Friday, November 22, 2013

Documenting my Day of Gratitude.

Chocolate on my Cranium is hosting a blog hop.  She asks that each of us share a day of our choosing.  I chose yesterday, though it is by far not a typical day, it is a typical busy day.  I do have days like that about once or twice a month.  Have fun walking through yesterday with me....

6:45 a.m.  Get out of bed late, like an hour and 45 minutes late, but I am grateful for a few extra moments with my spouse, who is only awake because he has been sick and cannot sleep.

7:00 a.m.  Throw blueberry muffins in the oven for breakfast and scramble eggs.  I have discovered the best blueberry muffin recipe in the world!  I combined a couple of muffin recipe.....oh .......deliciousness!  Here is the recipe....I'll have to add it to my table talk page!

Of course, you would need a photo:
7:20 a.m. Feed the tortoise.  We are tortoise sitting.  His family is out of town for 10 days and they didn't feel like they should take him on vacation too.  Isn't he so very cute!!  He is only a few months old.  He fits in the palm of my hand!  Such a tiny little tortuga!

7:30 a.m.  The big boys miss the bus because we are running late.  I am very grateful I have 1 working car that can get them to school and still have enough time to get the little boys to school!

8:30 a.m.  Done running everyone everywhere.  Eat breakfast, check email, blogs, cnn.  Get Sun started on her school work.  Check out this beautiful morning sun!

9:30 a.m. After showering, plan the menu and grocery shopping for the week.

10:15 a.m.  Get gas and go shopping at my favorite store!  I am seriously grateful for Costco!  Today it was my one stop shop!  The time was crucial!
11:00 a.m.  Sit in Costco parking lot, eat Costco lunch, talk to my sweetheart on the phone, just touching on community drama.

11:30 a.m.  Get home and unload the groceries with these characters:
I am so grateful for the opportunity to homeschool, even if it is only one child at a time!  I love that my 12-year-old can watch the preschooler and I can still go grocery shopping without children!!

12:15 p.m.  Pick up little boys from school.  They have early out all week because of parent/teacher conferences.  I love having a couple of extra hours with them each day.

1:00 p.m.  1st parent/teacher conference.  I am grateful for very experienced teachers who love their job, even after they have done it for a long time!

1:20 p.m. 2nd parent/teacher conference.  I am grateful that I know my child well enough that when the teacher says, "This is a problem..." I know the problem isn't what she thinks it is!

1:40 p.m. Informal parent/teacher conference where I met with a former and hopefully future teacher of some of our children.  I am so happy to have a relationship with excellent teachers who know my children and appreciate their gifts and talents, where we can speak freely about the challenges and difficulties facing our school community and together we can make a difference for our children!

2:00 p.m.  Get home.  Sweep kitchen floor.  Go through the mail.  Check email.  Have an email from a favorite high school friend.  I am grateful to have amazing friends from high school who are still my friends today!  I may not hear from them often or see them hardly ever and though they do not share my faith, they are my dear, dear friends.  I know if I ever needed them, they would come!
3:00 p.m.  In the middle of my response to my HS friend, Slim calls me to talk about his life and plans and to catch up.  I am grateful that even as my children mature, they call home and want to talk to their mother.  I am sure it will not always be so, but I love it today!

3:30 p.m. I finish up email to HS friend.  Spike, Spike gets up from his nap and sits on my lap for 15 minutes while I finish typing and hit send.
he would not be still and my old camera shutter speed stuff 
is messed up!
3:45 p.m. Remind the little boys to do their jobs that I told them to complete at 2:00.  One says, "Can I just do that later?'  To which I reply, "Yes, if I can cook your dinner tomorrow."  He does his job and I clean the kitchen and begin dinner.  I am grateful for potstickers and a rice cooker on a busy day!!  And I am grateful that the third graders did not eat most of the rolls I sent for their Thanksgiving feast because now I can use them for dinner!
4:15 p.m.  An unexpected guest drops by.  She is substituting as the chorister in 2 weeks and has been a member for about 9 months or so.  I go over the job with her and how it works.  She is a musician, but has no children.  I am grateful she is excited and willing to help us out, and that she was thinking about it enough that she just popped by to get her instructions!

