Sunday, August 23, 2015

Teaching Children Gospel Standards

Guess what, guys?  I have an article in this month's August 2015 Ensign sharing some experiences my family and I have had learning about and applying the gospel standards.  (That's totally not my family in the photo, however!! ;)

The article is called "Teaching Gospel Standards: One Family's Experience," and can be read online right here or on page 48 of the magazine.  It appears right after Jan Pinborough's article called "Lighting Our Children's Paths with Gospel Standards," and is a companion article to it.

Be sure to read Jan's article too as it mentions my sister Cara Kennedy who wrote a song that helped our family memorize My Gospel Standards.  Check them out!

Also of note: You can now read the Ensign online in a new full-color format...very easy to read. Just follow this link.

Continue reading... »

Thursday, August 20, 2015

a Call for All to share their love of Family & The Family Proclamation!

Hi there.

How are you dear readers doing?

We've had a most excellent summer together, my family and I.  I love having a slow-paced summer, not too much running around, and lots of time at home with my kids making special memories.  My family is why I do basically everything that I do.  I'd imagine the same is true for you.

As a result I've spent less time online/blogging this summer, but coming up next month it's time to celebrate something very near and dear to my heart -- THE FAMILY: A PROCLAMATION TO THE WORLD.

The celebration, which has been happening yearly since 2010, has brought a lot of great blog posts about family together in one place. (You can read them here on celebration creator Montserrat's page.)

I am looking for bloggers and women and men like you to write posts for the Family Proclamation celebration this year, which will take place between September 13th and 26th.  

Your post would be shared right here on my blog on one day of the celebration which marks 20 years since the announcement of this important document.  I know that many of you have enjoyed my posts here, but now I'm asking you to speak up and share some of your hard-earned wisdom with me and the rest of the world on the importance of family.

Please contact me at jocelyn.christensen@gmail.com, if you'd like to write something pertaining to The Family Proclamation in the coming weeks.

Many thanks!

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Protecting Religious Freedom Elder Hales

When I pondered how to teach this talk to my children I decided that if they are to protect and stand up for religious freedom in their lives, it's important that they know and understand what Elder Hales calls the "four cornerstones of religious freedom."

He explains them as follows:

"There are four cornerstones of religious freedom that we as Latter-day Saints must rely upon and protect.
"The first is freedom to believe. No one should be criticized, persecuted, or attacked by individuals, or governments either, for what he or she believes about God. It is very personal and very important.
"The second cornerstone of religious liberty is the freedom to share our faith and our beliefs with others. The Lord commands us, “Ye shall teach [the gospel to] your children … when thou sittest in thine house.”11 He also said to His disciples, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”12 As parents, full-time missionaries, and member missionaries, we rely on religious freedom in order to teach the Lord’s doctrine in our families and throughout the world."

"The third cornerstone of religious liberty is the freedom to form a religious organization, a church, to worship peacefully with others. The eleventh article of faith declares, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” International human rights documents and many national constitutions support this principle."

"The fourth cornerstone of religious liberty is the freedom to live our faith—free exercise of faith not just in the home and chapel but also in public places. The Lord commands us not only to pray privately13 but also to go forth and “let [our] light so shine before men, that they may see [our] good works, and glorify [our] Father which is in heaven.”14

Prior to our lesson (which we discussed over dinner), I made little origami boxes to serve as our "cornerstones."  It was a rush job, so my boxes weren't perfect, but they are very easy to make and a tutorial can be found here.

When the family came to the dinner table (the Elders were over too) they found these four "blocks" sitting on the table in a random pile.  My kids were pretty quick to figure out the "puzzle."  

When they stacked the boxes on top of each other in the correct order, it spelled "religious freedom" down the side.


After finishing our "puzzle", we asked the children to define religious freedom.  For help with this definition, we relied on the "cornerstones" of religious freedom, given in the talk.  We talked about each one individually and shared experiences from our own lives that applied to each principle or cornerstone.  We talked about why living and defending these freedoms in our daily lives helps ensure our religious freedom.  We talked about what would happen if we failed to stand up for these freedoms.

