Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It was a pleasure serving you.




Fact:  Satan does not want you to feel the joy that comes from doing good.

He is the world's #1 buzz kill.

Yesterday, that was made all too clear to me, as I was presented with lots of opportunities to provide needed service to others, but one thing after another kept trying to knock that lovin' feeling right out of me!

I can't remember why exactly, but I was feeling drained (oh yeah, I'm dieting and waking up early to exercise, duh!), and I remembered that the Elders were coming over to pick up dinner.  Luckily, I had just enough of the ingredients to throw together this yummy-looking (and smelling) chicken fajita meal.  

I was kinda rushing around to put it together when one of my kids came in wanting me to put a pony tail in her hair.  I'm like, hey, I'm cutting meat here, and I have to do this right now, let me do your hair later.  Suddenly, Mount Hormones erupts into a fit of loud tears, and in my distraction I suddenly slice my middle and pointer fingers, cutting straight through the middle of my nail!

Now I'm bawling.

Wah.  Life is hard.  I'm so tired.  Why is everyone always crying around here?

I had to pull myself together, stop the bleeding, and get this dinner ready.

At least I knew I'd have enough for the Elders and enough to feed our family too, so dinner would be at least handled.

Ding-dong.  I go to the door to tell the Elders it would just be a minute for me to finish wrapping up their food...when I realize there are not two Elders, but FOUR, hungry-just-back-from-playing-B-ball Elders standing at my front door, with these eager eyes.

I return to the kitchen in disbelief.  This just figures.  I start reluctantly spooning the rest of the food into the large ziploc bag.  It smelled so good, and I wasn't even going to get a taste.  
Then I thought about the small bag of blueberries that I had prepared for them.  I thought about how the kids and I had picked them earlier that day in the hot, hot sun, careful to get the nice big, blue ones.  

Part of me wanted to keep some of those big, juicy blues for us, but I reopened the bag and filled it with our special harvest.  Then I threw some strawberries in on top, because I knew they'd be happy to have them.

When I walked the meal out to the Elders who were patiently waiting on the step, they were so gracious, and so excited.  They exclaimed that it was "still hot, and smelled so good and Oooooh! Fresh fruit!!..Thank you so much, Sister Christensen!"

I walked back inside, wanting to lament the fact that I'd have to go back to the drawing board to come up with yet another dinner for my family, but strangely, I just couldn't feel put out about it, because those Elders were just so sweet and complimentary.  And the spirit was letting me feel how much the Lord loved those boys.  And letting me know that the blueberries were really His harvest, and that he let me pick them for His boys.

Hadn't I also taken a bowl of these same berries to a neighbor who had just moved in this afternoon?  God was watching over that family too.

As it turned out, grilled cheese sandwiches made my kids happy as clams.  I was tired, but after a few minutes, thoughts of a friend kept returning to my mind.  My friend, who is always taking care of others, needed to be cared for herself.  I knew it from looking at her face earlier in the day, but also because the spirit had told me so, many times in the last two days.

So I went back to the fridge and discovered there was yet another bowl of beautiful blue berries waiting to help my friend feel the love of our Heavenly Father.  I Pinterested up a blueberry muffin recipe...and about 40 minutes later, I was driving to her house just a short mile or so away.

It was getting dark.  I didn't know if she'd be home.  If she wasn't home, I thought, I'd just sneak in and leave them on her kitchen table.  As I pulled over a large hill that separates our houses, a torrential, sideways, nearly blinding rain commenced.

Really?  Really?!  Even this late at night?  I can't just deliver the last of these blueberries in peace?

And yet there was peace, especially when I saw the look in her eyes as she hugged me, standing in her front yard, in the rain.  There was peace.


So, maybe it wasn't Satan at all causing me all this trouble.  (Sometimes I give him more credit than he deserves.)  Maybe it was just the Lord helping me to learn what it means to serve with a happy heart, what it means to give the best of what you have to others instead of keeping the best for myself.  And maybe it was just my opportunity to understand that sometimes sharp knives find their way to pink fingers and rainstorms come at inopportune times, and yet the Lord has all of these things and all of these people in mind.

And then there's this:

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? aConsider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Learning the Apostles' Names




As I mentioned some time ago, our family has set a goal to learn the names of all of the apostles and one of their most recent teachings.


To help us accomplish this, we created a poster with the names and photos of each of the Brethren.  The photos are attached by velcro, so we can take their pictures down from time to time and try to place them under the correct name.

