Monthly Archives: April 2020

Molly’s Closing Thoughts

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Conversion is a Lifelong Quest: 

On Wednesday I was temporarily released as a missionary because of Covid-19, and the moment I took off my name tag, it stung. My name tag has come to mean so much to me because it testifies of my love for the Savior.  

I struggled at first but have since come to the understanding that it isn’t a name tag that should testify of my love for my Savior. It should be the daily choices I make and the effort I put into coming closer to Him. My relationship with Jesus Christ should not depend on a name tag, but should be evident through my heart. We each can wear Christ’s name upon our hearts. Jesus Christ showed His love through the greatest act of love itself-the atonement. Those prints on his hands and feet show the world his deep, abiding, and eternal love for all of us. When we write upon our hearts His name, and promise to follow Him every day, it shows our deep love for Him. 

This week I have been studying conversion. Is conversion a one-time event? Is it growth through time? Is it a cumulation of every day choices and desires?  

I believe conversion happens every moment we choose Christ.  

Every moment we choose to follow the path that Jesus Christ paved before us.  

Every moment we choose to write His name upon our hearts.  

“Conversion is not a one-time event, but a lifelong quest. It is the miraculous process by which we come unto Christ and become more like Him.”  

I love this quote because it testifies of the process, the time, the effort and the work it takes to achieve true conversion.  

I think one of the most beautiful things that I have gained from my MTC experience is a greater desire to choose this day and this moment- and every moment moving forward-to be converted unto Christ. There is no greater source of joy! 

I am grateful for this uncertain time because it has allowed me to cling tighter to our Savior. I am grateful for my Savior who can swallow up fear, pain and sorrow. He knows us. He knows our struggles. He knows our uncertainties. Through His atonement He can truly succor us. I know Jesus Christ lives and loves us personally. I know that great blessings come forth as we turn to Him. 

Deepest love,  

Sister McCleery 

 

Molly’s Last Day at the MTC

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Yesterday was Molly’s last day of missionary training. After three weeks of daily, online MTC classes, she bid farewell to her teachers and the other missionaries in her district. It wasn’t easy for Molly to remove the nametag that has become so precious to her these last few weeks,

And it wasn’t easy for her to say good-bye to the young men and women she has been studying with and growing with these last 21 days.

Eight hours a day together (even when it is all  through the computer) creates bonds that are hard to shake.

Their time together has been spent studying, learning, praying, practicing and even playing together. On Saturday night one of their MTC teachers hosted a virtual cooking class after the topic of favorite missionary meals came up in discussion. He shared that he often made Greek yogurt pizza as a missionary because it was an inexpensive meal. He offered to teach the rest of them through a Zoom cooking class.

On Saturday night Molly set up her phone in the kitchen and proceeded to make dinner with seven other missionaries, scattered across the country.

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It turns out the Greek yogurt was used to make the crust. Molly soon found out she miscalculated her yogurt to flour ratio,

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But Grace stepped in with a little water and helped salvage the dough.

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Soon the pizzas were baking and the finished product was delicious!

Just one more skill Molly learned during her time at the MTC!

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On Sunday we headed over to Buttermilk Falls for a hike.

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It was a bit disconcerting to venture out of the house after being isolated for so long, but Rusty needed to get some drone footage of Buttermilk Falls for a college assignment he had due. We decided to make the most of the errand and turn it into a family outing.

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We enjoyed a little hiking and exploring,

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While Rusty worked to capture the shots he needed for his assignment.

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Unfortunately, he didn’t take into consideration the breeze that would be coming off the falls, and soon found his drone stuck in a tree when a gust of wind blew it out of control.

Luckily, Toby and Rusty were able to rescue it and there was only minimal damage. One blade was broken and Toby’s forearm got a bit beat up by the spinning blades when he pulled it from the tree, but it could have been much worse!

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While the boys were working on the drone, the girls and I worked on Molly’s missionary photo shoot.

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This was originally scheduled for the end of March, before she left for Utah, but the worldwide pandemic squashed those plans. When Molly’s training got moved online, we forgot to move her photo shoot to another day on the calendar.

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Sunday offered the perfect opportunity to get some pictures of Sister McCleery!!