Since my boxes were not perfect, balancing them on top of one another required a delicate touch. When speaking about experiences we've had in the past, we talked about how we felt compelled and sometimes restrained by the Spirit to walk a fine line in defending religious freedom, while also respecting/protecting the agency of others around us and avoiding contention.

Because of experiences that I have had, I have a first-hand testimony of what is required to defend religious freedom: what is required is that we do it in the Lord's way...not our way and not the world's way. 

The Lord's way is in love.  The Lord's way is based in sound doctrine.  The Lord's way is without contention or contempt for those who would oppose us, but with empathy and love.  The Lord's way is by relying on the spirit, every step of the way.

I have been given a glimpse of the love that the Lord feels for his children...even His children who currently oppose His plan.  At the time that I was given this glimpse of His love, I was really taken back and humbled at the Lord's great capacity, at how much he really does care for each one of us.  And I have felt a desire to try and get closer to having that kind of love for others every day.  I'm still trying, but I know that as we follow the Spirit, ever so closely, in our interactions with others, we will walk safely in a path lit by His love and power.  I hope over the next few years, I will be able to pass this understanding on to my children as I believe their generation will need this knowledge and wisdom most of all.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Defending the Sanctity of the Home

I was watching some boys for a friend the other day when one of them mentioned an upcoming trip where he and his dad were going to see his favorite Nascar driver Jeff Gordon.  I said, "Oh, I've met Jeff Gordon...twice actually."  I had an instant fan.  "Really, where?" he said.  I said that Jeff had come in to where I used to work (CNN)on a few occasions and that it was my job to speak with him when he came in for an interview.

Later on, the same boy asked me, "Where do you work?"  I said, "I work at home, raising my children and making my home a place we all want to be."  He said, "Oh...I thought you'd work somewhere serious."  I laughed, and asked, "Like where?"  My son said, "Like CNN?"  I told the young man that I had chosen to stay home and work for the benefit of my family and that I take my job quite seriously!

Sister Oscarson has taught, "We should “make our homes” places of order, refuge, holiness, and safety. Our homes should be places where the Spirit of the Lord is felt in rich abundance and where the scriptures and the gospel are studied, taught, and lived. What a difference it would make in the world if all people would see themselves as makers of righteous homes. Let us defend the home as a place which is second only to the temple in holiness.

Here are some things that I do to defend the sanctity of my home:

1. Keep the gospel standards and teach them to your children.

A few years ago, my sister set Primary's My Gospel Standards to music.  As a family, we memorized her song and so began a journey to discover what living the standards really means to us. In the August 2015 Ensign, you can read more about how we've taught our children the principles found in My Gospel Standards in the article, "Teaching Gospel Standards: One Family's Experience."  I firmly believe that parents need to walk the walk in order for children to follow in our footsteps.  The article before it by Jan Pinborough also gives great advice on teaching standards in the home.

2.  Prioritize family time above all else.

Ever since I heard President Packer say in General Conference that "Family time is sacred time and should be protected and respected," I have made that my motto.  We carefully scrutinize outside activities in which we engage in order to optimize our time together.  We ask ourselves these questions on a regular basis: Does the activity add value to our lives?  Does the activity add too much stress?  Can the activity be done by all members of the family at the same time?  Does the activity interfere with family night or other important family events?  Can we replicate the activity in our family without committing major amounts of our time for a season?  Because we limit/eliminate activities that would take us away from each other, we are free to do MORE with our time at home and go on more outings as a family that bring us a lot of joy and shared memories.

3.  Defend your family against evil influences.

As a family, we choose our media carefully.  About every six months, we meet together to update our family media plan, which you can read more about here on my blog, and here on Sugardoodle, and here in the August 2014 Ensign article "Taming the Media".  President Packer's admonishment to protect our nestlings is well-illustrated and understood in the following brief video:

4.  Encourage guests in your home to keep the standards while visiting there.

Visitors to my home feel the spirit when they enter.  I often have Elders tell me that my house feels like or reminds them of their home.  That familiarity which they feel is the Holy Ghost, which is hopefully always a welcome guest.  When young friends visit, I give them reminders if necessary (and reminders to my own children) of how we act in our home.  Visitors to our house often are happy to oblige my request to use appropriate language, to use the Lord's name respectfully, to speak kindly to siblings, and to choose appropriate media.  When we do this our homes become a refuge where others can experience how peaceful home can be.

