12.21.2014

Christ, the Savior, is Born



While reading and pondering more deeply the Christmas story in Luke chapter 2, I was struck by a phrase.  It's something we've all read again and again, but this time I  read it a bit differently. 

"And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered (Luke 2:6)." 

Usually, when referring to the birth of a baby we would say, "the baby was delivered" or "she delivered a healthy baby boy."  I can't help but see the added meaning in the wording of this phrase, "she should be delivered." 

Not only was Mary to deliver the baby to the world, she was to be delivered from both physically and spiritually through the birth of her son, her Savior, her Messiah (or Deliverer).  Mary truly was "a precious and a chosen vessel" (Alma 7:10) who carried the Son of God.   Her newborn child was her deliverer and the deliverer of the world!

The scriptures are full of deliverance stories.  Abraham and his son Isaac, Moses and the Israelites, Lehi and his family, and on and on.  There is no question that the world is a darkening place (D&C 84:49), but a promise has been made: 

Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day. And he obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel; not the Messiah, but a branch which was to be broken off, nevertheless, to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord that the Messiah should be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the spirit of power, unto the bringing of them out of darkness unto light—yea, out of hidden darkness and out of captivity unto freedom.  -- 2 Nephi 3:5 --

 Elder L. Tom Perry has stated, "We can be delivered from the ways of evil and wideness by turning to the teachings of the holy scriptures.  The savior is the Great Deliverer, for He delivers us form death and from sin."

The Lord keeps His promises.  He cannot lie!  

He has promised, "I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage (Mosiah 24:13)."

He has promised, "I will gather them as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wing... (D&C 10:65)."

He has promised, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28)."

Do we believe His promises?  Like the Shepherds, we can be the first to "now go" (Luke 2:15) and adore Him on bended knee.  We can be delivered from darkness into His rest if we would but believe on His words and follow His ways. This would be our best Christmas gift to Him this year, for He has said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15)."  

 - - - 

"Behold your God, born as a little child in Bethlehem and wrapped in swaddling clothes.  Behold your God, born in poverty and simplicity that He might walk among common people as a common man.  Behold your God, even the infinite and eternal Redeemer, the Messiah, veiled in flesh and come to live upon the very earth that He created."  --Elder Bruce D. Porter --

11.18.2014

The Lord Shall Consecrate Thine Afflictions

image from vocabulary.wordpress.com

I came across a very interesting verse today in my scripture reading.  

2 Ne. 2:2 states, "Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain (emphasis added)."  

Frequently we will hear how the Lord will allow afflictions to come upon us or even "inflict upon us" whatever He seeth fit for us (see Mosiah 3:19).  And yes, this is true.  The Lord is very aware of the trials we need in order to become who He needs us to become.  However, this scripture puts a whole new depth to that principle for me.

He will consecrate our afflictions.  To consecrate is "to make holy or to dedicate to a higher purpose (dictionary.com)."  Think about that!  The Lord will dedicate our trials to a higher purpose!  Our struggles become holy through that consecration.  There is a joy that comes with that for me.  There seems to be a much deeper purpose for the trials we face than simply to gain experience. Through them, we are becoming holy...because there is a promise.  He does this "for thy gain."  

So the Lord recognizes (and sometimes places) these burdens upon us, makes them holy, and then blesses us for them!  Linking it to another verse about consecration, we see the same promise. 

"But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint;  that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul 
(2 Ne. 32:9, emphasis added)."

Our works, our trials, our responses to the trials, our joyful experiences...all of this, when we counsel with the Lord, are to consecrate our souls.  Trials, pains, sufferings, challenges, stress, pressure, persecution, and heartbreaks are all inevitable, but when we are dedicated to the Lord, we are becoming dedicated to a higher purpose, we are being made holy.  

For me, today, that is so beautiful to know! 

*  *  *  *  *

No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.” 

- - Orson F. Whitney

11.06.2014

On Prayer


Today for Mentoring Mothers we had a beautiful discussion on prayer.  The gal who was leading the discussion this month sent us some great talks to read and had the following questions needing to be answered:

If we want something, and keep praying for it, does that become vain repetition? 

What we came up with: 
Vain repetitions are those things we say over and over "without real intent."   We can pray for the health and well-being of our children if we really mean it and have a heartfelt desire for them to succeed.

It may also be vain if we don't actually expect to act upon the answer we receive.  The Lord expects us to be "agents unto ourselves."  Elder Scott said, "Most often what we have chosen to do is right."  We need to trust ourselves to make those decisions and be open to the Lord changing that path as needed along the way.  But still, we must act.


If we stop praying for something, is that then giving up on our faith? 

What we discussed: 
I posed the thought, "How do we know if what we're praying for isn't received because we don't have enough faith?"  One friend answered, "It's pretty arrogant of us to think that we can control things that easily."  That affected me strongly!  It's true, right?  If we think, "Oh, I just need a little more faith and then this will happen," may not be the right approach.

