautiful day, just perfect: 

There were a few water wars with the girls on the other boats: 

And then most of the girls ended up jumping off the dock into the water: 

I was standing by, ready to take this picture. Lucy was supposed to pull the guy down into the water when he helped her out. . . but it didn't happen. 

What a fun group of girls!

I endured one last encounter with the super cheesy camp leaders during the closing ceremony, and then I drove seven girls back home. It was kind of painful to drive right by Causey Dam with its spectacular green-toned water and Pineview Reservoir with its inviting beaches. . . we need to get back up there before summer is over!


Family Reunion Crashers

Last week, we went to Bear Lake. Before we made it to the beach, we had to stop at La Beau's:

Then we drove to Ideal Beach Resort, where the Adams Family was having their family reunion. This was my first time back to that beach since I was a child. . . so many memories from what was then named Sweetwater Resort.

It was great having so many older helpers around. The kids carried the kayak and the inflatable island all by themselves. In fact, they took care of that thing without any help from me. . . getting it inflated, setting it up in the water, deflating it, and folding it back up again. This is Holden and Kaleigh out on the kayak:

After a few hours on the beach, we went in for dinner. A few of the boys were downstairs in the store. . . this is where I found my boy:

Natalie made a delicious chicken fajita dinner, and then she was in charge of the talent show:

So nice of them to let us participate. I know these aren't the best photos (especially with my pile of stuff in the background) but I love all of the smiles:

Fun skits. . . I probably should have gotten them on video.

Then the kids took turns telling jokes: 

I don't know if this is Max or Will, but he was my favorite. He stood up to tell a joke, but was laughing so hard that he couldn't get any words out.

After a few dozen"Yo Mama" jokes, we headed out to the pool. This is the gigantic hot tub:

Natalie was playing with my camera and took these pictures: 

The kids had so much fun because there was no lifeguard on duty. . . which meant that there weren't any rules. None of the pools around here let you on the diving board while wearing a life jacket and Kaleigh isn't a great swimmer yet, so she never gets to jump off the diving board. She had no fear. By the end of the night, she was doing flips.

No other pictures because I was swimming, but those kids had a great time. They made a big long line and jumped off the board, one right after another, splashing as much as they could. David's cannonball splashes were so big that even the other families in the hot tub were impressed. 

The pool finally closed, and we bid farewell to the Adams Family. So many fun cousins to play with that it was hard to pull the kids away. We drove up the east side of the lake and stayed the night at the Eyre cabin. We woke up to one of Saren's brothers and her dad playing tennis on the court adjacent to the cabin. Adam got his bowl of dry cereal and watched the game closely, intent on figuring out the rules of tennis. 

I ended up hitting balls with the kids for a couple of hours. It was the first time I'd used a tennis ball machine since high school. . . we had a blast, but the next day I was sore! If anyone wants to know what I want for my birthday, here it is.

We packed things up and went down to the lake. Rachel and Lucy tried to get into the kayak together, but ended up flipping over:

So Rachel went out solo:

My Adams cousins had told me that these giant jawbreaker suckers are a rite of passage at Ideal Beach Resort:

All I know is that Kaleigh thought it was the greatest thing ever. 

We had green curry (from Thai Curry Kitchen) for lunch and then spent the afternoon watching the kids play in the water. There's no need for a boat when you have Isaac Loosli to pull you around: 

These pictures are a little deceiving. . . it looks hot and sunny, but there was some significant wind and it was pretty chilly out there by the water.

Lucy and Hazel (Eliza's cousin) built a serious sandcastle:

And then Saren's mom brought out some kites to go with all of the wind. The kites were a big hit. 

It was Kaleigh's first time flying a kite:

She was absolutely delighted that she got to do it all by herself. (The while goatee around her mouth is from her giant sucker.)

Saren was in charge of dinner, and we had some tasty hamburgers and hotdogs on the grill. Even better was the conversation. Richard Eyre loves to instigate discussions. My favorite was his question, "If you had to live in Utah, would you rather live in Provo or Ogden?" Guess how that one went down. . .

We had a great day. The Eyres have an admirable family and I enjoyed meeting a few more of Saren's siblings.

After dinner I took my first (and only) picture of Rachel and Lucy with Eliza:

And then Rachel took more than a dozen pictures of the sunset. . . so sublime:

And so perfect. Have you heard Sarah Sample's song Count the Colors

It wasn't easy to get the kids back in the car. . . they didn't want to leave. I think this is Adam saying goodbye to Oliver, even though it looks more like a lovers' quarrel. I'm sure they will be thrilled with the pictures in 10-15 years. 

And then we drove home. It was a long, noisy drive home because of the kayak. Apparently, Steve is the only one who knows how to strap it to the roof rack so it doesn't make a racket. I actually stopped in Logan and retied it, but it just shifted from sounding like a lawnmower to making a piercing whistling noise. But we made it. Adam was so tired, he zonked out on the stairs as he was walking to his bedroom: 

This picture of Lucy's back was taken the next day. I know it looks like a tan, but it really was a burn. I had reapplied sunscreen three times at Bear Lake, but that blazing sun still got her. 

Thanks to the Adams Family and the Eyre Family for letting us crash your family reunions!