5.  Do your best at home.

It is easy to give our best at school or at work and to forget about doing our best even at home.  While returning home is often a trigger to finally exhale, we must not relax the signs of respect and love that we show for one another.  We once had a missionary frequent our home who had a lot of challenges, but one thing he always taught us was to just "do our best."  Although I am far from perfect at it, I try to remember to do my best in how I interact with my children and husband.  I try to plan fun activities and work and service that will bring out the best in our interactions with each other.  And I try to remember that sometimes my best is substandard to the day before, but that my best efforts are all that the Lord requires.

I love my home.  I believe in the sacred nature of homes and families and I am honored to work hard every day to defend the sanctity of the home.

This post is part of a blogger round-up! Read the tips and experiences these bloggers share in making their homes a sacred space.

 Mandy @ A Bliss Complete | Camille @ Chicken Scratch 'n' Sniff | Jen @ Lexical Creations Grace Lane @ Upheld | Jocelyn @ We Talk of Christ | Montserrat @ Cranial Hiccups

Defend the Sanctity of the Home Blogger Round-up: These bloggers offer their advice and experience on making their homes a sacred space. 

Continue reading... »

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Age of the Gifted Pickle-Sucker

With only 8 days of summer left, we're starting up our General Conference Lessons again.  This first one I'll share with you is from Elder Oaks' talk The Parable of the Sower.

Elder Oaks explains that the condition of the ground in the parable is the condition of our hearts and the seed represents the message of the gospel.  One of the most poignant parts for me was when he pointed out that we can move from good/fertile soil/hearts to stony ground if we deny ourselves spiritual nourishment.  We distance ourselves from feeling the spirit and receiving spiritual nourishment by not reading scriptures for instance, by not praying, or by doing things during the administration of the sacrament that takes our mind off of communing with the Lord.

Another thing Elder Oaks warned about was having a "key hole" view of the gospel, in which we focus on one doctrine or perceived fault about the gospel or the church and completely ignore the big picture. He quoted President Hinckley who spoke about political commentators who were aflame with indignation about some news event to the point that their sour anger poured out of them constantly.  He concluded that, "Surely, this is the age and place of the gifted pickle sucker." 

"In contrast," Elder Oaks suggests, "to be securely rooted in the gospel, we must be moderate and measured in criticism and seek always for the broader view of the majestic work of God."


Just for fun, we pulled out a well-aged jar of homemade dill pickles from the basement to illustrate what it means to be a pickle sucker.  
Each child tried the pickles (which was made even more sour by the fact that we had just finished eating sweet blueberry smoothies for breakfast!)  As they tasted, we talked about which taste they preferred, the smoothie or the pickles.

We talked about how we should try and avoid becoming a "gifted pickle sucker" by seeking out the good and by having faith and looking for the eternal perspective of God's plan.  It's no fun being a pickle-sucker!

Continue reading... »

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Easy Art Projects to do with Kids

When Summer started, I wanted to sign my kids up for Art lessons, since I have very little art know-how.  When I looked in to lessons at a local art barn, I noticed that they were charging $25 to $30 per child, per hour-long lesson!!  What?  That seemed outrageous to me.  Thanks to the tutorials I've found online, we've done tons and tons of fun projects together this summer, and it costs us very little, in fact most of the supplies we needed we already had at home.  

I'm so grateful to all who share their ideas online!!  I hope you continue to enjoy your time with your family this summer! We only have 20 days left and will be working hard to enjoy every moment!

Here are 10 projects you can do easily with your kids...using items you probably already have. (You can find these and more projects pinned on my Summer Pinterest board.)  Have fun!

Op/3D Art Project - Trace your hand in pencil lightly, then draw curved lines on your hand and straight lines on the background using permanent marker.  It looks 3D.

Water Color Circle Art - Trace jars to make overlapping circles on paper, then water color, marker, or color them in any way you like.  The result is stunning.