Yes, we do need to strengthen our faith.  Every day we need to rely on our Father in Heaven and have Him as the central focus in our lives, but to expect that a little more faith will give us what we want may not be quite accurate.  Sometimes we need the faith that things won't work out exactly as planned.

We must always be open to what the Lord needs to have happen in our lives so we can be molded and grow to be who He needs us to be.  Sometimes when it seems our prayers are not being answers, maybe we need to change our prayers.  Changing what we pray for is not giving up on our faith, it could be submitting more to His will.

What is the difference between telling the Lord vs. asking the Lord what you want? 

Our thoughts: 
"Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good (Alma 37:37)."  Counseling, to me, involves telling the Lord your deepest desires sometimes, asking Him questions and for direction sometimes, and listening ALL the time.

Feeling it in our Minds and in our Hearts
Elder Scott said, "When we receive an impression in our heart, we can use our mind either to rationalize it away or to accomplish it.  Be careful what you do with an impression from the Lord."  How do we know if it's wrong or if we're just rationalizing then?  

Not all impressions we receive are going to feel good (take Nephi slaying Laban, for instance), but we will have peace, an assurance that what we are being asked to do is right.  The adversary is always there to meddle with our minds and with our hearts, we must attune ourselves more closely with the Lord's voice.  And this take practice.  Lots of practice.

Final Thought: 
"When we seek inspiraton to help make decisions, the Lord gives gentle promptings.  These require us to think, to exercise faith, to work, to struggle at times, and to act.  Seldom does the whole answer...come all at once.  More often, it comes a piece at a time, without the end in sight."

9.22.2014

Daily Challenge

Our mornings have been starting out kind of slow.  I've been just getting the kids out the door and my own stuff done that I've been neglecting the little boys as they wake up.  They putter around for awhile and then we eat breakfast, but it's still slow going.




So, last week I issued them a challenge:  build a pirate ship out of Legos that actually floats!  They were ecstatic!  They rushed downstairs and spent some time (not as much as I'd hoped) building their ships.  They did it!



Well, this reminded me of something I'd been wanting to do, but just never really got around to it.  I wanted my boys to wake up every morning with a surprise challenge on the table.  So I did it.  This morning I had a bunch of items on the table with a big bowl of water and a "Sink or Float" chart to fill out.  Then we watched some videos on why items sink or float.


Yeah.  Great boat, David!!

This was such a fun way to start our day (so fun I forgot about my 6th grader still sleeping downstairs until about halfway through her first period class!!).  The best part of it was that my boys were eager to start their "actual" school work.  It's like their boyish energy and creative minds were exercised enough that they could then focus on their "not so fun for boys" stuff.

So, I don't know how long this will last, but I do think it's a good idea (for us!).  Tomorrow I'm going to have some masking tape on the table with the instructions to create a city (roads) downstairs.  I've got lots of ideas brewing (from Pinterest) but I also know I need to keep it simple if it's really going to work. Maybe, if I remember, I'll start posting what we do here.

9.16.2014

Grateful in Any Circumstance


We can choose to be grateful, no matter what.

Reading President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's most recent conference talk, I asked this question of myself:   What does gratitude look like in my life?  

I think I'm a pretty thankful person.  When people give me things or do things for me, I express my thanks readily.  After any event I try to find the person in charge to thank them for a lovely time.  I teach my kids to thank their teachers or others who do things for them.  But is this gratitude? 

What about the times I have my kids clean the kitchen and walk in later only to complain that the sink wasn't cleaned out and the dishes weren't loaded as I would have done them? 

What about when I leave my husband or the kids at home to do something and upon return start demanding the house to be cleaned or it's time to get to bed?  

What about the times when I'm in a hurry (for lack of planning better) and complain about the long line at the grocery store, the multiple red lights, or the slow driver in my way? 

What about the time just this morning when my husband woke up late and so we had to share the bathroom while getting ready for our day?  I could have just been grateful to have more time with him rather than griping about the invasion of my space and destruction of my routine!  

I'm beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, Laman and Lemuel's constant murmuring was simply a bad case of ingratitude!  Maybe it was their ingratitude that led to their eventual rebellion and dissent.  If that is true, oh the importance of practicing gratitude in our own lives so as to avoid the same destructive end.  

And so I pledge to look more at the good than the bad, to see the efforts not the results, and to smile each time I get a bit disappointed so my reaction can be more pure.  


*****


My dear brothers and sisters, the choice is ours. We can choose to limit our gratitude, based on the blessings we feel we lack. Or we can choose to be like Nephi...We can choose to be like Job...We can choose to be like the Mormon pioneers...We can choose to be like the Prophet Joseph Smith, who, while a prisoner in miserable conditions in Liberty Jail, penned these inspired words: “Dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.” - - President Dieter F. Uchtdorf - - 

9.12.2014

Weakness is not Sin

BOOK OF THE WEEK: 


I loved this book.  I have to tell you I pretty much cried through the whole first chapter because it so resonated with me.  I think this book would resonate with a lot of people, especially women maybe. This book just enlightened me on how to differentiate between a sin and a weakness AND how to deal with both.  We think we need to repent from our weaknesses, but that doesn't really make sense (now that I've read the book).  Improving to become better is different than the need to repent.  I just enjoyed the whole basis of this book and plan on reading it (a lot slower!) again. 


