26 February 2013

Missing Dad

THREE has a father and son Cub Scout activity tonight- cake decorating contest for annual Blue&Gold Banquet. A good friend is going to fill in and help him decorate. It's the little things that make deployments hard on kids. THREE was a little emotional last night and didn't want to go bc he was going to be the only one without a Dad there. But I knew I had good men I could call on anytime from church and this time was no exception. I even have a second lines up in case the first gets caught up at work.

24 February 2013

Week 33 from Afghanistan

Hope this find you well. 
Things are fine here.  Another descent week.  We got a new boss in as the J2 (Director for Intelligence) and he comes from a similar background as the community I come from.  We brought him around to see some of our units, and he pointed out a lot of the issues I have been talking about since I got here.  Looks like I will now have the political top cover to get some things fixed.  It may be a bit late in coming, but we have to set up for the enduring presence, and frankly, any doctrinal gains we make now will only help us in the next conflict we find ourselves. 
I continue to look forward to vacation in a few weeks and a move a few months after that.  I can appreciate what it was that was said in Ether about faith that giveth us a hope for a better world and maketh an anchor to the souls of men.  Of course he was also talking about the difficulty of hanging onto that which is just and true in the face of war and political machinations of his day.  Like the starving people who are so preoccupied with survival that the Gospel seems ethereal ("will that bible buy me any bread")--those who spend weeks upon weeks in situations they cannot control, and whose fate is determined by others (to include many whom do not have altruistic motives), can be challenged in feeling after spiritual things.  The immediate stressors and challenges can overcome our spiritual natures.  But with hope for a better world, we can hang on.  Fortunately for me, it is not much longer.  I can appreciate the difficulties of others who are stuck in situation for which they see no end to, which will last far longer, and whose hope is for the eternities--but even there, by clinging to faith and hope, we can separate ourselves out from the silliness around us. 
I am thankful for the quiet assurance of the spirit that I can feel, that assures me all is well.  When struggling I remember the fate of Joseph.  When he was being carted off by Arabian traders as a slave--things couldn't have looked very good.  Promises must have appeared dashed.  When fleeing from the wife of Potiphar and thrown into jail--things could not have looked any better.  Yet with all that, the way was provided not only for his escape, but the salvation of the family of Israel.  Like Joseph, we cling on to the hope of promised blessings, put our head down and trudge on--but we can move forward with assurance of the spirit that all promised blessings will be provided.  We may not be able to see it.  It may look pretty dark. But we will feel it.  Like Joseph, in the end, all things will turn to our good.
That said--it is nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

17 February 2013

Week 32 from AFG

Hope this finds you well.  Lots of good milestones this week.  At 32 weeks I have right around 20 weeks to go, which sounds pretty good to me.  In 28 days I depart for R&R, arriving just before the kids' Spring Break.  So that is right around the corner.  With the President's announcement of a drawdown of 34K troops over the next year, we can finally start planning retrograde operations with better assumptions.  All that planning will keep us pretty busy throughout most of the rest of my time here.  Its busy work, moving things around and making sure we have adequate protection for our troops.  So it was a good week all around.

Today as I walked out of my room, I was met by a beautiful day.  Normally there is so much smog and dirt and filth in the air that you can't see very far, but this morning it was pretty clear, and there were great views of snow capped mountains. It struck me that those mountains stood as a witness of God and a promise of better things if people were willing to reach out and accept it.  The snow there, if captured, represents the promise of agriculture and plenty--no reason they need to live in the dust bowl they live in.  It seemed to suggest peace.  It was a warm day as well, and spring was in the air--my mind turned to the great symbols God has given us of death in Winter and rebirth in Spring.  New opportunities for life and hope.  Truly nature witnesses that there is a God in heaven.

I am not much of a photographer, but one of my favorite pictures is one I took at the Garden of Gethsemane.  Among the ancient olive trees, well dunged, sprang a single purple flower--as if to say that out of the greatness of the mother tree, and richness of its soil, a small but significant life arises.  All life is dependent on the light and atonement of our Savior.  I had that picture turned into a large print which I have hung in my office.  No one has ever asked me what it is, but I feel like it represents my testimony to any who would look upon it.
All of nature is a witness of truth.  I had a roommate in college that was a Geology major.  He was a fun guy to go hiking with, because he could point out all the various rock formations and explain the history behind them.  He was also a die hard atheist, as if there are any other kind.  We went on a backpacking trip once, and got to a glorious place--tall trees, a large cliff, a waterfall, on a low ridgeline, but high enough to see across a small valley.  We stopped and he told me about the cliff and we talked about how amazing that location was.  I asked him to stop for a moment and look around.  After a minute or so, I asked him if he could really believe among all the order he could see that this was all just an accident of nature.  He didn't have much to say about that, and so I took a chance to testify that I knew and that he could know from how he felt, that the things of nature testified there was a God.  We walked off, and he didn't say much, but I know that in that moment, he felt it was true as well. 

I hope that in some of the Afghan hearts today, and days like it, people will look up and see the glory of nature, and know not only that there is a God, but that he is a God of peace, who desires our happiness.  That such a vision might inspire peace, charity, order, stewardship and community is my hope and prayer.

Have a great week,

14 February 2013


V Day 2013

I love my kids! Each one is so very different from the others and each one has their own challenges in life. I'm proud of how they are constantly working hard to make the best of life especially a military life. They're awesome!

10 February 2013

Week 31 from Afghanistan

Hope all is well.  I depart for R&R in 35 days! Pretty excited about that.

By the time I come back I will be under 90 days left. It is good to see some light at the end of the tunnel. We are getting pretty excited about the move. There are several properties in the area that have some acreage and outbuildings and I'd like to have a mini farm. Mrs. L and I will head out at the end of my leave to look at houses. We may find it easier to buy something in town where the university is, but if we can swing something nearby but with some land to have some animals and a good sized garden, that would be pretty great.

My grandmother had a small hobby farm when I was growing up. How many animals she had varied, and she gradually downsized to nothing so she could travel, but when I was younger she had pretty much a little of everything. Some chickens, rabbits, hogs, a goat, cows, sheep, horses. Her garden wasn't very big, but it was sufficient, and I remember going out to find something fresh for dinner. She never had very good luck with fruit trees, but there were wild berries all over the area and we'd go out for raspberries or blueberries. My parents kept up that tradition for many years, maintaining a large vegetable garden. It was fun to work and see where your food came from.

I look forward to being someplace where we can be part of a community for the long term, and especially a place so environmentally conscious. It will be great learn to be a steward over a small patch of earth and see how things can grow.

As Brigham Young said:

“Fields and mountains, trees and flowers, and all that fly, swim or move upon the ground are lessons for study in the great school of our Heavenly Father, . . . [in what] is open before us in good books and in the great laboratory of nature.”

03 February 2013

Week 30 from AFG

Hope this finds you well. Things have finally started picking up again here, so it has been a much better week. Everyone wants to feel productive--but especially when everyone here and at home is making such a sacrifice. We want to see that these sacrifices are for some greater good. I can't yet say that this is the case--beyond loyalty to our oath of office--but we at least have had more impactful work. I expect that will continue through the rest of my time, so the doldrums of the slow Dec-Jan are past us.