Whoso Receiveth One Such Child

A few years back I was released from teaching Gospel Doctrine and called to primary.  I remember the first sharing time I gave.  I was teaching them about faith from Alma 32.  I had them stand or sit every time I read the word "seed."  Then I asked, "What is the seed Alma was talking about?"  The children piped up:




I laughed and thought, "I am not in Gospel Doctrine anymore."

I have to admit, I have missed Gospel Doctrine and digging deep into the scriptures with other adults. It has taken me awhile to adjust to the simpleness of primary.  And then there is that one profound answer given by a believing child and I am smitten!

When asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom?"  Jesus draws a little child into the circle and says, "Whosoever humbleth himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

Children are humble.  They are innocent and believing.  Their desire to love and be loved is contagious and a testament to me of what Christ truly means by this statement.

And then Jesus says this, "Whoso shall receive one such child in my name receiveth me."

What does it mean to receive a child and how do we do that?

Receive: to accept; to take as due or reward; to allow, to hold, to retain; to admit, to welcome.

We receive children by accepting them, welcoming them, loving them, holding them dear.  In doing so, as the verse says, we receive Christ.

In Mark we have some clarification of what that means, "Whosoever shall humble himself like one of these children, and receiveth me, ye shall receive in my name  And whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me only, but him that sent me, even the Father."

Not only do we accept Christ when we receive a child, but we also welcome our Father in Heaven into our lives.

And it gets even better!  Going back to Matthew we read, "Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom heaven."

So...We receive a child and thus receive Christ.  In doing so we receive the Father also.  And if we receive such with humility, we receive the kingdom.  Isn't that amazing!?  Receiving all that the Father hath begins with a child (at least, that's how I look at it)!

After reading these verses and putting the pieces together, I have a newfound love for my calling - - both in church and as a mother!  I believe the Lord knows what He's doing.  He knows where to place us and when.  He knows our hearts and the lessons we need to learn.  Though it's taken me too long to admit, I am grateful to be in primary where I can learn to in simple yet profound ways how to receive the Savior in my life.

Matt. 18:1-6
Mark 9:36-37
Mark 10:13-16

 - - - - - - 

And it came to pass that he commanded that their little children should be brought. So they brought their little children and set them down upon the ground round about him, 
and Jesus stood in the midst; and the multitude gave way till 
they had all been brought unto him. 

And it came to pass that when they had all been brought, and Jesus stood in the midst,he commanded the multitude that they should 
kneel down upon the ground. 

...and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full. And when he had said these words, he wept, and 
the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and 
prayed unto the Father for them. 

And when he had done this he wept again;
And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: 
Behold your little ones.

 - - 3 Nephi 17:11-13, 20-23 - - 


Where Does Your Genius Lie?

While homeschooling people often assumed I must have really smart kids.

Well, yeah. Sure.   Academically, I'd say my kids are pretty average.  They do well in school, but they are not what we'd put in the "genius" category.  But I've been thinking about what it means to be "smart."  When I tell my kids, "You're so smart," what am I really saying?

To me, being "smart" isn't about knowing stuff, or acing tests.  To me, being smart means a person is utilizing the gifts they have effectively.  Each individual is "smart" in their own way.  Many "smart" gifts are featured in our home:  musical, academic, analytical, organizational, creative, etc.  These all play a role in our home.

With these thoughts on my mind, when I heard Elizabeth Gilbert's TED Talk a couple of weeks ago...WOW!  I was struck by her message.  You'll really  just need to go listen to it yourself, but she says this:

In ancient Greece and Rome, "people did not believe creativity came from human beings.... People believed creativity derived form a divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source for distant and unknowable reasons."

In other words, a genius was not an individual, it was a magical identity who invisibly assisted the artist.  This in turn protected the artist.  For example, if the work was brilliant, the artist couldn't take full credit  (good bye narcissism!);  if the work was awful, it was the spirit's fault (good bye fear of failure!).

Isn't that brilliant!  Yes, we need to praise our children for their goodness, even their greatness.  But maybe the how we praise needs to be fine tuned a little bit in our culture. Do our kids worry too much about being the best?  Or are they concerned about taking risks for fear they will mess up?  Do we give too much credit to ourselves for the things we accomplish and blame ourselves too much for the things that go wrong?  This idea of a genius being an out-of-body entity sounds so liberating to me.  (And realize, I'm talking in the creative sense, not the "making bad choices in life" sense - - for those we obviously need to take responsibility.)

I find myself then asking, "Does this concept fit into my spiritual paradigm?"  I think Ammon had the right idea when he says, "I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God."  When we praise our children or ourselves, are we giving credit where credit is due?

C.S. Lewis also purports: "Almost our whole education has been directed to silencing this shy, persistent, inner voice; almost all our modern philosophies have been devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth.  And yet it is a remarkable thing that such philosophies of Progress or Creative Evolution themselves bear reluctant witness to the truth that our real goal is elsewhere."  Weight of Glory, p.31 (see p. 30 also for more on this).

So, no.  My kids are not smart.  My kids have simply been given different gifts with which to navigate and share in this life.  When I hear my son play the piano, I relish in the gift he was given, I don't usually think of how amazing he is...and I tell him that, too.   Rather than saying, "You are so good!"  I prefer to say,"You have been given such a gift, don't waste it."  (Maybe that's a different kind of pressure I need to explore??)

I'll end with more from Elizabeth Gilbert.  She poses the question, "Is it rational, is it logical that anybody should be afraid of the work that they feel they were put on this earth to do?"  If we believe we are put on this earth to really do something, then let's do it!  And then, as we find success in that personal mission, let's remember to acknowledge from where we got that gift.

 - - - - - - 

For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.  To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.
 Doctrine & Covenants 46:11-12


What Do You Want?

It's a simple question really.  Or is it?

Psychologist Abraham Maslow tell us, "It isn't normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement (The Temple Experience, Wendy Ulrich, p.169)."

So, what do you want?

Do you even know?

Our family frequently shops at thrift stores.  However, I have one daughter who currently refuses to do so.  She wants "nice" things, she says.  Though she wants to be thrifty (and have money for other pursuits), she also has a desire to have new and nice things.  So, I am trying to teach her that it is OKAY to want "nice things" and that choosing such will limit her options in the future.  Neither is wrong.  She works hard to make money, she saves money, how she spends it is really up to her and what she truly wants.

Sometimes in our culture we are afraid to ask for what we want.  We may feel that doing so is selfish or silly.  Like my daughter who feels "bad" that she wants nice things, we question our desires and think maybe we are bad for wanting what we want.  Sometimes, therefore, we shove down those wants, hiding them away and feeling ashamed they even exist.

