Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lindsey Jill.

This is my longest-time friend and one of my absolute favorite people, Lindsey Jill Bishop. We were born in the same cul de sac over 22 years ago and have been making memories ever since. Lindsey is the most outrageous person on the planet, in the very best way. She is by far my most risk-loving, adventure seeking, and fearless friend. She lives life completely on the edge and never thinks twice about it. I tend to be a little more logical, a lot more serious, and very prone to stress and worry; thus, Lindsey has always been a breath of fresh air for me. When we were kids, she had me building tree houses, jumping in rivers, doing flips off the high dive and getting into any kind of trouble possible. Being friends with her loosened me up and always brought out my adventurous side. When we were little, she taught me that school wasn't important and rules were for sissies. And I loved her for it. Lindsey has never been afraid of anything. Her enthusiasm for life and complete inability to be or act depressed means that she is a relief to be around. You will never walk away from a conversation with her without feeling reinvigorated and excited about life. She's run with the bulls in Spain, swam with crocodiles in South Africa, bathed in the Dead Sea, ridden camels through Jordan, watched a sunrise on Mt. Sinai, sat on the Pyramids in Egypt, watched the Olympics in Beijing and the list goes on. She makes the most of every minute and doesn't take life for granted.

Lindsey is the fourth youngest of ten kids. She was raised by an amazing family in an atmosphere where selfishness was an impossibility. Because of that, she is one of the most giving and charitable people I know. She would do anything for a member of her family, and anything for a stranger on the street. I remember in elementary school, there was a boy who was picked on by everyone. Kids were ruthless to him and he literally had only one friend: Lindsey Bishop. And even though she was made fun of for it, she never stopped being his friend. She's not afraid of anyone, and isn't affected by the "in crowd" or the "cool thing". She has always been strictly Lindsey; one of the most unique and real people I know.

I can't imagine there is anyone in this world who knows Lindsey and doesn't absolutely love being in her presence. She is hilarious, beautiful, exciting, witty, brave, kind, fearless, loud, spontaneous, bright, honest and most of all, true. Who she is will never change. She's been Lindsey Bishop since the day she was born, and she'll be that same person until the day she dies. Her consistency and loyalty to self are refreshing and inspiring. I can't say enough good about this person. She is everything wonderful and I love her.

Monday, November 15, 2010


This is my nephew, Jensen Maddox Openshaw. Jensen is my favorite person on this planet. He is the only thing on earth that can make me instantaneously happy always. Ever since the day he was born I have loved him more than I can say, and I love him more and more every time I see him. Jensen has been alive for twelve months, and for eight of those twelve I lived in a different state. I honestly can't say I even know him that well yet. He doesn't reach for me when he sees me, and doesn't quite recognize my face. He's still trying to figure out who I am and I'm still patiently trying to win him over- little does he know that this stranger loves him more than the world.

I remember one night this past summer, when I was nannying in DC, I was alone in my apartment feeling very sad and homesick. I felt more lonely than I can ever remember feeling. My sister's blog had been a source of happiness for me all summer because it helped me feel close to home through allowing me to see and read about what was going on with my family. Every time she updated her blog, it would be like a ray of sunshine in my life. I remember going to her blog that night, and hoping more than was healthy, that she had somehow updated since the last time I had checked (that morning). I signed in, and sure enough, there were new pictures of Jensen plastered all over. And it saved me that night. His cute little face and ridiculous smile made me happier than anything else could have and he gave me strength. I loved him for that.

Jensen is a representation of all that is good, wonderful, innocent and sweet in this world and I can't wait to watch him grow up. I love him.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


This is David Belt. David and I were part of the same BYU-DC internship program for the winter 2010 semester. He and I, along with forty other BYU students, spent the semester living in "The Barlow Center" byu owned housing unit located in Washington, DC. This living set-up allowed us to get to know each other well, and throughout the semester, we all became best friends. David is one from the group who made an initial and lasting impression on me. The first thing I noticed about him was how humble and unassuming he was. He immediately made friends with everyone in the program and I was grateful for the opportunity to get to know him.

I remember one experience at the beginning of the semester that I won't forget. I went touring the city with a group of five or six students, one of them being David. After three or four hours of walking, we stopped at the food court in Union Station to have lunch. We were all poor (all semester long) seeing as most of us didn't get paid for our internships. David decided he was going to hold off on lunch so he could save his money for dinner. As the rest of us sat down with our food we noticed a homeless man approaching the table. He said he had no money for food, and no way to eat. He asked if anyone could help . . . we were all slow to answer and instead focused on averting our eyes. Then I heard David respond, "Sure. Let's go get you something to eat." I looked over in time to see him put his hand on the homeless man's shoulder as he walked him toward the Subway counter. I felt a lump forming in my throat as I knew David didn't have the money to be spending on food for other people. But I will never forget his willingness to do so anyway. He didn't hesitate and he didn't complain to us afterward. He bought the man his food, sent him on his way, and didn't say another word about it. David was a great example to me and all of us that day and I am grateful for him and his humble kindness.

David is an amazing musician. He plays many instruments, but has a particular talent for the piano and the violin. We would often hear him playing both, and most of his music was original. Somehow he is able to convey his personality so well through his music, and that is what makes it so beautiful, in my opinion. During the semester he composed a piano/violin duet that he later performed for us on his violin at a talent show we held. The show was in a small room with not many people, so the sound and intensity was incredible. 'Cancion sin palabras' was the name of the song, and we were all shocked by how beautiful it was. I had the opportunity to hear David perform that same song at his graduation from BYU at the end of the semester. The audience was in the upper hundreds this time and I watched as David and his song moved many people to tears.

