January 8, 2016

Finding Christ

Came across this talk from 2011 in some old email files. I'm sure I must have posted it before when it was current, but I think it's a pretty nice story, so enjoy!

Hello Brothers & Sisters, I’m Amber Hughes. My husband and I recently moved into the ward at the end of the year just before the holidayss. This new ward has brought us a lot of happiness, your thoughts and insights on matters of the heart and spirituality have been a very welcome home for us. This New Year has also given us a lot to celebrate. January 9th was the year anniversary of our first date (which I had to trick Jordan into taking me on!), seven days after that was our first kiss and two days after that was the first time we went to Taco Bell together… no, just kidding! You know how we girls are, we remember and celebrate everything!  February 14th was Valentines Day for everyone else, but for us it was even more special; our six month wedding anniversary. The 25th was a personal milestone for me, as I reached my two years sobriety mark! And next month we will be visiting the Salt Lake Temple to commemorate my two year anniversary as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
It was February 2009 when I met Elder Rowley and Elder Stevens in a park outside my house. I had just moved back home to California from a three year stint in Boston. I had turned 25 at the beginning of the month and was back home to re-access my priorities and get my life on track. I had enrolled at a nearby college and was studying in the park when two absolutely adorable boys sporting deacon style short sleeve and tie combo approached me. I knew right away that they were missionaries. They asked me what else I knew about them, the church, the gospel of Jesus Christ and Gods plan. We talked in the sun for a little over a half hour before they invited me to church on Sunday. (I later learned that they had jumped the gun—skipping the whole first meet and greet, initial lesson, the giving me a Book of Mormon to study and ponder part and then asking me to attend a sacrament meeting. They went with their gut- or what I would later come to know as ‘The Spirit,’ and extended an eager invite.) So when I showed up to church the very next day, well that would explain why their jaws hit the floor… that or they’d never seen a girl in a sleeveless, mid-thigh summer dress in church before! Which was the style a Southern California native was accustomed to. Looking back, though I didn’t have much in the way of “church appropriate” clothing, I probably could’ve dug deep and found at least a cardigan somewhere.
During Sacrament that day I sat next to the two missionaries whom I would soon endearingly be calling, “my missionaries.” Following Sacrament we went to the Cultural Hall where I drilled them with all the questions I had come up with in the mere 20 or so hours since I’d first met them. Three hours of non-stop questioning. And that was just day one!
I had questions about everything from dinosaurs to ghosts, angels and spirits, the commandments, life before and after this life, human goodness and its relation or non-relation to God, LIFE – in general, all my sins, all my goodness, evolution, monkeys, science…  
And this was just the tip of the iceberg. These missionaries were just two poor stowaways on the Titanic unable to see yet, the girth of the iceberg below the surface.  However they soon proved just how up for the challenge they were!
After that Sunday I began meeting with Elders Rowley and Stevens every Monday and Wednesday as well as studying with them for the three hour block at church on Sundays. Within a few weeks I’d started having them and their companions over for lunch as often as I could fit in between work and school. At the end of each day I’d receive a phone call so they could answer what questions I might have come up with throughout the days I didn’t see them.
I am sure that if you asked my missionaries what their biggest struggle with me was, they would not say it was the questions. The questions, no matter how silly or completely beyond reason they may have sometimes been, were a sign that I was open to hearing what they had to say. The fact that I was still taking their calls and visits, a sure sign I was absorbing the teachings and growing.  If asked what they and I struggled with the most—they would explain that I had a clear understanding of God, even accepted a creationist theory, but simply wanted nothing to do with it.
I don’t believe it had anything to do with pride, as a statement like that may sound so prideful. How can you accept the possibility of a god, yet want nothing to do with him or the plan he has created for you? It wasn’t pride, I think it was something much less than that…
You see—I was raised very loosely Catholic, but I was raised with the teachings that God created this world, sent his son Jesus to die for us and save us from the damnation of our sins and as it says in John 3:16,
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
I was raised to know that if I followed Gods plan I could go to live in Heaven when I died. I was taught that in Heaven we got to be with God and everyone whom we had ever loved would be there. Heaven was the happiest of happinesses.
But I didn’t want it.
I wasn’t too proud to believe in a god or even admit that I believed in thee God. I believed in God. I believed in Heaven. I believed in Hell. But I simply believed God existed for those who needed Him. For those who needed a reason. A reason for this life, for those who needed a deeper meaning, an explanation for this chaotic place we were all born into. For me, I felt life in and of itself was good enough. I for whatever cataclysmic or divine reason had been given life; born with parents to take care of me, air to breathe and a great puzzle to piece together. For me, this was enough. I didn’t need more. I had unexplainably been granted, if I was lucky, a good 80 or so years here on Earth to do with as I pleased.  To want anything more was selfish. To desire an afterlife, even one so beautifully described as Heaven, was taking advantage of this God who created me. How can anyone ask for any more than we have already been given?
All I wanted after this life was not to exist. If Heaven existed, well that was great—for those who wanted it, and Hell, sure, good—for those who deserved it. But me, my ideal Heaven would be total nothingness. True death. I didn’t want a second chance or even a continuation of this life beyond the veil. I wasn’t sure I had even asked for this life now and I wasn’t about to go asking for more.      
