Sunday, June 29, 2014

Letter to my Friend

copyright: Karen Larsen photography
Dear Friend,
How are things going?  I have been thinking about you a lot lately.  Is life going well for you?  Do you have any concerns or thoughts that are bothering you?  Do you know that I love you?  How is your family doing?
I hope all is going well for you and the family!
Life at our house is just a bit crazy and wild....not too much abnormal though.  Slim is home recuperating for the summer before he begins law school in the fall.  The boy has only had 14 concussions over the course of the last several years.  He gets dizzy if he over does it or if he doesn't get enough sleep.  Sometimes he gets a head ache.  He really needs to just take it super easy.  At this point, even a part time job is too much for him.  He has been over doing it for too long.  I just hope this short summer will give him enough rest that he can manage his first year of law school.  Crazy boy!
Spanky just broke off an engagement.  We are all happy and relieved at that.  She is a very nice girl, and sweet.  It was his first real girl friend.  They were engaged for 6 weeks.  He finally put together some pieces of their relationship that he was ignoring because he just wanted it to work out.  That's when he decided that it wasn't what he thought it was and called it off.  We dropped him and Sport off at BYU last week.  Two days later I got a phone call, "Mom, no one who I want to date wants to date me...."  Spanky, you have been there three days, maybe you should give it a little more time?  Ya....well.  I think he is going to recover just fine.
Scuff is finally in Brazil and making the adjustments necessary to serving in a forgien land with a new language and customs.  But he is doing well!
We dropped Sport off with Spanky.  He is a little slower to adjust.  I'm sure he will love it, but trying to find a job and pay for all of his own expenses and make his own meals is proving a little taxing......but it is coming.  I'm just worried that once he figures out how much there is to do and how many people there are to do it with, classes won't be so important anymore.  But all of the boys kind of go through that.  I guess it is just his turn.
Speedy now gets to make the adjustment to being the oldest, that is once Slim leaves.  We have already had the talk:  Now you need to be nice and kind and nurturing, the kind of big brother that the other kids can look up to and ask for help from when they need it.  You are no longer the obnoxious brother who isn't kind.  He is not too happy about his new role.  We'll keep helping him adjust to his new responsibilities :-)
Sun is pow-ing through pre-algebra.  We kind of quit doing math in the middle of the semester because we were overwhelmed.  So we are picking it up this summer.  Math has always been her favorite, so it isn't really difficult for her, we just needed more time than we had available.  And I just remembered, oh ya....she has an audition in August!  I guess we had better figure out what music she is going to be singing and start working on it.  I'll put that on my list.

Shorty just left for his first camp-out.  He is not too disappointed that none of the other scouts will be there.  He will be alone with four of the adults and they have some huge fishing contest tomorrow.  He loves to fish!!  He'll catch them, and clean them, but isn't so hip on eating them.  One day he and his brother brought home 9, count them! 9 trout.  What was I suppose to do with that?  We don't like fish!  But true mother fashion, I grilled them on the BBQ and we ate some of them.  (Then fed the rest to the cat...shhhh.....)  Yucky fish!
Smiley just finished scout day camp.  It was nice to have something for him to do every day this week.  I had wanted to take the kids to the beach today, but it rained!!  Bummer!  So we caught up on laundry instead.  Slim didn't do any laundry while we were driving to Utah for the boys (6 days!) so there is a lot of laundry to do.
And while we were gone, Spike Spike's allergy test results came back.  The boy is not only allergic to milk and peanuts and walnuts, which I knew, but he is also allergic to corn and soybeans. All of those allergies are a class 2 (on a scale of 0-6, 6 being the high).  Those aren't so bad, except I can tell when he has been exposed to any of them, so he is apparently a very allergy sensitive person.  But then he tested at a class 6 for dust and a class 5 for dust mites, which means, since I am such an AWESOME house keeper (NOT), I get to do a much more superb job in that department.  I spent all of Wednesday dusting his room and vacuuming his bed, under his bed, changing out his mattress, purchasing and putting on one of those zippered mattress bags, and washing all of his bedding.  And we get to get rid of all the stuffed animals and wash all of his bedding and animals once a week, vacuum out all of the couches twice a week, and dust each room each week, along with extra filters on all of the furnace vents.  Luckily I am good at balance and won't kill myself in the process.  (Did I mention that we have to pull out all the carpet in his bedroom and the other bedroom and replace the one in the family room?  Thank goodness that the Spirit had given me a heads up on that one and we were already in the process of trying to make that happen!!  It isn't done yet, but I had a feeling it was going to be needed so I started the process.  Yea for small favors!)  Anyway, hopefully by making some of these changes, the boy will be able to breath.  I think his nose has been clogged for about six months and his little eczema has been horrible!  Hopefully that will improve also.
Well, my dear friend, all is well here!  I am in good spirits even though life goes on!!  Also, when we were in Provo, we were able to spend some time with a dear college friend and his family.  It was a sweet blessing!  About a year and a half ago, he was diagnosed with a stage four brain tumor.  They removed the tumor but in the process he lost some of his mobility on his right side and it takes his brain longer to get the words out.  Usually his diagnosis carries with it a 21 month death sentence.  His doctor told him that it is not a matter of if the tumor grows back, but when.  He and his wife are trying to manage his health, their home, and the lives of their six children.  It was a sweet gift to be able to spend some time with him while he is still here in mortality.  It was also a great blessing to hear his testimony that he is not afraid to die.  He knows where he is going and what he will do there.  He knows he has made covenants with God that bind him to his wife and family for eternity and that those things will stay in place even after he passes through this life.  It was great to see that his faith is sustaining him and his family.  We dearly love them.  It is probably the last time we will see him in mortality, so it was a little bitter sweet!  But I got to hug him and hold him and his wife.  Then he had to use his walker to stand next to me he said, "To remind me that he is still taller than me".  The man is 6' 2".  Besides, who isn't taller than me?!  He always calls me "Caronious!"  Probably because I call him Darronious.  
Anyway, now that this email is a short novel, I should probably go and make dinner for my kiddos and sweetheart!  I love you my dear friend!!  Say 'hi' to your family for me!
Love Carin

