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Not the season that just ended, but last, last summer– 2105– the summer when everything changed. The image above is an outtake from family photos that were outdated minutes after they were taken. Last summer we had six children at home, Abby and Lizzy staying in the guest room, Hansie around every single day.

There’s danger in waiting an entire year to put together a video. Sentimentality overruled wisdom and the footage extends three times longer than it should. We didn’t manage to take a family vacation between Stefan and Hansie’s missions, but we did spend plenty of happy hours together.

Besides the masses of Hansie footage, you’ll notice a few things:

  1. Gabe changed COMPLETELY. I promise you, this was just one year ago, but if you look at Gabe you’ll think it must have been three.
  2. This video features at least a dozen kids who are now serving missions. I’ll send a prize to the first person who can name twelve. Who am I kidding?– The only people who will watch this entire mammoth documentary are the mothers of those missionaries.
  3. I won’t lie, it was a summer of rollercoaster emotions. And it’s kind of nice that, looking back, all I see are people who truly love each other.

Summer 2015 from Michelle Lehnardt on Vimeo.

  • September 23, 2016 - 11:11 pm

    Kel - Gorgeous, Michelle! I miss all those awesome faces and aren’t the years between 13 and 14 huge for changes!?!!?ReplyCancel

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In my mind, heaven will consist of long walks with people I love and excellent conversation. One day I’ll fly my whole family and all my best friends to Switzerland and hike across the Alps, carrying nothing but an change of clothes and toothpaste and stopping at adorable inns each night for cheese and chocolate. But until we make it to Switzerland (or heaven), hiking Mt. Timpanogos serves as a good substitute.

Honestly, there’s nothing I love more– an entire day to spend with my favorite people.

And it took us the whole summer to find a day, which is why we did a Labor Day hike. The wildflowers are bloomed out, but there’s still beauty to behold.

Xander says he was just pondering scripture in this photo, “and the sons of Ishmael did begin to murmur exceedingly, because of their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness…”

We always bring plenty of food, but Gabe needs nothing but cheddar goldfish.

Sammie and Ben have a new nephew so they had to leave early (and Mary tagged along with them).

We were all slowed down a bit by these gorgeous mountain goats.

img_0027-copyAlmost there…

This photos was too fabulous NOT to post.
img_0094-copyUntil next year… thank you Timp, for the best day of the summer.

  • September 9, 2016 - 4:16 pm

    Denise - What beautiful pictures. Forgive this question, but I live in flat Illinois. How long does it take to get to the top? And how long does it take to get back down? Does altitude effect any of you in the family? I went to Colorado last year, and had some troubles at Pikes Peak. Just curious. Thank you for sharing!
    DeniseReplyCancel

  • September 10, 2016 - 10:23 pm

    Ruth Mitchell - Ack! You saw mountain goats! They are adorable. I completely agree with your description of heaven.ReplyCancel

  • September 13, 2016 - 5:46 pm

    Heidi - I’m a big fan of the cheddar goldfish and star wars jacket.ReplyCancel

  • September 14, 2016 - 3:22 pm

    Lisa - So…so…so…wish we were there! Love you guys!ReplyCancel

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Earlier this year, I attended a gathering of women with perhaps the best “get to know you” activity ever. Our hostess asked everyone to name something happy in their life right now and something really difficult. As we went around the circle, the answers became progressively more honest and personal. We cheered for successes with children, careers, education and wiped away tears as women described parenting issues, marriage problems, fears for the future…. Women wrapped arms around each other in sympathy for weight gain and/or a rebellious child, because it’s all hard, there’s no hierarchy of “problems worth mentioning” vs. “issues which must be suffered in silence.”

As you might imagine, those introductions set the tone for an event where women who’d scarcely known each other the day before could connect and learn from each other in powerful ways. And, as I’m sure you intuited, we bonded through our deficiencies more than through our successes.There’s something powerful and sacred in acknowledging our need for help and receiving acceptance without judgment or blame.

As I’m sure you also guessed, not a single person said, “Oh, I don’t have any problems.”

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Plato, he knew his stuff. I love that quote so much I painted on our laundry room wall twelve years ago. I see it every day. And I still forget. We all forget.

Recently I was caught in another social situation precisely the opposite of the one above. For well over an hour I was stuck with a woman who took no time to listen, but every opportunity to berate, belittle and offer unsolicited advice.

Feeling cornered and frankly shocked by her verbal harassment I considered asking, “Why are you treating me like this?” but decided I didn’t want to engage in a battle. Once she left, I turned to our mutual friend and asked, “What just happened?”