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As of today, Sister McCleery has been released as a missionary until it is safe for her to travel to Utah to serve her 18 month mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This will be a hard transition for Molly. Like so many other missionaries who have been called home in the midst of Covid-19, she waits, uncertain of what is next and when that next phase will come,

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But like all of us who are navigating the uncertainty of this unusual time, Molly has been given the opportunity to exercise those spiritual muscles of faith, optimism, resilience, mindfulness, presence, positivity, and hope.

And all will be well!

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Just Look UP!

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Molly’s missionary email for Week 3:

Hello everyone!  

 Every day has been such a learning experience at the MTC. When people say you will learn a lot during this time, they mean it! I have gained a greater understanding about myself, Jesus Christ and the gospel! 

Update: I have less than a week left of my MTC training, which honestly is so sad to me. On Tuesday April 21st I will be released from my calling as a missionary (temporarily) until the Salt Lake City South mission is ready to receive me. During this waiting time I hope to continue in my studies, practice my skills daily, and find ways to strengthen my relationship with my Heavenly Father. 

I have been learning and practicing role playing (otherwise known as TRC’s,) which has been a whole new experience for me. TRC’s are basically practice sessions to improve your skills and learn different teaching styles.  

I have almost filled one whole notebook of class and study notes. I don’t know if that is normal, or if I am just an intense note taker, but I love it nevertheless.  


The biggest lesson I have learned during this time has been to trust God.

It is such a simple principle but can be so hard to live. It seems easier to doubt, fear, lean on your own understanding, and remain where you are comfortable.  I have noticed this consistent battle in myself, as I have had to weekly, daily, and moment by moment work on choosing faith over fear.  

Faith is the hope that tomorrow will be better.  

Faith is being willing to get on your knees and plead for help. 

 Faith is walking in darkness, believing light will come. 

 Faith is obeying God’s will and word, even when it is hard.  

Faith is following Him even if He isn’t giving you a perfect blueprint of His plan.  

Faith is trust.  

Faith is a focus and a choice.  

Faith is love. 

I think this is one of the biggest lessons I have learned from my MTC experience! 

I thank Heavenly Father so much for being a loving and patient father who is willing to teach me His lessons again and again.  He never gives up on me. His hand is always reaching out. He loves us individually and desires for us to come unto Him. He does not give up on us or turn away from us no matter what… 

So just look up! 

 I love you all and I know that Jesus loves you too! 

– Sister McCleery 

Easter at Patchwork Farm- Part 2

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After a beautiful Sabbath service in the comfort of our own living room, the remainder of Easter Sunday was spent enjoying good food, good company, and good fun at Patchwork Farm.

This year for Easter I decided to go in a different direction with my basket stuffing efforts. This decision was luckily made before the stay-at-home order went into place, or I may have struggled to put together baskets this year. Luckily I had Easter candy on hand to put together treat baskets for each family member and had preordered their Easter gifts-  Lego sets!

We thought it would be fun to have a Lego building day as a family, so each of the kids received a set that we thought would appeal to them. When we came up with this plan we didn’t know Grace and Zach would be living with us, so I did have to do some emergency, last-minute shopping  online so they would have an Easter surprise as well.

The baskets were ready and waiting when everyone woke up.

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After our Sabbath service we headed outside for our Easter egg hunt.

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Toby had taken the hunt outside this year. The beautiful weather, coupled with older kids who need more of a challenge than the living room can offer, led to an outdoor hunt.

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Toby hid the 36 eggs we had dyed the day before.

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It was so much fun being outside.

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Of all our “egg hunters” Ellie May was the clear winner.

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Her hound nose led her to all the eggs hidden low to the ground. When Ellie would start digging beneath the edge of a tree stump, the kids would have to race to try to grab the hidden egg before she swallowed it up.

Despite their efforts we did lose three eggs to our hound dog and one egg to the chickens who discovered a turquoise blue egg hidden in their hen house and ate it up before the kids found it.

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It was a fun hunt, and other than the eggs that were lost to animals, all eggs were found.

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While dinner was cooking, the kids began working on their Lego sets.

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Molly and Rusty each received a Harry Potter themed set.

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Rusty spent the day putting together Hagrid’s hut,

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And Molly worked on constructing the Beauxbaton carriage.

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 Tyler worked on his haunted graveyard,

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And Braden constructed the prison tower from his Walking Dead set.

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He was quite proud of his finished product!