Elder Rowley and Elder Stevens assured me I WAS WRONG. God existed whether we needed Him to or not. And I was here because I chose to be. They explained to me the pre-mortal existence. Taught me that in a world before this one, I had been of the 2/3’s of Gods spirit children who had chosen to follow and obey His path. It was evident by the physical body that sat before them that I had in fact asked to be here.
All the things they had spoken to me about since day one had always seemed plausible, even possible, but now it was all starting to make sense. I had always believed in something like a pre-mortal existence. I was never able to believe that God had just zapped souls into existence  at any certain given point during pregnancy or birth. It had always seemed to me that the great depth of people’s souls was never any kind of accident, but rather a well thought out plan. So this explained how I got HERE. But how did I get THERE? I wasn’t zapped into creation on Earth. I had chosen which side I’d show my loyalties to and was rewarded and challenged at the same time with a body and an earthly life. But when did I ever choose to be created as a spirit child?
Are you still with me? Tough question, right? Imagine the look on my missionaries faces when I came up with that one; after all the headway they believed they were making with me! I came to Earth because I chose to in the Spirit World, but what pre-pre-mortal world had I come from in the first place? It’s like a kid asking for a reason why he can’t have a cookie and his parent only answers, “Because I said so.” What does that mean!?
Well, by this point I had been learning about the celestial glories; degrees of Heaven and about Outer Darkness. It  all matched the theories I had always believed in my own head. I knew all along that Heaven and Hell couldn’t be so black and white, so the degrees of glories and reasons God sent us to Earth all started making more and more sense.
There came a point though, where it all became too much. Just too overwhelming to believe the stories in The Book of Mormon my missionaries were having me read. All too unbelievable. It all had to be either entirely true or not true at all. One day I wrote in my journal;
 “Today I am beginning to think I believe less in God than I did when we started this all.”
Elder Rowley was always telling me to slow down. There were some answers he couldn’t give me yet, some questions I may never know the answers to, not in this lifetime anyway.  He said I was looking to learn the calculus without first understanding the simple math that would get me there eventually. I was overwhelmed because I was overloading myself. He insisted my curiosity was great, but I was driving myself in crazy circles with too many, ‘why’s.’I needed to first accept the beginnings of God before understanding the means to the end.
So I stuck with it and about two weeks before April 19th, at the end of one of my lessons, Elder Rowley slowly said to me, “Amber will you commit to be baptized on April 19th?” I think the room fell to a dead silence as he and Elder Stevens, Missi, Katie and Leslie (three sisters who had been with me since my second lesson) all held their breath waiting for my response. Well, I am standing here before you, right? So I must’ve said ‘yes.’
I didn’t.
I thought for about thirty seconds before said “no.” I could not do what he asked. It may have been the first time in 2 months I had said no to either one of my missionaries.  And I thought he must have been crazy to ask me that question. He was asking for a huge commitment—a commitment I wasn’t ready for. I really had to question… Was this what I wanted? For myself? For my future family? Would I, could I, be happy to support my young sons one day going on a mission? My daughters being sealed in a temple ceremony in which my side of family would be excluded? How would this action of baptism change my life? How would this word, “Mormon” change the way people viewed me. My friends whom I’d shared many a drunken nights with? My gay sister who I’ve always protected? My parents who believed they’d already brought God to me when I was little? How would this change me and how would it affect all of them?
Never had I committed to anyone or anything so huge in my entire 25 years of life. I’d always left and escape route, never given my heart completely. It wasn’t for fear of being hurt, I had a solid belief in the innate goodness of people. But God wasn’t a person I could have a conversation with, test His credibility. It was a commitment I’d have to make with my heart.
When I was baptized on Sunday April 26th, only one week from the date my missionaries had originally tried to commit me, I didn’t know if the church was true. I didn’t know if God truly existed. I didn’t even know if what I was doing was right. But I felt something strongly telling me it was okay. So I jumped. I took a leap of faith.
In a book my husband got me for Christmas, Velvet Elvis,  author Rob Bell compares it to jumping on a trampoline. Not one of those dinky ones you use for aerobics, but a nice big one that takes up a good portion of your backyard because the trampoline is Christ’s gospel. He says,
“You enjoy it, you tell others about it and you invite them to enjoy it with you”  p. 27
“And saying yes to the invitation doesn’t mean you have it all figured out. I can jump and still have questions and doubts.”  p. 28
“The invitation to jump is an invitation to follow Jesus with all our doubts and questions right there with us.”  p. 28
He understands what I hadn’t yet—which is that the truth may not come all at once, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It’s okay not to know the calculus sometimes, Amber.
Elder Neil L. Anderson says it well;
“Challenges, difficulties, doubt—these are all part of our mortality.”
He continues that;
“Fear and faith can co-exist in our hearts at the same time.”
“In our days of difficulty we [must] choose the road of faith.”
That leap I took, it took a lot of faith. And others may not understand the road I’ve chosen or the changes I’ve made based on one small truth.
I may not have known it all then and I certainly don’t know it all now. But I know enough.
I know God exists.
Being baptized was the most selfish and selfless thing I’ve ever done.
I did it for me.
I did it for God.