Modeling Clay Sculptures (using air-dry clay) - This is a pug that Scarlett made for her cousin who loves pugs.

This isn't really art, but could be, I guess.  My kids took produce bags from the grocery store and blew them up like balloons.  They float really easily and are fun to play with.

Recycled Magazine Silhouettes - A friend shared this with me. We cut out silhouettes of animals and using alternating magazine pages, we glued strips to it to create this.

Foil Sculptures - This was easy to do using the last bit of foil that I had in the house and skewers.  Guy and his playmate had a blast making these little dudes.

Silhouette Art - I love artwork that involves silhouettes of my kids.  They filled this silhouette with their favorite things.

I showed you this in an earlier post, but Autumn and I have been drawing horses from a drawing book.  

Zentangle - My sister tells me that this is called Zentangle.  You draw black and white pictures using repeated patterns.  I felt very relaxed making this!  And again, all you need is paper and sharpies.

Paper Mache Hot Air Balloons - This took a bit of doing, but you probably have all of these things on hand as well (except maybe the baskets which can also be made out of paper mache)  They've been floating in our kitchen all summer.  Very fun!

Continue reading... »

Monday, July 27, 2015

10 Ways to Strengthen Children's Testimony of Motherhood & Fatherhood

In society and in media, children today hear a lot of messages that degrade Motherhood and Fatherhood.

When my children were pretty little, I remember letting them watch an "educational" cartoon on PBS one afternoon while I made dinner.  Halfway through the show, I heard the characters complaining because their Mother, who normally worked as a public servant, was suddenly, and happily, serving as a full-time, stay-home Mother.  The family "thought it was creepy" that the Mother was finding so much joy in "staying home" and "baking cookies."  From what I could tell, she was "too happy" being home taking care of the family, and that, for some reason wasn't right.  By the end of the segment, the family was begging the Mother to go back to her day job.

Needless to say, I was pretty annoyed that this program which was supposed to teach my children correct word usage, was taking it into their own hands to color the way my children feel about being a stay-at-home Mother.  I had the children turn the show off and explained to them what it was that bothered me...what it was that was untrue about the show.  The lies that it was trying to sell them about Motherhood.

Since that time, I have actively sought after ways to ensure that the message my children receive about what it means to be a Father or Mother is a positive one.  A true one.

This isn't easy in a world so saturated by media and wrong thinking, which is why I employ all of the ways that I can to teach my children these important truths.  Here are some things that I have done over the years with my children to help them grow to love and someday embrace the roles of father and mother:

1.  Teach children the truth about who they are:  I often like to teach my kids that they aren't just children...they are training to grow into adults.  They will be many great things and do many great things in their lives, but the most important thing they will ever be/do (by the grace of God!) is become a Mother or a Father and have a family of their own. Of course, we use The Family: a Proclamation to the World to teach them these truths. (I share most of our formal lessons right here.)

2.  Nurture their natural inclinations to nurture:  Being a Mother or Father, means nurturing, providing for, and serving others.  All people can do these things, especially if those natural feelings are encouraged, allowed to flourish, and taught by example.  I love seeing my children help and serve around the house and finding joy in these roles from an early age.

3.  Find a way to remind them daily that Motherhood & Fatherhood are innate characteristics for them to explore and build upon: As I started letting my children learn to cook, clean, earn and manage their own money, and serve others, I started to see that my children weren't babies, they were actually little Mommies and Daddies in embryo.  So, I told them that.  And somewhere along the lines, I just started calling my girls "little Mamas" as that is what they are to me.  And I always point out to my son the attributes that I see him demonstrate that will make him a great father some day.  A day probably does not pass by that I don't make mention that this is their beautiful destiny, one for which they should always strive and work toward.

4.  Express Joy is Motherhood/Fatherhood:  Whenever I feel joy in Motherhood, I tell my children.  I tell them how they bring me happiness...how watching them grow is so fun...how even on hard days, I know I am where Heavenly Father wants me to be.  I share how my Mother sacrificed for me and how much I appreciate the work she did for me when I was young.  This is my testimony and I do not let it go unspoken.  I even keep a journal for each of my children started the moment I know I'm pregnant.  I tell them all of the precious moments, share all of the details, good, bad, hard, and sticky with them...and through it all I think they can see the truth bout Motherhood, through my eyes. (I also take lots of candid photos like the ones below of me reasoning with my child.)