Likewise, there may be some negative connotation with wanting things because of the teaching that we must give up our will for the Lord's will.  Now, before I go further, it is true that we need to submit our will to God, understanding that ultimately He knows what is best for us, but I think we sometimes look at these wills as though they are always in conflict with one another.

Doesn't the Lord tell us, "Ask and ye shall receive?"  Similarly he asks, "Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask bread, will give him a stone?"  I truly believe the Lord wants to give us what we want.  I have come to understand that it is we who do not know what we want, therefore we don't really know what to ask for!

I think it is human to want a lot of things.  I want to travel.  I want to watch movies all day sometimes. I want to read books all day sometimes.  I want junk food.  I want lots and lots of money (so I can travel).  I want nice clothes.  I want my children to be healthy and to not fight with each other. I want people to like me and to like all people all of the time.

And then there's the fact that many of our desires actually contradict one another.  I want to sleep in and I also I want a quiet morning before the kids wake up.  I want my husband to work less but I want him to work so we can have money (to travel, haha).  I want to serve my neighbors and I also want to have time for myself. I want to be a mother and I want to have some sort of career.

All of these conflicting desires actually then make it very difficult for us to know what we really want, deep down inside.  And yet, the conflict also gives us the opportunity to "educate our desires," as Elder Maxwell would say.   It's this educating of our desires, this fine-tuning, I think that brings us closer to the will of God.  He has blessed us already with certain gifts and personality traits that lead us to want certain things - - good things.  Also coming with us from heaven are weaknesses and traits that may lead us to want not so good things.  If we are truly seeking to righteously follow God, we will move more toward the good, thus following His plan for us anyway.  Right?

I have recently been on my own search for what I truly want.  Heavenly Father has given me time (too much, in my opinion) to kind of "go it alone," to seek out what I truly want. I have had some conflicting thoughts and ideas of what to choose and where to go in my life.  I've also been asking what His will would be for me.  His answer has pretty much been, "It's your choice." (Sometimes I dislike agency!) Though painful, hard and a little lonely at times, this experience has made me more confident in what I've always wanted, yet forgotten.

We need to remember that Satan is the one who wants us to be miserable.  Heavenly Father wants us to have joy.  Seeking what we want, in accordance with what God has already given and desires further for us, brings us closer to that joy.  When we keep this open conflict with God - - my will vs. Thy will - - then there is misery, we are left to "kick against the pricks."  Though we ultimately will submit our will to the Father's, I don't believe we'll find our righteous desires much different than His in the end.

 - - - - - - 

"Glory...turns out to satisfy my original desire 
and indeed to reveal an element in that desire which I had not noticed.  
By ceasing for a  moment to consider my own wants 
I have begun to learn better what I really wanted." 
C.S. Lewis, Weight of Glory p. 39


The Presidential Election with Kids: 14 Issues in 14 Days

My Kids!  We just happened to dress patriotically for our family pictures this year! 
With the upcoming election I have been so overwhelmed trying to sort out the truth from the false, the fact from the lies.  It has been mind-boggling and mind-consuming as I have tried to sort it all out this year.  Who to vote for?  (Don't answer that.  It's a rhetorical question.)

After a couple of discussions with friends about the trickiness of this decision I was somehow drawn to thinking about two things:  the policies and my children.  I want my kids to know what the ISSUES are in our country.  What are both sides really fighting about?  I want them to see what the prophets, scriptures and their parents believe in and have said about these issues.  And, because THREE of my children will be eligible to vote in FOUR YEARS  (crazy thought!), I want them to start learning and discovering how they stand on the major issues of our nation. Most importantly, I want them to learn the process of searching, asking questions and discovering truth. 

Soooo...I went a little crazy....


Maybe I'm missing my homeschooling days a little too much.  Or maybe I have too much time on my hands.  Maybe this is just how I needed to get a handle on my own stance on the issues. I don't know.  Either way, this is just one of those things I knew I had to do.  And every time I thought, "This is too much work," the tiny little voice inside my head would say, "But it's going to be worth it." 

This is the simplified version.

The idea's pretty simple.

A picture of each candidate.  A flip book telling their stance on the major issues. 

A picture of the child.  A blank flip book for them to jot down their own beliefs or thoughts. 

14 Issues will be discussed in 14 days...At dinnertime, in the car, at family night, whenever!  


As I was working on the project one night my 14-year old daughter exclaimed, "Mom!  This is so awesome you are doing this!  I wanted to know what each person thought, but I don't want to look it all up myself."  Yes!  Confirmation of that little voice in my head (I love it when that happens). 

It's going to be an interesting two weeks. I'm really not sure what to expect as my children discuss the topics with us.  But, I know whatever we learn as a family...it will be worth it!

Some Final Thoughts: 
This election is fraught with so much emotion - - so many doubts and worries and fears and questions.  I'm confident that most of us are truly pondering our decisions as to who will lead our country next.  Democrat, Republican, Independent...Whatever your party or story may be I just pray that we can rally together as a nation to make our country what it was meant to be.  Good luck as you study, pray and seek for personal revelation in this season and always. :-)

 - - - - - 

"But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore you shall feel that it is right."  
Doctrine & Covenants 9:8


Loaves and Fishes

In our family scripture reading this morning, I was struck by one particular verse.

We all know the story of the feeding of the 5000 with only five loaves of bread and a few fishes (See Matt. 14:16-21; Mark 6:33-44; Luke 9:11-17; John 6:5-14).  Being moved by compassion towards the multitude, Jesus holds a great counsel with his disciples as they try to solve the dilemma of how to feed these people.  A young boy holds only the few loaves and fishes and the disciples question how this little amount of food will feed so many.  But Jesus takes the food, blesses and gives gratitude for it, and the company is fed.  "...and there was taken up of fragments that remained tot them twelve baskets (Luke 9:17)."

Fast forward some verses to Matthew 15 and Mark 8.  Here we read of yet another great multitude fed.  At this moment the people have been following and listening to the teachings of Jesus for three days.  Again, compassion takes a hold of Jesus' heart.  He asks the disciples to find food for these people, "for [many] of them came from far" and he is afraid they will faint of hunger on their journey home (Mark 8:3).

And now we come to the verse our family read this morning:
"And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?"  

Wait!  Didn't they just witness the miracle of feeding the 5000?  And this time they are feeding less people (1000 less +/-) with more food (7 loaves of bread and a few fishes)!

I was struck forcefully with how easily we forget the miracles of our God!  These faithful disciples had just witnessed such a miracle and still they doubted how it would even be possible to feed this other crowd.  They doubted even though they had seen!

Aren't we all like that?  I think about my own life and how easily I forget. I think, "There's not way God will do this for me," even though I've seen Him do such things already!  Maybe part of my doubt comes because I think, "He did it once, but there's no way He'll do it again."  Or I think of my ingratitude at the first few million blessings that I wonder if He truly will keep pouring such down upon me.  Either way, it is all too easy to see what is right in front of us and forget the miracles God can perform for and with our lives!