I leave these thoughts with you in the name of Jesus Christ. AMEN.

January 23, 2015


Bouncing a baby on your hip and rolling out pizza dough is a lot like trying to pat your head and rub your belly at the same time. 

Nonetheless the pizza turned out great!

September 13, 2014

What's in a name?

When choosing names for our children, Jordan and I choose carefully.

A lot of thought and consideration goes into our decision.  
A name has the power to, in large part, shape ones personality. 
Are you a John, Jonathan or Jon?  
Jenn? Jen? Jenny? Jennifer? Or trending on Jenni? Ginnifer? Ginny? 

Naming a person, a human person, --FOR LIFE-- is a tough role on us as parents because we're essentially branding our child from birth. I've had people tell me that I don't *seem* like and "Amber" to them... because "Amber" in their mind is reserved for bimbos and red headed strippers. A name akin to "Bambi," "Barbie" and "Cupcake." I'm not kidding. I've heard this generalization from more than one person. 
I can't say I've known, personally, more than 2 other Ambers my entire life, so I'll save my judgements. 

Does it make me feel any differently about my name though? 
I didn't feel suddenly sluttier or dumber for my namesake. I replied, "hmm..." and laughed. I was 17 and in high school, I couldn't have cared less what anyone thought of me. And hey, at least their name association was positive; they were after all favoring me a cut above the rest.
And I assumed they likely did not actually know too many strippers to compare.   


