The Six Blessings Challenge

I'm a fan of Jason Wright, New York Times Bestselling Author of the book Christmas Jars. I read his posts on Facebook, his blog, and his columns in the Deseret News. I get good ideas from Jason, ones that inspire me to think outside my bubble and do more than I might do otherwise. Today he encouraged me to look back on 2013 and identify six blessings. Truth be told, I had such an amazing year I could easily come up with more than six blessings, but I'll constrain myself. In no particular order, here's my list.

Music: I've loved beautiful, mostly sacred and classical music all my life. I played the cello growing up, went to the symphony, and listened to the Metropolitan Opera on the radio on Saturday afternoons. I was born with the singing gene (thanks, Daddy) and love singing in a good choir. All the years I was sick I had no energy to attend the opera or symphony, no energy to sing in the choir. I pretty much lost my voice. Two years ago I started my way back, singing in the church choir at Christmas. A few months later I was called to lead the hymn singing and coordinate music activities for my church congregation (called a Ward in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Slowly my enthusiasm for the music I've loved all my life started to return, as did my voice.

Seven months ago I was asked to lead the music activities for a group of nine congregations (called a Stake) in the Knoxville area. This is a major assignment, something I've never done before. It was a bit overwhelming, especially since I knew very few people in the 8 other congregations. My biggest task would be coordinating a large music devotional service at Christmas. This assignment meant a huge knot in my stomach, interrupted sleep, a lot of worry, and even more prayers as i sought to know what the Lord wanted for this event. I went to work meeting people and making plans. I changed some aspects of the program and kept others. I called upon the many talented people I worship with to help me fulfill my assignment. Miracles happen. People came from every congregation, they played and they sang, and the spirit of Christmas filled the Stake Center. It's been a long time since music has blessed my life this much and I am very grateful.

Scholarly Pursuits: After completing my PhD in 2007 I was too ill to do much of anything scholarly. To my great frustration, my health has yet to return to the point that I am able to seek my dream job as a nursing professor. In the meantime I've continued my involvement with the phenomenology research team at the University of Tennessee, something I discovered my first semester in grad school and have been hopelessly in love with ever since. This year I've been much more active in the group, especially with one project. As a result I'll be doing presentations at a professional conference and co-authoring several publications in 2014. All of a sudden my ability to think and write is returning -- another miracle!

Photography: A year ago, thanks to Santa Claus, I was the thrilled owner of a brand new Nikon D5100 DSLR camera. I was also two steps short of clueless as to how to take charge of my new gear to capture strong photographs. Yes, I could point and shoot using automated settings, but that's not why I got a DSLR camera. I've spent this year learning the finer aspects of how to be a "real" photographer. I've had good friends and great photographers offer tips and act as cheerleaders while I ventured out to practice my craft. This fall I took a "real" photography class at UT and pushed myself to do things I might not have had the motivation to do on my own. The more I've learned, the better my images have become. I took the plunge and developed a photography page on Facebook (Plaasabilities), tossed out my favorite images into competitive sites like Pixoto, and started printing selected images. I look forward to learning and growing more in the coming year. Having the ability to be in nature with a good camera is such a blessing! I look forward to many more adventures and photos in 2014.

Clingmans Dome: Spending time in the Smokies has been a huge part of my healing journey. That journey took a new twist when I signed up to be a Volunteer-in-Parks (VIP) for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, assigned to the Information Center at Clingmans Dome. After orientation in May, I started working every Friday. My fellow volunteers: Jim, Mike, and Sarge, and GSMA staffers: Randy, Jonathan, Susan, Susan, and Kathy (and more!) have been the absolute best. It's a 4.5 hour round trip drive to the top of Old Smoky each week, plus 4-6 hours of assisting visitors, but I wouldn't trade my time volunteering for anything. It's been the most unexpected blessing this year. I can't wait to go back again in April!

Family: No list would be complete without mentioning my wonderful family. My parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, and all the grands have been, well, grand! The Lord has greatly blessed us all this year.

I expect 2014 to bring more of the same blessings as I continue to heal, get stronger, and move forward in whatever path the Lord has for me. The future is very, very bright!

"Radiant Beams"
Morning light through the mist and trees
Little River Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park 
© 2013 Kristina Plaas, All Rights Reserved


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