New Year

I don’t usually use this blog to discuss spiritual matters, I mostly use it to describe the daily happenings of our little family. Lately I feel the need to write down my spiritual experiences, so here we go …

This year our Relief Society is doing something cool. They give us a scripture on Christ to ponder each week and right around Easter we finish our study and talk about how our testimonies have grown. I thought this was a perfect opportunity for me to study the scriptures, specifically on Christ and write about my experience.

This week the scripture to study was Helaman 5:12:

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.

This is so pertinent to me recently. I’ve been wondering since Christmas what I can do to help my boys be more grateful and loving.

Christmas day was kind of a let down for Daniel and me. Every Christmas morning kind of is for us. Our boys are notorious for having terrible or no reactions. I blame Daniel. But this Christmas we really thought they’d be excited and happy about the gifts they got … but they weren’t. They would open a gift, stare at it and then say something like, “awwww, I really didn’t want THIS lego set. I wanted a different one” or “OK, so it’s clothes huh?” or …. no response at all. They’d open it, give no response at all and scoot it over off their laps. It was crushing to watch. The amount of money that was wasted on them this year (and every year) was significant. I couldn’t help but feel upset the whole rest of the day. Daniel and I talked about it for weeks afterwards and the first fast Sunday of the year I prayed and fasted asking what I could do to teach my boys to be grateful and kind.

I’ve been worried that it’s a personality trait or something I didn’t have control over. Then I worried that it was a fault of mine; that it’s something I should’ve been teaching them all along. How do you teach someone to be grateful? I thought about taking everything away from them, and I’ve done that in the past – taken away all of the their Legos and it seems to work in the short term, but it doesn’t seem to make a lasting impression on them. But that’s just the gratitude portion, I worry about them just being kind – to one another and to others.

After fasting I felt impressed to follow the teachings of a talk I heard in conference last year. I don’t remember who it was, but I remember it because I wrote it out on a chalkboard in our house. I wrote this:

“These are the very practices that help take away stress, give direction to our lives and add protection to our homes. Prayer. Your heart will feel buoyant peace. Tell him everything. Study the word of God. Through daily and consistent scripture study you will find peace in the turmoil around you and strength. Family Home Evening. As we come unto Him we can endure every temptation, every heartache, every challenge. Go to the temple”.

I obviously took parts of the talk and put them a little out of order to fit them on my chalkboard, but they all spoke to me.

I decided that this new year I would try to implement these practices more consistently into our lives and that it would help my boys learn to be grateful and kind. I’m not sure exactly how, because it doesn’t seem to hit the problem head on with a direct lesson YET as I read the scripture for this past week, Helaman 5:12, I nearly wept reading the first line, “And now, my sons, remember”. Here I have 3 sons, looking for answers about how to teach them and Helaman begins in this verse by directly addressing his sons, “remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation”. If I can teach my boys the Gospel of Christ then, “when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you”. I want that for my boys.

I read all of chapter 5. So powerful for me. I felt the Spirit speak to my heart as I read. I didn’t have to try, the words were shown to directly apply to my life and situation right now. At the beginning of the chapter it tells how the people had gotten so wicked that Nephi gave up the judgement seat and left on a mission, to preach the gospel the rest of his days with his brother Lehi. I couldn’t help but feel like my boys have gotten so bad that I feel impelled to dedicate my life to teaching them the gospel. Nephi and Lehi then reminisce of the words their father, Helaman, had spoken to them and that’s where we get verse 12 (and several others) where Helaman pleaded with his sons to keep the commandments and remember to repent and rely on Christ. As I read Helaman’s words, I thought how I wanted the same for my sons. Helaman was a daddy. It sounded like a daddy. At one point he tells them to remember why he named them Nephi and Lehi – it was after their ancestors and they were good and he wanted them to be good. I want my sons to be good.

Then Nephi and Lehi go on a mission. It’s wildly successful with the Nephite cities, then they go to the Lamanites and convert hundreds there too. In one Lamanite city they are disliked and get taken and thrown in prison. There is a beautiful description of a spiritual experience that happens in that prison. The part I latched on to was how they described the spirit – “…they were as if in the midst of a flaming fire, yet it did harm them not … and they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory”. I have felt this and it was brought to my mind as I read this. I have felt as though I were encircled about with fire, it was during my patriarchal blessing. As Patriarch Hawkes had his hands on my head and as he spoke I distinctly felt as though I were sitting in a pillar of fire. I remember feeling it so tangibly that I peeked opened my eyes, thinking I might actually see something. I also remembered that joy that was described. I have felt it on several occasions – on my baptism day, my wedding day and several times in the temple. On my wedding day, I remember being so full of joy that I couldn’t stop smiling, huge, and I was shaking the bench I sat on because I was bouncing my legs. Just sheer joy.

