Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Talk

I got to speak in church last Sunday, and I thought I would share a portion of it.

In "The Living Christ," the first line mentions Jesus' "matchless life" and the last line states "God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine son."  When we look at that "matchless life," we can see just what a "matchless gift" He was.  No other person could have performed the atonement.  No other person could have broken the bands of death to begin resurrection.  No other person could live as perfectly as He did.  No other person's teachings have had such a "profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth" (also from "the Living Christ").

Looking at the Christmas story, if I could trade places with any part in it, I would want to be a shepherd.  Think about it.  Herod didn't get an angelic visit because he probably wouldn't have believed or followed it (think Laman and Lemuel), so he had to have some rich guys similar to his station come to tell him about the birth.  And then, instead of seeing it as a blessing, he saw it as a threat.

Simeon had been told he would see the Christ before he died, and the moment he saw him he knew and testified.  Anna wasn't told she would see the Christ (that we know of), but she also knew and testified of him as soon as she saw him.  Maybe I should be happy to be like them, but I still want to be a shepherd.

When they come into the story they were doing the work they were supposed to be doing.  Luke 2:8 - "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night."  When the Savior comes again, I hope I might also be at work, keeping watching over whatever "flock" I may have at that point.

Then they get to see an angel!  Luke 2:9-12 - "And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

Then the heavenly choir comes.  Luke 2:13-14 - "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."  That has to be one incredible song, rejoicing in the birth of the Savior of the world.  I imagine it to be something like unto the music in Handel's Messiah, and as a matter of fact Handel wrote a song in the Messiah with those words, but I don't believe that man could capture the joy and beauty of the original.  I hope to hear it myself someday.

Regarding the words to that song, "the best way to get peace is by a personal obedience to the Prince of Peace" (Sterling Sill), which would include men giving good will toward one another.  Again, we have been given that "matchless gift."  If we don't strive to follow him, those blessings the angels sang about will never be.

Back to the shepherds.  Luke 2:15-16 - And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.  And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger."  On top of everything else, the shepherds get to see Mary, Joseph, and the baby.

And after all, the testify of what they had seen and heard.  Luke 2:17 - "And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child."  Another great pattern to follow.

In Doctrine and Covenants 46:8 we are told to “seek … earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given," and verse 26 states, "And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.”  Those verses normally refer to spiritual gifts, but the Savior is also a spiritual gift, right?  We should also "seek" after Him, remember why He was given to us, and do all this knowing it will benefit us personally.

A few other paragraphs from "The Living Christ:"  "We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world."
"Of the Living Christ, the Prophet Joseph wrote: 'And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!'"
"He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Scripture Gems

When reading my scriptures, I love coming across little "ooooh, I like that!" verses.  Thank goodness for cool apps like Citation Index where I can immediately look it up and see how church leaders have referenced it.  There are three I've found with zero commentary.

Alma 44:5 mentions "the sacred support which we owe to our wives and our children."  The first time I read that, I had to sit and think about sacred support for a long time.  Love that idea.  And actually, while googling for the scripture reference (call me lazy), I found this BYU-Idaho talk about it.

Genesis 24 gives the story of Abraham sending his servant to find a wife for Isaac.  After being inspired with the plan to ask for water where the right woman will give water not only for him but his camels, he finds Rebekah.  In verse 27 the servant makes the comment that "I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my Master's brethren."  Wonderful reminder that when we are doing what we are supposed to, "being in the way," we will be led.  I can easily say that for myself, "I being in the way, the Lord led me" many, many times.

Genesis 32:10 is another.  Not only did Abraham receive great revelations and talk with God (Abraham 3:11), but so did Isaac (Genesis 26:2), and so did Jacob (Genesis 35:7).  Jacob's humility is a great example as he prays about his concern that Esau is coming to wipe him and his family out.

My friend, Mary, just posted about another ultra beautiful one on her blog with no citations - Abraham 2:16.

