Monday, September 30, 2013

Preparing for Baptism & Acting Like a Seven-Year-Old

Did you have a beautiful, absolutely wonderful weekend, like we did?

I hope so!

We headed up to Palmyra to attend the temple and see some sites.

And because it was so late in the day when we went to the church historical sites, we had the place pretty much all to ourselves.

First we hit the Hill Cumorah, and my kids, of course, had it in their heads to climb up the front of the hill and roll back down.  Crazy kids.  I thought, I'll just take the path, but I realized I'd never catch them, so I ended up following them up the very steep face of the my dress shoes and Sunday clothes.  We all have sore calves this morning, but it was a fun memory.

Scarlett was actually going to try to scoot down on her bottom, but I put a stop to that.  Instead, she posed for me holding this picture of Jesus that we picked up at the Visitor's Center.

My ulterior motive in visiting the sites was to try to get a nice photo of Guy to use in his baptism invitation.  I think the kids were a little too nutty at this point to get the ideal shot, but they had an amazing time and bonded over it, I think.  They said it was an awesome trip and can we do it again next month?!!

At one point, the kids were tossing handfuls of gravel up in the air that was covering a path outside of the Sacred Grove (sigh) and after repeatedly telling them to stop, Steve finally said, "Guy, I need you to act your age!"  At which point, Guy immediately started running wildly after his sisters.

I just laughed and said, "Well, he's acting his age all right...He's acting like a seven year-old, who is about to turn eight!"

I've been thinking a lot lately about Guy getting baptized and what that means for him.  I have thought about something a friend of mine said on the day that her daughter was to be baptized.  She said, "I'm afraid that she's too young to take on such big promises."  At the time, I thought, of course she's old enough for these covenants, and I was sure she was prepared.  But now that it's Guy's turn,  I considered her comment anew.

Guy has been taught and instructed in the gospel from the day that he entered this life.  He has been well-prepared.  He has been taught how to work, how to serve others and the Lord.  He has had his own personal experiences with following the promptings of the Holy Ghost.  He has prayed.  He has read The Book of Mormon.  He has a testimony of his own.

In fact, he shared that testimony in Sacrament meeting yesterday.  He went up to the stand while one of the missionaries was bearing his testimony.  It was funny because instead of sitting in one of the empty seats to wait his turn, Guy stood directly behind the Elder at the pulpit.  :)

When it was Guy's turn to speak, he said, "I'd like to bear my testimony that I know Heavenly Father and Jesus are real.  I know that because when I think about Jesus, I feel the Holy Ghost.  I know that the Book of Mormon is true, because when I read it, I also feel the Holy Ghost.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."

What pure, simple, and powerful words, from a pure, smart, and sincere boy.

As I watched him up there, bearing his own personal testimony, I saw a future missionary and a boy who is indeed ready to be baptized and to make and keep covenants with the Lord.

Can an 8 year-old be ready to take on these life-long commitments?  I have a testimony that they can, and they can do so joyfully and knowingly, and of their own free will and choice.

I loved all of the advice given about preparing our children and ourselves to make and keep covenants (and to prepare for and understand baptismal covenants) in the Relief Society General Broadcast this weekend.  

If you haven't listened to it, you absolutely must!  And you can do it right here.  

I plan on listening to it again and making myself a checklist from their talks of things we can do to prepare our children for baptism and to make temple covenants.  

Ok, now I really must run.  I need to play with my babies, do a mountain of laundry, and think of a way to thank Killian for saving Autumn's Mousie from the lost & found!

But first, you'll never guess who started standing outside of the Sacred Grove....THIS GIRL!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Karma and Killian

I often hear people talking about Karma--usually wishing bad luck would finally enter the life of someone who has done many misdeeds to others.

But you rarely hear something positive connected with so-called Karma--the belief that what you do comes back to you.

But I am about to tell you about someone who has taken Karma and turned it on its ear.

