5.25.2010

Who Do We Want to Be

I wrote the following essay right after I had decided to make the final leap off the "conveyor belt" (though doing so really is an ongoing process).  Sometimes we get so caught up in the requirements, the grade levels, our kids falling behind, etc... This was MY answer for MY family.  I warn you:  it might be quite lengthy . . . but take from it what you will.  :-)



Who Are we to Be?

After a great discussion with my LDS book-reading friends I’ve been pondering some great questions; questions that have led me to learn what I really want (or need) in life, who I want my children to become, what it means to be excellent or smart or accomplished or beautiful. My goal is to simply use the knowledge and resources I have now to enhance my own education as well as that of my children. So, I need to ask myself some questions:

1) What does being excellent mean to me?
2) Who do I want my children to become?
3) What is my main purpose as a mother?

After the “what” questions, I need to ask “How”? How am I going to raise excellent children, lead them to where they need to go in order to become who they need to become, and how am I going to fulfill my main purpose of being their mother.

What does it mean to be excellent?
It’s a little ironic that just as I’ve been pondering these questions the very first Christmas card of the season arrived in my mailbox. Of course, it is from one who I would label their children as “excellent.” The letter contained long lists of each child’s achievements. Though these talents must be mentioned and celebrated, and I am glad to know what they are doing in their lives, it just brought again to my attention how much emphasis we put on the outward achievements our children accomplish. Does this make them excellent? I admit I have been found watching the activities of other kids and thinking, “My kids don’t do that, I must be doing something wrong.” I think I have done somewhat well in keeping my children guarded from doing too much outside activities at one time, but the pressure is there to create that “excellent” child.

One sister in the book discussion mentioned that we need to look at the characters of our children rather than simply their activities (or outward talents). This statement led me to ponder the many lists in the Gospel of characteristics we need to develop. Examples would be President Hinckley’s “Be” list, the characteristics of divine nature found in 2nd Peter, the characteristics of a little child found in Mosiah, the 10 Virtues also proclaimed by President Hinckley and the Beattitudes. All of these examples have their overlaps, of course, but there is a lengthy list. It is important that we take the time to evaluate our own progress in obtaining these characteristics, as parents and as a family whole.

Who do you Want Your Children to BE?
Years ago, when my oldest (now 10yo) was one, my husband and I sat down and created a family mission statement. First we made a list of our priorities and then I formatted it similar to the mission statement of the Young Women organization in the Church. Over the years I’ve gone back to see if there’s something that needs to change based on how our family has grown, but I can’t do it. This statement is who we want to become, individually and as a family. On our priority list we have strengthening our talents to help others, missionary work to spread the gospel, loving to learn and seek knowledge both spiritual and temporal, and developing those characteristics that most reflect our Savior’s. This is a general statement, fit for the whole family. I am now working on creating my own personal mission statement (thank you Mr. Covey) and I believe the Thomas Jefferson Education idea of a “Six month Inventory” of each of our children serves as a great foundation for the mission statements of our children.

Right now I can think of three words of who I want my children to be: Individual, Leader, and Follower.

I want my children to understand the principle of agency in the sense of how much power they have over who they can become. I want them to become confidant within themselves as individuals, not simply from outward praise and by pleasing others. I want them to recognize themselves as the great individuals they truly are inside. I hope that they can learn from both their strengths and their weaknesses, not in comparison with those around them. I want them to build a personal relationship with their Savior.

I want them to lead their lives in such a way that others will want to follow. I want them to serve, to give, to love. When I think of a leader I don’t necessarily mean president of any organization or group, I think of someone others would want to be with and to follow.

And of course, I want my children to be followers of the Savior. As we were reading in the New Testament this week for devotional we read of the account of the fishes in the nets. At the end of that great story, the disciples leave their nets and follow Him. I posed the question then to my children (and inwardly to myself), “What is the Lord asking you to leave to follow Him?” I want my children’s testimonies to be pure, sure, and their own.

What is My Purpose as a Mother?

In re-reading President Ezra Taft Benson’s excellent talk on motherhood, I was impressed by this quote by President Spencer W. Kimball, “When you have fully complemented your husband in home life and borne the children, growing up full of faith, integrity, responsibility, and goodness, then you have achieved your accomplishment supreme . . . and you will be the envy [of all] through time and eternity (italics added).” President Benson went on to list ten things we can do to fulfill our mission as mothers, to better raise our children “the Lord’s way.” Pray with them, be their friend, be at the crossroads, love them, read to them, and more. There are two goals I feel I now have as a mother.

First, I need to focus on my own growth and education so I can then give more to the education of my children. If mothers aren’t seeking, reading, and learning themselves it gives them little to draw from when their children ask those amazing questions. I have found that when I focus on my own personal growth I’m also less judgmental of others around me. I’m looking inward instead of outward on how to improve our home life and in the world. I’m much less critical of how my children choose to use their time, or far less concerned about their level of learning compared to their peers’. To do this, I need to first place the Lord in my life. I find that serious, daily scripture study is the key to minimizing my anxieties and puts the weaknesses of myself and others in proper perspective. Elder Bednar said in an article Feb. 2010, “There is a hierarchy to what we need to learn, some things are more important than others.” That quote struck me because I have lately been “stressing” over all the many books I have by my bedside, itching to be read. I’m yearning to learn everything and overwhelmed that I cannot learn it all. Understanding the hierarchy of learning helps me to prioritize “every needful thing.”