This morning, we had a "pop quiz."  I gave the kids three minutes to try to put the pictures in the correct order and next to the correct name.  It was fun to listen to Autumn chanting "Scarlett!  Scarlett!  Scarlett!" as she tried to come up with the correct combination of photos.  It's fun to see our kids getting excited about the gospel.


Another way that we have reviewed the apostles was by playing General Conference Bingo...using Snickers as rewards when our cousins were here visiting us this week.

To be honest Guy is the only kids so far to master the Apostles' names.  He can do it in a minute.  Scarlett can identify six...I guess it's time to pull out the big guns...by teaching them the "LDS Apostle Song":

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Armed with the Spirit



I was reading for my 30 Day Book of Mormon Challenge today, and I had a breakthrough understanding of Alma 17.

This is the part of The Book of Mormon where Alma the Younger runs into his buddies the Sons of Mosiah who have been separately laboring for the Lord, and he says that what added to his joy was that "they were still his brethren in the Lord."


This is also the chapter where we Ammon, while watching over the flocks of King Lamoni, ends up literally "disarming" the Lamanite thugs who have been scattering the king's sheep.

Side-note:  I noticed in the June 2013 Friend, there is a little script for kids to have a pageant re-enacting this story.  There is a funny suggestion under "props."  It says that for arms "You could use socks stuffed into old pairs of nylons..."  Ha ha.  What?  :)


So, I've read this story so many times, but only today, did the placement of these two happenings start to hold significance for me.

As I read, I asked myself, "What does this story have to do with our lives today?"

I thought about what was being scattered:  The King's Sheep

Sheep are significant in scriptural contexts...The Lord uses the flock to signify his children.

So who are The King's Sheep today?  Members of his church...or sons and daughters of God who have entered his flock through baptism.

Who are these bad guys furiously working to scatter the King's sheep who are trying to drink from the waters of Sebus?  Satan and those who are under his influence who spread lies and half-truths and otherwise encourage personal apostasy.

And what about the waters of Sebus?  Since the sheep needed the water to live, these waters signify the living waters i.e. the words of Christ found in the scriptures and in the words of the living prophets.  It could also signify coming to church and partaking of the sacrament each week to renew covenants or the covenants made in the waters of baptism.

Now, Ammon is the man, right?  Somehow he is so strong that he is able to do what none of the other servants of the King were even brave enough to attempt:  He cuts off the arms of all of these punks and then he kills their leader.

Ammon could signify the Prophet, but in my analogy, he signifies you and me and anyone in God's church who is called to teach or watch over portions of the Lord's flock.

In this reading of The Book of Mormon, I could finally see that this story was not simply a display of strength by the Lord, but a lesson to us as leaders in his church in the latter-days.

We too can "disarm" those whose purpose it is to lead astray the sheep who are under our care.  How did Ammon accomplish this?

We know that the Lord had promised Mosiah that he would deliver his sons, and we know that we are protected when we keep our covenants, but I think the answer lies in the beginning of the chapter.

Verse 3:  "They had given themselves to much prayer and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.

Verse 9:  "They fasted much and prayed much that the Lord would grant unto them a portion of his Spirit to go with them, and abide with them, that they might be an instrument in the hands of God..."

The answer is that Ammon armed himself--through fasting and prayer--with the power of the spirit of the Lord.

We too can and should seek to be an instrument in the hands of God by preparing in the same way that Ammon did -- through covenant keeping, through fasting, and through prayer.

We too can protect "The King's Sheep"...his precious congregations, his youth, and our children by "disarming" those who are interested in scattering his flock, and we do this by wielding the sword of truth and being armed with His Spirit.  Because compared with the truth, Satan doesn't have a leg to stand on!

Man!  The Book of Mormon is so powerful.  So simple.  So true.  Read it.  And love it.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sweet is the Truth the Gospel Brings


Last week, we met our friends downtown for the sidewalk chalk festival.  This is our third (or fourth?) year participating, and it is always a lot of fun as the kids (and adults) get to draw all over the sidewalks at will!

The organizers of this event promote an "anti-bullying" theme, and anyone who includes an anti-bullying message in their artwork is considered for a prize when the judges come around.


Last year, we created a huge gum ball machine.  It was pretty cool.  This year, we settled on a "CTR" theme.  


As we drew together, the words of simple Primary songs started coming to mind, so I incorporated them in our artwork as well.  


I noticed right away that lots of people who were walking around to see the various creations really seemed struck by these words.  Many people stopped and marveled as they read the words "Love One Another" and "Kindness begins with me."  "This is great," they would say, "Really, really great."


