Friday, December 31, 2010

The Lion and the New Year

When the end of each year comes around, I often ponder the signs and the times of the Second Coming.

This year is no different.

This week my husband took me to see the first movie I’ve seen this year: The Chronicles of Narnia – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Earlier this month as I was studying the different names and titles of the Savior, this title, The Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5) was fascinating to me.

And after watching the third movie in the series, I finally realized why C.S. Lewis used the majestic lion, Aslan, as his Christ-like figure.

And clued in on how symbolic the words from the hymn "The Spirit of God" when the Lamb and the Lion (we His sheep and the He the Shepherd/Lion) will lie down together without any ire.

May the coming New Year be filled with the recognition of His hand in our lives.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tidbit Tuesday - Women Aren't Babies

"Women should be women and not babies that need petting and correction all the time. I know we like to be appreciated but if we do not get all the appreciation which we think is our due, what matters?"

-Eliza R. Snow

Monday, December 27, 2010

Family Home Evening - Using the Scriptures with the Church Magazines

One of our favorite things to do for Family Home Evening is to invite another family to join with us. So this evening we had four adults and 11 children (4-13) to teach. Here is what we did.

Before: I had chosen seven random scripture references and wrote them on separate pieces of paper.

We divided into three team of five.

Each team was to have one set of scriptures and five Church magazines. (We had an assortment of all three for each group – Ensign, The New Era, and The Friend).

Each team was then given one of the scripture references. As a group they were to read the scripture  and then find a picture in one of their Church Magazines that best portrayed their scripture.

Then each group shared their scripture and their picture with everyone.

After a few times of doing that, we decided to make it a little more competitive. In which we chose only one scripture reference, read it to all the groups and the first group to come up with a picture from a magazine was the winner.

Not only was it a fun night, but it enabled us to get into the scriptures and into the Church Magazines simultaneously.

And what was even more amazing is that?  Without fail, there was a picture to represent each “random” scripture I had chosen!

It made for a fun night!

BTW: Here were our "random" scripture references:

Alma 34:9
Doctrine and Covenants 42:41
1 Corinthians 16:13
Exodus 12:11
Ezekiel 34:12
John 14:18
Mosiah 3:3
Doctrine and Covenants 50:3

Sunday, December 26, 2010

His Image. My Countenances.

Today in Sacrament Meeting one of the speakers read excerpts from from Alma 5.

I call that chapter "The Personal Evaluation Chapter.” Because Alma asks important questions pertaining to my standing before God.

And when I evaluate myself honestly, it hurts enough to want to repent!

The first three questions Alma asks are:

1. Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? (In other words, for me, “Do you remember the sacrifices of the early Saints? Their persecutions? Their journey west?”)

2. Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance His mercy and long suffering towards them? (Are you learning enough and consistently about those early Saints, and even new members of the Church today who have been guided and protected and led by the Lord’s hand to HIs gospel?)

3. Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance that He has delivered my soul from hell? (Umm, I think that one is self explanatory).

But today, this question, “Have you received His image in your countenances?” made me think of this question more than just looking at myself in the mirror and taking an accounting if I have His image in my countenance.

Because, if I would have noticed before, the word countenances is NOT singular, it's plural.

Which got me to thinking that it is certainly A LOT easier for me to see His image in my countenance (singular) when I’m feeling high on the Spirit!

Like when I am in a testimony meeting at Girls’ Camp,

Or serving someone who is in need,

Or watching General Conference . . .

Ahh!  His image in my countenance.

But . . .

when I’m frustrated with disobedient children,

or impatient with the cashier because I’m #8 in line and I was supposed to be somewhere else 20 minutes ago,

or when my ideal circumstance has been crushed by the weight of adversity . . .

I’m pretty positive I cannot see (and neither can He) His image in my countenances (plural).


Which means, essentially, I really haven’t experienced the MIGHTY change of heart necessary that would (or could) allow me to look up to God with a pure heart and clean hands.

Not with those countenances (plural), anyway.

Because a mighty change of heart engraves His image upon my countenances at ALL times, and in ALL things, and in ALL places.

And repentance is the key.

Because He does want to see His image in ALL of my countenances (plural).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

What the 12 Days of Christmas has to do with the Savior

This Christmas Season our family was blessed to be recipients of the 12-Day of Christmas. While in years past I have been on the giving end of the Twelve Days, it has been quite the humbling, amazing experience to be on the receiving end of such a service of love.

I suppose it is for several reasons.

First, to think that someone would take time out for our family has filled me with such tender emotions. Why us? Why would we be the target of such kindness and thoughtfulness?

Secondly, each day our children would excitedly look forward to opening the surprise package that had been lovingly and anonymously placed on our porch. How creative our givers were. How thoughtful they were of our family – each of them! How unselfish they were to present surprises that will truly remind us of them and their compassion for a very, long time.

Thirdly, how ill-equipped we were to offer our gratitude. While we left a little package with a thank-you note for them, I felt that our words were so inadequate in comparison to how we felt about their love for us. How I wanted to better express myself, but in not knowing their identity, perhaps, my desire will never be satisfied.

Which brought me to reflect particularly on these last 12 Days of Christmas and how it is a symbol of the Savior’s love for me.

First, I have contemplated His unselfishness kindness and charity for me. He, who is God of Heaven and Earth, condescended below us all to be born of woman and become like us in the sense that He could feel our pain, our grief, and our sorrows.

And yet, in His Divinity, He was perfect. Sinless. Able to give to us the ultimate sacrifice of love - His life.

Secondly, I ask myself how excitedly do I look upon the experiences that come placed lovingly on my porch of life? Okay, so I admit that sometimes those experiences don’t always bring immediate joy or fulfillment. Sometimes they are filled with heartache or frustration or a HUGE test of faith. But they are placed carefully in my way so that I will remember – if I am willing – Him.  He who is my Giver.

Thirdly, no matter how much gratitude I could offer to the Lord for what He does for me, I will always, always, always fall short. After all, said King Benjamin:
"And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him. And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?" (Mosiah 2:23-24)
Which make so much sense in why we are commanded to serve others. For it is in this service that we are serving God. And it is in serving God that we are able to show our gratitude for what He does for us!

Merry Christmas to our anonymous 12-Days of Christmas Elves! You have taught me much about the Savior and His love for me!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Random Thoughts

Isn't the question of the season, “So, are you ready?”
My answer, I don’t stress about it. After all, when December 25th comes, it is what it is. No one else cares what I didn’t do or didn’t finish – . . . so why not enjoy the season for what it truly is!

* * *

The other night as we were going to see a beautiful nativity in a neighboring city, I saw this electronic billboard that had the saying, “The Reason for the Season.” Slowly, the saying faded to only reveal these letters: “The Son.”
The message and the accompanying pictures of the Savior filled my heart with The ReaSON for the Season!
The billboard was for a hardware store. A HARDWARE STORE!
I say, “Way to let your (electronic) light so shine!”

* * *
How did I forget that during all the hub-bub of the season – the baking, the wrapping, the caroling, the cleaning, the reading, the delivering – that my children would actually need to eat! Can you believe that they have had the nerve to ask me “what’s for dinner?” every, single night this week?? (Oh, and they have also asked for breakfast and lunch, seeing how they are out of school until NEXT year!)

* * *

Isn’t it fun to find out what foods are family traditions during Christmas? A dear woman I know, who is almost in her 80’s, makes fruitcake (complete with gum drops) every year even though NO ONE else in her family will touch the stuff.
She makes it because it is her father’s recipe!

Which is no different than what I do - I make German red cabbage every Christmas only because it reminds me of my Christmases as a child! Luckily my husband has grown to appreciate such a dish, because my children certainly haven’t gotten there yet! Although they love, love, LOVE, Turkish Delight! (Which reminds me, I need to make up a batch tomorrow!)

Oh, and another family food tradition we have at Christmas.  Every year our children decide on ONE Christmas Song (This year it is It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.).  Whenever we are in the van (we have to be "on the go") and we hear the song, we get to go to McDonald's and get ourselves a fruit pie or a cookie! I think we've been five times since Thanksgiving!

