Merry Christmas everyone! Wow... hasn't it been an amazing Christmas? I feel so blessed today. As I woke up this morning it felt like just another day. It didn't even necessarily feel like Christmas, just another day. I would like to touch on one gift that I was particularly grateful for this Christmas Day 2010. Family. I had the opportunity to spend Christmas up at my oldest sister Dianne's house again this year and it was awesome. Dianne has such an amazing family and they just love me for who I am and take me in. Dianne shared her love with the family last night and I
was just grateful. I just realized how much my family really does love me and how much they all mean to me. I have always felt welcome in Dianne's home and feel like that was kind of my second home throughout high school when it was so challenging living at the ranch and so far away from everything. Dianne and Clark are such great examples and I am so grateful for their family. The Bayles' family really has taken me in and called me their own. Hailey Bug used to call me "Merilee Goates Bayles" and being so close in age to my nieces has been like having little sisters.I was able to go up to South Ogden the other day to my oldest brother Jeff's house and was able visit with my niece Tessi, who I haven't seen in months and it was so good to see her. It's amazing how with some people that you haven't seen in so long, that when you finally get to see them it seems like no time has been lost. That's how it was with us. I have been reflecting lately on when Tessi and I first met and how we just became such good friends from the beginning. I am so grateful for her friendship in my life. I am also grateful for Jeff and Kim and their family in my life. I have learned in the last few months that my oldest brother that has always come off as a rough around the edges and intimidating, really does have a heart of gold. As he embraced me over Thanksgiving and told me that he loved me, I knew that he really meant it. And Kim, man is that woman talented. Two sets of twins and she is still sane. Between all of her amazing talents and chasing those adorable little girls around and still staying sane between all of that, hats off to you! Which leaves Izach. I love Izach and I am so grateful for his hugs and for his smile. Izach is the kind of hugs and always knows when I need them. I'm so excited for him to turn in his mission papers and to have that amazing experience of sharing the gospel.
I was able to visit with my sister Emily the other night as she came down to visit with a friend and give some haircuts this past week. (It seems like every time Emily is in town she's cutting several people's hair and aren't we grateful? I know I am.) Emily is such a sweetheart and I appreciate her love for me as well. I didn't know this until a few weeks ago, but when my mom told her about a challenge I had been facing in my life, she was in tears about it. She told my mom she was sad for me because she knew how hard this particular challengemust have been for me and she was so excited for me and the fact that I was most likely going to be living with her next semester, but that wouldn't be happening. That just made me feel so cared for and important. As many in my family probably felt bad, that just touched me that she was so sad for me. I can just feel Emily's love for me every time I talk with her or when she wraps her arms around me and what a blessing that is. Then you have her other half Jay. Jay has this way of making me feel really important. I feel like he always knows the latest on me and he's always looking for someway of persuading me to transfer to the closest school to wherever they are located. This has made me feel important and like he always has his eye out for me. And their kids.. What great kids.
As for Mike. Mike definitely has a soft-spot in my heart for his love for me as well. Mike is a big talker, but I feel like at the end of the day he really would do anything for me. He's outspoken and honest which can be helpful and not so helpful at times, but it's always comforting to know t
hat you never have to guess what's on his mind because he will just give it to you how it is. And as soon as those little girls came into his life, and had him wrapped around their fingers he kind of became a softy, pushover anyway. And who could've picked a better match for Mike. Kristin is amazing and always has her girls hair looking fabulous and their cute matching outfits. She manages to keep up with their busy little girls. I love those little girls and the way they always run up to me with big hugs and tell me they love me.
Our Chicago family is coming back to Utah!!! Steve and T were here for a few days this past week looking for a place to live and what a blessing it is that they get to come back. Steve is very sensitive and loving. He is a great husband and father and works very hard to provide for his family. I can never seem to get enough of Steve's laugh and the way those kids make him light up. Tina is so talented as well... whether it be making an amazing cake or being patient with her kids. Their kids are so darling and I'm looking forward to them living closer so they can get to know their favorite Aunt Mer a little better too!
Rich, Rich, Rich... What a delight Rich is. The man never seems to be anything other than happy and positive. I can always expect a huge hug from Rich and to see him with a smile on his face, happy to see me. With Shauna, the two are a power couple. I love the way they express their love for each other through word and deed. Shauna is one of the most genuine people I know and looks for any and every opportunity to serve. They have 3 great kids who are adorable and make me feel loved as well.
Our successful brother Joe! Joe is my personal lifesaver. Anytime he's in town he is always fixing someone's body up and it's usually mine. He willingly fixes my body all up and tells me what I can do to make it better and boy am I lucky to have that advice. He's so smart and knows his stuff.. I appreciate his help in helping me strengthen my body and his willingness to always help me out. And Toni... what a beautiful and talented woman. Toni helped me with more than one dance solo throughout my High School years and what a blessing and help that was. I still remember going and watching her dance when she was in college and remember thinking that I wanted to be a dancer like her. Through her example, I have come to love to dance. And of course I love their cute kids Izzy and Russell and they way they make me laugh.