***

"Sin can take us to hell.  Weakness can take us to heaven....Sin is a choice. Weakness is a state....While we often think of strength as having to do with our abilities and talents, the strength that interests God has to do with our character..." 
- - Wendy Ulrich, Weakness is not Sin

9.08.2014

September: National Rice Month


Last week we talked about RICE.  Strange topic, but there are some fun ideas out there!  Some of the thing we did: 

** Started Reading Li Lun, Lad of Courage.  It's about a boy who doesn't want to become a fisherman like his father and so as "punishment" the father sends him on a quest to plant 7 grains of rice on top of the highest mountain in their village.  The order?  He is not to come back down until he has produced seven times as much rice as he was given.  It's a beautiful story! 

** Followed some of this unit study for the book One Grain of Rice.

** Made Rice Krispies treats.  

** I made an alphabet & number rice bag.  The boys colored in each letter or number as they found them in the bag.  They had more fun with this than I expected, actually!  :-) 

** E made an -ice book.  He had to come up with words that rhyme with rice, write the word and draw a picture.  

** Also, because One Grain of Rice is set in India, I printed off blackline maps of India.   The boys then went on the computer to look for pictures that had to do with India, printed them off and glued them on the map.  

What we didn't get to (but might this week):
** Rice Art!  I bought some different colored rice (white, brown, black) and was going to have the boys fill in a blackline picture with the different colored rice.  There are also plenty of ideas on how to dye the rice different colors, too.  

9.02.2014

Planning No More (Kind of)

I used to be an excessive planner.  Our school year used to start with charts, schedules, tons of unit study ideas and more.  Sure, I probably only did half of the stuff I planned, but it was better than had I not planned (at least, that's what I told myself).

Not this year.

I think the year of no homeschooling relaxed me a little.  Okay...it relaxed me a lot (by way of homeschooling, anyway)!  That and a majorly busy summer gave me no real motivation to plan for this year.  I mean, I would sit down and make all sorts of lists and tentative schedules, but that was about it.  All I really knew was that it was going to be all about my boys!


This year we're keeping it simple, more unscheduled (i.e. not many outside of home classes & such), and interest-led.  Of course, when you look at the following schedule it may look pretty scheduled to some, I'm not an unschooler by any means, but it's more like a structure than a schedule.

How does it look this year?

family scripture study, breakfast, and send older kids off to school
bike ride
cleaning time (chosen daily by what looks like the greatest need)
own studies/Mom works with E
family learning time/field trips/errands
lunch
free time
everyone home
dinner
evening activities

For the boys' own studies we just have a list of things they need to do in the reading, writing & math departments.  They get to put beads in their jars for whatever they accomplish on the list each day.  Bottom line: prize box; Middle line: $1 toy or ice cream; Top: date with parent, stay up 1/2 hour later, or more computer time.


For family learning time I'm using quirky holidays, science and history.  I'm also going with what the boys want to learn.  So, we have a place on our kitchen white board where they can add their interests as they see or learn things they want to know more about.  At the beginning of the month I'm writing up a tentative plan for each week, but only really planning things out the week before (i.e. printing pages, getting supplies, etc).  I think this will save me a lot of money in the end, too, because I'd plan things for months in advance, buy the stuff and then never get to it.

Anyway, I'm feeling quite free this year!  One week down, we'll see how time goes.

My main goal, really? 
Teach the boys to be hard working gentlemen!  

8.27.2014

Facebook: Faith not Fear

facebook.com

As I've made this big leap (for me) of joining Facebook I've been asking myself why I didn't do this before.  What was keeping me from joining the masses in this social media arena?  Sure the excuse may have been, "I have no need, I keep contact with the friends I want to."  Or I used that tactic that I didn't want to get addicted (still true).  And, I've also wanted my kids to not think it was a normal necessity in their lives.

As I've looked at it more closely, I've realized it's been about fear.  Fear that I would get "sucked in." Fear that I would look for outside approval.  Fear that my kids wouldn't learn how to really socialize.  Probably even some fear that I wouldn't be "liked."  Fear that I have no clue how to use it!  I don't want everyone seeing everything and worried I wouldn't know how to protect myself from that.  Fear of government control plays a tiny part of the hesitation I've had with joining.  In general, I can now see that I based my decision partially on fear.

