Magic comes easily to me.
I’m surrounded by it.
I am convinced that fairies still live in our flowerbeds,
And I can’t afford to leave a lucky penny in the parking lot alone.
Stray eyelashes mean wishes.
Ladybugs are lucky.
When I was in high school someone told me that if you looked at a clock at 11:11 you could make a wish.
Every day I catch wishing time I make the same wish.
It comes naturally now.
After almost nine years.
“I wish that Jake Topham will have a good day”.
I like to think my wishes come true most days.
There’s magic in the wishes.
In the ladybugs.
The lashes and the flowerbeds.
But mostly there’s magic in Jake.
In our little life.
In the thank you prayers.
A few nights ago we turned on phone flashlights and shined them up at the ceiling.
Our little family found magic in shadow puppets.
Hands became bunnies, puppies, ducks, and more.
We laughed and told stories.
My favorite part was when Jake’s big strong hand and Hank’s growing one met to make a lopsided heart on the ceiling.
As I watched all snuggled up in our bed it was as if I was seeing my own heart up there.
We fell asleep with smiles on our faces.
I saw theirs before I closed my eyes.
These boys are magic.
Happy Valentine’s Day to my very favorites.
I couldn’t be happier.
Hank looks tall today.
He reaches what he needs without tiptoes.
His growth is quick.
Sometimes I wish my growth was easier to see.
A few weeks ago Jake opened up a closet door for me in the house he grew up in.
I saw history.
Etched on the inside of the door was a record of growth.
I imagined him standing against the doorway,
back straight and head held high and still as his parents made a new mark on the wall.
I bet he turned around quick to see how much he had grown.
I bet he smiled and his parents cheered.
We started one for Hank on the inside of a closet door today.
He stood with his back straight and head high and still.
It’s hard to see growth.
When the inches stop coming.
When the closet door closes.
When the changes are smaller but somehow bigger.
But I wonder if Heavenly Father ever looks at me and says,
“She looks tall today”.
I wonder if there’s a closet door in heaven.
One with growth etched on the inside.
I wonder if He notices when my back is straight and my head is high and still.
I bet He marks it on the wall.
I know He cheers.
I’d like to see that closet door sometime.
That would make me happy.
It was so hard to wait.
When the milk we picked up from the grocery store would expire after Christmas I knew we were getting close.
Homemade countdown chains and hour charts helped me through the last few days of school before Christmas break, then it was off to Parowan.
Christmas Eve in Parowan was one of my favorite days.
I remember play and laughter with cousins frequently interrupted by quick trips to check the time on the digital clock on the microwave or kitchen stove.
The minutes went slowly.
Even backwards sometimes.
It was so hard to wait.
It’s still hard.
I can’t sleep.
Maybe you are still awake too.
I can’t wait for the big smiles I know are coming.
But there is beauty in this waiting time.
Do you think it’s hard for Jesus?
He gives the best gifts.
He is the Best Gift.
Nephi prayed, broken-hearted on behalf of a people who saw signs and believed in a Savior. (3 Nephi 1)
“Will you come?” he asked.
“Tomorrow,” Jesus replied.
I wonder if it was hard not to come today.
Joshua was called to be the prophet after Moses.
He carried a heavy mantle.
Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the Lord will do wonders among you. (Joshua 3:5)
Parted rivers and promised lands waited for Joshua and his people.
I bet it was hard for Him not to do such wonders today.
I saw a picture that took my breath away.
It showed a boy hunched over his work, face frustrated and focused.
Angels in the top corner of the frame flew to his aid but were held back by one with arms open wide.
The Art by Brian Kershisnik is titled
Waiting isn’t easy.
I think sometimes Heaven holds even the Divine Son at bay.
The blessings will come.
But not today.
Because the perfect gifts come at the perfect times.
I bet He stays up late.
On Christmas Eves.
Looking forward to smiles.
To carefully planned and packaged Gifts.
I don’t know on which tomorrow those long awaited blessings will come.