5.  Express Joy in Child-bearing:  My kids want me to have another baby.  We've been trying for a while now with no positive reading on the stick, so to speak.  But I trust the Lord and I know he knows what's best.  When my kids ask me if we're going to have another baby, I say, I certainly hope so, because I love children and we all would be so happy to add to our family.  When I was younger, I didn't appreciate the idea of being pregnant.  Popular media had colored my opinions about childbirth to think that it was a completely unpleasant experience.  While bearing children is certainly no day at the spa, what the world conveniently neglects to mention is the joy that comes from knowing you're doing something so totally amazing...you're bringing something into this world that didn't exist before, in all the history of the world.  When I was newly pregnant with my 1st child, my sister was pregnant with her 5th.  I remember speaking with her over the phone one lazy afternoon after work.  She was laying down on the couch telling me how much she LOVED being pregnant.  I thought she was batty at the time, but years later, having experienced it all first-hand, I understand what she meant.  For some of us, pregnancy is really life-threatening...and still there are people even in that situation who would say, they wouldn't trade the act of giving birth for anything in the world.  There is joy in bearing children.  There are things that you cannot learn by any other means.  It's a messy process, but there is joy in it as well.  We do our children a disservice if we don't talk with them about the good, the hard, and the wonderful of using your body in this way, if you are able to do so.  

I teach them that even if bearing children is withheld from us in this life, we are still Mothers or Fathers in our souls and can use our nurturing instincts and skills to help others.

6.  Carefully select media that celebrates Motherhood, Fatherhood, and the Family.  For this, you might have to go back in time to find shows that do not degrade Motherhood or paint a picture of the doofus Dad, but it IS possible.  And thanks to the Lord, in His wisdom, we can access old shows like this today via the internet on special order DVD, etc.  There are also many Mormon Messages that show mothers and fathers and families in a positive light right at our fingertips.  If you can wean children off of popular media and introduce them to wholesome media early on, they are more likely to give it a chance and even love it.  I am also careful to talk with my children about things other adults might say about parenthood in front of them.  Jokes or snide remarks about the role of mother or father (or husband and wife) are not welcome in my house.

7.  Tell your children that you love your job.  Yes, Motherhood is a job.  Before I had children, I used to work in the best job ever (that I knew of).  I worked as a producer for TV and radio outlets which took me to exciting places, allowed me to meet famous people, and gave me a front row to history.  I loved it.  I worked hard to get into it.  But when I became pregnant, I had no problem walking away from it, because I always knew I wanted to be a stay-home Mom.  Thankfully, I had the example of my Mother before me who, although had the capability of working, chose to stay home instead.  I followed her example, because I saw first-hand that the fruits of her labors were good.  My life was the outcome of her sacrifice.  At first it was completely an act of faith.  But years into the process, I can now firmly say that I know I have the best job ever.  Raising children, caring for my husband, and creating a home where the spirit can dwell is my job.  It's my profession.  I work hard at it and I'm proud of it.

8.  Speak of your profession fondly and proudly.  I think the language we use to describe the job we do as Mothers (and Fathers) needs to change a little.  I admit that sometimes I get that question, "Do you work?  Or do you stay home?"  I know what the person means, but I wish they'd phrase it better.  I want women to realize and acknowledge that ALL WOMEN WORK.  I do my work at home, and I'm lucky/blessed to be able to do so.  I could also have a career...but home is where I choose to do my life's work.  The work that women do is important to the world.  Not every woman will be able to bear children in this life.  Not every woman will be able to work full-time in the home either.  We are all trying our best.  The work women do inside and outside of the home matters.  As a stay-at-home, I want to answer that question differently..."What do you do?"  I raise the future generation to be leaders in their homes, community and world.  I am raising the next generation of Mothers and Fathers.

