Tuesday, September 2, 2014

a Young Woman Who Will Perform Miracles

When I was a Young Woman, my Mom encouraged me and worked with me to earn my Young Womanhood Recognition Award.  With her help, I learned to sew clothes, to quilt, to cook, to pay tithing and manage money, to develop myself spiritually, to be true to my commitments, to make healthy choices about my body, and to make and keep my personal goals.  In short, she helped me gain the tools I would need to be successful in life.

Since becoming an adult leader in the Young Women program a few years ago, I have been working to earn my personal progress award for a second time.  I am now very close to achieving that.  It has taken work and focus, but I have been richly rewarded with a stronger testimony and understanding of the Lord and his gospel, and a greater appreciation for the program that I went through as a kid and the one available to the youth today. 

As I finished up working on the virtue requirements last night I turned the page in the personal progress booklet and read this quote from President Ezra Taft Benson: 

He says, "Give me a young woman who loves home and family, who reads and ponders the scriptures daily, who has a burning testimony of the Book of Mormon.  Give me a young woman who faithfully attends her church meetings, who is a seminary graduate, who has earned her Young Womanhood Recognition Award and wears it with pride!  Give me a young woman who is virtuous and who has maintained her personal purity, who will not settle for less than a temple marriage, and I will give you a young woman who will perform miracles for the Lord now and throughout eternity."

I know that each requirement on this list is worth it and the blessings, oh, so real, because I have lived it.  

Each line I read makes my eyes burn with tears.  The emotions are so strong, because I know what it took to walk that line.  The memories of each decision are very clear.  

It was not easy.  Sometimes it was a rough and treacherous journey--this journey from Young Womanhood to Womanhood, from baptismal covenants to temple covenants--but it was a journey that I made with one hand in the Lord's and with the help of parents and leaders.

And when President Benson says, "I will give you a young woman who will perform miracles for the Lord," I know that this is true.

I am His miracle.  I am His daughter.  Just having this knowledge deep down inside of me is a miracle in and of itself and has allowed me to do amazing things in my brief lifetime and to live a life of virtually no regrets.

I love the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I love Him.  I love His church and the programs of the church which, if utilized, can take an ordinary life and make it extraordinary.

I hope that any Young Woman reading this will take the time to work on her Personal Progress, even if there is little hope of actually achieving the Award before turning 18, please just work on it as much as you can.  It will make a huge difference in your life, as it has in mine!

If you are obedient in this one thing, HE WILL perform miracles in your life...and in turn you will do great things too--you will be a Young Woman who will perform miracles!  I promise!

Click here to read more about or work on your Personal Progress!

Family Proclamation Guest Bloggers Wanted

Hey, it's September 2nd...How did that happen?  We have had such a wonderful summer, and after one last, unexpected trip home to visit family, we are finally just about ready to accept that summer is over and school has really, officially commenced.

This also means that The Family Proclamation Celebration is just around the corner!  I am still looking for a few more people to write guest posts for me for the celebration.

If you have an experience or testimony to share about The Family Proclamation, feel free to contact me soon.  Or if you'd just like to contribute some wisdom/helpful tips that you have about strengthening families, please let me know!  I tend to get some of the best stories from people who just come forward with their own experiences, and I love that!

You can email me at jocelyn (dot) christensen (at) gmail (dot) com.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Happy Birthday, President Monson

While we were in Utah this summer, we saw President Monson in the Days of '47 Parade.

This was a huge, exciting highlight of our trip that really took us by surprise, and passed much too quickly.  Thanks to my mother-in-law for going early to reserve a great spot to view the parade and on President Monson's side of the street even!

When we realized we were looking right at the Prophet, not 20 feet away from us, my kids were all smiles.  Autumn waved serenely and I did the sign for "I love you."  Good thing I did not know that he was coming, or I might have run up to his car...and been tackled by these khaki-wearing guards!

He was so sweet clapping along with the children as he passed by.  He really does love children.