I'd never had to name anything more important than a turtle until I got pregnant. And a turtle you can name almost anything. 
The ever creative, 
Mr. Turtle. 
Magic Man. 

...though it's a turtle, not a man at all. 
This does not matter, 
because   it's    a    turtle.
It never has to put it's name on a resume, or present itself to other cruel judgmental turtles in school and say, "My name is Lucee. Like 'Lucy,' but with two e's instead of the 'y' at the end." 


When Jordan and I found out we were pregnant with Harrison we didn't go name crazy. We did not each write out our individual favorites then veto each others worst picks dwindling the list down to one perfect, glorious, glimmering and well thought out boys name.
We felt his name would eventually come to us. It didn't seem something we had to stress about, we had nine months to figure it out. 

Sure, we made lists. 
We crossed names of each others off. 
As time went by we even crossed some of our own off.
Because as Harrison grew inside of me I began to feel his little spirit grow too. I felt his personality developing in every midnight kick and bladder punch. Jordan could feel him growing too, as I spent the nights tumbling sleeplessly in bed next to him as Harrison tumbled gleefully inside of me. In every dollar spent on swiss rolls and every inch my belly grew, Jordan began to know his son. 

By the time he was born, we did not know who he was for sure; but we did know who he wasn't. 
He wasn't a John. Or a Timothy.
He wasn't a Theodore as we'd once suspected he might be. 
He wasn't a Lincon or a Carter. 

He was something though... and he was OURS. 

The first time we held him and called him, 'Harrison' it was surreal. Here was this baby, this tiny human baby that was ours to raise and look after, to mold and shape into the spirited one year old he is today and the man he will one day become. Had we chosen correctly? Can you choose incorrectly?

I remember saying to Jordan in the hospital after we'd filled out the Birth Certificate, "Harrison Henry. Are we sure? Not Henry Harrison like the president?" Jordan assured me we had chosen correctly. Looking at my little guy now, bouncing around the yard and yelling "WOOF!" at dogs passing by, I know HARRISON is who he is and who he's becoming.
My little Hare, my Hare Bear, my hairy little poo poo butt.


So when you ask me what names Jordan and I are tossing around for our baby girl and I trust you enough to let you into my daughters world, do not scoff, do not laugh for minutes on end then ask to hear another. I am not peddling jokes.
Your remarks are hurtful.

...and quite honestly, a little rude.

This a a child we're talking about...
this is our child we're talking about.

These names, though you consider them to be strange, are names we have carefully thought out. Names we have said aloud with our hands pressed against my belly catching each little flutter of movement. Names we have created nicknames for and pictured on a pig tailed little girl as well as a rebellious pink haired teenager and a 30 year old woman who wants to be taken seriously.
You may not like them, but we do.  

You are not the first person we have told (unless you were the first person we told) who has smiled through their teeth and asked hesitantly, "Ohhhh... what else are you thinking?" We see the quizzical look on your face, wondering where we ever came up with such a name, as you suggest "Elizabeth," "Samantha," "McKenzie" and other such 'typical girl names;' hoping perhaps that we have not heard these all too common names before and one of them will strike a chord and replace the list of names we have fallen so deeply in love with.


I do not know yet what her name will be.
We only have ideas, names we like.
I do know that in less than 2 months we will be blessed again with a sweet baby spirit. This time a girl. And she will need to be called something...

One day she will come to me and ask, "Mommy, where did my name come from?" and I will tell her the story of how her daddy and I searched high and low for a name that could dare describe the beauty, grace and intelligence standing before me calling me MOMMY.

June 13, 2014

She's gonna be somebody's baby...

You may have been living under a rock if you didn't know we are pregnant, but if you're just finding out we're having a girl-- you're not too late to catch that train! We only just announced to friends and family last night. 