Friday, June 27, 2014

FFF #24--Family Scripture Study

Well, we are all returned from our trip to drive the boys out to school.  It was an amazing and fun trip!!  It was too short!  I wish it had been longer and that we had had more time to visit more of our friends in Provo.  We didn't get to see most of them.  I will tell you about the trip, but not today.
Because we have stayed in people's homes recently, I had the opportunity to watch other families participate in their family scripture study.  It looks different than mine, which is fine!  I just thought it was interesting to note how each family does it.  Maybe it will give you courage, if you are not already doing so, to participate in a way that works for your family.  If you are already having family scripture study, how does it work for your family?  I do not believe there is a right or a wrong way to do it.  The important thing is that you are doing it!  We didn't do it in the family I grew up in.  Since I have been married to Drew, we have done it almost every night.  We started on our wedding night, seriously!

Our family scripture study has evolved over the life of our family.  While it was just Drew and I, we read a chapter or so every night, and discussed the doctrines we were learning.  When Slim was a baby, we just kept doing that.  As the children got old enough that we thought they were listening and interested, we read directly out of the scriptures for a few verses and then told the story so they became familiar with the stories in the scriptures.  Slim used to tell the story of Nephi and the Brass plates to our families at three years old.  They would laugh hysterically as he told them 'Laban said: I will kill you and it will hurt!'  As the oldest children got old enough to discuss the doctrine, we started reading a few verses or a chapter and discussed what some of the words and ideas meant and how they apply to our lives today.  Then when the Duty to God program for the young men required the young men to read the Book of Mormon completely once by the time they were a teacher and then again as a Priest, we just had the boy who was needing to complete that assignment be the reader for the family and we had discussions, as well.  Currently, we have kind of continued that trend.  Shorty (11) is our current reader, with all of his siblings before him having been the reader at one time or another, until they have completed reading the Book of Mormon once out loud.  If you are doing the math, that means we have read the Book of Mormon at least 6 times as a family.  In reality, I think we have probably done it about 15 times which isn't so bad for 25 years.  (I haven't really counted.....)

We read our scriptures at night, before we say our family prayers.  When everyone was little and home every night before 8, we all participated at the same time.  Now we read at 8 with anyone who is here and needs to go to bed.  Then we read again with the others when they get home.  This last Wednesday night, I had just finished reading with the littlest guys and put them into bed, when the older ones showed up and we did the entire process all over again.

At our house, we all just gather together and one person reads while the rest of us listen.

Another family we stayed with has two children (11 and 9 ish).  They read scriptures in the morning.  They pull up the scriptures on the computer, which is hooked up to their television.  They each read three or four verses, discuss their meanings and then say the prayer for the day.

The other family we stayed with reads in the evening.  Each person brings their scriptures to their parents bedroom because their father is handicapped and that is where he is.  They each read a page in the Book of Mormon (5 pages) and then the youngest ones read a page in the Pearl of Great Price (2 pages).  Then they pray as a family and spend an extra two minutes or so after the prayer still quiet and on their knees as they listen for the Spirit to answer their prayers.

I know other families do a little kind of a devotional with a thought and a song.
The thing that I think is amazing is that the Church doesn't say "Here is how family scripture study should look" and then lay it out for us.  All they say is: "You should be having family scripture study," and then it is left up to each family to decide what that looks like and how it should function.  As our family has changed, so has the way our family scripture study looks.

I've shared this story before, but I'll share it again:

Elder Nelson came to one of our stake conferences years ago.  He was discussing the importance of family home evening and family scripture study and its significance in the lives of his children and grandchildren.  He actually told us from the pulpit, "I won't tell you our family scripture study and family home evenings were always a howling success.  Sometimes there was more howling than success."  He then went on to say that his children were more successful in their attempts to hold family scripture study and family home evening than he and his wife had been and he hoped that his grandchildren would do an even better job.
This is what it would look like if we did it in the morning.

And to be honest, I am pretty sure our children do not always or even usually remember what we discussed in family scripture study.  But they know we have it.  They know it is important.  Through our obedience they learn that as a family, we value the information in the scriptures and we think it is important enough to follow the counsel of the prophets in holding family scripture study.

What does it look like at your house?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Teaching the Gospel in the Home

My stake president called me last week and asked me to share with him a few thoughts about teaching the gospel to my children. His point was that we keep hearing about 'hastening the work,' and we think about the full-time missionaries.  In reality, he was saying, we are the full-time gospel teachers and the missionaries, though they are full-time during their service, we are full-time in our lives.   I was trying to put Spike Spike to sleep when he called, so I sent him my response a little later in an email.  I thought it was good enough to stick out here on the blog.  Here is my response to his question:

As I have thought about my feelings as a full-time teacher of the gospel in my home a few thoughts come to mind:

First, the Lord has sent to my home my primary investigating pool.  The children who come to my home are my primary responsibility.  Besides myself, they are the most important converts I will ever have in time or eternity.  The Lord has sent them to me because He trusts me enough to teach them, mostly through my example and behavior, to the very best of my ability the importance of the doctrines of the gospel.  It is my job to help them understand WHO they are, WHY they are here, and WHAT the Lord expects them to do.

Second, they are each different.  No two are alike.  Teaching strategies that work for one, most likely, will not work for another.  The Spiritual Armor of God must be tailor fit to each individual, which means seeing where their strengths and weaknesses are and emphasizing their strengths with humility, while helping them to strengthen and overcome their weaknesses.

