Gratitude: A Complex Characteristic

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Recently, at a Stake Relief Society meeting, I was drawn to a class on cultivating gratitude.  As I sat in that class I realized how much I needed to cultivate that great attribute into my heart.  Sure, I am quick to express thanks when given a gift or help.  Yet, sitting in that class I became well aware that gratitude is much more than giving thanks.  I came home eager to study more about gratitude and how to instill it more fully in my heart.

Interestingly, upon looking up gratitude in the Bible dictionary I found it only said, "see ingratitude or thanksgiving."  Have you ever tried to learn about a principle by studying it's opposite first?  This has been such an eye-opening experience for me.  I am seeing in what ways I have been very ungrateful for all I have been given.  

When the Israelites became thirsty in their wilderness journey they began to murmur, as did Laman and Lemuel in their own journey.  When things get physically difficult, I can murmur.  When things don't go exactly as I planned out each day, I can murmur.  Murmuring is just an act of ingratitude.  So....

When I nag at the kids for not getting their jobs done after the umpteenth time, I'm showing ingratitude. 

When I'm grumpy because my husband comes home late (after working all day, mind you!), I'm showing ingratitude. 

When I sigh or stress over having to cook dinner every night, I'm showing ingratitude. 

When I get upset instead of showing love when my two-year old gets into my make up, or cuts his hair, or colors all over the walls, or eats all of JL's birthday candy, or......(yes, the list is endless), I am showing ingratitude.  

When I'm too tired to help a child in the middle of the night, I'm showing ingratitude.

When I'm impatient because the lines are too long at the grocery store, my feelings are rooted in ingratitude.  

We offend God when we do not acknowledge His hand in all things and when we do not obey His commandments (D&C 59:21). "Counsel with the Lord in all thy doing and he will direct thee for good" (Alma 37:37).

Motherhood is sometimes a thankless job.  It's one full of demands of others being placed upon us.  And yet, I have to be grateful when at the age of 10 I dreamed of doing nothing else!!  These runny noses and messy floors will soon be gone.  My husband and I will one day be all alone together.  If I am to build those relationships ready for the future, I need to be cultivating the seeds of gratitude now, in the midst of the chaos.  Who knew this characteristic could be so complex?

 - - - - - 

“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.”
-Henri Matisse

(quoted and commented at Moments Like This)


Who am I Pleasing?


I lay in bed the other night thinking, "Man!  I am just failing at everything right now."  Thoughts of my calling, interactions with my husband, the never-ending clutter trail throughout my house, friends with whom I've failed to keep in contact, and undone tasks on my to-do list filled my mind.  Then I thought of my children and thought, "Wait, I can't say I've failed there."  It shocked me, really, to have this thought.  But it was true. Lately, I have been striving to focus on the needs of my kids.  I've been just a little more attentive here and sacrificed a little more time there to help each of them feel loved.  I smiled to myself. 

While meeting with a member of the stake presidency, a friend of mine expressed real concern with all she had to do and how overwhelmed she was feeling.  Our leader asked, "Tell me everyone you're trying to please right now."  She listed off all she was doing.  His response was, "That's a lot of gods to serve."  He then reminded her that there is really only one God to please each day.

There really is no possible way to hit every need with every person in our lives.  We can, however, be confident each day that we are pleasing our God.  As we kneel in prayer and converse with Him we can know what He would have us do and who we need to serve that day.  Sister Julie Beck once stated that if we are in tune with the Holy Ghost each day, "we will have disappointments but we won't be disappointed in ourselves."

Likewise, we were most recently reminded by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "The plan of salvation explains the purpose of creation and the conditions of mortality, including God's commandments, the need for a Savior, and the vital role of mortal and eternal families.  If we...do not establish our priorities in accord with this plan, we are in danger of serving other gods...We must never deviate from our paramount desire, which is to achieve eternal life.  we must never dilute our first priority - to have no other gods and to serve no other priorities ahead of God the father and His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ."