We officially found out Baby #2 is a girl on Tuesday,
Mommy and Daddy knew it all along though! 

I have to be honest [#drew], I was [not to secretly] hoping for another BOY, but Jordan said he had a 'feeling' baby is a girl and since he was right last time around, I jumped on the Team Pink bandwagon with him. 

There was a defining moment for me though when I truly turned to the dark side...
I was driving home from grocery shopping very early along and, as I believe all pregnant women do at one point or another [or several points,] I was searching for confirmation that little baby was going to be okay and I could start to be excited about our growing family when "Somebody's Baby" by Jackson Browne came on the radio! Coincidence? No way, that's what I've learned to call a tender mercy from God; a small personal sign to let me know that by His grace Baby was on the right track to make her feature debut later this year!
We are so excited to start planning for our new addition: Jordan is likely most excited that he doesn't have to paint over the already fuscia guest room walls to transform it into a nursery for out new little one. 

From snips and snails and puppy dog tails to 
sugar and spice and all that is nice, 
here we come!  

March 5, 2014

40 days / 40 nights

The Lenten Season is upon us...
Happy Ash Wednesday All! 

Jordan and I rang in FAT TUESDAY last night by hitting up Taco Bell and dranking up my favorite light blue fizzy drank-- a-Baja-Blast! Yum! Yum!
We have both decided to focus a little more on our health [at least for the next 40 days] and give up soda and sweets. Jordan is giving up candy; I am not sure if that includes Swiss Rolls? But I am taking a little bit more of a Halloween-ey approach and giving up buying sweets-- I mean, if someone drops a few packages of Girl Scout cookies on my doorstep, I am certainly not going to let them go to waste.

As always, I have given up Facebook as well. Last night I logged out of my account on all devices so even if I absent-mindedly typed in the address I wouldn't accidentally view the forbidden fruit! I even removed the app from my home page on phone and iPad... temptation you can't get me!! I think this year is going to be a little harder than usual because I am just home with Harrison and my time is not occupied with work. Being at home with Harrison is exactly the reason that this years purge is so important to me though-- I hate how much he sees me on my phone. I play with him and give him plenty of attention, but often times it is not my full, undivided attention, and he deserves that!

Catholic, Mormon, Agnostic, or nothing at all...
Whatever you call yourself, Lent is a great time to focus LESS on the things of the world that may be holding us back from being our best selves-- and I encourage you to join in the challenge!

February 25, 2014

10 Month Old Little Man

My little man turns 10 months old today!
I'll tell ya'-- he is 100% B-O-Y... 
He farts on me and looks up to smile because he knows he's being a little joker; and I have to fake burp in the car while we run errands to keep him entertained and laughing away! 

He still hates diaper changes, which is making it harder and harder to pin him down so he's been bare bottoming it a lot because I just don't have the fight in me. 

He's not really sure how toys work; he is majorly destructive and always wants to take them apart instead of playing with them He especially loves ripping the door stopper off the door, breaking Mommy's LEGO creations, tearing the ABC magnets off the magnet board, pulling apart puzzles and knocking down Daddy's block towers. Like I said, ALL BOY!

We got a big surprise when he slept through the night one night this week and we thought he was really going to make 10 months his month! ...but no. That was a one night anomalie. *Sigh... one day. 

Grandma came for her first visit this year and babysat so Mommy and Daddy could have a weekend getaway. Ooh la la! We were able to escape off to Heber and stay at Jordan's grandpa's cabin to celebrate my birthday. Harrison stayed home with Grandma for his first ever night away from Mommy and Daddy! He gave Grandma a run for her money, but she loved all the extra time with him! 

Next month will mark 11 months and soon after that we'll be celebrating the little ones FIRST BIRTHDAY!

Time is really flying! I suppose when there are only days in between updates instead of months it seems faster to you too! I'm getting better-- this one is right on time!