Friday, April 24, 2015

Family First Friday #15 2015--Crazy Times

As you read this, I am probably on my way to pick up the boys from the airport.  Their plane lands at 10 a.m and the airport is only 5 hours away from my house so we will be on the road all day!!!  But it will be fun to spend an uninterrupted day with my boys!  Yea!!  Hip, hip hooray!

We have been cranking out the work as we are preparing for their arrival.  We have had to move furniture, wash a ton of laundry and bedding, deep clean dusting, move wardrobes, etc...  (As I type this, I still have some of that work to do, but I knew if I didn't sit down while I was thinking about it, it just wouldn't happen.  That's why you have that awesome little feature of 'schedule your post' right?!)
copyright: Karen Larsen photography (Me, this week!)

Here are some of the nutso things that have happened this week.  I don't remember if I told you or not, but this year in seminary, the students have to pass an 'elevated learning assessment' each semester.  Typically, you would present all the material and the exam would be given at the end of the term.  I felt like we needed to take ours in March.  It was kind of weird, but they provide a study guide, so we just went over that one day and I taught the things the kids needed to know to pass the assessment.  We took it and they all passed.  So I wasn't so sure what the big deal was.  Before I gave the exam, I started to question myself about it and thought about changing the timing, when the Spirit said, "What were YOU told to do?"  So I went ahead and followed my impressions and we took it in March.

About two weeks after we took the exam, one of my students had shoulder surgery on his right shoulder and hasn't been able to write for the last three weeks.  Another of my students was hospitalized for more than a week and has missed a ton of class.  These two students are very reliable and valiant kids.  They do their work and they show up for class.  If we had waited to take the assessment, it would have been much more difficult for these two to pass because of things happening to them in normal life.  I am SOOOO glad I listened and did something outside of the norm and that we took it in March!  Crazy, huh?

The other strange thing that happened yesterday was that some lady's car broke down right outside my house.  I saw her sitting in the car and trying to turn the engine over when I was leaving to pick up the kids from school (2:30 p.m).  I thought, "I should just see if she needs a phone."  I offered and she was grateful because her phone was turned off.  She made a phone call.  They couldn't help her.  She didn't want to call anyone else.  I left to go and get the kids and told her that if she was still there I would help her when I got home.  She was still there when I got back.  I offered to let her use the phone again and come in and wait for the tow truck or whoever was coming to help her.  I didn't have any jumper cables.  She was sure that was all she needed.  She knew Drew had ours in his car, so she just decided to sit there and wait for him to get home from work. (Sometime after 5).  I thought it was strange that she would just sit there and not make any effort to fix anything or get assistance from anyone.  After two hours of her sitting outside my house, I realized, "yep. She's just going to wait for Drew."  Lovely.  The last thing my husband will want to do is try to figure out how to help her after he gets home from work, when he didn't take any lunch.  I decided to call one of my neighbors to see if he was available and could help her.  He was and he did (4:30 pm).  Her car did not start even after he tried to jump start it.  I didn't think it would.  But true to my nice neighbor's form, he offered her a ride and took her home.  She just left her car in front of my house and is suppose to try and fix/move it today. 
copyright: Karen Larsen photography

I took our neighbor fresh, homemade bread to say 'Thank you!'

It just struck me so strangely that she needed help.  She needed to do something, even if it was to just get home, but she was content to just sit there and do nothing.  I wondered how often any of the rest of us have a need or a responsibility but because we don't want to, or we don't know how, or we don't know what to do, we just sit there, wasting valuable time, dismissing offers of assistance.  I am going to be thinking about that for a few weeks deciding if I do that in any areas of my life.

The other crazy thing has been finding someone to manage my S day responsibilities for seminary.  Of course, as luck would have it, S day is the same day I have to drive 10 hours to go down and get the boys and get back.  I have been diligently looking for a sub for two weeks.  I asked about 7 people (couples) before I found one of them who could help out.  I ended up getting one sub for seminary that morning, another to manage S day and then a third to help out with S day (at the same time I am also subbing for our youth Sunday school teacher, I might add).  So life has been just a little bit crazy at our house.

