Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Feet, Hills, and Rods

I learned a great lesson that I continue to learn from often in the book 10 Great Souls I Want to Meet in Heaven.  S. Michael Wilcox mentions that like a compass used to draw a perfect circle from a fixed center point, we should all have a spiritual compass as well with what he refers to as a "fixed foot" and a "searching foot."  As "there can be no true or complete circle without a center" (2), it is necessary to find our center and keep it planted strong, reinforcing it with consistent checks of our most reliable sources of truth.  Then, we can search out more truth using our "searching foot," comparing those to our "fixed foot" and the truth we've established there.  Without a firmly fixed foot, it would be easy to be dragged us away from our center in our search, giving us an imperfect circle or no circle at all.


While out walking one night I had this idea on my mind.  It came to me that we could look at our circle from the side, and from that vantage point it could be more like a hill.  That if we aren't holding on to that center, the further we get away from the center, the easier it would be to eventually "fall away" from the truth that we do have.  (This was the best hill picture I could find, LOL.)


When I was mentioning that idea to my kids a couple days later, one of them pointed out that it's like holding to the iron rod.  That again, if we aren't holding to the word of God, we can easily be pulled away to the mists of darkness and great and spacious buildings.  (So blessed to have smart kids that teach me too!)


Our scripture reading yesterday in Alma 30 brought in that idea yet again.  After a terrible war there began to be "continual peace."  "Yea, and the people did observe to keep the commandments of the Lord; and they were strict in observing the ordinances of God" (v. 3).  Apparently they were very good people, but when Korihor comes to visit a couple verses later, he causes all kinds of problems, knocking many people off their center.  "And thus he did preach unto them, leading away the hearts of many, causing them to lift up their heads in their wickedness, yea, leading away many women, and also men, to commit whoredoms" (v. 18).  I have to wonder if they questioned his words much.  They were doing right and good before he came, but for whatever reason were quick to listen to and quick to believe Korihor's words over what they have been taught and what they had been living.

Yet when Korihor moved on to the people of Ammon, "they were more wise than many of the Nephites; for they took him and bound him, and carried him before Ammon, who was a high priest over that people.  And it came to pass that he caused that he should be carried out of the land.  And he came over into the land of Gideon, and began to preach unto them also; and here he did not have much success, for he was taken and found and carried before the high priest, and also the chief judge over the land" (v. 20-21).

How terribly sad that the first group was so easily swayed, but how excellent that the second and third groups were so quick to identify the errors and not even tolerate it being in their midst.  Had the first group not been tried much?  Had the second and third realized the blessing and comfort that comes through having that firm foundation?  Something I want to keep thinking about.  But regardless, their center was firmly planted, they recognized untruth when they heard it, and they got rid of it, not wanting his words to become part of their circle.

It's interesting to note that later when Korihor asks for a sign to know there is a God, "Korihor was struck dumb" (v. 50), essentially getting rid of the tool he was using to lead away the people.

Studying great people throughout history and the world has been a wonderful journey, seeing like Wilcox that "our Father in Heaven is a light-giving God and dispenses it as widely as the stars."  And thankfully so!  But Korihor's story is a great reminder to keep my center firmly planted, continually strengthening it with the teachings of Jesus Christ and his prophets and apostles.  In the long run, I think I would rather be accused of having a circle that was too small but deeply founded in truth, than one so far reaching I allowed untruths to sneak in.

(Today's reading in Alma 31 brought similar thoughts, only this time pride was definitely a factor.  Hmm...)

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I used this during a Relief Society lesson, and my good friend mentioned that when I drew the hill with a person holding to a pole on the top, she was waiting for me to add a flag to the pole, like Captain Moroni's Title of Liberty, waving it high for all to see, THIS IS WHERE I STAND.  Excellent!

Plus, while thinking about that hill, I thought of the saying "going to die on that hill."  I looked it up.  

The expression comes from military tradition that it is always in the defender's favor when battles are on elevated terrain. Before air warfare, one had not only to overcome an enemies defences but doing do while at a height disadvantage. Many military battles became slaughters when commanders forced their men to take heavily fortified hills.

Conventional military wisdom is that hill battles should be avoided if at all possible, the cost in men generally wouldn't be worth the fight. When a commander was ordered to take one they would often question the rationale, "Is this a hill worth dying over?"

I love the added visual there - being up on a hill, standing tall for my beliefs, and that it's much harder to be defeated when you're on the top.

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Another inspiration from this idea.  Standing feet can be as small as a sapling or as giant as a sequoia.  To me, the most important thing isn't how big they are, but that they stand.  Even big trees will fall.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

To Last Forever

One morning last week I woke up at 4:30 am, wide awake.  When I realized I wasn't going back to sleep anytime soon, I pulled out my phone, glanced at my e-mail quick, then remembered a talk I've been wanting to reread -- Sister Linda Burton's talk on "The Power, Joy, and Love of Covenant Keeping."  


But I really didn't get very far into it before my mind turned specifically to the marriage covenant, and I went searching on my Gospel Library app for a talk on that instead.  I found one called "Eternal Marriage" by F. Burton Howard that I dove into.  It's a good one, and I was reading and highlighting away till almost the end, when I hit what I was woken up at 4:30 am to be taught.

Elder Howard led into it with a story about their silverware, and how over the years his wife carefully cared for it, to the point that he was thinking she was a little over the top over this silverware.  But then he realized,

If you want something to last forever,
you treat it differently.

My eyes stopped there, the Spirit teaching me.  I thought first and the most about my marriage, and eventually about my children.  Words came to mind like a list from the Family Proclamation - love, respect, compassion, forgiveness, trust.

And accompanying that, the desire to be better.

I finally pushed myself to continue in the talk.  "If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently.  You shield it and protect it. You never abuse it. You don’t expose it to the elements. You don’t make it common or ordinary. If it ever becomes tarnished, you lovingly polish it until it gleams like new. It becomes special because you have made it so, and it grows more beautiful and precious as time goes by."

Beautiful.