David is someone who I probably never would have met had it not been for that semester we spent in DC together, and I am just grateful that wasn't the case. My life was enriched as I came to know him and I will always value and appreciate his friendship and example.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Amy Celeste.

This is Amy Celeste Van Wagoner. I met Amy about two years ago when she started hanging out with my little brother, Spencer. She was 16 at the time. I wasn't living at home and honestly didn't put forth much effort towards getting to know her in the beginning. I thought she was a cute girl, and that's about as much as I knew or cared to know. However, since that time, Amy has become a true friend to our family and someone who I sincerely love and admire.

Truthfully, I still can't say I know Amy extremely well on a personal level. What I have come to know of her is mainly what I've been able to observe over the last two years. And through what I've observed, I've developed a unique respect for her, and a desire to improve myself in the areas where I am weak- areas in which she is so abnormally strong; especially for an 18-year-old Freshman in college. I've been able to see the way Amy interacts with others in all types of social settings. I've seen her with my younger siblings, with my brothers, with my parents, with her friends. I've seen her at school, at football games, in assemblies and dance concerts. I've seen her on the weekends, I've seen her in church . . . I've seen her everywhere. Not once, not ever, have I seen Amy, in any of these situations, be anything less than so sweet, pleasant and kind. I've never so much as heard a negative word leave her lips. Honest. I've never heard her call anyone a name. I've never heard her criticize another person. I've never heard her judge another. I have never seen her act self-centered or arrogant. I've never seen her act as if she's better, or deserves better, than another. I truly have never heard Amy say anything that was negative or pessimistic. She is quite possibly the most positive, most cheerful person I know. It radiates from her smile and her attitude every time I see her. I've never heard her whine or complain, or act out in self-pity. I consistently see Amy show interest in, and concern for others. I see her make friends with people who probably don't have many. I see her start conversations with otherwise isolated people. I see her offer help wherever she can. I see her hug people everywhere she goes, including me . . . even when I failed to give her that same interest and attention. I remember thinking to myself on one occasion--Why does this girl like me so much??--knowing I'd done nothing to deserve her sincere interest. I think she probably makes everyone feel this way.

Amy doesn't have a perfect life, as none of us do, but she doesn't dwell on it. And that is what I love about her. Her ability to look outward is inspiring to me. It is a very easy thing to become self-centered and cynical as things in life don't turn out the way we think they should. It's easy to turn hard and bitter when we feel life isn't giving us what we think we deserve. It is so easy to complain; to point out what could be, and should be, better. But it's difficult to forget ourselves; to instead focus our attention and thoughts on others. It's hard to smile, and laugh, and be friendly when there are things to whine and cry about. And that is what Amy does. And that is why I love her.

I just found out today her middle name is Celeste- I can't think of a name that fits her better.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rachel Elaine.

This is my mother, Rachel Elaine Barney Jensen. She is, by far, the most influential person in my life. I love this woman. Not only was she the one to bring me into this world, she's the one who's made me want to stay here. My life has been beautiful and happy because she was the creator of it. As I look back on my 22 years of living, they are filled with memories of her love and her example. She is the strongest woman I know and the rock of our 11-member family.

Born to Pauline and Wayne Barney in Schenectady, New York, my mom was the fifth child of eight. She was, and is, an anchor to that family as much as she is to mine. My mom is solid and true. She is constant and unwavering. She has been true to herself and what she believes all of her life. Because of this, she is a steady and loyal influence in the lives of all who know her. When I want to hear what I know I need to hear, I seek the advice of my mom. When I need help from someone who is bold and wise, but sincere and kind, I go to her. When I am lost, confused or discouraged, I know my mom can set me straight. When I face questions and concerns about life in general, I value no one's counsel higher than hers. She has proven herself to be, time and time again, honest, unwavering, loyal and true. This woman is not afraid of anything, or anyone. She will do what she believes is right regardless of the consequences. One of the things I admire most in my mom is her unmatched amount of self-control. She has never been flighty, whimsical or irrational. She is selfless and observant. You will never catch her putting her needs ahead of yours. She cares for and values all people around her and is not concerned with status or rank. She doesn't even know who "the Jones's" are. Or the Jonas brothers . . . (haha, my little brother, during his senior year of high school, was telling my mom about the girl he liked and how she was totally in love Joe Jonas. Then he told her he was going to ask this girl to homecoming and my mom said, "Sam, if she likes Joe, don't you think you should let him take her to the dance??" hahaha). Needless to say, my mom lives in and loves reality, and I am grateful to have been raised by someone who is this way.

My mom has nine children. Some people think no woman is capable of truly loving and raising nine separate human beings and actually doing a good job. All nine of her kids can testify on the contrary. I will never forget the scene I spotted from a window to the backyard of my parents house a year ago. I saw my mom sitting in a chair on the lawn, after spending the morning gardening. She was holding in her arms her youngest child, my little brother, Christian. He was nine years old at the time, and much too big to be sitting on her lap. But he seemed sad; I could see it in his face. And she held him and rocked him while they talked to each other. I watched them for a few minutes and left. Twenty minutes later, I went back to the window and they hadn't moved. But by this time she had him laughing, and they continued to talk and laugh on that chair together for what seemed like all afternoon. I don't know exactly why this experience impacted me the way it did, but I will never forget the way my mom cared for and noticed my little brother, and the way he so obviously loved her for it. I have received that same amount of love and concern from her my entire life. I know my other siblings, and my dad, can all say the same. She is our rock.

If I could be like any one person in this world, it would be my mom, Rachel Elaine.