4:45 p.m.  Back to dinner.  I am grateful my children are willing to eat in shifts.  We don't usually do it that way, but today it is necessary.  Feed the baby.  Make toast for the boy who doesn't like potstickers (whose kid is that, anyway?).

5:00 p.m. Feed the little ones and the big ones.

5:15 p.m. Put together dinner for my husband and myself.

5:45 p.m.  Leave with dinner to pick up my husband for his Bishop's training meeting.  I am so grateful for children who will willingly babysit on very little notice!

6:00 p.m. pick up Drew.  Drive 20 minutes to his meeting while he eats in the car.  I am grateful for food that travels, thank you potstickers, and water bottles!

6:20 p.m.  Sit in the parking lot for 10 minutes to have just a few minutes with my sweetheart before his meetings.  Eat my salad.  I am grateful for 10 minutes!!!  (30 if you include the drive!)

6:30 p.m. Answer my texts and voice mails.  I am grateful that when I forget about a commitment I have made to a friend for tonight, she loves me enough to forgive me!  Some days life is so crazy!

6:45 p.m.  Begin writing and documenting my post on my day of gratitude.  I am grateful for just a few minutes to sit in quiet, even if it is not at my house and the building is cold.

7:45 p.m  I am so very grateful for how the day went.  It was packed!  This entire week has been packed!  But I am very grateful that after my 20 minute drive home, my baby will be in bed, and I will spend a little time with my sweetheart, probably watching Downton Abbey, before we go to bed and start tomorrow's day!

Which we did!  Got home @ 9:00 p.m.  Went to bed at 10:30 p.m.  Good night!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Changes of heart

Yesterday I posted about change, real change, the kind that sticks.  Today I wanted to talk a little about how the change begins. 

In my daily scripture study, I happen to be reading about Ammon, one of the sons of Mosiah, who went to preach the gospel among the Lamanites.  As the story goes, he finds a people who take him to their king.  The king questions his motives in visiting the king's people, as Ammon is a Nephite, enemies of the Lamanites.  Ammon assures him that his only desire is to serve Lamoni's (the Lamanite king) people.  He even says that maybe he'll live with them for the rest of his life.  Lamoni likes him so much that he offers to give Ammon one of his daughters in marriage.  Ammon declines and takes a job watching the king's sheep.

In their daily endeavors, Ammon and the other servants take the sheep to a watering hole, where some of the other Lamanites have taken to the practice of scattering the king's sheep and mixing them in with their own herds.  Then when the servants return home, the king executes those who have allowed his sheep to be scattered.

When these other Lamanites try to scatter the herd Ammon is watching, Ammon tells the other servants to encircle the sheep and keep them together.  Then Ammon goes to contend with these men, who "are in number, not a few".  Six, he kills with his sling shot.  Another, he kills with his sword.  By now, of course, those sheep scatterers are furious and trying to kill Ammon because of what he has done to their friends.  Any of the Lamanites who choose to lift up a sword against Ammon get their arms cut off, until they flee from the situation, fearful for their lives.

The servants with Ammon gather the arms, take them to the king, and tell the king all that happened at the watering hole.  To their account, they also add their testimony that they know Ammon cannot be killed because they watched plenty of people try to do it and fail.  This information troubles the king.  For the scriptures say, Lamoni said unto his servants, "Now I know that it (Ammon) is the Great Spirit; and he has come down at this time to preserve your lives, that I might not slay you as I did your brethren...."  Then a verse later, it reads, "....nevertheless, Lamoni began to fear exceedingly, with fear lest he had done wrong in the slaying of his servants....."

When the king inquires of Ammon's whereabouts, the servants tell him that Ammon is tending to your horses, like you instructed us to, which further astonishes the king because Ammon is so faithful in executing his commands.  By the time Ammon comes to report to the king, Lamoni is not sure about what he wants to say or how he wants to say it.  Eventually they start talking and King Lamoni has his questions answered.  Ammon then begins to expound the plan of salvation unto the king and teaches him about the Savior.

