Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ward Christmas Party: Wise Men Still Seek Him

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     About 4 weeks ago I was asked along with my two counselors to be in charge of our ward Christmas party. With not much time to plan, weekly Young Women activities and lessons to plan, as well as regular work for the 3 of us.. we quickly set to work in planning.
    The theme we chose was "Wise Men Still Seek Him" and we had the decorations be all about lights, gold, and stars. It turned out so beautiful that all the other wards asked if we would leave it up for their ward parties.
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I Spy... Buddy the Elf :)
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The beautiful primary children put on a nativity that was just so special!
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   We had a choir from a local high school sing for 20 minutes, then the nativity and then Santa came! It was a very magical night!
   Here is a short video of the message of wise men seeking Christ today and not just in biblical times. It's very touching!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

12 Days of Christmas

Wednesday I was kind of feeling a bit down.

Our good friends Brooke and Matt McCabe were moving and I was spending the time at work, wallowing in sadness which then turned to selfishness and I thought about when Brian and I move away from this area in the near future.. and I thought "We haven't even made a difference to anyone out here, I doubt anyone would miss us" and then I sat wallowing now on this thought for the rest of the day. I pretty much threw myself a pity party for a good hour before I finally bucked up and got on with the day.

Low and behold, the Lord decided to help me feel a bit loved later when 12 mysterious packages appeared for "Anna and Brian Larson" with no note or anything of who it was from, just a paper saying "Open only one present a day." As I gazed at the packages all brightly colored, I couldn't help but feel a bit emotional. Here I was being so selfish this time of year by throwing my own private pity party earlier that day over "not feeling loved" and later I find this from some precious angels out there. It was a tender mercy to me telling me that I wasn't forgotten.. and also telling me to stop being selfish and get out and serve others as someone is clearly doing for me.

Here are the first 6 days.. Whoever is doing this is very very clever! I have to admit that our two favorites are the Pairs in Pears game (kinda like Bananagrams) and the bird calls which we have already been outside trying!
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    As fun as these presents are.. the real treat behind receiving them is the gift that they are bringing to us each night as we open them, the gift of love.

"At this time of Christmas, this season when gifts are given, let us not forget that God gave His Son, and His Son gave His life, that each of us might have the gift of eternal life" -Gordon B. Hinckley, 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Be Thankful!

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     It certainly has been a season to be thankful! We headed up to Milwaukee on Thanksgiving Eve to spend the night with Mike and Robyn and the kiddos. After games and lots of pie we went to sleep quite stuffed and satisfied. The next day Brian and Mike went and played football in the Turkey Bowl while I made cardboard box houses with the kids. I just adore these kids, I hope that we can raise a good group of kids someday like these little ones.
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Goofy faces! haha
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     After a delicious dinner and more games we took off for home to play even more games with our friends Natalia and Bryce Rich. They recently moved into our ward and are the only other students that are childless like us so we end up hanging out with these cool cats a lot!
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Ugliest face photo... and the boys just smile?!
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We are Thankful for....

  1. Each other.. We find out more and more every day just how much we love marriage and love each other through the ups and the downs in life.
  2. Our Parents.. I can't believe how much they did for us growing up and how much they still do to this day. We are forever blessed because of these wonderful people.
  3. Our Siblings and Relatives.. We are surrounded by love and wonderful people who bless our lives just by living and breathing. I love family!
  4. Our Friends.. Without good friends out here and in all the places we've been, I honestly don't know how we'd survive. Friends are the best family away from family.
  5. Jesus Christ.. All this happiness is made possible through God's Plan of Happiness and Jesus Christ's atonement. 
  6. Good Health.. What could we accomplish without this? We've been very blessed.
  7. School.. Though it is tough, boring, crazy, and exciting all at the same time, we are very grateful for education and allowing us a bright future with a lot of hard work!
  8. Books.. What would I do with myself if I couldn't get lost in a different world and adventure every now and then?
  9. Technology.. This seriously makes impossibly things a bit more possible.. like talking to our family in Utah or to each other when I'm at work and Brian's at school.
  10. Laughter.. It's what gets us through all life challenges and happiness. Laughter serenades joy into our lives.
Happy Thanksgiving! There is SO much to be thankful for!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

