Sunday, January 14, 2018

On the Lord's Errand

"The sweetest experience I know in life is to feel a prompting and act upon it and later find out that it was the fulfillment of someone's prayer or someone's need.  And I always want the Lord to know that if He needs an errand run, Tom Monson will run that errand for Him."  This quote summarized the legacy of President Thomas S. Monson.  Over the past two weeks, we have remembered his life and pondered his teachings and his example.  
An excellent video about the life and legacy of President Thomas S. Monson

Since our last blog post, we have celebrated Christmas and the New Year and started settling into our post mission life.  We are trying to focus our energy on the purposes that our Heavenly Father has for us.  This includes our focus on our family and on our ancestors.

Christmas Gifts from our Hearts

This year we tried to make our Christmas Gift giving a little more meaningful.  As part of our Christmas gift giving we gave the following three gifts:

1- To each of our grandchildren we gave them a coupon for a date with their Oma and Opa.     

We have quickly learned that we will be a little out of our comfort zone in some of the activities as we share this time with each grandchild.  We have already spent an afternoon at the nickel arcade and the next activity scheduled is laser tag.  We look forward to many more opportunities to create memories.

Video games with Natalia and Tiancom at the Nickel Arcade
Lunch together afterwards
2- To each of our 17 children we chose to share our Personal Finance Self-Reliance Course.  Each received the following letter with a copy of the Personal Finance manual.  This was following some specific promptings that we had received soon after returning from our mission.
We started this self-reliance course last week and have had 10 of our children, sons or daughter in laws or grandchildren participate with more planning to join in.  Others are reviewing the materials in their home.  For those who missed the first lesson, we have worked with them one on one, including three additional sessions this past week.  The unexpected blessings have been some meaningful individual conversations about spiritual self-reliance.  We believe that this can be a blessing in all of their lives and we will do our part to make sure that they all have the opportunity to improve their financial self-reliance.

First session of Self-Reliance Course, including family from Pennsylvania by video

3- Finally for some for whom we had copies of patriarchal blessings, we shared the following reminder of the gifts that have come from their Heavenly Father.

Ushering in 2018

As we finished our Christmas celebrations we quickly moved to the New Year.  We did our normal puzzle and opened the door for family members to celebrate with us.  The Sunday evening was full of visitors but ended with less participation as the year wound down.

Starting New Year's Eve with a puzzle, before visitors
Visitors to our home, putting puzzles together and enjoying the food
Debbie and Jacob as 2017 wound down
With Kari and Serenity as the Times Square ball began to drop
Finished second puzzle done on New Years Day

Other Holiday opportunities

We have had other opportunities to celebrate Christmas with different family members.  We had a Christmas Eve Shepherd's Dinner with many of them, including my brother Dan and his family who stayed a week with us in our Condo.  We also enjoyed time with my brothers and their families on December 23 and a dinner and photo shoot with all six living brothers and their wives with my mother.

Celebrating with Camila in her Care Center facility on Christmas Eve.  We love her beautiful smile!
Extended family Christmas party on December 23 with brothers and their families. Thank goodness for the Condominium Clubhouse

Our Christmas Decorations in our Family room downstairs

Christmas Decorations outside

Tending grandkids who played in boxes that new bar stools for our kitchen came in
Another opportunity to be with Arianna, Grandma reading her a book

Mounting the American Flag on our Condo, present to Great Grandma Rueckert

2018 Celebrations

After the New Year we moved right into Camila and Debbie's birthdays and our annual party with Debbie's siblings and their posterity.  It is held at Noah's and includes an ice skating rink.  It has been a fun activity.  This was also our first opportunity to get Camila connected with her 4 children.  It was heartwarming to see them rush to see her when we arrived.

Camila with her four children on the ice
Camila with her two daughters, Kaisha and Cherish

Grandpa with a few more grandchildren
Celebrating Debbie's birthday 

More family history and temple work

We have tried to spend our extra time getting organized and getting moving on our family history work.  Part of this was buying a new file cabinet to organize our files.

Our file cabinet before assembly

After several trips to the temple, we were able to hold a family temple sealing session with my mother and four of her sons and their wives.  We were able to perform 14 couple sealings and about 20 child to parent sealings that I had brought and several that other brothers had brought.  These are always emotional and meaningful experiences. We sealed families together that we had identified and did work for over the past several months and years.  These included Moeller and other children that had died as infants.  In our last ordinance we sealed 7 Rueckert children to the same parents.  This involved all 9 Rueckert's in the sealing room.  What a wonderful experience!  The sealer enjoyed having the same last name for all of the proxies.  We still have 30 more children to be sealed to parents in a future visit.

Ordinances completed from our family names.

Several days of each week, we start our day at the gym.  Debbie rides her stationary bike while I run on the tread mill.   Then we go to the weight room and strengthen a variety of muscles.  The photo below shows my goal, to finish 3 miles in less than 30 minutes.