And so, each night, I am going to kneel again to my Father and ask if all was well done in His eyes.  I want to look back at each day able to say, "It is good."  I will still strive to improve those things in which I may be falling short, but I want to gain the confidence that my time and energy are spent as the Lord would have me do.


Reading Aloud

Look at them!  They're all so little!!  

When I announced we wouldn't be homeschooling this year, A piped up, "Can we still have a read aloud book?"  Unfortunately, it's been a bit rough finding moments when all kids are home and available at the same time.  Until now...

Winter (and no after school sports) has allowed us the time to sit and read as a family.  Last week we had one of those moments I live for.  We were finishing the first of the Shadow Children series when I unexpectedly began to cry (I won't share why unless you haven't read the series yet).  As we continued through the last few chapters both girls started to cry along with me.  I'm sure the boys were giving each other eye-rolling looks and whatnot, because once we finished they all just started making fun of us.  But I loved it!  We had a moment, created a memory.  That only happened once before with Where the Red Fern Grows.

I love reading with my kids.  It warms my heart when the kids beg to let them stay up a little later just so we can rad together.  I have learned, however, that some books are just not meant to be read aloud.  Read alouds are best when they have short chapters, for instance.  Then you can just read a chapter real quick in any given moment.

Secondly, the reader has to like it.  :-)  If I don't like the book, I'm sure the kids aren't liking the book.  The enthusiasm for a story has to first come from the reader.

Third, consider reading levels.  I like to read books my kids wouldn't choose to pick up on their own.  Sometimes, this means choosing books that are above their reading level.  But if you have to stop every few minutes to describe what's going on, that will detract from the enjoyment of the story.

Fourth, I've almost never been disappointed with a true classic. Classics are the books you could read more than once and enjoy it the same (or even more!) each time you pick it up.


Here's a List of books we've read through the years:
All Around Family Downtown
Where the Red Fern Grows
Five Little Peppers and how they Grew
Tale of Despereaux
Among the Hidden (Shadow Children series)
Five Children and It
Mr. Poppers Penguins
Thimble Summer
Gone Away Lake
The Great Wheel
The Penderwicks 
Mushroom Planet (boys)
Indian in the Cupboard (boys)
A Chirstmas Carol (this one took two Christmases)
The Family Under the Bridge

Audiobooks we've listened to:
City of Ember series
The Twits


Sunday Snow Day

We had a snow day from church last weekend.  I know, I know...those of you in areas where snow is nothing new must be a bit shocked what  a few inches of snow will do to us Eastern Washington dwellers. As much as I was pretty shocked myself, the day turned out to be quite lovely and rejuvenating.

We actually started with our own family church meeting.  JW gave the talk he had prepared to give in sacrament meeting.  I had prepared a sharing time on the Creation for primary, so I used the family instead.

Primary Creation Sharing Time
I would read the verses applicable from Moses 2 and then we'd sing a Primary song.

Day 1: Light and Darkness, Song: Teach Me to Walk in the Light
Day 2: Heavens in the Firmament, Song: I lived in Heaven
Day 3: Earth and Waters, Song: Give Said the Little Stream
Day 4: Sun, Moon and Stars, Song: I Am Like a Star
Day 5: Animals, Song: All Things Bright and Beautiful
Day 6: People, Song: Because God Loves Me

As much as I missed going to church, I have to say we had such an enjoyable time as a family.


Of Mice and Rats

I am reading The Tale of Despereaux for the third or fourth time right now, only this time with just my six-year-old.  Every time I read it I remember just why I LOVE this book.  This very well could be my very favorite children's book.

So, in light of that reading, we are working on a Mouse & Rats unit.  Here are some things we have in store:


Compare the Differences between Rats and Mice.  This website is really cool!  It has a "compare anything" feature where you can type in any two objects, sports teams, animals, cars, etc.  I can see my kids having lots of fun with this website!

