When Hank was brand new I couldn’t wait to give him a bath.
Even before he was born it was one of the things I was most excited for.
I remember my mom bathing my siblings when they were newborns.
I remember thinking it was so funny that they were tiny enough to take a bath in the sink.
I remember how the soap smelled and the soft, tiny washcloths.
She was so careful and they all loved the warm water.
Hank’s first bath was one of the sweetest moments of my life.
He loved it.
He floated and relaxed in the water.
He even fell asleep just before it was time to get out.
As I washed his face I noticed there was a little dark smudge above his eye.
I softly tried to remove it with the washcloth.
I rubbed a little harder.
I started to worry it might be a bruise or something when I noticed a matching smudge above his other eye.
I was trying to scrub off his tiny eyebrows.
Jake and I just laughed.
We truly had no idea what we were doing.
But we loved every minute.
Hank is a great teacher.
Every day I learn something from him.
Something about goodness.
He makes me-
That’s his favorite word.
He says it when he wants more food or more water.
He says it when he wants more books or more songs.
He says it when he wants more of me or more of Jake.
Tomorrow we start a new year.
As I reflect and look forward all I can think of is-
I just want more, I think.
More Diet Coke and audiobooks and car washes with Jake.
More playing in the snow or with my food or with the mirror or in laundry baskets with Hank.
More bath times.
More bacon and eggs for dinner.
More family pictures.
More Hank hugs and kisses and scrunchy nose faces.
More Jake and Maddie.
More fit for the kingdom
More used would I be
More blessed and holy--
More, Savior, like thee.
So here’s to a New Year.
Though I can’t imagine things could get any happier than this.
Hank and I read one of his “Little Blue Truck” books before bed a few nights ago.
In this installment, thunder and lightning made it difficult for Little Blue, Toad, Goat, Horse, Sheep, Chicken, Pig, and all their friends to sleep.
Luckily there was enough room for all in Little Blue’s garage.
They waited out the storm together.
When the rain subsided, the lightning stopped, and the thunder quieted, his friends made their way home.
On the way out Goat said,
“It’s easy to be brave with you.”
Jake and I were sealed together a little over 5 years ago.
In the St. George temple I knelt across the altar from him and waited excitedly for my turn to say “Yes”.
A little worried my voice would be strained from lack of use, I cleared it quietly.
When it was my turn, my yes was not subtle.
I think I surprised the sealer a little.
He smiled though.
So did Jake.
Everyone chuckled a little at the gusto behind my “yes”.
I didn’t mind though.
Jake makes me brave.
The first time I studied the Old Testament, I was 11 years old.
I wanted to start the standard works from the very beginning.
It proved harder than I thought, so I was grateful my first year of seminary was spent in the Old Testament.
That year changed my life.
It changed my relationship with the scriptures and with the Savior.
I learned to look for Him while I read.
I learned some of the greatest stories of all time.
I met ordinary people turned brave by Jesus.
Moses was one of them.
The prophet with the speech impediment.
His trip down the Nile, his Burning Bush experience, his miracles in the wilderness, it all amazes me.
There’s one story I like best I think.
When Moses talks with God face-to-face.
And He calls Moses “My Son”.
Son of an Endless, Almighty God.
He tells him that He has an important work for him.
And I think just talking to Him changed Moses forever.
Satan comes to call shortly after.
I’ve always wondered what made Moses so brave.
To be able to look at the adversary and say,
“Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?”
But I realized today.
It’s because of Him.
An Endless, Almighty God that claimed Moses as His son.
It’s because of His important work.
Because of Jesus Christ, Moses is brave.
Sometimes lightning and thunder keep me up.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m equal to the tasks God has for me.
But then I remember.
An Endless, Almighty God claims me as His daughter.
And it makes me brave.
It’s easy to be brave with Him.
That makes me happy.
Change the Narrative
Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? (John 1:46)
Phillip had come to find Nathanael. He told him that they had found “Him”.
The One Moses prophesied of.
Joseph, the carpenter’s son.
And Nathanael wondered at the thought.
Can there any good thing come of Nazareth?
I read an article once about the stories we tell.
It talked about students in classrooms and how what their teachers said or felt about them mattered, even if the students never heard it.
My first class student teaching was hard.
I told myself that the students didn’t care.
I thought they didn’t want to be taught.