My Grandpa Johansen



I’ve never quite understood the term “my heart is full” until recently. On Tuesday November 12, 2013, my sweet grandfather of 80 years passed on into the next life. The thought of him being gone aches my heart but I know that because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ that I will see him again.
When my brother James who is serving an LDS mission in Seattle Washington heard the news he wrote my grandma and mom the most special letter about his testimony. I want to share a part of his letter that touched me.
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“I am so grateful i got that email from Grandpa last week!! That will forever be very special to me. I'm sure as you read in the email that he told me about a dream that he had had about him being young again and back on a mission. And that he and Grandma had started reading "Preach My Gospel" again. I think that Grandpa has been called on a mission again. And I am 100% sure he is going to come and help Me, Jason and Nate out on our missions! I know he'll be there for you too. I know it!! I love you Mom!!! You will see Grandpa again.
Alma 40:12 "And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow."
-Elder James Kendell
 
I think James said it much better than I ever could have. I think Grandpa is off serving another mission and this time he is with serving with my cousin Jared who passed away almost 2 years ago this month.
Below are my memories of my wonderful grandpa.
Grandpa took the time for me, though I am one of 21 grandchildren, I always felt special around him. Growing up, Grandpa and Grandma would let me have "sleepovers" at their house when they weren't off traveling. Grandpa would tell me stories of his childhood as we watched some sporting event and I recall being very fascinated that all that happened to HIM. I remember thinking that there was no way all those stories could happen to one person, but I'd listen intently as I could for a young girl. I wish I would have written all those stories down.
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Grandpa was quite the athlete growing up, when he wasn’t playing them he would watch them. He loved watching his sports on TV. Grandma would come downstairs and tell him to turn down the volume because he'd have it up so loud that his own comments that he would make about the game were heard upstairs. When she would come down and tell him to turn down the volume, he would politely turn it down. As soon as she would leave, he'd grab the remote, sometimes even wink at me, and turn it right back up again.
Grandpa loved to talk the grandkids to the Weber State Basketball games, and I loved going with him. I remember one time when the Weber Wildcat mascot was walking down aisles greeting people, I was so excited to meet him as he approached my seat. Well, he passed right over me and I was devastated, my whole 5 year old life felt over. I started to cry. Want to know what cute Grandpa did? He went right up to the Mascot and pointed at me and made sure the Wildcat came over and gave me a hug. He always was looking out for me.
Grandpa loved to take us on adventures. Sometimes our “adventures” just consisted of trips to Beus duck pond or the gas station for a treat, other times they were on little mini trips. We went to Mount Timpanogos Cave, Brigham Canyon Mine, and lots of different hikes. One time I choked in a cafe we were eating at and Grandpa had to do the Heimlich on me. I remember being so scared (though it was just ice that was stuck so it eventually would have melted) but then not being scared as Grandpa told me in my ear, "I'm here, it's okay"

I remember before the road was built by the water towers in South Ogden, we would go on hikes to the little gas station where he would let us pick out a treat. I always got the Necco treats because they were his favorite and we would share them together (even though I thought they tasted like chalk).
Grandpa also loved the frosting covered animal crackers and I’ve always loved buying them for him though Grandma would have to limit his intake due to his diabetes. On our “great adventures with the grandkids” we would usually start out by buying a bag for the road.
Sitting with Grandpa and Grandma in the swing out front was part of our regular “visiting” routine. I love that swing.