Sometimes I look at my life and I think, how do people expect so much of me?  Then I look at what I do and I think, geesh, they just think I can manage all of it.  But I am human and I cannot!  And the truth be told, most of them don't see all that I am doing so when they want someone to help them out they just think, "Oh I bet Carin could help me."  I have to practice the art of saying 'NO,' which I don't like to do.  But I have to.  It is hard for me.

Well, I am going to run.  There is a lot more crazy that I could share with you, but I had better go and start putting some of it away and organizing the rest of it :-)  Have a great weekend!!
copyright: Karen Larsen photography

On tap for us:  temple trip for the youth, birthday party, baptism, pinewood derby painting, planning youth Sunday school lesson, enjoying big boys (maybe they will mow the lawn!!)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Family First Friday #14 2015--Loss

One of my very best friends is being laid to rest today in Utah.  I am in California.  My heart is sad not to be there to support my friend, his wife and his family.  My boys are there, for which I am eternally grateful.  If we can't be there, at least our children can represent us.  I think the difficult part of today will be trying to manage the things I am suppose to be doing here while my heart and head are longing to be somewhere else.
copyright:  Karen Larsen photography

I cried and cried on Monday and Tuesday, managed my emotions and my affairs on Wednesday and Thursday.  Cried some more last night and am pretty weepy today.  I have pictured my friend in his casket, laid out in his temple clothing, pictured their chapel filled to capacity with his family and ward members, and my boys.  In my mind, I have caressed his face, told him that I love him and that I will miss him, hugged his wife and family and prayed for my own peace and healing.

When we lived across the street from them, and before either of us had any children, (but I was pregnant), I would always fall asleep on their floor at 10 p.m. on the dot and sleep until my husband was ready to take me home.  D thought it was always funny to say, "Wake up, Carin.  It's Christmas."  It was anywhere from April through August.  It was never Christmas.  But that is always what he said when it was time to go home and I needed to wake up.  He knew that was my favorite holiday.

My scripture study has consisted in trying to read the rest of the Doctrine and Covenants from the first semester, since I wasn't teaching then.  In many of the revelations I have been reading, I have come across scripture like these:

D&C 58:3-6

Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.

 For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand.

 Remember this, which I tell you before, that you may lay it to heart, and receive that which is to follow.

 Behold, verily I say unto you, for this cause I have sent you—that you might be obedient, and that your hearts might be prepared to bear testimony of the things which are to come;

D&C 59:2 and 23
 For those that live shall inherit the earth, and those that die shall rest from all their labors, and their works shall follow them; and they shall receive a crown in the mansions of my Father, which I have prepared for them.

 But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.

And D&C 63: 1-5

Hearken, O ye people, and open your hearts and give ear from afar; and listen, you that call yourselves the people of the Lord, and hear the word of the Lord and his will concerning you.

 Yea, verily, I say, hear the word of him whose anger is kindled against the wicked and rebellious;

 Who willeth to take even them whom he will take, and preserveth in life them whom he will preserve;

 Who buildeth up at his own will and pleasure; and destroyeth when he pleases, and is able to cast the soul down to hell.

 Behold, I, the Lord, utter my voice, and it shall be obeyed.

These scriptures were in my normal scripture reading this week.  This week while I am mourning the loss of my friend, my Father in Heaven is mindful of me and my sorrow.  Reminding me in section 58 that I cannot behold the plan of God, I do not know what He is orchestrating our lives or the lives of my friends.  But I can know that He is in charge, He has a plan, and He knows what He is doing.  I can have faith in that, put it into my heart and prepare to receive the blessings He has waiting for me.  Reminding me that my dear friend is alive.  He is resting from his labors and the pains of mortality.  He has performed the works of righteousness and will receive his reward in eternity.  And reminding me that He willeth to take them whom he will take, and preserveth in life them whom he will preserve.  God is in charge.  I need never doubt that.  He decides who is appointed unto death and who will be preserved unto life.  My dear friend lived and died great!  He is brave and strong and sweet and righteous and fought his mortal fight.  For all appearances, he came off conqueror against sin.  
copyright:  Karen Larsen photography
My heart may hurt and grieve today.  But I know in some future day, I will hold my friend again.  And his giant frame will engulf mine as he hugs me, and then he'll say, "Wake up, Carin.  It's Christmas!"

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April 14th!!

Today is my birthday!  I love my birthday!  It has always been a great day!  I love living an my birthday is the perfect day to celebrate that.