By the way, Jamie recently gave our family a challenge to read the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Jesus the Christ in one year.  My initial reaction was something out of a horror film, fast shallow breathing, rapid heart rate.  "I don't have time for that!!!!!"  (Though I never really said that, I was screaming it inside.)  When I looked closer at the first week, it was 3 chapters a day.  Pshaw!  That's nothing!  (For some weeks, especially since week 2 ended up being more than that...)  I have determined that even if I'm behind, I'm still going to stick with the weeks.  My main goal is to do the OT, D&C, and JtC, since we're already reading the BoM as a family.  Not that I don't like the NT, but I read the first four books within the last year or two, though I do want to work harder on the NT when it gets past those.  I'm especially enjoying the OT so far.  Who knew?  I think going through this book about the House of Israel helped immensely.  Plus, while reading the BoM with the family I'm noticing more references to those covenants.  Pretty interesting.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ernest Shackleton

Ernest Shackleton was a great explorer with his eye especially on Antarctica.  After his first experience there, it became his goal to achieve the South Pole.  Three times he shot for that goal, yet he failed each time.  But were they really failures?

S. Michael Wilcox suggests that "His destiny seems to have been to teach us how to lead."  It is easy to categorize Shackleton as a true service-oriented leader.  Through incredible tests of survival, Shackleton always kept his vision of bringing every man home at the front of his mind, giving up his own comfort and personal goals for the benefit of the rest.

During his third attempt at the pole he was especially tried.  Their shipEndurance, became ice bound for several months.  After the ship was crushed by the melting and shifting ice, they were stranded on the ice for a few more months.  I know our family gets pretty stir crazy when sickness or something keeps us all home bound, so imagining months and months stuck on the same ship then even more on the ice - yikes!  Besides being sick of one another, dangers were everywhere.  "[Shackleton] knew how dire their plight was.  Almost every night, he shouted himself awake from nightmares in which he pictured one disaster or emergency after another.  Would the boats be separated when they took to the ocean?  Would he himself be incapacitated?  Would Worsley's navigational books be lost?  Would they run out of food?  One after another, disasters visited him and shook him awake.  Then, in the remaining hours of the night, he would form plans for meeting the crises he had dreamed of.  In spite of his anxiety, he tried to keep up the appearance of calm in order to maintain morale.  Although tortured by worry, he remained outwardly unperturbed" (Armstrong, 70).  Much of Shakleton's success came from his ability to look clearly at potential problems and plan accordingly, rather than succumbing to the fear of what could be.

When the ice melted enough that they could get to the open ocean, the 28 men were split between three lifeboats to paddle through terrible, freezing storms to Elephant Island, 346 miles from where the Endurance sank.  Upon arrival, realizing they couldn't stay there long, Shackleton took five others and climbed back into what was deemed the strongest lifeboat, leaving behind the rest of the men to go in search of help.  Shackleton kept a careful watch on the men, knowing he needed each to make their destination.  "When someone looked particularly bad, the Boss ordered a round of hot milk for all hands.  The one man he really wanted to get the hot drink into never realized that the break was for his benefit and so wasn't embarrassed, and all of the men were better off for having the warmth and nourishment" (Armstrong, 100).  I love that he cared for each man as an individual, mindful of their needs and aiding those without making that person feel singled out or weak.  He watched the individual, cared for all, and all benefited.

After another 15 days on the cold, stormy ocean, Shackleton and the five arrived at South Georgia Island, but for safety's sake, landed on the opposite side from where the whaling ships and factories were.  The boat was no longer in any shape to sail, so with two men too sick to continue, Shackleton left one man to care for them, and took two others with him over the unexplored snow-covered mountains, taking them an amazing 36 hours to cover 32 miles with only about 50 feet of rope and a carpenters adze.  (Seriously, this man never quits!)

One of the most beautiful parts of the story comes at this part of their journey.  "As they slogged their way through the snow, a strange feeling began to grow on each of the men.  The three discovered long afterward that they all had the feeling that there was a fourth.  'Even now again I find myself counting our party--Shackleton, Crean, and I and--who was the other?' Worsley wrote later.  'Of course, there were only three, but it is strange that in mentally reviewing of the crossing we should always think of a fourth, and then correct ourselves.'