As I have pondered about the story, it would appear that King Lamoni's change of heart happens right as he is considering if somehow he has done wrong in slaying the servants whose flocks were scattered.  Did I make a mistake in handling the situation this way....?  He searches and questions his motives, intentions, and actions.

A few chapters later, Ammon and King Lamoni are traveling and they run into Lamoni's father, king over all the land.  He is not happy his son is keeping company with a Nephite, who is the child of a liar, in his opinion.  He commands his son to kill Ammon.  When Lamoni will not comply, the king decides to do it himself.  He, of course, is unsuccessful in his attempt.  When he is about to lose his life to Ammon, he offers to give Ammon anything he desires, up to half of his kingdom.  Ammon only wants what is right.  He requests that his brothers be freed from prison and the Lamoni retains his kingdom without interference from his father.  When Lamoni's father realizes that Ammon really loves his son and is not seeking for wealth or power, his heart changes----when he realizes he has been wrong about Ammon's character and intentions.
When we search our hearts and realize that our behaviors, thoughts, or words are not in harmony with God's laws or desires for us, and we are willing to change, our hearts are softened.  If we are not willing to change, this information brings defensiveness on our part and our hearts are hardened.  This is true even when we are speaking with another person.  If they tell us our behavior needs to change to be in harmony with truth and righteousness, and we are willing to change it, we will welcome the information, begin to make the changes and repent.  If however, we are not open to change, or do not want to change, this information feels like an attack.  We throw up our defenses and probably attack the messenger-----like Laman and Lemuel always seeking to take away Nephi's life.

There is a question I suppose of whether we are willing to make the changes because our hearts are soft or whether the willingness to change softens our hearts.  With the two examples above, it seems obvious that their recognition of wrong, precedes their changes of heart.  In King Lamoni's instance, there is no one telling him that he is wrong.  He wonders if he is, and then his heart is open to the response.  With King Lamoni's father however, Ammon and Lamoni are telling him he is wrong.  He disagrees with them, enough to want to kill Ammon and remove his son as a leader.  Only when he is going to lose his life and Ammon is meek in his requests does King Lamoni's father's heart change. 

Then of course, there is Alma....both the Older and the Younger, who have changes of heart.  Alma the younger sees an angel who says, look, you are not doing the right things and even if you choose to lose your own soul, you have to quit dragging others with you.  Stop bad-mouthing the church, basically.

Alma the younger also says that his father's heart was changed, in v. 13 of chapter 5 (Alma), according to his faith.  Alma the Elder hears the words, reflects on his behavior, recognizes his sins and exercises his faith unto repentance.

Enos' experience is similar.  The words of his father Jacob sink deep into his heart and his desires change. He desires to know his standing before God.
But is it any wonder that we teach repentance as one of the first principles of the gospel??  Repentance is recognizing that we have done, said, thought, or felt something wrong.  Then it is going through the efforts to make the changes necessary to correct that wrong.  That is where we exercise our faith.  But I think the change of heart happens first---the recognition of wrong and a willingness to change.  What do you think?  Is this making sense?

So then the application of this, for us, becomes what are we doing about making time and space to hear and feel the words of the Lord so we can recognize where in our lives we need to make changes?  If we are too busy for church, too busy for scripture study, too busy for prayers, the radio is on in the car, our ear phones are plugged in when we are going somewhere or exercising, and we always have our phone on playing music, texting, face-booking, or playing candy crush or farming games, when can the Lord speak to us?  And how on earth would we hear him anyway??

We have to make time for Him in our lives so we can hear the messages that will bring those changes of heart to us, those we love, and to the lives we live.  Peace and happiness come from knowing that our lives are in harmony with truth and right.  We can only put our lives in that kind of order if the Lord has the opportunity to let us know when our lives are out of balance in any direction.