What are some food traditions you have in your family during Christmastime?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Family Home Evening - Applying Christmas Past to Christmas Present

Tonight for Family Home Evening we had eight pieces of paper with a word (or a phrase) written on the top.
Here were our list of words:
1. Star
2. Baby Jesus
3. Lambs
4. Shepherds
5. Stable
6. Angels
7. Mary and Joseph
8. A crowded inn

Each child was to draw a picture representing the word on their paper.  And as they were drawing they were to think of these two questions:

1. What does this picture/word have to do with the story of Christmas.
2. What does this picture/word have to do with us NOW?

Okay, so this Family Home Evening became a hands-on, artistic showing with a bounty of personal insights on each subject!  (Being hands-on artistic meant they forgot that they could use their hands to hit, tease, bug and annoy, because it was flanked with crayons, markers and colored pencils!!)

I was amazed as I listened to our children retell the Christmas story, but I was  REALLY amazed at how they applied their picture to today.

We ended with this thought:
"Are you part of the Inn crowd
or one of the Stable few?"

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Keeping Christ in Christmas . . .

and other thoughts!

I have pondered A LOT about how to keep the Savior front and center in a society that is filled with extreme materialism. For my husband and I – conscious of a budget with eight children – it is easier for us to keep in perspective the Savior’s role in this exciting time of year.

However, it is not so easy for our teenager to accept. After all, all his friends have the latest and greatest.  And they all have what he doesn’t have at all.

So this year I have found, with other children also maturing into the world of teenagerdom, that I am praying (yes, you read correctly), p-r-a-y-i-n-g for what presents we should give our children. I never would have thought that prayer would be a key factor in determining what to give, but it really has helped me keep the Savior foremost in my mind in what would be best for my children at Christmas – both their needs and their wants!

* * *
One of my pet peeves at Christmas - no, it would be much more than a pet peeve because it brings instant volcanic heat to my surface - is when people ask “What did you GET for Christmas?”


What did you GET?

Isn't this supposed to be a the season of GIVING?

So here is my counter question whenever I hear the ONE that sends me straight into the fiery furnace, “What was the best gift you GAVE this Christmas?”

Usually, it is followed by a blank stare for a few seconds. But after careful thought following my surprise quiz, it is amazing how the answer is given with such tender fondness and selflessness.

That's what Christmas is all about!

So - What is the best gift you’re GIVING this Christmas?

* * *
What do cars and jewelry have in common?

Other than they are both expensive, I think the car and jewelry TV commercials during the holidays depict the most selfish, most self-centered way of giving and receiving.

Okay, so maybe it’s because I’ve never given a car to someone or ever received a set of diamond jewelry for Christmas, but for me, those commercials resonant, so deeply and enticingly, “Entitlement.”

* * *
As you can see, I added a Christmas button on my blog! It’s from Stephanie @ Diapers and Divinity!  It's a 12 Days of Christmas Challenge. I think that will not only be fun, but it will be a GREAT way to keep the Savior in view as I go about the next 12 days before Christmas!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Day 10: Jesus is . . .

Jesus is My Everything!

Ten days ago I thought it would be a good idea to take the month to write about Jesus and His different titles. The personal assignment has been quite a challenge for me. Not because I would ever run out of titles, but it has caused me such sacred reflection upon who He is and why He is so incredibly important in my life that it is becoming difficult to put them into words.

And I am finding that I have come up short everyday in my desire to share my thoughts and feelings about who He really is.

For He is Wonderful. He is the Way. He is the Prince of Peace. He is the Father. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is God’s Only Begotten Son.

So I have decided that on this the tenth day, aware of my incredible weakness, I will finish my “series” with this personal declaration: I know that Jesus Christ lives. I know that He is more than I can ever imagine, but in all that He is, He still loves me. He still died for me. And I know He still waits for me to make the right choices so I can enjoy – in fullness – His great plan of happiness.

Truly, I have been grateful for the last ten days of reflection. For it has brought within me an even greater love for my Savior.

Which makes me think maybe the last ten days have been just for me! . . .

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day 9: Jesus is . . .

Jesus is The Creator
(Mosiah 3:8)

Creating something – anything - is so exhilarating.

I know a woman who toils with sugar and butter in creating the most incredible, decorated cakes (I cannot believe people actually eat them - they are that amazing)!

I know a man, a machinist by trade, who makes stunning, unique jewelry just for his wife and six daughters. (He surprises them with something spectacular every Christmas).

I know a woman who takes clutter and mess and organizes it into manageable, working order. (She can turn a room, a house, or an office around in no time at all).

I know a man who can take a piece of wood and transform it into furniture you would see in an elite furniture gallery. (He made this incredible “wall-bed” that folds up into the wall and turns into workable shelf area when the bed is up!!)

The list of what people can create goes on and on and all recognition for these gifts and traits go back to Jesus, who is our Creator.

He who created me to become like Him.
 * * *
I have often wondered how He sees me as I try the things He created. I suppose I began thinking about this when our first baby started learning how to eat and all the little ones that followed.

I would always anticipate their expressions, their reactions, their responses.

Like the smile of the sweetness of a sweet potato.

Or the gag on the peculiarity of green beans and peas.

And, of course, the surprise on the first taste of good, old-fashioned ice cream.

Which has made me think, What has He seen in me when I first tried the barbequed octopus?

Or what was His reaction to my tasting of salty ocean water which was pouring down my throat?

Or did He smile when I feel a spider quickly crawling down my arm?

And to think that ALL this - from sweet potatoes to spiders - and so much more, He created for me.

For me to enjoy.

For me to figure out.

For me to understand.

And most importantly, for me to testify that He lives!  That He is my Creator!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 8: Jesus is . . .

Jesus Is The Door of the Sheep
(John 10:7, 9)

Often, this question comes up in our family: “Did Jesus need to baptized?”

One answer is NO! He did not need to be baptized for the remission of sins. He was perfect. The only perfect man to every walk the earth. He did not need to be washed clean.

However, the other answer is YES! He did “need to be baptized by water to fulfill all righteousness” (1 Nephi 21:5). Although He was perfectly obedient to all of His Father’s commandments, He needed to fulfill all the commandments given to man in order to receive the fullness of His Father’s glory.

600 years before the birth of Jesus, Nephi taught his people to, “Do the thing which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and Redeemer should do,” even baptism by immersion, repentance and standing as His witness. “That ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water” (1 Nephi 31:18).

When Christ was on the earth, He taught the Jews: “I am the door of the sheep.” He said “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

The door – or gate – by which we enter His kingdom – is that of baptism into His Church. It is the way that leads us to truth and to life.

What I remember of my baptism day was that it my 8th birthday!! It was one of the birthdays I remember the most.

I remember the warm water.

I remember my father baptizing me.

And I remember pretentiously thinking that I would never, ever do anything bad from that moment forward.


Double ha.

Because I’m pretty sure I hit one (or both) of my sisters just a few moments after leaving the baptismal services.

Which meant my clean-ness, my wholeness, my purity didn’t last for very long at all!

And I knew it.

And it hurt because I knew I couldn’t go back a few moments and erase what I had done because I had already done it!

My first day of being eight and I already had one - okay TWO - marks against me . . .

But over the years my hurts have turned to gratitude to know that through theb ordinance of baptism, coupled with faith and repentance, He will always be The Door and I will always be His sheep.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 7: Jesus is . . .

Jesus is The Possesser of All Things
(Doctrine and Covenants 50:27)

Sometime ago I read the following words from Howard W. Hunter.  These words help me teach my children when questions arise as to why we celebrate Christmas on December 25th instead of April 6th, Christ's actual birthday as revealed to Joseph Smith.

"The [Christmas] season is steeped in tradition and its roots stem back in history. The commencement of the holiday lies in pagan worship long before the introduction of Christianity. The god Mithra was worshiped by the ancient Aryans, and this worship gradually spread to India and Persia. Mithra at first was the god of the heavenly light of the bright skies and later in the Roman period was worshiped as the deity of the sun, or the sun-god--Sol Invictus Mithra.
"In the first century after Christ, Pompey carried on conquests along the southern coast of Cilicia, in Asia Minor, and many of the prisoners taken in those military actions were brought captive to Rome. This introduced the pagan worship of Mithra to Rome, for these prisoners spread the religion among the Roman soldiers. The worship became popular, particularly in the ranks of the Roman armies. We find today, in the ruins of the cities of the far-flung Roman Empire, the shrines of Mithra. Mithraism flourished in the Roman world and became the chief competitor of Christianity in the religious beliefs of the people.