"'When I look back at those days,' Shackleton added, 'I do not doubt that Providence guided us . . . I know that during that long march of thirty-six hours over the unnamed mountains and glaciers of South Georgia it often seemed to me that there were four, not three.' At the time, however, Shackleton, Worsley, and Crean did not discuss it" (Armstrong, 110).  I think Shackleton's purpose was so true and so selfless, that he was supported through that by heavenly means.

Another incredible experience happened as they got closer to the whaling camp.  They found themselves at the top of a frozen waterfall.  "There was nothing to tie the rope to.  Worsley held it, while first Shackleton and then Crean went over the edge.  They went down the rope as sailors do, letting it slip through their hands and not putting their weight on it until just before they hit bottom.  At the top, Worsley bunched the end of the rope up and jammed it under some rocks.  If he didn't put his weight on the rope until the bottom, it just might hold.  Worsley stepped off into the air, plummeting downward with the rope whipping through his hands.  Shackleton and Cream caught him as he fell, and his full weight yanked on the rope.  It held.

"Startled, the three men stared up at the top of the waterfall and tugged on the rope.  It wouldn't budge.  It might have been frozen, but they couldn't understand what was holding it.  Shrugging, they turned and left their rope hanging where it was.  They didn't need it any longer" (Armstrong, 114).

When they finally reached the whaling station, their thoughts were not of their own rescue, but that the rest of the men were now saved.  Still, it took Shackleton four attempts to get to the men back on Elephant Island, where he found ALL were safe and alive.  "We knew you'd come back," one of the men said to him.  Shackleton called that the best compliment he'd ever received.

Many, many leadership lessons can be taking from Ernest Shackleton.  But I'll end with Shackleton's own words about it.  "It was like this," Shackleton said much later.  "The thought of those fellows on Elephant Island kept us going all the time.  It might have been different if we'd had only ourselves to think about.  You can get so tired in the snow, particularly if you're hungry, that sleep seems just the best thing life has to give . . . But if you're a leader, a fellow that other fellows look to, you've got to keep going.  That was the thought which sailed us through the hurricane and tugged us up and down those mountains . . . and when we got to the whaling station, it was the thought of those comrades which made us so mad with joy that the reaction beats all effort to describe it.  We didn't so much feel that we were safe as that they were saved" (Wilcox, 116).

I need to memorize part of that one.  I may not travel the Antarctic, but there are plenty of tired, hungry, just want to hide under the covers days.  But if you're a leader . . . 

Quote Sources:
Jennifer Armstrong, "Shipwreck on the Bottom of the World."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hall of Fame

My new favorite hobby is studying awesome people.

Last summer I discovered the book "Lessons from Great Lives" by Sterling Sill (but if you want it, get the old edition since the "co-author" of the new one took out half the people, though he did add in two, including a chapter on Sterling Sill).  For quite some time I've watched for great qualities in people that I want to emulate, but Sill talks about creating his own personal "Hall of Fame" of people with qualities he wanted to build in himself.  It's an inspiring read, and it's helped me to see history in a new, more real light.  Sill wrote biographies of over 100 people for his own benefit.  As he states, "A person who provides a good example has the blessed ability of arousing a desire in others to develop their own talents and aptitudes to their upper limits.  The tremendous upward pull that one personality may have upon another might be compared to the attraction that the planets exert as they hold each other in their orbits."  

From Sill, I learned about another source on great people.  Elbert Hubbard wrote the "Little Journeys into the Homes of Great..." series, which includes great scientists, orators, teachers, women (because they were written a long time ago when we needed our own book), reformers, musicians, etc.  Lucky enough, these are in the public domain and free for use.  I've only read a few of these, one that I thought was odd because it didn't have nearly enough about the person, and two others that I really enjoyed.

