Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I Felt . . . OFFENDED!

"You and I cannot control the intentions or behavior of other people.  However we do determine how we will act.  Please remember that you and I are agents endowed with moral agency, and we can choose not to be offended."  - David A. Bednar
Many, many moons ago I received an anonymous letter in the mail.

And it wasn't nice.

No, it wasn't nice at all!

And to top it off  - it was from someone in my ward!!!

Up to that point in my life I had always believed that anyone who would be or could be offended had some troubles with their testimony.  After all, I naively surmised, if you had a testimony it wouldn't matter what anyone else says!

But it was on THAT day that I found myself with a deep, abiding testimony in my heart and a full-blown mean-spirited letter in my hand!!!

I felt hurt. I felt anger.  And I felt . . . OFFENDED!

All I wanted to do was crumble into a hundred, million, gazillion pieces right there and . . . never, ever go back to Church again!!

But at that very moment, while standing in the living room of our house, it was my children that kept me from crumbling . . .because, quite frankly, who has time to hide with pity in the closet when there's a menagerie of children all clamoring simultaneously for your undivided attention?

And my husband, who was the Bishop at the time, made sure I went back to Church the very next Sunday because there were six children under the age of six  that needed quieting during Sacrament Meeting and a piano that needed playing during Primary.

Talk about where "much is given . . ."

But going back to Church the next Sunday was not as easy as I thought it should be for people who had testimonies.  Because the moment I walked in those doors, I was enveloped with a claustrophobic air of suspicion.

And believe me when I say that I looked around and wondered . . .Who!



And why?

(Thank goodness playing the piano in Primary carries with it a sense anonymity!!)

For several days after my first Sunday back that letter a.b.s.o.l.u.t.e.l.y. plagued me.  It made me feel weak and vulnerable and on display.  It made me feel hurt and angry and insulted.  And almost instantaneously, I, who have always LOVED going and being in Church, decided that I maybe I shouldn't like it so much.

And I also decided that in order for me to stay on guard, I would keep the letter (frame it and place it on my nightstand) as a reminder of the mean, hurtful things someone had in their heart for me.

Oh my! Such a bad idea!

Such a very, VERY bad idea!

I honestly don't know how I came to my senses.

I don't know how the Lord ever got through to me in my miserable state!

But somehow, before the second Sunday dawned, I had successfully thrown that anonymous letter in the trash!!

Because it was destroying me!

To be honest, tossing the letter didn't mean that I was about to rush back to Church and shout "Gosh, I love Church and everyone in it, even those who anonymously send hate mail!

And to be even more honest, I was still very hesitant to return to Church the Sundays that followed.

But I went.  And I kept going.  And week by week going to Church got easier.

And I've learned that someone with a deep, abiding testimony can choose to feel offended! But, as Elder Bednar teaches, I'm also learning that "through the strengthening power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, you and I can be blessed to avoid and triumph over offense."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Family Home Evening - Anger

It wasn't too long ago when we had THIS LESSON for Family Home Evening. . .

And this is what is SO stinkin' awesome about Family Home Evening.  We can tailor any Monday to fit the needs of our family.

And last night we needed a refresher course on ANGER!  Because right before school we had a little sibling squabble - which really started out to be fun -  but quickly it turned and escalated to kicking and breaking a door.  YIKES!

Which did not bode well with me at all!

No, not at all.

So my children had themselves in for a HUGE lecture on the way to school, which did not invite the Spirit, despite my attempts to quote scripture and recall words of living prophets. 

And on the way home I felt crummy.  Lousy.  Angry.

Imagine that!

So I asked Heavenly Father what He would have me do . . . and I was gently reminded that it was Family Home Evening.

And here's what we did:

1. We read 3 Nephi 11:29 (Scripture Mastery) and discuess why of all the things the Savior could teach the Nephites during His appearance to them, why would He teach about contention.

1. Everyone was given a piece of paper. On one side they were to make a list (or draw pictures) of the things that make them ANGRY!  This list was not to be shared :)

2.  Then we listened to THIS TALK by President Thomas S. Monson.  While listening to his talk we were to list on the other side of the paper what we were being taught.  I told my children they were not to write down the stories or the scripture references, but they were to write down what the Spirit wanted them to learn about anger.