Apparently, when we were on a trip to Washington DC recently, we stopped in the Barnes & Noble in Arlington, VA to look around, and we left behind a special part of our family..."Mousie Boy."

Since Mousie Boy is part of a pair, we didn't notice his absence. 

Then this afternoon, we received a box.  Inside it was Mousie Boy and a note (pictured above) that read:

"I work at Barnes & Noble and found this in the Lost & Found.  I don't think anyone noticed it had the address tag on it, because it was about to get donated with the other items.  I grabbed it up so that I could send it to you.  When I was little, I left my Snoopy at Arlington Cemetery, and I never got him back.  I'm glad at least I can return your mouse to you. --Killian"

I was blown away that this person, a Barnes & Noble worker, would take the time to help reunite a well-worn stuffed animal with our little girl.  

Killian, whoever you are, thank you for being caring and observant and taking the time to save Mousie Boy from becoming permanently separated from his two loves...Mousie Girl and Autumn, my four-year-old daughter.

We're sorry to hear that you never got Snoopy back, but you took an unfortunate memory and turned it into a beautiful act of kindness toward another person.

You are beautiful.  Thank you!  

And if you've been around this blog long enough, you know that this isn't the first time that one of our beloved Mousies has gone missing and been miraculously returned (via multiple handlers!)  

If you want to hear about the first time Mousie got lost then you need to read "A Tale of Two Mousies."  

Now I need to go get Mousie a new address tag, because the mouse was actually sent to our old address...and the person who lives there now hand-delivered the box to us.  So now you know...the rest of the story!

If you like this story, feel free to share it.  Killian deserves a little recognition for caring about the little and the lost.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Obedience is the Key to Liberty - Elder Perry

Could it be?  Have we reached the end of our General Conference Review lessons?!  

Whew, that was sort of a lot of work, but totally worth it.  And it's not an end but only a beginning to what will hopefully become a long-standing tradition of keeping our minds and lives centered on the teachings of our modern-day prophets.

Today, we talked about Elder Perry's talk "Obedience to law is liberty."  We actually discussed this talk earlier in the summer, and it's the one-liner that my kids learned pretty easily and repeat often.

We made this little framed key creation to remind us that obedience is the key to liberty. 

Here are two things that I'd like my children to remember from this talk:

1.  The laws of the land won't always agree with the laws of God.  But that doesn't change what is right and wrong for us.

2.  There is a difference between agency (which is a gift from God to all men) and liberty (which we earn as a natural consequence to being obedient to God's laws.)

Elder Perry said, "God reveals to His prophets that there are moral absolutes.  Sin will always be sin.  Disobedience to the Lord's commandments will always deprive us of His blessings.  The world changes constantly and dramatically, but God, His commandments, and promised blessings do not change.  They are immutable and unchanging.  Men and women receive their agency as a gift from God, but their liberty and, in turn, their eternal happiness come from obedience to His laws."

We also noted that Scarlett was given an award at her school's "Anti-bullying" assembly yesterday for displaying the qualities of "good citizenship."  

I asked her what she did to earn this special award, and she wasn't sure, but Scarlett did say that there is a girl in her class whose pencil box keeps falling out of her desk.  When it does, her pencils go all over the floor, and Scarlett has helped her pick them up twice now during class.  

I asked Scarlett if there is a law saying that she has to pick up this other girl's pencils.  She, of course, said no.  But we know that Scarlett picks them up because God teaches us to be kind, to serve others, and to go the extra mile.  

If she doesn't help this girl pick up her pencils, she will not be punished under school laws, but if she does help her, Scarlett is being obedient to God's laws, and will be rewarded with happiness and liberty.

And I think that is the point that Elder Perry is really trying to get at here.

Quoting from his church-issued military manual, he said:

"If you wish to return to your loved ones with head erect,...if you would be a man and live abundantly--then observe God's law.  In so doing you can add to those priceless freedoms which you are struggling to preserve, another on which the others may well depend, freedom from sin; for truly 'obedience to law is liberty."