Results from 30 minutes of workout, including 8 minutes of cool down

Passing of President Thomas S. Monson

On the night of January 2, we learned of the passing of President Thomas S. Monson.  This ended a significant chapter in the history of the Church.  We watched the television the next morning to listen to so many people sharing their memories of President Monson.  It brought back floods of memories that I (Tom) had with President Monson.  I have been acquainted with him for years, since working in his orchard as a young teenager.  Most recently, it was my privilege to meet with President Monson in the meetings of our Perpetual Education Fund board of directors and when we began implementing the Self-Reliance initiative.  I finally stopped procrastinating and recorded my personal memories with President Monson.  He always remembered the Rueckert family that lived near to him when he was young and as a young bishop.  These good relatives of mine always lived good lives that left the Rueckert name strong with President Monson.

Finally last Friday, we were able to watch the funeral of President Monson with our daughter Pollyanna and her two daughters.  This was a continuation of our experience of going to the funeral together when President Hinckley passed away.

Pollyanna with Aria and Paisley watching Sister Ann Monson Dibb speak at the funeral

Debbie with our youngest grandchild, Paisley Janet Thompson

That night we watched the video of President Monson, "On the Lord's Errand".  We had seen it before, but it became even more meaningful.  As we pondered his life, it was so clear that the Lord had prepared him from the time that he was called as bishop.  He learned from the Lord, especially to never procrastinate a prompting. Almost always his promptings were to minister to individuals.  We pray that we can follow his amazing example in our lives.

Yesterday we participated in a few significant events.  One was the 30th birthday party of our son-in-law Rick Thompson.

Last night we went to a wedding reception that got me thinking.  It was for Vanessa, the ex wife of a nephew who had passed away.  This is from my oldest brother, who has also passed away, as has his wife.  As a family, we have worried and tried to help my brother's posterity where possible.  The major efforts have been made by my brother Jim.  So far his posterity has had minimal involvement with the gospel, although some are making progress.  Vanessa had a son from this previous marriage, Nicolai, and we haven't had a lot of involvement in his life.  However, we have seen him and Vanessa occasionally.  Yesterday Vanessa was sealed in the temple to a new husband and they now have a nurturing gospel centered home for Nicolai. I thought of how the Lord does step into the details of our lives and provides opportunities for progress. We were so pleased to see all the efforts that Vanessa had made and the wonderful setting that my brother's oldest grandson now is blessed with.  God is good!

Nicolai, at the wedding

Nicolai dancing with his mother Vanessa.  See the ice sculpture of the Salt Lake Temple in the background.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Post Mission Testimony of Jesus Christ

This is our first post-mission blog.  It coincides with the time that we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on this earth.  The prevalent theme of these past weeks has been our Savior, Jesus Christ. We have testified of His goodness as we have shared our mission experiences when His hand guided us in His work. We have sought His guidance to reach out to each of our children and grandchildren in His way and in His time.  We have rejoiced in family history and temple work for our ancestors so that they can participate in the blessings of His atonement as sacred ordinances are performed on their behalf.  As we have celebrated the Christmas season, we have been reminded over and over of His goodness and love as he came to this earth to minister to each of us.

Perhaps our thoughts are best summarized by the beautiful portrayal of the Nativity as shown in the newly created Bible videos.  We have been touched more this year than ever before by the power of this message.  Perhaps it is because we have served Him for the past two years.  Perhaps it is because we have studied His life as we followed President Nelson's urging to read and ponder all of the Topical Guide references to the Savior.  Somehow something is different and we are thankful for that.  We urge all to take time this season to watch and ponder this video, clicking on the following link:

We have been told that after being engaged in important priorities each and every day of a mission, it is difficult when we get caught up in daily activities that may not be as significant.  We have prayed hard to pursue important purposes in our lives and have seen the hand of the Lord in these weeks since returning from our mission.  We will share our thoughts and experiences with the types of priorities that we have felt prompted to pursue.

Family Time

Of course, one of our top priorities back home is to strengthen our relationships with children and grandchildren.  With a large family, that takes quite a bit of effort.  Since returning home we have spent time with 15 of our 17 children and 34 of our 37 grandchildren.  This has been made up with Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations, birthday celebrations, attending school Christmas programs and visiting with as many in their homes as possible.  Our Christmas present to our grandchildren this year is for them to have positive memories with their grandparents.  Each is to choose a date that they can spend individually with Oma and Opa.  So far this has been well received by those who have already received their Christmas presents.  We look forward to these meaningful relationships.  The following photos capture some of these initial visits.

Visit with our daughter Camila who is in a health care facility.  She has suffered damages to her mind but still has a beautiful smile and a sweet spirit.  We have been  privileged to visit with her on a weekly basis since returning home.

Visit to our son Daniel with his family in their new home

Thanksgiving dinner with 36 of our family members, many of them in this photo.