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Zach receivedEaster a Speed Champion race set and Grace received the “Friend’s” set.

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She spent the afternoon working on her set.

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The finished product was so cool!!

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I loved the attention to detail.

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By late afternoon dinner was ready. Dishes were pulled from the oven and fridge.

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We enjoyed a meal of good food and even better company on this holiest of days.

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We have so much to be grateful for.

Happy Easter, friends!

 

Easter at Patchwork Farm- Part 1

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Once again we find ourselves celebrating another holiday in unique ways under a unique set of circumstances. It was hard not getting together with extended family and enjoying our typical traditions, but our circumstances didn’t take away from the holiness of the day. Perhaps it even added to it.

In the stillness of being home and having a quieter, more reflective Easter, we were able to focus on the glory of Easter Sunday. There, in the midst of the sacrifices we have found thrust upon us during this unusual and trying time, we were all the more appreciative of that great sacrifice made on our behalf.

He died so that we may live.

All Glory and Praise to our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus the Christ!

Easter preparations began on Friday with egg dying,

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And on Saturday, as family recipes were pulled out and food preparation began.

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Our meal wasn’t completely traditional, as our side dishes were chosen based on what we had in the freezer and pantry. I did, however have all the necessities on hand for the key components of an Easter dinner, so we didn’t have to make a trip to the store. A ham was pulled from the freezer. The dough was mixed for Mom’s homemade rolls. Pineapple dressing, sour cream potatoes and ambrosia salad were all prepared the day before, so as to make Sunday dinner a breeze.

On Saturday we also added a new recipe to the mix, one that is a favorite family tradition in Zach’s family: resurrection rolls!

I was first introduced to resurrection rolls when I served in primary with Sherrie and she would bring them in for the children every Easter. I loved the concept and message behind them, and they were delicious as well!

Zach’s one wish for our Easter celebration, since he wasn’t able to be with his family for Easter, was that we incorporate this beloved Tame tradition into our holiday celebration. On Saturday we gathered the family together and Zach taught us how to make resurrection rolls. It was a project everyone enjoyed!

First we laid down our dough.

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Next we topped it with a little butter and cinnamon/sugar.

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Then we placed a marshmallow in the center of the dough.

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Finally the dough was wrapped around the marshmallow and placed in a pan to bake.

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It was a fun baking project and an effective object lesson.

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The marshmallow represents the body of the Savior that was placed in the tomb. As the rolls bake, the marshmallows within melt, so that when you bite into the baked resurrection rolls, you will find the inside hollow…

Representing the empty tomb on Sunday morning.

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It was a joy getting to share in one of Zach’s Easter traditions.

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On Saturday Grace and I also decorated the dinning room for Easter dinner. Since our dining room is also currently serving as our greenhouse, we decided to embrace the mess and make it all part of the look.

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We went with a “Mr. McGregor’s Garden” theme for our Easter table, using decorations we found around the house.

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A month ago, when we had our girls’ weekend at the Homestead, my mom gave me Peter Rabbit plates and napkins as part of my Easter surprise. These paper products served as the jumping off point for our décor.

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A center piece was added,

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And my cabbage serving dishes were set out.

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Grace and I made place cards for each family member. I wrote out the names and Grace added the artwork.

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We were quite pleased with the finished look!

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After a full day of Easter preparations, we were ready to welcome in the Sabbath day.

As a special Easter treat, my parents had sent us a check to order take out one evening and gift me with a night off from cooking. We decided to use our Easter gift on Saturday night. After a full day in the kitchen preparing our Easter dinner, I was thrilled at the prospect of not having to make supper. We decided to use our Easter gift to buy wings.

The kids were all very excited. This was the first take-out meal we have had since the stay-at-home order was issued.

We ordered from Big Shot Bob’s House of Wings in Ellwood City. We ordered a variety of flavors and then Grace and Zach picked up our order on their way back from getting the mail from their apartment.

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We enjoyed a delicious dinner!

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It was such a fun treat, and such a generous Easter gift from my parents! Thank you Mom and Dad!!

When everyone was full, fat and sassy we headed to bed. Tomorrow was a big day!

Our Sabbath day began with Easter service, but rather than donning our Easter bonnets for Easter service at our local chapel, we got dolled up for church in the living room. Grace was in charge of our lesson this week and she spoke about the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ with the following analogy:

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She laid out eight candy bars on the table. Each was tagged with a different price. She then handed each of us a bag of pennies. Each bag contained a different amount of change. We were then told the rules of the game.