Just remembering that quick, but special moment, one of my favorite from the summer: 

Happy Birthday, President Monson!

What a special man!

PS - This is my favorite story about President Monson:  During the Depression years, the Monson family lived frugally with few if any luxuries. When young Tom learned a family of one of his friends planned to eat cereal moistened with hot water for Christmas dinner, he invited his friend to his backyard. He then took his two pet rabbits out of their hutch, saying with a lump in his throat, “It isn’t turkey, but they will make you a good Christmas dinner.”  He gave them to his friend for Christmas dinner for his family. He later wrote that he shed tears when he put his two rabbits in a bag for his friend, "but there was a warm feeling in my heart (later) ... when my friend told me this was the best Christmas dinner he and his family had ever had." 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It's a really big deal.

Guy, Scarlett, and Autumn returned to school today, and Autumn started Kindergarten.  She went off all smiles, looking like Nancy Drew, ready to take it all in.

I'm so proud of her and how she's turning out...she's such a light, a true lady, a nature-girl, and a kind and gentle soul.  And I'm proud of myself:  I didn't even cry...at least not until I got home. :)  And only a little bit.  I'm not letting myself get too sad.  After all, we've had all summer to get ready for this next step...and we did and said all the things we needed to.  Love that girl.  And I have no regrets.  

Our summer together as a family was remarkable.  And now as they go off to school,  they've got each other.  All for one.  One for all. I've got Honor still here with me...talking up a storm, knowing the names to everything.  All of my children bring me such happiness.

Nine years ago, I left my job at CNN, and I still think I have the best job ever...with the best "co-worker", my husband Steve, whose birthday it is today!!

I just can't wait to hear how it all went.  And just for fun, here is a picture from about 5 years ago...when our days were spent just the four of us playing in the playroom!  Don'tcha love Scarlett's "haircut!?"  This is why she ended up with the cuter than cute pixie cut!!

I hope your return to school is great!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sweep the Earth with the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Well, ya heard it hear first...or maybe you heard it here second...ok, so I was a few hours behind the curve of listening to Elder Bednar's BYU Education Week message in which he has called each and every one of us to "sweep the Earth as with a flood," by sharing the gospel through social media online.

He said what has been shared is a good start, but only the beginning.  I have felt for a while and mentioned to friends that I don't think we can even envision what this gospel will become through the use of online missionary work and by letting our faith show.  The Lord knows though, and apparently, so do his prophets. And from the content of Elder Bednar's talk, the prophets have seen it coming for a while now.

So, we've been given the green light, officially, by Elder Bednar to sweep the earth.  If you've been holding back...you don't have to any longer!  

I know from personal experience through my own Facebook page that sharing your faith gets easier the more that you do it.  The spirit becomes your companion in the work to help you know what to say and to steer you safely through.  I encourage you to watch Elder Bednar's talk and continue your efforts to share the gospel online.

I think sweeping the earth is going to come more naturally for me than sweeping my kitchen.  It's way more fun anyway!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Taming the Media

With school starting again, it's time to get our homes in order, which for many of us means shopping for school supplies, getting back-to-school haircuts, and bringing our kids' bedtimes back to a reasonable hour!

In all of that reordering of our lives, we'd be wise to take a fresh look at another important area of our lives, and that is how we use media in our homes.

I was interviewed recently and used as a source for the August 2014 Ensign article called "Taming the Media."

The author Starla Butler was awesome to work with, and she did a great job of really packing the article full of real, applicable, useful advice that is easy to tailor to every home and every family situation.

I encourage you to read the article yourself and then do as it suggests: sit down together as a family and create an outline for how media should be used in your home and review/revise it regularly as needed.  

Since the article covers family media planning from many angles, I thought I'd share a few simple suggestions for how you could analyze your family media usage in the home.

---Look at how each member of the family is spending their time online/using media throughout the day.  To track this information, you might want to print out this free timeline template and write down your observations throughout the day.  Write down all of the media usage that occurs during a 12 hour period (including time parents spend online, on their phones, etc).  Include the entire family in this effort.  This should give you a good jumping off point for figuring out what patterns of behavior you like and which ones your family needs to curb.