One day another teacher came to watch.
“These kids kind of bother you don’t they?” He said.
“If I can tell, they can.”
When he left I cried.
The Spirit whispered, “pray for them”.
And so I did,
for a while.
I prayed that they would listen, that they would come on time, and that they would be better.
That they would change.
And those prayers were the wrong ones.
The Spirit taught me that it wasn’t them who needed to change.
It was me.
So I prayed for me.
That I would love them.
And they weren’t different,
but somehow they were.
The stories I told myself about them were new. They were beautiful.
They were true.
And the class changed.
Jesus was in the temple when a woman taken in adultery was brought before him.
Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
She said, No man, Lord.
And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:1-11)
The scriptures say she glorified God “from that hour and believed Him.
He changed her story forever.
God called Enoch to be a prophet.
Enoch was worried.
He was young.
He wasn’t a great speaker.
And nobody liked him.
And so God said,
Go forth and do as I have commanded thee…Open thy mouth, and it shall be filled, and I will give thee utterance, for all flesh is in my hands, and I will do as seemeth me good…..all thy words will I justify;
and the mountains shall flee before you, and the rivers shall turn from their course; and thou shalt abide in me, and I in you; therefore walk with me. (Moses 6:31-36)
The mountains fled, rivers turned, and Enoch walked with God.
He changed his story.
I have loved Jake for a long time.
Our first date was over 8 years ago.
He still loves me.
He lets me be different.
And I think it’s the most Christlike thing he could ever do for me.
Give me the room and permission to change.
The story he tells about me is better than I am.
It makes me want to be better than I am.
Phillip told Nathanael to come and see.
When Nathanael came to Him Jesus called out,
Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.
Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.
And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. (John 1:46-51)
Nathanael did see greater things.
The heavens did open.
And our stories changed forever.
Now mistakes can be miracles.
A fall, a fall forward.
So I listen close to the stories I tell because He tells them better.
The Greatest of all came out of Nazareth.
That makes me happy.
Five years and a handful of months ago, Jake and I sat on the blacktop at Parowan Elementary just outside of Mrs. Wilkey’s classroom door.
We looked at the stars.
It was cold, but I wore Jake’s jacket so we could stay out longer.
We talked and smiled for hours.
I still remember what it felt like to be with him like that.
I thought I loved him then.
We picked our wedding date under the stars, sharing Jake's jacket on that quiet Parowan night.
Jake walked me home and for one night, it was just our secret.
And it was sweet.
A stunning ring and beautiful wedding plans followed, and all of it was bliss.
I love remembering it.
Remembering us back then.
Jake is special.
For lots of reasons.
I’m reminded of at least one every Christmas season.
I got out our Christmas stockings a few weeks ago; handmade ones knitted by my Great-Grandma.
Each of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren have one.
Jake is the only one to receive one without being an official part of the family.
I think GG knew he would need one.
My mom did GG’s hair every Friday for a long time. I loved coming home to see her in the hair chair.
She always had a hug and a kiss for me.
She’d ask, “Who loves you?”
The response we had all practiced always followed-
And we knew she really did.
Every time I came in she told me the same story.
She saw Jake at a ball game. He was so handsome and so kind and all she could think was,
“He needs to be with Maddie!”
The story made me laugh.
She never tired of telling it.
I never tired of hearing it.
Jake and I grew close.
He became so special to me.
Somehow GG knew.
One Friday morning after reminding me of my Jake, she told me she wanted to make a Christmas stocking for him.
We were all a little shocked.
GG reserved those only for her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and their spouses.
But GG felt like Jake needed one.
So she broke the rules for him.
She got to work.
She showed me her progress often.
I watched her knit a stocking just like mine with his name on it.
She even let me add the sequins on the Christmas tree behind Santa Claus.
We sent it to Jake while he was serving as a missionary in Montana.
I think she knew something even I didn’t know yet.
Jake needed to be part of our family.
Time went on.
Jake did join the family.
And he even had a stocking to match.
I hung that stocking a few weeks ago next to mine.
I couldn’t help but smile.
I thought of GG and what she knew about Jake.
He was special even then.
And now five years have gone by.
And I watch Jake in awe.
"He needs to be with Maddie".
I'm so happy GG was right.
My name is Maddie Townsend Topham and I am a happy wife!