In our homeschool group we've been memorizing Doctrine and Covenants 6:33, and that came to mind.  "Fear not to do good . . . for whatsoever ye sew, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sew good ye shall also reap good for your reward."  That first word, fear, is sadly powerful in the wrong way.  Sad that the desire to do good can so easily be derailed, even within a family.  Laying there in bed I made some immediate commitments to myself with some specific ways to be better.


I'm so incredibly grateful for a Heavenly Father that cares enough about making sure I got this precious message that He sent it when things are quiet, even if it meant missed sleep for me.  I've been so blessed with  a wonderful husband and family.  They are the joy and the greatest work of my life, the things that more than anything I want to last forever.




Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hard vs. ... Yep, Hard

(I need to stop writing out posts and forgetting to reread the next day before publishing.  Just found this one waiting from 6 weeks ago.)

I really am not one to complain, specifically at least, but this pregnancy has in many ways been much harder than any of the others.  At almost 28 weeks, I still have a lot of uphill to go.  I don't like thinking about myself and coddling myself, and it looks like I'm going to need to do that even more.  I've already been wearing support hose on one leg from pretty early on because varicose veins went nuts.  Now, after a 4th glucose tolerance test (we're not even going to talk about that), my doc's office called to say some of my numbers were high and they want me to talk to a dietitian to "help me out."  I'm feeling fine, thanks, no help necessary.  But the appointment is set, and I shall be dutiful and go.  I know I also have plenty to look forward to, like my standard super achy ribs on my right side.

But this too shall pass.

After all, it's this little friend currently giving my lots of kicky hellos I'm doing this all for, right?  (How I wish there was a window to peek in and see what is poking me, because we sure are active tonight.)  Trying, really trying to keep my mind busy elsewhere and keep perspective in mind.

Plus, plenty of people have a way harder time at this than I do.  The only time I've even really felt sick during this entire pregnancy was when I puked my 2nd glucose tolerance test (wait, I wasn't going to talk about that.  But really, regurgitating super sweet syrupy test beverage is not something I would EVER care to repeat, making tests 3--the retake--and 4--12 weeks later--seem like momentous accomplishments).

Yesterday evening, I happened upon this little gem:  "You will come to know that what appears today to be a sacrifice will prove instead to be the greatest investment that you will ever make" (Gordon. B. Hinckley).  Looking at my 6 other children, I have to agree with him.  Not that I don't still have my sacrifices for them, but the gifts they possess are amazing.  Even the drive-our-mom-crazy talent that some of them have in such abundance.  :)

Trying to enjoy the journey.  With all the extra issues this round, I feel like my body is resigning its creation job, probably leaving what's left of my mind to do the creating from now on.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Broken

I've been feeling extra broken lately, a cracked pot for sure as my good friend would say.  Good to read this in a talk from Jeffrey Holland called "The Inconvenient Messiah" when he was president at BYU, although this part was actually given by his wife, Patricia.  Just before the quote below she said, "I guess what I've come here to tell you today is that God uses broken things."

"It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. . . . it is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever." ["Broken Things," an excerpt from Vance Havner, The Still Water (Old Tappan, NJ: Flemming H. Revell, 1934). Quoted inGuideposts, October 1981, p. 5]



There's just something about being 7+ months pregnant, hormonal, and tired that shortens patience.  Doesn't help that while getting ready for a new little one, I'm feeling like some of my olders are leaving for the big bad world like yesterday, but I haven't filled my full responsibility for them yet.  So that adds additional stress.  Sigh.


But Sister Holland's message was that "God uses broken things."  In preparation for my lesson last Sunday, I used two stories of broken people that did some beautiful "unbreaking."

-- Elder Christoffersen's mother (story towards the end of this talk) - She was obviously very broken from surgery, to the point that she was on bedrest for almost a year.  How mentally broken would she feel as well?  And then another broken woman is brought to her???  And yet, she is able to still lift another life.  Really, they lifted each other.
-- Susan Easton Black and her visiting teacher - In the story told at the beginning of this talk, there are again two broken people that are able to help and care for one another in a really big way.  Her talk and the story start at about 3:40.

I guess what I'm learning is that when I'm broken, I need to understand the potential for purpose in that.  Does it make me want to work harder?  Serve more?  Rely on the Savior more?


Like President Holland talked about in the talk above, "It seems no worthy accomplishment has ever come easily for me."  [Makes me reevaluate the worthiness of my "accomplishments."]



"As you invest your time—and your convenience—in quiet, unassuming service, you will indeed find that 'he shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up' (Matthew 4:6). It may not come quickly. It probably won’t come quickly, but there is purpose in the time it takes. Cherish your spiritual burdens because God will converse with you through them and will use you to do his work if you carry them well."

And, "If for a while the harder you try the harder it gets, take heart. So it has been with the best people who ever lived."



Hopefully in the end, this broken pot will have created something beautiful.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Giving It Up, or Expanding It Further?

I wrote this for the front page article of our homeschool group's newsletter.  We have a principle each month that we try build and expand on throughout the month, and in October we'll be talking about liberty (read through the definitions there, it's beautiful).

       I read an article yesterday that infuriated me.  Essentially, it was talking about how psychologists will have new guidelines stating that adolescence continues up to age 25.  The article includes statements like, "The idea that suddenly at 18 you're an adult just doesn't quite ring true.  My experience of young people is that they still need quite a considerable amount of support and help beyond that age."  The article mentions someone else talking about how 25-30 year olds living at home need to "do their own washing . . . [and] take responsibility for cleaning up their bedroom."
       Are you upset yet?  Let's compare that with another statement given a year ago.
       I'm sure all of you remember President Monson's announcement that the missionary age would change to 18 for young men and 19 for young women.  But maybe you don't remember what he said about those that had already served beginning at that age.  "Their mission presidents report that they are obedient, faithful, mature, and serve just as competently as do the older missionaries who serve in the same missions. Their faithfulness, obedience, and maturity have caused us to desire the same option of earlier missionary service for all young men, regardless of the country from which they come."  Did you catch that?  All the great qualities exhibited by those young men made a difference to the rest of the young men in the entire church.  Because of them, even more great young men and young women are going out into the world to share that greatness.
       Back to the first article.  Apparently there are a whole lot of people in the world exhibiting quite the opposite of what those mission presidents were seeing.  It doesn't list any specific qualities in that article, but taking the opposite of what President Monson said, I imagine they were disobedient, unfaithful, immature, and incompetent in the things they are asked to serve in.  It makes me angry to think of those young men and young women changing the world in that way.
       How grateful I am to associate with the kind of youth President Monson was talking about!   Rather that allowing people to limit your liberty because of your behavior and choices, continue to be the kind of youth that not only expands your own freedom—to be, to do, to give, to share, to build—but expands freedom for others as well just by being who you are.