The second purpose for me as a mother is to be a mentor, guiding my children toward their life’s mission. It’s not hard to look at my children and know that each one has their own very distinct and individual gifts, talents and weaknesses! One discussion topic brought up this week was how we need to allow our children their individuality. My purpose needs to teach them correct principles so they can govern themselvesThe way for me to ensure that I am focusing my thoughts this way are by, again, building my relationship with the Lord and turning my children likewise.

One of my favorite books is entitled, “Raising Up a Family to the Lord,” by Elder Gene R. Cook. I love the idea of “raising up.” In a recent presentation on marriage, the couple released a helium balloon to the ceiling indicating that sometimes we just need to let go of the petty and the past in our marriage. As the balloon rose I was impressed that we also need to raise our voices to the Lord and leave matters in His hands. Our God wants to direct us, He wants us to succeed, He wants us to turn to Him. If we can learn this most important principle as mothers, we can more fully lead our children to the Savior. We can lead them home, and there is no greater achievement of excellence than that!

5.22.2010

Family Education Moment: Mythology Party

Every once in awhile (sometimes a LONG while) we do something fun at our house and it usually involves the word "Party" (our family theme song:  Crazy Frog's "We Like to Party").  Ever since my son read the Percy Jackson series, he has been begging for a Mythology Party.  It finally happened yesterday.


HOW TO THROW A MYTHOLOGY PARTY:

* Drape white sheets, blankets and tablecloths all over your living room to represent Mount Olympus

* Talk about how mythology is used by many companies in naming their products:  Nike, Ajax, Midas, Saturn & Mercury cars, etc.   (I had saved a project from 7th grade on this, quite fascinating).

* Prepare a "Training of the Gods" obstacle course.  Of course, the kids are going to want to time this to see who is the fastest, so be prepared for some competition.

* Marshmallows - "The Fruit of the Gods" (??) - Using the BIG ones, have a marshmallow toss.  Put the kids in pairs to toss marshmallows into each other's mouths.  Expect this to turn into the "War of the Titans"!

* Finally - Decorate "Constellation Cupcakes" - frost the cupcakes and then decorate with mini-chocolate chips (stars). 


Maybe not a whole lot of education in there, but a whole lot of fun to INSPIRE the kids to learn more, right?! 


P.S. I need more pictures on this blog, I've decided. BUT I keep forgetting to take them. So, for now it's just words and more words! Patience.

5.20.2010

Go Away Grumpies

A great children's song came into my mind today because I really woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.  While my husband kept telling me to, "Just be happy" and "Fake it, 'till you make it" and "Tell me you're happy,"  I was reminded of a quote I wrote down once, "There's nothing worse than being spoken to patiently when you're well and truly cross (Beauty Sleep, Dokey)."  Ha!  That is so true, don't you think?  Sometimes cheerful people make me even grumpier when I'm grumpy!  :-)  Fortunately, as the day continued (meaning, a shower and some breakfast and a good household cleaning!), the day turned a bit brighter. 

Sometimes we have a day, a week, a month, a year of "grumpiness."  It's during those moments that we start to wonder if we're really fulfilling our mission and living life with purpose.  We start to allow doubts and fears to envelope us.  It's times like this when I like to remember there is "opposition in all things" and not every day is going to feel blissful or purposeful.  A plaque my sister, Emily, gave me once says, "Life isn't about waiting for the storms to pass, Life is about dancing in the rain."  Knowing who we are and what our "dancing in the rain" looks like helps immensely in seeing the rainbow through the clouds.

What do you do to send the grumpies away?

5.19.2010

Agency: To Act and not be Acted Upon

'Tis one thing to be tempted . . . another thing to fall."  So says Lord Angelo in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure wherein we learn the fate of one seeking worldly power and glory. In short, Claudio is arrested by Lord Angelo, temproary leader of Vienna.  Angelo is strict, moralistic and unwavering in his decision-making;  he decides there is too much freedom in Vienna and takes it upon himself to rid the city of [immoral activity]. Laws against such already exist, Angelo is simply enforing them more stricktly.  And so Claudio is tried as an example to the rest of the city.  Now, he was correctly accused, however, the way in which Lord Angelo proceeded was all for the seeking of honors unto himself. 

This sounds all too familiar when we go to Doctrine & Covenants 29:36-39,

And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the ghosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency; 
And they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels;
And, behold, there is a place prepared for them from the beginning, which place is hell.
And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet—

The War in Heaven
This battle in heaven gave us the opportunity to make a choice, to be agents unto ourselves.  In Doctine & Covenants 58:27-28 we read, "Verily I say, men should be aanxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;  For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward."