So will you put some time aside for Him?  It doesn't have to be long----about 30 minutes a day works for me.  But I need it to be quiet so that I can hear that still small voice whisper to my heart, may need to make some here.......................and here.  Then I have to have the faith to make those changes.  Thankfully, He doesn't expect me to do it alone.   He'll be right there beside me, helping me make the change.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

His Image in our Countenance

The other day I was speaking to a girl friend on the phone who told me of an experience she had.   She is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and her children attend the Catholic school here in town.  Her husband works there and recently she began volunteering there.  One day she was talking with one of the young female students.  They got to talking about religion and my friend mentioned that she was a Mormon.  Her little friend informed her that her mother told her that Mormonism is really more about ordinances and religious practices than it is about changing who you are inside.  My friend was disheartened and explained that although she could understand how her mother came to that understanding, it certainly was not the case.  Those who are truly converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ are trying to change who they are to become like their Savior and to emulate the things He teaches and the way He lives.  (Use of the present tense is intended, as we believe He does still live, even though not mortally upon the earth, per se.)

I couldn't help but to reflect on my friend's experience.  It is true.  We have plenty, plenty of members who are more focused on the outward appearance of their faith instead of making internal changes to their personality and life.  I think it is especially true where I live.  However, I wanted to ask, what about you?

The church asks many, many things of us that are seen in our behavior---to attend our meetings, attend the temple, pay our tithing, participate in our callings, give service, help others, do our visiting teaching or home teaching, have family home evening, read our scriptures, say our prayers---all outward things.  But the entire point of the outward behaviors is suppose to be reflective of inward desires.  At the very least, it is to draw our attention to things that need to be changed on the inside.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson referred to some of these ideas in his address on The Divine Gift of Repentance in the October 2011 General Conference:

Second, repentance means striving to change. It would mock the Savior’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross for us to expect that He should transform us into angelic beings with no real effort on our part. Rather, we seek His grace to complement and reward our most diligent efforts (see 2 Nephi 25:23). Perhaps as much as praying for mercy, we should pray for time and opportunity to work and strive and overcome. Surely the Lord smiles upon one who desires to come to judgment worthily, who resolutely labors day by day to replace weakness with strength. Real repentance, real change may require repeated attempts, but there is something refining and holy in such striving. Divine forgiveness and healing flow quite naturally to such a soul, for indeed “virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; [and] mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own” (D&C 88:40).

With repentance we can steadily improve in our capacity to live the celestial law, for we recognize that “he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory” (D&C 88:22).

Third, repentance means not only abandoning sin but also committing to obedience. The Bible Dictionary states, “Repentance comes to mean a turning of the heart and will to God, [as well as] a renunciation of sin to which we are naturally inclined.”1 One of several examples of this teaching from the Book of Mormon is found in the words of Alma to one of his sons:

“Therefore I command you, my son, in the fear of God, that ye refrain from your iniquities;

“That ye turn to the Lord with all your mind, might, and strength” (Alma 39:12–13; see also Mosiah 7:33; 3 Nephi 20:26; Mormon 9:6).

For our turning to the Lord to be complete, it must include nothing less than a covenant of obedience to Him. We often speak of this covenant as the baptismal covenant since it is witnessed by being baptized in water (see Mosiah 18:10). The Savior’s own baptism, providing the example, confirmed His covenant of obedience to the Father. “But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments” (2 Nephi 31:7). Without this covenant, repentance remains incomplete and the remission of sins unattained.2 In the memorable expression of Professor Noel Reynolds, “The choice to repent is a choice to burn bridges in every direction [having determined] to follow forever only one way, the one path that leads to eternal life.”3

Our willingness to change is reflective in our behavior.  The change is suppose to happen first, and the humble and meek spirit that accompanies repentance should continue.  We are suppose to continue to change the things in our lives and hearts that are not in harmony with the teachings and example of our Savior.

It would appear to me that many of us would like everyone to believe that is what is happening in our hearts because our behavior looks the part.  But inside, we have not made much effort.  I think that is the impression the young student from the Catholic school came away with from her, or her mother's, interactions with those of our faith.