President James E. Faust shares this sentiment,  "In our time, we seem to have forgotten the miracle of the five loaves and the two fishes in favor of the miracles wrought by the mind and hand of men [i.e. technology and transportation advances]....With this great knowledge has come also some skepticism about the simple and profound eternal truths taught in the miracle of the loaves and of the fishes - - namely, that God rules in the heavens and the earth through his infinite intelligence and goodness (emphasis added)."

Not only can this story of the loaves and fishes help us remember all the God will do, but we can also see what our small offerings can do for the building up of the Kingdom of God upon the earth.

In February of 1881, Elder Henry W. Naisbitt stated,

In looking upon a congregation like the present, I think that every Elder in Israel must feel that from the few small loaves and fishes which he may have accumulated in his experience, he is unable to feed and supply the necessities of the multitude before him.  But while he occupies the position, he realizes that the infinite resources of the Holy Spirit are within general reach, and that this can be supplied and so administered as to bring home the little food that may be presented; and that by the processes of its multiplication, every man and every woman, and all the youth who are assembled, may have "their portion of meat in due season," they may go away satisfied and refreshed and fitted for the duties of life and their minds may be expanded as to realize that through the inspiration of the spirit there is more left than appeared at the beginning (JD 22:74).

We may feel we have so little to offer.  We may wonder if the Lord is really going to grant a miracle in our lives.  But these two beautiful stories, almost back to back, testify that God can and will perform those miracles!  Oh, it's so easy to forget.  But let's try to remember.

 - - - - - - 

What of those who have talents equal only to two loaves and one fish? ... If their talents are used to build the kingdom of God and serve others, they will fully enjoy the promises of the Savior. 
- - President James E. Faust - - 


When God is Silent

What do you do with silence?

I've been experiencing silence.  With the kids all in school, I have a few hours (+/-) of time home alone.  The house is quiet.  Dead. Lifeless.  Silent.  And sometimes, I don't know what to do with that.  I mean, I have plenty on my "to do" list, but the eeriness of the home is a bit unnerving for me.

Similarly, I am also coming out of a period of spiritual silence.  For the past two years God has seemed pretty unreachable and distant.  Assuming I'm not the only one, I think we all have times in our lives when we truly feel the weight that comes with traveling through the wilderness alone; we wonder if God is really listening or hearing our pleas.  Direction seems aimless.  Purpose is in question. Life is, well, lifeless.

So I ask again, what do you do with silence?   I personally do not handle it very well!  But I am learning.  Slowly.  Piece by piece I am learning what to do and how to cope with silence in my life.

We often talk about scripture heroes in such a light that they seem perfect.  They get answers to their prayers immediately, they trust in the Lord perfectly, and they perform miracles. Sometimes we can look at these great men and women and think, "If only I were like...."  Well, guess what.  We are!
Nephi, Moses, Abraham, Enoch, the Brother of Jared, Elijah, Thomas, Peter, Mary, Martha...All of these great prophets and women had moments in their lives when they truly felt silence in their lives.

In 1 Kings 18:1 we read about Elijah's great miracle of ending the drought by calling forth the rains.  Well, we don't highlight that it took 3 1/2 years of drought before the miracle could be accomplished.  How many other times did Elijah pray in that time before the one that actually brought the rain?  I don't know, but I can't imagine he just said, "Okay.  Let's just wait for several years and then I'll see what I can do."

There is great value in silence. So what do we do with it?
Here is what I've been thinking:

Sit. Be Still.

"Be still and know that I am God," is what we have been counseled.  So why does silence unnerve me?   In my daily silence, I am striving to take just a moment to sit with the Lord.  After I send David off to school, I get my cup of cocoa (it's turning chilly here already), get in a comfortable position on my couch, close my eyes and just sit.  Wait. Ponder. Pray. Think.

Though I don't think this verse literally means we must constantly "be still," I do feel there is much goodness that can come from literally following this direction. Spending a moment with the Lord can only strengthen that most tender relationship in our lives.  When we are feeling silence from God, maybe it's because we are not allowing ourselves to be silent for (and with) Him.

"Staying connected with God gives our work, our recreation, our relationships, and all our daily rituals new meaning."   - Wendy Ulrich, Let God Love You, p. 155

Deprivation Draws out Desire.

When does water taste the best?
When does sleep sound so good?
When does a paycheck bring the greatest peace?
When does a friend feel the most welcome?

Most of the time, we find the greatest joy when we are deprived from the thing we later receive.  When God seems silent, the joy and peace that come from feeling Him again in our lives is so much more joyous; it is cherished more.  We all remember the story of Alma the Younger.  Though he had been the one to separate himself from God through rebellion in this instance, he still proclaims, "Oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yeah, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding was my pain (Alma 36:20)."  When we lack something, it stretches us to seek for what we truly desire.

Time to Change

Oftentimes there is silence because, like Alma, we have made choices to distance ourselves from God.  When we feel this silence keenly, we can take inventory of our lives and see where we went wrong, where we need to repent and change.

Other times this silence doesn't come because we've been disobedient or rebellious, it simply feels silent because we are meant to traverse this mortal journey and "wait for a little season... that [we] may be taught more perfectly, and have experience (D&C 105:9-10)."  This same waiting period is still a chance for us to evaluate our lives and see where changes can be made that will close the gap between God and ourselves.

Wendy Ulrich makes this beautiful statement on the subject:
        "[This silence] may be simply that God is inviting us into a deeply intimate relationship with                Him, and that this kind of closeness requires us to change not only our behavior but also some
        of our most basic assumptions about ourselves and life. What kind of change does such
       closeness require? ...The kind of change that comes from facing deep disappointments and
       finding a way to move forward with hope (Let God Love You, p. 6)."


I guess it's been nice to have this stretching and waiting period in my life so I can search more deeply to see the hand of God in my life.  Because guess what?  It is always there!  Even amidst the fog I caught glimpses of His love and light in my life.  Though I had to work a little harder to see it (and even want it), His light was there.

There is no easy answer to this perplexing part of mortality, but it is helpful to know that even the moments of silence are part of God's plan for His children.  It is His goal to bring about the immortality and eternal life of man.  He wants us to come home.  Sometimes (lots of times!) the road leading there is going to be rough.  Knowing that makes it a little easier to traverse.

 * * * * * * 

"Intimacy with God is not just found in the intensity of honeymoons and power struggles;  sometimes the only way we can prepare for new levels of intimacy is by just driving down that long, empty road."   - Wendy Ulrich, p. 41


BORED?...Anything But!

Family Photos taken by Elizabeth Fawson

Ha!  I laugh at my last post!  Bored?  We have been anything BUT bored these last few months.  Oh, sure, the kids have had their days of "nothing to do," but for the most part we have had one thing after another!