9.  Encourage Mothers and Fathers to become educated.  I use my education every day as a mother.  I'm so glad I went to college and earned two bachelor degrees.  There was never a question that I would go to college.  From an early age, my parents talked about college like it was a certainty on my path, and so it was.  After I graduated with my undergrad and worked for a while, I considered other career choices than my original plan of TV journalism.  I was accepted into a Master's program for teaching, and I scored well on the LSAT.  But after careful consideration, I realized that becoming a lawyer was not something that would fit well with my plans for becoming a stay-at-home Mother some day (as I'd have to pay it off), and I wasn't as jazzed about becoming a teacher as I thought I was.  So I made the choice to continue on my current career path, and I'm very happy about where it lead me.  Mother and Fathers can do so many things.  I enjoy using my professional skills from time to time, because it makes me happy, but I also use so much of what I learned in my college and career days as a Mother every day. I enjoy telling my kids about the life I had before becoming their Mom.  Some day, they might even believe me! :)  But more than that, I encourage them to learn skills and becoming educated in something (s) that they absolutely love.  Working, practicing, learning a trade or a craft will make them better parents some day and it will make them happier, more capable adults who can pass those skills on to their children.

10.  Teach Children how the Family Proclamation Applies to them personally. I love the Family Proclamation because it has helped me over the years to come to understand the importance of family and helped me know my role in helping my family grow and thrive.  I am not perfect at it.  Not by a long shot.  I need reminders of what I am supposed to be doing.  I need understanding of how I fit into the Lords plan.  When I listen too much to the world's ideas of family, I start to feel invisible, but when I keep my eyes on God's plan for the family as found in the Family Proclamation, I know that I am right where he wants me to be, there is a clear path ahead of me, in which I can find much joy.

This post is part of a blogger round-up with these fabulous bloggers! Please visit each (by clicking on the links below) to read what they are sharing about the divine roles of fathers and mothers.

Jocelyn @ We Talk of Christ | Karyn @ Teach Beside Me | Kerry @ My Random Sampler |
Heidi @ One Creative Mommy | Mandy @ A Bliss Complete | Montserrat @ Cranial Hiccups |

The Divine Roles of Fathers and Mothers - a round up of posts by these fabulous bloggers!

Continue reading... »

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Indianapolis Temple Open House

Yesterday I told you about our special experience at the Hill Cumorah Pageant on the first night of our vacation.  I'm going to skip ahead a few stops now to tell you about our visit to the new Indianapolis Temple Open House.

As I mentioned previously, our main purpose in traveling was to see my nephew before he leaves for his mission to the Marshall Islands (and to see another nephew receive his Eagle Scout Award.)  But we decided rather last-minute to try and hit a few special spots on our drive to through NY, OH, and IN.

One of those places was the Indianapolis Temple.  I made reservations online previous to leaving for our trip, but somehow I had it in my mind that our reservations were for Thursday afternoon.  Only the night before, did I realize my mistake and that the Open House did not even open to the public until Friday.

I was bummed, but figured we could, at the very least drive by and walk the grounds.  Even being near a temple (as we learned last year visiting the unfinished Philadelphia Temple) brings the spirit into our lives.

On this leg of the trip, we were traveling from Toledo, Ohio (where my SIL Renae lives) to Indianapolis, about a three-hour drive.  While we drove, I read to the family out of the July 2015  Friend Magazine.  

This edition of the magazine just happens to be full of WONDERFUL resources for helping children understand and appreciate the Temple!  I really liked the "cartoon" explanation of what we learn in the temple and how we feel peace and strength from temple worship as well as the pictures of the inside of a real temple.  My art-lovers enjoyed an article about a man who makes stained-glass windows for temples around the world.

At one point, one of the kids asked to see my temple recommend, which I gladly obliged.

All the while driving there, we didn't know if we'd be able to see inside the temple or not.  In fact, we had resigned ourselves to just looking at it from the outside.  Even though, we figured our mistake would prevent us from getting an inside tour, we still dressed in our Sunday best for the ride down there.