3. After listening to the talk, we discussed what we learned.  We also realized that most of what makes us angry happens within the walls of our own home!!!  Ironic, isn't it?

We have a lot to work on!  But work we will.

Oh how I heart Family Home Evening!!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Visual Vision

This month our night Relief Society Meeting theme was "Women of Vision" and we made 'Vision Boards.'

To be honest, I had never heard of a vision board before.

And I, being the MOST uncrafty person on the planet, was a little apprehensive of what the activity part of our meeting would entail.

We were to take pictures or items to put on our board as a representation of our goals.

My Goals!

And I really had to think about my goals -

I suppose I could have brought a sock to remind me that I should keep up on my laundry . . .

And a recipe card, because, after all, it seems like I make dinner seven nights a week, 365 days of the year, when it's probably closer to 350 days of the year. . .

And a Clorox Wipe label as a reminder to keep the bathrooms clean . . .

And a Costco receipt to remind me to keep in budget (because WHO keeps in budget when shopping at Costco?)

And after a long, hard think, I realized that my Vision Board wasn't supposed to be about laundry or dinner or cleaning or Costco . . .

It is supposed to be a gentle reminder that I am a Woman of Vision!

Now, if I can only get my children to fold their clothes before they stuff them in their drawers!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Warning Labels

I guest-posted this back in September 2011 at Chocolate on My Cranium, but never posted it on my blog.  After an incredible General Conference weekend, I decided I needed a reminder!

I'm finding there are warning labels on virtually everything!

For example, the plastic bags in which I lug all the groceries home and then recycle as garbage can liners has this warning "Please keep this and all plastics away from children."

The side-view mirror on our 15 passenger van has this little caveat: "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear." 

My trusty hair dryer has a semi-permanent tag (more permanent than semi) that is securely wrapped around the cord with red ink cautions on both side: "DO NOT REMOVE THIS TAG! WARN CHILDREN OF THE RISK OF DEATH BY ELECTRIC SHOCK!" and "DANGER! Do not use while bathing." 

Although not as deliberate as my hair dryer, strict counsel is printed on the carton of my favorite black raspberry ice cream with dark chocolate chunks. It simply reads: "Keep Frozen."

So to read warnings from the Lord to the world about the family, should not be a surprise to anyone! Because all warnings that have come from the Lord have also been backed with eternal consequences. Certainly we remember these warnings that pertained to families: 

"Don't eat from this tree!"

"Build an Ark!"

"Don't look back!"

"Repent . . .or everyone (and I mean e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e.) will be destroyed but y.o.u."

And as surely as we recognize those warnings, we must not ignore that we have become the recipients of those consequences: 

The partaking of the fruit from that tree resulted in universal, physical death.

The building of Noah's Ark brought about the biggest Spring Cleaning the earth has ever known.

Lot's wife's little peek-a-boo teaches us that a very big mound of salt can completely lose its savor.

And Coriantumr, the last living Jaredite of the Book of Ether, fulfilled that warning prophecy as "the words of the Lord had all been fulfilled" (Ether 15:33).

In our day we have a "warning label" - if you will - that is securely attached to The Family, which is also known as "A Proclamation to the World."

It reads something like this:

"We (meaning ALL prophets, seers and revelators who ever lived, not just the ones who are living now) warn that individuals (moms, dads, and/or children) who violate covenants of chastity, (promises to keep one's heart, might, and mind sexually pure and clean) who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities (and here is the consequence) will one day stand accountable before God . (Yes, I may fool everyone else. I may even hide my sins from everyone else. But in the end it will be just me and Him). Furthermore, we warn that the disintegration of the family WILL bring upon individuals, communities and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets."

What. a. warning.

Personal Accountability.

Family Disintegration.

Individual, Community and National Calamities.

So in the meantime, as I live my life for that one day to stand before God and be held accountable to Him, (all while trying to find joy at the same time), what am I doing to heed this warning?

I believe the answer lies here: "to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as THE fundamental unit of society."