But I bet He stays up late.
I bet He lies awake, too excited to sleep.
Because tomorrow, He will come.
And He will bring all the wonder.
So for those still awake, waiting on tomorrows,
He is not asleep either.
And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. (Isaiah 25:9)
I was almost a Parowan High School cheerleader you know.
I brought my mom to the parent meeting and everything.
Though I never put on a uniform or learned any routines, I like to think I embraced the title.
It’s hard to be two.
It’s a phrase we say sometimes at our house.
A tiny boy with big emotions.
But one thing helps.
When it’s tough to share or hard to do, we cheer.
We cheer each other on.
And Hank has,
for a long time now.
Hank is an excellent clapper and compliments freely.
This morning after we said our prayers, he looked at me and said,
“Good job Mom!”
Daisy cheered for me.
With our cancer experience it was uncertain if we would be able to have children.
We went into that phase of our lives with hopeful hearts but guarded expectations, expecting some difficulty or delay.
Miracles occurred and Hank came quickly.
Daisy and Brenen, my brother and sister-in-law were already pregnant with their first child.
She was about four months along when we discovered we were pregnant.
Though we were thrilled to share, there was a moment of hesitation on my part.
I was a little nervous.
I didn’t want Daisy to feel as if we were trying to steal the spotlight.
I didn’t want to take any attention away from Daisy’s difficult pregnancy and how excited we all were for that little girl to join the family.
When we told her she cried and hugged me so hard and so fast.
I couldn’t stop the tears from coming either.
There was no hesitation.
She was so happy for me.
Cheering me on.
My mom always gets excited when she sees a Boulevard truck.
She is genuinely happy at the prospect of a neighbor getting a new couch or a new dishwasher.
A few weeks ago, the Boulevard Truck showed up with something for her.
I hope the neighbors cheered.
If not, I know God does.
Nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along.
The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours,
And the riches of eternity are yours. (D&C 78:18)
He is our Greatest Cheerleader.
He comes to the parent meetings with each of us.
And whether we wear the uniform or not,
We should cheer each other on.
I am sure that makes Him happy.
So far, there’s nothing terrible about two.
These past few weeks have been filled with leaves, pumpkins, belly-laughs, and big brown eyes.
This life I lead is better than I deserve.
They say that’s what mercy is.
Compassionate treatment of a person greater than what is deserved.
I saw mercy a few days ago.
Hank loves Grandpa Dave.
To Hank Grandpa is motorcycles and piles of leaves and Rhino rides and wrestling.
I hope that Hank will remember he is mercy too.
Grandpa Dave went outside to put air in the car tires.
Hank came along too, in awe.
He watched Grandpa fill up the first tire, attaching a hose to the valve stem.
Hank followed him to the next two tires shouting “Pump it up! Pump it up!”
On the last tire Grandpa waved him over.
He got down close to Hank,
No easy feat when you are over 6 feet tall.
He looked him right in his eyes and said, “Here, hold this”.
He handed Hank the tiny black cap for the air valve from the last tire.
Hank cradled it with wonder, understanding he had an important job.
Hank is two.
And two years isn’t long to have with your hands.
Somewhere in the moment between Grandpa turning towards the tire and back to Hank, the tiny cap was gone.
It was an accident.
It was inconvenient.
It was the last tire.
Grandpa Dave didn’t say a thing.
He did not complain or moan or groan.
I tried to apologize for the tiny toddler mistake, but he brushed it off.
“I’ll get one off the motorcycle” he said.
Hank missed it.
There was no punishment or scolding or requests for apology.
There was no reprimand or even judgement.
Just a grandpa.
Just a little boy.
I love hearing Jake talk about his dad.
He says that Dave has learned something it takes most a lifetime to understand.
Character is about how you treat someone who can’t do anything for you in return.
It’s about mercy.
It’s about not letting a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.
Jesus Christ is mercy.
We call the place where He sits the “Mercy Seat”.