A few more from Thanksgiving in this photo

Oma with two of her granddaughters in Hyrum, Utah

Hudson on his first birthday

At Hudson's birthday party, Gina and her family, Pollyanna and Aria
River's family at Joseph's 13th birthday party

Three of Camila's children, Caide, Kaisha and Isake
Oma listening to  Beckie's children sing, Kaleb, McKenzie and Abbie
A special evening with Arianna, Ammon's daughter

We visited Melanie's family in Pennsylvania.  Here they are in the DaVinci Science Center in Allentown watching a science experinment
A few seconds later, as the soapy solution was mixed with the freezing liquid nitrogen
One on one visits with Charlie and Timothy in our hotel room in Pennsylvania

Playing games with Henry and Edward
Games and Family History with James Preston and Thomas
Our annual Christmas party with over 40 members of our direct family
Our youngest granddaughter, Paisley with Aide, Lamoni's girl friend
Two of Abe's kids, Tiancom and Natlaia, with their mother Renica

Christmas Programs with grandkids:

Ashton's 1st grade class
Aria in her preschool program
Abbie with her 2nd grade glass
McKenzie with her 4th grade class

Kaleb with his preschool class
Necessary Medical Check-ups

We have had many medical check-ups, from colonoscopies, dental exams, medical exams, dental work for Tom and Bladder and Kidney checks for Debbie.  Not the funnest part of our life, but an essential step to maintaining good health.  This has certainly took much of our time of the past weeks.

Debbie, with her IV in place, ready for her colonoscopy
Rekindling the memories of our mission

We have taken advantage of every chance positive to relive the memories of our mission and our time in Germany.  We have been to two German Christmas Markets, one in SLC and one in Pennsylvania.  We also have spoken at two different sacrament meetings about our mission experience.  Each time we are able to feel again the hand of the Lord during our mission.  We have also reported to the Self-Reliance department at Church headquarters in two different visits.  We love this work that we were privileged to participate in.  We were also able to participate in a Europe Area missionary get together at the home of Elder and Sister Hacking.

Debbie at the SLC German Christmas Market

German Christmas Market at This is the Place Heritage Park in SLC

Pennsylvania Christmas Market with St. Nicholas

Senior missionary friends after our second sacrament meeting talks

Debbie with three of her siblings after our second sacrament meeting talks
Europe Area Missionary get together at the home of James and Diane Hacking
More missionaries, same get together
Meaningful Christmas Activities

We have done our best to enjoy the sweet spirit of the Christmas season through special presentations, including the First Presidency Devotional (watched at home) and attending the Forgotten Carols presentation, one of our favorite Christmas traditions.  We have also participated in our wonderful ward Christmas party and a few family traditions of Christmas Caroling, visiting the Elves at Gardner Village and seeing the Christmas lights.

Watching the First Presidency Devotional from the comfort of our home

Our ward Christmas Party, amazing people and a wonderful spirit
Christmas caroling with daughter and grandchildren
Serenity enjoying hot chocolate after Christmas Caroling and watching our German Nativity set
Visiting Elves at the home of Bruno and Cari Vassel
Visting elves at Gardner Village

Christmas lights at the Provo Town Centre Mall with Kari and Serentiy

One of our favorite Christmas traditions

Family History and Temple Work

Every chance that we have, we are moving forward with our family history and temple work.  We now have four generations working on getting our family history finds into Family Search.  Our grandson, James Preston, in Pennsylvania, has taken one of the lines, our son Jacob, is working  on another line and my mother is taking a third line.  Nearly 100 names have been put into our Family Tree so far with thousands more to do.  

We have been able to do baptisms in the new Philadelphia temple with our son-in-law, daughter and grandson and have attended the Logan temple during our visit to Jared and his family.  We have had to take the long drive to the Oquirrh Mountain temple (almost 10 minutes) since the Jordan River temple is closed.  We also have a made a visit to the Salt Lake Temple.  Each experience is meaningful as we see the ordinances performed for our ancestors.  We love this work which may be the most meaningful of all that we are doing.
Selfie in front of the Logan Temple

With our grandson and daughter in front of the Philadelphia temple

The beautiful Philadelphia Temple

With daughter and grandson in front of the picture of the Philadelphia baptistry in the visitors center

I have been reading the Book of Mormon in German (and English).  I have been overwhelmed about the witness that this book is of our Savior.  In 1 Nephi chapter 19, Nephi is explaining the need to only write that which is sacred on these plates.  He then immediately begins talking about the coming of the Savior to t

his earth.  He emphasizes that the God of our fathers yields himself up to the trials of this earth.  I testify that this baby Jesus that was born, was indeed the son of God, even Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament.  He willingly came to this earth in the most humble circumstances and suffered in the most extreme way so that we could return to the presence of our Heavenly Father.  This is our testimony at this Christmas season and always.

I Nephi 19:6 Nevertheless, I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred. And now, if I do err, even did they err of old; not that I would excuse myself because of other men, but because of the weaknesswhich is in me, according to the flesh, I would excuse myself.
For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naughtand trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet; I say, trample under their feet but I would speak in other words—they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels.
And behold he cometh, according to the words of the angel, in six hundred years from the time my father left Jerusalem.
And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.
10 And the God of our fathers, who were led out of Egypt, out of bondage, and also were preserved in the wilderness by him, yea, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself, according to the words of the angel, as a man, into the hands of wicked men, to be lifted up, according to the words of Zenock, and to be crucified, according to the words of Neum, and to be buried in a sepulchre, according to the words of Zenos, which he spake concerning the three days of darkness, which should be a sign given of his death unto those who should inhabit the isles of the sea, more especially given unto those who are of the house of Israel.