---As a family, search the words of modern prophets and apostles to discover what guidelines they suggest when it comes to media consumption. (There are lots of great resources within the article itself.)  You can also read the church's guidelines in the media section of For the Strength of Youth.

---Based on what church leaders have said on this topic, choose a family media motto that is easy to remember and which expresses your own goals for the role that media should play in your home.  We did this recently as a family and chose for our motto: "Tune in to the Spirit."  In addition to this, write down specific guidelines for media usage (of cell phones, texting, TV viewing, gaming, and internet time) and post them where all members of the family can be reminded of them often.

The suggestions in this article will help you to tame the media and harness its power for the good of your family.  If you haven't already done so, go read it now!

The thing I like best about the article is that it focuses on teaching correct principles and acknowledges that all families are different and need to set their own rules based on their needs, desires, and individual situations.  With that said, I will be sharing more specific helps on this topic again soon...Hopefully you will find something that speaks to you!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fun with Cardboard Boxes

Meet the staff of Christensen General, where, one afternoon in August, 23 babies were born in just under an hour. Our team of skilled professionals are trained in the magic of pretend and are qualified to perform life-saving procedures such as cuddling-on-demand. Every baby receives a complimentary shoe box crib.

School starts in about a week, and I'm too busy to blog, but I've got time to spend with these precious little ones.  And the other day, we did something so fun, I'd thought I'd share it with you. 

Autumn is starting Kindergarten--I will miss her sooooooo much!  My Mom sent her a Mr. Roger's video on starting school.  She watched it and then another in which he taught her how to make a baby doll or stuffed animal crib out of a shoe box.

Of course, we got right to work making baby cribs with boxes of all kinds with my girls and then their friends.  We used hot glue to attach scraps of fabric and to make pillows for their babies.  Soon, the girls were playing maternity ward and lots of babies were welcomed into the world by these sweet little mamas.  It was a fun, free, family-friendly activity.

Did you know that the August Friend has a lot of suggestions for thing you can do with a cardboard box?  Click on BOREDOM BUSTERS for some more ideas.

I also have a tip up on the Friend website about Sibling Appreciation Night.  While you're over there, check it out!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Defend the Faith

Elder Holland's talk "The Cost--and Blessings--of Discipleship" demonstrated how and why we and the youth of today will be required to defend the faith with courage, courtesy, and compassion, and that in doing so, we can show true Christ-like love for a world that so desperately needs it.

Since my children are little, we focus on the most basic principles contained in each talk.  And because we go over these talks many times before the next Conference and refer to them in everyday conversation, we are able to tease out more and more of the gospel goodness and feed our faith together more each day.

Whether you are a "little" or a "big" kid all of God's children learn line upon line and precept upon precept.  

And that has been my personal experience with this talk.  I loved it right away, but after studying and listening to it for a while, I started to wonder about the title.  I wondered why it was called "The Cost--and Blessings--of Discipleship," when all I kept hearing was the cost--which included being unpopular, sometimes standing alone, and possibly having food thrown at you!

So I looked again for these supposed blessings, and boy did I find them.  The promises in the final paragraph are brief and concise, but powerful.

Elder Holland says that taking a courageous moral stand IS WORTH IT.

He encourages us to "Be strong.  Live the gospel faithfully even if others around you don't live it at all.  Defend your beliefs with courtesy and with compassion, but defend them."

And here come the amazing blessings:

"In courageously pursuing such a course, you will forge unshakable faith, you will find safety against ill winds that blow...and you will feel the rocklike strength of our Redeemer, upon whom if you build your unflagging discipleship, you cannot fall."

Just let that rest on your soul for a minute.  Those words only take up a brief paragraph in his talk, but the blessings are eternal and profound.