Is it coincidence that these are almost exactly a year apart from each other?  Adam gave the family home evening lesson tonight on the prophet, and had several scriptures that we read and discussed together.  I can't remember them all, but I already had the things above on my mind and the first one we read applied directly to this.  I kind of took over the lesson for a bit with a minor bit of ranting, and my testimony of the prophet.  It was great using this example and others, like the Proclamation on the Family, where we received direction from our prophet that directly apply to things coming in the future.  A wonderful evening of discussion and testimony.  (Wow, it sounds tons better when I write that out and don't have video of the actual craziness the evening was).


Sources:
BBC News Article "Is 25 the new cut-off point for adulthood?" Sept. 23, 2013
"Welcome to Conference," Thomas S. Monson, Oct. 6, 2012



Monday, July 22, 2013

Should I Be Fired?

During the same sacrament meeting referenced here, a speaker told a story he said he hadn't planned on sharing, but he did because I was there and needed to hear it (it was too perfect to not just be for me).

He owns a business and has a few employees that work for him.  Generally things run really smoothly and go really well.  He hired someone a few months back that he really liked, but this guy just wasn't up to par.  He would come to work late, take long lunch breaks, and leave early.  The boss tried to talk to him about it, but it never changed and he eventually had to fire him.  He said it was a really hard thing to do because he did really like him, but he couldn't trust him to do the work he'd been asked to do.

(I know you're getting this already.)

He likened that to our work in the kingdom.  What kind of work do we do?  Are we the kind of person Heavenly Father can trust*?  Do I leave work early or come late?  Do I take long lunch breaks?  Is He going to terminate me, with reason, and hire someone else to do work that I was called to do?

I really am trying to make more efforts on this project.  Part of that is putting my home more in order so I can work on it without feeling like I have a hundred other things pulling at my mind (because try as I might, I can't seem to get my cupboards and closets to clean themselves out), but also putting more time into working on the project, and praying for His help before I go to work on it.

I don't want to be fired.  I don't want to feel like I failed by not following through.  I want to build the kingdom, even in my own small way.


* Which brings me to a quote that I love love love.  "If you then go and do what He would have you do, your power to trust Him will grow, and in time you will be overwhelmed with gratitude to find that He has come to trust you" (Henry B. Eyring).  Isn't that beautiful?

What If the Stories Were the Same?

Another mental kick...

I had come up with the idea for this "project" I think a couple years ago, but felt like it was time to start working on it early last September, the same day I felt like I should volunteer to teach all those men.  Thinking about that day recently, I had the thought, "What if the stories were the same?"

Story 1 (the volunteer one) - I felt like I should do it.  On the way home I e-mailed an "I'll do it message" (I wasn't driving) and upon hearing that those in charge were good with that, I put together a monthly plan in excel for pretty much the entire next year, and had my first meeting a few weeks later.  The second month was a really tough one, but when it was over I wrote in my journal, "I think I can do anything!"

Story 2 - I felt like I should do it.  The feeling wasn't as strong, so I packed the idea away for a while, more as an "I'll get on that as I can."  Nudges would come here and there, and I would write posts like the link above mentioning some of those nudges (and now more posts about even more nudges), and yet the first stage of that project is only just over a fourth done.  I have thoughts in my head of a few particulars that will need to happen in the process, but it's not written down anywhere and I don't have a clear vision just where I'm going with it (part of that I hope will come as inspiration, but maybe that's an excuse too).

Story 1 is very driven, with a specific plan, goals to look towards, and something I really put effort into and worked towards.  It's very easy to see that Story 2 is a plan to fail.

So what if the stories were the same?  What if Story 2 read more like Story 1?  After all, as much as I can, it's up to me to write my own stories.


A YEAR FROM NOW, YOU'LL WISH YOU HAD STARTED TODAY.


Hard vs. Easy

I keep getting mental kicks about a project I should be working on, all in very good ways.

Sitting in a sacrament meeting almost a month ago with two rows of boys from a National Youth Leadership Training staff, something was said that made me think about hard vs. easy when it comes to promptings from the Lord.

I think our own definitions of each of those would be different.  For instance, early in this year we felt like it was suddenly time to have a 7th child, and at this point I'm almost 20 weeks pregnant.  September of last year I felt prompted that I should volunteer to be over something that involves men almost entirely (once in a while there are one or two women).  I acted on that right away, and while I don't know all the reasons, I feel like I've glimpsed a couple and it's been a good experience.

To many, both of those might seem pretty hard, but they have both been easy for me (so far - baby is still in utero of course).

So this other project (that I will continue to be vague on, the reason I'll use being so this is more personally applicable to the two people who will read this) for whatever reason is hard for me.  I come up with plenty of reasons for that.  Like, I've never done it before.  But I've never had 7 children and I had never done the other volunteer thing either, so not a good excuse.  Another excuse - I can't see the whole picture to know all the steps.  With the volunteer example I did feel like I was also inspired with plans I could use, and while that would also rely on those attending, I just felt it would happen.  Baby, well, at this point they don't have a place to eventually call their own, although I figure if that doesn't totally happen before birth, he/she will be close in our bedroom for a few months at least anyway.  And again, I just feel like it will work out.  With this other project, I don't feel like I have a grasp of a whole lot of steps, or that feeling like it will just work out.  I keep telling myself I need to get to the edge of the light that I can see and I'll be shown the next steps, and I guess that's where my fear, feelings of "not good enough," and overall lack of faith is holding me back.  Working more to forget all that and just move forward.