Grandpa loved his hot tub. I remember when they got the hot tub and he was like a child at Christmas as he showed us all the things it could do. The best was to sit outside as it was lightly snowing in the hot tub with Grandpa as he told stories of their many travels. It only makes sense that he would have gone in his hot tub.
Grandpa served a mission in South Africa and when I got married, Brian and Grandpa would often talk about their missions together. Grandpa said when I got engaged and I told him Brian served in South Africa, "Well then, he's the one!"
 photo scan0014_zpse31dbf42.jpgGrandpa was so stubborn and that often got him into trouble---like the time we were in Spain and he drove on the wrong side of the freeway. Or when he insisted he bought the right dish washing detergent and it ended up being laundry soap and our dish washer exploded with bubbles.
Grandpa loved church history. He was quick to acknowledge God in all the creations around us. He was a constant reader (and published author) which I'm pretty sure I inherited that love from him.
Grandpa was and is a missionary through and through. He was always bearing his testimony to others and handed out Book of Mormon after Book of Mormon. I want to be a missionary like my grandpa has been his entire life.
He wasn't as in to card games as Grandma because he always wanted to win and knew he couldn't quite beat Grandma. Grandma loved to tease Grandpa. Her humor always made me laugh, but the best past is that Grandpa never said a word in protest.

Grandpa's breathy laugh is something I hope never to forget. He would laugh through his smile. Whenever I have read in books "the smile reached all the way to the eyes" I just imagine my Grandpa because his smile truly always touched his eyes.
Grandpa loved his family. More than anything else. Family reunions usually brought tears to his eyes, "We are grateful for all those who are here, except those that aren't" were the lines he would ALWAYS say at family gatherings. How hard it will be to no longer hear those lines come out of his mouth as he will no longer be with us in body. I am grateful he lives on in spirit.
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Grandpa always included the gospel in family discussions, he would invite the family to share their testimony and thoughts on different subjects and this always touched my heart. He was never slow to share his testimony and let us know what he believed. I have never doubted that he knew who his Savior was.
He loved sugar... I get my sweet tooth from this man if from anyone. This love wasn’t helped by the fact that he had diabetes that made his feet completely numb. He would walk really slow because he couldn't quite feel if his foot was touching solid ground. I never once... ever heard him complain. Even when he had to ride in a wheel chair at Disneyland, he didn't utter a single complaint, though I know it hurt his pride. He was so independent and self-reliant.
Even with his severe diabetes, he loved to travel.  photo IMGP0360_zps3b91c4b4.jpg 
I remember wanting to go to grandma's house and instead would usually hear the familiar "they are traveling and aren't home right now" I was disappointed, but I know that someday that will be me. Traveling like he has done with my grandma. They have a huge map of all the countries they have been to as well as their next planned trip and dream vacations. In fact he and Grandma were supposed to be leaving on a cruise the weekend after he passed away.
At Christmas time we always knew which house was Grandma and Grandpa's. Grandpa made sure to put their big lighted star on top of their roof every year. It was my favorite---driving up to Grandma's and seeing that star on the roof. Grandpa said that it would help us find his house like it helped the wise-men find Jesus.
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 I loved hearing Grandpa talk about what it was like to fall in love with Grandma. They were high school sweethearts. I have never doubted his love and admiration for her EVER.
Even with the sure knowledge that I have of the Plan of Salvation and the promise of families being together forever does not fully take away the loss that I have felt. It’s hard not to long for his smile and the presence of him. With my entire family here, I just expect to see Grandpa hobbling through with his cane and breathy smile. But I know that where he is at is all part of God’s eternal plan of Happiness.
Grandpa was truly a man who lived and loved life and everything about it. He was a missionary throughout his entire life, and he continues to serve and teach the gospel in the life hereafter, I am sure of it.
I can truly say that with all the love and support that my family and adorable grandma have been given, my heart is truly full. I love you Grandpa! I miss you already! God be with you ‘til we meet again!
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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Something Wicked