Third, as a gospel teacher in the home, I need to be ready every day.  I cannot slacken my spiritual learning and training because I am teaching every minute of every day.  My children see me reading the scriptures and saying my prayers.  They know what TV shows and movies I watch, what books I read, and what internet sites I visit, who I talk to, and what I say.  My life is the example they will turn to when they are wondering where I stand and how they should behave.

Fourth, I am not enough to do this by myself.  Even with training and gospel understanding and study, I do not always know what my children/investigators are struggling with, because sometimes they just don't tell me.  I have to rely on the Spirit.  When I feel a strong impression to spend time with a child, ask them specific questions, or talk to one of their friends, I follow those promptings.  Sometimes I have thoughts about teaching specific doctrines or sharing specific experiences that I have had with them.  I plead with my Father in Heaven to make me equal to the tasks before me of helping these children gain deep and abiding testimonies of the Atonement, knowledge of how repentance works, how to pray, how to listen to the Spirit, and all the other doctrines we believe and try to live.

Fifth, one of the greatest gifts I can personally give to my children/investigators is to understand how to apply the doctrines of the gospel to their personal lives.  When there is conflict in the home, or when someone is struggling with a decision about behavior, we teach them to think about the stories in the scriptures and what some of the prophets have done in those very situations.  We teach them to read the words of the prophets from General Conference and how to search to find out what the prophets have said on a particular topic and how they have applied those doctrines to their lives.  When they learn where to turn to for help and answers, we have provided them with knowledge beyond their own and ours.

I wish I had all the answers.  I don't.  But I know the Lord does, so if I can tap into that source, listen to it, and follow it, I know I can be successful in helping my investigators desire to choose righteousness and understand its importance in their lives.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Family First #23 Temple Day!!

Well, if all has gone according to plan, today Drew, Spanky and I will be able to visit the Provo Temple.  I have names for my ancestors that we will be able to complete the endowments for.

We are in Provo to drop Spanky and Sport off for summer session of BYU---GOOOOO  COUGARS!!! We drove them out because it was a little cheaper to drive than to fly two boys and their stuff, plus we have a dear friend who is terminally ill and we want to be able to see him.  It will be a fun trip but filled with many emotions.  I'll make a full report when I return.

I am so excited to visit the temple!!!  Our temple is far enough away and our transportation unreliable enough that we do not get to go very often.  I love the feeling of peace I have when I enter the temple.  It envelops my entire soul!!  It is one of the very few places that I can completely relax and enjoy the feelings I have there.  I can lock the outside world away and focus on the things of eternity!

Remember when I told you that the work we do in the temples doesn't automatically mean that we are 'making people members of our church'?  We do the work because we believe the Lord requires of it of all people.  We do it because our ancestors who are deceased can no longer do it for themselves.  But we believe all people, living and dead, and those yet unborn, have agency.  They can choose for themselves.  The work is done for them, however, they have the opportunity to choose for themselves whether they want to accept that work or whether it is something they do not want.

I have had experiences where I have felt the love and appreciation of some of my ancestors for doing their work.  I do not feel it every time, however.  I don't know if all of the temple work I have done for others has been accepted by them.  But I believe some of it has because of the feelings I experienced while participating in the work.

I also LOVE finding out about my family!!  I love genealogy work and learning about who my ancestors are, where they came from and a little about the lives they lived.  I am a product of their effort and time in mortality.  Because of the decisions they made and the lives they lived, I live.  I was born where I was born and grew up in the places I did.  My hair, eyes, body type, in some cases my religion or desires for education, employment, my morality, are all influenced by the choices they made and the lives they lived.  I love living in the United States of America!  I am grateful for my ancestors who left their home countries of Germany, England, Scotland and others so that I would be able to bring up my family and live here in America.  I am grateful for my closer ancestors of my grandparents who made sacrifices to join the church so that I have the gospel in my life and to teach to my children.  The very least I can do to show my gratitude to my ancestors for the sacrifices they made to allow me the blessings I enjoy is to participate in temple work to allow them to have all of the ordinances and blessings necessary for them in eternity.  That is how I feel when I participate in temple work.

Whether they accept the work or not, is their concern and their choice.  I simply provide them the opportunity to share my gratitude with them for their sacrifices.

It will be a fabulous day!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Lord is in the Details (#2)

Yesterday I needed to make a copy of our water bill.  You don't need to know why I needed to make a copy, just know that I did and I usually do that at Staples because that is one of the only places in town you can make a photocopy.  (Yes, we are little.)
Copyright:  Karen Larsen photography

I had the option of doing it in the morning right after I dropped Drew at work, but had the distinct impression to take care of it later in the day when I would be out again.  OK.  No problem.

Later in the day, at Staples, I put my little piece of paper on the glass top, but the machine kept telling me that something wasn't right, and it wouldn't make the photocopy.  Frustrating.  I looked again at the machine and tried to figure out what it was telling me.  I finally understood that it wanted me to move some little green tab on the top lid.  When I did, I could see that there was a piece of paper stuck in there, so I pulled it out.  Someone had obviously used the feeder system and one of the papers got stuck in there.  "Oh, someone left one of their originals, bummer," I thought.  "I'll just give this to the Staple guy when I leave," and proceeded to make my photocopy.

As I picked up the left original and started looking at it, I had trouble figuring out what it was.  The title on top read "Jamaica Kingston Mission" and it had a bunch of phone numbers, names and places that I didn't recognize.  "Well, maybe other churches have missions too."  Then I looked a little closer.  "Sister Gantz" caught my eye.  "Sister??!! I think we are the only church that does that!"  I looked closer.  All of the names began with Sister or Elder.  "OK this is definitely one of ours!!  But why would there be a Jamaican Mission sheet here in California??  The only person who this might belong to, would be...
OH!!!  President and Sister Bingham who served in that mission several years ago!"