  1. We could only use the coins she gave us to purchase the candy.
  2. We couldn’t pool our money or borrow coins from one another.
  3. We couldn’t share our candy with anyone else.

We were then set free to do our shopping. As we dug into our bags of pennies we soon discovered that none of us had enough money to purchase any of the candy bars on the table. We all found ourselves short of the price that needed paid.

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As we considered our options, we soon reached the conclusion that there was no way for us to pay the price needed to get our reward. It was then that Grace pointed out the fact that none of us had thought to ask her for the difference owed. She pulled out a bag of pennies and asked if anyone needed to borrow the difference, thus thrusting the reward within reach, despite our shortcomings.

She likened the lesson to the atonement of Jesus Christ. She drew the comparison between our own inability to gain eternal reward to our need for a Savior who can make up the difference between what we have to offer and the price that must be paid.

Like Gracie’s example, salvation can’t be bargained. The price is set and must be paid in full, and none on earth can pay the price by themselves. We all must call on Jesus Christ to make up the difference. He has paid the price for each of us, and because of His great sacrifice we all have the ability to enjoy a reward we don’t deserve.

She then shared the story of Handle’s Messiah to further illustrate her point, by sharing the following video:

It was a beautiful lesson and a perfect start to our Easter Sunday!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Easter at Patchwork Farm.

Learning a bit about “Making do”

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Life has thrust us into a simpler existence…

An existence that moves at a slower pace, promotes stillness and self-reflection. Life has transitioned away from the frantic pace of keeping up to a slow crawl that promotes mindfulness and presence. The tragedy that is unfolding around us has left mankind readjusting their pace and their trajectory, as we all get use to a new kind of “normal,” but crisis and chaos have the power to birth a better way of being.

One of the blessings I have seen born out of the challenges of today, is a new way of navigating life. No longer driven by speed and ease, we find ourselves navigating by new standards. Even in this short season of quarantine I see in myself a greater consciousness of how finite things are. It has changed the way I live, the choices we make, the care we give, and the things we value. Gone are the days when everything was expendable and replaceable. We are all now looking at our environment through eyes of cautious conservation, and old adages like this one, are becoming our guiding principle:

use it up

Haircuts at Home

After weeks of the boys getting shaggier and shaggier, and barber shops shut down around the state, we decided to take matters into our own hands. The impromptu front porch barber shop was born out of a request by Grace who asked if I could give her bangs. She was looking for a change and decided bangs were just the thing she needed to give her a lift.

When Braden heard that Grace was getting her hair cut, he quickly requested that he be added the list. Rusty also chimed in that he was in need of a haircut and Tyler, who had no interest in getting his hair cut, was added to the queue despite his protests.

We started with the boys. Toby ran the clippers and I worked with scissors.

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Rusty’s cut was nice and easy, as he just wanted his hair buzzed.

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Braden and Tyler chose to buzz the sides and keep the top long, with just some trimming to get those curls under control.

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This was my first attempt at recreating the cuts they usually get at Great Clips, but I was quite proud of the finished results. Not bad for a pandemic haircut!

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When the boys were all trimmed up and looking more like young men than cavemen, Grace took her place in the hot seat so I could give her the bangs she was requesting. She was tickled pink with the finished look:

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Making Masks

Our dining room has slowly transformed into a greenhouse for the garden seedlings and a sewing center for making masks.

Last Friday Grace, Molly and I sat down to make plans for sewing masks, following  Governor Wolf’s announcement that all Pennsylvanian’s should be wearing masks when out in public. We spent time online researching different patterns and then went searching through the house for needed supplies. Our plan was to set up an assembly line in the dinning room and use the down time between General Conference sessions over the weekend to sew masks for family and to donate to others.

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I was in charge of the scissors and took on the task of cutting out the pieces for the masks.

Molly took her place at the ironing board, ironing and pinning the pieces I gave her before they were handed over to Gracie to be sewn together.

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Working together we were able to sew mask after mask while visiting and enjoying each other’s company.