Then a couple months ago we had just walked into Deseret Book when I noticed the book "10 Great Souls I Want to Meet in Heaven" by S. Michael Wilcox.  I carried it around the rest of the time we were there telling myself to put it back, but when I didn't, I googled for a coupon and bought it.  Very glad I did.  Wilcox mentions that when he initially started making his own list of great people, he began with family, then thought of people in the scriptures, historical figures, and even great characters in literature, but for the book he chose historical figures.  One quote from the preface that gives me chills (referring to things like Psalms 8:4-5), "Sometimes it is difficult to believe such lofty thoughts are describing us and our fellow human travelers.  It is certainly true we have, as a race, often not lived up to these divine potentialities.  Yet man was created in the image of God, not only outwardly, but also inwardly, in the qualities of the soul.  Humanity was the last act of creation, its crown!  We shouldn't be surprised to see evidences of glory and honor in our fellowmen."

I've been able to teach about and discuss some of the great people I've been studying during Vanguard, our homeschool group, but I've decided I need to keep a better record of that for my own Hall of Fame, and maybe to spark the interest of others that might want to learn about some of these greats as well.  Stay tuned.  (This might actually get me blogging somewhat regularly again.)

P.S.  Here's an interesting article I found with a "discussion" between 10 greats.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Today is my second Sunday in a row home from church.  Last Sunday I was sick and kept Madeleine home with me.  Today Madeleine is sick (with different junk), Erin is coughing a lot, and Carolyn was complaining about a headache.  Interestingly enough, last Sunday was harder to be home, I think because it's no fun laying around on the couch.  Today I can at least take care of my sickos, and make some bread to take to the bishopric when I pick up the other kids (they've got an extra long day today).

While working on the bread I was listening to some general conference talks.  With the big announcement regarding missionary age during conference this fall, many of the other speakers mentioned the announcement.  Conference is always a great time for personal evaluation, but knowing that I have one less year of mothering before I send my sons (and now, more potentially my daughters) to the world for 2 years, the evaluating was especially necessary.

My first thoughts were temporal - we need to vamp up cooking practice, piano lessons, and things like that so they can take care of themselves (not that playing the piano is necessary for survival, but for some reason that thought came along with those).

Next, I asked myself if as a family we are doing everything we need to do to help support their spiritual preparation.  Are we having family scripture study daily?  Family home evening every week?  Family prayer?  Gospel discussion and sharing my testimony as often as possible without overkill?

My last strong thought on the matter wasn't necessarily evaluation, but still part of their preparation.  During the announcement and press conference afterwards it was mentioned that the discussion and decision regarding changing the missionary age had been kept very tight between the first presidency and tweleve apostles, and that this was news to virtually everyone else.  I realized at some point that this announcement was a surprise to Satan as well.  He also just lost a year - a big year really - when he can turn young men and women to things other than a mission.  We all know someone where that year was the difference, right?  And I'm sure he's ticked.  I'm sure he's pulling out all the stops, and will be doing all he can to get our kids even earlier.  Time to be far more watchful, prayerful, and careful than ever.  Be the lioness, and fight.  (For some especially inspiring words about that, read Sister Beck's 2010 women's conference talk).

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind."--2 Timothy 1:7

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bigs and Littles

Why I love having both big and little kids around:

1.  The littles have so many others to love and take care of them.  I tell my bigs often how boring their early life was.
2.  It's great practice for the bigs to help take care of the littles.  After all, we're raising future parents.
3.  By the time the bigs are having children the littles should be big enough to learn from them by helping to take care of their littles - as long as they live close enough.
4.  Littles love so easily, and bigs need that.

Several sweet sibling pics that make my heart happy.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Million Pounds

Several years ago I was in a class where it was taught that to get the space shuttle off the ground it takes (something like, my number could be wrong) a million pounds of pressure . . .

. . . but once it's in orbit, it takes only a little puff of air here and there to keep it where it needs to be.

The analogy was then made that to get some things we're involved with running really well, it takes a million pounds of enthusiasm and work, but once it's in the air, it just runs.

