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Thursday, December 5, 2013

As Westons, we are a JOYful family!

The Weston Family 2013










“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.”


Working hard. Hard work builds character. The Westons strive toward allocating our time and energy to activities and associations that will help us reach our family-oriented goals of success and eternal happiness. Abe continues to work at Dolby in a rigorous position while enjoying the every-other-Friday-off schedule that allots more time for hobbies, exercise and family. Janine continues to homeschool our children, squeeze in photography where she can and support dozens of other homeschooling students as part of her Education Specialist duties for Connecting Waters Charter School. In addition to reading all of the American Girl books, Natalie pursues her love of writing, challenging herself to craft and hone her skills as she works on a variety of writing projects, including a novel. Max is teaching himself how to use Scratch for programming and applies these skills while engineering our LEGO Mindstorms robot. Madeline has taken off as a reader, diving into chapter books, combing through stacks of picture books and listening to read-alouds, she is becoming quite the discerning book critic.  


Embracing life. We are so blessed to have our fathers with us this year. Janine’s dad has emerged victorious after a strenuous year of biopsy, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy for advanced brain cancer. Dana keeps his sense of humor and positive outlook through it all as he presides over the home as resident gardener, handyman and computer repairman. Currently Dana and Laurie are embracing uplifting changes in their home while raising and training their loveable, chocolate Labrador puppy, Sophie. Abe’s Dad, Tim, has also triumphed over prostate cancer diagnosis and surgery this past year. He is currently volunteering as a docent on the Central Coast for California State Parks. His decades of experience as a classroom teacher and sheer enthusiasm for living things make Tim a gem of a volunteer! Abe’s Grandma Verle has had a tough year struggling with Congestive Heart Failure; yet, she has kept a positive countenance while confined to a bed in her home. We have been blessed to spend many Saturday night sleepovers visiting and caring for her in hopes that she will regain her strength and mobility in 2014. We’ve enjoyed traveling to or hosting extended family for short and long-term visits, fieldtrips, campouts and holiday festivities and look forward to many more opportunities to connect this coming year.


Serving others. We lose ourselves in the service of others. Through our church, community and family responsibilities we have learned to serve with diligence and consistency. As ward and stake employment specialist, Abe has had phenomenal success helping church members find and obtain employment. Through resume-building, resource-sharing, and weekly accountability interviews, Abe provides essential skills, tools and advice for those who desire to obtain work or make a career change. As stake young women secretary, Janine provides secretarial, administrative and organizational support to the young women leaders and girls in the LDS Fremont Stake. In addition, she volunteers as a 4-H project leader, holding monthly meetings for over 25 youth in hiking, gardening and DIY (Do-It-Yourself) projects. The kids have proven to be an excellent long-term investment when it comes to maintaining the home front, preparing meals, caring for pets, or assisting grandparents with their yardwork and house-cleaning burdens. In addition, the kids helped plant, harvest and donate over 300 pounds of organic oranges, spaghetti squash, pattypan squash, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, chard, parsley & butternut squash to Abode Services Homeless Shelter & Tri-City Volunteers Community Pantry. It has truly been a year of plenty, in service, for our family.


Travelling together. This year we were fortunate to travel to Utah, Yosemite and Hawaii. Janine and the kids joined friends, journeying to Utah’s Zion & Bryce National Parks during spring break where they explored the Narrows and hiked the Hoodoos. As a family we explored Yosemite National Park for two days via the valley-floor bicycle loop and a 14-mile hike from the floor to Glacier Point and down the Mist Trail. The highlight of our year was spending two weeks in Kona, Hawaii in July with Janine’s family--snorkeling, touring local farms, hiking, boogie-boarding, gecko-spotting, volcano-traversing, lava tube-tunneling, sea turtle-watching, sampling ice cream, window shopping and relaxing together. We have officially caught the travel bug and hope this year’s trips to be the first in a new trend for our family!


Optimistic outlook. The Westons strive to possess optimism for the future as they set goals for 2014. Abe continues to plug away at his thesis and hopes to finally wrap up his Master’s in Data-Mining with flying colors! Once complete, Abe plans to learn Wing Chun, a martial art, improve his guitar playing and will commence writing his first novel, Making Change. Natalie is enthusiastically completing her Faith in God program in anticipation of transitioning into the Young Women’s Personal Progress program when she turns twelve on January 25th--wait...can she really be that old? Time flies when you’re raising kids! For fun, Natalie wants to learn to play the flute and sew clothes for her doll using an assortment of patterns and fabrics. Per Max’s request for a tetherball set, a kind neighbor donated a retired, concrete-mounted pole to which we attached a new ball. Armed with goalie gloves, Max strives to master the art and sport of tetherball and will challenge anyone to a game who dares set foot in our front yard. Madeline has plans to be baptized when she turns eight in May and seeks to amp up her crafting skills while working with various media. This girl has no fear as she deftly tackles duct tape, watercolors, beading, calligraphy, soap-carving, pastels, needle-felting, leatherwork and more! Janine wants to dust off her flute and play some occasional gigs in addition to teaching Natalie the basics of playing a woodwind instrument. As part of a long-term goal to make beneficial lifestyle changes, Janine will continue to fearlessly dive into healthy and creative ways to prepare food while providing high-quality fuel for the Weston crew throughout their endeavors.