I recently ran across this very interesting article by Elder L. Tom Perry where he said this:

It is "in the world" where we have the privilege of coming and enjoying a mortal experience. It is "in the world" where we we are tested and tried. It is "in the world" where we have opportunities to participate in sacred, saving ordinances which will determine our postmortal life.  It is "in the world" where we have the opportunity to serve and make our contribution to mankind.  It is to this world the Savior must come....May we have the necessary faith to place our trust in the Lord and not worry about the forces that will surely oppose righteousness.  May we have the courage to move forward in the cause of truth.  As we live "in the world," may we contribute by making it a better place because of righteous living, our service in causes that are just, and our faith that good will ultimately triumph over evil."  (CR Aprl 1988)

www.chriscruieses.com
I realize now, after listening to Elder Bednar's recent address as well, that we are to live in the world in which we were born.  I need to more fully embrace the technologies that are here by divine inspiration, to see them as tools for furthering the kingdom of God upon the earth.  I've still got some trepidation, but a little is okay to safeguard against the adversary.  This can be his tool as well.  But I will choose to have more faith than fear and to learn all I can so I can use these tools more effectively for the right purpose.

8.21.2014

"To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood"



If you haven't read, watched or listened to this talk yet...do it now!

I just went to a class at Education Week where the teacher quoted, "I will hasten my work in it's time (D&C 88:73)."  This speaker then commented, "After Elder Bednar's talk on Tuesday, I think you can cross out the words 'it is time' and write in 'NOW.'

It is the time.  We are to flood the earth.  So...be watching for my newly-created Facebook page...coming soon!!!

8.12.2014

God's Harvest

"The field is white all ready to harvest." 

Today I was looking at our heavy-laden peach tree and reflecting on how we neglected our plums this year.  I was not ready when the plums were ready.  We lost a lot of fruit because of my lack of readiness.  I'm determined to have a different plan or experience with the peaches!

With this reflection on our backyard fruit trees, my mind went to the law of the harvest.  Interestingly enough, President Uchtdorf had this on his mind as well because the first presidency message in this month's Ensign is just on that:  God's Harvest.  He beautifully brings out the principles of that particular law.

But what I was thinking as well was, "When the Lord's harvest is ready it will be time to pick the fruit.  If we are not ready, a lot will be wasted."  When this thought came I wasn't really sure what that meant.  Sure, there's missionary work and finding those souls who are ready to be harvested, but I sensed there was something more to that message.  It took a couple of days before it hit me (and when it did I was feeling a bit silly that it hadn't occurred to me sooner):  Family History!!

There has been a great amount of emphasis put on this principle of the gospel.  I've heard the messages and dabbled here and there with searching and indexing.  It wasn't until reflecting on the fruit I see falling to the ground did I catch the real meaning of the impression I had received.  The fruit is ripening, the ending is nigh, and if we are not prepared there will be many lost.

Though I still don't fully understand the significance of "why now?" when family history work will continue after the millennium, this small experience and that quiet whispering voice has instilled in me a greater desire to be more diligent in my family's work.

8.08.2014

Granola Bars

Heavenly Homemakers has made me ours a heavenly home!  They have a granola bar recipe that is delicious and addictive.  The good part, it is an omega-3 power bar and no white sugar!  Yummy!  I recommend  you make them this weekend.

Granola Bars
1 c. peanut butter (the natural, no sugar kind; I prefer creamy)
2/3 c. honey
1/2 c. coconut oil 
2 c. oats
2 c. total combination of any of the following ingredients: 
sunflower seeds, cia seeds, cocoa nibs, chopped nuts, unsweetened shredded coconut, dried fruit, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, etc.

Directions
In medium saucepan melt together peanut butter, oil and honey.  Remove from heat.  Add oats and two cups of miscellaneous ingredients.  Stir well and spread into pan (9x13 maybe, I use the Pampered Chef bar pan). Chill 2 hours and cut into bars. Store in fridge (they melt fairly quickly). 

My favorite combo: 
lots of coconut, chopped pecans, pumpkin seeds, cia seeds, flaxseed and cacoa nibs.  

8.05.2014

Do You Have the Faith....?

image from ldspictures.wordpres.com

As a young twenty-something with three small children I was asked to sub for a Relief Society class.  The subject was "Faith."  I had some great quotes (still hung up in my study area now, actually) and things were running pretty smoothly.  Then, one woman shared her story on what she thought was faith.  

"It's like when my husband works far away, he has a long drive, and yet every night I have the faith that he will make it home safely."  

To this another sister replied, "But what if he doesn't?  Where is your faith when he doesn't come home?"  

I remember standing there, feeling young and inexperienced, unsure of what to say or how to continue the discussion.  I don't even know what happened after that.  I'm sure I fumbled through, giving some simple answer and then turning back to the awesome quotes I had prepared.  I don't know.  But that question, "What if it doesn't work out?" has frequently occupied my mind.  

Until recently, I had never had to really ask that question myself.  What was once just an interesting theory has become a reality.  Not all in my life has worked perfectly, for sure, but most of my life I have seen faith work things out. However,  I believe we all will need to, at some point in our lives, ask this very question of ourselves in a very deep and personal way, "Where is my faith if it doesn't work out?"