Today however, I am sad.

Not because it is my birthday.  I am sad because yesterday, one of my favorite people and very best friends returned to Heavenly Father.  He has been battling brain cancer for several years.  We were able to visit him last year in June.  It was so fun to renew our acquaintance and spend time with his family.  Oh how dearly I love them!!
copyright: Karen Larsen photography

I will miss him!!  I am mostly sad for his wife.  My heart goes out to her.  She has been so dedicated and diligent in providing for his care.  I want to be there to help her, but I am here.  This is where I should be, but it doesn't change the longing of my heart.  I know she will have love and support.  I just wish I was there to show mine.

We had so much fun together!!  So much growing and learning in those early years of our marriage and our friends were right across the street.  Here are some of the things we did together.

Big D had just had surgery on his back for some work injuries.  He was walking the block to rehabilitate himself.  I was home babysitting and was new in the ward.  I would take the kids I watched out into the sunshine at lunch, the same time D was out walking.  We started visiting each day.  Pretty soon, he suggested that Drew and I come to his house for dinner to meet his wife.  I had to pull Drew's teeth to get him to go with me to the dinner appointment.  He didn't want to go and socialize with more people.  But he relented and finally went over there.  It took 30 minutes.  30 minutes into dinner, D and Drew became immediate and best friends.  For the next three to four years, Drew would go over to D's house, almost nightly to keep him company when he couldn't sleep because of the pain in his back.  They could talk politics, sports, religion, anything!   They had different views about things and different favorite teams.  Drew loved California and D loved Utah.  But on the important things, they loved and supported each other.  Kimmie and I just kind of watched in disbelief.  We had our own friendship, but with Kimmie working full time and me with babysitting and then with our children who came along, we didn't have as much time as the guys to be friends.  But it was awesome to know that our husbands had such good friends in each other.

When our oldest baby got so sick, D and Kimmie stocked our refrigerator with a week's worth of quick foods. 

D and Kimmie couldn't have children right away.  It took them six years.  We would take our babies over to their house to play.  Drew was a counselor in the Bishopric of our married ward.  Kimmie was called as the Primary President.  Drew set her apart.  In her blessing, he promised her that she would have children in this life with D.  A few years later they had their daughter, then two sons, all within three years.  Then they had their last little son a few years later.  Drew was pretty stressed about that promise.  But the Lord fulfills His promises and it was He who gave the blessing.  Drew was just the voice.

We attended their first baby blessing, and their second and maybe even the third.  I don't remember.

But those are just some of the highlights.  We love you Big D!!!  We will miss you!  You will forever be a part of our hearts :-)

All our love!!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Family First Friday #13 2015--Acknowledging drama.

I don't have an agenda about writing today.  I think I am just going to ramble for a bit and let the feelings come out.  I have definitely been stuffing them lately, but I am just not really sure what they are or why I have them.  As I write, the title will emerge.
This week has been nice, because we haven't been sick, but it has been so busy because there is so much work to catch up on because of our sickness and now Sun is a bit behind in school.  Plus, we have three big men coming home in the next two-three weeks.  I cannot believe they will be coming home so soon.  Sport has been struggling.  More than he let any of us know.  That is so hard as the mother.  You want to help them, but sometimes they don't even tell you they are struggling.  Then when they do, there is nothing more that you can do for them than to pray.  That is kind of how it is as they get bigger.  They have their own issues and they are big enough to work them out and learn from them.  You can give them counsel and advice if they let you know they need help.  But if they don't, then they don't.

I wonder if those are the feelings I am stuffing.  As mother or father, you have spent all of you time and effort in helping this young man or young woman to know how to make decisions and how to apply the gospel to circumstances they come across and questions they have, but how they actually apply your teachings and guidance, doesn't always look like you want it to.  But it is a learning curve they have to go through and as the parent, you have to let go of.  I think I do it at various times and through various issues, but some things you just don't let go of until they are going through it.
This is the pile right inside my front door--ah life!