So I called them on the phone because their number was in my cell phone.  "President Bingham, this is Carin.  I was here at Staples and -------is this your paper?"

He laughed!  "Yep.  My wife was just there."

"Great, I'll bring it right over!" and I did.

Now I am sure some skeptics would say, 'just a coincidence, a nice one, but coincidence'.  I would say 'NOT'.  Why?  Because those phone numbers and information were important to Him and His work.  When I dropped the paper off at their home, Sister Bingham said, "Where did you get that?!!"

I told her the story.

She told me that they had just recently returned from visiting Jamaica and were talking with the current Sister who is working the office there.  She hadn't saved any of the information that Sister Bingham had had from the mission.  She asked Sister Bingham to photocopy the records and send her a copy.  That is why Sister Bingham had been at Staples in the first place.

Now think about this.  If I had finished my photocopying earlier in the morning, I would not have been the one to find that piece of paper and return it to the Binghams.  It would likely have been thrown into the trash.

The Lord is in the details and if we will listen, we can be too.  This thought gives me great peace and comfort.  Whenever I am tempted to think that He doesn't care or even pay attention to the things going on around me, I can bring to mind many, many more instances where I have seen His hand in the details of my life.

Copyright: Karen Larsen photography.  Isn't she an amazing photographer??!
 He clothes the lilies of the field.  He notes the fall of every sparrow.  We are His children, who have been fastened after His image.  His work and His glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, of us!  All the world is His creation.  I guarantee you that He is paying attention, to you and to me and to the details around all of us.  If you cannot hear Him, it is because you need to learn better how to listen.  Because I can promise you that He wants to communicate with you.  He knows stuff you need to know and He does not want to leave you out there without guidance and help.  Start doing the things He asks of you, learn how He has communicated with others, and see if you do not start to hear Him speak to you.  He is there.  He loves you.  You are His child and He will not leave you alone!  Reach out and ask.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Linking ancestoral photos to their family search profile..... .....that was easy!

I did it!!

I spent 15 (really 30, I think) minutes working on family history Saturday morning.  I just wanted to upload the photos of my grandparents and great grandparents and see how that whole thing works.  It was awesome!!

I just went to and typed in my user name and password.  Then up popped my family tree.  I put my cursor over the word 'memories' at the top, then clicked on 'photos'.  I hit the little green + sign and another one popped up.  I hit that one too.  Then it opened up my computer menu to choose which photo I wanted to upload.
I cropped out the child, because he is still living and did not give his permission.

When the upload is complete, I had the option to add a description of the relationship and had to push the 'add description' button.  Then I could alter the title, but also had to click the little green check mark to the right in order to keep it.  There was an exclamation point on the middle right saying that the person had not been tagged yet, click the person to tag them.  So I clicked on them.  A little circle pops up which I can adjust the size of, in the corner, as well as a little window to put their name into.  (I think I had to click 'add person' for it to save.)  Then there was still an exclamation point on the right side.  When I moved my cursor over it, it said that the person was not yet linked to family search.  A drop down menu appears and one option says 'link to family search'.  Poke that link.  Then put your information in to search for your ancestor.  When you have the right one, hit the select button on the right.
I cropped out the child she was holding, even though it was me.

Voila!  Your ancestor has now been uploaded and linked to their family search profile.  Anytime (except when you are viewing the family tree) you or someone else looks up that ancestor, their photo is linked to their name.  Cool, huh?  So I uploaded my grandfather and my grandmother on my father's side.

I figured they would want the one where they were young and gorgeous, not old and wrinkled!!
 Then I uploaded one photo that included both of my great-grandparents.  I tagged them separately and linked the tags to their individual names and again, Voila!  Uploaded one photo, tagged two people in the photo and their photos were linked to their family search profiles.

So very cool!!  Then you can also add stories or memories to the person as well.  I haven't done that yet.  But the photo upload thing only took about 30 minutes to figure out and do!  Isn't that so very, very cool!!

Do you have an amazing experience uploading your photos?  You should try it today---a perfect Sabbath day and Father's day activity, with the kiddos!  Upload your fathers today!!!

Happy Father's Day!!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Family First Friday #22--Play nice

So a dear friend of mine got called as the Relief Society President in her ward.  She is an amazing woman and she will do an amazing job!!  I have worked with her before in a lot of girls' camp areas.  And she is amazing!  As we were discussing her new calling, she said, "I don't know Carin, being the RS President is like girls' camp on steroids!"  I burst out laughing right in the middle of seminary graduation.  Luckily, it was before the meeting had begun and I stifled it quickly.

Her comment caught me so off guard, but is so very true!  It is funny that as we get older we think that we mature (and to some degree, we do), but the older I get, the more I realize that adulthood is just Junior High all over again.  (I mean, minus the children and the bills and the grown-up problems.)  But sometimes, we are just big people with the same feelings and emotions, and unfortunately some of the same drama!

Whenever you are tempted to get sucked into the drama, remind yourself of the things you learned in junior high:

  • Play nice.
  • Be kind.
  • Don't share private things.
  • People will talk about you, especially behind your back.
  • Don't say anything, to anyone, about anyone that you are not OK having repeated to the person, because it will be eventually.
  • When people don't understand your behavior, they will assign reasons that make sense to them, tell others those reasons, and probably never ask you if they are accurate because they are sure that they are.
  • If someone saw you do something stupid, it will be shared all over Facebook.
  • If you don't want your mistakes to be shared wide and far, do your best to always treat people with care, concern, and kindness.
That counsel is pretty much true from junior high on (sadly, sometimes in elementary school too).