"A festive season for the worshipers of the sun-god took place immediately after the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year--the time when the sun stands still after its annual dip into the Southern Hemisphere. The commencement of its climb from this low point was regarded as the rebirth of Mithra, and the Romans celebrated his birthday on the twenty-fifth of December each year. There was great merriment on this holiday--festivals and feastings, gifts given to friends, and the dwelling places decorated with evergreens.

"Gradually Christianity gained a victory over Mithraism, which had been its strongest rival, and the festival day celebrating the birth of Mithra was used by the Christians to commemorate the birth of Christ. The pagan worship of the sun, deeply rooted in Roman culture, was replaced by one of the greatest festivals among Christians. Christmas has come down to us as a day of thanksgiving and rejoicing--a day of good cheer and goodwill to men. Although it has an earthly relation and significance, it is divine in content. The ancient Christian celebration has lived continuously through the centuries.
The power of Jesus never ceases to amaze me!  Because even His glory broke through false pagan belief, making Christmas is a universal celebration.  It is a testimony to me that He lives.  That He is real.  That He is the Son of God.  That He possesses ALL things!

I add my voice with Elder Hunter's:

"It has been said that Christmas is for children; but as the years of childhood fancy pass away and an understanding maturity takes their place, the simple teaching of the Savior that "it is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35) becomes a reality. The evolution from a pagan holiday transformed into a Christian festival, to the birth of Christ in men's lives, is another form of maturity that comes to one who has been touched by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 "If you desire to find the true spirit of Christmas and partake of the sweetness of it, let me make this suggestion to you. During the hurry of the festive occasion of this Christmas season, find time to turn your heart to God. Perhaps in the quiet hours, and in a quiet place, and on your knees--alone or with loved ones--give thanks for the good things that have come to you, and ask that his spirit might dwell in you as you earnestly strive to serve him and keep his commandments. He will take you by the hand and his promises will be kept."
I'd love to hear what your family is doing to Keep Christ in Christmas!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 6: Jesus is . . .

Jesus is My Example of Holiness
Moses 6:57

In ancient times the cry “Unclean!”
Would warn of lepers near.
“Unclean! Unclean!” the words rang out;
Then all drew back in fear,
Lest by the touch of lepers’ hands
They, too, would lepers be.
There was no cure in ancient times,
Just hopeless agony.
No soap, no balm, no medicine
Could stay disease or pain.
There was no salve, no cleansing bath,
To make them well again.
But there was One, the record shows,
Whose touch could make them pure;
Could ease their awful suffering,
Their rotting flesh restore.
His coming long had been foretold.
Signs would precede His birth.
A Son of God to woman born,
With power to cleanse the earth.
The day He made ten lepers whole,
The day He made them clean,
Well symbolized His ministry
And what His life would mean.
However great that miracle,
This was not why He came.
He came to rescue every soul
From death, from sin, from shame.
For greater miracles, He said,
His servants yet would do,
To rescue every living soul,
Not just heal up the few.
Though we’re redeemed from mortal death,
We still can’t enter in
Unless we’re clean, cleansed every whit,
From every mortal sin.
What must be done to make us clean
We cannot do alone.
The law, to be a law, requires
A pure one must atone.
He taught that justice will be stayed
Till mercy’s claim be heard
If we repent and are baptized
And live by every word. …
If we could only understand
All we have heard and seen,
We’d know there is no greater gift
Than those two words—“Washed clean!”

-Boyd K. Packer

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day 5: Jesus is . . .

Jesus is the Fountain of Living Water
(John 4)

In the life there cannot be bread without water.
And the same is true in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
He is represented as the Bread of Life and equally, as Living Water.
* * *
In studying the Old Testament this year, I found it fascinating to read this about the creation and when water first fell on the earth.

And the Gods came down and formed these the generations of the heavens and of the earth, when they were formed in the day that the Gods formed the earth and the heavens,

According to all that which they had said concerning every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew; for the Gods had not caused it to rain upon the earth when they counseled to do them, and had not formed a man to till the ground.

But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

And the Gods formed man from the dust of the ground, and took his spirit (that is, the man’s spirit), and put it into him; and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul (Abraham 5:4-7).
* * *
Physically, our bodies cannot go three day without water and survive.
How physically symbolic then, are the three days the Savior’s body lay in a tomb before the miracle of the resurrection took place.
And spiritually symbolic, as the noble and great ones awaited in the Spirit World for the Savior to appear and bless and direct the work that would then begin for those who were not able to hear the gospel while in the flesh.
* * *
There are components of the gospel that fit together in pairs.
Some that come easily to my mind are:
Faith and Repentance.
Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
Anointing and Sealing.
and of course, Bread and Water.
During our Sunday worship, partaking of the bread and water is the MOST important reason we as members of the Church attend Sacrament Meeting.
For in the bread - the representation His body, and in the water - the representation of the shedding of His blood - Tthe ordinance is made complete.
And this complete-ness, this whole-ness allows me to receive a remission of my sins.  It gives remembrance of my baptismal covenants and the responsibility for me to "Receive the Holy Ghost."
Elder David A. Bednar teaches this:
"These four words—“Receive the Holy Ghost”—are not a passive pronouncement; rather, they constitute a priesthood injunction—an authoritative admonition to act and not simply to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26). The Holy Ghost does not become operative in our lives merely because hands are placed upon our heads and those four important words are spoken. As we receive this ordinance, each of us accepts a sacred and ongoing responsibility to desire, to seek, to work, and to so live that we indeed “receive the Holy Ghost” and its attendant spiritual gifts."
* * *
I am learning that as I continue to feast upon the Word,  I being led to the fountain of Living Water or to the Tree of Life.  "Which waters are are a representation of the love of God; and . . . also  . . . that the tree of life [is] a representation of the love of God" (1 Nephi 11:25).
And in this process, I find myself filled with gratitude that the Lord does provide - Bread and Water from heaven!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Day 4: Jesus is . . .

Jesus is the Bread of Life
(John 6)

Beth: The second letter in the Hebrew alphabet and a designation meaning house.

Thus, Bethel means house of God.

Bethany means house of the poor.

How symbolic then, that Bethlehem, meaning house of bread, is the city in which the Bread of Life was born. A city that is still alive today!

As I thought about this title, I reflected on the stories of Jesus that involved bread.

The first that came to mind is the story of the five loaves and two fishes, which resulted in the feeding of 5000.

Then I thought of the Last Supper and the institution of the Sacrament.

And then one of my favorite stories of when He walks the road to Emmaus, walking with and teaching Cleopas and his friend, and finally breaking bread with them before vanishing out of their sight.

To the Israelites, Jesus provided manna.

To Moses the Lord said, “I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel; speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God” (Exodus 16:12).

To the Jews, Jesus lived among them in the flesh.

To them He taught, “My Father giveth you the true bread of heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” And then testified, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger” (John 6:32-33,35).

To us, in our day, the Bread of Life has given us the fullness of His everlasting gospel.

Jesus commands us - which is so fitting for this Christmas season - “Do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness” (2 Nephi 9:51).

How grateful I am to the Sacrament. A saving ordinance of which I can partake weekly as a remembrance - – a sacred reminder – of the Bread of Life.

To Whom I owe everything.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Day 3: Jesus is . . .

Jesus is The High Priest of Good Things to Come
(Hebrews 9:11)

I first heard the title “the High Priest of Good Things to Come” from Elder Jeffery R. Holland 15 years ago while watching a video presentation in the Los Angeles’ Temple Visitor Center. That title, that concept, that truth penetrated into my heart so deeply that it has always been one of the Savior's titles that I have held most dear - probably because I find myself constantly hoping for good things to come.  Not in an anxious way, but in a hopeful, promising way as I try my best to look to the Savior with faith and trust.

More recently in General Conference, Elder Holland spoke on this very topic that has been put into video, which causes me to sob everytime I watch it.  Because I know that Jesus Christ is the only One who can and will provide the promise that good things can come; will come; do come.

Click here to read Elder Holland's entire talk.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 2: Jesus is . . .

Jesus is The Shepherd and Bishop of my Soul
(1 Peter 2:23-24)

My life has been blessed by bishops whom I have loved and respected.

Regular men.

Ordinary men.

Imperfect men.