June was filled with trips and camps.  Every week it seemed someone was missing.  And then when we all got together again (finally!) I had never heard that much contention in my life! Fortunately, a stroke of inspiration came late one night and we remedied that problem in the morning.  It was as simple as drawing a name of someone in the family whom you were to serve or treat kindly that day.  The trick was that you were to keep it a secret.  One week of this and we were back to being *mostly* happy together once again.

Then July came and house projects took over...literally.  With the discovery of a leaking foundation in the basement, our 5-10 year plan became "Get Done Immediately!"  (I can't say I'm very disappointed about this!)  And on top of getting a mini-remodel in the basement (and not having a kitchen sink for a few days!) I decided to work on our upstairs project:  the family room.

I didn't take pictures. ???  But the brown paneling and yellowish walls became white paneling with gray walls!  I LOVE IT!  I have never done a project like this before....sanding, primer, painting....it all seemed too daunting for me.  I guess the downstairs project just gave me a little kick in the pants to get the job done! Let me tell you, it is so much easier than I expected.  Yes, time-consuming.  Yes, tedious.  But the end result has been so rewarding I haven't minded the work.

And just as the housing projects come to completion (or nearly so, anyway), our end of summer visitors begin to trickle in.  We'd already had a friend from Richland for a night and my dearest childhood friend come with her family for a few days.  Now it was time for our second wave.  Friends from Richland again (making my daughter very happy) with my brother and his family following right after  (thank you to my wonderfully talented sister-in-law to capture the above family picture).  We couldn't pass up BYU-I Education Week (it's too wonderful!).  And we canceled our camping trip for next week to finish up the house so we could be ready for the Lenox clan to show up for a week.  Then, off we went to Education Week down in Provo with my friends and my teens.  Whew!

So, though I do believe in the idea of letting kids "be bored" and to figure out their own fun...the reality is that life doesn't always give us that opportunity. It's been a wild summer, our busiest yet! And though it's not how I planned it to be, it is what it is.  And we created some great memories!

Now it's back to the routine.  All of the kids started school last week (including David in 1/2 day Kindergarten).  So hopefully I will find time in there to get some writing done (so much to share from Education Week) and get back to organization (if that even really exists!).

Happy End of Summer Everyone!!


Summertime...Let them be Bored

So, I had all of these perfectly laid out plans for summer (have you seen all of the summer ideas all over Pinterest and Facebook lately!).  Yeah.  I was going to do ALL of it!  But one week in...and it is no longer.  With teens who have their own ideas of how summer should be and little boys who just want to run and play, it was tricky for me to come up with a happy balance.  Thus. I have yet again realized I am no longer in control of this little brood of mine any longer.  But it's okay....

...Because a few days ago the thought came, "Just let them be bored."  Fortunately, I've had a long trip to prepare for, making it very easy to "ignore" my children and allow that little thought to simmer.   Yes, I have requested a family hike every Thursday and they each have their daily job (house cleaning).  And yes, each of them are expected to have a goal or two over the summer.  But my perfectly planned schedule no longer rules the household.  And guess what?!?  It's amazing what they're doing!

My fifteen-year-old has a job! She's working so hard cleaning house for a single mom in our neighborhood.

My thirteen-year-old is happier than ever because she doesn't have to follow someone else's schedule! She spends her time reading (gasp!), organizing, and doing extra jobs to make a little money for the school year ahead. She even comes and asks me frequently if there's anything I need help with, "because I don't have anything to do."  Who is this child?!?

My eleven-year-old started to write a book!

My two youngest boys are playing together as little boys do (just take away the electronics and imaginations roam wild!).

My sixteen-year-old is growing up....and it's time I let him.  He'll be getting his license soon, has applied to a few places for work, and learning to make his own decisions about how he spends his time better.

What I've learned...boredom can be a great motivator and actually spawn creativity.  Of course, once I get back from my trip I'm sure my scheduling self will take over some, but hopefully I'll to continue to just let them be bored and watch great things happen!

Happy Summer Everyone!


Family History - We are Doing it!

One of those topics that has been haunting me for years. I kept telling myself, "It's just not my time," while also believing that this was not something just for the elderly.  But each time I tried to add family history research into my life, it took so much time just to learn how to do it that I'd end up frustrated.

Then, to add to the nagging feeling I was already having, Elder Bednar came out with an excellent talk wherein he spoke of family history serving as a protection for your children.  Who doesn't want that?!  But, again, I would try, time after time with seemingly no success.  And so, instead of working on it myself I'd tell the kids, "You guys need to work on indexing."  A mother's prodding is never really enough though - - especially when she's not willing to do so herself!

So, with family circumstances as they are (busy teenage schedules, husband adjusting to new job, and me home all day "with nothing to do" - ha-ha) my husband suggested I take over family night and teach all of the lessons for awhile.  At first I was worried that if we did this the kids would never learn how to teach.  Really?  Yeah.  I'm good at making excuses.  ;-) So, that's what we've done - - I took over family night lessons.

When I sat down to prepare my first lesson, I was struck by the family history topic.  The primary section in lds.org is so fabulous for finding material on lessons with a wide age-range of kids.  And really, the lesson was nothing special at all.  It was fun, short and inspiring.

Lesson #1
We started with this fun ABC's of Family History quiz (the kids love it when I pull out the desk bells).

Next we watched this Mormon Message about a boy who was on fire with family history and how he got his family all involved.

Then, we took a stroll to look at what I've called our Family History Wall. I have something made by
my grandma Pack and grandma Fawson hanging on the wall.  On this wall I have also hung our family tree, something my mom made for our wedding.  I hope to add some items from J's family soon as well. Anyway, we talked about these items and what an heirloom is.

To conclude, we each chose a family history goal we would work on that week to report at the next family home evening.  These goals ranged from write in their journal to find a name to take to the temple.

Oh!  And I forgot - - The Church Distribution Center now has these cute coloring books on various topics, one of which is Family History.  To keep our two youngest boys occupied while we had our discussion.

Overall it was very successful just as an introduction to the topic and everyone was involved and eager to join in.  I left determined to have one family history lesson each month.

Lesson #2
Just last week we had our second family history lesson.  Honestly, this one was much less organized than the last one. I actually deferred the lesson to our daughter, Brooklynn, who showed us how to find names in our family who need ordinances performed.  What the night ended up looking like was actually way cool and inspiring!

We realized that only my husband, our two oldest kids and I had LDS Accounts.  So, we got each child set up on a different device and got them their own account.  We spent the rest of the evening looking for names.  Let me tell you how exciting it was when a child would shout, "I found someone!"  Or even better, "I found a whole bunch of names!"   And, just yesterday my two younger boys asked, "Can we do family history!?"  Ummm.....of course!