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The finished results were modeled by these two (not so) eager models:

Prepping the Garden

Never has the necessity for garden felt as pressing for our family as it does this year. With so much uncertainty in the world the push to prep our garden, with the goal of growing fresh vegetables at home, has driven us to reassess our gardens. The last few summers have been so busy that our gardens have been sorely neglected.  Busyness certainly isn’t an issue at the moment so we have been focusing on getting our gardens ready for planting,

Part of that process includes some new raised beds.

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This is a project Braden and Toby have been working on together.

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As a result, Braden has been learning some new skills while also being a big help for Toby.

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Making our own Fun

It has been a blessing to be forced to slow down and focus on the important rather than the urgent. Having the time to just be present with my family has been the greatest gift that has come out of this challenging time. Daily family walks, meals at the table with the entire family present, pockets of playfulness and unscheduled discovery have been great  gifts.

The other day, as we were working in the yard, the kids came across a pile of unopened geodes that we brought home from our Kentucky houseboat trip a few years ago. We lugged them home with plans to break them open at home but they ended up in a forgotten pile of rubble at the corner of the yard.

Once rediscovered, yardwork was put on hold, hammers were gathered and we enjoyed an impromptu science lesson on the front walk.

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The kids took turns breaking open the geodes to discover the beauty hidden within very ordinary looking stones…

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Enjoying the experience with childlike wonder.

Getting Ready for Bees

Toby has been kept busy with many a project around the house. Not only is he using this time at home to work his way down the list of repairs that have needed done, but he has also taken on some new projects as we focus on increased self-sustainability at Patchwork Farm.

One of those projects has been to build a second beehive.

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In May he will be picking up the bees he ordered from a local farmer, so for now he is getting their digs all set before they move in.

Cleaning out the Deep Freezer

We have also been accomplishing many cleaning and organization tasks around the house. We have dedicated a couple hours each day to work on cleaning out and organizing those areas of the house that tend to be overlooked. We have been working on cleaning out and organizing the basement. As part of that project we have been cleaning out the deep freezer and getting rid of the food that has expired.

Harley, our pot belly pig has been the greatest benefactor of our efforts…

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Although the dogs and cats have reaped the rewards as well!!

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The other day Molly took a tub of expired cool whip out to Harley, making him the happiest pig to ever walk the earth!

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You would have thought he had died and gone to heaven.

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His grunts of joy and enthusiastic consumption of that sweet treat made us all smile with delight.

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Oh, how we love our silly pig!

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A New Chicken Yard

The chickens have also benefited from Toby’s increased time at home during this season of quarantine. We moved the new chicks into the old chicken coop and needed to rehome the older hens to a different area of the farm. We decided to use the frame of the old, torn trampoline, along with materials found around the farm, to build a new chicken house and chicken yard outside.

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Once the area was set up and secure, Toby and Rusty moved the old chickens to their new digs, so as to make space for the 13 new chicks.

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It was an ingenious solution that made use of what we had on hand.

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It has been a great blessing to revert back to a place where ingenuity and creativity are needed. Out of daily needs (that can’t be met in traditional ways) come solutions that are even better than the “typical” and “easy” ways things were done before.

I appreciate the skills my kids are learning as a result of a situation beyond our control, and we all find ourselves exercising the muscles of thriftiness, problem solving, making do, gratitude, and contentment.

It is a step back towards a simpler way of living,

And that is the blessing that has been born of the tragedy that is unfolding around us.

God is good.

Always good.

 

 

 

 

 

Sister McCleery- Week 2 at the MTC

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Here are Molly’s thoughts from this week:

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Every day is a new adventure.

Hundreds of emotions are felt in a period of 24 hours.

My understanding of what I thought I understood as a kid, has grown deeper and stronger than ever before!

My love for my Savior has been edified in ways that are so special and sacred to me.