I still don't have any of these men married.  I would imagine that after they are married, there is another whole realm of 'let it go' they are adults.  (I repeat this phrase to myself often.)  It is so strange to have one child in the house who needs and wants my help with everything (even going to the bathroom) and the other end of the spectrum where they do not want my help or counsel about anything!  One grown son called a few weeks ago to tell me his summer plans.  When I made a few suggestions about how he could complete his goals, he was quick to tell me that he wasn't asking for my counsel, and then he was offended that I had given it to him.  (I was pretty sure I was talking to him like an adult and not telling him what to do---but he didn't quite see it that way.  That was a lovely conversation too.)

Maybe having them all come home is kind of stressing me out too.  I am glad they will be here and I miss having them home, I really, really do.  I like my kids!!!  But having more home with more emotion and more relationships to manage and more stuff--it is stressful.  I think that is what I am stressing about and stuffing.  I am not acknowledging the up and coming stress on the horizon.  Wow!  That feels a lot better.

That is it.  I have two boys coming home who will bring with them their own emotional drama.  And our returned missionary who will be trying to adjust to not being a missionary, and Tams is leaving for Utah (all of that in the next four weeks plus Allison's school work is all due three weeks after that).  OK yes, I am beginning to get a better picture of why I am stuffing my emotions.  There is a lot of stress and change that will be happening here, along with all of the little people's feelings about the comings and goings of the Bigs.  (This of course, is not even taking into account the temporal stresses of finding and making space for the Bigs to rejoin the family.)  Being the oldest child growing up, I never saw all of this emotional and temporal drama that happens at home with the Big ones coming and going. Maybe now that I know what is happening, I can stop stuffing my face with food and begin dealing with my emotions.  Do you think?

the boys with my phone

I am glad that I have a week off.  This next week is spring break so maybe we can get Allison's homework under control and get her room in order and get people moved so we are ready for the Bigs to get home.  We are going to move Sun and Spike into the itty bitty room and let the Bigs have her room.  It will only be for the summer.  Then we can spread back out.  Spanky is only home for six weeks.  Sport is only here until his mission report time, which we don't know yet.  And Scuff will be home until the end of August.  It is kind of crazy here!

Sun and Speedy will be attending EFY too.  So that will help as we juggle people in and out.  Well, thanks for listening.  I really needed that.  Now I can clear out those stuffed emotions and get my little self to work and hopefully back on my weight-loss wagon.  I have really dropped 15 pounds :-)  It was 18 and I was fighting for 20, but with the stress lately, 15 is real.  Deep breath, several deep breaths.  I have done a good job and a great work.  I don't have to tank anything because life is stressful.  So I should probably give myself a good four weeks to let things settle a bit and then work on the weight loss.  If I can just maintain where I am, without gaining, I will be successful.  This moderation in all things is sure hard for my super A type personality.  But I am going to give myself permission to work on it without any expectations for four weeks.  Then we'll see where we are.  Yea!  Realistic goals.

Maybe next week, I'll be able to blog more since I won't be preparing seminary lessons every day.  But don't plan on it :-)  See you next Friday for sure :-)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Family First Friday 2015 #12--My testimony of the Family.

It is one of my favorite times of the year!!  General Conference Weekend!!!  Last weekend, we watched General Women's meeting, where they reminded us what an historic year 2015 is.  It marks the 20th anniversary of The Family:  A Proclamation to the World,  and 100 years of the doctrine of Family Home Evening.  As I listened to the speakers discuss the doctrines of the family and how perceptions of what family is and what it means are changing in our world, I felt the distinct impression to share my testimony of the family here on my blog.

I am not sure what more to say than I have already said, however.

But I guess I will start here.  I know that before we came to earth, we lived with our Father in Heaven (some of us call Him God).  But not only did we live with Him, but we also lived with his wife.  Yes, I believe and know we have a Mother in Heaven as well as a Father in Heaven, that we are literally their spirit children--all of us.  So all of us, really, really are brothers and sisters because we originally lived in God's family, with two parents, a male parent and a female parent.