And since I am a fundamental part of my family, here are some of the choices and decisions I am making help me maintain and strengthen my family as a fundamental unit of society.

1. Get involved politically
I'm doing all I can to be more informed of political candidates. I am asking myself these questions: "Am I supporting candidates because they are from a "popular" party?" "Will this candidate vote with my voice or with his/her own agenda?" "Is this candidate personally and politically pro-family?"

2. Get involved educationally
My responsibility is two-fold in this area. 1) to be sure my children are doing their very best in acquiring and applying the knowledge they are receiving (this means I get involved with their school work. And believe me when I say that's A LOT of homework!) and 2) to ensure my children are on the receiving end of the very best educational situation for each of them (this literally means I take one school year at a time!)

3. Follow the Words of Living Prophets
These include, but are not limited to, studying the scriptures individually and as family, holding weekly family home evenings, having daily personal and family and prayer, attending church weekly, attending the temple regularly, listening to and applying General Conferences.

4. Repent or, in other words, I Can Change
I am learning that I can repent. I can change the imperfect things I am doing. I can change bad habits or learned "traditions" that breakdown or weaken my family. I can choose to do better things that no one else in the generations of my family have done. What I can change for the better today will not only bless my family now, but my family in the future, which amazingly blesses and touches my family that have already come before me.

And because I know all too well what happens to my favorite ice cream when I forget the caution to "Keep Frozen," I am learning that heeding God's warning signs to families promises His safety, His protection and His freedom. How very blessed we are as God's children to know that He loves us enough to warn us. And not just individually, but as families, for that is how He wants us to come back to Him!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Conference Pondering Quotes

How quickly General Conference comes and then goes . . .  I have a lot to apply, a lot to implement, a TON of repenting to do!!

I'm looking forward for the written word so I can mark, study, ponder, and apply and then and mark, study, ponder and apply some more!

Below are just a handful of pondering quotes because, with a houseful of nine children ages 2-16, things weren't exactly all that reverent and quiet in our home.

But, this year I surprisingly didn't have to turn on the Closed Captioning . . . :)

"The permissiveness afforded by the weakening of laws of the land to tolerate and legalize acts of immorality does not reduce the serious spiritual consequence that is the result of the violation of God's Law of Chastity.
-Boyd K. Packer

"The power of the Priesthood can bless, vitalize and revitalize our lives!"
- M. Russell Ballard

"Stay on the Lord's side and you will win every time!"
-Richard G. Scott

"Proper use of the ability to create life are vital elements in the Father's Plan.  How we feel about and use that Supernal Power will determine in large measure our happiness in mortality and our destiny in eternity."
-Elder David A. Bednar

"Marriage is a gift from God to us; The quality of our marriages is a gift of us to Him."
-Elder Whitney L. Clayton

"What words would you write to your children if you have 25 words or less?"
-Sister Rosemary M. Wixom

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Strengthening Home and Family

If I were to make a personal list of what I thought to be the greatest, most important angelic manifestations given to mankind, Gabriel's appearance and message to Mary would be included very high on my top ten five. 

Perhaps the top five two.

And Mary would be the only woman.

So this week I have been pondering the words of Elder Talmage as he compared Gabriel's visit to Zacharias  in the magnificent temple: "under the light shed from the golden candlestick, and further illuminated by the glow of living coals on the altar of gold;" to the the visit he made to Mary for "in a small town far from the capital and the temple, most probably within the walls of a simple Galilean cottage" (Jesus the Christ pg. 82, italics added).

Just as the youth of today are told by latter-day prophets that they are a chosen generation, the young women in Mary's day "knew that some Jewish maiden was yet to become the mother of the Christ" (pg. 80).   Maybe this teaching was made known under the direction of Jewish leaders in the synagogue.  But perhaps it was done more intimately, during the quiet moments at home by loving parents who knew and loved the words of holy prophets.

Is it any wonder then, why the young women recite each Sunday that they will "be prepared to strengthen home and family?"

And as Relief Society sisters part of our purpose is to "increase faith and personal righteousness" and "strengthen home and family?"

So, what if Mary were not at home that day when Gabriel stopped for a visit?