Ahh yes, My Sharp family. I had the amazing opportunity to live with the Sharps this summer and man did I learn a lot. First of all, I'm grateful that they took me for the entire summer and gave me a place to live, and food to eat, and made me feel so loved. Melanie and I had the chance to have some pretty amazing conversations and we were able to strengthen our relationship so much. She coached me through a lot and gave me a lot of great insight and a lot to think about. Phil is such a good dad and husband. I learned through living with Mel and Phil that we choose how we react to different situations. It can be whatever we want it to be, it's up to us. Noah, Eliza, and Gideon were amazing. They let me intrude their house all summer and let me play with them when I had the time. I was reminded everyday how much I not only love them, but all of my nieces and nephews and how much I really do love being an aunt to such amazing kids in my whole family. I loved reading books with them and being called on to pray just about every time we prayed. I appreciated the daily hugs and kisses as I do from all my nieces and nephews. I miss my California family and appreciate what they offered me this year.
I was able to also go visit my brother Jake, his wife Heidi, and little Jillian as I was out delivering some Christmas gifts for mom the other day. It was so good to be able to have some one on one time with them because it is hard in our family to have those intimate conversations when everyone is around. Heidi and I talked for a long while about some of the challenges in these past few months and shewas very sensitive to my feelings and helped me see those trial in a bit of a different light. I am so grateful for my relationship with her as well in my life and for the way she just loves everyone around her and her ability to relate. As for Jake, I have been thinking about him a lot lately too. Growing up I feel like Jake kind of took me under his wing. Anytime I was feeling like Andrew was picking on me or like anything was wrong, Jake was my brother that seemed like if anything ever happened, if I just went to him, he would take care of it. Jake is kind, fun, and such a good father. I look up to his example of faith very much. The way he looks at cute Jillian is priceless. Jillian and I were able to bond the other day and it just made me realize how amazing these little spirits really are.
Well almost everyday for the past two months, Allie's phone has been off the hook thanks to me. Mostly in tears, looking for some type of comfort, Allie has been there to offer me comfort and hope to get through each day. I feel like my relationship with Allie has only gotten stronger in the last little while and I am so grateful for her patience with me in being a broken record, but yet still listening whenever I needed to talk. Tanner has always been fun to play games with and I know that even though sometimes it gets heated, that at the end of the day he loves me (even if I did kick his trash at Blokus on Christmas eve ;) ). I have had fun the past couple of years to be able to go and stay in their home and appreciate all the fun times I have had in them. I love Mia and what a joy she is. She has a way of making me feel loved and I feel a special connection with these little ones, it's amazing.
What a busy year for Drew. It was so good to have Andrew come home and how excited we all were. I feel like mine and Drew's relationship is so different then before his mission but in such a good way. I feel like we have really connected and that we have gotten to know each other on a different level. I felt bad when I had to be so far away when he first got back, and then leaving him for the summer, but I feel like even though we haven't been close in distance much this year that we have made it work and that we make and effort to call and keep each other up to date. I appreciate the visits to Cedar he took, when it seemed like I needed it the most this last semester. Falling in love with Jessica the best thing that could've happened to Drew and I'm so excited for them. Jessica and I were able to hang out this past week as she was pretty much flat with her MONO and it was good for us to bond. I'm looking forward to getting to know Jessica even more, but love the fact that she makes my brother so unbelievably happy.
Last the best of all the game. This year I have felt particularly close to my baby sister Adrienne. She would've been 18 this year and probably would've been my roommate and away to school with me. It has really hit me hard this year how different my life would be if she were still here. I know that she is near and that she is looking out for me. I have felt her in these challenges I have been facing and I can feel her cheering me on. She has helped me understand that I am not alone, that I have her and more importantly I have my savior. I am so grateful for the plan of happiness and for the knowledge that I have that I can be with her again. I feel like I know more about her now than ever but I'm still getting to know her. I'm grateful for her in my life and for the constant cheerleader she has been for me personally throughout this year in particular and I'm looking forward to the day when I can run up to her and embrace. I'm looking forward to creating memories with her. She is my guardian angel and I'm grateful for her.
All because two people fell in love I have all this. My parents. What amazing people they are. These past fewyears I have really grown close to my parents. I have learned that I can call my mom any hour for anything, whether it's to have her put someone's name on the prayer roll, or asking her how to cook something, she is always there for me. I've learned that anytime I need a father's blessing, I can ask for one. Even if it is every time I come home, my dad NEVER runs out. :) Especially in the last few months, I have come to realize that I am so blessed to have the priesthood in my family. I have learned
how powerful the priesthood is and that I really wouldn't be able to live without it. I am so grateful that I have a father and brothers who live worthily to hold the priesthood and the knowing that if I ever needed a blessing, I could call upon any of them, what a blessing. I'm grateful for the example of faith that mom and dad have showed me throughout my life, that as long as I live worthily and do my best that the lord will bless me and that everything will work out.
I'm grateful for the blessing of family and for all that they do for me. I can't imagine my life in a different family. Our family isn't perfect, but we do our best. I'm grateful for all of the amazing examples in my life and for the love and concern they each show for me. What an amazing posterity. I love you all!