If you decide to defend the faith, you are deciding to stand with the Savior.  And in doing so you will:

1. forge unshakable faith
2. find safety
3. feel rock-like strength of our Redeemer
4. in whom if you build your unflagging discipleship you cannot fall

These are the blessings and promises that I think we all want, but the cost is hefty.  It's going to be harrowing at times to be kind and courteous while saying the unpopular thing.  It will require facing public and personal scorn and condemnation--as did the Savior.

I love that Elder Holland acknowledged that we are to "live the gospel faithfully even if others around you don't live it at all."

A friend of mine recently found himself in a situation that that took courage and composure to know what to say and do in the exact moment, but my friend said of the experience, "The best way to defend truth is simply to state it."

The truth, simply stated, needs no defense.  It defends itself.  It is power all by itself.

This is one reason, we need to be in the scriptures and learning the words of the prophets every day.  We need to acquire the words of truth, so that we can, when appropriate, defend it.
We can also check ourselves against the words of the living prophets to make sure that we are living in a way that pleases God.


Oh, this is a heavy talk, and I encourage you to read and contemplate what it means for your life.  My friend Michaela wrote a great post with 15 Ways to Study a General Conference Talk to Teach a Lesson, you might want to check out.

As for us, we made these "Defend the Faith" shields together as we discussed Elder Holland's words.  We role-played how to respond with courtesy and compassion to others as we defend the faith in various situations.  This was a good conversation to have as I prepare to send my little ones back for another year of school.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Using Sign Language in Primary

While we were in Utah, we attended church in a deaf ward.  

It was so neat to watch my brother-in-law bless his child using sign language, to sing hymns as the congregation signed, and to watch the Sacrament being blessed with signs. People prayed with their eyes open to see what was being said.  :)  And everyone helped each other.

I especially enjoyed watching a little Primary child pray using sign language.  I could feel the spirit as I watched the music leader lead the children in songs all sung with sign language and to watch my sister-in-law tell a story to the primary children about a time that she felt the spirit as a little girl.

I immediately noticed Autumn trying to imitate the signs.  She told me she didn't want to go back to our primary because it was too boring.  Why?  Because we don't use signs!

Lots of the hearing cousins picked up signs just from attending primary, even my older nieces came home from Young Women's having learned signs like "covenant" and "ordinance" and proudly showed them to us.

I loved how welcoming the ward was and how they tried hard to make sure we understood what was being said.  It made me wonder if we are doing enough in our hearing wards to make sure that children (and others) who are deaf or have other disabilities are able to participate in church lessons.

Sign language is not just for kids with hearing impairment.  Signs can be used by hearing children to simply engage them more in the lesson and allow them to be "active" while learning.   

While we were visiting, the children were learning a song about baptism.  We learned the sign for baptism and whenever we did that sign, we were asked to stand.  This made the lesson very fun and interactive...and I will probably never forget the sign for baptism!

I would encourage anyone who is serving in the Primary to look into learning basic signs to help all children learn and to help children with disabilities participate more actively and to feel included in their Primary family.

Here are a list of basic signs that might be helpful if used in a Primary setting:
baptism, pray, Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, please, thank you, help, blessings, family, always, scriptures, prophet, commandment, Amen.

You might think about matching just one sign with each month's theme and teaching it to your Primary children.  And if you have a child with disabilities of any kind, you might approach the parents of that child and discuss signing or other special ways that their child might communicate with you and others in Primary.

Click here to learn how to sign all of the Primary songs.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Time in a Bottle

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you

If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I'd save every day like a treasure and then
Again, I would spend them with you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do, once you find them
I've looked around enough to know
That you're the one I want to go through time with

If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
The box would be empty, except for the memory of how
They were answered by you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do, once you find them
I've looked around enough to know
That you're the one I want to go through time with...

Borrowing the words of Jim Croce today as I reflect on the wonderful family reunion we just had for the last two weeks in Utah.  Missing my family again, and as my kids open their teacher assignments today, I'm thankful for these wonderful days we've had together...and for the promise of eternity of days like these...