That phrase heralds back to the Old Testament days of travelling tabernacles.
The Ark of the Covenant, an ancient part of the tabernacle, was a beautiful seat designed for the Savior to sit when the priest entered the Holy of Holies to offer sacrifice.
That sacrifice represented all the mistakes and shortcomings of all the people.
They brought them to the mercy seat.
All their lost caps and failed important jobs.
And those mistakes were safe with Him.
On His Mercy Seat.
I never noticed how many tires there are in my little life.
Car tires, stroller tires, motorcycle tires, bike tires.
I notice now because Hank pumps them all up.
He pretends to fill up each one with air and finishes with a
“Thank you, Grandpa Dave”.
Thank you, Grandpa Dave.
And thank you, Jesus.
For the mercy.
The prophet Jeremiah said,
It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning.
We can never use Him up
Or wear Him out.
I’ve always been a morning person.
A happy one even.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
And according to Dan Santat, the author of my favorite children’s book, the best part of the story comes “After the Fall”.
After the fall.
In this tiny, beautiful story, Humpty recovers but returns to his normal life feeling a little broken.
Life is hard now.
He is afraid.
He doesn’t even sit on the wall anymore.
He used to love it up there.
One day he gathers all of his courage and creates an intricate paper airplane to launch from the wall.
He climbs the ladder despite his fears.
And when he gets to the top, he turns into a bird.
He learned to fly.
Four years ago today Jake and I fell.
Stage Four Hodgkin Lymphoma.
Every other Thursday for the next 6 months we walked into the cancer clinic in St. George for intense chemotherapy.
A favorite teacher gave me a copy of Humpty Dumpty’s story.
Each bird in the sky and a little plaque on our fireplace reminded us we were,
“Learning to Fly”.
Every other Thursday we parked in the same parking lot and sat in the same waiting room and spent the same hours in the same infusion clinic.
We walked past the same statue out front.
We walked past it every other week, but I never stopped for a closer look.
A handful of weeks ago I came across a picture of the statue.
I recognized it from the quick glances I gave it every other Thursday.
I looked a little closer this time.
It was a statue created by a local artist named Jason Millward.
The piece was for sale and happened to be on display in front of the St. George Intermountain Cancer Clinic.
The bronze statue of a mother swinging her daughter through the air was called, “Learning to Fly”.
Learning to Fly.
The plaque reads,
“Teaching our children how to soar above the norm and achieve their fullest potential”.
Learning to Fly.
It was there the whole time.
Just in case I looked up.
It was four years ago but sometimes it still feels like yesterday.
The miracles of those months are still fresh in my mind and heart.
They haven’t ceased either.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it.
I think about Jake.
I think about Jesus and how close He was.
In the details of it all.
Even years later I see His fingerprints.
An artist, an author, a teacher,
inspired to put a book, a statue, evidence of God’s love,
right where I could see it.
In case I looked up.
We took a trip to St. George.
We added our lock to a gate to represent our little story.
And then we took Hank to a bronze statue.
We pointed out the birds in the sky.
We told stories about a God who sees.
Who we can see if we look up.
We’re teaching him to fly.
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
Learning to Fly.
Things are beautiful from up here.
Even this is a happy anniversary.
I remember learning long division in elementary school math.
It started out simply, with nice round numbers that could easily be divided.
I still remember when I discovered decimals.
My teacher explained that anything could be divided by two, not just even numbers.
Decimals helped us break the odd numbers in half.
And even then, decimals could be divided,
and divided again.
I learned that anything could be divided by two.
No matter how small it already was.
It could always be split.
Forever and ever.
Divided, broken, somehow made more.
If all things denote there is a God, He must have a place in math.
Maybe He’s in long division.
The nice round numbers.
I think He is in the decimals too.
The broken numbers.
And how somehow, broken makes more.
At night we sing about Baby Sharks, twinkling stars, and Jesus.
Last night it was “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus”.
I really do love to hear them.