As a grown-up, I have gotten a little better at calling people on their behavior.  If I hear something about someone else, before I tell anyone else, I usually call the person and just ask them if the information is true.  I tend to say, "Hey, I heard that....."  They usually then want to know what the source is.  Sometimes I just try to let them know that I wanted to make sure they were aware that perception was out there, or ask them if they need any help (with certain situations),  or I wanted to make sure I could return to the source and quash the rumor about them or their family.

I know most of us mean well when we are discussing the situations of others, but we really have to be careful that (1) the information we received is true, (2) our passing of the information will be to help out someone else [i.e. Sister so and so had an automobile accident and is need of some extra service and TLC, we need to help her], (3) the information is public and the person/people don't mind you sharing their business.

These are all lessons that have been difficult for me to learn.  I am a very open person and I don't mind people knowing how I feel about something or what my plans are.  I don't mind being transparent because, truth be told, I really do not have very many negative feelings about others.  I do not hide my relationships or my true feelings about someone.  I let them know.  Sometimes that has backfired on me, but not very often.  Most people appreciate knowing where they stand with me.  The point is, my boundaries are very loose in the information department.  But other people do not feel that way at all.

I am very careful about what information I share about others, even though I am not as tight about my personal information.  I try to put myself into their situation and ask if I am putting them in a good light, or if they overheard me say this, how would they feel?  I think about those things.  My morality professor in college was notorious for teaching us how to decide if something was moral or not:  Moral behaviors help people, immoral behaviors hurt them.  Still today that is how I decided what my behavior should look like.  Does my behavior, or do my words/thoughts help people?  Or hurt them?

There have been times when I thought my behavior would help someone, but in reality it hurt them.  Here is an example.  I was over at a woman's home and waiting for her to do something.  The kitchen was a disaster and things were all over the place.  I started washing the dishes because I wanted to help relieve her burden.  When she returned, she was angry.  She interpreted my dish washing as saying, "Well, you obviously aren't doing what you need to do."  When in reality, what I was saying was, "I have had times when my kitchen looked like this too and I wished someone would have helped me by washing the dishes."

I had another friend who really helped me to see that others were very private about their families and their plans.  One time someone asked me what the friend's plans were.  I knew they were going to visit their families over the summer and I said so, no details, no specifics, just, "I think they have plans to see their family this summer".  Well, for that particular friend, sharing that much information was too much sharing.  She was not happy and told me so and it was hard on our friendship.

My point is, most of us really do not know another well enough to always determine what behaviors the other will find helpful and what behaviors one will find hurtful.  We have to be careful.  Our behaviors, words, and attitudes can and will be misinterpreted.  When they are, we need to act with charity, humility, and to try to behave with understanding, like the Savior would.  He understands what someone thinks, how they feel, and why they came to that conclusion.  We do not.  Many, many miscommunications happen because of those things.

I probably have more to say on the subject, but my kiddos are telling me they need my attention and assistance.  So I had better go and see what I can do to help them :-)

On a sadder note, my little (big) Spanky broke off his engagement on Tuesday.  It is sad, but it is the right decision.  It would have been fun and will be when the time is right!  But as of today, no marriages on the horizon, just lots of missionary stuff.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Church News Article!

Check out this article in the church news online about a father who raised 8 missionary sons!!!
Of course, you know this was near and dear to my heart as we are now in that process!  We have two returned missionaries, one serving missionary, and five prospective missionaries (and maybe a prospective sister missionary----who knows?).

Anyway, there have been  some unique challenges we have faced recently.  I'll elaborate more later.  But check out the article!  It's amazing!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Bee Business

Yesterday, although very busy, was a sweet day indeed!  Slim's best friend Richard gave his homecoming address, so Slim, Spanky, Drew and I attended the morning ward to listen to him.  It was a really neat feeling sitting in sacrament meeting with my two oldest, now grown men, while watching and listening to another young man who spent a lot of time in our home.

I can only imagine the feeling is close to sitting in the temple with all of them.  The three of those very different men, all doing what the Lord is asking of them and trying to be who the Lord asks them to be.  My heart swelled with gratitude.  (Especially considering Scuff and Tammy are currently serving mission and Sport will be ordained an Elder later this week.)

I couldn't help but feel sincere gratitude for the blessings of the Lord in my life and the lives of my children.

One of our amazing sister missionaries spoke yesterday during our meetings.  She quoted one of the Brethren, though I cannot remember which one and told the story of the beehive.  She said that each bee in its life time only contributes 1/12--------

Never mind.  I looked up the story.  It is Elder Ballard and here are his words:

My father always tried to involve me in his work with his hives, but I was very happy to let him tend to his bees. However, since those days, I have learned more about the highly organized beehive—a colony of about 60,000 bees.

Honeybees are driven to pollinate, gather nectar, and condense the nectar into honey. It is their magnificent obsession imprinted into their genetic makeup by our Creator. It is estimated that to produce just one pound (0.45 kg) of honey, the average hive of 20,000 to 60,000 bees must collectively visit millions of flowers and travel the equivalent of two times around the world. Over its short lifetime of just a few weeks to four months, a single honeybee’s contribution of honey to its hive is a mere one-twelfth of one teaspoon.

Though seemingly insignificant when compared to the total, each bee’s one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey is vital to the life of the hive. The bees depend on each other. Work that would be overwhelming for a few bees to do becomes lighter because all of the bees faithfully do their part.

(Why take my word for it when you can hear the voice of a prophet?)
This story impressed me personally because I have all of these grand ideas about how I would like to serve in the Lord's kingdom.  I want to have this calling or be in charge of this event or class, blah, blah, blah, blah.  Often, I am not terribly excited or thrilled with the callings and assignments I receive in my day to day life.  (I obviously do not have enough gratitude for the opportunities the Lord does give me.)  And I do not always feel like I am doing enough to show my gratitude for the wonderful gift the atonement has given me.