The very last thing that jumped out at me in this chapter was the voice that spoke to the people in the prison. That voice was the voice of God and it said, “Peace, peace be unto you because of your faith”. I have so many concerns and I am emotionally distraught a lot. I feel like, in the end, all I desire is peace. I just want to feel at peace. I yearn for this and plead in my daily prayers for this.

I’m so grateful for this spiritual experience. I’ve noticed that anytime I am obedient, I am rewarded with another spiritual experience. It’s these personal experiences that fuel me until the next experience. I need this constant feeding of my spirit and I find that I hunger after it. I have started feeling that desire, that hungering and thirsting that the scriptures talk about and these experiences are like sustenance to me. I am renewed to teach my sons the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I am confident that it will change their behavior. At the very least, if they build upon the rock of Christ then, “when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”

begin again

I recently finished putting together a blog book … from 2012. I’m a little behind I guess. I really had the intent of creating a blog book each year that I blogged, but I only have two books printed. One from 2008 (Daniel did that as a surprise gift to me one year) and 2012 now. Anyway, I got it printed and it came in the mail last week and I love it. I really kind of treasure it. It’s my journal and a picture book all in one and it documents our little lives. Daniel and I poured over each page when it came and read through a few entries and by the end of 147 pages Daniel looked at me and said, “you should blog again”. So here I am.

I’ve been so busy since I moved to CA with family stuff and trips and everything has been so happy that I haven’t really needed to blog like I did in MI. I did it before as a form of therapy and it was so nice, but I still enjoy writing and I want my kids and family to have a record of the good times too. So let’s get going.

Funny enough, I’m writing because I’m a little sad. It’s Monday and I miss Daniel. I always miss Daniel on Mondays because I’ve had him near me all weekend and Mondays I always have separation anxiety :) But this Monday it feels especially poignant. We met with the stake president yesterday and Daniel has been called to be the Bishop of our ward. We’re both dreading it. We’re nervous and worried and I’ve been weepy on and off since we were told.

He accepted the call to serve, as did I to support him in this call but I couldn’t get the words out when President asked me, I just whimpered and nodded. I’m sure we caused some alarm to our stake president, or maybe not. Maybe he sees this kind of reaction a lot when calling Bishops. Daniel looked flat out scared and I was crying. It was a strange experience – to be called to serve as a Bishop, like one of those that feels like it’s imprinted in your mind. It felt like things slowed down and yet your mind is racing. I was hearing the words our stake president was saying, but didn’t really know what to think about it.

And now it’s the day after, it’s Monday and he will be sustained on Sunday and he already has two meetings this week before it happens – Wednesday and Thursday night. This Monday feels worse without him because I feel like I’ll never see him again. I’m being dramatic, I know I will see him, but his attention and time will be severely divided from me and the boys. He will have a lot more stress and responsibilities. Which is crazy because he already pulls 12 hour days at Amazon – 7am-7pm and that felt hard. Now instead of having his evenings and the weekends, the boys and I will probably get a couple nights a week, no Sundays and I have no idea what to expect for Saturdays. It just makes me want to cry …. again. And I miss him already.

I’m writing this all out now, but won’t post this until after he’s been called on Sunday, since we were asked to keep this to ourselves until then. So I can’t tell Christina, because she’s in my ward. I told my parents yesterday. Daniel and I called them together, mostly to get advice since Dad has served as bishop twice now. It was good. Mom said some things that really helped Daniel – that he would know what to say and be inspired in the moment to say things he wouldn’t normally know how to say. She also said that the Lord blesses His bishops. Dad gave some great advice also – to ask for help from the stake leaders, Elders Quorum president, Relief Society President, High Priest Group Leader, and even other bishops in the stake. Deferring as many responsibilities as Daniel can.

As for me, I have felt a slight shift already. I feel a greater sense of responsibility in the home. I feel like I will be leading out in everything. I thought I was already but I have felt it even stronger just in the past 24 hours – making sure we did our family scripture study before the Google hangout and family prayers. It won’t just be dinners alone, but now bedtimes too and everything really. It all makes me so sad. Just really sad. I picked out my husband, I didn’t just somehow end up with him. I picked him out and desired to spend every waking moment with him and the longer we’re together, the harder that becomes.

