Grateful in Any Circumstances

In my recent post about hotel living, it was clear that hotel life has its ups and downs. Near the beginning of our recent journey to travel for my husband’s work, our church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had its semi-annual General Conference. In this meeting, the leaders of our church who we believe are called by God and are prophets on the earth today, give talks to help us with our lives. I believe that President Uchtdorf’s conference address was specifically for me. Pondering it and reading it over and over have helped me to have the perspective needed to be happy and grateful no matter what my living circumstances are. You should check it out using the link above!

Muddy at the mud flat beach

First, he suggests that no matter what we are going through in life, it will be made better if we are grateful. Not just grateful for what possessions we have, but make being grateful part of our day to day mind set and way of life. As I have tried to apply these teachings in my life, my eyes have been opened to the day to day miracles that show me that God is watching out for me. Not only do I know that God knows me and loves me, but that he cares how I feel day to day. It can be lonely being in a foreign country and hanging out with a toddler all day long. There were many days when I only get to see Austin awake for 1-2 hours, and in those hours sometimes he is tired and grumpy. Yet all the places we get to see and fun experiences we have together make up for that. Who else gets to say they had trouble explaining a killer whale stuffed animal to Korean front desk staff, or that they traipsed through a knee-deep mud flat in India on a quest for a beach? These experiences have  strengthened our marriage and our love for each other. This is definitely something to be grateful for!

This kid? Run away? NO!

One specific miraculous experience stands out. Landon and I were doing laundry. In Korea, Landon liked to get the provided laundry baskets out of their shelves in the laundry room and sit in them and pretend like he was riding in a boat. I decided to wait for the washer to end to change laundry before leaving. We were watching baseball and Landon was playing boats. He took them out into the hall. A few seconds later, I realized I couldn’t hear Landon anymore out in the hall. He had gotten on an elevator and vanished, with his boats! Immediately I called the elevator and went down, because I thought that was the only button he could reach. I went down to the lobby and tried explaining to the security man that my son was missing. I don’t think he understood me; I had never seen him before. I said, “Forget it!” and took the elevator down to the mall. I thought this was probably where he had ended up if not on the main floor- and by now he could be anywhere! The only solace I had was that he had brought his boats with him, and so if he had indeed gone down to the mall then he would have ditched the boats in exchange for the other more fun things down there.

I went down to the mall floors- nothing. I went down to the parking floors- no sign of him. Panicked at this point, I went back to the lobby and spoke with the front desk. The guy at the front desk thought I had lost some tools. I said, “NO! MY CHILD IS MISSING!” and then he got it. He called the maintenance people and cleaning ladies to start searching for him. Meanwhile, I went back to the laundry floor to see if he was hiding somewhere. For some stupid reason, I went back into the laundry room and called Landon’s name. An English guy was there ironing his shirt. He asked me if I was looking for a little guy. Miracle. I was! He told me that Landon was on the 7th floor with some big baskets, and that he had tried to get on the elevator but he had shoved him off because he thought he belonged on the 7th floor. I went up to the 7th floor where a cleaning lady had cornered him with his boats and he was just fine. It was so amazing that one of 3 people who saw Landon spoke English for one, and for another was in the right place at the right time to tell me exactly where he was! I am so grateful that I had this experience although at the time it was very scary- and I am watching Landon much closer now that I know he’s an elevator rider.

Before starting this whole traveling thing, I did not recognize  that many of the things I took for granted were blessings I could show gratitude for. This past horrible winter in Chicago I’m sure I could have used this perspective and list to cheer me up when I was stuck indoors for so long.


  • Full size refrigerator
  • Reasonably priced, clean fruits and vegetables
  • freezer of any size
  • kitchen
  • kitchen table and chairs
  • high chair- it is challenging to get a child to eat either in restaurants for all meals everyday, or to sit still in a hotel room and eat a meal
  • comfy couches
  • separate rooms- so your life can continue after toddler goes to bed
  • multiple bathrooms
  • air-popped popcorn
  • homemade cakes and cookies
  • being able to read English
  • eating with a fork- chopsticks are a challenge!
  • eating food I prepared
  • receiving mail almost daily
  • kind, friendly neighbors 
  • participating in a rewarding profession
  • space for toys!
  • bookshelves full of books- both for me and Landon
  • in-home laundry
  • swimming pools without weird rules
  • driving myself wherever I please and feeling safe doing it
  • closet full of clothes
  • comfy bed
  • routines and consistency
This is all my jet-lagged brain can come up with right now. All of these things were a part of my life before traveling. I don’t think I even gave any of these a second thought. I miss them. I traded them in for a life of hotel-living and adventure. 
I recently had a wonderful conversation with a woman who has moved with her family of 5 many times in the past few years, including a few month-long stints in France and other places. She and I are very alike- we both were obsessive planners who loved to have a routine and feed our kids the right foods and do all the right things. We liked to plan things months in advance and always have a plan. We talked about how this life on the road changes lives. So far, I have been molded and shaped and stretched in ways I did not think were possible. The constant uncertainty and changes mean that I have to be flexible and go with the flow. I learned that Landon can nap in his stroller, or in our arms, or really anywhere if he really needs a nap. If he doesn’t nap, that’s ok too as long as I try to make sure he gets rest during the night. I have also learned that there are seasons to life. I love to serve others and have people over for meals or bring meals to others or make homemade gifts or develop my talents for music by practicing piano. These are all things I can’t do right now in our present living situation. In the long term, though, I will most likely have years and years of time in which I will happily do these things. I have also resolved to open my home at a moment’s notice to anyone in a similar situation to our current situation, because I know how nice it feels to be in a home, even if that home isn’t my own. 
Happy place

It is uncomfortable and difficult to change the way you were born and the way that you think is the best way to be. It is uncomfortable to live in a country where you don’t speak their language and the food is different. Some people go through different trials in their lives where they are stretched out of comfort zones in other ways. Putting yourself in uncomfortable positions is one sure way to lead to growth! In the end, although life is difficult right now, it is also sweet. I am learning and growing and changing. Landon is becoming an expert toddler traveler and life is great. I am grateful for my circumstances, I am grateful in my circumstances, and I’m grateful regardless of my circumstances. This life is so worth it. 

2 thoughts on “Grateful in Any Circumstances

  1. Happy Birthday Landon!! Grandpa and Grandma are in Raleigh staying with Leanne while we visit Betsy's Dad and Step-mom at their Assisted Living Facility. Next week we're going up to the Blue Ridge Mts. to visit friends at their cabin that I helped build. Give your guy a big hug from us!!
    LOve and Hugs, Karl and Betsy.


  2. I'm catching up on blog reading, and this…yes. I love this post. Elise, you are awesome. I can relate to many things (not the moving all the time, but lots of the cultural Asia things), and you have a great perspective.


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