During NYLT I was reminded of an incredible quote, that after these thoughts just a a couple days before, struck home even more.  "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard" (John F. Kennedy).  Do the easy things stretch us?  To a point, yes, but not really.  In getting to the moon, Kennedy's vision was so great, it included using "new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented."  That line gets me every time.  Doing this very hard thing meant stretching a whole lot of fields further than they had ever been.  Makes me wonder how much pushing forward this one vision rippled to further other discoveries as well, and how much stretching myself will take me to other things as well.

I heard someone say once that when something is hard they know they shouldn't do it.  I don't feel that way with this.  I feel like it's something I need to put effort towards.  Unfortunately I have to keep kicking all those excuses out of the way.

By the way, lest you think I'm some kind of wonder woman thinking that having 7 kids will be easy, cleaning and organizing my home is something on my hard list.  I think anyone that has that down is a wonder woman!    Happy to say I'm better than I have been, but it's something I am constantly working on.

(For fun, here are the full quotes of the two I referenced.  I think the whole first one is especially powerful.  Read/listen/watch the full speech here.)

"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

"But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun--almost as hot as it is here today--and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out--then we must be bold."

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Much to learn, much to do

My own snippets...

I'm enjoying having a bit of extra time.  Even little things were too much for a while there, with so many kiddo things to be thinking about and helping with.

I had noticed my Mother's Day flowers were sprouting new leaves by the time they were about ready to go to the garbage, so I saved a couple of the more vigorous looking stems.  I consulted a super plant-smart young man I know and asked him if there was a way that I could encourage them to grow, and maybe make my own rose plants.  (I should note that I've purchased and planted I believe 5 rose bushes since we moved here, and none have survived.  I seem to have that effect on many plants, which is why I enjoy things that take pretty much zero effort and just do their thing, like the bushes on the north side of our house that my husband doesn't appreciate but I love because they were one of the first things I planted here and they still look fabulous.)  Anyway, this young man taught me about rooting powder.  Up till today the stems have been in water, but I finally got some rooting powder a couple days ago and now they are in potting soil.  Here's hoping I did it right and that it actually works.


I want to practice drawing.  Two of my siblings took art in high school and they can do amazing things, so I feel like maybe I have some of that in me somewhere.  Our art projects in Vanguard this year were especially fun and inspiring, enough to make un-artful little ol' me want to do and try more.  In Webelos we've been working on our Artist badge, and we had this lovely lady in my neighborhood come to talk to the boys.  She talked about her journey to becoming an artist.  One thing I thought was especially fun was that when she was little her mother would draw beautiful faces with lovely hair and a stick figure body.  Then her mom would challenge her to finish it with nice clothing.  Our artist put together these great art kits for the boys, gave them some drawing advice (like start small, because it's easier to draw smaller versions of things), and we walked them outside for another part of the badge - draw something in nature.  They were excited to show off their drawings to her and have her oooh and ahhh over them.  Anyway, she got me thinking even more about it.  Jamie has a book he brought to our marriage (from his days working in a craft store) called "Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain" that I started working through 7 years ago (I know that from the dated drawing attempts that were in the book).  I guess I should have kept going then, because then I could be using those amazing skills now, right?  While I was flipping through it the other day I noticed a spot where it mentions Leonardo da Vinci.  Apparently he only did art the last 10 years of his life, and he spent the first 2 of those years working entirely on learning to draw, knowing how important it was.  I checked out a book by the same author on color, and I caught this quote by Van Gogh:


I have lots to work on this summer.

Cleaning out so we can work on the basement is a huge priority.

Lots of planning for Vanguard, both for the portion I teach and since I'm the group advisor now.  That's been a lot of fun so far.  Every time the other group leaders and I meet  there have been so many great ideas and a lot of sharing back and forth.  I'm really excited for the year.

I've got a stack of books that I need to set some goals to work through (mainly for Vanguard).  As soon as Vanguard was done I started reading "Watership Down" again, but told myself I had to shoot for 50 pages a day.  The first two days I hit that.  The next few days were far more each day.  I have a few that have been at the top of my list for a few years ("Daisy Chain," "Precious Bane," and "Villette"), but there are always things that need to be done first, and I think it will be the same again with others I need to read, like "10 Great Souls I Want to Meet in Heaven" and "7 People That Changed the World" for Vanguard preparation.  I really love reading about all these greats!

I'm glad we have so much shade in the backyard.  The girls are swimming right now and I'm typing away.  Guess I need to bring my books outside with me and let them play in the water all day every day.

I've also told my girls that we need to work on some good home/work habits during the summer so when things get busy again we'll already have those in place and maybe they'll stay there.  Maybe?



Saturday, May 25, 2013

Girls Aren't Scary

For a long time I felt like a boys mother - that I would be much better at boys because I don't mind rough housing, throwing around baseballs, and digging in the dirt*.  Girls scared me, mainly because of the hormonal mood swings that start way earlier that they should, and all that fru fru girly stuff.

After two boys then two girls I figured I would be back to boys again, but after delivering the fourth girl in a row and thinking, "Where's my boy???" I had a beautiful feeling a peace come over me, along with the thought that this is how it's supposed to be.

Greater perspective was built for me when I was visiting an older sister in our ward.  Well, purely by age I wouldn't think of her in the "older" category (she's close to the same age as my mother), but because of her health she is almost entirely bedridden and looks far older than she is.  She was asking me about my family, and when I mentioned my four girls her face lit up and she said, "Those girls are going to take good care of you someday."  If I remember right she has two boys and three girls, and she said while she loves being around her sons, the girls are the ones that really care for her.