After we ran out of Friend articles to read, I read some out of the Ensign, including the article Pioneers: An Anchor for Today that tells the story of our ancestors' (Wealtha Bradford and Ira Stearns Hatch's) conversion.  Upon hearing the gospel, Wealtha wanted to be baptized immediately, but her husband made her wait until after she had her baby.  At the first chance she could after giving birth, Wealtha was baptized a member of the church.  They had to break through the ice in order to perform her baptism.

When we spotted the temple from the road, my two-year-old said, "I found the TEMPLE!"  She was so proud of herself!

As we pulled up to the temple, I asked my husband (again) if he was going to put his tie on.  He informed me that he had no plans to do this, because his tie was packed away in the roof bag.  Having just read the article about Wealtha's baptism, I said to my husband, "You're not being required to cut ice here..."  He gave me a "you got me" look and searched through our stuff to find his tie...and I'm going to guess he was glad he did, because...

When we pulled into the parking lot, someone assured us that although that day they were only giving tours to V.I.P.s, we were welcome to go on a tour of the temple as well!

We could not believe our ears!  Despite our mistake, we were going to get to go inside of the temple...all together as a family, for the very first time!  

We felt so blessed...and were all so excited as we entered the chapel, watched a video about temples, and finally donned our booties!  I just cannot describe how happy we felt and how lucky we knew we were to go inside!

The temple was so beautiful inside, more exquisite than I expected it to be.  I loved all the artwork, the murals, the very fine details.  They spared no expense.  And more than that, the spirit was there.  We were told that this temple is about 1.5 times larger than the Columbus Temple, but because of vaulted ceilings, it definitely felt bigger to me.

All throughout the temple is the flower of the Tulip Tree, the state tree of Indiana.  It also happens to be one of my favorite trees ever since I took a tree identification class in college.

They had also painted the state bird--a cardinal--into the large mural in one of the instruction rooms.  I was puzzled as to why they chose to paint two male cardinals instead of a male and a female (in nature, I almost never see a male without his female counterpart nearby.) 

Anywho...enough of my pickiness about birds on murals!  The rest of the temple was absolutely amazing.  So holy.  Just wonderful. And it was a special treat to see my favorite tree and my favorite bird in the temple decor.  (My high school mascot was a cardinal!)

The neat thing about going on a VIP day is that there was not a huge crowd.  In fact, there were only three other people in our tour besides us: a man from the temple department, and a married couple who lived nearby.  What a rare opportunity to get such an intimate tour!

The couple in our tour group asked a question I'd never thought of before.  They asked if we held funerals here.  For some reason this struck me as a very interesting question.

The other interesting thing about our tour was that the tour group before us was a large delegation of representatives of many different faiths.  They seemed to ask many questions and give long answers (we had to wait for them to finish a few times)...and at times they broke out into roaring laughter...an unusual sound to hear in the temple.  It was neat to see the group pass by...wearing clothes particular to their faith or nationality.  It was really, really neat.

My favorite part of the tour was stopping in the sealing room, which was the last room we saw on the tour.  As the others in our group filed out, we had a quick family hug, and I told my children that this is where I want them to come back to some day to be married and that this is our family's "special place."  I don't know if it sunk in what I was telling them, but I hope we will ALL remember our wonderful, rare day together in the Indianapolis Temple!

Outside of the temple, of course, we admired the lovely grounds and took photos by the fountain.  Apparently, due to a storm, the fountain wasn't working until that day.  Honor quickly discovered that the water flowed out where she could touch it, and that was exciting for her.

After a few photos, we were escorted to a large white, air-conditioned tent, where we read displays explaining more about our faith, took pictures by a large Christus replica, and ate yummy appetizers!

They handed out CDs of "This is the Christ" with special "Indianapolis Temple" inscriptions on the outside cover.  They also had a photo booth set up for people to get their photos taken in front of a backdrop of the temple.  The kids got a kick out of that.

Getting to tour the temple together as a family was so special!  We were surprised to even get in and even more surprised to get such special treatment!!

Following out tour, we stopped in at the Orange Leaf frozen yogurt across the street from the temple for a treat...I'm going to predict that they'll be getting a lot of Mormon visitors in the near future!

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