Noteworthy newbies. There is a first time for everything. In 2013, we walked across the Golden Gate Bridge together. Individually, we each tried something new and survived. For Madeline, it was horseback riding lessons and snorkeling. For Max, drum lessons and after school band. For Natalie, auditioning and being cast as Fawn the Fairy and a Lost Boy in StarStruck Theatre’s Peter Pan. For Janine, a three-day pioneer handcart trek reenactment and serving as a counselor at Young Women’s Camp. For Abe, taking his wife on a surprise date to a roller derby match in San Francisco! We hope to have the courage to step out of our comfort zones and try new things each year.

Flipping through our family photo album of this past year reminds us that blessings abound and we have so much to be thankful for! This time of year we strive to keep Christ in Christmas by giving of ourselves and remembering The Reason Behind Christmas.


May your holidays be JOYful!


Love,


The Westons: Abe, Janine, Natalie (11), Max (9) & Madeline (7)

Weston Family Album 2013: http://goo.gl/DmMX7W

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Having Faith In the Fruits of Conversion

 I was recently asked to share the story of my conversion and my testimony at an “I Believe” fireside in our Fremont Stake. I told this story on Sunday, March 17th, 2013.
 
This winter I have spent many hours planting fruit trees in the backyard to create an orchard with about twenty different trees. Those twenty trees will produce almost 50 different varieties of fruit. How is it possible to get such variety out of a backyard orchard?
 
No need to search your copy of the Western Garden Book, believe it or not, the answer lies in the scriptures. If you look up fruit and fruitful in the scriptures, you are presented with a long list of scriptures pertaining to fruit and fruit trees. I’ll share some of my favorites:
  • (the) Saints shall plant and eat fruit: D&C 101:101;
  • if Saints bring forth fruit, they will dwell in the Lord’s kingdom: D&C 101:100;
  • (the) faithful will be blessed with much fruit: D&C 52:34;
  • ye shall know them by their fruits: 3 Ne. 14:16, 20; (Matt. 7:16, 20;)
  • be baptized unto repentance that ye may be partakers of (the) fruit of (the) tree of life: Alma 5:62;
AND my very favorite fruit scripture and focus for today, is:
  • wild branches grafted into tame roots bring forth tame fruit: Jacob 5:18
As a convert to the church I consider myself to be somewhat of a “wild branch,” in fact, all of us are wild---some more so than others. Whether we are born into an active LDS family or pursue conversion later in life, we must be “grafted” to the church to experience true conversion. Then, with patience, proper pruning and care we can reap a plentiful harvest like none other.
 
Now, I don’t know a lot about fruit trees, but I have learned a little bit about grafting. Many of the trees I planted in the backyard are “multi-graft” which means 1 tree may have up to 4 different varieties grafted on. For example, I have one low chill apple tree with:
  • Gordon
  • Anna
  • Dorsett Golden
  • and Fuji varieties.
The grafting process, in a nutshell, involves inserting and securing a small branch called a scion, from a productive fruit tree variety onto rootstock--or the roots and main trunk. The type and quality of rootstock is very important as you want to pick rootstock that will be successful in your climate, being compatible with your hardiness zone and chill hours.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is like ideal rootstalk--with perfect organization under our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the church ensures that wherever it is planted, it will THRIVE by drawing the necessary nourishment to grow and sustain the church, its leaders and members.

We, as members of the church, are the scions, or attached branches. Some of us come from productive fruiting trees, others of us come from more wild stock, but all of us, when securely attached to the church receive the gifts to make a fruitful life and “bring forth tame fruit.”

My conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints begins in Thousand Oaks where I was raised by goodly parents. My parents are not religious in the ways we would think--they do not attend church regularly, pay tithing or read the scriptures, but they are good people nonetheless who provided me with a basis that made the leap of faith to join the church possible. In high school, I was also exposed to stellar church members and even went to a couple of dances. After graduating, I attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where I spent my freshman and sophomore years attending services at many different types of churches, searching for one that felt like good “rootstock” for spiritual development. Then, I asked a boyfriend at that time about his church, the Mormon church. He attended with me one Sunday and I’ll never forget the feelings I had during Sacrament meeting. The Holy Ghost testified to me that day that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was where I should be. From there, the missionaries began teaching me regularly. When I decided to get baptized, my tiny seed of faith was tried. Negative comments came flying from all directions, creating thoughts of doubt in my mind. At my next appointment with the missionaries, I expressed my concerns and we knelt in prayer. During that prayer, I poured out my heart to Heavenly Father and received confirmation that being baptized was what I needed to do.

This month marks 15 years since I was baptized and I can hardly believe the fruits I have been blessed with as a faithful member of this church:
  • 14 year ago I was married in the Oakland Temple to an amazing man
  • I now have 3 wonderful children who delight in living gospel principles
  • My callings as a Visiting Teacher and in Primary, Relief Society, Cub Scouts and now Young Women’s have helped me to grow in the gospel through service to become more Christ-like.
I have a testimony that our true conversion begins when we commit to being bound through baptism, to really graft ourselves to the rootstock of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Then, over time, Heavenly Father nourishes us through prayer, the scriptures, and the words of our prophets. He prunes us through the voice of the holy ghost, Christ’s atonement and the repentance process. It is then that we can bring forth the fruits of our labors, the fruits by which we shall be known as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
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