Something I've been thinking about recently and just thought I would share.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Cheerios Lady (i.e. A Mother's Sweet Revenge)

Once upon a time, Adam went to work at Camp Bartlett for his second summer in a row.  His first summer must not have been nearly as fun, because his family got a letter from him almost weekly.  This summer, they received one letter (and finally a second), and very little other communication.

One day, after discovering the picture below on facebook, along with another without Adam but with a lot of the same people with a big fun fair in the background, his mommy's revenge-anator went into overdrive.

Before I continue, you must meet the Cheerios Lady.  The Cheerios Lady is the happiest woman I personally have ever seen, and all over a bowl of Cheerios!  A few years ago she appeared on the back of the Cheerios box, and we used her almost every morning to bring good cheer to everyone at the breakfast table.  If someone woke up grumpy, we would point her their direction, knowing that glowing happiness like that has to have some kind of affect.  Unfortunately for Adam, the effect was more annoyance than happiness, but we still tried anyway.

We even sent her to scout camp as some mid-week mail.  (Bit of foreshadowing - Adam received that at Camp Bartlett in 2009.)  He had to have been writhing on the ground in tears before receiving it for her to bring him to that state of . . . well . . . something.

Back to our present story.  After seeing my handsome son decked out in a cowboy hat I had never seen apparently at a fair in who-knows-where, having so much fun over the weekend that he didn't have time to check in with his family to tell us what he'd been up to, it was time for him to learn a lesson in communication.

We dubbed our beloved Cheerios Lady "Adam," took him everywhere we went for the next 2 weeks before we picked him up from camp, and posted them on facebook.  Here are some of my favorites (there are lots more, it was hard to choose).

Adam looking at the clouds with the other kids.

Adam watching "Princess Charm School" with Madeleine.

Adam swimming with Madeleine while Melanie waded.  Yes, Adam got wet.

I had a meeting at the park and Adam's good buddy wasn't there, so he sat by me nice and bored for a while.

He finally borrowed a book from another friend and read for a while.

I hired a couple of thugs to get after Adam for not communicating with his mom.

Adam helping me out with my Webelos.

Adam eating Chik-fil-a with us (Sam even shared some lemonade).

Adam playing ring-around-the-rosie at his friend's sister's birthday party.

Adam reading some of his favorite magazines at the library.

Adam watching Sammy compete in a Lego robotics competition.

Adam looking for deer at the nature center.

Adam helping me heft two bags of chicken feed (I was glad he was there!).

Adam feeding some ducks and geese.

Adam protecting the other children from the ducks and geese (we were surrounded!).

Adam having a tea party with his sisters and some cousins.

Adam taking a Sunday nap.

Adam helping out with a family home evening story.

What the house looks like while Adam is "babysitting."

(He was playing video games instead of watching the kids.)

Adam helping out at a cub scout raingutter regatta.

Adam giving some good scout advice to the newest cub scout graduate.

Sam shared some of his doctored chili.  This time Adam isn't smiling.  He's screaming in pain.

Adam learning to crochet from his sisters.

Picking up the real Adam at the end of camp.  Just like the other camp picture, so excited to be with the Cheerios Lady!

By the way, I really think Cheerios should print her on Cheerios boxes again.  Besides sharing her happy smile with everyone, my Cheerios Lady is getting pretty beat up and I could use some more copies of her.  Never know when I might need to use her again!

P.S.  The revenge worked.  Adam was warned at the beginning of the first week that some retribution was going to be happening, and he even guessed that it had something to do with the Cheerios Lady.  Mid-week another camp staff member noticed the pictures, told him about them, then showed them to him.  That week we got a letter and two phone calls over the weekend.  Wow!  A couple more phone calls during the next week.  Hopefully he remembers again next summer!

The Journey

Friday we took a drive that could have potentially taken 3 1/2 hours and we did it in 12 hours.

Sunday we did a similar drive in 5 hours.

A good reminder to me to enjoy the journey.