I've searched through the scriptures and found that the Lord always fulfills His promises.  Always.  The most poignant example in my mind is from 3 Nephi.  It is a time of turmoil for those who believe the words prophesied by Samuel the Lamanite.  An edict has even been issued that if the sign does not appear on a certain night, all who do believe will be put to death (3 Ne. 1:9). 


     "And it came to pass that they did make a great uproar throughout the land; and the people who believed began to be very sorrowful, lest by any means those things which had been spoken might not come to pass. But behold, they did watch steadfastly for that day and that night and that day which should be as one day as if there were no night, that they might know that their faith had not been vain (3 Ne. 1:7-8, emphasis added)."

And what if the sign hadn't come to pass?  What if their faith had been in vain? I can't even imagine the days that passed between hearing that order and the night the sign did appear.  What agony they must have gone through.  What questions they must have had!  I think those days in between were more of a test of their faith than the actual moment of fulfillment. 
Think about Abraham, willing to follow the command to kill his son while at the same time holding to the faith he had in the promise given to him that he would have multiplied posterity! That walk up the mountain must have been excruciatingly painful.  His heart must have been full of sorrow, his mind full of doubts and questions.  
In speaking to a young couple, the husband suffering from cancer, Elder Bednar once asked, "Do you have the faith not to be healed?"  It's one thing to have faith when things are going "right." It's a whole different type of faith when we ask ourselves, "Do I have the faith to NOTto..." - - find a spouse, have a baby, survive a fire or accident, etc... OR to ask the question, "Where is my faith when I..." -- lose a loved one, can't find a job, suffer from a terminal illness, etc.  "Do you have the faith NOT to be healed?"
Maybe our trial of faith isn't so much about believing whether or not the Lord will fulfill His promises.  Maybe it's more about receiving the promises and then watching where and how our faith grows while we wait for the fulfillment of the promise.  I can testify that the promises will be fulfilled for God cannot lie (D&C 62:6).  But, like Abraham and the Nephites, waiting to see how the Lord will fulfill His promises could be the part that tests our faith the most.  What do we do in the meantime with our faith, our talents, our minds, and our hearts?  It is then that we need to sincerely ask ourselves, "Where is my faith?" 
*****
Search these commandmentsfor they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled."
Doctrine & Covenants 1:37

8.01.2014

Our top Priority as Mothers


"Our teaching should draw upon our own faith and focus first and foremost on instilling faith in God in the rising generation. We must declare the essential need to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before Him in soberness, or in other words, with reverence. Each must be persuaded that service and sacrifice for the well-being and happiness of others are far superior to making one’s own comfort and possessions the highest priority." 
- - Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Moral Discipline - - 

*****

"Make the spiritual development of your spouse and chidren a very high priority.  Be attentive to the things you can do to help each one.  Give freely of your time and attention."
 - - Elder Richard G. Scott, CR Oct. 2013 - - 

7.29.2014

You Don't Have to do Anything

We do so much out of obligation.  It's almost culturally acceptable to moan about "all the things" we have to do.

I have to do the laundry.
I have to make dinner.
I have to sign up to feed the missionaries.
I have to watch my friend's kids.
I have to go to bed early.
I have to....
I have to...
I have to...

It's interesting, though, that in the scriptures we read, "All that he requires of you is to keep his commandments (Mosiah 2:22)."

But there are so many!

True.

But the Lord also gently reminds us, "If ye love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15)."

I have one child who, when asked to help with some household chore, will crumple up on the floor in tears or stomp to their room.  My usual response is, "It's okay.  You don't have to. You just won't get the promised reward if you don't."

Think about that. The Lord says the same thing to us.  "It's okay. You don't have to.  You just won't get the promised blessings I have in store for you."

Remember, too, this is all said without manipulation or guilt attached. It's not a "do this or else" type of attitude.  Rather, in the place of manipulation and guilt, there is love.   He means every word.  We don't have to.  He will never force us.  The Lord's plan is agency.  We get to decide and have the capacity to understand the Holy Ghost's guidance in our lives.  Through those whisperings we will know when we can do something and when we can refrain.

Women's hearts are born to nurture and to love (in general).  Our hearts are so willing sometimes, that we place ourselves in bondage by our obligations.  If we love Him, we will keep His commandments.  In keeping the commandments we will receive the reward.  The ultimate thing that is required of us, however, is our hearts and a willing mind (D&C 64:34).  With such a mind and heart we no longer feel the burden of all the "have to's" in our lives, but feel the joy that comes from serving the Lord.

His is a plan of happiness.

7.24.2014

Just 15 Minutes

I remembered something today. 

I have a bedroom. 

And it locks. 

Sometimes it's nice to remember that it's okay to take just 15 minutes to strengthen yourself.  
Take a nap. 
Read a book. 
Write. 
Pray.  
Cry.  
Whatever is necessary to refill the motherhood bucket, those 15 minutes are precious....and it's O.K. to take them!


I want to make this sign and hang it on my door when I need it!