The older my girls get, the more fun they really are.  I still don't enjoy the hormones - at all - but I had a great girls night with my four ladies tonight.  We've watched "Little Women" and two "Pride and Prejudice" movies together in the past, and tonight I introduced them to "Sense and Sensibility."  So fun to enjoy those goodies without the boys around writhing on the floor, rolling their eyes, or making snide comments.  And wonderful that my girls and I are building a friendship relationship with things we can enjoy together.

At the start of the movie Madeleine was super chatty.  She looked up to me and randomly said, "That would be funny if we had wings."  I agreed!

* I must say, my girls dig in the dirt waaaaay more than my boys ever did.  They really didn't seem to enjoy getting dirty.  The girls have zero problem with that.  Maybe their mom's tomboyishness has rubbed off on them too much.  Madeleine has lately even started telling me she's a scout girl and a camp girl, and that she gets to go to camp too (which yes, she'll get to when we go to family camp again).

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Journeys

At our homeschool group earlier today, I overheard a few of the youth talking about a video on how Lord of the Rings should have ended, and they retold the story.  At the council in Rivendell when it was decided the ring needed to be destroyed, Gandalf says he has an idea, and the next thing you know, a few of the Fellowship are at the gates of Mordor taunting Sauron, while Gandalf and Frodo fly in on giant eagles and drop the ring into the fire.  Gollum dives in from who knows where and catches it, but still falls into the fire.  Ring destroyed, the deed is done, and they all fly happily home.  (I searched it out to add it - sadly, while it is animated, the taunting part involves a mooning, so no posting here.  If you look for it, cover the left side of the screen during that part.)

Listening to the story, I immediately started thinking, "But . . . ! But . . . !" when one of the listening youth quietly replied, "But Gandalf would never have become Gandalf the White."

Precisely.

They all stopped, and the conversation turned another direction.  But I continued it in my mind.

Gandalf would never have become Gandalf the White.
Aragorn would never have become king.
Frodo would never have been stretched to his end multiple times and still come out successful.
We never would have fallen in love with Sam's big heart.
Merry and Pippin would have never been separated or have found their bravery.
Legolas . . . just rocks always, but we wouldn't have seen him take down an oliphant.
Gimli would still hate elves.
Boromir would never have felt the pull of the ring and realized the doom of it, enough to fight to the death to protect those saving it.
Gollum would never have made it as far back to good as he did (even for a while).
The Ents wouldn't have gone to war.
The strongest bonds of friendship I've ever read about or watched would never have been forged.
The four hobbits wouldn't appreciate their home nearly so much.

And on, and on.  Just thinking about it all makes me want to read the books or watch the movies again to make notes on all that wouldn't have happened to make our hearts so full it overflows out our eyes when all those friends come together again in the end, successful.

Journeys aren't just about time, how long or short something takes.  Journeys are about doing, growing, becoming.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Light

"That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day." --D&C 50:24

My super incredibly inspired visiting teacher mentioned that scripture while visiting a couple days ago, and we discussed a bit about light, enough to get thoughts on it tumbling around in my head, enough that I had to get out of bed and get them on here.

I know people that are "light."  Everything about them is beautiful.  They are loving.  They are peaceful.  They serve.  They care.  They lift.  They don't complain, almost like they are so busy looking out that they don't notice.  To me, they are my personal vision of Moroni 7:48, "Pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him" (italics added).

One person I quickly think of was Sammy's 2nd grade teacher.  I've never seen a teacher care more than she did.   She spent extra time with him, less for academic reasons, and more to lift him and minister to his needs.  She is still deep in his heart (and mine), and when my 14 year old boy sees her, he still goes out of his way to hug her.  A couple years ago she became the principal at a school two of my relatives teach at.  Last Thanksgiving I asked one of them if she's a good principal.  "I love her," he said emphatically, and his face was lighter talking about the ways she has blessed the school.

Which makes me think about another principle of light.  A candle can give and give and give light to other candles, and nothing is ever taken away from it.  Its light is always the same.  She is an excellent example of that, spreading light almost effortlessly everywhere she goes.  It isn't her great knowledge or her resources that she shares (though I'm sure she could), but her heart.

Blessing others effortlessly reminds me again of the Savior.   A woman was healed, just by touching His clothing!

I am thankful to know many others, and I'm always seeking for more.  Interestingly enough, I've met many through different types of service Jamie or I have been involved with, church or otherwise.  From my observations, it seems to me that people willing to give a lot of time in service have more light.  Maybe that is part of the nature of the thing.  A single candle not willing to share its light (if candles had a will to decide), doesn't make the room any brighter that it's lone flame.  Likewise with a candle only sharing selectively, rather than sharing and giving freely.


Laying in bed I had a few other scriptures tumbling around in my mind that go along beautifully with this principle of light, though they don't directly mention light:

"If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."  --Article of Faith 13

Doesn't that just feel light?

"But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God." --Moroni 7:13

I still remember a lesson on light when I was in seminary.  We started class by reading D&C 88:6-13, then shared our light with one another by bearing testimony.  Here is just a portion of that scripture:

"Which truth shineth.  This is the light of Christ.  As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made . . . And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings . . . The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed."

Love is light.  "And there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. " -- 4 Nephi 1:15  Those people had seen the Savior, had been around Him, were blessed by Him, and were taught by Him.  His love and light was so clear in their minds, that it directed their actions in such a way that there was no contention.  To be even more specific, "There were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of laciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God" (v. 16, italics added).

Any of your own thoughts on light you'd like to share?

(Thanks, incredibly inspired visiting teacher, for getting me thinking about light.)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Eagle Project

Adam put together his Eagle project for last weekend.  Quite a while ago he got the idea from his grandma to upload pictures of headstones to the website findagrave.com.  He put it off for quite a while, then finally decided to get on it.


It really was a great leadership project.  We put the lists of names together of those that don't already have headstone pictures, and thought through how it would work best and be the most effective.  The day before, Adam, Melanie, and I went and did a trial run down one row and got a few more ideas on how we could tweak a few things.