How do we obtain this gift of agency?  Only through Heavenly Father's plan as well as the choice of our Savior, Jesus Christ, "But, behold , my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever (Moses 4:2)." "He died to make men holy, " now it is up to us to "live to make men free" (Battle Hymn of Republic).

How do we do this, how do we "make men free?"  Elder Teixeira stated in General Conference, April 2009, "One gift that will help us navigate our lives is the gift He has given to all, the ability and power to choose.  Our choices have the undeniable power of transforming our lives."  Our choices are the key to making us truly free, spiritually and temporally. 

Liberty vs. Captivity
Recently in Sunday School the teacher asked us, "What would you teach your children as your last sermon before you die?"  There are several accounts thoughout scripture that show us the dying words of a father.  In 2 Nephi 2 we read a beautiful sermon, probably my favorite of all scriptures.  Herein we find Lehi's dying words to his son Jacob.   

We first learn that "Men are instructed to know good and evil (v.5).  Without sorrow we wouldn't know happiness, without pain we wouldn't know true joy.  However, I find it interesting that there are two ultimate choices here.  "And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death and power of the devil . . . (v. 27)."  Two choices:  Liberty and Eternal Life or Captivity and Death. 
Reading this made me wonder what it would feel like to choose one or the other.  What would it be like to experience "captivity"?  Well,  couple of years ago I got two speeding tickets in one year.  One consequence option was to pay the full amount of the ticket to get it off my record.  One gliche.  If I happened to get another ticket in the next year both tickets would go back on my record.  And so for a year, I was on probation of sorts.  Any time I drove by or even saw a police car I would slow WAY down, I'd get all nervous and my heart would start beating really fast!  That's about as close as I could think of getting to "captivity and death."  There are choices we make in life that lead to such consequences. 

However, we learn from the scriptures the opposite feelings as we make choices that lead to eternal life and liberty.  As the people of King Benjamin listened to his words, they were "filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come . . . (Mosiah 4:3)."  And I love the words from John 16:22, "And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you."  No joy taken from you!  Now, that is liberty! 

We must be cautious.  Elder Hales states, "[The Adversary] does lie at our door . . . Every decision we make we are either choosing to move in his direction or in the direction of the Savior."  In other words, closer to captivity or closer to eternal life. And yet, we must also remember what Brigham Young taught us, "The Lord has given us the ability to overcome evil and cleave to the good."  We are agents unto ourselves.  We have all the power to choose.  Going back to Lehi's final words, we have the choice to "act for [ourselves] and not to be acted upon, save it be by the law at the great adn last day (2 Ne. 2:26)."

Act Not be Acted Upon 
What does this mean?  Elder Hales tells us, "We must avoid being acted upon by acting for ourselves to avoid evil."  We give up our freedom to choose and are acted upon when we give in to the temptations of the adversary.  For example, am I choosing to live in misery and captivity because of the demands placed upon me by others (i.e. children, spouse, callings, etc.) or by my own negative thoughts regarding these sacred responsibilities?  OR am I choosing liberty and eternal life by freely choosing to serve and be "anxiously engaged in a good cause" because I want to become more like the Savior in this life so I can live with Him in the next?

Another example:  Am I allowing myself to be acted upon by media, others around me, my boss, and the half truths of the adversary in decided what I think, what I do, how I feel and ultimately who I am?  OR am I choosing freely to esteem God and obedience to His commandments above all others to determine my actions and feelings of self-worth?

In 2 Nephi 2:25 we are told, again from Lehi,  "Men are that they might have joy."  I love what Elder Hales has said regarding this scripture, "Sometimes we forget that our Heavenly Father desires that each of us have this joy."  Sometimes we think,  "Who am I to be happy when I have all these many faults and weaknesses?"  And yet we must remember to whom we look for that true joy and happiness.  It is through the "mercy of the Messiah" (2:8) and God's "matchless power" (Mos. 4:6-7) that we find joy. 
Conclusion
In conclusion, Elder Hales has said, "How we choose to feel, and think, and act every day is the way we get on the path, and stay on it, until we reach our eternal destination."  We must exercise our agency, this amazing and powerful gift, in righteousness.  We must answer as the Savior answered in the first of many wars:  "Thy will be done."  Only then do we experience that peace of conscience, that true freedom, that joy that cannot be taken away.   "Our use of agency determines who we are and what we will be. . . . As we use our agency to follow [the Savior], His light will grow within us brighter and brighter until that perfect day."  "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty( 2 Cor. 3:17)."

5.15.2010

Education is Experience

What do you think of when you hear this word: EDUCATION?  Many people equate education with degrees.  I once heard it defined as simply, "the training of the body and the mind."   Anyone can do that, whether given the opportunity for degrees or not.  In Proverbs we read that the "wise man is strong;  yea a man of kowledge increaseth strength" (24:5).  My definition of education is simply this:  EXPERIENCE.  I believe we all have the potential to be educated through the experiences we all have in life if we take and internalize what we learn along the way.  How can we be sure to do just that?