The healing, the helping, the watching, the loving, the forgiving.
“Tell them to me”.
I wish I could have been there for them.
For those moments when broken was more.
The scriptures say it was getting late.
The disciples requested the Savior send the people away into the city to get food to eat.
Jesus’ compassion would not allow anyone to be sent away.
Give ye them to eat. (Mark 6:37)
The disciples were used to impossible.
Feeding 5,000 men and their wives and children?
They offered to go to the city to buy bread for all.
Though they had no money between them.
Jesus asked them to collect what food they had.
A lad in the multitude had 5 loaves and 2 little fishes.
I think sometimes we imagine Jesus making more loaves and more fish appear.
But what if it wasn’t more loaves and fishes.
What if it was what they had, just broken.
And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all.
And they did all eat, and were filled. (Mark 6:37)
Little, broken things fed a multitude.
Jesus fed a multitude.
Somehow, broken makes more.
It’s something Jesus is good at.
I have had broken times.
Times when my spirit ached.
When confusion reigned and heaviness and fatigue were constant companions.
But like little fish and odd numbers, Jesus found a way to make more of me.
In the broken.
More like Him.
Broken makes more.
And that makes me happy.
Jesus is a people watcher
If His mortality were today, He’d probably spend time on park benches or at airport terminals.
Back then He watched the treasury.
And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
Jesus watched her.
And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
Jesus noticed her.
For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living. (Mark 12:41-44)
Jesus loved her.
And now we remember her.
All that she had.
Hank gave me two rocks,
and a necklace made of fruit loops and white yarn.
I smiled so big it made my cheeks hurt.
It was all that He had.
The two rocks sit in my nightstand drawer.
A picture of the two dandelions in a small jar of water hangs in my office.
I wore the fruit loop necklace all day.
With each compliment I proudly shared,
“Hank made this for me”.
These things are beautiful.
And I’ll always remember them.
Because Hank gives all that he has.
And his goodness is tangible.
In the rocks.
The fruit loops.
All that he had.
Sometimes at the end of the day, I am tired.
I find comfort in the people-watcher, Jesus.
The dishes and the texts.
The “I love you’s” and the prayers.
The study, the teaching, the trying.
All of it.
All that she had.
I wish I knew her name.
But in the same breath,
I am glad she was willing to go without.
Because then she is me.
She is you.
And He watches.
Sometimes I am tired in the giving.
Sometimes it feels like no one is watching, and my offerings are meager.
But there’s One who sees.
One who remembers.
I wonder if she saw Him as He watched.
If she knew.
Did she look around?
Did she have to convince her fingers?
She gave all that she had.
I wonder if Jesus has a nightstand.
I bet two mites sit in His nightstand drawer.
That would make me happy.
Everything in our St George house was tiny except the refrigerator.
It was obviously a more recent addition to the house.
I filled the dishwasher with the door barely cracked open because it would catch on the protruding fridge.
It was a great spot to leave notes though.
I had a piece of paper ripped from a favorite notebook posted to the fridge with a magnet.
“Things I love about Jake,”
and I added to it often.
For him, but mostly for me.
To keep track.
And to see.
And to remember.
And the list got long.
A few weeks ago Jake went on a motorcycle trip with his dad.
We barely crossed paths before he left.
I headed to work early in the morning and he left before I came home.
He tried to stop by on his way out of town, but I was teaching a class.
Our timing was just off.
It didn’t match up all day.
I headed home missing him.
When I got home I hugged Hank and walked to my room.
With my heels in one hand and Hank’s hand in the other, I opened the door.
And I laughed out loud.
Jake had opened every drawer.
Jake has a routine. I can tell because of the trail he leaves.
He leaves the shower door open,
followed by the top drawer in his side of the closet where he grabs his clothes.
Next I find at least the first, and usually the third, vanity drawers ajar where he gets out his toothbrush, toothpaste, and Suavecito.
Finally, his bedside table drawer is open to track down his keys or wallet or a phone charger.