Moustrap computer game.  This one had me addicted!
Mouse Math Challenge.  This one is NOT for younger kids, but a great challenge for older kids and adults.

Language Arts
Love these books!

Since we got some -at books from the library and will do some rhyming activities.

There's also this Sesame Street Rhyming Game

We will also work on plural nouns (i.e. Mouse becomes Mice, etc.).


This series "A Guide for Children" is my FAVORITE when dealing with nonfiction for kids.  They're written in easy reader format, so not only can young readers read on their own but the concepts are clear and concise for easy explanations.

Tale of Despereaux has a lot to do with light verses dark.  I found some cool science experiments with light I think E will like:
Light Up Lifesavers
Light and Dark - Sources & Reflections

Mice and Rats are mammals.  Watch this video about mammals with your kids.

There's also this Discovery Channel Documentary on Mammals.

Dissect a rat!  Okay, we did this last year (I wish I had a picture!), and it was so awesome!  We won't be repeating it for this unit, but we can at least refer back to that time.


Make Thumbprint mice.  Make one with your pinky to signify Despereaux's size compared to the other mice.

Chiaroscoro Art - A style of art that depicts light and dark.


Light in the Wilderness Discussion

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"Our mind is constantly volleying between irritation and desire, jealousy and pride.  We are unhappy with who we are, and we are trying to destroy our own suffering.... As we indulge int his negativity, our mind becomes thick with contamination which manifests stress, lack of peace, fueled by fear of not knowing what will happen to 'me.'  Our mind becomes very speedy;  bewilderment rules" - - Sakyong Mipham, Tibetan monk, p. 81

The Natural Man.  What is it?  What do we do with it?  Is it really a bad thing?  These are questions we explored in our Light in the Wilderness discussion last week.  

We learn from Elder Charles W. Penrose that, "We are here to learn the laws that govern this lower world; to learn to grapple with evil and to understand what darkness is p. 69)." My maybe morbid thought that went along with this is, "Isn't it so amazing to think that this is the only place we can really experience darkness?"  I know that sounds weird, but if we are to understand the laws of God and how He governs the world, I think it's important to understand how darkness works as well.  We don't need to delve into or experiment with it, but we just need to notice the experiences we have with it so we can know the difference.  In the garden of Eden we learn this truth, that we must recognize the bad to know the good.  
We can't, therefore, be surprised if we have a  "sturdy Natural Man (p.68)."  This natural body was given to us so we could learn what we could not learn staying on the other side of the veil.  "The Natural Man is serving us as a live-in teacher.  It is appropriate to be grateful and correct gently (p. 83)."  We women tend to really dwell on mistakes and weaknesses.  And yet, this thought frees us of that burden.  As we pay attention to the thoughts that come and go through our mind we can know what is the natural man vs. the real us.  Thomas continues, "Catching our Natural Man in the very act requires patience and kindness since we usually let go of old ways only a little at a time (p. 83)."  

For us to more easily recognize what is Natural Man thinking, it's important to develop the gift of discernment.  Elder Bednar says this gift is vital and yet rarely sought after.  Of discerning, Thomas says, "In order to unveil the Spiritual Mind, it becomes necessary to discern the nature of thought and feeling so as to bring sharply to our realization that we can choose by which mind we will experience life (p. 75)."  

She also describes what may happen if we are undiscerning, "Without being conscious of these [world-mind] thoughts as visitors to our inner space, we attach to them as though they were ours, as though they necessarily represent reality.  Undiscerning, we subscribe to them, and they become our reality (p. 79)."  

And so, it is greatly important that we remember, "...our spirit and our foreordinations are far greater than our mortal overlay (p. 89)."  As we tune into our spiritual minds more often, studying and searching for truth, we will be filled with light.  "...divine light develops in places of peace and quiet (p. 85)."  Next month we'll discuss more about tapping into the spiritual mind and allowing that Light govern our lives.  
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