Education: The Desire to Learn
The first step to becoming educated is that we need to have the desire to learn. To learn means to change.  We must all be willing to change in accordance to the things that we learn.  Think about it, if you want to be a better cook you learn a new recipe or take a class.  This learning changes not only the way you cook, but you now have the confidence to become a better cook.  If you want to understand Shakespeare, you read his writing and learn how to decipher literature.  This learning thus leads to a change in how you read other works of literature.  Learning changes you.  Be willing to accept that change. 

EXperiment Upon the Word
Scripture or gospel study is vital for learning.  I have a friend who recently increased her time in the scriptures.  Of this she said, "I have thought about what you said about studying scriptures for an hour. I was doing just a few minutes then moving on to 'learning books.' This past week I have been spending up to an hour in conf talks or scriptures and I have seen a difference. I am calmer. More able to absorb the 'learning' stuff."  Putting God first in our lives helps us to see the lessons in life He needs us to learn. 

Participate
Connie Sokol once said something that really struck me.  She said, "I'm not worried about working mothers so much as I am about the stay-at-home mothers who are mentally not there."  She was talking about how we need to participate in life, in general.  Getting involved increases your educaiton.  Whether it's through PTA at school, organizing a homeschool group, doing mommy-swap preschools, scouting or becoming politically involved in your community. The experiences you have increase your education in teaching, leadership, and simple life skills. 

Education from Classes Near You
Most areas have a college of some sort where you can take classes.  Take a class.  For a less expensive option, one thing I've enjoyed participating in are the classes offered by the Community Center in our area.  There are many choices and options here.  Fitting them into your schedule is the tricky part! 

Read! Read! Read!
I can't say enough about reading!  I have told many people that I am happiest as a mother when I've got a good book in my hand!  Some people may feel guilty taking time to read when there are so many other things that "need" to be done.  It's true, we do need to take care of our responsibilities.  However, reading not only gives your mind some nourishing food, it also sets the example for your children to dive into learning themselves.  Plus, there are many way to read daily.  It is not uncommon for us to have a book on CD in the car for our trips around town.  Reading can be a pleasure hobby or it can be the one way you choose to learn new things.  Either way, reading is inspiring and increases your educaiton.

Internet
The internet has opened up so many options for us!  With the internet, it's almost impossible NOT to learn.  Even if it's just learning how to maneuver through websites or create your own blog.  :-)  Through the internet we can keep up on current events more easily, we can search any topic of interest (but be sure it's from a good source), we can listen to good and uplifting speeches and music.  The possibililties are endless, just use it wisely.

Education of Heart & Spirit
By this I mean having good social groups for you and your family.  I have participated in a couple of books groups that have strengthened me.  I have done mommy preschools and park play days.  Women need friends!  That's all there is to it.  If we are surrounding ourselves with great people, we will only want to elevate ourselves.  "Ead day we are increasingly aware of the fact that life is more than science and mathematics, more than history and literature.  There is need for another education without which the substance of our secular learning may lead only to our destruction.  I refer to the educaiton of the heart, of the conscience, of the character, of the spirit - - these indefinable aspects of our personalities which determine so certainly what we are and what we do in our relationships one with another (Hinckley)."

Need to Serve
How do we become educated by serving others?  Remember, to learn is to change.  As we serve our fellowmen and love our neighbors, we learn the most important lesson of all.  We learn how to become more like our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Getting outside of ourselves increases our abilities to learn and to grow.  Another aspect of this principle is that as we learn more, we are better able to serve. 

Children: Learning with Them
We have been encouraged to create an atmosphere of learning for our children.  This the my favorite part of learning!  Confession:  I did not like to read children's books and rarely read them to my children until my oldest was 5 years old.  Homeschooling did that to me!  I became suddenly aware of the amazing lessons in those books.  Watching the example of my children in their learning increases my desires to be more fascinated with the process of learning.  Kids get so excited about the smalles things:  rolly pollies in the garden, bubbles, getting their hands messy in their latest art project, and more.  Create a learning environment in your home and you can't help but learn yourself!  As another note, you can't help but learn when your kids ask those "hard" questions, like "Why is the sky blue?"  :-)

Enjoy
Enjoy living.  Enjoy YOUR life.  Enjoy your own hobbies.  Children are great, and they need much of our time.  But we cannot forget ourselves in the process. One thing I do regret in my life is that I didn't take more "fun" classes in college. To this day I still want to learn calligraphy.  Discover something you love to do and make time for it in your life.  Enjoy the cultural arts.  Find out what plays and musical performances are coming to your area and attend them.  Take your children or go alone!  So much enrichment can be added to our education. 

EDUCATION is EXPERIENCE!  What kinds of excperiences are you having in your life?  Make them count.  Everything you do now is preparing you for something else.  Our spirits yearn to learn, to grow and to change.  I will close with words from Abigail Adams, once our first lady, "When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the Heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into Life, and form the Character of the Hero and the Statesman  (Wisdom of John and Abigail Adams, R.B. Bernsetin)."