When I come home from school I follow his trail,
visualize his steps,
because the evidence is there.
I shut the drawers so he can leave them open tomorrow.
It’s one of my favorite parts of the day.
One thing I love about him.
And a few weeks ago, I told him so.
So when I opened our door, I found that he had left lots of him to love.
Every bathroom drawer, closet drawer, desk drawer, and bedside table drawer stood wide open.
Not just his.
Every drawer was open.
I took pictures before closing each one.
And I missed him.
He makes me happy.
and it shall be given unto you;
and ye shall find;
and it shall be opened unto you. (3 Nephi 14:7-8)
There are no asterisks next to this verse.
No exceptions or qualifiers.
The Savior didn’t put an expiration date at the end.
So why is it so hard to believe sometimes?
I think it’s because of the space.
Ask ----> Given
Seek ----> Find
Knock ----> Opened
The part between the asking and giving and seeking and finding and knocking and opening.
Sometimes what we ask for is nowhere to be found.
Sometimes we have been seeking, but we still can’t find it.
Sometimes we have knocked, but the door is still closed.
It even feels locked sometimes.
So what do we do?
How do you trust in a timeless promise from the Lord in that space?
On April 20th, 2018 Jake and I hopped in the car to go to Disneyland.
We were waiting for news on fulltime jobs we were both really hoping for.
We would be notified by email, and we decided it would be fun to celebrate in Disneyland.
Or figure out new life goals in Disneyland.
I held both of our phones, one in each hand, and checked excessively for email notifications while Jake droved a borrowed Honda Fit on the freeway near Primm, Nevada.
Our phones buzzed and two emails popped up, side by side.
We got off the Primm exit and pulled into a gas station as I quickly opened the emails and compared them.
We were both hired.
Our lives changed.
Tears came for me.
We took pictures and called family.
It was the perfect day.
Although it was just the two of us at this point, this was the day I started to worry about the future.
We were not pregnant.
Kids were not even really on our mind at that point.
But as I sent the email back responding that I accepted the position, I wondered how long I would do it.
When I had children, would I stay home?
Would I keep working?
What was I supposed to do?
How would I know the right choice?
I took my question to the Lord.
I asked Him.
And nothing happened.
Over the next three years I studied, prayed, worried, and counseled.
I tried so hard to figure it out, but nothing came.
I took it with me on a sticky note to General Conference and other church meetings.
I studied the scriptures and asked people I trusted.
Fast forward a few months later and I was pregnant.
Now it was not just me asking this question.
Everyone seemed to want to know.
But I still did not know what to do.
Where were the answers?
Those open doors He promised?
I know I was knocking.
Towards the end of my pregnancy, I talked with HR about maternity leave benefits. Part of the paperwork asked me to write down a tentative return date if I was planning to return to work.
Without a second thought I checked the box that I would return and put the date down.
The answer to my question was so simple.
You’ll go back to work.
Recently I have looked back on that experience, those questions.
Why make me wait so long?
The answer was so simple.
The Lord could have given it to me so easily.
I know He could have shared it at the gas station in Primm, Nevada.
He could have told me after that in one of those meetings or scripture studies or priesthood blessings or prayers.
I know He loves me most and knows me best.
So why the space?
Because He loves me most and knows me best.
And He had much more than just a “yes” for me.
I don’t know all the answers.
But in the space, I found empathy.
I was slower to judge.
I listened to Him better.
I looked to Him more.
And when I received my answer, I had no doubt that it was from God.
His hand in my decision has carried me through the difficult balance of life.
I know I am doing His will for me and for my family right now.
But even more important than the answer,
Someone was revealed to me.
The One who fills in every gap.
The One who is with us in the space.
Revelation is not just about receiving answers to questions we ask.
It’s about seeing more of Jesus Christ in our lives.
In the space.
And I see Him better now.
He makes me happy.
My name is Maddie Townsend Topham and I am a happy wife!