What if she were out with her girlfriends because she couldn't take the pressures of home and family?

Or, what if she were at the temple instead, taking on a "better cause" by protesting the use of precious minerals and fire or, more definitively, what if she were lobbying for rights, authority or power equal to that of Zacharias?

In January of this year, at a  BYU devotional, Sis. Elaine Dalton made this bold declaration:

"Young women, you will be the ones who will provide the example of virtuous womanhood and motherhood. You will continue to be virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy, and of good report. You will also be the ones who will provide the example of family life in a time when families are under attack, being redefined, and disintegrating. You will understand your roles and your responsibilities and thus will see no need to lobby for rights (italic added).

Indeed, as I have been pondering Gabriel's visit to Mary, I have come to realize that the sweetest, most important spiritual manifestations that have happened in my life have happened within the walls of my own home or they have been about those things that happen and can happen within those walls.  Those messages have taught (and continue to teach) me how I can increase my faith and personal righteousness and specific directions on what I need to do to strengthen my home and my family.

What more rights, authority or power do I need than that?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Spirit to Spirit

Just this week a friend said this to me: "We are closest to those with whom we share spiritual experiences."

Interestingly, I have only known her for a very short time.  And even though our friendship is new, our relationship with one another has deepened quickly because of our mutual love for the Savior, our faith in His gospel and our committed desire to live and teach His doctrine.

And I have seriously pondered her statement!! I have been reflecting upon the relationships I cherish the most and, without reservation, her statement rings true.

But why? And how come?

Can a lack of spiritual connective-ness be a (the?) main reason why otherwise good marriages dissolve?

Are spiritual experiences connected to better parent/child relationships?

Are kindred spirits an earthly joining of deep spiritual friendships once had in the pre-mortal existence?

What can I do to have better spiritual relationships with my husband?  My children?  My family? Friends?

First of all, I am not a therapist or a researcher.  Nor I understand anything about psychology.  But as I have thought about this ALL week, the following doctrine taught by President Joseph Fielding Smith allowed me to expand my understanding of the power, influence and mission of the Holy Ghost.  President Smith says:

"The convincing power of the Holy Ghost is so great that there can be no doubt that what he reveals to is us is true.  When a man (or woman) has the manifestation from the Holy Ghost, it leaves an indelible impression on his (or her) soul, one that is not easily erased.  (And I think here is the key) It is Spirit speaking to spirit, and it comes with convincing force. A manifestation of an angel, or even of the Son of God Himself, would impress the eye and mind, and eventually become dimmed, but the impressions of the Holy Ghost sink deeper into the soul and are more difficult to erase."

President Smith also taught, "Through the Holy Ghost the truth is woven into the very fibre and sinews of the body so that it cannot be forgotten."

Perhaps this is one reason why denying the Holy Ghost is an unpardonable sin . . .

But this also explains why we become closest to those with whom we share spiritual experiences.   For because pure, spiritual relationships becomes "woven into the very fibre and sinews of the body so that it cannot be forgotten."

Even when life and time can remove us from each other's earthly presence. That woven-ness of spiritual friendship is that something that always will keep a relationship most dear.

Perhaps Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables) had it right when she said: "Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”

My job, then, is to be willing to share and take part in all those spiritual relationships that are out there waiting.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Family Home Evening - Restored Gospel Truths

This week, on April 6, marks the 183 years since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized.

So here is what we did for Family Home Evening.

We gave a little historical background of the organization of The Church and then we talked about some of the truths that have been restored back to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

After our discussion, we allotted 5-7 minutes for each family member to 1) think of a restored gospel truth that has blessed their lives 2) find a scripture and/or teaching from Preach My Gospel related to that gospel truth and 3) draw a picture.

We then took turns in sharing our pictures, our scripture or a thought from Preach My Gospel, and why we have been blessed by that restored gospel truth.

And do you want to know what? Aside from being AMAZED at what my children chose and how they taught, NONE of us taught the same thing!  I found that amazing!

The Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is amazing!!

(For younger children, you could have a picture representing different restored gospel truths and have each child choose on and then share 1) what they know about it and 2) how that restored truth has blessed your family!)