7.21.2014

Look Up!

image from diligentagroup.com
My yoga instructor recently enlightened the class by telling us that when you look up, you feel happier.  There's something in our nervous system that clicks on when we look up. I can testify of my own joy when I look up into the skies.  I thought it was just my awe for God's creations, but apparently there's more to it!

As I thought of this (during my yoga session), I was reminded of a talk a few years back.  Elder Carl B. Cook shared a story of being completely overwhelmed with his new calling as a General Authority.  Dwelling on this burden with his head down, he descended the church office building in an elevator when another individual entered.  He soon heard the familiar voice of President Monson say, "It is better to look up."

Elder Cook says of that moment, "Since then I have pondered this experience and the role of prophets.  I was burdened and my head was down.  As the prophet spoke, I looked to him.  He redirected my focus to look up to God, where I could be healed and strengthened through Christ's Atonement."

How many times do we look to ourselves for the solutions, thinking we can do it all ourselves?  Or what about the number of times we look to the side, expecting others to give us answers or join our plight?  Why is it that we forget or choose not to look up?  It is so easy to see what is right in front of us.  It is easy to believe in the tangible.  And so we do.  We look to what we can physically see, touch, feel, and understand.

And yet, ironically, Moses experienced that for the children of Israel, looking up was too easy.  The serpent was tangible and visible and touchable, but the Israelites would not believe what was right in front of them.

Grasping onto the Atonement can be similar.  Though it is not visible and tangible, it is right in front of us...and it's almost too easy to believe.  "What?  I just need to lay my burdens at His feet? No way.  There's got to be something (bigger, harder, better) than that!"  And so we search and grab any and all other, more visible solutions.  But to no avail.

Elder Cook continues, "Experience has taught me that if we...exercise our faith and look to God for help, we will not be overwhelmed with the burdens of life.  We will not feel incapable of doing what we are called to do or need to do.  We will be strengthened, and our lives will be filled with peace and joy.  We will come to realize that most of what we worry about is not of eternal significance - and if it is, the Lord will help us.  But we must have the faith to look up and the courage to follow His direction."

If we truly want those happy endorphines to be released, maybe we should practice looking up more...literally and spiritually.  It's easier than it seems!  Just ask Him to show you how.  :-)

7.16.2014

“Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” ― William Shakespeare


Phew!  After over a month of Julia going MIA...I'm back!

With another miscarriage and my father-in-law's passing away, we had a pretty rough spring.

Plus, I swear the last month of school is the worst!  Concerts and meetings and graduations and award ceremonies and more concerts, it was all I could do to just keep up to the day to day mayhem of family life!

Then summer began which brings it's own transitioning and activities (including a two-week family vacation).

Long story short...I'm still alive (barely) and finally getting back into writing.  It feels so GOOD!

So today...

Let's talk about Summer.  



JL shooting BB Guns @ Day Camp
Technically, this our first "real" summer vacation.  When homeschooling we'd just flow into summer with few changes, just a more relaxed schedule.  With my kids coming back home, I had all sorts of plans and dreams!  Park dates and library visits.  Free summer movies.  The kids setting goals and working diligently.  More hands to help me do the chores again (yay!).  And reading aloud!

Well...I have to admit, that is not really how things have been going. Yes, they have been working on their goals, we had a fabulous family vacation, we are reading together, and for the most part we're having some good times.  However, the problem is ME.

I'm loving them being home too much.

All summer it seems I've been thinking "Only X more weeks and then they're gone again," trying to make every minute count.  I feel like I need to be with them all the time and feel a bit guilty doing stuff without them or keeping them home while I go do stuff (some necessary, some not).  I've been hoping they're happy...not too overschduled, not too bored.  I'm trying to be at their beck and call, available for their every need.

Grandma and Grandpa with their 24 grandchildren

Well, as much as I believe it's Mom's responsibility to be available for her children, this mentality of "missing my kids before they're even gone" has left me feeling overwhelmed and exhausted at the end of the day!

So, I decided to stop it.  :-)  I've decided to just let the kids be kids!  If we do stuff together, great.  If they just hang out together and meander around with friends, great.  I just want to make each day what it is....a day.  Some days we'll work and some days we'll play.  Some days we'll be busy, some days they just might get bored!  It doesn't really matter.  My mental presence is more important than my physical presence right now.  If I am constantly dwelling on "six weeks from now," the memories will not be memorable (in a good way at least).  I need to start enjoying the moments I do get rather than forcing or missing the ones I don't.

A good friend of mine who has gone and raised her seven kids once said, "I did the summers where the kids learned how to sew or do this or that.  But the best summers seemed to be the ones where we just kicked up our heels and ate popsicles."  I love that because I need to remember it!

So, welcome to MY summer.  I hope your is going well and you are enjoying your children!