How tragic is that??  To have those who are not of our faith, believe that the Church of Jesus Christ offers no real opportunities for change because of the example of those of us who profess that belief??  What a tragedy!  Our lives should reflect the faith we profess to believe.  That means sometimes, others will see us fail, struggle, work, change, fall and pick ourselves back up, and become successful in our attempts to really change who we are.

You need to know that you are not alone in this fight.  I fight it too.  I want my family to all be dressed in the right church clothes, with dark socks, on time for church, happy with each other, not fighting, kind to strangers, to always have the right doctrinal answer in church, etc...  My idealist self wants my family to be the poster children who can  be seen on the cover of the Ensign.

The truth is, we are not perfect.  Please do not just stop by my house, it will not be clean.  My children fight.  My husband and I put in countless hours in emotional and spiritual counseling of our children to help them BECOME the kind of children and adults we hope for them.  Sometimes I simply cry over my inability to help a particular child understand a particular concept.  Sometimes I am not a kind person.  I say mean things.  It happens.  I usually recognize it right away.  I repent and ask for forgiveness from my children, my husband, and yes, even my ward members.  But the point is, in my efforts, I recognize things I need to work on.  I pray for help.  I make effort, and I change.  It .......takes..........a........lot......of...........t....i....m....e.......

Some days, when I am in the right place and all the planets align and I am listening to the Spirit, and rereading my journals, guess what I find???  I have made progress, because real and lasting change, the kind spoken of by Elder Christofferson, is simply continued and sustained effort over a lot of time.

And if I have enough self-esteem to rip off the mask of perfection and allow others to see and share my struggles, then I have help along the way and I do not have to hide myself when the reality of my life clashes with the perfected expectations of others.  Will others judge me?  Yes.  Will they have nasty things to say to me?  Maybe.  Will they talk about me behind my back?  Probably.  Why?  Because they aren't perfect either.  Maybe, just maybe, I can choose not to let their personal struggles offend me and wound my self-esteem.  Maybe I can provide them enough room to grow and learn too, so they can experience the lasting changes expressed in the doctrine of repentance we profess to believe.

I hope each of us serves to be a greater example of the doctrine of repentance our Savior teaches.  I want others to be able to look at me and know that I am striving to really change who I am on the inside, not just that I participate heavily in my church community.

What do you see inside of you?  Are there places you would like to change?  Do others know you are trying to become like the Savior?  Have you received His image in your countenance?
The previous video is from You Tube: His Image in Your Countenance, Nichelle Divelbliss.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Catching up on the homefront--a web of activity!

Here where I live, we have the coolest fall spiders!!  They are pretty big and we call them pumpkin spiders.  They are only out in the fall and then I don't know what happens to them, but we don't see them again until the next fall.  I was able to capture one of their webs with the morning dew on cool!  Maybe later I'll get a photo of the spiders....I just really like their webs!

Sorry I have been AWOL lately!  I have spent a lot of time trying to tie up lose ends here at home.  Last Monday I spent the day cleaning the little boys' room.  Oh my goodness!  I took out two bags of clothes, one bag of stuffed animals, one bag of garbage, and rearranged all of the toys.  Tuesday I caught up all of the laundry, which at our house is quite a little miracle.  Wednesday I finished painting the family know the odds and ends that just don't get polished off?  I did most of those, at least the big ones!  Thursday I went grocery shopping and tidied up the house, and helped a friend plan singing time for Sunday.  Friday I visited with a new member of my ward and just relaxed.

Then on Friday evening the sickness hit us! Ugh!  So for the holiday weekend, we just hung around sick.  We had a very full schedule on Saturday but we did manage to cancel our company who has a new baby.  By Monday of this week, we were kind of out for the count.  The illness has really hit the baby hard.  We have been fighting his asthma since Friday.  Plus I noticed he is finally cutting those two-year molars.  Lovely combination!

Yesterday I spend the afternoon cleaning out Sun's room and it took just as long as the boys' room and I took out just about the same amount.  Scary!  I know.