Our local cemetery isn't that big, but even with all those that came, it took about an hour and a half to get all the pictures.  He put everyone in pairs, and one person would check the list to see if that headstone was on the list, and the other person took the pictures.





Adam's main responsibility there was assigning where teams were going and answering questions.  He was never part of any of the teams that day (though he had plenty of opportunities both before and after the big project day to do that).



When all the pictures were taken, we headed back to our house, uploaded all the pictures to one computer, then got the uploading to Find A Grave command center going.  We had four computers uploading like crazy.



The next day Adam, Melanie, and I went and took retakes (we figured between service and family history, it was a worthy Sunday activity).  That evening we got pictures that we hadn't gotten yet, and ended up with ore retakes the next morning.

When we printed out the first list of people there were 315 names on it.  When we decided his project was "done" (after 90 hours of service) it had 75 names left.  We would love to have it down to 0, and that's still the plan, but those last 75 are apparently going to be a lot harder and will involve a lot more searching.  Granted, some may have been missed in the initial searches, but we're still on the first page of the 75 and we've discovered that two of them don't have headstones and one that I don't think is even really buried there.  For those without headstones, we can at least take pictures of the area to upload, but we didn't have any way to know that in the initial run.  Our city doesn't have a cemetery map, so I've been using the website NamesInStone.com to find where they're buried.  Using their map zoomed way out, I used Print Screen to create my own map, and here and there we're mapping where the rest of those people are, searching for their location individually on Names In Stone, then zooming back out enough to be able to see where they are.  Eventually we can go over and finish it off.

A few things we would have done differently that we didn't think of before the big day:
- Instruct that if it's a two person headstone, still take a picture of the whole headstone.  We had two teams that didn't realize that.  Retakes!
- Check the picture size on everyone's cameras.  Some of the cameras we could upload without a problem, but if the file sizes were too big, we had to edit them down (extra step, extra time).  Some of the pictures were ultra small, so when we were editing to make them bigger, some of the pictures were entirely unreadable, or just shoddy looking enough that we wouldn't want to put his name on it.  Retakes!

Overall, it was an incredible experience.

Not just watching my amazing son take this project over and run with it - because I already knew he was amazing.  I get to see that all the time.

But also having my testimony strengthened with experiences over and over that there are people out there wanting to be found.

For instance . . .

- We took a retake picture for someone with a unique grave marker and name.  After that group had been added, I was working on some other names later and noticed the woman's name still on our "to be taken" list.  I went back to that group of pictures to get it added, and in doing the search I noticed she was the only one with that last name listed, but she was buried with her husband.  After more searches to make sure I wasn't duplicating, I got him added him to the website.  I went through all the other pictures in the picture group, and that was the only picture that had been missed.  I asked Melanie about it (she had worked on uploading that group), and she told me she remembered looking at and uploading that picture.


- Though it wasn't on his row, Sammy took a picture of a very unique gravestone, I'm sure just because it was a fun one (it had pictures of the M&M characters carved in).  Knowing it wasn't on his row I didn't think much about it, especially after glancing at the list and seeing that woman wasn't on our list at all.  Later I was checking through the pictures on his list, because the scout entering his pictures didn't upload the back side of the graves.  Going through to add those, I noticed that extra picture again, and checked on the name to make sure she had a picture (from our group or not).  I couldn't find her on the site at all, so I got her added in.


- After retakes on Monday, we got home and were adding them in.  Keep in mind, this is our 3rd retakes trip, and our list was far more specific at this point.  Melanie got to a picture that wasn't listed on our new "no headstone picture," so she looked to see if he was a retake that we had had uploaded but wanted a nicer one.  Again, no listing on the website at all.  We got him added, and uploaded his picture.  (By this time Adam told me I was getting to spiritual freak out mode, but really, why did we take that picture??!!?!)

- Also that Monday there was another that needed a retake, but we didn't know where it was in the cemetery.  I had walked up the row they were on (husband and wife) but missed it somehow.  From the first picture I had jotted the pictures that were on it since it was pretty unique (a truck, a temple, and a woman playing ring around the rosie), but didn't note the name.  We wandered and wandered the cemetery looking for them, and Adam finally found it on that first row I'd been on.  Got the pictures home, and again, no listing for them.  I wouldn't have gone for a retake if I hadn't seen the first picture and written it down.  Why did that first picture get taken?

I can't in any way logically explain why all these random pictures were taken.  The teams all had a list to check and then take a picture if their name was on it.  No pictures were taken that already had a picture uploaded for that person.  Every not-on-the-list picture was someone that needed to be added to Find A Grave.

Like I said, an incredible experience.  And a lot of fun, especially with all the great people involved.  I was very grateful to those that showed up and supported Adam in his project.  And thankful to scouting for helping to build boys in this way.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Service Just Makes It Better

I used to hate going to choir.  Well maybe not hate.  Really-really-didn't-look-forward-to.

Five of our six kids are part of a choir that meets every Friday for about 2 1/2 hours.  They are all off playing with friends around the house and yard we meet at, and a few of the moms hang out in a back room.  Since it's far enough away, I've been one of those moms, sitting there feeling those 2 1/2 hours slip away from my life.  Anything I tried to bring with me to work on wouldn't get done for one reason or another.

I asked the choir teacher at the beginning of this year if there is anything I could do for her while I'm there.  "Clean your house?"  (She thought about that one.)  One day I did it - cleaned as many windows as I could find, trying to not let her see me.  (I don't think she did.)

Another day I went thinking I really could get something done this time since Madeleine was home with her daddy.  I ended up with 5 or 6 (more?) kids on my lap, my sides, and behind me while I read to them.  One of them was a giant "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" book, that we joked made the wind blow every time we turned the page.

About this time I decided I was done with ME and went looking for ways to serve.

One day I decided that rather than sit in the "mom area," I would hang out where some of the kids hang out while waiting to head into the choir room.  They taught me a few funny tricks that they then performed on me over and over and over, and I taught them one that they in turn spread to some of the other kids.