But men, nonetheless, who, through the laying on of hands, are given the authority to become a spiritual and temporal shepherd over me, thus engaging in the extraordinary task of trying to be as the Savior and do what He would do if He were on the earth.

And as I've had opportunities to sit across a desk from many a bishop, I have often reflected on the trust the Lord has placed in them.

For them to lead and for me to follow.

For them to judge and for me to judge not.

For them to know and for me to know just enough.

And I confess that in my imperfection, I have not always followed completely,

or withheld my unrighteous judgment,

or was satisfied in knowing a part of the whole . . .

But I have certainly come to know that Jesus has placed these men in my life as a symbol of His love for me.

Because He wants me found.

He wants me clean.

He wants me home.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day 1: Jesus Is . . .

There have been many times my children have asked me why Jesus has so many different names. I explain to them that even I have different names to different people. To my children, I am Mom. To my family and friends, I am Darla. To others I am known as Auntie, and to my husband I am Honey. And still, the list goes on and on and on.

So, I've decided that each day in December this year I will write about one of the names Christ. For Christ has many titles. I am sure I will discover new truths as I explore and study the One whose birth we commemorate this month, our Lord and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I would love your comments and insights along the way.

Jesus is: The Author and Finisher of My Faith (Hebrews 12:1-2)

I have always been intrigued by this phrase, for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel.

This principle of faith leads me to believe in His name in order for Him to make all things possible.

Then, through the covenant of baptism, faith leads to taking upon me His name so that I can stand as His witness at all times, in all things and in all places.

It is my witness of Him that comes with a price.

And that price is endurance.

Because absolute faith in the Savior is required of me when going through adversity that seems endless or hopeless or fruitless.

To the father who suffered for years as he took care of his son struggling with a dumb and deaf spirit, Jesus said “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him the believeth.”

To which the almost faithless father replied, “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief.”

Help Thou my unbelief!

How many times have I uttered this phrase! And how many times will I yet utter it?

Because sometimes enduring is much, much harder than the textbook describes.

And much, much darker than the darkest night.

And much more lonely than being alone.

But just as the Savior stands at the beginning of faith (He Being the first principle of the gospel), He also stands at the end.

To tow the line when I have no strength.

To be the hope when I’m ready to give up.

To be the One in lonely so I don’t have to be.

And in the end, He finishes me better than when I started.

Only to realize that I get to start all over again.

Because He wants me to experience the authorship of His plan and take me through the steps to help me finish what He sent me here to do.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tidbit Tuesday - Follow the Prophet

"Oh, will you have plains to cross? Yes, but in a different way,  Will you come through as we did?  I will give you a key.  No matter what comes to try your faith, stand by the President of the Church.  God will never allow a fallen prophet to lead His Church.  All will be well with you if you remember."

-Elizabeth Laird
member of the Willie Handcart Company

30 Days Hath November

30 days hath November
for me to thankfully remember,
to count 30 ways that I’ve been blessed
by the One who knows me best.

1. The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Without Him I am nothing and with Him, nothing is impossible.

2. My membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A blessing to me that is worth more than anything in this world.

3. My sweet, wonderful husband. Because once upon a time I really thought marriage was the beginning of an end. But, because of his love and kindness to me, he has proved that theory wrong over and over and over again. (I love you!)

4. My children. They have allowed me to live life in High-Def, Surround Sound 3-D!

5. My Mom and My Dad. My mom for instructing me how to accompany for musical numbers, teaching me how to cook from scratch and instilling in me the love of chocolate. My dad for teaching me the importance of hard work, encouraging me to reach my goals and inviting me in my youth to love – with all my heart – the word of God.

6. My siblings. For loving me even after all the stuff I dished out to them many years ago.

7. The gift of the Holy Ghost. The Record of Heaven.  The Comforter.  The Truth of All Things.  That which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things.  That which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.

8. Acetaminophen. Without it I would be one BIG headache during the entire nine months of pregnancy . . . (and then some)!

9. Sleep. For because the Lord knows that sleep is the best thing for me to start off a new day!

10. “My” Young Women’s President and the first “real” returned sister missionary I knew. Her testimony of the gospel motivated me to serve a full-time mission.

11. Priesthood blessings. For direction, for guidance, for peace.

12. My very bestest friend in high school. Sweet, happy cherished memories!

13. Seminary. Where the truth that had always been taught to me began to sprout and grow and live.

14. My Granny. She taught me how to sew, how to enjoy a fresh cup of peppermint tea with a liverwurst sandwich . . . and instilled a fear of drinking Coke (do you know what it does to clogged drains??).

15. Serving as a young Primary teacher in a Laotion Branch. It was the beginning of my understanding of the great love God has for all of His children.

16. Sacred, holy places. The temple. Quiet, wooded mountains. And feeling a baby move in my belly.

17. Indoor plumbing. Of all the modern inventions, I would put running water and a flushing toilet as the one for which I am the most grateful.

18. Corrective lenses. For because if we lived in the time of Jesus I would be a blind beggar. So would my husband. Four of our children. And the dog. (But the dog would probably fare better).

19. The invention of the printing press. Where would my life be without good books?

20. Stake Presidents. I will always cherish the recommend interviews with one during the time my husband served as a Bishop; and the memory of another blessing the Sacrament.

21. A 15 passenger van. 15!!! How else could I drive all my children to and from and all the way back again?

22. Cilantro. In my book one of the tastiest Mexican-food garnishes out there.

23. Newly fallen snow. Because there’s no better way to see what repentance and forgiveness look like.

24. A visiting teacher who turned out to be one of my dearest, most cherished friends.

25. My sewing machine. My creative outlet and a calming pastime. (Thanks Granny)

26. Ice Cream. Particularly the homemade kind . . . and Cold Stone!

27. Fire. I happen to enjoy being warm when it is cold. And a REAL fire (with wood) is the most yummy heat I know.

28. Bread. The kind we ate fresh – everyday – in Spain. Ahhh!

29. My mission companion during the holidays while I was far away from home.

30. Baby #9 . . . And it’s is a girl!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Family Home Evening - The ServANTS

I have reluctantly decided that my children need to take turns teaching Family Home Evening lessons.  Not because I don't think they can't do a great job (because they do), but because I LOVE teaching the gospel to my children.

But . . . I also realize that our children need the opportunity to teach . . . so they can learn.

So tonight it was time for our eight year-old son to take his turn.  He was given the direction to give a lesson on serving and/or giving.  He looked through a wonderful box of lesson ideas given to our family a few months ago from a dear friend and found the perfect one for tonight!
Our lesson was about a wonderful family of Ants.  A mom and dad ant and sibling ants: Persist-ANT, Observ-ANT, Dilig-ANT, Obedi-ANT and last, but not least, Serv-ANT.

Each ant had their strengths.  And together, their strengths helped one another.  But our lesson focused on Serv-ANT, for "Serv-ANT said that it wasn't what he got in life that made him happy, but what he was able to give."

Which brought us to our annual FHE activity of making out our Christmas Lists.   Before doing so, we were able to discuss the Joy of Giving and the Joy of Receiving.  For we muct have both.

We also discussed the difference between wants and needs.  Reminding our children - our older ones, at least - that it is okay to have a Christmas Wish List, but none of us is entitled ro receive what we want just because.

I think our older children understood, for they made a Christmas wish list under WANTS and another under NEEDS.  Our younger ones, well, they just when on and on and on . . .  :)

And as we ended our Family Home Evening tonight, chatting over chocolate cake and ice cream, it was wonderful to hear the excitement of Christmas coming . . . of dreaming and wishing as well as recognizing that Christmas about the Joy of Giving and Serving.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

By Candlelight

Our ward choir is practicing for the Sacrament Christmas program the week of Christmas. And it never fails that when we go through a choral number together for the first time, I find myself on the emotional side of things as I contemplate the lyrics coupled with the melody and the accompaniment.

Today we began learning a new song entitled By Candlelight (music and lyrics by Ruth Elaine Schram). A beautiful Christmas song that puts emphasis on the holy, still night, illuminated by the light of candles.

While going through the music, I found myself wondering about this particular phrase:

Animals share their humble abode with Him willingly
But they seem to be asking “Why has He come,
And who is He? Is He royalty?”