This week has been filled to the brim with a very busy schedule…two 3-hour classes daily, workshops with a hundred or more missionaries in my same position, and daily scripture study- both independent and with my companion.
I wake up at 6:30am and devote the next two hours to studying and growing in my relationship with Jesus Christ. I begin with a prayer which is key to a good study session. I have been amazed at what the Holy Ghost will guide me to read, learn, or the thoughts that pop into my head which make an impact on my heart and soul.
 I have been blessed with a great district too.
 I. Love. Them. 
They are the people that help me to not feel as alone on this uncertain journey. They are the people that make me laugh after staring at a screen for hours. They are the people that teach me so much through their bright testimonies. 
I also love my teachers! I am thankful for their willingness to serve and teach, and the hours of effort they put into what they do. 
This week was also my 20th birthday.
This was a different kind of birthday than any I have ever had before. In addition to being quarantined in my house, my day was packed with a busy MTC training schedule. I spent most of my birthday in my bedroom doing online learning, but had many wonderful experiences that made me feel so very loved on my birthday. The birthday wishes I received meant the world to me, my sister brought me lunch (which is so simple but made me swell with love that she checked up on me.) The birthday gifts were all so generous, I had my favorite foods and I got to spend time with my family in small snippets through the day which meant the world to me!! 
This week I have learned a lot about faith, humility and grace.
As some of you may or may not have heard, due to the worldwide pandemic, all missionaries training in the MTC will be released from their calling at the conclusion of their training and then will be given the choice of either waiting at home until their assigned location is ready and safe for more missionaries to arrive,  or they can choose to wait up to 12 to 18 months to start their mission.
When I received this news I felt nothing but anxiety and stress. Then came emotions of sadness over the change in what I expected. I struggled with doubts like,  “can I handle this?” and worries that I wouldn’t make the right decision. There were many evenings where I was just overwhelmed and frustrated with life itself. When I was going through all this I was very critical of myself for doubting at all. Shouldn’t a missionary’s faith be greater than her fear? Shouldn’t a missionary go forth in all things and never fear? 
At the beginning of this year I decided to work on the virtue of humility. I prayer for experiences that would build humility. God has answered that prayer through this unique missionary experience. 
Over the past few days I have done a LOT of praying, a lot of relying upon God, a lot of reading the scriptures and a lot of letting go.
Every moment is a gift: good or bad, easy or hard. I have come to know that God called me to His work for THIS TIME. He has given me personal revelation and personal answers that bring me strength and peace.
I know that God loves me and is walking with me EVERY step of the way.
I need not fear because God is not a God of fear.
Daily I give my day to Him and allow Him to guide me.
My mission isn’t about me at all.
 I will go forth with courage and in faith.
I will try to be humble and teachable.
 I will remember that it is okay to be human and to experience moments like I’ve had this week, but I also need to remember that at the end of the day, EVERY DAY, God lives!
He will give us grace to endure and do all that He asks of us.
I come before Him knowing that I am scared, broken, imperfect and uncertain of what the future may hold for my mission and my life,  but He will give me grace, and His grace is sufficient!
I testify of the reality of God because He testified that reality TO ME. I have walked a humbling journey this week. It has not been easy but it has blessed me in profound ways. Know you are not alone. God is and always will be there for you. I pray that my experience and testimony might be a source of peace and comfort to you no matter your circumstance, for God is walking your journey with you and at times may even be carrying you!
(As me and my roomate from BYUI would always say to each other) 
I love you and Jesus loves you, 
Much love!
Sister McCleery

Happy 20th Birthday, Molly!

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Well, it was a birthday that won’t soon be forgotten…

And certainly a birthday far different then the one we imagined for Molly’s 20th.

First of all, we never expected to have Molly home for her birthday celebration. If life had moved forward as planned, Molly would have been celebrating her 20th birthday in Provo, Utah with her missionary companion. Instead, Sister McCleery, was at home for her big day, as we find ourselves living through a worldwide pandemic, quarantined at home, with Molly attending the missionary training center online instead of in person.

The reality of the world as it stands now, on Molly’s 20th birthday, is best documented by the following excerpt shared by a friend:

“Just so I NEVER forget….. April 7, 2020

Gas price was $1.04/gallon
School cancelled – yes cancelled – since 3/12; teachers and students are now all doing online schooling.
Social distancing and self quarantining measures on the rise.
Tape on the floors at grocery stores and others to help distance shoppers (6ft) from each other.
Limited number of people inside stores, therefore, lineups outside the store doors.
Non-essential stores and businesses mandated closed.
Parks, trails, entire cities locked up.
Entire sports seasons cancelled.
Concerts, tours, festivals, entertainment events – cancelled.
Weddings, family celebrations, holiday gatherings – cancelled.
No masses or services, churches are closed.
No gatherings of 50 or more, then 10 or more, now none at all except the people you live with.
Scouts, clubs, and groups are hosting virtual Zoom meetings.
Children’s outdoor play parks are closed.
Shortage of masks, gowns, gloves for our front-line workers.
Shortage of ventilators for the critically ill.
Panic buying sets in and we have no toilet paper, no disinfecting supplies, no paper towels, no laundry soap, no hand sanitizer.
Shelves are bare.
Manufacturers, distilleries and other businesses switch their lines to help make visors, masks, hand sanitizer and PPE.
Government closes the border to all non-essential travel.
Fines are established for breaking the rules.
Stadiums and recreation facilities open up for the overflow of Covid-19 patients.
Daily updates on new cases, recoveries, and deaths.
Government incentives to stay home.
Barely anyone on the roads.
People wearing masks and gloves outside.
Essential service workers are terrified to go to work.
Medical field workers are afraid to go home to their families.

This is the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic, declared March 11th, 2020.

Molly’s day was filled with classes and MTC training. She had a limited amount of free time in the middle of the day, so we reserved our celebration for first thing in the morning and for the end of the day.

We arrived at her bedroom door at 7:30 am, ready to wake her with her traditional birthday cake slice and birthday song. She was already awake and doing her personal scripture study when we walked in. We greeted her with a birthday sign,

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And a birthday song.

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She made her wish and blew out her candle.

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The rest of her birthday cheesecake was reserved to enjoy later as a family.

Before the busyness of her day began, we gathered in the living room to give Molly her birthday gifts.

Luckily most of our birthday planning was proactive, as the original plan was to celebrate her birthday mid-March, before she left for the MTC. This means gifts were already purchased and wrapped, the makings for her birthday dinner were already in the pantry, and her cheesecake had been chilling in the freezer for weeks in preparation of her special day.

She received gifts fitting for our sweet sister missionary, including a new dress from Braden,

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A new necklace from Tyler,

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A quill pen and ink set from Rusty,

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Water color pens from Grace and Zach, and a messenger bag from Toby and I.

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During the day Molly received love sent from those afar, including a birthday card/gift from Mimi Joy and from Aunt Kelly’s crew, a surprise package from her best buddy (Tatum,) a phone call from Uncle Travis and Aunt Krista, and the traditional birthday serenade on the answering machine from Mimi and Pop Pop Real.

That evening we enjoyed a dinner of spaghetti pizza, garlic knots and Caesar salad, per Molly’s request, before ending the meal with cheesecake.

For Molly’s birthday activity she requested a bonfire outside…the first of the season!

It was a beautiful evening and the weather cooperated.

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We ate dinner around the fire,

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And then pulled out the marshmallows for an after dinner treat.

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Everyone filled up on toasted marshmallows while we did our family scripture study by firelight.

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We ended the evening, as we do every birthday, with each family member expressing the trait they love most about the birthday person. This was the high point of the day for Miss Molly, whose love language is words of affirmation.

Happy birthday, Miss Molly!

We love you to the moon and back!