5.14.2010

Joyful Living

"Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured." 
 - - Gordon B. Hinckley - -

I remember having a conversation with a friend several years ago wherein she said that life is all about the have to's and "there's no joy in life anymore."  At the time I remember thinking how sad that was.  Shortly after I realized that others were having those same emotions.  Then baby number five came along and it happened to me!  Life had become, for a short time, a routine, a duty, a responsibility.  There were days I was just "going through the motions."  Then, several things happened, each shedding light back into my life a little at a time.  The final burst of light involved the study of agency.  I realized that we have the power to choose.  Some of you are saying, "Duh!" right now.  But for me focussing on the word power in that statement, gave me the fire that I needed.  Growing up I remember a hanging on my grandma's wall that said, "Choose Your Love and Love Your Choice."  We can choose to be happy, to live joyfully and to stop simply "going through the motions" of life. 

Passion  & Purpose
What gets you going in the morning?  What is it that gets your excitement juices pumping.  Is it waking up early to exercise or have some quiet before the rest of the world awakes?  Is it reading a really great book or learning something new and fabulous?  Is it music?  Is it your children and your time with them?  Or your husband?  Oftentimes when I ask other mothers what they're interests are they'll mumble "I don't know" or answer with the classic, "I don't have time for interests."  We need to make time for our passions and live each day with some kind of purpose.  Marjorie Pay Hinckley gave a granddaughter advice on what classes to take in college.  She said, "Study something . . . so you have interesting things to think about while you do your ironing."

I remember an article by Rachel DeMille on finding your "Key Action,"  what is the one thing that keeps you doing more than muddle through life.  She said this:  "The Key Action, whatever it may be, tends to put everything into balance, or create a positive momentum, or bring peace and a sense of well-being. It's not, strictly speaking, the thing we value highest or most deeply but it is the key to our serenity, productivity and clarity."

Relationships
I can't say enough about relationships, so I'll try my best to make it brief!  Several years ago in college, I was given an assignment to answer the follwoing questions:  What is a home?  Why do we have families?  What I've come to learn through the years of now having my own home and family is that the ultimate purpose for both home and family lies in relationships!  Sometimes, this is the hardest goal to accomplish! 

We all know the two greatest commandments. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind . . .  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matt. 22:37, 39).  We are to first strengthen our relationship with God.  This is the one and only way to find perfect joy.  One author wrote, "The more I learned about [Christ], the less I wanted to leave Him"  (Life of Pi, Martel) Do you feel the same?

The second great commandment then tells us to love our neighbors.  In order to do this, we must also love ourselves.  Taking time to be alone with yourself is vital to strengthening relationships around you.  We all know you can't fill others with an empty bucket. 

Who then are our neighbors?  Mitch Albom once wrote, "Strangers are just family you have yet to come to know."  When working on our family relationships we need to ask ourselves what matters most: being on time or speaking kindly to our children?  Getting something done or helping a child learn a new skill?  From the words of Mother Theresa we learn, "It doesn't matter what you do - - it's how much you love those you do for." 

Traditions
I have to confess.  My favorite holiday is not Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas.  And though I do love Easter, I love the purpose, but not necessarily the hoopla that goes along with it!  No, I would much rather celebrate the small and simply holidays throughout the year.  Have you heard of National Park Week or No Socks Day?  What about National Jelly Bean Day or Eliza Doolittle Day?  These are the days that bring sparks of joy into our home.  A couple of years we've had a Pig 'n' Pancake party to celebrate Pancake Week and Pig Day together.  We invite tons of friends over with the assignment of bringing a pancake topping.  Then, while we're getting some pancakes started, I read a book about Pigs and Pancakes (there are so many of them out there!!).  It's a lot of fun and we look forward to it. 

Another of our favorites is National Park Week.  We don't celebrate National Parks because they are not in our area, so we made up our own way of celebrating.  Each child gets to choose a park in our city and for one week we hit a park a day. 

Create your own holidays to celebrate!  Ever year on June 1st, we go out to breakfast at Denny's.  This is the day we got the keys to our very first home, so we call it our home's birthday! Then, we go home and my husband says a prayer that another year in the home will be blessed.  It's simple, but it's something the kids won't let us forget. 

It's through small and simple things that love and faith grow within a family.  I believe that.  There is a purpose for larger expenditures and expeditions, but usually the kids will grow up remembering the small things they did in the family.  My family sang together.  I will forever have fond memories of Mom at the guitar with the five of us kids close by and Dad behind the video camera.  :-)  I am always telling my own children about the late Christmas Eve nights when we'd all cram into one bedroom and sing "99 Bottles of Milk on the Wall."  4 girls and 1 boy!  Poor Richard!  :-)  What will your children remember? 

In "Mitten Strings for God" the author writes, "Mealtime offers us an opportunity to celebrate being a family every day."  Those seemingly insignificant daily occurances are those traditions your children will seek to carry on in their own families.  Daily scripture study, daily prayer, daily meals, daily conversations.  You daily attitude as you carry on with the daily tasks also carries over.