When I walked around to look at the other creations, I understood why our drawings resonated with people so much.  Most, if not all, of the other "anti-bullying" messages were posed in the negative and positioned next to the pure truth of the Gospel...a gospel which asks us all to live to be our best selves and reminds us that we are each responsible to create goodness and kindness in this world...it was a testimony to me of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how lucky we are to have it in our lives.


Great job, little missionaries!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Read the Book of Mormon in 30 Days Bookmark



Bloggers are cool.

Missionaries are cool.

Missionaries who blog and bloggers who are missionaries are super, duper cool.

(Because I said so.)

So, tonight, I am here to introduce you to one such "Missionogger."

His name is Elder Clay Ellis, and he is currently serving in the French-speaking mission of Montreal, Canada.  Technically, he turned his blogging reigns over to his Mama when he left on his mission, but she is sharing his letters, photos, and experiences on his blog: Clay All Day. (So go check it out!)

Anyway, 30 days prior to leaving for 2 years of service, Elder Ellis challenged himself to read the Book of Mormon in 30 days.  (Sound familiar?)  He also created a nifty little bookmark to keep track of the readings for each day, and he is sharing it with anyone who would like to also take up this challenge. (You can see what the bookmark looks like below.)

To download this bookmark simply: CLICK HERE to DOWNLOAD  

Please pin and share this post!  And if you know of an Elder or Sister who is currently serving who is maintaining a blog (or who will soon), please let me know.  I will be creating a directory of Missionary blogs for you to access right here on my blog.  (Check my sidebar.)  Thanks!


Friday, July 12, 2013

She don't know she's beautiful...


Seriously, guys, if you had this baby to play with, you wouldn't be blogging much either!

And seriously, she's 8 months old and pretty close to walking...

another thing she doesn't quite realize as she scoots this stool like a walker!

Gotta go...messes to clean up.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My 4th of July Playlist


It's almost time of our annual neighborhood 4th of July parade!!

And we are busy getting ready.  Here is my

Fourth of July Playlist:


(In order of awesomeness...kinda...)

"Barbara Ann" by The Beach Boys  (Just a great way to start off a party!)

"Sink the Bismark" by Johnny Horton (My Mom always played this!)

"Living in America" by James Brown  (Funky and fun!)

"Ragged Old Flag" by Johnny Cash  (Such a cool tribute!)

"The Battle of New Orleans" by Johnny Horton

"R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." by John Melloncamp (Obviously.)

"Home" by Phillip Phillips (Because America is home to ALL of us!)

"Party in the U.S.A." by Miley Cyrus (I apologize in advance for this one.)

"We Shall Overcome" by Mahalia Jackson 

"Everyday America" by Sugarland

"Back in the USA" by Chuck Berry

"American Pie" by Don McLean

"Be True to Your School" by The Beach Boys

"Counting Stars" by One Republic

"Authority Song" by John Melloncamp

"American" by Neil Diamond  (We're coming to America!!  I'm getting pumped just thinking about what that might have felt like for immigrants!)

"Amazing Grace" by Tramaine Hawkins

"America" by Simon and Garfunkel

"Gone, Gone, Gone" by Phillip Phillips

"Born in The USA" by Bruce Springsteen (Classic!)

"Rock and Roll Music" by Chuck Berry

"Somebody's Watching Me" by Rockwell (I mean, seriously, they are...Is that a bad joke!?)

"Small Town" by John Melloncamp

"Surfin U.S.A." by The Beach Boys

"Werewolves of London" by Warren Zevon

"Lean On Me" by Bill Withers

"Route 66" by Chuck Berry  (This one makes my kids shimmy!)

"The Star-Spangled Banner" by Mo Tab

"The Avengers" (100 Greatest TV Themes)

"You're a Grand Old Flag (Yankee Doodle Dandy)" by James Cagney

"God Bless America" by Celine Dione

"Stars and Stripes Forever" by US Military Band and John Phillip Sousa

"When I First Came to This Land" by Mormon Tabernacle Choir

"Taps/Battle Hymn of the Republic" by Piano Brothers



PS - So what do you think?  Let me know if I missed any of your favorites!

Treehouse


You guys remember in December, when we built that sweet igloo?

Well, now Steve is building a treehouse...and the kids are so psyched.


The floorboards are up...but it's not completely solid yet.


WE went up in it today...


...ALL of us.


And I'm not going to sugar-coat it.  It was a wee bit shaky.


And my kids are way braver than I am.  I was so scared climbing that ladder!


Knowing Steve, though, this thing will be a very stylist, indestructable fortress by the time he is done with it.


And Guy is going to feel like a king in his little clubhouse in the trees.


I hope you guys are having fun and making some special memories with your family...whatever you are up to this summer!