So, right now I have a beautiful stack of temple cards ready to take to the temple!

What I Learned

Family History does not have to be challenging.

Family Night Lessons do not need to be complicated.

Now I just need to keep the ball rolling!

 - - - - - 

"I invite the young people of the Church to learn about and experience the Spirit of Elijah. I encourage you to study, to search out your ancestors, and to prepare yourselves to perform proxy baptisms in the house of the Lord for your kindred dead (see D&C 124:28–36). And I urge you to help other people identify their family histories....I testify Elijah returned to the earth and restored the sacred sealing authority. I witness that what is bound on earth can be bound in heaven. And I know the youth of the rising generation have a key role to play in this great endeavor."  
Elder David A. Bednar, CR November 2011


The Motherhood Journey

When I was a younger mom, I often wondered why other moms would have a hard time with Mother's Day.  I have generally had the mentality, "Live it up and let your family spoil you!"  I still hold to this mantra for Mother's Day, actually, because moms do A LOT for their families!  However, as years have gone on I can understand (and have had more of) the different thoughts that run through a mother's head on this particular day: 

Guilty as Charged:  "Why celebrate me?  All I did was yell at you this week!"

Infertility:  "Motherhood?  Yeah, looks like that will never happen to me." 

Exhaustion:  "Let's just skip it.  I'm too tired to celebrate." 

Past Guilt: "I really should have appreciated my own mother more."  

I think every woman has at least one of these thoughts at least once during Mother's Day...and every single day of their lives!  Because, though I won't say that every woman is a mother, I will say that every woman has a Motherhood Journey.  Whether that journey includes the heartache of not having children or the joys of having children; the heartache that comes with having children or the blessings that come with not having children, it is yet a journey upon which every woman travels.  And though no two women are alike, each path carries with it the same lessons and the same emotions.

Patience:  The Universal Virtue

Patience is one of the most difficult (in my opinion) characteristics to master.  This is especially true in our fast-paced society.  We hate waiting.  We want everything now. Along our Motherhood Journey, it is no different. We have to wait to have children.  We have to wait for our children to grow up.  We have to hold in our frustrations as we lose our patience with them while they grow up.  We have to learn patience while we wait upon the Lord.

On the subject of patience, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf shares so eloquently:

Patience—the ability to put our desires on hold for a time—is a precious and rare virtue....Nevertheless, without patience, we cannot please God; we cannot become perfect. Indeed, patience is a purifying process that refines understanding, deepens happiness, focuses action, and offers hope for peace....Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can—working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!

Can't you just imagine your own Motherhood Journey in this quote?  That"active waiting??"  And then there's that heart-wrenching phrase "enduring well."  So much of motherhood is learning to do just that!  And the emotions that come with that are just as heart-wrenching as we try, and try, and try to get it "right" each day.  Every woman has these emotions on their journey.

"I Ought to be Content with the things which the Lord hath Allotted Unto Me" (Alma 29:3)

How do we reach that place of contentment on our Motherhood Journey?  What does it mean to truly be content?

I was recently visiting with a dear friend of mine.  I had watched her for years wait patiently (at least on the outside) and endure the pain of infertility.  Through it all she was able to have three darling little girls, but the struggle necessary for such blessings was great.  When talking to her she had just undergone a serious operation.  I asked her, "So, do you feel like your family is complete?"

She paused to think and then responded, "Yes....But in a couple of years I may feel different."

I thought, "Wow! That is true contentment."

Accepting what is, right now, is contentment.

Most of the time we have no control over our bodies when it comes to our Motherhood Journey.  I cannot change the fact that I've had three miscarriages.  You cannot change the fact that even on birth control you are expecting....Again!  We cannot make our children grow any slower or faster than they are.  And so, we must accept what is.  Because, as M. Catherine Thomas has written, "What is, is right."  Yes, there is pain that comes with these losses (or surprises!), but we can still move forward accepting where we are today.

Motherhood can also be very exhausting.  I remember my mom sharing the thought she had when we were younger, "Is this all there is to life...poopy diapers and cleaning up messes?"  Every mother has that challenge of wondering if there should be more to what we do.  I have to remind myself frequently, "I chose this life!"  And my mom, now aging, wishes she could do it all over again!  ;-)

Wherever we are along the Motherhood Journey we all work on coming to a place of contentment. "Come what may and love it," said Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin.


And with that contentment we can truly submit ourselves to the Lord, trust in His wisdom, and wait for the blessings to flow.

While thinking of submission in light of Motherhood, I imagine the responses of two women in the scriptures: Mary and Sarah.  The circumstances of these two women are polar opposites.  Mary is young, never known a man, and innocent.  Sarah, on the other hand, has been married for years, is of old age, and has been waiting for a very long time to bare a child. Though one is clearly surprised and possibly scared, the other is probably thinking, "Finally!"

And yet, even though they are on different places of the Motherhood Journey, each fully submits to the Lord.  Mary declares, "Behold, the handmaid of the Lord."  Sarah laughed, but ultimately submitted to the Lord and bare a son.

A Motherhood Journey requires so much submission.  Again, this applies to having children or suffering from the pain of not having or losing a child.  Submission is different than contentment in that we can now ask our Father, "What would you have me do?"

For those women who have children we can ask, "How shall I teach them?  What can I do to become a better mother?  Who of my children need me today?"  Though, maybe not as easy of a question, those women who do not bare children can ask similar questions, "What shall I do now, Lord?  Who am I to serve?  What am I to do along this journey, painful as it may be?"  Either way, a woman's heart reaches toward God so He can make of her what she needs to be.

Some Final Thoughts

I now see that Mother's Day brings with it varying degrees of emotion - - both the joys and the sorrows.  I, myself, am experiencing a flood of emotions that I didn't expect.  Every one of those thoughts listed above apply to me in some degree.  I feel the heartache of the lost, the joys of the present and the weight of the responsibility upon me to love and nurture those in my care to the best of my ability.

As women, we need one another.  We all have a Motherhood Journey to traverse while here on Earth...and for all eternity.  We must not forget that we are daughters of a loving Mother in Heaven who has, herself, been through her own Motherhood Journey.  Let us reach out and love one another, free of judgment, since we are all experiencing this life together.  I pray we can all have a wonderful Mother's Day and reflect on "what great things the Lord hath done (1 Ne. 7:11)."