And as I mulled it over in my finite mind, it occurred to me that of all the places where the Savior could have been born (not to mentioned where He should have been born), He was born in the only place where everyone – and everything present – could testify of His name.



And the animals.

I believe they knew who He was.

I believe they knew He was their Creator.

And though they could not speak to testify of Him, I believe that their testimony of Him was in their willingness to “share their humble abode with Him.”

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Houses of the Lord

So today, while driving through the valley my four year son blurts out, "MOM! I can see two Temples."

"Yes!" I respond.  "Do you know whose house the temple is?"

He looked at me blankly.

"I know!" shouted my five year daughter from the back of the van.  "The Temple is Jesus' house."

"That's right!" I said.

After a moment or two of silence as the two of them gazed at the temples before them, I heard her whisper to her brother, "Man, Jesus is so lucky to have so many houses in the world!"

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tidbit Tuesday - Music in Hell

"Brigham Young said: 'There is no music in hell (Journal of Discourses, 9:244).' However, some loud sounds are currently masquerading as music - which would seem to help qualify hell as hell."

Neal A. Maxwell
from Moving in His Majesty and Power

Monday, November 15, 2010

Rear View Mirror

The other day while parking, I looked out the rearview mirror and to my absolute horror I saw that I was backing up into and UP a tree!!

However, (before you CLICK HERE to read about bad driving), I realized that I was just driving up a sloped parking lot!

The view that I had of what was behind me was all messed up because my center of attention was all wrong.

So in the end I did park safely! (No pun intended).

I simply adjusted the rearview mirror.

Which got me to thinking about how I look at what has happened in my life.

All the things that are SO yesterday.

SO last year.

SO high school.

Is my “rearview” of what has occurred in my life lined up correctly, or is it skewed (ever so slightly or so considerably) that I don’t quite see the whole picture – the real picture?

Driving is a great metaphor of life.

For example, I get in a car to drive forward – not backward.

95% of my time in the car is in DRIVE, not reverse.

And the windshield, compared to that rearview mirror placed front and center, is my entire view.  (At least it should be)

The rearview mirror is positioned in its exact place for safety.

For precaution.

And for reminders, when necessary.

It was never put there for me to stare into or focus on while I drive forward.

No, that would be a bad, bad idea.

Not only for me but for everyone else on the road!!

Yet, there have been times in my life when I have insisted that going forward means not to let go of the past.

When 95% of my efforts have been in looking in REVERSE, and wondering WHY I couldn’t go forward.

With the rearview mirror being the center of my attention and the vast windshield being completely ignored.

And those times have been bad.

Bad for me and very bad for everyone else around.

And so the other day, after being so extremely grateful that I didn’t really backup into and UP a tree, I decided that I better start adjusting my rearview mirror correctly.

And that requires me to rely upon the enabling and redeeming power of the Atonement.

Oh, there is a lot I need to learn!!

And there is a LOT He wants to teach me!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Family Scriptures

So I was feeling a little sorry for myself this week.

Maybe A LOT sorry.

I was Pathetic.  Yes, with a capital P!

Got myself all riled up over things I can’t control.

Made a list of This and That and Those and These.

And then, for family scriptures, it was decided (by the Spirit, mind you) to read a 1989 Conference Talk by then, Bishop Henry B. Eyring.

I thought FOR SURE the message was for the children.

After all, aren’t they always wanting what others have and they don’t?

So here is what we read together  (CLICK HERE to read Bishop Eyring's entire talk):

You and I would like to know how to control our wants and increase our gratitude and generosity. We are going to need that change. Someday, in our families and as a people, we will live as one, seeking each other’s good.

You know from studying Church history that we have tried to live as one in a variety of settings. A story from one of those tries, in Orderville, Utah, gives us a clue as to why it is so hard.

Orderville was founded in 1870 and 1871 by people who wanted to live the united order; in 1875, they began the order. They built housing units in a square, with a common dining hall. They built a storehouse, shoe shop, bakery, blacksmith shop, tannery, schoolhouse, sheep shed, and woolen factory. They grew and made nearly everything they needed, from soap to trousers. They had carpenters, midwives, teachers, artists, and musicians. They produced enough surplus that they could sell it in neighboring towns for cash: with that they built up a capital fund to buy more land and equipment.

The population rose to seven hundred people. One hundred and fifty of them gave Orderville a special advantage: they had come to Orderville from the mission on the Muddy River, where they had nearly starved. When those who had been called to the Muddy were released, they were in near destitution. Twenty-four of those families went to Long Valley, founded Orderville, and pledged all they had to the Lord. They didn’t have much, but their poverty may have been their greatest contribution. Their having almost nothing provided a basis for future comparison that might have guaranteed gratitude: any food or clothing or housing that came to them in Orderville would be treasure compared to their privation on the Muddy mission.

But time passed, the railroad came, and a mining boom put cash in the hands of people in the neighboring towns. They could buy imported clothes, and they did. The people in Orderville were living better than they had in years, but the memory of poverty on the Muddy had faded. They now focused on what was in the next town. And so they felt old-fashioned and deprived.

One ingenious boy acted on the discontent he felt when he was denied a new pair of pants from the Orderville factory because his were not worn out yet. He secretly gathered the docked lambs’ tails from the spring crop. He sheared the wool from them and stored it in sacks. Then, when he was sent with a load of wool to sell in Nephi, he took his sacks along and exchanged them for a pair of store pants. He created a sensation when he wore the new-style pants to the next dance.

The president of the order asked him what he had done. The boy gave an honest answer. So they called him into a meeting and told him to bring the pants. They commended him for his initiative, pointed out that the pants really belonged to the order, and took them. But they told him this: the pants would be taken apart, used as a pattern, and henceforth Orderville pants would have the new store-bought style. And he would get the first pair.

That did not quite end the pants rebellion. Orders for new pants soon swamped the tailoring department. When the orders were denied because pants weren’t yet worn out, boys began slipping into the shed where the grinding wheel was housed. Soon, pants began to wear out quickly. The elders gave in, sent a load of wool out to trade for cloth, and the new-style pants were produced for everyone.

You know that isn’t a happy ending. There were many challenges Orderville faced in the ten years they lived the order there. One of them they never really conquered. It was the problem of not remembering. That is a problem we must solve, too.

Just as they forgot poverty on the Muddy, we so easily forget that we came into life with nothing. Whatever we get soon seems our natural right, not a gift. And we forget the giver. Then our gaze shifts from what we have been given to what we don’t have yet. . .

You could have an experience with the gift of the Holy Ghost today. You could begin a private prayer with thanks. You could start to count your blessings, and then pause for a moment. If you exercise faith, and with the gift of the Holy Ghost, you will find that memories of other blessings will flood into your mind. If you begin to express gratitude for each of them, your prayer may take a little longer than usual. Remembrance will come. And so will gratitude.

And when Family Scriptures was over, I realized how I had been the one forgetting.

How I was the one who needed to remember.

Oh how grateful I am to my Giver. . . and for family scriptures!

Service to the Family

These last two weeks of intermittent blogging have been temporarily overtaken (and lovingly sponsored) by “Service to the Family.”

I say that with a complete recognition that there are things – and perhaps many things at that – that can easily be dropped and/or superseded because of family.

For me, blogging is one of the things I can – and must drop – when it comes to putting family f.i.r.s.t.

Blogging for me is (thankfully) NOT an obsession. It is more a hobby.

But on my priority list, hobbies always come after doing the things that are more/most important.

Which reminded me of what the Lord taught me some years ago:

We had recently moved into a new ward.

But this new ward was more than just a new ward for us!

It was a new ward for everyone involved!

We moved into a brand new subdivision! And on a weekly basis new ward members were moving in!

This new ward meant reaching out to a new move-ins when being “four-weeks old” in the ward meant we were numbered as one of the “old-timers.”

It meant exerting super-extra energy to meet people, make friends and establish relationships.

It also came when I was a B.I.G. six months pregnant with twins, our oldest being 16 months old.

I was gradually beginning to see some of my limitations, and quite frankly, they intimidated me.

Because I am a “Go and Do” kind of woman . . . and all of a sudden all these physical and mental restrictions were inhibiting the “Go” in me.

But it was then, in those moments of personal weakness that the Lord found fit to teach me about “Service to the Family.”