Happy Halloween!!    
   Sadly, Brian had to study Halloween night, so I went out trick or treating with some of the mothers in my ward and their kids. We went to the Lake Bluff where I was shocked at how many kids were out and about. I couldn't even imagine getting that many kids at my door!! Again I felt like I was in a movie-especially Hocus Pocus or something where there are lots of kids. It was a pretty cool experience I guess :)
    Also-just a random "wake up you're no longer in Utah moment"-It was cold as we were walking around and I kept hoping we'd run into someone handing out warm cider, like we'd usually get in Utah right? Well we ran into Chicago's form of cider, aka champagne.  some houses were handing out free champagne to parents. Crazy right?

 photo Untitled-2_zps24f52b82.jpg    Luckily we still got to dress up a little bit a week before at a murder mystery party put on by the amazing Karli Piennette (best party planner EVER). I was the Governor's daughter and my beau was Brian who was a merchant sailor-wannabe. He used to be a pirate in the old days so naturally he ended up being the murderer. ha.. We all know Brian is a terrible liar.. but he fooled me and everyone else!
Somehow I was able to collect the most gold from everyone else through my amazing "ticks and bribery skills"

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Bushel and a peck

 photo DSC_0291_zps26adf112.jpg    My wonderful in-laws came for a visit! We headed up to Elegant Farmer to do some apple picking! I'm pretty sure I ate my body weight in apples.. They were SO delicious. An apple tree is now a must have for our future home!  photo apple_zps31d7c63b.jpg   photo Untitled-1_zps41f3f2d6.jpg Robyn (my adorable sis-in-law) is pregnant with her third child! A baby girl! So excited! photo Untitled-2_zps018f2972.jpg   photo DSC_0363_zps272a0378.jpg  photo DSC_0337_zps6989f5dd.jpg 
Man.. I just love these guys :)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Love and Other Silliness

"Silliness makes your soul smile!" -Doe Zantamata 

    There is a direct correlation between the amount of happiness in our life and how much silliness we allow! At least for us there is!
    I love fall and am ready to embrace it, but we had to "try" and swim at least one more time before we could say goodbye to summer. It was ABSOLUTELY freezing, but I tell you what-it was worth it!
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   Our marriage journal has been a fun project to work on and I think it will be really neat to look through when it's all finished! Here are the next 2 pages! Previous pages are HERE.

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Monday, September 16, 2013

♫ "I'm Feeling 22" ♪ ♪

    Can't tell you how long I've been waiting to sing this song! Though the rest of Taylor Swift's lyrics mean nothing to my life, her words, "I don't know about you, But I'm feeling 22!" is pretty exciting to sing!
    Brian treated me like a princess, which I have to add means he treated me the same as every day.. I'm grateful to have a husband who treats me as wonderful as he does. He made delicious salmon for dinner with a cream cheese pie topped with cookie dough! After games with friends and some tennis, I think it added up to be an awesome day! To top it off, Brian pulled out a photo album he had spent hours making for me! He's a keeper!!
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Friday, August 16, 2013

25



Today Brian turned 25! In honor of his 25th birthday, I am going to tell you 25 things you may or may not know about Brian.

1. Brian loves socks.

2. Brian loves all foods, making cooking all the more fun because he’ll eat it. In my family he is known as the vacuum. You can always hear my dad say at dinner, “Brian will finish it!”
Food has two ratings only: Good or better.

3. Brian is a professional rock skipper. Seriously.

4. Brian likes to dress up and look sharp. (And boy oh boy does he look so ridiculously handsome!)

5. One of the things that really made me fall in love with Brian was how he has an incredible gift to make people feel special. I love to hear him tell my mom how great she looks or tell random strangers that they are beautiful. The best pair is just how sincere he is when he says it. He is very genuine.

6. When I got married, I was told that I would find out that men are quite sloppy to live with, but not Brian. He is very neat and orderly.

7. Brian is one of the most disciplined people I have ever met. He is wonderful at managing his time and making sure he has balanced school and time with me.

8. Brian likes the main dish more than dessert (where I am quite the opposite!)

9. Brian plays the piano though he pretends he can’t. He also played the trombone for a few years. And now for his birthday he got a guitar.