Another day shortly after a lot of snow had melted and there was mud and muck everywhere outside, it somehow magically found its way inside.  I became the floor nazi, and swept it all up.  Then I grabbed a washrag and started wiping down the kitchen.  Then I asked where a mop is by one of their youngers who I figured wouldn't remember that I had asked long enough to tattle on me (shhhh, keep my secret!), and she instructed me on their family's way of doing that.  After the floor was clean and shiny, I REALLY became the floor nazi.  I set sentries at the door, and anyone that somehow made it through and created new footprints was quickly told to wipe them up.

Another day there was a microwave nachos disaster, and I cleaned that up, did my very best trying to get all he burn marks off the plate, and did a bit of other tidying.

All of this while my children and our lovely choir teacher were happily and beautifully singing away.  I've decided that I'm the substitute mother while the choir teacher is busy serving all of our families.

Choir is way more fun now.  Service just makes anything better!

(Fun tidbit - they even call it a service choir because they have four performances, three of which are at rest homes and one for family and friends.)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I LOVE My Study Journal

About a year and a half ago I discovered scripture journals (info links at the end).  Even after using it for a short time, I wished I had been doing it for years.  I've had other study journals, but they weren't organized at all - just a place to write great things down in for future reference.  This one has a topic for each two pages, and when I'm studying I like to have it close.  If I don't, I usually have to go find it anyway to jot down a powerful idea or two.

I don't limit myself to just scriptures or general authorities, thus why I don't call it my scripture journal.  I have quotes from books, from people I've studied, from friends I've learned from.  Anything that has spoken to my soul.

Talking about study journals once, a young woman I know mentioned that she'll record something and they write her own thoughts after it.  I've done it a few times, but I think my jottings would be more meaningful to others if I added that.  I guess I just want to get back to whatever I'm studying, and in my hurry, don't want it to say, "I LOVE THAT!" after each one.

It's been interesting to see which topics are filled more than others.  I have never sat down and thought "Today I'm going to study about [whatever topic]," but as I'm studying anything I'll come across something that I just HAVE to write down.

But check these out . . .

. . . four things for parenting . . .

. . . three for motherhood . . .

. . . a ton for prayer (counting the two pages I keep in there from a lesson I taught on the difference prayer makes using examples from the Book of Mormon) . . .

 . . . a ton for trials - about ready to start two more pages for that.

 Makes me wonder why I need to know so much about trials and so little about mothering.  ???

I use a plain-old-lame-old composition journal.  I didn't want to spend a lot of money, not sure if I would continue it at first, but if I were starting again, I think I would do the same thing.  I like the size, it's decently sturdy, and again, not pricey.

It's such a treasure to me!  I doubt mine will ever become something as incredible as the ones in the examples below, but I love having it all.  I record so much more because I feel like it's something I can access easily, and I feel like my study goes towards a more directed purpose.  Here and there I'm adding things from my old study journal, so someday those things can be in a nice organized place too. For ease of access, I've thought about making them google docs, but haven't made that move yet.

For information on starting your own:

Scripture Journals:
http://www.theredheadedhostess.com/scripture-study-tips-2/scripture-journals-scripture-study-tips-2/scripture-journals-2/

Scripture Journal Set-Up:  (I looked over her topics, took off some, and added some of my own.  Topics I added:  Becoming, Blessings, Callings, Children, Enduring, Exactness, Fasting, Gifts, God's Perfect Love for His Children, Happiness, Hope, Judgement, Justice and Mercy, Love, Mentoring, Mission, Peace, Personal Revelation, Pride, Relief Society, Sacrifice, Scouting, Self-Reliance, Trials, United States of America, Unity, Vision, Work)

Scripture Journal Ideas:
http://www.theredheadedhostess.com/scripture-study-tips-2/scripture-journals-scripture-study-tips-2/ideas-for-your-topics-journals/

ENJOY!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Quarters from Heaven

Yesterday Melanie offered to clean out the little van, and took quite a while gathering garbage and vacuuming it really well.  I was working on something else and didn't go down to check on her, but had to pick up the boys later from something and noticed immediately how nice it looked.

As I pulled out of the driveway I called her to let her know how great it looked and to thank her for her hard work.  Just as I hung up, I heard a sound I quickly identified as a coin, then felt something hit my shoulder and land in my lap.  A quarter had somehow fallen from a coin holder that is mounted on the ceiling of the van.

I had to laugh.  Though it should have fallen on Melanie for doing such a great job, it made me think of how quickly we probably get blessed for doing the right thing and being kind, even just by being grateful and saying thank you.  Stronger relationships and willing service are definitely great blessings.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Line Upon Line

Little Ah-ha . . .

We learn "line upon line, precept on precept."  Right?

A very simple and true principle when you think about it.  After all, can you understand Calculus without basic math or algebra?  Can you understand great literature without knowing how to read?

The ah-ha -- there isn't a speed limit on that.  If someone is capable of learning and understanding math principles, if they have the opportunity, work ethic, and support to do it, they could race through a whole lot of math.  Likewise with anything else.

The more time and effort you put into something, the more "lines" and "precepts" you can keep adding to that.

Almost 6 years ago I was at my first homeschool conference, and the keynote speaker mentioned that we have a choice for the the next 5 years.  We can keep doing what we're doing and stay the same that we are, progressing as we have been.  OR we could decide a direction, set goals, and progress in huge amounts, all in the same 5 years.

Incredible the difference a few years can make.  (Pondering more about that now.  Feel free to do the same.)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Joe Hutto - Turkey Mom Extraordinaire

I can't imagine the patience and dedication it would take to do this!  Check out this Nature film on Joe Hutto.  Simply amazing.  Now I want to read the book.

My Life as a Turkey

But if he could do this with turkeys, what can this teach me about mothering?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Just Follow

While reading a friend's blog this morning I was reminded (again!) that in seeking guidance in my life, I need to remember that God is my ultimate mentor.  Sometimes that is so easy, and other times, I don't know, a little scary?