It was during Relief Society when an inspired instructor verbalized what the Spirit needed me to hear, to learn, to live: “There will be times when you will be unable to render service to others. Sometimes the only “outward” service you may be able to perform will be within the walls of your own home. And that will be sufficient enough for the Lord.”

I remember being filled with emotion, wondering how could my service in my home to my family be enough?

Oh silly, naïve me.

Little did I know then, that in a few short 13 months from then, my husband would be called as the Bishop of a brand new ward.

But by then, and subsequently through my husband’s Church calling, the Spirit would remind me of that one moment in Relief Society.

It was not only okay – but imperative – to serve first my family, even if that meant letting go of my hobbies, my agenda - sometimes momentarily and sometimes permanently.

I confess, it hasn’t always been easy.

And I haven’t always had a happy attitude about it.

But the Lord, who does loves me, still continues to teach me about my “Service to the Family.”

Thus the past two weeks!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sarah and Hagar

Last night for Relief Society Meeting several sisters shared stories from the women of the Old Testament.

I was assigned to report on Sarah and Hagar.

Before I began my studies, I knew more about Sarah.

Earlier this year I posted THIS about Sarah.

       I knew that she married Abraham.

       That her name changed from Sarai to Sarah.

       When Sarah was unable to conceive she gave her handmaid, Hagar, to Abraham.

       Sarah was 90 when an angel of the Lord told her she would have a child, and, well, she laughed. (Um, wouldn’t you . . . okay, cry maybe??)

       With Abraham, Sarah begat Isaac, their only begotten son who would serve as a type and a shadow of the eternal and atoning sacrifice of the Father’s Only Begotten Son.

But what I learned about Hagar allowed my faith to deepen for our loving Heavenly Father who loves all His daughters – each of them, individually.

Hagar was an Egyptian servant, given as a dowry to Sarah.

Perhaps when she was given to Abraham, Sarah was hopeful that she (Sarah) would conceive a child before her.

However, after Hagar conceived, Sarah became very angry with her and vented to Abraham about her feelings. After all, Sara was the wife of the covenant!

Abraham (the good husband that he was), instructed Sarah to do with Hagar as she pleased. Whereupon Sarah sends Hagar away.

But here is one of the most important elements of this story – The Lord is aware of Hagar! He loves her! And in His love He sends an angel her way to teach her, to bless her and also to humble her.

The angel tells Hagar that she will have a son. His name would be Ishmael and that he would have 12 princes and would make a great nation. Furthermore, the angel instructs Hagar to return and “submit” herself to Sarah.

How difficult that must have been! But Hagar obeys.

By and by, Sarah is also blessed, because the Lord loves her, too! She has a son named Isaac who becomes the grandfather to the 12 tribes of Israel. And because of this Sarah now has ample reason to cast Hagar out forever.

The morning that Hagar and her young son Ishmael depart, the scriptures say that Abraham awoke early to give to them bread and a bottle of water. What a sweet and tender gesture by Abraham.

Hagar and Ishmael walk for a long while and find themselves hungry and thirsty. Hagar, not thinking of herself, prays that they can find just enough water for her son – so was willing to die.

But lo, and behold, an angel of the Lord appears again to Hagar and tells her everything is okay. The Lord is aware of her. Think of that! He is aware of HER when she is NOT the wife of the covenant!

And Hagar’s eyes are opened to see water and Ishmael does grow to raise 12 nations.

So from the loins of Abraham springs two great nations. Nations that are in conflict even today.

And I believe that even amidst that conflict, the Lord loves each of us individually and divinely.  I know He will come to our aid whether we are in or out of the "covenant!"

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tidbit Tuesday - Promptings of the Spirit

"I have come to understand that the value of following the prompting of the Spirit does not lie in knowing what happened to someone or in having a nice story to tell, but rather in knowing you have done what the Lord wanted you to do.

"In one sense it doesn't really matter how things turn out with someone else.  What matters is what we did.  Were we obedient to our charge?  Did we follow the promptings we were given?

"The Lord gives the increase.  We have the privilege of being instruments in His hand to bring about His purposes.  The results or the increase are up to Him.  We should never seek an outward sign of verification of our standing before Him, but rather seek the internal assurance that we have done what He wanted us to do."

-John H. Groberg
The Fire of Faith p. 148
(italics added)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Thoughts

I remember long ago, before I had children, having a conversation with a co-worker. He came from a large family, with all of his siblings very close together. He related a story that once, during the times of such close pregnancies, his mother wondered aloud to a friend, “Why right NOW? Why do I have to be pregnant RIGHT NOW?” The response this mother received was taken with great surprise:

“This pregnancy is not about you. It’s the Lord who needs this child to be on earth NOW. Maybe the now-time for his mission will be shortly after his arrival, but maybe it will be 19 years down the line when the Lord needs your son to be in the right place at the right time to do something that only he can do in the place the Lord has appointed!”

Little did I know then that I would have 8+ children of my own and that conversation would repeat many times in my heart as a sweet reminder of Whose these spirits are.

* * *

Throughout my life I have wondered “Why am I where I am right now?”

Today that question floated through my mind as we listened to a young man in our ward who will leave Wednesday for the MTC on a full-time mission. I supposed that thought passed my mind as I realized that today marks year one of being in our “new” ward. And in these past twelve months my boys have been able to witness five missionaries leaving for full-time missions and one who returned home.

So this morning I thought that maybe I am where I am right now because my boys need to see and feel the power of worthy young men prepared and leaving on full-time missions for the Lord!

* * *

When I went to church today I had just place a brand-spanking new eraser into my mechanical pencil.

Which only needed to be replaced 6 months ago. . .But since 95% of my pencil is used for scripture marking, the eraser does go a long ways.

But I was still so elated to take to Church a new eraser attached to my old, mechanical pencil!

Well, I let me seven year old use the pencil during Sacrament Meeting. And every now and then I glanced down to see him drawing quite the intricate picture with mountains that were shadowed and trees with many leaves and a sun with very thick rays.

Near the end of the meeting I peered over his shoulder to see what had become of his picture and saw that he now had a clean, white sheet of paper.

Except, upon second glance, it wasn’t a new piece of paper. . .

No, it was his mountain/tree/sun with many rays picture that now had been meticulously erased WITH MY NEW ERASER. . . which, no longer looked new at all!

My eyes began to bulge and I was just beginning to feel some intense surges of provocation when there was a thought placed ever so tenderly and softly in my mind that said something like this, “Ahem, isn’t that what an eraser is for? That is why I came to earth.  I came to die for you you so that you could become as clean as that paper.  My Atonement is your eraser.  It is I who makes you clean."

And humility filled me as all the pencils that we have in our home flashed before my eyes and I realized that none of them have any eraser left on them!

Because in our house the eraser is the part of the pencil that goes first. And usually, when I find pencils without erasers, I throw away those darn pencils away because what good are they without erasers, anyway??

But today I figured it out.  Without Jesus Christ I would have been thrown out a long, long time ago.

Christ is my Eraser.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I'm Not THAT Old!

Five-year old daughter: "Mom?"

Me: "Yes."

Daughter: "Was I still in your tummy the first time Jesus came to earth?"


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Isaiah: "Barrier" in the Book of Mormon

For the record, I DON'T understand Isaiah.

Oh, how I wish I did.

Most of the time I trudge through the imagery, the symbolism, the culture and the history, wishing my brain would just figure things out!

But normally, it doesn't.

However, I do enjoy reading Isaiah . . .

And here is what I DO know about Isaiah (as taught by President Boyd K. Packer):
          “The Book of Mormon is a book of scripture. It is another testament of Jesus Christ. It is written in biblical language, the language of the prophets.
          “For the most part, it is in easy-flowing New Testament language, with such words as spake for spoke, unto for to, with and it came to pass, with thus and thou and thine. 
          “You will not read many pages into it until you catch the cadence of that language and the narrative will be easy to understand. As a matter of fact, most teenagers readily understand the narrative of the Book of Mormon.
          “Then, just as you settle in to move comfortably along, you will meet a barrier. The style of the language changes to Old Testament prophecy style. For, interspersed in the narrative, are chapters reciting the prophecies of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. They loom as a barrier, like a roadblock or a checkpoint beyond which the casual reader, one with idle curiosity, generally will not go.
          "You, too, may be tempted to stop there, but do not do it! Do not stop reading! Move forward through those difficult-to-understand chapters of Old Testament prophecy, even if you understand very little of it. Move on, if all you do is skim and merely glean an impression here and there. Move on, if all you do is look at the words. … 
          “… The Lord had a purpose in preserving the prophecies of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, notwithstanding they become a barrier to the casual reader.
          “Those who never move beyond the Isaiah chapters miss the personal treasures to be gathered along the way” (Ensign, May 1986, 61).
So, everytime I come to those Isaiah sections in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi, Mosiah and 3 Nephi) I read on with a prayer that maybe, MAYBE, something will penetrate me heart and make me do more than squint my eyes and tilt my head and whisper a faint, "Huh??" 