I know that obedience to God's law brings liberty.  Following even the seemingly smallest suggestions given by our prophets in General Conference has GREATLY blessed my life.  

It has helped me to forgive others, to strengthen tattered relationships, to recognize and rectify my own faults, to treat my children well, to love my husband, to see my worth, and to be wise in big and small matters that I face every day.

It has helped me to "be a [woman]" and live abundantly...and to hopefully return to my Eternal Home with head erect.  

I cannot thank God enough for sending us prophets!  What would we do without them?  I don't want to find out!

Find more General Conference Review Lessons here:
I'm not afraid to follow the Savior
 - Elder Oaks
Catch the Wave - Elder Nelson
Fan the Flame of Your Faith - Elder Holland
Stay in Condition - President Packer
A Christ-centered Home - Elder Scott
The Importance of a Body - Elder Bednar
Miracles in Missionary Work - Elder Andersen
Personal Peace - Elder Cook
Drawing Closer to Him - President Eyring

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Elder Christofferson: Ultimate Redemption vs. Social Justice

"As disciples of Jesus Christ, we ought to do all we can to redeem others from suffering and burdens.  Even so, our greatest redemptive service will be to lead them to Christ.  Without His Redemption from death and from sin, we have only a gospel of social justice.  That may provide some help and reconciliation in the present, but it has no power to draw down from heaven perfect justice and infinite mercy.  Ultimate redemption is in Jesus Christ and in Him alone." - Elder D. Todd Christofferson

This ending paragraph from Elder Christofferson's talk "Redemption" was one of my very favorite lines from the last General Conference, and really caused me to think.

It's stunning really, but it makes sense, that even our very best efforts to help and serve others (as a church or individually) might ease suffering momentarily, but will never be able to make everything "just" or perfectly fair.  This is something that only Christ's redeeming power can do.

There are churches formed now on the basis of not believing in God.  People want to form a "community" in which good deeds can be done in the absence of faith in something higher than self.  While I understand why this would appeal to those who want to do good, but not believe in God.  We have right here, words of a prophet, explaining to us why this is not enough for us.  "Without His Redemption from death and sin...we have only a gospel of social justice...[which] has no power to draw down from heaven perfect justice and infinite mercy. 

If our goal is perfect justice...we know that the only possible way to achieve that is it by looking to the Savior.

Elder Christofferson says:

"The greatest service we can provide to others in this life, beginning with those of our own family, is to bring them to Christ through faith and repentance so they may experience His Redemption--peace and joy now and immortality and eternal life in the world to come."

To help the children experience the complexities of trying to make things equal and just, we did a little "experiment."  Using a wooden plank I created a make-shift balance and asked them to make things equal using Scarlett's belongings on one side and Guy's on the other.

I envisioned us using each other's favorite toys, but because it was time to go to school, they tried using their backpacks, and when they couldn't get those to balance out, they tried their own bodies.

I think they definitely found the task to be challenging.  But what I want them to remember most is that, "Ultimate redemption is in Jesus Christ and in Him alone."

Find more General Conference Review Lessons here:
I'm not afraid to follow the Savior
 - Elder Oaks
Catch the Wave - Elder Nelson
Fan the Flame of Your Faith - Elder Holland
Stay in Condition - President Packer
A Christ-centered Home - Elder Scott
The Importance of a Body - Elder Bednar
Miracles in Missionary Work - Elder Andersen
Personal Peace - Elder Cook
Drawing Closer to Him - President Eyring

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Elder Ballard: Owl Be Wise and Honor the Priesthood

The priesthood is amazing, and I wanted my children to understand three main points from Elder Ballard's talk

1.  The priesthood is the power by which the world was created.  It is also the power by which Christ performed the miracles of his earthly ministry and Atonement and Resurrection.  It is also the power by which God strengthens families.

2.  Priesthood power is shared by both men and women.  Just as in nature, a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, in God's plan a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman.  They play different but equally important roles.