10. Brian claims our first "expense" when we get out of medical school will be a boat. He would live on a boat for the rest of his life if possible.

11. Brian has a great sense of humor. He's hilarious in fact. I wouldn't have marry him if he wasn't.

12. Brian can talk and laugh like SpongeBob.

13. Brian is an addictive reader. He starts a book and his eyes stay glued until the last page.

14. Brian loves mountain biking and tennis.

15. Brian dislikes scary or jumpy movies. When we watch them together I usually end up holding him.

16. Though-Brian's favorite movie is Inception. Give him the time to tell you why and he’ll go off about how it’s the best movie ever made.

17. Brian has a contagious smile and laugh. His eyes have the best smile wrinkles I have ever seen. Whenever he gets sunburned it looks like his eyes have a sun around them because the wrinkles never burn because he's always smiling!

18. He’s a funny storyteller. He gets so animated I can never make it through without bursting out laughing.

19. Brian lived in South Africa for two years and you can bet he's taking me there someday.

20. Brian has incredible dance movies. That is actually when I knew I wanted to get married to him (I'm not kidding!) I watched him dancing with some other girls and instantly knew.

21. Brian is great with his hands. Anything and everything he wants to learn to do, make, or fix.

22. Brian has a strong love of the gospel and of our Savior. It's through being touched by his testimony that I have really found mine. He is a light and such an example! 

23.  The Swedish Chef and Pee Wee Herman are a few of Brian’s favorite characters to impersonate.
24. Brian is a champion pogo stick rider.
25. I'm sure this one is a no-brainer, but I am absolutely head over heels and madly in love with this boy! I'm so glad he's mine and that I've got forever with him!

Birthday boy! (don't mind my feet!)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Evangeline

   Meet Evangeline. If you don't know the reference, you seriously need to consider watching The Princess and the Frog. Ray is a firefly from the movie (I have yet to catch him) and he's in love with the evening star which he thinks is another firefly named Evangeline.  photo DSC_0001_zpsaf3363ad.jpg
    I love fireflies.. They may be one of my favorite things about Illinois. We've gone out to catch them a few times. They can be so difficult ha. It's amazing to go through the fields here and watch the bugs flash all over. It's a mini firework show!  photo IMGP0909_zps493c0e7f.jpg  photo IMGP0911_zpsf234a988.jpg
    Lately we've both had a bit more time, so we've done more bike rides and walks along the beach and forest preserves (While being attacked my mosquitoes.. they are terrible here.. absolutely terrible). I love how green it is here and I love being so close to Lake Michigan. It's such a beautiful body of water.

Monday, July 8, 2013

We're "Starving"

    We really are enjoying our time out here in Illinois! It has been fun to experience something so new and different than what we grew up with in Utah. One thing I really miss though that I don't know if I can ever get over of course are the mountains. I miss the beauty of them but I also miss what you can do in them! Skiing, biking, and of course hiking.
    To hike out here, you have to drive quite a distance away.. So 120 miles and 2 hours later we hit Starved Rock State Park. There are 18 canyons to explore that run along side the Illinois river.. and we originally had planned on exploring a couple of them, but to be honest.. we ended up on a different trail than what we had planned. Apparently in the spring there are lots of waterfalls through the canyons, so we plan on going back next year to hit those up. For now there were just small trickles of water down the rocks.
    The big difference between hiking here instead of in Utah (besides the fact that in Utah we normally hike mountains and this was a hill compared to it) is of course the humidity. It's like being inside of a steam shower sometimes! In minutes we are drenched in what feels like sweat but is really all the moisture in the air just sticking to every part of your body. 
   It was a beautiful trail to follow and it felt like we were going through a jungle because it was so green! Starved Rock is a butte that sits right along the river. We joked that it was called starved rock because we were all "starving" by the time we got back to the car. Anyway! We had quite the adventure and really enjoyed the hiking. We'll be back next year for some waterfalls!
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