Because I believe that, I have a special view of families here on earth.  I recognize that the best possible form of the family we could have, would be one that models God's family, with two parents, male and female.  I believe children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, to be raised by two differing gender parents, who love each other and are totally loyal to their spouse and the protection and teaching of their family.
copyright:  Karen Larsen photography

Mothers and fathers are inherently different, and though that is sometimes difficult to work with, the harmony that can come from their unity and desire to work together provides the most fertile ground for the growing child to be secure in their development, safe, protected, nurtured, educated, loved, and happy.  We all have differing opinions of what will make us happy.  But if we understand that God is our Father, it will change our perception of how well we choose to follow His counsel and guidance.  After all, do we not believe that God knows best what will make us happy?  As a loving Father with our best interests and welfare at heart and supreme knowledge of the universe, do we now think He might know?  And want that for us?  Do we not believe He might have designed it that way, so those things come about?  Until recently in our day of scientific discovery, children could only come about one way.  Just because we can now alter that, doesn't mean we have made it better.

Now, I too understand that not any of us are perfect and there are many, many heterosexual couples who have children who do not have happy families.  But that fact still does not change the truth:  the best place for children is to be raised by two committed, biological parents who are married and committed to their child's welfare and who love each other. 

I believe families are forever.  When families are organized according to God's laws and sealed through proper authority in God's temples, where those marital partners continue throughout their lives to live the covenants they have made there, those families are forever families.  I believe their bonds continue after death.  Part of the reason we come to earth is to organize our eternal families.  Can you see why there is such an all out war right now about the definition of the family?  If it was organized that way before birth, and if it can continue after death, and it really is the true unit of society, what better way to make others miserable (forever) than to confuse those issues.

The adversary has been working long and hard at destroying the family.

Before industrialization, families lived and worked at home.  Fathers were blacksmiths, store owners (homes usually attached to their businesses), farmers, wood workers, etc...  But fathers were at home.  If there was a problem with the children or issues between neighbors, or siblings, or parents and children, fathers were there to assist, give counsel, advice, assistance.  With industrialization, fathers moved into the cities to work, removing them from their homes.

Many periods of war followed industrialization.  Men left to serve their country.  Women began doing much of the work those men had been doing.  But, when the wars were over, most women returned to the home front.  With the sexual revolution of the 60's and 70's, women were removed from the home and entered the work force, leaving the children unattended, or sent off to the day care.  Now the adversary has mothers and fathers out of the home.

Now what is he doing with those children?  We are discussing mandatory preschools, most are currently in day care and/or school.  And currently, he is trying to change the definition of what a family is, and directly teach it to the children through the school system and saying that those of us who feel that is not OK are being discriminatory, and we hate other people.  I am sorry, but last I checked, I was entitled to have an opinion of such things and just because mine differs from yours it doesn't mean yours is right and mine is wrong.

I believe in the sanctity of the family.  I believe in its purpose and its history and its importance!!!  I value the gifts and blessings that come because we build our families after the image of God's family.  I am not willing to roll over and decide that we can change it because we want to.  I do not think it is healthy, or will bring anyone happiness, even if other people want that.  I don't agree.

I don't agree because of my personal experiences.  I grew up in a family (heterosexual, two parent family) who didn't live the principles God has established for peace and happiness.  I have personally experienced the pain and suffering that comes from a disintegrating family.  I have watched my siblings struggle to raise their families because of their lack of instruction and example in living the life God intended.

Contrast that with the family we are building.  Because of our willingness to follow and obey the prophets, who I know speak for God, my children are more secure in their self-esteem.  They know who they are, where they are going, how to get there, and how to stay on the course.  They have direction.  They still have their own learning curve.  Each of them has to decide if they believe the things we have taught them.  Each of them will have to decide if the values and morals we have raised them with will be the ones they want to use to build their own families and teach their own children.  I cannot control their agency, nor would I choose to do so.  They are free to make their own decisions.  But having the example of truth set before them allows them to more accurately make that choice for themselves.  I am not trying to deceive them or trick them.  I honestly desire their health and happiness.  I believe God's plan is best for them and best for all of us.
copyright:  Karen Larsen photography

I want your health and happiness too.  Choose for yourself.  Have you tried God's way of the family?  How about the others you are listening to?  Have they tried His way?  If they have not, how can they know it isn't what is best?  The truth is, they cannot.  But they will try to convince you that God's way is wrong.

I disagree with them.  I have tried His way.  It is the best way, for now and eternity.  I choose the family, the way God intended it---Mother, Father, children--anything else isn't as good as it could be.  And if you will choose to listen to God's prophets tomorrow and Sunday, you can have that witness for yourself.

Have a great weekend!  I will!