So when I heard that in its entire lifetime one little honey bee contributes only 1/12 of one teaspoon of honey, and I know that in my family alone, we can go through 5 pounds of honey in one week, I again was amazed at the Lord's ability to be in the details of our lives, and the understanding that the meager contribution of one small honey bee, 1/12 of one teaspoon, is vital to the hive!!

It helped me to see that having grandiose ideas about what my service should look like, or what I want it to look like, is not what is significant or important.  The fact that I contribute and serve to lessen the burden of the rest of the hive, that is what is significant.

Listen to this:  I gave a talk one time about working mothers to our stake's young women leaders (Now, I do not want to debate the merits of the talk or discuss that doctrine or people's agency or circumstances.  I recognize there are exceptions, although many of us would like to believe we are the exception when we are not.  However, for the purpose of this discussion, let's just pretend that everyone believed they were not an exception and all women regardless of circumstances were able to stay home.  Ok?  Just go with me on this one for a minute.  That's what I said in my talk too.)  Imagine it was that way.   What would those women do with their time, effort, and energy?  Well, the ones who didn't have children and a family in the home, because they are women and their nature is to love and serve (and most of them can't keep busy by only keeping up with their homes), they would go and serve.  They would help other young mothers overwhelmed with housework and children.  They would visit the aged and lonely.  They would tutor college students and other children in their studies.  They would teach piano, sewing, bread-making, canning, and other self-sufficiency skills.  They would help their neighbor and the list would go on and on and on.  Because of their service, think of what the world would look like compared to what it looks like today.  The burdens of our bishops would be relieved significantly because all of that extra service and ministering to the needs of those around them would contribute to everyone's emotional and mental health, as well. 

My service as a mother does that for my family and for those around me.  And your service as a mother, a mother in Zion and Israel, does that for the people around you.  Our contribution to the hive collectively may only be 1/12 of one teaspoon, but our contribution is nonetheless VITAL to the health and well being of the hive, whether we do it for only one child in our home, or whether we do not have the opportunity to do it for people in our home and serve in the greater community around us.  We are, as Sister Shari Dew would say, 'the Lord's secret weapon'.  Through our service and willingness to contribute our part to the hive, we fulfill the Lord's work and serve His people.

Elder Ballard had a similar vision:

All of this symbolism attests to one fact: great things are brought about and burdens are lightened through the efforts of many hands “anxiously engaged in a good cause” (D&C 58:27). Imagine what the millions of Latter-day Saints could accomplish in the world if we functioned like a beehive in our focused, concentrated commitment to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Savior taught that the first and great commandment is:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. …
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37, 39–40).

The Savior’s words are simple, yet their meaning is profound and deeply significant. We are to love God and to love and care for our neighbors as ourselves. Imagine what good we can do in the world if we all join together, united as followers of Christ, anxiously and busily responding to the needs of others and serving those around us—our families, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow citizens.

As the Epistle of James notes, service is the very definition of pure religion (see James 1:27).

We read of the service Church members provide around the world and especially the humanitarian service given in times of crisis—fires and floods and hurricanes and tornadoes. These much-needed and much-appreciated emergency responses should certainly continue as a way of bearing one another’s burdens. But what about our everyday lives? What would be the cumulative effect of millions of small, compassionate acts performed daily by us because of our heartfelt Christian love for others? Over time this would have a transformative effect upon all of our Heavenly Father’s children through the extension of His love to them through us. Our troubled world needs this love of Christ today more than ever, and it will need it even more in the years ahead.

These simple, daily acts of service may not seem like much in and of themselves, but when considered collectively they become just like the one-twelfth teaspoon of honey contributed by a single bee to the hive. There is power in our love for God and for His children, and when that love is tangibly manifest in millions of acts of Christian kindness, it will sweeten and nourish the world with the life-sustaining nectar of faith, hope, and charity.

(You should probably just read the entire talk.  You can find it here.)
The important thing to remember is that your contribution counts, and counts significantly, regardless of what is actually looks like or what you want it to look like.  Just because you might only be able to give a little, your little matters, it matters to all of us and it relieves the burdens of many.  So go about your daily work in the kingdom with your head held high.

I will throw this little bit in too.  I have often considered myself not a very great missionary because no one I ever personally talk to actually gets baptized.  (I measure by results, which is not fair or right either, I know.  I am working on that.)  But nonetheless, I struggle sometimes because I feel like I do not have any 'results'.  However, the Lord has been trying to help me to understand that I am doing my part and that my part is significant.  Every time someone interacts with me, I leave them better than when I left them (except for that whole Ms. P stuff, which I have been working on also.....)  But, part of being a missionary is leaving people better than when we found them.  Our example and attitude can help to lift others, which brings them closer to Christ and closer to someday accepting His doctrine even if today they are not ready to meet with the missionaries and join the church.  Behaving in a Christlike manner with our interactions with the little bit of humanity the Lord gives to each of us, is enough, regardless of how they receive our kindness and service.  (So there is my other two cents.  Now you have exactly four!)

Have a wonderful day!  I need to go and make breakfast now for the crew!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Family First Friday #21--Stirred up again...

Yesterday morning I was invited to attend seminary.  As I showered and pondered in the early morning hours, my mind went to several interactions I have had with a few people.  These were not recent events, but simply remembered events, that obviously still have some issues for me.  As I let my mind think about the events, my feelings were again hurt and irritated.
Copyright Karen Larsen photography

Then, for my scripture reading that morning, I read this verse at the end of Alma (63:14)
And it came to pass also in this year that there were some dissenters who had gone forth unto the Lamanites; and they were stirred up again to anger against the Nephites.