*****


“Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.” 
― George R.R. Martin

“Some of the best memories are made in flip flops.” 
― Kellie Elmore

“I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.” 
― L.M. Montgomery

“Rejoice as summer should…chase away sorrows by living.” 
 --Melissa Marr

A with cousins ready to climb the ropes course @ Aspen Grove

6.03.2014

Reflections on Our Year

As most know, this year was a big change for our family as we enrolled all of our children in public school.  There are pros and cons to all we do, and with this decision that was no exception.  I saw some amazing things happen this year with most, if not all, of my children.  At the end of such an experience, it's nice to reflect on all we learned:

My oldest son desired to push himself.  Halfway through the year he came to me and declared how bored he was.  So, my hubby and I went to the school principal and asked for him to be placed in the advanced classes.  Easier said than done, he was finally placed where more challenge was given.  A couple of years ago this son would have been happy to just coast through, so it was good to see his self-motivation increase.  Next year:  HIGH SCHOOL!!

1/2 day was perfect for B.  She has accomplished so much this year.  The school classes gave her structure, but not an overwhelming amount to lead to failure and frustration.  The at-home instruction, without other distractions, allowed her to flourish and gain momentum in subjects she'd struggled with in the past.  This last month she read three books and wrote an amazing 5-paragraph essay without any assistance from me (though I did edit a little for final draft; and three books may not seem like a lot but reading has been a real challenge for her so it was exciting to see her devour book after book!).  Next year:  full-time middle school.

A. would be my most improved student this year!  The structure of school gave my anxiety-ridden child the structure she needed to feel confident and intelligent.  Her test scores jumped from below average to well beyond that.  She gained a strong group of friends to carry her through the middle school years (I hope), developed a love for reading, and fine tuned her gift in writing.  Next year:  Middle school!

I think there were some good things that JL learned from his school experience.  He had the best teacher I've seen at this school (any teacher who loves "Teach Like Your Heart is on Fire" would be great!) and she brought the breadth of learning into JL's life.  He was exposed to many different topics and had a good social experience.  He was my most bored child in school.  The first half of the year he had fun showing his knowledge by speeding through all of his homework and the extra credit.  After Christmas, however, this was no longer fun and just became busy work.  Still, it wasn't all bad.  Next year:  He's staying home!

Kindergarten is just FUN!  E. had so much fun this year.  He told me just today, "It's funny, Mom.  I didn't like reading and then just the other day I was like, 'Hey, I like reading,' and now I do."  This kid is a real thinker!  Any book we read he's always trying to figure out what might be happening next.  It's just been a fun year for him. Next year:  Staying home!

So, as you read, my little boys will be staying home next year!!  Sure, there are political issues I have not been very happy with, but those are not the main reason for this decision.  The main reason is I just don't feel I had enough time with them.  I'd like to have a couple of years just with them...to get to know them, build a stronger foundation for them, and just have fun with them.  I will admit JL's boredom and E's conforming have led a little to this decision as well, but only a little.  :-)

Overall, this year has been a great learning experience for all of us.  I learned so much about MYSELF.  I like not being stressed.  I like living in the moment and hope to carry this over into a homeschooling year.  I really, really love my kids and miss having them gone so much.  But at the same time, I like just being MOM and not"teacher-mom" all the time.  I miss being completely involved in what they are learning.  "Out of sight, out of mind" is how I run my life, and so it's been hard to keep up with what the kids are learning.  I hope to do this better next year with my older kids.

Lastly, I have learned how it feels to follow the Lord's plan for my family, even if it's not my greatest wish or desire.  He knew the kids and I needed this year for many reasons (physical health included).  There is so much goodness that comes in heeding His counsel.  In Alma 26:27 we read that He doesn't take away our pain (this year was not all happy and easy), but He does give us the strength and peace to bear the afflictions with joy.  I have truly seen the Lord's hand in all of our lives this past nine months and am so grateful for all we learned.

5.13.2014

Views

The view from our lovely lake cabin rental.
Sometimes you have to step out of "normal life" and just breathe in the views.  This weekend my hubby whisked me away for a much-needed rejuvenation weekend. April was a month of immense stress...physically, spiritually, emotionally, and more!  In the middle of it all I told J. I just wanted him to take me somewhere.  In my impractical mind I was thinking Hawaii or Mexico or something.  With that vision in my mind time away seemed impossible.

And yet...

I found some cabins in seclusion, sent the pictures to him with the tagline, "Surprise me!"

And he did!

Two nights in seclusion with impeccable views.

As I have looked over the lake throughout the day I have been in complete awe at how much change the skies have gone through in 12 hours:

Morning:  overcast skies, grey waters.

A couple of hours later clouds rolling in, green & grey water choppy.

Moments later rain and thunder.

By the evening the skies were blue, sun streaming through the clouds, and the water just as blue and calm as the sky.

As the sun sets the water is so calm it's as if a storm didn't just roll by.

As I take in this visual view, I find it symbolic of our purpose for this weekend.  We needed to step out of the world for just one moment to fully see the view.  A storm has just passed, but the waters can be just as calm in our lives as the lake before me if we are founded on a sure foundation.