Sister McCleery- Week 1 at the MTC

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This week was a monumental one for Miss Molly…I mean, Sister McCleery.
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On Wednesday she logged onto her first class at the Missionary Training Center. Rather than attend the MTC in person,  she and all the other missionaries who are scheduled to do their training in Provo, Utah during this time, are now part of online classes.
Her name tag arrived in the mail on Tuesday and on Wednesday morning she emerged from her bedroom as Sister McCleery.
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Her schedule is quite rigorous with 6-8 hours a day spent online, learning, training, and attending devotionals. This is in addition to the time she has set aside in her schedule for personal scripture study and the companion scripture study that she does online with her assigned companion.
She is still able to join the family for meals and during her down time and breaks. It has been a joy watching her MTC experience firsthand and getting to hear about her experiences and the insight she’s gained that day as we gather together each evening for family devotionals.
The biggest challenge has probably been creating an environment of stillness and quiet reflection for Molly to learn in, with seven other people (and many noisy animals) running amuck.
The dogs have especially enjoyed hanging out with Molly at her own personal MTC.
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The other day Olive had to be banished from Molly’s room when she insisted on bring her noisiest squeaky toy into Molly’s room and making a whole lot of noise while Molly was trying to answer questions in class.
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But overall we are navigating this unique situation well. Molly’s faithfulness and service continues to bless our family and we are grateful she is home and safe during this uncertain season. Here are some thoughts she shared with us this week:
MISSIONARY THOUGHT: HAVING A SOFT HEART
I don’t know if I can really put into words all the emotions I am feeling. With all the changes in the world right now I have learned to take my mission step by step and day by day. I am doing the MTC online and had my first class yesterday.
I was assigned and introduced to my companion, Sister Graham, who is the sweetest person ever! I am so excited to learn and teach beside her! I am in a district with two other sets of missionaries. Everyone is very kind and my first class was quite enjoyable.
I could really feel the Spirit during our zone conference as well. We talked about the importance of the work and the blessings of the mission. It takes sacrifice, and it is hard, but the growth and gifts that come forth are endless!
I am also very grateful for being able to do my MTC experience online. The experience has allowed me to spend some more time with my family and share my MTC experience with them. I have learned that this experience is humbling and sacred whether you do it online or in person. You can feel the Spirit testify of that.
This week, as I was reading my scriptures, the Holy Ghost taught me using a metaphor which touched my heart. In the scriptures it often talks about a hardened heart. This made me think of everyday objects that could relate.
A hardened heart is like dry clay. When we are not willing to listen to what God has to say to us, our hearts become hardened, and just like clay, it becomes challenging to work with. Eventually it becomes unable to be molded. It just crumbles. But Jesus Christ, the master potter, doesn’t give up easily on us. We can choose to have a soft heart, one that is willing to listen and to obey what it is He is asking us to do. We can have a heart that desires to serve and to trust in God even during the hard times. That willingness is like adding water to dry clay. As we work with it, it becomes moldable. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ can use us to fulfill His work and our purpose here on earth. They have the ability to mold us into strong, beautiful and reliable pottery.
Be like soft clay. Have a soft and open heart. Allow Jesus Christ to mold you into something better than you ever thought you could be. You need not fear. He is in control.
“Trust in The Lord with all Thy heart, and lean not unto Thy own understanding. In all Thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct Thy paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6
Love, Sister McCleery

Date Night during a Pandemic

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On Tuesday night we received a lovely surprise. Our kids had made reservations for us at a swanky new restaurant in town. Given all the extra stress in our lives lately, they thought we deserved a date night.

Before anyone takes up arms against our night on the town, let me clarify. We did not leave Patchwork Farm for our fancy meal. Instead, the kids brought date night to us. Zach came up with the idea and pitched it to the others who embraced it wholeheartedly. It was such a loving gesture and we were touched by our children’s thoughtfulness.

Our first clue that anything was amuck came as we reentered the house from outside and were greeted by this sign:

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It was Braden’s handiwork. We were then set to our room to get ready for date night while the kids worked like little house elves in the kitchen. We were told to dress in our finest attire, as this was a five star establishment.

All the kids were involved in this loving surprise for Toby and I, and each had a responsibility for making the evening happen. Some cooked, some decorated, while others wrote out the menu.

When we were gussied up we headed to the dining room where we were greeted by one of our waitresses for the evening.

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She sat us at the best table in the house.

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The ambience was romantic.

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Braden had decorated the dining room with mood lighting and Zach had created a playlist of songs which served as the soundtrack to our evening. He made sure to include songs that were personal to us, including our wedding song.

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Once seated we were given our menus.

Tyler was assigned the task of creating the restaurant menus. He typed up the food and drink selections and then showed the others. When Molly suggested he make the menu “more festive,” he went back to the computer and added a google image of fireworks:

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Because nothing says “festive” like pyrotechnics!

We sat and enjoyed the complimentary garlic knots while visiting and counting our many blessings.

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Then dinner was served. Chef Grace headed up the kitchen staff and made us a delicious dinner of Cajun Chicken Pasta.

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The portions at this establishment were unusually generous for such a swanky place!

Dinner was followed by dessert. Molly and Rusty were in charge of the dessert portion of the meal and made homemade lemon bars. They were delicious!

Then the manager (Zach) came out to check on us and inquire of our satisfaction before leaving the bill:

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It was both hilarious and touching. In fact the entire evening left us feeling like millionaires. We are blessed beyond measure! The efforts put in by each of our children to create such a special evening for Toby and I made us feel incredibly loved!

Don’t worry, we tipped them very well!!

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Our cups overfloweth…

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(I mean that figuratively, not literally. Molly was a very good waitress. ) 🙂