3.  The power of the priesthood is a gift from God to his children.  We need to BE WISE and honor the priesthood---using it to strengthen our lives, our families, and the kingdom of God.

This is such an important foundational principle for our children to understand, especially in our day when there seems to be a lot of conflicting messages in the world about what constitutes power and who should have it.

I chose this leaf press craft, because it reminded me of creation, and I thought it would help us to remember that by the power of the priesthood worlds are created, forgiveness is put within our reach, and eternal families are made possible.

But I couldn't stop there...I loved this little handprint owl creation, and we are making it after school today to remind us to do as Elder Ballard suggests: "Be wise, and seek to strengthen our own lives, the lives of our families, and [the Church], by the power of the priesthood of God..."

So, I have to give you guys an update from last night's canning incident.  First of all, let it be known that we've all been sick for a week, and I've been sick, and taking care of sickos and been canning, so I was super run down.  So, Scarlett comes down after one of my precious jars of homemade applesauce had exploded in the canner, and asks, "Mom, why are you cooking throw-up?"  (Picture the look on my face.)  So I laugh, and think she's right, it looks like throw-up.  

Then she starts asking for cough medicine and I get it out for her and tell her rather gruffly that she is to drink it right down, and not spit any out, and get back in bed.  (nice.)  Then she proceeds to react to my orders by promptly melting down on the kitchen floor.  Oh heaven, help us.

Steve, hearing the commotion, comes upstairs to intervene and to help Scarlett get back to bed.  (Power of the priesthood! :) 

Later he tells me that when he was tucking Scarlett in bed she asked, "Daddy, can I get a tattoo on my chest that says, "I love my mommy?"

Ha ha.  That girl!

I wonder who that tattoo would be intended as a reminder for during fits...her...or me!? :)

Love my kids.  Meltdowns and all! 

Be wise!


Find more General Conference Review Lessons here:
I'm not afraid to follow the Savior
 - Elder Oaks
Catch the Wave - Elder Nelson
Fan the Flame of Your Faith - Elder Holland
Stay in Condition - President Packer
A Christ-centered Home - Elder Scott
The Importance of a Body - Elder Bednar
Miracles in Missionary Work - Elder Andersen
Personal Peace - Elder Cook
Drawing Closer to Him - President Eyring

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The God's Honest Truth

Can we have a heart-to-heart, you and me?  Ok.

I don't consider myself the world's greatest cook.  I think I've mentioned that a time or two.  If there is anything that causes me great insecurity, it is what I do in the kitchen.

I try, I honestly do, but cooking, although I do it just about every single day has yet to become something that I actually enjoy doing. (Baking...maybe!)

Take today for instance (and yesterday for that matter)...I spent THE ENTIRE DAY standing at my stove skinning tomatoes, and grinding up onions, cilantro, and jalapeƱo peppers to make salsa.  I have also been cooking up multiple batches of applesauce, seasoning it, and mashing it by hand so it would be just the right chunkiness.

It has smelled so good all day.  

And just as I was giving myself permission to feel a sense of satisfaction, I started to finally can these bad boys...and this happened.  Something that I swear always happens.  One of my lovely jars of applesauce...the applesauce that I worked all day on, broke when it hit the boiling water.

I knew it was going to happen to.  I knew it.  All of those hours wasted...hours that I could have been outside playing in the sunshine with my babies.  Gone.

Now all I feel like doing is having myself a good cry.  Do I have your permission to have a good cry over wasted applesauce...perfectly, lovely, tasty applesauce?

Please say yes.

PS - I was about to resign myself to a good cry, and then I learned that MMM has created a new website called BonaFide, and I'm all...well, I'm only slightly less depressed.

Go check it out:

Eyring: Drawing Closer to Him

Oh, man, you guys, we are getting so close to earning that President Monson-shaped cake that Steve promised us!

Periodically, through the day/week, we have little verbal quizzes, and the kids have shown that they can name (and identify) all the apostles/prophets and can almost always recall one or two of their latest teachings correctly.  So exciting.  