Back in September at roundtable (if you don't know, that's a monthly meeting of scout leaders in your area where you can get and give ideas, be trained, and learn with other scout leaders) I was very jokingly asked to take over the Boy Scout portion of that since the person over that realized the evening before that he had a conflict that evening for the next several months.  That would mean being there every month and planning the 45 minute section specifically for the Boy Scout leaders.  I very jokingly said, "Absolutely!" then told them later that there is no-way-no-how that I could fit that in my world right now.  They know me, and they understood.  And I put it out of my mind entirely.

Two days later Jamie and I were at the temple.  While we were sitting in there, I suddenly had the thought that I could help them out for a couple months, just while they found someone else.  Okay, I thought, that wouldn't be too bad.  As that settled in, I suddenly had an overwhelming feeling of, "You need to do this."  Then ideas started coming - things we could talk about, and how I could easily share the responsibility.  As soon as we got in the car I was on my phone sending the roundtable commissioner an e-mail telling her that if they still needed someone, then I'm her gal.

I guess because the feeling was so strong, it really has never been scary for me, even though there is great potential for that.  Why?  Picture this - little ol' me and about 30 men, every month.  Once in a while a female committee member or two shows up, but normally it's me and the guys.  I know a lot about scouting, but ALL of them have more experience than me since I've never delivered the scouting program to boys older than cub scout age.  What am I supposed to teach them?

Even potentially scarier, the second month I did it I knew I needed to talk to them about youth protection (an online training every scout leader is required to take and every parent should take, especially if they attend an activity).  It can be a sensitive topic, especially when you get into specifics of potential problems.  Since the training is online, you can't ask questions or share experiences, and I really felt like we needed to do that so they would understand the policies and procedures involved with youth protection.  The night before roundtable I heard from the Venture roundtable leader that his plans had fallen through, that the Varsity group had been planning on meeting with them as well, and he asked if it would be okay if they all met with us.  Sure, why not!  So that already potentially scary evening turned into little ol' me and over 50 men (several came in after we passed the roll around, so it could have been more than that).  The whole drive over I kept reciting "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."  :)  At one point the conversation got "sensitive" enough that I jokingly offered to leave so they could talk more frankly for a few minutes, then let me know when to come back.  Thank goodness for a great district executive that joined in and helped me.  I learned a lot myself, and I had several of the scout leaders thank me afterwards (guys, it wasn't me).

I know it was personal revelation to me from God to take this position, for whatever reason.  Time has never been a problem, and the men quickly warmed up to having me there leading the group.  It really has been a great experience.  One of their wives told me that her husband looks forward to roundtable again, so with that bit of feedback (and the fact that they keep coming), I guess it's good for them too.

But there was another whisper that same day at the temple as well.  A month later when we went again I felt good about the fact that I had started working on it, but as more time has passed my "started" really hasn't amounted to much effort.  Not the kind of effort that direction from God should have.  But this one is definitely uncharted territory for me.  While the beginnings are easy to see, I think the unknown of taking this project further has me scared to work on it much.  I guess I need to start chanting again, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind," and listen for ways that He can help me make it happen, too.  Sadly, it's easier to shirk when you don't have a deadline or appointment to be to, but this is the stuff that integrity is made of.  Right?

I had most of that written up before church, then during sacrament meeting today one of the speakers made a comment along the lines of, how can we be instruments in God's hands if the instrument is trying to do the instructing?  Maybe in this case the instrument was deciding it didn't want to be played right now.

Thanks, friend, for the reminder this morning to have more faith and just follow.  Hopefully all ya'll will be hearing more about this.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Bread Lady

A couple weeks ago our Stake Relief Society put on an activity with a variety of speakers we could choose from.  If I had attended the last class first, I think I would have stayed there the whole time.  It was a bread class, and each of the 3 hours the instructor taught a different variety of bread, but from the moment I sat down and started watching her and her 12 year old daughter, I no longer cared about french bread.  I wanted my girls to play at their house!  This mother was gentle, joyful, centered, happy, and on and on, and her daughter was sweet, kind, beautiful, helpful, etc. etc.  Turns out that they live a ways away (yes, I asked), but just by watching them I could tell that she was an incredible woman and an intentional mother (Sister Beck talks about that, and I need to be better at it), and that her daughter was much the same.  I've only practiced what she said about bread a little, but I've thought about the two of them and their example a lot.

When studying Ralph Waldo Emerson this past week, this quote reminded me of them and the many others I get to call my family and friends.
"I count no man much because he cows or silences me.  Any fool can do that.  But if his conversation enriches or rejoices me, I must reckon him wise."
I hope you have people like that in your life, people that by just being around them make you want to be more, because I feel like my world is full of them.

By the way, "The Bread Lady" has a name, and she's a writer too, which I was happy to learn.  Since meeting her I found some articles she wrote, and this is my favorite, mainly because the night after I read it I had it in mind, and I ended up not eating ice cream, but did enjoy a great conversation with my son.  I want to start sending her topics for her to write about so I can learn more from her.  :)

What Am I Thinking?

"If you’re just in this meeting with me—this one we physically see—you’re not in the meeting yet.  The real meeting is the meeting between you and the Lord.  And if you want to really get in the meeting and have the Lord work upon your heart, that will be up to you."  --Gene R. Cook
During church today someone mentioned that when she is pulling weeds or doing other gardening activities she bears her testimony to herself.  That one little statement threw me into a wonderful "meeting" with the Lord.  I'm not a big fan of gardening (though it's one of those things that I would like to enjoy more), so in relating myself to her experience, it brought to mind other repetitive tasks that are necessary but don't make me feel joyful, like folding the laundry and doing the dishes.

And then I wondered, what am I missing because of my poor attitude?

I realized I have a whole lot of choice during those activities.  I could be bearing my testimony to myself, or several other things that would be a better use of my mind than grumbling about what I'm doing.  Another reminder to "cheerfully do all things that lie in [my] power" (D&C 123:17).  I really need to get better at that . . .