Plus, my big boys have been working out the details for their holiday plans and 2nd semester plans.....lots and lots of talking.  And my brother was really, really sick.  But he is getting better slowly.  So you can see it has been quite busy.  I have a few more things on my plate to catch up on and the amazing holidays are upon us :-)  Yea!!!  I love this part of the year!  Hopefully I'll keep up with blogging, but I have to tell you, right now, I just want to hang out with my people and get everything ready for our Christmas guests.  I'll try to not be a stranger.

Happy preparations!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Does grief have a time limit?

When I was a young, young woman of 18, my parents pulled all of us (six children) together in a family meeting and told us that mother was leaving and they would be getting a divorce.  I don't remember much from the days that followed.  It is like looking back at a broken jigsaw puzzle and only being able to see some of the pieces.

I can remember lots of crying---from me and my sisters, anger from both parents and probably more than one of the children.  I remember days and days of crying, thinking that I would be sad about this forever and being afraid I would cry forever.  Knowing that I had important stuff to do----like apply for college, graduate from high school, leave for college----I believed that if I was too sad for too long, I would miss opportunities.

It was the first time in my life that I remember choosing not to feel so I could choose to function instead.  I just closed the door on feelings so I could manage my life and the tasks that needed to be accomplished.

The mind is a powerful tool and I love learning about it.  I had no idea at the time, that choosing not to feel sadness was only possible for me by choosing not to have any feelings.  I couldn't seem to pick and choose which feelings I had, but I could choose to have them or not to have them.

Neither did I know that my reaction was not unique.  All people learn that life is sometimes painful and many choose to just stop feeling.  I think it is interesting that each of us can react differently to the same situation.  Some go into depression.  Some exhibit anger.  Some cry and mourn.  Some spend money.  Some turn to substances, alcohol, tobacco, drugs.  Some are promiscuous.  The range of behavior and emotion for sadness and loss covers an entire spectrum.

So my question has been---when is enough, enough?  When is a sad heart healed?  To be honest, I think the answer is probably different for each person and probably for each instance.  I like things stream-lined and efficient, which is why I think I chose not to feel.  Making a conscious choice has a time-limit, an end.  Allowing it to continue on its own course would interfere in my efficiency.  That I could not have.  I didn't have the time.  So I made a conscious decision---I am done being sad, now.  Of course, I wasn't............but if I chose not to feel, then I did not have to acknowledge my deep, deep sadness and hurt.

The truth, however, is that the pain is still in there.  I walled off my heart so no one could get in there and hurt me again.  Those issues came out in my marriage where my husband kept saying, "You treat me like everyone else."  How absurd, I thought.  I am not having physical intimacy with everyone else!  But  that wasn't what he meant.  The truth was I did treat him like everyone else.  There was a wall there and no one got through, husband or not.  In that regard I did treat him like everyone else.

I finally had to admit that I trusted no one----even my husband.  The divorce had taught me, although unconsciously, that I could not rely on people, especially those close to me who knew me best.  They have the greatest ability to hurt me and they are the most likely to do it.  Therefore, I could not trust them with those things which were so uniquely personal and sacred in my heart-----those ideas, philosophies, beliefs that make me who I am.

THAT was a lovely conversation to have with my dear husband!  I know I married you and committed my love and loyalty to you for eternity, but I'm sorry---there are just some parts of me I will not share.  Have my body, but not my heart.  Thankfully for me, the Lord gave me a very special husband who would never knowingly do something to hurt me or react out of spite. That is very significant in my ability to learn and recognize my emotions and behaviors and learn to trust another in my sharing of them.  But it doesn't change the fact that I have to work really hard to do it and open myself up emotionally when I am scared to do so.

Thankfully, I have the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life, which teaches me how to heal my heart and how to look into my emotions and behavior and how to change my natural woman desires to become a better and more noble person.  It is a lot of work.  But it is so worth it!  The Savior can heal your heart too!  The process begins by simply learning about Him and what He did for you.

Start here by watching this short video.  Notice the way the Savior treats those little children and know that regardless of your sins, He feels that way about you.  He loves you and desires you to come to Him.  Trust Him.  He will not hurt you.  He will heal you.  Then read this from the mouth of His current prophet.

If you still need more, go here to read about the doctrine of His Atonement.

Let Him heal you.