I just move on.  Move on.  Just like President Packer told me to do.

Well, this week, while I am studying Isaiah (Isaiah from the Old Testament, in the Old Testament), I came across verses. . .

Verses which felt so poetic to me.

But it was more than poetic verses.

They were words which moved me with such emotion to the filling of my heart with adoring thankgiving for a Savior who knows and loves me:

Hast thou not known?
Hast thou not heard,
that the everlasting God,
the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not,
neither is weary?
There is no searching of His understanding.
He giveth power to the faint;
and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
and the young men shall utterly fall:
But they that await upon the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk, and not faint.
 - Isaiah 40:28-31

President Packer, Thank you for the promise!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tidbit Tuesday - Faith Not Fear

I have [something] to say to you who are troubled about the future. I say them lovingly and from my heart.

Never let fear and the father of fear (Satan himself) divert us from our faith and faithful living. Every person in every era has had to walk by faith into what has always been some uncertainty. This is the plan. Just be faithful. God is in charge. He knows your name and He knows your need.

-Jeffery R. Holland
CLICK HERE to read Elder Holland's entire article!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Family Home Evening - Follow the Prophet

This Week's General Conference Talk: (CLICK HERE) Elder Claudio R. M. Costas October 2010

How we did it: Actually, we started talking about the 14 Fundamentals of Following the Prophet last week, but only managed to get through four of the 14. Because in so doing, our younger children became quite obnoxious, so this was definitely a lesson that was “To Be Continued.”

After careful mother-thought, I decided this week we would make the discussion more entertaining for the younger children. So, I wrote the remaining 10 points we didn’t discuss last week on slips of paper, placed them in a bottle and we played “Spin the Bottle!”

Each family member was able to take out a slip of paper, read it and we were able to discuss it briefly, citing examples along the way. It made it fun for all!

It was also great to hear my children, who are learning about the Old Testament in Primary, recount the story of Naaman and the importance of following the prophet for, "the prophet is not limited by men's reasoning . . ."

Perhaps the only things that would have kept the younger children holding on a little longer is if I had Toostie Rolls attached to each slip of paper . . . but those lucky children received them for their Family Home Evening Treat tonight.  (Hey, we had a really good dinner to off-set the sorry excuse for a treat!!)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Words From A Prophet

There are times when politics, listening to the news, and reading news articles gets me to start wondering about the world in which we live. I find that when I allow the feelings of the adversary to penetrate, I find myself fearful for my family and for others that I love.

But how blessed we are that the Lord sends us prophets who give us hope for the present and faith for the future!

Let me back up to earlier this week, on a morning when I was praying to Heavenly Father to give me guidance on what to do with one of my sons.  In the middle of my prayer I was stopped mid-sentence!  And carefully, yet distinctly, the Spirit placed this specific thought in my brain: "Incorporate President Hinckley's Counsel and Prayer for Youth in your family discussion."

I was taken back for a moment because obviously those words were not mine.  I would have never thought of this on my own!

So, as I often do during my prayer time, I had to take a few minutes to create a plan of action.

Me: Yipee, we already have a VHS copy of the talk!

Me: No, you need to get the DVD copy.

Me: Why? We already have one on video.

Me: Because THAT'S what you are supposed to do.

Me: Okay . . .

Later on that day I had to go pick up some "Faith in God" booklets.  Upon arriving at the Church's Distribution Center and looking around to find the Primary section, the first item I saw on a shelf was: A DVD copy of President Hinckley's Counsel and Prayer to Youth."  Honestly (and sad to say), because I had three children in tow and a time limit, I only had the booklets on my mind. But the Lord was serious with me and not only did He send the Spirit to tell me in my heart and mind, He directed my eyeballs to that DVD!

Of course I bought it!!

Anyway, fast forward to this evening when we gathered as a family to view and discuss this incredible talk. I prayed that whatever my son needed to hear, he would understand it.

Well, to my astonishment, within the opening lines of President Hinckley's address he said these words, which pierced the depths of my troubled heart and opened it to the peace that only the Savior promises:
"Every generation that has ever walked the earth has faced challenges. We could spend the entire evening talking about them. But of all the challenges that have been faced in the past, the ones we have today, I believe, are most easily handled. I say that because they are manageable. They largely involve individual behavioral decisions, but those decisions can be made and followed. And when that happens, the challenge is behind us."
"of all the challenges that have been faced in the past, the ones we have today . . . are the most easily handled."  As President Hinckley continues he gives the guidance necessary to handle the challenges and the sins of this generation.
And as I sat there and listened to the portion of his talk we shared as a family, all I could feel was gratitude to a Heavenly Father.  A loving Heavenly Father who knew that a prophet's voice would not only help my son, but it would also help me!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Here's to 18 Years!

There were eight, exuberant greetings waiting for me and my husband this morning. Each of our children took joyful delight in wishing us a “Happy Anniversary!”

For today marks our 18th! (EIGHTEEN!!!!)

I remember being a newly-wed for a little over a week thinking a 1st Anniversary was such a loooong time away.

And here it is, 18 years later. . .

Sometimes it feels just like yesterday. . .

And other times, it feels like we’ve been married forever!

Back on Valentine’s Day, I posted this blog (CLICK HERE) about marriage and about my husband.

Happy Anniversary my dear Prince Charming! (CLICK HERE)

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Thought on Parenthood

I have contemplated the wisdom of a loving Heavenly Father. His wisdom far surpasses my minute, finite understanding, but sometimes I find that if I listen ever so carefully, He will teach me - Parent to parent - little tidbits that help me better understand my place as mortal mother, earthly keeper of His Spirit Sons and Daughter.

One concept I have pondered is the knowledge Nephi received about his people. He was able to foresee, through the power of the Lord – the destruction of his people (See 2 Nephi 26). Yet, this knowledge, which was obviously passed on to other righteous men, did not diminish Nephi’s desire or his intense labor in preaching repentance and testifying of the truth. What if Nephi had known his people would all turn out okay? Would he still have put forth as much energy in preaching repentance? As I contemplated this idea for a long time, I had this Parent to parent tutoring session (thanks to the Spirit):

If, as a parent, I foresaw my children choosing wicked over righteousness I may have a mortal tendency to give up hope in the present and/or find myself in the depths of personal guilt and private blame for all the things I could have done, should have done, or didn’t do. Perhaps I would forget who the real Parent is and my role as an earthly keeper of God's children to have faith in Christ and his redeeming and enabling Atonement for me and “my” children.

However, if I foresaw my children always choosing righteousness over evil, always recognizing sin and repenting immediately, perhaps I would have the mortal tendency to puff myself up with pride and adulation. And in so doing, I would disregard heaven, forget God, and poison my soul with the idea that I should receive the glory for the good choices my children have made.

Either way, those sentiments do not represent how the Lord would want to feel about Him, about myself or about His/my children.

I have concluded that to very few does the Lord show the future. Perhaps, in the case of prophets, the future is shown because of the keys they hold and the responsibility that is theirs to warn the wicked and save the saints. Perhaps to the few men and women the future is shown because of the intricate trust the Lord has in their ability to keep things in sacred perspective.

And for me, I have happily decided that as I walk by faith as an earthly parent of Heavenly Father's children, He will show me just enough to help His children get back home.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

One Secret Out of the Bag!

I've decided that am going to share one of my secrets!

Not because it has benefited me or my children (because it hasn't), but it makes me happy that I can give a little thank-you to men and women who have chosen Teacher as their career.

So here's the secret: Every so often - maybe once every two or three weeks - I send a home-made baked treat to school with my children for their teachers. (It has gotten tricky having a 7th grader who has EIGHT teachers, so I leave it up to him to figure out which teacher he will give it to.)