That verse struck me and I realized that is what I had allowed to happen that very morning.  When I awoke, I had no particular feelings, positive or negative, toward the individuals whom I was thinking about.  But by the time I finished preparing for the day and before my scripture study, I was again 'stirred up to anger' against my siblings (because we are all children of our Heavenly Father).

I have seen the same thing as a mother.  Two particular children (in  our case, many different sets of children) have several perceived instances where their feelings have been hurt by the other person (they believe). [This is a BIG pet peeve of mine---others cannot hurt your feelings.  You can be hurt by what they say/do, but you are in charge of your own feelings.  So if you have hurt feelings, it is because of your perceptions of the meaning you attribute to their words/actions.  This could be a post all on its own, so I won't go into it.  But just know that whenever my children say 'So and so hurt my feelings,' we have the entire discussion again.  They love it, I am sure!]

Anyway, they do have hurt feelings.  Because the issue isn't sufficiently resolved, when the next issue happens, their previous feelings are validated by their new feelings (stirred up again) and the blow-up and interaction is bigger than before.

So my question then becomes, how do we keep ourselves from falling into the trap of 'being stirred up again'?
Copyright Karen Larsen photography

I think one of the biggest and first issues is to remember that we are in charge of our own feelings.  No one causes us to be upset, hurt, angry.  Those things come from inside of us.  If we can control the things we are thinking about and the meanings we are attributing to those interactions, we can, in effect, control our feelings.  We can choose not to take offense (as this talk from Elder Bednar explains).

Two, we can  recognize that sometimes we just are not going to know what is going on in another person's head or heart.  We may just have to accept that reality and chalk up their negative and hurtful behaviors to ignorance, a bad day, hurt feelings on their part, problematic things happening in their lives, etc...  Dismissing their behavior is not always a bad thing.  If their negative behavior is going to continue to affect you, you may need to say something to them, in a kind way.

Copyright Karen Larsen photography
Three, keep yourself in a place where you can feel the Spirit of the Lord.  For those of you who are baptized members of the Church, you probably already know those things, but in case you do not, here are some reminders:  Read your scriptures, say your prayers, attend church and the temple, forgive others, choose not to be offended, ask for help as needed through prayer, fast.  For those of you who are not baptized members, these behaviors work just as well, with the exception of attending the temple, you'll need to be a member to participate on that level.  But you are capable of doing all of the other suggestions.

Four, let bygones be bygones.   Once you have waded through an interaction and decided how you will respond to another person's behavior and you have done so well, let it go.  Don't think about it anymore.  Don't dwell on it.  Don't remind yourself of what the other person did that hurt your feelings and why you feel justified in your nasty behavior toward them.  Just let it go and remind yourself that the Lord is perfectly just.  Which means, when anyone has done anything wrong (unkind in any way to another person or contrary to the commandments or to their knowledge or understanding of right and wrong) there will be a consequence.  Leave it to the Lord to decide what, when, and how the consequence will be meted out.  You do not have to be judge, jury, or executioner.  Leave all of that to the Lord and know that it will be managed appropriately, whether or not you ever hear about it.


“He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me [saith the Lord], but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

“Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.” (3 Ne. 11:29–30.)

As I was looking for the above scripture, I came across this gem of a talk by Elder Nelson in 1989 (that would be the year I learned there was more than one session of General Conference!----I think I might have missed this one.  Either that or I just wasn't paying attention!)
Copyright Karen Larsen photography
I was particularly impressed with this passage:

Throughout the world, Saints of the Lord follow Him and His anointed leaders. They have learned that the path of dissent leads to real dangers. The Book of Mormon carries this warning:

“Now these dissenters, having the same instruction and the same information … , having been instructed in the same knowledge of the Lord, nevertheless, it is strange to relate, not long after their dissensions they became more hardened and impenitent, and more wild, wicked and ferocious … ; giving way to indolence, and all manner of lasciviousness; yea, entirely forgetting the Lord their God.” (Alma 47:36.)

I have watched that scripture come to pass in the lives of people I love.  It is so sad!!  Having once been a part of the gospel and receiving of His goodness, peace, and love, and then having turned away from those very blessing, the people do become more hardened and impenitent, and sadly some of them do 'entirely forget the Lord their God'.
But I guess this is the main point:  If you are experiencing contention or 'stirred up feelings' in your family, in your ward, at school, in your neighborhood or community, or even against those you do not know personally, you can immediately know the source where that is coming from.  It is not from the Lord.  That is not His way, or His program, remember, "my doctrine is that such things should be done away". 

As we do our best to follow the Savior and learn of His way and then try to implement those doctrines and practices into our own lives, we truly will have a peace that surpasses all understanding.  I am so very grateful for the messages of His servants, and to have those available at our fingertips within just a few moments is such a huge gift and blessing!  We will be accountable to put that information into practice!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sacrifice for the rising generation

So this post will be quite controversial I am sure.  I like to stay out of very controversial subjects because, well, let's face it, I hate conflict.  I am very opinionated, but I respect other people's right to have their own opinions, different than mine.  I can agree to disagree and not be disagreeable.  But I still hate conflict and when people take my words or my meaning out of context and then use it to say something that I don't believe, or intend, which in our day and age, happens a lot, it really hurts my feelings!  So I just usually keep to myself about details that are floating around in the media.

The Lord has been trying to help me learn that I have not only a right to speak my opinion, but also an obligation to try to help those around me, specifically those in my circles, to see things the way I do.  Not so much so that I can have my way, but to raise their sights and their thinking as they try to implement policies and activities that affect those in my community.  I really do not like the process, because I do not like to have to defend my position and because my opinions are often so very different from those around me.  I like being included, not left out, not leading out.   But sometimes, at least in these times, that is what the Lord needs us to do.
copyright Karen Larsen photography

So here goes.