 - - - - - 

"To all of our mothers everywhere, past, present, or future, I say, “Thank you. Thank you for giving birth, for shaping souls, for forming character, and for demonstrating the pure love of Christ.” To Mother Eve, to Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, to Mary of Nazareth, and to a Mother in Heaven, I say, “Thank you for your crucial role in fulfilling the purposes of eternity.” To all mothers in every circumstance, including those who struggle—and all will—I say, “Be peaceful. Believe in God and yourself. You are doing better than you think you are. In fact, you are saviors on Mount Zion, and like the Master you follow, your love ‘never faileth.’”  - - Elder Jeffrey R.  Holland, CR Oct. 2015


Comparitive Grief

A few weeks ago I sat at a Stake Relief Society luncheon and listened to a few women share their stories of hardship and how they have overcome them.  One sister shared how she, with four children at home, had had breast cancer.  She talked about the pain and exhaustion chemotherapy treatments caused.  Another sister explained the trials and triumphs of having Multiple Sclerosis.   The third sister shared her experiences with raising a severely handicapped child as well as the challenges her husband had with debilitating depression.  It's easy to sit through such a meeting and think to ourselves, "Man!  If they have all those challenges and can be strong, what am I complaining about?"

But then the third sister said these words: "Having these challenges doesn't make me any better or worse than you.  My trials are mine and yours are yours."

Though I've heard this many, many times throughout my life, the moment and the way in which she said it really resonated with me.  I took a moment to acknowledge that pain is pain.  Though miscarriages are extremely common and though I already have six beautiful children, my pain was very real to me. 

Each of us will feel pain and suffer in some way, especially as true disciples of Christ.  Pain is painful for the one who suffers it.  Elder Neal A. Maxwell has so eloquently explained:

"Our individual experiences may not always be unique, but they are always authentic. God will even take into account our perceptions of, as well as our responses to, our trials. For those of us who do not, for instance, find claustrophobia a challenge, it is difficult to measure the terror that comes to those for whom it is such a challenge. Thus, a friend may seem to struggle unnecessarily long before finally prevailing with regard to a particular principle of the gospel. But for that individual, the struggle was real enough! ...We must remember that, while the Lord reminded the Prophet Joseph Smith that he had not yet suffered as Job, only the Lord can compare crosses (emphasis added)."

Brene Brown (there she is again!) also talks about this in her book, Rising Strong.  She says, "...pain and hurt are not immune to being assessed and ranked."  Someone may lose a husband and not show compassion toward the mother who just sent her last child off to college.  Another might be diagnosed with a life-threatening disease and not sympathize with a friend who just had knee surgery. A person who miscarries may not acknowledge her own pain because she knows a woman who could never bear children.  All of these scenarios involve pain, loss, and struggle.  Thus, each situation is in need of more empathy and compassion, not less.

Brown continues, "Hurt is hurt, and every time we honor our own struggle and the struggles of others by responding with empathy and compassion, the healing that results affects all of us."  

Because of our trials and struggles of this life, we have the power to heal one another!  We have the ability to, "succor those that stand in need of our [succor]" (Mosiah 4:16) and "mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort" (Mosiah 18:9)."  Though I may not enjoy the process, if this is even one portion of the joy I gain from struggling, I'm okay with that.  I know that my afflictions, and those of others, can be "swallowed up in the joy of Christ (Alma 31:38)."

 - - - - -

One day we will understand fully how complete our commitment was in our first estate in accepting the very conditions of challenge in our second estate about which we sometimes complain in this school of stress. Our collective and personal premortal promises will then be laid clearly before us. 
- - Elder Neal A. Maxwell


My General Conference Highlights

As you can imagine, my heart was yearning for words of peace and comfort all during General Conference....and boy did those words come! But, I have to admit, it was also very difficult for me to hear some of the things that were spoken.  My heartstrings were pulled in various directions as I listened to true principles of necessary opposition and inevitable heartache in this life. But overall, I was uplifted and reassured that truly all will be well and our Father in Heaven does know me --  as He does all of His children.  So, here are some highlights I gleaned from the 8 hours of instruction:

Elder Dalin H. Oaks
Opposition plays a central role in the Plan of Salvation. Elder Oaks said, "We grow and become refined through challenges and making difficult decisions."  My question: Why does refining need to hurt so much sometimes?  

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland 
He used one of my very favorite scriptures, "But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions (Heb. 10:32)."  I love that verse!  We are not going to be on a "spiritual high" all of the time, but we can remember those moments when we did feel the Spirit and rely on those moments through our difficult times.  Love it!

Elder Donald L. Hallstrom
He quoted Elder Holland as saying, "You can have what you want or you can have something better." This was one of the many quotes that caused me to squirm in my seat.  Though I love this sentiment, I don't really like it.  The unknown is scary to me, maybe to most of us.  We want what we think will make us happy.  But, the Lord knows the end from the beginning.  I would like to see what He has that is better for me, but I'm not sure I want to wait for it (especially when I don't know what that might be).

Elder Gene R. Cook
Elder Cook encouraged us,  "See yourself in the temple." There was much said in Conference concerning temples and our temple attendance.  I have been greatly blessed to live near a temple most of my married life.  This past month the temple has been a sure place of peace and serenity for me.  I am truly grateful for this tender mercy from the Lord.

Elder Patrick Kearon
And there is much already being done and going around via social media on reaching out to the refugees thanks to Elder Kearon's talk (as well as Sister Burton's talk from the week before).  There is so much hurt in the world.  One of the surest ways to overcome our own grief and pain is in the service of others.  I have been inspired to "seek out the strangers" in my own sphere of influence.  We'll see where that leads.

Overall, General Conference was as encouraging and uplifting as usual.  As one friend put it so nicely, "It makes me feel good about myself while also causing me to want to be better."  There is an upward lift when we spend two days focusing on the words of our Father in Heaven through His living prophets.  I am so grateful to live in such a time as this!


Some thoughts on Grief


It's something we've acknowledged needs to happen when any traumatic event or loss occurs in our lives. But I wonder if we really internalize what that means and how to go through it.

Brene Brown says that there are two things human beings fear the most:  shame and grief.  At first when I heard this I thought, "What?!  Our society is always talking about grief!"  For instance, I think we've all heard about the"steps of grieving," right?  And when someone has a loved one die we "allow" them time to grieve and understand that they need to go through the process (actually, we encourage them to go through the process).  So, what is it that Brown means when she says that grief is something most people fear?

My Own Rumble with Grief
I recently had an experience where I needed to "rumble with grief" (to use Brown's words).  A few weeks ago I had my third consecutive miscarriage.  After two years of waiting and wanting, I assumed this time around it was going to be great!  Finally, we were going to have our little caboose....or not.  For that first week, I cried.  I was angry.  I was confused.  I questioned.  And I cried some more.  After the week was over, I gave myself a "pep" talk and was ready to put that all behind me and move on.

That worked for a couple of days.  The next Monday hit and I was right back to that dark abyss.  For two days I fought the darkness and was so mad that I couldn't just "shake it off."  Tuesday night a friend came with a little care package and we sat to visit.  We talked about grief a little bit, but I still didn't acknowledge that was something I needed to do. I'm a very emotive person, so holding back emotions was not something I thought I had a problem with.  Plus, I'd had my week of crying, that should have been enough...so I thought.

