Dear Hansie

Dear Hansie,

I’m sorry about last Sunday’s I’m-so-tired-and-sad-I-can’t-think letter. A week later, the world seems brighter and well, I don’t think I can complain to missionaries about feeling tired.

I’m tempted to just skip ahead, or to just post the photos with no words. But it feels like a betrayal to just share shiny happy photos and not mention the girl in the homecoming photos whose father died that night, the boy who lost his beloved uncle, two women going through divorces who stayed up till 4 a.m. cooking hundreds of crepes for a Sunday morning breakfast.

I didn’t take photos of my friend in tears when her brother died, my son who was angry with me, the inconsiderate people who hosted a spontaneous family reunion in our backyard and basement* or Mary sobbing over a disappointment. But I’ll always remember Xander and his friends sitting in my kitchen writing letters of comfort, Mary bravely moving forward, Erik hauling up garbage and vacuuming the mess in the basement, ninety kids gathering on a Sunday morning for Scripture Day. I wish I had a photo of Ben and Sammie finishing their first marathon and of the amazing decorations Xander and friends created for the homecoming dance.

I’ve always struggled with the great intersections in life between joy and pain– how can we host birthday parties when children are starving in the world? And I believe the answer is, how can we not? We celebrate everything good, we work together to create meaningful events, moments of beauty and quiet and triumph. And when I look at these photos now, I see an army of people behind the scenes– all with their own troubles and heartaches– working to make the world a little brighter for others.

They’ll never be royalty, but they can fake it.


just a little less-than-a-minute video of homecoming. Notice I captured a little of everything but the football game.
Homecoming 2016 from Michelle Lehnardt on Vimeo.



Savy’s darling Aunt Lisa just happened to show up during photos.



g28a0401-copyThe morning after the dance, we held the annual 12th Ward Scripture Day. You remember our decades old tradition in our ward where we take an entire Sunday (9-4:30) with the youth ages 12-18 to talk about the scriptures and hopefully inspire kids to use them more in their lives. Dad and I were in charge this year and have been working on it for several months. We invited the Parley’s Creek Swahili Branch to join us.

I think the best decision we made was asking young adults to speak. Traditionally, we have an older crowd sharing their wisdom, but we didn’t invite anyone over the age of 24. We told them, “Don’t give them a ‘to-do’ list or ‘you shoulds’– just tell them your best experiences with the scriptures, inspire them with the stories of their lives.”

You could just see the kids make an immediate connection with these young adults. And of course I recruited Ben and Sammie, Stefan and Heather.

We also had FABULOUS food. The hundreds of crepes, Cafe Rio style lunch, mint brownies and ice cream bars… there were NO leftovers.

We took on the rather ambitious task of making quilts for refugees. We also made these at the Ruby Girl retreat.

Let me tell you a little about these quilts because they are a great parable for service: there’s almost nothing easier in the world to make than a tied quilt. Even someone with no prior experience can put one together in under an hour if they listen to the instructions and can take correction. But there are dozens of ways to get it wrong. All kinds of ways you might never think of.

I told the kids, “You’re going to mess up. Watch each other, help each other. Don’t try to hide mistakes; just fix them! I’ve given each group a leader who can answer your questions. Don’t be offended when someone corrects you and be sure to be kind when you are correcting others!”

By the end of our 45 minute activity, almost every group figured it out and I think there was a great deal of satisfaction when they saw the completed stack of quilts.

Mary was on thread cutting duty.

Today, things are a little more peaceful, we just had a birthday dinner for Sammie and celebrated everything she means to us. And! It just happens to be Ben and Sam’s first anniversary too. 

It’s a good life, a joyous life.

We love you and miss you every day.

Hugs and kisses, mom

*In order to save for our really fabulous vacation next summer, we’ve been renting out our basement to Airbnb guests. In general, we’ve loved it. We’ve met people from all over the world, made friends and we’re building up a nice little nest egg for our trip. But on the the Saturday of Homecoming (the craziest day you can imagine) we came home to find that our guests request to “invite over a couple people” was actually a 22 person family reunion in our backyard with pizza, watermelon in the pool, garbage all over the basement. I know I should write them a terrible review, but I don’t have the guts.

September 23, 2016
October 4, 2016



  1. heidi

    September 30, 2016

    What a crazy time! You do so well at focusing on the good. I also LOVE your idea for the scripture day–as a youth, I actually always dreaded it! But it sounds wonderful this year!

  2. Jeanelle

    September 30, 2016

    There are so many wonderful people out there (thinking of all who helped with your scripture day, all of your kids’ friends, etc.) that they so far outshine the dishonest people who took advantage of your home and kindness. I can’t wait to hear where you’re going on vacation! Also, ward scripture day…do you start with a sacrament meeting? This was a ward activity plus you invited the branch? We recently used Priests/Laurels to help run our stake Deacon/Beehive activity and it was just brilliant. The younger kids got so much more out of the activity because the people talking to them/leading/teaching were practically their peers and the bigger kids were amazing – kind, patient and so helpful. Love the youth!!!xo

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