Planning and Priorities
For any of the above principles to take effect, we need to take the time to plan and prioritize.  Management expert, Lestev R. Bittell has said, "Good plans shape good decisions.  That's why good planning helps to make elusive dreams come true."  If you want strong relationships with your children, you need to plan time for it.  If you want to have more fun moments in your home, you need to plan for it.  If you want time to devote to your own passions, you need to plan for it.  On the days when I don't have a plan, I tend to wander aimlessly . . . an hour here, a few minutes there. 

Several years ago, and I know this is nothing new now, I realized I had to prioritize my time into three categories:  Haves (i.e. laundry, dinner cooking, etc.); Needs (i.e. scripture study and alone time for myself); and Wants (i.e. extra reading time!).  I find when I prioritize this way, I have more time for the wants and the Haves are less tedious and the Needs are more purposeful. 

Katrina Kenison has us pose this question to ourselves, "What do I lose when I try to do too much?"  Planning does not mean making sure every hour is filled up with something busy.  Other authors have counseled, "The concept of downtime seems to be a kind of heresy in the current cult of acheivement"  (Einstein Never Used Flashcards, Hirsch-Pasek & Golinkoff).  In the planning of our joyful lives, we need to make time for downtime.  It's in that downtime that we end up buildling stronger relationships, finding and fulfilling our purpose, and having more joy in our homes. 

Conclusion:  Joy vs. Happiness
Experiencing true inward joy is different than fleeting happiness.  It's like the difference between the happiness you feel when you're just newly married, to the joy you feel after ten years of working and being together.  Both are great, one is more lasting than the other.  Inward joy comes from loving God, your family, and others while living life with purpose and direction.  "This is your expedition . . . Think of the treasure at the end" (The Hobit, Tolkein) . . . and make it happen!

5.12.2010

Belated Easter Poetry

Happy Easter giggles
Fill the chilly air
On this special Sabbath day.
The children everywhere!
Children gaily laughing
Children smiling bright!
Children skipping on their way.
Faces full of sheer delight.
Joyful, grateful, peaceful
Wholeheartedly we sing.
We relish every moment
On this single day of spring.
There's a reason for this gladness
A reason to rejoice.
For our Savior came to earth,
To give us all free choice.
There's a reason for this gladness
There's a reason to exclaim:
Hallelujah! Happy Day!
Our Savior lives again.
 - - Julia Hathaway - -

Pretty Good

There once was a pretty good student,
Who sat in a pretty good class;
Who was taught by a pretty good teacher,
Who always let pretty good pass --
He wasn’t terrific at reading,
He wasn’t a whiszbang at math;
But for him educaiton was leading
Straight down a pretty good path.
He didn’t find school too exciting,
But he wanted to do pretty well;
And he did have some trouble with writing,
And no one had taught him to spell.
When doing arithmetic problems,
Pretty good was regarded as fine - -
5 plus 5 needn’t always add up to be 10
A pretty good answer was 9.
The pretty good class that he sat in
Was part of a pretty good school;
And the student was not the exception,
On the contrary, he was the rule.
The pretty good student, in fact, was
Part of a pretty good mob;
And the first time he knew that he lacked was
When he looked for a pretty good job.
It ws then, when he sought a position,
He discovered that life could be tough - -
And he soon had a sneaking suspicion,
Pretty good might not be good enough.
The pretty good town in our story
Was part of a pretty good state,
Which had pretty good aspirations,
And prayed for a pretty good fate.
There once was a pretty good nation,
Pretty proud of the greatness it had,
Which learned much too late, if you want to be great,
Pretty good is, in fact, pretty bad.

- -Charles Osgood of CBS News - -

(Quoted in There are no Shortcuts by Rafe Esquith)

5.06.2010

Discovering Your Purpose

Everyone has a mission to fulfill. 
Do you believe that?  Is it true?  Anyone can go to the library to the "self-motivation" section and find more books than possible to read on discovering one's mission in life, which must mean it's true.  :-)   Type in "mission in life" on Google and you'll get 264,000,000 hits, which must mean it's true.  If it is true, does that mean I need to go adopt all of the children in Africa, start a world famous organization, or become the next gold medalist in curling?  Well, yes, if any of those really were my personal mission, but I don't believe they are.

I do believe everyone has a mission.  But I don't really like the word "mission" in this context.  I feel more that we all have a purpose and like how Sheri L. Dew calls it our "personal ministry."   I used to stress about these questions, "What is my mission in life?" and "Am I really fulfilling my mission?"   When I was young, newly married with a few small children, I was confident that I was living my dream!  All I ever wanted to be was a mother.  :-)  However, after a few seemingly trivial challenges, I hit a road block.  My doubts, fears and weaknesses became more important than my end goal.  I lost myself for a short time.  It was in those few short years that I discovered some principles of how to truly fulfill my mission in life.  I now believe that each of us have the opportunity to live our "mission" or fulfill our purpose every day of our lives.  We are not all going to invent a new device and strike it rich. We are not all going to be "famous" or even well-known.  We are not all going to start nationwide organizations (or even local!).  It is through the small, seemingly insignificant ways that we will most likely fulfill our missions.