The next morning I did some yoga (for the first time in a few weeks) and also listened to a session of this meditation series. In the meditation message Chopra asked, "What emotion are you afraid to express?" Instantly I knew that I really was afraid to grieve.  I started to cry...and cry...and cry.  After acknowledging all of the things I was grieving (because, yes, I was still holding onto some grief I've had with moving), I felt so much better.

But why was I afraid to grieve in the first place?  As I've thought about this I realized that for me grieving was a sign of weakness.  It was a sign of ingratitude, "Why cry about that when you have so much else going for you?"  This goes hand in hand with the (sometimes erroneous) thought that with the knowledge of the Plan of Salvation we shouldn't be sad.  I also was raised with the "buck up" mentality, "Don't dwell too much on your struggles; be positive!"

Grieving isn't a One Time Event
One of the biggest lessons I've learned these past two weeks is that oftentimes grieving isn't just a one time event.  Grieving isn't something I can do by shutting myself in my room for a few weeks until I'm "done."  I need to allow myself to grieve when the moment to grieve hits me..  I can find joy in living while still having moments of grief.  We can still enjoy our days amidst the pain that fills our hearts.

In an excellent talk given by Elder Richard G. Scott, he counsels, "Don't let the workings of adversity totally absorb your life.  Try to understand what you can.  Act where you are able; then let the matter rest with the Lord...Please learn that as you wrestle with a challenge and feel sadness because of it, you can simultaneously have peace and rejoicing (italics added)."

Yes, my heart is truly broken.  Many days I feel overwhelmed with sadness, doubt, questions and confusion.  Other days I feel light and love from a Father in Heaven who is constantly pouring down His blessings upon me. Grief is not something to be feared, but rather one of the many reasons we are here in mortality in the first place.  Feeling that pain only gives us more compassion for others and even more hope in a Savior who will make it all work out in the end.  Grief is not, as I'd falsely believed, a lack of faith.  Rather, it's a special kind of pain that causes us to reach more earnestly for an intimate relationship with God. At least, that is what it has been for me.

  - - - - - - 

"Our silence about grief serves no one.  We can't heal if we can't grieve;  we can't forgive if we can't grieve.  We run from grief because loss scares us, yet our hearts reach toward grief because the broken parts want to mend.  C.S. Lewis wrote, 'No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.'  We can't rise strong when we're on the run." - - Brene Brown, Rising Strong, p. 139


Dealing with Anxiety

My daughter has anxiety. It manifests itself by her lashing out in anger, saying mean things though she doesn't really mean them, honing in on annoying habits (like loud chewing).  She will have a night here or there where she can't sleep or relax because of some major project coming up that she doesn't like or want to do.  Speaking in public can really make her anxious.  I've been watching and helping her through this for the past seven years (with some counseling as well).  It's been an uphill battle but she is learning how to conquer her fears and talk herself through these emotions.

A lot is being said about anxiety these days.  I have wondered why it seems so much more prevalent now than it was in the past.  Maybe it's always been there, but we just haven't talked about it. ?? Usually when anxiety is talked about it's described as "panic attacks" where an individual can't breathe or "clams up."  My sister would become immobilized when her house wasn't clean and she couldn't figure out where to start.  Others will avoid social situations because it just feels uncomfortable and overwhelming to interact.

Well, for the past several years I have dealt with chronic muscle pain.  Mostly the pain is targeted on my lower back, but there are other trigger points along the right side of my back and I experience muscle weakness in my arms.  Usually, it's manageable and I just need to "work out the kinks."  Since moving, however, I have had many more "attacks" so to speak to the point where I'll have days when I cannot walk.  Years ago I went through ever test imaginable - - nerve tests, MRI's, blood tests - - all of it!  After ending up in the ER during the most serious episode, I went to physical therapy for a few months.  I tried the chiropractor and have done yoga for the past few years (which has been the most helpful up to this point).  I was finally diagnosed (a.k.a. given the label) with Myofascial Syndrome - - a cousin to Fibromyalgia.

After talking with a friend and reading some stuff she lent me, it's dawned on me that at least some of this pain could be coming from anxiety.  I don't have those "sure tail signs" people talk about - -the panic feeling, shying away from social situations, afraid to speak in public, etc. - - but I have had some extra stress in my life the last few years and so I can't help but wonder if sometimes my "episodes" are a result of anxiety or tension build up.  So, I've been exploring this idea and will be learning more in the upcoming months. It's worth a try, anyway!

Having my daughter, hearing others' stories, and experiencing some of this in my life has opened my eyes more to the fact that we just don't know what is going on in people's minds.  A popular LDS hymn says, "In the quiet heart is hidden, sorrow that the eye can't see."  As I get older and learn more about others and myself I see that this statement is so, so true!  We just never know what story is lurking "behind the scenes."  It is important to love one another, to cherish the differences in one another and be merciful when others seem to falter.  And just as important is taking the time to know ourselves, accept ourselves and be merciful with ourselves.

 - - - - - - 

"There are cycles of good and bad times, ups and downs, periods of joy and sadness, and times of plenty as well as scarcity. When our lives turn in an unanticipated and undesirable direction, sometimes we experience stress and anxiety. One of the challenges of this mortal experience is to not allow the stresses and strains of life to get the better of us—to endure the varied seasons of life while remaining positive, even optimistic." - -Elder L. Tom Perry, Oct. 2008


Family Systems

A couple of months ago we'd had it!  My hubby and I returned home from our anniversary date, excited to take the kids out to spend some time as a family. When we walked through the door, only one of our daughters was home and the house was a MESS.  Yes, their list of chores I'd left them was checked off, but beside that nothing had been done.  When questioned, we got more than mediocre answers from our children.

So what did we do?  Well, after a nice long rampage about how we were not going to deal with such disrespect anymore, we declared the family outing was cancelled and shut ourselves in our bedroom to watch our annual Christmas movie.

Things had to change. 

There's so much out there about having family systems and chore charts and check off lists.  There are incentives and even allowances given to get kids to clean the house.  Until recently, I was quite proud of the many systems we had tried with our family through the years.

But something was missing...

Our kids were learning that as long as they did just what was on their list, they didn't need to do anything else.  Then, when asked to do something extra we'd end up getting some sort of argument about how it wasn't their job or the annoying question, "Why do I have to do it?"  I had sworn with all our systems in place I had trained my kids (especially the now teenagers) how to clean and help out around the house.  After all, they had their jobs and it was pretty structured.  So it must have been working, right?

The funny thing is, before the returning home fiasco, I'd been trying to explain this very thing to my husband.  I didn't feel the kids were pitching in.  It seemed everyone would get up, get ready to go and leave their messes behind for me to clean up.  So, inwardly I was very grateful for this opportunity for him to see what was going on "behind the scenes," so to speak.