I'm also realizing, this same tranquility can be found within our own home as we place the most important things first.  Just as Sister Reeves said in her talk this past conference, "'The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening.'"  I believe she was referring to these as family events.  However, when done privately as individuals these are the personal "seclusion moments" we are given wherein we can get a "glimpse of heaven," a view of what God may be seeing in our lives. He's watching the storms pass ever so quickly and making our waters calm.

Sometimes we just need step back and enjoy the view!

4.21.2014

Just a Thought

image from miriadna.com
"Why waste your time, your talents, your means, your influence in following something that will perish and pass away, when you could devote yourselves to a thing that will stand forever?  For this church and kingdom, to which you belong, will abide and continue in time, in eternity, while endless ages roll along, and you with it will become mightier and more powerful; while the things of this world will pass away and perish, and will not abide in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord our God." 
 - - President Joseph F. Smith, CR June 1919 - - 

4.17.2014

Targeting our Youth

image from dream-refuge.blogspot.com
My husband and I recently watched a very intriguing Frontline newscast about Facebook and it's threat to our youth.  My favorite part was this montage comparing Hunger Games to this widespread social media site.  Watch it!  :-)

As I watched this I was awestruck by the way youth are targeted as free advertising agents for companies.  Smart idea for the companies, but the kids are buying into the idea that they are getting stuff (popularity, "likes," sponsors, etc.) when really they are getting nothing!  This is a great way for the adversary to distract these kids from what is really important, from reading their true potential. I realized that night just how vulnerable our youth can be.

Well, the next day sitting in sacrament meeting I was struck with another thought.  Looking at the program in sacrament meeting I saw the announcement, "Under the direction of the First Presidency all youth ages 12 and up were invited to attend the adult session of stake conference." I reflected on the night before where I had just watched the first General Women's Meeting of the church with my two daughters.  We were surrounded by beautiful young women that night!

image from lds.org


Then it struck me. 

The Lord is addressing the youth as well! 





I remember a quote I read by Hugh Nibley which basically said the pull will be equal on both sides or agency will no longer exist.  The pull is equal on both sides!  Just as the adversary is ramping up his game plan and knowing where to hit, the Lord is doing likewise.  He knows the true potential of these kids and He is going to do all that lies within His power to ensure that they are prepared and have the right tools to fight this raging battle!

How awesome it is to live at a time when the fight is coming to a head.  How exciting to watch the Lord strengthen His people, if we will but heed and hearken!  On the flip side, how daunting it is to be a parent at this time, hoping that correct principles are being taught in our homes so our own youth are equipped to fight the battle.  The pressures are high, but on the Lord's side there will be victory!

4.14.2014

Take a Moment to Pause

From our Most Recent Light in the Wilderness Discussion:


Nature is a Testament of God's Existence

"Nature's role is to arrest man's attention so he can hear the voice from Heaven."

Have you ever thought of the trees and skies and grasses finding joy in their creation because of their obedience to God?  It's an intriguing thought.

Abraham 4:16-18 reads:
And the Gods organized the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night;  with the lesser light they set the stars also;  And the Gods set them in the expanse of the heavens, to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to cause to divide the light from the darkness.  And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed (italics added).

"Until they obeyed."  This implies that even the grass and trees, animals and waters were subject to learning obedience to the Lord.  Just as a gardener plants a tree and then conditions it to grow the way he wants it to (using ropes or whatever), the Lord must have acted similarly in the creation of the world.

Awareness

"All things testify of Him, but we must become aware."

How do we become more aware of the God's hand in our lives, awakening our spiritual sensitivities?  M. Catherine Thomas talks about the need to become more aware of our inner spirit.

We also need to spend time training our minds and bodies.  For instance, I take yoga classes and love them.  When I am faithfully attending my classes a couple of times a week, I notice I start to bend differently and even think differently in stressful situations.  Training time outside of "the moment" will help us to become more aware when in the moment.

We also can start listening and acting more upon the thoughts we do receive.  As we do so we can better attune ourselves with the Lord's plan in our lives.  President Monson has honed this one perfectly!

Seeing Through Spiritual Eyes

The coolest part of this chapter, for me, was reading about a blind man, Jacques Lusseyran, and his experiences with discovering light within himself though he was immersed in a world of darkness.  We all are in a darkened world.  And yet, "When filled with the Holy Ghost we can see more than with the natural eye (p. 122)."

"[Lusseryan] discovered that the light he was able to perceive changed with his own inner emotional state (p. 124)."  We, too, can attune ourselves so closely with Heaven that we see with more light.  The interactions we have with others becomes more genuine and filled with love.  The choices we make daily become more in alignment with God's purposes.  Through training our spiritual minds, we can become more like our Savior.

 - - - 

"To slow down and let Nature distill within us begins to open the unseen world where the secrets of happiness flourish, where abound 'the mysteries and peaceable things - that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.'"  - M. Catherine Thomas, 118
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