Embrace Where You Are Today
Stephen R. Covey talks about this as your "personal sphere of influence."  Every young mother has questioned if changing poopy diapers, wiping snotty noses and throwing fishsticks in the oven is really all she is meant to do.  For a time, I believe it is!  But we weren't meant to do those mundane tasks the way the Israelites travelled through the wilderness, one head turned back to Egypt and complaining about their hardships.  We are to be "joyful mother of children" (Psa. 113:9).  This does not apply to mothers alone.  We have all made choices that have led us to where we are today.  Embrace your life and live it!

Another part of embracing is discovering who you really are!  Leo Buscaglia, an amazing teacher and author, once wrote, "Isn't it amazing that you have to wait for someone to tell you it's okay to be you!"  I'm telling you right now that it is okay to be you!  You were meant to be who you are!  Strengths, weaknesses, talents, looks, all of it.  Come to know yourself, embrace it and use it.  Your life's mission is never more than who you are!  Don't try to be someone else.  Don't try to be someone you've been told you're supposed to be.  You can only be your very best you!

Take Back Time
How many times have you said or heard, "I don't have time."  I think this is a half truth.  Our children grow up quickly and we look back and say, "Where did the time go?"  Time is a "use it or lose it" commodity; it is too valuable to waste. I believe the Lord gave us just enough time to  accomplish the things we need to in this life.  He created the earth in seven periods (Gen. 1-2) and has given us seven days so we can learn the art of time management.  In order to take advantage of this gift of seven days we must learn the principle of "all things done in wisdom and in order."  We must remember, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" (Eccl. 3:1).

On speaking of time, Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture, said, "Time is all you have.  And you may find one day that you have less than you think you do."  Pausch was a professor of a distinguished university who learned he had a serious illness and would die within several months.  He had experienced firsthand the feelings of losing precious time.  He gave three pointers on how we can better value our time.

1. Time must be explicitly managed, like money.  I remember one vivid grocery shopping trip.  I do one major shopping trip once a month, and so my cart was overflowing.  I get through the check stand and I run the debit card . . . it was denied.  I had to make the embarrassing phone call for my husband to transfer some funds over so I could purchase the food!  Balancing our time the way we balance our checkbooks, once a month even, will help us to value the minutes that we have.

2. You can always change your plan, but only if you have one.  I love this!  Planning ahead on a regular basis helps us to value the time we have.  How will you use the 1 hour between appointments or the 10 minutes before school starts?  I once read of an author who wrote a book by spending ten minutes each day writing while he ate his breakfast each morning. 

3. Are you spending your time on the right things?  How do we know if we're choosing the right things? A friend of mine has a quote in her home, "Don't Water the Weeds."  Good trees produce good fruit.  Likewise, we need to be planting good seeds, nourishing the things we want to grow and weeding out those vines that will steal away our precious time.

A final thought on time from one of my favorite books, "Let us go . . . and do something, rather than waste time that may be so precious.  Thinking has, many a time, made me sad . . . but doing never did in all my life . . . My precept is 'Do something. . . do good if you can; but at any rate, do something'" (North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell). 

Be in the Right Place
The third principle to discovering your mission is to be in the right place. I believe the Lord has placed us where we need to be. He has surrounded you with those you needed to teach and learn from. Again, I can't expect to be President of the United States if I'm not mingling with those who will get me there. We simply need to ask ourselves, "Why do I know who I know?" and seek to learn from and teach them.  The Founding Fathers are a great example of those who were in the right place at the right time.  It was no coincidence, and they pulled one another along to create this great nation!

Madeline L'Engle once wrote, "I believe in a pattern for the universe, a pattern that affirms meaning, and perhaps especially when things seem meaningless.  Everything we do has a part in the weaving of the pattern, even our wrong decisions.  But I believe that the beauty of the pattern will not be irrevocably distorted.  That is a hope we learn to live with . . . "

In order to be in the right place, we must first be fulfilling our duties.  If you are a mother, you must be a mother first.  If you have a church or civic responsibility, you must fulfill those responsibilities.  If you are a homemaker, you must take care of that sacred duty first off.  We can only fulfill our missions if we are fulfilling our responsibilities, the Lord will guide us through these channels.
 
Choose a Mentor
The final principle in discovering your mission is to choose a mentor.  As a child, who did you look up to?  Maybe it was your mother or father, a church leader or a teacher.  As adults we still need those people in our lives who inspire us in our own mission.  If your mission is to work with Special Olympics, you need to find those who work in that organization, and they will be in your path at some point in time.  If your mission is to teach your children to love literature, follow the patterns of those who have done so before you.  Ask questions!  Never be afraid to ask questions!

Of course, our number one mentor must be the Savior, who himself had chosen a mentor.  "Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things" (John 8:28). He has thus asked us to, "come, follow me" (Luke 18:22).

How do you Know if you're Fulfilling your Mission?
Confidence.  I love that word. One of my mentors recently stated, "If you are doing your best, you will have some disappointments, but you will not be disappointed in yourself."  In Hebrews we read, "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward."  When we are doing what is right, we will feel it is right. Not that fleeting moment of happiness, but the enduring joy. "Your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you" (John 16:22).