“She does this sometimes,” my friend explained, “if she thinks your life is going a bit too smoothly, she’ll bring you down.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I believe in constructive criticism and more than once a bit of random advice set me straight. I’m a huge believer in taking the opportunity to learn even from unpleasant people, but no one needs a sixty minute verbal harassment. Especially from someone who hasn’t taken the time to get to know us.

Just days after my own experience, I talked to a friend who was receiving the same sort of censure from a fellow employee and read an email from a cute sister missionary who was cringing from abuse from her companion. Our friend Roger calls these critics ‘crab traps’– people who just want to pull others down with their crabbiness.

Parents often fall into this habit with their kids, wives with husbands and vice versa. It’s good for all of us to sit back and ponder the absolute futility of excessive criticism.

Honestly, I’m sure I’ve been a crab trap myself at times. And the woman who berated me is a lovely person– kind and generous and always looking out for others (just not me that day). I think we just forget everyone has problems, everyone has heartache. We don’t share those hurts with everyone because A. no one wants to be a downer and B. sharks attack when they smell blood in the water. I’m an extremely open person and don’t mind sharing my own foibles, but we all have struggles we can’t share. We can all whine about the agonies of potty training, but when kids (and spouses and siblings and such) get a bit older we owe them privacy.

In contrast to the crab traps, I think of my friend Sue. She’s the kind of person you look for across the room because she’ll wrap her arms around you, tell you you’re wonderful, cheer with your successes and validate every concern. Actually, I have a lot of friends like Sue– people who make you stand a bit taller and try a little harder to be the person they already think you are.

I’m worn out these days. I’ve just gone too fast for too long and I’m not very good at relaxing (because there’s always work to do). When an introvert like me gets burned out, it’s hard to exude love and compassion for others. Still, I want to be like Sue, or rather like Jesus. I want to make you stand a little straighter and feel a little happier. And if I start acting like a crab trap, let me know, that’s the kind of criticism I need to hear.

 

 

  • September 4, 2016 - 7:24 pm

    Emily B - Michelle,
    Wishing I could wrap my arms around you right now. Sorry you got caught in a crab trap conversation (or lecture sounds like).
    Thank you for sharing yourself with us online, you are the opposite of a crab trap here, uplifting.
    I hope you are able to quickly brush off hurtful comments, whether intentional or not.
    Easier said than done in my experience.ReplyCancel

  • September 4, 2016 - 11:28 pm

    Danielle - Well said. Sometimes I have to remind myself that even people that seem to have everything going for them have their struggles. I want to be like your friend Sue. But I, too, am an introvert, and have to force myself to interact with people when I’d rather stay home. It seems as though you spend quality time with many different friends. I admire that and wonder how you overcome your “introvertedness” to do it. Thank you for your blog posts. :)ReplyCancel

  • September 5, 2016 - 9:45 am

    Kristen - Thank you! I stumbled across you this Labor Day morning. It was a gift from God!ReplyCancel

  • September 5, 2016 - 10:41 pm

    Michelle - I was thinking about you just the other day as I had a conversation with my friend about the power of vulnerability. I remembered your post about sitting down with your new visiting teachers and wanting to just get right to the heart of that kind of sharing. It’s one of the things I appreciate about you and people like you. So much of your power comes from the fact that you also are willing to walk the path of pain with others (both in seeking support from others and in offering it).

    I had some experiences like this on social media recently and it really knocked the wind out of me. Just when I think I’m really ok, something will happen that makes me realize how much I need safe places to fall and think and share.

    I’m reminded of Elder Maxwell’s quote that we are all each other’s clinical material. It can be so brutal, because we can slip in and out of being kind to each other (sometimes in a matter of a minute or two) when our own need for reinforcement or validation trumps our ability to be there for someone else.

    I am sorry you are so depleted. You gave so much in that RubyGirl retreat. I wish there was a way to pour some of that light and love back into you. It’s ok to refuel however you need to. Surround yourself with safe people while you do. Love you.ReplyCancel

  • September 6, 2016 - 12:06 pm

    Ann - I appreciate this post. I am happy for, and envy, your circle of women who encourage you to to be your best. My mother is one of those people that spent 60 minutes taking you down. It’s a really hard thing to know how to best honor her while not allowing her to harm me anymore. It’s also a huge learning curve for me to be one of those women and how to attract those kind of women into my life who build and nurture. It’s utterly foreign to me. One of the very biggest blessings of the internet for me is getting a peek inside someone’s life who is real and honest and healthy in ways that I didn’t see woman model growing up. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • September 7, 2016 - 8:41 am

    angie charles - “I want to make you stand a little straighter and feel a little happier”. I like that. And you do make me as a reader feel that way. Thank you.