Things did change. 

We not longer have dishes days or assigned chores.  We believe in a system called: The Family Works Together.  After dinner nobody leaves the room until it's clean...Mom and Dad included.  On Fridays, the kids come home and we spend an hour or two cleaning. I do have a chore list, but it is a community list.  When a job is done, it gets checked off.  Nobody stops until every item is checked off the list.

Can I just tell you what a difference this has made in our family?  We still get some grumbling, but it's just not a battle.  And the weekend begins with a beautifully clean home (I love that part).  Friday cleaning also makes Saturdays more enjoyable.  I don't wake up ready to micromanage the kids into cleaning up all the things they didn't pay attention to throughout the week!  We can plan more family activities or work on our own individual projects without housework hanging over our heads.  This has also alleviated the feeling that I'm just left behind to be their maid.  I take care of the basics, but leave the rest for Friday Family Cleaning Day.

Ethan asked me today, "How long are we going to do this Friday cleaning thing?"

I responded, "Until it stops working."

And for now....IT'S WORKING!

 - - - - - 

If not me, who?
If not now, when? 
 - - Todd Merkley


Start with Hello

I LOVE this campaign our local school district is doing right now.


It seems so simple, yet so foreign to many people.  There are days I'll run to the story and not look up or talk to even one person.  We are all in a rush to get things done or looking at our devices, we fail to recognize the people who are around us..  Starting with hello is such a beautiful way to start conversations, notice others and be a friend.

This reminds me of something my mother taught me when I was running for school secretary in middle school.  She said, "When you smile at someone, just keep smiling.  Then the next person you see will smile back.  It's like a chain reaction."   Though I didn't win that election, I still remember that sage advice those many years ago (and try to follow it).

Currently, on lds.org you can find this beautiful article entitled, "What my Kids Taught me about Loving Anybody."  I love the first story where the author is asked if her 2-year-old knows the cashier he's waving to.  Her response was, "No...He waves to everyone."  Why do we grow out of that - - that unabashed, "Be my friend" kind of attitude and confidence?

Both the school campaign and this article have inspired me to reach out just a little bit more, be aware of those around me when I'm out running errands, and to look for those who may need a little lift each day.  That's my Monday morning message.  :-)



Mistakes we Make

"If you hadn't made that mess, you might never have come home."

image from amazon.com
I recently read this quote in Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff and it struck me forcefully.

If you hadn't made that mess...

How many times do we look back in our lives (or even at the end of every day) and think, "Man, I should not have done that!"  Or "Why did I do that?"

How many of us are in fear of taking that step forward, speaking to someone who makes us nervous, writing that book that's been on our mind for years (I could go on), simply because in our minds the question festers, "What if I mess up?"  

In this particular story, Hollis Woods is a foster child who just can't find the right family to fit her.  She goes from home to home until she finds one family who has some potential.  They love her, accept her, and talk about adopting her.  She feels good. But then a disaster happens...and she runs.  Well, I hate to give anything away, but through a series of events Hollis digs herself into an even deeper hole which leads her back home.  Thus the line, "you might never have come home."

Sometimes we look at our falls as failures or the end of the road.  We forget to recognize that without those learning moments, those mistakes, those regrets, we might not be where we are today.

In Rising Strong, Brene Brown talks about how the events of our lives have a beginning, a middle and an end (just like storybooks).  You start something new, it gets really tricky for awhile as you work out the kinks, and then you have a victory or, sometimes, a failure.  The middle is often the part when the rising plot occurs, leading to the climax of the story.   Of this Brown says, "Experience doesn't create even a single spark of light in the darkness of the middle space.  It only instills in you a little bit of faith in your ability to navigate the dark.  The middle is messy, but it's also where the magic happens (italics added)."

In order to get to the ending of our story, we need that middle part: the messy, unsolved, confusing, seemingly impossible part.  To become who we need to become, we need those learning experiences.  Didn't Adam and Eve teach us, "Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never would have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption...(Moses 5:11)."

Wasn't Joseph Smith counseled by the Lord during one of his darkest moments, "...all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good (italics added)?" (See Doctrine & Covenants 122:7)."  

It wouldn't help Adam and Eve to live in the place of regret knowing that without their fall, they would not have joy.  It wouldn't have helped Joseph any to skip that hardship when he knew the glorious reward at the end. Likewise, it doesn't help us to dwell on our regrets because we will have them!

Again, Brown teaches, "'No regrets' doesn't mean living with courage, it means living without reflection.  To live without regret is to believe you have nothing to learn, no amends to make, and no opportunity to be braver with your life (italics added)."  I love that phrase, "living without reflection" because that is what we are to do with our struggles and pains, our doubts and our failures.  We need to look inward and upward, seeking to know the next step and what lessons the Lord desires to teach us.

image from amazon.com

This reminds me of one of my favorite children's books, Beautiful Oops!  There are just lovely images of mistakes that happen, but then become something stunning on the very next page.  That is what is happening to us!  Whether we are in the beginning, the middle or the end of our experience, we are becoming something stunning - - even a masterpiece!  Take each day as what it is and embrace the fabulous journey. It takes some tears to get there, some hard work is necessary and some real self-introspection, but it is well worth it in the end!

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"Struggle happens.  We give our children a gift when we teach them that falls are inevitable and allow them to participate in a loving, supported rising strong process." - - Brene Brown


Youth Magazines of the Church

Have you seen the new format for the youth magazines of the Church?  The New Era and The Friend have some really cool features now.  I know, it's well into the new year...but I just looked through the January and February editions and was so amazed at what the magazine editors have done.

The Friend
At the back of The Friend there is now a section called The Friend Junior!  What a brilliant idea.

In the middle of the magazine there is a scripture section which has a challenge card encouraging the children to be like one of the prophets from the Book of Mormon.  There's also a scripture reading activity where you read the verses to color a picture.  Then, right in the center is an easy pull-out poster for an even deeper challenge.

The New Era
This magazine also has a pull-out poster in the center.  This is very similar to the poster in The Friend, but obviously geared more toward the teens in the Church.

I am just amazed at how interactive these magazines have become.  This makes it so much easier to incorporate them into our family life.  For the little boys I've copied and cut out the Book of Mormon prophet cards and laminated them.  On lds.org you can find full-size pictures of the prophet.  I have laminated those as well.  My goal is to post the picture in the kitchen to remind the boys which prophet and principle we are focusing on each month.  I haven't quite figured out how we're going to include The New Era poster into the lives of my teens.  I need to try to ponder on that one some more.

I have to admit, this last year or so I've pondered whether or not to even order the Church magazines anymore.  "It's all online," I would tell myself.  But I just still couldn't let go of having that visual reminder coming in the mail every month.  I'm so glad I didn't listen to that inner voice because these are totally worth having around!
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