In conclusion, our family loves the Kentucky Derby.  It's a major competition in our home!  This year we decided to watch the movie Seabiscuit after the race to commemorate the event.  Speaking of Seabiscuit, his trainer said, "They got him so messed up running in circles, he just forgot what he was really born to do."  Have you forgotten what it is you were born to do?  "Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you" (Matt. 7:7).

5.05.2010

Delight in Life

A new favorite quote: 

"When you delight in the life you have created, it becomes a lot less important to get your own life back the very next day."


Full Quote from one of my frequently visited blogs Stand and Deliver regarding Stay-at-home moms vs. working mothers:  "It would be a shame to lose reverence for those gentle, maddening months after a child is born, when you are in a sleep-drained reverie, stitched to a baby's rhythms and sweet suckling; when you watch them unfurl, watch their eyes focus on the world, their lips curl into smiles, their startled limbs jerk and then grow strong. When you delight in the life you have created, it becomes a lot less important to get your own life back the very next day."

Tribute to a Friend

Recently, a dear Young Women leader and friend of mine will be leaving us soon as she painfully fights cancer. This is a poem I wrote in tribute of her. I wish all the best for her wonderful family!


A Tribute to a Friend
It doesn't seem quite right
Sending notes at the end,
When a whole lifetime of joys
Were filled by a friend.
Giving to sorrow is
Not the best way to go,
So let's celebrate the smiles,
The good things we know.
Your lessons were flower'd
With Spiritual gems.
I loved your stories and paintings
From which all good stems.
Your home was a picture
Of serenity and love;
There I knew were angels
Looking down from above.
Your genuine care for
And concern for the one
Was always apparent
Despite what may come.
And to add a little humor
I must add this . . .
It was fun plotting with you
For my first love's kiss!
But deepest, and truest
Of my feelings for you,
Are those that have strengthened
My testimony, too.
Of a Savior who is loving,
Giving and kind.
A Redeemer who has
All of His Children in mind
When he says, "All Who Labour
Come Unto Me."
I know that you will,
And your loved ones will see.

5.03.2010

Letting Eagles Spread their Wings

This past we have been watching the hatching of baby eagles.  There is a live camera positioned on the eagles on Hornby Island, just off the coast of British Columbia.  We have literally had the site up on our computer 24/7!  It has been amazing to watch as the mama and papa birds have taken turns watching over the little eggs.  Even cooler to then watch them take care of their new little chick after it hatched.  I have learned so much from watching these birds that I can actually apply in my own life! 

Lesson 1:  Primary Responsibilities
The mama bird is the primary care taker, but the daddy will come in every once in awhile to take over the job while the mama gets herself replenished.  After the baby hatches, the father will provide food for the mom and his new little one while the mother stays to care for the baby chick.  It is important to know, especially for mothers, that they are the primary caretaker and home is the right place to be.  However, it is just as important that the mama bird takes time to replenish herself for more long sitting on the nest.    From the Proclamation on the Family:

"By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners." 

Lesson 2: Taking Flight
Though the new bird isn't even close to flying yet, I read here about how the parents train their little ones to fly. Basically, the parents leave their little one in the nest and allow it to get hungry, thin even.  The baby then watches as the parents fly by in the near distance with food dangling from their talons.  As time goes on, the parents get closer and closer with the food, never allowing the baby to taste, only increase in hunger and desire for the food.  Finally, when the baby is confident enough he swoops and begins to fly, allowing the wind to carry him.  The parents don't leave him alone, still.  They drop the food just within reach of the young eagle, he grabs and eats.  Success! 

The analogy here is obvious, I'm sure.  We all know the oft-quoted proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.”   Learning how the eagles teach their young has given me more insight on how I want to teach my own "how to fish."

The Dangling Principle in Action
My husband and I have differing ideas on how to go about training our kids in matters of money. Do we pay them an allowance, pay them for extra chores, make them pay for certain things when they reach certain ages, etc., etc.??  Then there's the matter of teaching them to save and to pay tithing at church, and help & serve others monetarily.  I am learning the art of "dangling."  I take my kids to the store, they see the very thing they want within the first ten steps inside, right?  We've all been there!  My question to each of them is, "Do you have any money?"  Dangling!  They don't.  We move on.  They see something else.  "Do you have any  money?"  Dangling! Nope.  We keep going.  I've also stopped myself these past few months from giving into the thought, "It's just a dollar," when they want something.  At younger ages, it's out of sight out of mind, more instant gratification like the baby birds. With older kids I'm starting to recognize how they are "getting hungry" and "growing thinner."  They are seeing and wanting, but not reaching and now their wheels are starting to turn. What can they do to make that money to buy that one coveted item? 

This principle can work in many different areas other than making, saving and spending money. Reading, riding a bike, joining a sports team, writing, math, and nourishment.  We can teach our children to fish so that they might spread their wings and fly by giving them the correct tools to do so!
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