I have been reading a lot of CNN lately.  I have been so very saddened by the repeated reports of people hurting others, especially children.  It really breaks my heart that such innocent lives are taken for such senseless reasons.  With the rash of school shootings and violence from the college campuses all the way down to elementary schools, I am left to wonder what is happening to our young people.  How do they get to a place where they commit such violence against other children, at such young ages??

To me, it says, something is very, very wrong in the lives of these children.

Now, before you quote me as blaming the parents, that is not what I am trying to say.  I think even very good and attentive parents can have children who make bad choices and get into bad things and make decisions that break the hearts of those parents. 

Some parents are trying to say this is the problem of the NRA and we need stricter gun control laws.  That may be true.  I am not sure that is the only problem, however.

Personally, I think our issues are much, much deeper than that.  Legislation never solves the entire problem.  It might mitigate issues, but truthfully, people who are bent on certain behaviors just find loopholes in the laws or propose other legislation that will allow them to do the things they want to do.

Some people blame Hollywood and the movies it produces and the violence it displays.  Yes, I think some of our issues come from what we see and how it is portrayed.  Psychology has long cited the Bobo doll experiment in announcing the finding that children who view violence (personally with their own eyes, or through a television screen) are more likely to mimic the behavior they have seen, sometimes even escalating that behavior.  So yes, the things our children watch, whether on TV, on the movie screen, over the internet, on their phone, at a friend's house, all of that plays a role into what behaviors our young people are finding as acceptable.

When I was a child, the term was "Latch Key Kid," which basically meant, your parents weren't home when you got home from school.  Did you know that most adolescent sexual activity happens between 3 and 5 p.m.  Isn't it interesting that those are the same hours that children are home from school, but parents aren't home from work?  Does that really surprise anyone??

And how about those violent video games, the first person shooter ones where they player actually shoots other people?  Do we really think that doesn't have an affect on the minds of our youth?

Here is another thought.  If these children had close relationships with significant adults in their lives, do you not think that some of their private thoughts might trickle out into their relationship and then be molded and shaped and changed into something less violent?  When children have someone, anyone, in their lives, who can help them to redefine some of the misconceptions that happen in childhood, they can have a dramatic effect in reframing the child's view point and the meanings that child espouses to people or situations.  Then those same people can help them understand the consequences and sorrow and suffering that would happen should the child choose to act on those violent thoughts.

Are we so very busy with our careers, volunteer work, and other responsibilities that we are neglecting the mental, emotional and spiritual needs of the smallest people in our communities?  Are they growing up lonely and feeling like no one cares?  Are they left to themselves for hours during the week where they can endlessly entertain themselves on a dribble diet from the internet or Hollywood?  Or practicing the very behaviors they one day chose to carry out in reality by playing first person shooting games?  Where are we, the adults, for these children left to themselves?

Now, I understand that probably most of you who are reading my ranting are probably the parents who are there for your children.  You are helping them to see the good in the world and helping them learn about being fair, and just, and sharing, charity and learning how to love your neighbors.  I think that is probably most of you.  And you are doing a wonderful job!

 But we need to do just a little bit more.

I believe the major problem resides in the hearts of our people.  As we understand our responsibilities to one another, particularly our responsibility to nurture, love, teach and train the rising generation, and as we participate in that responsibility, whether it is with our own children, or others in our communities---through church, neighborhoods, schools, clubs, recreational activities--showing them love and concern, correcting their negative behaviors toward others, we help to make the world a better and safer place---especially when it is done one child at a time.

Do we really believe the day care worker who watches 20-30 kids every day for 6 or more hours is really concerned with the morality and feelings of each and every one of those kids?  Or is he or she just going to work, like you do every day, just hoping to make it through the day?  Even if your day care provider is amazing and loves your child, do you think they will do a better job taking care of that child's needs than you, as their parent will?  How do you think your child feels about their situation and who loves them?
copyright Karen Larsen photography

"Children are an heritage of the Lord."  Psalms 127:3  They are a gift, given to us by a loving Heavenly Father in the hopes that our interactions with them and our understanding of our responsibilities to them will grow within us the ability and desire to nurture them and to make sacrifices for the growing child who completely relies on us and our willingness to care for them.  They are not a pet that you can slough off responsibility for when you have decided that you really do not want to do this anyway.

Parenting is not a right.  It is a gift.  It is a responsibility.  Our communities are too concerned with the rights of adults at the neglect of the rights of the children.  The littlest people in our society have a right to a protected childhood, to be cared for, nurtured, taught, trained, and loved.  They have a right to have others make sacrifices to care for them, to do for them what they cannot do for themselves, until such time as they are capable of managing that.  In our day of me and mine, and what do I get out of it, we are leaving our young people alone and vulnerable long before they are prepared to manage the information they have available to them.  We need to be more involved in their lives, especially as they are maturing into adults, during those rocky teenaged years when they believe no one likes them even when they come from stable homes with loving parents.  But we especially need to reach out to those children and teens who don't come from stable homes and let them know that someone is thinking about them and someone really cares about how they are feeling.

We---the adults---need to be available and proactively seeking opportunities to reach out to the rising generation.  We---the adults---need to be making sacrifices in our own lives to teach and nurture those children in our communities so that the rising generation understands its responsibilities to all of us and to the future generations after them.  If we do not show them how to do that, who is going to?  No one.  And the generations after them will not have a chance.

Then, we have the responsibility to help others in our communities and within the sound of our voice understand their responsibility to the rising generation.  We must share our views in the hopes that others will listen to us and quiet the loud voices of me and mine.  We need to think in terms of us and we----ours.  Our society is sick.  Our society needs change.  Our society needs morality.  We need to do something.  We need to make sacrifices that will bring up the rising generation in light and truth.

There is my soap box for the day.  Let the nasty comments begin.  I am ready.