Last week I baked a most delicious batch of Triple Chocolate Cookies!  It made more than enough for seven children to take a half a dozen to his/her teacher. So here's the recipe for you to enjoy or to share!

Yield: A LOT! (5-8 dozen or more!)

4 sticks butter
1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
4 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1-7 oz. jar marshmallow crème
4 ½ cups flour
1 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups chocolate chips
1 cup white baking chips
1 ½ cup nuts (optional)

Cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Add marshmallow crème. Mix well.

In large bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Slowly add to batter and mix until well incorporated. Stir in chips and nuts.

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet in a 375 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tidbit Tuesday - Baptismal Font Symbolism

"The Twelve oxen are the most prominent feature of the [temple] baptismal font.  Although the oxen are often believed to signify the twelve tribes of Israel, the ancient Israelites saw the ox as the symbol of the Tribe of Joseph (see Deuteronomy 33:17).

Because this tribe holds the birthright blessings, it also has the responsibility for the salvation of the rest of the tribes of Israel (see 1 Chronicles 5:2; Jeremiah 31:9).  In Hebrew the name "Joseph" is Asaph and one of its meanings is "he who gathers."  This is significant because Joseph was told by his father Jacob that his "horns" would be used to "push people together" from the ends of the earth (Deut. 33:17)."

CLICK HERE (scroll down a little once you do) and CLICK HERE to read more!!

Taken from Symbols in Stone
by Matthew B. Brown and Paul Thomas Smith

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Five Thoughts About This Week

1. Wasn’t the Chilean Miners’ Rescue incredible? I was in the right place at the right time to watch the rescue of the first miner and the last miner. I was moved with emotion in part by the miraculous circumstances around the rescue and also the determination and bravery of the rescuers.

When I was the age of my children I remember being told that when the Savior comes again the WHOLE world would know of His coming. My little, finite brain could not wrap understanding around that. How? In those days there was TV, but no satellite, no Google earth, no cell phones, no Internet. How could the whole world know? As I watched the proceedings of the miners’ rescue, I wondered, “Will the Lord allow man-made technology to be a part of the glory of His Second Coming? Is that a way in which the whole world will know that He is here? Or will He use His means, His power - in a way that I cannot comprehend but know is possible - to testify to the world that He is again on earth?”

2. I have contemplated much about the controversy the world has placed on President Packer’s General Conference talk. I found myself grateful to know that God does call prophets, seers and revelators on the earth today.

Anciently, servants of God have been hated, despised, ridiculed for preaching to the people of God’s law and the way to follow His law. Many prophets were stoned to death because they would not, could not take back the word of God. As I thought about the hateful rhetoric being violently cast at President Packer and ultimately the Church, what really is happening is a latter-day stoning! And instead of thinking “Shame! Shame on those people!” I look inwardly and ask myself, “What manner of a woman will I be? Will I obedient and faithful enough to be the one who'd rather be stoned than the one who casts the stones?”

3. Yesterday morning I checked out the book Driven. It is the autobiography of Larry H. Miller, known for his 42 Toyota dealerships and being the owner of the Utah Jazz. I finished the book last night. Because I couldn’t put it down. I was intrigued by his story and moved by his the things he learned from his experiences. Several things caught my attention. One was a statement made by his wife, Gail. She said of her husband, “Let me say right at the outset that, to me, Larry was not such an extraordinary person – at least, not in the beginning.”

Isn’t that what marriage and parenthood try to teach us? That somewhere, in our progression, in our learning, in our experiences with the afflictions and stresses of life, that in that somewhere we discover in those we love, the extraordinary-ness of who they really are. I believe that is one of the eternal characteristics of God – He is able to see the extraordinary in us. It is up to us to discover it. And we can do it with His help!

4. Our water heater bit the dust this week. Yup.  Leaking water all over the place. So for a few hours I was left with just cold water. But when I felt the tiniest urge to complain, I reflected on how grateful early settlers were to have a water pump outside of their homes . . . and then the day the pump came inside! They were happy to have water just to boil on that pot belly stove for cooking and laundry and bathing . . . ! Of all the modernizations over the decades of American civilization, I think I am grateful for indoor plumbing the very most!!

5. Our seven year old had his tonsils removed yesterday. His was a scene scripted exactly by Bill Cosby's Tonsils!! Yes, my son was dancing around ALL week long, touting his weekend indulgence in ice cream, Jell-o and homemade slushies. Well, today was a completely different story. He didn’t even want to think about food – let alone the medicine that he had to swallow. . .

Which makes me think about how painful repentance is. Because it is. It hurts. It hurts to take out that which is infecting or causing problems and it hurts to go through the process of healing! But in the end, if it is done correctly, everything is all better. Forever. Because of the Savior and His Atonement.

Boy, this week has been a great education for me!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Likening the Scriptures

This morning I had the BEST scripture to share during family scriptures. Because it was a new application I had never contemplated before. 

Listen up! Because it was an ISAIAH scripture!
"Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil; that put darkness for light, and and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20)
And I realized, for the first time, that maybe - just maybe - Isaiah was referring to chocolate!


Yesterday, completely on a whim (which obviously is a lesson in itself), I bought this delicious looking-type of microwave popcorn: Jolly Time Caramel Apple Microwave Popcorn.

The package photo showed popped kernels of popcorn draped and dripping in luscious caramel.

Ooh, I thought, to have an easy way to make and enjoy caramel popcorn.

So excited this afternoon I was to eat for myself (and share with the children) the flavorful imaginations of my popcorn heart.

The aroma of warm caramel wafted through the air as the microwave ticked down to the slowing pops of corn kernels.

Finally, the moment had arrived.

I opened the hot, steamy bag and carefully emptied its contents.

Dreaming. Waiting.

When to my complete and utter disappointment there was not one eentsy-teeny tiny miniscule bit of caramel present. Not one!

No ooey, gooey brown drippy, sticky substance that even resembled caramel trickled out of the bag.

No. the popcorn was dry. Butterless.

It was REGULAR POPCORN that had an ever so slight hint of a caramel flavor.

Oh, my heart. Broken. Denied. DECEIVED.

Which reminded me of a Family Home Evening lesson we had many, many moons ago, thanks to an idea from my sister.

I had carefully chosen and wrapped four INCREDIBLE LOOKING presents. They were GORGEOUS to the eye. The fifth package was in a brown lunch sack.

Inside of each were the following, with a tag to add exra incentive for the choosing:

1. A wad of Already Been Chewed Gum. The tag on the package read something like this: “Delicious and fruity; Joy to the tastebuds!”

2. Soggy Fruit Loops in a plastic bowl. The tag read something like this: “Every kid wants this for breakfast – and more!”

3. A box filled with dryer lint. With the tag reading: “This will definitely keep you warm and cozy when you’re cold!”

4. A diaper filled with a smooshed brownie, covered with chocolate syrup. The tag said: “The most incredible surprise!”

5.  A brown paper sack which ultimately held our Family Home Evening Treat.  The tag read something like this, "Pick me.  This is the best you'll get!"

We displayed the presents before us all during our lesson!  Our lesson was on how Satan will do what he can to trick us, trap us, lie to us, deceive us.

We had a very nice family discussion.

But my boys were giddy with elated enthusiasm to actually think that on a day that wasn’t their birthday or Christmas, they were going to get a present.

So after the lesson, we had them choose a package and guess what they thought was in the package. None of them chose the brown bag. They left that package for Dad.

You should have seen their eyeballs just busting out of their sockets and the “vain imaginations” of their hopeful hearts. . . . and imagine what happened as they opened each individual package.

Disappointment doesn’t even come close.

Then, to add to their broken hearts, imagine their horror (and my husband’s) when I took the contents of the diaper and ATE it! (Yes, I ate it)!

There was silence.

And it was then we were able to make the application to the truth that Satan is the Father of ALL lies and he will do ANYTHING in his power to make his ways look delicious to us.


But contrast that to how the Savior goes about it.  His ways are simple.

Small and simple.

But right and ever true.

And somewhat so ordinary that we don’t realize how extraordinary they really are.

That’s when my husband opened up his brown paper bag and pulled out candy bars for each member of our family.

It was the real deal. Just as the Savior is to us.

For He will NEVER deceive us.

In fact, more often than not, we get MORE from Him than we will ever expect as we look to Him and live!