    Dear Michelle, we all hope you get the R&R you need, so your full strength and enthusiasm will return, which uplifts us all. I always look forward to your posts.

    A short thought about the “unpleasant” sister missionary, from someone who did not grow up American-
    To young people who are not from the US, with all its privilege and plenty, American teens can seem spoiled and yes entitled, with their air of easy confidence, their wide smiles, straight teeth, and glamorous-looking family photos and activities, water-skiing, etc.etc. —

    It’s hard to even imagine how differently most of these other young people grew up, with much less opportunity, support, etc. on all sides.

    This “crabby” companion needs reassurance that she is also lovable and important, that she fits in with all the American missionaries, and in the Lord’s and the church’s eyes, is just as valuable and important.

    And the American sister can prove to her in humility and service that not all American girls are “spoiled”.ReplyCancel

    • September 7, 2016 - 12:42 pm

      mlehnardt8@msn.com - Beautifully expressed Angie. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • September 9, 2016 - 5:15 pm

    Laura Graham - I love everything you have ever written and throughout my day (especially rough moments with my little ones) I will ponder little bits of wisdom you’ve shared. One of my all time favorites was to enjoy the good times and know the bad times will pass. I appreciate your honesty so much. It makes me feel more human and connected to my own emotions. Its like you can put into words what my heart is feeling or aching for. Thanks for bringing some added peace and inspiration into my day. I hope one day I run into you at the grocery store or something. I would give you a huge hug and buy you a diet coke (or a candy bar :)) and tell you thank you a hundred times for your example. Thank you for writing and thank you for being such a beautiful mentor.ReplyCancel

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The temperatures still hover in the 90s every day, the pool remains open, shave ice stands dot every corner, but with the approach of school, we all bow to the end of summer.

School started for us just this past Wednesday, but already summer, true summer, seems like another life. We’re already into the drill of signing forms, setting alarm clocks, reminding kids about homework and practicing… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Just eight days ago, we were hiking to Dog Lake with Ben and Sammie, Ruth, Zoey, John and Will. Our intention was to get up at 6:30 am and drive to the Timpanogus trailhead for the Parker Bradford Memorial Hike, but we were bone tired from the Ruby Girl retreat the day before. For the first time in years, we missed the hike. And that makes my heart hurt.

One day soon, I’ll post a report of the retreat on the Ruby Girl website. I’ll describe how beautifully the day went, our wonderful instructors and volunteers, the way every participant felt uplifted and inspired. What I won’t reveal over there, is the tremendous cost to my family and myself. I tried so hard all summer to plan the retreat while still being a good mom and wife, I’m afraid I completely lost myself. I’m exhausted. Just so tired.

IMG_9316 copyStill, we did manage to hike! The six miles flew by while we relished in each other’s company. We have no whiny hikers right now— and that’s pretty amazing.

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Over the weekend we had visits from so many of our favorite people (an end of summer bonus),

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watched the Olympics until 11 pm every night,

IMG_9365-2 copyand by Tuesday night we were ready to back-to-school blessings and a 9 p.m. bedtime.
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Our very favorite Mormon tradition might be back-to-school blessings. Every child gets the opportunity to talk about their hopes and dreams and worries for the coming school year and Erik lays his hands on their head and gives them a blessing. It’s an opportunity for us to talk about kindness, helping each other, looking out for anyone at school who seems lost or lonely.

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Everyone at our house has a big year ahead of them. As student body president Xander has a responsibility t0 befriend every student, plan events and videos and attend meetings; Gabe might still be in junior high but every two minutes someone reminds him– “As a 9th grader your grades count this year!” and Mary’s making the big jump to junior high as a seventh grader.

Yes, she’s scared. Yes, she’d probably rather homeschool another year, but I know this is the right path for her and she’s done amazingly well. Even at orientation she recognized that she could befriend kids who’d just moved into the area or were transferring schools. She may have been homeschooled the last few years, but she has the advantages of a really cute ninth grade brother, the nicest friends and living in the neighborhood. Plus, 7th period home release just to ease her transition.

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These three. So lovely. So good to each other– funny and capable and smart. I wish I could freeze time. Instead, I’ll savor every day.

It’s going to be a golden year for all of us.

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  • August 22, 2016 - 2:11 am

    Tasha - I never comment- but always read. Thank you so much for publishing this wonderful blog. Your thoughts, insights and honesty are most appreciated. I hope you and your children have a fantastic school year.ReplyCancel

  • August 24, 2016 - 8:37 am

    Jen hurst - Love this. Of course I do. I love you. And love your insites. Such a beautiful family.ReplyCancel

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