I can see what a huge difference this is going to make in their viewing of this next General Conference, because as we were watching BYU-TV the other day, Guy nearly jumped out of his seat when he recognized a young Elder Perry in a commercial about a documentary detailing his life.

I can see that knowledge is power...and the children now have an intimate knowledge of the Brethren through learning about and living their teachings.  The gospel is a beautiful, real, living thing!  And my children have grown so much in the last five months or so of studying and living it!

To help us remember President Eyring's teaching that "By His words and His example, Christ has shown us how to draw closer to Him," we are going to look for ways to serve others often in the coming week...and see if it does indeed help us to draw closer to Him.

Find more General Conference Review Lessons here:
I'm not afraid to follow the Savior
 - Elder Oaks
Catch the Wave - Elder Nelson
Fan the Flame of Your Faith - Elder Holland
Stay in Condition - President Packer
A Christ-centered Home - Elder Scott
The Importance of a Body - Elder Bednar
Miracles in Missionary Work - Elder Andersen
Personal Peace - Elder Cook

Monday, September 23, 2013

My Family: In Real Life

This photo essay seemed to really resonate with my friends on Facebook, because this is what real life looks like in families.  

It's working out conflicts and making compromises and finding resolutions--together.  

Problem, frustration, compromise, contemplation, solution.  Toss a few million messes in there, and you've got family!

While every situation doesn't always wrap itself up neatly, to me this exchange with my daughter--captured via iPhotoBooth in my kitchen--echoes the Family Proclamation's declaration that "Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, [and] to provide for their spiritual and physical needs..."  

On this day, Scarlett "needed" me to explain to her why she couldn't use a particular dismantled bed frame as a baby doll crib.  And she "needed" me to help her find another place for her to play house.

This is life.  And these moments are beautiful, if we can only slow down and realize that they are.

I am posting this as part of Celebrate Family...If you feel inspired, feel free to post your own photo essay about The Family Proclamation and link-up below!

Elder Cook: Peace is the Reward of Righteousness

The world is in such turmoil right now.  If you can't see it by turning on the news, then listen to the prophets who have said repeatedly that peace has been taken from the earth.

And yet, in our home, we can feel peace.  We're not perfect.  We make mistakes...every day, we do.  And it's loud in our home (ask my Mom!)  At times, it is really, really loud!  But still there is, in general, a spirit of peace and happiness that is the norm.

Where does this peace come from?

Elder Cook says definitively, that, "The Savior is the source of true peace. 

He also says that, "We all long for peace.  Peace is not just safety or lack of war, violence, conflict, and contention.  Peace comes from knowing that the Savior knows who we are and knows that we have faith in Him, love Him, and keep His commandments, even and especially amid life's devastating trials and tragedies."

The only source of true peace is the Savior.

Because Elder Cook makes a distinction between "world peace" and "personal peace," I decided to help our children understand that the troubling events that are transpiring around in the world, do not have to destroy the personal peace that can reside in our hearts and in our home.  Elder Cook reminds us that achieving peace in the world must ever be the aspiration of good people everywhere.  However, the world will not receive this peace until, "mankind receives God's truth and message..."

So, our most basic and crucial efforts for world peace must start in our hearts and in our homes and move outward, but at all times, we can experience personal peace as a reward of righteous living.

To remind us of this principle, we framed a map of our beloved home state of Pennsylvania.  The map reminding us of the world and the heart reminding us of the personal peace that can be ours as we keep His commandments.

Find more General Conference Review Lessons here:
I'm not afraid to follow the Savior
 - Elder Oaks
Catch the Wave - Elder Nelson
Fan the Flame of Your Faith - Elder Holland
Stay in Condition - President Packer
A Christ-centered Home - Elder Scott
The Importance of a Body - Elder Bednar
Miracles in Missionary Work - Elder Andersen
Personal Peace - Elder Cook
Drawing Closer to Him - President Eyring