There’s only one thing that seems to stand out in my mind over the past 24 hours and it’s something Daniel told me. Before we went in to meet with the stake president on Sunday morning, Daniel and I were talking about what we thought he wanted to talk to us about. We were worried that this bishop calling was on the table because our current bishop has been in his calling for over 5 years and his time is about up. So as we talked, I asked Daniel what he was feeling and he told me that he kept worrying it would be a calling he wouldn’t have time for but the thought occurred to him that his time was consecrated to the Lord. He made promises with the Lord to give all that he had – his time and talents and life to the building up of the kingdom of God, and because he had already made that commitment, the answer for whatever calling it was, would be yes. The Holy Ghost bore witness to me that this was true and it’s the only thing that seems positive in all of this.

Everybody is asked to serve the Lord in different ways and everyone has their own personal struggles. Nobody chooses their trials. Trials change you because they are harder than you think you can handle. Change doesn’t seem to happen any other way. At least not for me.

So here we are. I keep kind of thinking that maybe they’ll ask someone else this week and tell Daniel and I that we’re off the hook, that the Lord had different plans, that all we had to do was make the choice to accept the call …. that’d be awesome right? I guess we’ll see. I’ll keep you posted.

queens, activity days

I teach the Activity Day girls at church. They are 8-11 years old and we do activities every other week, so 2 a month. This month we focused on beauty. We did an outer beauty night where we talked about hygiene and then did manicures and pedicure to one another. It was a fun, pampering night. But last night, I was in charge of the “inner beauty” night.

I wanted to make sure the girls felt special, had fun, but knew that what we were talking about was important. So I wanted to add details and elements to make it special. The theme for the night ended up as “Being Queens – as daughters of God, we are queens in the making”.

Then I of course had to make crowns. duh. And since I had to do it all for free, because our budget is blown, I made them out of lace I already had. I saw these crowns on Pinterest and was inspired:

Gorgeous right? Yeah, well, it gave instructions on how to make them from lace and so I thought I could …. but it was a bit of a fail. I was trying to do it on the cheap, so I didn’t go out and buy fabric stiffener, I saw online that you can make your own homemade fabric stiffener with glue and water. no you can’t. I did it and it didn’t make it stiff. They were semi-firm. Anyway, here was my process:

Apply glue/water mixture (or fabric stiffener if you’re smart) and let it dry completely, overnight.

Apply silver or gold paint and let it dry then brush them with mod podge and apply mad amounts of glitter. Let it dry completely.

Then, give up on making them completely stiff and turn them into quasi-tiaras with ribbon you have on hand. Whatever works.

The plan for the evening was this:

They come into the room and I wanted to have a “throne” for everyone (steal the chairs from the foyer), but we have too many girls coming for that. So instead, I am having a set of tables set up in a U shape with chairs.
Then they will all be seated and we will watch these two Mormon Messages for the youth … in this order:
Next, we’ll play a game I made up called “WWQD? (What Would Queens Do?)” Throughout the game the girls will be guessing and playing charades to find out what queen qualities we are working to possess and then doing an activity for each quality.
I brought my magnet board from home and put up this awesome picture of a girl in a crown.
There are 4 qualities we focused on. It’s supposed to be all about the girls’ inner beauty, so the qualities are: be kind, THINK, be modest, and the 13th article of faith (which obtains just about every quality we need).
Be Kind – played charades/Pictionary/hangman to figure out the quality, then we played “Baby I love you, won’t you give me a smile”. Sometimes being kind is simply a smile.
(THINK) “Think before you speak” – played charades/Pictionary/hangman to figure out the quality, then played “the minister’s cat”, where you have to think quick and come up with a quality for the cat in alphabetical order. You clap your hands in a beat and go around the circle in the order of the alphabet.
Be Modest – played charades/Pictionary/hangman to figure out the quality, then broke into groups of 2-3 girls each and had them use magazine cut outs to create outfit boards for certain occasions. How would a “queen” dress to go to a swim party, prom, work, school? etc etc. They glued all the outfits onto the page and showed the group.
This was fun, I got to ask them what they thought about modesty and how it worked in their lives. We had a good discussion.
These girls were finding a modest outfit to wear to working at Subway. :)
13th Article of Faith – play charades/Pictionary/hangman to figure out the quality, then I will teach them to memorize this. However, they already knew it and so we just recited it. We were out of time anyway, so it worked out.
Once done, I had handouts and sugar cookies for the girls with little sparkly crowns on top:
And that was it. I had fun and I think the girls liked it too. I usually do too much, but this was a good balance for me. It wasn’t going overboard with decorations or extras, but hopefully it was just enough to let them know I thought this topic was important enough to put extra time into it, making crowns and displaying pictures and having awesome sugar cookies. There we go. Now next time, I think we’ll just sit in the gym and play games :)